Arby's Backlog Hell Arbiter Libera’s profile

~ Let's Get Some Games Done ~

An Ongoing Exercise in Clearing the Backlog Extraordinaire


Nothing special here for now, really. Just my updates divided for somewhat navigable lists using the artwork I used when updates were originally published. Maybe I'll add more to the "homepage" at some point, but this is serviceable for now.



Well that took a smidgen longer than expected. Only.. a MONTH since the last one? Damn. Where did the time go? Anyway, I bring you some monastic strife with Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth and warn you ahead of time it's the kind of game that needs replaying to get all cheevos if that's your thing. Fortunately, I'm lazy immune so all's good on that front. I'm also back with non-game stuff after taking a break in the last update with a healthy variety – City, Mindhunter (Season 2) and The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance for your perusing pleasure. I'll probably just do bold styling for these from now on because it's easier. Openings get way too colorful if I just post the usual formatting.

City ( Science Fiction, 1952, 251 pages )

Here we have an anthology of eight stories, albeit one connected by an ongoing narrative and threaded together with a peculiar premise – far off into the future mankind seems to have disappeared and our inheritors, intelligent dogs with their robot assistants, are piecing together what these strange beings were and how they relate to their “doggish” ways from said stories as they express varying degrees of disbelief and reverence. Quality varies on story-by-story basis and I didn't really care for the earliest ones, but as it escalates it becomes more engaging as we follow a family of Websters and their successes and failures across the centuries until they almost become synonymous with the ever-elusive humans. How did dogs learn to speak and become the new masters of the planet? What will they do when another threat rises to challenge their peaceful way of life? If you take into account my solid recommendation it falls on you to give it a read.


Mindhunter, Season 2 ( Crime, Thriller, 2019, 10 episodes )

Well, second season sure came quickly. Or should I say was late to watching the original as I mentioned some time back when I talked about it. This is honestly more of the same with two major differences that bring the season down for me. First, there's the matter of Tench's autistic/killer in the making son arc I don't really care for much myself and is either setting up the obvious or supplanting expectations. Following that would be show's increased focus on just one case, admittedly notable case of Atlanta Murders, while the usual interviews and behind the scenes stuff got shafted to a degree. I preferred the first season's structure in that sense. I'd still say give it a watch with a “see the first season” asterisk attached.


The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance ( Adventure, Fantasy, 2019, 10 episodes )

I went into this entirely skeptical, but goddamn if I wasn't impressed by the end. It goes to show practical, specifically puppetry in the Dark Crystal, with hints of CG for what's just plain impossible to do otherwise really is the way to go when it comes to special effects. By the time last few episodes rolled around I was wondering if they were going to retcon the movie entirely, but alas is just typical Netflix "let's dump the entire season at once" and then make you wait for the next season after a cliffhanger ending. If you don't know Age of Resistance is a prequel to the original movie preceding the Gelfling resistance where they rose up against their Skeksis overlords in a fantastical world of Thra. Terrific story and characters which sadly end on a cliffhanger the way Netflix shows all seem to... as they trod on their way down to a downer ending the movie itself picks up at. Heartily recommended and you don't even need to have seen the movie first.

I had honest-to-god intentions to turn Batman: The Enemy Within review into a full fledged one like I do with single games, but I realized quickly that would simply translate to rehashing those same old points I seem to write for every Telltale game. Giving my older reviews a quick glance confirmed that so I opted out and chose instead to do it fast and dirty with the most basic points. Could've shorted it even still, but hey. Going cold turkey overnight is hard. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)


As promised in the last update this one is late and wall of text strikes back with a vengeance. This time something recent as I cover Vampyr which happened to be one of the very few purchases I made with the price tag going over 15€. Knowing my luck it'll pop up in Humble Monthly soon enough. I think it was worth it seeing as its hook definitely appealed to me. And now I'm even more hyped for Bloodlines 2. In the effort to not make this about just one game I also posted some brief overviews of non-game stuff under MULTIMEDIA I managed to experience since – The Swordbearer, Mindhunter and JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind. This new format suits me seeing as I don't have to be all elaborate and like to get the point across anymore.

Have fun and enjoy the read. ◕‿◕

The Swordbearer ( Fantasy, 1982, 288 pages )

In all honesty you could call this a precursor to The Black Company before author actually fleshed out some of the ideas and, probably more importantly, spread them out a bit considering he eventually had more space to work with. There's also some Elric of Melnibone in there as well considering we follow a weakling youth who finds himself a magical, soul devouring sword seemingly blessed by a hungry goddess with a lot more in store than he suspects at first. It all definitely falls on the curse side of things despite the benefits, doubly so when you consider Suchara is not the only divine pretender with a champion... and said other champion happens to be the emperor in a war currently underway. Politicking and army maneuvers strongly featured in the first half of the book tend to be left by the wayside as Gathrid realizes more of his would-be heroic fate accompanying the mythical blade and immortal servant with a tendency to kill previous wielders at some point. Problem with The Swordbearer seems to be there's a whole lot to it that either had to be trimmed down in order to get a manageable final word count or just lack of coherent vision of Cook's part. When you add that initial onslaught of names it spews at you to get the idea this is epic fantasy after all it just comes off as glorified basic, I guess?


