Review: Bojack Horseman Season 2


Bojack Horseman (Season 2) (2015)

TVMA / Netflix

Animation / Comedy / Drama

Starring: Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie

Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Last year when Netflix released the inaugural season of Bojack Horseman, I was pleasantly surprised at the unexpected dark humor and meta-commentary on Hollywood culture that the show provided.  What made it even more peculiar and original was the fact that the show featured a mix of human characters and human-like animals.  The main character is a horse that is a “has-been” TV show actor.  It doesn’t get more original than that.  The show gained traction and rose in popularity, giving the show a chance to shine again with a new season.  With season two, I was pleased to realize that everything that I loved about the original season makes its return once again, this time better than ever.

via Immersion Online
via Immersion Online

Things pick up right where the first season left off.  Bojack, voiced by Will Arnett, seems to have it all.  Diane (Alison Brie) finished the book detailing the actor’s life and times and it is met with success.  It’s so successful in fact that it strikes a resurgence in Bojack’s career.  Bojack’s dream project, portraying the famous racehorse Secretariat, finally comes to fruition.  With the help of studio mogul Lennie Turtletaub (J.K. Simmons) and director Kelsey Jannings (Maria Bamford), Bojack ends up landing his dream role in his dream production.  Everything seems to be going right for Bojack Horseman.

Bojack seems to be a changed horse, spewing positive vibes all over the place in the first episode.  However, this doesn’t last long as Bojack starts to slip slowly and slowly back to his old self.  This is what makes the second season so fascinating.  Bojack seems to be riding cloud nine, but he still manages to fall into a pit of negativity and pessimism.  Classic Bojack Horseman am I right?  We soon see the Bojack that we all came to love from the first season, but things take a turn for the absolute worst towards the end of the season, a turn I was not expecting.  It’s almost hard to watch Bojack make the mistakes that he makes as things come to a close.  He almost manages to bury everything that he had with a few bad decisions.  You’ll know exactly what I mean when you watch the twelfth episode, “Escape from LA.”  The last minutes of that episode…are just plain difficult to stomach.  It made me want to punch through the TV and slap Bojack because of his blatant stupidity.

via Watch Cartoon Online
via Watch Cartoon Online

Most of the show’s favorites return for the second season.  Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins), Todd Chavez (Aaron Paul), Diane, and Princess Carolyn (Amy Sedaris) all make a return.  Unlike the first season, the lens broadens as we dive into some of the stories of some of the side characters, which is really refreshing.  We see a lot more of Diane and the kinds of things that she has to deal with as a female writer.  Through her adventures, the show provides a commentary on some issues that women with a voice face in our society today.  The show handles these plotlines smartly and they provide some food for thought.  We also get to see more of Princess Carolyn, which was a joy to me since she was one of my favorite characters.  She’s pretty much an exact replica of the ruthless Hollywood agents that exist in the real world, and we get to see her start a new agency with the charismatic and talkative Rutabaga Rabitowitz, voiced by Ben Schwartz.  (It’s here that I should mention that the show still manages to create some pretty clever names for its non-human characters)  A newcomer that deserves some respect and a shout out is Lisa Kudrow’s character, Wanda.  Wanda acts as the love interest for Bojack this season.  The two meet after Wanda wakes up from a twenty year coma.  You can only imagine the kinds of jokes that stem from that.  I liked her character a lot and she ended up being one of my favorite newcomers to the cast.  Finally, we get to see more of Mr. Peanutbutter and his resurgence to fame with a hilarious new game show, the brainchild of the back-to-life author J.D. Salinger, because who else?

via Hit Fix
via Hit Fix

One complaint that I have is one that you have probably heard voiced by others who have critiqued the show, and that is how the second season has handled Bojack’s roommate Todd.  Todd was a fun character who managed to get himself into some pretty bizarre situations.  Aaron Paul takes the character and runs with it, putting a lot of life into the voice of Todd.  The second season however does not give him the love that he probably deserves.  A lot of his plotlines are insignificant to the story as a whole and pale in comparison to the amount of love that characters like Princess Carolyn and Diane received.  His character becomes a little more important during the last two episodes, but the majority of his time is spent getting into some pretty dumb, albeit pretty funny, shenanigans that don’t really mean anything to the larger picture.

Bojack Horseman still retains the smart humor and sharpness from the second season while going in some pretty hilarious directions.  The portion of the season dedicated to Mr. Peanutbutter’s game show is pretty fun to watch and Diane and Sebastion St. Clair’s (Keegan-Michael Key) adventures in Cordova also provide some good laughs.  Bojack’s whole trip to New Mexico is also unexpected and pretty great as well.  It’s also fun to pick out the amount of guest voices that are featured over the course of the show, another thing that made a return from season one.  The voice cast broadens even more and there are some surprise voice performances from the likes of Paul McCartney and Daniel Radcliffe, among a treasure trove of others.

bojack season 2 4

One of the things I knocked the original show for was the seriousness of some of its plot points, a type of seriousness that makes its return again in season two.  This time however I managed to overlook this and realize that the story that Bojack Horseman tells is genuinely funny and pretty intelligent.  The show is a much stronger beast this time around and it provides us with a hilarious, and pretty accurate, scope into the fast-paced and hectic world that makes a residence in Hollywood.  Bojack Horseman is also as fresh and seaworthy as ever in today’s ocean of comedy.  It was announced this morning that the show would be receiving a third season, which makes me pretty happy.  After this second season, I only want to see more of what this show can do.

bojack season 2 score


Review: The Swapper

via Giant Bomb
via Giant Bomb

The Swapper (2013)

PS4 / E10+

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Curve Digital

Developer: Facepalm Games, Curve Digital

Puzzle games can be extremely satisfying experiences if executed correctly.  Puzzles need to be deep and innovative, using familiar mechanics while managing to keep things fresh as time goes along.  This is precisely why The Swapper was such a satisfying experience.  Not only did it deliver on the puzzles, but it managed to tell a simple yet compelling story with the eerie and dark backdrop of space.  It was a weird experience, but I liked it.

the swapper 1

The game doesn’t waste time in throwing you right into the world.  You play as a female space scavenger who finds herself stranded in an abandoned and mysterious space research facility, which you learn is named Theseus.  The facility, among others, was set up to mine for resources.  Earth has already used up a majority of its resources, forcing the construction and deployment of these facilities to essentially save Earth from a resource crisis.  Theseus and its crew landed on Chori V and discovered some weird, but abundant mineral deposits in the ground.  However, things go awry as these resources start to have adverse effects on the crew and their functions.

