Full disclosure: I haven’t finished Iconoclasts yet. I’ve played as much as I can, squeezing in an hour or two here or there after the kids have gone to bed. Feel free to keep this in mind when I say confidently:

Iconoclasts is a great game.

 

Iconoclasts releases tomorrow, January 23 2018, on PS4/Vita/Mac/Linux/PC. You can grab it on Steam. It’s a 2D pixel-art platformer across a grand scale of design and characterization. I feel silly trying to summarize it, because every moment of this title is soaked with care and soul — you are not going to understand how well-made this game is until you’ve tried it for yourself and realize, with your eyes widened and jaw slack, how every single pixel is placed exactly where it should be and all the puzzles/platforms/mechanics/bosses/level designs work together like an orchestra performing in masterfully conducted harmony.

I’m not saying the game is is for everyone. Maybe you want your action to be more constant, or maybe you’re not in the mood to have to think a bit while you play, or you just don’t dig platformers in general. I can respect these views completely. But if you’re simply looking for a well-crafted experience, one that’s fun at every turn… I’d recommend Iconoclasts. Strap in and enjoy the ride.

 

 

The player controls Robin, a silent protagonist, a girl who has a wrench and some courage. In the setting of Iconoclasts, unlicensed repairs are frowned upon, but as a Mechanic our hero is a figure of restorative hope for those she encounters. This is a world teetering on a dangerous brink: The moon has broken apart. A shadowy theocracy called The One Concern rules oppressively over a populace just trying to eke out any existence they can. A mysterious substance called Ivory offers both power and promise.

Honestly, I’m not going to try and Cliff’s-Notes the story beats for you; but if you like Plot Stuff, it’s there. There’s a mythos to sink your teeth into. If you want political messaging, you can see that. If you just want cyberpunk-flavored intrigue, you can find something to like. You may not form some Intense Connection to the universe or every character in it, but it’s a danged compelling whole. Watching dark villains in-fight their way toward their demise is a good time, and there are plenty of endearing NPCs to root for.

 

 

Oh gosh, I haven’t even touched on the gameplay yet. How silly of me.

Iconoclasts is a platformer that seamlessly blends puzzle-solving elements with environmental hazards and intense boss fights. Rather than wield a huge arsenal of various weapons, you’ll find yourself instead trying to master just a couple, while gradually increasing the scope of your abilities. Whether you’re manipulating stage elements to reach a landing or trying not to panic while you exploit a boss’s weak spot, every thread of Level Design and Player Ability and Enemy Challenge is woven together in a tidy tapestry.

 

 

I’ve heard games described like this before, with their “tight controls” and “exciting boss battles,” but Iconoclasts seems to aim for setting a new standard entirely — and just might hit it, when you consider the context of one man sitting down to create this game in a decade-long process.

Those boss battles? They’re frantic, yet fun. The puzzles you come across, to traverse stages or reach treasure chests? They’re challenging, yet never impossibly so. Iconoclasts feels meticulously planned and never wasteful, rewarding in its difficulty without outright punishing.

It all just feels right.

 

 

Maybe I’m being vague and repetitive (I guess I could be more specific as to the control scheme, and how Robin’s famed wrench is used as both a tool and a weapon yet also a defensive item, and how the Tweaks system works to unlock slight upgrades for finding crafting items in those hard-to-reach chests, and naming the different regions and allies and enemy figures and–), but I feel like I just want to say “it’s great, trust me, go play it for yourself” and leave it at that. Maybe it’s that retro aesthetic, but it’s the sort of gamer’s game that makes you long for an era when you could bring this over to your friend’s house on a plastic cartridge and say “check THIS out!”

 

 

And it’s so gorgeous. The artwork going on. My gosh. So cool. There’s an early region, with these trees, these multi-layered geometric vaguely rectangular-themed trees. Just. Just those trees. I stopped Robin, on-screen, and just stared at that tree, the first one I came across. That tree. That one tree. That one friggin’ tree might be on the short list of prettiest, coolest visuals I’ve seen in a game.

The animations are delightful. The world is bright and crisp.

If you like pixel-rich graphics from games such as Metal Slug or Owlboy, you’ll love Iconoclasts. Like, no joke, if those visuals resonate with you and that’s what you’re looking for, this is a no-brainer. You’ll hear a lot about the visuals in the reviews you read (here’s one that praises the amount of one-shot sprite animations used extravagantly, here’s another that points out little details like how Robin’s hair is wrench-shaped); and for good reason, as it’s top-shelf work.

While I can enjoy a game that has remarkable gameplay, the video games I appreciate are the ones with an added dimension to them, the ones you can tell really had some heart put into them. Iconoclasts doesn’t disappoint in this regard. I’m not sure I’m as optimistic as those who are calling it the next indie darling, the next Shovel Knight… but I’d be happy to see it happen. Here’s hoping so.


 

Remember Angry Birds?

It was a white-hot cultural phenomenon, a mobile game that took the world by storm and spawned a feature film, along with an endless array of licensed merchandise. The original hook was deceptively simple: Fire a projectile at a group of targets, then watch with anticipation to see if you can clear the level with your latest shot. The interaction between objects gave every action a weighty sense of potential, and presented many casual gamers with physics-puzzle mechanics they had never quite seen before. Between the simplicity that meant even a child could play, but making every stage a riddle that rewarded tactical thinking, the formula was set for an addictive experience.

Drawing from the same well, developer 10tons came up with Baseball Riot (or, more accurately, they came up with Tennis In The Face with Baseball Riot as its sequel), a physics puzzler with a baseball theme originally released for mobile. Instead of throwing in an arc like Angry Birds, the projectiles in Baseball Riot start on a straight-line path and bounce a few times that way before degrading to gravity susceptibility. And, in one last Angry Birds comparison, instead of trying to kill pigs you are trying to eliminate various baseballers from fans to players to umpires to scientists and beyond.

 

 

To lend a sense of nobility to your quest, there is a light backstory involving a corrupt organization, energy drink company Explodz Inc., taking over our protagonist Gabe Carpaccio’s baseball franchise. Controlling Gabe, your task is to clear each stage of all opposing characters within a limited number of balls batted. Each level also has three stars, which can be hit by the balls in the process, and count as a sort of bonus that not only represents clearing the board more skillfully but may be necessary to unlock additional areas.

See, there’s an overworld, and for each region on the map, you unlock levels one by one as you complete them. Then, when you have accomplished a certain goal per region, you get to travel to a new region of levels altogether, with each region introducing a new type of character to challenge you.

