The 'Shroom:Issue 147/Critic Corner
Welcome to June, the start of Summer for us here in the Northern Hemisphere, that time of year where we sweat every day for no good reason! I can't even say it's tank top and flip flop season, as people wear those year round regardless of the elements. Short month here in Critic Corner with not too many sections because of the tidal pull of bimonthlies, but fear not, we still bring you quality sections and news, including a welcome return for this month by Yoshi876 (talk)!
Thank you, everyone, for your votes again to make Half-Baked Reviews Critic Corner's Section of the Month! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
Alongside the polls at the bottom of each team page here in The 'Shroom, there are a whole bunch more this month as it's time for the Mario Awards, hosted by yours truly and Turboo (talk)!! You can follow that link there, or check out the wiki's main page, to find the polls to vote on the best and worst of Mario! Be sure to also check out the Community Awards polls to vote on recognizing the hard work and achievements made by those in our community and The 'Shroom!! And don't forget, you can vote once each week, just like how you can with the SOTMs here, giving you multiple opportunities to either spread your vote around, or dump all your love onto just one (vote Kamek for M12 Favorite Supporting Character!!!) With many polls having tight races, every vote counts, so hurry on and show your support for people, places, things, ideas, all kinds of nouns that you like (or hate!)
Here's some more links for you to peruse:
If you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to LudwigVon, our Stats Manager on the forum. On the Sign Up page, there is a list of "vacancies" that provide you with examples of the types of sections we're looking for that would fit into Critic Corner. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
Visiting New York City: Part 1
Anticipating the insanely high prices, I knew I had to cut down on two major things: parking and lodging. Parking garages were coming up as several hundred dollars, but I found out that you can park at an airport long term parking lot, and ended up paying only $60 for the basically-four days I was there. This meant driving through Manhattan and into Brooklyn, which was uhhhh surprisingly streamlined and easy! Maybe it’s because I was on a direct path to an enormous international airport, since it looked really painful getting off of exits and into residential areas. Brooklyn actually looks kiiiinda pretty normal? Like a normal city that people live in? With houses that looked like houses and everything. I don’t know, Manhattan just doesn’t look real to me, maybe because it’s such an iconic cityscape that it’s hard to imagine people ACTUALLY live there. As a result of this, though, it was relatively stress-free driving through it, and I found my way into the special fancy parking lot just fine. From this point on I met up with Blocky who brought me onto the AirTrain subway to the regular Metropolitan Transport Authority subway system.
An interlude first, because the non-linear aspect of this trip recounting makes me worried about the pacing and flow of this section. In order to spirit yourself from one train to the next, and from there to a destination, you must walk. A lot. As I will state below in the Subway section, there is an incredible amount of weaving around in underground passages, but there is still a lot of it to do above ground. Simply walking in NYC is so much more of a way of life than it feels in any other city just due to its near-necessity and pure density. I will say I was surprised to see as many cars as I did, and as many people driving around in Manhattan without there being the fabled gridlock, but it’s just so much less of a hassle not having to find and then pay for parking compared to relatively how little distance you’d even be going. That said, I felt compelled to obey every crosswalk signal as I had no desire to test the limits of patience with any driver who waited for a red light only to be blocked by some dude just moseying his way across. Blocky didn’t seem to have that concern, though, resulting in numerous instances of him just bolting across traffic and reaching three blocks ahead of me while I was standing waiting for the green “Walk” like a dope. I didn’t get ran over or honked at, though! There’s a lot less honking in NYC than media would make you believe.
My legs hurt a lot, the pace is very quick, but it’s not really bad if you just exercise some level of spatial awareness, courtesy, and observation of flow. That being said, people still don’t follow these rules. Blocky runs as fast as the fables tell, and I can keep up so long as I’m not carting 50 lbs of clothes with slow people cutting between us. I also got to experience NYC’s finest puddles; my feet and hair were soaked with just the gentlest of rainstorms. I stepped in a puddle with my left foot, completely saturating that shoe with water, but when I got back to the apartment it ended up being my right sock that was the one that was soaked leaving my left foot dry and right foot extra pruney thanks to NYC black magic. Additionally, no one wears any color, which makes me believe that the Humans of New York guy’s job is made easy by just interviewing whatever flash of vibrance he sees.
