The 'Shroom:Issue 105/Critic Corner
I am exhausted, oh my sweet Poochy. I hate the holiday season sometimes, having to work ridiculous hours because working retail is a nightmare around this time. Granted, I'm a shopping centre cleaner, but it's still a retail-based job and it bloody sucks. I actually had to work overnight at one point because our bosses thought it'd be a good idea to hold a 24-hour shopping night without properly marketing it. Easiest $200 (probably more fuck it, I'm too tired to do calculations) I've ever made, but it was still irritating. Anyway, that's behind me, and so is this issue. I mean hell, this isn't nowhere near as large as issue 100, and yet I think I found this one more troublesome to work on. Perhaps because we also did a Halloween issue two months back, but can't be helped!
Thanks to everyone who has stuck around through my ramblings throughout the year. We turned Critic Corner back around from the joke of The 'Shroom - even being absent from a few issues last year - to one of the most bustling teams of the year, with a (mostly) steady stream of content and a (mostly) great Section of the Month voter turnout across the year. I've never been so proud to be the mother of a mess of code. So with that, we close the year with this special holiday issue, which possesses a fair few delicious treats this time around.
First off, the absentees are Marshal Dan Troop (talk) who was too busy fightin' footwear to write anything for me; and Stooben Rooben (talk), whose computer exploded and thus forbade him from writing a proper Stoob Tube review this month. In terms of new sections, we now have PowerKamek (talk) writing Marioverse Reviews, so keep an eye on that each month. As for guest sections, we have Yoshi876 (talk)'s Movie Review, which he has graciously supplied alongside his regular Character Reviews because he's a jolly good chap with sexy, beautiful, sculpted abs... huh...? Oh sorry, I was, uhh... distracted...
Finally, we have a contest being hosted on Critic Corner this month, which will span across the next two months. Details are below before the Section of the Month information, so check it out if you're interested in flexing your writing muscles.
I don't really know what much else to say at this point, because I'm sleepy as hell. Just read the sections ahead, it'll be good for you.
Section of the Month
With only two sections last month, it wasn't that much of a competition, but somehow I managed to come out on top with 11 votes for Crocodile Style Reviews, which was a double-up review of the recent rhythm game revival frontrunners, Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4. Second place with 9 votes was Yoshi876 (talk) with a review of the dorky little manchild Booster from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. Good work, mate, but you weren't able to win against me this time, you bloody pommie.
Lightning Opinion Piece Contest
G'day, everyone! Crocodile Dippy here, as you already know, to give you the sick deets on a wonderful little writing contest we've got going on which we're dubbing The Donkey Kong Lightning Opinion Piece Contest! ...We'll hire some new people to think up names next term. The gist of the competition is that you'll submit a short opinion piece to me - between two to four paragraphs - concerning your thoughts and opinions on something relating to the Donkey Kong universe, in honour of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Whoever has the most eloquent, fascinating thoughtpiece - as voted by the general public - wins, earning themselves their choice of an (at most) $50 Steam or Nintendo eShop game directly purchased by me, as well as tokens as per the Achievements page. A potential for $50 just for writing some intelligent shit about Donkey Kong or his mates. Pretty good deal, if you ask me.
So for the rules, keep to the following...
PowerKamek gets his knitted sweater on for a review of Yoshi's Wooly World.
Dippy stabs her way through the streets of London in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate.
Yoshi876 is a pretty little princess in this review of the Sprixie Princesses.
Time Turner gets chilly in a Fahr Out review of Fahr Outpost.
Hello, ‘Shroomies! A recently released game is Yoshi’s Woolly World. It released on October 16. It is cute with Yarn Yoshi! Today, I will be reviewing it.
So, I think Yoshi's Woolly World is a good game. The story of the game is that Kamek turns the Yarn Yoshi’s into Wonder Wool, but misses two of them, and they have to save the rest. It is very relaxing if you're on “Mellow Mode”. If you're on “Classic Mode”, it is a lot more challenging. I love the fact that this game is all yarn, because It looks so realistic. Nintendo was creative with this one! Who ever thought of a game all about yarn anyway? One thing that I've noticed is that yarn is replaced by Yoshi Eggs from the Yoshi’s Island series. That means this game is just like Yoshi’s Island, sort of. My favorite level on this game is Sunset at Curtain Falls. If you don't know about it, you're swinging on a lot of curtains, and yes, they're moving! It feels like a rollercoaster at some parts. It is sort of challenging, Getting from curtain to curtain is a challenge! It is in World 4.
