Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Report: "Frankenstein"

I wonder if any other literary classic has been as thoroughly bastardized, maimed and arbitrarily altered as “Frankenstein.” 

The lumbering, monosyllabic, parched-together zombie that movies and TV have pushed out into society have nothing in common with the monster in the book, an eloquent, monologue-reciting student of Milton and Plato who moves with the stealth of a ninja, makes his kills with swift, purposeful precision and badly needed a therapist or some Prozac.

The ultimate bitter teenager, the monster is a fascinating villain because of his hatred of existence itself and resentment of his creator. His obsession with bending Frankenstein (a neurotic, ever-lamenting ness rather than a wacky mad scientist) to his will, tormenting him in increasingly sadistic ways, makes for the crux of the cat-and-mouse game at the center of the plot.

Dan Stevens’ narration of the Audible edition was crucial to my appreciation of the book. Not only does he capture the frenzied paranoia of Frankenstein, but the obliviously evil whininess of the monster. His is now the voice I associate with the creature, rather than Boris Karloff’s grunts.

The book is a deep, philosophical dive into scientific ethics, the plight of creation and godship, as well has humanity’s innate tendency to shun the unfamiliar and unsightly. 

After a rough, slow-paced opening segment, Shelley hits her stride and tears at her themes and story with overwhelming passion. This is a work or near genius, and I was often floored at its majesty. Her work, ahead of its time and now out of control and debased, is much the same as the monster she writes about.

Publisher provided review copy.

PHIL ON FILM: "The Upside"

For my written review, click here.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

"Double Cross" Review

The makers of Runbow are back at it in "Double Cross," a mashup of "Mega Man" shooting, platforming, level selection and combat with a traditional side-scrolling brawler concept.

You play as an interdimensional agent who hops among planes of reality to maintain the balance of power. Harvesting a power-building resource dubbed "upgradium," you gradually build your character into a formidable force of spastic, justice-dealing destruction.

Character customization options allow you to deck out your hero with an increasingly impressive selection of offensive accoutrements, and the ability to take down levels and accompanying bosses in whatever order you choose grants a sense of freedom along with an urge to discover the ideal order to take them down.

Each level brings something new to the forefront, drastically twisting the mechanics to keep you adjusting and recalibrating your skills and techniques.

Bright, colorful and slickly paced, the peppy art design matches the freewheeling feel of the fisticuffs. "Double Cross" may or may not hit as big as "Runbow" did, but if it falls short it won't be for lack of vigor.

Those in need of a fun, slick alternative to "Mega Man 11" and the "Mega Man X Legacy" series will find a megadose of thrills here.

Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Book Report: "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

The Adventures of Tom SawyerThe Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all Mark Twain's considerable gifts, perhaps the greatest was that which allowed him to remember just what it was like to be a kid.

Childhood is not the time of whimsical innocence that adults tend to revise it as, but a plight of constant stresses, unlimited analysis and grandiose plans constructed, obliterated and reformed. His portrait of Tom Sawyer is of a troubled young genius longing to find his place in the world, bristling against the unnatural restrictions society thrusts upon him.

Twain revels in the elaborate rituals and flighty superstitions of his small-town, mid-19th century youth. He treats Sawyer, Huck Finn and their orbit of pals with respect and dignity, while casting the adults who surround them as hapless stooges. In a sense, he sees the world just as he did as a child, and just as children continue to do. Kids have a fresh-eyed way of breaking down the nonsense that adults surround themselves with, and Twain never lost that sense of incisive deconstruction.

As he does in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," Audible narrator Nick Offerman channels the late author's sly wittiness and thick, Southern-fried bravado. Offerman's existence is a compelling argument that reincarnation exists, and Twain's voice has come back in the form of his thick baritone.

As beautifully descriptive as it is wickedly funny, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" transcends its genre of young adult literature and takes its place among the ranks of glorious fiction. Its lessons and philosophical observations are as timeless and golden as the ephemeral, daring glow of youth.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

"Coffee Crisis" Switch Review

It's safe to say that you've never played a beat 'em up quite like "Coffee Crisis." A barista with a penchant for metal music is the lone hero who can stop invadian aliens from stealing coffee, WiFi and music from earthlings. His solution: romp 'em.

A simplistic side-scroller that owes a debt to the likes of "Streets of Rage" and "Double Dragon," "Coffee Crisis" thrives in its point A to point B pragmatism. Your objectives are laid out in front of you, and you know it will take a whole lot of oddly-shaped skulls.

While rough around the edges, "Coffee Crisis" overflows with attributes that stick to its core competencies of heedless momentum, raw energy and a blistering soundtrack. Wearing its references proudly, the creation from developer Mega Cat Studios toes the line between tribute and mimicry.

A game that was lost in a sea of similar genre releases when it debuted on Steam 10 months ago, the game is far more likely to find its groove on the Switch, where games of its ilk thrive and are eagerly welcomed into the ever-expanding fold of retro throwback larks.

"Coffee Crisis" is a decidedly niche effort, but it picks its spots and excels in the categories that matters most. It goes with Nintendo's console like coffee does with metal.
Publisher provided review code.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

"The Last Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human" Trailer

The Metroidvania renaissance continues to thrive as the decade nears its end, with "The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human" becoming the latest to take the torch.

Sifting through the discarded embers of a trashed society submerged in the depths of the ocean, you explore dark caverns, unearth lost artifacts and open up paths that allow you to inch your way forward as you get your bearings and acquire the means to unlock more sectors of the undersea labyrinth.

Exquisitely designed and hauntingly brooding moments await you as you advance. The dark recesses of the ocean hide some nasty, often gargantuan beasts that seek to reel you in and filet you.

More than a seek, find and advance adventure, heady themes emerge that haunt you in between play sessions. A nagging sense of dread permeates much of the game, and the visual style emphasizes the feel with subdued, washed-out notes of faded color.

While limited resources seemed to restrict the scope and technical precision the developers seemed to have in mind, the raging ambition that pulses within "The Last Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human" sticks with you well after your play sessions. It's a dank and lonely world out there, and a sea of discovery awaits your discovery.
Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

"Blacksea Odyssey" Review

The sense of the vast unknown shared by the ocean and space lends to a sci-fi combination of the two. "Blacksea Odyssey" follows the formula of "Treasure Planet" to mix the two settings for a high seas/interstellar RPG adventure with roguelike elements.

The vicious spacescape teems with entities that threaten your survival. Whale-like megaliths, lithe spacecraft and grotesque beasts are gunning for you. To stay alive, you need to react quickly and search out danger-plagued depths with fearless ferocity.

Nine months after its release on consoles and PC, "Blacksea Odyssey" sets sail on the Switch. Fast-paced thrills come along with the combat, which tasks you to dismember enemies systematically, cutting them down to size so you can neutralize and eliminate them.

Customization options for your ship abound, letting you tweak and tinker with various aspects of your ship to emphasize your own offensive and defensive philosophies.

The diversity lends itself to the crafting suite, which lets you collect and fuse together resources that serve as boosts to help you, well, find and collect even more cool stuff with which to craft.

"Blacksea Odyssey" may lean a little too hard on rote basics, but manages to freshen up its array of offerings enough to seem fresh and vibrant. Packed with replayability and polished and refined from its initial platform releases, the game is ready to cast into new waters.
Publisher provided review code.