24 July 2016

Stranger Things (mild spoilers)

This is a Netflix science fiction series set in the 80s, where the disappearance of a young boy and the arrival of a girl with mysterious powers are linked to strange happenings at a shadowy research facility.  Think Firestarter combined with Super 8.

Like Super 8, there's a small group of boys involved, and a solid chunk of the story is about their friendship.  There's also an older sister who has a boys-related plot, which morphed into something better.  And a Sheriff who never really recovered from losing his daughter.

There's not a lot of...original in this story, but it's fairly gripping in parts (I'm a shameless skipper-ahead when there's boring scenes).  And there was stuff that, inevitably, annoyed me.

The boyfriend related stuff I simply found tiresome, even though they were clearly attempting to deconstruct some of the usual beats of that tale.  But what I disliked about the sister's plotline was where the sister's less-attractive best friend ended up.  Painfully predictable outcome.

I appreciated some of the brave and logical things 'frantic Mum' did.

One of the things that bugged me most, though, is that these D&D-playing, SFF-loving kids, have zero imagination about 'Eleven', the mysterious girl.  They are genre-savvy and she's clearly an escapee, clearly traumatised, has powers...and they are constantly attacking her for being 'creepy', for not explaining things clearly.  The same goes for the two older teens - at times they seem to be acting not out of bravery, but a complete failure to have any awareness of horror narratives, even after seeing more visual proof of creepiness than anyone else.  Who crawls through mucus-filled holes in trees and doesn't expect to find anything horrible on the far side?

It kept my interest to the ending, but then I was again rolling my eyes at the "reset to normality but not" final beat.  So a partial recommendation: some good suspense, a couple of occasions where girls got to step outside expectations, but we're definitely going back to the 80s with this - not anywhere new.

09 July 2016

Inside (game) (no spoilers)

A friend of mine emailed me about this game, noting that she'd seen reviews that said "buy and play and don’t look at reviews first so you get the full wonder of it" - and so I did.


The game starts with a boy, in a forest, who starts to run right...and that's about all I'm planning to tell you about the details of the game.  It really is a game that will reward discovering what happens by yourself.

"Creepy mindfuck" is the most common description I've been able to find for that game...and that fits well enough.  It certainly is an incredibly tense and atmospheric game, with good, mostly not-too-difficult puzzles and multiple moments of wonder, awe and horror.

I'm so-so on the ultimate ending, but this game was definitely more about the journey than the explanation.

You'll get about four hours worth of playtime out of it - and for those without the budget/inclination, this is a game which will probably be enjoyable to watch a few Let's Plays (especially a couple of the more shocking bits).

Potential spoilers in any comments, so if you haven't played don't read them just in case...