Tag: Adventure

Ready Player One (movie) review

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writers: Zak Penn, Ernest Cline

Cast: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Hannah Jon-Kamen, Lena Waithe, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller

Released: March 29, 2018

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What a pleasant surprise that this wasn’t awful. Then again, when your movie is in Steven Spielberg’s hands you can usually breathe a sigh of relief, but even for him this was a tough hurdle. He was working with an at best mediocre novel, and he managed to elevate it to an enjoyable blockbuster.

Wade Watts is a socially awkward teenager living in Columbus, Ohio with his aunt. He spends most of his time in the OASIS, a virtual world where you can be anyone and do anything. The game’s founder James Halliday, in his will, states that whoever wins a contest to find an easter egg in the OASIS, will win his whole fortune and control of the entire simulation. Using his wits and with help from his friends Aech, Daito, Sho, and his crush Artemis, Wade must find the clues and win the contest before the evil IOI does.

If you’re looking for something deep with themes to chew on, don’t even bother seeing it. But taken as it is, Ready Player One is an enjoyable if flawed blockbuster and a respectable addition to Spielberg’s resume. I found it to be at least more enjoyable than the novel it’s adapting. The script from Zak Penn and author of the original novel Ernest Cline actually changes quite a lot from the source material, keeping the premise but making the actual challenges work for a film, tightening the pacing, and adding new scenes that work better for a film adaptation.

Wade Watts, played by Tye Sheridan, actually manages to be sympathetic in the film. He’s socially awkward with dreams of having a better life by winning the contest. The film gets rid of the unintentionally unlikable elements from the novel such as Wade acting like a stalker towards Artemis after their breakup, and has him try to stop a tragedy from happening. Still, he’s nothing special as a protagonist and has no meaningful development. Artemis is in her own right a very interesting and likable character, and I found the relationship between her and Wade to be just believable enough to work. She’s even given some more backstory this time around that explains why she’s so obsessed in winning Halliday’s contest. Unfortunately the other side characters Aech, Daito, and Sho don’t have any memorable characteristics outside of the reveals of their real world identities. The villains are quite hammy and cartoonish, especially Hannah Jon-Kamen as the main villain’s second in command. She has no character other than being evil. While this is a blockbuster primarily concerned with entertainment, other popcorn flicks like the last few Marvel movies have shown you can have complex villains in them. That said everyone gave a good performance even if their characters were bland.

What really brings it home is how non-stop entertaining it is. Instead of merely being tests of how much pop culture you know, the challenges require both mental skill beyond your knowledge of classic video games and movies, and you have to be just as good at driving a car or dodging an axe to win. The three challenges are both very unique and will get you more than your money’s worth in entertainment, with the first challenge being a race with all of the excitement and energy you’d expect from Spielberg, and the second challenge referencing The Shining in the most awesome way imaginable. The plot has a fairly decent pace, albeit the first act at times feels either rushed or too slow depending on what’s happening. While some people will be left scratching their heads at just how does the OASIS actually work, some of the characters having martial arts mastery, and a couple of other plot holes; the movie’s focus on spectacle and not taking itself too seriously makes up for it. It doesn’t feel like it’s exploiting or looking down on its audience, it feels like it’s a part of the audience and wants to have a blast with it. It also manages to succeed, or at least succeed more so than the novel in having a cautionary message against overindulging in escapism.

The pop culture references are updated to fit modern tastes this time around, so you’ll see just as many Batman and Superman nods as you will Back to the Future and Atari video game ones. There were a few times where they were rather obnoxious and almost patronizingly explained to the audience, but there were also a couple of moments where even I couldn’t help but get excited at seeing a favorite character or vehicle from a franchise I love. This all comes to a head in the climax, which is just pure, unadulterated, shamelessly pandering fanservice that you will love every moment of. I knew I would have my fun when “We’re Not Gonna Take It” started playing.

The special effects in the film are pretty decent, but are 100% CGI and you will never be convinced otherwise. Now because most of the film takes place in the virtual world, that works and they never looked straight up terrible, but it’s a shame more convincing effects weren’t added. What elevates them is Spielberg’s direction, which manages to inspire a level of awe and reverence to the world and characters of the OASIS, especially during the exciting action scenes. Except for the music during the climax, I have to say I didn’t find the score by Alan Silvestri to be anything memorable except for the main title, which sounds like something John Williams would make.

Ready Player One is not great, but it towers over its source material and other films like it. It will probably be one of the better films of the year if you’re looking for just entertainment. It’s not a deep film, but it’s not a dumb one either and Spielberg is not trying to trick you into thinking it’s anything more or less than a fun blockbuster that gamers, 80s movie fans, and other nerds can have a good time with. Even if you’re not in those three groups there is still fun to be had with it.