 

 

There are also environmental hazards, or helps; stuff that bounces, explodes, stops, or otherwise interacts with the balls batted. You can also earn additional balls per level, I think, by doing stuff like killin’ three dudes in one hit, and there’s headshots, and…

Full disclosure: I have not finished the game. This is more of an Impressions piece than a true Review, I guess, even if I think you can often give a capable review of a game without completing the ful–

Look, my point is, Baseball Riot is a fine game. It runs smoothly, gameplay is fairly intuitive, and the cartoony visual style is crisp and flavorful throughout. I’m not sure why I have to choose “Map” from the menu and restart a level from the overworld rather than just select a “Retry” option from the menu if I just want to start a level over, but that might be my biggest qualm.

That, and my own tastes as a player. I totally understand why some people love this kind of game — the incremental progress you make, clearing one stage at a time, represents a very clear reward mechanic. The bouncing chaos of the balls (and ragdoll foes) means that, if a level is possible to clear, than the required angles to do so are possible to find at random, making for the occasional hilarious moment of clearing stages serendipitously.

But then you have the levels that are difficult, and require trial and error. … I am not someone who enjoys trial and error. Some people may feel an immense sense of satisfaction when they finally clear a stage after dozens of attempts. In a game like this, I do not.

It’s not you, Baseball Riot. It’s me.

 

 

Some people will really like Baseball Riot, especially if you’re searching for an experience like this on your Nintendo Switch, where it releases on Friday (Jan 19th). While I may come back to it occasionally to try and progress, it hasn’t quite caught my attention or my enjoyment as well as more preferable games have. Your mileage may vary.

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It’s my understanding that, with this port, 10tons’ full catalog is now available for the Switch, and I imagine their future releases will try to be there as well. I dig Neon Chrome, so I may have to keep an eye on Tesla Vs. Lovecraft arriving on Steam later this month.

 

I am a Star Wars fan.

I enjoyed episode VIII, The Last Jedi, and wrote my thoughts on the film. Another fan with thoughts on the movie is a mutual Twitter follower of mine, @jhanan, and I am going to post his second opinion here.

As a disclaimer, I think it is fair to say that while I think there is plenty of room for criticism, I disagree with John as to our impression of The Last Jedi. But the discussion surrounding the film has been interesting, and mostly enjoyable, and this is all part of that experience… even if I do take issue with the lengths people will go in order to find gripes with a slice of sci-fi fantasy, gripes that apparently merit their anger. [ Specifically, although I agree with a few points below, I really have to chuckle at John’s hyper-literal interpretation of Obi-Wan’s limitations, rather than understanding a figurative gesture of promoting independence, but I’m getting ahead of myself. ]

Oh, and just to be clear, SPOILER ALERT there are definitely spoilers ahead. Spoilers!

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Here are John’s thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I am sure they would resonate with many.

I once read that anger is the result of thwarted expectations. I don’t know if there’s a consensus on this or not, but in my own experience I have yet to find a situation where this cannot be found to be true. It’s important to note that this is different from unmet expectations – it’s the sense that someone or something is working against you, or what you believe should be true, rather than reality just not living up to your imagination. It’s getting a cheeseburger when you specified no cheese, your kid running through the house after you told them to slow down, or being made to feel foolish for believing the things you do. Reasonable expectations justify anger, but anger flows either way.

There’s been much anger over The Last Jedi, and much written about the reasons for it. Defenders of the film have a variety of takes. Many lay the blame at the feet of overzealous fans too committed to their own head canon, swayed by YouTube theories on character origins. Some try to blame weirdly specific, culturally relevant ills for some of the backlash. Too many don’t seem to recognize much criticism as valid, instead chalking up the anger to a notoriously impossible to please fan base which really ought to be disregarded since they can’t agree on what they want anyway.

Eric is one of the few I’ve talked to willing to entertain the idea that there are some reasonable criticisms to be made, and gracious enough to allow me the space to share mine. Thank you!

I’ve seen the film twice now, first with a large group of fellow fans from my church, the second time with my immediate family. The first time, the errors I saw jumped out at me so much – were so jarring – that they pulled me out of the movie at times, leaving me wondering what was going on and why. The second time through was better, in that I knew what I was in for, and so was able to better enjoy it. I walked away the second time noticing even more errors than the first time through though.

I can list every problem I have with the film (and I may do that at the end of this post, where you can choose to look at it or ignore it) and solutions I might have for fixing them (probably a topic for another time), but allow me to focus on three issues that epitomize the whole of my problems with The Last Jedi.

If it wasn’t clear before, let me be explicit now: SPOILERS AHEAD!

The issues all center around undermining the previous films or characters in some way. I can appreciate wanting to break out of some imagined mold (the idea that Star Wars has become predictable is kind of a CYA, knee-jerk response if you ask me, but that’s a topic for another day) and allowing the franchise the space to do some new and exciting things, but you can do that without undermining what has come before. Thor: Ragnarok is an example of this done well, I think.

First, let’s talk about Hux. Poe pulls the “on hold” joke, and it’s funny the first time, but the problem is that Hux is the leader of the First Order’s military. He may not be a brilliant strategist, or the most revered leader, but he’s not a laughingstock either. Snoke praises him later on in the movie for being clever enough to track the Resistance fleet (an impossible task according to everyone in the film). So how is it that Hux is fool enough to fall for this prank? In The Force Awakens we’re shown, at minimum, a competent military leader, not some stupid figurehead. Why dumb a character down like this for a joke that won’t hold up?

Second, let’s talk about Rey and Luke’s scene, where Luke is giving his first lesson. Rey, who some accuse of being a Mary Sue for her seemingly unending ability to accomplish whatever task she sets herself to without error, looks silly as she physically reaches out. We can perhaps excuse this because she’s new to The Force and any kind of formal teaching on it (though it’s inconsistent with her never-flown-before-but-mastered-it-with-the-Falcon-instantly character), but the fact that she feels Luke tickling her with the palm frond and believes him when he says it’s The Force is foolish at best, downright stupid at worst. Entirely unbelievable at the very least, since she’s at least begun to experience The Force by now. We can see that Luke may be emulating the more goofy aspects of Yoda’s character in this moment, but having Rey fall for it so easily and completely doesn’t remedy the Mary Sue problem as much as make her look foolish, undermining the character that we know so far.

