Essential writings

Every time I fill out an application, real or fake, I initially panic about clips. The reporting one, the interview one, the review one, oh no, which one should I choose. When I finally sat down to review, I realized I could condense my style into three pieces.

  1. Drink pairings for your favorite game franchise
    • My pièce de résistance. The appeal of alcohol and the magic of video games. I’ve never had more fun writing.
  2. ‘London Has Fallen’ means standards have fallen
    • This is where I truly let loose with the bite and the silly. Switching out generic man hero character’s name brought me the sanity I needed to make it through this trainwreck of a film.
  3. New video game release: ‘The Beginner’s Guide’ review
    • Being serious is insanely difficult to me. This game was powerful enough to make me put on a serious face; it also gave me the challenge of reviewing a game without saying anything about it.

PCP: Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure – Phantom Blood

Watching Wednesday #10 – Wallowing Weirdness

This is about the first arc (well, the first half arc) of the 2012 anime adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. 

The short of it: True to its name, this weird saga starts with a relatively calm story of boy and his adopted brother. The next 40 or so episodes add in the bizarreness that makes this series so endearing and captivating. 

It really is hard to beat this series’ own description. It’s a bizarre adventure. It’s Aladdin finding the lamp, Gulliver finding the island, Ishmael boarding the ship.

JJBA creates this aura of intrigue, where sense is tossed to the side, absurdity is the new normal, and every step forward opens up three more paths.

Oddly enough, the first few episodes seem to be spot-on parodies of most anime/manga tropes with how generic they seem. I’m still not completely sure if it’s JJBA’s influence or its earnestness that makes these (possibly) unintentional parodies so funny. They’re not boring by any means, but they are far more grounded than the rest of the show.

And keeping with generic starts, it’s premise is simple enough. A boy, Joseph Joestar, finds a brutal rivalry with his recently adopted brother, Dio Brando. This manages to slide into a centuries long blood feud that claims the lives of thousands, thanks to a mysterious mask that turns its wielder into a monstrous immortal vampire.

Dio’s unflinching evil is by far the most compelling part of the series, followed by Joseph’s unyielding goodness. I mean, there’s a reason Dio’s an Internet phenomenon.

JJBA is like the world’s greatest roller coaster. It starts with this slow standard roll up to the top of a massive hill, taking the viewer along these benchmarks of insanity. As the viewer gets accustomed to these spikes of weirdness, they’re introduced to a new one, and then a new one. Every step up normalizes this impossible world.

And then, once it reaches the stratosphere, it comes flying down in this exhilarating exhibition of gravity’s weakness.

Plus, JOOOOOOOJOOOOOOOOO.

 

PCP: Dethklok

Monotony Monday #10 – Most Metal

Dethklok: Timeless

The short of it: Parody that outdoes its source material is rare. Not only does Dethklok successfully mock the quirks and ridiculousness of metal, it outdoes most metal bands in terms of talent and performance. 

The pilot episode of Metalocalypse portrays Dethklok as the world’s most popular band, with legions of fans willing to die to hear the band play.

Three albums (more or less) later, it’s actually understandable why their animated fans would go to the brütal slaughterhouse that is a Dethklok show.

The band is effectively just Brendon Smalls playing with himself. And the result is some of the funniest jokes about the genre delivered through genuinely great metal.

Pretty much every track manages to both kick ass and bring a grin to your face. You’ve got songs like “Dethharmonic,” with these gorgeous, orchestral strings backing this shuddering riff and it’s just beautiful.

And the song is just about not wanting to pay taxes. It’s funny on the surface level, but, like all of Dethklok’s music, makes this grander point about how dumb most metal lyrics are. Even though Small’s got wonderfully clear vocals, other metal bands’ muddled screeches and snarls disguise the utter inanity of most lyrics. And Dethklok is both pointing that out and saying that it’s actually fine– the pretentiousness and elitism that riddle the metal community are as silly as the eighteenth reference to Satan in a three minute song. If it sounds good, it’s good. If it sounds metal, it’s metal.

Dethklok, as a band, is impressive. Dethklok, as a comedic avenue, is impressive. Dethklok as a single man’s project is indescribable.

Well, maybe not.

It actually just takes three words.

Metal. As. Fuck.

PCP: Watch_Dogs

Fun Fridayz #9 – Free Fun

Watch_Dogs: Worth Watching, Dawg

The short of it: Despite accidentally boarding a machspeed hype train during its release, Watch_Dogs is an incredibly fun, complete game that looks fantastic. 

When it was first revealed at E3 a few years ago, people lost their minds. We hadn’t quite slid into our cynical echo chambers where we declare that anything that doesn’t look exactly the same as its promotional material to be lying garbage.

Many hypestorms later, it came to Games with Gold, and I’m absolutely loving it.

