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January 18, 2019

VGFlicks: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Part 3)

Part 1 - Part 2  - Part 3

The lit path is probably a trap.
This is it, the final level. Spencer, Martha, fridge, Bethany and Alex have found the path leading to the giant jaguar statue on the island of Jumanji, and it’s probably a trap. The night has fallen, and the torches light up for them, highlighting a corridor within the jungle. Spencer decides to cheat the path by climbing into the trees, which is clever as his avatar, Smolder Bravestone, has climbing as a strength, but early on he gets startled by a squirrel, falls onto the path, and gets killed by a hungry jaguar. Good thing he still has one life left!

Oh crap. With this turn of events, most members of the team are down to their last life. Spencer panics and takes Fridge aside to tell him how afraid he is to face the dangers, now that he has only one life, but Fridge reassures him. The two return to the group, and with his knowledge of football and team strategies, Fridge devises a plan that should allow the team to fight both the jaguars on the path and Van Pelt’s men, who are coming.

Martha is just killing mooks left and right!
That's okay, they're just programmed code.
Spencer walks the main path, with Alex as backup to serve as a distraction against the wild animals. Bethany and Fridge go separate ways, but Bethany is captured by Van Pelt while Fridge encounters the largest mammal on the land of Jumanji. As for Martha, she sets up a radio and waits for Van Pelt’s goons, then proceeds to beat them up while “Baby I Love Your Way” plays. Jumanji’s a good video game so far, but it’s severely lacking when it comes to the soundtrack. 4/10. They could have thrown in some Guns’n’Roses!

Her bio says “dance fighting”, but really Martha is just really good at fighting while there’s music playing, she’s not fighting while dancing. This game is bad at explaining things! 3/10!

Like wildfire.

"Give me the stone, or Professor..."
"Bethany..."
"...Bethany? ...Really??? ....of the Professor gets a bullet!"
Martha is caught and grabbed by one of the bike-riding mooks, all the way to Spencer who dispatches the goons. After Martha frees herself, Spencer takes the motorcycle to hurry to the statue. He’s soon chased by jaguars, but he traps them in a circle of fire using a flamethrower. He reaches the giant statue, followed by Alex and Martha, only to find Van Pelt holding Bethany at gunpoint, requesting the stone. However, it’s not in Smolder Bravestone’s possession… it’s Franklin “Moose” who has it. And in comes Fridge riding a freaking elephant. See? I told you! Zoology is the most OP power in this world!

ZOOLOGY POWAAAA!

Abusing the game's system to win?
Yes. All of the yes.
Van Pelt’s jaguars attack the elephant, and the ensuing scuffle causes Fridge to toss the stone. It’s located higher, so Martha elects to go get it, while Spencer scales the giant statue on his bike. Martha finds the Eye of the Jaguar, which landed in the middle of a nest of poisonous snakes. She jumps around the snake-free areas and reaches the jewel, but Van Pelt arrives to take it from her. She notices that Spencer is almost at the top of the statue and remembers that she still has two lives, so she stomps on a snake and gets bitten, exploding in blood since venom is her character’s weakness. But! She respawns in the air, jewel still in hand, and in her fall she hands it to Spencer, who just arrived at the top of the jaguar statue. Smolder Bravestone sticks the stone where it belongs, but nothing seems to happen… that is, until Bethany remembers that they have to yell the game’s name.

JUUU-MAN-JIIIIIIII!

"I WANT TO GO HOOOOOOOOOME! JU-MAN-JIIIIIIIII!"

Gee, what a narcissist, this game.

Also, they manage to do that just as the sun rises on the island. The shockwave caused from this victory makes Van Pelt explode into rats (somehow) and brings back the jungle to its original lush state. On the morning, when the team is back together, Nigel arrives in his jeep and thanks the group for saving Jumanji. Yeah, they did the job that you seemed perfectly able to do in the first place, Nigel.

Alright, alright, get us out of here, Nigel.

"It's good to be home; it's good to have hair again."
The NPC gives a hearty handshake to each of them. Alex simply shakes the guy’s hand and leaves. Bethany tells her current anatomy goodbye, and Fridge nearly rips the arm off Nigel with how hurried he is at getting his real body back. Spencer thinks for a moment of staying in the game with Martha, so that they can remain “like this”, but she tells him that they can be “like this” at home, and shakes Nigel’s hand. Spencer leaves last, and they wake up, back in their own bodies, in the detention room. Well, all but Alex. Going back to the boarded-up house, they see that it has considerably changed; decorated for Christmas, clear and lively, with happy people. The car that pulls up with a Christmas tree on top is driven by a grown Alex, who was sent back to 1996.

Of course he remembers them 20 years later. You don't just forget an
adventure like that one. ...all those hours of therapy... 