Anyways, one reason why I like this game is because of the soundtracks. I think this game has one of the best soundtracks in the whole game! Also the soundtracks fits in with the theme of the levels. It also gives you a good mood after you had a stressful day. I mean really! After I come home from school, I play this game and I seem to be in a soothing mood afterwards. This game is amiibo compatible. You just tap an amiibo and boom! You have a Yarn Yoshi that looks like the amiibo you tapped! Some of them look creepy, like the Mario Yarn Yoshi. Um, yeah, I just hope that’s not what Yoshi’s look like in the future! Getting off topic, moving on.
There is a part of this game I kinda hate. I do not like it when there are no hints to help you through the course. Some of the courses are way to hard to figure out, and I’d like a little hint or so to get through them. They’re kinda like puzzles! I do like that everyone’s together during co-op play. No one is left behind, you both cheer when you pass the goal roulette, and when someone loses a life, they come back in an egg and go to the other player. This game really gives me good feelings. Now, this game is epic, cute, and fun at the same time! I give it a 9/10. If you don't have this game yet, I recommend that you get it! Thanks for reading, and I hope you liked this issue of The ‘Shroom! See ya!
Crocodile Style Reviews
A fun fact about Australians is that we have a petty beef with New Zealand, the sheep-shagging, flightless bird-mascoted, tree-communing, fire demon-slaying… wait, what was I on about there? Oh yea, the point is, it’s not as well known that we Aussies have a petty beef with just about every country that isn’t named “Australia”, and even then that’s debatable. Britain is one of our foremost adversaries, of no great surprise when you consider all us whities down here were just rejects that the poms decided weren’t worth stinking up their jail cells, so why not send them to rot in the great, dirt-covered land down under? I’m calling you out, MCD; what you gonna do about it, wanker? Anyway, to that end, Ubisoft have sought to make my love-hate relationship with them even more complicated by releasing Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, the sixth main release in their long-standing series of leapfrog simulators… if leapfrog involved shoving a sharp object through the kid in front of you. Fuck you, Frank. This time we’re running across the rooftops of London murdering pompous redcoats, so all in all a good start.
Now Assassin’s Creed games have followed a very weird quality curve over its lifespan, with the stars often aligning during even-numbered releases. The first game was eehhh but whatever, first instalments are still finding their wings; the second and fourth ones were bloody incredible, while three and five were less like crafty historic epics in the shadows and more like tripping on your cat’s bug-infested furball in the shadows. But hey, we're on the sixth game in the series, so maybe luck will shine itself upon us once again. Or maybe I’ll get myself stuck in a horses arse. Narrative-wise, I have no pissing clue what’s even going on anymore. To summarise the ludicrous plot so far, there's a long-standing war through history between the playable Assassins who, to use topical comparisons, are the Bernie Sanders of global power struggles, touting absolute freedom at all times, and the Templars, who are more like Ted Cruz in that everyone is expendable so long as they have their money. After offing professional bland asshole Desmond Miles in the third game, Ubisoft realised that no one liked that sun-dried tomato and so went the safe route by replacing him with a nameless, faceless, voiceless berk who does nothing but take orders that are constantly barked at him from the college dropouts of Desmond’s initial posse. In trying to locate more pieces of ancient artefacts from this game’s baffling “old race” backstory, the player character has to relive the memories of siblings Jacob and Evie Frye in Industrial-era London, all to end some non-descript apocalypse that’s apparently going to start in Quebec, which is just typical of those uppity tarts.
Thusly, you alternate between playing as Jacob and Evie, with the game insisting that Jacob is the combat-heavy brute while Evie is the elusive, stealth-focussed one, but practically they function the exact same aside from a few abilities in the skill tree being locked off to each of them. If you’ve played an Assassin’s Creed game before, you’ll know exactly what to expect, with the core assassination stuff still functioning basically the same as ever, with the satisfying crunch of a successful stab in the neck being as pleasant as ever… well no actually, it doesn’t appear to be necks anymore, since Jacob and Evie seem to have a bizarre fascination with puncturing kidneys. Maybe their long-deceased father died of kidney stones and they’ve vowed revenge ever since.
As always, there’s also direct combat involved, which has historically been the least exciting part of the series, but Ubisoft are really determined to make things work this time with how much Syndicate throws it in your face. Not that they’ve really changed anything, since you only have a single attack button that you spam endlessly until the button prompt tells you to counter or stun them instead without even the swift solution of simply slitting their throats with your sword to speed things along, proving to be as much a waste of time as it’s ever been. The range of weapons is fairly minimal compared to previous games, too, with the choice of knuckledusters, sword-canes, or kukri knifes, and that’s it, simply with various upgraded versions of them which require crafting materials to build. Some might argue that the crafting was implemented to shake things up and add a new element of customisation to the game, but this is Ubisoft we’re talking about, so you’d best believe it’s there to tempt you with microtransactions. With multiplayer removed, how else are Ubisoft going to afford their gold-plated champagne glasses if they don’t pinch the player’s pennies? $100 a copy ain’t gon get the office new marble flooring, buddy.
