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All reviews - Movies (34) - TV Shows (2) - Books (8) - Games (11)

The revival of a Classic Game

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 22 July 2008 02:02 (A review of Gauntlet: Dark Legacy)

I never got the chance to play this game much as a kid, so when it came out for Playstation 2, I really wanted to try it out. I wasn't in any way disappointed at all. And in fact, trying out other version has been something of a letdown, this version was so out of the ordinary.

The gameplay is simple enough for most basic users to be able to pick it up in a few minutes, and there's enough to do that even experienced players will get hours of play.

So what was it that made this really rather simple game so playable? Soundtrack. Graphics. Variety. Especially the variety. Just when you're getting to a point where you're getting bored with the creatures you're currently going against, you get enough crystals to move on to the next level. And some levels are quite creative in setting and creatures and puzzles.

And then there are the playable characters. You start off with a limited selection, but as you play, you gain access to more. Some of the extra characters are little more than a different skin on one of the basic characters, but others are fun and quite amusing. It's worth checking them out when you can.

Definitely one of my favorite games for the PS2. I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn't tried it.


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One of a kind, now lost to the ages

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 20 July 2008 08:39 (A review of Anvil of Dawn)

I originally bought this because it was a New World Computing product. I'd already been a huge fan of Jon Van Caneghem's Might and Magic series for several years, and was trying to find something interesting to play. I'd already bought a few other titles from their company with some minor good results, so I felt safe enough buying this one. To my shock, this game was not only good, it was in many ways better than Might and Magic. In a lot of ways, it almost feels to me like a precursor to Bethesda Software's Elder Scrolls series.

It's unique in so many ways, not the least of which is the battle system, or the fact that the limited core of characters you're given to choose from at the beginning of the game show up later on as you continue on your quest. The graphics for the time were highly intensive, and the spell system was pretty unique, too. And the ending (which I never managed to get to--my husband got there first) was pretty unusual as well.

My one regret is that I never finished, and that I can't manage to get it to work in XP, unfortunately. The two systems just don't mesh. Still, if you can manage to find a way to get it to work, it's a game worth checking out.


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A great game released too soon

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 20 July 2008 08:22 (A review of Betrayal At Krondor)

I was a fan of the Riftwar saga when this was released, and I've always been a huge fan of RPGs in general, so when I heard this was being made, I was thrilled. And it didn't disappoint. Not only was it a good game, but between the graphics (fairly ahead of the times then) and the story, it was possibly one of the best games I have ever, or will ever, play.

One of the major issues with this game was that it was brought out right about the time games were switching from floppy disk to CD ROM, and so it kind of disappeared in the onslaught of new stuff to buy. Either because people didn't have the new technology to play it with, and didn't want to deal with loading it from that many floppies, or because they were too distracted by everything else coming out about the same time.

Though it is out of date these days, it is still one of the best games out there, and even better? You can now download the entirety of the game for free as Sierra (the owner of the series at the time) released it for free on their website when the sequel (which is also a nice game, but not quite as great) was released. There's a link for the download [Link removed - login to see]">here if you're interested in playing it.


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A piece of my heart

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 18 July 2008 02:33 (A review of Elfquest, Book 1: 001)

Before it was Star Trek, and after it was Harry Potter, but for me, Elfquest took up a significant chunk of my heart once I found it. Still does. This is one of those comics that I feel like everyone should read, at least once. Wendy Pini created a masterwork when she came up with this original idea. I'm just so glad she decided to share it with the world. (Or maybe I should thank her husband? :) )

For those who don't know the story, let me just tell you that it transcends its setting. Yes, it's a fantasy world setting with elves and trolls and humans, but there's so much more to it than that. This isn't just sword and sorcery like we've come to know it. There's a depth here, and a spirituality that you just don't find in most fantasy. The characters are rich and vibrant, and the story is much more complex than the simple title suggests.

It taught me a lot about acceptance, and being who you are, and being happy with your own talents. And more, it pulled on my creativity. Elfquest was the first world I deigned to write in that was not my own. None of the stories from that period are worth the paper they were written on, but it expanded my creativity in so many ways.

And all I have to do to remember it all is pick up this book and read it all over again.

If you're a fan of elves, fantasy, or spirituality, I highly recommend this book. And if you enjoy it? The rest of the series is just as good.


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As you wish

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 11 July 2008 08:37 (A review of The Princess Bride)

Every so often, someone comes up with an idea that's different from everything else that's come so far. A new take on an old idea, with its own new twists and catchphrases that just works. The Princess Bride was one of those movies.

It starts out so simply that at first it's not even obvious what you're seeing. But then, it takes you by surprise. The sense of humor, the acting, the action... What is it the grandfather says in the movie? "Adventure, fighting, Pirates, Romance..." Something along those lines.

I have to admit to being a sucker for great dialogue, and this movie has some of the best dialogue in the last thirty years. Not only clever and witty, but also lines that really make you think.

And then there's the casting. At the time, Carey Elwes and Robin Wright were virtually unknown, and both have shown themselves to be supurb actors. And then there's the likes of Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, and Chris Guest, not to mention Peter Falk, Andre the Giant, Peter Cook, Billy Crystal, and Carol Kane. So many amazing people.

A classic, and one I intend to keep in my collection for all time.


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Sci-fi that actually makes you think

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 10 July 2008 08:11 (A review of The Matrix)

The Matrix is a movie that harkens back to a time when effects weren't that spectacular, so you either had to focus on the creepy critter that you had to keep in the shadows, or where you had few to no effects at all, and focused almost completely on stories. Except with the Matrix, you can have the effects and the story. It's just too bad that they decided to try to continue.

