Monday 22 April 2024

Echo and Solo Leveling (Season 1)

Weak protagonists gaining ridiculous powers.

Echo (Season 1)

This five episode series focuses on Maya, the titular Echo, who is a pretty disabled gangster (being deaf and missing a leg) previously working for Kingpin as was last seen in the Hawkeye series. Probably a good series to practice your sign language knowledge on as there is a LOT of it, but the story is very average and the action scenes and budget are subpar for a Marvel show (maybe just one fight near the start is good). I do enjoy that the protagonist is naturally very easy to sneak up on, and I hope that remains to be the case despite gaining some ancestral super powers, because its a superhero show and apparently because she's not good enough without powers? Mmm, what's your message here Disney? Lol. Only for die hard Marvel fans; everyone else can give this a miss.

Solo Leveling (Season 1)

The setting for this Korean anime is a strange one: present day but with fantasy monsters occasionally warping in from dungeon dimensions and modern equipment has no effect on them. Lucky there are people born as "hunters" who can fight and defeat these to protect the world. Yes, a hunter with a tiny dagger is more effective than a tank or Gatling gun versus a goblin. Just don't think about it.

Further more, hunters are ranked by strength and this never changes or fluctuates. A strong guy will always be that strong, never weaker / never stronger. Except for our protagonist who is the weakest hunter of all. For plot device reasons "the game" decides that he in fact CAN level up, and boy does he make use of it. While the plot isn't very deep the animation quality and fights of which there are PLENTY are very good. It also helps that there's a good amount of blood and gore thrown in there too. Quite entertaining if you just want an action anime. Recommended!

Friday 19 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The Battle of Brightstone

[Part of the Party Time journal]

The team are unopposed as they enter the district and can't help but attack the Leviathan Hunter headquarters head on. Onna and Strangford fight on equal footing while his forces (80) are cut down by DL, shot by mom, and have grenades detonated by Juris' ghost. When the forty members of the Church of the Ecstasy  of the flesh flank them, Rose convinces some of them to fight their comrades! Much blood is spilled and the second (and last) of the F-bombs are detonated in the exchange.

In the end the vigilantes are out on the street with just the demon Elder Rowan left, when suddenly Strangford attacks from above. DL saves Juris from a fatal blow, but the attack destroys Onna's mirror (and with her anchor gone, Onna too is destroyed) and then engaging with his cutlass. As he has the fang of kotar it makes him really difficult to hit (reroll successes) and manages to badly wound all the heroes before DL finally manages to behead him. Juris tricks the arriving Spirit Wardens into attacking Rowan too who destroys all but 13 of them before the demon is finally put down. They then get out of there before the Leviathan hunting ships can open fire but they didn't need to worry as the Lord Governor's destroyer shoots first, enganging the fleet in naval combat.

When they get back to their hideout they are surprised to find the Lord Governor waiting for them there. Juris takes a terror roll as he realizes he is a star vampire. Nevertheless, the Lord Governor thanks them for their service - because of them the losses to the city are minimal and should the need arise in the future he hopes to be able to call on them for their help. He lastly introduces himself as Karl Orlais-Trantor Argen-Reich, (or Kotar for short) then takes his leave.

And that is the end of this campaign! While Juris was really into it, mom was only most active when there was dice rolling involved so I'll need to take that into consideration if/when I make campaign number two. :)

Thursday 18 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Burger Time

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Surrender is not something our heroes do and thus violence ensues. While they are careful to only disable their opponents, the Skovlanders have no qualms about killing the local militia and Weeping Lady volunteers and destroying the guardian hulls who get caught up in the conflict. Bluecoats also arrive early on but as they are allied with Strangford proceed to just shoot the vigilantes (they get shot a lot)! Also Flint, Juris' nemesis (according to his character sheet anyway) appears and points him out to a full contingent of 40 Spirit Wardens. He tries to surrender but they just shoot at him too!

He manages to lightning bolt eight of them into disrepair and gets Onna to shapeshift into Flint to negate that order (some BS good dicing here for them to not notice Onna's a spirit). By the time this happens the others have defeated their foes: only 7 Skovlanders escaped out of 112. Juris senses Nyryx is also dead, but her body can't be found. Having pissed off DL, he leaves the 125 injured opponents (including the captured cops) to whatever Juris has planned. This includes feeding Ulf to Coran's death hounds and feeding the rest to Onna who executes them one by one and eats their spirits. Coran handles the corpse disposal, turning them into delicious burgers.

After healing up, Juris gets DL to make a delivery at the Archive of Echoes where Flint works: an F-Bomb. The bluff is so perfect that they get away scott free, walking down the street in slo-mo fashion as the entire building behind them explodes and goes up in flames. Flint eats this to his face and dies (as does whoever else happened to be in there).

Meanwhile Rose and mom follow a lead given to them by Celeste's widower Veleris, who claims the Iruvians still have an in-roads through some drug dealers at the docks. After a terrible stealth engagement roll which sees the pair jump across rooftops only for the roof to give in and drop them right on the drug table, they basically blow everyone away and find evidence linking the Church of Ecstasy. On their way back they also find a talking corgi at the menagerie and Rose convinces the owner to let them take it back to Juris.

It holds the spirit of Jen, and having seen Jen's body as a "pleasure" hollow (the Dimmer Sisters really did a number on her and Nyryx) at the Silver Stag he retrieves it and returns her spirit there. Helene has no problems with any of this and sets her free. Juris also gets to keep the corgi. The team then gear up to attack Brightstone, which is the home district of both the Church of Ecstasy and Lord Strangford's Leviathan Hunters!

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Giving a Hand

[Part of the Party Time journal]

With no good options coming to mind about the power crisis DL goes to talk to info guy Matt and for a fee gets a map to the "reverse polarity" junction box and learns Elon is into embezzlement while Juris goes to Nightmarket to capture "Onna", the shear wielding serial murderer ghost and finds her in the club where they defeated Lord Mora - she's killed everyone else. Surprisingly Onna isn't hostile to him and, taking him by the hand leads him to her "friends" - cultists of the Burned King (a forgotten god) who all have a burning crown branded on their chests.

After receiving awkward hugs from these guys (they really didn't like Lord Mora) he is given Onna's anchor, a large mirror, to place into the Archive of Echoes at Charterhall. It's like a library of spirits, and Onna likes eating spirits! Instead, Juris takes Onna home and formulates a plan. The next day he returns the death dogs to the recently released Coran, sells the Hand of Kotar to Lord Elon and starts helping him research the solution.

Meanwhile DL and mom follow Matt's map and sabotage the "reverse polarity" switch so that instead of turning off anything, nothing happens (suggested by Rose). DL's tinkering is good enough to make this undetectable but they have to bluff their way out when a group of soldiers runs into them. Lastly, Rose herself using a letter of introduction from Lord Elon goes to meet the Lord Governor in a dimly lit room (despite there being more lanterns than everywhere else) - he's an old man who walks on a crutch, speaks with the help of a machine and is missing an eye and an arm. He is pleased by the actions of the Shield of Dawn, and confirms the plan to shut off power to half the city - because half the city will be drafted into the Imperial Army soon to fight the Iruvians who from all indications, are planning to secede. Rose tries to command him but he just laughs and commends her ability, which makes her flee from there pretty quick!

The team (mostly DL) then spends almost all their currency in helping Lord Elon develop the solution and are successful in using sea water - pumped into the heart by the hand - to turn into demon blood (or close enough to it) to continue powering everything. Crisis solved!

The next day Juris makes F-Bombs (bottled powdered fire bombs now with a ghost inside for remote detonation) and helps Helene buy out the contracts for Silkshore from Lord Elon while Rose, mom and DL go with Eisele to Charhollow to investigate strange suicides there - involving strangulation and falling? Atop a building they are attacked by a bed sheet anchored ghost (an Ittan-momen) who almost drags Eisele off the edge, but it otherwise is a humorous fight where DL ends up having to chop up a flaming blanket with smiley face bullet holes at the end.

Returning to their home district they are surprised by a large party being thrown by Ulf in which he's invited almost every Skovlander in the city to. Ulf then very publicly tells them to surrender everything they are carrying and the district itself to avoid bloodshed... Lord Strangford's orders.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Not Good Enough

[Part of the Party Time journal]

While Rose and Juris have their ghost door adventure, mom and DL get some free time after Warden Pope leaves to headover to Charterhall to deliver Helleren's "ghost recording" to the authorities to help clear Coran (and his dogs) then return to the Dimmer Sisters house to pick up more hull shells as DL wants to create more dragon armor. They find the home inhabited by the Gray Cloaks, a group of ex-cops wanted for burning evidence in an imporant case against Lord Strangford. In fact they are very much against Strangford and after passing negotiation checks believe the visitors aren't hitmen and simply hand over the remaining hulls and a suitcase of junk from the previous owners. This "junk" happens to include seven toenails of Kotar, which when ingested are basically a full heal for stress and trauma.

The following day mom and Rose and summoned to the courthouse to give testimony against the cabbies who are fighting their charge, while Juris and DL follow Earnest to Barrowcleft bridge where he claims he lost his ghost brother Bertrand, in a dice gambling game with Spogg. Juris is distracted by howls from the death dogs in his care up at Fogcrest though so he goes to check on them while DL continues to the bridge alone. Mom and Rose are split up too when mom is summoned to an upstairs office where she is ambushed by the bounty hunter Casta (who had just murdered mom's cop friend Celene) and her four melee goons!

