I feel like I have a lot to be thankful for as a geek as this Thanksgiving season passes, and I wanted to share my thoughts with you all.
A Fantastic Sequel
When Batman: Arkham Asylum came out a number of years ago, it was one of the best video games I’d ever played. I don’t normally play platform video games, but my husband put the controller in my hands, and I ended up being the first of us to play all the way through. It was such a bold reworking of the Batman image, and it was amazing to be able to control the free-flowing combat style. It was described by the Penny Arcade guys (and I’m paraphrasing here) as a beautiful ballet in which people get beaten up.
The big flaw of Arkham Asylum was that it was so contained. Batman is a hero for all of Gotham City, and it was tough to be cooped up in such a small area. When we heard that the next game would give Batman a much larger area to explore, I know I was excited, and likely many others felt the same.
Batman: Arkham City is everything one could want in a sequel to the wonderful original. The story, in a nutshell, is this. Dr. Hugo Strange, a classic villain of the Batman franchise, has gotten Gothan to wall off a large area and declare it Arkham City, using it as a dumping ground for all criminals they can lay their hands on, as well as their criminally insane. As turf wars break out between Gotham’s various crime-lords and crazies, Batman, in his identity of Bruce Wayne, speaks out against it and is thrown inside as are many of Strange’s political opponents. To make matters worse, it seems that Strange knows that Batman and Bruce are the same person.
The story is huge, but the game is even bigger. Even after you finish the main storyline, which brings in many members of Batman’s classic rogues’ gallery, there are still side missions to solve, Riddler trophies to correct, and a separate storyline featuring Catwoman! Frankly, I’ve rarely played a more enjoyable game.
A Wonderful Reboot
Some time ago, when it was announced that Disney was financing a new movie featuring the Muppets, I was cautiously optimistic. I love the Muppets, but, after Muppet Treasure Island, it seemed like the franchise had lost its way. The so-so Muppets from Space was followed by the abysmal Muppet Wizard of Oz. Could anything return the Muppets to glory?
As I heard little tidbits about the plot of the proposed movie, I was intrigued. As talent got attached, especially the brilliant Jason Segel (who also co-wrote the film) and Amy Adams, I got more excited. Then the ads began to appear. Little parody films that seemed to be about totally different projects, then turned around to reveal they were really Muppet movie clips. They were fun, but it was hard to get what the humor level of the movie would really be.
I came back from seeing the movie tonight. If you’re a Muppet fan, then you should be very thankful. This is classic wacked out Muppet insanity. The story is that Gary (Segel), his brother Walter (a new Muppet), and his girlfriend Mary (Adams) are headed to Los Angeles on vacation. Although Gary and Walter are huge Muppet fans, the Muppets have been split up for years. Our heroes discover that the Muppet Studios are about to belong to the oil magnate Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who wants to tear them down to drill for oil. In order to save the Muppets legacy, Walter convinces Kermit the Frog to reunite the Muppets in order to raise the money needed to get the Studio back.
Basic plot, yes. Very Muppety indeed. But the mayhem that ensues is also very Muppety. This movie feels like classic Muppets, married to an intensely fast-paced direction style. It develops an intense momentum and never lets up. I was nervous as it started, but by the end of the first musical number (yes, it’s a musical), I was excited and laughing out loud.
I’ll freely admit that I cried several times during the film. It manages to take what could be hackneyed and overly sentimental scenes and transforms them to a greater whole. There’s no cynicism in the film, which is part of its charm, as the core question of the film is “Are the Muppets still relevent in today’s cynical world?” The answer? Well, c’mon…it’s a Muppets reboot. I’ll let you puzzle that one out. But it’s just a very funny movie that doesn’t talk down to its audience. And it has a lot of genuine heart, which seems so rare these days.
An Enjoyable Variant
I’ve enjoyed the Sims games ever since that night in California, many years ago, when I woke my poor husband up to the sound of my Sims from the original game accidentally setting the house on fire. I’ve been playing The Sims 3 for some time, building up little lives, over and over. But now, there’s a very different way to play The Sims, and it’s right up my alley – The Sims: Medieval.
I had hoped that The Sims: Medieval would basically be The Sims, but set in a Middle Ages village. This is not the case. In place of the extreme sandbox-ness of the normal Sims games, this game is very story-driven. You play various quests, guiding your Hero Sims in their lives. These Sims fill various Medieval archetypes, from the Monarch, to the Knight, to the Blacksmith, to the Wizard.
Quests often have multiple ways they can be solved, and different heroes can finish them in different ways. Once you’ve achieved a certain level of experience, you can switch into a freestyle mode, putting aside quests in favor of that sandbox quality from the original games.
If you’re a Sims fan, this is a fun and interesting variant. If you’ve never tried one, I don’t know that I would suggest this as a first experience.
If you’re as big a Tolkien/Rings fan as I am, then you seek after every little scrap of news you can get from the set of the Hobbit, the two-part film that will be released in December of 2012 and 2013. I personally enjoy the round-up style employed by TheOneRing.net, and I tend to go there to find out what’s happening in Middle Earth.
Without getting into a lot of specifics, in case I could possibly be giving you spoilers, I will only say that, after all the difficulty of getting the project started, it sounds like it’s proceeding nicely. I eagerly look forward to the new films, which should complete Tolkien’s great epic in style.
Is there something very geeky you’re feeling thankful for? Maybe The Hobbit doesn’t interest you, but you’re thrilled for The Dark Knight Rises or The Avengers? Maybe you’re in the beta for Star Wars: The Old Republic, and you’re thankful that it’s far superior to Star Wars: Galaxies? Heck, maybe you’re just thankful that I didn’t review Heroes of the Feywild yet before you’ve had a chance to read it. Let us all know.