The Surprising Appeal of Silent Films

I’ll admit, I don’t have a lot of patience for movies. I can somehow sit and watch episode upon episode of a good TV show for hours on end, but when it comes to anything that lasts over an hour? Suddenly it’s too much. So it was surprising when, a few nights ago, I not only decided to watch a film – I decided to watch a silent film.

What’s even more surprising is how much I enjoyed it.

It (not the Stephen King version) is a 1927 film starring Clara Bow as a shop girl who falls in love with her boss. The idea behind it is that some people just have “it” – that natural charisma, that charm, that little something that draws people to them. Clara Bow’s character, Betty, has “it” – and so does Clara.

Even without words, Bow’s natural charm and charisma leaps off the screen. You barely realize there’s anyone else in the film – she steals every scene she’s in. There’s a quality about her that draws the eye. It takes a skillful actor to convey emotion convincingly on screen; it takes an even more skillful actor to convey emotion without words.

Even though there’s dialogue that shows up on screen, quite often it’s secondary to the action. Sometimes a character will “talk” on screen with no title cards appearing to show what they’re saying, so you just have to guess from the context. It’s an interesting exercise, and I personally found it quite engaging; almost as if the film were interactive. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s difficult to follow. I quite enjoyed feeling like I was a participant in the film rather than a passive spectator.

On the note of dialogue, I found some of the twenties slang to be quite amusing: “Shall we gnaw a chop at the club tonight?” (What does that even mean?) It helps that I’m fascinated by that entire era – so liberated, yet still so Victorian. Still seems preferable to the fifties, though. But I digress.

I never thought I would enjoy a silent film; I barely enjoy films at it is, but at least I can experience the dialogue with modern movies. But now, having watched this, I might branch out a watch a few more (and hope this one wasn’t just a fluke). In a way, I’m a little sad that silent films are a lost art, but at least now I can hold my own when talking with hipsters.

Review: 100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell

Sometimes, you’ll read about an historical figure so amazing, so completely badass, that you know that your life will never be the same for having learned about them.

100 Nasty Women of History has 100 of these.*

I’ve always had an interest in history, particularly women’s history, and while this book doesn’t go into a lot of detail (it has a lot of ground to cover, after all), it’s a great introduction to some of the most incredible, groundbreaking, and trailblazing women throughout history. After reading it, I was inspired to do some of my own research into the figures that I knew less about.

Unlike most “history books”, however, this is an easy read. It’s entertaining, side-splittingly funny, and not at all dry like you’d expect an history book to be. Jewell does an amazing job of keeping things factual while bringing out the lighter side in some horrid situations. At the same time, she acknowledges that some of these women’s stories are too devastating to be laughed at, and in these cases the stories take on a more sombre tone.

The book is split into sections, all of which have hilarious names – “Women who wore trousers and enjoyed terrifying hobbies” and “Women who punched Nazis (metaphorically but also not)” being two of my favourites – and the stories themselves are written in a casual, conversational tone. There’s a lot of millennial humour and slang in here, but luckily there’s also a glossary of terms for older readers, or millennials who spend all of their time in their rooms playing video games and reading books instead of interacting with others and therefore don’t “get” their generation. (Who, me?)

Another wonderful aspect of this book was how diverse the historical figures in it were. Jewell made sure to include women from all over the globe – including my beloved New Zealand, tucked away in our little corner, which will now gain more exposure thanks to the inclusion of figures such as Nancy Wake, Jean Batten, and Whina Cooper. Pity we’re still not on all the maps.

If there’s one complaint that I have about the book (and it’s less a complaint than a minor annoyance, really), it’s that the stories aren’t in any particular order – they’re separated into sections, but inside those sections they just seem to be thrown in randomly. My chronology-loving brain had a hard time with that one.

Apart from that, though, I would recommend this book to anyone, even those not very well-versed in history. The writing style and short chapters make it a great read to dip in and out of when you want to feel inspired. And the humour, while it probably won’t gel with everyone, makes this already great book even better.


*Technically over 100, since one chapter encompasses four sisters. But I digress.

Review: Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison

Or: “Big surprise, Hugh Hefner is super fucking creepy”.

Although I love biographies, I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up if it hadn’t been recommended to me. A book about a former Playboy Bunny? That doesn’t exactly spell “intellectual stimulation”. Truthfully, though, I couldn’t put it down.

