Now Playing: The End Is Nigh

The End is Nigh is the latest sadistic game from Edmund McMillen, creator of Binding of Isaac and Super Meat Boy. It could be called the spiritual successor to Super Meat Boy, as it really basically just is Super Meat Boy with some very slight gameplay changes and a visual style that looks a little more similar to Binding of Isaac.

If you’re not familiar with Super Meat Boy, it’s kind of like if Mario drank too much cough syrup and warped well past level 8, into some kind of overly spiky hell zone that kills him roughly every 2 seconds. Oh yes, you will die. So many, many times will you die. You have infinite lives at least, so you don’t have to worry about that, but this is the kind of game where you just need to accept that dying is just part of the game, because for all but the most inhumanly skilled players it’s completely unavoidable.

Oh it starts off deceptively simple enough, but things slowly start escalating until you’re literally surrounded by death on all sides, having to build lightning-fast reflexes to navigate twisting pits of spikes and other deadly hazards, avoid capture by deformed mutant beasts, and try to snag those collectible tumors while you’re at it too.

Yes, I said tumors. This game has you playing as a little blob named Ash, who seems to be all alone in some post-apocalyptic nightmare, and so decides to collect tumors and body parts in order to “build” himself a new friend. There’s one tumor to grab in every room, as well as several mega tumors hidden away in secret rooms in each area, and grabbing them almost always makes things much more difficult on you than simply rushing to the other side of a room and leaving, but you’ll need all 450 of them if you want to unlock the final area of the game.

There are also the cartridge collectibles, which are even more rare and well-hidden. Finding these will allow you to play optional retro-themed levels on your TV back at your home, and these ones are even harder than the regular levels. They typically involve making your way through chunks of 10 rooms with a limited amount of lives, and also have 10 rings that can be grabbed in each room. As with the tumors, trying to grab the rings will make things much harder on you, but you’ll also want to get as many of these bonus cartridge tumors as you can, because again, you’ll find yourself needing them badly later on (which I’ll get into in a minute).

Some of these carts are just ridiculous though. The normal ones are nasty, but do-able, but then there’s the “iron carts”, 4 super secret carts that want you to make your way through 8 terribly deadly rooms with 1 life. I was able to finish the first one with a great amount of effort and then avoided touching the rest, especially after hearing about the cart after that, the dreaded Tower of Ascension. This cart apparently wants you to go through all 4 iron carts back to back, as well as a new 5 room section added on to the end, for a total of 37 incredibly difficult rooms all with just 1 life. FUCK. THAT.

There’s also a set of super tough glitched carts to be found later on and a mega cart that combines all the normal carts into a single run. I do like a challenge, but these are truly sadistic levels that reach well past the point of being fun anymore. Luckily, none of these iron carts are necessary to finish the game, and they only even give you one extra tumor each, so there’s not much point in them other than bragging rights and some kind of sick, secret lust for pain and frustration.

Anyway, aside from those things, I still enjoyed the main game a good deal. There are something like 170 rooms on the main map, another 100 or so in “the future”, another big nastier area that opens up just when you thought you were about to win, and I don’t even know how many extra rooms there are between secret areas and various carts. I’ve heard that there are around 600 rooms altogether.

There’s also one last bit of nastiness in the secret final area, Nevermore. This place needs you to have found all 450 tumors to enter it, then it takes all of those from you and whatever you have left is how many lives you have to get through the final 15 rooms of doom. I had 38 lives when I got there, and it took several tries to get through it all with that few, but I finally did it.

In the end I clocked in at 20 hours, with 96% total complete, and a whopping 6700 deaths! I don’t regret it one bit. This was not just another fun challenge with a ton of content, it was also the first game I played all in portable mode on Switch. I have to say, it looked, sounded, and controlled impressively well all around on both the hardware and software fronts (the soundtrack of re-imagined classical tunes by Ridiculon is pretty awesome and catchy too). There’s just something more fun about playing tough-as-nails, short-burst games like this on a portable, and the Switch seems to be a pretty damn nice portable. This is why you probably won’t be hearing about any Vita games from me for some time.

