Ratchet and Clank
I’ve been a fan of the Ratchet and Clank series since the first game came out on the PS2. Up Your Arsenal was one of my favorite games as a kid, Tools of Destruction was one of my favorites when the PS3 came out, Crack in Time was my first platinum trophy, and Into the Nexus was my fifth. The series has had some bumps along the way (I’m looking at you, All4One), but by and large, the high quality of the games has remained. This new Ratchet and Clank is based on the upcoming movie, which is based on the original game. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry. You don’t need to have had any experience with the series, and the game makes several nods to its funny reboot/remake/reimaging nature.
If you’re already a fan of the series, you’ll love this game. It has the same silly sense of humor, the same fun weapons, the same great combat, and it looks absolutely stunning. I can say without hyperbole that this is one of the best looking video games that I’ve ever played. However, on the opposite side of the coin, if you’ve played the previous games and are feeling burnt out, I’m not sure this one will bring you back. Everything feels very familiar, despite some small changes. While I still love the weapons, I wish there had been more new options thrown in. And after the brilliant Clank “clone” puzzles in Crack in Time, the new ones feel like a step backwards. They aren’t bad, just not as interesting. But my biggest gripe is with the story. This is a movie tie-in game, to be fair, but the story feels completely cobbled together in order to serve the movie but not completely replace it. The end result is a story that only feels half told, like it had some important scenes taken out.
Despite some issues, I still absolutely adore this game. I’m currently halfway through a second playthrough on my way to the platinum trophy, and I feel like my time has been very well spent. The game is long enough to be satisfying without feeling padded, and has great variation with some racing, puzzle, and ship combat sequences to mix up the shooting and platforming. And best of all, the game just feels great to play. Everything is fluid and looks beautiful. If you like the previous games, or are just looking for a fun, 3D action platformer, Ratchet and Clank is a great option.
Friends – Season One
I’m one of those rare people that didn’t grow up watching Friends. I’d only ever seen a handful of episodes, and I was always afraid to jump in because of the time commitment and the fear that most people’s love for the show was born out of nostalgia. But, since I’m currently in the process of developing a comedy show for television, I figured that I should see what all the fuss is about. While the show definitely sticks to popular 90’s sitcom tropes (laugh track, over the top characters, sometimes obvious set up and punch lines jokes), I still found a lot to enjoy in season one.
The heart of the show is the Ross/Rachel dynamic, and I imagine that holds true for the entirety of the ten seasons. I’ve always been against “will they or won’t they” dynamics in television, because it kind of paints the writers into a corner. If the show is lucky enough to air for several seasons, either they keep the characters apart for too long and the audience gets tired of waiting, or the couple ends up getting together and then there’s nothing to root for anymore. I obviously can’t speak to its effectiveness in later seasons, but I thought the Ross and Rachel storyline was handled well in season one, with a satisfactory twist at the end.
The other four characters fit more into genre archetypes, but are played to great effect. Joey is the self-obsessed, immature actor. Chandler is his sarcastic best friend, and the two of them get into the craziest antics. Monica is the overbearing den mother of the group, with Phoebe being the off-the-wall hippie type. Everyone told me that I’d identify most with Chandler due to his personality, and while that ended up being true, I think I enjoyed Phoebe the most. She didn’t drive many of her own stories, but I always loved her reactions and random thoughts. The best thing about the show is that despite everyone having endless amounts of wit, these feel like real people dealing with real issues. Whether it’s office dynamics changing after a promotion, figuring out if it’s ok to date your friend’s sister, or what to do when the police find out you’re illegally harboring a monkey (alright that one isn’t so realistic), these six friends deal with things how I would deal with them. It’s no surprise that the show found so much success.
Game of Thrones – Season Five
As excited as I am going into season six of Game of Thrones, I’m also a little bit scared. Season five was the first season where the show began a life of its own, separate from the books. There were still a few story threads from the books, like Dany’s struggle in Meereen and Jon’s promotion to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but other big moves were completely different. The reason that this all scares me is that while not bad, season five of Game of Thrones was far and away the weakest season to date, and doesn’t necessarily build a ton of confidence in the new storytelling abilities of the showrunners.
I certainly don’t mean to be doom and gloom here, because the show is still great, and season five still had many stand out moments and great character arcs. The problem is that since the writers have played fast and loose with when certain things are happening in comparison to the books, certain storylines felt rushed while others had almost no forward movement at all. Brienne basically sat in an inn all season because she had to be available for her final scene with Stannis. Dany got to Meereen too early last season, so we spent all of season five watching her sit on a throne. I also have a bone to pick with the portrayal of the Unsullied in season five. They’re supposedly the best fighters on the planet, so why are they so easily defeated by random citizens with knives? I get that they weren’t trained for urban warfare, that they’re most effective when standing in long lines with shields, but still. It made them look like complete wusses.
As for the rushed storylines, we barely got to enjoy Jon being Lord Commander because of his trip to Hardhome and then quick betrayal by his brothers. Even Tyrion’s journey to Meereen felt like it went by too quickly. The whole fighting pits side story was barely explored at all. The same could be said of Dorne on the whole. Dorne is such a fascinating place with plenty of intrigue, and while I understand the writers not wanting to delve too deeply into all of these new characters for fear of overwhelming the audience, the entire plotline felt like a wasted opportunity. We don’t really get to feel at all for what the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand are going through after the loss of Oberyn, so when they take action, they’re just viewed as villains instead of complicated characters. Another, smaller quibble is with Stannis’ battle and loss to the Boltons. In the books, we never get to see that fight, or even really hear about it. There’s just a letter from Ramsay saying “Stannis is dead lol,” and you either take his word for it or not. And there hasn’t been a sixth book to give us the answer either way. But in the show, this method isn’t as effective. We see both sides preparing for the battle, and then it’s over. Come on, show us some action!
This review is already too long, but I do want to spend some time on the positives, since this is coming out as an overly negative review. I loved the few scenes between Tyrion and Dany. Fans have been waiting to see them together for years now, and the wait was well worth it. While we didn’t get to see enough of it, Jaime and Bronn heading to Dorne was a fun adventure, despite the ending. I’d totally watch a spin off show of the two of them travelling the world and solving crimes. The most successful story of the season happened in King’s Landing with the Sparrows. While it suffered from the same rushed feeling as everything else, the intrigue and mystery was definitely there, and we have a great new, complicated character in the High Sparrow. Cersei’s story takes several twists and turns, and while I didn’t feel sorry for her at all during her walk of shame, it sure was compelling viewing. The problem with the show now is that there are so many characters with individual storylines, whereas before you had a bunch of characters that spent most of their time together. Because of this, no one gets enough screen time, or even worse, major characters like Dany are focused on when there isn’t really anything interesting happening for most of the season. Let’s hope season six remedies this by bringing more characters together, united under more common goals.