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January 27, 2023

VGFlicks: Warcraft (Part 1)

Contrary to impressions I could have given, I was never actually big on fantasy epics. I don’t know why. I feel it may be that I prefer stories that remain grounded into some level of reality. I was never big on The Lord of the Rings, but  Harry Potter, trying to ground itself into a semi-real Britain despite the fantastical elements of the setting, worked better for me. It’s the same for science-fiction; I’m always more interested in sci-fi that keeps a foot into the world I know, to some degree. (Although, sci-fi stories that stray from that mold do tend to interest me more than fantasy going the same route.)

Hence why I was reticent in reviewing Warcraft, which I had heard of before. Based on the series of the same name by Blizzard Entertainment and directed by Duncan Jones, this is currently the highest-grossing video game film adaptation of all time. I saw moments, but never before sat down to watch it in its entirety; I will be seeing it for the first time for this review. I must’ve bought the film on DVD, like, 4 years ago if not 5, and only took it out of the plastic packaging this month.

Also of note is that this film, released to North American theaters on June 10th, 2016, is not an adaptation of World of Warcraft, even if that is the most famous title of the franchise as well as the biggest MMORPG of all time. The film aims lower by adapting the very first game in the series, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, released in 1994. As a result, it tries to pull quadruple duty. First, it adapts the game's story. Second, however, is that it does so while integrating lore and elements from later games, which expand the tale and add relevant details. Third, however, is that there is an attempt to not overload viewers with lore, despite so much of it being necessary. Fourth, finally, is to still be approachable to whomever isn’t familiar with the series (like me!).

Obviously, I’m gonna do my best to move past my own bias. Let’s at least see whether the film manages to accomplish these four goals.

The Fel

The movie opens on a fight scene between a human knight and an orc, long after the events of the movie – already spoiling that the next two hours won’t have a happy denouement. Mention is made of “the Fel”. Soon the orc, a green-skinned brute with spiky armor, makes swift work of the knight. Skull axe to the head, works like a charm.

Even for races that live for war. family is sacred.
Dom from The Fast and teh Furious would be proud.

The hair on his skin, the wrinkles in his face,
the lighting, every spot of age... Impressive.
Cut back to where it all began, and we meet some of our protagonists: Durotan (portrayed by Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, and his pregnant wife Draka (Anna Galvin). Being a fantasy epic, we’ll be following several characters on both sides of the conflict. Whereas the humans and human-like creatures (such as elves) are portrayed in live-action, most non-human races (mainly orcs and dwarves) are portrayed through mo-cap CGI. I have to admit, the orcs look quite impressive in terms of sheer detail. It took me a second to realize the first ones we see aren’t, in fact, actors underneath heavy prosthetics with visual effects on to make it look more seamless. Then again, I can’t imagine live actors having to shoot scenes with those protruding upwards fangs. It’d be pretty unpleasant. In the morning, Durotan will leave, and may not be able to see his child’s birth – so the two plan to sneak Draka among the warriors.

Gul'Dan couldn't look more like a bad guy, and Garona
couldn't look more like someone who would, without any
hesitation, switch to the other side given the chance.
In the next shot we see multiple orc clans, mainly composed of similarly brown-skinned orcs, though we see more and more in green. A few are notable: One is a bearded, hooded warlock named Gul’dan (Daniel Wu). The other is… well, there goes my gag from 30 seconds ago. That’s a live-action woman playing an orc, with prosthetic fangs (and the resulting speech impediment) and all. Her name is Garona (portrayed by Paula Patton), and she’s an orc-human half-breed, thus treated more like a slave of the orc race than one of theirs.

Gul’dan is the reason the orcs have reunited: Their world, Draenor, is dying, so the warlock wants to open a portal into a new world to settle into. The warlock uses the Fel, a green-tinted form of dark magic that is obtained by draining the life force of others. His plan thus involves sending a warband through, and use that army to round up new victims on the other side, as fuel to open the portal for the remainder of the Horde.

The portal is opened with the life force of Draenei captives, and the warriors run through. Durotan goes in before his wife, who follows, but she feels intense pain during the trip across the magical gate. Having come through as well, Gul’dan helps the orc woman give birth to an asphyxiated baby. Using the Fel, the warlock saps the energy of a fawn to revive the child, whose skin takes a notable green tint as he’s brought back to life. Behind the warriors, the portal closes.