Mindhunter ( Crime, Thriller, 2017, 10 episodes )

For some reason I had this long-lasting irrational aversion towards Mindhunter. Not that I'm really into crime shows, but I think in this case it was because I had a misplaced notion it was an anthology series where our intrepid two FBI protagonists interview a new serial killer each episode. I was wrong, but that still remains as part of the premise – they travel across the US doing lectures to local police and along the way conduct interviews with notorious serial killers in the effort to classify and understand them to future benefit. Needless to say this is not a clear-cut road and, what I assume at least, realistic red tape they have to go through endears them to the viewer. Not to mention we also see their personal lives, how they suffer for their jobs and in general acting like human beings and not just suits. Taking into account show is set in the '70s it avoids blowing its load early by going straight for Charles Manson, but that seems to be what season 2 is aiming for so that's something to look forward to. Good show even if at times I resisted fast forwarding through Ford's “fast and loose” approach that absolutely isn't something you want to rely on.


JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind ( Adventure, Fantasy, 2018 – 2019, 39 episodes )

How do you talk about the fifth part of an on-going manga adaptation while having it make sense to newcomers? You don't. You do the sensible thing and recommend them to not start with Part 5. With that in mind I have to say I'm not really a big fan of Golden Wind or more specifically how it turned out. You have the usual “gang of supernaturally-powered Stand users on a mission” which this time happens to follow a young delinquent Giorno Giovanna as he embarks upon changing the criminal underground, but I think the problem is villain barely has any presence, and he doesn't enjoy Dio's dubious benefit of having been already established previously, on top of Stands themselves going into somewhat ludicrous territory where I find it difficult to believe author was trying anything other than gauging how elaborately obtuse he can get away with. I realize I am probably in the minority here because I also happen to be one of those people for whom JoJo isn't all about Stands exclusively. It's also about striking manly poses while ignorant viewers question your sexually because they don't get your beautiful duwang. It's not a bad Part, just not one I found personally up to my taste.

Update itself was supposed to be meatier, but one game turned out longer than expected so I'll finish it incognito. I would like to use this opportunity to heap praises upon the tireless fan translation community which has made so many formerly obscure games available to audiences unable to understand Japanese. In this particular case I opted for somewhat less known titles and went in blind. I bring you the following; King of Demons (grim action platformer of controllers snapping variety) and Violinist of Hameln (escort quest re-defined with platformer puzzles galore). It should be pointed out I do not claim credit for any of screenshots attached seeing as I merely found them online. Oh, there are also some novels I reviewed in a new streamlined format for your pleasure. Enjoy the read.

I would also like to pose a question to my readers – what are your favorite fan translations, if any? Are there games out there you would've regretted have you not had the chance to try them thanks to community efforts? I know I for one would not have gotten around to Live A Live or even more acclaimed titles like Star Ocean, for example. Japan was particular about what they were bringing over to English during the '90s.

P.S.
This is also a good opportunity to point out I’ll most likely be taking a break from regular updates for a while. Have some RL stuff that needs tending to and a coworker got me into FF14 again with the release of its recent expansion. Means you get a break from my walls of text. :D

Earthworks ( Science Fiction, 1965, 155 pages )

Novel presents a dystopian future where Earth has been polluted to such a degree that minority of people is forced to live in cities that stand apart from the ground on mechanical elevation and where even the smallest of crimes will get you sent to the Farms upon which you're expected to die working so cities can keep on going... that's the majority of the population. Both life styles are presented as horrible, but there is hope in the form of Travelers who move about and try to live a free life despite being hunted down by police and robots which effectively makes them terrorists of this reality. It's a grim world and our protagonist has mental issues on top of it all which result in him hallucinating things that may not be there. Novel follows his escapades throughout this world after crashing an automated freighter before some major revelations are made about African countries being the new rising power due to their largely untarnished land that can still be used to grow food and this does not sit well with current Powers That Be.

I cannot rightfully say whether I enjoyed Earthworks and to what degree. Its biggest weakness probably lies in characters themselves which are Aldiss' regular Achilles' heel from what I've experienced so far. Setting is interesting, but whenever people start speaking it begins to rely on author telling you what they're saying versus characters themselves, well, saying it. It's a weird style and I have a feeling it may be a personal dislike of mine. Story also sadly ends just as the finale is being set up and our protagonist Knowle finally commits to it. Talking about general broad strokes I'd say Earthworks delivers a heavy handed ecological message worth reading in modern times.


