November 2018 in Summary: 150 Game Reviews!

Hope everyone who celebrates it enjoyed their Thanksgiving! This month saw me finally hit the 150 game review milestone. On top of that, I finally began formally reviewing films. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me this long!

Films watched in November 2018

  • On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
  • Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967)
  • Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
  • Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier, 1996)
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, 2018)
  • Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
  • Widows (Steve McQueen, 2018)
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
  • The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieślowski, 1991)

I started the month off watching Elia Kazan’s classic adaptation of On the Waterfront. Later in the same week, I saw Branded to Kill, Seijun Suzuki’s follow up to Tokyo Drifter. While it didn’t get wrapped up in its style to the same degree as its predecessor, Branded to Kill itself is quite a difficult sell. Believe it or not, Seven Samurai is actually the very first Japanese live-action film I had ever owned. Longtime readers wouldn’t have thought that given how long it took for me to finally get around to watching it (I had watched films such as High and Low, The Bad Sleep Well, and Stray Dog before seeing it), but there you go. More importantly, the film is indeed a classic worth watching.

Breaking the Waves took an interesting journey with me beforehand because, like Brazil, I was going into it with something of a sense of dread. I had reservations about checking out the works of Lars von Trier given his rather dubious public persona, but I insist on actually watching one’s output before commenting on what they have to say. Fortunately, also like Brazil, I ended up enjoying Breaking the Waves – even if Mr. von Trier totally broke the rules of his own Dogme 95 movement to make it, the sellout.

My first theatergoing experience this month didn’t occur until about three weeks in. First, I saw The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a compilation of short stories taking place in the Old West. As a compilation, it’s a little inconsistent in terms of quality with two being particularly outstanding and the other four ranging anywhere from mediocre to decent. The following day, I saw Steve McQueen’s adaptation of Widows. It’s a lot like A Simple Favor in that it’s as though the Mr. McQueen took a few promising, yet deeply flawed works and excised everything that was holding them back. In between those films, I saw Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. At the risk of alienating diehard Wes Anderson fans, I’m going to have to say it’s my least favorite film of his (I’ve also seen Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Isle of Dogs by this point). It’s a true testament to Jason Schwartzman’s charisma that his character, Max Fischer, is actually watchable. Still, there are far worse lead characters and he does face repercussions to his actions, so he does kind of work.

Thanksgiving weekend gave me an opportunity to catch up on a film I never set aside the time to see. Indeed, for those of you who read the above list, one of the questions forming in your mind upon seeing The Fellowship of the Ring is something to the tune of “Why on Earth did you not watch it earlier?” For that, I don’t really have an answer because even I’m not entirely sure. In case you’re wondering where the review is, fear not, for I will post them all after I have seen the entire trilogy. In the meantime, I managed to see Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, which, like all of his other films, really makes you think long after it has ended.

Films reviewed, but not watched in November 2018

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)

Once in a while, I may end up discussing films I didn’t see the previous month. It could be a film I’ve always had strong feelings about or me simply wishing to expand upon a film I talked about in my currently retired Reel Life segments. District 9 is a case of the former. I knew from the beginning that if I was going to start writing fully fledged film reviews that District 9 would be the one I discuss first. Much like how my first game review saw me give a 3/10 to a title that got critical acclaim left, right, and center, I thought I might as well do the same thing when I began to review films as a callback.

I wasn’t kidding about the critical acclaim, either. If you took TV Guide at face value, you could get the impression that District 9 is a better film than The Fellowship of the Ring.

Seriously, TV Guide, get it together.

I have to confess that for but a fleeting moment I was mostly okay with it, but I now consider it one of the most disappointing films I’ve ever seen, being one of the few critical darlings I would go as far as calling outright bad. Being insufferably misanthropic on top of being irresponsible with its cynicism, this film probably aided in kickstarting what I like to call the Dark Age of Science Fiction, and it’s absolutely not an accomplishment worth celebrating.