Okay, this is something that has bugged me about the first movie, and bugs me about this one. It’s been theorized that Jumanji seeks kids who need to learn things about themselves. It puts them through these trials so that they can learn the lessons they need. And both times, it either sucked in one or multiple people, or brought things out into reality, endangering these kids – and sometimes others. And both times, someone gets sucked in for two decades or longer (Alan Parrish in the first film was stuck in Jumanji for 26 years). So, let’s see… This game with reality-warping powers puts people through mortal danger, rewrites time and space over decades, not to mention its big ol' reset button, all to teach a handful of kids a lesson? Worst. Teacher. Ever.

Also, in the original Jumanji, the introduction lets us know that Alan had issues with his father and was afraid of facing his problems, traits that he both worked on throughout the film. The other characters also had issues they worked on when the board game resurfaced 26 years later. And the four teenagers in the sequel, in 2016, all had issues to work through and managed to do so while adventuring in the Jumanji video game. We get time to know them before Jumanji ropes them in. We don’t actually get that with Alex, at the start of this film. We don’t spend enough time with him to see why he had to be sucked in. Which is especially bad, considering the consequences of that disappearance.

And it's the teenagers who get to do the big Hollywood kiss.
Now in 2016, Alex is married and has two children, one of whom is a daughter he named Bethany to honor the girl who saved his life. The other four teenagers have grown a strong friendship, with Spencer and Fridge back as friends, while Bethany isn’t nearly as obsessed with her looks and social media as she used to be. Oh, and Spencer and Martha become a couple. Last but not least, they go back to the game console… and Fridge crushes it with the bowling ball found in the detention room. Bam! And may you never come back, stupid board/video game!

Roll credits, cue… Ah, there it is! Guns’n’Roses, I was worried you’d never show up!

Well! That’s the movie. It’s a lot better than I make it sound, really. It’s certainly a well-made movie, with great acting, great special effects and a nice soundtrack. On the topic of the actors, the “teenagers” of the movie play their roles quite well. I put that word between quotes because, while the actors for Spencer, Martha and Bethany really were teenagers, Ser’Darius Blain, Fridge’s actor, was 29 during production – actually older than Karen Gillan, who plays Martha within Jumanji. Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Nick Jonas offer very good performances not as the characters they appear to be, but as the teenagers embodying those characters as avatars. Dwayne acts all shy and scared, Jack Black had the tone and mannerisms of a teenage girl at the ready… you get the idea.

The special effects are almost absent from the film for most of the real world scenes, which almost gives the film a made-for-TV feel up until the four teenagers are taken into the game. I like the little touches, such as the teenagers getting detention for valid reasons (I saw too many high school stories where that isn’t the case). When the special effects kick in, they’re very well-done. I like that the characters figure out the details of their adventure as they go, such as how their lives work, how they use their abilities, and how to progress. Although for a gamer, it sure takes Spencer a lot of time to figure those things out for the rest of the team.

It’s also great that each member of the team grows into a complete badass by the end. Spencer and Martha already had the abilities, but use their smarts and wisely utilize the game mechanics to their advantage. Fridge takes full advantage of his zoology skill, even taming an elephant. Badass. Bethany is the first to lose a life, and is in the least physically-fit body of the group, yet she doesn’t lose another life for the whole duration of the game, merely gives one of them to Alex later. Speaking of, Alex becomes a badass too when he chooses to help the team, and does so spectacularly even though he only has one life.

As much as I do enjoy the story, I have slight gripes with it. Like I said, this Jumanji adventure doesn’t feel quite as crazy as the original Jumanji, in part because the original was so creative and had so many different threats for the heroes to overcome. Here, it feels a tad bland as the main threat is a psychopath, his henchmen, and whichever animals he has control of. It’s also pretty different in that this time around, the kids facing the game are given talents and abilities, along with extra lives to fight off the threats. These characters have obtained from the video game the talents to be awesome, while the characters of the original had no such advantage, which dramatically increased the stakes.

The story does take a chance at highlighting and mocking multiple video game tropes, but even there the jokes remain fairly tame. It pokes fun at the limited and often silly information players get, at the lack of responses from NPCs, and so on. It also notes the tendency for games to do fanservice, but doesn’t really expand on that commentary. Multiple missed opportunies, in my opinion. It does have moments of brilliance, such as the path Alex uses to bring the others away from the Bazaar leading into an empty area, like a secret place. And of course, it’s great when the characters get a hold of their abilities and use the situation to their advantage, in the climax mostly. By the way, this game would be terrible to play. Jumanji is a bad dev.

And like I mentioned earlier, what was it that Alex had to learn through his experience in Jumanji, which led to him getting stuck there for twenty years? The prologue isn’t long enough to explain this. The other four teenagers get a reasonable amount of screen time showcasing the flaws and character traits they need to work on, before getting sucked into the game.