As the lone explorer of the space station, the player is left to their own devices to discover the story of what happened to Theseus and its crew.  While wondering around the station’s corridors, you brush up against a mysterious device known as The Swapper.  The device allows for the creation of clones which you can swap in and out of at will.  You’re not meant to immediately get what is going on with the device, but as you progress through the game, you start to learn more about it and its effects.  I like the sense of progression that the game employs.  You are given little in the beginning, but as you make your way through the research facility, you discover more and more, until you finally realize what actually happened to the doomed facility.

via PS4 Home
via PS4 Home

The Swapper, despite its deep, chilling story is a puzzle game by nature.  The device that players picks up yields some great innovative and thoughtful puzzles that feel satisfying every time you solve them.  The obstacles that you have to overcome are pretty easy in the beginning.  The mechanics are simple, you can create clones and then switch to them to gain access to other areas.  Red lights prevent you from swapping to your created clones while blue lights prevent the creation of clones.  Purple lights prevent both actions.  In terms of mechanics, that’s pretty much all there is to it.  Some puzzles require quick timing and precision but don’t let that scare you.  Most of the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out, but are challenging enough to make feel great when completing them.  There are a couple of puzzles that I found to be quite frustrating and annoying, but these problems are few and far between to be too meddling.

You will know when you complete a puzzle because at the end you receive different types of orbs.  Some contain a single orb while others contain multiple orbs.  They all are added to your grand total which allow you to access blocked areas.  The game’s final terminal is only accessible after finding 124 orbs, which means you will have to explore the entirety of the facility to gain the necessary orbs necessary for accessing the final moments.  This was a cool way to handle progression and it made the game feel like Metroid in a way.  You’ll run across areas that you aren’t able to access right away but after some exploration and puzzle solving, you will be able to access these areas in due time.

via Egg Plante
via Egg Plante

Perhaps the neatest thing about The Swapper is its brilliant atmosphere that surrounds the whole experience.  There’s a feeling of loneliness that envelopes you as you make your way through the space station’s abandoned corridors.  There is a silence that lingers in the air, besides the sound of your footsteps.  It’s a chilling adventure.  The game also looks amazing as well.  If the art style looks handmade to you, that’s because it is.  The artists at Curve Studios originally made the game’s assets with clay.  They then digitized their creations to bring the game’s world to life on screen.  The game deserves major props for its art direction.

The Swapper ends with a choice that you have to make based off the information that you have gleaned as you cloned and swapped your way through the station.  This was a thoughtful and deep game, which I was not expecting given the game’s initial moments.  The puzzles and obstacles that you encounter never get old despite the lack of new mechanics.  Instead, they evolve and innovate with these simple mechanics to give you fresh and new experiences right up to the game’s ending.  I encourage you to take the trip through the space station to discover the true story of Theseus and The Swapper.

the swapper score

Also available on PC, PS3, Vita, and Xbox One

Review: Ant-Man

via Slash Film
via Slash Film

Ant-Man (2015)

PG-13 / 117 min

Action / Sci-Fi

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Joe Cornish

Director: Peyton Reed

I remember when Ant-Man was announced a while back.  It was before the high-strung plans for Marvel’s movie universe was announced.  I remember wondering why the movie was being made.  Who was going to see this movie?  Who cares about the small lesser-known superhero?  How is a movie like this going to survive in the light of Marvel’s other properties, most notably The Avengers.  It was a lot of questions for a movie that was far from being released.  Fast forward to 2015 and the ant-sized superhero has flown his way onto the big screen.  All my questions have pretty much been answered as I discovered that Ant-Man is a great movie for what it is.

Unlike the previous movies coming out of Marvel’s studios, Ant-Man is operating on a much smaller scale.  The movie tells the story of con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).  The movie begins with his release from jail and continues on to show the kind of man that he is.  He has a family, but he is struggling to keep it together due to his criminalistics habits.  An opportunity for him to better his life comes his way when famous scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) enlists him to save the world and be the true hero that his daughter wants him to be.  It’s a win-win situation.  What makes it even better is that it involves his old habits.

ant man 1

Director Peyton Reed has pretty much given us a heist movie with Ant-Man.  Scott’s mission?  He needs to break into the laboratories that hold a special suit and formula that grants the user the ability to shrink down to the size of an insect.  At that size, the soldier can do some nasty damage without being seen.  It’s a dangerous weapon that can’t fall into the wrong hands.  Unfortunately, one of Pym’s trusted protégés, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), has been working on the project.  After some unorthodox tests, the final prototype has been completed, birthing the main villain of the movie, Yellow Jacket.

The only way Scott is going to face Pym’s protégé is shrinking down himself.  Before Scott came into contact with Pym, he stumbled upon a suit that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant.  It’s revealed that Pym has been keeping this suit a secret all this time.  With the help from Pym’s daughter Hope van Dyme (Evangeline Lilly), Scott has to learn the ways of the suit and get more comfortable controlling his best friends, a wide variety of ants.  It’s Ant-Man versus Yellow Jacket.  Scott is not alone with the heist however, as he has his three best con-friends to help him out.  Michael Pena’s character is hilarious and T.I. pretty much plays himself.  (I still can’t get over the fact that T.I. actually plays a role in this movie)  They’re a comedic bunch that always stole the spotlight whenever they took the screen.

ant man 2

Although there are a couple of appearances from characters from some of the previous Marvel movies, Ant-Man manages to deliver a self-contained story that entertains by itself.  It doesn’t need the chaos and star-power that have come from the previous Marvel movies.  Paul Rudd brings a one-two punch of charm and humor that fit perfectly into the scope of the movie.  It gets me excited for future adventures, because we know that Ant-Man will be making his mark in future Marvel movies.  He’s going to fit in just fine.

