Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Freedom Planet

     What happens when you give a bunch of Sonic the Hedgehog fans the money, talent, and skill necessary to make a game? Well they live up to their kickstarter and make a fast-paced 2D platformer of course!
     This is Freedom Planet.


      I should mention ahead of time, this review is first impressions based. I am not a big time reviewer capable of asking for review copies before their release date so I can play them to completion. In order to get this review out in a timely manner, I must base my initial assessment on the first 30 minutes of gameplay. I may in the future return to do a complete review of the property, but if the rest of the game is like the first two parts, I have a fairly good idea of how it is.

     The controls are quite tight; that is to say, they are well responsive with very little input lag.
     Initially I had some trouble configuring the controls, as I was trying to get my controller to work (The game has controller support by the way, for you Sonic fans who cannot play any game remotely similar without a controller!) but the game wasn't accepting inputs from it, only my keyboard. I got it to work, but basically I had to program it through my keyboard instead of my controller directly. This could be just a bug, and may be patched out later on, so this does not factor in at all with my feelings on the game.

    For Sonic fans, I can break down the game in a very simple manner: It has the art style of the early sonic games, with the gameplay of Sonic Advance.
    For non-sonic fans, here is a complete breakdown:
    You move fast. very, very fast. However, while part of the objective to complete the level as fast as possible, you will actually want to explore the levels; a lot. There are collectibles hidden in each level, requiring some neat tricks in-order to get to them. This is quite counter productive to the whole "beat the level fast" thing, and the very fast movement speed lends itself more to that objective than to exploration, but I suppose the collection sidequest is more just added longevity, and unlocking of various goodies should all the collectibles in a level be found. I don't know the full answer (first impressions) but it's a decent guess.
    You also have three methods of attack. One: You have a double jump, and at least with Lilac, it is a move that adds height to the jump, and damages enemies. Two: a basic attack move, which seems to, under certain circumstances, home in on enemies. Three: A special ability. For Lilac, it is a wall bouncing ability, capable of either speeding her up, or allowing her to ascend to places normally unreachable.
    Of note, there is no tutorial for the game, at all. Not even a pop-up saying "these are your moves!" Old school gamers won't find this to be a problem, but even then not stating things outright in this fashion cna lead to some confusion. I got stuck on one part of a level because I didn't actually understand how Lilac's special worked, or that I was supposed to use it to advance. I did eventually figure it out, (and also found a card at the top of where I was supposed to go) but lost like 3 minutes of time on it. Though an argument could be made that the spot I was stuck in was designed to teach that; that I could get up there with my ability (and that there were cards hidden everywhere). And while that works, I just have the unfortunate feeling that some may get stuck there as well, and think the level was just poorly designed and give up. Giving a direct explanation of the ability might alleviate that. But, this game has only three buttons; it isn't really all that hard to figure out.
     The notable deviation from the Sonic series the game is an homage to, there is a health bar, similar to that of the Zelda series. Basically it is a bunch of leaves that represent how many times you can be hit before you die. There is also a mana bar, which is used by double jumping or using the special. The special can only be used at a full bar, meaning it can't be used after a double jump, but can be used after a single jump.

    Next, the story... I can't tell exactly what is going down, as there is a lot of backstory we haven't been told yet, but from what was shown: an evil lizard decapitates a king (onscreen!), and instills the king's son as a puppet king. Now he has lackies going after these special gems that supply power. The main characters are heroes, possibly mercenaries or something... I'm not sure of the details, but so far the plot is decent, if a bit textbook. It may get more intricate as time goes on.