But overall, I did enjoy the film. I recommend it. Arguably, the original film is not a necessary watch to understand this one, but it does help a lot in setting up the extent of the board game’s abilities, what it can do. Is it better than the first? Honestly, I don’t know, because they are so different. As a sequel, this film expands on the “mythos” of Jumanji, by doing its own thing rather than copying what we saw in the original. Perhaps not every change is perfect, but it’s a good attempt at putting a new spin on the formula, as a sequel doing exactly what the original did would not be seen as very creative. Good work there.

And hey… who knows, maybe this means we can have a Zathura sequel now! Give me this, Hollywood.

Next week… something else.

Meanwhile, join the Planned All Along Discord!

January 14, 2019

VGFlicks: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Part 2)

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

So many bikers, against four people on foot?
Not fair.
When we left off in Part 1, the characters had just been taken into the Jumanji video game. So far, they’ve had to accept that they’re now in completely different bodies. And also that they have three video game lives, meaning they can all die twice before they’re really in danger. Speaking of, while Bethany, as cartographer Sheldon Oberon, is reading the map to figure out where to go next, the team is attacked by bikers. On a jungle island, in the middle of nowhere? Jeeps and ATVs perhaps, but wouldn’t bikes be detrimental to exploration? I get it, as the bad guys, Russel Van Pelt’s minions have to look threatening, but motorbikes in this environment don’t make much sense, do they? Hm. Guess Jumanji inspired itself a lot more from Twisted Metal than we thought.

On the other had, Martha is now a super
The team flees, but Spencer and Martha use their skills to defeat some of the bikers – Spencer with Smolder Bravestone’s impossibly good aim with a boomerang, and Martha with her character’s combat abilities. The four reach a waterfall and jump down to the waters below, having no other options. They hit the water and swim to a beach, where Martha realizes she’s been shot… and then poofs in a spurt of blood. She reappears, falling from the sky a moment later, which is when the team realizes that they have video game lives. With Bethany reading the map, they move to the bazaar.

"Alright, this means we can all experience death twice
before actually dying. I'm looking forward to that...
#sarcasm"

But before they can go, some of them need to go to the bathroom. And that’s how, in one of the raunchier moments of the film, Spencer and Fridge have to teach Bethany how to use her current, temporary… um… equipment. Okay, that part is hilarious. Especially Bethany’s amazement regarding the whole thing. It’s like I said in Part 1, this situation is played for laughs, jokes without a secondary meaning, and it’s fine that way.

Fridge... Bad idea to antagonize the nerd when he's
in a body made of pure muscle and strength.
Following that comical interlude, the group travels to a town located on a mountain, and talks on the way. Martha tells Bethany that she always saw her as a self-centered pretty girl, and Bethany calls out Martha for being so judgemental of everyone. Meanwhile, since he was booted off the football team after the school staff realized their agreement over homework, Fridge is angry at Spencer and their quarrel devolves into the former pushing the latter into a nearby pit. Spencer lands back on the ground moments later, and tries to stop Fridge from fighting him because they can’t afford to lose too many lives.

Pictured: Fridge, mere seconds before asploding.
...Hey, is that the guy from Too Many Cooks back there?
After some research... Yes! That's him!
The group gets to the bazaar, and the repeating animations of NPCs indicate that they should be regaining some health by eating. Even though, so far, there hasn’t been any indication of Hit Points, or endurance, or anything of the like. Bethany shares some free bread with the rest of the team, including Fridge who takes a bite. Then he’s told that this was actually cake, and he panics since it’s a weakness of his character, Franklin Finbar. But since nothing happens, he relaxes… only to suddenly explode. Well, that may have been the most telegraphed joke ever! That said, I think there are games where some characters aren’t allowed to eat some particular types of food. I doubt it makes them explode, though.

It's like I said. Zoology > Everything else.
A young girl NPC comes up to the group, and brings them to the next challenge. A hut in the shadier part of town, almost empty aside from a basket in the center. The kid tells a riddle in rhyme, because it’s normal for children to do that, right? The riddle’s last line says that “the missing piece is not what they think”… To face this challenge, the team first thinks someone has to look at the snake without blinking, but that fails and the reptile goes for Martha due to her avatar’s weakness to venom. Spencer catches it in extremis, and Fridge uses his zoology skill to carefully defang the snake, making it harmless. See? I said it before, zoology is an OP ability in this game! The group looks inside the box and finds an elephant statuette wrapped in a paper that says, “When you see me, start climbing”.

Who made this game, the Riddler?

"All this time spent playing fighting games will finally pay off!"