Also, oh shit did this give me the intense urge to play Binding of Isaac again. Is it finally time to bite the bullet and get Afterbirth+? Uh oh…

Now Reading: Marvel 2099

Back in the early 90’s, before the great dark age began, Marvel suddenly decided to start a whole new line of comics that took place in the future. The original 2099 universe died out after only 3 years, but it was never forgotten and some of the characters still pop up every now and then. Spider-Man 2099 even had his own series again for a while there not long ago.

Anyway, let’s talk about the wacky future world of Marvel and its various ups and downs.

Doom 2099 was one of my favorites of the line. A big super-villain suddenly getting his own ongoing title was pretty unusual back in the day, and this one also stood apart from the others by featuring an original version of a character from the present day instead of a futuristic replacement like the rest of the line. They never really explain very clearly how Doctor Doom is still alive in the far future, but whatever.

John Francis Moore, a writer that’s mostly known (or unknown) for entirely forgettable runs on some big titles, does possibly his best work ever here, bringing a surprisingly entertaining tale of a seemingly timelost and semi-amnesiac Doctor Doom trying to conquer a dystopian cyberpunk future.

The later issues of the series also feature some early work by Warren Ellis, who has Doom become the President of the United States. He sets up a lot of interesting things with a lot of potential, but it ends up having a pretty rushed ending since the whole 2099 line ended up collapsing. Still a pretty decent read overall though.

Punisher 2099 is one strange book, co-written by Pat Mills, head of 2000AD and writer of classic stories such as Marshal Law, ABC Warriors, and Slaine. This version of The Punisher actually feels very much like a mash-up of Marshal Law, Slaine, and maybe a bit of Judge Dredd. It wouldn’t be a Pat Mills story without some biting social commentary so here we see a disturbing vision of the future where the police only protect those who can afford to pay their subscription fees. Future cop Jake Gallows gets fed up with this system and decides to dish out his own brand of brutal justice for free. He’s also more than a little bit mentally unstable and naturally, it’s debatable whether or not he’s just as bad as the criminals he punishes.

It’s a very chaotic and over the top book, almost to the point of satire (which is also standard fare for Mills), which will surely not be to everyone’s taste and the art is very 90’s X-TREEEEEEEEEME, but I thought it was a pretty fun series overall.

And then there’s Ravage, the one main 2099 character that wasn’t based on a pre-existing character, though you could hardly be blamed if you thought that he looked suspiciously similar to Grimjack. Surprisingly, Ravage started out being written by Stan Lee himself. Ravage is a very confused character though, starting out as a clean-cut corporate man who literally just transforms into a rugged dystopian tough guy overnight, complete with entirely new behavior and speech patterns. There’s no actual reason for these drastic changes other than the fact that Ravage lost his job and became a fugitive and so instantly became a completely different person. Later he suddenly also gains the ability to shoot energy blasts out of his hands.

The early issues are actually pretty awful. It’s no surprise at all that they had to bring in a new creative team and completely revamp the character after only 8 issues. Pat Mills was given the title and suddenly Ravage lost his Grimjack look and energy blasts and became some kind of weird werebeast. The book improves a lot with Mills, but it still never really takes off beyond average quality. In fact, it starts going downhill a lot again in the later issues, where Ravage suddenly leaves his dystopian future city setting to go run around in the wastelands and jungles outside with his new giant bat companion and transforms yet again into a kind of bad Hulk knockoff. Unfortunately, Ravage is ultimately better left forgotten.

Other than the fact that all the characters are mutants, there’s almost no connections at all to the modern day X-Men or any of their villains in X-Men 2099. It might as well be an entirely unrelated property, but it’s still a decent book for what it is. The problems the team faces are pretty off-beat, and it all feels very different than your usual, everyday superhero team book. It kinda feels more like one of those strange independent superhero teams like Ex-Mutants or something. It never really rises above being merely “decent”, so I don’t know that I’d exactly recommend it, but it’s a lot better than Ravage at least…

There was also a short-lived spinoff series, X-Nation 2099, which focused on a new team of younger mutants. Now THAT one was truly fucking awful. It got canceled after only 6 issues and it’s easy to see why. It’s one of those unbearable X-TREEEEEEEME 90’s teen books where everyone talks like they’re in a bad 90’s toy commercial, and have about the same level of character depth too.