The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)

And here’s a case of the latter of the two aforementioned scenarios. I can’t help but draw a parallel between The Witch and the 1994 game Rise of the Robots. The fatal flaw of Rise of the Robots is that it looked great for its time and had excellent music in most versions, yet its utterly mindless gameplay sunk whatever chances it had of delivering a quality experience. To backpedal, I in no way wish to insinuate that The Witch is as big of a disaster as Rise of the Robots (or a disaster at all, really). Rise of the Robots failed because the fields in which it excelled contributed nothing to the gameplay’s quality. Meanwhile, The Witch, with its excellently researched, period-appropriate costume design, expert cinematography, and rich atmosphere, manages to use its strengths in ways that are actually substantial to the medium. The problem arises when you realize that the film is largely plotless until an hour in, which is especially bad when you consider the film is roughly ninety minutes long. While it’s possible to do that and have the film turn out well, it requires a spectacular payoff, and this is where The Witch falls short. The ingredients for a good film are there, but there’s not enough cohesion between them to make what I would consider an essential viewing experience. In other words, the fields in which The Witch excels don’t contribute to the formation of a compelling story.

Games reviewed in November 2018

Anubis II (Data Design Interactive, 2007)

Nope. If DDI couldn’t be bothered to put any effort into this game, they don’t deserve a full reflective paragraph from me. End of story.

Metroid: Samus Returns (MercurySteam & Nintendo, 2017)

Samus Returns is one of the most aptly named games in existence. It saw the restoration of not only Samus’s credibility as a strong female character, but also Yoshio Sakamoto’s credibility as a game designer. In modern times, it seems to be exceptionally rare for creators in any medium to take constructive (and admittedly not-so-constructive) criticism to heart. In most cases, they would go the Naughty Dog route and make fun of critics rather than seriously entertain what detractors have to say. Admittedly, some of this is understandable given how difficult it is to separate legitimate complaints from noise on the internet. After all, if nine out of ten people insist what you created is the best thing ever, why would you listen to the tenth person who doesn’t feel the same way? Nonetheless, it’s a skill one needs to practice to have any kind of long term success. While Samus Returns may be a far cry from the best game in the series, it is an example more creators need to follow. When you mess up, you need to own up to your mistakes and resolve to do better, whether it’s by hearing the detractors out or internally realizing your own mistakes – and that’s precisely what Mr. Sakamoto did.

King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human (Sierra, 1986)

I don’t think there was a game I played before King’s Quest III in which I actively hated its antagonist, but Roberta Williams managed to succeed with the evil wizard, Manannan. The idea of the main character of a game being a slave to the resident big bad was, and remains to this day, a very transgressive idea that plays with the nature of the medium to astounding degrees. Video games are typically thought to be empowering whereas King’s Quest III has the player at the mercy of a slaver – perhaps the least empowering scenario imaginable. Unfortunately, as good as the premise is, King’s Quest III, as an adventure game is rather lacking, having limited interactivity in its second half. On top of generally being difficult to figure out, diving into it from a modern perspective is a tall order.

Super Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996)

When it comes to how the respective franchises handled the 3D leap, Mario is notably different from The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was a franchise that, like Metal Gear, was aching to be in 3D from day one. Therefore, Ocarina of Time was the venerable franchise’s single most important installment for allowing the series to assume its true form. Meanwhile, the gameplay of the average Mario installment was just as good after its 3D leap as it was in its pioneering 2D days. Furthermore, Super Mario 64, the franchise’s first 3D installment, was a larger boon to the medium as a whole, challenging new designers to take on the third dimension all at once. While Super Mario 64 would be surpassed many times in the coming years, it’s incredible that it has held up as well as it has. Just like with Super Mario Bros. 3 before it, it’s as though the design team could see into the future because they were clearly developing their game from the perspective of their audience. It may lack the “wow” factor it had in 1996, but it is well worth looking into.

Featured articles:

Review: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey – SarcasticJuice wrote a succinct, interesting review of Ubisoft’s latest Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (nothing to do with Super Mario Odyssey). While it certainly had tough competition, having been released around the same time as Red Dead Redemption II, it seems to have been an admirable effort all the same. Also, Ubisoft learned how to animate female player characters between Unity and now, so there’s that.

“Fun” and Games: An Elaboration – Cary over at Recollections of Play provides her take on a question that seems to have flared up numerous times over the course of the 2010s: does a game need to be fun to be good? My own answer to that question is: a game doesn’t have to be fun to be good, but it helps. She briefly talks about how the medium has changed since the arcade days wherein games were required to be fun. It’s interesting how once stories became important that, in spite of the medium’s very name, video games could be enjoyable in ways that weren’t necessarily fun.

A Hero for Hers: The Wonder Woman Moment – Amanda Hurych over at the Below Average Blog regales her experience of finally getting to see Wonder Woman while also talking about how being female seems to be a designation among comic book, video game, and science fiction enthusiasts.