"I'll stand here and look menacing. It's what I do best."
That’s when Van Pelt’s men show up. Using his current video game protagonist super-strength, Spencer dispatches many of the stronger mooks, even calling out his attacks like some anime nerd would in this situation. He even punches one in the air through the roof! He Asterix’d that dude! Van Pelt himself appears, but before a fight can ensue, a smoke bomb is tossed and the group is dragged away by someone else. The four are taken through secret areas of town, through a fairly dangerous sewer path that their savior seems to know like the back of his hand. Spencer figures that this is the fifth character, the one that was already picked on the character select screen – Jefferson “Seaplane” McDonough (portrayed by Nick Jonas). They go through a door and find themselves in a clear jungle area, even though moments ago they were underground. They were in a bazaar in a town located on a mountain, and found themselves on flat terrain – it’s as if they crossed a portal leading across the jungle.

"Weren't we on a mountain just moments ago...?"
"Warp Zone. Don't worry about it."

Their helper presents himself as Alex, the fifth player. Strengths: Driving/piloting, making margaritas. Weaknesses: mosquitos. In the jungle, with mosquitos everywhere? That’s bound to be a problem. Alex takes them to a shack in the area, one that was seemingly built by Alan Parrish of the original Jumanji movie. Continuity nod or a simple Easter egg? You make the call. I love the implication that Alan was stuck in the Jumanji world for 26 years, back when it was still a board game, and yet when it upgraded into a video game it kept Alan’s shack. Alex explains that he lost two of his three lives, so he doesn’t dare to progress further into the game since the risk of getting himself killed is too high, and the next challenge is too dangerous, hence why he stays in this little shack.

"I look over 40 right now, but I'm still too young for
alcohol!"
The group socializes around Alex’s margaritas, which three out of four teenagers spit out after the first sip. I mean, they’re still teenagers, even if now they look like grown adults. Only Fridge asks for more, and winds up drinking everyone else’s glasses. The team realizes that Alex has the abilities they need to move forward, so they team up to sneak into a vehicle hangar. It should be easier to do as a five-person team.

The guards at the front never move from their spot, so the team thinks of a plan: Martha, as Ruby Roundhouse, Killer of Men, will walk up to the guards and flirt with them. However, since Martha doesn’t know how to flirt, it’s up to Bethany (still as Jack Black) to give her a few quick classes. Meanwhile, the guys have a talk and realize, from Alex’s use of 90s slang, that he’s the Alex Vreeke who went missing in the mid-nineties. He thinks he's been stuck in the game only for a few months, but it's actually been 20 years. He’s shocked to learn that he’s been gone for so long.

"Let's get to know each other. Pull up a... CHAIR!" WHACK
(Note: She does not actually make comical quips in the
scene. That's a shame.)
After Martha has learned Bethany’s secrets for flirting, she tries to woo the guards while the others sneak into the hangar. Her attempts are laughable and fruitless. Yeah, she’s not good at flirting. A nearby radio turns on, playing “Baby I Love Your Way”, and she figures that her character’s battle-dancing ability will be more useful. She proceeds to beat up the two men. It’s an odd choice of song. In fact, I thought it was a rule of the universe or something: Gravity exists, the Earth is round, E=MC², Peter Frampton isn’t battle music. With the guards dispatched and more of Van Pelt’s men coming, the group gets into a helicopter and leaves, bursting through the hangar. However, the bullets shot by the henchmen damage the helicopter.

This would be a lot easier if the helicopter wasn't moving!
Now struggling to take altitude, Alex pilots as well as he can, but the vehicle is spiraling out of control and into a horde of rhinos in the canyon below. Spencer climbs up on the helicopter and repairs it himself in order to gain altitude, a difficult and dangerous task that he nonetheless achieves… only for Fridge to lose the Eye of the Jaguar, the jewel that they must bring to the jaguar statue, in the process. After Fridge admits this mistake, Alex pilots the helicopter to go back so the team can get the jewel, but the team needs a distraction for the rhinos, which have gathered around the jewel like it’s their Jesus. So Spencer throws Fridge overboard to be trampled while the others get the precious stone. Oh, they manage to catch Fridge when he respawns, but he certainly won’t let them forget about it. Well, he can cross “getting squashed by rhinos” off his bucket list.

"Mosquito bite... oh fuck.
...Please tell me we hadn't used up our mandatory
PG-13 F-bomb already."
After they land in the clearing, the team (and a justifiably angry Fridge) celebrate this victory. Then Alex gets stung by a mosquito, his weakness, which causes him to faint as this was his last life. In a panic, Bethany runs to the fallen Alex and asks how to do CPR, then proceeds to follow Spencer’s detailed explanation. To their surprise, it works – although why it works is even more surprising when the team realizes Bethany has given away one of her video game lives to Alex in the process, leaving her also with only one. Bethany wants him to survive, so that he can leave the game along with them. Props for the idea, but was there ever an indication that such a thing was possible in Jumanji? It smells like a Deus Ex Machina. Although, to be fair, there are classic games with cheat codes that allow the trading of lives between players. Contra is one example. We can’t be sure that it was an intended reference to these codes, but if it was, kudos to the writers of this film.

