Categories
Gaming

Ghost Hunt with Me

It’s no secret that I love gaming. I’ve been streaming a bunch of Phasmophobia, a game where you hunt ghosts, on my YouTube. You should subscribe to my channel so you can get notified the next time I stream! You can help me hunt the ghost, chat along, get scared, and crack jokes! It’s a lot of fun, and more people than ever are joining in on the hunt! Follow this link to get to my channel.

Categories
Comedy podcasts

Made Up Movies Podcast

My new podcast, Made Up Movies, is picking up steam! On Made Up Movies, my cohost, Mike Kolar, and I review listener-submitted movies that don’t actually exist! We review them like they’re real through the amazing power of improv.

So far we’ve reviewed fake movies like Chimp Patrol, the story of one man and one ape who must recover one billion dollars in stolen diamonds, and Unhappy Meal, a rip-off of Die Hard set in a Bulgarian McDonald’s.

You can find us on Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, or wherever you get your podcasts. And you can also submit your own Made Up Movie ideas on Twitter! Check us out, and please rate and review us if you like us!

Categories
news podcasts

Listen to My New Podcast: Made Up Movies

My friend Mike Kolar and I have a new podcast for you. (You might remember our previous podcast collaboration, Bunker Brothers, an audio drama sitcom about two half-brothers whose dead dad left them an underground bunker.) On our new show, Made Up Movies, listeners submit fake movie ideas, and we review them as if they are actually real. It’s a fun mix of improv, movie tropes, and listener participation, and it’s already gaining a loyal fanbase.

Our listeners have submitted movie ideas like Zombie Guitar, a horror comedy about a wannabe musician possessed by a dead rock star, and Unhappy Meal, a Bulgarian rip-off of Die Hard set entirely in a McDonald’s. We use our amazing improv skills to review the movies like we actually watched them, coming up with the plot of the movies in real-time, all for your listening enjoyment.

Made Up Movies is available now on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please consider listening, subscribing, and leaving a positive review to help us grow the show. If you’re interested in submitting a Made Up Movie idea, shoot us a tweet @madeupmoviespod on Twitter.

Categories
Article Game Reviews Writing

Game Review: Cyberpunk 2077

More than a year after its disastrous launch, Cyberpunk 2077 is finally in playable shape on home consoles. For the most part, it’s well worth the wait. Though it fails to break any new ground in terms of gameplay or storytelling, Cyberpunk succeeds in providing a well-developed world with plenty of subplots and distractions, as well as an addictive hacking and combat loop. 

Set in a shady West Coast, Blade Runner-esque metropolis called Night City, players take control of V, a fully customizable mercenary with dreams of becoming a living legend. After a heist gone wrong, V winds up with a brain-erasing microchip in his skull, not to mention the digital manifestation of rock star terrorist, Johnny Silverhand, masterfully played by another living legend, the one and only Keanu Reeves. Though Johnny is an alcoholic, abusive stowaway in your character’s brain, there’s something about Reeves’s painstaking, John Wayne-style delivery that makes the verifiable asshole a lovable and welcome companion on your quest to find a way to save your broken mind.

The main story, like the game as a whole, isn’t so much an iconoclastic vision of the future as it is a hodgepodge of well-worn but comforting sci-fi tropes. Holograms and neon lights abound, and the body modification and hacking elements are straight-up Deus Ex. But there’s something psychologically palatable about digging into the nitty-gritty of life in this universe, strolling the streets and markets, cruising around in a stolen car, and just looking for trouble. The city feels alive and vibrant, even if the main thing lurking around every corner is a street gang just itching for a fight. Violence isn’t a break from the norm in Night City; it is the norm. The cops barely lift a finger to stop you and seem thrilled that you’re willing to do their job for them most of the time. Hell, they even pay you for each goon you take down during your rambling. That’s just one of many not-so-healthy diversions you can enjoy while you’re hunting for side quests. 

The subplots are where the game really comes alive. Characters like the fiery-tempered road warrior, Panam Palmer, and the soft-spoken cop with family drama, River Ward, all get their time to shine in surprisingly lengthy mission chains. Quests in Cyberpunk seem to end unceremoniously, but then a key character will call you a few hours later with a hot tip about something they could use a little help doing. Though it’s certainly repetitious, it never gets old. This isn’t Cousin Roman calling you to go bowling. These feel like check-ins from friends. Even better, rather than helping someone move or paint their apartment, you might wind up breaking into a pornographer’s den or stealing a hovertank. That’s Cyberpunk in a nutshell.

Combat can be fun, though after a certain point you might find yourself to be such an overpowered god that it feels less like a battle and more like deciding who you want to explode first. Your quickhack abilities allows you to create distractions and complications for enemies in a way similar to Watch Dogs, but they also allow you to hack into enemies’ brains and make them go loco, turning on their comrades or freezing up completely. If you level up your abilities high enough, you can blast people’s brains without ever pulling a trigger. There’s also the stealthy approach, but even the game seems to assume you won’t be using that. You can punch bad guys to death or install an electric whip in your arms and slice ‘em into deli meat. Yeah, there’s romance in Cyberpunk, but there’s also jet pistons you can install in your legs. Maybe the reason this game came in behind schedule is because nobody told the devs it was okay to pare things back a little bit. Excess seems to be their M.O.