Holly Madison was Hugh Hefner’s “main girlfriend” for seven years. That’s right, seven years. She was 22 when she moved into the Playboy Mansion, and Hef was 75. There’s a May-December romance, and then there’s… whatever this was. Although, from what the book says, it wasn’t much of a romance at all.

Madison loved the idea of being part of Playboy from a very young age, having grown up worshiping the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Jenny McCarthy. Like a lot of people, she moved to LA with the dream of becoming an actress; she thought that getting a centrefold in Playboy was a good stepping stone to doing so.

Through people she knew, she started getting invited to pool parties at the Playboy Mansion- and soon enough, she became a regular attendee. About a year after this, her roommate moved out and Madison was left without a place to live. So she did what any logical, rational person would do: she walked up to Hugh Hefner and asked to live in the mansion.

He said yes. She moved in, and so started her life as part of the Playboy harem.

On her first night out with Hef and his girlfriends, he took her to a nightclub and proceeded to offer her a Quaalude- or, as he referred to it, a “thigh opener”. This apparently didn’t raise too many red flags with Madison, and although she refused, she did get extremely drunk and ended up back in Hef’s room. Here, she goes into quite a bit of detail about what transpired, but I won’t: they had an orgy.

From then on, she was one of Hef’s “girlfriends” (I keep putting that in quotation marks because I still can’t take it seriously). She didn’t get along with the other girls, which wasn’t helped by Hef’s pitting them against each other, and eventually her self-confidence eroded to the point where she developed a stutter. However, all this did was endear her to Hef even more, and eventually she became his No. 1 girlfriend, the “Queen Bee” of the girlfriends. All this really entailed was moving into Hef’s room and standing directly next to him during photo ops; although she did manage to get rid of the other girlfriends and replace them with ones who eventually became her friends.

Hef, to nobody’s surprise, was controlling and possessive. He dictated what the girlfriends wore, wouldn’t let them keep jobs, and required them all home by 9pm- even if he himself were staying out late. He gave them a clothing allowance and would track how the money was spent so he’d know whether or not his girlfriends were putting money away (above all, Hef was insecure about his girlfriends leaving him). They didn’t have any kind of independence.

Madison recalls an incident where she had decided to do something nice for Hef by dressing up as one of his favourite blondes- Marilyn Monroe. She cut her long hair short and put on red lipstick, then asked Hef what he thought. Little did she know, Hef hated red lipstick with an unreasonable amount of passion. He screamed at her, telling her she looked “old, hard, and cheap”. After that, Madison stuck to the script as much as possible.

After seven years of being Hef’s plaything (and with no centrefold to show for it), everything came to a head when Holly spent her first (!!) night away from the mansion on her own. On a trip to Vegas, she met a man who walked her back to her hotel room. Although nothing happened, she woke up to a frantic call from Hef, who had had her followed and was convinced she had cheated on him (oh yeah, did I mention that Hef was allowed to sleep with whomever, but the girlfriends were required to stay completely faithful? Yeah). This, finally, was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and Madison decided to leave mansion life behind forever.

The book ends with Madison finally finding her “happily ever after”: marriage, children, and her own TV show. Even if you don’t necessarily approve of her choices, you can’t help but applaud her from how she picked up the pieces of her shattered life after she leaves the mansion. Ultimately, it’s a story of hope, as well as being an eye-opening account of what life in the Playboy Mansion was really like. Read this with an open mind: I swear you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

Review: The Problem with Apu

The Problem with Apu is a recently released documentary made by Indian-American comedian Hari Kondabolu (who is excellent, by the way. Check out some of his stuff, he’s a delight). As the title suggests, it deals with the portrayal of classic Simpsons character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and the affect that it has had on many prominent South Asian Americans growing up.

Apu, Kondabolu says, “sounds like a white guy doing an impression of a white guy making fun of my father.” And this is understandable, especially considering the character is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria, who also provides the voice of many other iconic Simpsons characters. I wasn’t aware that Azaria was Apu’s voice actor until a few years ago. For the longest time, I assumed he was voiced by an Indian.

