Monsters Present…Rapid Reviews! (August 2014)

Andrew Fultz

This is going to be hard. If my writing is one thing, it’s too long, so our Rapid Review series is a great monthly column that will push my limits. If writing is to be like a skirt as last month’s Rapid Reviewer, Jarred, suggested, then I like all my skirts to be luxurious, 90’s-styled, and overly-long wedding gowns. But hey, it’s 2014 and I’m occasionally called a millennial, so I’m open to new things. I’ll try one of those new mini-skirts, as long as we’re only talking mid-thigh. Deal?

And with that awkward mental image, here are this month’s Rapid Reviews:

 

Photo: Sony
                  Photo: Sony

The Last of Us: Remastered (PS4)

The world rightfully swooned for this game when it released for PS3 last year. Everything that can be said about it has already been said in some way or another. In a world where we are over-saturated with post-apocalyptic settings, The Last of Us manages to feel fresh and exciting. For me, perhaps the highest praise should be given to its pacing. Naughty Dog manages to bring you to the point that you simply can’t take any more of the tense, grinding gameplay, and then hands you an enemy-free exploration section to relieve all the tension that was mounted. I really can’t say enough for how difficult that must be to accomplish, and how expertly they executed it.

That said, The Last of Us: Remastered is the definitive version to play. If you missed it on PS3 and have a PS4, this is a must-buy. If you’re wondering which new-gen console to buy and exclusive content is the deciding factor, this is the exclusive that wins the argument for Sony, again provided you haven’t already played it. Even if you have played it though, the Left Behind DLC is included (and is excellent), as well as developer and voice actor commentary during cutscenes. Add to that 1080p and 60 FPS and you have a remaster worth owning.

Get it if you haven’t bought it. Play it if you haven’t touched it. Talk about it if you’ve finished it. It’s that good.

 

Photo: ABC
                          Photo: ABC

Scandal (ABC/Netflix)

Netflix binging has become something of a cultural rite of passage these days. Whether you’ve broken bad or built card houses, you’ve most likely lost sleep and probably even a weekend to a specific TV series. Recently, my wife and I started watching Scandal, and while I can’t give it a glowing recommendation (Olivia Pope is no Walter White), I can say that I recommend it. It’s a good show that will occasionally lay on the cheese and more than occasionally provide ridiculous plotlines/holes, but if you have a moderate to high suspension of disbelief, it’s worth checking out.

Best part: As you could guess, scandalous things happen in the show. When those things happen, I look over to my wife and whisper, “scaaandaaaalouussss.” Loving the show more than me, she is only slightly amused, but it brings me great joy.

 

Photo: Scholastic
   Photo: Scholastic

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books)

I have a thing to brag about. I know nothing of the Harry Potter series. Not the books, not the movies, not the awkward erotic fan fiction. Nothing. Sure, I know he’s a wizard and that Hogwarts is his school and Hedwig is his owl. Of course, I know it’s something of a cultural phenomenon. But that’s it! That’s all I got! So why is that something to brag about? Because I get to experience it all for the first time. Aren’t you jealous? I know people who are jealous.

I started my journey through Hogwarts this month, and I have to say the hype is warranted. Probably what has impressed me the most is how easily J. K. Rowling could have used lazy, boring tropes and hasn’t. There are certainly still some tropes in there, but they’re not as bad as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians (which for the record, I love). And while the pacing has been rather slow through Book 1, I expect that Rowling is just taking her time fleshing out the world and its inhabitants. Anyway, I’m all in with HP and looking forward to the ride.

You can follow my random, barely funny thoughts as I slowly trudge through these seven books on Twitter: @afultz7 or #HPLiveTweets

 

Photo: Spike/Aksys Games
Photo: Spike/Aksys Games

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) (Nintendo DS/3DS)

If you’re a sucker for a video game with a story, tape down the F5 key on your keyboard and go find a copy of this game right now. Plenty of games set out to write long, sweeping narratives with tons of twists and shocking revelations, but very, very few accomplish that goal at the level that 999 does. Forcing multiple play throughs to get to the true ending, the writers hide more than a few hints to truth in the paths leading to the game’s five other endings, and you still won’t figure it all out. Once I got to the true ending, I definitely had one of those “Why I didn’t I see that coming?!” moments.

Aside from the sweeping narrative, the gameplay is based on locking you in rooms and forcing you to figure a way out using abstract point-and-click puzzles, a little bit of math, and probably a walkthrough guide. Though a guide isn’t recommended since the puzzles are never too daunting, and they make you feel like a genius when you figure them out. It’s not a perfect game, but it is a great experience.

The true 999 experience is only available on Nintendo DS. If you don’t have a DS (or a 3DS) or have no interest in the puzzle solving portion of the game, an interactive visual novel version was recently released on iOS. Do yourself a favor and find a way to experience it.

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