Manual Samuel

Manual Samuel

I’m annoyed by the potential that’s been squandered here. The game starts out with Samuel getting smacked so hard in the head by his girlfriend that he has to start doing everything manually. What a great way to setup an otherwise gimmicky premise. But just a few minutes later, Samuel gets hit by a truck, dies, meets an obnoxious rendition of Death, and then has to agree to a day of “manual labor” to get his life back. Why did we need the Death angle, though? Not only is Death an incredibly annoying character, but his presence cheapens the opening sequence and makes the overall game feel… well… gamey.

That gamey feel couldn’t be more present than in the last two chapters, where Samuel “manually” takes over another souped-up body to do battle against robots first and then friggin’ demons. By then, it’s not really Manual Samuel anymore but a really bad hack ‘n slash with awful controls. The final boss battle—yes, there’s a final boss—is so wrought with quick time events that’s it’s like the ultimate “eff you.” There’s a lot of humor and cleverness in Manual Samuel, and I do like that it can be played co-op by divvying up Sam’s bodily functions, so it saddens me to see the game go the direction it did.

Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later – Season 1

Wet Hot American Summer

The creators of Wet Hot American Summer are really milking this thing, aren’t they. The First Day of Camp prequel alone was hardly necessary back in 2015. To be fair, however, that ended up being a really funny season of TV. I’m not even a fan of the original movie, but First Day of Camp proved that you could successfully bring an ensemble back together years later in ways that Arrested Development’s Season 4 failed to. First Day of Camp was clearly an anomaly, though, because Ten Years Later is the kind of flop you would expect when resurrecting past properties.

One of the big jokes in First Day of Camp was that these actors were playing younger versions of themselves, but in Ten Years Later, that doesn’t quite work anymore. The characters are older, and the actors are (significantly) older. They couldn’t even get Bradley Cooper to make a brief cameo in this one, but instead of writing his character off, they replaced him with Adam Scott, who’s also not in it that much. It’s impressive the talent they brought in, but given everyone’s obviously busy schedules, the show is less an ensemble and more a series of unrelated “where are they now” vignettes.

What’s even stranger is that they shoehorned in two new characters who weren’t in the original movie or prequel and then spent a huge amount of time with these people we have no reason to care about. Their love triangle isn’t interesting. Coop’s new love triangle isn’t interesting. Hell, none of the side stories are interesting. It all feels so… pointless. It’s just snippets of, “Hey, remember this? Hey, remember her?” with the very occasional, actually funny joke. While those few good jokes did make me laugh, the season as a whole simply didn’t need to exist and sours the goodwill First Day of Camp generated.

Submerged

Submerged

I can’t say much about this game without spoiling the ending, so reader beware. And, frankly, it’s the disappointing ending that’s got me so riled up. The actual gameplay is pretty straightforward and repetitive. Once you’ve scouted your third building to find medical supplies, you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. From then on, you’re just going through the motions—climbing more buildings—to see how it ends. Once the protagonist started showing “sores” on her body, though, I was genuinely interested in where the story was going. Would she turn into a monster, similar to the strange creatures lurking out of reach? Would she even be able to save her brother? What would happen to him if she did become a monster?

It isn’t often I stick with a game for the story, so that’s saying something about the build-up here. Because, again, the gameplay alone just wasn’t selling it. While I like the idea of exploring a flooded city free of combat, that sense of exploration boiled down to a series of the same rudimentary, Tomb Raider-like ledge hopping. And what was the payoff for shimmying across 100 ledges? Nothing. The boy is saved. The girl’s sores are magically waved away, and she and her brother sail off having learned nothing. Submerged had the chance to pull a really gut-wrenching ending, but then they went with the safest, most bland choice possible. Missed opportunity…

Little King’s Story

Little King's Story

I’m trying to make the best of a bad port. I really am. But Little King’s Story on Steam is troubled by all kinds of issues, from wonky controller dead zones to the sound cutting out to the game freezing or crashing at the worst possible moments. At times, these bugs are so frustrating that I want to just uninstall the game and be done with it. The next day, however, I’m at it again, hoping I can make it past the crash this go-round, because I don’t want to stop exploring the game’s world. When it works, Little King’s Story is a very fun and charming experience. It’s like a mix of Pikmin and Harvest Moon and is equally addictive. I can play for several hours straight and not be bored.

