Anime review: Parasyte: The Maxim

I’ve been away a while now, so I should explain what happened. Last month we changed internet service providers, and due to a number of paperwork and technical problems, we were without internet service for a little over three weeks. We got back online two weeks back, but I didn’t really have anything to review. I’m reading a couple manga series that I have backlogged and can’t do a proper review on them just yet, and the games I’m playing were already reviewed some time back. And so, to give y’all something new to read, I present to you my first anime review.

Parasyte: The Maxim is an adaptation of a manga I’d read a long, long time ago, but I’d only read the first six or seven issues before becoming unemployed and thus incapable of buying the rest. I remembered those first issues quite fondly, so I thought, “Hey, maybe the anime is just as good.” But it’s not just as good. No, it’s actually much better. Being confined to a single season of 24 episodes, Parasyte: The Maxim benefits from compression and trimming of the side stories that were shown in the manga. This story is more tightly focused around Shinichi Izumi and his struggles against the parasite invaders who have taken over human bodies and consume other humans to survive. Shinichi is put in this position when a parasite attacks him, but fails to take over his brain, fusing with his right hand instead. The parasite takes on the name Migi, or “Righty” in the English manga translations.

Because of Migi, the other parasites can sense Shinichi as unique, and given that he knows their secret, they regard him as a threat and attack him. Migi, being an emotionless entity, does not want to kill his own kind, but recognizes that he will die if Shinichi does. So he helps Shinichi fight new threats as they emerge. That’s the starting premise, which blossoms into something far more complex as the series advances. There’s the introduction of a parasite who is more selective in her kills because she desires to blend in with humans better to remain safe, even experimenting with eating human food to reduce the number of humans she needs to feed upon. For this change in perspective, she too is soon regarded as a threat to her kin and is attacked by other parasites. Her story is woven tightly into Shinichi’s, but represents one of the few side stories that is more fully explored, and I have to say, I really appreciated being given glimpses into her development as a character. Continue reading

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Game review: Horizon: Zero Dawn for PS4

You might think from some of my less favorable reviews that I love to complain about everything. And that…is probably true, but what I really want is something to gush at y’all about. I want something I love so much that in writing my review, I have to go back and edit it to reduce the length or cut out spoilers. After waiting so very long to play Horizon: Zero Dawn, I can happily report that this is something I love, and I must curb my enthusiasm or risk spoiling the story for you.

Before I cover anything else, let me just say, the story is easily the best part of this game. In most games, the story seems to be built around the game’s mechanics. Stories in those games feel like they came somewhere late to the development, like, “Okay, we’ve got all these other parts working…so, what’s the plot?” But Horizon: Zero Dawn feels more like the story was developed alongside the rest of the game. It also helps that most characters (with one glaring exception that I’ll talk about later) you interact with could be real people. They’re charming and funny, and I mean really funny, not Easter egg/pop culture reference funny. There were often times that I would laugh at a line, pause the game and relay it to hubby because the dialogue is so, so good. I would love to give you examples, but that’s spoiler territory, and I want you to play this game and experience all its charms for yourself.

I will at least have to do minor spoilers for the beginning of the game. The main character is Aloy, an orphan branded an outcast at birth and raised by Rost, another outcast. The start of the lengthy tutorial has you controlling Aloy as a young child of seven or maybe eight. During this sequence, she falls into a vault-like structure where ancient humans used to live and finds a Focus, essentially a personal computer with a holographic interface. Or in other words, this game’s version of Detective Mode/Enhanced senses.

And I’ll be honest here. Most of the game’s mechanics have all been staples of other games for a long time. Some reviews and gamers have complained about that. “Oh meh, we’ve seen and done all this before.” Well, with all due respect to those opinions, I don’t feel the same way. Yes, these mechanics are familiar, but that also means I don’t have to struggle to learn a new way to play. I’m almost instantly “at home” with these controls and mechanics, so I can get right into the two things that make this game so much fun, fighting stuff and watching the story unfold. Continue reading


Book review: After We Collided by Anna Todd

After We Collided, the second book in the After series, is a slow train wreck, but I don’t mean that in a negative sense. I mean it’s a story in which I know something bad is going to happen, and yet I can’t look away. But actually, it may be more accurate to say the book is a series of slow train wrecks, as it is a very long story with several smaller disasters for Hardin and Tessa to alternately create and then overcome. I must be a sucker for reading about these kinds of disastrous relationships because while book hunting around town, I picked up a spin off featuring a side character whose relationship had seemed so stable as seen through Tessa’s eyes, and the prospect of that story turning into another train wreck had me running to the cashier with ridiculous enthusiasm.

In this second installment in the series, Tessa is often just as responsible for the friction in her relationship with Hardin. But I’m perhaps getting ahead of myself. After the first book ended with Hardin and Tessa seemingly separated for good, Tessa attends a book convention in Seattle as part of her internship working for Vance, and after a night out on the town, she drunks dials Hardin, who of course comes running to see her. This encounter ends about as well as I expected, but it does get them back on a path to becoming a couple again.

Their relationship is never going to win the feminism seal of approval for totally healthy relationships. Hardin is a jealous jerk with a tendency to speak first and think later, and Tessa has a few really dumb moments, usually inspired by drinking more and thinking less. Alcohol plays a big role in a lot of their mistakes, which is sorta hypocritical given the histories of both their fathers. But the kids of alcoholics statistically do have more problems with alcohol, so I’m not saying it’s unrealistic, just hypocritical. Continue reading


And now for something a lil’ different

These past few weeks, I’ve been playing around with Twitch and YouTube, trying to stream games to them. This has not worked out well because our internet connection is pure shit. We’re working on getting that fixed, and today we signed a contract with another provider who in theory will be installing a fiber optic line in the next few weeks. (I say in theory because transitioning from one provider to another in Italy can sometimes take several months.) In the meantime, I can’t really stream without the video quality being horrid.

