Crynicisms · Miscellaneous

Cyrnicisms: Common Sense Media

Crynicisms is a series in which I write short-lengthy and very cynical criticisms (cynical + criticism = Cyrnicims) about various things, from websites to books, to times of the day if I really wanted to. These are all written in one go (and sometimes edited), as per my style.

Let me get something out of the way here: I don’t HATE the idea of this website and I don’t want to disgrace the names behind it, but dear god is it just mediocre as all hell.

Part One: Reviews

What is the point in trying to do a review website if you suck at reviewing things? A good review is one that doesn’t make you skip to the bottom to find out the score or the pros/cons, but with CSM, the reviews are so short that they barely even hold your attention, to begin with. Length isn’t the issue here, however: the actual reviews are.

When reviewing something on a complex scale such as a 1-5 rating, you want to give your readers proper justification for your rating. A good writer doesn’t say that a movie is totally awesome only to shit on it like it wasn’t, just as they wouldn’t give a movie a 5/10 and then almost never bring up the positives or negatives. Unfortunately, those who write for this website often find themselves struggling to adhere to this. There are some gems somewhere, I wouldn’t really know it, but I can bet on it. Those gems, however, become increasingly hard to find when you have people who give movies like Drive 4/5 without ever really saying anything negative about the film. I get that criticizing something can be hard when you can’t poof words into existence that describe your feeling… in which case, find something else that you can criticize (love/hate).

As it stands, I don’t really trust CSM with reviews – but then again, I rarely ever trust one critic to hold my interest on a topic. I get that this sounds silly from someone who’s a critic, but trust me: always read more than one review, or even talk to others who have seen/read/played/etc. what you’re interested in. Not one person is ever right, and you might find yourself hating a widely loved thing or even disliking it slightly if you’re not a robot.

Part Two: Content Ratings

If you’ve ever heard of Common Sense Media, it’s for this reason alone. I’m not here to say that they’re bad in this regard. Though these do often times have very rough edges that I’ll get into briefly here, they mostly nail down the type of content contained within the product that they’re overviewing. Now that I’m done kissing CSM’s ass, here’s my criticism of their content ratings.

In my opinion, Content Ratings should not be recommending the age group for a certain item. I get that it’s a fast solution to any overly concerned parent out there, but whether or not your son or daughter should be able to play/watch something should always come down to their maturity as a person, not as a digit. While this does come in handy with books (which often times, if at all, don’t contain content warnings), movies and video games come with content descriptions for a reason. If those are too vague for you, then this site can help you, but, as I’m about to tell you, they have some issues.

Without a doubt, my biggest issue with ALL Content Ratings is that they can be inaccurate or can even sugarcoat key details. If you don’t want your child to watch anything with Nudity, then it would suck to be suckered into something that clearly has explicit Nudity in it. If you think that my complaint of sugarcoating is unrealistic, it’s not. It is has happened before, and enough times for me to count it as an actual issue. These issues often times hit the biggest with User-Based Content Ratings (like IMDB’s Parent Guides), but bigger sites like CSM aren’t innocent, either.

A big example of this is in CSM’s Rating of the 2016 movie ‘The Hunt For the Wilderpeople’. In the movie, there’s a scene in which a kid describes things that sound VERY dirty, and one of the main characters is called a molester/pervert on multiple occasions both in this scene and in others. Though the rating does mention the part about the word ‘molester’ in its sex category, they SUPER Sugarcoat everything said before it making it seem like it’s not a big deal, and have rated it very low. There was also a mention of weed in the film, and, although brief, was not in the rating. The fact that they could miss such a key detail like this is astounding and actually upset many of the parents who thought the movie was perfectly safe for their younglings. If you don’t believe me, check out the page for yourself… or, I have a link to an archived version in case they ever fix these mistakes: https://web.archive.org/web/20170510070458/https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/hunt-for-the-wilderpeople

Another issue I have with these content rating as is that they often times spoil things without warning you at all. Although other variations of this concept may be a lot rougher around the edges (again, I have to bring up IMDB here), they actually make an effort to warn you about potential spoilers. CSM does not give a single damn in this regard. Should I also not forget to mention that almost every Video Game with Blood (even if slight) is described as if it’s a Hard R film? Again, as a parent, you should let yourself decide and not some website that you have little-to-no relation with.