When I found out, I was not only shocked but also a little uncomfortable, not only at the fact that a white guy was doing the voice of a non-white character, but also at my own ignorance on the subject. Even knowing from a very early age that Apu (along with many other characters in the show, as they address in the documentary) was a stereotype that wasn’t representative of an entire group of people, I somehow never had a problem with it until I realized that his actor was white. I’m sure, however, had the voice actor been Indian, it wouldn’t have been that much more acceptable.

One of the problems with Apu, according to the documentary, is that for a very long time he was people’s only reference for what a South Asian person was. Whereas now we have shows like Master of None and The Mindy Project, which were created by and feature South Asian Americans, back when The Simpsons was in its infancy, Apu was all anybody had. The stereotypical convenience store owner with the cliche accent was what people automatically thought of when they heard the word “Indian”. Unless they were Level 500 Racist and also thought of Native Americans. But I digress.

The documentary was well-crafted, with the interviews being conducted in a respectful, empathetic manner, even with that one asshole from The Simpsons (no, not Azaria. He declined the opportunity for some self-reflection and personal growth). I can’t remember his name, but he was arrogant and wanky, so we’ll just call him Arrogant Wanker. Essentially, his interview with Kondabolu boiled down to: “I don’t see what the problem is, therefore your experiences aren’t valid.”

I’ve been seeing this kind of response to the documentary all over the place, even by people who haven’t seen it. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these responses have come from white guys. There has definitely been a lot of knee-jerk reactions of, “But it’s satire! It’s supposed to be offensive!” and, “Why do you have to take everything so seriously?” White people are so defensive. I know because I am one.

I can kind of understand these kinds of reactions, at least on an intellectual level. As white people, we don’t want to be associated with the racists of old (unless of course, you’re actually an out-and-proud racist. In which case, go fuck yourself). We don’t want to be ignorant, and often can’t admit that we are. Admitting ignorance is one of the hardest things for people to do, and for people in a place of privilege who haven’t experienced prejudice (and therefore often don’t even see it), it’s even more difficult. So when we’re accused of things like prejudice and racial ignorance, we often bite back instead of reflecting on our own behaviour.* I just wish people wouldn’t be so dismissive of other people’s experiences just because they can’t personally relate.

I really enjoyed this documentary. It’s well made and well worth a watch. Even if you don’t initially agree with the premise, I guarantee it will make you think. It certainly opened my eyes to a lot of issues. I’m not sure what impact it will have on The Simpsons or the character of Apu, but I’m interested to find out. The Simpsons has never been a perfect show, but I think this would be a great time to reflect on society’s changing attitudes. Things are different to how they were back when the show first started, and it’s time to move into the modern age (please keep in mind I haven’t watched The Simpsons past season eleven. With good reason).

TL;DR: I spent an hour being angry at white dudes. What else is new?



*There, I’ve done my white-person duty of somehow making this about white struggles. Do I get a badge now?

Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the greatest shows of all time

Avatar: The Last Airbender may be a kids’ cartoon, but that doesn’t stop it from being awesome.

I’m a big fan of cartoons. I’ve recently gone back and watched a few from my childhood, and while some have stood the test of time (Recess, Batman: The Animated Series) some, sadly, have not (here’s looking at you, Pinky and the Brain). And while I was in my early teens when Avatar came out, I knew even then that it was going to be a timeless classic.

Avatar is set in a land where many people possess an ability known as “bending”, or the capacity to manipulate the elements to their will. Of the four elements- air, water, fire, and earth- most of these people can only bend one. However, there is one- the Avatar- who can bend all four. Avatar follows the adventures of Aang, the latest incarnation of the Avatar, and his friends: Katara, a Waterbender who acts as the “mother” of the group; Sokka, Katara’s brother, comic relief, and non-bender; and Toph, a blind Earthbender who is one of the best characters in all of cartoon history.

Each element is separated by nation. Naturally, because fire is super evil, the Fire Nation is the villain of the piece, invading and conquering all the other lands because its leader, the Fire Lord, is just plain evil, I guess. They’ve even wiped out the Air Nomads, the tribe where Aang was born, making him the last Airbender. See? The title of the thing is in the thing!

This show doesn’t shy away from big issues. Tribalism, for example, is the biggest running theme, and with all the crazy shit going down in the US of A at the moment, it seems particularly poignant. Unlike a lot of shows, however, it doesn’t glorify violence or killing, and tries to convey the horrors of war in a way that kids can understand. It does a great job of it, too.

