Category Archives: Badly-Titled Calendar-Based Miscellany

What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week -October 10th

October is now in full swing or, at least, as close to ‘swing’ as October gets. Not that I’m really sure I know what ‘swing’ is or what it feels like, but I’m confident that if I did, I would be feeling it now.

The Apprentice: Or ‘the only reality show I actually watch.’ Man, I love The Apprentice. Yes, it’s full of people who were for the most part obviously picked because they are mad enough to make for good television whilst not being in danger of slitting the throats of the other contestants in their sleep. Yes, it’s obviously edited to make the smallest mistake seem like tap-dancing through a minefield. And, yes, it’s pretty much the same formula ever year with little deviation. But, boy, it’s good.

A highlight of any opening episode is the ‘choosing of the team names’ bit, and this series didn’t disappoint. My favourite exchange went something like this:

Male Candidate #1: How about Team Alpha?
Male Candidate #2: No, that’s too macho and masculine.
Male Candidate #3: How about Titans?
Others: Yes!

The female team went for ‘Team Nebula’, an ephemeral cloud of gas pretty much summing up their approach to this week’s task, which was basically a more shouty version of Bargain Hunt. The ladies lost, since it seems they were all in need of a clear pricing strategy to ensure that they didn’t sell a priceless vase for £3.50.

Roll on episode two…

Ni No Kuni: This week I was sucked into the uterus of a giant fairy, and wandered around rescuing the unborn before battling a giant jellyfish-thing and subsequently being ‘birthed’.

This game is great. 

What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week -October 1st

It’s that time of year when we all start talking about how it’s October already, and isn’t it going dark soon, and why are the supermarkets selling mince pies already, don’t they realise they’ll need to be eaten long before Santa has even considered checking the oil level in his sleigh? For introverted types like me, who prefer to stay indoors whenever possible, only venturing outdoors when I really have to, this is a great time of year. The increasingly inclement weather makes not going out seem a choice that no longer carries with it the guilt and worry about vitamin D deficiency that goes along with the warmer months. 

Ni No Kuni: I’ve finally made it past the point in the game where I gave last time, and have now managed to get access to a boat, thanks to what in retrospect was a very surreal encounter with a cheese-obsessed giant cow-woman. It did seem to make sense at the time. 

It seems ages since the last time I played a JRPG that followed as traditional a route as Ni No Kuni. No doubt it in a few hours I’ll get an airship or some similar flying thingummy. I’m still enjoying it so far, mainly because the game just oozes charm through all its various pores. It is pretty grindy, though, and not a game for those who don’t like lots of backtracking and fighting the same monsters. 

Red Dwarf XI: Back in my teenage years when, if you can believe such a thing, I was even more socially awkward than I am now, I was for a period obsessed with Red Dwarf. This was around the period of the sixth series, the last one that saw Rob Grant take part in the writing and, in a sense, the end of an era of what I’d consider ‘proper’ RD. Everything since then has never been quite as good, from the frankly awful seventh series through to the bizarre Coronation Street crossover that was Back to Earth. Anybody who was read the two third books in the novel series – Rob Grant’s Backwards and Doug Naylor’s Last Human – will have more than a rather sneaking suspicion that Grant was the funnier of the two writers, and his absence from all the later series of Red Dwarf has been keenly felt. 

Given all this, it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I watched the first episode of Red Dwarf XI, which premiered on Dave the other week. I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised – there were a few moments that made me genuinely laugh out loud, some clever concepts and the decision to move back to using models for the special effects is undeniably a good one. The best bits were those that just featured the crew being the crew, arguably perhaps the most traditional sitcom bits. As I’ve often found with a lot of the later Dwarf stuff, the sci-fi narrative portions are the weakest. 

The cast are as good as ever, by this point so comfortable in their roles that it must be second nature to them by now. And, yes, it still makes you wish Chris Barrie was in more things (surely somebody somewhere other than me would like a one-off revival of The Brittas Empire?).

All credit to Dave as well, aside from a mostly unknown (save for Kevin Eldon) supporting cast, the lack of budget doesn’t show. This looks every bit as impressive as you remember the old shows looking.

Trump vs. Clinton: The US presidential election seems like it’s in need of a reboot. I don’t envy the choices of the American people, having to select either the stereotypical politician Clinton, who comes across as some kind of automatron whose moral programming has become corrupted, and Trump who is, well, Donald Trump. The first debate between them was a fascinating 90 minutes, particularly from the perspective of an Englishman. The differences between the two are stark, although not perhaps quite as much as they would have been had Sanders won the Democratic nomination.

To me, Trump is a man who needs to stop talking about a third of the way into every paragraph. Some of his policies are sensible (if you’re of the more right-wing persuasion), it’s just rather unfortunate that they tend to be followed up with lunacy. Clinton, on the other hand, lacks the charm of her husband and often came across as smug, which is amazing when you consider her competition. 

A fascinating show, though. Thank God it’s not real. 


What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week – 17th September

I wasn’t kidding before when I said I’d forget to do this regularly. Hey-ho.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD: I’m enjoying Twilight Princess a lot more than I remember from before, I think mainly because I’m taking it in small doses rather than just playing straight through it. More so than other Zeldas, TP seems to suffer a fair bit from ‘dungeon fatigue’, where the game just keeps on giving you dungeon after dungeon at the end. I don’t think it helps that the standard of dungeons is a little inconsistent either. Last week I’d made it through the fantastic Snow Peak Ruins, easily one of the best dungeons if the game if not the series as a whole. This week I was dumped into the rather drab City in the Sky, which has so much potential but turns out to be a slightly dull slog involving lots of hanging on grates with with the claw-hooks waiting for another grate to turn around. Still, I’m being picky here: even at it’s worst, Twilight Princess is a fantastic game.