With this first film, they had everything they needed, both story and character-wise. In stretching out what they had, they entirely lost that plausibility that made the first movie work so well.

The Matrix is one of those stories where the interpretation is broad enough to allow for layers of meaning, and the twist of having the real world versus the Matrix allowed for even more. But losing the secret of that twist meant that they lost that power in the sequels that followed. The Matrix was still there, but it was now a known quantity that could be twisted and moulded as desired.

I think this movie was the pinnacle of what developed starting with Kubrik's 2001. Sci-fi that could actually give you pause for thought, effects or not. It wasn't just there for the cheap thrill, but to make you think.

I just wish Hollywood would allow more like it to be done.


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Religion a la Kevin Smith

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 10 July 2008 08:01 (A review of Dogma)

I remember going to see this movie with almost no concept of what I was about to see, and as soon as the movie started, I knew I was going to love it. Not only because of the epigrams at the beginning, but the moment Carlin showed onscreen as Cardinal Glick.

I have to say, I love Kevin Smith, and have watched and enjoyed most of his films as I write this. But this is far and away his best film. And I do think that part of that is because he had to fight for it. Both in casting and in the arguments of blasphemy against it. He just made this work.

As the penultimate fanboy, he made sure to mix in his usual random pop-culture references (Sherman, Illinois, anyone?) along with the religious (and still sometimes pop-culture) references. While I dont agree with every statement made in this film, I will say that he presents it with such humor that even someone as athiest as I can enjoy the religion in this film.

I do hope that someday someone manages to get Good Omens past the prelimnary stages, and actually gets it filmed, as it would make the perfect double-feature with this film.


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One of the all-time best book translations

Posted : 8 years, 11 months ago on 10 July 2008 04:28 (A review of Contact)

I love this movie for so many reasons. But most of all, for even being made at all.

I read this book about five or so years before it was made into a film, and I remember the murmurings about a movie shortly after I finished the book. As soon as I saw that Jody Foster was attached, I prayed she would stay with it. Because she is one of those that (at least until lately) when I see their names attached, I know it will be a good movie.

She and Zemekis didn't disappoint. From the first previews, I knew they had it right. By using the signal in the previews for the movie, they set the perfect tone for the movie. Brilliant advertising campain with that ad, for a brilliant movie based on a brilliant book.

What they got right so far outweighs what they got wrong that I can't help but love this film. Yes, they had to cut things out. Any book over 100 pages ends up having to cut bits out, and the medium is so different that you need different emphasis in some spots to make the story go forward. But they kept the heart of the story, and they made it a truly enjoyable experience.

I think Carl would have loved it.


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Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows review

Posted : 9 years ago on 29 June 2008 05:11 (A review of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows)

After six books, I wish I could say that this book made the journey worth it. But I don't think it does. Granted, it's still better than Goblet, but only marginally.

When JK Rowling began this series, we all knew it had to end with a confrontation between Harry and Voldemort, but she promised us more, too. Even if she didn't realize it. Every writer makes a contract with their readers. In this case, the first book was supposed to be the setup for the entire series. And in particular, the Sorting Hat's songs, which we heard several times throughout the story, promised us a joining of the houses, and perhaps even a new way of seeing things, after about 1000 years of the school's existence.

Oh, sure, she harped on the negative traits of Slytherins throughout the series. But if being sneaky and sly make you evil, then why bother having the house at all? Why not just send everyone who gets sorted into the house straight to Azkaban, if that's all they're good for?

And yet, the hat continually talked about all four of the houses coming together and working together. Not three, but all.

So where was this great coming together? In a double-spy that had a thing for someone who never loved him, and a weak coward who never amounted to anything. My two favorite characters, who I could have written far better than this, were sold short because the author felt that all Slytherins are irredeemable.

And then, to top it all off, she gave us a saccharine-sweet epilogue twenty years later where everyone (read: the three main characters) was happily paired off and had kids named after their heroes. Never mind that it had obviously been written long before most of the series and only hastily rewritten to polish it, because it included almost no secondary or tertiary characters that had been introduced in the later books.

There are good points in this book, but the overall flow and the fact that Rowling falls so short of her goal makes it almost unbearable to read at points. Far more unbearable than the year or so wait between this book and the previous one. If you're not a fan? You can probably skip to the confrontation at the end, and just save yourself a ton of aggravation.


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Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince review

Posted : 9 years ago on 29 June 2008 07:00 (A review of Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince)

This book is my second-favorite of the series. So much more of the past comes out in this book, and when that is combined with the fact that my two most-favorite characters are spotlighted in this book, how can I not love it, even with its flaws?

There are a lot of "why did she do that" moments here, but overall, there is a lot of richness to this story. I wish she'd spread some of this out into the other books a little more. It might have made it easier to swallow at this level.

But for me, this book boils down to two things:
The title character, who I will not specifically name, but who sorely deserved this spotlight long before this book. He is the richest, most detailed character in this story. Unflinchingly so. And I can only wish that JK Rowling could have loved him as much as many of her fans do.
And then there is Draco. I didn't start out as a Draco fan. In fact, I still cheer every time I read the scene in Prisoner when Hermione punches him for making fun of Hagrid. But I also always thought that outside of Harry's little circle (which always included Neville for me, even as an outside part of their circle), Draco was the most interesting kid. That without Draco, this story could not and would not finish well. And this story shows that despite all we'd seen before this book, there is more to him than the spoiled brat that Jo wanted us to see. Even more, it showed that he deserved redemption.

And if they rob him of that in the movie, I will be furious.


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