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Monthly Archives: June 2011



What’s the Story?

Chell, the protagonist from the first game, wakes up after a long while in cryo storage and attempts to leave the Aperture Science labs. Along the way, she shoots portals at things, messes with physics in fun and interesting ways, and accidentally wakes up the A.I. she spent the first game killing…

And in the co-op campaign, you play two robots running through the portal testing chambers.


What’s the Problem?

Less Surprising

The first Portal came out of nowhere with a lot of fresh ideas.It was a game that effectively featured one voice actor, two characters, and mind-bending puzzles. It created a sense that it was you against the world; a world that was trying very hard to kill you.

In this one, there are a whole six voice actors. Chell has friends. The feel of unending isolation isn’t there so strongly, nor is the surprise at the bleak humour of the characters, or the shock when GLaDOS turns out to be lying to you (all in the name of Science, of course), or the creeping danger of when the test chambers turn out to be deadly. We’ve seen all those things before, so Portal 2 goes in a different direction.

Sorry, GLaDOS, but you have to share the villainship this time.

This time, it’s more like a “regular” game: there are other characters. Some with you, some against you. The game is longer, more detailed, but loses some of its simplistic charm.

That said, this isn’t a criticism. If the game tried to just deliver us Portal 1 again, we’d have…

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What’s the Story?

Bridging the gap between Star Wars Episode III and IV, this tells the story of Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice (he’s so secret, none of the thousands of Star Wars books or films have ever even mentioned him in passing. Shhhh!) as he hunts down the last of the Jedi and then forms the Rebel Alliance.


What’s the Problem?

I’ve read books by Sean Williams before. I’ve read novelisations before. The only reason for this book to be as it is is either

a) Sean Williams was given no scope to change or add anything, or

b) Sean Williams was too lazy to change or add anything.

Exactly the Damned Same

The main problem with The Force Unleashed book is that it is exactly the video game. As in, it seems Williams copy-and-pasted every line the characters say in the game and then added stage directions for where they’re standing and what they’re doing. There’s some superficial character backstory for Juno, but it’s nothing that you needed to know and nothing that impacts the story.

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What’s the Story?

It’s the wild west. Specifically, a town that’s just cropped up on what is supposed to be Indian land. Thus, no laws, no government. The whole place is run by Al Swearengen from his saloon.


What’s the Problem?

Deadwood is good. Very good. If you like series’ with diverse and conflicting characters, where no one is the Good Guy and no issue is black and white. The shades of grey are where this series exists and thrives.

Overarching Plot

There is none. Unlike pretty much every other TV series (specifically shorter-season or plot-driven ones like True Blood, Burn Notice, Dollhouse), Deadwood isn’t going anywhere in particular. Since there’s no big baddie, there’s nothing for the season to build toward at the end.

Partway through, you think perhaps the rival saloon that just opened up will be the highpoint of tension, but it isn’t. Soon Swearengen learns to get along with them for the most part. Then you think it might be the brewing war with the Chinese in the camp, but this, again, simmers down to nothing. Perhaps it will be the romance between Bullock and Garret? Maybe something to do with her father and her gold claim? Or…

Well, you get the point. There are a lot of stories here that could have been fashioned into a strong, dramatic season-ender. Instead they’re all dealt with individually. Even the challenge to the camp’s very existence is dealt with and left behind quickly.

Seriously? None of you guys has a story that takes more than 50 minutes to resolve?

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What’s the Story?

You remember how, at the end of At World’s End, Captain Jack Sparrow had that map and was heading for the Fountain of Youth? Yeah, well he’s still trying to get there. On the way, he encounters old enemies (Barbossa, sans one leg), old romances (Penelope Cruz), and new enemies (Blackbeard; the Spanish).

I should probably warn you before we go any further that At World’s End was my favourite of the Pirates films. So much backstabbing and double-crossing and crossed purposes and grand battles. So many characters all with their own agendas acting horribly in order to achieve their ends while inadvertantly (or advertantly) betraying one another. Ah… good times.


What’s the Problem?

There’s none of that here.



Here’s it in a nutshell: the first Pirates film was new, different, edgy, risky. A drunken pirate for a lead character? Scary skeletons in a kid’s film? Hell, a film based on a ride?

Now Pirates has a formula, and this film clings to it for dear life and ends up drowning them both.

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What’s the Story?

Charts the early years of Professor Xavier and Magneto’s friendships, how Xavier started his school for the gifted, why Magneto and Xavier parted ways.


What’s the Problem?

After the debacle that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I didn’t have high hopes for First Class. Turns out, though, that whatever they did wrong in Wolverine they realised and fixed. Xavier – let alone Magneto – is far more edgy and a bigger jerk than Logan ever was in Wolverine.

That’s not to say that the film is all doom and gloom. It’s not. There’s the usual lighthearted hijinks that ensue from teenagers with superpowers, but there’s also a surprising amount of off-screen violence. Magneto crushes two men’s heads in with their helmets, stabs a guy through the hand, there’s executions and torture and whatnot, but it’s never graphic or bloody and it usually happens just off-screen, giving you the shock of violence without actually seeing the violence.

This is sort of a film about a superhuman tracking down the Nazi who tortured him. It was never going to be all puppies and rainbows.

Not pictured: Nazi hunting, torture, Magneto.

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