Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea (Written by Lisa and Valerie Martin, Illustrated by Kelly Murphy)

Anton and Cecil are cat brothers who live in a port town, and when Anton gets abducted to be a mouser on a ship Cecil hops on another one hoping to... find Anton, somehow. Because the book has to keep jumping back and forth between the two brothers' boat rides, and because each brother has half a dozen miniadventures, neither story gets much meat on it. And okay, on one hand there being a dead sea cat whose soul aids the search for those lost at sea makes the one in a million chance of them finding each other and returning home actually plausible. But it also makes Anton and Cecil passive characters whose actions don't account for much.

Am I being too mean to a kid's book about brotherly determination? Okay, fine, kids might get a kick out of the pirates and mermaids, or squee at the cat and mouse making friends. There could have been more to it, though.


Various Humongous Entertainment Adventure Games (PC)

I purchased a package of these from Humble Bundle and played through a handful of them. Since they're all various incarnations of "Baby's First Point and Click Adventure" there's not a lot to say about each individual one, so I'm lumping them all together.

First up, Fatty Bear's Birthday Surprise. You're a teddy bear sneaking through your owner's house the night before her birthday, collecting the ingredients and tools you need to bake her birthday cake. And because you find most of that stuff in the fridge and cabinet, the game also makes you find letters from a banner and put a puppy back in her present box. One thing I found odd was this room you have to solve a puzzle to get into, but there's nothing in there you need to complete the game. Just a dresser you click on to play dress up with Fatty Bear, and when you leave his outfit returns to default so you can't even go through the game dressed like a ponce.

Spy Fox in: Dry Cereal was annoying. Sure, the puzzles were a little more advanced than the other Humongous games I played in April and May, but it's so bloated with animation and chatter I wanted to headbutt my desk. You can't even move to another room without Spy Fox bouncing around and doing a little dance on his way through. It'd also be nice if this and other Humongous games made it clear when minigames needed to be completed for important items or were bumming around so I don't waste my time with that fucking Go Fish pig.

Putt-Putt Joins the Parade was the worst one. Not only were the puzzles rudimentary even by Humongous standards, half my time with it was this asinine lawnmower minigame where you click around the screen to mow a line in the grass, until all the grass is cut. Oh my childlike sense of wonder sure was stirred then!

Finally, there's Putt-Putt Goes to the Moon which was better than Joins the Parade if only because it didn't have the shitty lawnmower game. Instead it makes you play apartment tag; you're trying to find somebody to give you jet fuel and you go to his apartment only to find, oh shoot, you *just* missed him and now he's at this other apartment. So you go to that one to find you *just* missed him again, and you have to do this about four times. Maybe the purpose was to teach children how to... math apartments? And the optional Go Fish minigame I moaned about in Spy Fox? You can't just assumed all the minigames are timewasters because you have to play the whack-a-mole game in this. Twice, in fact.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (PG)

I've expressed my respect for any story that can successfully combine having action, having heart, and having fun, and Into the Spider-Verse absolutely nails that. Miles Morales is an aspiring graphic artist who's being transferred to a prestigious private school that he really doesn't want to be at, and is suddenly thrust into the role of his world's Spider-Man. And not even one day on the job he finds himself caught up in a scheme by Kingpin to build a giant collider that can bridge realities, and more than likely tear them all apart in the process.

At first it feels like a Spider-Man celebration film, what with the crossover of six or seven iterations of Spider-Man including goddamned Spider-Ham of all things. And there might be some obscure references that only the most hardcore Spider-Man fans will pick up on tucked away in here like... uh... Spider-Ham... but I'm sure anyone who's spent five minutes on the Internet is at least familiar with the "Spider-Man at a desk" meme. Then there's the big gutpunch moment that lets you know Into the Spider-Verse is ready to knuckle down and actually make a point. You got the usual Spider-Man themes of discovering yourself on the fly and power-responsibility and all that. There's also a contrast between two characters who have lost someone important to them, but while one has made their loss a foundation to move forward and live up to their potential, the other has learned jack shit from it and is basically threatening space and time so he can repeat his mistakes.

I do have one bugbear, albeit a small one and I will admit to having some photosensitivity. The movie is intentionally out of focus in parts, possibly to mimic retro comic printing which often skewed the colors. And because Miles is a graphic artist (or maybe to inject more comic effects into the film), there's a lot of neon colors and graffiti art overlaid in the world. Then you throw in the camera swinging around with all the Spider-People and it gets to be a bit much at times, especially during the confrontation with the collider at the end.


Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (E10+, Switch)

After skipping out on the previous Smash Bros, mainly because I never bought a WiiU, it's time to check in on the series again. Why, you ask? Meh, morbid curiosity. I'll be honest though, I was pleasantly surprised when Simon Belmont was announced for Smash Ultimate, moreso that they gave him a respectable design; I wanted to see a Captain N reunion as much as the next person, I was just concerned that if they put him in Smash Bros. they were going to use his Castlevania Judgement design.

So, is the game much of an improvement from Brawl? Barely. I still don't understand how a game's controls can be so slippery and so sluggish at the same time. Half the time I used Incineroar's Up special, which causes him to fly straight up then slam back down at about a 45-degree angle, he went in the wrong direction and threw himself off the stage. And that's if you can even tell what the fuck is going on in the first place; while it works a lot better than I expected it to in handheld mode, seriously, what the hell is this visual vomit, game?

All the stages are unlocked from the start so you only need to acquire fighters, which you do by either finding and beating them in story mode or by twiddling around in the game's different modes until they randomly pop up for a battle. On one hand it's nice not having to play 700 bloody matches to unlock Mewtwo, but on the other if you're trying to unlock a specific character all you can do is pray to the random number gods.

As for the story mode itself, it's so dull I almost wanted to quit after unlocking all the characters and relegate this to my "Game I Couldn't be Arsed to Finish" section at the end of the year. Instead of ten hours of platforming with janky controls and cutscenes of Diddy and Fox teaming up against Rayquaza, you run around nodes on an overworld map fighting match after match against the game's roster under various rules, and occasionally finding a node that unlocks a fighter to use. There's also hundreds of Spirits to equip, some changing your element as part of a rock-paper-scissors mechanic, others giving you buffs or negating hazards in a given match (strong winds or electrified floors, to name a couple examples). This doesn't so much spice things up as just create busywork between fights. And once I unlocked Donkey Kong I found about half the fights can be won by winding up his big punch at the start, headbutting them into the ground, then punching them into orbit, and the other half by spamming Smash attacks. I guess the final area has a sort of neat idea where each node is marked light or shadow and you have to balance defeating opponents of both types so one doesn't overwhelm the other.

By the way, I am not sure if what I said at the end of the penultimate paragraph here counts as me calling Cloud Strife getting into Smash Bros.