Downstairs in the waiting room, Rose is also ambushed by knife wielders but these ones are all deaf (to negate her voice power) and wearing masks (to negate her trance powder). On the bridge 10 snipers ambush DL from both ends as he reaches the middle, killing Earnest, Bertrand and Spogg and Juris finds the demon Grist at the top of the hill with some dogs strapped to him as hurting animals really is Juris' weakness. I thought I was super clever splitting them up and pitting them against their weaknesses, but well - mom and rose cleared their battles in two turns with good rolling, Juris used his "tamed and trained" ghosts to free the dogs then the hand of Kotar to bisect Grist (banishing only a 3rd of him), eating a toenail to negate trauma - and DL systematically murdered every sniper with feats of acrobatics and blood thirst.

The next day they decide to follow Adda's request of checking in on Coalridge, the industrial sector, where Skovlans are trying to unionize against their brutal foremen. They find the lead foreman, Slane, whipping the union leader and since he's a demon Juris wastes no time in "handing" him to the next dimension while eating another toenail. It's hilarious since Slane didn't actually get to say anything - they just walked in and blew him away.

Afterwards they attend a meeting with Lord Strangford who confirms he is planning to start a civil war, explaining that due to the shortage of demon blood the Lord Governor is planning to turn off the barrier to half the city (including the districts our protagonists reside in). He hopes to get their support in overthrowing the Lord Governor to prevent this, specifically by convincing Lord Elon Dalmore either join the revolt or simply do nothing with his troops.

They go talk to Elon next who refuses to do nothing as he is bound to help the city government but does suggest there might be a way to "reverse the polarity" and make it when the switch is flipped that the barrier go down in the other half of the city only. None of the above options are good enough for our heroes as they are determined to find a way to save everyone. Juris donates a toenail of Kotar to Elon to try help his "heart" project, but other than a temporary increase in performance it has no effect.

Monday 15 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: He's a Demon

[Part of the Party Time journal]

The Shield of Dawn rebuilds Tangletown and lets Ulf and his Skovlander buddies move in to keep the peace. Juris then experiments with a new drug: Lure 2.0 called Bait, and this time he finds himself waking up in the Church of the Ecstasy of the Flesh and meets Elder Rowan (who is a disguised demon) so he quickly gets himself out of there to accompany DL to recon on Maestro Helleren (alleged murderer of Kenny V) only to discover he too is a disguised demon, so the both back off and instead go to talk to the Sallies squad (fire fighters) about their "fire insurance" policy. One of their members, Grace, has the hots for DL and confirms that it is an extortion racket wherein they set fires to holdings for people who don't pay.

They take the issue up to Lord Elon Dalmore, head of the Ministry of Preservation who is the over all boss of the umbrella that covers the Sallies and with Grace's cooperation immediately fires all of them. Elon then tries to buy the hand of Kotar from Juris after showing him and DL a highly guarded research center that contains the Heart of Kotar, explaining that he's trying to solve a potential power shortage issue as metrics suggest the Leviathan Hunters are bringing in less and less demon blood to fuel the lightning barriers around the city. Juris refuses.

Meanwhile Rose and Mom go to the docks where Rose participates in Grist's boxing challenge, ringing out her first foe, getting the second one disqualified and then having a decent match against the third but she gets ringed out this time - one match away from championship. While she does this mom follows some drug dealers back to their den but doesn't engage them at all. The next day all four go to confront Helleren who is convinced to speak of his crime to a "recording ghost" Juris pulls out. A fight ensues in which DL has to cut through a flying piano but ultimately Helleren is decapitated and killed.

Returning to their home district they find Warden Pope (he's a demon) and the Ironhook prison guards searching for escaped convicts believed to be with Ulf and the Skovlander community. While mom and DL buy time from the guards, Juris and Rose convince Ulf that they can help get the three away through a ghost door, and they do especially as Rose has ghostspeak now and basically commands them to leave them alone. By luck they also pick up Eisele, the last gondolier who has been trapped here ever since Juris' first encounter with Scurlock and they all make it out to the docks.

Here Rose brings them to the the only Skovlander she knows, Grist - who also turns out to be a demon. The escapees are quite happy to go with Grist despite Juris' warnings so he takes a devil's bargain and floods the warehouse (inside) to push them away from the demon before they finally get the message. The bargain: by saving these three, (2D6) dock workers died in the flood / crushed by containers. I rolled double 6. Running off they deliver the three to the Fog Hound, a small smuggling ship and head back home to find that Warden Pope and his team have moved on to search elsewhere.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Knowledge Eater

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Accused of being responsible for the death of first clarinetist, Kenny V, the butcher Coran arrives and asks that the team hide and look after his pack of death dogs implicated in the brutally violent crime. Juris immediately accepts, hiding them out at Fogcrest at Silkshore while spending a lot of time recovering from his trauma of using the hand of Kotar. Also murdered was DL's medic friend, Ferny Sawbones, so he heads to Charhollow to find out more and meets Matt the information trader, paying some coin to learn that Kenny V was dispatched by conductor Maestro Helleren who "isn't what he seems" and Ferny was done in by bounty hunters who are based in Nightmarket, which is where mom and Rose are headed!

The girls finally reach Nightmarket (no carriages anymore) and encounter a shear wielding female ghost whom they dispatch before reaching the club where the orphans are meant to be, meeting the upper class lords and ladies there but are told they can only see the kids in the morning and accept the offer to stay the night. DL arrives later, fighting past the same ghost again and then getting locked out of the club tower as the bounty hunting "Wraiths" arrive to get him. Jokes on them though, as mom snipes them from the tower before they can do anything!

DL is welcomed in and they are all hidden from the Spirit Wardens that come to investigate. Meanwhile Juris, still at Silkshore, goes to the Silver Stag casino to look into rumors of a demon of greed. It turns out to just be a gambler and ghost pair of Earnest and Bertrand cheating at cards. He outs them to the manager, Helene, and is disappointed he didn't find another demon cat before heading back to base.

The next morning they ALL awake at base with DL, Rose and mom unaware of how they got there. Also, they apparently brought a painting of a huge dragon back and hung it up in the orphanage's main hall!? Concerned, they all go back to the club and Juris with his new skill of being able to identify any supernatural entity quickly discovers one of the patrons, Lord Mora, is a knowledge eating demon and that the orphans have been eaten too. Rose manages to command the rest of the club into a trance like state while the team battles Lord Mora who is immune to Juris' ghosts and takes the hits from Juris' lightning, mom's rifle, and DL's special dragon sword which he finished building.

The fight is long but Mora can't land many hits especially after she tells him that he can't move (only works on his feet). Eventually the demon is slain and after retrieving a tongue artifact (the tongue of Kotar, lets you speak to anything) they hastily return to their own district where a horrible spirit aura now emanates from the orphanage. The dragon in the painting is gone but they destroy the frame and base anyway. Four Spirit Wardens then arrive to help them deal with the threat which has moved underground to eat the ghosts there (and thereby make itself stronger). It manages to damage two Spirit Wardens, who as they guessed are hulls themselves, but is otherwise easily captured and destroyed by the high tier visitors. For this heroic action the district is well and truly behind the vigilantes now.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Against the Undead

[Part of the Party Time journal]

As Juris hadn't heard from his pal Nyryx for awhile the team sets off to find her, attuning her location to be in the previously wealthy but now left to decay sector of Six Towers. There they break into the mansion of the Dimmer Sisters but are caught almost immediately and are split up with Rose and mom stuck indoors with the two sisters and a mechanical hull spider while DL and Juris are outside with a tree that summons spirits and eight hulls (spirits animating armor), all of whom are Nyryx in spirit (she was chopped up)!

DL holds off the ghosts while Juris convinces all of Nyryx to stand down and put her back together in a bottle again. Rose KO's one of the sisters and disables the spider while mom accidentally kills the other sister with a warning shot... right between the eyes. Using his new tempest ability, Juris lightning bolts the tree (on his second attempt) to destroy it, sealing the ghost portal. They then take two of the now empty hulls and the prisoner sister before the Spirit Wardens arrive.

Juris then busies himself putting Nyryx into the remaining Dimmer Sister as well as training some of his other captured spirits to inhabit the hulls before experimenting with more Lure on a rat, witnessing it go right into the Spark Grounds carnival where someone is making a large force of... hollows (aka zombies)? While this is going on DL, Mom and Rose try get to the orphans at the club again but this time the carriage takes them near an underground tunnel where they are ambushed by a large group of vampires! Unfortunately for them, sound carries rather well through the tunnel and Rose commands them to sleep, which all but one does.

DL and mom take down the leader pretty easily before the rest can wake which means they are easy prey for the vigilantes. Once again, the team returns to base to regroup and head next to the circus where Juris remembers his time mind-melded to a rat to get to the secret basement of currently dormant zombies. Here they KO the "necromancer" who is just pulling souls out, but are pinned when the remainder of the clowns now allied with the Old Crows enters the basement.

They don't hesitate to ambush these evil doers but are suddenly out numbered when the leader activates the zombies just before she gets beheaded by DL. Fearing that the Spirit Wardens will arrive before they can get out of this quagmire, Juris pulls out the hand of Kotar and uses it (eating one stress / insta KO) to blast all the zombies into the next dimension. In this game, that's the ghost field. With the basement now empty of threats, the team quickly carry Juris out of there and escape unseen!

