Wonder Boy in Monster World (1992 - GEN)
Fun and colorful sidescrolling adventure game in the vein of Ys III, Faxanadu, and Legacy of the Wizard. The best things Monster World has going for it are its art style (some areas of the game have sketchy graphics reminiscent of Yoshi's Island and the bosses look like they walked right out of a Saturday morning cartoon), large dungeons with abundant puzzles, and occasional gimmicks, such as Shion's ability to shrink for some areas and take a CPU-controlled helper character with him into dangerous territories. Shion even plays melodies on an ocarina to open doors, years before Ocarina of Time would do it.
I seem to have played quite a few games this year whose bold, cartoony graphics might give the impression that they are good for children, but Monster World has some incredibly tough segments, particularly a platforming sequence right before the penultimate boss that is similar to the parts with the disappearing blocks in the Mega Man series, only with no items to make it any easier. Shion is a bit stiff to control and moves slowly until you get a decent pair of boots to speed him up. Exploring the world to find hidden items is fun, but sometimes a bit difficult because of the invisible doors that can be tough to find. Even if Shion is standing in the right spot, pressing Up doesn't always open them if he's not situated *exactly* right. I also never figured out how to equip more than one item at a time, which made healing and using magic in some situations harder than it needed to be.
Don't expect much out of the story. It begins with Shion deciding to leave his home to stop the monsters invading his world and that's pretty much all there is until a weird little plot twist near the end. But with games in this genre being somewhat rare, I can easily recommend this to anyone who wants to play a good one that they may not have played before. It's not necessary to play any previous Wonder Boy games as this one is self-contained and has a new cast of characters.
Hellboy (2004 - DVD)
The special features on this DVD really show that the people who made this movie cared a lot about the visuals and special effects. I only wish as much care had gone into the script.
The villains are flat and uninteresting. The main villain is Rasputin, so he doesn't need a motive because, well, everyone knows he's evil by default. His right-hand man is a Nazi zombie of sorts who is controlled like a puppet and has no mind (and therefore no personality) of his own. As if the idea of this movie didn't evoke Ghostbusters enough as it is, their minions are creatures that resemble a cross between Terrordogs and the Predator.
I know the reason they have a human main character is because he's supposed to represent "us" - the everyday person who is suddenly thrust into this world of demons and magic and sees things through our eyes. But I just didn't find him interesting, cared nothing for the love triangle, and would've liked for the story to have focused more on Hellboy, because, well isn't that why anyone would watch this?
And the ending is ridiculous. Maybe if the movie had been a straight-up comedy, I would've appreciated it more, but when characters are getting violently killed it's hard to see it as such. The tone is wobbly.
One really positive thing I can say about it is that Ron Perlman is fantastic as Hellboy, almost like he was born for the role or it came into existence just for him, and I appreciate the character's fondness for cats. The scene where he fights a demon while holding a box of kittens in one hand, however, was a little over-the-top, even for me.
Inglourious Basterds (2009 - DVD)
It was weird watching this movie back-to-back with Hellboy since both have Nazis, but where that movie failed to give its villains any interesting personality traits, this movie has one of the most well-written villainous characters I've seen. I can imagine when dealing with Nazis the temptation to write them as lowbrow as possible is probably high. But the fact that Hans Landa is actually smart, and good at what he does and proud of it, is what makes him menacing. He doesn't need magical powers or immortality, when this guy shows up, you know you're fucked.
There's a famous saying attributed to Alfred Hitchcock that if a bomb explodes under a table, that's action, but if it doesn't explode, that's suspense. Almost every scene in this movie has a bomb under the table - sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. It really keeps you on edge, and when those bombs eventually do go off, they can even rewrite history.
In short, yeah, this is my favorite Quentin Tarantino movie so far. All his techniques from his previous films were raised to perfection here and the performances are all fantastic. And while I sometimes think he's a little overrated when it comes to his soundtrack choices, the use of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" made me a fan of that song.
Author: Drew Hayes; Reader: Roger Wayne
(Audiobook & Original Book - 2014)
Explaining what this book is about is going to be a bit tricky. A group of gamers are involved in a Dungeons & Dragons-style tabletop role-playing game when they get their characters killed at the very beginning because they don't feel like paying attention to the (admittedly hard-assed) rules. This story imagines that this fantasy world does not just exist in the players' heads, but is a real place in some capacity. A group of "NPCs" (or Non-Player Characters) in this world notice the dead party in their tavern and for complicated reasons, decide to take their place and continue the quest they had started.
These NPCs consist of a human man, a princess, a half-orc, and a gnome. (The gnome is quite clearly the author's favorite character.) At first, they take up the roles that seem most stereotypically suited to them - the human is the Paladin, the princess is the sorceress, the half-orc is the warrior, and the gnome is the thief. But after several hapless adventures, they discover their true talents and swap places. Meanwhile, that group of human players from the real world have rolled up a new party and continued their quest, which complicates things for our NPC heroes.
Other than the gnome who is given far more background and personality than anyone else, these characters are not exactly a well of depth. Some readers may be off-put by the human gamers being (with one major exception) colossal jerks. But maybe the book does deserve some praise for actually describing its fight scenes (sometimes fantasy novels find ways to not do this by having characters fall asleep or get knocked out), and for its various riffs on RPG conventions.
So, it's not a classic work of literature, but may it be a fun read or listen for anyone familiar with the role-playing genre, whether it's via tabletop, video games, or both.