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coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Saturday, January 30th, 2016 07:29 pm
The BF and I had a couple people over last weekend for a board game day, which is always a ton of fun. And also means we get to play a bunch of new-to-us games!

Six Games Behind the Cut )

We also played a couple games of Codenames, which is still a lot of fun.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 10:57 pm
I once again attended Gen Con with the BF and played lots of new games!

<strike>Seven</strike> Nine Games Behind the Cut )

Once again, lots of new-to-me games played that I really enjoyed.
coprime: an awesome lady stepping out of a boat (Default)
Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 02:58 am
I attended Gen Con this past weekend along with the BF and had a lot of fun! We also played several new-to-me games, of course. (But not too many because I can get scheduling overload easily.)

Six Games Behind the Cut )

So those are my thoughts on the games I played at Gen Con this year: several really fun games plus one big dud.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Friday, June 14th, 2013 10:21 pm
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium is a JRPG with a science fiction setting that is totally awesome. I loved it so much! And I played it all by myself too.

So I loved it partially for the setting, which has androids and space travel and environment control centers and all sorts of creepy monsters that looked like they escaped from an evil scientist's lab. I feel like science fiction backdrops are rare in RPGs, so I really enjoy that aspect whenever it's present.

And I loved it partially for the characters. Alys is my favorite type of RPG character: badass woman who's good at hitting things, takes no shit, and does it all with a twinkle in her eye. I also came out of the game shipping Demi/Wren and shipping them hard. (Demi's sprite is so cute! She is noticeably shorter than everyone else, and her walking animation is consequently much faster.) All I want is for them to build little helper robot babies together, but there is a sad dearth of readable PSIV fanfic on the internet.

The game has a lot of references to the first two games in the series (but not the third because that one doesn't quite fit with its siblings), which is pretty cool. It really gives the game a sense of continuity and history and weight that I enjoyed, even though I know I missed a lot. Everything I did get was because I watched a tool-assisted speedrun of Phantasy Star. (And I subsequently fell in love with Alis--female main character is set on her quest because she wants revenge for her dead brother--and want to play Phantasy Star sooooo bad. Except the TAS is super grindy, so I don't want to imagine how much worse the regular game would be.)

The gameplay has a couple nifty aspects. The biggest one is that you can set up macros for what you want your party to do, and it makes the dungeons so much simpler. I thought that was pretty cool! You can also do combo attacks, but I managed to go through the entire game without managing to do one accidentally and so did not learn about this aspect until I finished and the BF told me. On the other hand, the game was still totally beatable without the combos, so missing out on the combos didn't affect the game at all for me. I found the spell and technique names to be inscrutable. (Tandle? Warla? Brose? What?) But then I made a simple cheat sheet, and that was no longer a problem. I had to grind for about two or three hours at one point, but that was painless to do with the help of picture-in-picture. And I was happy that was all the grinding I had to do. (Other people may have to do more because other people will probably get lost wandering around less than I did.)

My only quibbles with the game are minor. You have to ask an NPC to wax rhapsodic about the measurements of Alys, the Eight-Stroke Warrior, in order to advance the plot. Ugh. Whenever Rika physically attacks enemies, you get a <sarcasm>lovely</sarcasm> ass shot to go with it. The inventory system really needs a way to automatically sort it because as is, everything gets jumbled together and it's difficult to remember/find what you have. The quibbles especially look minor when compared to all the rest that is awesome in this game.

Science fiction. An exciting conclusion to the series. Alys. Demi and Wren and Rune and Raja and everyone else. One creepy dungeon that grossed me out every time I walked through a door. Macros. A spaceship. Ataraxia. The most awesome healer in RPG-dom who is fond of bad jokes and also a dude. Phantasy Star IV really does have a lot of things going for it.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Monday, May 13th, 2013 01:41 pm
I completely and utterly adored Secret of Mana right from the beginning when I saw how brightly colored everything was. The Boy's outfit is bright blue with a hot pink bandana, cape, and belt! It is all so cheery-looking. (The three PCs all have canonical names, but the English version of the game gives you zero way of knowing what they are. So the Boy got named after the BF, the Girl got named after me, and we named the Sprite child Coke because who can resist a lame pun. It is most certainly not me.) The backgrounds, the character sprites, and the enemy sprites are all just lots of fun visually.

There is a lot I loved about this game, but the biggest has to be that it works really well as a 2-player RPG. You can even do 3-player if you have the right equipment. It has a real-time battle system, no random encounters, and all the PCs walk across the map. So rather than having the Boy stand in for the entire party while in towns or traveling between locations and then just getting to control your character during battles, you get to control your character all the time (with just a few exceptions). You want to go talk to that townsperson? Go talk to them! You think it's a good time to visit the inn but your partner wants to visit the weapons shop next door? Now it's a race to see who gets to their door first. Or you can stun a monster then push it over to where your partner's fighting and then both of you can whale on the monsters at the same time.

