May 2021 in Summary: Spring Forward

marooned-on-mars-pogo

With so many people getting vaccinated, things seem to be picking back up. Here’s hoping this momentum continues.


Films watched in May 2021:

In theaters:

  • <None>

At home:

  • Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962)
  • Help! (Richard Lester, 1965)
  • Insomnia (Erik Skjoldbjærg, 1997)
  • Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor, 1923)
  • Insomnia (Christopher Nolan, 2002)

Between watching the classic Cape Fear, the classic Beatles film Help!, and both versions of Insomnia, it was a quite the interesting month for my home-viewing experiences.

Safety Last! is one of those films where even if you haven’t seen it, there’s a 99.9% chance you’ve seen a reenactment of its most famous scene. Indeed, if anyone is asked to name a scene from a silent film, there’s a good chance they would pull the iconic one from this film – even if they don’t know it by name. It’s definitely worth a watch, and best of all, it’s in the public domain, so you can see it for free on the internet easily enough.

And if it’s one thing I really like about Christopher Nolan’s take on Insomnia, it’s that he didn’t settle for creating a 1:1 remake of Erik Skjoldbjærg’s film. There are similar story beats, but he goes in a rather different direction from the original. Both are worth watching, but I personally liked Mr. Nolan’s version just a little bit better.


Commander Keen 1 - Done

Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons – Episode One: Marooned on Mars

Marooned on Mars is yet another one of those “great when it was released, unimpressive now” deals. In some ways, I kind of liken it to the original Bubsy in how it managed to bring a unique experience to a group of gamers who otherwise didn’t have access to it (it was about the closest thing SNES players had to a genuine Sonic experience at the time). Granted, by virtue of having a cohesive (if bland) level design, Marooned on Mars is by far the better game.

I also have more respect for Marooned on Mars simply because, unlike Bubsy, it had a definitively positive impact on the medium. Bubsy’s was a flash-in-the-pan success that died the exact second the mascot-with-‘tude platformer did. Conversely, while id Software’s later titles such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are more directly responsible for making PC gaming a force to be reckoned with, Commander Keen was a necessary first step towards realizing those projects. Just giving a PC game the ability to scroll was huge back in 1990. Someone had to set a precedent, and while I think other PC developers would have figured it out eventually, it helped to have a programming wizard such as John Carmack speed up the process.

That being said, while it is a somewhat overlooked part of gaming history that I think deserves a bit more credit (being overshadowed id’s later accomplishments), Marooned on Mars is absolutely not an essential experience these days. I find early PC games were at their best when they weren’t even trying to replicate what worked on consoles because the standard PC setup was absolutely not conducive for your average platformer. The PC platform would eventually outpace consoles in terms of sheer technical innovation, but it would take them a few more years to get there. Therefore, to play this game now would be to witness every single one of those growing pains firsthand.


Featured articles:

Wizarding Woes – Maybe it’s just me, but it always seems like the worst conservatives are former liberals. I wonder if it’s because those kinds of conservatives tend to come across as the most spiteful having been with it, and now being shocked/bitter that the world didn’t stay exactly the same as it was during the days of their relevance? In any case, it’s always a real shame to see someone with a lot of prestige throw in the towel like that – such as the case with J.K. Rowling. Megan’s take on the wizarding world was certainly a somber one.

Bubsy 3D: The Tremendously Bad PlayStation Platformer – Bubsy 3D is a much more tragic game than I think most people realize. Even so, its reputation as one of the worst games ever made is a deserve one, as Mr. Wapojif points out in his take.

DOOM 2016 Review: Testosterone the Game – In his take on the 2016 Doom, Alex makes the case that the game is proud to be a high-octane thrill, which is the kind of self-confidence I think more development teams could use, quite frankly.

Hellsing (Vol. 1) by Kohta Hirano – The deluxe editions of Hellsing have been released (with the third volume on its way later this month), and Lashaan Balasingam of Bookidote takes a look at the first one in his interesting take on the franchise.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap – After having previously checked out Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, Matt of Nintendobound revisits Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, the remake of the series’ fourth (?!) entry.

Rhyme like a Rolling Stone! The Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 6(e); Characters-Koromaru, Ken, and Shinjiro – In his deep retrospective of Persona 3, Aether ponders a question that has confounded critics for decades: why would they include a child character in a story not optimized for them?


Links to my articles:

Game reviews:

Other posts:

10 thoughts on “May 2021 in Summary: Spring Forward

  1. Thanks for the tag!

    Reading your thoughts on early PC gaming made me want to give a couple of game sin my backlog a go – Wasteland and Daggerfall mainly – as I’ve always had them and wanted to play them, but always decide to put it off the moment my mouse hovers over the play button.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I did play Daggerfall awhile ago, and I was surprised how ambitious of a game it was for 1996 (and less surprised to learn that, true to Bethesda form, it was super buggy/borderline unplayable when it was first released). I’d say it’s worth looking into if you’re a fan of the Elder Scrolls series.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! Glad I was able to point you in that direction. The Wonder Boy series is certainly an interesting one, being a series that really reinvented itself with each installment. However, I’d say the only other worthwhile game to check out would be Monster World IV, which is apparently about to receive a remake.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember liking Insomnia a long time ago when I saw it, but I saw the Nolan remake — I didn’t know it came from a Norwegian original. Makes sense considering the theme of living in the extreme north. I’ve always wanted to travel up that far, either to Alaska or Scandinavia; the farthest north I’ve been I think was England once. I hear depression is a special problem up there because of the short days in winter.