It’s a basic story of wronging the wrong guy– Aiden is a techno hacker wiz with gun skill and gristle, desperate to protect his sister and nephew from a mysterious badmandude.

As far as I know, he’s the greatest Aiden in gaming. The only other one I can think of is the dumb stupid force ghost Aiden from 2 Beyond 2 Souls, but still.

Of course, Aiden is a tad generic. He’s a low-talking white guy, with short, dark hair and scruff. But I can’t help but like him. His drive to protect his family is relatable, making his almost cringy lines about messing with the wrong guy actually touching and relatable.

It’s what’s really propelling me through the game. The progression system is satisfying, allowing the player to jump from hacking wallets to hacking helicopters, but it’s not an emotional motivator. It’s not what lets me look past the incredibly lackluster driving physics and obscene car camera controls.

Instead, watching Aiden’s willingness to become the type of guy he’s fighting against to protect his family makes me want more. His refusal to change and lack of desire to better himself is painfully relatable. He’s not taking the dark path like a hero willing to go the full length to stop evil. He’s just a really flawed guy watching out for his family.

PCP: Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2

Watching Wednesday #9 – Friends Forever

Two Best Friends Play Silent Hill 2: 2 spooky, 2 gud

The short of it: Although a bit less silly and a lot more informed, this playthrough demonstrates the other side of TBFP. While failing playthroughs of horrendous David Cage games are hilarious, the Best Friends have their brainy moments too. 

What’s that, imaginary inner critic that’s never satisfied? Upset there’s another Best Friends playthrough on PCP? Well suck it, this one’s also fantastic.

Silent Hill 2 can almost indisputably claim the crown of Greatest Survival Horror Game of All Time. This playthrough can do the same for the Best Mostly Serious TBFP Playthrough title.

Pat’s the star here, taking point on both the controls and the discussion. Years of admiration and research are evident as he manages to both informative and hype about the brilliant designs in the game.


The Best Friends have genuinely made me appreciate games a lot more. Whereas other channels kinda make me annoyed that I wasn’t recording for a funny moment, these guys make me like the little things I didn’t used to notice. Subtle gameplay nudges to direct the player, cool character designs, the concept of hype in general. It makes the medium so much more enjoyable.


The game alone is immersive, and the commentary’s almost hushed tone make this playthrough atmospheric. The deep fog and creepy environments add to this level of tense fascination. The guys’ resolution to keep quiet during the cutscenes amplifies the utter bizarreness of it all- the stilted performances and weird pacing of the conversations make it unsettling in a hard to nail down way. Of course, having Pat explain why certain actors sound they way they do or what certain things mean in the Silent Hill mythos answer the dozens of questions that are inevitable in a playthrough of this game.

It’s like watching a puzzle being put together with narration. Every step is another, “Ah!” as the picture gets clearer and clearer. Sure, occasionally they’ll force a wrong piece in it, but the explanation works well enough that it’s either interesting or funny enough to pass.

PCP: Freshmen

Monotony Monday #9 – Moronoic, Maybe Not

Kodak Black & 21 Savage: Freshmen Track Stars

The short of it: Once the backpack comes off, these two young stars have more to offer than their outlandish behavior and reputation.

Aight, I gotta start this off by saying I’m not a backpacker. Sure, maybe I used to be more on the side of suburban white kid rap (horrorcore and the spirituallyricalmiracle), but then I realized how much good music there was once you stopped reflexively hating on anything outside your box. I came to realize that artists like Hopsin are more of a failure of potential rather than a guidepost of good hip-hop. And I found out artists like Future can put out some of my favorite tracks and projects (Monster is Future’s greatest work, @ me son).

So the XXL Freshmen are always fun for me to see– I can get behind veterans of the scene sneaking in, and I’m interested in seeing what talent I didn’t know about made it in.

G Herbo, finally. Denzel Curry, Dave East, good for them. Desiigner, aw hell yeah, got a weird soft spot for him. Dicky probably deserves it for his honesty and virality. Yachty and Uzi Vert been shakin’ up the game, aight, and .Paak is blowing up.

That leaves Kodak and 21, two artists that have long left a bitter taste in my mouth. Kodak for his history of dumb crimes and violence, 21 for his overly deadpan expression and “issaknife” debacle.

Two songs cycled up on Pandora recently, and I begrudgingly started to warm up to these two.

Kodak’s feature with A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (who I also don’t dig, partially because of the obtrusiveness of his name, partially out of loyalty to Boogie) got me. ABWDH’s melodies lured me in, and Kodak’s grizzled pronunciation sealed the deal.

