First Impressions of Pokémon: Detective Pikachu

So, there’s been a lot of mixed feelings among the movie lovers lately. And almost all of it centers around the first trailer for the first ever official live-action Pokémon movie. Some have fallen instantly in love while others have already written it off as another soulless cash grab with no love. So, let’s break down and examine the trailer for Detective Pikachu.

Judging from the trailer, the plot seems to be at least partially inspired by the game of the same name to a significant degree. Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) has moved to Ryme City – a metropolis where humans and Pokémon coexist and aid each other freely – in order to uncover the secret behind the disappearance of his father Harry, a beloved detective. Tim meets up with his dad’s old partner; a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) that, for reasons unknown to either of them, only he can hear speak. The two work together to find out the truth about Harry as well as the last case he was working on before his disappearance.

One of the complaints I routinely hear is that the Pokémon designs look uncanny – like toys or monsters rather than actual creatures. To that, I say, “Gee whiz, it almost like the name ‘Pokémon’ was a hybridization of the words ‘pocket MONSTER!'” I actually like the designs that they used here. The pokémon are appropriately cute/scary exactly when they should be (with the exception of one dead-eyed Psyduck, but I would look the same way if I had a permanent migraine too). You’ll want to hug the fuzzy Jigglypuff (I call them ‘Jiggly-Fluff), be in awe of the precision movements of a clan of Greninja, and wet yourself in the presence of a scar-faced Charizard.

I’m somewhat lukewarm on the casting. Don’t get me wrong; I love Ryan Reynolds and even in his bad movies (looking at you, Green Lantern) he’s entertaining. But so far, it really just feels like he’s reprising his role as Deadpool but in a cute fluffy body. I honestly miss the stereotypical, gruff, hard-boiled gumshoe voice Pikachu had in the game if only because it was hilarious to hear it come out of such a famously cute character. It makes me wonder if the people in charge of casting ever considered taking the fans advice when the game was still being redubbed for English-speaking audiences and tried to get ahold of Danny DeVito to play the role.

My biggest concern is how the movie will adapt itself for audiences coming into Pokémon fresh. Remember, this is a franchise that’s switching to a new medium after building up 22 years of continuity. Yes, you and I may get the in-jokes during the interrogation scene where Pikachu slams into an invisible wall, but how do you explain to someone who HASN’T been playing the games since the first generation, in a story friendly way, that Mr. Mime is a powerful telepath that can conjure psychic barriers via pantomime?

Then again, this IS Nintendo we’re talking about. They bailed out of movie and television adaptations for years after a string of failures here in the states. There’s a very real chance that tightfistedness with their intellectual property may have them demanding more creative control than in previous outings. I’m just saying, as bad as this has the potential to be, it’s probably not going to be as awful as, for instance, The Wizard.

Even with my childhood nostalgia safely in check, I suspect that this will be a passable ‘good bad movie’ at worst. I’m choosing to stay optimistic on this one for now until it can be proven to me that it’s the worst thing Pokémon has done since introducing Garbodor and is equally trash.

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The Agent’s Mobile Gaming Dump – November 2018

Well, I’m burnt out and uninspired. So let’s fall back on my default topic of discussion; my growing appreciation of mobile games.

Honestly, despite the classic-to-crap ratio being kind of disappointing, I’m surprised at how much fun I have with mobile games if only for a brief time before moving on. But these three have stuck with me for some time now and I’m likely not going to back out of them soon.

Steven Universe: Tap Together

Aww… no love for Amethyst on the title screen? But she’s my little purple pumpkin…
Source: Steven Universe Wiki

Wow, how long has it been since I geeked out over Steven Universe on this page?

I’ll be honest, as much as I love this show, the games are the one segment I’ve been giving a pass on for some time. That said, This is a fun little idle clicker to help pass the time.

It also does a fair job at going beyond a few of the other idle clickers I’ve played by getting other players involved with raid matches, regular events, and club tournaments – all big rewards. You can even donate character fragments (use for unlocking and improving characters) to your club and use them to bid on fragments you need. It adds a much-needed sense of community.