Friday 12 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Rose of Command

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Thanks to the evidence they handed in last time, the corrupt cops are taken off the beat and Celeste's team moves in to look after Crow's Foot. This is effectively means the Shield of Dawn (that's the name the vigilantes chose) totally control the district! They also rename it it to that on the map then head to Charhollow as requested by Adda, a resident Ink Rake (reporter) there to quell an uptick in racial violence between Skovlander drug dealer Ulf and the local butchers.

Some sleuthing reveals that the butchers are working for Lady Drake in hopes to secure the freedom of their patriarch Tarvul, currently serving a life sentence at Ironhook Prison for killing a Spirit Warden that was destroying his wife's ghost. Rose does some amazing negotiation rolls and gets the butchers to stand down - convincing them to let Tarvul rot. Meanwhile Ulf isn't very pleasant but he does get along well with his kin, Juris, who convinces him to also stand down in exchange for getting a chance to distribute Lure instead of his homebrewed KwikCopy drug which makes users see double.

The good news continues to the next day as they learn the Iruvian consulate has been closed as its members were exiled by the Lord Governor. In support of their allies the Dagger Isles consulate follows suit and they both impose a trade embargo in retaliation, making it harder to source material to make stuff but that doesn't deter Juris who bottles some spirits in the tunnels below with DL acting as a bodyguard since he can now physically punch ghosts with the ghost fighter skill.

Having heard than a large number of orphans were taken to a club at Nightmarket, Rose and mom go to investigate catching a cab (a carriage pulled by large goats) to save time. Only, the cab pulls into its garage instead as the cabbies are after the bounty (set by the Iruvians) to get the vigilantes. Rose commands them to surrender and... they do (she rolls criticals at the best times)!? They are tied up, arrested and the ladies return to base to regroup. In the meantime there was a fire at Tangletown, and blaming DL for not paying the fire insurance (an obvious extortion), the Old Crows move elsewhere to seek gainful employment.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Duels of Fire and Iron

[Part of the Party Time journal]

During their downtime, Mom and Rose take the spirit bottles found at the Crow's Tower to Celene, mom's Bluecoat friend who assures them this will force justice into action, DL gets an invitation from Mercy his ex, a member of the Red Sashes, to talk to their master at Tangletown, and Juris decides to take a new drug called "Lure" and finds himself waking up at Silkshore where he talks to the Gondoliers amassing there about the demon cat problem and volunteers to help. Luckily the cat is a demon that feeds of feelings of pleasure, so the plan is for Juris to distract it long enough for the Gondoliers to conduct their ritual.

Juris does his work perfectly and the demon cat is chain lightning-ed to death! The squad continue up to the top of Fogcrest to ensure the ritual is stopped and this time it is they who are caught unaware by the ancient vampire Scurlock who makes half of their number vanish with his staff (the end of which is a hand) and slays the remainder with his claws and incredible strength and speed. Juris successfully begs for his life, and agrees to fetch more demon blood for the vampire who "marks" him with a burning hand and sends him on his way.

Meanwhile DL, Rose and mom are spotted scoping out Tangletown but Rose manages to set a truce between them and the Old Crows of leaving each other alone. The Old Crows also mention there are no Red Sashes there tonight (it had been a trap to make the two factions fight), instead seven Red Sash swordsmen ambush the trio on their way home and while they manage to cut DL a bit - all of them are violently slain as the dice dictated that they didn't run.

The next day DL receives a written letter and accepts to duel the Red Sash master at their dojo, with mom shadowing from sniping positions and Rose talking her way in. Master Shido turns out to not be a swordsman at all, but a whisper who uses ghosts to make swords fly on their own. DL takes minor damage before killing him, and since his remaining students attack they too are mostly wiped out. Only Mercy manages to escape with a bullet wound and a throwing knife stuck in her (both thanks to Rose, as mom missed her snipe here and DL had no more load for a ranged weapon). No doubt Mercy fled to the Iruvian consulate where her parent works.

Juris on the other hand manages to create another batch of powdered fire and returns to Scurlock's house in Fogcrest when the vampire is away (he can reverse "the polarity" to detect him using the hand mark and his whisper skills) and sets up a trap. Then he manages to (critical) summon Scurlock (as vampires are just spirits in corpses) to his location. The next bit doesn't go so smoothly as the ancient vamp breaks one of Juris' arms, but ultimately the vampire is tricked into the powdered fire trap and is incinerated to death (critical again, and since he's "bonded" to the body his spirit is destroyed too. Weaker vamps can just ghost outta their skins but strong ones like Scurlock get this mortally dangerous trait, which I thought was pretty cool balance trade off). Only his staff, which ends with a someone's decaying hand, remains - untouched by the fire. Juris takes it and while recovering learns it is the Hand of Kotar... whoever that is.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The Flaming Tower

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Juris goes alone to the Crow orphanage to try get their aid against the Lampblacks but the talk goes poorly, to the point that he has to threaten them with a powdered fire grenade. The Crows leader, Lyssa, manages to disarm him and wound him a bit as he runs off to then get treated by DL's doctor friend, Ferny Sawbones, putting him out of action for a short spell.

In the meantime, DL - keen to get revenge for Remira has taken the last two powdered fire grenades from Juris and with Mom and Rose shooting from a flanking position, assaults the Lampblacks coal warehouse setting everything (and a decent number of leg breakers) on fire, before taking his sword to the heavily armored leaders and slaying them. Bazso meets his end.

The next day the Crows foolishly attack the charity where the vigilantes work (dice roll) using the last powdered fire grenade as their opening move. Luckily Juris already knows that salt is all it takes to douse those flames. In the ensuing gun battle, Rose and Juris are hit in the armor while holding off the front while mom and DL deal with a lone sniper out the back. Mom manages to wound the enemy and DL rushes into the building the sniper is stationed in to find it is Lyssa, the Crow leader in the stairwell - she was the sniper. Before she can do anything, DL runs her through.

A pair of Spirit Wardens then arrive with their lightning guns and summarily execute the three remaining Crows who were obviously the aggressors here and tell the vigilantes to return to their normal life. Of course the four instead sneak off and head right for the Crow's Tower where Rose and Juris disable the electric fence and mom kills the lone Crow remaining in there. In a safe they find spirit bottles of "dirt" - ghosts of deceased Bluecoats offed by dirty Bluecoats on the payroll of the Red Sashes and in the basement they find a massive ghost filled canal but also a spirit warded catwalk that leads to the orphanage.

Rose convinces the children that their custodian is evil and Juris interrogates him to learn that Tangletown is home to the retired (or "old") Crows who will probably want revenge. Juris then takes him down to the canal passage and executes him before the lot of them set fire to the Crow's Tower so that no one can use it again. They lastly invest a lot of the coin they've collected in expanding the Weeping Lady Charity so that the orphanage falls under its care.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Cats and Clowns

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Juris studies and weaponizes the powdered fire, and is also visited by his ghost friend (and Rose's frenemy) Nyryx who is possessing the body of a teenage girl named Jennifer (who looks like Jennifer Connely in Labyrinth). Juris had only intended to save Jennifer who stumbled into the Weeping Lady charity after she had been brutalized by the gang war (by putting Nyryx into her to aid her weakened spirit) but doesn't really condone Nyryx now using that body for prostitution. Regardless, she brings news from the nearby Silkshore district where bodies have been turning up in canals and a bunch of clowns are gearing up to attack the Crows - one of the local gangs - over a love triangle situation. She also tries to poison Rose unsuccessfully before laughing it off and leaving.

Rose and Juris decide to warn the Crows about this at the orphanage they run (to train and recruit more gang members) and are invited to prove their worth by joining the ambush they're going to set for the clowns at the bridge. Juris and DL decide to first go to Silkshore to investigate the dead bodies though and learn from a local Gondoliers that the bodies were "hollowed" out (spirit removed) before death, and that all of these look like they fell from a great height.

With that information they investigate Fogcrest, the tallest point in the district which uses tight staircases to double as roads through its bohemian colony of eternally drugged artists and theologists. When the row houses begin to empty as they reach the higher parts, they encounter a talking cat whom Juris immediately plays with and identifies as a demon. The cat admits to having its servant at the top of the hill performing a ritual for it, and then (the cat) disposing of the bodies by throwing them. As they notice a mass of people heading for the bridge they bid farewell to the friendly demon cat and rush to get to the ambush - but arrive late!

Meanwhile mom, Rose and the other Crow sharpshooters get the drop on the militant clowns and despite being outnumbered do quite well in pinning the advancing group while only losing half their own number. When the boys finally arrive in a flanking position Juris uses powdered fire to set a good number of clowns on (powdered) fire while DL closes the distance and cuts down the remainder with his blade. They then run off before the bronze masked Spirit Wardens show up to deal with the dead, but by using the powdered fire here, Bazso has worked out who betrayed him. They find Remira's burnt corpse strung up in front of the charity the following day (and Juris confirms by talking to her ghost that it was the Lampblacks).

Monday 8 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: Words over Whiskey

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Duskwall: one of the few remaining cities in the world following the cataclysm that took place 850 years ago that turned the waters black and prevented the spirits of the dead from departing. Through the science and sorcery of the Immortal Emperor the city's crowded districts are protected from the Deathlands of life draining ghosts by a fence of massive lightning barriers, but what protects them from the brutal gangs and corrupt institutions within?