So, what’s actually new? Well there’s a hookshot that allows you to traverse the rooftops like a steampunk Spiderman, if Spiderman was in no rush to be anywhere and was really fussy about where he was willing to swing from. The map is so damn expansive that even if the hookshot had any actual kick to it, it’s inefficient for travel all the same, only really being good for getting a good vantage point or a quick getaway if things get hairy. No, the more useful means of travel are the carriages, which can be hijacked at any point in the game and used to cause more property damage than tradies on a Friday night. As much as the concept of Grand Theft Creed amuses me, the carriages control like absolute donkey piss, and given how narrow British roads are, well you’d better hope you have horse insurance! Thank fuck for fast travel, eh?
This is where my problem with the game stems, since it’s just so bloody inconsequential. Assassin’s Creed II was great for building on all the mistakes and faults of the first entry in the series, while Black Flag took on a brand new identity all of its own, nicking the one good part of Assassin’s Creed III and owning the hell out of it in a grand pirate adventure. Neither of these two games feels like the same experience just churned out with glossy make-up and a few extra buttons on the dress, but Syndicate feels like just the same roofy runny, knify stabby bullshit I’ve grown so exhausted with over the years. Hell, the small-scale spin-off earlier in the year, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, does a hell of a lot more to build on the series formula, and that one didn't need to have gang wars to keep things interesting.
This is to say nothing of the writing, which teeters somewhere between a cheesy buddy cop film and a brother-sister dramedy with somehow even less finesse than either. It’s been a while since I last played the earlier Assassin’s Creed titles, but I don’t remember the writing being quite so clumsy, so either my standards have improved over the years or Ubisoft are taking the piss. “I hope you never find the Shroud,” one of my assassination targets quipped to me; no shit you hope your arch-enemies in the global power struggle never find an ancient, immortality-granting artefact. The fuck is this, kindergarten? There’s even a sidequest segment of the game that puts you in the shoes of Jacob’s granddaughter in the middle of World War I, which exists for literally no other reason than to drop supernatural exposition and have Winston Churchill blow smoke in your face.
Just about the most entertaining part of the game is when it glitches up, as there’s nothing quite like driving down the streets only for a Templar carriage to suddenly materialise in front of you and alarm every redcoat in the tri-borough area. At one point I was trailing a Templar carriage as part of a mission, and an old chap with a top hat fell on top of my carriage and simply stayed there the whole trip, flexing away as if this was just a daily occurrence. I have to say, this is a lot better than the game-breaking bottomless pit glitches of Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but if the best point in your game’s favour are the things that weren’t supposed to be in there to begin with, then you’ve probably gone wrong somewhere down the line.
My final verdict is that Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate must endure multiple life sentences on the count of insubstantial gameplay evolution, poor character development, tedious side-missions, microtransactions, and not allowing you to pet the goats in the game. At its best, Syndicate is a time waster for only the terminally bored who need to occupy their time with anything less they be lynched by the Fun Cult from Oglaf; at its worst, it’s an infuriating step backwards for a series that demands constant evolution to keep itself relevant, failing to justify its impressive setting with anything that sets it apart positively from the rest of the series. Better luck next time, Ubisoft, and maybe set your game somewhere that didn’t elect a pig-fucker next game.
Super Mario 3D World introduced a lot to the Mario series: cats, flying skeletons and the focus of my review this month: the Sprixie Princesses, otherwise known as the first damsels in distress since Princess Peach.
Now, there are eight Sprixie Princesses in total, and instead of reviewing them all separately, I'm going to take them all on as one group. Although, it would be pretty much impossible to review them individually, because cardboard boxes get much more development time then these new characters. And I'm not even joking, the only thing they do is get kidnapped and build things when you rescue them, at least Princess Peach occasionally sends you letters. And this ends up being a really major gripe I have. It's nice to see new characters in place of Princess Peach, but when they're genuinely only there to fulfil Bowser's kidnap quota they really end up just being boring. Which is a shame, because all the Princess look different, and have different moods it seems (grumpy dark blue, terrified light blue, high purple), it would've been nice to have seen that explored in some form of dialogue or something. The only dialogue any of them gets is the Green Sprixie Princess' explanation of Bowser kidnapping everyone, and all that is is a few pictures...
