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November 4, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

The Walking Review: Indifference

About an hour before the show…

Family, Duty, Honor, SPOILERS.

To recap: the plague has overtaken the prison almost entirely.  Over half of the people (probably a lot more) are in the quarantine area, and Hershel is risking his life to deliver tea like some suicidal British Clara Barton.  As a last hope, Tyreese, Bob, Daryl, and Michonne (Why both Daryl AND Michonne?  They’re two of the most capable fighters!  One or the other!) go out to a local university to look for potential medicine.  On the way, they encounter the Jaime-lovin’ biggest herd of walkers to date, and are forced to abandon their car and head into the wilderness.  And also, of course, we learn who killed and cremated Karen and David in an attempt to keep the plague from spreading.  I thought it was Carl, but it turns out that I was one letter off.  Carol gone done it.  Isolation was a drop-dead-and-reanimate fantastic episode, easily the best so far in the season.  Can this episode beat it?  We.  Shall.  See.

After the show…

Whoo!  Well, I can confidently say that things will be heating up once Rick and Tyreese get back!  Okay, so the supply run goes partially south.  Walkers, chase, the usual.  But we also get to know that Bob was an alcoholic, which leads to some tensions between him and Daryl because the last thing you want in the apocalypse is someone risking their neck for some booze.  But that storyline isn’t developed or anything, and it’s basically just more Tyreese being depressed because Karen’s dead and Sasha is sick.  Can’t blame him, but you were awesome back there with the hammer of Thor!  Wake up!

Why write it on there?  And why in English?

So, anyway, the big story is that Rick and Carol go out on a separate supply run.  The two of them run into two more people.  Rick and Carol then risk those guy’s necks on a supply run, and yeah, we’ve reached the purported Cycle of Infinite Supply Runs.  Anyway, (again, SPOILERS AHEAD), one winds up dead and the other goes missing, leading Rick and Carol to have one final standoff.  Rick is understandably  very angry at Carol for the whole murder-for-plague-stoppage thing that didn’t work in the end, and Carol is not the least bit apologetic.  I get that #WeAllChange, but some things can’t, and shouldn’t be, forgiven.

Honestly, this is easily as good as Isolation, but for COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REASONS.  While Isolation was excellent because of story, this was great because of Rick and Carol.  Actually, it was great because of the characters and dialogue in general.  The two newbies were good while they lasted, and those final five or seven minutes… jeez!  It inspires internal dialogue, actual dialogue, just a general examination of what is right and wrong in the apocalypse… it is INCREDIBLE.  And the final images are just a kick to the gut, and I can’t be bothered to think about anything else right now.  Well, mostly, I still have to breathe.

So, yeah… HOLY WOWZA.  While the Tyreese-gets-depressed storyline was tolerable but unimpressive, the Carol and Rick was undeniably one of the best… just, ANY interactions between characters I’ve ever seen in the show.  That’s counting Michonne and Carl in Clear and Michonne and Merle in Made To Suffer.  9.5, easy.  EASILY.  Just… wow.  It will be incredible to top this.  I dare ya.

Carol’s final issue.  Thought it fitting.

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October 28, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

The Walking Review: Isolation

Less than half an hour before the show…

Okay, just to review: Patrick’s death and reanimation led to several lost lives.  There’s a sort of plague going through the prison that is fatal, and several people, including Tyreese’s girlfriend Karen, are put into isolation.  However, when Tyreese goes to deliver a present to Karen, he finds bloodstains on her and another person’s pillow, and when he follows the mother of all blood trails outside, he finds two charred corpses-Karen’s and the other guy whose name I’m not going to bother to look up.  Incidentally, I saw a fan theory that says Carl did it.  I’m willing to believe it, since he had access to gas cans and a motivation-to protect Judith.  Noble cause?  I don’t know, but SPOILERS BE HERE MATEYS.

After the show…

WHAT.  WAS.  THAT.  To be fair, that’s my reaction to most episodes, but in this case, it’s more justified than in most.  The prison is probably a lost cause at this point.  By the end of the episode, Glenn, Sasha, and so many others are sick and therefore probably dead.  And since just about everyone has at least conversed with just about everyone, it’s either some folks are immune or all folks are dead.