SubwayIt’s common knowledge to just not drive through NYC, at the very least Manhattan, due to all of the congestion and gridlock and anxiety-inducing honking and unnecessary stress, and to instead just walk or use the subway system. Now, at this point in time my specific memory of how to navigate the MTA subway system is foggy, such as particular details that I neglected to write down, but if you’re craving for that kind of coverage then go send Blocky a message. The JFK Airport AirTrain thing is just a short like 15?? minute connector to the formal MTA subway system at the nearby Howard Beach station, which then brings you on the A Line going through Queens, Brooklyn, all the way through Manhattan and ending at the Bronx.The Turnpike in Left 4 Dead or adventuring through the Ancient Nordic ruins of Skyrim; if you walk with purpose, quickly and quietly, the draugr won't awaken to claim your loose change. It’s a basic card pass system, which you gotta load up with a bunch of cash so you don’t have to be bothered with it every time, so you can gain entry into Turnstile Land. A thing to note about traversing through these corridors, penrose stairs, and revolving gates is that they are all very narrow, with what little width each passage and hallway had being further truncated by an overwhelming flow of people. I don’t see how anyone overweight could use the MTA without recreating Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree; even me and my then-waifish figure struggled to press on through without feeling claustrophobic.
As for the platform and actual ride, it’s definitely a variable experience that is a haven for people-watchers, where the line between being anxious and overwhelmed in large busy crowds merges with the same tranquil feeling you got when you were 8 years old hiding in the middle of a clothes rack at a department store, hidden in almost plain sight. It was all like a multi-layered ASMR immersive surround sound experience, with unintelligible conversations, clacking of footsteps on the tile, mysterious hissing from vents, sudden silences, and the horrifying screeching of metal as the train grinds to a halt. The calm repetition of the automated voice announcements, “We apologize for the inconvenience,” at least once every 3 minutes. Whether you get tingles from this, you are guaranteed to get some kind of full-body chilling experience from sudden blasts of cold air, or the gut-wrenching snap back to reality when you become aware of your surroundings again as well as the condition of any railing or handle you may have touched with your bare hands. For the visuals, it really reminded me of the subway scene in The Matrix Revolutions where Neo is in, well, trapped on a subway platform, but that’s probably literally just me. It had an odd sense of being in limbo, and like it wasn’t actually part of the rest of the world.
Also, Blocky got yelled at by a lady and I don't think he even noticed.
Final Word: I never took a taxi, or even an Uber or Lyft, because there’s just no need for it. The subway and basic walking will get you nearly everywhere easily enough with just that, with vehicular transport only being there for whatever luxurious amenities they provide, such as having a seat to yourself. The whole thing feels graceful and well-lubricated, while simultaneously clunky and blunt. There’s an intoxicating sense of endearment, like how trauma forms strong bonds amongst those who experience it together.
The nature of this system means that those who are not lean, fit, and able-bodied will have a wildly difficult time just performing fundamental tasks of existence within the city. The systems in place seem like the life of the city, its personality, its character. It’s something the residents take on as a part of themselves, part of their nature and the city’s. I don’t see how this could be remedied without sacrificing the grimy tunnels and soggy shoes and hustling of compact bodies that has come to define this city. I just can’t see how I could enjoy this place without sharing the experience with some of my friends and family who may not be able to keep up as easily. A city built from vast diversity should not have its infrastructure built to limit who can stay.
That being said, my privilege as someone lean, fit, and able-bodied allows me to have almost-immediate access to the entirety of the city by just checking a quick map, looking at a clock, and moving my feet. There’s a sense of freedom in NYC, in that there’s just so many people around that it just loops around your anxiety in crowds to being almost nothing. There’s too many other people doing goofy nonsense or vying for attention in one way or another that no one else gives a crap what you do so long as it doesn’t impede their immediate path.
P.S. I got no pictures of the traffic or of the skyline from the highway because I would've literally died. Check Google Maps Street View.
Tune in next month for Part 2: Sightseeing! Also, tell me what to review next! It can be games, movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
Pokémon Detective Pikachu
I have loved Pokémon since I was a child. I have played every game in the main series, and have also played a wide-variety of the spin-offs including the Ranger, Mystery Dungeon series and even Pokémon Link. But I was sceptical about a live-action movie. I'm used to the animated versions of the films, and was a little bit worried that the charm wouldn't translate over. Trailers were able to subside my worries, and the charm definitely carried over into this live-action affair.
Detective Pikachu mainly takes place Ryme City, a city that almost resembles London with landmarks like the Gherkin. However, this setting does prove to be a small issue for an Englishman, as I was disappointed by the lack of Pokémon when I last visited London. But on a serious note, Ryme City is beautifully realised, and with all the people and Pokémon around feels just like a lived-in, busy metropolis.