It’s far from perfect; hearing the same voice lines from characters gets tiresome after a while and there’s a lot of downtime between rounds of leveling up. But it’s a good game to chill with after a long day.

Game of Dice

They say that the gods play dice with the lives of mortals…
Source: god.joycity.com

You know that trope of anime where the hero has to save the world by playing games with the rest of the cast. Well, this a game that plays like one of those shows if the game were Monopoly.

That description may sound like a bit of a turn off as Monopoly is the poster child for ‘games that will end friendships.’ But this app does a lot to fix many of the problems with the original. The game moves much faster and often ends well before the set limit of turns while unlockable characters, dice, and customizable decks of skill cards add an extra level of strategy to the game.

If I were to complain about anything, I’d say that it feels a bit limited in its gameplay with only a hand full of game modes that only offer a few minor changes to play. But, even then, it’s a fun game that gets me using my brain.

Clawee

All the fun of a claw machine without the feeling that you’re getting hosed out of your quarters.
Source: Facebook

You know those claw machines at the arcade that are a total scam because the owner crams them so full of crap that you can never get a good grip and they set claw to be super flimsy and slide right off of everything.

Yeah, this ain’t one of those claw machines.

Clawee is a for real, totally legit, physically-present-in-the-real-world claw machine that you control from your phone to win ACTUAL prices. You get free coins to play with every day, they mail the prizes to your door and even if you run out of plays, it’s still a lot of fun to watch other people play and get excited as they score cool stuff as well.

The unfortunate downside is that, due to the fact that the video streams live, there is a slight delay between your commands and the action on screen. However, with skill and patience, you can very quickly compensate for this and be on your way to winning plush dolls, jewelry, vinyl figures, and home decor.

Why Bayonetta Is One Of My Favorite Women In Gaming

You know you’re doing the “seduction by lollipop” cliche right when you look like your doing the candy a favor.
Source: Know Your Meme

Ah, screw it. I’m counting this as a Halloween post. I mean, what’s more Halloween than a witch?

So, true to my nature as being infinitely late to the party, I’m just now starting to get into Bayonetta. I picked it up at a reasonable sale price on Steam and I’ll admit openly that I may have had the game wrong all these years. I wrote it off as just ‘Devil May Cry with boobs’ and thought it was just senseless titillation for titillation’s sake. But the more I played it, the more I came to realize that, while it does delve into gratuitousness quite often, it does so in such an over-the-top way as to stop being sexy and start being entertaining on its own merits.

Plus, I’ve come to have genuine affection of the titular Bayonetta herself. I actually feel kind of bad for writing her off as pure fanservice. Because when you actually look at her closely, you come to realize that…

Her exaggerated figure actually makes sense

One of the first things I noticed back when I decided to give Bayonetta a miss was how silly her proportions were. I mean, the first thing most people notice when they see her is that she has legs like stilts propping up a torso that’s just a cup size or two shy from being a Rob Liefeld drawing.

But once you see her interacting with “normal” human beings (normal being subjective in such a strange setting), you realize that she’s not some average, everyday superheroine; she’s a 7 foot tall, supernatural amazon witch bred of two warring factions of magic users and molded to be a perfect fighting engine. Of course her body would be an exaggeration of our own – extreme conditions result in extreme personalities and extreme appearances. Those legs NEED to be that powerful-looking so she doesn’t collapse on herself like a top-heavy Barbie doll.

Plus, she’s not just a pair of legs. Look at her delicate facial features and long, swan-like neck. Everything about her is meant to convey grace and class. And when you consider the main mechanic of the game is to make a long string of unbroken attacks in rapid, flowing succession, those are good qualities to have.

Still, there’s no denying that Bayonetta is still heavily sexualized. But, in her case, that’s actually a good thing because…

She knows she’s sexy… and she LOVES it

A large part of my recent journey through gender transition has been building up a positive body image by appreciating the sensuality of my body. Of course, when you work at a rest stop and have a horde of lonely truckers and construction workers – male, female, and otherwise – reminding you of that sensuality on a weekly basis, you tend to enjoy the attention (even though they should REALLY not be doing that to someone who’s on the clock; that’s just rude).