Part Three: The Community

Yeah, this site has one. I’m not here to say that a bad community is unique, every online community is technically bad because of a few rotten or non-ripe apples that sit on it, but when your community is meant to fill in some blanks you’re afraid might exist, maybe you’re not exactly thinking of things rationally or ethically. It shouldn’t take long for anyone to figure out that with the power of anonymity comes danger. When no one’s watching, people will lie, will turn shady, and will do things that will make you question humanity for better or for worse.

When you give your community the power to do some work for you, should you not be surprised when the ‘Sex & Nudity’ section on the IMDB Parents Guide for Purple Rain only contains the three words ‘sex and titties’? The answer is a simple and aggressive ‘YES’. This applies to Common Sense Media just as much as it does IMDB, more-so in many regards. If you don’t believe me, then look at all the community reviews on CSM for any GTA game… especially V. The CSM rating clearly displays just how mature Grand Theft Auto V is, barely even missing a beat… then you have kids who write that it’s fine for 11-year-olds to play it. This wouldn’t be an issue if those types of reviews didn’t get the most praise, but you must remember that the internet is a place where Norm of the North can get 10/10s’ on various review sites because it mildly entertained the reviewer’s kid(s) – actual criticisms be damned.

If GTA V wasn’t a good enough example for you, I’m going to revisit Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. In my opinion, if you can handle quick and brutal violence with a small (key detail here being small) amount of nudity with meaningful visuals and dialog, Drive is your film. I mentioned Nudity there for a reason, too. There’s a scene in the film where the main character interrogates someone at a strip club. Not noticing that Strip Clubs are highly sexual and can contain nudity, one parent gave the film a bad score because “What is the point of the long topless scene? I do not understand why there is pointless nudity in so many movies today…”. That is their review, word for word. I’d credit them, but their username is Anonymous82 so I don’t know how I could possibly tell them how to properly write a review. This review doesn’t just seem like it was written by a person who didn’t see the film and used their position to stand on their own soapbox, it reeks of that quality so much, that I see that as the only way this review can be real.

Conclusion

Common Sense Media isn’t a terrible site, but it’s also not good. Their content ratings are very helpful when they’re well done, despite the inevitable issues that ALL content rating sites have. That is the only real reason you should go to their website, and, again, it will always have issues of its own. I wouldn’t be surprised if their educational packets contained small and unintentional logical fallacies like False Dilemmas. Reading into their almost non-existent justifications for many review scores was a dilemma within itself for me…

Miscellaneous · Video Games

Terrible Games That I Bought (for some reason): Bloodbath Kavkaz

Have you ever heard of a “little” title called Hotline Miami? If you’re someone who looks at screenshots only, it’s a game you’d think is the worst thing ever, and from a glance, it’s hard not to see why someone would think that. The thing about Hotline Miami is, however, it was made by 2 geniuses who knew what they were doing and poked at people’s reactions to it. I’m not going to ruin the big surprise that the first game holds, but I think that if you do beat it and tried your best to follow along with the plot, it’s a great idea to look at an analysis of the events afterward to fully understand what I’m talking about here.

…oh wait, I’m supposed to be talking about a shitty game… my bad! Bloodbath Kavkaz, or Hotline Kavkaz (as it was originally called before Devolver Digital, the publisher of both Hotline Miami games, told the developers of this steaming pile to rename it), is not a good game. It’s not terrible because it’s a game that tries to copy off of the success of one of my favorite games of all time, people take inspiration from everything and it simply wouldn’t be fair for me to judge a game like that. It’s a terrible game because it was made by people who didn’t have a grasp on what made the mechanics in Hotline Miami work so well, to begin with.

The camera is terrible, and so is the movement. Everything feels clunky, and your ability to see the enemies is tampered by the fact that you can’t look around (basically what I meant by the ‘camera’). I’ve heard common criticism of Hotline Miami be that the AI is randomized so it’s almost pointless to think out your actions, and while I can understand that argument, I think the unpredictable movement gives the game the edge to let the player use its tools to come up with new tactics as they play… not in Bloodbath Kavkaz! When the AI isn’t just straight up cheating, it’s braindead. It doesn’t matter that the bad dudes you shoot at are stupid because you can’t look around the map like you can do in Hotline Miami, so the game becomes a giant game of trial-n-error over skill and thinking.

