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.
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PCP: Before the Storm OST

Monotony Monday – Moody Maybe

Life is Strange, Music is Strong

The short of it: Capable of bringing your heart to its knees with just a chord, this soundtrack is hella good.

I’m not shy about the fact that Life is Strange is my favorite game (or that Dark Souls is my second). Life is Strange brought me on this incredible journey of love and loss with the single question of “If you could go back, would you?”

Before the Storm continues its atmosphere, with teens facing these problems so much larger than themselves, while dealing with all the social and emotional pressures of becoming an adult.

Daughter is wonderful. They were great on the original Life is Strange as part of the soundtrack, and their work with Before the Storm as the soundtrack is amazing.

From Daughter’s ambient title screen track to the kickass (but fictional) Pisshead, this soundtrack is damn near impeccable. It perfectly recreates the atmospheric moodiness of the original while adding in a bit of a punk edge for Chloe.

PCP: Trials Fusion

Fun Fridayz #17 -Frenzied Flash Feels

A Fusion of Fun and Frustrations

The short of it: It’s got wheels, and they run wild.

Once again, I get my dose of gaming variety through the Games with Gold program.

Trials is arguably a classic of the seventh generation. It was a flagship of the Xbox Arcade and a standard of any Let’s Player of the past few years.

And it’s fine. It’s like every bit of gameplay you’ve seen from it or its predecessors. It’s fun enough and checks all its boxes.

The problem I run into is the delayed satisfaction– or at the very least, the delayed possibility of satisfaction. I admit to being obsessed with achievements, despite the fact that I still haven’t broke 100,000. Yet.

Trials’ campaign of sorts is a series of worlds, each with their own levels and minigames. Each level comes with three varying challenges, like don’t tilt backwards, do a 50m wheelie, run over all the flowers, or do five flips. Here’s the thing: not all of these challenges are immediately accomplishable. I spent far too long on the first world, only to find out that I couldn’t do certain moves until I advanced. Then the same thing happened again in the next world. I kept having to earn new licenses to learn to new tricks to beat challenges in levels in earlier worlds.

It’s a minor complaint about a longstanding way to teach gameplay mechanics in consumable bites. But it still grinds my gears.

PCP: Creed

Watching Wednesday #20 – Whambamwhammy

With Gloves Wide Open

The short of it: Without a single weak actor, Creed goes 12 rounds with Rocky’s story beats and comes out on top. 

It’s genuinely impressive how many things Creed does right. For one, its fights are thrilling, with few cuts and even fewer of the obvious misses/bad coreography of the preceding films that gave them far less impact.

The music is another knockout. It’s full of heavy hitters, both new school (Future, Meek Mill, Vince Staples) and old (Nas is on this, like c’mon that’s dope). The tracks are all these perfect snippets of hype that tread the same territory as older tracks.

I think that’s what’s so impressive about this movie. Unlike the rest of the Rocky’s tendency towards brain-off, predictable rides, Creed comes full force as a story. The roller coaster is the same, but the new cart makes a world of difference.

PCP: Joyce Manor

Monotony Monday #20 – Maybe Manor

Ode to Joyce

The short of it: Well, they are the short of it.

Joyce Manor is an emo indie rock outfit with four albums under their belt, giving them a total run time of about 80 minutes. Every album ends up just around 20 minutes, meaning they managed to cram a whole lot of music in a surprisingly small amount of time.

The result is a discography full of songs as catchy as they are short. None of them ever overstay their welcome, even if a few end suddenly. “Heart Tattoo” off their third album is pretty decent example of what to expect: a frantic instrumental with a passionate poem, with a crazy catchy chorus to infect the listener in the song’s brief runtime.

Punchy and poignant, they manage to balance a good amount of emotions in their little runtime. From the nostalgic melancholy (“In the Army Now”) to melancholic nostalgia (“Beach Community”).

Simply put, they’re a joy.

Ce manor.

PCP: Divekick

Fun Fridayz #19 – Free Flyin’

A Divekick Built for Two (Buttons)

2 Button 2 Furious

The short of it: Simple and sweet, Divekick is deceptively competitive and delightfully fun.

Divekick is a two button fighting game where you can either jump or kick. These kicks tend to be diving ones, unsurprisingly.

It’s one of the rare times where a meta joke works better than an actual joke. Divekick is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek poke at the blown out mechanical complexities of most fighting games. The absurdly in-depth meta that forms around fighting gameplay, from the straightforward combo into combos to single frame parties, becomes void with just two buttons.

The most difficult part of learning the meta is remembering how other characters kick and their special kick. Even then, it’s pretty obvious in the first few seconds of a match. It’s incredibly friendly to players who don’t have a lot of experience with fighting games. It’s quick enough to never get boring, but the matches can last long enough to really draw out tense competition. Plus, since it can be played with one hand, it’s reeeeal easy to play it with a drink in the other hand.

I’ll be honest though. I came into the post thinking I’d laud the game’s simplicity thanks to its controls, but the reality is that there’s a lot more depth than first glance would reveal. There are gems to modify your kicks or up the stakes to sudden death. There are two variations of special moves that charge with every attack. There’s a headshot/concussion mechanic to slow opponents.

Divekick, in its winking grin, is a love letter to fighting games. And it’s far from a dive.

PCP: Salty Bet

Watching Wednesday #19 – Whack-y

Bet on It, Na What I Mean

The short of it: It’s all the satisfaction of watching those fantasy character fights with none of the boring commentary and all of the actual fighting. 

Salty Bet is a constantly streaming pseudo-gambling site running the M.U.G.E.N. fighting engine. It pits two computer-controlled characters from pretty much every medium, from manga to Sega Saturn games, against one another in a best of five match.

