#throwbackthursday, Gaming

#ThrowBackThusday Gregory Horror Show

We can’t do a #ThrowBackThursday in October without playing something horror-themed and searching through my collection at the beginning of the month I had a wealth of options including popular classics such as Silent Hill or Resident Evil 4. However, I ultimately decided upon a game that has maybe been forgotten about in recent years, Capcom’s Gregory Horror Show.

Wikipedia defines Gregory Horror Show (or Gregory Horror Show: Soul Collector as it is known elsewhere) as a Survival Horror, placing it in the same camp as your Resident Evils. However, most Survival Horror games have you gathering resources and attacking various monsters alongside puzzle-solving. Gregory Horror Show differs in this respect by being all about puzzle-solving. You see, as the unnamed player character, you have to collect the souls that are being protected by the oddball guests at Gregory’s House, a hotel hidden in a forest. Once you collect all twelve for Death (who, inexplicably, wears a hat bearing markings very reminiscent of the Swedish flag) he will tell you how to escape Gregory’s House.

Collecting a soul is achieved by spying on each individual guest, figuring out their routine and what it is that would enable them to abandon the soul they are protecting for just enough time for you to snatch it. Once this has been achieved, you move onto the next individual and so on, though the further you progress the more complicated it becomes to not only find that opening but to also just walk around the hotel, with the guests going about their daily routines but also keeping an eye out for you. If you’re spotted they chase you and if caught you’re submitted to their “Horror Show” (a short video showing them performing something horrific on you, each guest has a unique Horror Show).

I remember when this originally came out, with it getting some respectable scores despite being very much a niche sort of game. Of course, if it came out today it would rightfully receive a lot more attention for being so different to everything else available.

The thing is, it actually really stands up well today, this is largely thanks to two factors, the first is its visual design, the papercraft look that they went for means the lines are almost always clean and facial expressions are clear and crisp, okay the textures are typically PlayStation 2 in that they can be a little muddy but overall, its still a good looking game. The other factor that makes it work well today is its Capcom-ness. Now, this may come as a criticism, but I’ve always found that Capcom games have a certain clunkiness to them, in some games, it’s a bad thing, in others it works. In Gregory Horror Show it most definitely works.

I’ll give you an example. In most games of this era, there would have been some kind of mini-map or some “Live” way of knowing where guests were, or at least which ones were nearby. In this you find yourself having to constantly refer to the actual map by pressing the Select button, then checking a few moments later to get an idea of a guests route. Thankfully they mostly stick to a routine, but with 10 of them wandering the halls for you to avoid by the time you’re reaching the end, it can be hard to remember exactly who’s doing what and when, and that’s if you’ve even done your homework and been spying on the guests regularly.

What I find most interesting about Gregory Horror Show is its difficulty level, unlike other games everything you can do is available to you from the very beginning, so you’re not constantly having to learn new skillsets etc, the difficulty comes from the hotel becoming increasingly crowded and guests daily routines overlapping whilst you attempt to figure out and perform a plan to steal another guests soul. I’m going to spoil one of the later guests here, so if you plan on playing this and don’t want it ruined skip the next paragraph entirely.

An example of this difficulty was raised when trying to get the soul of the 11th guest Angel/Devil Dog. By listening to conversations and observing her I learnt that she likes to watch the same TV show at 6pm in the lounge each day. However, Gregory likes to clean the lounge at that time. Mummy Papa also jogs around the corridors at this time whilst Catherine walks past the lounge to go to the Medical Room around 6pm too. So I have to avoid the latter two and find a way to distract Gregory and that’s without even distracting Angel/Devil Dog long enough to take her soul away.

So there’s a lot of multi-tasking going on and the games systems don’t make doing that easy (you can only see a breakdown of each characters routine by visiting your room and each page is only filled in if you’ve spied on the specific character at specific times), the fact that its mechanics are all time based too, with few options too fast forward time (and those that are available do more harm than good), mean there will also be moments where you’re literally waiting for time to pass, but thankfully it doesn’t really manage to outstay its welcome and you’ll be escaping Gregory House before you know it.

 

 

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bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: Codename K.N.D.: Operation V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E. (PlayStation 2)

We see these sort of titles all the time. Licensed games of popular kids programs and personally I’d heard of Spongebob Squarepants and Fairly Odd Parents, but I get the feeling they may be a bit outdated now, as I’ve never heard of this Cartoon Network license despite having 2 brother-in-laws of the age to watch the channel. I assume its popular otherwise there’d be no point in releasing a game for ti. And it’s a shame, for the kids, that developers don’t make an effort with this sort of thing. They usually take the role of collect-em-up;s with a script that includes as many of the characters from the show as possible, and Codename KND is no different.

It even features a ludicrously stupid subtitle in “Operation V.I.D.E.O.G.A.M.E.”. The way this differs from most licensed collect-em-up’s is that it is actually fun, in a surreal way, if only for 20 minutes. Its then that the annoying soundbites and music begin to grate your skin, the idiotic spelling drives you up the wall and clumsy controls make you want to throw the controller against the wall.