Funny, I thought Revolution was the show referencing The Stand the most!

Not only that, but everyone, particularly Tyreese, wants to know who did Karen and David (okay, I looked it up) in.  And, like in the comic (sort of), he beats Rick up over it.  But there are bigger fish to fry, as it turns out, and while I knew it was coming, that did not diminish its epicness:

Yes.  

This isn’t the first herd of walkers we’ve seen in the show, but it is BY FAR the largest.  And it menaces a supply run of Daryl, Michonne, Bob Stookey, and Tyreese.  That, coupled with the revelation as to who killed Karen and David, AND a mysterious radio transmission, made for an episode whose epicness cannot be contained in one review alone.  Basically, I drop-dead LOVED this episode.  It might just become season four’s Made To Suffer, which, if you caught my wrap-up of season three, is my favorite episode of that season, and one of my favorite of the entire series.  But for entirely different reasons.  While Made To Suffer was fantastic because of how much it made me like Merle, this episode succeeds on plot.  Other than that, not a whole lot of development, except, once again, on the Carol Front.  Which is not the nicest of fronts.  Like always, I find myself not liking Carol a whole lot, despite my feeling sorry for her because Sophia.

Overall, this was easily the best episode so far this season  Great pacing, great plot, INCREDIBLE walker herd, radio, revelations, and Tyreese has the best of all walker fights.  Isolation earns a 9.5.  Not perfect, and I still don’t like Carol, but by R’hllor, was it something!

Ending on an appropriate cover will now be my thing.

October 27, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

Legend Is Better Than The Hunger Games Part Two: The Book

Legend takes place perhaps a century into the future, if not more.  After massive flooding and general devastation, the former US has been divided into two countries.  There’s the Colonies of America, which take up the eastern half and, for most of Legend, we know almost nothing about.  And then there’s the Republic of America.  The Republic, run by its leader, the Elector Primo, is a total and utter military-backed dictatorship at perpetual war with the Colonies.

Only no Arirang.  WHY U NO ARIRANG REPUBLIC.

Anyway, the current Elector Primo is, yeah, Kim Jong-Il with a monocle.    The people of the Republic are fed a constant stream of propaganda about how the Colonies are poor people who want everything and so on and so forth.  Also, in order to root out bad genes (no, really), at age ten, you must take part in a Trial, a massive aptitude test that determines the rest of your life.  Score low enough, and you’re thrown in for medical experimentation and death.  Score okay, and you do okay in life.  Score highly, and you get the good jobs and the good education.  Get a perfect score (1500), and that’s where our story begins…

June Iparis is a fifteen-year-old girl.  She lives in the twenty-million-strong city of Los Angeles, in the Republic.  She lives with her renowned soldier brother in a high-class apartment, is fiercely loyal to the Republic, and oh yeah, she’s the only person to have ever gotten a perfect score on her trial.  EVER.  She is the Republic equivalent of Akrit Jaswal.

Daniel Altan Wing, more commonly known as Day, is the most wanted criminal in the Republic.  He’s a vandal, he’s a thief, he’s an arsonist, and much like June, he’s only fifteen.  He’s a fairly common LA slum kid just trying to help his family, but as you can imagine, the two cross paths, discover some uncomfortable truths, and fall in love, because some things never change in the magical land of dystopian YA.  But why is the book so good?  If I could sum it up in one word, it would probably be style.

The sort of style of The Hunger Games is more simplistic than Legend, with major motifs being ideas like mockingjays and the bow and arrow.  But with Legend, this is a well-developed country, much more so than Panem.  For instance, here’s a quote from Legend, when June and Day first meet:

“Then I realize from the hollow sound of her gun’s click that her gun isn’t loaded. Apparently she just wants to slap me around with it.
The Girl doesn’t move her gun away. “How old are you?”
“Fifteen.”
“That’s better.” The Girl lowers her gun a little. “Time for a few confessions.Were you responsible for the break-in at the Arcadia bank?”
The ten-second place. “Yes.”
“Then you must be responsible for stealing sixteen thousand five hundred Notes from there as well.”
“You got that right.”
“Were you responsible for vandalizing the Department of Intra-Defense two years ago, and destroying the engines of two warfront airships?”
“Yes.”
“Did you set fire to a series of ten F-472 fighter jets parked at the Burbank air force base right before they were to head out to the warfront?”
“I’m kinda proud of that one.”
“Did assault a cadet standing guard at the edge of the Alta sector’s quarantine zone?”
“I tied him up and delivered food to some quarantined families.  Bite me.” 