Sexism is also dealt with in a great way. Sokka is notoriously sexist, which is eventually beaten out of him- quite literally, in some cases- by his encounters with various women throughout the first season. Katara chafes at her brother’s ideas of masculinity and traditional gender roles, but it’s not until he meets the Kyoshi Warriors, a group of female-only fighters, does he truly learn how wrong his views have been.

I mentioned the main villain before. Given that the show is full of so many well-developed, amazing characters, the Fire Lord is strangely two-dimensional. He wants to conquer the world just because. He has no real discernible motive other than being born power-hungry. On the other hand, his daughter, Azula, is a fantastic villain. She’s briefly seen in season one but doesn’t really join the action until season two, where she hunts both the Avatar and her brother, Zuko (who is portrayed as a villain in season one, but eventually defects to Team Avatar).

Azula is a Firebending prodigy and a textbook psychopath. She uses fear and intimidation to control everyone around her, including her “friends”. Over the course of the series, we discover more about how she became who she is and we see her mental state begin to break down. In the end, her lust for power becomes her downfall.

In some ways, Azula and Toph, whom I mentioned earlier, are quite similar. Both have issues with their parents, both are supremely self-confident and have a superiority complex, and both have prodigious abilities beyond those of other characters (hell, Toph even creates a whole new type of bending because she’s so awesome). The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Toph has a conscience. She does love fighting, but she doesn’t enjoy killing. That, and she has a wonderfully sarcastic sense of humour, often making jokes at other people’s expense or even, at times, at her own blindness. Azula takes herself far too seriously.

I haven’t even got around to mentioning my other favourite character, Iroh, but I won’t because his greatness can’t be contained in one post. I guess you’ll just have to watch it to find out. In all seriousness, though, if you’ve never seen the show, watch it. Because of its depth and sophistication, it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a kids’ show. In fact, I think adults would have a greater appreciation for it, due to its messages and some of the humour. It’s definitely worth a watch (or three).

Bioshock: Infinite

There are some games that you play through, think “oh that was fun” and then promptly forget about- and then there are some games you play through and become so immersed in the story and gameplay that, even after you finish, you can’t stop thinking about it. Bioshock: Infinite, I am happy to say, is one of the latter.

For those who are unfamiliar, Bioshock is a series of first-person shooter games set in creepy, dystopian worlds. The first two games, for example, is set in an underwater city called Rapture in the 1960s. The latest game in the series, Bioshock: Infinite, takes a slightly different turn, being set in 1912 in the floating city of Columbia, which had seceded from the United States about a decade before. The setting is a little more steampunk-y and less scary than the first two, but don’t let that fool you- the game still has its freaky moments.

You play as Booker DeWitt- which is the most 1912 name ever, by the way- a former detective who is sent to rescue a girl named Elizabeth in order to pay off his debts. He manages to find his way to Columbia purely by accident (although, conveniently, that’s where he’s meant to go), and straight away things are a little off. The city is run by a cult leader named Father Comstock, who believes he is a prophet. His brainwashed populace see no other way than to follow his lead.

One thing I love about this game is that it doesn’t shy away from tough issues. Ideas such as religious extremism and race relations are recurring themes, as well as the concept of moral ambiguity- one of my favourite things in every type of media. Not everything is cut and dry, and sometimes good people do shitty things. In this particular case, while the main character is the “good guy”, he is at heart kind of a terrible person. The game doesn’t try to convince you otherwise.

I’d love to talk about the ending, but I don’t want to give anything away. I just want to point out that it is a magnificent ending. It’s rough, raw, and at times a little confusing, but that fits in with the rest of the rough, raw, confusing game. So instead of spoiling it for you, I want to talk a little bit about Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is the heart and soul of Bioshock: Infinite. While at first she starts out as a naive Disney Princess-esque archetype, she actually has one of the best character arcs I’ve ever seen for a video game character. While some parts of her personality are massively unrealistic (she’s lived in a tower on her own all her life but she somehow has no problem navigating social situations? Really?), the way she grows and changes throughout the game is done very realistically. For example, when she first sees Booker kill someone, she understandably freaks out and runs away screaming. A surprisingly normal reaction from a video game character, where most other characters probably would have just shrugged and said, “Whatever, happens all the time.” It’s rare to have a character react to violence as if it’s not normal, because most video games are set in violent worlds.