However, I got in my new PC, and I can record videos to the hard drive and upload them to both Twitch and YouTube. The quality is much better, and now you can see me play games instead of just talking about them in my reviews. I’m starting off with Dark Souls because I apparently still haven’t gotten tired of it.

You can watch my videos on Twitch or YouTube, but be aware that Twitch archives only last for 14 days. Also, if you want to know what I’m playing and when, it might be a good idea to follow me on Twitter if you haven’t already. Continue reading


Game review: Dragon’s Dogma for Xbox360

Dragon’s Dogma is yet another game that I initially balked at playing due to near unanimous reviews talking about how difficult it was. I have always considered myself a mediocre gamer at best, so buzzwords like “insanely difficult” have always turned me off. But in the last two years, I’ve discovered that most of the games billed as “insanely difficult” really aren’t. It’s not that my skills as a gamer have gotten better with time. I still suffer from wrong button syndrome with most controls schemes, and I can screw up even the simplest missions by going the wrong way for upwards of an hour or two. But what I’m discovering is that I’m in pretty good company in the mediocre gamer wagon, and a lot of these people talking about games as “insanely difficult” are just really bad players.

Having conquered all the Dark Souls games as well as dusting off some older games and cranking the difficulty slider up to maximum, I now feel more confident in choosing titles, and so Dragon’s Dogma became a viable choice.

As far as Western Fantasy goes, Dragon’s Dogma doesn’t take any risks. You create a character who is a simple fisher, but destiny pushes them to become “the Arisen,” a fighter of monsters and slayer of The Dragon. Only, you’re not really slaying it so much as giving it a dirt nap before it comes back again. This same story keeps playing out every few years, so your character’s role as the chosen one isn’t all that special.

Similarly, the story playing out isn’t anything special. It’s a serviceable plot, sure, but there’s only one major surprise, and the rest is just your stock standard fare. Continue reading


Book review: Days Long Dead by Gina Rinalli

Amnesia as a starting point into a story is a trope so often used that it is mocked for being a cliché, but there’s a reason so many stories return to it. That’s because amnesia is the perfect unreliable narrator. Someone with amnesia can’t tell you if they’re good or evil. They can’t tell you who is friend or foe, and so every connection they make is viewed with the same nervous tension. Amnesia can make even the most mundane character instantly more thrilling.

Days Long Dead uses amnesia to bring the reader into an event that could have been far more terrifying if it had been allowed to expand into a full-sized novel or even a novella. Julie Travis wakes up from a car crash and discovers her passenger is dead. Closer inspection reveals that he has been dead a long time, and Julie must trace her path away from the crash to find help. At first, it seems she has, but then the people she encounters are just as suddenly long dead for no explainable reason.

It’s hard to explain more than that without spoilers because this is a short story that explores three locations very briefly before revealing the truth. It’s not a bad way to finish the story either, but as I said, the main problem is, it’s not nearly enough running time within this world to properly build a sense of terror or even dread before the final revelation. Normally I’d say this is the best kind of complaint, that I want more, but in this case, the story doesn’t have enough time to explore its setting before the finale. It desperately needs more time to develop a connection to Julie so that I as a reader feel invested in her well being. I’m not, so when the truth is revealed, I can only react with a shrug and, “Well that was a thing, I guess.”

Days Long Dead is still a pretty good story, so I’ll give it 4 stars and recommend it to fans of mysteries and ghost stories. It could have been a great horror story with more time to build tension, but maybe the author wasn’t aiming for the full horror show.


Game review: Rain World for PS4

Hoo boy, where do I even begin with this game? Let’s start with this. Before playing Rain World myself, I watched several YouTubers try it out and quit early on, some of them ending in tearful apologies for not being able to go on. Let that sink in: this is a game that has reduced grown men to TEARS.

Rain World had the potential to be a great game, something iconic that we might all collectively look back on with fondness and nostalgia. But it is consistently hampered by the decision to marry demands for perfection with a control scheme that frequently ignores inputs and does whatever the hell it wants.

I feel I need to justify myself in your eyes before I can even get into the review. I have unlocked several trophies in this game, among them a trophy called Dragon Slayer. This trophy requires killing one of each type of lizard from the green, violet, blue, white, orange, and black varieties. (There is a red lizard, too, but its rarity is such that the game doesn’t require killing it for the trophy.) To even find orange and black lizards requires making it to the farthest end of the game’s many levels, and at the time of my winning this honor, 0.6% of players had managed this feat. I’m in some rarefied air for having made it to the end of the game. AND YET, I could not actually reach the end.

Keeping that in mind, let me backtrack to the beginning, which is so much easier to explain. Rain World starts with a slideshow introducing the player to a family of slugcats. These cute little critters were migrating from somewhere when a sudden rainstorm sent the parents scampering for cover, and in climbing a ruined building, a little slugkitten slipped and fell off its parent’s back. That’s who you’re guiding then, a cyoot widdle slugkitten who got separated from his totes adorbs family. From there the game starts, and a very short tutorial guides you through the basics of the game play. Find food, find shelter to get away from rain, rinse and repeat. Here’s how to do a charged jump, oh, and you can throw stuff in straight lines to the right or left. Aaaaand good luck surviving! Continue reading