Given the nature of the subject material, we get a lot of talk of science and the concepts that go into the suits.  This is where the writing takes a couple of missteps.  Just like time travel movies, you have to watch your step when developing the concepts and theories that come with any outlandish ideas.  When you are writing about the complicated science behind these technologies, it becomes easy to trip up.  There were a couple of instances in the movie that demonstrate exactly what I’m talking about.  For instance, when shrinking objects with Pym’s special disks, the objects retain the same mass and properties of their original size.  There are then numerous shots of a tank on a keychain that made me scratch my head.  Either the person carrying it had super strength or something just wasn’t right.  There were other little details like this that needed some work.

ant man 3

Let’s be honest here, few are going to really care about the little details that come with the technology behind the shrinking suits.  People will flock to the theaters to see the fights and the action.  The movie delivers on all of these fronts, although on a much smaller-scale (literally and figuratively), while simultaneously giving us a dose of humor and wit that I frankly was not expecting out of a movie like this.  Like I said previously, Ant-Man is a wonderful movie that knows exactly what it is and where it fits in with the rest of the Marvel universe and runs with it.  I was genuinely surprised that the movie is as good as it is and I don’t think I will be the only one.

ant man score

Fallout Commercialism: Breaking News Edition

In Bethesda’s Fallout games there is only one source of news available to the survivors of the nuclear fallout, and that is Galaxy News Radio.  However, that wasn’t the case before the Great War.  In addition to GNR, the Capitol Post was a major part of the pre-war landscape.  Hubris Comics, although they didn’t deal with news, provided another print medium that entertained many kids and adults alike back before the nuclear fallout.

galaxy news radio

Galaxy News Radio, run by the always charismatic Three Dog, is the only surviving remnant of the Galaxy News Network.  (Although, this may no longer be the case.  The Fallout 4 reveal trailer contains a billboard advertising GNN.  Perhaps we will have the opportunity to explore more of GNN.)  The network was the leading source of news, especially in Washington D.C., the location where the network’s radio division is located.  Any attentive listener will realize that a lot of the pre-war advertisements can still be heard playing on the air, most likely due to pre-programmed reasons.

GNR's Three Dog
GNR’s Three Dog
Interplay's Logo
Interplay’s Logo

Now, lets get into some of the real life inspirations that provide the foundation for the radio station.  We’ll start with the studio Interplay’s logo, which is actually inspired by the Galaxy News logo.  In the original Fallout, the logo appeared in the introductory scenes and due to the series’ popularity, Interplay, the publishers of the original Fallout, adopted the logo as inspiration for their own.

The Logo from Fallout's Intro
The Logo from Fallout’s Intro

Almost everybody that I talk to loves Three Dog, the charming radio DJ that graces the Capitol Wasteland with his wit, humor, and most importantly, a good taste of classic music from the era.  The character, voiced by Erik Dellums, shares the name with the character Dog 3, who is actually played by Dellums himself in the

Erik Dellums
Erik Dellums

movie She’s Gotta Have It.  Dellums had a pretty big say in Three Dog’s character development, including his signature howls.  As you would imagine, a lot of the things that Three Dogs rambles on about on the radio sprout from a variety of pop culture.  Lets break down the most notable ones:

“You can’t stop the signal.” – This line is muttered after fixing the atenna that needs worked on at the Washington Monument.  The line is actually borrowed from the 2005 movie Serenity, directed by Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon's Serenity
Joss Whedon’s Serenity

“Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in Rivet City!” – This line is more of a deep cut.  Anybody who is familiar with the 1950’s musical The Music Man will recognize this line though.  The musical takes place in River City, and one of the characters says the line, “Trouble, oh we got trouble, right here in River City!”

The film adaptation of The Music Man
The film adaptation of The Music Man

“Your friendly neighborhood disc jockey” – Three Dog sounds a lot like Spider-Man when he howls out this line.  The line references the 1960’s cartoon where Spider-Man is referred to as “Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.”

1960's Spider-Man
1960’s Spider-Man

Ding, dong, the Presidential asshole is dead!” – This one comes from the film classic Wizard of Oz.  In the movie, we hear the cleaner “Ding, dong, the witch is dead!”  It is clear that Three Dog has watched his fair share of movies at this point.

The dead witch from the Wizard of Oz
The dead witch from the Wizard of Oz

“One small step backwards for man, one giant evolutionary rewind for mankind.” – This one will be instantly familiar to any connoisseur of American history.  This is a reference to a quote from Neil Armstrong when he took his first step on the moon.  The only difference is that he was taking a step forward instead of backward.

The Green Hornet
The Green Hornet

Finally, one of the featured radio shows that plays on the GNR is The Adventures of Herbert “Daring” Dashwood.  The show tells the wacky stories of Herbert Dashwood and his sidekick Argyle.  The show is actually a reference to the 1930’s radio program The Green Hornet, which features vigilante Britt Reid fighting crime with his trusted sidekick Kato.  The radio show’s story lines also contain references to the original broadcast as well.

capitol post

Before the war, most citizens of Washington D.C. received their news from the Capitol Post, which had its offices in L’Enfant Plaza.  The company doesn’t take a prominent place in the Fallout games, but in Fallout 3 players can read some of the articles published in the paper at the paper’s HQ.  You can read up on the fictional news stories about the disbanding of the United Nations or the Pint-Sized Slasher, a super weapon that was being developed by the US Government.

The Washington Post's Logo
The Washington Post’s Logo

The newspaper is an obvious reference to Washington D.C.’s actual newspaper, the Washington Post.  One of the interesting things about the Capitol Post is the price of the paper, which was set at a whopping fifty six dollars, obviously due to inflation from the war.

