Forky Asks A Question

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We recently had the chance to watch Toy Story 4. Afterwards, I asked Wyatt what part of the movie he liked the best. He answered, none of it. Made me laugh. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. While a touching end to Woody’s story, I’m not sure why Pixar decided to make another Toy Story movie.

On the flip side, Disney+ has been releasing Forky Asks A Question shorts every week. If you haven’t had a chance to watch these, I can’t recommend them enough. Wyatt especially likes the ‘What is a Friend’ short.

“What? No!”

If you have Disney+, make an effort to check out Forky Asks A Question.

Friday Night Movie – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Friday nights have become movie nights in the Hall household.

We’ve made a bit of progress since my initial post. We no longer have to get movies from the library (which is still an excellent/free option) now that we have Disney+. Below, I thought I’d give a quick updated list as to where we are in our Marvel journey:

  • Iron Man (2008)
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008) – Skipped.
  • Iron Man 2 (2010)
  • Thor (2011)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  • Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)
  • Iron Man 3 (2013)
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Skipped.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Skipped.
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  • Doctor Strange (2016)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  • Black Panther (2018)
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  • Captain Marvel (2019)
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Captain American: The Winter Soldier was the first Marvel movie Wyatt looked bored watching.

“Are they going to fight soon?”

Within minutes, Nick Fury was thankfully being pummeled by bad guys.

Quick Thoughts:

  • I love how Winter Soldier is super hero spy movie. The movie showcases how much fun the Marvel movies can be when they are coupled with another movie genre.
  • As the Marvel movies progress, especially from The Avengers on, they feel as if they are getting longer in run time and feature more and more talking. I’ve started to miss the brisk nature of the earlier films.

Moving Along:

Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the first Marvel films I remember disliking when I first viewed it. (Well, maybe that isn’t true, I disliked Thor 2 with a passion.) The story felt like a mess, and I hated Ultron as a character. Watching the Marvel movies the second time around, I’ve enjoyed many of the films I originally liked more and have even come to appreciate/love Iron Man 3 (which I had previously hated due to the way they handled the Mandarin). Can’t wait to see if my opinion changes on Ultron.

The Many Flavors of Disney Magic

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Woke up to a video of a family brawling at Disneyland. Reminded me of an odd incident that happened to us when we visited the park in May.

While standing in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a man started yelling. Cursing who knows who, he unloaded a rapid volley of “adult” words. As this is happening, I heard someone behind me say, “Please move.” Disneyland Security had arrived.

The man kept cursing and stalking about the tightly packed line. His body language matched his words: 1) unstable (maybe drugs?); 2) threatening. I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. So I used my body as a shield between him and my family.

Photo by Ben Lei on Unsplash

Disneyland Security tried to calm the man down. Everything they did was in an effort to de-escalate the situation. At one point, a security member looked at the guy, who was dropping f-bombs, and said, “Really, come on man.” Eventually, security escorted him away from the attraction.

This was Wyatt’s first trip to Disneyland; his first time riding Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. He didn’t want to ride after listening to this man. But I encouraged Wyatt to ride and it ended up being one of his favorite rides in the park.

In all my years of visiting Disneyland (as both a former pass holder and Cast Member), I have never felt nor witnessed a situation quite like this. Of course, psychotic Disney guest happens to share his anger on my son’s first day. Talk about Disney magic. People need to chill.

Battle Princess Madelyn

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Battle Princess Madelyn, by Casual Bit Games, was born out of a request a daughter gave to her father. Creative Director Christopher Obritsch’s daughter, Madelyn, wanted to be in Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. She wanted to take the fight to “Green Head”, the boss of the game’s first stage. Christopher knew that he couldn’t put Madelyn into Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, but he could make his own game.

“But girls can’t be knights, Daddy. Only boys…”

“Pshh… What color do you want your armor to be?”

Pink.

The above story is a fantastic piece of marketing. So much so, that I thought it would be fun to review Battle Princess Madelyn with my son, Wyatt (age 9).

As the game starts, Madelyn’s Grandpa reads to her a story about Princess Madelyn. Princess Madelyn’s dog, Fritzy, dies. Wyatt was sad. But ghost form Fritzy soon made everything okay.

We continued on through game, beat our first boss, and came to what felt like the second stage. This is where Battle Princess Madelyn lost me. Wyatt and I, frustrated by not being able to figure out where to go next, quit.

“Dad, we can’t say anything mean.”

All About Context

A few days later, I was reminded that Battle Princess Madelyn is inspired by Ghouls ‘n Ghosts. Thankfully, I have the SNES Classic, which has a copy of Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts on it. So I did some gameplay research.