Finally let’s talk about Yoda. In The Empire Strikes Back, because of the release order/episodic numbering, the audience isn’t meant to know who Yoda is – at minimum Luke isn’t supposed to know.  When we see this slightly screwball character giggling to himself, beating a droid with a stick, and talking about taking Luke to meet Yoda, it’s easy to write him off as a bit of a loon. Only later, once we’re in the hut, does Yoda reveal himself. The character of the cranky old goofball falls away and we’re introduced to Yoda as we see him in the rest of the franchise. This is not to say that Yoda has no sense of humor, but the goofiness is a façade – a character that Yoda plays, and so doesn’t really have a place when we see Yoda appear. The fact that he calls down lightning to set the Jedi tree on fire is ludicrous when, again in Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke that if he goes off to fight Vader he’ll do it alone. “I cannot interfere,” Kenobi says, specifically. It’s not just that no Force Ghost has, to this point, interacted with anything, it’s that Kenobi specifically says he can’t that undermines The Empire Strikes Back. Heck, if Yoda could interfere in this manor, why wouldn’t he appear in Palpatine’s Throne Room and just blast him?

All three of these issues serve to weaken existing characters or ideas, for the sake of a momentary joke or scene. It speaks, to me, of a disregard for what’s come before more than the intention of allowing the franchise to go wherever imagination can take it. Hux doesn’t have to fall for the joke, Rey can give Luke the side-eye in way that says, “Really?”, and Yoda can just let Luke burn the tree down on his own. These moments, as filmed, don’t have to play out the way they do – the story doesn’t turn on any of them. So why play it this way? The only thing that makes sense is that no one cared enough to fix it, to put in the effort to find a better way of doing things. The rest of the errors in the film just serve to reinforce this idea of a kind of lazy or antagonistic filmmaking that either doesn’t care about or aggressively wants to do away with what came before.

This is what I dislike about The Last Jedi. This is what makes me angry about it – not that it didn’t live up to my expectations in revealing Rey’s parentage, or Snokes origin. Not that I needed Luke to be the Jedi Grand Master from the Legends books, heroic and infallible to the end. Changing things up, giving the fans new things to see and experience alongside new heroes is fantastic. Doing so at the expense of old heroes and the legacy we’ve enjoyed so far is not.

The List of Problems, in chronological order:

  1. BB-8 being the one to say “I have a bad feeling about this” is a bit of a copout.
  2. Hux falling for Poe’s “on hold” joke.
  3. Leia not having the ability to call back any of the other fighters or bombers. She can only talk to Poe? Poe can override her on every other ship somehow?
  4. Blowing up the Resistance base that’s already being evacuated doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why not destroy their method of escape and pick off the remaining people at your leisure?
  5. Rose’s sister is hanging out in the bomb bay with the doors open to space, and yet she’s breathing unaided.
  6. Poe gets slapped down for disobeying orders and leading the strike force to death, but then it’s business as usual within a minute or two. Demotion in name only isn’t a real consequence.
  7. Finn learned his lesson about not running away in The Force Awakens, but apparently forgot it less than a week later.
  8. Leia miraculously survives death in space. And flies.
  9. Holdo not telling anyone about the plan, or at minimum that there is a plan at all.
  10. Finn and Rose both agree that tracking through hyperspace is impossible, but automatically know without even seeing it how to turn it off, for at least six minutes.
  11. Canto Bight is a haven for arms dealers, but has lax enough security that a random ship can land on the beach without trouble
  12. As Finn and Rose are leaving, they say the fleet has 18 hours of fuel. Rey spends days on Ach-to. The fleet has six hours of fuel left when Finn and Rose are in jail.
  13. Luke is “meh” about the lightsaber when, with the backstory we get, he should be angry and bitter about it instead.
  14. Rey falls for Luke’s palm frond goofiness.
  15. Luke lies about what happened with Ben, Ben also modifies the truth, who are we (or Rey) supposed to believe here?
  16. Force Ghost Yoda can interact with the world apart from just showing up, though Obi-Wan specifically says he cannot interfere in Luke’s fight with Vader in ESB.
  17. Projectiles arc because of gravity. There is no gravity in space where the Resistance fleet is leading the galaxy’s slowest chase, and so they should not arc.
  18. The escaping shuttles are travelling ahead of the last Resistance ship, and then at minimum perpendicular to it. The Resistance ship is out of range of the guns, and yet the shuttles aren’t?
  19. Snoke gets halved because Ben fools him, but how did Ben suddenly acquire the ability to mask his intentions like this?
  20. BB-8 can control an AT-ST?
  21. Leia is standing with the door to the base open. Why would this door be open when you can see incoming fighters and a shuttle? Leia doesn’t know it’s Finn and Rose, because she’s shooting at it after it crash lands alongside everyone else.
  22. Poe agrees to attack the Battering Ram Cannon, surely knowing that the First Order will be fighting back, but then decides to retreat when the First Order actually starts to kill other Resistance fighters. Did he expect otherwise?
  23. Finn is moments away from plowing into the cannon when Rose crashes into him. At the speed she hits his speeder, she has absolutely no way of knowing whether or not she’s going to kill him herself in the attempt to save him.
  24. As far as Rose knows, there’s no other way out of the base, and yet she prevents Finn from stopping the First Order, dooming the Resistance to destruction. She’s not saving anyone, only delaying their deaths at best.
  25. Ben and Rey broke the lightsaber in two pieces on Snoke’s ship, and yet Ben doesn’t question how Luke is holding the same lightsaber less than an hour later.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great video game. I really like it. One fun thing about this title is that so many people are still discovering it for the first time. As I hear about players who just got a Switch for Christmas, or otherwise are interested in starting their adventure after hearing so much about it or clearing other choices in their backlog, I think back to my own time as a new player.

And, although I don’t regret going in “blind,” I do wish I had known a few things before I began. There are other beginner’s guides out there, such as this solid one from Kotaku, which is spot-on about things like turning off the HUD ASAP and making sure you find every treasure chest in every shrine (the name of the shrine gets a chest icon when you’ve found all its treasures!). And changing the jump button, and turning off motion controls, as mentioned in the comments. Do these things, definitely.

Follow the Road to Kakariko

 

 

Some backstory on this one: I bought Breath of the Wild on opening day, and did not read any sort of guides or reviews before diving in. So once the game opened up past the Great Plateau, I was bewildered (joyously!) by the wealth of options for exploration. Now, I’m the sort of guy that enjoyed pushing my luck in games like Dragon Warrior by seeing how far beyond the intended boundaries I could go and still avoid death from enemies stronger than I should have been comfortable with.

So, as someone who enjoys boundary-breaking and going outside the intended rules and generally doing my own thing, I had fun going far off the beaten path. Dozens of hours into the game, I was slowly growing more powerful, finding my way around, and getting comfortable.

However: I desperately wanted to expand my inventory slots, and had no idea how. It was awful. I had started collecting memories, I had unlocked several towers, I was doing well, but utterly frustrated at my lack of weapon slots.