Throughout the game, we see Elizabeth’s demeanour change. At first she’s cheerful, happy to be out of the tower she’s been trapped in, but slowly she starts to look haunted as the horrors that happen throughout the game start to catch up with her. Eventually she changes so much she’s barely recognizable from the character we first met, but it happens so naturally that you can’t question it. She’s more human that most video game characters I’ve ever seen.

Despite its short run time (it’s only about 10 hours long), Bioshock: Infinite is one of the most immersive, engaging games I’ve played in recent years. I would definitely recommend it even if you (like me) are not usually a fan of first-person shooters, as the combat mechanics make it so much more than your usual “aim and fire” shooter. The use of different Vigors in combat make things much more interesting, although I’ll admit I just used Possession on everything and turned my enemies against each other. Nonetheless, it’s definitely worth a play, especially to see that ending.

Comedy Review- Katherine Ryan: In Trouble

Katherine Ryan is one of my favourite comedians of all time. I tell you this from the outset so you’ll know what to expect in the following post. This may be a review, but in this case, it’s mostly going to be gushing. I have nothing to criticize.

I first became familiar with Ryan on a panel show (I forget which one) on which she was by far the funniest member. Her wit and dry delivery made her an instant hit with me. And while she’s still a regular on these types of shows, she was also the second British comedian to get a stand-up special on Netflix, after Jimmy Carr (although Canadian by birth, she counts herself as a British comic as that’s where she’s based and where her career really took off).

I’m probably biased because I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, but honestly, In Trouble is just excellent. Not one joke fell flat. Ryan moves from topic to topic so seamlessly that you barely notice she’s doing it.

Ryan also doesn’t shy away from the tougher topics, from being labelled Public Enemy Number One in the Philippines thanks to an off-the-cuff joke she made on a panel show, to a joke about a Jewish man she dated which turned out to be a lot less offensive that it could have been. From being a single mother, to dating younger men, to giving a speech at her sister’s wedding, and of course taking pot shots at celebrities, nothing is off limits.

Some of you who have seen her clips on Youtube may be familiar with some of the material (spoiler alert: comedians don’t just say a joke once and discard it. Sorry to disappoint). However, her delivery in this special is a lot crisper and tighter, making her more well-known jokes feel fresh and new. Obviously, there is also a lot of new material to make it worth a watch even if you’re already a well-versed Katherine Ryan fan.

While I can understand that some of her jokes may make people slightly uncomfortable (there are some jokes that are not racial slurs in the slightest but could definitely be misconstrued), to me at least, Katherine Ryan didn’t stop being funny for a second. I’ve seen her special twice now and would definitely watch it a third time. Whether you’re familiar with her work or not, Katherine Ryan is definitely worth checking out. And In Trouble is a great place to start.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is actually pretty good, guys

Mass Effect: Andromeda, the latest in Bioware’s groundbreaking sci-fi series, has copped a lot of flack over its various bugs and graphical hiccups. Despite only coming out earlier this year, it suffered a troubled five-year development, after which the studio in charge shut down and Bioware decided to abandon its new project- meaning no downloadable content will be available for single players. Which is a shame, because it’s actually a really good game, and didn’t deserve the amount of criticism it got.

The main idea behind Andromeda was that Bioware wanted to expand on the world-exploration concept introduced in the first Mass Effect: you travel to new planets, help make them habitable, and then move on. The emphasis was very much on discovery. To an extent, this worked; however, what most players loved about the original Mass Effect trilogy was the story and the choices made within. You could be good and virtuous, or you could be good but also be a massive dickhole while you were at it. The moral ambiguity was what made Mass Effect such fun to play.

Andromeda still has personality-related choices, but with less depth. Instead of the original Paragon/Renegade metres in the trilogy, which were influenced by both dialogue and actions, in Andromeda your character’s personality is shaped by dialogue alone, and has almost no bearing on the story. You have four choices: Logical, Emotional, Casual and Professional. Not all dialogue options are available at one time, which is great as it stops your character from being too one-dimensional.