A loading screen from Fallout 3, featuring the Capitol Post
A loading screen from Fallout 3, featuring the Capitol Post

hubris comics

Finally, lets talk about Hubris Comics, the Marvel Comics of the pre-war era.  Branching from Hubris Publishing, the company has been making comics ever since 2021.  The company had a part in war propaganda, similarly to Marvel Comics who produced a number of comics featuring propaganda about World War II and the Cold War.

Loading screen featuring some of Hubris Comic's properties
Loading screen featuring some of Hubris Comic’s properties
Lair of the Ice Worm
Lair of the Ice Worm

Probably the most recognizable comic that the company has put out is Grognak the Barbarian.  The series, which contained fourteen issues is an obvious reference to the real life comic Conan the Barbarian.  The references don’t stop there though.  The cover to “In the Lair of the Virgin Eater” bears resemblance to Conan’s “Lair of the Ice Worm.”

In the Lair of the Virgin Eater
In the Lair of the Virgin Eater

Another popular comic and television series from the company was The Adventures of Captain Cosmos.  The TV show that accompanies the comic aired on Thursdays at 8:00 prior to the war, which is strikingly similar to Star Trek, which aired during the same time slot during it’s first two seasons.

Ad for Captain Cosmos
Ad for Captain Cosmos

Review: Noah

via Flicks and Bits
via Flicks and Bits

Noah (2014)

PG-13 / 138 min

Action / Adventure / Drama

Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins

Director: Darren Aronofsky

At this point, whether you are religious or not, you are probably familiar with the epic biblical story of Noah’s Ark.  It’s basically the story of a new start for mankind because of the evil and sin that had corrupted the land.  God entrusted Noah and his family to build an ark to survive the massive rainstorm that would literally wipe everybody off the entire planet, leaving Noah’s family and some animals to start anew again.  Coming from the bible’s Old Testament, the story is inheritably full of epic proportions, which is captured wonderfully in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, a retelling of the classic story for a more modern audience.

noah 1

I should warn you that this is not the type of movie that you should show to younger ones to familiarize them with the story.  It tends to stray off the trodden path and gives us a very different retelling of the story, a surprisingly dark one at that.  The titular character of Noah is played by Russell Crowe.  Early on in the movie, he experiences some troubling visions of the world falling apart at the hands of a deadly flood.  He can’t turn away and he has to do something about it.  With some guidance from his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins), he finally arrives at the notion that he has to build an ark that will save his family from the flood.

With a mission ahead of them, Noah and his family get right to work.  They entrust the help of some gigantic rock monsters called “The Watchers” that do the heavy lifting while protecting them from danger at the same time.  This is where the story that most are familiar with started to fall of the rails and find a new track.  I personally don’t think the rock guardians were needed since they don’t really fit well with the rest of the story, but I can see why Aronofsky made the decision to put them in the movie.  They add onto the epic nature of the movie and make it feel right at home as a blockbuster movie.

via Spotlight Report
via Spotlight Report

The only real interesting character in the movie is Russell Crowe’s Noah, with the others falling into a pit of boredom and clichés.  Jennifer Connelly plays Noah’s wife Naameh, who brings most of the emotion to the film but hardly anything else.  We then have Noah’s kids, Shem (Douglas Booth), Ham (Logan Lerman), and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll).  Shem’s only really important because he is the new wife of Ila (Emma Watson), a girl that they found during the early moments of the movie.  Ham (whose name always makes me chuckle a bit) is the most interesting of the bunch because of his subplot of “becoming a man.”  After falling away from his father Noah, he looks to Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone), the main villain of the movie, as a way to get revenge after all the things that Noah has done to their family.

Noah gets really compelling when the family is on the boat after surviving the flood.  Noah starts to change as the task at hand starts to get to him, causing him a great deal of stress.  His loved ones start to question who he is and they get driven away from him as he falls deeper into a hole of grumpiness.  I’m sure if I was in the same position as Noah I would probably be the same exact way.  He’s in a tough spot and that starts to wear on him a lot.  This is one of the few things about the movie that is believable.

noah 3

In terms of scale, Aronofsky has got it right.  Noah captures the grand scale of the movie with ease and grace.  Every sweeping vista and massive forest feels right at home amid the movie’s other breathtaking visuals.  Noah’s dark and sometimes terrifying visions also look great too.  The ark and the animals that inhabit it also provide for some great visual moments as well.  Yes, there were some parts where the movie looked a little too saturated but most of the movie looked phenomenal.

It’s a far cry from the story most of us were introduced to, but Noah manages to tell a story that’s fresh and intriguing.  Its characters, besides Noah, could have used some work but everything comes together in the end to form a cool take on the biblical tale.  The movie, full of color, is visually striking and adds to the movie’s scale.  Aronofsky has managed to make the story of Noah more interesting than the original, even if he had to take some creative liberties to get there.

noah score

Review: Rocket League

via IGN
via IGN

Rocket League (2015)

PS4 / NR

Driving / Racing / Sports

Publisher: Psyonix Studios

Developer: Psyonix Studios

Okay so picture this: You’re at a soccer game at the famous Wembley.  Thousands of fans have packed the stadium to watch two teams go head to head in a primetime rubber match.  Now replace the soccer ball with a gigantic metal ball.  Take out the players and instead put in rocket-powered battle-cars.  What you have now is big masses of steel and horsepower throwing themselves at each other with the sole intention of getting the metal ball into the other team’s goal.  Its chaos from every direction and the new game certainly provides a lot more high-octane thrills than any soccer game would.

Doesn’t that sound fun?  I want to live in a world where rocket powered car soccer exists.  Unfortunately, and probably for the best, this game doesn’t exist, but you can experience all the thrills this game would provide in Rocket League, the successor to Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars from developers Psyonix.  The concept is simple and hilariously fun, while giving players a chance to master it’s mechanics for advanced play and strategies.

via Press A Key
via Press A Key

Your main goal?  Get the ball in the goal in any way possible.  It’s hard to explain the type of game Rocket League is, but I will compare it to some real life sports.  It combines the tip-off of basketball, the physical nature of football, and the finesse and skill of soccer.  It’s a pretty cool concept that manages to stay fresh for a long while.  There isn’t too many buttons and gameplay mechanics to master.  You can use your rocket boost to fling yourself at the ball or to get more air with your jumps.  You can also utilize a power slide to maneuver yourself on the nick of a dime.  The game also encourages the use of soccer strategies as well, especially when you’re playing with more players.  You’ll want two cars on the frontlines as your team’s strikers and you want a player or two back near the goal to make the necessary saves and blocks.  The game does not have to be super complex if you just want to have some dumb fun, but the game lets you get deeper if you want to.  It’s a game that I can easily see making some waves in the e-sports scene.