Ghost Rider 2099 unsurprisingly has absolutely nothing to do with the original Ghost Rider. No more supernatural stuff here, instead Ghost Rider is now a high-tech android body inhabited by the mind of a dead hacker who was placed there by a mysterious group of AIs. The tech jargon can be a little silly at times, it occasionally feels like Len Kaminski was just throwing random computer terms in there just to sound futuristic. Despite that, the story is still pretty interesting and it’s all extremely 90’s cyberpunk.

And then there’s the original Spider-Man 2099 series. This was my first and favorite 2099 title as a kid. Does it still hold up today? Ehhhhh…it’s a mixed bag. Peter David writes some interesting scripts, as usual, but the overarching story is just so scattered and directionless, and the art is almost constantly changing and usually it’s not very good. There are some decent stories in here, but that’s about the highest compliment I can give it. Sometimes decent. Far from David’s best work.

This sentiment sums up the classic 2099 line as a whole, really. It has a lot of great ideas with a ton of potential, and occasionally it would get really close to realizing that potential, but it just never quite came together all the way. There are some entertaining stories here, but none of them are what I would call essential.

But wait, it’s not quite over yet!

Spider-Man 2099 returned a few years ago with Peter David at the helm again, was canceled 12 issues in when Secret Wars hit, “replaced” with a Secret Wars 2099 mini-series, and then immediately relaunched yet again for a 25 issue run. Confusing? That’s superhero comics for you.

Anyway, this run of Spider-Man 2099 is easily the best thing to ever come out of the 2099 universe. Unfortunately, it also relies heavily on references to Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2099 history, so I imagine that it’s probably not very new-reader friendly. Great for long-time fans like me though. A weird and complicated long-running plot that features a lot of convoluted time-travelling and alternate realities, but I’m all for that sort of thing.

Ultimately, I don’t think I’d recommend most of the 2099 world to anyone but the most die-hard Marvel fans that were looking for something off-beat and obscure and were willing to overlook a lot of flaws. It was an interesting experiment to see what superheroes might be like in a dystopian cyberpunk future, but overall I’d say it was a failed one.

Watchin’ Stuff

I don’t get all the hype surrounding this one. Sure, Robert Pattinson plays a convincing criminal scumbag, but that’s about the only nice thing I can say about Good Time. It’s a really grimy crime drama where very little actually happens, it just focuses on how terrible the main character and his friends and family are. I suppose that’s why people like it, because the characters are so convincing in how repulsive they are, but that’s not much of a positive in my book. Terrible pacing, unpleasant characters, and an oddly blaring synthwave soundtrack that doesn’t feel like it matches anything that’s happening on screen. No thanks.

After watching Mother I realized that I hadn’t actually seen the last few Aronofsky movies for some reason. Black Swan is no Mother, but it was a decent thriller with some surreal reality-bending twists, even to someone with absolutely no interest in ballet.

Ah, I should have known. Pretty much anything that has to pad its title with “a much more famous director presents” is going to be shitfest, especially yet another “Wes Craven Presents” horror movie. Just another piece of typical late 90’s straight-to-video trash that was almost entirely filler that was trying to disguise the fact that the budget was about $500.

Well this was a strange one. Cast A Deadly Spell is a detective noir story in a world where everyone uses magic. The intro text is literally just “1948, Los Angeles. Everyone uses magic.”! It seems like something you’d expect to see in an old Vertigo comic, and it’s kind of surprising that they actually made a whole movie of it back in the early 90’s. It’s very ambitious, and while the budget isn’t quite capable of backing up everything they try to do here, and it’s more than a little cheesy, it still managed to be decently entertaining.

Now this is one that actually lives up to all its hype. This is easily Martin McDonagh’s best movie so far. It’s kind of hard to describe the plot. A woman is looking for justice for her raped and murdered daughter and gets into a weirdly complicated conflict with the local police and other townsfolk. It’s part drama, part black comedy, and it has an amazing cast of complex characters. Highly recommended.

This was a surprise. A Netflix horror movie that seemed to appear out of nowhere that’s actually good? Quite good, in fact. The Ritual had a great atmosphere that starts out feeling like a higher quality version of The Blair Witch, but then takes some strange, unexpected turns. Definitely check this one out if you’re a horror fan.