Compare it with this quote from The Hunger Games:

“Peeta, you said at the interview you’d had a crush on me forever. When did forever start?

Oh, let’s see. I guess the first day of school. We were five. You had on a red plaid dress and your hair…it was in two braids instead of one. My father pointed you out when we were waiting to line up.”

Your father? Why?”

He said, ‘See that little girl? I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner.'”

What? You’re making that up!”

No, true story. And I said, ‘A coal miner? Why did she want a coal miner if she could’ve had you?’ And he said, ‘Because when he sings…even the birds stop to listen.” 

Both are good conversations (although to be fair, the first one was a chat that made me despise June), but are worded very differently.  With Legend, it’s all military lingo, coats of arms and a certain color of epaulets.  But with The Hunger Games, it’s much more emotional.  That’s not to say that The Hunger Games doesn’t have some excruciating descriptions (like the many scenes where people eat in the Capitol), or that Legend doesn’t have simplistic, motif-based quotes, but the two are generally opposites.  But, despite the fact that you may not want to know what Anden’s pilot gloves look like, they all contribute to the feel of A) characters with an eye for detail and B) a more developed, militarized world.  To draw a comparison, it’s like the scenes in Dredd where you have these massive, cool shots of Mega-City One, like it’s a real world that people live in and do stuff in.

That’s probably why I love Legend so much.  When you get down to it, The Hunger Games is more story-based than world-based, drawing its strengths through personal emotions and individual bonds between, say, one character and another.  Legend is the opposite, drawing its strengths from the world that everybody inhabits.  Marie Lu does a fantastic job of just making me want to know every detail of every facet of the Republic and the Colonies.  The Hunger Games is a beautifully written story.  Legend is a beautifully crafted world.

But wait, those of you who read Legend might be thinking-what do I think of the sequel, Prodigy?

Yeah, it’s even better.

October 21, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

The Walking Review: Infected

About an hour before the show…

So, just to recap, and yes, SPOILER ALERT: In the eight months or so since the prison accepted the Woodbury people, the prison has turned into a thriving farming community.  On a supply run, Beth’s boyfriend gets killed.  Rick finds a weird woman in the forest who turns out to be crazy and suicidal and obsessed with Zimbabwe marble sculptures.  And, most importantly, Patrick, a kid played by Phineas Flynn-Fletcher and who looks quite a bit like me, gets sick on something and dies, reanimating as a walker.

Mo-om!  Phineas and Ferb ate everyone!

And with that said, let us begin!

After the show…

Well, that was… maddeningly good!  In that the episode had me conflicted.  Let’s start out with what happens, and yeah, I’m not going to be a pansy and try to avoid spoilers.  SPOILERS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.  D Block in the prison is attacked by Walker Patrick, and several people die, including the father of the two Walker Namer girls.  That leads to a somewhat heartbreaking scene with Carol knifing the guy’s brain in front of them.  And that’s where the internal conflict starts.

One of the strengths of the episode, for me at least, is how torn I am about Carol.  I mean, I was pretty neutral on her for the most part, but I really didn’t like her in this episode.  Yes, it’s important to know how to handle weapons in the apocalypse, but she was keeping secrets about it and did those lessons without parental consent.  And then she wants Carl to help cover it up!  Not cool!

On the other hand, more fun than P.E.

 Another good part was that it kept me guessing.  A lot.  Most notably at the very end of the episode.  I knew Karen was a goner at the cold open, but… that last bit was just plain odd.  And of course, who was hanging the mice in the cold open?  My guess?  The Governor, or some outside force to be reckoned with.  I don’t buy into the idea that it was the Walker Namers.  Nobody could be THAT stupid.  Except maybe two little kids in the zombie apocalypse.  I’m talking about Ben and Billy here.

