Final Fantasy IX (PSX)

It almost seems fitting that Final Fantasy IX is about soulless clones and artificial lifeforms, because Final Fantasy IX is so obsessed with references to the previous eight games that it forgets to forge its own identity.

Okay, "soulless" might be too extreme a one-word summary of FF9, and everyone else has already used "forgettable". So I'll go with "sluggish". The game and story narratives are both paced like brick caught in a bear trap (shit, you don't even get an airship until the end of the third disc), there's all that pointless shit like the card game or playing Red Light, Green Light with a frog, and great scott, the battles. I might have been able to tolerate their frequency if the load times weren't ass and the excessive animation didn't make them take forever to beat. Also, I wouldn't recommend anyone do the Nero Family sidequest on their first time. I thought it'd be nice to get the item and only have to go through the final dungeon once, but it completely kills the pacing of the dungeon and tacks 2 or 3 hours onto the final playtime.

Because it triggers automatically once the gague is filled, the Trance mechanic is borderline useless. At least half the times I had a character go into Trance, somebody else ended the battle before they had a chance to act, resetting the gague and sending that Trance into the toilet. In the rare chance you can get the meter to fill up in a boss fight it can help the battle end faster, but most of the time it only serves to add a useless animation of a character transforming to a battle that's already taking too long to finish.

As of writing this, I completely murdered Hades (his first attack sent both Vivi and Steiner into Trance in one of the few times that mechanic actually meant anything, then he started charging an attack while they ripped him apart), but got my ass handed to me by Ozma within three turns.


Grow Home (PC)

I wanted to like this game, even if it did sound like the climbing in Shadow of the Colossus given its own game. It's colorful, it's cheerful, but the camera, controls, and physics are all completely godawful. How do I praise a game that's supposed to be all about joy when actually trying to get the thing to work makes me want to put my fist through the monitor?


Jazzpunk (PC)

I thought this was going to be a story-driven adventure game, but it's really more of a humor sandbox, if that makes any sense. Each level gives you missions to complete, but there's plenty of off-beat crap to do in between like a Frogger minigame or digging 3DOs out of the beach with a metal detector. And while most of the jokes can at least elict a chuckle, some of it like grinding people up in a Jacuzzi to make a drink for somebody else, I just don't have a sadistic enough sense of humor for. Also, the standard price is $15, which is outrageous for a game that can be completed in less time than it takes for Steam cards to start dropping.

Additionally, this game gave me horrendous motion sickness. I could be sensitive to HD, widescreen first person games (Gone Home also made me sick, as does any YouTube video of a first person game), but motion sickness appears to be very common with this game.


Unidentified Funny Objects (Edited by Alex Shvartsman, Kindle eBook)

Short story collections are always tricky to write reviews for. Due to the range of subjects, authors, and writing styles, reading them is like eating a pizza where every slice is a different topping, and even if the ingredients are top grade some people just don't like mushrooms (Me? I'll eat them if they're there). This set certainly hits more than it misses, and these ones stand out for one reason or another:

The Good: "Temporal Shimmies" is an interesting cautionary tale about a woman whose desire to "beat" another woman causes her to destroy her own life by using her brilliance in physics to send messages to her past self, telling her to forgo her physics education in favor of belly dancing. The final story, "El and Al vs. Himmler's Horrendous Horde from Hell" just might be the best in the collection, being a delightfully fucked up story where Albert Einstein is a wizard and Elenor Roosevelt is a warrior princess, and they have to team up against Himmler and the thirteen ten-foot Aryan morons he summoned from Hell.

The Bad: "Of Math and Mat" is gibberish. It's peppered with Russian swear words, and every time a new one is introduced the story gets derailed by an excerpt from a Russian dictionary telling you what the word means. Even if you can remember the translations, each encounter threw me out of the story and wore my understanding of it down a little more. And even if the entire thing was in English, I don't think I could have followed it. It sounds like this mathematician was mistaken for a terrorist and gunned down by the TSA because it keeps referring to his "last day"... but then the real terrorists got caught and he's alive at the end of the story?

Also, "If You Act Now" would have been a lot better if they'd edited out the last few paragraphs. In it, representatives of Earth governments compete to buy goods from an alien visitor, and it's obvious from the title and the alien's weasel talk that it's a parallel to infomercials. But then it ends with a man coming home to his wife watching a Billy Mays ad. It's like your father finished reading you a bedtime story, and instead of kissing you goodnight he snapped the book close and started bashing you over the head with it while yelling "DO YOU GET IT!"

The Ugly: The story about 'Masturbancy' was really unnecessary.


