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Hugh Likes Video Games: Hollow Knight

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Hollow Knight
Developed and Produced by Team Cherry
Played on Nintendo Switch

The Skinny: It’s as good as you’ve heard

Hollow Knight is a remarkable achievement of an indie game. It falls into a sub-genre colloquially known as a Metroidvania, which is to say it is a platforming adventure game with an emphasis on exploring one huge interconnected map, in which the player gains new abilities to reach new areas. It takes its name from the two best-known examples, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. But Team Cherry’s achievement is more than just an imitator. And it is worthy of standing in that hallowed company.
The game sets you as a solitary knight descending into a lost civilization of bug people brought low by a strange infection. As you piece together the mystery of what happened and your own journey’s purpose, traverse miles of twisting interconnected corridors, meet dozens of charming NPCs, and discover untold secrets, all delivered in a gorgeous hand-drawn art style and brutal difficulty.
This game is tough, and it doesn’t hold your hand, but it usually doesn’t force you down a path, either. Once you get certain abilities, there are lots of paths and secret routes to uncover. If you get stuck at one boss, you can always find a new route and go a different way.
This game really nails (get it?) its aesthetic. The color palattes for each area are fairly simple, but paired with hand-drawn and animated characters and backgrounds, this adds up to a system where it’s always easy to tell exactly where you are in spite of the huge map. This also ratchets up the tension and messes with the player as they establish mood and atmosphere. Dirtmouth feels wind-swept and desolate. Greenpath is lush and vibrant. Deepnest is dark and terrifying. In fact, Hollow Knight manages to pull of a trick even most Castlevanias don’t in that I was legitimately frightened at several points due to a masterful use of darkness, tight corridors, and downright creepy sound effects.
Hollow Knight is a breathtaking modern example of 2D action adventure games, with clever challenges, tricky bosses, and charming characters. It is available from Steam and most major console eshops, and I highly recommend it.

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Podcast: CCRC51 – Battle of the Planets

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Tonight your hosts, Hugh of HughJODonnell.com, Rich the Time Traveler, Jurd, and Opop, don bird costumes to fight aliens.

Click HERE to listen to the commentary track online!

And HERE to watch Battle of the Planets: Episode One – Attack of the Space Terrapin along with us!

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.

This podcast was originally posted at Skinner.FM on Saturday, July 27, 2019.

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Hugh Likes Comics: House of X

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House of X #1
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Drawn by Pepe Larraz
Colored by Marte Garcia
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Design by Tom Muller
Published by Marvel Comics

The Skinny: Hickman’s first X-Men book is a bold first step. But where exactly is he taking us?

For decades, X-Men comics have been firmly situated in the ‘mutant metaphor,’ the idea that mutants, unjustly hated and feared for their superpowers, corresponded to real-life marginalized and oppressed people. Notable examples include Magneto being a holocaust survivor, and the island of Genosha, an apartheid state which enslaved mutants to provide lives of luxury to their human citizens. Usually, this metaphor brings the reader in and establishes sympathy for the characters. With his first X-Men issue, Jonathan Hickman is doing something completely different.
House of X takes a much more outsider perspective. It barely spends any time at all with familiar heroes, and when it does, there’s something decidedly off about them. They are truly outsiders to the readers in a way that they haven’t been since their inception. The story instead follows a group of Ambassadors taking a tour of a new ‘mutant embassy’ established in Jerusalem. Mutants have unified under Xavier’s banner and established a new nation on the Island of Krakoa, a sentient being that was the villain way back in Giant-Sized X-Men #1. Led by Magento, and assisted by a pair of characters that were previously dead, the humans get a tour of the plant-covered building. The rest of the oversized issue are vignettes and infographics that provide background details but also further establish the otherness of this new Mutant Nation.
Xavier’s motives and endgame are still very much up for interpretation, but the whole thing is decidedly sinister.
Laraz’s art is top-notch, and the graphics, designed by Tom Muller, really add to book and establish the stakes. This is, without a doubt, a well-written, drawn, and executed book. But I worry. For over fifty-five years, the mutants were the good guys, and a direct metaphor for oppressed people. If Hickman is flipping that script, what does that say for the politics of this story, and for the Marvel bullpen in general? Marvel has always made a firm stance on where it stood on oppression, right from the beginning. With the state of the world as it is today, this is exactly the wrong time for them to soften it.
I’m not sure where this book is heading, but I can’t deny that I’m hooked. You can get your own copy from your local comics shop, or digitally through Comixology.