The Violent Century ( Alternative History, 2013, 352 pages )

I don't know when was the last time I started reading a book while knowing nothing about it beforehand, but I think it worked out in this case. This is a superhero novel albeit not one in the sense you probably imagine. It starts during WW2 when a certain German scientist devises a peculiar device that ends up sending mysterious "waves" across the world giving very few people super powers. What makes this interesting, other than the fact Yanks' RL superheroes would be styled after cape comics compared to everyone else's, is the fact these Changed-People or Ubermenschen if you're German and your superior race argument just got a tangible leg up, is the fact they're immortal unless actually killed. This leads to portrayal of events over said century as novel touches on major happenings like Vietnam, etc as seen from perspective of the Brits who feel slightly waylaid by the rise of US and Russia with their own brand of nationalistic superheroes. Thankfully, this offsets somewhat poor characterization of our protagonist Fogg, and Oblivion, who subscribe to that "special ops in tweed" style their government opted to use superheroes with during the war. Book does have some similarities with the Watchmen and mainly deals with how immortals recruited to a World War cope with life they don't recognize and just what the hell is Project Sommertag?

The Violent Century gets a thumbs up from me. Sure, it's not perfect and I'd argue it suffers from this very terse approach to dialog it went with, not to mention following a story that jumps between decades and couple of characters in a short span takes a while to get used to, but the premise of seeing flawed super heroes who are essentially timeless soldiers out of touch and time is engaging.


Finches of Mars ( Science Fiction, 2013, 187 pages )

In the future, mankind, spurned on by a new organization titled United Universities or UU, has settled Mars. Taking into account UU is comprised of major universities across old Earth and they have the final say said new settlement on Mars took form of six towers divided by regional/political lines. Some obvious like Chinese or West, and some like Singa-Thai or Sud-Am less so. Keep in mind going to Mars is a one-way trip due to costs and few accept this self-imposed exile, but there are those do and Finches of Mars follow people in Western tower as troubles arise both on the red planet and back home. Stillbirths plague Martian women as no successful child births have yet to occur bringing the viability of the entire project in question because they are entirely dependent on UU's backing. To make matters worse, albeit coming off as tangential to these new Martians due to distance, things are getting worse on Earth as new conflicts between nations escalate. How will people on both sides deal with the rising tensions and problems?

Putting aside my own bias against Brian Aldiss aside I have to say I'm not a fan of FoM. Which sadly coincides with this being his last novel. Signature uninteresting characters strike back, although this time fault of the setting itself as new colonists are assigned randomly generated names to “let go of their old identities”, and a lot of the plot points are just dropped or forgotten about. Don't get me started about that goddamn ending that has nothing to do with anything and completely blindsided me. What even was that?

So here we are with another update and it's a Grab-bag. Particularly one where I go back my childhood and re-visit three NES games. No, I'm not that old and my first experience with NES actually comes from a bootleg console we somehow bought. It came with a cartridge containing some 600+ games? I don't even remember properly. I did get to play on the actual Nintendo console couple of years later when SNES was already out for a while. I was late to the party and I think that shaped my interests a lot more than I realized. Primarily resulting in Nintendo not really holding nostalgic sway over me like it does for many.

Without further delay:

  • Double Dragon - home console progenitor of the beat ‘em up craze proper,
  • Contra - genre classic and distillation of what it stands for at its purest,
  • Gyruss - surprising dark horse of this three-legged race… IN SPACE.

Giving this post a read over reminds me I need to actively trim some fat in the future. Supposedly “short reviews” are becoming longer and longer. Again.


Goddamn, this took longer than I expected it to. Splitting headache prevented me from from writing a final review earlier, but nothing of value was lost. This time I bring a light video game offering in form of Tomb Raider, the 2013 reboot. I don't think I have it in me to play the original anymore and walk away unscathed. On other front I've also finished a few TV shows for your reading pleasure: Good Omens, What We Do in the Shadows and lastly not funny Chernobyl. Enjoy the read.

That category I spoke about bringing back in last update's opening? Yeah, that was supposed to be Quizzical about E3 and your hopes/fears regarding what was going to get announced or ignored. Turns out E3 proper kicked off before I got around to posting this update so we can still talk about it while it's ongoing. I've seen EA's panel and that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order looks pretty interesting compared to their usual SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS offering. Bit too “generic action adventure” for my taste, though.

Good Omens

Comedy, Fantasy, May 2019, 6 episodes

Having not even known Good Omens was getting another adaptation, first one being a radio drama I have not listened to, I can say I was definitely taken by surprise seeing the end product. This is one of those cases where staying true to the source material paid off handsomely and resulted in a show that's distinctly not formulaic despite the fact you could probably summarize it as a “buddy cop comedy”.

Like all good stories we have to start at the beginning – garden of Eden. Everyone knows the story about Adam and Eve, but what you may not know is that demon Crowley assumed the form of the snake to tempt and angel Aziraphale gave his flaming sword to Adam when he and Eve left Eden. Aside from the “did you lose your flaming sword?” that gets brought up couple of times in the show, for a surprising callback in the finale, the premise is used to setup that both of our main characters may be atypical of their angel and demon kin as both worry they may have done good and bad respectively, and wonder how it'll turn out. Main part of the story deals with the birth of Antichrist, execution of the God's Great Plan as Hell and Heaven will finally meet in Armageddon, Horsemen of the Apocalypse returning to end the world... and our two apparent protagonists, who have definitely gone native in the millennia they spent among mortals, kinda like this world and don't want to see it turned to ash. Cue intentional incompetence and well-meaning intentions to avert the end of the world as everyone seems intent on bringing it about.