Also, there’s a story. All I could get from it was that it’s about some guy joining back into something (it’s not really ever made clear what he’s getting back into), and then I shot some dudes, and then the game glitched and the language switched backed to Russian. Oh yeah, that happens allot. Several times, while reading the poorly translated dialog that becomes comedic gold in areas where it shouldn’t (it’s seriously as if they used Google Translate or a person who isn’t very well-versed in the English language, to do the work for them), I suddenly wouldn’t be able to read what the developers intended me to read. It also starts out in Russian with the only way to switch it to English being buried in its options menu, and a super-buggy level editor that looks suspiciously like Hotline Miami 2’s editor, but only in Russian and with 50 times the bugs of Miami’s editor.

Yeah, don’t buy this horseshit. I bought it for less than a dollar, but even if I got it for free I still would have felt ripped off. Again, Kavkaz isn’t apalling because it apes a mesmerizing game, it’s apalling because the developers clearly wanted to make Hotline Miami but couldn’t understand why it was mesmerizing at all.

Uncategorized

Changes in ‘Freebie Fridays’ and Schedule

I think this is something you may have noticed by now, but I am terrible at keeping a consistent schedule. As a result, ‘Freebie Fridays’ will no longer be every Friday – just about any Friday I think of. The rest of the time I’m not writing one, you can expect a miscellaneous and maybe a review-or-two here and there.

The issue about reviews for me is simple: I don’t buy new games that often. I have a big wishlist, but right now I don’t have the time, money, and effort to go through that wishlist and buy every game in it to review them. You can expect reviews whenever I feel like writing them, which might not be often, but don’t expect more modern games (like, from this year or a few months ago or something like that).

Sorry!

Miscellaneous · Video Games

Buyer’s Remorse: Shlock of the Dead

Let me tell you a little cautionary tale about a little thing called ‘buyer’s remorse’. If you don’t know what buyer’s remorse is, don’t worry. Imagine you have an old neighbor down the street named Joe. According to others, he’s selling Air Jordans for just $20, so, you go up to Joe, 20 bucks in hand, and buy the pair of shoes. You go home, rip into the packaging a little bit, and realize that Joe may not be the most honest person in the world. The shoes are really just 10-year-old Nikes, their soles have holes, their backs are torn, and worst of all, the only thing that resembles an Air Jordan is a picture of what you could have been lazily taped onto the shoes. That is buyer’s remorse, the feeling of regret for something you’ve purchased.

Now onto the story. The year is around 2011, some time after Christmas. My cousin has given me a Gamestop card, as always, and I go to spend it. At the time, I was really digging Rock Band 2, even though I already owned the newer installment. I liked the band system, and when friends came over, it was clearly my game of choice. I go over to the isle for PlayStation 3 games, and on the new shelf, I find a game called ‘Rock of the Dead’. There are no used copies of this game, just one new copy lying there, awaiting a buyer. That buyer was me – and woah boy, do I regret that.

Imagine if Rock Band 12 came out and its music selection was all relatively unknown rock and roll songs pulled from great albums. Also, imagine that game had unresponsive controls, even if you calibrated it 20 previous times to no avail. That is Rock of the Dead, or, as I’m more used to calling it in the far recesses of my mind, Schlock of the Dead. Everything about this game defines mediocre, but that doesn’t compare to just how unpleasant it is to play. It’s a game about killing zombies with Rock n Roll, and even it’s beyond dull writing with a weak performance from Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t make that premise exciting outside of the game’s design documents. Oh, and did I mention the game was unresponsive more than half the time I played it?

Perhaps the biggest red flag that this game was going to be as good as Elephant Pubes on a Tricycle is that it’s published by a little-known studio known as ‘Conspiracy Entertainment’. Their “fantastic” track record consists of numerous Licensed titles on the GBA, GBC, and Gamecube, and also some interesting shovelware on the Wii, such as Anubis II, Billy the Wizard, Ninjabread Man, and much more tragedies. If you can’t tell by that list, Conspiracy is not exactly known to pump out quality products. It was also distributed by Ufo Interactive Games – who’s games list shares some comparisons with Conspiracy’s, but at the time, was also filled with more shovelware than tie-in games. This was originally going to be only on the Wii – the worst sign of all. All of this should have been a red-flag to me, but I straight up ignored it and bought the game anyways.

And the worst part? Not only was it 30 bucks, but I could never refund the damned thing… at least, that’s what they told me when I bought it. Let this be a cautionary tale for all you young buyers: look closely into the shit you’re intrigued by BEFORE you buy it.