Fiction: Bar None

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I walked in to Bar None and headed to the bar. It was still empty, so I struck up a conversation with the bartender.
“That name’s a solid pun,” I said.
She frowned as she poured my beer. “The sign is a typo.”
“Does that mean you won’t let just anyone in this place?” I asked.
“Everyone is welcome, provided they behave themselves,” She said.
“And what if they don’t behave themselves?” I asked, mischievously. She reached for something under the counter. Lighting quick, she struck the back of my hand with a ruler. She smirked and adjusted her habit.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for more free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The first collection of Everyday Drabbles stories, Winter, is now available as an eBook from Amazon! Enjoy over 90 short stories for less than two dollars!

Hugh Likes Comics: Test

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Test #1
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Jen Hickman
Colored by Harry Saxon
Lettered by Hasan Orsmane-Elhaou
Published by Vault Comics

The Skinny: Aleph Null is a test subject on the run. But what is he running towards?

Laurelwood, USA is the town where They are making The Future. Runaway professional test subject Aleph Null is on his way there, as soon as they can figure out what state it’s in, and evade the corporate recovery teams on their trail. But Aleph is a self-surgery junkie with schizophrenic tendencies, and possibly an actual cyborg.
Test is a difficult first issue to wrap my head around. We get flashes and stutters of reality as Aleph wanders their way through a warped and twisted American heartland. The story plays in to the unreality, showing Aleph’s journey in disconnected panels over two distinctly different narrations. One is Alpeh’s semi-lucid narration as they make their way to and observes Laurelwood. The other are reports from the corporations they escaped from, detailing their mysterious past and trail of violence.
Hickman’s art does a great job of framing the story. Everything feels a little off and unreal, and the reader can never be completely sure what is happening, and how it connects to the narration. Everything feels a bit off, in the best way for the comic. Saxon’s colors assist tremendously in setting the mood.
Test #1 is a post-modern medical thriller that is the kickoff to something great. You can find it digitally on Comixology, or in print at your local comics shop.

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Fiction: Visitation

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“JACOB KAZDY, YOUR TIME HAS COME.”
He expected dying. His doctors had told him the cancer was going to win in the end, and he made his peace. He was ready.
He hadn’t expected to actually meet Death, but there he was, larger than life, skeletal and black robed, holding a… wait.
“Is that a wicker basket?” Death sighed, a sound like wind moving through winter trees.
“THIS IS A CORNUCOPIA, SYMBOLIC OF LIFE AND FERTILITY. YOU WILL NOTICE IT IS EMPTY.”
“Where’s your scythe?”
“BUDGET CUTS,” Death said, and whacked Jacob with the cornucopia, a bit harder than necessary.

This story originally appeared in Everyday Drabbles, a daily free fiction project on Wattpad. Visit the link for more free stories. And if you enjoy my writing, support my work by buying me a coffee!
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

The first collection of Everyday Drabbles stories, Winter, is now available as an eBook from Amazon! Enjoy over 90 short stories for less than two dollars!

Podcast: CCRC50 – Be Cool, Scooby Doo

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Tonight your hosts, Hugh, Rich the Time Traveler, Jurd, and Opop, join the Scooby Gang in Ireland for some questionable culinary claims.

Click HERE to listen to the commentary!
And Click HERE to watch the cartoon online along with us!

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.

This podcast was originally posted at Skinner.FM on Wednesday, July 17, 2019.

 Support Me on Ko-fi

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