Lest you think this is a production done on the cheap to capitalize on myriad of book adaptations we're seeing more and more, I'd like to reassure that's definitely not the case. This has the production values to back it up and that comes through when we witness timid Aziraphale and cheeky Crowley over the centuries as their accidental camaraderie grows seeing as they've been stationed on Earth without leave. Tennant and Sheen absolutely carry the show as the hilarious duo up to no good shenanigans and balancing each other out. Not to say other characters or their portrayals were bad, except for the kids which are meh due to child actors generally being hit or miss, but lead casting was phenomenal for a show that doesn't really go for laughs-per-minute approach and instead embraces that snarky and, for the lack of a better word, sophisticated humor that keeps you constantly entertained if that's your thing or is unbearably dull and misses the mark if it's not. This is ultimately subjective and I'm not sure how to sell a show based on the fact.

Good Omens gets a rock solid recommendation from me. Maybe because I don't really watch comedies that often, but the juxtaposition of comedic characters who are STILL taking all of this very seriously, and there are very real stakes at hand, is entertaining on its own merits to me. Making good use of Queen songs for soundtrack and expanding certain bits from the book, such as Gabriel having an actual role, doesn't detract either. That's without taking into account some genuinely witty and sharp writing as befitting considering at least one of two authors was directly involved with the show. REST IN PEACE, TERRY PRATCHETT.


What We Do in the Shadows

Mockumentary, Comedy, Horror, March 2019 – May 2019, 10 episodes

To be perfectly honest I have kept my eye on What We Do in the Shadows ever since I heard the show was in the works. Why? Well, because I liked the original movie. Did the show live up to its full length namesake? Only one way to find out, but let's just say the answer is both more and less straightforward than you may expect.

What's a mockumentary? Basically, it's when the characters themselves are aware of the “crew” filming them and is usually justified by characters being filmed as part of some media project on top of obviously mocking its subject. In this case we have three vampire roommates, and human familiar, living together in an old house on Staten Island. Why? They all have their circumstances for ending up in the New World, but I assure it's all highly comedic and hijinks ensue as we quickly find out these licks; husband and wife – Laszlo and Nadja – along with Nandor the Relentless, don't really know how to pass for normal humans despite centuries they have on them. Vampires of very much traditional convictions aka subjugate humans to serve as amusement, who end up relying on Nandor's human familiar Guillermo as a sort-of feeble link to humans of Staten Island as they find themselves fascinated with the area out of laziness to actually do anything past brutalizing and feeding. Did I forget to mention there's an energy vampire also living with them and they only got him on-board to help pay rent? Characters are really what makes this show, but that's where we kinda get into problems...

They didn't get together for me. Any one of these vampire, except maybe Nandor who comes off as too much of a buffoon to exist for as long as he has, could perhaps work on their own yet combining them together really brings out how similar they are. As a result it mostly comes down to differences in mannerisms. When everyone's a boisterous and domineering predator it kinda gets old quickly. Which may be why I would've liked to see more of Collin who stands distinctly apart due to his nature seeing as he gets his jollies from people's emotional state. Needless to say he works as an office worker, and has no usual vampire weaknesses in the first place, and from what we see he drives his co-worker to madness.

Problem with characters is largely remedied by the fact there's very little overarching story and What We Do in the Shadows works on episodic format for the most part. Sure, show hints at something more major when this ancient vampire comes over from Europe and seemingly charges the group with taking over the US, but it is played for laughs at the end of the day because of how incompetent they are when you get down to it. Which is strange because they have powers of mesmerism, shapeshifting and other feats of physical prowess. Absurdity and overreactions to commonplace things is where most of the comedy comes from so feel free to take what you want from that.

Would I recommend this one? Maybe. Check out the movie first because the show is essentially a remake with different cast. Or so you would think until later on in the show when a vampire council episode comes featuring a start studded cast of vampires from recent years with absences duly noted.


Chernobyl

Drama, May 2019 – June 2019, 5 episodes

Before it becomes really obvious I rather liked Chernobyl as a show I should probably point out this clearly was not a documentary. As such it takes liberties, particularly with a certain character that even show itself points out in the end credits and perhaps exaggerating fallout's global consequences, and should be taken for what it is – drama made to be consumed by viewing audiences. If hard facts are what you're interested in I imagine there are better options out there.

With all of the above taken into account I still find it hard to believe Chernobyl got the mood and mindset of the time so right. Set against the horrendous events surrounding the nuclear power plant disaster near Pripyat there's the backdrop of USSR vs US and what ramifications that would end up having, Soviet inner policy with KGB influences, etc. This is all seamlessly conveyed to you as events unfold and you realize getting something done isn't exactly as clear-cut as you may think when default responses to events was to hide them under the rug until the radioactive cloud got so bad it was no longer possible to do so as other countries noted the increase in radioactivity.

