Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Camp by Childish Gambino:
Childish Gambino is the rap name for actor/comedian, Donald Glover. He gets a few clever lines into his rhymes, but overall, I found his comedy more enjoyable than his rapping. The album is musically all over the place without much cohesion, and I found it hard to divorce his Community / stand-up persona from the sound of his voice.

Final Grade: C-

Dexter, Season Eight:
I'd heard a lot of doom and gloom surrounding this season beforehand, but it wasn't as bad as expected. Sure, it had the usual batch of go-nowhere side plots, unnecessary narration, new characters we don't care about taking screen time from old characters, character actions that don't make sense for the character, and things that happened only to drive the plot (the stupid treadmill scene, and the fact that a wanted fugitive never thinks to dye her hair, or maybe wear sunglasses) but these have been visible warts of the series for several seasons now. This final season trucked along, maintaining my interest, but never reaching any of the broodingly intense high points of early seasons. And when the screen faded to black, I turned to Rebecca and said something along the lines of, "Well that wasn't amazing, but it was about as good as they could have ended it with what they had to work with."

Then, of course, the show went all Lord of the Rings and faded back in to give us ANOTHER ending -- a nonsensical, illogical, silent montage that negated any emotional payoff from the previous ending. Worthless. Do yourself a favor and stop the DVD at the fade-out.

Final Grade: B-

Dexter, The Series:
My favourite seasons in no particular order were 1, 2, 4, and 7. 5 and 6 could have been compressed into a single forgettable season, and 8 just allowed the series to muddle into mediocrity.

Final Grade: A for the highs and D for the lows, averaging out to about a B-

Borderlands 2 DLC:
I greatly enjoyed the original Borderlands 2 last year and picked up its various add-on packs (DownLoadable Content) in a Steam Sale before Christmas. These expansions add extra maps and storylines to the game, offering a few extra hours of entertainment in each case. Ultimately, the success of each expansion depends completely on the writing -- if you are already tired of the core mechanics, you'll have to decide whether its worth slogging through them for the stellar writing:

  • Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate's Booty is a pleasant, brief excursion that feels very similar to the main game. It ends with good loot but lacks any resolution for the main antagonist.

    Final Grade: B-

  • Mister Torgue's Campaign of Carnage has a cookie-cutter plotline, but maintains your interest through an over-the-top narrator and fun mix of activities and locales. A few maps drag a little.

    Final Grade: B+

  • I burned out on Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt pretty quickly because the first half hour didn't grab me, and because some of the quest lines seem to rely on randomly-occurring events.

    Final Grade: D

  • Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep is perfect, and worth playing to the end, even if a few later levels drag. The writing and humour sparkle, and the plotline is made fresher by the fact that it brings back multiple original characters rather than just one or two. The conceit of the expansion pack is that the main characters happen to be playing a D&D campaign, but the dungeon master, Tiny Tina, is not very good at balancing the encounters. Watch the Launch Trailer to get a feel for the setting. The conclusion of the DLC is pitch perfect, and more heartfelt than one might expect.

    Final Grade: A

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