However, this is not the last we see of all of the Sprixies, as the green one returns in Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. I'll admit to not having seen footage of her yet, but seeing as the Mario Tennis series isn't renowned for its character development of Mario characters, I'm going to assume that yet again she is a blank slate. Which means yet again any interest I may have in her character is just a blank slate.
Don't get me wrong by this negative review, it's nice to see Princess Peach not getting kidnapped, it's just if the solution is a bunch of characters who could so easily be explored and be interesting, but yet remain as just a generic fairy then I'd rather have the Queen of Being Kidnapped return to her rightful spot on the throne.
Hello, merry readers of The 'Shroom! My name is Time Turner, doing my best to spread cheer throughout the news by delivering another instalment of Location, Location! After all, it's that time of the year where we deck the halls, jingle the bells, and do our best to make sure everyone's feeling so merry that they'll get tired of the white Christmas! This season is wonderful for both the joy it can give and the wonder it can create, and I want to do my part to celebrate by covering an equally jolly location! Unfortunately, the Mario series hasn't done much with Saint Nick: the most I can accomplish would involve covering one of Mario's animated adventures, but the less said about them, the better. With that in mind, let's just trudge through one of Mario's snowy, chilly, and papery locations in an allegory to Cold War era Soviet Russia (truly, the most Christmassy of periods): that's right, it's Fahr Outpost!
I'm not joking with the Soviet bit, by the way. All of the town's residents act super cagey to outsiders, they have stereotypical Russian accents, they live in a snowy area, all of the houses look like bomb shelters, they only open up once you prove you're with them, the official guide directly makes a reference to this… Congratulations to Nintendo for putting political subtext into their games, I guess, even if it did have to be about a topic that's been tackled by minds far greater than mine and thus I'll shut up before I start talking more about stuff I know nothing about.
Raciness aside, let's discuss Fahr Outpost itself, a small town in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door secluded far away from the rest of civilization. It's inhabited entirely by Bob-ombs who refuse to talk to anyone who isn't bomb-shaped. This is a problem for our strapping plumber, who needs to access the Giant Cannon that they just happen to have in order to launch himself to the Moon. Yes, that very same moon in the night sky. Mario wants to go to the moon because there's a Crystal Star there, and the Crystal Stars are… Actually, let me just say that it's a really long story and leave it at that, because trying to explain the pitstops and twists of TTYD in one breath is an exercise in madness. For now, let's worry about the species of sentient explosives harbouring a weapon of potentially mass destruction. Simple!
Fun fact: if using a cannon to launch someone to the moon sounds familiar to you, that's because you might have heard about an old sci-fi book that involves exactly that, appropriately titled From the Earth to the Moon. It's a neat, if a bit dated, novel centered around launching a guy to the moon because someone did the calculations and, like, they're totally sure it'll work, and the group of gun nuts he's talking to decides there's nothing wrong with this plan. It's more interesting than it sounds, actually, and it involves a lot of American satire courtesy of a French author. Of course, when you play a Mario game, you expect references to historical events and influential novels. I'm surprised we haven't seen the American Revolutionary War, except the Americans are Toad and the evil British are led by Bowser, because subtlety is for-of course the cartoon did that this is why the cartoon isn't liked
Back on topic, now. Fahr Outpost, for its small yet significant role in the story, really reeks of being nothing more than a stepping stone. The story is pushing you here because the story can only progress if you go here, and you're not very compelled beyond that. Being shoved to new locations by the whim of the plot is nothing new, but once you're there, you always have a better reason for staying. Petalburg had a dragon that was terrorizing the town, the Excess Express had a mystery involving stolen items and a ghost, Glitz Pit had the coolest goddamn tournament, and Fahr Outpost has… snow. Snow and accents. Also, a fetch quest. I will be talking about that fetch quest later, and I will not stop talking about that fetch quest, because that fetch quest is easily one of the worst quests in any game.
For what it's worth, the people with accents aren't all that bad, though you don't get much of an opportunity to talk to them. The most notable of these Bob-ombs is the Fahr Outpost Mayor himself. He'd be indistinguishable from the rest of the town's residents if it weren't for his green colouring, which raises questions about the hierarchy of Bob-ombs that are best saved for another time. Like everyone else, he's cagey about anything cannon-related, and refuses to acknowledge the existence of any sort of heavy artillery. However, once you talk to him when your fellow Bob-omb partner and all-around coolest person Admiral Bobbery is there, he thoroughly trounces the mayor into compliance. The mayor goes from being enigmatic to energetic, which doesn't do much for his remaining dialog, and that about wraps up every notable NPC in the town. The mayor, for all his historical stereotypes, is given neither the time nor the effort to really make him memorable. The miscellaneous NPCs all have their charming and/or quirky one-liners, but nobody except the mayor is given any time in the limelight.