What can I really say about the historical events themselves? Not much. Show will do plenty on that front; with both how it came to be, painful measures taken, and ultimately the resolution itself alongside laying the blame. What really works here is you essentially have a story that follows events from hours before nuclear catastrophe and involves many players. From our main protagonists Valery, Boris and Ulana, last of which is the above mentioned made up character meant to represent all the other scientists who actually helped Valery to deal with the escalating situation, to various other government officials, power plant workers and management themselves as well as unrelated parties. It's an all-around excellent cast, but we were fortunate to have Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgard perfectly cast as chief nuclear scientist and minister of energy who have to get on-site and see what the situation really is. Things go from bad to worse. One thing that may detract from the show depending on how authentic you want your Eastern Block cinema to be, is that half the characters speak English with appropriate accents and some go full Queen's English. It grows on you as the show goes on.

Now, all of that above is also helped tremendously by some excellent cinematography at hand. I would list some standout scenes, but I think the entire show is filmed amazingly well. This is before the area became desolate and abandoned so you get that vivid panic as the government finally releases a statement about what happened and people start moving. Not to mention what follows as radiation rich zones have to be purged. Slip from your everyday town to grim depression is handled outstandingly with both visuals and limited use of music. Silence tends to speak for itself a lot in this one.

I'll end this piece the same way I started it and say Chernobyl gets a thumbs up. Keep in mind this is somewhat of a downer. It's also a whole lot of people talking about... well, less about science beyond the very basics and more about the humanistic side of it all. There's also Ulana doing the investigative bits which actually help explain how and what transpired. Not sure if I would advise binging, though.

You know what? This time I decided to leave everything to fate. Being wary to go with Challenge Me approach, I have no idea when I'll actually be able to post the next report, and left to my own devices I thought that was the safest option. Well, “my own devices” would be lying in this case because I used good ol' Wheelhaus to do the spinning for me and, taking into account couple of backups just in case, I got the following games chosen for me;

  • game packing a surprise that was Hush,
  • an unlikely genre candidate considering Nex Machina is out of my comfort zone,
  • Saturday Morning RPG which enjoys the dubious honor of having the most annoying title to color code yet.

I had plans to resurrect an old category of mine, but I think timing is not right yet. Summer is almost upon us and certain major event will also be here soon. Can you guess which one?


Another two weeks, another update. Much to my own surprise. I kinda winged it this time seeing as Book of Demons is the kind of game I could've taken a lot more time with before penning a review, but I think I'll also keep it installed for a little while longer. On the other front I've covered Castlevania S2 and Y: The Last Man as part of my finally correctly titled Multimedia section. You can teach me to schedule, but you can't take the obsession to standardize out of me.

P.S.
What do you think about actually listing what I’ve reviewed in the opening and including samples of graphical media when I review them?

Castlevania (Season 2)

Action, Adventure, Horror October 2018, 8 episodes

Almost two years ago I reviewed the first season of Castlevania and wondered how its sequel would turn out considering the first one, which consisted of mere four episodes, was basically just a setup to get our party together so they embark on a quest to hunt down Dracula proper. Time has come... well, time actually came last year yet here I am today having seen all eight episodes of the second season attempting to put it into words.

Where to begin? In hindsight it turns out having that tight-packed original was better in every way compared to what we got in this offering. I'll get into actual problems as I carry on, but the most obvious one for me is there's basically just as little if not less story here than we got earlier except it's now dragged out across twice as many episodes with unhealthy dose of filler thrown in for good measure. Show also fell into “bigger and more = better” trap in the attempt to escalate story stakes when the groundwork was already laid down and that should have been used instead.

Story buildup we saw up to this point gets resolved in the last two episodes. Until then it becomes painfully obvious writers watched too much Game of Thrones and thought vampire politics was what I wanted in my Castlevania animation. They were sorely mistaken. Now, vampires and politics can work, as Vampire the Masquerade can attest to, but in this case it results in just a whole lot of static shots where vampires stand in the grand hall and pretend to politic/strategize while old Drac is tired of life and wants to end it all. When you consider half of most of the episodes are dedicated to vampire POV it drags the whole thing down. Flipside is there are two new human characters who are interesting and I genuinely wanted to see more of and show thankfully provided it with backstory flashbacks. Once in a while you cut loose with gratuitous action scenes that don't really provide much context to the story under than to, I don't know, justify the action tag? It's just all so unfocused and I don't think the director knows what pacing means as they were given too much time and not enough plot to fill it with. Even our intrepid trio of protagonists does little until the finale and I can only stand so much bickering between Alucard and Trevor with Sypha mediating between the two manchildren. All three of them are fundamentally the same characters we saw in the original so nothing's really changed there. They simply have to get new stuff and learn new tricks to actually get to fight the big D. But those last two episodes, man. That's what I wanted the show to be – action galore and finally tossing in some Castlevania music. Such a shame it comes so late and is resolved with assumed expectation from the viewer to be already invested in these characters. Except in this second season I can't even cheer for Dracula anymore because he's gone full nihilistic. And show then has the nerve to sequel bait not once, but TWICE... with season three already confirmed.