This is all because the game tried to guide me on a certain road to get to Kakariko Village and I simply went a different way. I’ve had people ridicule me, asking “how did you miss Hestu?”, but I am here to let you know that there are a thousand ways you can miss him and keep progressing through Kakariko, because the game simply lets you. You can go in any direction. There was nothing stopping me from avoiding that section of road.

Anyway: For most people, apparently, this is not an issue at all. But if you’re anything like me, prone to wander, just — I would recommend, at least for the first portion of the game, following its guidance on taking their specific route to Kakariko. Not only will you discover the only way to increase your inventory slots, but you will also run into some shrines with some nice equipment inside.

After that, though, go nuts.

Bombs Are Free

The game tries to nudge you toward this idea that weapons are also seen as tools for certain purposes — an axe can be used to chop down trees, sledgehammers can be used to break rocks, etc. However, it’s worth noting that bombs do these things to, without wearing your weapons down. While it’s true that you may not want to use bombs with a mineral deposit on the side of a cliff (less you lose a precious diamond to the abyss below), I definitely use bombs very frequently instead of wearing my weapons down. Use bombs. Use bombs a lot. There’s… not really any reason not to.

Cooking is Good for the Economy

Cooking and crafting may not appeal to you. But in Breath of the Wild, not only will cooking enhance the healing/buffing properties of your items, but it will enhance their sale value as well. This really helps the early game, and turns the cogs of the in-world economy. Did you use one arrow to kill an animal that gave you one piece of Raw Meat? Even just cooking that one piece of raw meat gives you a Meat Skewer you can sell for 20 rupees, which can be used to buy five more arrows, and then you may begin to see how your wealth slowly builds over time.

Honestly, I am over 200 hours in and I can honestly say that 99% of my cooking is just taking a moment to throw apples or meat on a fire. Even just that has been worth it.

Temperature Items

 

 

This is just a cool little helpful tidbit to keep in mind: Ice items cool you while you are holding them, and fire items heat you. This means you can hold them and increase your temperature buffs, or just have a little more freedom to vary your armor set while doing so. It also means, for example, that if you need to melt some ice but don’t want to use up any resources, you can just stand near it with a fire weapon to melt it away.

There is No Wrong Way to Play

Tackle the dungeons in whatever order you’d like. Travel wherever you want to go. Attack the game fast and aggressively, or take it at a slow, leisurely pace. Heck, just spend a few hundred hours exploring the landscape without completing any dungeons at all if you want. Play in whatever way you feel led, however you enjoy.

Don’t listen to internet people who try to steer you otherwise. It’s a game. It’s meant for your enjoyment. Have fun. Part of Breath of the Wild’s greatness is the sheer variety in ways you can take it in.

 

A Few Other Things

The weakest bows (Boko, Traveler’s) can’t kill deer in one hit.

Pebblits (those adorable little rock enemies that are usually found in small groups) can simply be picked up and thrown, which kills them instantly, although this will hurt you if they are the ice or fire type.

Bombs float, and fish killed by their explosions in the water will float to the surface for you to collect.

If a shrine is frustrating you, let yourself feel free to walk away and try again later, especially since you can always just quick-travel back.

Speaking of quick travel; you can use it at any time, so there’s no shame in using it to escape a tough fight.

Take in the scenery.

Batman has always been popular, so it’s not much of a surprise that he has inspired a lot of games throughout the years. Of these games, Batman: Arkham Asylum is widely regarded as one of the best Batman games, and a genre defining game in its own right when it was released back in 2009.

The first of what eventually would become a groundbreaking series of games, Batman: Arkham Asylum is described by Uproxx as “the best licensed game ever made at its time of release,” and for good reason – it was, for lack of a better word, brilliant.

Batman: Arkham Asylum has a stand-alone story that is intense, yet concise and uncomplicated, which is what one would expect from a script penned by Emmy Award-winning Batman writer Paul Dini. It is dark, chilling, demented, and enthralling, and that combination makes the story absolutely amazing. In this classic, Batman delivers The Joker to the notorious Arkham Asylum, the psychiatric hospital where a host of supervillains are imprisoned. These same supervillains, though, have overrun the asylum and are waiting in ambush for the arrival of The Dark Knight. This plot sets the stage for an exciting, action-packed game that is as enjoyable as it is immersive.

The graphics of Batman: Arkham Asylum are topnotch—rich, detailed, and exceptionally well rendered overall, especially considering the time of its development. The gameplay is crisp and sophisticated, offering a unique combination of combat, stealth, and detective mechanics that Gamesrader believes seamlessly combined elements of quite a few classics, including GTA, Condemned, Splinter Cell, Ninja Gaiden, and Metroid. It also features several challenge maps, which players have to expertly navigate using Batman’s diverse skills and impressive arsenal of gadgets.

Quite a few Batman games had been made before Batman: Arkham Asylum, and just as many have been developed after this classic. This goes to show that Batman clearly is a favorite among game developers, who have used The Dark Knight as inspiration for all sorts of games. The fact that Batman remains popular in the gaming industry after all these years is a testament to his immense and seemingly never-waning popularity. It can even be argued that Batman’s success on the silver screen in the late 80s and early 90 helped usher in the superhero genre by proving that superheroes—Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Thor, to name three—could actually be big moneymakers.

The popularity of heroes like Batman is due to their roots in classic mythology and culture. The Movie Pilot details how Superman was inspired by figures of great strength like Hercules and Achilles, while Batman was born from his creator’s interest in Leonardo da Vinci and Sherlock Holmes. These superhero influences continue to be felt in popular culture. Digital games provider Foxy Casino hosts an array of mythological themed games, with two of them—Zeus 1000 and Hall of the Gods—featuring some of the mightiest, most powerful beings in Greek mythology. The attributes shown by these classical figures are now very relevant to modern audiences through the superhero genre, as their stories ultimately became the template of the superhero narrative that has become so popular today.

The gaming community can expect more superhero-inspired games in the coming years as several superhero films are slated for release in 2018 and 2019. If those games are as groundbreaking as Batman: Arkham Asylum, then gamers certainly wouldn’t mind playing a few more superhero-inspired games.


I saw the new Star Wars film last night.

Quick warning: SPOILERS AHEAD. I am going to simply, casually offer my take on a number of topics, including major plot points and what happens to main characters. There are definitely going to be spoilers in this post. If you want to avoid spoilers, then do not read this post.

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Overall impression — I enjoyed the flick. I enjoyed sitting in the theater and watching. For me, part of my enjoyment was as simple as thinking “There wasn’t another Death Star, and I got to see a dude get stabbed in the face with a lightsaber.” Check and check!