Mystery Science Theater 3000 Vol. XXV (TV DVD)

Robot Holocaust is another surprisingly tolerable Season One episode. Operation Kid Brother/Operation Double 007 (the DVD calls it the former, the episode calls it the latter) is, curiously, a low-budget James Bond knockoff starring Sean Connery's younger brother (no kidding), but I don't think the crew did as much with it as they could have.

Revenge of the Creature is noteworthy for being a sequel to the classic Creature From the Black Lagoon (which I haven't seen and really hope was better than this) and the most hilarious episode on this set, but also its story-crucial host segments. At the end of season six Mike, Tom, and Gypsy got hurled 500 years into the future, and here they reunite with Crow (to try to give a story reason for the change in his voice when Bill Corbett took over the puppet) and find the SOL has been remodelled and apes have taken over the Earth.

Kitten With a Whip could very well dethrone Red Zone Cuba as my most hated MST3K. It's bad enough that it wasn't actually about a cat, but while Red Zone Cuba was just insanely boring Kitten With a Whip was so irritating I couldn't focus on the jokes. A better name for the film would be Manipulative Tossers and a Schizo Raise Hell For An Inept Politician Who Wouldn't Be In This Mess If He'd Just Called the Fucking Police Instead of Stammering Out Lies.


Ori and the Blind Forest (PC)

Ori and the Blind Forest typifies the expression "Shooting fish in a barrel." The soundtrack, the cursed forest, the dead mother, your spirit helper's flowerly language, and the light versus dark theme all scream "THIS IS SAD AND POIGNANT AND IF YOU DISAGREE YOU ARE SHALLOW AND SHOULD GO BACK TO CALL OF DUTY." And the antagonist is a giant evil bird of darkness who destroyed the forest because she's a giant evil bird of darkness, until a Big Reveal that attempts to give her complexity but just turns her into Dyna Blade from Kirby Super Star.

The game itself, ostensibly a Metroidvania, is basically fine, I guess. But fuck, does it has some stupid design choices. Because you can make a checkpoint anywhere you want the developers didn't seem to feel the need to properly balance the game which means lots of deposits into your personal swear jar after you forget to make a checkpoint for a while and get taken from full health to zilch in two seconds and sent back ten minutes. Powerups are hidden in dungeons you can't return to once you clear them. I would have appreciated those races at the end of the dungeons more if the camera was stable so you could actually tell what the fuck was going on in them. I don't know who thought those gravity blocks were at all intuitive. And if I've ever seen another game that seals your save file when you complete it, I sure don't remember it (though I hear Fallout 3 pulls that shit).


To Catch a Yeti w/RiffTrax Audio

Did a bad James Bond knockoff starring Sean Connery's younger brother not whet your appetite for movies where the casting is the only remarkable thing about the film? How does a godawful Harry and the Hendersons knockoff starring Meat Loaf sound?

The titular yeti of this movie is a creepy puppet that a girl inexplicably falls in love with and has to save from Meat Loaf (the world's greatest animal tracker who can't find a girl wearing a bright pink jacket among a bunch of defoliated bushes) and a rich boy who makes Dudley Dursley look subtle. This pursuit leads to hijinx (read: banality as the movie climaxes four times) and plenty for the RiffTrax crew to mock, although you have to be familiar with Meat Loaf's disocgraphy to get the most out of the commentary (look, my mother was really into him, okay?)


Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, M)

I don't know if I'd called Mass Effect 3 the weakest of the trilogy so much as the one EA fucked with the most. The game is still basically fine except for the new Cerberus enemies that deploy smoke bombs that require you to sit there until it clears, but it's not just the ending that's cut down and rushed in favor of DLC and an online mode nobody asked for.

First off, this is by far the buggiest of the three Mass Effects. I understand it's an already complicated game that's changing itself based on data from two other games, but you need a patch to import a Shepard face that was created in the first Mass Effect for fuck's sake. My squadmates had trouble following me, and characters kept disappearing from cutscenes so other characters would be talking to empty air and awkwardly holding their arms out because they're holding up a character who isn't there (or, in one particularly hilarious case, breaking into a room full of power mechs to save nobody). There's a side mission that is apparently incompleteable if you take the Paragon path and don't have a patch, and one required me to leave the area and come back to get a door to open.

Second, your selection of squadmates is all kinds of screwed up. The first Mass Effect gave you six squadmates, each representing one of the six classes. ME2 provided even more squadmates, giving you more options for a balanced team. In ME3, I had two Soldiers, two Engineers, one Adept, and one Infiltrator, and Liara was the only squadmate with any Biotic abilities. True, you'll have a Sentinel instead of a second Soldier if you save Kaiden instead of Ashley in ME1, but that still leaves you without a Vanguard, and Garrus can be lost to the suicide mission in ME2. Apparently the Vanguard is DLC, because that's how EA rolls.