And that is how the invasion began: With a birth.

Let’s see what the humans are up to…

Two of our main characters, they just met and
they're already fighting. That's a good look!
Ironforge, the capital of dwarves. We meet our second protagonist, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), military commander of Stormwind Kingdom, as he is presented with a new dwarven weapon, a firearm. The Army of Darkness nod being too good to pass, they call it a boomstick. Lothar receives a letter about his garrison being under attack, and thus has to hurry home. The garrison was killed by mysterious creatures, and guards captured a mage who was searching the bodies in the barracks. The commander interrogates the apprentice mage, known as Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who explains that he was examining the bodies to figure out the source of the attack. While investigating the body after getting permission, the wizard sees a green mist escape it. He immediately asks for the guardian of Azeroth to come and see this. Instead, Lothar takes him to see King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) in Goldshire.

The best king, the best mage, and the best

There, Khadgar reveals himself to be a Guardian novitiate from Kirin Tor who defected to investigate the arrival of the Fel. Since this is worrisome news, Lothar and Khadgar are allowed by the King to head to the magical tower of Karazhan, where the Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) lives, flying on a gryphon’s back. Damn, that’s the coolest means of transportation. Try to beat that, eagles of Lord of the Rings!

Oh, Lothar (on the right)... That's the faceof someone who
doesn't like teleportation.
The two land by the tower and are brought in by Moroes, the Guardian’s servant. Khadgar stays in the library while Lothar speaks to his old friend, whom he meets in the middle of sculpting a golem. Medivh is quick to ask about Khadgar, and comes quickly to (magical) blows with the mage, thinking he’s trying to usurp his position, until Khadgar asks the Guardian to explain the Fel. Medivh quickly explains it for Lothar, then teleports the three of them to Stormwind. After a brief discussion on the mysterious enemy, King Llane sends a garrison down a path taken by the “monsters”. Medivh and Khadgar tag along. The group also includes Lothar’s son Callan, a great knight and brilliant strategist for his age. That kid's gonna go far.

I imagine Durotan going, "blue magic that is't powered by
killing? What is this thing??"

This battle was like a TTRPG fight. The soldiers were good,
but not good enough against powerful opponents. Yet again,
it's the wizards who deal the most damage.
Either that or Medivh had secret aces in his robe's sleeves.
Meanwhile, the orcs have begun sacking villages and kidnapping people for Gul’dan’s grand plan. The warlock’s second-in-command, Blackhand (Clancy Brown), admonishes Durotan and the Frostwolves for not taking part against unarmed villagers. Orcs later attack the knights in the forest. The human knights are overpowered by the orcs, but Lothar figures out that they’re more brawns than brains and tells his son to be smart against them. Khadgar is attacked by Durotan but protects himself with a magical shield before asking for Medivh’s help. Meanwhile, Lothar is about to get killed by Blackhand but uses the dwarven boomstick to blast the orc’s left hand off. What seals the deal for the orcs is a spell cast by Medivh that targets and kills only the Fel-powered green orcs in the group. Durotan, Blackhand and a third brown orc are unscathed and flee on giant wolves. Damn, that’s almost as cool as a gryphon! Khadgar asks what that spell was about, and Medivh teleports away instead of explaining how he did this.

It’s fishy.

The film does some interesting things. It’s implied that neither group actually speaks English, but the film switches to English for the side in focus. If orcs speak English, it’s the humans who speak an unknown tongue, and vice versa. It’s done to great effect. Second, there are a lot of names of characters and places to keep track of, but it’s not insurmountable. It’s still a lot of information in a short span of time (I’m not even 30 minutes in), but the plot is set and we have seen every major player and the stakes. So far, this is a very competently-made movie.

Unlikely alliances

For now they treat her like an orc. Since she speaks their
language, soon they'll have the decency to treat her like
a human.
As he flees, Durotan sees Garona still chained to one of the dead orcs, and breaks her chain. Lothar and two knights chase the fleeing orcs, only capturing the nameless one. Garona also tried to run away, but Khadgar captures her with magic. The garrison returns with two orcs, but upon Garona revealing she can speak the human language, the other orc goes berserk and is killed. At Stormwind, she is forced to explain the reason of the orcs’ presence; a takeover. She also says she has learned to speak the language from the orcs’ prisoners who’ll be used for the gate to bring the Horde in Azeroth. She is offered by King Llane her freedom, in exchange for showing where the orcs are staying. Even later, as she’s kept in a cage, the King’s wife (who is also Lothar’s sister) comes with gifts, further pleading for help from the half-breed.