Secret of Mana is super fun to play as a multiplayer game. Occasionally there's the problem of someone getting stuck because the party is too far apart but it happened much less than I would have thought and mostly to the computer-controlled third party member. Coke would get distracted trying to kill things and we'd have to backtrack half a screen to get him moving forward again.

The characters seem well-balanced to me, so no one's stuck playing the useless character. The Boy is the fighter, the Girl is the white mage and healer but also is decent at hitting things, and the Sprite is the black mage who is good at offensive magic but bad at hitting things. The BF says the game is a little broken in that the Sprite's magic is super-powerful when leveled, but the BF and I managed pretty well without using Coke's black magic ever. The BF ended up pretty leveled in all the weapons, I leveled the whip to maximum as well as getting very good at healing magic, and that strategy worked well and was more fun because we both contributed.

I really liked the magic system too. You learn new spells when you encounter an elemental creature that gives you their magic. So when you find Undine you learn water magic and you get fire magic from Salamando. Each set of spells has its own level (so I ended the game with very high Undine magic from curing everyone all the time but low everything else because I rarely used it), and the maximum level for all the elements depends on how far you are in the game. The weapons system is similar, but each weapon's maximum level depends on whether you have forged the weapon to that level. I liked the whip because I could hit things without having to get too close; the BF rotated weapons depending on the situation. (And because, as the Boy, his weapon skill for the individual weapons increased faster than mine did, he was pretty handy with all the weapons despite rotating.)

I could go on and on about various things I enjoyed while playing Secret of Mana because there are a lots of them, but but mostly it was the sense of fun pervading the game while still having a serious plot. The three PCs are all very expressive, the Sprite especially. The game does some unique things like letting you travel between continents via being shot out of a cannon and opening treasure chests by throwing them on the ground. The music is unique and fun and included a couple tracks that I just wanted to sit and listen to whenever they came on. The plot is fairly simple and not super unique but I found it engaging. (And, honestly, I find a lot of RPG plots pretty similar. Oh no, there are a lot more monsters than there used to be! Here, young boy, use this sword to go on a quest to find out why and save the world! But first, assemble a party of fellow adventurers and friends to help you with this task. And go fetch some special MacGuffins in order to advance the plot. Oh and don't forget to turn your boat into an airship at some point.)

So yeah, I found a lot to love in Secret of Mana. But mostly how awesomely it works with two people.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 04:39 pm
The impetus for my video game playing revolution came from watching the BF play games for my entertainment. I want to give my impressions of the game he played for me, but it's been long enough for these games that I don't remember much. So, quick hits.

Cave Story is a really cute platformer where you play as an amnesiac robot who makes friends with some bunny people and go on a quest. The story is entertaining and fun and there are multiple endings. I adored the graphics; all the sprites are super cute so I really enjoyed watching the BF play. The platforming elements seemed well done to my untrained eye: some tricky bits but nothing impossibly hard assuming you can play platformers, with the exception of the requisite platformer hell bonus level.

An Untitled Story is another cute platformer where you start out as an egg exploring your world. As you explore, you gain new abilities allowing you to explore previously inaccessible areas. Gradually you also discover a story. The graphics all look like they were drawn in MSPaint but have a surprising amount of character for their simplicity. The exploration elements are a lot of fun. There are lots of different areas, each with its own distinct feel, and the areas all have reasons to revisit them multiple times because there's so much in each one to explore and discover. By the time the plot finally kicks in, it adds this amazingly menacing and suspenseful air to everything you do. I could never ever manage to play this game on my own, but I was enthralled with it from the start.

La Mulana is also a platformer, this one done by fans of the Sony MSX computer. You play an archeologist exploring an ancient temple and discovering its secrets. In a lot of ways, La Mulana is similar to An Untitled Story: both are non-linear, exploratory platforms with a slow-developing plot. However La Mulana delights in tricking the player, and hardly anything is what it seems. I found the graphics to be pretty meh. They're well done, but I don't respond to them. My biggest problem with La Mulana is that the player ends up traveling in circles a lot trying to find the new area or unlock a talent or otherwise move things along. (This feeling is not helped by how tricksy the game and its puzzles are.) People who are fans of Metroid and Castlevania (a.k.a. the game's main audience) probably think of this as a feature, but it makes for boring watching. The plot was interesting and I enjoyed watching when stuff was moving along, just there were a lot of times when stuff wasn't moving along.