    Now for the negatives...
    The bosses are kinda difficult. They are fast, and are kinda hard to avoid at times. Certainly there is a strategy to beating them, and they become easier after it is found; but they are still quite long. It becomes a battle of attrition more than anything else.
    But other than the bosses, there isn't much else negative to say. Well, I can point out that the game may be a bit too "furry" for its own good. The moment I heard Lilac was a dragon, I immediately thought: "Wow, is she also a kittyfox?" The game is already gonna turn people away because it looks like something out of a Sonic fanart gallery, calling her a dragon won't do the game many favors. I have no problem with her being a dragon or her design, just the fact she was called a dragon is what gave me pause. If they left her species ambiguous, I probably would not have even mentioned this. Then again, I am a furry, so I already notice trends like dragon original characters popping up everywhere; a normal person probably won't think anything of her being a dragon.




     And those are my initial impressions. It is certainly a fun game, and I look forward to playing more, and probably going for 100% in it. I may update with a complete review of the game, but if not, here's my score for the game:

9.7/10

+ Excellent gameplay, decent apparent longevity, and good writing and intriguing story. 

- Attrition bosses, possibly too "furry" for main stream audiences (does not factor into rating). 


Rating may be lowered in the future if future levels turn out to be a pain. Otherwise the rating will likely stand.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Willow

Willow was one of the very first fantasy films to reach the big screen; so it is little surprise that it wasn't very good, and didn't do well.
To say all the problems in one go: The plot is thin, the main actor isn't very good, there are a lot of contrivances, some just flat out stupid or silly moments that were wholly unnecessary, and generally poor writing.

As an example of the poor writing, one of the minor characters, who was supposed to be a friendly rival to the supporting male swordsman, is killed during the final battle. Now, the important thing is he gets some last words; any semi-important main character gets some last words, especially if they are a hero. Here is the expected final words:
"You always did say you'd live long past me..."
And here is what we got in the film:
"Win this war for me?"
... The problem with that is that the last words are very impersonal; he could say that to a kitten and it'd have just as much personal impact as saying it to a human being. Be only slightly sillier too.

And that's the film; if everything given was a two choice road, they chose every single wrong turn. They eventually got where they were going, after circling around the earth and trudging through mud.

First, there is Warrick Davis as the lead actor. He is passable, but is probably the weakest part of the film, despite being the titular main character. Storywise, he's as much of "the load" as the baby (I'll get to that in a minute). He doesn't really participate in the fights, and is pretty useless when he does. He is given magic acorns in the beginning which are supposed to turn people he throws them at to stone, and they turn out o be a complete waste of time, as, while they do work, it turns out to be utterly ineffective. He ultimately does nothing important for the story; every single act that could be attributed to him, could easily be contributed ot another. Good witch needing to be human? she finally finds the right counter spell. Villain spilling her magic juices and dying? Honestly tripping on her robes would cause that. The story is called "Willow" It should be about Willow, the audience should care more about him than the supporting characters. This is a problem with the writing and casting. Warrick Davis plays it fairly bland, and the role is fairly bland. So it is technically a perfect fit, but that shouldn't have been the end goal.

Though I should jump onto the issue of the macguffin of the film, a baby. A baby is a very, very bad idea for a macguffin, if for no other reason than it begging the question "WHEN DID THEY LAST FEED THE BABY?!"
In the end, the fact it was a baby turned out to be entirely pointless. The macguffin could've been a goblet and it would've had as much impact on the plot as the baby; and the goblet might make more sense.
We are told there is a prophecy that a baby will bring about the doom of an evil queen. We are never told how though; it's not like they say "the baby will touch the queen and she will then die", it's more vague. In the end, it's less that the baby caused her destruction, more that her attempts to avoid the prophecy caused it. That or the fact she bothered with a ritual, instead of the obvious option, which would be: Once you find the baby, kill it.
With something solid and magical in nature, like a goblet or a tome, a ritual makes sense; and the macguffin would not require upkeep. and it'd be an actual prophecy, instead of a self fulfilling one.

The entire film is just made up of poor decisions; from casting, to writing, directing, acting...
Honestly the only thing that works is the brownies, and they are purely comic relief. I liked them mostly because they seemed like the Frenchmen from Monty Python's Holy Grail. They were silly, but were honest with their silliness, they were not at all attempting to be serious with them, and that is perfectly fine.



