Kamikaze Veggies Review

My opinion of this game changes drastically depending on if you ask me about the first half of the game versus the latter half. Kamikaze Veggies starts out as a quirky, serviceable stealth/action game where you’re often forced to sacrifice one of your bomb-strapped soldiers to clear an enemy obstacle. You can even blow up your last remaining soldier to take down the main objective and still win the level, which is a really nice touch. I also like that you have limited funds and can only hire so many soldiers per level. Do you splurge on the better soldiers or fill up your team with short-fused expendables? Tough decisions. Oh, and the whole campaign can be played co-op, which adds some great strategic moments where one player can act as a decoy to distract a group of enemies. The game is a lot of fun in the beginning. And then it suddenly isn’t anymore.

The second half of Kamikaze Veggies really outstays its welcome. The last few levels in particular drag on for way too long. There is one level where you have to make your way across a moving train, and it feels like the train cars are never going to end. And then, of course, the level concludes with a boss fight… The concept of bosses feels so out of place given how the first half of the game was structured. Worse yet, many of the later levels have puzzles in them. Not cutesy environmental puzzles, either, but table top, Lights Out style puzzles where you have to figure out the order in which to turn switches on or off. These kinds of puzzles are infuriating on their own, so to have them disrupt the middle of a stealth/action game, in a level that feels like it should already be over, does not work. It is truly baffling that a developer would sabotage their own game like this. They had such a great thing going for them, and then they went… kamikaze.

The Righteous Gemstones – Season 3 Review

This might be the best season of The Righteous Gemstones yet. It feels like what the show should have been from the start, with the overarching story being the three Gemstones kids trying to run the church in their father’s shadow. Granted, the sibling bickering is cranked up to 11 this season, to the point where they barely act like believable adults. I get that these are supposed to be spoiled brats who never grew up, but it’s especially egregious this time around. (Relevant side note: it is amazing how well the child actors in the flashback episode capture the adults’ mannerisms.) It also feels like past lessons learned have been forgotten, like the beautiful way Season 1 ended. I’ve read that the creators hope the show lasts for many years, but if that comes at the expense of resetting everyone’s personal growth season to season, I don’t know if it’s worth it.

That said, I really like how they treated secondary characters in Season 3. BJ and Keefe are a lot more sympathetic, with the latter finally establishing a real relationship with Kelvin beyond just “jokey gay undertones.” Frankly, it was long overdue. I also liked that the main conflict boiled down to repairing relationships with the estranged Montgomery cousins, where neither the Montgomerys nor the Gemstones are totally in the right. I will say, though, that it’s a bit ridiculous the season finale had not one but two fake-out explosion deaths. For a show that’s not afraid to punch you in the gut, I’m surprised they didn’t commit to at least one of these deaths. On the other hand, I’m kind of glad the Montgomerys survived, as they add an interesting dynamic to the Gemstones saga that will be interesting to watch… if they stick around for Season 4.

PlateUp! Review

In my never-ending pursuit of co-op busywork games (and in particular, co-op cooking games), I totally overlooked that PlateUp! is a roguelike. “Overcooked but roguelike” is a dangerous combination. This genre of games is already rife with yelling at your friends and family. The added stress that one mistake can reset your entire progress makes it so much worse. Each “run” consists of 15 days, and if one customer leaves unhappy—be it that they waited outside too long or waited for their food too long—it’s game over for you. And unlike other roguelikes that reward failed attempts with things that might better help you the next time around, PlateUp! mostly just gives you alternate restaurant layouts and recipes to toy with. Recipes are severely uneven, though. Some recipes require so many steps that taking them into a run with you nearly guarantees you’ll fail.

Even if you take an easy recipe into the run, there are checkpoints in the 15 days where you have to choose to sell an additional dish or accept a negative effect like customers being able to come in after closing time. It’s actually a neat risk/reward system, though the randomness that is roguelikes means sometimes both choices are equally terrible. My wife and I got lucky one run with generous options and power-ups throughout. But after beating that run and not unlocking anything special, I immediately lost any desire to play again. It’s not like the restaurant mechanics are that great, anyway. Plate management is a huge pain in the butt, given that you can only hold one plate at a time, sinks can only hold one plate at a time, and even if you upgrade a sink to hold more, it cannot hold dirty and clean plates at the same time. Honestly, I’d rather just wash dishes in real life…

The White Lotus – Season 2 Review

I don’t know how I got started on this show. It’s not normally something I’d go for. But the first season was about a place I hold near and dear (Hawaii) and began with a “who died” mystery that acted as a great hook. Season 2 has a similar opening, though we know this time around that the “surprise” death is ultimately not important. The White Lotus is more a character study on insufferable, wealthy tourists than it is a murder mystery. However, I think it nailed that aspect better in Season 1, where we got to see just how miserable the resort staff was in the wake of their guests. In Season 2, we only get to know the hotel manager, Valentina, and she isn’t miserable because of the guests but miserable because she’s still in the closet and has feelings for one of her employees. Um, weird that they would reuse the “gay manager lusts over employee” plot from Season 1, but at least it doesn’t get rapey in Season 2.