Super Meat Boy is a platformer where you're constantly trying to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend. Unlike the previous three games, Super Meat Boy does not have an involved plot. But the levels are generally short enough that watching the BF try multiple times was fun - yay, he made it past this tricky bit! oh, he just barely missed this other bit! - rather than sleep inducing. This is very much a platformer designed for platformer nerds. As a reward for completing a level, you get to see a video of all your tries at once, which was my favorite bit. The graphics are a weird combination of gory and cute, and that probably goes a long way to explaining why I was less bored by this than La Mulana.

In conclusion: The BF really likes platformers, and I really like cute graphics.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Monday, January 21st, 2013 04:05 pm
Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom is an odd little text adventure game. There's a still image of what's in front of you and you have fourteen commands at your disposal for interaction. The basic plot is fairly standard - someone evil has captured the princess and you have to rescue her - but there are a lot of gameplay hoops you have to jump through in order to save her.

I played it because I thought it'd be cute since all the characters are anthropomorphic fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, the graphics are so simplified and pixely that any charm they might have had is lost on me. (The graphics for the original, computer version have a lot more personality than the NES version, but on the other hand the NES version is the longer game.) Also, the game is nearly impossible to lose unless you give up because it won't allow you to proceed until you've done everything you need to do in an area. I say nearly impossible because there is exactly one point in the game where you can die, and I managed to find it. Go me! The downside of that style gameplay is that I often ended up stuck and trying every vaguely relevant command I could over and over in the hope of doing whatever the game wanted me to do.

And it is so rarely obvious what you need to do in order to move on. Either you need to talk to someone three times in a row in order to get more information from someone else, or you have to slight spoilers for Level 6. ) And those are some of the less complicated sequences you have to do. Needless to say, I often got stuck and would then pass the controller to the BF who tooled around checking stuff until one of us had an idea. We managed to get by with only checking the walkthrough twice in the first seven levels. Level 8 required extensive checking of the walkthrough because ughhh.

I can see why Princess Tomato has a small cult following. There are some fun elements: battles are done via rock-paper-scissors followed by a staring contest, and the mazes are constructed so that hugging either the right or left wall doesn't always solve the maze. The "what do I do next" frustration is probably much lessened when you've played to game before, so that everything is quirky fun rather than nonsensical vexation. (I did enjoy playing when I was making progress and figuring stuff out, but I think it's far too easy to get stuck without a clue as to what you're missing.)

There are also some creepy sexist bits that I did not appreciate. The kidnapped Princess Tomato is being forced to marry one of the bad guys, so rescuing her from that is good. Except your reward for rescuing her is that she now has to marry you instead, which I feel defeats the point of rescuing her. There's also another point in the game where you walk into a bathroom that an orange lady is showering in and she rightly calls you a pervert. The BF and I ended up perving on her a lot because we kept getting stuck and hoping she would have some new information for us because she was the only person we could find to talk to.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Sunday, January 6th, 2013 04:59 pm
Stretch yourself a little and try something new. Go play in a new fandom or with a new pairing. Try working in a new medium. Or consume different fanworks. Give that new fandom a go. Listen to a podfic or watch some vids if you haven’t before. Leave a comment in this post saying you did it.

This one was tough to think of something to do! I read pretty widely and capriciously, so stretching my fic-reading boundaries was out. I thought maybe I'd try recording a short podfic before remembering that I really don't like listening to my own voice. In the end, I stuck Pokémon White in my DS and started playing my first Pokémon game.

I bought my DS used, and it came with several Pokémon games (Pearl, HeartGold, and White) that I have been side-eyeing for the past month and a half. I had no clue whether I would like playing Pokémon or not. On the one hand, lots of cute things to collect! I like cute things! (They are possibly my favorite part of video games.) On the other hand, I have a couple friends who are way more into Pokémon than I will ever be who put me off the series. And a third friend scoffed at me when I told her I might play one of the games.

But I'm about two hours into it and thoroughly enjoying myself. I have a fluffly little otter as my main pokémon! So far I have been able to navigate the menus and win battles with relative ease, so I am doing pretty good skill-wise I think. And it is free to stay at the inn! I do like that. I only have four pokémons on my team so far, so I expect things will get slightly more complicated after I capture my seventh pokémon. But yes, I have enjoying what I've played of Pokémon White and am glad I didn't wait for months on end like I probably would have without this challenge spurring me on.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 12:57 am
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is a Bejeweled-style RPG, which is all you need to know to decide whether you'd like this game or not. In my case, I like fantasy RPGs and can quite happily play Bejeweled (or mahjong or Boxspin or Fishdom...) for hours, so Puzzle Quest was the perfect game for me!