I realize I'm picking on a film 26 years old, but I do it for one reason: Hollywood loves presold ideas, and is on a remake kick. Willow is a property that can be made very well today with the right changes. We have better special effects, better costume and set design, better fight choreography, better dramatic and comedic writing... It is very possible to take a not well known fantasy film, and make it appeal to the current Lord of the Rings fan-crowd. It doesn't need a Lord of the Rings budget, it just needs to pick the right choices.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Phoenix Comicon Log: Day 1

      I've been going to Phoenix Comicon for about 4 years now. Each year, my dad and I go to meet indie writers and comic book makers,  and watch the various panels. I figured I might as well chronicle the events.

      First off, Thursday is usually the least populated day; it's only a couple of hours (Technically. It closes at 2 in the morning, but opens at 4 PM instead of 10 AM.), and usually means the place is a lot easier to move around in. That still holds true this year, but there were a LOT more people there than usual.
Though the market floor is SIGNIFICANTLY bigger than previous years. There is quite a bit more space to move in, and it seems there are a lot more booths.
      We picked up some various movie posters (which we do every year, but this time I brought a tube to safely transport them in!) and just generally looked around the floor.
      I got myself a Pop! Figure of Garrus Vakarian of Mass Effect.

Look at his adorable awesomeness!

      I collect statues, toys, and figurines of shows and games I am a fan of. They are all tastefully displayed about my room; in perfect striking position should they ever come to life, ironically enough.

      Following our mini adventure on the con floor, we went to a couple panels. I personally went to a panel on how to create My Little Pony Ears. I've been wanting to go to that panel for 3 years, and only now did I finally go. The panel itself was mainly teaching how to hand sew. I think I might have learned something from the panel, but I'm still stuck in the phase where if I can get the thread ready it is a minor celebration.
     I would very much like to learn though; I want to be able to make a cosplay costume for next year... I'm thinking probably AquaGround Style Megaman.Exe


Like this but Blue.
     I just need to figure out how on earth I'm going to do... All of this. I am gesturing to all of it.


     Meanwhile, my dad went to a panel on Game of Thrones and the historical connections within it. It apparently sucked. The panelists were under prepared, with only a small amount of knowledge on the subject each apart from knowing the books/show. There was no slideshow to accompany it either, meaning that school projects on how yeast grows when cooking are better prepared than a group of panelists.

     My dad and I have actually discussed that we should do a panel at some point. He's a teacher, so he does know how to lead a class, and make it interesting. I would think we'd do it on how to create believable characters, or characters with a lot of depth. It'd be a subject people would be interested in, and one we could talk a lot about.

But, following these panels, we met up at another panel featuring quite a few of the authors (book authors, not comic book authors) at the con. It was the best freaking panel we've ever been to. They had us laughing the entire time, with good stories, and good chemistry between all of the various authors. It was a freaking delight. (By the way, if you ever enter Canada illegally, apparently the best way to sneak back over is by a hot air balloon wedding.)

Following that, we adjourned home for the night... Leave on a high note so they say.~

That concludes Day 1, we'll see if I remember to write a day 2.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Lego Movie

EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!!




Boy, I have not seen such positive reviews for a movie since Toy Story 3. Last check, 4 negative reviews out of 110. One really has to ask: How the hell did a Lego movie get such a high rating?

Well, let me tell you a little bit about Lego Politics. Yes, such a thing exists.


