Song of the Summer King (Jess E. Owen, Kindle eBook)

The griffins of this book's world are split into two tribes; the Aesir who are large, arrogant, and materialistic, and the Vanir who are smaller in size but swifter and have a shamanistic culture. Or rather "had" as some years prior the Aesir griffins appeared at the islands inhabited by the Vanir, fleeing their own homeland from an unknown terror across the seas. The Vanir griffins opened their home to the Aesir, and the Aesir responded by razing the Vanir, taking their land, and forcing the survivors to convert to the Aesir's ways. I feel like this is an allegory for something. Something else that's tangentially related to eagles.

Shard is the last full-blood Vanir male living among the Aesir, as he was a mewling kit when the Aesir took over. During the griffins' big coming of age hunt, he's surprised when a boar and a she-wolf speak to him as he was always taught that griffins were the only intelligent creatures in the world. Eventually he meets his long lost uncle, living in exile after the war, who starts teaching him the ways of the Vanir. Another thing the Aesir hammered into Shard was that Tyr, the sun god, forbids flying at night, and his uncle tells him that it's the Aesir kings who forbid flying at night while Tyr doesn't give a crap when a griffin flies. Another tradition of the Vanir that the Aesir kings forbid then claim is the law of their god? Eating fish. Hm, claiming your god forbid foods eaten by other cultures to justify viewing them as "lesser," that also sounds familiar.

But okay, parallels to colonialism and white supremacy aside, how's the actual book? It's the first in a series of four and does seem to have that first-in-a-series quality of nothing major happening, save at the very end when the Aesir king declares war on the wolves and shit hits the fan. I wanted to throttle Shard every time he went on one of his "I am learning Vanir magic for the good of my king" trips, which at least culminates in a warning about not busting your ass for your superiors because they will throw you under the bus if it benefits them.

PS: If you noticed "Aesir" and "Vanir" are the two groups of gods in Norse mythology, and are thinking Tyr was the Norse god of war, not the sun, that is correct. There's many references to Norse mythology that don't actually line up with the original mythos. For example, the goddess of the moon and Tyr's mate is named Tor, which I think is based on "Thor" who was male, the god of lightning, and not the war god's partner.


Rick and Morty Season 3 (TV DVD)

Season 3 of Rick and Morty is simultaneously the smartest and most juvenile season so far, and I feel the latter is getting in the way of the former. The infamous "Pickle Rick" episode is supposed to be showing us how pathetic it is that Rick uses his mastery of science to get out of family therapy and nearly get killed in the process, but I felt the message got muddled in the gratuitous rodenticide and several minutes of Rick blowing holes in people with a laser canon. Another episode is supposed to be riffing superhero movie cliches, but again, my prominent memory of it is people being showered in the guts of teammates who failed Rick's quizzes.

And that's not even getting into the obnoxious memes this season gave us.


Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (PG-13)

Before you ask what I'm smoking to score this as "high" as I am, I already knew how this movie played out and went in inoculated to its horseshit. So Lex Luthor being an obnoxious twink, his scheme being so convoluted the fucking Riddler would suggest he tone it down, the infamous "SAVE MARTHA" scene, the crappy CGI Doomsday and his tacked on story thread, the ridiculous lengths it goes through to assure us everywhere there's fighting going on is abandoned because too many people complained about the destruction in Man of Steel, and all the other problems other people have made more detailed articles and videos about didn't get to me as much as they would have if I'd gone in blind. But yeah, it's still a joyless, confused mess. Although I had to laugh when Batman saves Superman's mother and tells her he's a friend of her son's, when maybe ten minutes ago he was on the verge of impaling Superman with a Kryptonite Spear.


Cat Quest (PC)

Well, this is a contender for biggest disappointment of the year. It touts itself as an action RPG where you play as a cat which sounded right up my alley, but actually playing it is like eating watery, unflavored oatmeal. There is a main story, but I feel like if it weren't for all the side tracking you have to do to be strong enough to beat the enemies in your way, you could complete it in twenty minutes. And said side tracking is a hundreds ways of NPCs telling you to go down into a nearby cave and kill everything, and you'll be given the thing they want automatically. The whole thing feels less like something you sit down with and get invested in and more like something you'd fiddle with on your phone while waiting at the MVD, and the Flash graphics where everything animates like one of those paper skeletons with the brass fastener joints your Kindergarten teacher would tape to the chalkboard around Halloween doesn't help.

The aforementioned main story is about a cat that can use dragon magic saving his sister from another cat with dragon magic, and the twist that resolves this is right up there with "his wife is his arm" in terms of only avoiding being insulting because of how laughably stupid it is. There's also a plot about how dragons were ravaging the world and humans created the magic cats to combat them, but then it turns out the dragons weren't actually bad and even shared their secrets with humans, and it was the humans who betrayed them. If you think that story thread goes anywhere, guess again!


Full Throttle Remastered (PC)

What is it with Tim Schafer point-and-click adventure games putting the most obnoxious puzzles at the end? Broken Age had that long, elaborate setup that reset every time you got one step wrong, and Full Throttle ends with a series of timed puzzles where you have roughly one minute to figure out what the designer was thinking of before something explodes. Actually, this trend of ending the game on a massive headache extends beyond Schafer's point-and-click adventure games, as anyone who's endured the Meat Circus can attest.

Prior to that, the middle third of the game is mostly an irritating trip up and down a highway while getting into bike fights with garbage controls, and one of the puzzles later on had lost its sting because it relies on a piece of information that I had forgotten about during this. The demolition derby was also kind of crap because not only are the controls a right ass you're constantly interrupted by a character telling you to hurry up while you try to solve the puzzle.

But it does enough things right be worth checking out. When it's focusing on point-and-click puzzles instead of asinine minigames it's alright, there's some cute character moments, and it's hard to get too angry at a game where a toughened biker has to solve puzzles with wind-up toy bunnies.


Secrets of Raetikon (PC)

Secrets of Raetikon sure looks great with its bright colors and graphic style that makes the game look like a giant, elaborate Tangram. The actual game is okay for what it is, I guess, but towards the end it started to test my patience. When you make a game based around collecting lots of small items strewn around the world to advance, is it too much to ask for a little redundancy? As in, levels containing more trinkets than are needed to finish the game? You don't have to utterly flood the game with them, a handful more will do. That way the player doesn't get to the end, find themselves missing a single item, and have to go back and forth through the game world looking for a needle in a haystack.

But I finally found the last silver triangle thing, and was rewarded with one of the worst endings I have ever seen in a video game. There's open ended and ambiguous, and there's... whatever the fuck that was.

Also, maybe a game about screeching birds should come with some kind of Cat Owner Mode that mutes the birds or something so you're not driving your pets crazy.