Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (PC)

Note: This review contains spoilers for The Stanley Parable.

When The Stanley Parable launched as a standalone game in 2013, it received critical acclaim and proved itself a hit among players, notably including those who would otherwise not have any interest in the “walking simulator” genre. Five years later, in 2018, an updated rerelease called The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe that would include new content and a console port was announced for 2019. Unfortunately, Ultra Deluxe would receive two delays, once to 2020 and once to 2021, though it would finally launch on 4/27/2022. Though the release of Ultra Deluxe blindsided me, I still rushed to play it, even taking advantage of a special 33% discount from owning the original game (meaning I only paid $16.66 instead of $25). As much as I thoroughly enjoyed the original The Stanley Parable, my enjoyment of Ultra Deluxe waned by the time I had accessed all of the new content, to the point where I felt that the rerelease failed to completely justify a second purchase for existing fans.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Bad Guys

Some film adaptations of books (ex. The Great Mouse Detective, Ernest & Celestine) have gotten me interested in checking out their source material right after, but rarely has it occurred where I was interested enough in a movie to look at its source material before seeing the movie. The Bad Guys is one such film, being based on a popular series of children’s books by Aaron Blabey about a group of bad guys who want to turn their reputation around, often with humorous results. In anticipation of the film, after finding out what it was based on, I was curious enough to read the first three books in the series through a collection so that I would have some idea of what they were working with, and found said books enjoyable to read even as an adult. After deciding to take the risk to see the movie in a theater, while I did not expect to see a 1:1 translation of the books, I thought it was a good adaptation and a well-made film in its own right.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Spider-Man: No Way Home

Note: This review contains spoilers for Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man duology, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Sony’s Spider-Man Universe.

After Thanos’ defeat, we had largely lost interest in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This wasn’t due to any sudden dislike of the brand, but rather that it had turned into more of a lifestyle and the time commitment to keeping up felt unwieldy. Still, there were some movies and shows we had some interest in watching and the multiversal Spider-Man: No Way Home was one of them. During its initial 2021 theatrical run, we still didn’t feel safe going back to a theater due to its high demand, so we patiently waited until a 2022 Blu-ray release, miraculously dodging all spoilers in the process. Fortunately, the wait was well worth it and even though we initially only had interest in the reappearance of the Sam Raimi cast, we ended up liking everything else the film had to offer.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

River City Girls (PS5)

Does the name River City ring a bell? If it does, you’re likely familiar with River City Ransom, an old Beat ‘em Up/Brawler game from the NES days. For others, however, River City, the localized name for the Kunio-kun franchise, wouldn’t mean much due to the rather niche awareness of the series for the longest time. That would change, however, with River City Girls, a 2019 Beat ‘em Up co-developed by WayForward and Arc System Works that brought more mainstream attention to the River City series. So much so that a related 1994 Super Famicom game, Shin Nekketsu Kōha: Kunio-tachi no Banka, would finally receive an English localization under the name River City Girls Zero in 2022.

Since I had no familiarity with the River City games, however, I didn’t have any interest in River City Girls at first, but wondered if I had missed out on something when I saw enough praise. Because I prefer physical discs, I patiently waited for a Limited Run “Blowout Sale” that included the PS4 PAX cover variant and snagged a copy. Even after I got the game, however, it took the announcement of a sequel and River City Girls Zero to finally see if I actually liked it before investing further. For the most part, I actually enjoyed the game (via the free PS5 upgrade) and feel more comfortable with playing more of the series, or at least the Girls portion. However, some design and writing quirks nearly stopped me.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Stubs - Crime School

Crime School (1938) Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, Billy Halop, Bobby Jordan, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, Bernard Punsly, Gabriel Dell, Charles Trowbridge Directed by Lewis Seiler. Screenplay by Crane Wilbur, Vincent Sherman. Produced by Jack L. Warner (Executive Producer), Hal B Wallis (Executive Producer). Run time: 86 minutes. USA Black and White Drama. Crime.

The Dead End Kids were a group of young actors who had appeared in the play version of Dead End on Broadway. As a result, Samuel Goldwyn signed Bernard Punsly, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan, Gabriel Dell and Billy Halop to a two-year contract. Following the success of his film version of Dead End (1937), Goldwyn sold his contract with the Dead End Kids to Warner Bros.

Crime School came together because Jack Warner didn’t like to let his contracted actors not to work for their money. According to screenwriter Vincent Sherman, in his book Studio Affairs: My Life as a Film Director, "the project never came to life, and Warner, annoyed with having to pay the Kids' salaries for months when nothing was being done with them, voiced his feelings one day at the lunch table. [The head of Warner Bros' B-unit Bryan] Foy said he could put the boys to work quickly by doing a switch, remaking, and combining two old studio A films. Warner said, 'Go ahead. You've got 'em.'"

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition

When I first heard about Spirit of the North, I was intrigued by the Iceland landscape-inspired visual style and the playable fox protagonist, which happened to line up with a couple other fox-themed games I was interested in at the time (the others being The First Tree and Endling). I didn’t play it when it came out on PS4 because there were a number of other games coming out at the time, however I was reminded about the game when the PS5 re-release, Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition, was announced, which I eventually received as a gift. I generally enjoyed my time with it, though it’s not without problems, among them how it isn’t the best representation of what the PS5 can do.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Film)

Note: This review contains spoilers for Sonic the Hedgehog (Film).

Over two years ago, we watched the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog film in a theater. Little did we know that would be the final film we would watch the traditional way before the world shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the time since, we adapted to streaming as a way of keeping up with major film releases, even after theaters started opening back up again. With Sonic the Hedgehog 2 around the corner, however, we felt enough hype for the film that we decided we’d finally try going back into the theater in as safe an environment as possible. Fortunately, the end result was worth taking the risk.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Horizon Zero Dawn Complete Edition

When you’ve spent about a decade developing games in one genre, making a dramatic shift to another can invite a lot of risk. Guerilla Games certainly had their work cut out for them when they took such a risk, transitioning from the FPS-centric Killzone franchise to an open world game, Horizon Zero Dawn. Not only did crafting a whole new world require plenty of research, their own Decima engine needed to adapt to a genre it wasn’t originally designed for. Fortunately, their gamble paid off when the game launched in 2017 to rave reviews from critics and enough positive response to warrant a sequel. With the release of this sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, I finally took a look at Horizon Zero Dawn, specifically the Complete Edition, and found myself wondering by the end why I hadn’t played it sooner.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

Since its release in 1977, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, a compilation of three theatrical shorts based on the Winnie the Pooh book series, has proven itself a timeless classic from Disney’s body of work. In 2011, a sequel film based on other stories from the books, simply titled Winnie the Pooh (2011), was released to theaters, however it had the misfortune of coming out the same weekend as the highly anticipated Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, leading to the shutdown of Disney’s traditional animation department and the movie to seemingly become largely forgotten as a result. While I did not see the movie when it first came out, revisiting the 1977 film and seeing Christopher Robin made me curious about actually watching the 2011 film, though I would not end up actually doing so until much later. From watching it through Disney+, I found it to actually be quite enjoyable, though a victim of unfortunate timing in its release.