You see, originally, Lego had no sets. It was just a big box of colorful bricks that you built with. Over the years they obviously added sets, which came with instructions. Slowly over time, the only Legos available were sets which came with instructions. You couldn't go out and get that one piece you needed, or get a massive box of an assortment of them, you had to get a set, and cannibalize pieces from it.
Now of course, the sets built to instructions are pretty damn cool; I should know, I have tubs FILLED with Bionicle pieces, and have 3 dozen displayed on my shelves. But, those who recall the times where there were no instructions believe a lot of the creativity has been lost in Lego...
And they are kinda right, more often kids just treat Legos as yet another action figure, and find the instructions merely the precursor to having fun. The Lego sets having such strange pieces doesn't help matters, a factor which has gotten worse with the technic series Hero Factory, featuring such specialized pieces that make them just action figures with little interaction with regular Legos. But, my opinion on Bionicle's predecessor aside, this obviously doesn't preclude people from building what they want from the Legos; though it does make one not want to disassemble something they put together via the instructions.

This argument between instructions and creativity is the first conflict in the movie. I can't really do this conflict justice in a non-visual medium though, so I won't stick to this very long...
Basically, this comes in 3 arguments:
1. The instructions allow you to build something interesting and practical, but may be boring.
2. Pure creativity allows you to build something very cool, but impractical.
3. Using instructions as a springboard for creative ideas can create awesome and practical creations.
All three basically extend to forms of art. Following strict adherence to rules and lessons you've been taught will create technically good artwork, but is dis-interesting. Going completely free-form with no lessons, while unique and interesting, may not actually work. Taking in lessons, but breaking and following the rules as long as it is interesting, creates something even greater.
Again, I can't explain it that well in text, I'd require video for it... Maybe when the movie comes out on DVD I'll show ya.


Then there is a second bit of Lego Politics in the movie, which is the more obvious plotline:
Legos are a toy, VS Legos are an art
The whole main conflict of the movie is that Lord Business hates chaos, and is thus endeavoring to glue everyone into place. This desire does actually occur with adult collectors; they will glue together their sets so that they don't come apart. Which of course is completely acceptable, and understandable...
Except they are also a toy, something to be played with and enjoy.
This one bit of politics I shall leave as is for now... Going further would be spoilers.
I shall come back to it however in this video review half a year from now (Or more... Frozen came out in November, and still has regular showings in theatres. It may take until November for them to release the DVDs...)


But, as is my name sake (which I have been ignoring for a while), there are some things to fix.
Largely, I have no problem with the characters, the jokes, the plot, or anything at all... There are just some minor things...

Emmett, the main character, acts like an idiot far too often. Some bits of it I am okay with (his most original idea is a double decker couch. It sort of works for Lego figures, but you can imagine the problems as a human), but when he absolutely embarrasses himself, or is just doing something even he should know is stupid, just annoys me. At one point he gives a speech that amounts to: I suck. Really, even Tyrion Lanister's speech was light-years better than his.
"Those are brave men outside those gates... Lets go kill them."
But those are thankfully isolated incidences that pass by quickly, that unfortunately bring the plot to a halt.

Other than that, it was a fantastic story.
And now I kinda want a stuffed unikitty...





It is just so Adorable!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Frozen

Wicked 2: Icy Boogaloo



... I'd say something witty, but that sums it up. Frozen is Wicked. Elsa, the queen with ice powers, is Elphaba, in both character and voice. Anna is basically a depowered Good Witch... The songs resemble songs form Wicked, (Let it Go = Defying Gravity), they even have their own version of the munchkins.

Don't think that I'm saying Disney is just copying Wicked, I only just now noticed the similarities, and find it more amusing than annoying.


Frozen is another great movie by Disney, who have officially hit their stride again. Go see it.

I can nary think of anything negative about the film... Maybe a few minor gripes, but nothing that detracts from the film. Even the comedy relief character Olaf isn't annoying, and is even useful in the film, with some decent gags.


The only other thing of note here is that it seems like Disney tried to avert as many tropes as possible in this film, or at the very least toy around with them, which lies in stark contrast to their older works. It works well to the film's advantage, though it made predicting a couple twists easier since they went a little too heavy on it... But that could just be because I'm crazy and read TVtropes to relax.







It is somewhat hard to place where all my favorite animated movies would go in a list now... I'm gonna have to figure out some kind of system...

Sunday, November 24, 2013