Saturday, 15 April 2017

Three Great Plot Twists In Three Great Video Games

While there has always been a large number of video games that have been entirely focused on action and spectacle, or simply on pure entertaining, it would also be fair to say that there has also always been video games that have attempted to explore the possibility of telling engaging stories within this interactive medium.

It's an aspect of our strange little hobby that might not be appreciated by those who do not share it, of course. But, for those of us who have devoted too many hours to playing video games, there are bound to be any number of video games that have impressed us with the quality of its writing, or its cast of characters, or the basic structure of its plot. There may even be examples of video games which affected those who played them in a much more profound way than simply providing a few hours of entertainment.

Sure, you could make the argument that none of this would make necessarily allow video games to be classified as 'art' (although, even on this point, it might be possible to come up with a list of games that would suggest otherwise) - but, that's hardly the point. As a medium for story-telling, video games have always had the same potential as films, books, and television.

Take, for example, that classic story-telling device known as the plot-twist – that sudden moment of revelation intended to catch you by surprise, and to completely change the feel of the story. In books and film, a well-done plot-twist can become the main talking point for fans. And, in the world of video games, there are examples that are just as good as anything you can find in any other medium - three of which I fully intend to blatantly spoil below, so consider yourselves warned.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E17 - 'Aruba'

The first season of Legends of Tomorrow may have had its share of issues, but the series had still managed to pull off a very entertaining final episode. The whole idea of the Legends being required to divide their forces, as they took on different versions of Vandal Savage at different points in time, had made for a very impressive, and very creative, action sequence which had even managed to go some way toward redeeming the first season's often underwhelming central narrative. I still didn't really care about any of the convoluted drama between Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Vandal Savage, of course – but, at least the characters did receive a memorable send-off.

Of course, the second season of Legends of Tomorrow has felt very different. The trio of villains who had been brought together to challenge the Legends have been so entertaining, whenever they are on-screen, that the season has always felt a little bit weaker whenever the focus wasn't placed on them. That's actually the exact opposite of how I often felt while watching the first season – and, it definitely indicates a fairly significant improvement for the series, as a whole.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E16 - 'Doomworld'

Personally, I've always appreciated stories that are willing to let the villains achieve a decisive victory. It's not necessarily that I actually want the villains to win outright, of course (although, that can be entertaining when it is done well) – but, instead, it really has more to do with actually allowing the villains of story to appear to be both formidable and effective. In a story where the villains never actually win, or never even seem to come close to achieving any sort of victory, the entire conflict can start to feel a little one-sided.

The Legion of Doom, for example, have been a very entertaining part of the second season of Legends of Tomorrow – but, as the season has progressed, the odd sense that they are actually the underdogs in the story has only seemed to grow stronger. This came to a head with the opening sequence of the previous episode, when we saw the Legends not only manage to locate Eobard Thawne's base of operations, but also successfully steal the last piece of the Spear of Destiny right out from under the nose of the villainous speedster.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Film Review - 'Ghost in the Shell'

While I would never call myself the most devoted fan of Japanese animation, I could still list plenty of examples of different films and series that I have genuinely enjoyed over the years – some of which even having managed to leave a lasting impression. High up on that list is, of course, the original Ghost in the Shell animated film, released in 1995 – a film which managed to impress me with both its strong sense of world-building, and its story-telling (the deliberately slow pace it set did test the patience of my younger self the first time I saw it, admittedly – but, it grew on me).

So, perhaps understandably, the whole idea of a live-action American remake is something that I have always approached with some degree of trepidation. Not because I have any real issue with the idea of a live-action American remake, of course (in fact, I have been sincerely hoping that the film would turn out well) – but, mostly out of concern that the whole endeavour would be fumbled in some way. This is, of course, exactly what seems to have happened – though, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E18 - 'Abra Kadabra'

Throughout the third season of The Flash, much of the central narrative has seemed to center on the questions of exactly who Savitar really is, and what he has planned for Barry Allen – which are, basically, exactly the same questions that we had with the previous central villains of previous seasons. Despite the writers' best efforts, and some genuinely great moments, it just isn't something I have found to be terribly interesting.

In fact, it has even seemed that Savitar works much better as a vague, and distant, threat than he has as a primary focus. The character, himself, might not be all that interesting, for example, but the lingering threat of his eventual murder of Iris West has provided a strong sense of focus as we move toward the season finale.