As you can probably tell I did not enjoy this. It simply comes across as a tremendous downgrade in almost every respect that has to do with pacing, writing and development. Sure, the visuals are still there and combat choreography was good, considering they seriously increased the time spent fighting so it occasionally dips into frame jank, but even the sound design is somehow just there. Vampires going all “diversity mode” simply so you can have an international cast to slay, who barely utter a word so they're just stereotypes, seems like a waste of time and effort, for example.


Y: The Last Man

Post-apocalypse, Drama, Adventure, September 2002 – March 2008, 10 Collected Volumes

Time for another graphic novel. Or comic, if you prefer. Y: The Last Man fits well within my spheres of interest aka not being your “cape comic” that seem to be all the rage these days and comes neatly collected. As a matter a fact there are multiple collected editions out there and I'd probably track down Absolute Edition because it's the entire story in just three books.

It's 2002 and the unthinkable has happened – all the males have died. Well, everyone except Yorrick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand who makes it his favorite past time to throw excrement at Yorrick. Needless to say this turns the world upside down as society breaks down and begins to rebuild over the course of the story. What is the story, though? There's kind of a lot to take in because the story clearly runs on arcs, but what we start off with is Yorrick wants to get to Australia to locate his girlfriend Beth while the rest of the world, of which there are many parties including the Israeli military, female US president drafting the mysterious Culper Ring organization to protect the only surviving male, and lots of other crazy shit that eventually gets introduced. Story is not really Y's strong point if you ask me. Barring some asspulls and twists you can largely guess how this “world gone crazy with women” premise turns out for the only guy around and ultimately comic relies on introducing more outlandish elements to throw roadblocks in Yorrick's way as the cast expands. Ultimately it's the premise I found the most engaging when you have the types of New Amazons popping up, piracy taking a new meaning and not even the astronauts are forgotten. Not to mention asking if there's truly hope in such a setting?

With all that in mind it's the characters that really carry this one. Or will break it utterly depending on where your preferences lie. Mr. Brown himself is kinda that stereotypical early 2000's wisecracking smart guy using it as a facade to deal with his own inner turmoils and is largely likable. Where he got on my nerves is with constant referencing when it felt out of place or just to reinforce the notion he's a brat. Fortunately he's balanced by excellent agent 355, a no nonsense government agent who's role it happens to be to watch over Yorrick. She doesn't have an easy job and relationship is one of barely tolerating each other early on. Naturally, it goes places. There's probably about a dozen of other characters involved, particular standout being Dr. Mann who may or may not know what actually caused the extinction of the male population worldwide, but it's the dynamic duo that carries the story and how they develop.

So what's my last word on Y? Well, uneven would definitely qualify. As well as groan-inducing at times. Aside from the whole in your face feminism thing, which got on my nerves real fast but with Yorrick being the way he is you can almost see the women in this story may be onto something, it was author's incessant need to stop and deliver a paragraph worth of “as you know...” type of exposition. It's unnecessary and kills whatever pace you had. No, I don't need to be reminded who the Amazons were in the middle of a tense standoff, for example. This persists throughout the comic. It is a decent looking comic, I'll give it that. Definitely modern made and you can tell corners were cut with some backgrounds, but the cover art is gorgeous so that was a good way to get me hooked. On top of general artwork gradually getting better as more issues were released. I think one of the artists was actually from Croatia?


Another collection of shorties reviewed in under a day. Just like with my last Grab-bag all these games are free and, this time at least, available on Steam as precursors to upcoming games. I have not really found a solution for games lacking “proper” covers yet so I guess current format could work for those versus full “cover on the side, multiple screenshots” package. What do you think? I wish I managed to squeeze in at least one more review under the non-games section down below, but one will have to do.

P.S.
You’ve probably seen these pop on Steam prior to me posting here. Eh.

The Long Tomorrow

Science Fiction, 1955, 222 pages

There are many approaches one can take when writing a novel set during or after an apocalyptic event, and so we have on our hands this time. The Long Tomorrow might actually surprise you because it's not an action drive story, but that in no way diminishes its own take on the premise.

So many stories regarding the apocalypse decide to set themselves far off into the future to cut all ties except those they'd like to keep to the old world, but as the reader learns through the eyes of a fourteen year old Len Colter that's not exactly the case this time around. It has been scantly two generations since the world ended so there are old people still around who remember what the cities were like, for example. And it is a notable example because in this new world order one rule reigns supreme – cities can never return. Does that mean everyone's turned nomadic? Not really, they just returned to more rural life style and put hard caps on what passes for civilized hubs. Going beyond mere cities people also abhor much of the advanced technologies and swept in religious doctrine they consider them evil and remnants of what caused humanity to forsake God who then decided to burn them away for their sinful ways. Such is the world view we get through Len's eyes. View, you might say, is heavily biased considering it comes from New Mennonites who rose to become just one of many sects to keep the society going. This life will soon be cut for our boy protagonist as he and his friend Esau have ideas of their own and don't want to be kept ignorant for the rest of their lives when there has to be so much more out there. Well, if you dodge Ishmaelites who have become zealous savages and a vile place called Bartorstown where technology may have endured to plague the world.