Rocket League is a downloadable release, which means it does not have the plethora of features you would find on a retail game.  There is your standard exhibition games and online games that you can play.  The game supports local multiplayer as well, which I encourage.  The game is understandably a lot more fun when you play with a friend.  If you’re going the solo route, the season mode lets you play a full regular season against AI-controlled teams with a championship at the end.  It’s a fun little diversion that lets you practice your skills if you want to take them online at a competitive level.  Unfortunately that is all you can do at the moment.  Luckily, the game keeps things fun for a while but I can see it slowing down as time goes on.  New modes will be needed to change things up down the road.

via Push Square
via Push Square

There are four main stadiums to play on that all look great.  There are also a ton of items that you can unlock to customize your battle cars.  You can change everything from your cars decals all the way down to the type of flag you want waving from your antenna.  You pretty much unlock a new item after every game you play, which makes for a good sense of progression and progress.

Psyonix has created another dumb fun game that is filled with the potential for great couch multiplayer moments with friends.  Rocket League looks great as well running on the PS4 and PC, running smoothly as ever.  The only thing that is concerning is the game’s servers, which are still down at the time of writing.  Psyonix has already stated that they were not ready for the amount of stress that is being put on the servers due to the amount of players getting the game.  This is a good problem to have I guess, but it needs to be fixed.  Now don’t mind me, I am going to get back on the field, throwing my rocket-powered battle-car in every direction.

rocket league score

Review: Summertime ’06


Summertime ’06 (2015)

Vince Staples

Rap / Hip-Hop

ARTium Recordings / Def Jam Recordings

Tough is a good word to describe the early life of West Coast rapper Vince Staples.  During his childhood, his father was constantly in and out of prison and his mother was working all the time.  Because of this, he spent a lot of time with his grandparents in Compton.  When Staples was twelve, his grandfather died and shortly after, his friend Jabari Benton was murdered.  It was this culmination of events that caused him to get involved in the gang activity that littered Long Beach at the time.  This is the fuel for the fire that Vince Staples brings on his debut album Summertime ’06.

Vince Staples is a name in hip-hop that should garner more attention.  Most of his younger years saw him participating in the gangbang culture of Long Beach.  He slowly got away from that life and turned to music to get himself off the streets.  Up to this point, he has only put out EP’s and mixtapes, including the likes of Hell Can Wait and the Shyne Coldchain mixtape series.  Summertime ’06 might just be the album to finally propel him into the mainstream world of hip hop.

via In Flex We Trust
via In Flex We Trust

As far as rap albums go, this is probably one of the rawest pieces of work I have listened to in a while.  Everything that Staples raps about is real and comes from something that affected him in his gang days, more specifically the summer of 2006.  Explaining the title of the album, Staples said, “Summer of 2006, the beginning of the end of everything I thought I knew. Youth was stolen from my city that summer, and I’m left alone to tell the story. This might not make sense, but that’s because none of it does, we’re stuck. Love tore us all apart.

We get some cold dark undertones right from the get-go with “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 1,” a chilling instrumental interlaced with contrasting sounds of summer and the beach.  The beat leads right into “Lift Me Up,” which almost serves as an intro into the early life of Vince Staples and the sort of stuff he had to deal with.  Next up on the track list is the Clams Casino produced “Norf Norf” which is a prideful boast about the North Side of Long Beach, California where Vince Staples grew up.

via Genius
via Genius

Later down the line Staples raps about the vices that consumed and controlled him during his gangbanging days like sex and selling drugs.  “Birds & Bees” is a mix up of the classic children’s phrase with a twist and “Loca” is a song about the women that drive him crazy.  “Lemme Know,” featuring the talented Jhene Aiko, is another great sounding song that acts as the follow up to “Loca.”  The album’s primary producer is hip-hop legend No I.D., and he provides a fantastic beat for “Dopeman,” a song about Staple’s other vice; drugs.

The album’s first disc (out of two) ends with “Summertime,” an extremely stripped down track with a ton of emotion.  Staples doesn’t hold anything back on this one and you can almost feel the pain in his voice.  On it, he questions whether or not his love will want to stay with him past the summer.  It was a glistening highlight on the album.

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

The second part of the album focuses on life after the Summer of 2006, with a bigger focus on the gang culture in Long Beach.  “Ramona Park Legend Pt. 2” features Earl Sweatshirt on an eeire sounding beat, while “Might Be Wrong,” featuring Haneef Talib, explores the topic of gang culture and the injustices that surround the events of today.  It’s a track that runs chills down your spine.

The third and second to last songs on the album, “C.N.B.” and “Like It Is,” feature the deep flow of Staples with some great verses that demonstrate the raw talent that the rapper has.  They also serve as the conclusion to the story of Vince Staples and his gangbanging childhood.  “’06” gives us a cliffhanger that looks into the future and what is to come from the rapper.

via Pretty Much Amazing
via Pretty Much Amazing

It’s hard to tell whether all the things that Vince Staples raps about is true, but given the amount of emotion that he puts into almost every single track, it’s hard to deny where he’s coming from.  Summertime ’06 is a fantastic album that gives us some of the realest material the year has seen.  It might get off to a slow start in the beginning, but I’m confident that it’s going to turn Vince Staples into a household name.  The album will also make a case for top album of the year.