My point is that I’ve learned that flirting can be fun and can make you feel good when done right. And Bayonetta embodies this idea. A lot of people have criticized her for ‘moving like a stripper’ in game, but she always makes it clear that she does so by her own choice (“As long as there’s music, I’ll keep on dancing”). Besides, what’s wrong with erotic dancing anyway? It’s a perfectly noble art that requires years of training and conditioning to do well. I respect anyone with the physical fortitude and self-confidence to perform stark-naked like that for an audience.

And before any of you bring up her “wicked weave”, yes, the fact that her hair is both her costume and her most powerful weapon does lend itself to fanservice. But screw that; if I had a magical updo, you better believe I’d use it for some new wardrobes (“I can’t help it if I like the little outfits”).

She’s one of the few women that work the “sexuality as a weapon” angle well

Here’s the thing you need to understand about depictions of women in games; for the longest time, there were only two flavors of women.

The first is the cutesy one – small, meek, and gentle. She’s the sort of girl that’s designed to encourage you to want to protect her; i.e., “She just needs a big, strong person around.”

The other is the ice queen – hard, tough, and mostly disinterested in others; ESPECIALLY romantic advances. Whether intentional or not, it reassures the audience that it’s okay to think she’s hot because she doesn’t care anyway.

Both of these are (god, I hate this word…) problematic as one puts the woman on a pedestal and the other outright objectifies her. So how does Bayonetta approach this dilemma?

Bayonetta is not helpless; she can take down entire armies of the most powerful beings in Heaven, Earth, and Hell with ease. But, she’s not cold either; she displays a wide variety of emotions throughout the game and cares a great deal about her own personal enjoyment in particular. This results in a personality that is eager to find pleasure but is skeptical that YOU are the one that can provide it.

Do you get it yet? She’s not a cute princess, nor is she an ice queen; she’s SEXUALLY INTIMIDATING and you, aroused audience member lost in the fantasy, need to cope with that.

Classic Creepy Creatures: Three of the Agent’s Favorite Movie Monsters

We’re well into October and I’m feeling damn good; better then I have in years as a matter of fact. So let’s get spoopy together as Halloween approaches.

I’ve gone on record about how much I love horror movies and how important they are to society as a whole. But other than one brief look at famous folk creatures that deserve the screaming spotlight, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about specific monsters in horror cinema. That seems odd to me since the monster is so critical to the film. They embody all of our anxieties and fears that the protagonist must overcome and reveal a great deal about ourselves in the process.

So, this year, I’d like to let this weeks article serve as a love letter to three movie monsters that I feel haven’t gotten the props they deserve and – hopefully – show you why they mean so much to me as a horror fan and a cinemaphile.

Sanda and Gaira; The Gargantuas

Even when he’s been a total jerk to the people he loves, Sanda (the brown one) still looks after his brother Gaira in his hour of need.
Source: Musings of a Middle-Aged Geek

For those of you who, like me, have a weakness for Japanese monster films, War of the Gargantuas is right up your alley. It’s the tragic tale of two brothers torn apart by their own ideologies. It’s just that said brothers are also the movie’s monsters and the ideology is mutual co-existence with humanity versus predatory survivalism. See, Sanda the Brown Gargantua was raised in the care of humans and understands their capacity for good. His brother Gaira, on the other hand, spent most of his life out in the wilds and only sees them as another food source.

My primary interest in these two is less to do with the story however and more with the technical aspects of their design. For one, the costumes that the actors wear expose more of their faces than the average rubber suit monster. This allows them to be much more expressive than others of their ilk. Also, Sanda and Gaira are supposed to be much smaller than other giant monsters of the time – only about 30 meters tall (98.4 feet). By comparison, Godzilla has been between 50 and 150 meters tall (164 – 492.1 feet) depending on the era of the films he’s in. This means that the miniature sets that the actors stomp around had to be built much larger and, by extension, more detailed than other films around that time. It’s a minor change, but one that makes it stand out if you’re a connoisseur of the medium.