And while these are all problems that really hinder the game, it does have some very good ideas for levels and bosses. The first proper level , for example, see’s you running through a overgrown doughnut making oven before facing off against “Gramma Stuffum” in a robot featuring various cooking utensils as weapons. You can’t hurt the robot normally but by hitting three switches(one to drop a lump of dough, the other to open trap doors and the last to cover the robot in jam) you can lower its shield for a short period of time so you can shoot it with your gumball cannon. Also sections of levels are also inspired, still in the doughtnut maker, you have to make your way up a turbine using the fan at the bottom to help you jump long distances from platform to platform. But while the idea in principle is good, the choppy frame rate and awakward camera make life too difficult to bother.

While Codename KND is a better effort in the licensed collect-em-up genre, its still a mediocre title, that with some more time and effort, could have been fairly entertaining.

Gaming, Mental Health

Cult of the Company – The Outer Worlds and Edgewater

To begin with, I’m placing this under both my Gaming and Mental Health headers, the first reason is obvious as its a post about The Outer Worlds, the second is because I’m trying to look at the mindset of the people of Edge Water. I’m only a few hours into the game but will do my best to refrain from posting spoilers. For clarity I have the power regulator I need for my ship but I’ve not yet actually installed it on the ship.

Even at this early stage Obsidian Entertainment’s The Outer Worlds have thrown up some food for though, most notably in the people I have met so far, and most importantly regarding the mental health of the inhabitants of the town of Edgewater. Edgewater is a community that was created by and is owned by a company called Spacers Choice and is set up in order to provide tinned “Saltuna” to colonies throughout space. It’s the first settlement that the player happens across and where you begin to interact with the games inhabitants and whilst there’s a focus on the physical health of the citizens of Edgewater, which is pretty poor due to their diet and working conditions, its the mindset of these people that is definitely where my intrigue lies.

The very first person you can talk to once you have landed in the Emerald Vale sector of Terra 2 introduces you to the motto of Spacers Choice “You’ve tried the best, now try the rest. Spacer’s Choice”, but its not until you reach Edgewater that the mindset of the people begins to show itself. This is most apparent, in my opinion, in the person who runs the Spacer’s Choice Cantina, one Amelia Kim.

Amelia works hard, after all, with how muddy it is outside the doors of her bar, its not easy keeping those floors clean. But there’s more to her than it seems, you see its very easy to get her to start talking. She wanted to be a scientist when she was younger, but it seems at some point she let go of that dream “thats the problem with dreams, you wake up” she says (I may be paraphrasing there). There’s a deadened look on her face, and questions outside of the operation of her bar seem to scare her. This pattern is repeated through the rest of Edgewater, from Silas the gravedigger through to the towns supervisor Reed Tobson, they all do as the corporation tells them and don’t ask questions regardless of the impact this has upon themselves or each other, in the belief that it is for the betterment of Edgewater as a whole.

This means that those who fall ill are quaruntined out of the way, they’re not currently working, and thus dont serve the higher purpose and so aren’t entitled to treatment (even though people work in order to make sure they receive treatment if/when they do fall ill), those who leave Edgewater, for whatever reason, are shunned as deserters, so if you’re not serving Spacer’s Choice by working in the Saltuna Cannery (or one of the more localised jobs like the towns vicar, who himself is treated with suspicion) then you don’t belong within this particular society.

It does feel like a commentary on our own work culture, how many people go in to work unwell or return too early because of the pressure from their boss not to take time off, or the social stigma from their colleagues because they’re “skyving”? Whether its our physical or mental health we return, dutifully, to work, potentially causing others to fall ill and not being able to work to the best of our abilities, all to serve (normally) a company that we’re actually a tiny part of, we prioritise of others over our own health through fear of making things more difficult for others, although its also because time off comes with financial punishment (which for some people also means they may not be able to afford the prescription charge for their medication in order to get better and return to work in a better state in the first place).

The people in Edgewater have become convinced they are a part of something, again this is reflected in the real world. How many of us have worked in jobs where the “benefits” of the job also happen to aid the company you’re working for? I’ll give you an example. I used to work as a cashier in a bank, before I started I was made an appointment with one of their staff members in order to open a current account with said bank with me ultimately switching from one high street bank to the high street bank I was becoming an employer of, my wages were then paid into this account. From talking to other members of staff these was standard practice for this particular chain of banks (though not all of them do this, I believe), and you’re led to believe that your wages have to be paid into the account you’ve now taken out with your employer. This makes you both employer and customer, it enables you to talk to other customers about the benefits of banking with your employer as you have that experience to pass on to the customer (not that they like you referring to customers as customers), but it also helps various elements of that bank beyond those conversations with its customers, it helps the banker, branch and region all meet their targets and also means that that chain of banks also has a customer that other banks may not have (especially if you only use one account or then want to take advantage of the convenience of having your current account, savings account, credit card etc all under one roof).

So, when you’re walking around Edgewater, listening to the likes of Amelia talk, ignoring her dreams and grinding out her menial job for very little benefit to herself, its very hard to ignore the feeling in the back of your mind that this isn’t healthy. Whether thats the developers intention remains to be seen and I think, for those that are also playing The Outer Worlds, you may have already clicked as to what path I took for that first big decision the creators have you make.