Then there's those side missions where you have to find parts or data around your main missions and take them to somebody around the Citadel who needs it... except you can't return to the locations of old missions once you clear them, so if you missed the part, you're SOL, right? Well, the game gets around this by letting you purchase things you missed from the Spectre terminal for pocket change, making the search pretty pointless. Oh, but some of them get locked off without warning if you don't complete them before the critical mission on Tuchanka, which triggered another bug where the mission log kept defaulting to one of these locked missions, requiring me to reorder the missions twice every fucking time I wanted to check which ones I was working on.

Towards the end of the game, somebody seems to have forgotten they were making a cover-based shooter, not a run-and-gun shooter. First there was that fight with the cyborg ninja who runs around one-hit killing your squadmates with his sword (which was hilarious; he was hyped as this unstoppable badass even though he was really just a wanker, and after I broke his shields one sniper bullet took his head off). Then there was what I guess the game considered the final boss, which is just you fighting off infinitely spawning enemies and doging a Reaper laser until EDI tells you to activate a switch, but I kept getting killed because Banshees kept teleporing behind me and I kept getting stuck on the fucking rubble. I wound up cheesing both of those fights with the Tactical Cloak ability.

Now to address the elephant in the room: the game's ending. I managed to avoid spoilers as to what exactly happened in this game's ending, but I went in knowing why people got mad at it; whatever happened made them feel like everything they did across all three games was pointless. I know Bioware changed the ending a little bit in the Citadel DLC, but I initially completed the game without it and wasn't that down on it. Okay, it was a bit sad, but after three years of outrage I was expecting something much worse, and it also isn't half the "fuck you" to the player that game's ending was (sure, Mass Effect 3 culminated every choice you made across the series with a three-button ending-tron 9000, but that game's ending straight-up wipes its ass with 25 hours of your life after, you know, spending those 25 hours shitting on your face). I have to wonder how much of the outrage was from people who either had poor armies or bought into the Indocrination theory, which would mean that, yes, everything was for nothing.

I chose the Synthesis ending. I totally would have chosen the Destroy ending and blown Reapers to Hell because while I was playing a Paragon space hippie I was a very vindictive Paragon space hippie, but I didn't want to kill EDI and the Geth along with them, a twist I imagine was put in there to make Destroy less of a "No Shit" decision. I was reluctant to go the Control route because siding with the Illusive Man felt wrong and there was no option to take control of the Reapers then make them kill themselves. I admit turning every living thing in the universe into a bionic felt a little gross but come on, I was choosing among Scylla, Charybdis, and an iceberg. At least with the Synthesis ending, everyone survives and they're still themselves, right?


Hotel Transylvania (PG)

I recognized the Phil Hartman classic "FIRE BAD!", but since I don't watch Saturday Night Live all I saw here was the shenanigans of Dracula trying to keep the other monsters from finding out a human found his way into their sanctuary. It does have its moments like "I speak frozen" and even the monster festival at the end, but it ultimately falls into the common animated movie pitfall of taking ninety minutes to tell a story that could be (and probably has been) told in a 24-minute TV episode.

After a particularly forced bean-spilling and an even more forced heart-breaker (Did Mavis not wonder why the hell Johnny was hanging around the monsters if he really did hate them?), the movie introduces something called a "Zing" which is a surge of magic that goes through two individuals the first time they meet, indicating true love. Because Mavis and Johnny Zinged, the monsters rush to get him back because "You only Zing once in your life." I'll admit I'm overanalyzing this, but I still think it's dangerous to tell kids that the first person they get the hots for is definitely their soul mate. Still, I was willing to suspended disbelief since it was magic and not teenage hormones... at least until the movie ended with a shitty song about the Zing.


Night of the Lepus w/RiffTrax Audio

Oh, come on RiffTrax, "The bunny rabbits is coming" was practically handed to you! Don't tell me you haven't heard "There's no such thing as Wyoming" either?


Fortunately, the Milk (Neil Gaiman, Kindle eBook)

Maybe I should try reading an adult book by Neil Gaiman.

Fortunately, The Milk has a title that grosses me out for reasons I can't put my finger on, and is a story a father bullshits his kids with to cover for why it took him so long to buy some milk. It starts out with a time-travelling stegosaurus who saved him from some pirates he wound up with while escaping from aliens who want to replace all of Earth's mountains with throw pillows, and somehow gets more outlandish as it goes on. This isn't a novel, it's a prolonged version of Weird Al's "Everything You Know is Wrong".