From my setting summary I think you can kinda put two and two together and make an educated guess where this story is going, but it's a good thing the journey itself is why you're here. Seeing these two boys enact their plan and witness the world, with the reader along for the ride, beyond their village is the real draw. Nothing's perfect in this new world yet there are familiar problems. Kinda like with zombie stories you realize despite all external circumstances we are our own worst enemy in most situations, and no matter which form it took it seems like the apocalypse hasn't really changed that. Journey I mentioned above is also an internal one where Len's worldviews are tested and he has to decide what to believe in. Even whether his father is in the right and this way of living they practice is the correct one when they weight against the days of yesteryear. Not to mention new societies that have risen and struggle balancing the old laws with the inevitable increase in population and [old] issues that will bring back that cannot be solved by faith alone.

I enjoyed The Long Tomorrow a great deal and would recommend it. There are some things that didn't work for me, especially the resolution and some buildup towards the ending when Len suddenly makes certain calls, but those do not undermine a great story of self-exploration we have here.


Now this is more like it and what I had in mind when I scaled back updated to one per game. Also to break the monotony I've brought back my takes on other media which will no longer be reviews proper and rather more like impressions or summaries. Makes it easier that way, although I doubt anyone will notice with my walls of text. Have fun reading and fire back any feedback you have.

P.S.
If you’re reading the ANTHOLOGY section please comment on whether it was uncomfortable to read with cover art on the right side. I found it distracting myself.

Prophet + Prophet: Earth War

Science Fantasy, Action, January 2012 – November 2016, 4+1 Collected Volumes

It's been ages since I last tackled a comic or graphic novel, whichever you prefer, so I figured it was time once more and with 700 or so pages I figured Prophet would make for triumphant return. One thing worth noting is you don't need to know anything about the '90s iteration of the comic because this 2012 one is a reboot for all intents and purposes, albeit one that's aware of the original and later on pays more than just homage from what I've pieced together.

John Prophet wakes as his drill-pod digs its way out of the ground. Barely surviving after getting attacked by an alien life form and injecting stimulants to rouse his body after untold years of dormancy he realizes this is no longer Earth he remembers. Time frame is not given and nor is it relevant – Prophet has a mission to accomplish, clearly embedded into his mind with psychic conditioning and extreme training. He is a one-man army equipped with only the bare essentials old Earth Empire left him in case he ever needs to rebuild it. Knowing what he has to do to reactivate the G.O.D. satellite he embarks on his journey to prepare and perform his duty.

All that? That's just part of the first volume and one of multiple Prophets we follow over the course of the run. Or should I say, over the course of these first two volumes because Prophet is only partially an anthology of individuals all embarking on missions of great importance until its plot crystallizes into a tighter narrative with a more permanent cast of characters yet even then it's not like authors (because each story has a creator so you get different takes on similar core themes) completely abandon the notion of feeding you background tidbits so later stories won't feel the need to explain all over again. If you were to ask me I'd probably say I regretted that shift in focus and preferred the standalone stories themselves, but I would also lie if I didn't say it was awesome the way most of them are brought back in some capacity. What REALLY drew me in was the setting, though. It is absolutely amazing in that “show, don't tell” approach that goes so hand-in-hand with an alien setting like this one. Closest approximation would be one of techno barbarian future existing in the shadows of once powerful empire still lingering but there are other players in this rich and layered history Prophet presents. Not to say the empire itself are really the good guys when you consider they basically have no limits to what they'll do with genetic tempering, psychic control, slavery, etc. I liked the setting and its mystery so much that I was kinda disappointed when they went and presented two in-file sections in a later volume to shed some light on it.

Considering the medium it's only expected I talk about the art, framing and such things. Fortunately, all I can say is they're outstanding all-around. There are multiple artists at work here so you cane expect variety, but nothing too drastic that will stand out. It also means you'll see plenty ranging from survival on an alien space station lead by a mental projection with clones around you who failed to epic space battles between bred warships and ancient rock titans, for example. This one's a winner, guys.


The Airs of Earth

Anthology, August 1963, 190 pages

Problem with anthologies in general is I have yet to find a way to comprehensibly cover them in review-style format considering there's [usually] no uniformity to them and works tend to vary quite a bit. In this particular case with Brian Aldiss' The Airs of Earth it is easier because they're all penned by the very same author, but that does not negate the uneven nature of the collection as a whole. There were definitive high and low points among the eight stories featured so I will not attempt to break down each and every one of them. What I will commit to, however, is commenting on those that stuck with me the most for whatever reason.