What Was Your Side-Quest/Mini-Game Purgatory? – Hey, I wasn’t the only one asking about distracting minigames. Fitzy over at Game Time talks about that moment I think we’ve all had in which we found a side game so engrossing that we somehow managed to forget that there was a larger game programmed around it.

Kingdom Hearts II – Game Review – In anticipation of the impending release of Kingdom Hearts III, Sam of Black Disc Gaming wrote a piece on Kingdom Hearts II. Speaking from experience, the first one tends to get the most acclaim, so it was interesting seeing somebody make a strong case for the second.

Ugh… That Thwomping Writer’s Block… – Lightning Ellen talks about a problem has had plagued writers from all walks of life: writer’s block. It was interesting seeing how she personally deals with it. My strategy is to work somewhere away from home. When I’m home, I’m liable to begin goofing off while that’s not the case at the library or at work during slow periods.

And Then There Were None – Rob of Loose Logic reviewed the classic Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. In a lot of ways, she was like M. Night Shyamalan (albeit way more consistent quality-wise) in that her stories have twists guaranteed to catch a reader going in blind the first time around.

Links to my posts

Film reviews:

Game reviews:

Other posts:

27 thoughts on “November 2018 in Summary: 150 Game Reviews!

    • You’re welcome! I have to admit I haven’t played much of the Assassin’s Creed series outside of Black Flag. From what I’ve heard, the series has had its ups and downs over the years, though I kind of question the wisdom of attempting to turn a series of open-world games into an annual series. I have to ask: did it feel like the series was beginning to grow stale before Odyssey?

      And thanks for the compliment! Getting to 150 game reviews wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of support, and it means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, I’d only played Origins and no other AC game before. The only thing I can attest to is that I was pretty lukewarm on Origins and I love Odyssey. On the surface it seems like a quick iteration of what they just did, but the changes were all smart improvements. And something in the alchemy of story, character, and acting injected it with so much more soul and life.

        Not trying to build it up too much! It doesn’t change the landscape like Red Dead or God of War, but it takes established things about an open world game and does all those things very well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Also, Ubisoft announced that they won’t have an annual release of another AC game in 2019. Instead, they’ll focus on DLC for Odyssey and I’m guessing more dev time for the next AC game.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard as well. Origins had its fair share of defenders once the developers addressed its biggest issues, but it still seems pretty divisive. A series can improve despite not straying far from its comfort zone, but as you say, the key is to know what to keep and what to improve upon. I have to admit I haven’t gotten around to playing Red Dead or God of War, though I intend to try both out pretty soon.

            That’s probably for the best. The Call of Duty franchise hit burnout in the worst way possible – and that is a series of linear modern military shooters. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to pump out a new open-world game every year.

            Liked by 1 person

            • I don’t understand how developers annual releases games can expect to avoid burnout, becoming stale or simply a loss of audience excitement. Then again, I usually don’t play the franchises that have yearly releases.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I know what you mean; that strategy doesn’t typically work in the film industry. I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for coders in the gaming industry. We’re talking about a medium that has way more moving parts. I myself typically don’t play many games from franchises with annual releases; I was burned out on the Call of Duty franchise when it dropped the ball with Modern Warfare 2 (which is pretty bad considering it was the second game in the series I had played), and if what little I’ve sampled since is any indication, it has only gotten worse from there.

                Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! It’s always interesting how distracting (in the good sense) mini-games are. If you’re not careful, you could spend hours in them, only vaguely aware that there’s a larger game coded around it. I remember doing that when I realized the original arcade game Donkey Kong was embedded in Donkey Kong 64.

      And I made sure to give Anubis II the treatment it deserved. Did you ever play that game out of morbid curiosity, or did you play something else DDI put out around the same time? If you’ve played Ninjabread Man, you’ve basically played Anubis II.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh you just gave me flashbacks to DK64. I remember that area vividly, having spent waaay too much time on that. I didn’t have the original NES so that was my first time playing the original Donkey Kong. What a great time I had! DK64 was essentially 2 games in one for me. I love Yakuza games for that same minigame reason. Especially Yakuza 0, I hadn’t tried any of those games before.

        I never played Anubis II and I pray I never will. I did play Ninjabread Man though! Very briefly. Me and my younger cousin stayed at my grans once and so he brought his Wii and 2 new games and I brought Smash Bros Brawl. The 2 games were Ninjabread Man and that Carnival Funfair Games. While playing his games, I was dying inside. There was a bit of an age gap and those games weren’t for me. I wasn’t going to tell him they were awful but I quickly suggested Brawl and he forgot about his games.