Speaking of which, I really liked the characters in this game. There were a few that annoyed me *cough*Liam*cough* but they were a great mix of personalities and their personal back stories made them seem like real human beings, rather than just one characteristic becoming their entire personality (I’m not saying that’s a problem with Mass Effect, but it’s a pretty common issue in video games in general).

What I especially loved were the loyalty missions. This concept was first introduced in Mass Effect 2, where, to gain the loyalty of your squadmates (which affected the outcome of the ending), you had to do a personal mission with them. Andromeda took this one step further. Whereas in Mass Effect 2 you just had to do one mission and BAM! BFFs 4 lyf, in Andromeda each character required a different amount of effort depending on their personalities. For example, I had to do quite a few missions to gain Peebee’s loyalty, but only one to gain Vetra’s. It made it seem much more realistic than in the previous games- as in real life, some people take longer to warm up to others.

I can’t say much about the romances in the game, as I’ve only completed one playthrough, but the game did introduce a new way of romancing other characters- it starts off as a fling, and it can either stay that way, or eventually move in to an exclusive relationship. In previous games, you often ended up “locked in” to one romance and couldn’t even so much as flirt with other characters after that. This time, each character has different preferences- some, like Cora and Jaal, want commitment, whereas others like Peebee and Liam can be either flings or exclusive. As always, there are gay and bisexual romance options, because Bioware is awesome that way.

Liam and Jaal didn’t get along with my Logical/Professional Sara Ryder, and Peebee and Vetra felt more like buds than potential girlfriends, so my Ryder ended up romancing Reyes Vidal, a Spanish Han Solo (or, for you Dragon Age fans, “Space Zevran”) with questionable morals and a lot of charm. It was a cute, light sort of romance that I felt was really well done, considering it was only expanded from “fling” status in some last-minute patches after the game’s release.

Gameplay-wise, Andromeda didn’t differ that much from the Mass Effects we know and love, which is great because it worked fine the way it was. The new jump-jet feature was a lot of fun, though. I loved being able to jump across long distances or over foe’s heads during combat. They also added a “scanner”, which could be annoying at times, but did add to the gameplay in certain parts (although it was mostly just “get out your scanner and scan this thing so we can move on to the next scene!”).

One thing that has to be said about this game: it’s huge. Much like Dragon Age: Inquisition, you can potentially get so caught up in a rabbit hole of side missions that you can actually forget what the main storyline is! Completionists beware: you can accrue Skyrim-like hours playing this game and still get nowhere.

The environmental graphics are gorgeous and breathtaking, but unfortunately the facial graphics don’t match up. Apparently Bioware had problems with the original software they were using and had to switch to a new one not long before the game’s release, resulting in a lack of facial expressions, random eye movements, and some weird graphical tics. That didn’t bother me too much, though, but perhaps it’s because I play a lot of older games so graphics aren’t a huge factor for me. They’re not up to the standard of the day, sure, but they’re really not that bad.

Andromeda is actually a really fun game. I think the reason it got so much hate is because it didn’t match up to people’s rigid expectations of excellence from a Bioware game. I had a lot of fun playing it, and I think it’s far enough removed from the original trilogy to be played as a standalone game. In that respect, it’s excellent, with fun gameplay, good storyline, plenty of content and lots of witty dialogue to enjoy. If you spend too much time comparing it with the original trilogy then it’s natural that you might find things like the facial graphics and glitches to be irritating- but no game is perfect, and that includes the original Mass Effect trilogy. In the end, it’s a great game, and it makes me sad that Bioware gave up on it so easily.

Sudeki- Why Do I Like This Game?

Sudeki is an… interesting game. My brother got it for his Xbox back in about 2004/2005, and since then I’ve played it- a lot. So many times, in fact, that I know every single bit of dialogue (not even an exaggeration), and every item you need for every quest. Even back then, I knew it wasn’t a great game, but I couldn’t stop playing it.

Ye old Xbox has long since died. So when I saw Sudeki for cheap on Steam, I knew I had to get it, for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else. At this stage I hadn’t played the game for about eight or nine years.

It was almost exactly as I’d remembered- except the PC version is unbelievably shit. Most of the time, when games are ported to different systems, the gameplay mechanics are slightly changed to fit in with the system’s capability. Not so with Sudeki– the X and A buttons used for combat is changed to right-click and left-click on the mouse, which can be slightly clunky for doing combos with your melee characters, and the menu buttons are assigned to seemingly random letters on the keyboard. And the graphics, while never mindblowing in the first place, look absolutely terrible on my computer.