 

#throwbackthursday, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IX, Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 13

It’s been a couple of weeks since we last visited Final Fantasy IX, last week was a pretty busy week so not only did I not get as much time with the game as I’d have liked, the opportunity didn’t arise to actually do a write up on what I had played, so this week is a bumper post. There’ll be another break after this one too, as I have something seasonal planned for next week’s #ThrowBackThursday and the week after that will be a Retro Games Club edition.

Last time out we had discovered, but not entered, Conde Petie.

Outside Conde Petie Quina decides there must be some delicious food inside and rushes off with Zidane voicing the obvious “all s/he thinks of is food” and Dagger responds that all Zidane thinks about is girls to which Zidane tries to smooth things out by saying he only thinks of her, however she’s already made her way into the village, completely ignoring Zidane. Inside everybody is greeted by a green skinned man who calls out “Rally-ho!”. Apparently this is their sacred greeting, which we’re informed “If ye dinnae say RallyHo, then ye cannae enter Conde Petie, hametoon o’ the dwarves!”. Not sure who was doing the translation on this game but thats a real mish-mash of dialiects there, though I’m sure it sounds like “The North” to anyone with an SW postcode. The Moogle here is called Mogmatt, I don’t have any mail for him but he would like me to deliver a letter to Suzuna. Quina gets accused of being a thief by the shop owner as s/he doesn’t really understand why you need Gil for food, though I should point out s/he hasn’t actually taken anything. Vivi feels like, for the first time, people aren’t afraid of him and Dagger gets stuck in a discussion regarding being married off to a village called William, she tells the village women she’s not marrying anyone, but it intrigued when they mention a place called Sanctuary.

The people here recognise Vivi as they talk about items they’ve traded with him and really liked, but Vivi has no clue what they are on about. After exploring Conde Petie for a while, Zidane returns to the shop where Quina was accused of stealing and happens upon a Black Mage trading with the shopkeeper. Vivi see’s him too, but he runs away before we can try to speak to him. Zidane chases after Vivi, with Dagger also joining him, as he pursues the Black Mage through Conde Petie to its entrance, though we don’t follow the Mage out of the village. Zidane is worried that the appearance of a Black Mage could mean Brahne has found them. “Harold Pathknower” says the “Pyntie-Hats” often come from the south east forest to trade with Conde Petie, apparently there’s more of them that live so deep in the forest that “not even the owls dinnae live there!”.

Final Fantasy IX (Disc 2) 2016-04-08 23.17.17

We leave Conde Petie and follow the cliff edge round to the forest south east of Conde Petie, as we progress through the tree’s the path begins to split into two with a sign post pointing down either side, one arrow says “Where there are owls” whilst the other says “Where there are no owls”. Remembering what Harold told me, we go down the path with no owls, though I can’t help wondering whats down the other path.

Funnily enough the “no owls” path feels like it loops back round, though really its just a re-use of assets and I have to keep checking the sign post each time and taking the relevant path until eventually a Black Mage appears on one of the forks and we follow him further.

We find the Black Mage in a clearing, and watch as he uses a spell to reveal a further path through the tree’s, Zidane and Vivi rush through before the path closes and find themselves in a village with the Black Mage they’d been following stood in front of them with its back to them. Another mage spots them, cries out and all the other mages run and hide whilst screaming “Humans!”. Vivi begs them to wait, but they don’t hear him. He remarks to Zidane that they were talking, then runs off excitedly to try and find out more. Dagger wonders why someone would build a village in a dying forest, then runs after Vivi and, unsurprisingly, Quina goes off to search for food again . Zidane is left to explore on his own.

An ATE shows the mages all hiding. Vivi finds some that will talk to him though, they don’t seem to have names and refer to each other by number. 288 tells Vivi the mages here all escaped from Alexandria and the cargo holds together, they came this far as they wanted to live in a world without humans, somehow they crossed the ocean. Vivi is shown their cemetery and 56 tells him he came with “Mr. 36”, they had so muchy to learn and were scared at first.  But they helped each other, however Mr 36 stopped moving one day and it was then that 56 learned what death was and was told he had to bury 36, though he doesn’t really seem to understand why and think’s his friend is going to come out from the ground again one day.

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Dagger meets two other mages and tries to convince them she’s there to stop Brahne using them, but they don’t believe her, meanwhile Quina tries to persuade another pair to give up their Chocobo egg so that they can eat it. As Zidane leaves the synthesist shop Vivi runs past, Zidane heads in the direction he came from and finds 56 and 288 at the cemetery still. Zidane asks 288 why it is they can talk and is told they just became aware one day, each under different circumstances. He asks Zidane if he remembers being born, which of course he doesn’t, 288 says its the same for the Black Mages. He just woke up one day and there was a human body lying next to him covered in blood, this scared him and he ran as fast as he could and when he looked around again he was far away from the front line. He found many others like him and so they decided to escape together.

Zidane searches the village for Vivi and finds him at the inn, Zidane tries to find out whats wrong but Quina interrupts by complaining about the food in the village. Dagger also arrives and asks Vivi what’s wrong, though Vivi doesn’t answer. Zidane covers for him, tell her he’s tired, Dagger says she is too and thinks they should all get some rest. Quina doesn’t want to and heads back to the forest to search for food.