I’m not sure if it was a good movie. Even strictly as a Star Wars film, there were definitely (obviously?) some radical departures/bold choices for the franchise that are going to stir backlash. But considering the themes of Last Jedi, like how we place legends on too high of a pedestal and maybe we need to let go of the past, I can dig a lot of it. Many people will scoff at me for this take, and that’s fine. There’s definitely stuff about it I didn’t like, too, which I’ll get to below. It’s just kinda funny that the big criticism of Force Awakens that resonates with me is how utterly desperate it was to be ‘safe’ and copy New Hope so nakedly.

With Last Jedi, we certainly don’t get that. I chuckled at the guy who explains that the surface of the planet is salt, because it’s just a line to say “no, it’s not another ice planet.”

What we get instead, however, at least for me, was watching the credits roll and… not really understanding, anymore, where the series is going. Is this just the Kylo and Rey show now, or am I supposed to take some sort of deep-rooted interest in the general fight against the First Order? I told my friend that, while I enjoyed the act of watching the cool scenes play out one-by-one, as a whole it felt like walking out of a bathroom without flushing the toilet. Something was missing, unfinished.

I like the weird places it went with moral gray areas and ambiguity. Yes, the Resistance uses machines of warfare too. Poe and Admiral what’s-her-face go through some twisty back-and-forth. Kylo takes us through some intrigue.

My main criticism of the movie might be how much it emphasized animals?! I can embrace one new cutesy species, and I can buy into some cheesy lines, but asking me to care about the racehorses so much that I’m supposed to take the “now it’s worth it” line seriously when they set them free was whack. That was bogus. It’s Star Wars, so there are going to be some hokey lines, but that whole sequence was a bit much. I was even okay with the crystal creatures having a hand in how things went, but I could’ve done entirely without the “set the racehorses free” subplot. Ick.

I laughed, several times. I think I probably liked the humor in this one more than some people will, heh. The whole style of “throw all the jokes at the wall and see what sticks” is similar to my own — did every joke land? No. But I’m glad it tried. Personally, I don’t feel like any of the jokes ever got as bad as the poop jokes in Episode 1, so, whatever.

I even liked the milk scene. Was it weird? Yeah. For sure. But it was also definitely a great callback.

And, for the record, I really like the idea that Rey’s parents are nobodies. I hope they stick to that. They may not, but I hope they do. Part of my Overarching Discontentment With Most Modern Films In General is the over-reliance on two tropes:

1) Rooting for the wealthy (hello, superhero material — get Iron Fist and Green Arrow outta here, yuck)

2) The idea that the most important thing in your life is knowing who your real parents are

Maybe you haven’t noticed that second one, but it’s very prevalent (hopefully less and less so now), and very eye-rollingly obnoxious and annoying and insulting and shallow every time. I despise it. I hate the idea that merely being the biological father makes you a hero character in the general movieverse, I hate the idea that adoptive parents in the world are basically told “you suck and don’t matter,” I hate the idea that a supposedly dynamic, self-sufficient human being should ever sit around with “find out the identity of my birth parents, even if they clearly have awful character” as some sort of goal for their life. [ Now if you, personally, in your real life, want to find out who your birth parents are, and that’s important to you — I fully respect it. My distinction here is that I really don’t like movies/television/general media acting like it’s important to everyone. It is a simple, stone-cold, widespread truth in this world that many biological parents are awful, often straight-up abusive, and really shouldn’t be lionized just because they share a bloodline with someone, yet this is what often happens in our entertainment media. I’m tired of it, if you can’t tell! ]

Anything we can do to get away from that second trope is delightful in my book, so I am very happy and willing to get behind the idea that, y’know what? You kinda need to get over the idea that knowing who Rey’s parents are should be some sort of important revelation.

I really hope they stick to that. I really do.

Favorite moments — Luke casually tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder. The hyperspace ship collision. The line, “They hate that ship!” The Kylo/Rey/Snoke confrontation and subsequent fight. Rey’s encounter at the cave.

Luke’s appearance at the final battle; I, for one, really didn’t see it coming, how that was going to go down. It worked, for me. There was a real payoff. Typically, when I’m watching a movie and I’m wondering why the ol’ gunslinger isn’t fighting back, I get frustrated, and it’s the violence I want to see. This was a rare time where, moments later, I got to kinda sit back and just be like, okay, wow, yeah.

Yoda! Just, Yoda. Me and both the guys I saw the movie with were utterly delighted with everything about Yoda. They made him the old puppety, prankster figure again, and for an old fan of the original trilogy, it was so great. If there’s any silly, ultimately meaningless, insubstantial hill I’ll die on, I’ll always defend The Last Jedi for how it handled Yoda. C’mon. Laughing at Luke? Sending down a lightning strike? Sitting by his former pupil and remarking on how the true burden of a master is watching those who pass us? So good. All of it. The moment he appeared on-screen I just kinda gasped and smiled.

Going into the theater, I told my friend I wanted to see two things: Kylo have a whiny crybaby hissy fit, and a lightsaber fight. I got these!

Luke talking about the Force, with the clips of the plants growing and such, that worked for me. I liked it. I felt like there was a ton of pressure, on their shoulders, to do that scene well and explain the Force in a way that would satisfy decades of myth-making. I think they really did as well as they could, and it was satisfying enough for me. Maybe it wasn’t as big of a deal to other people, but I’m glad that scene went well. Me and my friend agreed, at the very least, that it went down a whole lot better than anything about midichlorians ever did.

Even the way it was filmed was so different from anything else in Star Wars, which is something hardcore fans may frown at, but I dug it, along with other instances (the hyperspeed collision, Rey’s encounter at the cave) where unique framings and shots were offered. There were other little fun visual cues, too. One that struck me particularly was shooting Rey facing the background, with the waterfall, then cutting to Kylo from behind with his own waterfall made of sparks. My friend didn’t catch it, but I get the feeling that there’s likely other small visual treats for viewers that will likely enhance rewatchings.

In that opening space battle scene, where Poe cuts his engines and turns the X-Wing in mid-flight? That was great.

I liked Broomstick Kid. Some might see that bit and think, “corny.” I see that bit and think, “this is part of the overall theme of Last Jedi, to prepare you for the idea that in order to satisfy the profit motive of the military-industrial complex/Disney empire, you’re going to have to accept that your heroes are going to fade and new figures will rise in their place. Every new generation of children will have a Star War to participate in. You may not like it, you may not be comfortable with all of it, it may make you squirm in your seat and mutter under your breath, but it is an inevitable truth you will have to confront sooner or later.”

I liked how they retread classic lines but changed them. Luke saying “If you strike me down…” was a solid moment. And then there was Snoke’s twisting of a Bible verse (“well done, my good and faithful apprentice”). That caught my attention for sure, and it goes on my list of little things I liked about Last Jedi that are not likely shared by most.