Something about his tight lipped delivery worked with the production to even let me look past his terrible “I’m the shit, I’m fartin'” line to appreciate one of my favorite closers to a verse this year:

She call me daddy / But I ain’t her muh’fuckin’ father

Meanwhile, 21 Savage won me with his song “X” with Future. In the track, 21 says with a straight tone, no inflection or slowing

Hit her with no condom / had to make her eat a Plan B

whereas Childish Gambino has a similar line, and he offers this deep shame along with the admission:

“There any breakage in that Trojan?” / She see what she wanna see / So I make her take Plan B in front of me

Now, this isn’t a direct comparison between the two or some criticism about how hard or soft they seem. It’s a matter of approach– and 21’s is, well, savage. It’s flat, cold, straight. It’s a delivery that could be either completely untrained or terrifyingly trained.

 

PCP: Lethal League’s Prototype

Fun Fridayz #8 – First Fun, Finished Fun-ner

Lethal League‘s Prototype: Dodge Baller

The short of it: It says something about a game when its prototype version is good enough to stand on its own. Tight controls and a fun aesthetic make this lil’ demo a brilliant argument for buying the full version.

Demos are usually great ways to give possible players a taste of what the full package involves. Sometimes it stumbles, like Prey’s Opening Hour, and sometimes it over succeeds, like Lethal League‘s in-browser prototype.

The game’s simple– don’t get hit. It’s dodgeball with a dose of dynamite, with ball speeds maxing out at a million miles an hour and special moves allowing players to add spin to the ball or teleport it to behind opponents.

It’s bonkers in all the right ways. I owe Best Friends Play for introducing it to me in one of their old Friday Night Fisticuffs.


But here I am, with my stomach in a semi-permanent Gordian knot from losing a paycheck or two in less than 24 hours due to a brutally timed rent/deposit/car replacement parts/car breaking and needing more replacement parts cataclysm.

I’m fine, everything’s paid,  but my bank account’s sore from being squeezed. So I’m squeezing blood from this turnip of a demo. Turnip meaning a highly nutritious and valuable product.


So I’ve restricted myself to the prototype version of the game until I’m back to breathing room financially. Fortunately, it’s more than a demo. It’s a fully challenging slice of Lethal League‘s full package. Out of the fifty or some games I’ve played against the AI, I’ve won exactly one. And that was with a fair amount of cheesing on half of the points.

Point is, this is such a fun little tide-me-over. It demonstrates mechanics first and foremost; rather than trying to entice the player with a plot twist or an extreme display of graphics, it lets the player feel how the core game works before the polish.

Plus, you get this hype track as you try to stop the unflinching robot AI.

PCP: Inside Gaming’s Chaser

Watching Wednesday #8 – What a Whiff

Inside Gaming’s Chaser:

The short of it: Before evolving into Funhaus, Inside Gaming provided some of the best tightly edited gameplay on YouTube. Add in an overdose of humor of both the dark and fart variety and a godawful game, you’ve got one of the enjoyable trainwrecks on the web.

The current-Funhaus-former-Inside Gaming’s history is kind of funny, bouncing from a Halo specific show into a gaming news show into a mix of news and brief gameplay to a primarily gaming channel with a hint of news. Fortunately, all these shifts have had little impact on the quality of their content, whatever it may be.

Every few months, I find myself looking back at some specific playthroughs and silly videos that genuinely made me laugh. Top among those videos are Inside Gaming’s playthroughs of the best worst games of the mid 2000s. And the top of those is arguably their playthrough of Chaser, a mediocre game that somehow manages to surprise players with how many ways it can be bad.

It’d be amusing enough to watch the game quickly devolve into a mess of bad design and worse implementation, but with Bruce and James behind the mic and Kovic behind the controls, it’s a downward spiral of game with the peak of game commentary.

Sure, their style of editing cuts out all the bits that are unfunny or boring. Instead of minimizing the strength of the overall commentary though, this strengthens it. By distilling it to their high points, the guys’ indirectly challenge the commentary of any other gameplay channel on YouTube. Yes, we know how brilliantly funny they are, but their condensed and cohesive playthroughs reveal the weaknesses of most other commenters.

PCP: Rain Come Down

Monotony Monday #8 – Vince’s Vivacious Victories

Vince Staples’ “Rain Come Down”: Fresh, Ain’t Fishy

The short of it: A master of delivery and lyricism, Vince is quietly one of the best artists in hip-hop. His upcoming looks to continue his trend of hitting it out of the park.

I’m a huge fan of Vince Staples. His debut album, Summertime 06, immediately impressed me and stayed on heavy repeat for a few months.

Honestly, I’m still not over this one line from “Señorita.” It’s the kind of line that makes me want to grab everyone I see by the shoulders and shout in their face, “DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW GOOD THIS LINE IS?”

We crabs in a bucket / he called me a crab / So I shot at him in front of the Douglas

It’s quintessential Vince– it’s compact, catchy, and clever. There’s like, three layers of brilliance, and each one gets me hype as hell.

But this PCP isn’t about “Señorita.” It’s about one of his three singles for his upcoming album Big Fish Theory.