In the district of Crow's Foot which has seen an increased level of violence thanks to a number of gangs fighting for territory while the Bluecoats (police) turn a blind eye, a small group of individuals who all work at the local Weeping Lady charity have decided enough is enough and to take matters into their own hands: DL the cutter (swordsman), mom the hound (hunter), Juris the whisper (talks to dead people/has magic), and Rose the slide (prefers words over violence).

The four meet Remira, a friend from childhood who is now part of the local Lampblack gang, at the Leaky Bucket tavern on the canal flotilla village (and neutral territory) of Tangletown - built upon the shipwreck of a massive leviathan hunter ship that sunk there years ago. Remira tells them that their leader plans on burning down the opposition, regardless of any innocents involved and that she wants out. The arrival of more Lampblacks led causes her to panic a little, but Rose manages to talk them into gambling with Spogg the ugly dice man instead.

Rose then goes alone to meet the Lampblack leader Bazso, who is her friend, and over a glass of whiskey slyly confirms his plan of action and learns that he's waiting on a delivery before starting said attacks. That night Rose and mom sneak aboard the smuggler vessel but are caught! Rose doesn't miss a beat and convinces them that she is Bazso's courier, and they hand over a suitcase of powdered fire: Just add water to make it burn.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Blades in the Dark: The System

[Part of the Party Time journal]

Inspired by DL's Pathfinder sessions I decided to run a campaign for Blades in the Dark using the Vigilante expansion as most of my players need to play good guys. For this entry I'm just going to talk about the game system itself, specifically the parts I enjoy most, which is so fast and accessible and has been used in many other "forged in the dark" type games.

First is that only D6s are used and it is all theater of mind. No figurines or battle maps here which means the limit is just your imagination. Characters have 12 or so skills with four dots against each, and these skills are definitely double duty things. "Hunt" might mean you are shooting someone, tracking something, or using binoculars on a watch tower. While you start with some dots shaded in, you shade in more as you level up. Each shaded dot represents how many D6 you get to roll if you are attempting that AND it is dangerous. The result is the highest number from the roll. If it is not dangerous, it automatically succeeds without having to roll.

If you roll a single 6, it succeeds in the way you intended. If you roll multiple 6s its a critical and goes better than planned. If you roll a 4-5 partial success but partial problem or damage and a 1-3 you failed and are about to be punished for it with either loss of gear, position or health (whatever the GM warned you about prior to your roll). As such bad guys never roll, but if they are a higher tier than you then you might lose dice to roll. If your dice pool is 0 or less, you can still attempt an action by rolling 2D6 but you will take the lower roll and are unable to crit. This makes combat go by so quickly but still be tense.

The other thing I really enjoy is that there's less book keeping inventory wise. When the crew heads out each member declares what their load is: Light is 4, Normal is 5, Heavy is 6 which might affect how fast they move and how people perceive them but everything else comes from "hammer space". You need a sword? Pull one out at the cost of 1 load. Lock pick tools? 1 load. Armor to take a single hit? 2 load. There's a great list on each character sheet which is both easily accessible and gives enough uniqueness and opportunities per player to pull out of their coat if they need it, as long as they can still pay the load cost. If you're in light and have used armor and two swords, sorry - you can't pull out anything else.

Anyway, its a really fun system and for a $20 PDF its certainly one I'm happy with. Play through posts will start soon! :)

Friday 5 April 2024

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (Season 1) and Strong Girl Nam-soon (Season 1)

Featuring female protagonists that make you laugh and cry. In a good way.

Frieren: Beyond Journey's End (Season 1)

This anime is a strange masterpiece. It takes place in a Dungeons and Dragons like fantasy world focusing on Frieren the long lived elf mage, and the story begins with her and the party of heroes having saved the world from a demon king - usually the end of a campaign but that's ok, because this is a mostly a melancholic drama about characters growing as people. As a bonus there just happens to be a good portion of awesome action sequences on top of the excellent art, music and story. I'm sorry Blue Lock, this is now my favorite anime as it regularly hits me in the feels. Highly recommended!

Strong Girl Nam-soon (Season 1)

This continuation in the world of Strong Girl Bong-soon gives us a new cute protagonist but unlike Bong-soon, Nam-soon (and her family) has no problems making use of her superhuman strength in public. While yes, there are bad guys who just happen to be idiots despite their good looks, this is mainly a love story with a heavy focus on humor. This works for the most part but in the few episodes where Nam-soon is taking a back seat in the plot it can get quite taxing... Ultimately if you enjoyed Bong-soon you'll probably like this too, but just don't expect it to be as good.

Thursday 4 April 2024

GTFO: ALT R3A1 - Resuscitation

Just for practice (since R2 is getting hairier by the level) I decided to scout out R3A1 solo (with bots, so not really solo) and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was almost exactly like my first write up of it. The original version was the very first GTFO level we ever managed to complete! The load outs were as follows (I basically made it Jim and DL bots, but with Auto Sentry tools as those are the easiest to deploy):

Me: Pistol/Revolver/Cfoam/Spear
[Bot]: DMR/Sniper Rifle/Auto Sentry/Hammer
[Bot]: Double Tap DMR/Combat Shotgun/Auto Sentry/Hammer
[Bot]: DMR/Hel Gun/Biotracker/Hammer

The mission is to bring the "baby" to a machine, get it stamped, and return to extraction. Everything is brighter now, and many of the more vertical rooms have been changed to be less so which makes it much easier. Sneak through the one way you can go (and save this first door), bop the sleepers, open first security door with no alarm and bop the sleepers in here. Leave the baby at the locked gate to go into the big door to bop/shoot more and use a terminal to locate the key you need for the door as you'll only need to open one of these.

Before starting the alarm I shut and foamed the big door and put the sentry guns facing each other inside, with more foam in between them to catch things in crossfire. This is because with bots, you can't really do c-foam duty. Open the correct class IV and unlock the door and win the fight (in that order). Some giants came in here but we had a lot of ammo still so it wasn't a problem. Beyond the door was a scout who I just revolvered to the head (I was just messing around), shot the sleepers that woke up and snuck into the next room with giants. They were far enough apart for me to just snake through, get the key and snake back. Afterwards its just back to the baby and pushing forward through the next big door.

Clear the arcing hallway then open big door number three and clear that room too. Another security scan door waits for us here so I shut the two big doors, foamed the inner one, put the auto sentries at the door facing away (so things get shot in the back) and cfoamed the hallway to catch things for the guns, then its alarm time. Scan first then win.

Lots of loot in the empty chamber ahead and I made sure that I had 12 cfoam and everything else went to the bots because they'd be doing the fighting now. Baby goes into the machine, gets stamped and starts an alarm. As bots never carry the baby I picked it up and just made a beeline for extraction while they covered me, only stopping to cfoam that first door in the level to halt the pursuers before getting to extraction. Baddies did manage to arrive, including a pair of barrage firing hybrids which I don't remember being there last time. Still, no big deal. Just fight well and GTFO! :)

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Kung Fu Panda 3 and Testament: The Story of Moses

Learning to be teachers.

Kung Fu Panda 3

Having saved the village numerous times now, the "dragon warrior" Po (a talking panda voiced by Jack Black) is tasked with stepping up to be the new teacher as his own one is retiring while also reconnecting with his biological dad which puts his adoptive father on edge. Naturally things go terribly at first but urged on by an impending doom track yak, a mighty undead warrior from the ghost realm, Po has to get everything lined up perfectly just in time to save the day... by simply being himself! It's a good message for the younger audience wrapped up in a fun animated adventure, but plot wise there's no real threat to Po or his friends here which is a shame as I do enjoy protagonists learning through consequences. Still a decent watch.

Testament: The Story of Moses

As you might expect, this three episode mini-documentary-series focuses on the life of Moses from escaping death as an infant to bringing lots of death to the Egyptians while saving the slaves. Alas Moses himself is mostly a grumpy, non-interesting character (which is ironic as this is his story) but maybe that's what they were going for? In contrast Pharaoh exudes in screen charisma and is great. While the dramatization certainly has some budget behind it, I'm not sure how much value is added by the "expert" segments of actual theologians talking about him seeded at various points in the plot which couldn't have been better done with just some book-end like text. As such the episodes are quite lengthy and if you should attempt watching it I'd advise at least bumping it up to 1.25x speed.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge and The Final Table

Competing as teams!

Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge (Season 1)

I've never seen the original Spartan games, but in this format three squads each made up of two men, two women and one ranked spartan (from the solo version) race through an obstacle course using fitness and teamwork. Three races take place each episode, but they only show the "featured" race followed by the finals race where the two winners of the earlier races are joined by the 2nd place team with the fastest time. I guess even the producers realized that showing people doing the same things over and over could get repetitive but thankfully the teams have enough charisma to keep viewers engaged for eight episodes. Netflix doesn't have season two available so maybe they too thought "eight episodes of this is enough for anybody".

The Final Table

In this show 24 established chefs from around the world work in pairs to prepare the best dish based on whatever cuisine the current episode is focused on, judged by celebrities and foodies from that same region. The three worst dishes then compete using the selected featured ingredient of the region and makers of the worst dish are eliminated. It's a fast format which is pretty neat, but its only the final four that ever have to compete individually. Recommended for Masterchef fans but as the episodes are on the longer side, I suggest watching at 1.25x speed (it makes their knife skills superhuman too lol).