I played as a fire wizard named Aria. (The game suggested Ulmina for a name, so I chose my own, better name.) It was a lot of fun! Wizard is probably the easiest class to beat the game with because they get lots of offensive spells. I'll probably replay the game at some point using another class, after I've had a chance to forget the story a bit more. Aria was kind of mouthy, and I wonder if that was a deliberate character decision or if the game only has one set of dialogue for the PC. To be determined when I play through again, I suppose.

Gameplay was super repetitive, so I don't recommend this game to anyone who doesn't love playing tile-matching games. One thing I appreciated was the lack of a time element for virtually all the battles. (I believe there's a timed option in the preferences, and training a mount requires playing a game with a time limit.) I...honestly don't know if grinding is a necessary element of the game or not. I know I only deliberately repeated a quest in order to gain experience at two points during the game, both early in the story. On the other hand, there are lots of encounters while traveling and I did repeat quests in order to capture creatures. It never felt like grinding to me, but that probably has more to do with me than with whether or not I was grinding.

The plot is nothing special, although I feel like there is a dark version of the plot floating in the background of the game that never gets acknowledged. (You siege cities all over the land in order to collect tithes from them! You capture creatures, keep them in your dungeon, and force them to teach you any spells they know! You steal runes from every outpost you come across in order to make better equipment for yourself! By the end of the game Aria could have easily become the next Dark Lord, and no one would have been able to stop her.)

The computer AI seems like it's a cheaty-face because the AI seems to get way more cascading matches than you the human player do. This might be true because the computer loads several rows of tiles above what you can see for smooth playing and the AI picks the best move. It should only pick the best move based on the tiles on the board, but it sure feels like it picks the best move based on all the tiles. The game is still not very difficult even with the AI being a possible cheaty-face, so I guess whether it is or not doesn't matter. I just spent a fair bit of time insulting the game because of its cheating ways.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Friday, August 24th, 2012 11:51 pm
Mother 3 is the third game in the Mother/Earthbound series and was never released outside of Japan. There is however a very well-done fan translation available on the internet. I enjoyed this game, although I let the BF do most of the battles. (I probably actually played around a quarter to a third of the game and played armchair quarterback for the rest of it.)

The Mother series has a neat battle system where your health scrolls down when you get hit (instead of being immediately gone) so if you're fast enough, you can heal characters before they die. I...was not fast enough, even if I am getting better at menu interaction in games. Mother 3 introduces a hit system where, if you can time your attacks to the beat of the battle music, you can get up to sixteen hits in a row. It's a nice way of making it so that the non-magic characters can also do significant damage.

For the first couple chapters, you do a lot of character switching, which is kind of fun (new characters! new perspectives! new things to do!) and kind of annoying (so-and-so was finally leveled enough to be decent!). You also spend a fair amount of time in the beginning with just one playable character and maybe an NPC, and the battles therefore feel more reactive than my preference.

Plot-wise, the game was interesting. The main themes are the perils of consumerism and dealing with the loss of family members. (Between the themes, the ending, and the genderqueer Magypsies, I am unsurprised that Mother 3 never got an official English release.) The game did a good job of making it so that wandering around the main character's hometown for the umpteenth time didn't feel like the umpteenth retread. Characters said new things, different stuff was happening, and the town changed as the plot progressed. Having watched the BF play through enough games where you just go in circles unlocking one tiny, new spot at a time (La Mulana and I Wanna Be the Guy, I am looking at you), I am always thankful when games make revisiting places seem new.

I have spoilery thoughts about the ending. ) I do recommend it if you're the sort of person who likes RPGs.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Sunday, August 5th, 2012 10:42 pm
I always enjoy writing up my thoughts about the books I've read, but I never seem to stick to it long-term. So here goes try number three at making it stick.

Ladies of Lantern Street #1: Crystal Gardens - Amanda Quick*
I wanted so much to like this book but in the end there were too many things that left me rolling my eyes for it to be more than okay. All of the dialogue, but especially Evangeline's, came across as affected and unrealistic to my ear. The constant use of the twee word "psychical" didn't help either. The romance between Evangeline and Lucas lacked any sort of tension. Lucas very quickly realized that he wanted to marry her and then that was it for his romantic plot arc, while Evangeline said the relationship would end after the danger was taken care of but then acted exactly the opposite. There were several plot points that just felt like they were never explored as fully as they should have been so that when they got wrapped up at the end, it all felt too neat - the final confrontation between Lucas and Judith, the confrontation with the murderer that included six pages of dialogue explaining the murderer's motivation, and the really cute secondary romance that got one scene devoted to it before the couple ended up happily engaged offscreen. The last was especially disappointing because I would have liked to see more of them. They seemed surprisingly well-suited to each other, but all I got was that one scene.

