Tag Archives: adventure

Finding Dory

MV5BNzg4MjM2NDQ4MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk3MTgyODE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Remember Finding Nemo? If my website hadn’t died while I was getting ready to start this review a couple of hours ago[1], I might have more to say about whether I remember it, but apparently that will not happen anytime soon[6]. But here’s what I remember of relevance: when that one fish whose name I had forgotten lost his kid Nemo, he found another fish whose name I had forgotten to help him out. Later, a sequel!

Thanks to the power of advertising, I now know that the second nameless fish is named Dory, and of course if there was going to be a sequel, they’d keep the name scheme intact, which also necessarily informs the plot. See, Dory, as you may or may not remember from the original[2], suffers from short term memory loss. Which means that once upon a time, she got lost, and she’s been lost ever since, even though she made new friends eventually like Nemo and what’s-his-name. I mean, it doesn’t mean that, but you can intuit it from her previous state of being completely alone in the ocean.

And then she figured out she got lost, and decided she wanted to get found, and there you have it: Finding Dory. That said, it’s a Pixar film, and therefore a kid movie[4]. That said, I actually felt like it was backward from the usual kid movie formula, in a way that maybe Pixar has always tried to achieve but with varying degrees of success. Because, this felt to me like a regular movie that has some jokes and gags thrown in to appease the kids in the audience, but mostly the eyerolling can be kept to a minimum.

I’m not sure this is even a justifiable take, but my reasoning is because of how delicately the concept of a mental disability was handled. On the one hand, yes, Dory causes a lot of her own problems, and it’s clear from both movies that when she’s on her own, she’s in a lot of trouble. She relies on the kindness of others to function in the world. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t improve the lives of those others in countless ways, and the film is careful to stay aware of both sides of Dory’s coin. There’s nothing especially trite here, nor anything especially dismissive.

….okay, both parts of that last sentence are untrue, because it is, after all, a kid movie. But the things that were trite were the inevitable result of a necessary happy ending[5], and the things that were dismissive were in service of the theme. You have to hold up the ugly mirror to see past it, to coin an implausible metaphor.

Anyway, it was pretty dang good. Also, the 5 minute short film with the sandpipers (a type of ocean bird that lives in tidal regions) was freaking revelatory. Not worth the price of admission, probably, but maybe you can find it somewhere on the internets or in the future even if the main event is not your cup of tea.

[1] Not unlike my Pixel C died randomly yesterday; lesson: I should stop touching technology apparently.
[2] I did not[3]; I only remembered that her personality was quirky in some way.
[3] Perhaps ironically? Probably not though.
[4] If you don’t believe me, try sitting through the endless crap parade that informs the previews.
[5] If you think that’s a spoiler, you don’t understand much about Pixar.
[6] Outcome, now that the site is back up: I don’t have a review of Finding Nemo. So, uh, nevermind?

Braid

51baP9k+ubLAnd then, the first and last game of the weekend[1], Braid. The downside of which is that I am obligated to find a way to review Braid. (The upside, obviously, is that it was a fantastic game, full of challenging and rewarding puzzles and a truly incredible (and incredibly presented!) climax to its story.)

The thing is, I don’t really want to say anything about it, because it is to be played, not told. So I’ll give you what you can see and what you can begin to intuit from the first two minutes of play, and then I’ll nod to myself and consider my job done[5]. Have you ever played Super Mario Bros.? The one for the original Nintendo (also there was a somewhat different arcade version) with the walking mushroom people and the giant lizard who kidnapped Princess Peach? Along every meaningful angle from which you could consider SMB, this game is the response to that game. </wise nod>

[1] I had played a great deal of it before[2], and I also took a break in the middle before coming back to wrestle with the last few, ultra-hard levels. Ultimately, there were seven such that a walkthrough was involved in[4], and of those, I only felt like I should have figured out two of them. The rest involved knowledge I had somehow missed having or ideas that would never have crossed my mind to attempt.
[2] Annoyingly, on the XBox 360. Will I go back for my gamerscore? Probably not![3]
[3] I mean because I’m pretty lazy, but honestly, going back for gamerscore feels like missing 100% of the point of the game, too.
[4] Awesomely, my host had the walkthrough and doled out the hints gradually, so sometimes it really was just a hint.
[5] If this sounds like a candyass way to conduct my affairs, well, a) maybe it is at that, but b) it doesn’t change the fact that I would be robbing you of an experience you owe yourself. If you play video games and people don’t sidle away from you because of things you say at social gatherings, then trust me. Just play the game. The five or ten bucks that it will cost you is worth it, as is the hour or three of time you’ll spend.

Journey

journey-game-screenshot-1-bI am returned, triumphant, from my long sojourn of, er, not writing the last two reviews I have owed. And if that doesn’t really sound like all that much of a Journey, it’s because I’m trying to create a parallel with my unfortunate experience playing a short indie game of the same name.