The line where Leia tells Threepio to wipe that smile off his face, that landed for me well. That was funny.

Stuff I didn’t like — Did Captain Phasma grab the crown for most pointless character who did the least to live up to any hype whatsoever? I mean, okay, her and Finn had a slight rivalry thing, but her appearance here was contrived and her departure was weak. I don’t think there’s any way to spin The Last Jedi’s handling of Phasma’s character in a positive way. Unless she comes back, I guess. I’d be okay with her returning. I’m almost hoping for that.

Speaking of things that might be impossible to defend; uh, Snoke? Like, okay, I’m okay with how he died, and I’m okay with Rey being a nobody, but… not a Sith Lord-type character. I have to really, really frown upon this idea that the strongest Dark Side figure in the universe, a character literally referred to as Supreme Leader by the most dominant faction in the galaxy, is a dude that… we… don’t know. At all. Whatsoever. With Rey, thematically, it makes sense. With Snoke, it just doesn’t, and really feels like a glaring hole, and head-scratchingly so. How much gravity did they really expect us to feel with his demise? The whole way that was handled, I don’t get it. I’d love to hear the thinking behind it, and not because I expect to be satisfied with any possible explanation. Snoke being a vague cypher is the other Big Flaw of the movie for me (with the odd animal worship being the other).

Kylo being shirtless for a scene is going be ridiculed for decades to come, and rightfully so. Personally, I honestly don’t think it takes away a whole lot from the film, and I even (call me crazy, but) think it can be defended to some extent as part of his characterization, but… at face value, it’s simply unnecessary, and I think it takes away more than it adds. Star Wars has always handled sensuality in clumsy ways, though, too, so it’s sorta just sticking to tradition as well. But it was one of those moments that was just distracting, and I can’t see how it was a good kind of distracting.

… honest question, something I may have merely missed, but: Did we ever hear what the third Lesson was from Luke to Rey? I caught the first two. I mean, like, they were covered in dialogue. Did she just… ditch out before the third one? What happened there? Was that a thing?

Also: Was there no “bad feeling” line or did I just miss it?

And, okay, yeah… that, uh, spacewalk scene, with Leia? There’s no way you can pull that off without feeling really goofy. I’m not sure what else to say about it.

In fact, let’s talk about Leia, because ultimately, that might be the biggest distraction in the film, and the one hinge the whole thing has to rotate around: The entire time, I was bracing myself for Leia’s death. It was the one topic we talked about on the ride to the theater. It was the one element I was waiting to check off my mental checklist and move past, and… we never got to that point.

I’m not entirely okay with how Luke went out (I kinda get it, I can be persuaded, but thematically I just think he should’ve been around for episode IX), but the bigger hurdle to being able to enjoy Last Jedi fully was seeing Leia survive everything on-screen. To say it was surprising doesn’t quite cover it, and what made it more disorienting was two separate occasions where she could have had a meaningful send-off but… didn’t. I mean, really, I think it’s a case where Fisher’s death cast an unfortunate shadow on the whole proceedings. It makes it hard to fully immerse yourself; at least, I felt like this. I’m the sort of person who wants my escapism to be full; I don’t like talking during movies, I think the ideal way to watch a movie is to watch it alone, and I’m very rarely the type to notice/care about who the actors are (though seeing Del Toro show up brought a pang of this), but The Last Jedi provides its audience with an inescapable obstacle. The one subject in a lot of moviegoing minds, I bet, is the question of “What will they do with Leia?” And… we simply don’t get as satisfying of an end to that as I think we could have.

###

Star Wars, like any bit of true fantasy, has always struggled to straddle the line between fan service and critical quality, between fanciful and serious. Much like a Marvel superhero film, you don’t go into this product with any Oscar expectations. The whole effort is judged on a very different curve. In a way, it can’t ‘win.’

I kinda think Last Jedi is going to age better than Force Awakens, and I don’t think Force Awakens was bad. Maybe let me put it this way instead: When I imagine sitting down with my children, to go through the Star Wars series of films… the conversation around The Force Awakens is largely just going to be, “yeah, neat, we’re in the new trilogy now, isn’t Rey cool? How many ways do you see it echoing episode IV?” But with Last Jedi, it’ll be a burst of “Heh, what’d you think of THAT?” By subverting a few choice expectations, it’s managed to plant itself in this bold place of probably knowing it’s going to be hated by many but beloved by some as well.

I get this distinct sensation that, both now and years from now, I am going to keep a soft spot for Last Jedi. It’s a weird movie, both as a self-contained movie and as a Star Wars movie; as a weirdo myself, maybe I just feel some sort of kindred connection.

Seriously: I am prepared to respect those who dislike it, and there is plenty (plenty!) of room for criticism I will see as perfectly valid. But… I still liked it. Even though I walked out of the theater feeling disoriented and not entirely fulfilled. After sleeping on it, I almost appreciate how… strange, that takeaway is, for a Star Wars film. I feel a little frowning defensiveness over it, after logging online and seeing that there’s apparently a bit of backlash to it (because it didn’t match predictions entirely? because it didn’t make all the shippers happy?). It’s a flawed film, but my experience in the movie-theater seat was positive.

Yeah, I dunno. I hope it’s a movie that gets appreciated more with the passage of time, even fully knowing it’s nowhere near a masterpiece, because I think it does some stuff it should get some credit for, in the movieverse scheme of things. I tip my hat to an experience that pushed buttons. The whole thing is going to be a great exercise in seeing how a series deals with shattering fan expectations and whether or not it was the ‘right’ time to move in certain new directions. I admit, part of me is a little sad to have less of a heartfelt interest in the game of predictions and conjecture around episode IX, yes. There’s definitely something there. But it’s also a little exciting to have less of an idea of where Star Wars is going now. Does that make me a sucker for Disney’s plan to iterate this franchise into oblivion? Maybe for the moment, but I also do think the magic will wear off, eventually. Personally, I’m all in for IX, and I’ll see where I stand after that.

The Last Jedi. It’s a hard one to summarize! I look forward to how it places a lens on the toxicity of Fandom, and how it’s good to unplug from the Discourse and just enjoy yourself sometimes. I saw it with two other people, and although I enjoyed it, the two of them seemed to enjoy The Last Jedi even more than I did. One of them hated the Porgs. One of them thought Poe’s foot falling through the bottom of the rickety old speeder was the funniest part of the movie. I disagreed with both of them, yet we all managed to have a great time. There’s something to be said there, and what we want out of a movie.