summertime 06 score

Review: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

via Daily Alt Report
via Daily Alt Report

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

PS4 / Rated M

RPG / Action / Adventure

Publisher: WB Games

Developer: CD Projekt Red

The Witcher games have always intimidated me for the longest time.  Before now, I have only given them slight glances and cowered back in fear.  The previous games in the franchise were PC only high fantasy role playing games that featured epic storylines and very deep combat mechanics that I never wanted to get in to.  The games were not streamlined for a mass audience.  Now, things have changed.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, developed by CD Projekt Red (who in my opinion should win developer of the year for their honesty and humbleness), stands to finally break into the mainstream audience of not only PC owners, but console owners as well.  I have spent an unhealthy amount of hours in the game and I am here to tell you why the experience was worth every minute.

witcher 3 1

If you are new to the Witcher games, like me, then let me give you a quick background.  The games are based on The Witcher Saga, a collection of polish short stories by author Andrzej Sapkowski.  Wild Hunt is supposed to be the third and final story about Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher that the story follows.  In the stories, Witchers are killers of monsters, hired by towns and villages for a good price.  Witchers are often feared by many and are often frowned upon for their practices.

CD Projekt Red puts a lot of time into their dynamic storytelling that allows the players to shape the world that they explore.  In The Witcher 3, the story centers on Geralt and his quest to find Ciri, the daughter of Emhyr var Emreis (Emperor of Nilfgaard) and friend of Geralt.  She is forced to flee and go into hiding after the pursuit of The Wild Hunt threatens to capture her.  These evil riders who bring cold darkness and death everywhere they go covet Ciri’s powers of the Elder Blood, a rare breed of humans that walk among the world.

via Game Rant
via Game Rant

The beginning stages of the game that deal with finding Ciri can be a little slow and padded out, but once she is found, the story only skyrockets in intensity and starts to get real interesting.  The dynamic nature of the story comes into play multiple times, based on the decisions that you make.  The romances with sorceresses Triss and Yennefer, how you treat Ciri, and the allies and rulers that you decide to befriend and aid all play a part in forming the game’s ending, which has three main outcomes with a bunch of smaller differences depending on how you want things to play out.

You will meet a lot of characters along the way that all feed into the main story.  There are also a metric-ton of side quests that also introduce different subplots that factor into the story as well.  Interactions between other characters play out with dialog choices that give you a say in how you want interactions to go.  The voice acting in this game is top notch and the writing is phenomenal, with a good dose of seriousness and comedy as well.  It was so good in fact that I often found myself exercising every dialog option to get the most out of each interaction.  CD Projekt really nailed it on the story front.

via Dual Shockers
via Dual Shockers

The Northern Realms is where the game takes place, featuring lots of villages and towns to explore, including big cities like Novigrad and Oxenfurt that serve as the metropolitan hubs of trade and commerce in the world.  The game literally features three open worlds for the players to explore, all jam packed with side quests, Witcher contracts, treasure to find, and monsters to exterminate.  The first open world is smaller than the rest and acts as a one big tutorial of sorts, while the other two are absolutely humongous.  This kind of expansiveness lends itself to some formidable load times that can get annoying at times however.  Still, the world looks amazing and the cities feel alive, with NPC’s bustling about and going on with their lives.  A lot of detail was put into the game and this is by far one of the best looking open world games on the market.

witcher 3 4

The game’s combat system is similar to previous games, but streamlines a lot of its aspects to make it more appealing to a wider variety of gamers.  Unfortunately, this is where the game could use some work.  The combat is easy to figure out and learn, but it does not feel as satisfying as combat from other games.  The one thing you would not expect in this type of game is the amount of challenge that even the smallest of encounters can bring on.  The combat is largely tactical and warrants the use of the bestiary to figure out each monster’s weaknesses and strengths.  If you run into a battle with haste, you can find yourself getting overwhelmed and battered pretty hard.  I like the combat in this regard, but Geralt’s movement leaves a lot to be desired and can feel clunky at times.  This can often lead to some frustrating moments in the heat of battle.  CD Projekt Red has already addressed most of these problems as of this writing and their next big patch for the game looks to correct a lot of the minor annoyances with the game among others.

via Twinfinite
via Twinfinite

The UI is the other big portion of the game that needs some work.  Managing your inventory can become a mess when you start to pack on more and more items and the lack of organizational options can make your inventory one big headache to wade through.  It’s also easy to see the game’s roots from the franchise’s PC days in the UI, which does not lend itself well to the console space.  However, like I said in the previous paragraph, the studio is looking to put out a major patch that literally corrects almost all of my minor gripes with the game.  On one hand, the game should have released in a better state when it comes to some of these problems, but the developers have done a great job of listening to fan feedback and tweaking their project to make it the best it can be.

There is no shortage of things to do in the game, with the studio boasting a massive two hundred hours of content.  I don’t know the exact hour count that I have put into the game, but I do know that it is up there.  Some of the smaller guests can get a little repetitive, but most of the side quests and subplots offer a lot of variety and interesting things to do that make them super worthwhile to play through.  If that was not enough, there is also a fun diversion in the form of an in-game card game called Gwent.  It offers a fun little side experience that demands a deeper level of strategy that I was not expecting from a little card game within a larger game.

via IGN
via IGN

The Witcher 3 has provided me with countless hours of entertainment and I never once felt burned out or bored.  In fact, the game left me with a hunger for more.  Luckily for me, CD Projekt Red has done an amazing job with supporting their game with sixteen free DLC content packs for the game and they plan to release two expansion packs later in the year that are said to provide thirty more hours of content.  The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has sold me on the Witcher franchise and I consider myself deeply invested in what is to come from this franchise and its studio.  The game has provided me with the best gaming experience of the year so far and it’s going to take one hell of game to dethrone this game as my favorite game of the year so far.

witcher 3 score

*The game probably would have been a 10/10 if it were not for the minor gameplay and UI annoyances out of the gate.  The patches have fixed these problems however.