That night Dagger see’s Vivi leaving the inn and tells Zidane who jokes that “maybe he’s letting us have some romantic time”. Dagger’s response is to do her hands on hips (no doubt pouting) angry pose, so he tells her not to worry too much and to let Vivi try and figure all this out for himself

Zidane: “Think about it…

Vivi’s never met Black Mages like himself before.”
Dagger: “But what if they’re being mean to him or saying nasty things”?

Z: “Do you reall think the people of this village gathered to do something like that?”

D:”…”

Z: “Maybe… Just maybe, he’ll find what he’s been looking for.”

D: “…Find what?”

Z: “A place to call home.”

D: “Home…?”

Z: “Yeah… A place where he belongs…”

Zidane then tells Dagger a story about a man (Zidane) who had longed to find his birthplace ever since he was a small child. He only remembered it in his dreams. He wanted to know more about himself, his parents, the home where he was born. One day he left the home of his adoptive father (Baku) to look for answers, his only clue being blue lights he saw in his dreams, though he never found it. He returned to his adoptive father who beat him and then smiled after doing so. The man couldn’t believe it, but thought to himself “This is my home. This is the place I call home”. He is still looking for his birthplace, but he has a home.maxresdefault (3).jpg

Vivi returns to the cemetery and talks to 288 again. He asks him how many people have stopped moving.288 says its very kind of Vivi to use their words, but he knows that Vivi knows what it means to live and die, he tells Vivi that seven of their friends have “stopped” recently, and that he thinks their lifespan is limited. It varies but most stop moving one year after “production”. 288 feels fear when he thinks of this, he doesn’t want to “stop” and would like to run away from if all but living in the village fills him with joy, which outweighs his fear of death, he wonders if Vivi’s travels with his friends give his life meaning.

Next morning Dagger is talking to 144 and discovers someone saw a silver dragon in the “northwest part of this continent”, she also tells Zidane about the Sanctuary she head about in Conde Petie. 144 also says he thinks he heard “this Kuja” mention a secret being hidden on this continent that may have something to do with the source of the Mist. The plan is to head back to Conde Petie and find out more about the Sanctuary. Before leaving, I visit Mogryo, who wants me to deliver a letter to Mocchi and also has a letter:

 

“From Stiltzkin to Mogryo

I’m becoming familiar with the geography of the Outer Continent. My next destination is Conde Petie.

They exchange a special greeting with each other before entering the village… What was it?

I think it was ‘Rally-Ho!'”

I pop back to the Inn and find Virgo near the bunk beds

“Virgo

Watching the sunset from the cape, Virgo whispered

‘My only wish is to be with you now…’

=Stellazzio Story=”

Which means I now have four of the Stellazzio’s and with that its back to Conde Petie.

There were two area’s of Conde Petie I couldn’t access before, and at present I still can’t. Both are guarded but the group believe one of these will lead to the valley on the other side of this bridge based settlement and then onto the so-called Sanctuary.

“Jenny Greet” tells a tale of a man who tried to head east of Conde Petie, however he hadn’t undergone the “ceremony” so he wasn’t allowed passage through.

I speak to Shamis Gatekeeper, who also says that only people who have received ceremony can pass. To find out more about this ceremony I have to speak to His Holiness, though Shamis doesn’t know where he is. Richard and Matthew Watchman, the guards near the weapons shop, also tell me to speak to His Holiness but again, neither of them knows of his whereabouts. I eventually find Father David Heavenguard pacing up and down a corridor, Zidane tells him they want to pass through the village and is told

“Tradition sates that only those who undergo the ceremony can approach the Sancturary”

when pressed for more information on this ceremony they are told that hwen a man and a woman are blessed in holy unison, they undertake a pilgrimage to the Sanctuary, so, as Zidane observes, a wedding and a honeymoon. Zidane suggests to Dagger that they get married, though he doesn’t even finish his sentence before she agrees leaving Zidane both staggered and confused, but the ceremony does indeed go ahead. Funnily enough though, despite it being his suggestion and the only way they can pass through, Zidane begins to display signs of itchy feet, wondering to himself whether Dagger really means it, whether she really likes him, though he does settle on that last point, deciding it was him showing her that he was deep back in Black Mage Village that woo’d her “I’m such a stud!” he tells himself. When he goes in for the kiss, Dagger just walks off. Apparently there’s a few other things they have to do before they can take their pilgrimage to Sanctuary and Dagger takes this time to remind Zidane that they’re only married whilst they’re in Conde Petie. Vivi and Quina figure out they can’t come along so Zidane suggests that they get married too.

Disc2-pt11-conde_petie_01

An ATE shows us their ceremonry, Quina reveals that s/he feels really happy and Vivi says he does too. As Zidane and Dagger speak to Matthew and Richard about passing through they hear cries of “Thief!” and a young blue haired girl with a Moogle following behind, is chased past the two newly weds, with Matthew and Richard joining the pursuit. Zidane and Dagger follow the chase out of Conde Petie, Matthew and Richard believe the young girl has gotten away, but it sounds like she regularly steals food from the village (and is probably the thief Quina was confused for last time we were here). Once the guards have gone we spot the young girl hanging from a branch by her clothing.