"We've just arrived and the place is already a mess."
In the meantime, on the orcs’ side, Blackhand is facing punishment for failing in the earlier battle, and has to burn the remnants of his destroyed hand; but Durotan stops that by stating that the humans’ warlock used the Fel as well, which Gul’dan doesn’t believe. The chieftain later looks over the orc encampment with his second-in-command Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), commenting on how the land seems to die no matter where they go under Gul’Dan’s magic, and that they need to stop the Fel any way possible. Although the orcs alone can't stop the warlock, an alliance with the humans might.

The many mythology gags and other game-accurate
elements are very much welcome and further prove that
extensive research was done to faithfully represent this
world on the big screen. Seen here: A map of Azeroth,
a quick shot of a ceiling in Stormwind Castle.
Y’know, for as little interest as I had in this movie at first, I’m starting to feel kinda invested! Not saying it’s high art, and perhaps watching it numerous times with additional information in the background to write this review is changing my judgment a little, but I understand the stakes and the sides. The film is cramming a lot of info in its runtime, though, that much is true; and that I have to rely on outside sources to better know the greater plot says a fair bit. Stuck between telling too little and telling too much, the film tries to tell more (but not overwhelmingly so), at the risk of losing viewers from the flood of info, but it’s generally nothing seeing the film more than once can’t solve. Good on the filmmakers to incorporate the changes made across the entire Warcraft franchise to that first story. I also appreciate some of the changes made to the source material; in the original Warcraft: Humans and Orcs, Durotan is a minor character while Orgrim is the playable character on the orcs’ story. The switch in POV means the film doesn't feel forced to follow the protagonist's actions to the letter, and the selected character to be the "good guy orc" makes sense as well.

Again, the special effects are top-notch. The interactions
between CGI and live-action characters, for one; you can
really believe Durotan is holding Khadgar hostage in his
big hand.
Garona eventually agrees to lead the humans to the orc encampment. During the trip one night, the half-orc explains that orcs killed her mother due to her birth. Khadgar opens up about his parents gave him away to the Kirin Tor, the wizard council of Dalaran, for the kid to learn magic and for the family to bask in the resulting honor, which he got none of. The apprentice deserting his training didn’t help matters. At the end of the journey, the humans find the orc encampment and Garona explains about the portal gate they're building; however they are ambushed by Durotan, who tells Garona that he wants to arrange a meeting with the humans’ chieftain (well, King) to discuss.

Humans, elves, wizards and dwarves. Guess which of the
four are the only CGI creatures at the table?
The commander and the King expose this during a meeting with the other factions around Stormwind, but fail to get any approval or help in spite of the growing menace. However, while very suspicious of the offer made by Durotan (and, let’s be fair, the humans have very good reasons to be suspicious), the King is not closed to the suggestion. On her insistence that orcs work with a system of honor and that Durotan is honorable, the half-orc is asked to prove it by gaining the humans’ trust, and she is even given a dagger by Taria, the Queen.

Gee, good thing Khadgar hid away the one page that turned
out to be the most important, huh?
Meanwhile, Medivh has found out that Khadgar stole a book from his library in Karazhan and has been copying images and notes from it. When the young mage says he wants to help, Medivh burns all of the guy’s research and leaves with the book. Gee, I’m starting to think the Guardian is kinda sus. Lothar doesn’t seem to believe the mage’s apprehensions, either, though starts having doubts when Khadgar shows the only page he rescued, showing that the portal may have been opened from Azeroth to let the orcs in...

The overpass

That meeting began with the best intentions...
It's gonna go to Hell real fast.
Durotan’s Frostwolves and a garrison of knights, Lothar and the King himself at the front, meet in an overpass. Garona, knowing both languages, serves as translator and interpreter, while Medivh looks from above. Cards on the table. Durotan explains that there is no going back to their dying world, but that this world also risks dying from the Fel if Gul’Dan is not dealt with, a task difficult while there are so many green orcs on his side. The chieftain is willing to negotiate a truce with the humans to defeat what is a common enemy.