Ugh. Why do they keep making these? Why do I keep watching them? I suppose that it’s technically an improvement, since I couldn’t get through 20 minutes of the last Hellraiser, but it’s still a pretty bad movie overall. It’s a shame, because I get the feeling that the people behind this had good intentions and that they wanted to tell a better Hellraiser story than the last several barely-related sequels, but they just didn’t have the talent to pull it off. It has an interesting core concept, but it’s all just so shoddy, including the standard garbage horror movie move of padding most of the movie with a huge stretch of barely anything happening in the middle because they just didn’t have the budget to do anything more interesting. What a waste.

This seemed like it could be an interesting story, but it just didn’t work for me. I think most of the blame lies in the inexplicable decision to present most of the story as if it was a comedy, despite almost nothing actually being funny. None of the serious situations seem to have any tension because they’re too busy trying to play everything as a joke without actually putting any jokes in. Cruise just kind of fumbles around like Jack Tripper and there are some strange animated transition sequences, all of which seem like they’re supposed to be making you laugh, but just end up draining the tension out of what would otherwise be a pretty serious story. Oh well.  

Another movie from the horror crap pile, Cheerleader Camp is painfully 80’s, but in all the wrong ways. It feels more like some bad 80’s teen sex comedy than a horror movie. Not enough focus on the horror and the jokes just aren’t funny in either an intentional or accidental sense.

The latest Scott Adkins film, which is based on the 2000AD comic by Pat Mills of the same name. Pretty standard Scott Adkins movie, kind of mid-range quality, neither amazing or terrible, but with some pretty impressive fight scenes. This one has Adkins playing an assassin who suddenly finds himself up against all the other members of his local assassin’s club in a very John Wick kind of way (though the original comic came out almost 30 years ago). Pretty enjoyable if you’re into that sort of thing.

Awww yeah. It was even better than I expected. I don’t know why, I guess I felt a tinge of doubt because of the less familiar characters and setting. Silly, I know, but the sad truth is that there just aren’t a whole lot of good Black Panther comics out there, so I wasn’t sure how they would go about making something great out of mostly weak source material. They really did it though. They did a great job making this whole new unknown world and its culture strange and interesting, yet not so alien that it wasn’t understandable or relatable.

It was a little deeper, darker, and surprisingly light on comedy compared to most other Marvel movies too. It felt like something refreshingly different, yet still something that fits well in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. The supporting cast and villain were really done too. They didn’t feel like just background characters or plot devices, they had a lot more personality than a lot of secondary characters in superhero movies usually do. Good times. Can’t believe Infinity War is almost here already too! Wooooo!

The old Switcheroo

Well, we finally did it. Finally joined the Switch club. After the ridiculous Wii U (I know it has its fans and defenders, but aside from Bayonetta 2 it didn’t have anything of any interest to me), I wasn’t expecting much to come from another gimmicky new Nintendo system.

Then Zelda – Breath of the Wild came out and it looked amazing, but I told myself “ok, but it’s just one game”. Then Mario Odyssey trailers started coming out and I thought “oh shit, are they actually doing it right this time?”. Then there was news of Metroid Prime 4 coming someday, and Bayonetta 3, and re-releasing the elusive Bayonetta 2…and all of the sudden there was this relatively large pile of high end indie games on their digital service. Then we knew, we were gonna have to get one of these things. Surprisingly, Mrs. Fotchenstein was actually the one who ran out and bought it as soon as she could afford it. I guess she wanted to play Mario Odyssey pretty badly!

Now that it’s here, I have to admit that it’s a pretty impressive little piece of hardware. All the complaints I’d heard about the physical quality of the controllers and the “confusing” way they disassembled and reassembled were clearly massively exaggerated. The controllers feel very solid and responsive. It’s all very simple and effective.

While there isn’t an enormous library of full-sized titles, there are enough high quality ones to make it feel worthwhile, especially with the large amount of good digital indie games that are prefect for a portable system. I think my Vita might be gathering some dust for a while.

It’s not a perfect system though (is any system?). The way saves are locked to your physical device and not able to be backed up or moved in any way is inexcusable. Nintendo claims that they’re working on “fixing” this, which I imagine will conveniently involve having to sign up for their paid monthly online service. That seems to be the secret dark side in general. As cheap as the base system is compared to others, Nintendo makes up for it by hitting you hard on peripherals and other add-ons. For example, extra controllers are bizarrely high-priced, and the whole amiibo thing, where some games have content that’s locked unless you own certain figures, is pretty disgusting. Oh well. I’m too busy having fun with it to care much about that stuff right now (but they really, REALLY need to fix that save problem. Really).