As you can see, last weekend was heavy with the light & easy games set, which… it did not convince me that small games that last a couple of hours is the way to go, but it certainly highlighted how much easier they are. I mean, yes to play, because you can’t write a particularly hard game that will only last 90 minutes, but especially I mean easy to find time for the playing of. Which is important! I can say anything I want about how much more I enjoy Dragon Age, but if I keep not turning on the XBox to play it, that claim rings pretty hollowly.

The irony is that Journey would otherwise be the perfect game to draw that comparison with. See, I finished it in about 20 minutes. You start out as a Jawa-looking dude[1] in the desert, climbing up a hill. Eventually, you see in the distance what look like places to go, and then you go to them, because you’ve ever played a videogame before. After doing some things in the desert which may or may not have any particular long-term relevance or unlock insightful cutscenes, you go through a portal to a snowy mountainscape. Or at least I did. After some additional snow-doings that may also have some kind of relevance or unlock some other set of cutscenes, a finale occurs. I can only speculate about all these things[2] because what happened to me was as follows: I collected a couple of glowing things in the desert, tried to take them back to a platform that looked like it might have been missing some glowing things but instead accidentally fell through a portal onto the mountain (was there a way back? I’m told yes, but it didn’t look like it) where I climbed for a while, turned right, dodged a (let’s say) dragon, climbed some more (briefly the climbing involved a Shaolin temple), and then after some brief spoilers[3], the game ended.

I’m pretty sure I did something wrong? You would think, in a game whose title explicitly alludes to the destination not mattering, it would not be so easy to perform a speed run, much less without intending to. Oh well. Perhaps I’ll play it again someday, when the memories have faded.

[1] Or possibly lady! If you’ve seen a Jawa before, you know I’m impressing my own opinion without any particular evidence.
[2] Well, not only speculate. I have hints from my incredulous host to go by as well.
[3] I’m taking it on faith that there were spoilers to be had. It was, from my perspective, merely an inexplicable happenstance.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I glanced at my reviews of the last couple Pirates movies, and they are a lot more positive than I remember the movies in my head. I wonder which of us is right! My point being, who can say how well you and / or future me can trust this forthcoming review of the fourth poncy Johnny Depp vehicle? Oh well, we’re both here, may as well read it anyway.

So, I have a few disconnected thoughts, and they are presented here in no particular order. On Stranger Tides demonstrates better than I remember the other movies having done that pirates, by and large, are bad people. Not so bad that I wish I hadn’t watched the movie, but I felt slimier than I really wanted to, once or twice. That said, the action set-pieces did a good job of distracting me from that sporadic feeling, much as they distracted me from what were at the time glaring plot holes, most of which I’ve forgotten since, which just goes to show you quite how successful said set-pieces were. The action wasn’t the best in the series or anything, because they’ve always been amazing. But it was absolutely at the same level of quality, minimum.

Two events stood out from the rest, though, and neither are spoilers, so I will tell you them! 1) Impressive use of the Greek literary technique, deus ex mickina. 2) Disturbingly spot-on interpretation of the Japanese dolphin capture / killing bays. (There’s a documentary in the last year or two, if you have no idea what I’m talking about. The descriptions have convinced me I would hate watching it, though.) But anyway, yeah, this was pretty good. Oh, right, some people want an inkling as to the plot, I forget that sometimes. What is is, is they’re looking for the Fountain of Youth.

Super 8

So, the thing about Super 8 is that you’re not really allowed to talk about it. There are these kids making a movie in 1979, as you do when you are kids and have a video camera and a friend who wants to make movies and video games haven’t been invented yet. And while they are at the train station filming a scene, they accidentally witness a pretty huge train wreck. All of this is in the teaser trailer from like 18 months ago, right? Anyway, after the wreck, things get mysterious, and that’s all I’m going to say.

What I suppose I am allowed to talk about, though, is the reactions it has been getting. I’ve seen people say that it implies there used to be magic in the world, but you have to go back in time to get it because now things are way too mundane for a big adventure. I have a little bit of sympathy for this, I do. Because I’ve thought to myself that if I had been older in the ’70s, I might have been one of those people making a Chainsaw or an Evil Dead, so I’m already a little predisposed to see the ordinary, everyday magic of widened possibilities in that era moreso than in this one, where you have to be slick and polished to even get any word of mouth going. (That’s not true, of course, but most of what I’ve seen for which that wasn’t true was just terrible. And clearly it wasn’t always thus.) But when I watch this movie, I don’t see anyone saying the magic has gone out of the world. I see someone saying, this is what the world was like when I was a kid. Of course, I also notice the freedom of movement and association those kids have versus what I expect kids today to have, and I wonder. They’re in a small town, and maybe things haven’t changed all that much? But if things have changed, we’re the adults now, deciding what kids of that age are doing, and if the magic of 30 years ago is absent these days, there’s really only us to blame for it. But for now, I think it’s mostly a difference of place than time, and that the young writers and directors of today will still be finding magic in their own childhoods as we near the middle of the century.