While it is awesome that the King joins the battle, I have a
point of criticism: His armor betrays that he's the richest dude
on the field, it's like painting a big ol' bull's-eye on his back
with the words "I am the King, come kill me" all over it.
However, unbeknownst to all of them, Gul’Dan’s forces have learned of the meeting (from Orgrim, no less) and are hidden in the surrounding rubble, waiting to ambush. They interrupt the meeting and attack. Durotan and his “normal” brown orcs fight back against their greener kin, but the humans are led to believe the meeting was a trap and fall back, though they end up fighting. Will say, damn, King Llane hasn’t spent his life resting on the laurels of his position. The dude knows how to use a sword and he uses it right! Tell me about that, royals who actually join the fight! Outnumbered by their green brethren, the Frostwolves retreat, further reinforcing the humans' impression of a trap.

The soldiers attempt a retreat as well but are caught in the fight with the orcs. Lothar’s son Callan is also part of the garrison; the kid even devises a formation on the fly to best deal with the orcs and their giant wolves. Once the humans have grouped up, Medivh casts a spell that transforms thunder into a protective barrier, preventing orcs from attacking them.

That’s when Lothar sees his son is on the other side.

Hoo boy, that's not gonna end well.

...Claw hand to the chest. ...Works every time.
The barrier doesn’t just prevent Callan and his men from crossing to safety; it also prevents Lothar from going through to save his son. In spite of his best efforts to pierce through, the commander can do nothing but watch when his son is picked up by Blackhand and impaled on the orc’s new claw-hand prosthetic.

As the garrison leaves, Khadgar and Garona find Medivh fainted from his lookout point. On request from King Llane, they fly him to Karazhan and dip him in his pool of mana so he’ll regain his energy. However, the Guardian’s eyes glow green as he gasps for air. The apprentice knows exactly what that means. I’m gonna hate the color green once I’m done with this film, I swear...

Speaking of, this has been going long enough, and it's a good cliffhanger. See you in Part 2.

January 6, 2023

Retrospective 2022


Every year is the same deal; a couple words about the year before I go over what I did for the blog throughout the previous 12 months. This time is no exception, but 2022 was… fuck me, it was a depressing year. Not terrible on a personal level, but worldwide? Well, let’s see…

The Russia-Ukraine war that began in February and is still going on. The resulting international turmoil caused gas prices to skyrocket (and they’re not quite back to where they started). That, in turn, had a disastrous effect on the prices of everything, causing inflation like we've seldom seen before in a single year, and if we’re not already in a recession, we’re headed that way. The Covid-19 pandemic, while much less disastrous than it was a year ago, is still around; and as I said, it might have become endemic, but hopefully there’s work being made on vaccines that can deal with all variants at once. Somehow, I still haven’t caught it. Everything piled up made for two dominant sensations all year: Dread and exhaustion.

In the world’s most cynical moments across the last 12 months, the best entertainment was pointing and laughing at several of the ultra-rich losing their fucking minds in radically different ways. Weird how Will Smith, of all people, set the tone for the year. I hope buying Twitter was worth it, Musk. The less said about Kanye the better. Same for Trump, but hopefully 2023 is the year his accumulated bullshit comes back to bite him in the ass.

Now that the tough part is done, the personal year: Mine went fairly well. Had a steady job all year, went to the United States for a convention, did and got a lot of fun stuff… Yeah, there isn’t much to say really. Despite all going fairly well, I have the impression that I was sort of… angry, this year? Maybe it’s the accumulation of everything in the previous paragraphs, but I also felt I was talking a lot about heavy topics on this very blog, and it might have been too much.

From February, I talked about Nazis in several reviews (Pokémon X / MadWorld / South Park), wrote articles discussing pretty heavy topics (Doki Doki Literature Club, the Top 12 worst marketing campaigns), problematic creators (and J.K. Rowling only sinks lower every day)... It was a heavy year, and though I feel I said what I had to say, I really hope future years for this blog aren’t as heavy as this. The downside being that, whereas I covered a LOT of games in 2021 by virtue of having two sets of Quick Reviews, I covered a lot less games this year (end result is 37). That said, some of the articles posted this year now rank among my favorites, so that’s good.