Going in reading order first one what stood out for me was, well, the first one - A Kind of Artistry. On surface it is a story about one Derek Ende who comes off as almost your typical pulp era space opera protagonist who can do no wrong and is extremely competent, but that's honestly just a facade for the story where he undertakes a mission to “make liaison” with an alien on behalf of the government. Real theme is the protagonist's underlying relationship with his mistress and her possessive/not really/kinda attitude towards him as well as inherent desire to be free yet wanting to be bound. It's hard to put into words without spoiling, so let's just say she's not merely his mistress and that complicates things. Next one would definitely be O Moon of My Delight! from which the cover I've posted comes from and is honestly kinda simple when you get to it considering it mainly deals with a tech engineer posted to a Tandy Two where Flange system exists aka method to slow down ships coming out of FTL. Explaining reasons and logic behind I won't go into, because that's precisely what our lead does to get the point across to a very sharp little girl, as they're all departing and taking the next ship off-world. It involves romance, sheep herders with malfunctioning robot dogs, and a tragedy waiting to happen no matter where in universe you may be. Penultimate story I would give attention to would probably be The Game of God with its straightforward twist if that makes any sense. Opening to a god accepting two sacrificial bowls full of freshly extracted guts and hating his followers to it we switch perspective to a team of scientists landing on planet Kakakakaxo where they're seeing a legendary figure Dangerfield who landed there 19 years ago and survived, being the only human to have done so. What's the story behind the primitive reptilian natives and their two slave races? That and more if you read in what is probably the most typical story in the collection, in my opinion. I would end summary with, fittingly enough, final story - Old Hundredth. Problem is I have no idea how to go about it. It is a far future story where humanity seems to have disappeared and Venus now orbits our planet. What replaced humanity are the Impures, or should I say intelligent creatures apparently engineered by old humanity on Venus at some point. Dandi is one of those as our protagonist, a mega sloth of sort, and she wanders the planet while maintaining a mental link with her Mentor. Did I mention Mentor is a intelligent dolphin in an underground tank? Her trade/art is exploring the musical resonance psyche leaves on death. And then something happens to her that changes things, but it's getting into the idea of musicolumns where story spends the most time on alongside occasional hints about history now gone which may be fitting considering this is the most out there story of the bunch.

I was planning to also break down my least favorite stories, but this has already dragged out long enough for what was supposed to be short so I'll skip that. Let's just say to enjoy half of the books is a good deal with an anthology and I didn't actively dislike any stories. Some were very obvious, like the military or smiling drug one, but for the most part I enjoyed The Airs of Earth. Your mileage may obviously vary.


Love, Death & Robots

Anthology, March 2019, 18 episodes

To finish off this little trifecta I have going on here let's dabble into moving pictures. Love, Death & Robots was a Netflix initiative to fund a story anthology where various studios would get to display a short of their own using whatever animation technique they felt like employing. It turns out almost all of them really like CG versus traditional animation, but I'm not complaining with what's on display. Worth pointing out – like it says on the cover it is a NSFW anthology so expect nudity here and there. They aim to please both camps.

Out of eighteen shorts present and accounted for there's quite a few I enjoyed so I don't think I'll go into extensive breakdowns, merely brief opinions here and there.

Three Robots and When The Yogurt Took Over stood out for their humorous take on what passes for pretty grim scenarios when you stop and think about it. Former could've done without the cat part, though. Standing in the off corner we have Beyond the Aquila Rift, Good Hunting, Shape-Shfters and The Secret War as more serious heavy hitters of the package in both their presentations and themes. First one deviated from the book it was based on somewhat, but stunning CG display was something to behold and had me impressed throughout. The Secret War almost fes like someone animated Metro games and is the most self-contained movie of the the entire anthology in a sense it has clear beginning-middle-end structure you'd expect. Couple of shorts that didn't wow me like the above, but were still absolutely worth watching would be Sucker of Souls and Zima Blue which were both honestly on the basic side of things and one even lacked a proper ending, but not underwhelming enough to write off. I've seen people rave about Zima Blue online and I can't say I really get why.

Sadly, there were also a handful of episodes I could not stand. Alternate Histories is just someone asking “what if Hitler died and we made six scenarios out of it?” that should've honestly been left without an answer. Idea is solid, but execution is easily the worst out of everything on the offering. Then there's also Blindspot which landed with a very dull thud and I honestly forget it even existed. Needed some more thought put into premise and script, not to mention the ending invalidates everything I just sat through so it can evacuate through the nearest window. Lastly there's also Ice Age. I have no idea why this was included other than to get some celebrities aboard, I guess. Not bad, but just flat and already seen.

So what did I make of Love, Death & Robots in the end? It's a tough sell and I'm almost hesitant to recommend it as such, but you can never tell with people. You may end up liking specifically what I couldn't stand. For example, there were shorts like The Witness that were visually breathtaking but otherwise felt like filler with some supposedly deep ideas going on. If you do a head count you'll see there's couple of missing episodes I didn't talk about and that's simply due to lack of impression or bad/good balancing out for a mediocre sum.