She seem’s to like to talk to herself, or at least vocalises every thing she see’s, noting that Zidane doesn’t have a horn but that he does have a tail, though I’m not sure why she’d notice the lack of a horn. Her Moogle friend has abandoned her, but Quina mentions it was a “funny colour” and decides s/he might like to eat it, as she runs off to chase down the Moogle she knock the tree the girl is hanging from freeing her and she then tells us her name is Eiko.

Dagger offers to take her home, with Zidane agreeing by saying “Yes, yes, anything for my lovely wife”. Eiko asks if they’re married, Zidane says yes, but Dagger speaks over him and says no, they’re just friends, at this Zidane hangs his head in disappointment. With our next destination  decided (Eiko’s home, where we hope to find her Moogle friend, Mog, and Quina) the group with their new friend as part of the group heads off.

#ThrowBackThursday – Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 1
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX Playthrough Part 2
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 3
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 4
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 5
#ThrowBack Thursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 6
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 7
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 8
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX Playthrough part 9
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 10
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fanatasy IX playthrough Part 11
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 12

bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: Disney Pixar’s Cars (PlayStation 2)

Disney Pixar’s Cars, game of the movie, is an incredibly difficult game to write about. Unlike most movie tie-ins, Cars isn’t actually a standard collect-em up platform. That would be a bit difficult to achieve considering the characters, nor is it a racing game, which is partially surprising, but at the same time not, as you wouldnt be able to get a feel for each of the characters.

The game is set in a sandbox environment, a little like GTA but without all the violence obviously, based on the setting of the film, they’ve populated it with all the characters of the film and thrown in a few basic races, mini games and some minor customisation. Add to that the fact that many of the original voice actors for the film have put their talents onto disc for the game also and you have a pretty tidy package.

Pixar’s films are famous for being just as much fun for adults as they are the kids, but sadly the games have never had that same feel, Cars is no different. It quickly becomes incredibly repetitive, the in game sound bites become irritating and it all feels like a cheap attempt to tick all the boxes for a perfect videogame cash in on the biggest kids film of the year.

This isn’t helped by the fact that the game has been made far too easy, there’ barely any need to break, and one could question whether you could get away with not steering, meaning its next to impossible to actually lose. This is all well and good as it means the kids wont feel like they’re struggling with the game (which is probably one of the major problems with society today, but thats not for bitparade to discuss). The game quickly becomes the modern day equivalent of a poorly executed interactive movie.

Movies

How the Joker plays his ultimate joke

Like everybody else, I recently visited my local cinema to watch Todd Phillips’ “Joker”, I decided to make some notes on the bus home and then return them a few days later once I’d had time to think on them. I’ll get this right out there by stating that I really quite liked the movie, sure it hangs off of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, but thats why you hire an actor of Phoenix’s calibre, its rare he phones in a performance and the majority of the time you find yourself watching him rather than everyone else in the film, I for one think Gladiator would have been a much poorer film without his casting.

I think it goes without saying that from this point on there are alot of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to know what happens, then stop reading now.

There’s a widely held belief that Joker is about a man who suffers from a variety of mental health issues and potentially has a personality disorder that is pushed over the edge and becomes The Joker. I can see exactly why people think that, its the story thats being told throughout the film, but I put it to you, who is telling the story? Is it Arthur Fleck or is it The Joker?

I think its the latter.

Whilst this is a standalone movie at this point, and this can often be the case with the medium the character is taken from, with many different writers and film makers over the decades offering their own take on The Clown Prince of Crime. However one constant is that we have never really been told the characters origins. Sure there are parallels with Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. A guy, down on his luck anyway, struggling to cut out a career as a comedian, goes through a period of time where things get worse and worse for him. In the case of The Killing Joke its one bad day, with Joker its prolonged over a few days or weeks.

So why do I think its The Joker himself telling this story and how do I think this is revealed.

There are a few things that contribute to this. The most obvious point is his relationship with his neighbour Sophie, as everyone is aware, there is no relationship, as we see when Arthur lets himself into her apartment and when she discovers him there she (justifiably) freaks out. The one sided element of this relationship is really driven (or heavily hammered) home later in the film when we are shown a few scenes where the two had been together which would then flick to show she wasn’t in those moments with Arthur at all.

There’s alot of serial killer tropes being ticked here too: Lives at home with his Mother, has no friends, people at work creeped out by him, his job isn’t a Regular Joe kind of job, a history of mental health issues; one of which weirds people out, abused as a child, no Father figure, obsesses over false idols, creates false relationships and fantasy scenarios.

There’s a sense that he over embellishes. I’ve seen a few complaints that the scene on the TV show goes on too long and I think thats entirely the point, he quite clearly likes telling a tale and the longer he can keep this going the more attention he gets.

Then we get onto his history and the tie in to the DC Universe, Arthur Fleck is the illegitimate love child of Thomas Wayne and one of his employee’s (Penny Fleck) thus making him the half brother of his ultimate nemesis, Bruce Wayne aka Batman. Add in that the final riot just so happens to take place, and is kind of the cover for, the murder of the Waynes and it places the Joker’s story as being “aah thats why he and Batman were destined to face off against each other time and again”, some have labelled this as a lazy tie in to the rest of this particular universe and I totally get that, I think its a lazy embellishment on The Jokers part.