There were good bits - the different suspense plots were interesting, and I always enjoy seeing family and friends work together and help each other - but so many things threw me out of the story that I couldn't immerse myself like I normally do and that significantly decreased my enjoyment of this book. I really did want to like it too.

Flight v3 - Kazu Kibuishi, ed.
This is a collection of short comics by about twenty-five different artists spanning a variety of styles, genres, and emotional tones. I was very surprised by the quality in this volume; I thoroughly enjoyed around two-thirds of the stories. The other third mostly had the problem (for me) of me either not understanding the comic or finding it a bit dark for my taste. And there was one comic I vehemently disagreed with. (I don't care what a stranger looks like, if I find them with their hand inside my purse, I am assuming they're stealing from me and I really don't think I should be faulted for that.) I would definitely enjoy reading the other Flight collections.

Hereville v1: How Mirka Got Her Sword - Barry Deutsch
I originally read the 57-page webcomic version of this (that has since disappeared off the internet) and enjoyed it so much that I knew I wanted to get it in dead tree form as well, especially since the book was over twice as long. I have a feeling that one can read the book's subtitle ("Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl") and pretty much know whether this is the sort of thing one wants to read or not. I loved everything about it: the art, Mirka and her stubbornness, her family, the look at Orthodox Judaism (something I know little about), and especially how Mirka finally won her sword.

Sector General #1-3: Beginning Operations - James White
This is an omnibus of the first three Sector General novels, and after reading this I am eager to get the rest of the series. The Sector General novels are science fiction stories set aboard a gigantic hospital in space. The first novel was a bunch of independent short stories while the other two were more of a novel being presented through linked short stories. I loved the imagination shown in the different types of aliens and in the mysteries presented by their symptoms. I never once felt that these medical mysteries were getting repetitive or predictable.

The only annoying bits were a fair amount of repetitive descriptions (Everything was originally written as short stories that got independently published and then gathered into novel-length format. So explanations regarding the hospital in general and some of its tech and the more common aliens just gets repeated nearly word-for-word.) and a really jarring bit of sexism. The first short story written was written in the 1950s, and I know a lot of older science fiction really doesn't do too well on the "female characters are people too" test. Sector General surprised me by feeling like it could have been written within the last twenty years. Until I got to the bit where Earth-human females can't use this one particular bit of important technology because our brains are too emotional and using it would drive us insane. So there's like five hundred pages of awesome alien medical mysteries, twenty pages of repeated descriptions, and one page of sexist crap.

I dealt with it by just ignoring that one page, but other people's mileage may vary.

Life Behind the Mask: Memoir of a Youth Baseball Umpire - Michael Schafer*
I'm not sure why LibraryThing matched me with this book (I don't have many sports-related books or memoirs in my library.), but I'm really glad it did. I took my time reading it, enjoying it leisurely, and letting the author's love for the game sink in. The author explains many of baseball's more complicated rules and uses those rules as an excuse to tell stories about some of the more memorable games he's umpired for. I'm only a casual baseball fan, but I never had problems understanding the author's explanations. I came away from this book with a greater appreciation of the game of baseball as well as a greater understanding of the game.

*I won a copy of this through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Sunday, July 22nd, 2012 08:44 pm
I really enjoyed playing this game! Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals is actually a prequel to Lufia & the Fortress of Doom, and the intro to Lufia & the Fortress of Doom is the end boss battle of Lufia 2. According to both the BF and the internet, Lufia 2 is easily the best game in the series.

The plot is fairly standard with some "chosen heroes" having to fight a rising darkness from taking over the world and destroying everything, but it's enjoyable enough. Generic spoilers for the ending ) However what was really fun for me was the gameplay in the dungeons.

A Let's Play video showing part of the beginning of the game )

In the dungeons, the monsters all move according to a defined pattern (different patterns for different monsters) and only move when you move. No random encounters! Yes! There are random encounters when you walk across the map, but you really don't spend much time walking around the map unless you can't figure out where you're supposed to go. I love that you can avoid most monster fights if you're smart and careful.

And the even more awesome thing about the dungeons is you have to solve puzzles in order complete them! I can do puzzles! And puzzles are much more interesting to me than just fighting monsters and making sure you've walked everywhere.

Originally the BF played and I watched, except he more did the puzzles than solved them as he'd already played through the game a couple times. But that was boring to watch because he "solved" everything too quickly for me to try solving anything myself. So I convinced him to let me play instead, and that was a lot more fun, haha. And later in the game, we collaborated on the tougher puzzles. Good times, lots of fun!