The Tarman

Sometimes, it’s less the monster itself and more what it does for the genre.

The Return of the Living Dead is a staple of the Zombie Apocolypse sub-genre that turns the rising tides of the undead into an allegory (emphasis on GORY) for the drug culture of the 80’s that sympathizes with the punks who are just looking for anything to make them forget the pain of life (remember, the multiple threats of nuclear war, environmental destruction, government corruption, and the AIDS crisis weighed heavy on everyone’s minds).

Likewise, much like how the punks turned to hard drugs to escape the pain of living, the zombies in The Return of the Living Dead are addicted to eating brains to escape the pain of death. And the gooey mess that fans have dubbed The Tarman is part of a legacy started by this plot point. In addition to an iconic design that seems to show him in a state of constant rot and decay, The Tarman is regarded as the first zombie to ever moan that hunger-induced rallying cry, “BRAINS.” As a result, everyone now associates cephalophagy (that’s fancy talk for brain eating) with shambling corpses.

Shuna Sassi

Death and beauty; perfectly entwined.
Source: Monster Wiki

But let us not forget that these are horror movies and horror is all about symbolism. And few come with as much symbolic weight as Shuna Sassi from Clive Barker’s lesser-known film Nightbreed.

Throughout the film, Shuna is a VERY heavily sexualized character owing to her early life in an exotic brothel. While some may be quick to write this off as titillation for titillation’s sake, a quick look at her defining physical trait – the coat of poisonous quills that cover her body – makes it clear that she is both physically and emotionally in control of her sexuality. Nobody can lay a hand on her unless SHE wants them to; the ultimate empowerment fantasy for any sexually charged woman that can relate to the unwanted advances of another.

Shuna is also the physical embodiment of an inescapable truth of horror; people LIKE to be scared. There’s an appealing dangerous quality to the things that scare us that make us curious or even obsessed with them. It’s the main reason why we go through haunted houses, ride rollercoasters and – indeed – watch scary movies. By making someone so beautiful so intensely dangerous, Shuna Sassi captures this dualistic nature of the horror genre.

3 Twitter Feeds That Are Totally Worth Following

I’ve spent a few articles celebrating YouTube channel that were a lot of fun and/or added to society in some small measure. But, I feel like it’s time to show some love to other social media giants.

In all honesty, I have difficulty with Twitter. Its brand of ‘micro-blogging’ isn’t conducive to the ramblings of a long-winded so-and-so like me. That said, I still make use of it to keep up to date on happenings and goings-on. But, in my searches, I’ve found a few feeds that were genuinely good on their own merits. Such as…

Penny Underbust

I pray I look this good one day…
Source: @Penny_Underbust on Twitter

Let’s start by talking about my favorite chubby cyborg (her words, not mine).

As a recently out-and-proud transwoman, I’ve been eager to look for positive female figures to add to my life – particularly where body positivity is involved. And Penny Underbust is all about making your body what YOU want it to be and being happy with it.

As her online moniker implies, Penny’s defining trait is her rather ample bosom. And while breast augmentation isn’t quite one to one with HRT and bottom surgery, she very clearly understands the need to feel comfortable in your own skin; a need that she’s turned into a modestly successful career as a Youtuber and cosplay model who reviews clothing, plays ukelele, provides makeup tutorials, and generally spreads good vibes to all including transgender and non-binary people – “gender rebels,” as she lovingly refers to us as.

If you have an eye for fashion or just need some positivity in your life, I highly recommend following her on Twitter and YouTube and consider supporting her on Patreon.

Speaking of positivity…

Good News Network

Well, the other thing happens too, but THIS is something we can actually CHOOSE for ourselves.
Source: @goodnewsnetwork on Twitter

Anyone that has followed me on Facebook or Twitter knows that I try to start the weekend off right by proliferating the hashtag #GoodNewsFriday; my campaign to remind the world that there is good to be had in the absurdity of life. And these folks are my primary source.