Well… that is, until the game crashes, a rude reminder that I am, in fact, simply playing a game and could probably make better use of my free time doing something that’s not going to periodically wipe out 20 minutes of work while alerting, “Oops, I stopped responding.” I’m at a point in the game now where I don’t think I can progress any further. Because the current crash condition takes place right after a somewhat annoying boss trial, I’ve run out of patience. No more attempts. The bugs have won. That’s hard for me to accept, though. I was really enjoying this half-casual, half-punishing adventure/strategy/sim game. How often are you even able to say sentences like that? Not often enough, my friend. Not often enough…

Friends From College – Season 1

Friends From College

For a TV show that has the word “friends” in the title, this is some of the most unbelievable camaraderie I’ve ever seen. These people don’t feel like friends at all. Sure, the dialogue constantly reminds you that they have history, and the montages scream, “Look, we’re having fun together!” but it’s all so forced. I guess you could argue that, being horrible people, they don’t have many other options. But the characters aren’t comically horrible like the gang from It’s Always Sunny. They’re more like the characters from The League: upper-class assholes who get enjoyment out of sabotaging each other. At least The League was pretty funny in its first few seasons. Friends From College simply has no sense of humor.

I’m actually confused how I should have approached this show. Was it supposed to be a comedy? It seldom tries to be funny, and when it does attempt comedy, it fails on cringe-worthy levels. I think the show would have been better received if it just went all-out drama and re-cast everyone. I don’t know why you would bring in actors like Keegan-Michael Key and Billy Eichner if you’re just going to subdue their normally manic personalities. Occasionally, Key will talk in a funny voice or flail around, but those moments of “levity” are so out of place with the rest of the cast. His random, jokey behavior doesn’t excuse the fact that his character’s a dick, anyway.

So one of the main story threads is that Key’s character has been cheating on his wife with another woman… who happens to be in the same circle of friends. Yeah, hard to root for a guy in that situation. And if watching one affair isn’t bad enough, the show introduces a second affair within the same circle of friends in the last few episodes. Seriously, these people have no respect for each other. At least the friends from It’s Always Sunny and The League had something in common to keep them together. Here, I just never saw a connection. They were friends, because it’s a TV show. They were cheating on each other… because it’s a TV show. A pretty bad TV show, to boot.

F is for Family – Season 2

F is for Family

Season 1 had a scene where young Bill caught an unfortunate glimpse of his father’s ball sack. It was gross, sure, but it helped build up Bill’s childhood trauma in hilarious ways. In Season 2, however, the character they’re trying to traumatize is you, the viewer. They really doubled down on the crassness and vulgarity, because we get a full-on view of Vic’s penis this time around, a fat prostitute with saggy breasts that won’t stay in her blouse, an exploding guy who sprays blood on everyone, and a statutory rape scene. It’s all cartoonish and played for laughs, of course, but it is a bit much, particularly for a show that worked so well when it stayed grounded.

I’m still a little bothered by the statutory rape episode. I’m not saying 14-year old Kevin wouldn’t have done what he did in that situation, but I find it hard to believe that the older woman involved mistook him as “short for his age.” Yep, that was the jokey pay-off there. Might as well have been a Family Guy cutaway gag… Every secondary character on this show is a joke, really, and not in a good way. Their voices are grating, and their personalities are pretty one-note. This is in stark contrast to the Murphy family members, who so expertly come across as real people with real problems.

Sadly, F is for Family has started to channel Family Guy more and more. Season 2 drags the Murphys down a little too far into depravity to the point where it’s hard to even root for them anymore. And yet, like Peter’s frequent, end-of-episode “ah jeez, I’m sorry Lois” speeches, we’re to believe everyone has learned their lesson and forgiven each other in much the same way. The show has too quickly embraced being a cartoon—an adult cartoon, no less—but doesn’t know how to balance the silly with the serious like BoJack Horseman has been able to. Not that the world needs two BoJack Horsemen, but there’s a reason why that one is Netflix’s cartoon jewel, and this one isn’t.