Oh, and this year I also joined Backloggd in order to keep track of everything I’ve covered and plan to cover. Check out that collection here!

Well, time for the retrospective.

My favorite reviews/articles of 2022

10. Say No! More. I rarely get to use styles or effects in my Quick Reviews. For this very No-focused game, I tried to keep the tone of someone selling the game like a program. If only it felt more like a game than an interactive film…
9. Doki Doki Literature Club!. A tough one, I may have been a little heavy-handed on the game’s discussion of difficult topics, but that review had been a long time coming and I’m glad I covered the game. I’m also glad that despite my commentary, I tried to keep the same creepy feel through the images, the comments, the implications and the tone of the article overall. (By the way, did you notice the titlecard for that one was a gif? Took me forever to make that work.)
8. Eternal Senia/Legend of Mysteria. This year got me covering two more RPG Maker games that went in completely different, yet both clever and inventive ways. One is more of an action RPG, another goes the route of a point-and-click mystery. This is why I want to cover so many of these games even if some would consider them inconsequential; there’s a trove of creativity to be found when looking for the better games to be born from that RPG-making software.
7. All VGFlicks, ranked worst to best. With how far I’ve come with this blog and the many film reviews I’ve done on it, I felt this catch-up was most appropriate, and helped me condense my points about each film (including many that I hope to cover in greater depth later) quite well.
6. South Park: The Stick of Truth. Another article that was a long time coming, and the M-Rated Month was the perfect time for it. Stick of Truth had been sitting in my library half-played for a while and I felt I had the right format now to cover it properly (as an example, I wouldn’t have done it in the days where I didn’t split my reviews with undertitles).
5. The tricky question of supporting problematic creators; An essay-ish. The introduction to this year’s anniversary review, the two LEGO Harry Potter games, is a very odd choice for this list, but I like my points and like the conclusion I come to. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever written, but I felt it had to be said and I had to weigh in on the J.K. Rowling controversy(ies?) before tackling anything related to Harry Potter. Either way, it’s done.
4. Pokémon X. This was another big game for me to cover and I felt I did it justice, covering absolutely everything that I felt worked with and what didn’t, across Gen 6 in general, but in Pokémon X in particular (seeing as most of my issues involve the plot of X and its sister version Y).
3. TOEM. Little to say with this one, I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the game and, though it was a Quick Review, I felt my appreciation really shined through in spite of the short format.
2. Pokémon 2000: The Power of One. One of my best analytical reviews so far. I’ve found myself coming back to it frequently to re-read my own words, that’s how good I felt I had managed it. Really a highlight of my year, and on top of that, it’s covering a film I was looking forward to reviewing. Hopefully Pokémon 3 isn’t gonna wait another 7 years!
1. Top 12 Worst Video Game Marketing Campaigns. That idea hit me like a ton of bricks just as I was completing my Quick Reviews this year and, even though in my review cycles it wasn’t the “right time” to publish a Top 12, the idea entranced me so much that I just had to. The writing went so well that I wrote the entire thing in maybe three days – and that’s including all the in-depth research. It’s one of the articles I’m most proud of in the history of the blog, and I feel it’s one of my works that I would recommend to a new reader. Hell, this one feels it could actually break through in a big way.