Ni No Kuni: I’m not really sure why I’ve started playing this again, but it probably has something do with the trailers of the sequel I keep seeing. I never made it all that far into the game back when it first came out; hopefully I’ll manage a bit more this time around. Man, this is a lovely game. Level 5 stuff normally looks great anyway, and the Studio Ghibli input here just adds an extra layer of loveliness to it. Everything is beautiful, from the cartoon graphics, to the animations, to the interface and the music. Especially the music. Performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, the soundtrack is some of the best original music I’ve heard in a game for ages. Gameplay-wise, Ni No Kuni isn’t perhaps quite as good as its presentation. The combat is decent enough, though perhaps could have done without as much emphasis on the Pokemon-esque familiar system. It’s a very gentle tale, as well, which does have the slight negative effect that it can seems a little on the slow side, at least in the bit I’ve played. As JRPGs go, though, this is up there with the very best of them.

What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week – 13th June 2016

It’s been a week full of pre-E3 leaks, more than I can recall in recent memory. I suppose it’s hard to keep a lid on all of these things, but it does rather worry me that there won’t be anything left to announce that will surprise us in the way that we had the FFVII remake and the return of The Last Guardian last year. Ho-hum.

Anyway, what I have I been partaking of over the last week…

The Witcher 3: Heart of Stone: The release of the new Blood and Wine expansion has made me return to the world of Geralt the witcher, as well as purchase both big DLCs. I loved the base game, but got a little burned out with it towards the end. Now refreshed, I’m really like Heart of Stone. It’s substantial without straying too far from the pattern set by the main game. I’m probably about two thirds of the way through now, and finding the story very interesting. Whilst lacking the ‘epic’ scale of Ciri’s tale, this seems to be looking at the nature of evil and the question of immortality. Also, the wedding sequence is fantastic.

Skylanders Superchargers: Tesco were selling the Wii U for £15, so I bought it for my daughter. We’ve not played too much of it yet, but it seems okay. I’ve never played a Skylanders title before so wasn’t really sure what to expect. It seems more polished than Disney Infinity, if not quite up to the standards of Lego Dimensions (though that probably has something to do with the fact that it’s more obviously targeted at a younger audience). I am slightly disappointed that right from the very start there are chunks of the game that are separated off by a blindingly obvious paywall, though I guess that’s the point of these toys-to-life games.

Arrow Season Four: The emerald archer has finished his fourth TV season now and, like many others, I think this was rather a mixed bag. Whilst Neal McDonough made a great villain, his motivations were always a little cloudy and, unfortunately, the fact that his powers revolved around invisible magic did make for a few too many scenes where Stephen Amell and co were being made to stand around ‘looking trapped behind an invisible wall’. This season also seems to have suffered more than most due to its length: the plot arc dipped a fair bit throughout. Still, there have been some standout moments and it remains one of the best things on TV.

Final Fantasy XIII: Actually I haven’t being playing this, I just wanted an excuse to use the tag and annoy the idiot who left me a profanity-laden comment last week, seemingly because I didn’t proclaim that FFXIII is the greatest game ever made. It isn’t.

What Entertainment Product(s) Have I Been Consuming This Week – 3rd June 2016

In the first of what may be a regular feature but, in all likelihood, will be something I do for a couple of weeks and then mostly forget about apart from a small kernel of intellectual guilt that remains deep in my soul, here is the badly-titled post where I tell you – the people – what I – the person – have been playing/watching/reading/listening to this week.

Final Fantasy XIII: Six years after my first abandoned playthrough, spurred on by the fact that (for reasons probably best ignored) I’ve recently acquired the other two games in the trilogy, I have been attempting to make it through Square-Enix’s much-maligned last big single-player, single-numeral entry in the series. In the past I’ve been quite adamant that I didn’t like XIII, mainly due to the battle system that I just couldn’t get along with. Having started the game afresh, though, I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. True, the combat mechanics mean that many fights can devolve into wars of attrition, but there’s a tactical element to it that I hadn’t really tuned into before.

It does, however, have possibly the worst opening of any game I’ve ever played. Certainly of any big title. There are some stunning CGI sequences, but the first few hours (hours!) of the game are just exercises in tedium. Walk down a corridor, enter a battle that is so simple it really is just a matter of selecting ‘Auto-Battle’ four times in a row, walk down another corridor, watch a cutscene, rinse, repeat. The mechanics of the game are introduced so slowly but not really explained in great detail unless you read the in-game codex. Just get on with it! Thankfully, now some 30+ hours in, I’ve got to the world of Gran Pulse and can actually walk around a bit and do sub-questy type things. Hurrah! This really is a game that rewards invested time, because it does get a lot better both in terms of gameplay and storyline, I just wish it didn’t take so damned long.

Also, Vanille is incredibly annoying.

The Witcher 3: Well, technically what I’ve done this week is bought and downloaded the Heart of Stone and Blood and Wine DLC and spent hours re-installing the game on my PS4. I played it for a few minutes, picking up where I left off with my post-end-game save, though seem to have stumbled immediately upon an XP bug where my character seems stuck at 2000/2000 points on level 35. There’s a few things the Internet suggests to try that I might have a go at, but haven’t got around to it yet. Looking forward to spending some more time in Geralt’s world, though.

The Flash season two: There’s a current void in my life that will remain unfilled until The Flash comes back later this year. I think I’ll do a separate post on the whole season at some point, but suffice to say this has been a great season. Perhaps not quite as good as the first, it’s still managed to be consistently entertaining for twenty-three episodes. And that ending. Holy-shit-pants.

What makes the show so great is the cast. Grant Gustin is fantastic as the eponymous hero, and it seems such a shame that the DC movies won’t feature him. Also Tom Cavanagh has rapidly become one of my favourite actors. More of him, please.