This was the first RPG I've ever successfully played, and I would recommend it especially to people who like puzzles.
coprime: Marny bouncing (video games)
Monday, March 19th, 2012 03:43 pm
I do not play video games very much because most are too complicated for me (I have watched my BF play through a number of games however.), but Katamari Damacy and We ♥ Katamari are perfect for me. I've played a lot more We ♥ Katamari than Katamari Damacy because I like the variety in level objectives. Katamari Damacy will always have a special place in my heart though.

The controls are simple enough that I can handle them, but there's still an art to efficient rolling for more experienced gamers like my BF. And it makes me so happy to finally have a game where I can actually improve my playing skills. For example, I barely passed the three sumo levels the first time I tried them but when I went back after a while I passed them so easily.

The game is so cute and happy and weird, both graphics-wise and music-wise, that it's a delight for me to replay different levels. It is simple and colorful but with lots to discover. Which is good because I've replayed (nearly) all the levels countless times trying to get all the things. (The stupid campfire level is ugh hard.) I think the BF has less patience replaying levels because while he wants good times in his game, he is not used to having to watch someone else play for hours in addition to his own playing for hours.

I didn't have enough confidence in my skills to play Katamari Damacy by myself, but I am ridiculously proud of having my own save for We ♥ Katamari where everything has been beaten/achieved/found through my own hard work and with barely any help from the internet.
coprime: an awesome lady stepping out of a boat (Default)
Saturday, April 24th, 2010 02:25 pm
I convinced my boyfriend to see the Disney documentary Oceans with me on Thursday. I loved it, although given that it was about marine creatures, it would have had to work hard to get me to not like it. Pierce Brosnan surprised me by being quite an enjoyable narrator; he had a nice, soothing voice that you could listen to without being distracted from the amazing images on screen.

The actual words of the narration, on the other hand, were odd. There was very little factual information, and instead there were a lot of romantic ideas about the ocean and life in it. For example, at one point Brosnan starts going on about how the sea has tried every trick of life -- every color, every face, every look -- and they show this neat little fish with fans for pelvic fins. I don't recognize him offhand, but I can't look him up at home because he's never named in the narration. Most of the facts were along the lines of "the blue whale is half a city block long but eats tiny, tiny krill" and "otters use rocks as tools to open shellfish to eat." Which is fine, I guess, but not very deep.

The visuals were amazing however. Lots of neat animals, lots of close-ups and sweeping vistas. I kept going "oooh!" and "ahh!" throughout at just about everything they showed onscreen. They tried to show a bit of everything -- sea mammals, sea birds, sharks, fish, reefs, etc. -- and did a pretty good job of it. The one thing lacking was any sort of deep sea creatures, which is sad because they're often super interesting due to the extreme environment they live in. Ultimately, I think this documentary is the equivalent of a coffee table book: it's very pretty to look at, but it's a bit light on substance.

I think the xkcd comic from that day manages to sum up the driving point of the movie in one panel while also being pretty to look at.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Wednesday, March 4th, 2009 07:51 pm
Is it wrong that I always get incredibly excited whenever I find a Firefox extension that fixes some niggly behavior to how I like it? Today, it's the ability to permanently sort my bookmarks -- and I can specify which folders I want to sort and how! -- thanks to SortPlaces. Now if only there was an extension so I could easily create duplicate bookmarks (ideally with also telling me when I was about to do so), my day would be made.

The Best of the Spirit - Will Eisner
I figured something labelled "The Best of" would make for a good introduction to one of the most influential comics ever, and I was right! This was amazing. Just incredibly innovating and imaginative and good even when compared to current-day stuff. Not that everything today is good, but The Spirit manages to be unique even when compared to sixty years worth of comics. My favorite thing about The Spirit is the same thing I love about Mushishi. All the stories are focused on people in them, rather than on Eisner's cool idea or neat art or some other bell and whistle that exists to show off and doesn't actually help tell the story. (Something that is, sadly, not as common as I would like.)

God Save the Queen - Mike Carey
This was a gift from a friend, and she got it for me because I really like Lucifer, a different title by Mike Carey. And those sorts of reads are always a bit of a crapshoot, so it was nice that I did enjoy this, mostly because of the art. (Drug use, which isn't something I like to read about generally, features heavily, and I found the heroine unlikable until about two-thirds of the way into the story.) All the pages are painted by John Bolton and are surprisingly realistic yet pretty. I have a feeling that his art is an example of photo referencing done right, but I can't find anything to confirm that he does that. In any case, the art has a slight static quality due to the fact that it's painted and referenced, but it grew on me quickly as I read.