    Never seen Help! or any of the Beatles’ other films aside from a few very weird clips from Magical Mystery Tour (which from what I understand is that whole movie pretty much.) I do like the Beatles though, so might be good to check out. Cape Fear is another classic I haven’t seen, though I have seen the Simpsons’ parody of it.

    J. K. Rowling’s bizarre turn really caused problems for her, and for good reason. I was never into Harry Potter, but I can see why people like it so much. I think it’s pretty easy to separate the creator from their art in cases like this, where it’s probably not as personal as it might be. You’re right that former liberals are the worst types of conservatives — they always seem to have that special fervor that converts have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yup! Despite that, the Nolan version really goes in a different direction from the original, so I’d still say the latter is worth checking out (though for what it’s worth, I feel the remake is better). Still, it is interesting seeing the Norwegian culture shine through in the original. The furthest north I’ve been is Victoria, British Colombia, which is rather mild considering how far up north it is. I’m kind of the opposite; I find I tend to gravitate towards warmer climates. That depression is a special problem for people who live that far up north suggests it would really take a hardy person to live there, huh?

      I suspect The Simpsons ended up being a gateway for a lot of people to many older films (Cape Fear included) given their early tendency to parody/reference classics. It’s how I myself learned of Cape Fear. I can easily recommend both Help! and A Hard Day’s Night, though I haven’t seen Magical Mystery Tour yet. Apparently, it did so poorly upon its initial release that they didn’t bother keeping the negatives, meaning those clips were all that was left – at least until 2012 when Apple Corps announced a digital restoration on Blu-Ray. It may be worth checking out.

      The problem with Rowling is that, like many visionaries, she cultivated a liberal audience. Liberal audiences generally abide by an ethos of self-improvement, so their changing beliefs are the result of realizing that certain aspects of older works don’t really hold up that well (and the opposite – finding value in older works contemporary audiences dismissed). That’s one reason conservatives resent liberals so much; their own beliefs are a snapshot of the exact place they decided to plant their flag, so when societal values change, they often lash out at those who dare point out the emperor is naked. Former liberals such as Rowling just happened to plant their flags further down the road. The belief that transwomen don’t count as women is an aspect of older feminist beliefs that really didn’t age well when our understanding of transsexualism (and gender in general) became more sophisticated.

      And I find the reason former liberals tend to be the worst is because their new beliefs tend to be driven by a kind of pure spite that you don’t always get with the conservatives who held such beliefs from the beginning. It’s kind of the ideological equivalent of selling out, and while selling out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is an incredibly bad long-term move when it doesn’t work out because then you realize you just burned all of your artistic bridges and are well and truly stuck with what you’ve got. Also, maybe it’s just me, but they tend to act like they got the soul sucked out of them or were replaced with an automaton of some kind; sort of evokes the Uncanny Valley effect in extreme cases.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I think I’d only like to visit those places, and then only in the summer. It certainly takes a special type to do well in those climates I think, especially if you’re not raised in them and used to them. I used to think I was that type, but not anymore. I used to prefer cold weather, but as I get older I come to appreciate warm weather more. Though I’m not quite at the age yet to complain about my joints, and hopefully I won’t have to do that for a while.

        I remember that trans issues weren’t even on the map 10=20 years ago, at least from what I could tell. I get the impression that Rowling and types like her would claim that they were the ones left behind by liberals as a way to justify their current positions. Which is true in a sense — but in these cases, it’s their fault for not keeping up. Not really the badge of honor some of them try to make it out to be.

        I know what you mean about that Uncanny Valley feeling. I remember a couple of journalists, including a legal expert, going from more moderate or even relatively non-political positions over to very conservative ones on Fox News, and this seems to have happened to them. Like one of the contractual terms was that you give up your soul. Figuratively, at least, that seems to be just what they did.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Incredibly late here, but thanks for the shout out as always! And yeah, Commander Keen, for whatever quality issues it may have, had the benefit of timing and scarcity enough to become a fixture in gaming history. Bubsy, it doesn’t really make sense to me why that game’s become a thing. It came out in a time when there were those ‘mascot with a ‘tude’ platformers all over, so many things copying the style, if not the substance of Sonic. It’s more prominent looking back on things, but at the time, I really don’t think it stood out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! And yes, while it was overshadowed by Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Commander Keen’s impact on gaming history is a lasting one (if not as obvious as those genre-defining games), and it has a secure place in the books for what it accomplished. And yeah, speaking retrospectively, I’m not entirely sure why Bubsy became a thing either. At the end of the day, his games really weren’t any better than the dime-a-dozen Sonic ripoffs at the time (in fact, one could make a serious argument he was worse off than many of them save Awesome Possum). I can only conclude that the character managed to fit in well with the early-to-mid 1990s zeitgeist, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. Whatever the case may be, once that era of gaming came to a close, it took down the franchise’s relevance with it.

      Liked by 1 person

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