I have to wrap up a few things already in progress before I can get started on Mario Odyssey, but I have been checking out a few downloaded games in portable mode on the side, which you’ll hear all about soon enough…

Final Fantasy – A Crystal Compendium presents Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII was a prequel to a 10 year old game, starring an NPC from the original game who was long since dead and had only appeared in flashbacks, and was released exclusively on a portable system of questionable popularity. This sounded an awful lot like something that was stretching really far to cash in on Final Fantasy VII nostalgia and I couldn’t believe at all that it could possibly live up to expectations. Still, it was a Final Fantasy VII game, so I had to try it.

Much to my surprise, it actually lived up to all that it had promised rather well. Here was an action-RPG with a solid real-time combat system, a surprisingly large amount of content, extremely high end cutscene videos, and some very impressive in-game graphics for a portable game of its time. I’m told that the gameplay is very similar to Kingdom Hearts, though I’ve never played any of that series. You can certainly see a resemblance in the visual design though. The gameplay followed a formula that has become the standard for the modern day action-RPG, with a main story that was of a somewhat short length for an RPG, but packed full of dozens of hours worth of pointless side quests. This is a formula that is still subject to a lot of debate even today, but one that I find to be pretty enjoyable if a game has good enough gameplay to back it up, and I believe that to be the case with Crisis Core. There are a ton of optional extra adventures to tackle, many featuring challenging exclusive boss fights. After digging up my dusty old PSP, it seems that I spent around 55 hours on this game back in the day. Not bad for a last gen portable game.

As for the story, it adds some interesting details to the history of key characters like Zack, Sephiroth, and Hojo, as well as dropping in as many familiar guest-stars as possible without creating continuity conflicts. The history of The Jenova Project and Sephiroth’s descent into madness are expanded on, mostly via the introduction of a new character, Genesis, who serves as something of a proto-Sephiroth. There’s also the fabled “romance” of Zack and Aerith, though this was not one of the more exciting aspects of the game, having felt more than a little undercooked. Overall, it does a good job of being a faithful supplement to the original without interfering with the pre-established history or being entirely reliant on nostalgic call-backs.

What really stuck with me above everything else in this game though, was the bizarre attachment I grew to have with Zack. Poor, doomed Zack who was destined to die in order to help mold Cloud into the iconic character he became. Zack only had a handful of lines back in Final Fantasy VII and there was never really much to him except for a fancy haircut and some flashy sword moves that Cloud would come to adopt as his own. Crisis Core does an excellent job of filling that void of a character though, and does so to such an extent that as the end approached, I found myself hoping that beyond all reason, some crazy deus ex machina would manifest and somehow save Zack from his fate. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. Maybe the Zack that was said to be killed in Final Fantasy VII was another weird clone. Maybe since we didn’t actually witness his death very clearly, he actually survived somehow. Maybe Crono pops out of a portal and whisks him away to the distant future even though that’s not even the right series. IT COULD HAPPEN! But did it? Well, I’ll leave that for you to see for yourself, but I will tell you that this game had one of the most memorable and powerful endings I’ve ever seen.

Crisis Core remains my absolute favorite PSP game to this day, but it’s unfortunate that so many other people are probably missing out on it due to its exclusivity on a system that wasn’t exactly a massive success. I can’t imagine too many people are going to run out there and pick up a PSP right now just to play this. I’m honestly pretty surprised that Crisis Core still hasn’t been re-released on newer platforms. You would think that Square-Enix would be all over this with how much they love to constantly re-release other Final Fantasy games. Maybe in a few more years when that Final Fantasy VII remake comes out, they’ll get the bright idea to put out a remaster of this on modern home consoles so that more people can get a chance to experience it. If so, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of Final Fantasy VII. It’s not going to blow your mind and become one of your favorite games ever like VII surely did, but it’s a great game for what it is, and it’s a worthy addition to its world that feels genuine, and not like some simple after-the-fact cash-in.