Freebie Fridays · Video Games

Freebie Fridays: Hard Time

Note: apparently, there are 2 versions of Hard Time - one a 2D version on
mobile, the other, a 3D game on PC. This review refers to the original 
version, released on PC.

Few games truly describe what a ‘Guilty Pleasure’ is to me than MDickie’s ‘Hard Time’. I don’t know what can really be said about the game that can’t be seen while watching someone play it, but fuck it, I’ll give it a go anyways. Hard Time is a game that WANTS to be a prison simulator, that WANTS to be taken seriously, but it’s not. It’s a game where you can make a low-poly version of Duke Nukem (without the catchphrases) that immediately attempts to murder everyone in his ward, using his fists and what very little knowledge he has. In short, the game sucks for reasons I’ll get into, but I’d be damned if I didn’t say just how much stupid, stupid fun I had with this one. I almost did another cheap and shitty game from my Steam library whose main purpose is to work as a dispenser for trading cards, but I couldn’t help playing this for more than a second.

My first experience with ‘Hard Time’ was creating my character. I immediately tried to make Hank Hill, naming him ‘Pro-Pain’, and giving him a ponytail by mistake. I then quit after less of a second of playing. This was because of technical issues related to the windowed mode and my 2 monitors – which I will spare you the details of. Either way, I created a new character… the same exact one. I began my crusade through the prison with the warden. The silly dipshit was just standing there giving me orders with a machine gun in his hand. It’s a good thing for the warden that guns do fuck all in Hard Time, you can unload clips upon clips of ammunition into your victims and they will still stand up anyways. After years of unloading countless metal shells into his chest, the warden was down. Then I wandered into my cell block.

‘The warden’s dead’, the speaker said, ‘but we don’t know who did it’, it finished, despite the fact that bullets leave a clear marking and I was still carrying the only gun responsible for inflicting such harm. And then a strange man walked up to me. He said, ‘I know you killed the warden, he was a good friend of mine’. I then proceeded to unload my infinite supply of slow pain into him until somebody knocked the gun out of my hand. After numerous bursts of uncontrollable rage, Pro Pain was a growing name in all wings of the Prison block… and yet no one talked about me. No chats about how he removed 2 legs off a guy, kicked him the head 50 times, then finally finished him off 4 days later… silence.

And then I gave up. Hard Time is interesting for some time, and it does make for some genuinely silly videos or discussions, but I’d be lying if I told you that this game was good. For a serious prison simulator, it makes no sense that there are swords everywhere, or that the wardens can decide to kill each other for no reason. Its controls are stiff as all hell, it’s mechanics are broken at moments, and the camera is terrible and often times clips into objects it should stay away from. All of this is to say before I mention just how ugly it looks, who blocky and gray environments are, how character models are just so poorly done and look so janky. This was all done by one man, which is understandable, but understandable doesn’t always mean exceptional.

Hard Time, is, after a while, a hard time to enjoy. It really isn’t good, but that said, it’s also damned well fun at the same time. It’s a real mixed bag, but it’s one worth checking out if you have the time to.

Movies · Reviews · Spoilers

Logan – Movie Review/Thoughts (TINY Spoilers)

Please note: My game and movie reviews are formatted differently.

This is a little late, but I could care less. This is the tale of when Logan saw Logan, as in the film. Since this came out more than a month ago, yet some people still haven’t seen it yet, I’m just going to put this right here: This review contains slight spoilers, I won’t be telling you the majority of the story or how it ends, but I will be discussing minor things that you’ll have to have seen the movie to understand.  There.

I went into Logan anticipating a climax where EVERYONE dies, even the small child. I talked to buds of mine who were big enough dipshits to tell me this… they lied. The movie begins interestingly enough with a location I could have sworn I’d seen before: an appropriately dimmed down version of a (light) blue color that surrounded the scenery, a messed up road, and also a bit of a town. It took me less than a few seconds to remember that this was the teaser for Deadpool 2. As typical, funny stuff that knows what it is and what movie it’s playing before. This was great and one of the best pre-movie things I’ve seen in a while… too bad Hugh Jackman won’t be revisiting his fake silver claws for that film, though.