Favorite title cards this year

The 10 worst games reviewed on the blog in 2022

10. Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. The bottom of the list is made of games that weren’t necessarily bad per se, just disappointing or lacking in some areas. While it brings interesting ideas to the franchise, Rayman 3 has a few too cumbersome ideas and mechanics that make it a bit of a pain to play.
9. Particle Mace. Again not that bad, just that it’s about as simple as it gets, being basically a new take on the classic Asteroids.
8. Just Dance 2. Only on here because, when compared to literally every other game I’ve covered in the series, it’s lesser. Which I can understand; it was the second title in the entire franchise. Still, its failings are only more noticeable as a result.
7. Fortified! We now hit the part of the list where games failed to keep my interest – perhaps due to their own flaws, or simply because the topic didn’t keep me invested. Either way, they’re not necessarily “bad”, but certainly seem to miss that little something. Fortified!, while having the clever idea of mixing tower defense and real-time strategy, falls into that category for me.
6. The Deadly Tower of Monsters. Same for this one – while I do appreciate the tone of the game that’s made like an old ‘60s film with cheap special effects being commented by the director, I tried to play as far as possible into it but eventually the gameplay and repetitiveness annoyed me.
5. The Swapper. Same chorus as the previous two, and yet again it’s a game I really wanted to enjoy – it’s well-regarded, but it took too long to find its stride and I lost interest. Shame, too, because a Metroidvania-like made out of Claymation with a unique puzzle platformer mechanic should have made for an incredible experience.
4. ShipLord. Yet another game that feels like it’s “missing” something. Or a lot of things, really.
3. God Game: The Odyssey. What if Lemmings, but on the sea with water- and wind-based mechanics? Clunky is the result. Not particularly good or fun overall, though there are clever puzzles now and then. Really there isn’t much else I could say about this one.
2. The Maze Escaper. It looks pretty, at least when it comes to lighting and reflections, but it’s just mazes, over and over, and some robots. Really feels like someone making a demo game to test a new development software and selling the end result. That said, I still do hope this paves the way to projects from that same creator that feel more like proper games.
1. DETOUR. This game combining real-time strategy and resource management could have been so much better, but I gave up at the first level past the nine-level tutorial. The difficulty ramps up much too quickly for players to keep up, and the gameplay becomes quickly annoying and bothersome, especially in regards to the CPU opponents. Really not worth your time or money. Yeah, worst game I’ve covered this year, easily. It’s not even pretty.

The 10 best games reviewed on the blog in 2022

10. Super Win the Game. In a year spent reviewing several great games, making this list was a lot tougher to make. Then again, it’s tough to make every year. Says a lot that at the bottom of the list is a very difficult but ultimately completely fair and balanced platformer (no, this isn’t meant as a pique at Rayman 1, what are you talking about?) that I greatly enjoyed playing through.
9. Just Dance 4. I’ve covered so many Just Dance games by this point that I don’t know if they should even be on the radar for this list, but JD4 has a great selection of songs, cool extra songs and modes, and the Dance Quests really add substance and challenge that other entries in the franchise don’t have. Hard for me to say whether any older Just Dance games are must-plays, but this one was worth more than what I spent on it!
8. Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. An adorable Zelda-like featuring living veggies, an intriguing story, and pretty good twists and gags. When a game makes me wish it was longer, then it’s done things right. A bit on the easy side, but still very good.
7. Rayman 2: The Great Escape. I really enjoyed doing that Rayman retrospective late in 2022, as I had 4 Rayman games waiting to be played and I went through all of them in rapid succession. Of them, Rayman 2 was a definite standout and, though it has little things that feel missing now that I’ve played through the others, I feel it was an excellent foundation the franchise could have kept building on.
6. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. I still haven’t gotten past Mom’s Heart, but whatever. On the topic of roguelikes, I was glad I actually got to cover the definitive, genre-defining title this year. Yeah, it’s pretty damn tough and you need a very peculiar sense of humor to really appreciate it, but damn, if it gels with you, then it’s one Hell of a ride that might just never end (I’m not even at 100 hours, but people playing it for thousands of hours is not unheard of!)
5. Pokémon X. Yeah, I have my gripes about the story, but let’s be honest – despite that downside, the rest of Pokémon X is actually pretty great. Then again I’m biased for Pokémon games with a greater number of creatures to catch. The world is nice to explore, and the new gameplay mechanics were implemented quite well. It may not be the best main series title in the franchise, but X and Y deserve a lot more credit than they usually get.
4. Superliminal. Talk about messing with your senses. Not only does this inventive puzzle game focus on visual and perceptive trickeries, it keeps on finding new ways to astonish the player with these tricks. One of the best experiences all year, and one I heartily recommend to everyone who hasn’t tried it yet.
3. Rayman Legends. Though I said I loved the second game in the Rayman series, Legends is probably where I felt the most fulfilled, with not only 5 new worlds and tons of extra levels, but also a selection of stages from Origins, and a bunch of playable characters and other bonuses to look for. Pure awesome.
2. South Park: The Stick of Truth. As said earlier, I was due to play through that game, and I’m glad I did. Though I felt it was on the easy side, the utterly wacky world of South Park, recreated to perfection by Ubisoft in both look, feel and humor, is a treat to visit, and there are so many extras and other stuff to do around the place, even with the crazy story that’s presented.
1. TOEM. The years keeps being stressful, so a game like TOEM feels like exactly what the world needs: A stress-free, adorable, gorgeous, relaxing, simple yet effective title. One so fun, I pushed through to 100% it. The journey to TOEM was worth every second. I can’t recommend this one enough.