Most of the Pokémon, like Golurk, Joltik and Octillery are just there for cameo reasons, and it seems like the film is quite Generation I heavy. Pokémon playing a major role in the film include Pikachu, Mewtwo, Psyduck, Charizard, Bulbasaur, Ditto and Mr. Mime. The only Pokémon to play some form of major role outside of Generation I are Aipom, Greninja and Torterra. As much as I understand that having over 800 Pokémon play major roles is downright impossible, it would have been nice for Pokémon outside of Generation I to played major parts in the plot, especially since the Torterra could have done a lot more than what they actually did. It also would have been nice to see every Pokémon type make an appearance. I can't think of any Ice-types that properly appeared in the film, and bar a Goomy cameo as a sign (wasted opportunity), I can't think of a single Dragon-type featured either. Also, to score me a vote in section the month, the snubbing of Politoed was an absolute travesty, and the producers should all hang their heads in shame for this oversight.
Like I said in my opening, I was worried about whether the Pokémon charm would carry over, especially in their designs, but it really does. Pikachu is one of the fluffiest, cutest things ever put to movie screen and many of the other Pokémon were perfectly realised. Loudred was a triumph, and the scales on Charizard are spectacular. They really do resemble their in-game counterparts, although Gengar wasn't the best designed, there was something about his mouth that didn't seem right. Lickitung and Mr. Mime were also suitably creepy, but in their cases they probably should be.
As for the casting, Ryan Reynolds is one of the most inspired choices for a video-game film ever. There is not a better actor for the role of a wise-cracking, coffee addict Pikachu. He completely steals every scene where he has a speaking role, and he was tailormade for his part. Justice Smith and Kathryn Newton play their roles spectacularly, but there is just no triumphing over Reynolds, and for the most he manages to overshadow them.
Having not played the game version of Detective Pikachu, I'm not sure whether it was faithful to its adaptation, but when it comes to plot, it was at least coherent. It did follow a usual detective plot, in which they find clues, interrogate suspects and progress the case that way. It would have been nice to have focused more on the R Gas, like why it makes Pokémon agitated and how it's able to vacate their bodies, and often times it seemed like it was only remembered when the plot necessitated it. The film also suffers from a few clichés, like the protagonists fight and split up, as well as the near-death fake out one, and the film really would have benefitted from omitting the first one, as it did just create small unnecessary tension, that was resolved incredibly quickly.
I adored this film, it was everything the inner Pokéfan inside of me wanted. Despite mainly focusing on Generation I, there was a smattering of Pokémon that made the film feel like that part of the universe, and throwbacks to other Pokémon references, like the original theme song of the anime playing at one point was absolutely incredible. Maybe I could have done with a Jenny on the police force, but if you love Pokémon you should not miss this film. Its only true flaw is how it has ruined the city of London for me.
Virtual Console Reviews
Not much to say this time, so I will quickly start with the game that I will be reviewing: The NES version of Donkey Kong Jr.!
The story of the game is quite simple: after the first game Mario kidnapped Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. tries to save him. Due to this you now of course play as Donkey Kong Jr. He can make a small jump, which does not matter that much due to the main gimmick of the game: to climb on ropes, vines, and chains. When climbing you go slowly, although if you reach Donkey Kong Jr.’s hand to another climbable object you can fully go to the other climbable object, or you can climb on both objects at once to climb faster. Enemies can either climb on or fly by the objects, and Donkey Kong Jr. loses a life if he takes a hit. As he is more vulnerable when climbing on two objects, there is strategy that can take place when deciding either to go fast to have an easier time dodging enemies or to go slow having less room for enemies to hit Donkey Kong Jr. There is even sometimes fruit on climbable objects which will fall once hit defeating any enemies that it touches. The controls while climbing are responsive and easy to learn, too.
Of course, a game with a good idea and good controls cannot be good without good content such as levels. The game kind of succeeds at this, for its four levels. Stage 1 introduces the player to the game’s climbing with a large amount of vines and Snapjaws that can climb on them, fruit, and finally small platforms with easily crossable gaps to get the player used to the games jumping. Stage 2 expands upon the climbing mechanics, requiring the player to jump from platforms to moving ropes, while dodging Nitpickers. Stage 3 focuses less on climbing and more on the player’s ability to jump over enemies, in this case Sparks. Stage 4 is the simplest level in the game. The player only has to push keys into keyholes while dodging enemies. The climbing chains are right next to each other, so there is no jumping involved. The four levels are acceptable, but they are short and due to this they did not have much chance to wow. After that there is not much to do. You can replay the levels with higher difficulty, you can play multiplayer which is the same as single player but with each player switching control, or you can try to get a high score, however overall the game is very shallow with little content which is my main complaint.
There really is not much to talk about when talking about Donkey Kong Jr. It is true that it is an arcade game, but it would be appreciated if there was some more meat added in the console versions of the game. Mind that Donkey Kong Jr. is not the only arcade game with a short length downgrading the console versions, which you have to pay more than a quarter to play. Thankfully, the game as a whole is still quite fun, just not worth a lot of money.