Monday 1 April 2024

Saints Row (2022) and Astro Duel II

Still clearing out those Epic giveaways...

Saints Row (2022)

This reboot of the franchise drops the characters and continuity from the original (where the protagonist has possibly fought aliens, been to hell and had the Earth destroyed) and gives you a brand new "boss" who happens to have skilled room mates that are already part of other various gangs, but are still unable to make the rent. They're pretty cool, as is the gigantic map you can play in. Alas most of the crazy side jobs tend to be locked by a grind, so its likely you'll complete the main mission first and once you do that, well... there's no real incentive in going back to do the unlocked stuff. Also, the towing type minigames suck which is a shame because that's one of the few new things they tried to add here. Everything else is just a "hey remember this from the other game... where it was better?". Only recommended to people who haven't played any Saints Row previously.

Astro Duel II

This is a strange pixel game where you fight other players (or NPC monsters for solo players) on maps that are both top down asteroid-type shooters with you piloting a spaceship, but if you fly into an area with gravity (or get destroyed) you hop out as your anthomorphic avatar to continue the fight. After a few moments your spaceship form returns too, but somehow being outside the spaceship gives you more options in the way of attacks. A very odd game and not one I recommend.

Friday 29 March 2024

Midnight Mass and Oppenheimer

If you like talking, these are the shows for you.

Midnight Mass

This seven episode series focuses on a small religious (Catholic) community living on an island, and what happens when they are visited by "miracles" unexplainable by science (but super obvious for any viewer who plays D&D). Worth pointing out now that this is actually a supernatural horror series but the scares for most of the early episodes are just brief glimpses of something with a sudden burst of violin discord to unsettle you. Mostly, its just people talking and the priest (played by Hamish Linklater) in particular is fantastic in his role. Decent watch but its slooooowww. And that's already watching at 1.5x the speed.


This three hour film focuses on the life of the titular J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) but told in non-linear fashion as to produce more drama. It also makes it a bit messy to follow as some cuts seem very quick, and doing it for this duration does make it a tad tiring to watch - we actually had to stop 1 hour in as we started falling asleep. Is that the sign of a bad movie? Possibly, but it won awards and stuff and other than my minor gripe above there's nothing really wrong with the film. But is it a sign of a movie where "nothing happens"? Definitely. Compared to say, Damsel, which had us stuck watching it, this one ended up becoming something playing in the background. I'm not going to watch it again that's for sure. If I had to choose between this and the slooooow Midnight Mass, I'd pick Midnight Mass each time as at least something happens there!

Wednesday 27 March 2024

GTFO: ALT R2C2 - ???

Yep, this mission is actually named ??? and unlike other times where I say "we haven't been playing GTFO" this time we certainly have been but this level is really up there in terms of BS with the only good news being there aren't any scouts. The job is to recover 7 IDs (out of 9ish that randomly spawn) and then get back out but the main problem is that there is an endless alarm which means you'll have groups of 4 striker/shooters coming at you every 45 seconds. Hope you are good in melee! Also I only discovered now that the strikers also aim for your head so with good timing you can just crouch to evade their tongues (much like shooter blasts). Our loadout was as follows:

Me: Pistol/Revolver/Cfoam/Spear (team 1)
DL: DMR/Sniper Rifle/Mines/Hammer (team 1)
Jim: Double Tap DMR/Combat Shotgun/Auto Sentry/Hammer (team 2 - terminal duty)
[Bot]: DMR/Hel Gun/Biotracker/Hammer (team 2)

Expect to run this a few times to get used to where cabinets, turbines and cells randomly spawn. Terminals and the disinfection station are in fixed/stagnant positions. Artifacts that improve hack lock skill are handy, as well as a notebook/pen and paper for whoever is doing the terminal (for us it was Jim). Feel free to sprint as there are no sleepers until the last parts anyway just to really screw you over. Here is what worked for us in the end.

From the drop rush to open the big door straight ahead (team 1) and the one to the right (team 2), the idea being to save them for an upcoming hold. If the scum spawn out with you then its good! Fight first and then get the doors open. Team 1 should then go open the door to the left (if its still there) while team 2 who opened the right door sweeps into the next room, following the right wall of the next room to open the next door and loop back out and both teams return to the starting drop room. There's a terminal here on the right side if you are facing away from the hole, and one of you needs to find where the easiest 7 IDs are from here while everyone else defends. You don't need to go into every room!

Once that's done sweep into the next room and make sure you find the tools for c-foamer and ammo for everyone. Open the non-alarm team scan door at the back and there's another terminal just overlooking the stairs (just turn left as you go up). Team 2 stays at this terminal to ping a cell, fog turbine and resources for team 1 to get (split up) opening the two doors dead ahead and to the right. Team 2 can help loot once the cell and turbine are located and bring everything back down to that big dark room with a security door down some stairs in the fog. The generator for the cell can be found by following the stairs down from first scan door you opened and then following the left wall.

Next part is important: wait for the wave of four and your cfoamer needs to get to the middle door (the one looking at the starting drop room) to shut and ice it while the enemies are killed. Then Jim usually closes the door near the fog alarm and DL closes the back door then everyone has to get to the fog alarm door (ideally someone holding the turbine) and get the thing going. If you are lucky the wave will come from the starting drop room which means the cfoamer has just enough time to sprint up the stairs to continue to hold it while your allies do circles and kill flankers. DL usually comes along to put a mine facing the door too at this point. Unlock the door and survive until its back down to the four chasers.

When ready get the fog turbine and you're going to need to march through the fog. Speed is important but as the turbine guy can't run you do have time to unlock some boxes if there are any en route. Follow the right wall and go through the big door and the next big door just beyond that. Feel free to close these behind you but just be careful because sometimes the [Bot] loses pathing here like an idiot which will cost you the run. After the 2nd door you want to follow the left wall to stay up on a metal walkway and someone not carrying the turbine should eat some infection to run ahead and hack lock the small door just around the corner.

Get everyone in there, kill the 4 chasers if need be, then seal the small door, foam the big door to the a left and get started with the security scan on the right. This is a quick scan but you can also quickly die here if you aren't on your game (or the bot decides to take a scenic path when you start it). As soon as the door is unlocked open it and go up the stairs out of the fog (drop the turbine). Fight everything else up here and find more stairs up to locate a disinfection station to cleanse everyone.

Immediately beside you is a blood door. Are there IDs that you need in there? If yes that makes it simple as you can open it now, but for our winning run the answer was no, so we pushed ahead to the small door in the corner which opens into a big chamber with another blood door down some stairs. We did need this one, but it needs power so we just had to go across to the no team scan / no alarm door at the opposite end which leads to the zone with a cell and a fair amount of resources. NOTE: This zone and the zones beyond all blood doors has sleepers. Giant sleepers too. You don't have time to be sneaky though so just shoot em.

With the cell in hand return to the corner between the door you used to enter here and the blood door with stairs down which is where you'll find the generator. DL then setup mines for the downstairs blood door and opened it with the usual hybrid pair and small guys coming out (+ any sleepers that heard the blast). Can't really help much with this next bit but "go in and find the IDs". Yep. They are always in lockers or boxes so stick together, communicate and you'll be ok but don't waste time.

After our first batch of ID's are collected we need to go back through the fog zone, so get the turbine and again follow the right wall which will lead to a terminal here. Ping the ID's while your team protects you, then pick up said IDs and make your way out.  For us we now had to go to the final/first blood door which needs a key (you'd have picked this up while searching for the other IDs) so again, setup (careful of mine + 4 spawners) deal with the hybrid pair + regular monsters + sleepers that wake up and get in there. Get however many IDs you still need (for us it was 1) and run back to the extract as five giant strikers spawn in to give chase. DL got cut off and did not make it, but I think he delayed them for a long period. That said the extraction scan is really slow too, which means we still needed to win against the big boys (+ the endless spawners). Somehow, we did and managed to GTFO!

Monday 25 March 2024

The Outer Worlds

This first person sci-fi RPG is set in a solar system run by greedy corporations on planets where hostile wildlife is aplenty and you get to assemble a ragtag crew of misfits much like that of Firefly. While it plays well enough and the graphics are alright, it runs into two main problems for me - the first being scope. You get to land on numerous planets but the explorable area feels limited, smaller than say Fallout or Borderlands both of which this game tries to emulate, which is actually the second problem because its hard not to compare if you've played these. Its humor isn't as good as Borderlands, the story isn't as sharp as Fallout and exploration is not as enticing as either.

I did like the companion abilities though, as whichever two you bring with you can on command/cool-down perform some pretty epic moves. Yes, some are better than others but that didn't stop me from cycling through all of them regularly. Still not a bad game, but just could have been better. I just can't shake the feeling that they either ran out of time or budget or both.

Sunday 24 March 2024

Damsel and Society of the Snow

Movies that like punishing their protagonists.


Princess Elodie (played Millie Bobby Brown) accepts an arranged marriage to a wealthy kingdom only to find that it is a most cruel double cross. Can she survive and get some payback? Well, it wouldn't be much of a movie if not so while you never actually fear for her life this very physical fantasy movie certainly puts her through the ringer with damage and feats that I don't think many non-plot armored characters could pull off. Other than the obviously fake horse riding, a predictable plot and sometimes just "ok" special FX, this was actually a decent watch for us as it was well paced and almost always exciting. Surprisingly good! Recommended and one I wouldn't mind watching again.