Then the movie begins. It hits you right off the bat, showing Wolverine (now using his other codename, Logan) having to cut into a bunch of assholes trying to disassemble his car for parts to sell. This was a great way to open this film mainly because it not only shows how violent the film is in comparison to all of its predecessors but also tells the audience about Logan’s weakened healing powers without ever needing to say a word about it. This describes why I loved Logan so much: it’s NOT the typical Super-Hero movie abusing the same formula for profit. There are no quick and cartoony gags or reckless behavior and acts that get unpunished. Like The Dark Knight before it, Logan is a Superhero film only in the sense that the main character has amazing powers and/or special abilities.

From here, the movie goes on to give a pretty awesome show. I’m not a psychopath, but I think the violence here was fitting, as this is what Logan’s powers could realistically do to someone if he used them on somebody. The practical and digital effects for the gore and visuals were also pretty well done, too. The story is one that gets more and more heartbreaking as it goes on, and the finale had me in tears – which is quite rare for me. The characters, for the most part, were decent, but some were obviously there to move along the story and get killed afterward – wouldn’t ya know it, they die. Probably the best part of this film are the performances from everyone involved. Obviously, Patrick Steward and Hugh Jackman fit their roles more than peanut butter fits jelly, but Dafne Keen as Laura, or Logan’s clone, was also amazing here as well and the things she was able to pull off here are outstanding things for any child actor, period.

And that basically describes it. Sorry if this feels rushed or incomplete – I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, but haven’t gotten to. For anyone wondering – yes, when I get the chance to, I’ll do more than writing about Video Games and related items.

 

Miscellaneous · Video Games

Remembering the PlayStation TV

I bet you're wondering where the next Freebie Friday addition is - 
in which case, you're probably a mere figment of my imagination, 
but that's beside the point. Trust me, 
the next addition will come soon... just, not today. 
Instead, I'll be talking about the PlayStation TV: a short-lived, 
ill-fated companion to the already failing handheld system, 
the PlayStation Vita.

I remember there was a time when, while scrolling on YouTube, I saw a Japanese trailer for the PS TV. I thought it was ridiculous at the time, and in only a way Sony could handle things, they set it up to release alongside the PlayStation 4 – November 2013. Setting it up to release at this time was essentially a death wish for an add-on to an already dying platform. Again, Sony being Sony, they released it anyways. I think it’s safe to say: this quirky little device is on its death bed beneath the surface.

If you don’t know what a PlayStation TV is – and I wouldn’t blame for it – it’s essentially a PlayStation Vita that hooks up to your TV. It’s got it’s Operating System and some games I suppose. Though I never really tried it, I do believe you can stream things like Netflix and Hulu on here, but, just like the PS Vita, high quality of these services should NOT be expected. The real selling point of this was not just the ability to play PS Vita games on your TV, but also to stream PS4 games to another room. In my opinion, that selling point is rather weak considering the PS Vita can do the exact same thing, but not everybody knew that, so they used it as a selling point.

What really killed this device, however, was a total lack of support. To give you an example of this, one of the more recent games to be compatible with this device is Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number… a game released in 2015. It also supports the complete first season of Telltale Games’s ‘The Walking Dead’… but you’re shit outta luck if you want to continue Clementine’s journey, as the only piece of that game (Season 2) available is the very first episode – as someone who owns a physical copy of TWD:S2 on Vita, I can confirm this. The PlayStation TV failed even harder than it’s predecessor – and even that still has small doses of Indie Titles releasing on it. Why Sony decided to pit it up against the powerhouse of the PlayStation 4 is beyond me, but this is coming from a business that created a powerhouse of a handheld device and forgot about its existence in much less than a few years time, so it really doesn’t surprise me.

As a system… it’s okay. Though some games do have touch controls not available if you have the standard PS3 controller, they do make up for this with the ability to switch the device into a touchscreen mode. It’s a little clunky, but considering what they had to work with, it was the best effort they could do. As for the games – they run just like they did on the Vita. If you’re looking for an affordable games system with more than just a couple of games on it, this shouldn’t bother you, but if you want to play Borderlands 2 with 2 more people and a consistent framerate, you’re better off finding another solution.

In general, it’s sad that the PS TV died so quickly. Maybe it wasn’t the best of ideas, but it sure was intriguing. I’d say I’m disappointed, but Sony is notorious for this type of thing. I never expected it to be a smash hit – but at least some recognition for it would have been nice. Maybe if you’ve got a ton of Vita downloads that are compatible with it and don’t want to buy the games again, it’s worth a look, but despite how soft I am towards it, I really would recommend you steer clear of this dead deer.

Thank you, Amazon.com, for the featured image on display.