The 10 goals I had for this year, and whether they were accomplished

10. Do a set of Quick Reviews – Done!
9. Redesign the blog – unfortunately not done, but I’m holding out hope I can do it in 2023!
8. Update the other pages of the blog: I’m not sure I’ve actually fully done it and checked whether each link opened to a separate tab, but I do know that I’ve improved the Index page by adding a link to the main page of every game I’ve played on Steam. Still need to give more love to the other pages, as well.
7. A review of a South Park game – Done!
6. Review the LEGO Harry Potter games – Done!
5. A list of all the video game movies reviewed on the blog so far, ranked worst to best – Done! It was even my first article this year after the previous retrospective.
4. More reviews of Ubisoft games – Done! Between South Park, Just Dance, and the four Raymans, I can say I’ve done that one alright. Hoping 2023 brings more.
3. A full month of Pokémon reviews – Done! Okay, that’s just two pieces of Pokémon media, but still, it counts!
2. To grow the community around Planned All Along: Eeesh… I’m not really sure I’ve managed. That said, I did make some friends to spread the word around a little more1 That counts for something!
1. Make a video for YouTube – Not done… but I’m holding out hope to do it someday.

10 new goals for 2023

10. As promised every year, a redesign of the blog.
9. Also promised previously, an update to the other pages of the blog.
8. Once again, make more attempts to grow the community around Planned All Along.
7. Make a video for YouTube – yeah, my four failed goals for 2022 are back at the bottom of the list this time.
6. Once more, I’d like to cover more games from UPlay. Isn’t it bizarre that I covered more UPlay games than 3DS games this year, and as many UPlay and Wii games? (seeing as my article on Just Dance covers two games…)
5. Cover more Wii games this year. Goes with point 6 to say that I’d like to bring back some of the spotlight on my games in Nintendo consoles, which have been waiting a while by now.
4. Following points 6 and 5… Cover more than one 3DS game this year.
3. A full month of movie reviews. Films are another pile that’s been steadily increasing while I covered Steam games, so I would like to do maybe 2 or 3 films this year. Already thinking of the ones I feel like covering.
2. Once again, I wish to stream more often – I’ve done it a little more this year, especially at the end of the year when I tried to 100% Rayman Legends (I achieved that on December 30th!). Maybe 2023 will be the right time?
1. If my finances are nice enough: Get a Switch! Been wanting one for a long while. It’s purely in the realm of hoping things go the right way for this to happen.

The games I’m removing from my Steam collection this year

Chainsaw Warrior
Luna’s Wandering Stars
Q.U.B.E. (+Director’s Cut)
Size Matters
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

The new list of favorites, with roughly 1/6th of the Steam games reviewed so far

New: Gaming plans for this year

Starting with this year, I’m making a list of games (mostly those reserved for Quick Reviews, but also a number of semi-randomly-selected titles across my entire collection) that I wish to get through and review this year. I might not actually manage to cover all of these, those are just games I hope I can get to. The way I had of doing the list includes a lot of non-Steam games. The picture below: The Left column is the next set of Quick Reviews (unless I expand one into a full review), the second is the year’s hopes. Beneath the picture are the non-Steam games.

3DS: Super Mario 3D Land, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Pokémon Sun (+UltraSun?);
Wii: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sand, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Monster Hunter Tri;
UPlay: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Beyond Good and Evil, Assassin’s Creed III.

Well, that’s it for this year. Have a good 2023 – here’s to hoping it will go better than 2022.

December 23, 2022

Just Dance 2 & 4

(Today, on "pictures you can hear"... ^ )

I haven’t done one of those in a while. Three times in the past, I wrote reviews in December for Just Dance titles. I nurture a special attachment to the famous mimic-the-movements-on-screen franchise from Ubisoft (yes, them again). What convinced me to buy a Nintendo Wii, in 2012, was playing Just Dance 3 at my cousins’ place. As a result, that was one of the first games I ever purchased for the console… as well as one of the first games I reviewed on this blog, way back in 2013.