Finally, what is this plague that’s going around?  According to Twitter, the prison might be facing a case of H1NOVER9000 (swine flu with tired meme I put it for my own pleasure), and it’s pretty safe to say that most everybody is going to die of it at some point.  It’s almost certainly in the water, which is something we all require to survive, so, yeah.  Also, I read from an accredited fan source that Judith might be the next victim.  NOT.  JUDITH.  PLEASE I AM BEGGING YOU.  DON’T SINK THAT LOW.

All in all, this was a pretty great episode, possibly superior to its predecessor.  I give Infected a solid 9.  It had good performances from a lot of people, kept me hooked, and had me guessing every second of the way.

Seemed like a fitting cover.

October 18, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

Legend Is Better Than The Hunger Games Part One: The Typecast

I’ve been re-reading some YA classics recently, mostly The Hunger Games trilogy.  And I’ve realized something-it’s still a totally awesome series.  It practically INVENTED dystopian YA, or at the very least, sent it into a new boom not seen since Scott Westerfeld came out with the Uglies quartet.  It created the typecast we see today.

  • It takes place in an uncertain age (literally, we never learn what year The Hunger Games takes place in, just that it takes place seventy-four to seventy-five years after the Games began), after an uncertain disaster (almost always global warming) has devastated humanity.
  • From the ashes, a (usually) small, partly totalitarian but portrayed as benevolent society takes shape.
  • Said society either enforces its rule or tries to sound further benevolent through a coming-of-age ritual.  This most often is the focus of the book and the character defies it, leading to widespread rebellion.
  • The character will be a strong independent woman who don’t need no man, except…
  • At least one character, usually two, will be in love with the character.  They will be handsome and each have their own reasons for loving her, and this will be one of the main conflicts throughout the trilogy.  Oh, yeah:
  • It’s a trilogy.
  • There will always be motifs.  Most often, several.  These will usually shape the character, and be featured prominently on the cover.

Let’s take a look at a couple trilogies, just to prove this.  Well, okay, I’ve only fully read one, but I have read the first book and part of the other (that’s out), so I am at least partially fit to judge them!  First up, the most obvious.

Caesar Flickerman is like the Strong Belwas of The Hunger Games.  Actually, he’d totally be a Tyroshi.

Precisely.  The Hunger Games trilogy sold about fifty million copies, so clearly Suzanne Collins did something right.  Let’s take a look at the tropes.

  • Dystopian future: The nation of Panem, twelve middle class-to-1800s Irish immigrant-poor districts that serve the lavish and crazy Capitol.
  • Coming-of-age ritual: This is a bit nebulous, but it’s probably being eligible to take part in the Hunger Games, which if you don’t know what those are, read the book.  It’s a child-based deathmatch.
  • Strong female character: Oh, come on!  Katniss Everdeen, District 12 hunter and Hunger Games volunteer.  She’s exceptional with a bow but personally flawed, and has a temper like a Spanish bull.  I’m assuming being a Spanish bull automatically means you’re fighting someone.  Can any Spanish bulls confirm this for me?
  • Love triangle: It’s between Katniss’s District 12 compatriot Peeta Mellark and fellow hunter Gale… wait, what’s his last name?  Ah, yes, Hawthorne.  Which doesn’t count as a misspell according to WordPress.  Neat!  Me, I’m a Katniss/Peeta shipper, because let’s face it, they’re more developed as a couple.  Not that I don’t like Gale.
  • Motifs: By the dozens, it seems.  The mockingjay (genetically engineered songbird), the bow, the woods in general, the wolf Mutts at the end of the first book, the cave, the clock in Catching Fire, fire in general.  Yeah.
  • My thoughts: Yeah, this is great.  The setting is great, the action is great, the characters are unique and interesting, and I just keep wanting to find more about this world.  Do a prequel series, Suzanne!

And both second and last, Veronica Roth’s Divergent.

Apologies for the small size.  The other ones would take up the entire screen.