This is merely a small sliver of the grand universe of Final Fantasy though. For more great games in the series click the pic below, which leads to the hub of the mighty Final Fantasy – Crystal Compendium project, which is being hosted by The Well-Red Mage and is bursting with other more fine WordPress talents than I can even remember the names of. Thanks to the host for having me, and thanks to everyone else involved for being generally awesome. 

Final Fantasy – A Crystal Compendium presents Final Fantasy Dimensions

Surprisingly, Final Fantasy Dimensions is an actual whole RPG for your phone. By this I mean that it is a single player game with a full campaign without any weird PVP F2P mechanics or microtransactions, unlike most other Final Fantasy mobile games. It does come broken up into four chapters, the first whole game, that’s it. No need for any other purchases or endless online grinding.

No, Final Fantasy Dimensions is just a regular old Final Fantasy game, with a heavy emphasis on the old. The style in this one is very much like the original NES and SNES games and carries with it all the best and worst traits of those ancient JRPGS.

Graphically it all looks like a familiar, but nicely updated, version of those early games. If you have fond memories of Final Fantasy on NES, you’ll probably be a fan of the classic visual themes and music here. Gameplay mechanics are a big mash-up of different things from 1-6. There’s a sizable job system here, with a lot of customization options for each of your characters, and many very familiar classes to choose from, like Red Mages, Dragoons, or even those damn spoony Bards.

Combat can be done in a classic turn-based manner or with the classic active combat system. It’s all very basic, just like the old days, and actually gets quite repetitive after a while, also like the old days. How much you’ll be able to enjoy this game probably relies heavily on how much you liked those old days. If you don’t have a nostalgic itch for ancient Final Fantasy games, you’ll probably find this much too basic and repetitive to enjoy.

On the other hand, if this is your thing, you’ll be in for a real treat here as this game stretches the classic formula about as far as humanly possible, resulting in a classic JRPG experience that lasts around 50 hours or more, depending on how far you want to go in tracking down all those secrets.

One last important aspect to discuss is the story. Well, don’t expect much from the story here. Yes, it’s a very long game that takes you to a large number of locations, with a huge cast of characters, but they’re all as basic and clichéd as can be. Imagine the level of writing on an NES JRPG and you’ll know what to expect from this. There’s crystals, and there’s light and darkness, and there’s an evil empire, and blah blah blah. There’s nothing new here, you’ve heard it all before. It’s more of a tribute to all the classic games than an original story of any kind.

One thing’s for sure though, it’s all a lot of game for a mobile game. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth if you can stomach how dated it all is, and you may even have a good deal of fun while doing it! Just don’t expect any innovative new combat system or emotionally deep story here.

This is merely a small sliver of the grand universe of Final Fantasy though. For more great games in the series click the pic below, which leads to the hub of the mighty Final Fantasy – Crystal Compendium project, which is being hosted by The Well-Red Mage and is bursting with other more fine WordPress talents than I can even remember the names of. Thanks to the host for having me, and thanks to everyone else involved for being generally awesome. 

Now Playing: Doom VFR

I was not in a huge rush to play this originally, as I had heard that not only was there no new content here, but that this version of Doom actually had the majority of the content from the 2016 game removed for this version. Playing the same game, but with worse looking graphics because everything has to be turned down for VR, and with potentially very questionable VR controls because of how fast paced the original was, wasn’t high on my priority list.

Then a friend of mine, the only other person I know who has PSVR, got it and told me how amazing it was and that it actually has a whole new campaign! Well…he was wrong.

Oh, it’s a decently fun game still, but there’s nothing new here. There’s the pretense of a new story, but it’s entirely made up of recycled pieces of levels from the original version, just with some laughably bad mini-games and voice acting thrown in. Really, I don’t get the mini-games at all. They don’t use any VR or motion control features and they’re horribly simplistic and pointless. One of them tells you to “carefully re-arrange the mirrors to align all the lasers correctly”, and you can actually just hold down left or right and they’ll all pop right into place on their own (for all 2 of this type of “puzzle”).

Anyway, other than that it still mostly resembles the proper Doom experience. I don’t ever really bother with the teleport to move mechanic in VR games, as I prefer real-time movement (motion sickness be damned), but this game does at least take an interesting approach to it, turning it into a combat mechanic where you can teleport inside of stunned enemies as a finishing move instead of the usual way of doing it. You can still move and turn freely at the same time too, so that’s good. They did remove the jump ability for some reason though, which can make things feel a little stilted at times.