Also available for Xbox One and PC

Fallout Commercialism: Mr. House Edition

In the last installment of Fallout Commercialism, we looked at a couple of pre-war companies, one being RoboCo Industries.  The corporation was pretty powerful and successful, partly due to the fact that it was under the umbrella of Mr. House’s business ventures.  Robert House was a savvy businessman and his businesses thrived under his direction.  In this edition, we are going to look at some other companies that Mr. House dabbled in and their inspirations from the real world, starting with the one above them all, House Industries.

house industries

via Nexus Mods
Robert House Concept Art

Robert House was a wealthy and forward thinking businessman that thrived before the bombs dropped during the Great War.  As I stated in the previous edition, Robert House draws a lot of similarities from real-life Howard Hughes, a successful businessman from the United States.  In Fallout: New Vegas we learn about House Industries, Mr. House’s umbrella company that held majority shares in some top corporations from the pre-war era, one of them being RoboCo Industries.  The other two were H&H Tool Company and REPCONN Aerospace, which we will explore later in this edition.

The famous image from Mr. House's penthouse
The famous image from Mr. House’s penthouse

On the topic of RoboCo Industries, anybody that has visited Mr. House’s penthouse in Fallout: New Vegas probably noticed the Securitron “girls” that roamed his living quarters, developed in conjunction with RoboCo.  One of them is named Jane.  There was supposed to be another named Marilyn, but she was ultimately cut from the game.  The story behind these two Securitrons is an interesting one.

Jane, who’s face bears resemblance to Jane Russell
Jane Russell

Jane is a specially programmed Securitron that serves and entertains Mr. House in the state that he is in.  She is commonly known as one of Mr. House’s girls.  What’s interesting about her is her relation to the real life American actress Jane Russell, who bears a striking resemblance to the Securitron’s face.  The 1950’s film star got her start with The Outlaw, in which she co-starred with Howard Hughes, who we already know is the inspiration for Robert House.

One of Jane Russell’s friends was icon Marilyn Monroe, who was the source of inspiration for the other Securitron named Marilyn.

Concept for Marilyn

Marilyn did not make the final cut in the game due to problems with the character’s voice over, which was not able to be fixed in time for release.  Thus, the world never got to see Mr. House’s other lesser-known robot slave, but thanks to some concept art, we can see why Marilyn and Marilyn Monroe are related…

Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe


The interesting thing about the H & H Tool Company was that it was never actually owned by Robert House, although he had a big part in the company’s history.  The tool company was originally founded by the father of Robert and Anthony, Robert’s half brother, House.  When their father passed on, Anthony cheated the family company out of Robert’s hands and took the company for himself.  The company did fine in the initial years of his ownership, but then things started to get shaky as Anthony missed his father and his advice.  The final descent occurred when Robert, who eventually went on to bigger and better things with House Industries, made an attack on the company through the stock exchange, nailing the final nail in the coffin.

Entrance area of the H & H Tools Factory
Entrance area of the H & H Tools Factory
Old Ad for the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company
Old Ad for the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company

The real life Howard Hughes, who is the inspiration behind Mr. House, was actually the owner of Hughes Tool Company, a business that was actually started by his father, Howard Hughes Sr., as the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company.  The company was a big part of the Hughes family, which led Howard Hughes Jr. to buy stock of the company from his relatives to continue the business.  He eventually sold the company in 1972 to pursue other business interests.


REPCONN Aerospace is the final company that interested Mr. House.  The name stands for Rocket Engineering and Production COmpaNy of Nevada.  REPCONN’s main focus was the manufacture of Rockets for the US government, with their headquarters and test site still standing in the Mojave Wasteland.  The company was at first an up-start, but it was seen as having great potential, which made it a prime target for Poseidon Energy and RoboCo Industries.  The company continued to operate on their own, until it ultimately fell under House Industries’ umbrella.

REPCONN's HQ in Nevada
REPCONN’s HQ in Nevada
Boeing's Logo
Boeing’s Logo

One of the first things you notice is the company’s logo, which looks pretty familiar to the famous aviation company Boeing’s logo.  This probably is not a coincidence considering the two company’s shared interests.  What’s probably less apparent is the fact that the company is actually based on the real life company PEPCON, which operated in a facility in Nevada.  The company originally specialized in space fuel production until the 1990’s.  The company’s facility eventually caught on fire and received massive damage from explosions due to space shuttle fuel oxidizer which was not stored correctly.

Footage of the PEPCON disaster in Henderson, Nevada
Footage of the PEPCON disaster in Henderson, Nevada
REPCONN Propaganda
REPCONN Propaganda

REPCONN produced a lot of propaganda posters relating to corporate espionage that can be seen in the Mojave Wasteland.  These kinds of posters were common among government companies during time of war.  In my opinion, they were my favorite posters from the game.  They also produced billboards advertising the headquarter’s museum, which offered guests a look at the company’s ventures

50's Robot
50’s Robot

and other projects.  The billboards featured a robot that is probably inspired by the toy space robots of the 1950’s.  After completing the tour at the HQ, there is an abundance of toy space rockets, which were another popular toy at the time.

REPCONN Billboard
REPCONN Billboard

Fallout Commercialism: A Look at Fallout’s Pre-War Companies

The wastelands of Bethesda’s popular RPG series Fallout are desolate and often dangerous places to be.  October of 2077 marked the end of the Great War when the entire nation was brought under by the blasts of nuclear weapons.  However, before the war, the world of Fallout was a different place, drawing similarities from the reality that we live in today.  This is especially prominent in the game’s pre-war companies that are often seen throughout the wasteland.  Lets take a look at some of these companies and their real-life inspirations.

