Completed #9 – Three Fourths Home

Three Fourths Home is an interactive visual novel, which to some people is a fancy way of saying “not a video game” or “pretentious indie nonsense”. And, I suppose, that’s kind of justified. It certainly has very little in the way of traditional gameplay, and what’s there consists of turning things on or off and selecting dialogue options. There’s no challenge, which is the curve on which a lot of people like to grade a game’s worth, and there’s no real depth or complexity, either – at least not in the mechanics. But the pretentious accusation, which I’ve seen bandied around a lot in relation to Three Fourths Home, seems a little unfair. On the contrary, it’s one of the most grounded stories I’ve ever seen in the medium. There’s nothing snooty or condescending about it. That isn’t to say it’s in any way exceptional, or even all that riveting on its own terms, but it’s an honest-to-God tale about people who talk and think like human beings. That’s more than I can say for a lot of games.

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Completed #8 – Cubot: The Complexity of Simplicity

I know it hardly matters, but how complex can simplicity really be? Cubot’s subtitle seems to suggest the whole game is an answer to that question, but aren’t we talking about two extremes of the same spectrum here? Aren’t they mutually exclusive? If something’s simple then by definition it can’t be complex, can it? I know, I know – who cares? But Cubot gives off a weirdly pretentious vibe, and that subtitle’s a part of it. Another is the game’s fascination with quotes: every few levels it presents another puzzle-oriented little titbit as though it’s unfurling the Dead Sea Scrolls; like the very act of playing the game is somehow solving the great existential mysteries of life. I’m not convinced. It hardly helps that a handful of the quotes are attributed to Ernő Rubik. Is Rubik’s Cube really still being held aloft as a beacon of ingenuity? They come with instructions. A toddler could solve one.

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Completed #7 – Beyond Eyes

If video games provide a way for players to live vicariously through digital marionettes – to become, for instance, a professional footballer or a heroic soldier – then you have to wonder why anyone would think to create a video game about a blind girl looking for her lost cat.

Not all games are power fantasies, but they’re all fantasies. Who fantasises about being blind?

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Completed #6 – Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition

Another World is an old video game; a stiff, arthritic puzzle-platformer that’s stuck in its ways. It means well, but like everything else that gets old, it’s faintly offensive. It demands pixel-perfect precision and an almost preternatural sense of what’s around each corner. There’s no margin for error. The only way to learn what it wants is to fail to it, again and again, until you’ve both got the message. You both shout at each other a lot. It’s the video game equivalent of your grandma letting the batteries on her hearing aids die.

The elderly smell, they’re ignorant of the last 40-or-so years, and they’re probably racist, but sometimes you have to defer to their wisdom. Another World is like that. This might be a game that includes a new-fangled checkpoint system which records your position on the screen but often not your progress in the game, so you still have to backtrack and repeat things even if you’ve accomplished them and moved on already, but it’s also a game that has a profound sense of visual storytelling. If I were to reach out and pluck a word to describe it, that word might be “cinematic”, which is a surprise considering that Another World – like most of these remasterings of classic games – allows you to switch between the old graphics and the new paint job. To look at those smudges of pixels, thumb-swipes of colour in the vague shapes of people, you’d assume that the cinematic label wouldn’t apply. The whole thing feels too far removed from contemporary game design; much more reminiscent of really old, exclusively goal-oriented titles than something interested in telling a story.

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Review – The Defenders Season 1

I’ve spent the last few weeks moving into a new home. It’s a lot like the old one, but bigger and more expensive and thus more difficult to keep clean and tidy, but there is a park over the road, which is a great place to meet single mums. Not that I can speak to them, obviously, because despite many failed schemes to leave her behind, my partner continues to accompany me. This might seem like a travesty, but I did get to marvel at her superior organisational ability. It only took her a week to realize that the furniture would need to be transferred from one property to another.

I’ve been doing a lot of marvelling, lately. I marvelled at how long it took my internet provider to transfer the service to my new address, and at how much they continued to charge me in the intervening period despite neither my old home nor my new one actually receiving the service I was paying for. I marvelled at the staggering ineptitude of the racist engineer who arrived to install my new phone line, and who left several hours later leaving a pile of amber brick dust on my new carpet and no working internet. As I had nothing better to do than read, I marvelled at the shoddy state of the contemporary novel. I marvelled at the cost of a new fridge-freezer, at the state of an old washing machine – which, naturally, managed two cycles before sputtering into uselessness – and at my phone’s mobile data usage, which I’d been using to conduct my various professional endeavours at a rate of charge that was almost twice my rate of income. What I wanted to be doing was Marvelling, with a capital-M. While I was busying myself with berating various lowly customer service personnel, Marvel and Netflix’s The Defenders, the long-awaited get-together of their street level superheroes, had been released in my absence.

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Opinion – Atypical Season 1

Warning – minor spoilers.

Atypical is a new TV series on Netflix which follows the life of an eighteen-year-old boy called Sam (Keir Gilchrist) who’s on the autism spectrum. It follows many intricate aspects of his life and the lives of those closest to him.

You see his mum, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), battle between balancing her life as a mother to both a child with autism and a “neurotypical” child. Her attention seems to be consumed by Sam due to his complex needs, which can sometimes leave Sam’s sister to mature beyond her years. Elsa battles trying to remain social, which as it happens has dire consequence. She tackles prejudiced views expressed by her peers who don’t fully comprehend Sams life and Elsa’s complicated life.

You see Sams sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine) struggle between balancing her own love life. She meets her first boyfriend who she at firsts resists against which has a small amount to do with Sam’s troubles. She ends up handling family secrets which seem to reveal themselves far too frequently and also being another guardian to her brother. It’s often hard to remember which sibling is older than the other, a sign of how her role as younger sister is confused due to her unintentional responsibility towards her brother. There’s also a very specific moment where you see Casey potentially sacrificing futile prospects due to worries about her brother and how he would cope.

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Review – Little Evil

What’s this?

It’s a Netflix Original Movie. A Horror Comedy. Little Evil has all the makings to be a decent little streaming film. Starring Evangeline Lilly and Adam Scott, you are following a story of a newlywed couple who are making their new house their home. Gary (the step dad) is under pressure to bond with his step son Lucas to appease his wife Samantha. Unfortunately for Gary, he suspects his step son is the Antichrist because of unusual happenings and threats to his life.

This sounds interesting…

The premise is interesting. I always enjoy narratives where the step dad struggles to bond. There is something engaging about them. I suppose that is because there needs to be character development in order for father and son to form a relationship. Also, horror spoofs are something to be enjoyed and they are not meant to be taken too seriously, however, over the years they have stagnated.

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