The Good News Network, GNN for short, is dedicated to tracking down and reporting on people that are trying to make life just a little more pleasant for all of us. They do this through Twitter, on their website, and on their podcast. Think Buzzfeed, but less up its own tailpipe and more reliable.

There really isn’t much else to say; it’s a reputable news source that encourages people to do good in the world. What more do you want?

Pentametron

This right here… THIS is art…

So, let’s talk high-tech…

For those not in the know, a “Twitter Bot” is a kind of software that is scripted to perform certain actions on Twitter. Most of the time, it’s something annoying or outright malicious like tagging everyone that uses a certain word in a tweet to send them links to buy a useless book. But some people have begun to use Twitter Bots to create auto-generated art.

Such is the example set by Pentametron, a Twitter Bot programmed to seek out and retweet other peoples tweets in pairs that just so happen to form naturally occurring, rhyming verses of Iambic Pentameter – the style William Shakespeare was famous for using.

This is essentially a high-tech fusion of the style of Shakespeare combined with one of my favorite literary styles; the “Cut-up technique” popularized by beat poet legend William S. Burroughs in which text is scrambled and rearranged to create new works.

It’s a pleasant reminder of how art sometimes occurs by total accident and that we just need to stop and appreciate it some times.

The Agent Reviews A Game: Hungry Dragon

Live every fantasy fan’s dream; roleplay as Smaug.
Source: Ubisoft

So a lot of my essays lately have been focused on LGBTQ+ – specifically transgender – issues due to their impact on my life. However, I realize that some people might need a break from the heavy topics and just have some fun. So, let’s get back into one of my increasingly favorite topics; mobile games.

In my side mission to find entertaining distractions that I can play anywhere I damn-well please (a big deal in previous months with no reliable Wi-Fi of my own), I’ve developed a sort of affection for fun and simple little games on my phone. And they don’t get much more simple and fun for me than Hungry Dragon.

Yes, from the company that gave us Rayman and Assassin’s Creed comes a manic mobile game with a simple premise; You dragon, they crunchy. EAT. THEY. ASS.

I was immediately grabbed by the visuals. A lot of mobile games claim to have great graphics, but they lack the charm that Hungry Dragon has. All of the detailed texturing means nothing if the design is uninspired. And luckily for this game, the dragons are given so much personally and variety ranging from genuinely intimidating to cartoonishly wicked that almost everyone will have their own favorite.

As for the gameplay, it’s a simple endurance game. You fly around the world eating anything you can fit in your gob – humans, livestock, goblins, OTHER DRAGONS, etc. – while dodging hazards like hunters, mines, and larger predators. Eat enough at once and you breathe a massive gout of flame that makes quick work of everything in your path. Keep eating and avoid starvation for as long as you can to get cool loot.

And the loot is indeed cool. You’ll end up unlocking pets that give stat bonuses, costumes that change how each dragon plays, and larger dragons that grant access to different pray and new areas of the world. Again, there’s enough variety and the designs are inspired enough that you’ll quickly find your favorites.

One of the things I appreciate most about this game though is it’s one of only, if not THE only mobile game I’ve played that doesn’t harass you to play it on its schedule. I’ve railed in the past about my disdain for games that force daily login goals just to keep players and how they make a simple game feel more like work. There’s no sign of that in Hungry Dragon. All you ever get is the occasional notification that an egg you’ve been incubating is ready to hatch. It makes for a much more casual, laid-back game perfect to unwind to after a long day.

While this is easily one of my favorite mobile games at the time, I have my qualms with it. For one, the graphic intensity of the game does tax my phone slightly resulting in some minor loss in frame rate. It’s not enough to ruin gameplay, but it does break the immersion for me. What’s more, I feel the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode is a bit of a missed opportunity. Games like Agar.io proved that people quite enjoy the concept of a player-eat-player competitive game.

Other than those minor points, however, this is a solid mobile game that I have yet to find myself leaving. It’s relaxed, it looks amazing, and it’s just silly fun to inhale an entire village only to find your controls have suddenly been reversed because you accidentally got tipsy on the town drunk. Download this game – you will not regret it.