More than anything, it seems that this threat is also at the heart of the season's eighteenth episode – as a new villain from the pages of the comic-books makes his first appearance. Abra Kadabra (David Dastmalchian), as he calls himself, is a flamboyant show-man from the distant future, who uses highly advanced technology in a way that appears to be magic.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E17 - 'Distant Sun'

So, in the end, it seems that the whole point of the musical cross-over episode of The Flash was simply to bring a quick, and decisive, end to the romantic difficulties that both heroes were currently going through. By the end of that episode, Barry had been moved to propose to Iris once more – and, with this episode of Supergirl, it seems that Kara and Mon-El's issues have also been resolved. While, in the previous episode, it had seemed as though the sense of betrayal Kara felt at being deceived about Mon-El's true identity had created an insurmountable obstacle for the two, it now seems that Kara's recent experiences have given her a new-found perspective (I do have to wonder who all of this would come across to someone who only watches Supergirl – but, it's become increasingly clear that this just isn't a concern for the creators).

While I don't have any real issue with the whole idea of this latest romantic conflict being resolved so quickly, I to have to admit that I am a little disappointed by the fact that the interesting moral aspect of the whole dilemma has also been brushed aside. For me, at least, the revelation concerning Mon-El's true identity, as the prince of Daxam, also raised some interesting questions concerning exactly how culpable Mon-El actually was in how that corrupt society was run, and the extent to which he benefited from it. It's possible that future episodes might focus a little more attention of that aspect of Mon-El's background, of course – but, it certainly doesn't happen in this episode.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E15 - 'Fellowship of the Spear'

The appearance of George Lucas, earlier in the season, had served as the basis for a remarkably strange, and very entertaining, episode of Legends of Tomorrow. Making good use of the central conceit that it was actually the time-travelling adventures of the Legends which had, indirectly, inspired some of his greatest creations, the episode had managed to have a lot of fun with its homage to both the director, himself, and his films. It was an episode that even managed to culminate with a scene featuring George Lucas being tossed into trash compactor, alongside the Legends – in what would have to be one of the most purely fan-pleasing moments of the entire series, so far.

It had been a fun episode, overall – though, with that in mind, I do have to admit that it feels a bit strange to see the series retread that familiar ground again, so soon. Instead of George Lucas, though, the real-life celebrity who finds himself drawn into the Legends' wacky adventures is J. R. R. Tolkien. Much like with Lucas's appearance, the episode isn't too shy about using the author's greatest work for inspiration while, at the same time, strongly implying that it may have actually been the Legends who inspired that great work.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review - 'The Flash', S03E17 - 'Duet'

The Flash is far from the first series to every attempt a musical episode. But, with the truly impressive amount of musical talent on hand, within the casts of both this series and its CW siblings, it is probably fair to say that this musical cross-over is up there among the most highly demanded. With Grant Gustin and Melissa Benoist both being former cast-members of Glee, and with with so many other talented musical performers among the supporting cast, it actually makes perfect sense that some fans would wonder if this was something that might actually happen.

At the same time, though, there are bound to be plenty among the show's audience who simply don't like musicals – or, who regard the whole idea of a musical episode, especially of a show like The Flash, to be the worst sort of cheap and unnecessary gimmick. That's perfectly understandable, of course – and, to be honest, if that's where you find yourself, then this episode is probably going to feel like a bit of a chore.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review - 'Supergirl', S02E16 - 'Star-Crossed'

As someone who has never really been a fan of the way in which relationships, and romantic drama, has been handled on the CW's DC shows (or, if I'm being honest, on CW shows, in general), I can't say that I was all that thrilled about an episode that devotes itself not one, but two, plot-lines centred around romantic conflict. The overly melodramatic angst that usually results when the focus is placed on relationship drama has often been a source of frustration for me, in the past, after all. I suppose you can think of it as a personal bias of mine – one which I readily acknowledge.

Here, for example, we have a primary plot-line placed firmly on Kara and Mon-El – who, after sharing managing to share an entire scene of romantic bliss (as they binge-watch Game of Thrones, while eating ice cream), find their still relatively new relationship test, once more, by the arrival of Mon-El's parents. In a development which has already been hinted at, and which probably would not have been much of a surprise anyone in the audience even if it hadn't, it turns out that Mon-El isn't actually the palace guard whose life was spared by the prince of Daxam – he is, in fact, the prince of Daxam, himself.

Review - 'Iron Fist', S01E09 - 'The Mistress of All Agonies'

I suppose that any lingering concerns I may have had about the death of Harold Meachum can be laid to rest with the opening moments of the season's ninth episode – as we are shown, quite clearly, that he isn't actually dead, after all. Or, to be more precise, he was dead – but, now, he's back. It seems that Harold's previous experience of being brought back to life by the Hand has had some rather unexpected consequences – and, now, the implication is clearly that Harold Meachum simply can't be permanently killed.