It's the second video game movie in a row teaching me CPR.
And I still have Stayin' Alive stuck in my head from that scene
in Ready Player One.

After recovering from his near-death experience, Alex thanks Bethany with a hug, although she couldn’t expect her current anatomy to respond positively to it. Might as well say it outright, it’s a boner joke. Not the classiest joke in the film, but it’s funny.

...that's not quite right.
Later, while Bethany and Alex get to know each other, Spencer uses his current bravery to finally admit his feelings to Martha. The whole love declaration is awkward, and so is her response, even though it turns out she’s into Spencer too. It’s comical to see these two seasoned actors playing the parts of these teenagers who barely know how to declare their love to each other. It crosses into hilarious when they go for a big, Hollywoodian French kiss, which they fail pretty badly due to their inexperience. Worst kiss put to film ever. Before they can try again, Fridge interrupts them with news that he has found the jaguar cliff.

This quest is coming to an end.

That transformation into a monkey is some
terrifying stuff for a kid.
Looked great at the time, though.
So far, despite a few issues here and there, I think this film is very good! I know it’s unfair to compare it to the 1995 Jumanji film, but as a sequel to it, there’s one point I can raise. The original Jumanji was crazy. Balls-to-the-wall, unfiltered crazy. The board game brought the dangers out into the world, leaving the players, as well as the whole town, to deal with them. It included, among others, monkeys; a very dedicated hunter; a lion; man-eating plants; crocodiles; a stampede of various animals; humongous spiders and mosquitoes; and more! Not only that, but one kid tries to cheat and gets almost turned into a monkey; the floor of the mansion turns into quicksand at one points and traps Alan into the wooden boards; the house contains a centralized monsoon and, later, gets destroyed by an earthquake! If you haven’t seen the original, I’m sorry for spoiling some of that, but trust my word – it was insane, and that’s why we loved it. It got dark, but it remained fun, it was bursting with creativity and it kept pushing the madness further.

Two words: Quicksand floor.

We found Audrey II's little brother!
If there’s one point of criticism that I have at the moment with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, when I compare it to the first film, it’s that it feels toned down. Sure, the video game elements and the transformation of the teenagers into their avatars are important aspects. But other than that, it’s just not as crazy. The film doesn’t feature animals and threats in a variety quite as wide as the original did. There are animals, sure, but they’re not the focus of a lot of scenes. Earthquakes, monsoon, quicksand, man-eating plants, forget them. How cool would it have been if this sequel had a scene with those giant monster plants? Van Pelt goes from a hunter to a dark, creepy adventurer who has gained dominion over animals, yet the movie does very little with this villainous ability. Instead, he sends his biking henchmen at the heroes, which feels pretty bland (not to mention out-of-place) in this environment. If I want to see humans punching humans, there’s a few thousand movies featuring that. Oh, this isn’t bad, I’m just saying that the film, while pretty good, lacks some of the much-beloved insanity of the film that precedes it.

I’ll go into other observations in Part 3.

Meanwhile, make sure to join the Planned All Along Discord server.

January 11, 2019

VGFlicks: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Part 1)


Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

You can feel the contempt towards gamers in every single
minute of the Super Mario Bros. Movie.
I am so sorry for the late Bob Hoskins.
I touched up on that a bit back in my review of Ready Player One, but I’ll expand on this here: There’s been a gradual change of mentality in Hollywood when it comes to video games. The earlier movies based on games oozed a sort of disinterest for the source material, either misrepresenting video games badly, or doing away with any sort of established canon. Earlier movie adaptations of games, like The Super Mario Bros. Movie, ditched what we know of the series to instead do… well, whatever nonsense they wanted, because it’s just nonsense in those games, right? Some Italian plumber grows big by eating mushrooms and has to fight some dinosaur monster who kidnaps princesses! (Not that there was much plot in those games to fill 90 minutes of movie back then, mind you.) The trend often peers today as well, though it’s gotten much rarer.

But the times, they are-a changing. The old, non-gaming-savvy Hollywood execs are replaced by the crowd that grew up with Atari, Nintendo, SEGA, PlayStation or Xbox. The kids who loved these pixelated or polygonal heroes then are now grown adults producing, directing, script-writing or acting in movies. It’s not uncool nowadays to be a gamer. Geeks are at the helm of some of the most beloved and profitable franchises in the history of cinema. They know gaming. The odds are much higher that they’ll accurately represent video games or gaming franchises.

Even Lady Gaga recently tweeted about playing Bayonetta!

I gotta go back to listen to her music now. I just have to.

