Thursday, January 02, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Hunger Games 2: Catching Fire (PG-13):
The second movie in the trilogy had a different director, and 100% less shaky-cam than the first -- this gets bonus points from me. The movie follows closely with the book, and although the second half is a little too contrived, it works to tie things together. I felt like the story fell apart in the third book, but enjoyed the second movie in spite of that foreshadowing.

Final Grade: B+

Alamo Drafthouse:
The Alamo is the "no talking / no texting" movie theatre with reserved seats and food and drink service during films. Our first experience there was great, although the cost adds up enough that you wouldn't want to come here every time. For people like us that only get to one or two movies a year though, it was worth the added cost. There is a decent selection of craft beers, and the food (including burgers and pizzas) is "overpriced but not bad". You can show up thirty minutes before the screening, and catch fun interviews and SNL skits related to the upcoming film. The only downside was that the servers bring you your check about thirty minutes before the film's end, which was distracting from the movie's climax. It would be better if you could just open a tab at the beginning.

Final Grade: A-

Humdinger by Nappy Roots:
As one of Nappy Roots' middle albums, this had a few good songs amidst decent but unmemorable ones. The hooks, as always, are catchy and will get stuck in your head.

Final Grade: B-

Fire Emblem: Awakening:
The Fire Emblem is a turn-based combat series, where surviving units grow stronger and gain experience between battles, but cannot be revived if they die during battle. I stumbled across this series back in the GameCube days, and got unexpectedly addicted to it. The learning curve is a little lower this time around, with plenty of tutorials and instruction screens, although some of the inner calculations still only make sense after experimentation. I enjoyed this game just as much as the others in the series, although if you spend too much time fighting optional battles, the ending levels are ridiculously easy with your overpowered army.

Final Grade: B+

Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds:
Somewhere between the classic Zelda games (like A Link to the Past and Minish Cap) and today, the series lost its way -- it focused less on puzzling fun and more on artistic cinematography of idiotic storylines that reused the same puzzle tropes every single time. The newest 3DS game is penance for all previous gaming woes. The game is closest in DNA to Link to the Past, but eliminates every single annoyance the series has ever had. For example:

  • All cutscenes longer than a few seconds can be skipped.
  • Puzzles give you space to experiment and don't get immediately spoiled with unnecessary hints.
  • There is a "collect 100 thingies" sidequest, but your map gives you the number of remaining thingies in each zone, and the thingies make noise as you get near them.
  • You don't earn items one at a time in dungeons. Instead, you can rent them all for a nominal fee near the beginning. I didn't have to rent the stupid boomerang at all.
  • 3D is intelligently incorporated so as not to be a frsutrating gimmick (with the exception of a single unnecessary mineshaft sequence).
Additionally, I enjoyed the fact that the musical score changes, adding more orchestration as you grow stronger and progress through the (passably interesting, and well localized) storyline. To be honest, I have nothing bad to say about the game. If you want to re-experience the familiar gameplay of Link to the Past with modern amenities, this is a must-play.

Final Grade: A+

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