‘It Takes You Away’ Is The Weirdest Episode Of the Season. I Can’t Decide If That’s a Compliment.

In this episode of Doctor Who, we travel to Norway, where the Doctor and her companions discover an isolated cabin, its doors and windows all barricaded. Its only inhabitant is a blind young girl named Hanne, who warns them that there’s some kind of monster in the woods outside, which broke into the house and stole her father away. When this episode opened, I hoped that we might be getting into some Norse monsters, which are awesome and terrifying. What I got instead was something far stranger.

Read more

The Witchfinders is a Mess…But a Fun Mess

Doctor Who travels back into the past once again, this time to 17th Century Lancashire, where the Doctor and her companions find themselves in the middle of an old-fashioned witch hunt. It’s an episode with a few too many moving parts, but which manages to be a lot of fun, especially by the standards of historical episodes, which I tend to not enjoy as much.

Read more

Kerblam! is a Fun Sci-Fi Romp, But it Gets a Bit Confused At The End

Series eleven of Doctor Who continues the trend of being substantially better when Chris Chibnall’s not getting a writing credit. Kerblam! is not a true classic, but it is an awful lot of fun, by turns funny and frightening, with a great spooky robot design and an actual mystery to solve. Ultimately, what holds the episode back from true greatness is an excess ambition without direction; it has pretensions at social commentary, but lacks a coherent political stance, making it all feel a bit confused and flimsy. Which is a shame, because apart from that, this really is a fun little show.

Read more

It Finally Happened

I’ve been waiting expectantly for this day to come. Finally, the eleventh series of Doctor Who has a properly good episode. Unlike much of this series, Demons of the Punjab is not merely adequate or mediocre, and while it is not as sweepingly ambitious as Rosa, it also dodges many of the problems that plague that episode. At last, Jodie Whittaker stars as the Doctor in an episode that I can feel good about recommending.

And all it took was Chris Chibnall not getting a writing credit for the first time this series. Bless.

Read more

This episode of Doctor Who is a high mark for this season…but only because of weak competition.

In The Tsuranga Conundrum, Chibnall-era Who has finally given me an episode that left me feeling satisfied at the end. That’s not to suggest that this is a particularly good or memorable episode; in another season, this would be a middle-of-the-road piece, neither a favorite nor hated. But I wasn’t bored or put off by this episode, and for this season, that makes it stand out.

Read more

The Webcomics Ouevre of Mary Cagle

Since the launch of Kiwi Blitz in 2009, Mary Cagle (alias CubeWatermelon, which is an adorable moniker) has been hitting the internet with comic pages. She followed up Kiwi Blitz, a still-running comic about teenagers fighting crime with a giant avian robot, with Let’s Speak English, an autobiographical gag comic about her time teaching English in Japan, and most recently Sleepless Domain, a unique and delightful comic about Magical Girls who protect their city from monsters in the wee hours of the night. Her comics are notable for their gorgeous colors (LSE, which is uncolored, excepted), distinctive characters, and round cartoon style. Although none of these have exploded in popularity like some of the classic webcomics of old (although, really, what has? Has any webcomic really blown up since Homestuck took off like a rocket?), I discovered all three within about a year of each other, and I’ve enjoyed them greatly, which inspired me to do one big post reviewing all three.

I struggled to decide what order to discuss them in, because the order I read them in is completely different from the order of publication, and each one has colored my view of the one that I read next. In the end, I decided to review them in the order I found them in: Let’s Speak English, then Sleepless Domain, and then finally Kiwi Blitz.

Read more

Hitman Review

Hitman: Enter a World of Assassination

I’m not going to beat around the bush: I love the new Hitman game. It is an absolutely fantastic return to form for the series after the deeply flawed Absolution. It combined the things Absolution did right with an infusion of the series’ core gameplay flow, and some of the best level design in the series thus far. If you’re a fan of the series, or are looking for a jumping-on point, you should definitely buy it.

Read more

Hitman: Absolution Review

Hitman: Absolution

Important Note: the contents of this post were written in 2014 for a series of tumblr posts analyzing Hitman: Absolution and why it failed so hard. I intend to refer to it heavily in my upcoming review of 2016’s Hitman: Season One, and am not particularly happy with how tumblr handles long text posts, so I’m republishing it here and reformatting it into a single post.

01. Introduction

The latest title in IO Interactive’s long-running and much-acclaimed Hitman series, Hitman: Absolution, was fairly controversial on release. Although it reviewed about as well as previous entries into the series (it brought in high-seventies to low-eighties on Metacritic, depending on the platform, whereas Hitman: Blood Money rated low-eighties; Hitman 2: Silent Assassin came in in the high-eighties range but was also released all the way back in 2002, so the numbers may not be perfect comparable), many devotees of the series were profoundly disappointed, even angry, about changes made to the series’ formula, to the point that IO Interactive started the development of the next Hitman title with an open letter promising a return to form. But in the meantime, it’s worth looking back at Absolution, a few years after its release, and asking: was it really as bad as all that? Was it really as broken as its detractors claimed it to be?

Spoiler alert: Yeah, it kind of was. What’s more interesting is why. Closer examination reveals that although some of the game’s problems were unique to it, many others were not. Rather, these flaws were minimized by the level design in previous games, whereas in Absolution the levels emphasized these faults and made them stand out. In this post, I will be looking at the game in three areas (Narrative, Game Systems, and Level Design) to try and clearly express what sets Absolution apart from its predecessors and why it comes up short in the process. Click on the read more for an introduction to my perspective and the context in which I will be writing.

Read more