The idea of “people getting trapped within a game” isn’t new. Virtualization is a topic I touched upon before as a common trope of works about video games or virtual worlds. This movie, however, puts a new spin on the formula.

Remember Jumanji? That 1995 classic film starring the late Robin Williams in a crazy adventure about a board game bringing the terrifying dangers of the jungle into a peaceful neighborhood? Okay, it’s more complex than that, but the base concept is a magical board game. There was something similar in Zathura, released in 2005, trading jungle adventure for science-fiction. And here, more than 20 years after the original film, we have this sequel, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Get your Guns N’ Roses jokes out of the way right now.

This one features the eponymous board game of the original, but in a new flavor. It’s always a risky bet to make a sequel to an adored classic, especially so long after the original, and especially if you’re going such a different route from the original. Did this risky bet pay off? Let’s find out.


January 5, 2019

Retrospective 2018

If I'm trying to avoid delays, that's a bad start. (In my defense, I had a busier work week than usual.)

2018 was a tough year, huh? That’s a bit of an understatement, for some. Once again, it’s time to reflect on the past 12 months. On the social end of things, life hasn’t been super simple, but on a personal standpoint, 2018 has actually been pretty good for me. I actually worked all year, and my modest job as a nighttime cashier is still the job I’ve kept for the longest (I’ve had it since late March 2017 – that’s 21 months!). In return, it has allowed me to go to conventions, travel around the province for fun (I went to Montreal and Quebec on two separate occasions, trip I would have never done by myself before this year). I met one of my idols (who you can see on my “12 inspirations” list).

It hasn’t been an easy year in gaming, either. Can you believe Metal Gear Survive was released in 2018? I haven’t played it, thank God, but I remember Konami being so greedy as to charge 10$ for new save files in that game. If 2017 was the year of loot boxes, 2018 was the year of greed for a lot of companies, and it was also the year in which governments set their foot down and condemned loot boxes… yet at least one company refused to listen. Electronic Arts decided they would go to court for their right to profit off their customers’ gambling addictions. And I don’t think Bethesda will ever forget the accumulation of failures surrounding Fallout 76. That’s still very fresh in our memories… because every week they screw something up again.

As far as Planned All Along is concerned, I am actually quite proud of the number of games I reviewed this year. A lot of them were smaller Steam titles, because I can condense them into Steam Packs. It’s a change from the longer reviews that are bound to happen when I look at bigger games, whether on Nintendo platforms, or on Steam.

Without further ado, let’s get into the lists for this year. To start, a few stats.

Total views: 627 233
Number of review posts: 384, so only 49 since last year.
Actual number of things reviewed this year, including games, shows and movies: 58. Not half-bad.
Month with the most views: May 2018, with 8006 views.

Now: My 10 favorite reviews of the year!
10. The Yu-Gi-Oh! Month: I thought it was a particularly smart idea to start with a relatively well-made How To guide to play the card game, before jumping into the reviews of both a game that I had wanted to review for a long time, and another I played more than possibly any other on Steam.
9. Antagonist: You can feel in this review just how much I enjoyed this game made on RPG Maker, how much I loved all the parody characters and the zany plot.
8. Evoland: Yet another review in which I loved to report on all the changes the game goes through, and the many instances of self-deprecation about gaming.
7. Cubicle Quest: Yet another RPG Maker game that I loved, it was definitely worth recommending, and it was worth dedicating an entire part to.
6. Ready Player One: This long review of a divisive movie was fun to do. I love to compare between the film and the book, and even though the movie has a lot of the inherent flaws of the story present in the book, it at least tries to improve on a lot of elements, which is good. Admittedly, later articles I’ve read about it do highlight points I had forgotten to talk about, so perhaps it’s not my best review, but you can still enjoy it.
5. Surgeon Simulator: I felt this one had a lot of smart jokes, in no small part thanks to the already quite silly game itself.
4. Chosen 2: As much as I love to talk about good games, sometimes talking about bad ones can be quite enjoyable, and I really wanted to close the book on the two “Chosen” RPG Maker games fairly quickly. This one didn’t disappoint, being so bad. It led to a solid review, in my opinion.
3. Super Mario Galaxy: I really didn’t review a lot of Nintendo games this year, did I? This was my April 1st review, pretending to take place sometimes in 2050. It was nice to go off-the-wall crazy and imagine the weirdest possible bullcrap about the future. I should have gone crazier, like the Simpsons do every time.
2. Grand Theft Auto V: With six parts, this is one of my longest reviews ever, on a year where I was hoping not to do so many. However, I don’t regret the length of that review, as it was worth doing for the complex story. Loved writing that one.
1. Undertale: The second longest review in the history of this blog, with seven parts – and each one of them was worth it. Especially Parts 5 and 6. I loved paying homage to this game.