Sunset Sarsaparilla Company

sunset sarsaparilla logoThe Sunset Sarsaparilla was a pre-war soft drink company that was well known for their Sunset Sarsaparilla soft drink.  The company was located in Las Vegas and the story of it’s creation was an interesting one.  The drink was created by a saloon owner who wanted to make a new drink flavor, but did not know what to make, turning to his saloon’s patrons.  No one gave any suggestions besides a stranger at the end of the bar that recommend a drink containing Sarsaparilla.  The stranger had a family recipe and wanted the owner to follow the recipe very carefully.  It was soon after this when the stranger fell victim to some bandits and died.  The saloon owner was mad at his luck, but found a bottle upon the Saloon’s doorstep with a recipe attached to the bottom.  It was for the Sarsaparilla drink, which after a taste, drove the owner to create Sunset Sarsaparilla.

sunset sarsaparilla ad

The drink is one of the few soft drinks that players can find in the wasteland, however, it was a common flavor of 19th century United States.  It was especially common in Hollywood westerns of the era, offered as a choice of drink in saloons that was usually mocked by the “manly” cowboys nearby.  This is funny, because one of Sunset Sarsaparilla’s pre-war ads contains a hefty man lifting weights with the slogan “Build Mass with Sass!” OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sarsaparilla also contained its fair share of supposed health benefits as well.  It was said that if taken in larger doses, the drink could induce sweating which was regarded as a health benefit at the time.  In the game, Festus, an animatronic puppet, contradicted the healthy aspects of the drink, saying “Excessive ingestion of Sarsaparilla can lead to deleterious effects including, but not limited to: kidney damage, nausea, digital numbness, anxiety, loss of visual acuity, dizziness, occasional nosebleeds, joint inflammation, tooth decay, sore throat, bronchitis, organ rupture and halitosis.”

sunset sarsaparilla festus haggenSpeaking of Festus, the animatronic robot that can be found in Fallout: New Vegas, more specifically in the Sunset Sarsaparilla bottling facility.  He’s part of an interactive exhibit and largely used as a marketing tool for the company, introducing people to the drink.  Festus gets his name from Festus Haggen, a popular deputy on CBS’s western TV show Gunsmoke. The character is best known for his limited vocabulary as well as his lovable demeanor, which makes it easy to see where Bethesda drew its inspiration from for Sunset Sarsaparilla’s lovable mascot.

sunset sarsaparilla festus

Abraxodyne Chemical

abraxo containerAbraxodyne, a subisdiary of RoboCo Industries, was a popular pre-war company that specialized in cleaning products, like Abraxo.  If you have scoured the Capitol and Mojave wastelands, you have most likely seen these boxes of Abraxo cleaner in homes and other facilities.  Advertisements for the product can be seen adorning the walls of various supermarkets and other stores, featuring RoboCo’s Mister Handy cleaning a house with Abraxo abraxo adcleaner.  All it takes is a quick glance at similar advertisements from the fifties to notice the similarities.  The one glaring difference is Mister Handy taking the place of women, who were widely considered responsible for keeping the house clean and shiny.

abraxo real ad

Perhaps a lesser known product put out by Abraxodyne Chemicals is their Tastee Clean Sanitizer.  It was a small little device that could purify different foods and take some of the radiation out of certain items that you find in the wasteland.  It’s hard to believe that this kind of appliance existed before the war, but Abraxodyne Chemicals was a sub company of RoboCo Industries, which means that they had a lot of technology and research at their disposal to develop this sort of product.

abraxo sanitizer

In Fallout 3, Takoma Industrial was considered to have produced Abraxo cleaner before the war, evidenced by the 81 boxes of Abraxo that you can find littered throughout the facility.  Takoma Industrial is located in Takoma Park, a location in the Capitol Wasteland.  Takoma Park is an obvious reference to the real life Takoma, DC which is a diverse neighborhood containing mostly middle class families.  These days, the suburban town mainly serves as a historic district, but it once was known as a commercial hub, containing lots of shopping malls and industrial buildings.  The similarities between Fallout‘s Takoma Park and real-life Takoma can obviously be seen.

abraxo takoma

RoboCo Industries

roboco logoSince we already explored Abraxodyne Chemicals, I figured the next step would be a look at it’s parent company RoboCo Industries, one of the most powerful cornerstones of pre-war industry.  The company was founded by Robert House, the mastermind behind New Vegas.  Robert House is a successful business tycoon who is closely modeled after Howard roboco houseHughes, a famous American business tycoon and investor.  Some of Howard Hughes’ interests were in technology, more specifically aviation, aerospace, and defense systems, which is what RoboCo specializes in.  As Howard Hughes got older, he could often be found inhabiting the top floor penthouses of Las Vegas hotels, were he spent the later portion of his life.  The similarities between Mr. House and Howard Hughes could be considered coincidental, but the two are super similar.  Even portraits of the two tycoons are strangely similar.  They must have been photographed by the same photographers…

roboco hughes

Lets get back to subject.  RoboCo, like I mentioned before, the corporation had it’s hands in numerous design projects, from the purchase of REPCONN Aerospace to the design of the Pip-Boy, one of the most iconic items from the Fallout Universe.  The company is also known for its Unified Operating System, which was used on almost every computer before the Great War.

roboco openVMSThe Unified Operating System draws some resemblance from the real life OpenVMS system.  The operating system was common on the terminals of large-scale industrial companies from back in the day.  Some of the commands that can be seen on the terminals in the game, like “SET FILE/PROT=” and “SET TERM/INQ” are commands that can be used in the VMS system.  The terminals in the wasteland also bear a lot of the same characteristics of the computers from back in the day, like the green screen and the font of the text.

roboco uos

Pip-Boys are perhaps one of the company’s most successful products and can be seen on the arms of many vault dwellers.  Pip-Boy stands for Personal Information Processor and was a device that could store large amounts of information, as well as information that could be read from holodisks.  The devices were standard issue to all Vault-Tec vaults and they were improved with newer versions over time, much like any other device that we have today.  The Pip-Boy is a glaring example of the smart watch technology that we have today, and as the game’s designer Todd Howard playfully remarked, it was one of the first smart watches that ever existed.

roboco pipboy

roboco robby the robotFinally, the company was also known for their line of Protectron robots that specialized in defense, but could be put to manual labor as well.  In 1956 there was a Sci-Fi film called The Forbidden Planet, which featured hero Robby, the Robot.  Robby’s likeness was a source of inspiration for the Protectrons, which contain similar characteristics and weapons.

roboco protectron

There are a lot more companies that existed before the bombs dropped and I plan to explore these companies in future additions of this series.