Society of the Snow

In 1972 a plane crashed in the Andes, and this movie depicts the true story of what happened to the survivors who lasted 72 days with limited resources in terrible conditions. While my wife had to "nope" out early due to the food issue (mmm cannibalism), I kept on with this pretty long film which keeps the roller coaster of hope and despair going with almost every scene. Alas, some other scenes are just too long for their own good even when sped up by 1.5x. While this means its not as attention gluing as Damsel, I felt it was still a pretty decent flick all up and especially cool with the ending credits. Worth a watch, but I'm probably not going to watch it again due to its length. 

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Warfarme: Qorvex

Getting this radiation stone themed frame will require jumping more than a few hurdles including completing the quests Heart of Deimos, the New War and Whispers in the Walls which nets you the main blueprint and access to Sanctum Anatomica. There you can collect the rest either by getting lucky from the local bounties or by using Cavia standing (which you get by doing those bounties) to buy them from the bird shop.

Qorvex is built pretty solidly too, and while his speed takes a hit because of that getting the +3 punch through for any weapons he wields is great. Powers wise though, his status shield ability which protects both him and his nearby team is probably best as his summoned pillars or crushing walls are very situational and his ultimate radiation beam feels like a rehash of ultimate beams from other frames (it's weaker than Wisp's but better than Caliban's). He's an OK frame but by the time you get him you'll have found and are probably using something better.

Monday 18 March 2024

Code 8 Part II and House of Ninjas (Season 1)

Shows that are... Meh?

Code 8 Part II

This continuation of Code 8 sees the return of actor brothers Robbie and Stephen Amell in the lead roles. Time has passed plot wise and now there are robot dogs as well? What follows is a story of corruption and witness protection which drives the plot forward faster than the original, but fights and the use of abilities is really held back for key moments (and to save on budget). Unfortunately the main person they are protecting isn't great which detracts a fair bit for me. Still, if you enjoyed the first movie you'll probably enjoy this one.

House of Ninjas (Season 1)

A modern day family that are secretly ninjas are very bored in their undercover "regular" life. To that end, many of them do stupid things for fun and just as they are about to get in trouble for it a rival ninja clan reappears and they officially have to get their swords out to stop the threat. While the action parts are ok with some decent fight choreo and wire work it can take time getting there with some pretty slow moving plot and idiotic characters who don't do the obvious "correct" thing just to expand on the drama. Not great, but if it does get a season two I'll still be watching it.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield, Love, Doors: Paradox and Infinifactory

Catching up on Epic freebies!

Aerial_Knight's Never Yield

This auto runner has the same problems as Super Meat Boy Forever where your inputs are limited to high jump, little jump, slide and sprint and a single wrong move kills you. While the art and music are definitely better the game play itself gets old quick. Not recommended. I had toyed around with creating a similar game in the past (with worse art and music, those are decent here) and this just verifies it would have been a bad idea.


When your character is made up of around 10 white pixels you know that this game really doesn't have good graphics. It's a platformer where you're trying to get to each level's exit and there's a clock if you really want to time yourself. Interesting design decisions in that you can put your respawn point wherever you want, as often as you want, and it looked like you could pick any level without going through some un-locking process. While I commend those ideas its just not enough for me to Love this one. Uninstalled.

Doors: Paradox

This is a very chill puzzle game about unlocking doors, and its not a first person experience. Instead the doors are like a well rendered miniature display, each level decorated by different locks. You can rotate the whole thing and zoom in on bits to pick up puzzle pieces or interact with stuff and it is surprisingly addictive. That's because the first few levels are also very easy (and regular readers know I'm bad at puzzle games). I might go back to this one, and can recommend it for puzzle enthusiasts - though you might blow through the first few really quickly!


This first person game starts with you being abducted by aliens and then tasked to... create production lines of boxes? Yes. You'll be putting down mazes of conveyor belts and welders to put shapes together and will feel pretty satisfied after making it through a level. I was surprised with how easy the controls are too, as to let you focus on the puzzle element and this one doesn't hold back: level one is a pretty good indication of what craziness awaits. Wayyyy to much thinking for me (I only made it to the vertical weld session) but others might enjoy it.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Ghostwire: Tokyo, Lost Castle and Super Meat Boy Forever

Games that focus on DEATH!

Ghostwire: Tokyo

When supernatural entities take over Tokyo, its up to you to save everyone's souls! Despite an average story this one definitely got me hooked, as wandering around the deserted streets is super immersive and exploration and stealth game play is rewarded.

Despite dealing with ghosts and yokai there aren't many scary sections at all which might be a negative but I really enjoyed it. The expansion mode of the Spider's Thread is more roguelike where they do expect you to die a lot though, and becomes repetitive. Way better than the prelude though.

Lost Castle

Speaking of roguelike - this is the entire premise for Lost Castle. You get a randomly generated adventurer to see how far you get into the demon's castle, die, and unlock some mild boons for your next randomly generated adventurer. Got old quick with the below average graphics and the inability to spell "Altar" but at least there was no platforming.

Super Meat Boy Forever

This sequel to the punishing original is just as gory but turned me off right away as a lot of control has been taken away from the player to be an "auto runner" type where your controls are only along the lines of jump, jump twice to attack or duck. You need to hit a "change direction pillow" to go the other way. Clearly designed for a mobile device this button mashing iteration is just not for me.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Season 1) and YuYu Hakusho (Season 1)

Netflix live action adaptations.

Avatar: The Last Airbender

When the Fire nation decides to conquer the rest of the world it falls upon a recently returned child protagonist Aang (played by Gordon Cormier), to bring balance to the world. Hang on a minute, hasn't this already been made into live action?

Yes, but this series is better in that it has more time to develop characters, fix some pacing issues and show off more fight scenes. There's also some good martial arts in there behind all the "elemental bending" but overall I'd still rank this behind the live action One Piece series as the characters and script there are a clear step up.

YuYu Hakusho

A rough delinquent is given a second chance to defend the world against invading spirits, and holy hell is it super entertaining. Amazing wirework assists with the very physical confrontations in a no-filler plot that makes this five episode story (yep, that's all that's in season one) very binge worthy.

Just like Avatar (above) and One Piece I've not seen the source content but this is currently the clear winner among those three, even if some props are hilarious. Recommended!

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Doom Eternal

Doomguy exalted.

This FPS follows on from all the previous Doom titles and like those continues the trend of you fighting horrible demons in violent encounters while exploring a map for secret passages and power ups. As you are able to climb and swing off things there is an added jumping puzzle element here but that's very minor. The biggest difference is in the combat, as based on what you do to your enemies you might be generating ammo (chainsaw), health (melee gory kill), or armor (set them on fire then hurt them) or all the above.

As most major combats take place in arenas now you need to get really good at doing all the above (which by default means you can't be too far away) while under pressure. Enemies have their own weak spots too: the shoulder launchers for revenants, arm cannons of mancubi, tail for pinkies etc - just to keep you on your toes as you fight a more and more mixed bag of enemies with your ridiculously large arsenal of weapons, most of which have two modes of fire which you can switch mid battle as well as upgrade! All up a very solid entry to the Doom franchise.

Monday 11 March 2024

Orphan Black: Echoes and The Vow

A pale copy and a slow film.

Orphan Black: Echoes

In this single season series continuation of Orphan Black, cloning is still highly illegal and yet here come more clones! While it may have been an OK series on its own, the fact that it basically covers the same ground as the original without being as good already puts problems on it. I do applaud them for finding a way for lead actress Krysten Ritter to not have the insane work load Tatiana Maslany had in the original but I feel they really needed to be more trigger happy in offing characters. The fact that it got cancelled while ending on a cliffhanger just solidifies my recommendation to skip this pale immitation of the original. As an aside, this must win one of the worst opening songs ever.

The Vow

After a car accident, the marriage of the victims (played by Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams) is tested as the wife loses all memory of her time with the husband - gravitating towards the different person she was before they met. You can already imagine what complications that could entail and I'd say 80% of the first things you may think of happen here. There are few interest grabbing segments in a sea of a glacially paced drama which makes this an easy skip, even if you like the premise, genre or actors.  

Sunday 10 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Obliteration

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The party group up with Gortash to head to the elder brain's lair and try re-establish control of it with the netherstones. This ultimately fails as the brain has evolved into a netherbrain which power word kills Gortash. The D20 warps the party out of there as the brain begins to float up to the city, turning the many infected people into mindflayers while also summoning more nautiloids from realm space to take over the world. To combat this the D20 manifests itself as a mindflayer too and suggests one of the heroes also goes mindflayery.

Karlach volunteers, turning into a cute squidface. They then manage to meet up with their allies: Councillor Florrick who offers three soldiers, three vampire hunters, Volo and Sarevok (those last two just give passive buffs) before heading into a massive battle against pretty much everything they've fought up to this point but it is Varanna who is the MVP with her bow and a lot of exploding arrows (which she can shoot multiple times per turn apparently).

In the end it is Gale who is the hero though, climbing up onto the brain as it hovers far above Baldur's Gate and self detonates his bomb - obliterating it from existence. This causes fatal headaches to the enemy flayers and giving the citizens the upper hand against the invaders. Karlach and the D20 then go into hiding, Varanna returns to working for the guild, and Catharina (who went against Bhaal's wishes of dominating the brain) quickly degrades into a killer flesh puppet for the god of murder.