Worst 10 games reviewed on the blog in 2018:
10. Dyna Bomb. It feels like a mobile game and plays like a mobile game. I never figured out how or why sometimes the game no longer wants to be played, as if there were lives but we’re never shown them. Sure, it plays well, but the long levels and the money-based power-up system are a turnoff.
9. Dev Guy. At least it’s short, but a lot of jokes are very poor, and the short games that can be played on the colleagues’ computers are just… poor. All in all, a poor experience, but at least it’s easy to 100% its achievements.
8. gravilon. When you can’t make it out of World 1… As a puzzle platformer, it’s okay, but multiple design choices annoyed me enough to stop playing early on. The power-up that switches gravity is small and difficult to get, and the maps get too large, making it difficult to plan ahead, in this game where planning ahead feels necessary.
7. Rabbids Rumble. A shame that this was one of my first 3DS games, purchased at a convention no less. I love the Rabbids, but the ball was dropped this one time. Too few mini-games, and a focus on collectible battlers (which rarely have nothing of interest aside from being new skins), with also too narrow of a selection in the silly attacks that can be used. All in all, a very lackluster title, the most lackluster Rabbids game out there in my opinion.
6. ROCKETSROCKETSROCKETS. I knew I would struggle with a title that focuses on multiplayer, but this could have been just fine… had it not been such a mess. It’s pretty and fast-paced, sure, but I just had no interest in it and I feel like the fun of this game would wane pretty quickly.
5. Chosen 2. At least it plays well, and can be finished… even if it’s difficult. I did, however, notice the heightened difficulty, topped by all the biggest issues of the original Chosen RPG – namely, the pointless fanservice. Applied to the main character’s mother and servant, no less. But hey, they barely look like they’re 18, so it’s okay. It also lacked any bonus material that the original had.
4. Who’s Your Daddy. Unlike the previous point, this one does not play well. It’s a broken mess, with very few interesting options for single-player, and the multiplayer is too barren to really be worth it. A game that I wanted to try out, and it left me rather disappointed.
3. Gun Rocket. When you can’t even finish the first world… Seriously, this one is so poorly-made. I would have probably given it a fairer chance, had it not been for the problem that the ship will explode by itself far too often when a level begins. That’s kind of a problem.
2. Disillusions Manga Horror. I thought I had forgotten this one, but no, something this terrible is hard to forget. A poorly-built “adventure” which, for some reason, has time scores, even though it’s basically just a quest for events around small maps. It’s… terrible.
1. LocoSoccer. I could barely play any of this one, it was so damn bad. You’re not told how to play it well, the 2D plane makes for a very poor soccer experience, and of course, the physics are nothing but godawful. Blergh.

Best 10 games reviewed on the blog in 2018:
10. Trick & Treat. This year, I wanted to review more RPG Maker games in order to find diamonds in the rough, and boy did I find. Trick & Treat, while short, is a very fun experience that plays around with a few horror tropes. It’s never really scary, but it’s a pleasure to play through.
9. Cubicle Quest. Speaking of good RPG Maker games, there’s one more. In spite of a few glitches here and there, such as some battles crashing when the fight menu doesn’t appear, this is a complete game that can keep you busy for 15 or more hours. The metaphor substituting problems of the real world by monsters in an RPG setting works surprisingly well, and there’s always more stuff to find. It does require a lot of grinding, though.
8. 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures Deluxe. Sometimes, you just have to be entertaining. While not a perfect title, this little mini-golf experience had many creative levels, and it’s one of the few games that I went back to beat more than once. A strong recommendation.
7. Surgeon Simulator. Yeah, we can say whatever we want about the controls. It’s meant to be difficult. It’s meant to be a clumsy guy operating the same poor sap with nothing but his left hand. But it’s equally bloody and hilarious when failures happen, and the added challenges are all pretty great. Love this one.
6. Evoland. Or how to represent the history of video games in a quick, sweet little RPG. The evolution, you could say.
5. Antagonist. Possibly one of the best RPG Maker games played this year, or it wouldn’t be so high on the list. An engaging story with great twists and turns, a unique idea of making an RPG like a visual novel that includes battles (although the battles are always the same, that’s a bit unfortunate). I love everything about it.
4. Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist. I love this game because it features all the eras of Yu-Gi-Oh!, all the characters I enjoy from the series. Over four hundred possible duels, and more options than that… I am still trying to collect all the cards, by the way. And complete every single deck in the game. It’s long, I have more than 250 hours on this one.
3. Super Mario Galaxy. Just a great Mario title, extremely creative and quite challenging at times. It does have a few flaws, such as the mere existence of the Spring Mushroom, but other than that it’s an awesome Wii title.
2. Undertale. I adore this one, because I love the moral and how it permeates the entirety of the story. There are hundreds of moments of brilliance in this story, and though I love the review I made for it, I don’t think I could have made this one justice. Play it. Now.
1. Grand Theft Auto V. With so much content and missions to do, as well as this gigantic map to visit, this had to be my Number 1. I spent a lot of time visiting the map of this game, and though I haven’t actually seen everything that can be seen, I can safely say I would gladly go back anytime.