Overall I’d say that the controls are mostly good for a VR game though. The lack of jump and the teleport mechanic take a little getting used to, but you get the hang of it and start effortlessly blasting your way through everything in no time.

As for that campaign, it’s really, REALLY, cut down from the original. This version is only 3-4 hours long, depending on if you go back for collectibles and challenges. It’s also significantly easier even on the same difficulty setting. So basically what we have here is a stripped down and dumbed down version of an already existing game that doesn’t really offer anything new other than the novelty of playing some modern Doom in VR.

Obviously this is not something to be super excited about. It might be a bit of fun if you’re really, really into Doom, but even then it’s kind of underwhelming. It’s a somewhat entertaining gimmick spin-off of a vastly superior game that I sadly wouldn’t recommend bothering with until it goes on a serious sale someday.

Watchin’ Stuff

I got it into my head that I was going to watch The Cloverfield Paradox to see what all the fuss was about, but to do that, first I had to go back and watch the previous films in the “series”. I’ve seen this first one before, back when it came out, but wasn’t particularly excited by it at the time. I guess it’s another one of those movies that’s just so ridiculously over-hyped when it comes out that I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed when it turned out to be so average. Going back and watching it again so much later without the surrounding hype cloud made for a little more enjoyable experience. It’s decent enough for a found footage movie, a genre that I think fails to be effective about 98% of the time.

Hadn’t seen this one before, but it was surprisingly good. It’s nothing like the first movie and makes for a pretty solid thriller, with some enjoyable, despite being pretty predictable, twists in the end. This was easily the best of the 3 for me.

And then there’s The Cloverfield Paradox, which seems to be the most hated movie of the year already. I thought the trailer looked interesting, and so was surprised to hear such strong hate towards it from what seemed to be the whole collective internet. You know what though? I didn’t think it was bad at all. I’m really not even sure what it was that people were so angry about. It’s not going to win any awards or be the next Star Wars or anything like that, but it was a perfectly decent sci-fi movie.

I don’t know enough about physics to know if any of it was technically scientifically accurate (I don’t know many, if any, sci-fi movies that actually are), so I didn’t have any problems there. The cast was fine, the effects weren’t revolutionary, but they were also perfectly fine. It didn’t look like a sci-fi channel original movie or anything.

I liked the story. Maybe it’s all the superhero comics I read, but all the strange alternate reality shenanigans throughout felt like pretty standard alternate reality shenanigans to me.

Ok, the part with the arm was pretty silly, but other than that I didn’t really have any complaints. I don’t understand the strong hatred towards it at all. I could see how people might have been mad if this had been in theaters as originally planned, but the people behind it realized that it wasn’t a strong enough movie to make it in theaters so they moved it to the modern equivalent of “straight to video”, and by straight to video standards, it’s perfectly fine if you ask me.

I originally wasn’t going to watch this. I had read so many strongly negative reviews that claimed that it was incredibly slow, boring, and pretentious, and it just all sounded like it would be too empty and artsy for my tastes. I can’t even remember why, but recently I suddenly changed my mind and thought fuck it, I’ll give it a try, let’s see what this is all about. Holy shit am I glad I changed my mind. What a great movie this was.

This is another one that’s difficult to discuss without giving anything away, and you should absolutely go into this knowing as little as possible and try to figure it out on your own, but I have to at least say a little bit about it.

Going in blind, it seems to be some kind of Cronenberg or Lynch type of surrealist dream-state, where every little thing clearly means something, but you’re not quite sure what. Everything that happens is very deliberately detailed and bizarre in such a way that evokes this sense of unease and dread, even if you have no idea what exactly is going on here yet. Eventually, you come to a point where you realize exactly what’s happening though, and suddenly everything you’ve seen before will make complete sense.

That’s about all I can say about it without getting into specific details. Just know that there is a very specific method behind what initially seems like madness, and it ends up being a truly fascinating and ambitious experiment in film-making that you will not soon forget.