  • Dystopian future: An apocalypse-ravaged Chicago.  Five factions work together and rule communally.  There’s Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, Abnegation, and Candor.
  • Coming-of-age ritual: On a certain day, all sixteen-year-olds choose which faction to join.  Either they stay with their families, or make a new life for themselves among new people.
  • Strong female character: Beatrice Prior, who actually is a pretty weak person at the start.  She was born into the ultra-selfless and bland Abnegation faction, but joins Dauntless to the dismay of her parents.  She has to become awesome and face a looming war.  Not too bad.
  • Love triangle: Actually, shockingly enough, as far as I’ve gotten, there is none.  There’s a Dauntless guy nicknamed Four (I won’t say why), and that’s about it.
  • Motifs: Also a nebulous one.  However, each of the factions have their own logos, which ARE on the covers, which therefore make them the motif.  Also, Beatrice (newly christened Tris) gets tattoos of some of them.  So, yeah.
  • My thoughts: Meh.  Good concept that makes you think, but I find myself rooting for the villains, if only because, yeah, they’re kinda right.  Abnegation SHOULDN’T rule.  They’re nice people, but have no ambition, no idea of prosperity… I’m getting ahead of myself.  Divergent is a fine book, but it isn’t as good as the one we’re here to discuss.  Not by a longshot.

So, what book do I think is superior to The Hunger Games in nearly every possible way?  Marie Lu’s Legend.  And the sequel, Prodigy.

File:Legend Marie Lu Book cover.jpg

PREPARE THYSELF FOR AWESOME.  AND LAPELS.  MOSTLY AWESOME.  STILL A LOT OF LAPELS, THOUGH.

October 14, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

The Walking Review: 30 Days Without An Accident

Forty minutes or so before the show…

Omigosh I am fangirling right now!  Eeeeeep!  No, really, I am very excited.  If you read the post below (recently updated with Carl Grimes/Ellie fanfiction), then you know I finished watching the show yesterday.  Also, we went to New York Comic Con and had a pretty darn fun time (We saw Amy Mebberson again, I played Civilization V: Brave New World, and discovered the majesty of both Muppets/TWD crossover sketches and TWD air freshener).  But I will also be watching the premiere of The Walking Dead season four TONIGHT AT NINE.  Just wanted to get that over with.  The first episode is “30 Days Without An Accident”, and I shall be reviewing it!  So let’s patiently wait for it to actually come on!

After the show…

WHAT ON EARTH JUST HAPPENED.  I’m sorry, but I shall do my darndest to keep the spoilers to a minimum.  The episode mainly revolves around the prison, at least a few months after the final showdown with the Woodbury forces.  The remaining citizens of Woodbury, along with some miscellaneous people who got lucky, have joined the prison group, and they have turned it into a self-sustaining (for the most part) fortified settlement.  They’re farming, they have a ruling council instead of the Ricktatorship, it’s generally quite nice.  Even Beth has a boyfriend!

There’s also a subplot about Daryl, Michonne, the new character Bob, and Beth’s boyfriend going on a supply run.  Things go further south than you might expect, and it brought back some bad memories involving leaking bathrooms on the second floor.  That was not fun.  Anyway, there’s also a bit near the end about a character I was liking, Patrick (I want to be Carl in the zombie apocalypse, but I’ll probably wind up being Patrick), who may end up screwing everyone over.  Again, no real spoilers.

It wasn’t a perfect episode, nothing is.  I wasn’t necessarily fond of the supply run subplot, and I wanted to smack some of the kids at the prison WHY WOULD YOU GIVE WALKERS NAMES YA LITTLE point made.  However, I really liked Beth in this episode, which is weird, since I’m not a Greene person.  Dime a dozen, those folks.  Except for Maggie.  She seemed genuinely hardened, actually keeping up a schedule of how long it’s been since the last person died (hence the title), and not crying when NO SPOILERS I SAY NOTHING.  Chandler Riggs is great as Carl, as always, and Carol is also getting better as a character.  She has a good sort-of-monologue in the opening that really shows how used to life these people are, using terms like “buildup” when referring to walkers and whatnot.

Overall, 30 Days Without An Accident is a strong opener to the season.  It introduces new ideas and character arcs, develops existing ones really well, and provides me with new fodder now that Andrea’s dead.  Okay, fine, that’s a spoiler.  But you risked that when you decided to read this, so you have only yourself to blame.  I give 30 Days Without An Accident an 8.5/10.  It’s subplot isn’t great (although it was HILARIOUS at times, albeit unintentionally), but it gives us more than enough to get excited about.

Hardened Beth is hardened.