So, how did I come to this conclusion? Mostly due to the final scenes where The Joker is talking to a psychiatrist in what I presume is Arkham State Hospital, we cut to this at the moment The Joker is being worshipped by a mass of people in clown masks, he tells a joke that the psychiatrist thinks is awful whilst the viewer is tricked into believing that she is the Social Worker we saw Arthur talking to repeatedly earlier in the film (though it is two different actresses who do look very different from each other).

All of this shows us that Phoenix’s Joker, like Heath Ledgers Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Alan Moore’s Joker, is an unreliable story teller, the inconsistencies, fabrications and embellishments create a tale that from very early on feels incredibly surreal, that it shares a similar tone to Martin Scorsese’s Robert De Niro vehicle Taxi Driver only further cements my feelings in this regard, and I kind of feel that the casting of De Niro as Fleck’s idol/father figure in this whole scenario is purposefully done.

Of course, I could be giving Todd Phillips too much credit with all of this.

 

Books, Close Encounters Book Club

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore, David Lloyd

Once a month for the past few months I’ve been attending a book club at my local comic book store, it’s called “Books Without Pictures” and has focused on novels, now they’ve started up another club, called “Books With Pictures” we’re we read a comic book/graphic novel/whatever you want to call them. Our first meeting centred around Alan Moore and David Lloyds “V for Vendetta”.

Both David Lloyd and Alan Moore provide an introduction to the book and its hard not to look at the political climate we currently find ourselves. They mention tabloids voicing ideas of concentration camps in order to deal with the aids epidemic of the 80s (when V for Vendetta was written), now we have a climate where the US are seperating families they don’t want living within their borders and where, in the UK, the atmosphere is such that everyone is turning on each other dependent on whether you voted Remain or Leave and the disinformation we are fed from our politicians and media is such that once you delve into the content of V for Vendetta itself, its not difficult to see that the world Moore and Lloyd have created becoming a reality, even without a third World War to create it.

It’s literally impossible to not hear the broadcasts of Fate ending with the line “Make Britain Great again”, and not immediately think of Brexit, UKIP, Farage. Of course it was Margaret Thatchers electoral campaign slogan long before the European Referendum was even a twinkling in the eyes of our politicians, and of course V was written as a response to Thatchers Britain.

Very early into the book V blows up the Houses of Parliament whilst reciting the nursery rhyme “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November”, as the events take place between 5th November 1997 and 5th November 1998. The Houses of Parliament, underneath where Guy Fawkes was discovered protecting barrels of gunpowder intended to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I as part of the Gunpowder Plot. My thoughts during this moment in the book turned to how we see those events now, I always felt the way I was taught about it at school was a little confusing and my memory of those lessons is very shady, however, I wonder how relevant it is now? Halloween seems to be the focal Autumnal celebration now and Bonfire Night has fallen down the pecking order, though when I was a kid it was most certainly the other way round. Kids would pull Guy’s along on their sisters toy prams or go-karts and call out “Penny for the Guy” and families and neighbourhoods would have big gatherings to let off fireworks, now those firework displays are extravagant but authority run affairs and I wonder, has its lost its meaning? Also, what was its meaning, was we supposed to be celebrating the discovery and failure of the plot or is it a celebration of a right to protest? I’m not entirely sure it would have been i. originally allowed or ii. celebrated quite as long as it were (from 1605 to present) if it was the latter, but it does seem to me that Alan Moore wonders this very thing in the article printed in the back of the book.

There’s alot of uncomfortable moments within these pages, the treatment of Evey throughout the book borders on abuse, she eventually takes up the mantle of V during the closing moments, but her journey to get there is rather tortuous. First she’s rescued from an attempted rape by V, he takes her back to his “Shadow Gallery” but provides her with no answers and it does feel like she’s kept prisoner by her grattitude towards him saving her, she then offers to help his cause and is put in a position where her youth and sexuality is used in order to lure a bishop whom V has an agenda against into a false sense of security.

Later she questions his methods, unhappy that she has been used in order for V to kill the Lilliman (the bishop) and is then abandoned by V. She finds herself in the company of Gordon Deitrich who takes her in, the pair live together for some months and eventually form a relationship that is short lived when Gordon is murdered. She tries to take revenge on Gordon’s murderer but is caught before she can enact her plan and imprisoned and tortured for information on V, which she refuses to give. When ultimately, after months of physical and mental torture, a threat is made on her life, she states she’d rather lose her life than her beliefs, it is revealed that it had been V doing this to her all along in order for her to learn the ordeal he was put through at the hands of the people who ran the Larkhill Resettlement Camp where he had been experimented on (and where the people he has murdered all worked).

It’s during this time that I really began to wonder just what V is up to, everything that comes from his mouth is hidden in riddles, rhymes and quotes, he gives the impression that he wants to overthrow the current government and bring about his view of Anarchy (wherein people rule themselves), but his actions are born of revenge and mirror those of the very people he is fighting against. The character, and our worlds adoptation of his mask, would have you believe he is a freedom fighter, but he himself is not above imprisoning, torturing and killing people to get whatever it is he wants, not to mention him spying on people using the governments own monitoring systems.