To address one specific point of backlash I’m seeing on the web: I… just… don’t view the treatment of Luke Skywalker as being dastardly or heretical? It was surprising, sure, but it never left a bad taste in my mouth. Like, not to hit this note again, but it’s another specific thing where me and my friend agreed “yeah, wow, didn’t expect that, but I’m okay with it, lot of cool points on the journey there too” so it’s a little odd to see that The Internet doesn’t like it. Meh. In Force Awakens, Han was the character to gain a little complexity, in being portrayed as a broken-down shell of a man still trying to cling to former glory. In Last Jedi, we see Luke as a legend who has taken failure bitterly and struggles to reconcile with his grand place in a grand scheme.

I could probably keep going, about all sorts of things, but I have to end this post somewhere.

I probably won’t see Last Jedi at the theater again, if only for the realistic limitations on a busy life, but I definitely look forward to watching it again at home with my wife.

I am a simple man: I like seeing lightsabers and starships.


 

[ Edit: Cat Quest is releasing today, August 8th 2017, on Steam, and then on Nintendo Switch at a later date in 2017. ]

“Oh no,” I thought, “This is one of those mobile games that tries to shove itself onto a bigger screen and doesn’t quite work.” Honestly, that was my reaction, as soon as I saw the cutesy theme and glossy finish of Cat Quest, a new indie game out on Steam and Nintendo Switch by The Gentlebros.

Alas: I was wrong.

Cat Quest is described on its homepage as “a streamlined and concise open world experience,” and it delivers as advertised. This is a pleasant little hack-and-slash RPG video game that somehow manages to blend tight combat with feline-flavored charm, all in a breezy package that tips its hat to some prior classic titles.

The player takes the role of the Dragonblood, member of an ancient line of dragon-slaying kitties. Your sister is kidnapped by Drakoth, an evil wizard and master of dragonkind. Why, in fact, you must slay three dragons under his control before you can have a chance at rescuing your beloved sibling.

 

Is this an epic tale, rich in lore and expansive in its breadth of literary merit? No, it is not, so anyone looking to sink their mind’s teeth into a deep new fictional universe might be disappointed. However, Cat Quest never pretends to be anything it is not, and is wonderfully self-aware. When it resorts to genre tropes, it sometimes makes light of this, whether bemoaning the generic nature of the villain or the tedium of yet another fetch quest.

Our hero gradually grows in power, both intrinsically and by equipping helm, armor, and weapon items. There are numbers to increase, always numbers, ever increasing — and isn’t this the grand hook of most games, anyway?

The formula still works. There are ratings in Health, Attack, Magic, and Armor to increase. Slain enemies drop tokens of experience points and gold. Gold can be exchanged for items, spells, or spell upgrades. More experience points, gold, and item chests can be found throughout the overworld and in dungeons. The steady climb in strength, combined with choices of character taste (do we want our armor set to emphasize magic power, or would we be willing to sacrifice armor in favor of all-out attack, or…) can reach a nigh-intoxicating fever. “Just one more side quest,” I found myself mumbling to, well, myself, late into the night.

 

The combat is the make-or-break element of this title. I thought it was well-designed, with an intuitive simplicity yet room for tactical reward, but I would be curious to hear others’ opine on this area. There is a button to attack, and a bottom to roll-dodge. Enemy HP can be seen as a progress bar, with a display every time hit points are taken. The numbers are red if the enemy is weak to what you are doing, or white if not, or even shades of orange in between. Your MP is restored through successful hits of your melee attack. Enemies appear both on the overworld map and in dungeons. Their attacks are telegraphed beforehand, with radiating planes of red warning the player exactly where and when they will occur.

Spells can be assigned to four different buttons, and all have an instant impact. The ones that affect enemies are area-of-effect spells that may, for example, damage and weaken all enemies in a fiery circle, or damage and freeze all enemies in a horizontal line. One thing I found helpful was that enemies often use the exact same spells you do, so you always knew what they were up to.

Altogether, this means that combat is a fast-paced, twitchy sport of stick-and-move strategy. High-risk movements that barely escape enemy strikes reward the player with faster kills (and thus faster level-ups), while patient maneuvers can enable takedowns of stronger foes.

 

And so the wheel turns, in its constant cycle of baddie-slaughtering and token-grabbing. If you want to just follow the main storyline, you can, but there are loads of side quests to bide your time as well (and, frankly, are rather valuable in quickly granting extra XP/loot). A pickier player may find the “move to this spot, kill all the enemies, rinse and repeat” gameplay rather repetitive; in my case, I was surprised to find myself hooked and compelled. Your mileage may vary. I can be easily amused at times.

Oh, and puns. You must be warned about the puns. They are everywhere. The location names, lines of dialogue, characters, there are puns everywhere. Constantly. Beware.

And I’m not sure the whole Cat motif is really played out that strongly? Sure, it’s another little hook that some people may enjoy (I’m not a big cat guy myself, really), but while you’re playing the game it’s not like you’re always thinking “I am a cat!” It’s not like you’re swiping with claws and licking your fur. You’re equipping swords, killing monsters, and traversing a fantastical landscape. Typical hero fare. You just habit to inhabit a cat-flavored world while doing so.

 

Speaking of the environment, this is indeed an open world title, writ small. Towns (well, Inn/Shop/Sidequest Board/NPC intersections really), dungeons, monsters, and natural landscapes all blend together to form your setting. In fact, rather than have a true map, the game has a button to… just kinda zoom out. Which is fine, usually, if not all-encompassing as a solution. Although you can zoom out and see most of the map from the very beginning, the game still manages to reward exploration and tuck away some secrets. Area gatekeeping is handled through gaining powers such as waterwalking to enable travel over bodies of water, and let’s just say the Quest really opens up (in my opinion) once you figure out how the larger chests are opened. You can be on one quest at a time, and for your current task you always have a map marker letting you know where to go next. Taking a cat nap at an inn restores your health and magic points, along with saving the game. Autosaves are generous enough, but do not occur in dungeons, so be especially careful venturing into these challenges in the middle of a side quest. Dungeons have a suggested level for entry, but do not lock players out if they are underpowered.

The in-game economy is kinda nifty, in a way. At a shop, you can pay 50 gold to open a small chest, or 5,000 for a large chest. Opening a chest grants you a randomized item. Now, at first, I thought this was a really crappy way to do things. But the beauty of all the chests being randomized is that items stack, rather than duplicate; in other words, if you get the same sword, rather than having a Cool Sword x2 you now have a Level 2 Cool Sword. Oh, did you have a Level 2 Cool Sword already when you found a Level 3 Cool Sword in a chest? You now have a Level 5 Cool Sword. This means that not only was I not sticking to the same set of items for half the adventure, but occasionally I’d get the same nice item in quick succession and find myself feeling pretty danged strong for a while. Maybe it’s been done before, but I liked it.