The first thing I noticed is that Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts offers the player a sense of place before the level starts. Battle Princess Madelyn should have gobbled this smart design choice up. There is something about knowing where you are and where you are going.

The second thing I noticed is that Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts is a mean old game where two hits of damage equals death. Battle Princess Madelyn builds upon the Ghouls ‘n Ghosts formula and adds grace to the death mechanic. This grace comes in the form of re-spawning the player, after they have been hit twice and died, right back where they were. With the added bonus of resurrection lightning shocking everyone around the player. I love how this death mechanic makes Battle Princess Madelyn more approachable for all players.

Did I mention that the main gameplay mechanic of spear throwing feels really, really, good? It does. Weapons are another place where I wish Battle Princess Madelyn had borrowed more from it’s inspiration. Within moments of the first stage of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, the player is throwing knives in addition to spears. Makes the overall game feel a little more like a shoot-em-up with constant new and awesome power-ups.

Battle Princess Madelyn feels incomplete. The story mode doesn’t work well as the level design is easy to get lost in and requires leaps of faith (jumping off a cliff, not being able to see below you) to make any progress– don’t tell me that is exploration–. The graphics and sound design, meanwhile, are beautiful. The arcade mode also feels great and very much like Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (with death grace!). But in the end, I’m still not sure:

  • What collectible money does.
  • How one upgrades weapons, armor, etc.
  • If it is even possible to extend the life bar.

My patience with Battle Princess Madelyn’s story mode exploration killed the game for me. Trying to merge the Ghouls ‘n Ghosts formula with a Metroidvania framework doesn’t pan off here. If Casual Bit Games had focused solely on the arcade mode, I think they’d have a real winner on their hands.

3/5 – Like Stitch from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, Battle Princess Madelyn made me feel lost.

Title: Battle Princess Madelyn
Developer: Casual Bit Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch
Reviews on: Nintendo Switch
MSRP: $19.99

An Evening Expedition – Atlantis: The Lost Empire

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Wyatt wasn’t feeling well last night. I think Texas is trying to take him out. That’s right, the State of Texas decided to swap our weather from the high 90’s to cloudy, cool, and rainy. Overnight. The human body seems to take issue with sudden weather changes. Anywho, him not feeling great led to some great snuggle time on the couch (I love this). We watched Atlantis: The Lost Empire via Netflix.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get over:

  • The beauty of the animation in this movie. I love the style and mix of traditional and computer animation.
  • How many people die within the film’s opening 20 minutes.
  • How much action there is for an animated Disney movie. Wyatt loved it after snubbing the movie, for months, anytime I offered to watch it with him.
  • The Disneyland attraction we lost due to the film’s performance at the box office.
  • How cool it is to hear Michael J. Fox voice protagonist Milo.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire - Milo

Atlantis: The Lost Empire is up there, for me, on my list of Disney movies that dare to be different. Movies such as:

  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Treasure Planet
  •  A Goofy Movie

While we were watching the movie, I let developer Greg Labanov’s Wandersong download in the background. Will be blogging about this game soon.

 

A World of Nightmares, A World of Fears – A Night with Inside

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Playdead’s Inside opens on a bleak night in the woods. Rain pours down as you, the player, guide a young boy to safety from those looking for him. In the brief moments where I have failed to evade capture, those hunting me have not hesitated to kill or send in the dogs. Strangling the life out of the boy, tearing him to pieces, and other times shooting him as if he poses a threat. Why are these government agents so angry, efficient, and deadly? Why does the boy’s life have no value, in the world of Inside, unless he is dead?

In the midst of the tension of evasion and escape, developer Playdead showcases a subtle technical prowess. For example, the rain storm that immerses the opening of the game naturally comes to an end. If you look in the background of the pictures below, you’ll see how the boy has moved through the storm to the point where the clouds are diminishing.

 

The limited color palette provides for some striking visuals. I love how the game uses natural light to highlight scenes and immerse the player deeper into the overall tone of the game.

Inside also cleverly uses light in it’s puzzles. My favorite so far (not pictured), being an unseen light overhead moving back and forth. As the light hits a pipe, the light bends around it, forcing the player to move in order not to get caught. It is as if Playdead is having a silent conversation with the player, dance with the light and death will not become you.

I have so many questions about the brutal world of Inside. My biggest question right now is: By the way the camera is positioned, is something watching me? I’ll keep playing to find out. But first, let’s end with something cheerful, shall we.