Once the bigger elements of V’s plans are put into place there are some really excellent moments, during this period The Eyes (video surveillance), The Ears (audio surveillance) and The Mouth (radio broadcasts) are all nullified and the people of Britain are given three days where they are able to do whatever they please. Of course, this leads to rioting and looting, but there’s one moment amongst all of this, where a young girl, out delivering newspapers, utters the word “bollocks” out loud, her parents are around to hear her and she knows that The Ears cannot hear her, she can’t get into trouble, and feeling free she begins to repeat the word louder and louder, amongst all of the oppression prior to this moment and the chaos that comes from V’s actions, this one little girl has that moment we all have when we’re younger where we suddenly realise that we can swear outside of our parents earshot and not get in to trouble for it. Maybe thats Freedom.

 

bitparade, Gaming

bitparade: George of the Jungle (Nintendo DS)

After being spoiled with the delight of playing Teenage Zombies, I was hoping for something similar from George of the Jungle, and quite frankly, even if I hadn’t if played Teenage Zombies first, George of the Jungle would be a great disappointment.

Theres a lot wrong here, first off, it looks and sounds like a Gameboy Advance title, such a shame when we know the DS can do really great loking sprites, it also sounds like a GBA game, again a disappointment after hearing the sort of sound quality the DS can output in games in like Elite Beat Agents. But worst of all is that it plays absolutely terribly.

George of the Jungle is a side scrolling platform title, but the characters movements are incredibly sluggish and it makes the levels presented to you unentertaining and tiresome. I find it doubtful that a man that lives in the jungle is as immobile and as slow as George is here, and its this that lets the game down most as theres some interesting level design here that could make the game mildly entertaining if only George didn’t move slower than a pensioner on market day.

Unfortunately this is the way of licensed titles, and after a recent output of slightly better licensed games (see Bleach: Blade of Fate as an example, albeit in a different genre), it seems that to really get the best out of a license the development team need to absorb everything about what it is they’re basing their game on, and it seems that that just hasn’t happened here.

Movies, TV

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

As most of the people reading this will be aware, on Friday Netflix released El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie. The movie, released 6 years after the end of the main TV series, follows Jesse Pinkman after his escape from Jack’s compound at the very end of the final episode.

Thats not where things start exactly, we’re first treated to a flashback (a commonly used tool in El Camino) of a conversation between Mike and Jesse in which Jesse informs the former that he intends to leave the drugs business, they discuss Jesse’s possible future, which is a theme that crops up time and time again in El Camino.

When we return to the present, Jesse is literally driving away from the slaughter that Walter White had committed, screaming, turning down a side road to avoid the Police he see’s on the horizon and ultimately ending up at the house old friends and accomplices Badger and Skinny Pete are living in. The pair take him in, help him get cleaned up etc and aid him in evading the Police using a plan that feels far too clever for the pair. It was great to see these three back together, Badger in particular was one of my favourite characters during the shows original run. It’s a pity we didnt get a little longer with them, and it was really endearing seeing Skinny Pete taking on a homely and caring role in order to get Jesse back on his feet.

Mike, Pete and Badger aren’t the only returning characters, in fact there’s a few of them which both make and break the movie for me, the vast majority are in flashbacks however. The major positive was the return of creepily friendly and (as we already know) completely unhinged Todd (or as I call him “Not-Matt Damon”). We, through Jesse, spend alot of time with him prior to the moments in the show where Jesse kills Todd. This time is there to show how broken Jesse became, which was portrayed better over the running time of the shows seasons rather than the limited time afforded to it in these flashbacks even though the Todd ones take up a meaty section of the film. It also gives us the information to understand alot of Jesse’s actions in the present day, with Todd telling Jesse about the money he keeps in his apartment and Jesse’s need to get to it in order to carve out a new life for himself. During his search for the cash we’re treated to an excellent bit of film-making (in my opinion) when we’re given an above camera shot of the entire floor plan of the apartment with Jesse ripping the place apart (literally, I don’t just mean throwing furniture around, he literally pulls the plaster off the walls) to find it. The whole sequence kind of reminds me of playing Hotline Miami, and the music would almost fit that games soundtrack too.

It’s Jesse’s plan to create his new life that cause the most problems for me. Choosing to visit “the Disappearer”/Ed who aided Saul and Walter both abandoning their lives and going into hiding (with the latter returning for the events of season 5 and the former going off to work at a Cinnabon as we find out in Better Call Saul). We know Jesse had the opportunity to use Ed’s services back on the show, which he ultimately rejected, but it feels a little too much like the writers are leaning too heavily on those events, both to cause more tension and keep the plot ticking over (Ed wants Jesse to pay for the services he declined and for his services this time, Jesse is a little short on the cash needed so has to resort to getting that before Ed can move him on). Ed gives him the opportunity to go it alone, basically saying that with $248,200 he could get very far away very easily provided he’s careful, but for whatever reason Jesse decides to enter into a very dangerous situation in order to get the rest which feels entirely unnecessary.

Thats not to say that this harms El Camino entirely, its an entertaining couple of hours and it kind of feels good to be back in that world again, especially with Jesse who always seemed to be the heart of the show. However, it does feel like the writers couldn’t help themselves, especially when they shove a flashback featuring Walter White in there (with Bryan Cranston wearing a skull cap that makes his head look huge). Early on we’re told that White did in fact die at the end of Breaking Bad and I personally felt thats all we needed, it felt like Vince Gilligan was pandering to the fans too much at this point.