I thought I was immune to this sort of humor, but ‘Cara Loft’ made me chuckle aloud.

Cat Quest is an exercise in efficiency. Exploration and combat blend seamlessly together. Fighting is snappy, frenetic. Side quests are never very long at all. If you want to blaze through the plot and get to the dragons quickly, you can. If you want to dally around and get to know some weird NPCs doing odd things in their lives, you can. As I said earlier, this is a game that does as it says. If you do a little research, you should know exactly what you’re in for. Fortunately, it is something I suspect many will enjoy.

This is not to say Cat Quest is perfect, though. In a game-design process that feels like it was focused on Tightness of play, I feel a few considerations may have been left neglected. For example: When you pick up an experience-points token, you get a quick read of how many XP you just gained, along with a glimpse at a live status bar on your progress toward the next level. In fact, your current level is always visible. However, when you pick up a gold token, you get a quick read of how many gold you just gained… but no indication of your current total. Maybe I truly am the only person who would like to see my total gold count without having to access the menu, but I found that UI choice intriguing. Also, not having a map is fine I suppose, but I would have appreciated more documentation on other things like how the items stack, which I don’t think is ever quite explained in-game.

There are definitely aspects of Cat Quest you just have to ‘buy into’ if you want to maximize your enjoyment. Only being able to do pursue one goal (main or side quest alike) at a time? Hey, that’s just how Cat Quest works. Not having any on-screen indication of whether or not all of a dungeon’s chests have been raided yet, despite gaining a Key item that will allow you to go back and grab many large chests you had to bypass before? Why, that’s just how Cat Quest works. Since dialogue is automatically triggered by proximity sometimes (efficiency!) yet some lines are very short, I found myself accidentally skipping dialogue at times, despite being the kind of person who would enjoy reading every word. But maybe I am the exception, and Cat Quest works just fine this way.

Now, all that being said: I have definitely enjoyed my time spent playing Cat Quest this past week. It has been fun. I can appreciate a lighthearted action RPG with combat that demands both my mind and my reflexes, and… puns, puns everywhere. However, at the moment, I still do not know what price the game will be released at, and I do not believe I am alone in this quandary. If this is a $30 release, I would balk at dropping the funds. But if it’s a $5 game, I would certainly feel comfortable recommending it to anyone who’s into This Sort Of Thing. I suspect the truth will be somewhere in between.

 

Cat Quest honestly plays like a 2D Zelda game with enhanced RPG ingredients and much smaller (but more common) dungeons. It plays fast-and-loose with both its gameplay and its distinctive cat-egory of delightfur puns. Even a completionist will find it hard to pull more than 25-30 hours (if that) of this thing at its most, but there is some replay value if you’re like me and wonder how far you could go with a magic emphasis or maybe the ninja items that sacrifice armor.

Cat Quest was reviewed using a Steam key provided by the publisher.

 

So I watched Iron Fist. Keepin’ up on the Marvel Netflix stuff. I don’t think I have any Great Insights, but, I have some thoughts.

That might have been the most contrived, really?-are-you-serious? romance I’ve ever seen.

Fight choreography was, like… 70% disappointing, 20% adequately entertaining, 10% good. Say no to jump cuts.

I understand the Marvel shows suffer from a fatigue of being forced to churn out 13 episodes, but *what* a lackluster final showdown.

Am I crazy, or did Iron Fist start with a potential for having some humor – then just kinda abandon that pretty quickly?

Used two trends I’m getting super tired of in my entertainment media – first, asking me to root for a wealthy hero. Please stop.

And secondly, the endless, spanning-several-episodes agonizing over The Same Moral Choice or Who Am I? Stuff. Without writing too muchabout it, suffice to say I don’t find it interesting for a dude to be like “but WHO AM I?!” for 8 eps. Like, yeah, we get it. AM I DANNY RAND OR AM I THE IRON FIST?! Right. @#$%ing pick one. I don’t care which. Oh my gosh.

Wait, third, another peeve – tendency of pop media to shove this weird preaching about Knowing Your Real Dad Is The Top Thing. It’s become eye-rollingly nauseous for Closeness With Your Biological Parents to be thrust out there as this touchstone of Maximum Human Righteousness or whatever. I don’t want to have to elaborate on why, but… hey, family’s awesome. However, if you don’t know your biological parents, that’s okay. And if your parents suck, I don’t think you reconnecting with them is going to be some ideal, rosy story arc you should necessarily follow.

All that being said, I did like some stuff? I found Ward Meachum to be a really weird, interesting character. Compelling.

And, somehow, I dug the whole “pretending to be dead for 13 years, stuck in a dark penthouse prison” aesthetic. Okay. Fine.

Oh, and the way they used Madame Gao a lot, yet you still end up being unsure of her true… stuff. Identity, motivations, whatever.

The Hand having splinter groups? Okay, I can dig it. Fine. People with guns still having no idea how to use them? Tired trope, yes. I lost count of the times a dude with a gun would simply carry the gun as they ran towards the martial artist, rather than, just… y’know… shooting them.

Anyway. Conclusion – very ‘meh.’ Likely worst of the Marvel Netflix shows, for me. Yet… I still got through it, still ready for Defenders. I just wish we had a Punisher show coming sooner.

 

 

 

 

I’d rank the Netflix Marvel shows this way so far.

1) Daredevil season 1. Most consistent, pound-for-pound quality.

2) Jessica Jones. Really intense, went to some remarkable places. But, wow, my one big frustration was that I still think it makes more sense to just kill the Big Bad around episode 3 or so. Every time I mention this, people are like “but didn’t you understand that–” Yes, I watched the show. I am speaking this opinion from an informed position. They should’ve just killed the guy ASAP. Period. But hey, need 13 episodes.

3) Luke Cage. Yes, it went on too long. But, dang, it had a great vibe and some great moments. A twist I truly didn’t see coming, and shook me up a little. Entertaining.

4) Daredevil season 2. Not horrible, just, not great. I mean, I could probably rank it higher just for what it did with The Punisher. Just, like, that could #1. I want more Punisher. More violence, less moral quibbling. “This person is extraordinarily powerful, and will cause thousands of deaths, and completely disrupt and destroy the city, and–” Is he bulletproof? “Well, no…” Bang bang, problem solved! The prison scene where the Punisher shanks that dude with full brutality is one of the most artistic things my eyes have ever gazed upon in my earthly time.

5) Iron Fist. I wouldn’t call it terrible, but it felt like a stretch, like Marvel/Netflix was putting out its bench player, like they were seeing how “meh” and watered-down they could get away with being. Had some bright spots, mostly just a little big of a slog.

Thanks for reading!

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