It’s not all neon and holobabes, of course. The main story can be a little lackluster and unsatisfying, depending on which route you take. Though the game does a good job writing compelling female characters, it often feels like the black characters are neglected, fat-shamed, or written off as one-note villains. I’m not sure if this was intentional or accidental, but with so much content at hand, it seems odd they didn’t balance things out a bit, especially considering that this game’s vision of family seems to be a bunch of predominantly white rednecks drinking beers together under the stars. Then again, maybe it’s too much to ask that a game with so much sex and violence and such a bleak vision of the future have woke politics. At this point I’m not sure if envisioning a 2077 where society still exists is optimistic or far-fetched. But the best bits of storytelling and character development in Cyberpunk happen in episodic fashion during non-mandatory missions, which is a shame, considering someone might speed through the lackluster bits and miss something truly special.

I enjoyed my time with Cyberpunk immensely and will likely revisit Night City whenever I want to cruise around and take out no-good street punks. I recommend it for sci-fi fans and those who enjoyed Deus Ex and Watch Dogs especially, but it might not scratch the itch for fans of Mass Effect or even The Witcher 3 in terms of storytelling. But if you’re on the fence about the game because of all the news stories about it being glitchy and broken, rest assured: aside from a few hiccups, this game is playable now. Still, I admit that it’ll be hard for many people to separate Cyberpunk 2077 from the controversy of its launch, but those who give it a second chance might be surprised by how engaging and intoxicating Night City can be. 

Categories
Game Reviews Gaming Writing

Game Review: Yakuza 3 Remastered

Kazama Kiryu is back, but his lady love is not, in the third installment of the generally fantastic Yakuza series. Picking up where the previous game ended (but quickly dispatching its female lead for unclear reasons) Yakuza 3 sees Kiryu running a beachside orphanage before being dragged back to Kamurocho, Tokyo for more seedy criminal conspiracies. While Yakuza 3 Remastered provides plenty of the quirky charm that makes this series so lovable, its lack of a strong story and bountiful filler quests make it notably less satisfying than the rest.

Yakuza 1 and 2 were remade beautifully as Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2. The same cannot be said for Yakuza 3 Remastered, which looks and feels ancient in comparison. The dip in quality should be immediately apparent to anyone playing the rereleases in chronological order. While Kiwami 2 ran on Yakuza’s newest game engine, making the combat and visuals silky smooth, Yakuza 3 looks and feels like a mid-tier Dreamcast game. Some of the cutscenes weren’t polished up for this supposed “remaster,” meaning you’ll occasionally see important story beats presented in stunning standard definition. When you get past the visual issues, the awkward storytelling is another reminder that this game could have used some Kiwami polish to bring it up to speed.

As aforementioned, the previous game’s romance is nixed with little fanfare. Kiwami 2 spent numerous cutscenes solidifying Kiryu and Sayama’s romance, only to have her written off as a self-serving career-chaser in Yakuza 3. In a series that murderers its sidekicks left and right, couldn’t they have found a more tragic or interesting method of dispatching Sayama at the very least? Perhaps her death could have motivated Kiryu’s return to his old Kamurocho stomping grounds. But no, she’s lazily shuffled off to the side, so everyone can romanticize the importance of Daigo, a character who almost feels like a Mary Sue for how often he’s referenced without ever doing anything meaningful.

Before you’re allowed to curb-stomp strangers on the streets of Tokyo, you have to deal with the interpersonal conflicts at Kiryu’s orphanage. It’s a weird left turn for the series that might have been a funny troll on the players, ala Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, if it wasn’t so sappy and humorless. It feels like the writers want the player to authentically care about the day-to-day struggles of grade schoolers in a series mainly known for shirtless rooftop battles and bloody betrayals. (This kind of overly saccharine writing has an echo in Yakuza 5’s repetitious soliloquys about the power of dreams, but at least there it feels thematically on point.) Rather than sidelining the orphanage stories to optional side quests, the player is forced to deal with them for large chunks of the story. As they have very little direct relationship to the Yakuza storylines, they come across more like filler than fun.

Okinawa is a likeable, tropical locale, an interesting shift for the series, but aside from one extremely memorable side quest in which a gold digger keeps cucking over her obsessive simp, there aren’t that many laughs or reasons to dig for buried treasure. The Yakuza series usually has some hilarious or surprising mini-games tucked away in random corners, rewarding the player for straying from the story and exploring its cities. Yakuza 3 has the flimsiest minigames of any Yakuza game I’ve played, with its chief offender being a painfully tedious hostess club minigame that pales in comparison to the RTS version in the Kiwamis. Maybe the worst part of the hostess club is that you can’t quit out of it early. If you accidentally enter the venue you’re trapped for three rounds of slow walking and boredom. The hitman missions sound cool but just amount to beefed up street fights, and given that the combat here feels a lot sloppier than the other games, they aren’t worth the trouble.

There are a few interesting moments in Yakuza 3. Kiryu tangling with a relentless CIA guy is fun, and a chase through a sex hotel is entertaining. But when you have a whole game series packed with bizarre, quirky action, it’s hard not to write this entry off as a dull misstep and easily the most skippable Yakuza. I kept hoping for clear explanation as to why Kazama Kiryu, the superhuman Dragon of Dojima, decided to give up his life of crime and become a boring orphanage manager, but besides the obvious conclusion that deep down Kiryu is a swell guy, there’s nothing particularly interesting there. This is the only game in the series that I’d say this about (so far) but, it’s not really worth your time.