Lazy port aside, I really enjoyed playing Sudeki again.

Sudeki is set in the city of Ilumina, which is in the land of Haskilia, which is the land of Sudeki, which is in the land of Omnia. Bear with me. Haskilia is under attack by soldiers from a land called Akloria, which we find out later is actually an alternate universe. Bear with me.

The story starts off simply- Tal, a young knight, is tasked with a cross-country trip to save the scantily-clad Princess of Ilumina, named Ailish. Oh male gaze, how I missed you while I was playing Dragon Age: Inquisition (seriously, the women in Sudeki legitimately wear next to nothing. Bear with me).

On a side note, Ailish is a sorceress/mage/magic user, and she is awesome in combat. This is one of the few games where I prefer ranged combat to melee.

Once you’ve saved Princess Ailish, you head back to Ilumina, and once you’re there you’re treated to the game’s weirdest dialogue exchange, in which Tal tells Ailish that she “wasn’t right to come along” and that they’d both get back home before they got in trouble. Huh? What? But… that whole first quest was about you saving Ailish, Tal. How was she “not right to come along”? How could you possibly get in trouble for doing what you were ordered to do and bringing the Princess home safe? I just… what? I’ve never understood this exchange.

I think they may have originally had a different storyline sorted for this part of the game, so they animated and recorded this first before signing off on the final storyline- even the graphics are a little bit worse than usual. Then they were like “fuck it, leave it in, no one will notice!” Well, noticed, Climax Studios*. I noticed.

After this, you are sent on your main quest- to find crystals for a crystal-powered machine that supposedly creates a giant shield, or something; it’s unclear. Either way, the crystals are meant to protect Ilumina and you are meant to find them. Accompanying you are two other party members: Elco, the chief science officer who is in charge of creating and running the crystal machine; and Buki, an anthropomorphic cat-woman who kinda just got caught up in this mess and is now along for the ride.

Buki is your “strong woman” archetype who takes shit from no one and is generally badass, though she gets the worst weapons and most revealing outfits. I never liked having her as my “main” character for that reason- you can literally see her ass. I know this game is marketed to teenage boys, but still- I think the reasoning for putting Buki in the game (personality-wise, at least) went a bit like this: “See, we have a strong female character now! That makes it OK that we can literally see every female NPC’s nipples through their shirts right? Right??” Sigh.

Elco, on the other hand, is an excellent character. He starts off being the typical “straight man” of the group, trying to keep everyone on task, but he becomes so much more than that. He’s flawed, he’s complex, and his voice actor takes the game’s ridiculous dialogue and manages to make it somehow less cringe-worthy. Did I mention the dialogue in this game is bad? It’s really bad.

Anyway, Elco is great and has the best weapons. Paired with his special ability that increases attack damage, he is basically unstoppable.

Eventually, you succeed in finding all the crystals needed for the machine, but along the way you manage to get into the weirdest situations. While collecting the crystal at anthropomorphic animal/racist tribe land, Shadani-Mo, you’re sucked into a portal that takes you to the Realm of Shadows, which is the game’s version of the Underworld. After managing to escape from there, you go to collect another crystal just to get sucked into another portal- bear with me- this time to *gasp* Akloria.

The characters meet their alternate selves, who all have different accents for some reason- Kazel (alternate Tal), Alexine (alternate Ailish), Nico (alternate Buki), and Cafu (alternate Elco). Then we’re treated to another weird exchange, in which Kazel calls Haskilians “Hakarians”. Please clean up your continuity errors before releasing your games, Climax.

Anyway, time for a special twist! Turns out you Haskilians have been the bad guys the whole time. Queen Lusica of Haskilia doesn’t intend on using the crystals to protect the land, but instead wants to use them to make herself immortal. Apparently Mr. Science didn’t see that one coming. You sure that never came up as a possibility in your research, Elco? In using the crystals, Haskilia has managed to suck all the light out of Akloria, causing people to go crazy and somehow teleport into Haskilia without explanation in order to attack them. Bear with me.

In a surprise double-twist, Lusica is being influenced by a mysterious man from Akloria, Lord Talos, who intends on killing her and making himself immortal in the process. And that’s exactly what he does. Hint: he’s the final boss.