Mushishi v6 - Yuki Urushibara
Finally, a volume with stories that weren't made into episodes for the anime! Because, okay, I adored revisiting the stories as each volume came out, but having completely new material to read is wonderful. "The Chirping Shell" I found charming, and I dare others to find the idea of seashells chirping like birds anything other than charming. "The Hand that Pets the Night" was a surprisingly creepy horror story (surprising because I rarely classify Mushishi stories as horror). "Under the Snow" was nicely uplifting even as it dealt with sibling grief, although I had to reread a few scenes because I didn't realize they were flashbacks the first time. And "Banquet in the Farthest Field" was a neat exploration of the lives of mushishi.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Thursday, February 19th, 2009 11:27 pm
I want the Trilogy bookcase so bad. Look how geometric and orderly it is! Sadly, I cannot afford it, and even if I could I have no place to put it. I think the Platzhalter bookcase is cool idea well-executed. It was my favorite bookcase until I saw the Trilogy one.

Uncharted Territory - Connie Willis
For the longest time, whenever I went into a bookstore, I had to remind myself that it was a bad idea to start collecting everything by an author when I'd only read one thing of hers, even if I had really enjoyed it. And that I already had two other novels of hers sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. So I finally decided to actually read one of those two novels, and I picked Uncharted Territory (rather than Lincoln's Dreams) because the premise sounded fun -- hijinks and adventures! exploration! needlessly ridiculous bureaucratic red tape! a socioexozoologist who specializes in sex! -- and it was short.

And I did really enjoy it until the end because nothing had changed in the end. Fin and Carson are the same at the end of the story as they were in the beginning. I would have been happy even if the end change had just been mental or if they'd decided that they didn't want to be in a relationship. Instead, I finished and was left with the impression that all the events in the book might as well have not happened for all the impact they had on Fin and Carson. Which is not what I would call a satisfying ending.

The Drakon #3: Queen of Dragons - Shana Abé
Ohh, I wanted to like this book. It's a historical romance about a race of dragon/human shapeshifters, and [ profile] glenraven read and thought I'd like the first Drakon book. I picked up the third Drakon book first, but I thought I'd be okay because I've found that most romance series can be read out of order so long as you don't mind not knowing all the details when couples from previous books pop up. But it turns out this approach doesn't work so much for this series because when the hero from a previous book popped up, he was doing secretive, important-to-the-plot things and not a one of them was explained. I was left thoroughly confused, right in the middle of the final action scene.

I also had an issue with the fact that the entire action plot was just a set-up for the next book and nothing actually gets resolved. No, seriously, I very nearly threw the book across the room I was so frustrated with the ending. The book ends with spoilers if you care )

And then I had a lot of issues with the romance aspect of the novel. Partially, it's because I'm a bit sick of every shapeshifter/demon/animal hybrid/etc. having some sort of "animal instinct" where they must mate for life with one specific person and if that person isn't overly enthusiastic about them, then they just keep pursuing the person despite the other's wishes because their instinct tells them differently. It's very popular in paranormal romance, which is mostly what I read. And I don't like it because it dehumanizes the couple for me. There's always lots of talk about mates and alphas and such, and it's done regardless of whether our hero and heroine are dragon-shapeshifters, psychics, vampires, some form of were-. I can understand it more with the weres/shapeshifters, but why with other paranormal characters? Why can't the hero and heroine just fall head-over-heels for each other like normal, human romance couples do?

I will give Abé credit for doing a good job of integrating the different forms of the Drakon so that they all seemed equally natural. Kim and Mari were appreciative of each other and had chemistry no matter their form, and it never read weird for me. (Although -- and I know I'm harping -- I wold have expected dragon instincts to tend more towards a solitary existence rather than a pack existence.) But then halfway through the novel Kim did something where, if I had been Mari and had gone through what she'd gone through with her previous husband, I would not be able to trust him again without some serious work on his part.

I never got the emotional payoff of them rebuilding their trust however because Abé (and therefore Mari) didn't see what happened as that much of an issue as I did. So Kim made extra special sure not to do what he did again, and Mari had no doubts or hesitance at all stemming from Kim's actions. Sure, she still didn't want to end up in the same situation as when she'd been married before, but that was because she was against getting remarried in general. She never once thought "I don't want to get married, and especially not to Kim because he treated me like my former husband did (albeit by accident)."

Oh, and then there's Kim, who (along with the rest of his village) spends nearly the entire book acting like Mari and he are already married because years before he met her, he and the village council decided he should marry her for political reasons. And then when Kim and Mari finally meet, bam! they're married in the eyes of everyone except Mari, who keeps saying that no way no how is she going to get married again. Kim doesn't ever physically force himself on Mari, but it's incredibly annoying to have the hero saying that he doesn't care about the heroine's wishes on the matter of her marital status, he's decided they are and that's that.