Well, that's not entirely true, but if I hadn't gone back to Tattle every Bob-omb in sight, I would have completely forgotten about them. There are five named characters in the town besides the mayor: Gob, Nob, Rob, Swob, and Fred, because breaking a chain is funny. Rob and Fred really only have names because they kind of did stuff during a cutscene and are completely uninteresting otherwise, Nob has the same quips as every interactable NPC in an RPG, and Gob and Swob have Troubles, which are side-quests that Mario can do if he ever gets bored while saving the world. Gob simply needs a Honey Candy to get his voice back and simply gives some coins in return. Swob, on the other hand, is the final Trouble on the list, and I am not a big fan of Swob.
For your troubles, he asks you to go to the fiftieth floor of the Pit of 100 Trials, which is a gauntlet of one hundred floors, each containing a group of enemies tougher than the last. This Bob-omb wants to send you halfway to hell all because he wrote an embarrassing piece of graffiti. And if you didn't accept his Trouble before going through the Pit, you have to go through it again just for this one Bob-omb who just couldn't stand being a little embarrassed. Still, what's your reward for making it through hell and back? A Snow Bunny. This is an item that you can create in a recipe once the ingredient becomes available in the fourth chapter. You can outright buy the item once you reach the fifth chapter. As I mentioned, Swob's Trouble is the last one available, meaning that it only shows up once you've already cleared all eight chapters in the game, which includes defeating the final boss. This excuse for a reward heals you in battle for a measly fifteen HP, when you were almost certainly using 50HP Ultra Shrooms in bulk to power through the Pit, and it also freezes you in battle.
I'm not mad, really, I'm just disappointed, but I think that's infinitely worse. Yes, the Pit of 100 Trials itself gives rewards along the way, and yes, there's not much that can be done after beating the game, but that is not an excuse at all to skimp out on properly rewarding players. Even a large pile of cash would have helped, especially if you ditched the Pit as soon as floor fifty turned up but still wanted to complete it later on. If you actually complete the Pit, which includes defeating the toughest boss in the game, Bonetail, you are rewarded with the Return Postage badge. This handy accessory reflects half of all damage that an enemy does if they come into contact with you, which is a godsend for certain fights. There will almost certainly be something left to do, such as completing all the Troubles, going through the Glitz Pit, collecting every Star Piece and Shine Sprite, and whatever arbitrary objectives you impose on yourself, so giving such a lazy reward after powering through just half of a challenging dungeon is lazy in and of itself. After all of this, though, Swob's not even the worst NPC, and I'll get to him later.
So maybe the townsfolk aren't all that captivating. The town itself should definitely be charming, right? That really couldn't be farther from the truth, actually. There is nothing about the town that lets it separate itself from the crowd besides that giant cannon that everyone's been so excited about. The Soviet Bob-ombs are neat, but the game never does anything with the idea besides the basic premise and the accents, so it doesn't leave much of an impact. Fahr Outpost has the same Item Shops and Inns that every town has and their owners have nothing going for them at all besides the same accent that everyone else has. There are literally no other interesting attractions besides that cannon, but for all of the hype it gets, all that it gets is an (admittedly cool) cutscene that involves using it to launch Mario and co. into space, and one of the worst examples of padding I have ever seen in a game.
To activate the cannon, the mayor needs Mario to bother two other Bob-ombs about it, because as you know, heroes are the only one who can do anything in an RPG. If this sounds like a fetch quest to you, then congratulations, you can spot a trope from a mile away! These dreaded quests involve sending you to one location to pick up whatever Macguffin the plot requires for no real reason other than the plot requires it, like you were a dog who's being told to go fetch a stick by its master. Fetch quests are almost always nothing more than a way to pad the game out if the developer thinks that they need to add longevity to a game. Fake longevity is something that should always be avoided, as it promotes doing the bare minimum to receive some sort of reaction in return. It's the equivalent of dangling keys in front of your face: if you're kept distracted by the new things happening in front of you, you won't notice that what's in front of you isn't compelling in the slightest.
Still, it’s a done deal, so there’s no use complaining. The first Macguffin lies with Goldbob, who's holding on to the permission slip/user manual for the artillery, and you need to backtrack to Chapter 7's location, Poshley Heights, for it. Goldbob, being a greedy silver spoon, asks for all of your money before he can give it to you. Thankfully, he was just kidding, and gives you the Goldbob Guide free of charge. This is a good way to do a fetch quest, letting you demonstrate just how far you're willing to go to move on in a single piece of dialog. Of course, the best fetch quest is always no fetch quest, but you need to take your small victories when you get them. Now, take that small victory and throw it straight out the window and into the nearest garbage dump, because what you'll have to deal with next sucks any hope out of you.
