Saturday, July 1, 2017

Theme Parking: The More Things Change - Disney Further Tinkers With Pirates

  • When I opened Twitter after work Thursday, my first reaction was a deep sigh. Disney announced changes coming to its Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland Paris, some of which would be making their way to the rides in Disneyland and Walt Disney World. At first, I only noted the title referring to the Paris park. It wasn't until I reread the article that I fully comprehended their intentions for the American parks.
  • It's hard not to feel jaded about more changes to Pirates. I have a draft post about my feelings on the ride that I'll get around to finishing some day. But to summarize, Disney has found it necessary to tinker with the ride with some regularity ever since 1996, starting with the chase scene. Then after the release of the Pirates movie, they could not move fast enough to jam Captain Jack Sparrow into a ride that didn't need him. At every turn, Disney damages Pirates in the attempt to improve it.

  • The auction scene is one of the most iconic in the ride. The Auctioneer is probably the best animatronic in the the park. And let's not forget mystique of the Redhead. (Another draft post I really need to get to.) Like the change with the chase scene that follows, Disney wants to purge the scene of its regressive themes. But based on their track record, it's hard to trust them to get it right, no matter how many times they trot out the hoary old "Disneyland will never be completed" quote.
  • In reality, it is the movie related changes that committed the most violence to the ride. The story of the ride is all but incoherent now. Not that the original ride was perfect with the discordance between the villainy of the pirates against their happy-go-lucky "A Pirate's Life For Me". But whatever themes existed before have been entirely contracted by focusing on the treasure seeking adventure of Captain Jack Sparrow instead of the doomed pirates singing their way to the grave. To be fair, it was around this time that the music was added to the grotto, dramatically improving the atmosphere. So not all is lost.

  • Although I was initially hesitant, I will always second-guess my opinions when I find myself on the same side as the reactionaries. But my nostalgia for the auction was mostly challenged when my wife admitted that she never cared for the scene. Maybe some good can come of this change. Disney may not have my trust, but they have my best wishes for their success.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Top Five: Video Games of 2016

  • It's way too late for this, but let's do it anyway.

  • 2016 has gone and it is once again time to look back on the games I enjoyed last year. In truth, I played very few. Time and priority shifted such that I couldn't dedicate many hours to gaming. But what I did play were some of my favorite of all time.

  • Persona 4 The Golden - As a fan of Giant Bomb, Persona 4 looms large as one of the defining games of the site. When the chance game up for me to get a PlayStation Vita and the game, I knew I had to experience it for myself. It is without any hyperbole that I say P4G is the best JRPG I have even played. It's funny that the actual dungeons, the mechanical RPG sections themselves, were my least favorite parts of the game. They never felt as grindy as I was led to believe. And the battle system with its use of weakness exploits was a lot of fun to manage. But the best part was clearly the visual novel side, where making friends and learning more about them turned the experience from a good dungeon crawler to a truly great game. Persona 4 The Golden lives up to its hype.

  • Firewatch - I don't go out of my way to try "walking simulator" games. 2013's Gone Home, while amazing, was not some gateway to a new style of game for me. However, when the team at Campo Santo announced their first game, I was immediately interested. Firewatch is very much a first person adventure game, combining the best of environmental storytelling techniques with point-and-click adventure structure. It may not stick the landing on the big mystery, but the emotional arc is perfect. This is easily a game I would share with non-gamers to show what video games can do.

  • Pathfinder Adventures - I'm a sucker for all kinds of tabletop games: board, card, RPGs. Even if I may never play them, I like reading about them. Occasionally, against my better judgment, I'll even buy one. I got lucky, then, with the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords. I could play solo, with my brother, and even convinced my family to try it. So when the game made the transition to a mobile app, I jumped on it. Pathfinder Adventures does everything I want out of an video game port: making it easier to play the physical game while also taking advantage of the electronic medium. I have now played more on the app than I've ever played of the card game. And I got to play with my daughter which made it even better.

  • Hitman - I never imagined myself playing a Hitman. They always seemed like too much work for too grisly a topic. Sure, there was fun stories to come out of the games (hat tip to Rebel FM for piquing my curiosity about the series years ago. But I never actually tried one. That was until videos of the new game started coming out, showing off just how crazy things could go. Hitman lives up to the hype. If you want to see just how good it can be, check out this video.

  • Let It Die - I did not expect to find myself enjoying a free-to-play game. Too often, the monetization strategy leads to degenerate design. And although it is said to be worse in the end game, I didn't see any free-to-play shenanigans in Let It Die. Instead I found an alternately morose or farcical dungeon crawler, resembling the Souls and Rogue games. It was simple fun to explore a ruined world, collect gear, and fight various psychos. I didn't make it all that far up the tower, but I enjoyed learning my way through new encounters and doing my best to survive just a bit longer. Also, Uncle Death is a great character, underused in the game.

  • Ironically, I've already started 2017's Top Five list with a great game I just finished. Hopefully you won't have to wait quite so long to read about it.