Saturday 9 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Trading Up

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The trap is not a very good one and the Stone Lord is revealed to be... Minsc!? Didn't he die in some sewers before? And he's here with Jaheira no less. Seems the worm guys have wormed these two as well. At this point Catharina's patience is wearing thin so she just annihilates them all and the thieves guild thanks her by loaning out their highly skilled hireling Varanna to join the crew. Catharina then locates a hidden Bhaal Murder Tribunal run by Sarevok (whom Catharina killed before) and the ghosts of other Bhaalspawn as well!

They are quite pleased with Catharina's actions thus far - giving her directions to the underground temple of Bhaal, deep down past the grease filled sewers. The place is well guarded by other Bhaal cultists who manage to push poor Kerz into a yawning chasm of instadeath. Beyond is Orin who duels with Catharina (in slayer form) and Orin is literally ripped a new one as Catharina forcefully removes her netherstone then loots that sexy blood armor of hers.

Before going back to Gortash the team visits Cazador, Astarion's vampire master, who it seems was expecting him as he immediately yanks the assassin into being part of the helpless sacrificial victims that explode into giblets when Cazador completes his ascension ritual. Catharina isn't impressed as even the ascended vampire can do little against her slayer form and her friends. Wtih all the vamps dead, the vampire hunters are happy and offer their aid when the time comes, which will be real soon...

Friday 8 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Making Alliances

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Arriving at the outskirts of Baldur's Gate the team is greeted by a welcome sight - people aren't mindflayers (yet), though there are numerous refugees flooding the area for the safety of Lord Gortash's Steel Watch - giant guard bots also powered by infernal engines, making him a popular guy in town. Orin on the other hand outs herself early as a shapeshifter, leaving ambushes for Catharina almost everywhere, like the circus. Gotta get those evil clowns in somehow! Orin murders Halsin in one of these.

Gortash meets with the party and offers a truce, joint rule over the brain provided they can deal with the clearly unhinged Orin and take her stone. Karlach is upset Catharina accepts this, but it does mean an easier time navigating the streets with all the now non-hostile robot guards around. While this is happening Astarion sneaks into the dungeon and frees Councillor Florrick who had opposed Gortash, a useful ally for the future perhaps?

He also runs into a band of vampire hunters who ask him to deal with his master Cazador. Surprising they don't just attack Astarion immediately but maybe they sense some good in this assassin after all? The local thieves guild are more neutral, but are willing to help if the party helps them deal with a new gang following The Stone Lord. They've set a trap for those guys in the local bank (which they run, lol) so that's next on the agenda.

Thursday 7 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: The Transformers

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Deeper in the hive the remaining party members witness an elder brain be controlled by three individuals: Thorm, Gortash (whom Karlach hates), and Orin who is rocking a murderous sexy vibe. While Orin, Gortash and the brain warp elsewhere Thorm stays to fight, transforming into an avatar of Myrkul - Lord of the Dead, best symbolized by a giant skeleton (High Lord Wolnir is that you?).

Halsin gets the KOed Nightsong back into the fight which ultimately kills her while Catharina transforms into the six limbed slayer demon as a child of Bhaal (she remembered how!) for an epic showdown, the end of which sees Karlach pulling Thorm's netherstone out of him - killing him for good. It sounds as dirty and painful as it is.

With no time to waste the team hurry on to Baldur's Gate before the brain turns everyone there into mindflayers but first, some time wasting as Gith monks ambush the team at camp. Who knew unarmed opponents in D&D could be so troublesome!? Afterwards the D20 speaks to us, calling itself "The Emperor", suggesting we let the parasites evolve to make us stronger for the upcoming fight. Catharina talks Gale and Karlach into doing just that, making them pseudo-flayers with black eyes and purpling skin in exchange for some power. Catharina doesn't need it herself since she can already transform into a monster at will.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Turning to Shit

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Raphael's lead is fruitful as the party finds a tomb that serves as the Gauntlet of Shar, the goddess whom Shadowheart worships. After a trial of traps and combat against numerous undead and a few demons they then enter a pocket dimension of Shar where they find the Nightsong, the artifact giving the bad general immortality, is actually an imprisoned angel. Shadowheart goes full zealot and wants to kill her so Karlach swipes the D20 protection device from the cleric and her off into oblivion.

Nightsong is freed and regains her powers almost instantly which she uses to take flight and take the fight to the no-longer immortal Thorm at Moonrise Towers. The party chases after her and on the roof already find her kicking butt until a giant tentacle busts out from one of the towers, knocking Jaheira out, and dragging the angel and the enemy below.

The group jumps down in pursuit and finds a large flayer hive hides beneath Moonrise. Fighting past intellect devourers and mind flayers they come across Wyll's patron, Mizora, inexplicably trapped in one of their pods. She pleads to be set free, reminding Wyll that should she die he will turn into a Lemure (a weak shit fiend) and sent to the infinite meat grinder of the Blood War. Catharina takes that choice out of his hands and presses the button to "Annihilate" Mizora so Wyll turns into a shit before their very eyes before falling through a portal to hell.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: It's just a Hobby

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Jaheira warns the group that Thorm, Lord of the nearby Moonrise Towers, is immortal so it would probably be wise to scout things out first. The party thrashes more shadows in the ruined city en route to the tower and then use tadpole-magic to trick their way in again where they see first hand that yes, that dude is immortal.

His minions aren't though! So after he retires to the roof there is a lot of quiet murder that happens until the tower is devoid of enemies. They then scour the ruined city to find the thing making him immortal, beating a Gith-ambush in the process, and returning to the Last Light Inn to rest, recover, and for Catharina to murder the cleric casting the shield (damn that murderous hobby)!

With no protection, everyone there except Jaheira and Raphael not only dies - but has to be killed again for the party to escape. Jaheira joins the squad because Catharina is so good at not getting caught, no one but Astarion is the wiser (and he approves)! Raphael on the other hand just tells them to go look in the graveyard then blinks away to watch from his home in the hells.

Monday 4 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Training

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Despite not being on the itinerary the party investigates the temple finding it to now be home to drunk kobolds and magical cats. Underneath it however is a Githyanki training facility which the team end up wiping out, especially when it is revealed they are after an artifact (looks like a D20) Shadowheart has been holding this whole time - and the reason they've not yet undergone ceremorphosis (turn into mindflayers).

The Gith-lich queen, only present via magical hologram, swears vengeance but is unable to really do anything. It occurs to them afterwards that the Gith might have the means to remove the parasites, being sworn enemies of the Illithid and all, but having failed to ask any of them about that Wyll just gambles on one of their devices which nearly makes his head explode. The device breaks, and his tadpole remains.

With a sigh the party returns to the shadow-cursed lands and after beating a shambling mound find their way to a magically shielded inn known as the Last Light, protected by a squad of Harpers led by Catharina's old acquaintance Jaheira! I guess that dragon at Suldanessellar didn't melt her to death after all! Also present is a blacksmith who tunes up Karlach's infernal heart to make her live again and the devil Raphael who loans them his assassin vampire servant Astarion, for the lols. Councillor Florrick is also here briefly, but runs off to try "get reinforcements from Baldur's Gate". Yeah - that's not coming.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Wrong Way

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Despite his startling revelation, the team vote to keep Gale in the party which is a good call as his spells and ogre mercenaries come in handy in wiping out the duergars and their idiotic dark elf leader. While their ogre allies are slain, the enslaved deep gnomes (including the same one from the goblin's lair) are saved and show the team the way to the shadow-cursed lands near Moonrise Towers.

Conveniently, Elminster is here waiting for them to give Gale's bomb a "tune-up" so that he no longer needs to devour magic items and instead can self detonate at will. Does the great mage then join the party to stop this impending world-ending doom? Nope, he buggers off as usual to do something else.

Anyway, the shadow-cursed lands are aptly named as anything that doesn't have light takes damage in the darkness and anything dead (unless its a briar plant enemy) turns into a shadow zombie thing. It's an annoying area to traverse at the start due to all the hidden "shadow" enemies but clearing them out improves the situation. Eventually the team find their way up to a mountain pass and outside the cursed lands and, after fire walling some undead idiots, spot a huge ruined temple in the distance. Could this finally be Moonrise Towers? Halsin says no, they're going the wrong way.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Interesting Condition

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The warlock Wyll meets the team at the entrance to the Underdark to try slay Karlach on orders from his patron, the cambion Mizora, but is convinced not only to stand down but to join the party instead. For this he is turned by hellish magics to look a bit more devilish but it doesn't seem to bother anyone much. Especially not the minotaurs, hook horrors, duergar or really annoying bullette that attack the party members equally.

Luckily there's a friendly Myconid colony nearby and a big shroom guy named Glut helps the party clear out this zone until he is slain by a spectator (beholder type thing) near the end, but the team is free to take a rowboat down to the duergar controlled Grym Forge and again via parasite-psionics trick them into being allies for now.

Deciding to explore first the team completes the jumping puzzle to get to the forge itself, fighting animated armors on the way but it is a lava mephit ambush (and the fact they explode on death) that kills Karlach on the steps leading down to it. They opt to back off for now, which is the perfect time for Gale to reveal that his "condition" is worsening, and that he's a living bomb.

Friday 1 March 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Left or R... Yeah, we're going Left

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Back at the druid camp the team are welcomed as heroes since Halsin turns out to be their leader! Halsin does pass that role off to someone else though so that he can accompany the team to Moonrise Towers, where he believes the solution or cure for the tadpoles resides. Volo first wants to try his hand at removing a tadpole and fails, removing Catharina's eye instead but replacing it with a machine version that lets her see invisible things. A decent upgrade!