…Fuck me, I’ve been writing this blog for almost ten years. July 19th, 2023, will be the tenth anniversary.

I just love how colorful that franchise is.
Anyhow, following that original review of Just Dance 3 in 2013, I would go back to this franchise a few more times. In 2015, I covered both the 2014 and 2015 editions, and in 2017, I looked at the 2016 edition as well. And although my sessions have been sparse as of late, I try to play a bit of these games from time to time. I got today’s two games (yes, two in one article) because I have an aunt who had rediscovered the joys of the motion control-based Nintendo console, and wanted to play something else than just Wii Fit. My response, naturally, was this franchise. I bought these two games, and so did she.

There was something interesting to purchasing older editions of Just Dance, if only because I’ve become so accustomed to newer ones in comparison. Franchises always have to begin somewhere. They can end up looking very different as they evolve, but there’s a starting point. Hell, today’s two titles were separated by only two years and, yet, the changes were massive. Will this feel like a beloved trip down memory lane, or a look back we could have done without? Let’s see.

December 9, 2022

Rayman Legends

After going through the three games that were the genesis of Rayman, it’s almost weird to skip forward to what is, so far, his last game. Ubisoft’s higher-ups have stated that their interest now lied in their copy-paste open-world franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry… y’know, the adult stuff. I sincerely hope that Rayman’s appearance in next year’s DLCs for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle sparks new interest in the character. In the meantime, we have this title, which I really hope wasn’t the swan song.

A Wii U and a PC are very different beasts when it
comes to controls. There's one less screen, for one.
Rayman Legends was released on August 30th, 2013 in Europe and September 3rd in the United States for most versions (Windows, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360, Vita), with later releases for PS4 and Xbox One in 2014, and Nintendo Switch in 2017. Notably, the game was originally thought as a Wii U exclusive, but a fear following low sales of other recent titles by the studio made Ubisoft yet again overdose with ports for every console available, forcing some Wii U-based gameplay mechanics to be adapted for other consoles. Thus, one critique of Rayman Legends when compared to its predecessor Origins is that gameplay has barely changed, with only the Wii U-based mechanics being proper new stuff. But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, shall we?

December 2, 2022

Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc

The first game was colorful but hard, with a fairly basic story. The second had solid 3D gameplay with sections reminding of mini-games; the story, while darker, still lent itself to plenty of comedic moments, with Rayman as an all-loving hero. That said, two games aren’t enough to establish a pattern, and the franchise was still looking for its tone.

Also a recurring theme from now on: Globox and Rayman
being lazy butts who spend all their off-time sleeping or
relaxing. What? Heroing takes a lot outta ya.
However, it seems to be in Rayman 3 that the franchise finally settled on what it wanted to be, and that’s summed up in one word: Wacky. It’s more notable in Origins, where Rayman, Globox and the Teensies become a bunch of psychos, more than happy to attack and kill each other while saving the day. The visual signature of both that and Rayman Legends further emphasizes the silliness that’s now part and parcel with the name. But the first shades of that tone can be traced back to Rayman 3.

Today’s game was released to multiple platforms in March of 2003, with different release dates for GameCube, PS2, XBox, PC and N-Gage ports, with a rerelease in March 2012 for PS3 and XBox 360. It's also Rayman’s last mainline game before the Rabbid takeover. And though other games would exist between this and Origins (such as the rather mediocre “Hoodlum Revenge” GBA title that I covered in 2014), I feel it’s interesting to see what, again, changed in this new installment.

Full Wacky

That time a Lum dreamt big. "Take over the world" big.
The game begins on a bizarre revelation: The healing Red Lums, when scared, can turn into Black Lums, fuzzy chaotic beings. More precisely, one of them has become so dangerous it grew arms, and has sworn revenge upon the inhabitants of the Glade of Dreams. The Black Lum, named André (that’s not a scary name! Call yourself, I don’t know, Keith or something! “Oh, André, I’m so scared!” …Said no one, ever!), is quick to plot world domination. He and the Black Lums shear a woolly creature and create disguises. The animal was part of a caravan led by Murphy (voiced by Billy West), who flies off to warn Globox (voiced by John Leguizamo) and Rayman (voiced by David Gasman) of the incoming danger-

...Wait. Voiced by???