October 12, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

Some Final Thoughts Before Sunday

So, The Walking Dead season four premieres tomorrow.  And after a steady (read: wonky) schedule of binge-watching season three on Netflix, I have both seen every episode and am prepared for anyone to die.  Except for Carl.  LET CARL LIVE.

So he killed a guy?  So what?

Oh, right: SPOILER ALERT.  So, this season surprised me, even though I already knew most of the twists and turns it was going to take.  I was surprised at how much I liked certain episodes and how much I have come to hate Rick.  No, wait, I already hated him.  A lot.  But that isn’t the point.  Anyway, this season, out of the three so far, might just be my favorite, although the first two had some very good moments.  Season three moved really, really well.  While watching it, I could barely tell how many episodes were going by.  Whether that says more about the show or more about my attention span, though, I couldn’t tell you.

I can say one thing, though: I liked “Clear” a bit less than I thought I would.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was a great episode.  It just wasn’t as good in the parts that it was trying to be the best with.  Basically, the plot is this (and I’m assuming you’re caught up with me here): Rick, Carl, and Michonne head back to the home of the Grimes family in King County to look for guns and ammo, when they get held up by Morgan Jones, who Rick met in episode one.  Things aren’t going well for Morgan.  For one thing, his son’s dead, at his walker mother’s hands, and he’s also taken his obsession with Bill from The Last of Us to the extreme.

Somewhere, there is fan fiction between Carl and Ellie.  I shall make it my mission to find it.  Update: I found it.  http://www.fanfiction.net/s/9552844/1/Immune-Love

However, while Rick and Morgan try to reconcile after, y’know, Morgan lost it, Carl and Michonne go looking for a few things.  Specifically,  a crib for Judith, and a picture of the Grimes family, also for Judith.  Well, okay, Carl goes looking for those things.  Michonne tries to stop him, and the two wind up working together to get the picture.  It is hands-down one of my favorite subplots in the show’s history, if only because it brings together two of my favorite characters.  It also allows for some cute comic relief.  But I just wasn’t all that interested in Morgan and Rick’s chit-chat.  No, my favorite episode is the penultimate one, “This Sorrowful Life”.

The Governor, in the previous (and also good) episode “Arrow on the Doorpost”, made a deal with Rick-give him Michonne (who had taken one of his eyes out and also killed his walker daughter who he kept around because he’s a closet psycho like that) and they stand down.  Nobody else has to die, and the prison group can do as they like.  Seems like a good deal, except that Rick is rather hesitant.  So Merle Dixon, older brother of the apparent messiah Daryl, kidnaps her and decides to take her to Woodbury to stop the inevitable war.  This doesn’t go very well.  Merle winds up dead, Michonne goes back to the prison, and it’s off we go to war.  But Merle and Michonne’s interaction was both interesting and tense, for two reasons.

  1. Merle was working against the prison with the Governor.
  2. Merle is, to put it lightly, a total racist.

But by the end of the episode, I actually found myself, dare I say it, liking the guy.  He was no angel, he still killed people and such, but at the very least, he clearly cared, if only because his little brother did.  Another great episode was “Welcome to the Tombs”, the season finale.  The Governor mounts a final attack on the prison, and winds up killing just about every single one of his own people, because they chickened out after only one of them had died.  But what I love about it is Carl.  Carl actually kills one of the Woodbury people, leaving Rick and Hershel to wonder if it was justified, since the kid was probably about to put his weapon down.

Jodycrop

His name was Jody.  I am not making that up.

I personally think that maybe it was justified, but time will tell if this affects Carl.  Who am I kidding, it totally will.  Carl turns full-adult here, despite the fact that he’s my age.  At the very end of the episode, Rick and a couple others bring back a bus full of the people left at Woodbury, mostly the old, injured, and young children.  This excites me, since we really are going to be seeing civilization return.  Or they abandon the place in the first couple of episodes.  Either way, I’m pumped for tomorrow.  Also, New York City Comic Con.  That, too.

October 2, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

Four Reasons Why Minecraft Is Secretly Horrifying

I do enjoy Minecraft.  Its emphasis on resource management, open-ended word, and ample opportunities for trade and conflict, plus fun art style, all add up to the kind of game I could dive into with a few friends and come out a different person.  But there are some real terrifying implications, and no, I’m not talking about the Lovecraftian horrors of the Nether.