It’s a nice enough send off to the show, but if thats what Gilligan intended this to be then it feels really weird for it to have been made six years after Breaking Bad ended, particularly whilst Better Call Saul is getting so much praise in certain quarters (though it has reminded me I need to get back to that show as I dropped off it in Season 2 I think). I think it mostly feels that way because the present day stuff takes place so close to the end of the TV show and the cast are showing 6 years of aging, especially Jesse Plemons (“Not Matt-Damon”/Todd), and overall I think I preferred how Breaking Bad ended prior to the release of El Camino.

#throwbackthursday, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IX, Gaming

#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 12

Two weeks ago we left Lindblum, walked through Qu’s Marsh again and found a tunnel entrance that had been cordoned off. We made our way inside…

Through the tunnel we arrive at an excavation site where we are chased by a monster on a monster drawn carriage, it ultimately catches us throwing the group into battle. Defeating it stuns it for a while, leaving us to a chance to create some space whilst trying to escape which is finally achieved when Zidane jumps a gap in the bridge we’ve been running along.

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However, there’s little chance to rest a Lani, one of Brahnes bounty hunter appears in a staircase. She declares shes been looking for the Princess and when Zidane asks if he has met her before Dagger tells him off for flirting. Lani isn’t trying to return Garnet to Alexandria, she wants the pendant the Princess wears around her neck, she threatens Dagger and we’re thrown into another battle. Thankfully Vivi enters into Trance and the whole thing is over quite quickly with Lani retreating, stating she’ll “let you guys go for now”.

We head down the staircase Lani appeared from, this leads us to Fossil Roo, where wild Gargants follow roots in the ceiling. Picking flowers for them to eat allows Zidane to ride them around the tunnel system. There’s a treasure hunter in the cave system who is baffled that we aren’t there to look for treasure, Zidane tells him they’re tying to get to the Outer Continent and he replies that the caves are like a web, he dosn’t know how far it goes, but has a rough idea of what direction they should head in.

Nearby I notice two Moogles, one is Stiltzkin, so it looks like he did make it out of Cleyra after all! He tells Zidane he had been hurt so bad that he couldn’t move but he’s now recovered and back on his travels, then sells me a pack containing a Phoenix Pinion, Remedy and an Ether for 555 Gil. The other Moogle is Mogki, who Kumop asked me to deliver a letter to:

“From Kumop to Mogki

Stiltzkin visited me!
Kupo!

He said he found a place that
seemed interesting, and then he left.

I wish he stayed longer, kupo.
Where did he go, anyway?
Let me know when you find out! Kupo!”

He also has a letter from Kuppo, though he doesn’t know who Kuppo is

“From Kuppo to Mogki

I’m bored, kupo!

I’m so bored, I’m going to hide away!

Try finding me inside the cavern!

Hint: I’m behind a wall…”

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As before I pick flowers to attract the Gargants in order to ride them. There’s currently two routes, on to the North and one to the South, I take the Southern route first, which splits but the Gargant will only follow the route that isn’t blocked off by water, activating switches changes which route is open. For now, the route I can take only takes me to a treasure chest which only contains a set of Fairy Earrings. Status effects really play a part in Fossil Roo, I regularly have to use Echo Drops to cure Silence and keep having Trouble cast on me, Trouble leads to the affected character sharing any damage received with the rest of the party. I go back to the central area and take the Northern path and activate the switch there. Following the new route gets me an Ether and takes me to another switch which changes the path for the Southern route.

I eventually come across a miner who lets me use his pickaxe in exchange for a potion. Whilst chipping away I free Kuppo from the wall he had been hiding behind. I don’t have any mail for him but he does want me to deliver a letter to Kupo, who if I remember rightly is in Alexandria. I spend a further ten minutes or so chipping away at the rock face but only get a few Ores for my troubles, there’s probably something better there but I haven’t got the patience to keep at it and leave the area. Theres also a Lamias Tiara in a chest near here, this item allows Dagger to learn Clear Headed, Confuse and Float. Once I’ve gotten that I activate a switch that opens up the route that takes me to the exit of Fossil Roo.

Leaving Fossil Roo does in deed bring us out at the Outer Continent, just as Cid thought it would, and just like he said, there’s no Mist here. Outer Continent is a brown rocky land, this is the first time I come across a Cactuar, which I stupidly think I can take on, then it uses 1,000 Needles on Quina and wipes them out, so I try to flee but am unsuccessful in doing so which leads to what I think is my first Game Over.

When I load back up, I explore what I can off the Outer Continent at this point and come across a marsh, here I find Mogster (though I’m not sure how he got here from Qu’s Marsh on Mist Continent) who gives me directions to a “flat shaped building like a bridge” saying I should go there first. Looking at the map I head in a Westerly direction to where Mogster told me to go and discover Conde Petie.

#ThrowBackThursday – Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 1
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX Playthrough Part 2
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 3
#ThrowBackThursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 4
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 5
#ThrowBack Thursday: Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 6
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 7
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough Part 8
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX Playthrough part 9
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fantasy IX playthrough part 10
#ThrowBackThursday Final Fanatasy IX playthrough Part 11