On a more technical level, I’ve also heard people make comparisons to Goonies or Gremlins. While those are both fine movies, I didn’t tweak to either comparison myself, except at the most superficial level. No, what it immediately made me think of, and I never found myself disagreeing later, was a sweeping Stephen King small-town epic, along the lines of It or Under the Dome. Only, presented on the screen far better than any of those have ever been. You may be aware that’s pretty high praise.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

91B0KvHV0UL._SL1500_Check me out, I finished my second PS3 game! This was more of an ongoing thing, since it is not at my house and I don’t own it. But still! Definite fun times. In Drake’s Fortune, we follow the adventures of Nathan Drake, descendant of the explorer Sir Francis Drake, as he follows his predecessor’s footsteps in search of El Dorado, the famed lost city of gold. Standing in his way are rival hunters, a shady partner, a documentary filmmaker, Nazis, more barely navigable rock walls than you can shake a pointed stick at, and a semi-ancient curse. But in the plus column, hey, treasure! Right?

The game is an extremely pretty 3D platformer / cover-based third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War if the latter were less focused on warfare and had a jump button. And lots of rock walls to climb. Pretty much, it’s a Tomb Raider game where they reduced the budget on breast motion physics and invested that money into storyline and dialogue. It was, I think, a good trade.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong

Back in the hazy, halcyon days of yore, when I had just gotten my ‘siddy, there were a fair number of launch titles I was interested in. And a few I wasn’t, mostly racing games and Perfect Dark Zero, which always seemed kind of terrible and whose demo left me cold. And there was King Kong, which seemed pretty awesome, but outside my then-jobless budget. And then as the months passed, it kept looking kind of old and worn compared to the new shiny games coming out at the same prices. (I’m looking at you, Dead Rising and Oblivion!)

But then, earlier this month, it was sitting lonelily on the shelf at Fry’s for $19.99. That is the exact perfect price to win me over. And as it happens, it’s a price I’m pretty happy with. It’s still a lot prettier than Wii Sports, but when I compare it to any of the last 6 months’ worth of HD games I’ve played, it lacks a certain indefinable something. I’m pretty sure that something is realistic water effects, and wow, behold the snobbery of me! Anyway, aside from that, it was a pretty good game. Maybe slightly short, and maybe slightly easy, but neither in such a way that I felt like I’d lost out on the deal.

As the title implies, it’s almost a straight port of the movie, though with a lot more fighting giant insects and man-sized dinosaurs, and a little more running from T. Rex-y ones. I took longer than I should have to figure out the right way to perform most of the combat. But since I was playing as a script writer turned adventure hero, I don’t mind so much. Also, I’m sure the game would have been a lot easier if I’d been willing to leave areas with any of my enemies unkilled. The play as Kong part suffered from some of the same failure of learning curve on my part, which is less excusable, since I kind of figure he knew how to fight all along. (Though if so, where did all the other giant monsters keep coming from? Shouldn’t they have been dead by now?) Still: perfectly fun game up until the last level, where it suddenly becomes a quagmire of misery and depression. In case you’re not familiar with the game or any of the three versions of the film: nevermind why.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Once upon a time, there was a lame commercial rap that currently resides in my brain in the place where I ought to be able to remember things that were actually happening to me in junior high school.

It’s the Legend of Zelda, and it’s really rad
Those creatures from Ganon are pretty bad
Octoroks, tektites, leevers too!
But with your help, our hero pulls through

And then, presumedly, there were record scratchings, rap breathing, and so forth. And the game sounded incredibly cool, despite my lack of interest in rap and my lack of knowledge as to what, exactly, a tektite was. And in the fullness of time, I found it actually was incredibly cool. And then it had a sequel, which I liked well at the time though it kind of annoys me now. And then it had another sequel which was incredibly awesome, and then even more, and all of them bottomed out at really good, with several of them maintaining brilliance. So, y’know, yay franchise. And now we have the Wii, which is like a video game system, except that instead of purposefully wiggling your fingers, you purposefully flail your whole upper body. Which translates for your average Zelda fan into actually aiming the bow, or swinging the Master Sword, or taking Princess Zelda into your arms and… okay, maybe that part doesn’t happen. Fair enough. Still, though, even without creepy video game fantasies, Twilight Princess is a good game. In fact, despite that it’s a retread of two out of the last three Zelda games with only about 20% obviously new content, it’s pretty much a great game.

Of course there are bombs, boomerang, and bow. I mean, that’s the way it goes. Except for the motion control differences, really, the gameplay is unchanged in the last five years or more. The story has a fair amount of new to it. After starting out as the young man that everyone relies on to keep the village going, Link is quickly caught up in momentous events when a band of goblins steals all of the other children out of the village and, in the same evening, a mysterious twilit fog falls, transforming him into a wolf and leaving him stranded in a world of warped and powerful beasts intent upon his destruction. (And, Princess Zelda is in danger.) Naturally, therefore, Link sets out on a quest to retrieve certain artifacts that might enable his new friend Midna, who originates from the same twilight world that is now threatening Hyrule, to save her people from that threat.

Also, there’s fishing.