The second Macguffin is in the proverbial hands of General White, who you may vaguely remember as being all the way back in Petalburg, Chapter 2's setting. Once you're there, the general's nowhere to be found, but a handy Koopa Troopa tells you that he may have visited a "southern island," which of course refers to Keelhaul Key from Chapter 5, and once you've arrived, General White is missing again, but a friendly Bob-omb tells you that he may have gone to "an arena," and by this point, you've noticed the pattern. The game literally requires you to run back to nearly all of your own locations, and this includes Petalburg, Keelhaul Key, Glitzville, The Great Tree, and Twilight Town, talk to a random NPC, and repeat the cycle again. You'll go through this process five times before the last person in this daisy chain tells you that "looked tired," which is such a vague clue that Mario has no idea what it could mean, and thus heads to the mayor to deliver the bad news. While you're talking, General White pops out his house for a few seconds before calmly going back. This entire quest was a joke, and you were the punchline. "Punchline" is especially appropriate in that I want to punch something.
This single quest does everything wrong: the player isn't motivated to complete it besides the fact that the plot won't progress if they don't complete it, they're given a series of commands with their only option being to obey, the quest gives a series of easy hints that nearly insult the player's intelligence, but then give such a vague hint at the end that the connection is far from obvious to most players, the player is forced to backtrack to locations they've been to plenty of times just because of the whims of the story, the player goes from the derring-do of the game's other main quests to a feeble errand boy, and it mocks the player for trying to play along by saying that everything they did was absolutely pointless. The backtracking is easily the worst part, as the system of pipes that the game uses to connect locations is tedious at best and completely unbearable at worst, especially when every pipe is spaced far apart and none of them are labeled. The cherry on top is that, after you stomp into General White's house, it turns out that he's sleeping, and your only option is to jump on him. He's also a heavy sleeper, so you have to repeat the process far, far, far too many times before he wakes up, and after each couple of jumps, the game asks you if you want to jump on him again. The only correct option is to jump on him, and doing anything else is a waste of time. It's just one more arbitrary, ridiculous problem stacked on top of a laundry list of arbitrary, ridiculous problems.
That quest is easily the most notable aspect of this town, and it overshadows everything else. Really, though, everything else could have easily been overshadowed by anything from the rest of the game. There are a couple of enemies on the town's outskirts, which are Ice Puffs and Frost Piranhas, but they're nothing more than recolors of previous enemies with buffed-up stats and nothing that lets them stand out from other enemies, so they're not all that memorable. The town's aesthetic is really bleak with a lot of muted colors, which works to its disadvantage when the game already had a snow area in the form of Boggly Woods that used the white snow to its advantage immensely by contrasting it with near-black trees and vibrant-blue floors. Fahr Outpost, meanwhile, has a lot of grey, a lot of white, and a lot of brown. It’s about as interesting as it sounds.
All right, maybe I didn't do a good job of spreading cheer, but I really couldn't help it. The giant cannon is easily the best part of the location, but that's not particularly fair when a) it's a giant cannon and b) everything else is infinitely worse. The characters are unmemorable, the enemies are footnotes, the visuals are drab, the theme is unfocused, and the quests are horrendous. However, if there's anything that you should take away from this, let it be that everyone can do their part to spread cheer, even in the smallest of ways. In this time of loving thy neighbor and helping those in need, it's easy to start worrying about doing everything you can to make sure that everyone is satisfied. You don't need to throw huge amounts of money into a gift; all it takes it a heartfelt letter to get that message across. You don't need to spend days volunteering at a charity; giving just a bit of change will do wonders for helping someone. That's not to say that you should never try to go one step beyond, but you shouldn't always try to take that extra step if it means putting yourself in an uncomfortable position or pushing yourself too far. Fahr Outpost is what happens when nobody even considers that extra step. All that it needs is a small splash of color, one unique enemy, a single character with a personality, a more concise quest, something that would show that they gave at least a bit of thought. Unfortunately, the outpost was there to act as padding between discovering the Crystal Star's location and going to the moon, and it shows. It doesn't take much to show that you care, but it could mean the world to someone.
Focus was one of 2014's films that I desperately wanted to see: it looked funny, sexy and gripping. It quickly turned out to be none of those things, instead it turned out to be a thoroughly disappointing experience and the prime example for why you shouldn't judge a film by its trailer.
