Togges Review

Togges is not your typical 3D platformer, and I love it for that. I can’t even remember the last time I played a platformer that had such a unique set of rules. Maybe calling this a platformer isn’t even correct, though it still feels like one. While you directly control a little vacuum-like robot that can freely move and jump around the entire level, you can only interact with things if you build a chain of blocks to the item or switch at hand. These blocks have a lot of restrictions on how they can be placed, though, and each color of block behaves slightly differently. Yellow, for instance, conducts electricity and stacks higher than other colors but also uses up twice as many “build points.” Thus, a big part of the game is seeing a collectible in plain sight and then figuring out how you can lead the blocks to it to pick it up.

In that sense, you could characterize Togges as more of an environmental puzzle game. And these environments are jam-packed with stuff to do. There are only seven levels/worlds in the game, but I’ve already put 15 hours in just getting to World 6, and I wasn’t even trying to do everything. Each level is its own, mini open world with three bonus sub-levels and a whole bunch of fruit and seeds to collect. And the fruit locations aren’t always obvious, either, as you sometimes need to complete a challenge to reveal them. If I have anything bad to say about Togges, it’s that some of these challenges are a little too vague. 15 hours in, and I still have no idea what to do with the “ghost fruits.” But if you like games that don’t hold your hand and games that let you explore at your own pace and games that aren’t afraid to be different, then you need to check this one out. It deserves so much more attention than it’s getting.

Goosebumps – Season 1 Review

As a kid, I was a huge fan of the original Goosebumps books, but 30 years later, I can only remember the plot to maybe 2-3 of them. So I don’t really care if a modern day TV show takes creative liberty with the IP. In fact, I actually liked the way this show was initially structured. Instead of being another anthology series, it had an overarching story where each episode brought in a gimmick from one of the books. The first episode featured a haunted camera a la Say Cheese and Die, the second episode had your classic Haunted Mask, etc. But these items were simply manifestations of the ghost that acted as the season’s villain. Well, I should say the villain for 80% of the season, because that ghost’s story is completely wrapped up in Episode 8.

That’s when the show lost me. There was already a bit too much teen drama for my liking, and then in Episode 9, they lay the drama on super thick as we follow our teen heroes on a Goosebumps-free road trip. I kept asking myself, “What’s the point of this? Didn’t the story conclude in the previous episode?” It isn’t until the end of Episode 9 when the true villain is revealed, which leaves only one episode left to resolve the new conflict. I really don’t understand why they chose to structure the season like this. If you’re gonna do the twist villain, at least do it halfway through the season so there’s time for the conflict to grow. Or do it at the very end to set up Season 2. What they did with this season is just nonsense and makes me think they’ve already expended any good ideas they had for this series.

The Spirit and the Mouse Review

I’m having a hard time nailing down my final thoughts on this game. On one hand, I love mice and rats and enjoy any game where they are the protagonist. Exploring the different neighborhoods from the perspective of a mouse is certainly fun. The lack of a jump button feels a bit restrictive, but it works when you accept that a real mouse is going to do a lot more climbing than jumping, anyway. And I do like the overall theme of the game, where you are helping these electrical spirits bring happiness to the townsfolk. However, I think the electricity theme hinders the game too much. Being able to take shortcuts through electrical wiring is neat, but the fact that every quest boils down to “turn the power back on” is kinda lame. The game starts with a mouse who wants to help people, and it would have been far more interesting to explore that idea as a regular mouse and not a mouse with electrical super powers.

The sub-quests that you must complete to fix each electrical box are equally silly. Some quests are basically just mini-games, after all. I liked the quests that involved searching the city for clues, though. That is still the best thing about this game: going around the city, looking for stuff. There are over a hundred little, blue light bulbs hidden throughout the game, and even when their locations are obvious, how you reach them isn’t. Those moments definitely elevated the experience for me. I found myself having a lot of fun when I put the main story on hold and just hunted down light bulbs for a while. But as soon as I focused on an actual quest again, I couldn’t help but think, “This is so dumb…” Ultimately, if you like wholesome video games, then The Spirit and the Mouse has enough going for it to come recommended. Just make sure you set aside time to look for hidden light bulbs.