This is a completely garbage ghost movie. Really unlikable dad Kevin Bacon brings his family to the Grand Canyon and their mentally handicapped son finds some magic ghost rocks and brings them home with them. I couldn’t help but think of that shitty old Brady Bunch special where they went to Hawaii and Bobby picked up that weird tribal statue in a cave and got them all cursed until he put it back. Anyway, their mental son starts acting strange because he’s being haunted, though he actually ends up being one of the least annoying members of the family. Their daughter is just a horrible bitch to everyone and has the most fucked up case of bulimia I’ve ever seen, to the point where she’s saving all her vomit in jars under her bed for some reason, and this doesn’t seem to even be related to the ghosts.

You’ll have to watch it yourself if you want to know more because I turned it off after almost an hour with almost no actual ghost activity at all, just a really unpleasant family whining and yelling at each other most of the time.

This always seemed like such a silly premise, and by all rights it’s not something that should work as a movie, yet somehow it does. Most of it is literally just Colin Farrell in a phone booth talking to Kiefer Sutherland, and that sounds so boring, yet they amazingly made it work with the power of a really good script. Pretty solid thriller.

Another attempt to get into the infamous cannibal sub-genre of horror movies, and I think it will be my last. I’ve heard so much about this movie over the years and always expected that it would be too grotesque even for me to sit through, but surprisingly it ended up being boredom that drove me to turn it off before it was over. Cannibal Ferox kept things somewhat entertaining by having such a horribly bad plot and cast of characters, that it was amusing to watch, but this one doesn’t even have that.

The movie starts off by explaining through a news report that 4 college students had gone to film a documentary in the jungle and disappeared, and so you expect this to be the story of how they ran into cannibals and were horribly killed. Instead the movie spends almost an hour just retrieving the kids’ tapes from the jungle and it’s just so incredibly boring. 3 guys go out to the jungle and try to make friends with 1 of 2 warring cannibal tribes so they can get their hands on the tapes, and surprisingly end up spending most of the time talking and observing various pointless tribal rituals. Occasionally they witness a scene of graphic rape and/or murder, but they don’t intervene, it just kind of happens because hey it’s the jungle.

I don’t know, the characters were just flat and boring, the plot was entirely uninteresting, and the graphic scenes felt like they were just randomly scattered in there for no reason other than cheap shock value. I gave up and turned it off because I didn’t care at all what happened to those 4 kids at that point, and I can’t imagine that the last half hour could have been amazing enough to make all the rest of it worth sitting through. Guess I’m just not into cannibal movies. Oh well.

Now this, this is what I imagined when I read all those bad reviews of Mother!. I don’t know what they were thinking with this movie. It wasn’t even that the pacing was slow and that almost nothing happened in my time with it, it’s that it felt like the script was generated by some kind of robot and that the actors had also all been replaced by robots. Everything was so painfully stilted and emotionless and the dialogue was so incredibly bad. It was like it was all written and performed by people who had never actually spoken to real people before. I’m sure that this was all intentional and meant to be some kind of commentary on the way people tend to conform to societal expectations and just go through the expected motions of their repetitive lives and etc etc, but it sure doesn’t make for an entertaining movie. It’s like trying to listen to an automatic text to speech program read a book to you. The book might even be good, but who the hell wants to hear a story told that way? Not me!

This is another movie that shouldn’t have been as good as it was. A low budget sequel to a goofy action movie from over 20 years ago? Under any other circumstances a project like this would be complete garbage, but somehow they actually did a decent job with this. Shooting this all in real locations in Myanmar and Thailand turned out to be a pretty smart move, as they managed to make this movie look pretty good for a straight to video sequel with such a low budget. It was well-filmed, had a mostly decent cast, and plenty of good action scenes. It felt like it was straight out of the 90’s, but in a good way.

And then there was Altered Carbon, which we ended up sitting through the entire season of in one sitting. Holy shit was this good. I had high hopes for this, but it was even better than I expected. They really took this all the way, with surprisingly good effects, a great cast, great plot, and some amazing action scenes. This series has it all and does cyberpunk better than probably anything else ever made so far. The only thing really missing was cyberspace decking. NOT ENOUGH DECKING!

Seriously though, this was an absolutely amazing show. Possibly my new favorite. Like Stranger Things, it also has a satisfying conclusion too, so just in case it doesn’t come back for some crazy reason, you could still at least re-watch this season again someday without regret or disappointment. Highly, HIGHLY recommended to anyone who likes sci-fi.