Between my numerous frustrations with the romance plot and the wash-out that was the ending of the action plot, I was very dissatisfied with this book, and I don't think I'll read any more of this series. I might be willing to read one of her other novels if it was recommended to me by someone I know, but that's it.

ETA: [ profile] glenraven has informed me that this is the really sucktacular book of the series and that the two before it are better. So maybe I'll read them at some later date.

Warrior - Marie Brennan
I have nothing bad to say about this one! Haha, finally my first book of the new year that I just out-and-out enjoyed. It was fun and interesting fantasy, and if I had the sequel I'd probably be reading it. I really like both Mirage and Miryo, and it was a nice change of pace to read a fantasy novel without any romance in it.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Sunday, June 29th, 2008 02:48 am
Haha, this has been the month of comic books for me. It's been great.

Scary Godmother: Ghoul's Out for Summer, by Jill Thompson: The art makes this comic. Story-wise, it's not bad. It's fun and it's cute, but I wouldn't love this book like I do if the art was only half as fantastic as it is. It's expressive and detailed without being cluttered, and Jill Thompson makes her characters come alive in her drawings. I want to watch the movie based on this series now. I've seen it before, but the CG characters in it failed to be even slightly interesting for me. I think, now that I can fill in the blanks from the comic, I'd like the movie if I were to see it again.

Blue Beetle v1: Shellshocked, by Keith Giffen (writer) and Cully Hammer (artist): I wish all superhero comics were like this, with family and friends and other interpersonal relationships being just as important in the story as whatever evil plot our hero has to foil.

PS238 v1-4, by Aaron Williams: Dude, I read all four volumes in two days and am now sad that I didn't buy volume five last time I was in the comic shop. This series is great! It's about an elementary school for metahuman children. And, oh, it's adorable and funny and occasionally heart-wrenching. Also, volume three makes much more sense when I've gotten to read the two books before it.
coprime: an awesome lady stepping out of a boat (Littonia modesta)
Tuesday, June 17th, 2008 12:04 am
Hee, so I first heard about this show ten minutes before the premiere aired, and I am glad I did! It's an alternative take on the superhero genre, sort of mainstream superheroes meets Men in Black. And it is fun! And funny! And the main female character is a total geek. Like, she plays video games and has opinions on which X-Men run is the best and is just generally awesome.

I have much love for shows that tackle common, ridiculous scifi plots in a way that lets me have fun while watching (It's what got me hooked on Eureka, which reminds me that the new season of that starts at the end of the month.), so I am very much looking forward to this show based on the first episode. I would quote bits to show the show's awesomeness, except I don't have time to rewatch the episode right now.

However! The pilot's available for free right now at the iTunes store. I don't know how long it'll remain free now that it's aired, but there you go.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Thursday, May 15th, 2008 10:12 pm
Mmm, I got to bake today and yesterday for the first time in what seems like forever. Both recipes (a type of peanut butter cookie with chocolate chips and a brownie with peanut butter chips and a shortbread bottom) were new recipes for me, and both were delicious successes!

Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Niko Henrichon (artist): The story is told from the point of view of four lions who escaped from the Baghdad Zoo when the US invaded in 2003. It's an...odd story for me. It's very politically charged, to the detriment of the story. It felt like Vaughan wanted to write something about the nature of freedom and Iraq and that entire mess and then structured the story around that, so that the message and ideas behind the story felt more important than the story itself.

Which isn't a bad or wrong way to go about writing something, it's just not what I like in my personal fiction reading. Also, if I'm going to read about politics, I prefer it to be via non-fiction. I think Vaughan succeeds (and succeeds in a big way) with what he was trying to do in Pride of Baghdad and Henrichin's art is gorgeous, so the book's a good book and a compelling read, just not quite for me.
coprime: animated icon of a boy reading intensely and then shouting "But I don't want it to be over!!" (books)
Thursday, April 24th, 2008 10:20 pm
Caste Waiting V1: The Lucky Road, by Linda Medley: This was just utterly delightful to read. The story's a fairy tale, and it's one of those where I read it quickly because it's fun but it didn't feel rushed. I like the art and the expressiveness of the faces. I'm going to go on a search tomorrow for the hardcover, which (I believe) collects volumes 1 and 2, since volume 2 is out of print.

How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story, by John Scalzi: This is a short story that Scalzi's offering as shareware. It's a very funny story and totally lives up to the awesomeness promised by its title. Also, I like the idea of shareware fiction.