The 10 wishes I had for this blog on 2018, and whether I accomplished them in the past 12 months.
10. The fifth anniversary review: Undertale. I did that one!
9. I realize that point was about the various video game movies coming out in 2018, though I didn’t quite phrase it that way. I did review Ready Player One this year, a few months only after its release. A review of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is ready and coming, and I reviewed Ralph Breaks the Internet as a side-review, so there’s that. However, this year was severely lacking in movie reviews, probably due to the two big game reviews of 2018, and the various hiatuses caused by my job and lack of free time.
8. More streaming? I am not quite sure I actually achieved that one. I do know I played a lot of Jackbox games with friends (namely, Drawful 2 and Quiplash), but I don’t know if I could say that I streamed more this year than in 2017.
7. A Sonic Month? I unfortunately couldn’t. Would’ve ben great though.
6. A Rabbids month? I did that one! I’m happy.
5. Constant updates on my Steam collection. I didn’t quite do that one, mostly because I realized rather quickly that such a thing would not be very useful. I don’t review quite enough games to make that worth it. However, I will be using this Retrospective for a quick update on my collection.
4. A redesign of the blog? I didn’t do that, unfortunately.
3. A review of Grand Theft Auto V : I did that one!
2. Making the Planned All Along community stronger. With the shutdown of Google+ this year, I will be moving my community to Discord, where I should be able to keep up with the news and the fans. It should help the community quite a bit.
1. A proper video review. I didn’t do that, unfortunately.

My projects for 2019:
10. A great anniversary review. For the sixth anniversary, I am still weighing my options. I have no shortage of long games on Steam, but I also have more than a few titles that I have on the Wii’s Virtual Console, or among my Nintendo 3DS games, that I could use as my anniversary review. I might try to go for a game that isn’t a first-party Nintendo title.
9. A Sonic Month. I’ll try this again! Mind you, I don’t have a choice but to make this happen eventually, as I still have two Sonic games on the Wii… and a LOT of Sonic games on Steam, in part thanks to a bundle purchased recently.
8. More Steam Packs? It’s in the plans. I have a new methodology in which I play through the shorter games of my collection, which means I can get through many games quickly. It helps quite a bit. I don’t want my blog to be nothing but Steam Packs and Steam game reviews, but considering the size of my Steam collection…
7. A redesign of the site during the summer? I’ll see what I can do.
6. Update everything on the blog. By that, I mean all the additional pages. I want to keep the Archives updated, and add more to the About Me, Title Cards, Links, Thanks and Extras of the site
5. A proper Halloween special: I didn’t have one this year, and it’s a missed opportunity in my opinion as there are many games I could have reviewed for that occasion. I have quite a few “horror” Steam games, as well as at least one Wii game that could have fit the bill.
4. More streaming. I promise this every time, and I always fail. Maybe I will actually do it in 2019.
3. Create title cards for a lot of old reviews that don’t have any. It’s a challenge I set for myself, and it’s something I have been trying to do since 2015. If I wasn’t lacking the time to do these, I would. Perhaps I’ll find some time this year.
2. An odd choice, but… Less long reviews. If there’s one thing I realized in 2018, it’s that longer reviews take much more time to be made. These reviews can cause me to go on hiatus until they’re ready, and I don’t like to do that. However, I know I still have some big games to review, I just hope I won’t end up making long reviews too often.
1. Create a stronger community through a Planned All Along Discord server. You can access it here. It’s still just starting, but if I could have a few members it would be sweet.

And now, I have actually gathered enough titles reviewed on Steam to go back and change things around a bit. One thing I may have forgotten to mention is that I delete from my collection whichever titles I felt were bad, or the ones I plain didn't like. In spite of that, I still have 47 games currently in the Reviewed folder of my Steam library. Even then, I feel a start-of-year cleanup is required. I will remove 4 titles among those, and then I will edit my Favorites list to be approximately 1/4th of the list of remaining games. Somes choices will be tough.

Games removed:
Airscape: The Fall of Gravity
Intelligent Design: An Evolutionary Sandbox
Jigoku Kisetsukan: Sense of the Seasons
Worm.Is The Game

New list of favorites:
3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures Deluxe
Bastion
Castle of Illusion
Cuphead
DuckTales Remastered
GTA V
Quiplash
Rayman Origins
Surgeon Simulator
Undertale
Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist

Alright then, see you throughout 2019 for more reviews.