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Podcast: CCR37: Nightmare Castle

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Join the Chrononauts as we venture into the heart of a gothic castle and watch the painting spin around for a few hours.

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And HERE to watch the movie on Youtube!

Chrononaut Cinema Reviews is presented by http://skinner.fm and http://hughjodonnell.com, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Abzu

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Abzu
Giant Squid
Played on Playstation 4

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Much like their breakthrough hit “Journey,” Giant Squid’s “Abzu” is an exquisite exploration game that delivers on wow and holds back on challenge.
Abzu is an enigmatic exploration game about the ocean. In Giant Squid’s signature style, the narrative is told without any dialog or language whatsoever. Players take on the role of a diver navigating undersea grottoes and sunken ruins. As with “Journey,” there are next to no hazards to distract from the sumptuous visuals, although there are some tense moments with a great white shark, and some menacing undersea mines to avoid.
Abzu is another gorgeous and enigmatic 3-D exploration game that is so squarely in the developer’s wheelhouse. Rather than focusing on fleeting connections with other players, this game encourages exploration and observation. It is filled with virtual fish that all move in intricately programmed schools and patterns. Meditation spots scattered throughout the game encourage you to sit and watch this fish as they swim through the scenery.
Also like Journey the game is quite short, clocking in at just a few hours for a play-through. There are a few things to collect along the way, such as hidden spots that release new fish into the environment, but these don’t add too much to the replay value. Beating the game unlocks an area select and lets you freely enter meditation mode. Unfortunately, even this short game feels a bit repetitive after a while. The temple assets are largely recycled, and there is far less direction on this voyage. Also, the 3D swimming controls are a bit tricky at times. I often found myself swimming in circles when I wanted to dive forward.
These few quibbles aside, “Abzu” is a beautiful and relaxing sea trip that is well worth the few moments you need to enjoy it. You can find it on Steam, the PSN Store, or at Abzugame.Com.
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Hugh Likes Fiction: Greedy Pigs

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Sin du Jour: Greedy Pigs
Written by Matt Wallace
Published by Tor

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We’re on book five of Matt Wallace’s seven course Sin du Jour series, and if you aren’t onboard by now, I don’t know what to tell you. These novellas haven’t stopped kicking ass, and “Greedy Pigs” is no less great than the preceding four.
After being embroiled in supernatural politics and nearly taken over, Sin du Jour finds themselves catering the gala festivities as the new President of the supernatural community is installed. But something bad is coming, plans are being laid, and Lena’s best friend and fellow line chef Darren is in the center of them.
Everything that makes Wallace’s work great is still on display here. The characters are efficiently but deeply rendered, the plotting is tight, and the writing is just as wickedly sharp as ever. As things hit the fan, the humor is a bit less on display, although Wallace still finds places to sprinkle comic scenes in, such as a set of errands Lena and Bronko make early in the story that are by turns funny, charming, and bittersweet, with some uncomfortable revelations about pandas.
Greedy Pigs is the fifth part of Wallace’s seven part Sin du Jour series, which you really should be reading by now. Go read it in ebook or print, and be sure to find out more about it on Tor.com.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Super Castlevania IV

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Super Castlevania IV
Konami
Played on New 3DS

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We’re hunting Draculas out of season! A classic from the early days of the Super Nintendo, I picked up Super Castlevania IV from the New 3DS eshop! And it’s just as thumb-breakingly difficult as I remember.
This game is hard, which is not to say that it is UNFAIR. For the most part, the game’s traps and enemies can be out-thought. This is a true old-school pattern memorization platformer, and it doesn’t mess around. But although I found myself dying over and over at the hands of Dracula’s minions and spikes of the castle’s many traps, it never feels like the game is cheating. Obstacles can be overcome with patience and reflexes, rather than luck. And this game throws a ton at you. The castle feels more malevolent in ways than later iterations of the game. The sprawling 2-D puzzle maps of Symphony of the Night and its ilk, generally referred to as “Metroid-vaia” style games, are all puzzles to be solved. You can go anywhere, and frequently, backtracking is require to uncover all of Castlevania’s juiciest secrets. Super Castlevania’s tightly designed levels are just the opposite. There is no going back. Every step feels like an unreconcilable choice. Drawbridges slam behind you, spike traps dog your heels, and platforms constantly shatter under your boots. Each jump feels like a commitment, creating a tension that builds through the entire game until you are whip-to-fang with Count Dracula himself.
Super Castlevania IV looks and sounds great on the New 3DS screen. The big sprites and sampled music were outstanding for the time, and they are perfectly preserved emulated on the handheld screen. The analog stick works well for the most part, although attacking and moving at angles is somewhat unreliable. You lose your momentum if the stick isn’t at just the right angle, which can be a problem when trying to climb collapsing staircases and clearing flying enemies in later stages.
Super Castlevania IV is a great pick up if you’re looking for some retro platforming on your New 3DS, or just want to kill time until the new Castlevania series drops on Netflix next month. You can find it in the New 3DS, Wii, and Wii U Virtual Console.
Thank you for reading this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it! You can also support me on Patreon for more goodies!