It’s often a series of lightning quick exchanges, the two sprites darting back and forth before becoming wrapped in the other’s combos. Occasionally a match will simply devolve into a stomp fest, with one character easily sweeping the other. Sometimes it’s a bad matchup or a broken character, like a custom Aladdin that uses a sprite from a GBA game for movement and a secondary sprite from a Sega Genesis game for sword based attacks that go full screen.

So it’s a crapshoot. And that’s the best part of it.

The randomness of the matches, combined with the high possibility of upsets and the hyperbole of Twitch chat, makes it a hell of a lot of fun. It satisfies the curiousity of that inner combative nerd that needs physical validation of the quality of their favorite characters.

 

PCP: Last Podcast on the Left

Monotony Monday #19 – Macabre Mysteries

Last on the Left, First in My Heart

The short of it: It’s a podcast that can be as difficult to get into as it is to listen– disturbing subject matter and nerdy shock jocks work well once you get used to it. 

Last Podcast on the Left delivers this breakneck pace of facts, jokes, and anecdotes that satisfies and terrifies.

It’s exactly what I wanted from a taboo podcast. As much as I enjoy My Favorite Murder, it’s a far softer approach that’s more gentle curiousity than fact-driven fascination. MFM gives a normal person’s perspective on a murder or mystery, whereas LPOTL is this total evaluation of what and why happened.

The best comparison I can think of is the difference between The Adventure Zone and the Glass Cannon Podcast– the kind enthusiasm of The Adventure Zone is touching, but the confidence and knowledge in the Glass Cannon make it a more thorough understanding of its topic.

More importantly though, their seemingly callous sense of humor betrays their true humanity. Their jokes and goofs turn the terrors of society into these laughable losers. Serial killers become nerds that got caught because they’re dumb. Kidnappers are idiots that are too lonely to function. The boogie men are just boogers. They don’t deserve deification or anything. They’re not inhuman monsters that are too brilliant to avoid. They’re broken shells that deserve to be laughed at, which is exactly what LPOTL gets us to do.

PCP: Re: Doom

Fun Fridayz #18 – Forsaken Fires

Hell to Play

The short of it: Despite some occasional map confusion, Doom goes along with Titanfall 2 in the Gameplay That Feels Like The Trailer Looks Hall of Fame. 

Yeah, it’s a revisit. 

But once again, I had an “Oh snap(map).” moment and a game just clicked.

I liked the Doom demo, that much has been established. But I liked it in a presentation sense; it was a nice sample that was a polished reflection of the total gameplay. That gameplay took me two and a half levels to actually understand.

I drew issue with level design, as I kept losing my way and running through shortcuts that put me back where I started. Once I finally really looked at the sweet 3D map, I understood. The levels aren’t exact designed for funneling the player; instead, they disguise the density of secrets and collectibles, encouraging the player to scale every ledge and follow every path.

So I’ve recanted on that issue. And I’ve doubled down on my other main thought from when I first tried Doom.

These guns are hella fun. Sure, the attachment system is a little overwhelming (numbers larger than one scare me), but pretty much all the attachments I’ve used so far are pretty satisfying.

My latest pickup is the Gauss cannon, which might be my favorite so far. It’s like hip firing a Barrett .50 cal straight into demonic torsos.

PCP: Riverdale

Watching Wednesday #18 – Weirdo Whammy

RiverHotMale

The short of it: It promises to be punchy and pretty, and that’s all I really needed.

Riverdale is the adaption of the long-running Archie comics, meaning someone out there some characters named Jughead and Moose and thought it needed to be a semi-dramatic murder conspiracy.

And damnit, they were right.

I just idled on Riverdale on Netflix for a few seconds, and this cinematic clip started up. I figured it was a trailer, so I let it play just to see how anyone could adapt Archie. Lo and behold, it was fascinating.

PCP: My Favorite Murder

Monotony Monday #18 – Moyder Myunday

Murder Most Lol

The short of it: As entertaining as it is macabre, My Favorite Murder is the perfect combination of laughter and looks over the shoulder.

My Favorite Murder is a podcast where two people talk about their favorite murders.

Not ones they’ve committed or anything– the local or legendary murders that horrify and fascinate us as a society. Hosts Karen and Georgia publicly embrace the terrible interest we have in the darkest parts of humanity.

It scratches that itch that you get when it’s late and you’re alone, with your laptop’s glow as the only light in your home as you painstakingly scroll through the excessively detailed Wikipedia page on some serial killer or cannibal or serial killer cannibal. This terrible fascination overcomes you, leaving you tied up in horrible taboo like a victim of a home invasion.

Karen and Georgia are the angels (or demons or hallucinations that encourage murder, whatever works) on your shoulders as they reveal various murders and monstrous acts, punctuating gruesome descriptions with gasps and squeals.

Of course, I’m in that beautiful podcast listening honeymoon phase where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts– except the recently added ad reads to their first couple of episodes. I listen to the podcast at max volume just to be able to fully hear the two women. I’ve yet to be as scared of any of the atrocities they’ve discussed as I am when I’m immersed in a story they’re telling when suddenly, mid-sentence, my eardrums shatter. “The victims reported hearing a gentle patter on their roof, just before th-HEYMURDERINOSDOYOULIKESNACKSNATUREBOX HERE!”

Apparently this gets better as the episodes go on and they get a sound guy, but I haven’t been this frustrated with poor audio mixing since Crit Juice, where I had to panic-lower the volume every couple of minutes. It’s murder on the mood, nerves, and ears. So not my favorite murder.