“Rain Come Down” is the longest of the three released tracks, and it’s easily my personal favorite. I was just walking around at work singing, “When the rain come down!” to myself. Ty Dolla $ign kills the hook, which is great considering the fact that Vince’s weak point is his hooks (everyone has to have a weak point, and I don’t think Vince is anywhere near, like, Tyga or something in terms of hooks).

It’s got the classic amp up outro that isn’t quite as good as the one on “Señorita” (damnit, I said this wasn’t about that song), but it’s still interesting. Same thing with the video– although Vince didn’t need a visual accompaniment since this is just the audio version, the imagery of the fishbowl in the rain is amazing.

The production is pretty classic Vince, with a bouncing bass accompanied by a spread of high hats that shows off his entrancing flow.

Admittedly, I still haven’t listen to his last project. Maybe it was burnout from the album, maybe his work was a little too consistent. But considering this track and his Gorillaz feature, I’m pretty excited to see what this big fish’s small pond sounds like.

PCP: Specter of Torment

Fun Fridayz #7 – Free For Fans

Shovel Knight – Specter of Torment: Ghastly Goodness

The short of it: While not as smooth as Shovel of Hope or Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment continues the trend of successful shovelry. Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight easily claims the title of Greatest Kickstarter Game.

On its own, Shovel Knight has no right to be as good as it is. On its own, Plague of Shadows has no right to be as good as it is. On its own, Specter of Torment has no right to be as good as it is.

Yacht Club consistently nails its strengths, which is about as redundant as the phrase, “digging shovel.” The hub worlds are delights to explore and serve as both adventure relief and comic relief, their NPCs always offer great interaction, the music is always fresh as hell, and their character design is absolutely gorgeous.

Both DLCs so far have radically changed the gameplay of Shovel Knight by drastically altering the player’s mobility. Plague Knight’s explosive jumps and Specter Knight’s dashes and wall runs reinvigorate old levels and offer new takes on already fascinating levels. However, they create new levels of frustration as increased mobility usually comes with more difficult paths. Instead of Shovel Knight’s simple jump once or die, it compounds into jump explode jump wall hang jump or jump dash float wall run jump dash.

Basically, I’m bad at platforming and this game really made me think about that. Although the enemies and bosses (final boss being the frustrating exception) pose almost no challenge, I ended having to close my 3DS at a few pressure-filled platforming sections that ended up tripling my death count. The wall run mechanic occasionally felt more slippery than savvy, but that could just be me terrible.

Fortunately, Specter Knight’s combat abilities make up for that. His weapons are brutal, fun, and almost feel like cheating– but since they’re all a part of his boss fight, it’s totally fair.

Compound this combat with the interesting storytelling (the method is great, the story itself is the weakest of the three campaigns (which isn’t a criticism considering how damn good the other two are (especially Plague Knight))), I can dig Specter of Torment.

 

PCP: YouTube Live

Watching Wednesday #7 – Weak Watching

YouTube Live: Live, Die, Replay

The short of it: It’s the fast food of media consumption: easy, quick, and someone else does it all for you. 

Alright, this is gonna be a weird one. Well, maybe not weird, but unorthodox. It’s not nearly as weird as my lame clause comma statement format, but still.

So I’ve become a huge fan of this whole creepily-automatic, “24/7 LIVESTREAM TV SHOW PLAY NOW” that pops up on YouTube Live. It’s everything from Fox News to Animal Fights to Family Guy. And it’s that last one that’s been occupying my free time.

It’s a bit of a twofold guilty pleasure. For one, it’s all pretty much garbage in terms of content (at least, for me, there’s like Nat Geo and fancy learnin’ stuff I ain’t clicking on). And it’s like lazy pirating, where I don’t like the content enough to seek it out on my own.

Look, I love Family Guy. Season one is absurdly good for a pilot season, and season two continues that trend. Although season three reveals that petering off into absurdity (c wut I did thur) that derails the next decade, it’s still a fantastic collection of humor and character.

Then it got worse.

But somehow, it got better. Despite a lack of a showrunner or truly funny character, the show reclaimed itself as a staple of network humor with its grasp of absurd and classic humor. Something as simple as one character greeting a background character is complimented by an extended meta-humor joke, resulting in a show that manages to both laugh with and at itself.

The end result is some random YouTube channel under an obnoxious name, either John Smith or PETER GRIFFIN LOL LIKE FAMILY GUY, streaming the latest episodes of the show. Despite being a chronological deposition of Family Guy’s humor, these channels end up being the most enjoyable background noise available. It’s like white guy white noise– there’s a cutaway you can chuckle at before the show cuts back to some trite “Character X discovers they can do Y” plot.

Basically, this is the best way to enjoy a show that started as both a copy of and modernized rival of The Simpsons.

Watch season one of Family Guy. But also watch the latest as a testament to how unimportant thinking is between laughing.