        So yeah, I have a small dose of your misery. Potent enough though 🙂


        • It is pretty amusing how Yakuza 0 features bowling. I bet it anyone going into the game didn’t see that coming. It kind of reminds me of one arthouse film I watched back in March in which I was taken aback when the main character went bowling at one point – it was a strange combination of being wildly out of place and highly fitting at the same time.

          Well, I didn’t go through too much misery seeing as how I didn’t buy either game for full price (in one case, I even donated to charity in the transaction). I can’t believe retailers actually put them on store shelves at any point. Indeed, I feel for your cousin and how either he or his parents actually bought Ninjabread Man new. And I know what you mean; you know the game is irredeemable, yet you haven’t the heart to tell him. I’m sure I’ve experienced that in some form as well. Judging by what I read about it, it looks like Carnival Funfair Games is an unremarkable, low-to-mid-tier effort.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yeah at least you got it cheap and like you said, you got a blog post out of it, a new experience and a donation so pretty good mileage really.

            The Wii was a minefield for bad games or shovel ware. If I was younger, I would have bought loads of bad games for the Wii. And I’ve played bad games in the past so I couldn’t scold him for his taste. At that age our quality sensors don’t function fully yet. Sometimes you can tell a games bad but other times you’re just blinded by the content being offered, especially if it’s something from a media we love, like a film. Or for me a TV show, The Simpsons Wrestling. I knew it was bad but I gave it more time than it deserved just because it was The Simpsons. You need to experience abysmal games to appreciate a good one though so it’s all a learning experience really. And yes the Carnival game was cheaply made and barely a game.

            Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha more like shock and horror every time I failed a QTE. I had some severe input lag issues at the time, so those moments were the death of me/Lara.

        I honestly can’t say I felt the same though. I think it’s probably because I never tried to be a video game character as a kid as much as I tried to be a comic book hero.

        Lara does turn out to be pretty bad-ass by the time the game is done. That dual-pistol moment at the end had me grinning like a fool.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Those stupid QTEs. I haven’t played the rebooted Tomb Raider, but everything other than the QTEs seems to suggest I’d like it quite a lot.

          I think I see where you’re coming from. Comic book heroes tend to be good regardless of who reads them. In video games, protagonists can claim to be the best of the best, which doesn’t match up when you (and I myself) die repeatedly. I remember when playing Metal Gear Solid and I was hoping to do the highly skilled Solid Snake justice the entire time.


    • The instant I saw those star ratings, one of my thoughts was “Oh no, Scott is not going to like this.” Sure enough, I was right!

      I actually had no idea what kind of post I was going to use those photos in. Considering the month in which I reviewed District 9 also happened to be the same month in which I began watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time, this ended up being highly fitting. The best part? I planned none of this in advance; the pieces just serendipitously fell into place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hahaha I am an easy person to figure out when it comes to stuff like this. It’s like whenever I see a list of ‘best games ever’ and DKC2 is absent, there are bound to be more than a few flipped over tables over that.

        The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of my favorite films (three of my favorites, technically). I hope you enjoy them. While many claim Fellowship to be the best entry, I actually think LotR is an extremely rare example of each subsequent entry being better than the last. Again, hope you find some enjoyment out of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Thanks much for the inclusion!

    Metroid: Samus Returns still makes me think quite seriously about getting a 3DS, but I just don’t know that I have the time or money to fall back into that handheld rabbit hole. Even though the game’s not perfect, it’s tempting. The Metroid Prime just didn’t do it for me; my hat is firmly in the 2D Metroid ring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! As I said, I feel games don’t have to be fun to be good, but it helps (if that makes any sense).

      Anyway, if you’re interested in getting a 3DS for Samus Returns, I’d say make sure there are other games you might be interested in checking out as well. Then again, I can’t really think of an instance in which getting a console just for one game is an economically sound idea. Otherwise, I have to say the Metroid Prime trilogy more than did it for me (for the 3D installment that didn’t, see Metroid: Other M), though Super Metroid is still a great game.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not that I don’t think Metroid Prime is a good game — it certainly is — it’s just not the “Metroid” for me. Nostalgia plays heavily into my love of Super Metroid; it’s something I don’t carry for the 3D games.

        When I had my Nintendo DS, it was absolutely my primary means of gaming for several years. So I know that if I got a 3DS, I’d likely hide under it for another several years, as there are so many good games for it available. My mind shudders at the thought!

        Liked by 1 person

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