Speaking of (bad transition, I know), the real theme of Season 2 is sex and power. There’s a lot of transactional sex, the most obvious being the literal sex workers who hang out at the hotel all day. I found it amusing that a father and son both “partook” of the same lady friend, and only the father realizes this, but that conflict really doesn’t go anywhere. The whole Di Grasso family thread has the most disappointing resolution, even though I laughed when all three Di Grasso men turned around to ogle the same woman at the airport. It was a fitting end to their otherwise lackluster story. The character with the best conclusion was actually Tanya. I didn’t like her for most of the season, as she was a bit too air-headed, but damn, that finale was great. Her final moments were hilarious, heartbreaking, and intense. The White Lotus can be such a slow burn at times, but it’s always entertaining to see how everything culminates in the end.

The Other Two – Season 3 Review

Well, this marks the end of The Other Two. I’m sad to see the show go, because it never did course-correct after an outstanding first season. Subsequent seasons have been progressively less funny, partly because the jokes haven’t been as strong and, in Season 3’s case, the story has simply become too dramatic. The fight between Brooke and Lance, for instance, was kinda devastating. I love Lance as a character, so it was painful to watch Brooke be such an asshole to him this season. I have similar feelings about Cary and how he treated his BFF, Curtis. I understand that one of the show’s main themes is how show biz ruins relationships, but turning your protagonists into such unlikable and irredeemable monsters is maybe not the best choice. Sure, Cary and Brooke both come around in the end, but the change of heart feels hollow given everything we saw prior in the season.

And, oh boy, this season was all over the place. While it’s true that the story has very serious beats, the humor has gotten way sillier. There were a couple of episodes in particular that were honestly too much. Like, Brooke attends an industry party where non-industry people are literally invisible? I mean, it’s kind of funny, but the sudden shift into cartoony hijinks really took me out of it. Same with the episode that spoofed Pleasantville (and, come on, is Pleasantville that relevant to pop culture?). The only gag that really landed for me was the pretentious theater play that went on for days, and people started showing up in their pajamas or bringing their laptops as they lost interest in the play but felt obligated to still go. That’s the perfect balance of being outlandish enough to be funny but not so outlandish that it breaks reality. Unfortunately, The Other Two forgot how to walk that line as of late, and now the show’s over…

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Review

I’m not a fan of this new trend where they split a story into two movies but downplay the fact that the first movie is only “Part One.” Though I did enjoy hearing half the theater erupt into audible swearing when the credits rolled after a significant cliffhanger. I knew from other reviewers what to expect going in, so it didn’t faze me as much as the rest of the audience, but I still wish studios would be more upfront about this. Or, hey, why not write better scripts that can individually end each movie in a trilogy on a satisfying note! The first Spider-Verse felt like a complete movie, after all. I had no idea we were even going to get a sequel. But I don’t want to dwell on the trilogy-ness too much, because, while the cliffhanger does deflate some of the excitement you might feel immediately after watching the movie, it’s still a pretty fun movie.

For one, I love that studios are finally taking risks with animation and pushing the envelope beyond “stock 3D.” We pretty much have the first Spider-Verse movie to thank for that, a movie that obviously inspired the new Puss in Boots aesthetic. But Across the Spider-Verse goes even harder and plays with so many different styles. Admittedly, some of the action is a bit hard to follow because of it. There’s one character who looks more like a flipbook of sketches that is really cool to see but also clashes heavily with everything around him (and yes, I know, this was thematically appropriate). There are also scenes where Gwen and her dad are talking, and every time the camera changes, the colors and background patterns change, as well. It’s a neat touch but can also be disorienting if you’re not on board with this “anything goes” style of animation.

Story-wise, Across the Spider-Verse is pretty solid, too. Maybe my only complaint (aside from the obvious cliffhanger at the end) is that the movie feels like it has two beginnings. We start with Gwen and spend a long time with her before the movie resets and shows us what Miles has been up to. I understand the choice to do this, because Gwen and Miles basically have equal footing as protagonists now, but it means it takes that much longer for the actual story to get going. You do get to know both characters really well, though, and their motivations and the stakes they face make perfect sense. It’s hard to do multiverse stories right, because the multiverse can be such a cop-out. But the way it’s presented here, how each universe’s Spider-Man must hit certain beats or that whole universe explodes, has been fun to watch unfold.