  1. Nobody cares whether you live or die.  Unless you’re playing with friends, you’re wandering through Minecraft’s expansive world alone.  However, there are other people technically with you who also have built civilization-the villagers.  While NPC villages aren’t the most common things in the world, there’s a very good chance of running into one, and they are something resembling paradise.  They vary in size from single-house hamlets to sprawling settlements with well-equipped smithies, wells, roads, and best of all, irrigated wheat fields.  But here’s the scary bit-they don’t care.  Even if you repeatedly hit them, or shoot them with arrows, or crush their skulls in with a diamond hoe, they won’t react.  They might walk away, but they won’t retaliate or make any noise, and neither will anyone around you.  If you walk into an NPC village, you are effectively walking into brainwashed sheep-land.  Which is the worst kind of land.
  2. Everything is broken.  Picture this-you’ve just begun playing a new game.  Your first task-acquire wood for planks, and sticks, and the necessities everyone knows at this point.  But what shall you get those things with?  Your hands, of course.  But wait, wouldn’t your hands kind of be, I don’t know, nonexistent mashes of flesh, bone, and bloody pulp after gathering a single block of wood?  Exactly.  Although Minecraft’s 8-bit graphics won’t show it, you are presumably always in pain, gushing blood and screaming out for a Creeper to end it all.  Pretty soon, axes and shovels will make it all unnecessary, but you can’t regrow hands.  Actually, that explains the lack of fingers.
  3. Your friends are probably all dead.  Other than Creepers, one of Minecraft’s most famous mobs is the zombie.  These guys, unlike the Creepers, only come out at night (or in dark spaces, like certain parts of my bedroom).  However, think about it.  What is a zombie?  A walking corpse.  For there to be zombies, you have to have dead people.  And for you to have the amount of zombies you can usually find at night on any given Minecraft server, you have to have a LOT of dead people.  And where do these dead people come from?  Not the sheep people that are the villagers.  No, it’s far more likely, especially since these zombies are in your area, that the beasts you are forced to slay are in fact your resurrected comrades, or at least people you knew.  So there’s a 50/50 chance that you’re either killing your best buddy, or that annoying twelve-year-old who just WON’T STOP BLASTING ONE DIRECTION.  GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  But the most terrifying bit about Minecraft’s world is most definitely…
  4. Your life is an endless series of nothing.  What do you do in Minecraft?  Well, of course, you can journey to the Nether and The End and fight monsters, but to do that, you either need to be really good at punching and not getting hit back, or you need armor, tools, and weapons, which aren’t free.  You have to endlessly toil away in underground caverns to get good supplies.  And you have to enchant them if you want them to be the best they can be.  And you can’t go into those caverns on an empty stomach, or else you can’t regenerate health and wind up either dead or crawling back to the surface, almost dead, wishing you had eaten breakfast.  And those weapons, tools, and armor degenerate over time, so you have to repeat the cycle over and over again, hoping that you find enough resources.  If not, too bad, you’re doomed to a Mesopotamia-like existence of primitive housing and sustenance farming.

That’s not to say I don’t like Minecraft.  Heck, having to farm and settle your own land is one of my favorite parts of the game.  But if you say that Minecraft is the kind of world you’d want to live in, you should really think about the implications there.  Because if you lived in the land of Minecraft, you’d suffer enduring pain for little benefit.  It’s real life, only without the Internet, air conditioning, and law.  Unless you’re playing on the most awesome server ever.  Someone ought to do a sociology experiment where we get like thirty people, have them play Minecraft all together, on the same server, and see what happens.  I guarantee you, SOMEONE is going to get himself an eyepatch and an army.

In 8-bit.

September 8, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

The Mom That Played Elastigirl

This is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve ever witnessed.  My mother, who constantly praises games like Minecraft for being generally peaceful but still fun, had up until this point steadfastly refused to play the games she was apparently loving.  Not anymore.  With her and dad’s approval, we got that Disney-riding-the-Skylanders-train game Disney Infinity.  And we persuaded her to play it, give it a shot, prove she wasn’t a hypocrite.  So Eli made her a gamer profile on our Xbox, and we gave it a shot.