I thought the twist(s) was surprisingly well done, given that the rest of the story is pretty simple. I think that’s one of the things I like about this game- it’s simple, it’s fun, and it doesn’t get hung up on trying to explain absolutely everything (although, as you’ve read, it’s caused some serious plot holes).

The gameplay is a lot of fun and, although clunky and cringey at times, some of the dialogue is genuinely funny. So while it may not be a groundbreaking, amazing game, I still really, really enjoy it. For me, it’s the game I play when I want a break from more intense games. I’d recommend it for anyone wanting a few hours of fun gameplay without having too much investment.


*Why am I not surprised the studio is named “Climax”? Sigh.

Review: The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

Ah, The Room; the cult film once described as “the Citizen Kane of bad movies”, while watching it was “like being stabbed in the head”. Everyone’s heard of it, and if you haven’t, I can only assume it’s because you don’t get good reception under that rock.

The Room is quite possibly the best worst movie ever made. The “plot”- such as it is- centres around a “young” man named Johnny, played by Tommy Wiseau- who was also the director, writer, and executive producer- whose fiancee Lisa cheats on him with his best friend, Mark.

The dialogue makes no sense, the scenes are disjointed and unrelated, the acting is ridiculous, and plot points are brought up and never mentioned again. It’s easy to think that the entire movie was just a huge joke- until you read The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero.

Sestero, who plays Mark in the film, met Tommy Wiseau in an acting class in 1998, and was immediately intrigued by his acting style- that is, his strange inflections and amazing ability to mispronounce every single word in the English language. While his accent sounds like a weird amalgamation of different European accents, he insists he’s from New Orleans.

This is just one of the many strange and fascinating things about Tommy Wiseau. His love for the United States is so huge he’s willing to forget his entire life before he moved there, and insists he’s a born-and-bred American- a “ragin’ Cajun”, as he tried to convince everybody during the marketing for The Room.

Sestero, in spite of himself, is drawn to this strange man, and decides to approach him about doing a scene together for their class. Wiseau accepts, and so they embark on one of the strangest friendships known to man.

The Disaster Artist covers their friendship from the first meeting all the way to the premiere of The Room five years later. Wiseau is an egotistical, volatile, and temperamental man who is deluded about his acting abilities, and Sestero manages to provide insight into his friend’s behaviour without defending or apologising for it. Sestero is under no illusions about what Wiseau is like, and he doesn’t go out of his way to make him seem better (or worse) than he is. It’s a refreshing perspective; it’s like he’s saying, “Here’s my friend- this is what he’s like, make of it what you will.”

One thing that Sestero admires about Wiseau is his earnestness. He’s set on becoming an actor and truly believes that’s his destiny. When writing The Room, he approaches the challenge with childlike delight, convinced he’s writing a masterpiece. He celebrates every small achievement as if they’re Earth-shattering. At the premiere of The Room, his eyes fill with tears as he sees his dream come to life.

That moment is where the book ends. We don’t get to read about the audience’s initial reactions to the film or how they affected Wiseau. As fascinating (and probably heartbreaking) as that would be, I feel that the book ended in the right place. Wiseau is the ultimate example of never giving up, and never giving in.

For all these admirable qualities, this is Wiseau we’re talking about. For those who aren’t aware of his batshit crazy interviews, this man has a tendency to blow up at the tiniest thing, leaving everyone in his wake wary and confused. This happens multiple times in the book, including one instance of Wiseau emotionally tormenting Sestero just to get a reaction out of him. In his mind, this behaviour is a perfectly acceptable way to find out if Sestero truly wants to be his friend.

You have to admire Greg Sestero’s patience. Even reading about some of the things Wiseau did left me emotionally exhausted. It’s true what Sestero said, that their friendship was the most human thing that had happened to Wiseau- most people would have pulled away from him, and no doubt most people had.

While it provides hilarious anecdotes about the making of one of the worst films in history, The Disaster Artist is ultimately a tale of friendship, equal parts heartwarming and frustrating. Plus, it’s really, really funny. It’s currently being made into a movie starring James Franco as Wiseau and Dave Franco as Sestero. I would definitely recommend giving this book a read- you’ll probably have as hard a time putting it down as I did. It’s the Citizen Kane of good books.