Score: 6/10

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The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Game played on: 3DS

Released: November 23, 1998/ June 19, 2011 (Ocarina of Time 3D)

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So this is it, the game considered by many to be the greatest ever created. It revolutionized 3D gaming and its influence is still felt to this day. I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my backlog, even if it is not in its original form. I don’t regret the time I spent playing Ocarina, in fact I think it’s a very good game, but not certainly not the best game ever.

This is the very first Zelda game I have ever played from beginning to end. I have not played the 2D Zelda games and I don’t care about them. Ocarina of Time tells the story of a young boy named Link (but you can change his name to any one you want), who is destined to save the land of Hyrule and the princess Zelda from the ambitions of the evil Ganondorf. With help from his fairy sidekick Navi, Link’s quest will take him to places from villages where the children never become adults to dark, forbidden dungeons full of booby traps and monsters, and even across time itself.

A simple story right? Yes. However, that is as much its greatest strength as it is its greatest weakness. Ocarina of Time’s story and plot harken back to classic fairy tales and fantasy books we all know and love. A young peasant boy with a great destiny, the quest to save a young princess and the land from great evil, strange fantasy creatures and monsters, etc. The simplicity of the premise lends weight to some truly emotional story moments. As you travel back as an adult to locations you visited and helped as a child, you are confronted with these lands having become ruined or corrupted by Ganondorf and his evil rule. Characters that once knew you no longer recognize you at first, and sometimes never do. It explores themes of how much crueler the world can be as an adult, when everything seemed so much more happy and innocent as a child. All of these very good qualities aside, it is a pretty simple plot. If you have any knowledge of fairy tales, you’ll likely be able to predict where it will go, and there’s only one major twist in the game which given its age you might already know. The side characters are also mainly forgettable. You will meet them, they’ll serve their role for the story, and then be forgotten about to move on to the next plot point. Your fairy companion Navi has a bad reputation even amongst this game’s biggest fans, but I didn’t find her to be that annoying, and she has genuinely useful advice for you throughout the game.

The gameplay mainly revolves around exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and combating enemies. The dungeons are all varied in their visual and level design, and each has a different atmosphere. However they also vary greatly in quality, with some being entertainingly challenging, and others just being obnoxiously hard for no reason. The infamous Water Temple is considered the prime example of the latter, but honestly I don’t think it’s that difficult, in fact once you figure out how it works you can solve it fairly easily, and switching between required items is a lot less tedious thanks to the 3DS remaster’s new features. The temple immediately after it I think is a lot more annoying just because it throws so much at you. The best temple in the game I feel is the Forest Temple, because of its place in the story, the boss, and the resolution at the end.

Enemies will have either weaknesses that Link can exploit with the right weapon and timing, or he can just hack away at the simpler ones with his sword. This really gets taken to an extreme level in the boss fights. They will have one, very specific weakness that you have to exploit over and over again until they finally go down using a special item found in their respective dungeon. Once you figure it out and can predict their move sets, they won’t be any trouble whatsoever save for their high damage output. They all have designs that are creative and fit the environment that they inhabit.

Ocarina of Time’s gameplay is held back the most by its focus on keeping everything varied in the moment rather than overtime. Items that you find in dungeons rarely, but not always have any usage outside of them, and despite the overworld of the game being fairly large, there isn’t really much to do save for the odd minigame and the game’s very few sidequests. The only sidequests I pursued were one which will get you the most powerful sword in the whole game, and even that is mostly just fetch quests mixed with time trials, and the other that will get you a bigger wallet to carry money in.

What manages to carry Ocarina of Time to the finish line is its atmosphere and music. You genuinely feel immersed in this fantasy land that is counting on you alone to save it. Link is perfect for this, having zero personality and existing solely for players to project themselves into, to the point where Link doesn’t even have to be his name. Lastly, even decades later, Ocarina of Time’s music is still amongst the finest ever crafted in gaming.
There is nothing really bad to say about Ocarina of Time on a technical level other than the framerate dropping a few times during more intense moments. It was glitch free and while a bit dated, the character and background models are not ugly or aged too badly. I played the 3DS remaster of this game, which updated the graphics to be more bearable, has better controls, and generally feels nicer to play.

Sorry but the greatest game of all time Ocarina of Time is not. It’s still very good, but even with the remaster’s graphical improvements and better controls, age still has exposed this game’s flaws. Other games have come out afterwards that are more worthy of “greatest of all time” status than Ocarina.

Score: 7/10