After a couple attempts to get the intro to start (a charming but unbelievably condescending interactive montage), we finally got both Eli (who was playing as Mr. Incredible) and Mom (playing as Elastigirl, Mr. Incredible’s wife, making the whole thing rather awkard) into the world.  They decided to play the story.  I, meanwhile, was assisting Mom mainly as tech support for the controller.  We started out with a bang, as Syndrome showed up at the scene of the imprisonment of three supervillains.  He freed them and knocked the couple back a bit.  While teaching Mom the basics of the camera (her number-one problem with the entire hour-long playthrough), the two wandered through the wreckage of the dock area.  Mom keeps accidentally running into massive fires, and dies repeatedly as a result.  So far, not so good.

This was basically her.

However, once they make it out of the wreckage, Edna Mode helpfully informs them (via that omnipresent radio that’s everywhere from here to Borderlands) that they ought to help out local authorities.  The two of them respond by repeatedly climbing up a crane-thing and jumping from shipping container to shipping container, falling into the sea (a universal kids game death sentence) again and again.  Mom starts to “rage” about here, but they soon enough make it out, smiling.  As they start to fight some huge robots, a trend starts to occur: spousal abuse.

More often than actually fighting the robots, they somehow wind up hitting each other.  This has all three of us dying laughing, and it didn’t stop.  The rest of the time was spent either attempting to climb buildings, killing robots, and hitting each other more, all to the soundtrack of our (mostly me and Eli’s) laughter.  Now, granted, at the end they unlocked a training area.  Mom was unable to locate said training area, so Eli grabbed a sweet car and showed her the way.  And hitting everyone.  This is literally the closest thing Disney has ever created to Grand Theft Auto.

Something like that, yeah.

Mom started learning some neat moves, since she’s freaking ELASTIGIRL, and Eli continued to drive around the area like a madman.  All in all, we had some great laughs (I literally had tears in my eyes, marking the second or third time Disney has made me cry), Mom enjoyed the game, and now we can step it up to the next level.  MINECRAFT.  Maybe another day.  We can still call her a n00b, right?

July 28, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

MAHF Reviews: Quarantine Book Two

I would have published this review a few days ago, but me and the family were in the lovely and miniscule state of Delaware, where since our rental house had no WiFi, we had to use Mom’s Droid network, which if we spent too much time per day on the web, was a huge drain on our ability to do so more often.  But, in a Rehoboth bookshop, I discovered the second work of the writing duo of Lex Thomas (author of Quarantine Book One: The Loners): Quarantine Book Two: The Saints.

No.

No.

NO!  Here’s the likely-spoilery plot: a group of kids from the outside has opened up McKinley, and the students are free to go-until they’re trapped back inside by a group of concerned parents who resume the food drops.  However, the leader of the new kids (who come to be called the Saints, after their school football team), Gates, has other plans.  Discovering the identity of two of the parents, he kidnaps their son and holds him ransom in exchange for new clothes, good food, video games, etc.  It’s a golden age in McKinley.  The gangs are still fighting each other, but at least they can do so in relative luxury.  Meanwhile, David is presumed dead, while Will and Lucy disband the Loners and join new gangs.  But eventually, it all sort of comes crumbling down.  Sort of.

The book is certainly superior to the first one, which had a rushed third act and some ideas that should have really been expanded on.  This book trips up occasionally, but builds on more ideas, shows us new stuff, and gives us an idea of what’s going on outside, which is arguably worse than inside McKinley.  I particularly liked the character of Gates, a party god and born leader.  It’s a darn shame the inevitable go-evil thing happens.  The ending is also a bit predicable, though most of the book had me torn as to whether or not SPOILERS David was in fact dead.  Actually, this book had me torn on a lot of things.  So, pros:

  • Expansion on lots of things I wanted to see expanded on.
  • Gates was a very likable character.
  • A great send-off to the first book’s main villain.
  • A puzzling and intriguing ending.
  • One of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read.  It made me almost laugh out loud.

Cons:

  • Throws Gates off to the side, which to me at least, was a MAJOR sin.
  • Very predictable ending.

I give Quarantine Book Two: The Saints an 8 1/2 out of 10.  While there were still some plot and character hiccups, the series has become more polished and more creative, not to mention having even more creativity and, dare I say it, charm.  Recommended.