Hello my fellow human beings who like to stare at a screen while interacting with fictional things via the medium of controllers, keyboards and mice! It’s time for another Weekend Whammy where I spout a bunch of words that may or may not make much sense. Probably the first one.
I finally got some reviews up! Can you believe my last one was in early December of 2019? Jeez! Anyway, the first review was for The Last Autumn, an expansion for Frostpunk. Frostpunk is already one of my favourite strategy games, and The Last Autumn only made it better by adding in a bunch of new mechanics and buildings, keeping the core of how Frostpunk plays intact but creating something that feels very, very different.
And then I chucked out a review for Journey to the Savage Planet, an interesting adventure game set on a vibrant alien planet. Looking at all the other reviews that came out it seems I’m in the minority. It got a lot of high praise from some pretty big sites. Personally, I thought it was a good time. Nothing amazing, but still fun with some good ideas and lovely visuals. It handles exploration very well, and has a nice sense of progression.
I’ve found myself really getting back into Forza Horizon 4, competing in all the Forzathon challenges and events and generally just having fun cruising around in breathtaking cars. Lamborghini’s are my thing right now, largely because the prize cars in the current Forzathon season are Lambos, but I did also upgrade a beach buggy into a beast that accelerates so hard the entire rear end dips down and you end up with no steering. Good stuff.
In Horizon 4 I also wound up doing the LaRacer series of missions which are based around a Youtuber coming to the Horizon racing festival in order to list her top 10 favourite cars from videogames. Naturally you get to drive them all, and the list even hits some classics like Crazy Taxi and Project Gotham Racing. But in my opinion there was one car missing from the list: the Buick Skylark from the original Driver on Playstation. I became absurdly intimate with that car, especially because back in the day I didn’t have a memory card so I had to constantly repeat the brutally hard tutorial. People cite Dark Souls as being a challenge, but that’s nothing compared to completing a list of manoeuvrers in a tight car park while racing against the clock. It was so worth the effort, though. That Skylark felt fantastic to drive around the city streets.
(Fun fact, all the corners in Driver were 90-degrees. Curved roads didn’t appear until Driver 2, which was a bloody awesome game, too.)
Speaking of which, when are we getting Driver back, Ubisoft? The last proper entry in the series was 2011’s Driver: San Francisco which was actually pretty good and according to Ubisoft exceeded their sales expectations. Sadly the game got delisted in 2016, so outside of pre-owned physical copies you can’t buy it.
Outside of Forza Horizon 4 I’ve been playing the crap out of Darksiders: Genesis, the top-down hack ‘n slasher that introduces Strife as a playable character for the first time. And honestly, it’s really, really good. Going in I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it has great combat, fun puzzles, a decent story and a nice levelling/loot system. It’s longer than I expected, too – I’ve put in about 10-hours and haven’t reached the end yet. Plus, I can see myself ramping up the difficulty and replaying earlier levels to make War and Strife more powerful.
The Darksiders series is such a strange one to think about, in that we’ve had four games now and they’ve all been wildly different. The first Darksiders drew a lot of inspiration from the Zelda games, while Darksiders 2 tried out a bigger world and a randomly generated loot system. Darksiders 3 went down a Metroidvania route with some light Dark Souls elements. And now finally, Genesis is a top-down RPG-adventure with some Diablo thrown in for good measure. It’s a crazy series, and one that I’m happy to see still going relatively strong.
Anyway, I still think I’ll be doing a full review of Darksiders: Genesis, but for now I’ll say that I totally think it’s worth playing. I don’t think it would have made my list of the top ten games of 2019, but it probably would have gotten itself an honourable mention.
Leaving games for a moment I caught the first episode of Picard, the new Star Trek series that has Patrick Steward reprising his role of Jean Luc Picard. I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Picard remains my favourite Star Trek captain to this day, so having Patrick Stewart come back for another run as the legendary man is a wonderful dose of nostalgia.
But what of the actual TV show? Based on the first episode, I think it has promise. Now, I do find the fact that the beautiful Utopia of the original Star Trek seems to be gone painful. I loved that The Next Generation presented an Earth that had got its shit together and was trying to bring humans and aliens together. But at the same time, I can understand why the new Picard series has dirtied that concept a little. In this show the Romulan home-world has been destroyed, and so many Romulan refugees have taken up residence on Earth, which some humans are unhappy about given that the Romulans were once enemies. It’s an unsubtle attempt to connect the sci-fi world of Star Trek with our own and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.
Outside of that, the rest of the first episode was a blast to watch. There was some fun action, some terrific acting and the ending has me genuinely intrigued. just hope they don’t try to ram too much into the season as there were quite a few plot points already in just the first episode that could make the first season a little too busy if the writers aren’t careful.
In film news I recently watched Taika Waititi’s latest effort, JoJo Rabbit. In summary, it’s a film following a young boy in Germany during the second World War. This lad is a member of the Hitler Youth, which was something all German were forced to go to and where they were basically brainwashed into believing Jews were evil, Hitler was great and all that horribly stuff. JoJo Rabbit is a satire, where little JoJo has an imaginary Adolf Hitler as his best friend and then suddenly finds out that his mum has been harbouring a Jewish girl.
Truthfully, words can’t do justice to JoJo Rabbit. As a comedy it is utterly hilarious and it had me in stitches countless times. At the same time it’s based in a terrifying reality, and many of the comedic things it depicts were also real. Children really were brainwashed. Young boys were taught to fight. Young girls were shown how to bear children, and sometimes came home pregnant. They were all taught to report their parents, family and friends if they suspected them of being traitors. And toward the end of the war, these kids were given guns and put on the frontlines. The film doesn’t shy away from this, and so you get this amazing blend of hilarity, meloncholy and thoughtfullness.
It’s cliche to say this, but JoJo Rabbit was a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I laughed, I felt awkward, I felt sad, I nearly fucking cried, I laughed some more, I felt hope, I felt despair and most of all I reflected on one of the worst periods in history. I’ve seen so many online reactions to this movie saying that it somehow glorifies the Nazis, or that we shouldn’t be making light of such a topic as the murder of Jews and the brainwashing of children. These people are morons. Humour is the best thing we can do against something like Nazi idealogies: we should laugh at them, and their ideas and the stupidity of how they think. JoJo Rabbit doesn’t make fun of what happened. It makes fun of the Nazis, while ensuring that we remember what did happen. Most of all, it tells us that we need to remember our history so that we never, ever allow it to happen again.
Quite simply, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in years. I urge you to watch it, because if it hits you anything like it hit me then you’re in for one of the most heartfelt, funny movie experiences you’ll ever have.
And with that, I’m going to sign off. Take care, everyone!