My Little Universe Review

I’m not normally one to buy a game the day it comes out, but it was hard to resist the allure of My Little Universe. And so I basically played through several patches that altered the difficulty of the game on a day-to-day basis. The biggest improvement that took place was that dying no longer reset your character’s level back to zero. As of today, you only lose one level and, subsequently, one level perk. The update was ultimately for the better, but it significantly changed how I approached the game. I mean, yeah, you still don’t want to die, because the random perk you lose might be the best one. But you don’t have to be nearly as careful anymore. This is supposed to be a casual game, after all, so it makes sense that it shouldn’t be too punishing. And most perks are simply nice-to-haves, anyway. The only perk I was ever devastated to lose was the pacifist perk that prevents monsters from outright attacking you. Because, if I have one complaint about this game, it’s that there are too many friggin’ monsters.

I adore everything else about My Little Universe, though. This is a “numbers go up” resource gathering game at its core, but damn if it isn’t satisfying to continually spend those resources to physically expand the game world. Each planet starts out as a tiny, little island, but as you mine and chop and collect resources, the island quickly grows to the point where you can easily get lost looking for your way around. As a single-player experience, I could see this getting old after a while. The required resource count can be a bit ridiculous at times, forcing you to backtrack to get more wood or coal or what have you. As a co-op experience, though, it’s fantastic. Particularly in dungeons, one player can forge ahead (perhaps the player who has the pacifist perk) while the other player hangs back and keeps the resources stocked. There’s a great balance in the co-op gameplay, and it’s become one of the best games my wife and I have played together in recent memory.

Only Murders in the Building – Season 3 Review

This was a somewhat uneven, but overall great, season of Only Murders in the Building. It has a strong beginning and end but kinda drags for several episodes in the middle. I don’t recall Seasons 1 and 2 ever having such a slump, though Season 3 is still better than Season 2. The reason it drags is no mystery, either. Season 3 spends too much time on relationship and theater antics and not enough time on the murder. I get that a long-running show will want to flesh out its characters and give them more to do. It’s important to see how they’re trying to make a living outside of what the podcast brings in. But the investigation should never be the B plot, because that’s the glue. For much of this season, however, the podcast trio aren’t even working together. Oliver and Charles are so wrapped up in the play they’re putting on that Mabel has to do most of the heavy lifting on her own for a while.

To be fair, though, this is the season where Selena Gomez’s acting finally grew on me. She was a little wooden in Seasons 1 and 2, which might have been by design, but she loosens up a lot more in Season 3. It helps that she doesn’t have to act against Cara Delevingne anymore, an actress who has zero chemistry with anybody. They really overcompensated on the casting this time around. You get Meryl Streep, Paul Rudd, and Matthew Broderick as newcomers. No wonder Selena Gomez had to step up her game! There are no weak links in this show anymore; everyone is great. And I appreciate that, like Bunny in the previous season, they spent time humanizing the victim after so many episodes of bad-mouthing him. It’s a fun murder mystery that doesn’t glamorize the murder, and it’s character-driven enough that, even if the final reveal doesn’t impress you, at least you can still enjoy the ride to get there.

What We Do in the Shadows – Season 5 Review

This season almost felt like a return to form. Some episodes were really good, some were pretty awful. I guess I’d rank it alongside Season 3 in terms of quality. It’s at least better than Season 4, which made all sorts of mistakes. Having Colin Robinson back in his normal body was, of course, very welcome. And I’m glad the show finally had the balls to go through with Guillermo becoming a vampire. Well… half-vampire. He was pretty much stuck in human/vampire limbo for the majority of the season, which might have been a cop-out, but it worked given his Van Helsing blood. And I liked that he immediately had a change of heart after going full vampire and wanted to give up his newfound powers. It was a good finale… and could/should have been a series finale. There’s nowhere to go but down in Season 6.

See, while Guillermo’s vampire storyline was entertaining, it often took a back seat to “wacky” shenanigans. The episodes that didn’t work really didn’t work and felt like the same gimmicky nonsense that other shows start relying on when they’ve run out of ideas. You have an episode where Colin Robinson runs for local office, an episode where the vampires teach a community college night class, and an episode where they have to fill in for the news anchors on the local news. It’s all so dumb, and you have to buy into the “these characters are great no matter what” mentality to find any of it funny. The other recurring themes with Nadja’s hex and The Guide’s pathetic attempts at weaseling her way into the group are equally unfunny and annoying. And yet I fear this is all we’re gonna get from this show now that Guillermo has decided he doesn’t want to be a vampire anymore.