Let's start with the comedy, as after all, according to its genre it is part comedy. There is one bit in the trailer that probably made most people laugh, but when you get to the actual film, you've seen that bit so many times that it has just lost all humour, and you realise that at the end of the day you've just entertained yourself with a sexist stereotype. And that's where all the humour comes from: stereotypes. I don't turn up to a film to watch any Australian or Italian character get no meaningful dialogue and just end up with racist slurs against their home nation. The only other comedy from the film comes from Adrian Martinez's character: Farhad, but all that is is again sexist stereotypes and lesbian jokes. Hardly any high-brow comedy in this film.
One of the film's other genres is romance, but this ends up being the weakest part of the entire film, and is only in there because these days every film needs two character falling in love or being in a relationship. The romance in it feels so forced, Will Smith and Margot Robbie's characters (Nicky and Jess respectively) get a handful of scenes together, with no romantic implication, bar Jess attempting to seduce Nicky to con him, and then they are all over each other as soon as doors close. And then they break up, for inexplicably no reason whatsoever, the film later tries and justifies this by claiming that Nicky did it so he would never lose focus of the con, but even that reason seems pretty dumb and still makes the break-up look like an excuse to create drama later on in the film.
The film's other main genre is crime, and it delivers on that aspect, by their being crime in the film. And yet the film's main issue is that it glorifies the crime lifestyle, the characters basically get away scott free with everything they stole, with barely anyone being the wiser. There's even an entire scene dedicated to watching people steal stuff, using "cons" that really shouldn't work, including my favourite: The "Let me Shove this Book over your Camera Lens, even though You Displayed no Need for it, whilst Someone Unscrews it Underneath, and then I'll Leave, with You Not Realising your Lens is now Missing".
At this point I'd start talking about the plot of the film, but there isn't really one. The film just moves from meaningless con to meaningless con, that affects random civilians or Asian gamblers. It's just that one con takes longer than the rest, and so somehow forms the main plot of the film. But more annoyingly, the film misses out on an aspect that, whilst heavily clichéd, would make for a fairly decent movie, and that would be the training of Jess to become a conwoman. She could make a few mistakes in the early ones, but by the middle become competent and engage in a large "final con". Instead, she starts off as someone who is easily seen through, and by the time she has found Nicky again, which the film says is about three weeks, she has somehow become one of the best conwomen in the business and can do everything with ease.
Another annoying aspect of the film is the random scenes that happen, and by these I mean scenes which last for only a few seconds and have no relevance whatsoever. I do not understand why there is a scene of Nicky getting dressed in the morning, and this has no relevance to any other scene in the film, and it lasts about 20 seconds. The biggest offender, however, is the entire scene dedicated to the henchman's entire day, before he purposefully crashes his car into Nicky's. I'm not going to lie, in a film that's already an hour and three quarters long, I do not need to see an unnamed henchman drink a skinny latte.
The music score of the film is just bland and forgettable, I watched the film just over a month ago and I cannot for the life of me remember any of the tracks used in the film, even looking at their names does not bring back any memories, although any memories of this film that can be avoided is a good thing.
And now, we move onto the characters, sort of... You see, the issue is, only three characters get any form of development, and one of those only gets development due to a twist that whilst vaguely clever, makes certain previous scenes feel really weird due to its nature. Most characters just seem pointless as they show up for about a scene and then vanish for the rest of the film. I'd bring up an example here, but the only issue is that I genuinely do not remember the character's name, but basically during Jess's test he comes across as the brain of Nicky's operations, and a really important question, and then he is never seen or mentioned after Jess's test.
If you couldn't tell by now, I did not like this film. The only reason I sat through the entire film is because I was trying to find the film that the trailers promised me I'd find. To sum up how bad this film was, I watched it on an aeroplane. I wanted it to crash.
Graphic Novel Reviews
Greetings, bookworms and graphic novel nerds, this month I bring to you a Graphic Novel Review of Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? Specifically, the smaller graphic novel that collects the titular story and two others in a short burst of an enjoyable read about the Man of Steel. This book collects all the Superman stories written by Alan Moore, working with different illustrators for each story. Since it’s so short, I’ll be discussing all three stories in this review, so let’s get going!
I first encountered this book in my sophomore year of high school, when I took a mythology course. I know what you’re thinking- what does Superman have to do with mythology? Isn’t that supposed to be ancient Greek stuff or something? Well, yes and no. The first half of the year, we discussed ancient myths, then sci-fi classics such as Frankenstein and War of the Worlds, then the second half of the year, we moved on to modern adaptations with comic books, including this one, Marvel’s 1602, and we even watched Batman Begins. Let me tell you, that class was great to have at 8 in the morning. Talking about comic books and watching movies? I think we even had a pancake breakfast while we were on our Batman unit, that’s how awesome it was!