Volo then waves them good bye as they set off and en route they find the berserker and ex-soldier of Zariel named Karlach who has an infernal engine for a heart and joins them after they help her defeat some evil paladins hunting her down.

One gnoll warband later they also rescue Chancellor Florrick and a few other Flaming Fist soldiers from a burning tavern en route to the mountain pass that leads to Moonrise Towers, only to find that an entire Gith patrol AND their red dragon block the way. As they don't look like they'd be leaving anytime soon the team decides to try out the second path - via the Underdark. Because that sounds MUCH safer right?

Thursday 29 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: The Buffet

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The team opt to try quietly handle the rest of the goblins in what turns out to be a very humorous and fun sequence which involves a lot of pushing guards off high ledges into the yawning Underdark below (insta-kills). The drow leader suffers the same fate while the hobgoblin leader gets his minions exploded via volatile barrel (hilarious) and then is bear food when his throne is wrecked out from under him, leaving him prone and vulnerable to Halsin's fury.

With the leaders gone, Halsin promptly evacuates with the other captive: Volo (master at getting himself into trouble). Lucky Kerz, a half orc paladin prisoner decides to help out, especially since Lae'zel has a brainfart and tries to murder Catharina while they rest. Catharina obviously kills her first.

The team murders their way out of there with Gale recruiting some ogre mercenaries in the process before he reveals he has a condition that requires him to consume magic items or "something bad will happen". In regular D&D this would be annoying or even dangerous. Here, there's a literal buffet of things to keep him satiated.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Goblin's Lair

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The bard Alfira joins the team at camp for one night and Catharina gives in to the urge to murder her in her sleep, hiding her crime from her companions as they continue their journey in the morning - straight into a goblin base! The tadpoles psychic influence prove useful in coercing the guards to let them pass unmolested, but that's exactly what Lae'zel wants to be when she approaches the goblin priestess for help in the parasite removal.

While the others check out the traveling slavers wares, Lae'zel is isolated and is convinced to take a tonic to put her to sleep. When she wakes, she finds herself imprisoned, chained, stripped and branded: a new scientific project for the goblin priestess to cut into. Lucky for her a hooded assassin saves her ass and kills the priestess and her guards to boot. Upon rejoining the team her savior's patron appears to the party - a devil named Raphael.

He tells them that he can remove the parasites but it will come at a cost, and it can't be now. Typical devil, he's such a tease. In a separate dungeon they find some goblin kids meanly torturing a bear, so they let the bear out and help it kill the goblin jailors nearby. Turns out the bear is a shapeshifting druid named Halsin and he wants help in wiping out the goblin leadership.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Baldur's Gate 3: Little Tadpoles

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Catharina wakes up with a jolt as she stumbles out of the Illithid pseudopod with the horrible realization that there was now a tadpole in her brain, ready to transform her into a mind-flayer at any moment. Why it wasn't doing so, or how she got here in the first place is all a blur to her... where is "here" anyway? Some beach where the nautiloid ship crashed.

Another tadpoled survivor, the cleric Shadowheart, is nearby and they decide to stick together as they fight through a few injured intellect devourers (brains on feet) and rescue the wizard Gale from a minor black-hole situation as well as the Githyanki warrior Lae'zel from a more mundane trap - both of whom are equally tadpoled. The quartet make their way inland and witness a goblin raid fail against the walls of a druid encampment. Rather than going in they opt to skirt around as Lae'zel claims to know of a way to remove the tadpoles from their brains - a usually fatal operation.

En route to Lae'zel's solution the team happens on old lady Ethel being bullied by two guys whom they deal with. As thanks, Ethel invites them to her nearby tea house where she reveals herself to be a hag, offering to remove the tadpoles for the cost of an eye. Shadowheart agrees, but after losing one eye is still left with the parasite as Ethel's magics are useless against its Netherese protection. Instead, the witch gives a single use buff item and sends them on their way.

Monday 26 February 2024

Treason and The Silence

Shows where silence is important (but broken anyway)!


"An ok story with dumb characters" is not the line I wanted to type for this currently single season (five episode) spy show starring Charlie Cox, but here we are. After the MI6 boss is taken off the board it is up to his deputy (Cox) to fill his shoes but alas he and his family are some of the stupidest people in the universe and get played like fiddles pretty much right till the end. The idiot-ball aggravation and lack of comeuppances at the end make it a hard one to recommend. Should you watch it? Only if there isn't anything else on.

The Silence

When cave spelunkers inadvertently release dangerous predatory swarms of giant bat-gremlins (who probably shouldn't have survived living in an isolated cave) the USA hilariously falls apart pretty quickly, especially those who aren't able to keep quiet. Yes, its like A Quiet Place with bats in stead of aliens. This one focuses on a family (whose patriarch is played by Stanley Tucci) trying to get out of the city who have the advantage(?) of having a deaf daughter thus all of them know sign language. While it's an alright setup there are just a few too many scenes of contrivance, from "we need to keep quiet but we brought a dog" all the way up to "the film needs a villain so lets just throw one in there". Is it a bad film? No. Is it a good film? Also no. It's just entertaining, but I wouldn't watch it again.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Ovation of the Seas

We were fortunate to go on a short eight day cruise last month on the Ovation of the Seas and it was quite the experience! Boarding was really fast as you deposit your heavier luggage early on which will just appear next to your cabin later, and the beds are cleverly tall enough to fit your luggage underneath so you don't have to squeeze around your bags - there's enough closet space so you don't live out of your bags all the time anyway.

There was no chance we'd be going hungry either with all the options on board but what we found was breakfast at the Solarium was the best, while lunch at Windjammer (provided you sit all the way past the food where it is quieter) offers more options, and the main dining for dinner is great. If you change those around it is less good in that Solarium dinner is repetitive, main dining breakfast is too little and Windjammer is very busy in general.

It's also interesting that the waiters (outside main dining) really get rotated around even from the pay-to-eat places (Chops Grille, yum) but there is alot of upselling especially when you first board and on shore days where they walk around to try get you to eat at wherever they are spruiking.

Of the snacks options, the Two70 cafe is a bit weak again in options (potato soup was good though), at the Doghouse hotdog thing you should just ask for two dogs per bun, and the Fish and Ships near the pool will require maybe three or four of their little servings to be satisfied. Sorrento's (nearly) infinite pizza is the highlight though. Just be aware that after the evening shows this place fills up really quickly!

There's always stuff happening for you to participate in too, and a handy schedule is available in the mandatory app as well as the daily ship news in your cabin TVs. Trivia, dance lessons (we danced on every dance floor we could find), competitions - and that's not even counting the sportsy / poolsy and gaming stuff near the top deck. I got my step count up (around 14-16K a day) doing the search for nations scavenger hunt where you collect signatures from staff from different countries, some of whom are really tough to find as the ship is massive.

While I only got third place I did feel that I got to see a LOT of the ship - including the beautiful gym, spacious spa, multi-roomed childcare, and pretty much every bar because bartenders are an excellent resource when finding people (apparently that's not just in the movies). Did spend a fair bit on shopping too though AND the casino - both of which are only open when the ship is out at sea. After attending an intro to gambling course (free ship activity) I finally tried my hand at a blackjack table. It went as well as you might expect (>_<), but by golly is it fun and super addictive!

For shore excursions (visiting ports) there was a bit of a line for both disembarking and re-embarking but neither took very long possibly because all the ones we visited we could walk off the ship / didn't have to be ferried off the ship. An interesting caveat here though, while you can buy food and bring it on board no food items are allowed to leave the ship! That nixed our idea of getting chocolate as a bday present for someone. We still bought and ate the chocolate though!

Disembarking was also pretty quick - we just chose to tag and leave our bags outside the cabin the night before, keeping basically just hand carry for whatever was left. There was no line for us and by the time we got back on solid ground our stuff was already there. All up a nice experience, with only one slightly rougher sea day where everyone was walking funny. That said as nice as being on that ship was, we were quite ready to get off it come disembarkation day.

Would I do it again? Maybe, but not anytime soon. It's also pretty expensive. :P

Thursday 22 February 2024

The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay and The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Threw out the old formula and it didn't go so well.

Mocking Jay (Part I and II)

After the events from the last movie the rebellion against the Capitol is now in full swing but at the same time our main heroes are now "protected" and must do everything (mainly promotional/inspirational videos) far from the front lines. The effects are actually upped for these two movies but it does feel like a few primary actors just sat on their laurels this time around.

Script wise I don't like that they left their tried and true formula or worldbuilding and then action so it's not as good for me, but hey if you want to finish the story you'll need to watch these anyway. Possibly sped up. :P

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

This prequel to the Hunger Games spends its time dropping names and focusing on how our new protagonist saved the Hunger Games from being abolished many years before Katniss' time. Honestly its a pretty decent story but does two major things wrong - and these tie into each other. First, it runs way too long. Second, they made it a musical? Almost a musical?

I know songs had their part in the original movies but here they really got a lot of attention which is fine if you're here to watch Rachel Zegler sing, but it does draw out the film as there are many parts that just focus on her singing instead of advancing the plot. Alas that puts this in the not recommended pile for me, unless you watch it first before the other movies. Your mileage may vary.