3 Fun Activities to Get You Out of The House

So, in an ongoing effort to stave off the effects of depression and anxiety, I’ve been trying to take steps to change my lifestyle here and there to better facilitate my emotional health. I recently started a new anti-depressant/anti-anxiety treatment, I’ve been actively cutting out people and things that may cause me undue stress, and I’m starting to listen more to my own sense of comfort – favoring an “if it feels good, do it” mentality over fretting over what society will think.

But, in addition to all that, I’m also making an effort to try an overcome my mild to moderate demophobia and disdain for social interactions by trying to force myself to go outside more often. The only problem is – and I imagine this a problem for A LOT of people with social anxiety – that unless you need to go shopping or something, there’s often little reason to leave the comfort of your bedroom/living room/personal office (I have very little living space; shut up).

So, I’ve been attempting to find and rediscover some old out outdoor activities to help get me outside, be more physically active, and socializing with humanity again. So far, I’ve come across three viable fun-time adventures to go on.

Urban Hiking

Yes, nature is pretty. But a skyline can be nice to look at too.
Source: Liz Thomas Hiking

My Father is a bit of a mountaineer. He’s hiked along almost every major mountain trail in New Hampshire and he’s been very encouraging to try and get me to join him.

The problem is that I live in the middle of the city with very little time to devote to traveling to the mountains. But who’s to say you can’t enjoy a hike through the city?

Sure, some people may scoff at the idea. But if you find it difficult to get to a nature trail, urban hiking may just suit you. Not only does it get you into a social setting, but you may just be surprised at what you find on your travels. I’ve been on hikes through college towns with lots of shops packed together and found places that I end up coming back to later; thrift stores, cafes, etc.

Most Urban Hikers seem to favor places with lots of stairs and hills to simulate the incline of a mountain trail, but you can always choose the path that best suits your level of expertise. It all makes for a more travel-friendly, lower-risk social activity.

Geocaching

“I found treasure… WITH MY PHONE.”
Source: Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

One part hike, one part treasure hunt, and one part time capsule. Geocaching is the high tech way to wander the world in search of fresh new sights.

What’s nice about geocaching is how accessible it is. People have quite literally hidden these little boxes of surprise goodies that they trade from one cache to the next EVERYWHERE; in cities, on nature trails, in cemeteries, in parking lots – if you can covertly fit a container big enough to hold a logbook of some kind in it, someone has likely done so. As such, there’s no shortage of options to fit your skill level. All you need is a phone with a GPS and the drive to explore.

What’s more, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of coming across an item in a cache with a tracking number on it so you can see where it’s been. On my first outing, I found a keychain from the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore with such a tracker. It had gone up the west coast from the southern tip of California to Washington state, leaped to mid-state New York, and again to New Hampton here in New Hampshire. I then left it in a cache in Maine to complete its coast-to-coast journey and, last I saw, it was somewhere in Texas.

The only catch is that you have to exercise a little stealth while playing as any non-players (referred to, much to the delight of Harry Potter fans, as Muggles) may be inclined to tamper with or even steal the cache. So tread lightly and stay aware.

Battle Gaming

All the action of a Dungeons & Dragons game right in your face.
Source: Wikipedia

Do you miss the days when you and your friends would roughhouse in the yard, but don’t want to risk losing teeth to recreate the feeling? Do you like the look and action of LARPing, but can’t be arsed to deal with all that role-playing nonsense? Well, grab yourself some foam and get into the ring of battle games.

I got into this back in my convention days and it was a blast. Armed with foam-crafted blade and shield (called Boffers) and your nerves, you can now capture the feeling of charging into battle like the warriors of old.

The rules of battle differ depending on who’s organizing the events. Some are one-on-one gladiatorial battles. Others are large-scale wargames with competing tribes and armies. And each has different regulations on how boffers are crafted and what weapons are allowed. Though almost all of them are designed to minimize the risk of injury while letting players go wild.

With foam arrows flying through the air and people shield bashing their way through a crowd, it can get hectic. But with the light bruises comes a sense of pride and exhilaration as you face down the horde and stand your ground against the odds… even if it’s all just pretend and sport.