Hugh Likes Comics: America

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America #1-3
Written by Gabby Rivera
Drawn by Joe Quinones
Published by Marvel Comics

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America Chavez is one of my absolute favorite superheroes. She’s tough, strong, brassy and bold. She gets the job done and never says die. All typical traits of a comic-book protagonist. But more than that, America is a Queer Latina here to save the world from another universe. One time she got arrested for fighting a shark TOO WELL. I love her, and Marvel is finally giving her her own solo series.
But where do you take a character who owns so hard and literally kicks holes in the universe? In this case college. But not just any school of higher ed will do for Ms. Chavez. After a tearful falling out with her girlfriend, she’s piling her stuff into Reb Brown’s old Captain America van and heading to Sotomayor University, premier learning institution to the multiverse. But what lessons will she absorb, and will she stay still long enough to learn them?
Novelist Gabby Rivera brings good work to her first comics outing. Her take on the character is interesting, and nothing like your usual four-color fare. The text is a bit cerebral, but by issue three, she has found her groove. America is a character whose powers and origins feel more Silver-Age DC than Marvel, despite how thoroughly modern she is in design and personality. Rivera threads that line in unexpected and gratifying ways, while giving America something more to do than just punch what’s in front of her.
I like Joe Quinones’ art, which is just as full of motion and energy as a heroine like America demands, even when she’s sitting in class.
America is a bold new comic, and in my opinion, exactly the sort of book that Marvel should be putting out right now. You can find it online at comixology.com, or in print at your local comics shop.

Hugh Likes Comics: Black Bolt

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Black Bolt #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Christian Ward
Published by Marvel Comics
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Black Bolt, King of the Inhumans, wakes up in jail. Obviously an en-medias-res opening like this leads to a lot of tantalizing questions, such as who the hell is Black Bolt, what are the Inhumans, and why should I care? But Saladin Ahmed and Christian Ward have plucked the character our of obscurity and polished it to a mirror shine.
Black Bolt is a difficult character for a number of reasons, most prominent of which is that he is such a strange character himself. Originally a Fantastic Four villain, He was the King of a hidden civilization in which a superhero royal family which ruled over a powerless underclass. His powerful voice could kill anyone who heard it, which made him effectively mute. In his appearances since, he is always paired with another character who talks for him on the page. As you can imagine, this would make a solo book difficult, but the creators have done a fantastic job with the character.
The first thing we see is Black Bolt returning to himself as he is imprisoned and tortured. Over the first five pages, we see him struggle and finally rise up. Ahmed’s writing is lyrical and affecting. The script reminds me of “Lone Wolf and Cub,” The narration boxes that accompany Black Bolt as he wanders through his cyclopean prison aren’t spare, but they are perfectly worded and paced to evoke that feeling. But Ward’s art is the real star here.
The labyrinth Black Bolt wanders through is huge, and it dwarfs the character. It is filled with odd angles and strange bits. The security cameras are disembodied red eyeballs. Blackagar wanders through arched cathedrals and Escher-esque staircase towers, with images of his past and family painted on the walls. The color palate is likewise perfect, with moody blues and blacks offset by searing pinks, the only light on the page the white highlights on the prisoner’s black costume.
Black Bolt #1 is a brilliant piece of graphic storytelling. In a market of serialized slugfest and paper-thin fables, this feels like the start of something important. Whatever your concerns with Marvel Publishing’s other work right now, I urge you to find and read this comic. Black Bolt #1 is available digitally through Comixology, or in print from your local comics shop.

Podcast: CCRC23: Max Headroom

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Join the Chrononauts for a quaint bit of ’80s cyber-punk dystopia.

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and HERE to watch along!
(Note: This isn’t exactly the version we watched, you’ll need to sync audio at, I believe, 1:01)

This podcast originally appeared at Skinner.FM on Friday, April 28, 2017.

Thanks for listening! If you enjoyed this podcast, please share and comment! You can also support me on Patreon for more free goodies!

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