So anyway, there’s my background with the book. Onto the subject matter itself! Caution, there will be some spoilers in this review, so if you don’t want to spoil the book for yourself, don’t read ahead!
The first story in this collection is the title comic, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, originally published in Action Comics #423 and Superman #583 in Spetember of 1986. Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger, and George Perez do the lines for this story for Moore’s script. The story follows Superman through what seems to be a personal apocalypse for him, as friends and enemies fall left and right around him as a carefully crafted scheme by one of his enemies, Mr. Mxyzptlk, aims to kill him. Bottom line, lots of death. Plenty of death here. Not so much with the gore, that’s not the style of this book, but plenty of death.
Moving on from plot, the art in this story is really solid. The colors are all really bright and vivid, a sharp contrast to most of the Batman stories I’ve read. It’s not realistic, and it can hurt your eyes a little at times if you’re not a fan of bright colors, but I like them.
Second story up is “The Jungle Line,” which is a collab between Superman and Swamp Thing, housed in DC Comics Presents #85, from September 1985. Rick Veitch does pencils for this one, and this story is my favorite of the book, at least plot-wise. In this one, Superman gets infected with a space fungus that causes his powers to start malfunctioning for the first half of the story, and hallucinate with a fever in the second. Swamp Thing comes in at the end to ease his pain, and after Superman wakes up, he uses a car mirror to shave his stubble off with his laser vision and flies away with the fungus sample, blissfully unaware of the Swamp Thing even helping him with the fever.
The best part about this story is the page layouts. In the first story, the artists stick pretty closely to the six-panel template, and although they might change the shape a bit, don’t deviate from that template. In this one, Veitch has his illustrations going beyond the panel borders and plays with the format to his advantage. You can really see this on the sixth page- it’s a vertically-oriented page, and the middle panel is a skyshot of Superman falling out of the sky in the middle of rush-hour traffic. It’s kinda horrifying but it looks really cool. Superman is small and the background is great, showing the skyscrapers, the streets below, even the bay in the distance.
Another creative touch is the use of hot and cool colors during the encounter with Swamp Thing. Every time he ‘makes contact’ (basically a soul connection through touch) with either the fungus or the fever-ridden Superman, the background is a vibrant, fiery red, symbolizing the fever. When he finally makes the peaceful connection and breaks through to Superman, the background turns green and calming.
Third story! Last one! Pencils by Dave Gibbons, in the story, “For the Man Who Has Everything,” from Superman Annual #11, 1985. This one revolves around Superman’s birthday. Wonder Woman, Batman, and Robin come to the Fortress of Solitude to give him his birthday gifts and find the Man of Steel trapped in a symbiotic coma with a plant clinging to his chest like a Metroid in Brawl. The plant was a “gift” from his enemy, Mongul, a super-powered being who wants to destroy Superman and take over the universe. Very original, I know. Anyways, the plant is a parasite- it attaches to the host, and locks them in a reality of their dreams while it feeds on their life force. For Superman, it’s being at home on his homeworld of Krypton, where it doesn’t get destroyed and he’s allowed to live out a normal life. For Batman, (on accident), it’s a reality where his parents survive the shooter and escape with their lives (obviously). And at the end, for Mongul, he’s able to kill everyone, everything, and go on a rampage where he ends up taking over the universe. Again, obviously.
This one is an interesting one. There is a LOT of dialogue in this one, and most of it is in Superman’s alternate reality hallucination where there is political unrest on Krypton. I’m not one for long bouts of political dialogue, so this one gets really slow for me in the middle of the story. Basically, once the plant is off Superman, everything speeds up again. Unfortunately, that takes ¾ of the story, so this one is a pretty slow slog through until that last part.
There’s not a whole lot of variety of colors in this story, unlike the first one. It’s still a lot of bright colors, but it just feels like a lot of purple. A LOT of purple. As well as a lot of purple-complimenting colors- pink, red, some blues, it just all runs together and feels sleepy. Or maybe that’s just me right now… probably a good chance of that.
SO. This collection. Even with the slow finish, it’s a great collection that any Superman fan should have with them. Comic book fans in general should check it out- Moore’s scripts and plots are fantastic and captivating, and his corresponding art teams work well with his words. It’s a great read for fans of many ages, as the lack of gore and blood will make younger and/or more sensitive readers happy, and for those who love a gorefest, there’s still plenty of death in the first story alone. Trust me there. All in all, definitely grab this one if you see it. You won’t regret it!
See you next month, everyone! I’ll be reviewing one of my favorite new graphic novels, so don’t miss it!