Super Mario 3D World

We had a hankering for some Mario action so we bit the bullet and bought a Wii-U.  At least this way I will be prepared when the Xenoblade sequel arrives… plus it’s got delicious unique co-op options going on.  Mario 3D World is one of them.

Mario 3D World is pretty typical Nintendo.  It’s essentially Mario 3 (the best Mario), mixed with some Mario World (probably the second best Mario), and then named after both of them with some stupid gimmicks thrown in so they can pretend it’s new.  Despite the recycled and snipped together name, the gameplay is really good.

Normally we’d “co-op” a Mario game by passing the controller back and forth once one of us landed in a pit, but 3D World has fully functional drop-in co-op where you’re both running around on the screen jumping on koopa shells and occasionally accidentally (“accidentally”) picking up your partner and throwing them into lava.  There are decent cooperation sections where you can both work together toward a goal – like when there’s a movable platform that requires more than one body to activate – but the game remains fully soloable as well (those same platforms can be activated with an item that creates clones of you.  It’s just easier with other humans to communicate with.  Until they pick you up and throw you off it, anyway…).  In most cases having a partner to work with to have someone’s head to bounce off of or have someone pick you up to chuck you to a goal simply makes things easier, but doesn’t change the dynamics immensely.  There are multiple characters to choose from, and they each have mild differences that make them distinct in ways beyond character models.  And yet they’re all balanced well enough that you can pick your favourite and not worry about the impact the changes will have on your game.  There’s also a small element of competition because it shows you a head to head score after every stage, but it’s 100% meaningless other than for bragging rights, which has the side effect of being not frustrating, either.

My biggest complaint with a 3D platformer is always going to be the camera, because fuck cameras that wander off or randomly adjust themselves in such a way that it changes the direction your controller thinks is “that way” and suddenly changes your perfect jump from “that way, onto the platform” to “that way, into that pit there.”  I did not have any problems whatsoever with the camera in 3D World, and that’s WITH a human companion running in the opposite direction and causing the screen to stretch and zoom out in order to accommodate both of us at once.  Nintendo may finally have this shit figured out, at least to the point where the camera is such a mild annoyance that you can forgive its small transgressions when they occur.

One of the amusing (yet pointless) features they’ve tried to add is the “Dark Souls” style communication system, where people can post pre-made stamps (which are one of the many collectables in the stages) for others to enjoy on their travels.  The game also lets you sketch or type small notes in there, so you may come across someone’s Mii standing on the map, or see a string of notes after you complete a level, which will give you an idea of what people think of things, or just admire whatever amusing stamp combinations they’ve come up with.  Most of them are something along the lines of “this is fun!” or “That level was really easy this is my score”, or “This game is lovely!” (I highly suspect that one came from someone’s mom), and sometimes it will be some really cool original art that relates to the stage you just went through… but every now and then some clever child realizes they can use the sketch feature to write swear words that won’t get caught by the filter, and you’ll see “BUTTHOLE” scroll past.  Heh henh hnhnheh butthole.  So edgy.  They must be moderating it pretty heavily though because “butthole” was the most egregious thing that wandered past in our travels, and that’s just statistically improbable.  I am suspicious about the extremely high positive comment ratio, as well… hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

The other problem is that the game seems really short.  Really short.  We’re on what appears to be the last stage after roughly 6 hours of messing around with it.  Granted that’s not getting 100% of the stars, but still.  We fucked around and died a lot, too.

I suppose the only thing wrong with Mario 3D World is that it is on the Wii U, where no one will get to play it.  Things seem to be picking up over in Wii land though, and I’m excited to check out some of the other unique co-op options available.  Hopefully I’ll wring some blog entries out of it yet…

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Upside Down

We’ve been doing nothing but binge-watching all 20 something seasons of Top Gear for the past month or two, and I didn’t feel compelled to write any blog entries about it (it’s good, FYI), but we finally wandered over and clicked on a movie on Netflix.  That movie happened to be “Upside Down”.  And what an odd movie it was.

The movie opens with a long winded intro that explains the situation, and it proceeds to drop scientific inaccuracies all over you before they’ve even gotten a few sentences in, but it’s probably good to get the suspension of disbelief over with early for this one.  He explains how they are the only planetary system with “double gravity”, with two planets so close together that they’re within reach of one another, but the people and objects from each world are only affected by the gravity from their origin planet, which makes traversing to the opposite planet quite difficult, you could imagine.   It also makes life difficult for the writers, because the number of times they screw up what should be affected by which gravity is pretty noticeable… poor writers.

The intro ended with the line “What if love is stronger than gravity?”, which caused both of us to burst into scornful laughter.  I’m still laughing at it, actually.

The world they built for this is pretty cool.  It feels fairly unique, and they do an awesome job creating visuals for it (except everything seems to be cast in blue and I don’t know what’s up with that).  I found myself enjoying the sets a lot while watching the movie.  Which is good because it didn’t have much else going for it…

The story is incredibly generic.  A guy falls in love with a girl from the other planet and spends the entire movie trying to figure out how to be with her.  No one expected that!  Also they are named Adam and Eve.  Errr… sorry, Eden.  Well my mistake, that’s completely original after all.  Also one planet is incredibly poor and one is incredibly rich (for no apparent reason.  It’s not like the rich planet can exploit riches from the poor one… oh wait they can because gravity barriers suddenly don’t matter when it’s important for the plot) and the rich planet hates the poor planet which sets up a cultural/social economic status barrier for the two lovebirds as well, because every time they try to talk to each other the police descend upon them like it’s some sort of fascist police state where you are not free to have a friendly conversation with people from the other side despite the already prohibiting circumstances surrounding it (and despite having actual office buildings designed for both sides to work together…).  And then, because there aren’t enough tropes shoehorned into this, she hits her head and gets Generic-MovieStyle-Improbable-Amnesia and he has to remind her who he is before they can get on with the sexing.  So he devises a way to go to the other planet, involving shoving material from the other world into his clothing so that it weighs him down enough to walk around down there.  Which is problematic because if the material stays in contact with material from the other planet for too long it will burst into flames, giving him a time limit per visit, and opening up a WHOLE NEW BARREL of plot problems (if material from the two worlds are incompatible, how is he wearing clothes from it without being set on fire?  How do they drink/eat things from the other world without their insides exploding?  And most importantly, how are they going to have sex??!??!?)

And then everyone wins.  The end.  Yay.  It was probably the most dissatisfying ending I’ve seen in the past couple of years.  I think the writers literally just ran out of ideas and went “Welp.  I’m done.  Let’s get a beer.”  It left a couple of threads barely tied at the end, in a big rush of “now lets conclude everything annnnnndddd done.” and I feel like a lot of time that was spent on unoriginal bullshit like amnesia subplots could have been spent developing more information about magical anti-gravity bee pollen and the aftermath of events.

I enjoyed it I suppose but I’m glad I found it on Netflix and didn’t waste any sort of effort hunting it down or paying money for it.  Movies like this are why Netflix needs to exist.