[EXPRESSO] Alice In Borderland (Season Two) (2022) | Fallen Figures

After a good year plus of waiting, the second season of Alice In Borderland is here (again, as a Netflix exclusive show), picking up where the cliffhanger finale left our protagonists, who now are pretty much forced to confront the new games held by the high ranking card figures, with teams of “inhabitants” that challenge the players directly, in the hope of figuring out a way to come back home, or if there’s even a way out to begin with..

There are some surprise comebacks, new faces, and the various games are quite entertaining and creative, the returning characters get more characterization, and ultimately we also learn a lot more about this “Borderland” world, even though we don’t get many answers because we’d lose that vague mystique and there’s technically enough source material for a third season.

Speaking of which, while i’m personally kinda tempted to lower the overall score/vote for the ending alone – that and some really cliched and basic philosophical wafflings – … i will give it credit since it could work as a proper conclusion for the series overall.

As i said before, you can clearly tell it’s adapted from a manga series, one that draw easily into the popular branch of suspense/supernatural death games (very akin to The World Ends With You crossed with stuff like As The Gods Will) and also belongs to the battle royale subgenre, though this live-action adaptation had the accidental luxury of releasing worlwide just before Squid Game – and its craze that re-popularized the battle royale – came into existence.

Overall, i’ve enjoyed this one more than the first season, it’s just more compelling in terms of characters, death games and stakes, making me surprisingly glad i gave it a chance, even if it’s a bit flawed at times.


12 Days Of Dino Dicember #6: Dinosaur Hotel (2021)

It’s kinda sad when i get to review a dinosaur movie that came out this year and immediatly do a double-take as soon as i get a glance of the premise.

Didn’t i review this as Jurassic Games? Why must i lament the need for a more varied kind of trash?

I’m not even talking in terms of flimsy budgets, there’s no creativity to most of this modern trash, i mean, with this title you could do a spoof of Wes Anderson movies and have stop-motion wool dinosaurs in valet outfits or something, do i really have to write the scripts for you?

Also, by total absurd coincidence, it predates Squid Game, as Dinosaur Hotel was released on streaming sites in June 2021, and even its DVD release predates the worlwide September 2021 debut of the hit Netflix series. It would be easy to assume this was made to capitalize on Squid game’s popularity (especially when we’ll get to the premise), but that simply isn’t the case, it’s just another dinosaur film capitalizing on the modern interest in “battle royale/death games” media.

Continua a leggere “12 Days Of Dino Dicember #6: Dinosaur Hotel (2021)”

[EXPRESSO] Pac Man 99 NSWDDL | Last Pac Standing

It has got to this. We knew it would eventually come to this.

And to be honest it doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, or half-baked by design like Super Mario 35, which was clearly not that well thought out, but also had a very short expiration date decided on birth, so why put more effort in if we decided we’re gonna kill it 6 months later regardless?

Like Tetris 99 once was, this is currently available as a free download for NSO subscribers, but this time it’s clearly being built as a freemium thing, since it had locked modes (the single player offerings of Score Attack, CPU Battle, and Blind Time Attack) at launch and paid themes. YAY.

Even more “YAY” how even private matches are walled beyond a paid upgrade.

But the main, free attraction is obviously the eponymous “Pacman 99” mode. While everyone plays in their separate mazes, by eating ghosts you sent mini-Pacmans into other players’ games, which aren’t deadly but will slow you down, and this can be used alongside the… NOT explained at all ability to choose how the power pellets operate to create more strategies: stronger power pellets will do more damage, but the time the ghosts will stay vulnerable for less time, etc. Also, while the mini-Pacs can be simply eaten, it’s better to not ignore them completely either…

There’s a bit more to digest here in terms of extra layers over the time-tested Pac Man formula in comparison to (take a swig) Tetris 99, so it may not be as immediatly intuitive, but regardless if you use the more advanced strategies or not, it’s yet again a surprisingly simple, addictive & effective way to adapt an arcade classic, enhancing the formula for modernity without compromising or ruining it in the process.

[EXPRESSO] Alice In Borderland (Season 1) (2020) | Through The Killing Glass

A live-action Netflix series based on the manga of the same name by Haro Aso (Hyde & Closer; Zombie 100: Bucket List Of The Dead), Alice In Borderland is about a young guy called Arisu, as he and his best friends find themselves mysteriously lost in an alternative version of Tokyo, and forced to play dangerous games of various nature in order to survive and hopefully discover a way out. All with a fairly gratitous & superficial Alice In Wonderland theme: a character called Mad Hatter, Arisu being the japanese pronunciation of “Alice”, the importance of game cards, etc.

It’s entertaining and you can tell it’s made for modern audiences, as it mostly throws the viewer into the action and events without explaining much, but i really can’t fault it for that because direction by Shinsuke Sato (Princess Blade, Death Note: Light Up The New World), it’s fairly tight, and the public…. is most likely already QUITE familiar with this type of stories: death games, the alternative Tokyo, elaborate trap scenarios with time limits, etc. The series does a decent job with these elements, even if it may feel a touch too derivative and overly familiare at times.

It doesn’t help the lead character, Arisu is presented as this cautious genius with a gamer past, but he inconsistently goes from being smarter than Light Yagami… to not noticing downright obvious traps, depending on that episode’s script. And don’t expect too much from the other characters.

Even so, it’s still quite fun to see these grisly scenarios unfold, the production values are good, and while the middle part kinda drags itself along, it picks up a lot after that, so overall it makes for a fun watch, leading to a cliffhanger ending… and thankfully a confirmed renewal for a second season.

Dino December #6: The Jurassic Games (2018)

If there are laws in genre cinema, one might be that every kind of movie can be made worse, better, or both by including dinosaurs. Even if it can’t, somewill randomly mix dinosaurs with any other subject, so the “dinosaur singularity” will happen, regardless.

Basketball with dinosaurs. Coming of age stories with or about dinosaurs. The decadence of men and its social constructs, with goofy dinosaurs in office suits and vests. Dinosaurs with other dinosaurs. Dinosaurs with guns, or dinosaurs that are also guns. The sky and the abyss stretch open wide forever, and the dino universe expands.

Continua a leggere “Dino December #6: The Jurassic Games (2018)”

[EXPRESSO] Super Mario 35 NSWDDL | Mario Royale

Ah, the Mario battle royale game nobody asked for, but it’s here regardless to celebrate the series 35th anniversary, and like the Super Mario 3D All Stars collection, it will be only available until the 31th of March 2021.

That’s… a way to make people excited about investing time in a thing it will die by design in 6 months. Also, it’s an exclusive for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, available for “free” in the same way Tetris 99 was.

And the game it structured in a similar fashion, just applying it to 35 players with the gameplay of Super Mario Bros on the NES, so everyone starts from a SMB stage with 35 seconds on the timer and can hinder the other players by defeating enemies, which get you extra seconds and sends the defeated goons to appear and try to hamper the other players. Coins can be stored and used to purchase power-ups before, or get power-ups from a “?” block if you get at least 20 coins on that run.

There are timed special challenges, a training mode and a standard ranking system that give you more icons for the profile, but not much else.

And it’s… ok, i guess? I don’t hate it, but it’s not that compelling either, after some matches you feel kinda done already, frankly. There is something to it, not that much, and while it’s clear players that already have amassed enough coins can use that to keep an advantage, you can still win and use some strategies like in Tetris 99, especially when you unlock the later levels (with tougher enemies) of SMB.

Cute idea to celebrate the 35th Mario anniversary, yes, but it won’t keep your attention up for long, almost by design, given it will become useless in 6 months.

[EXPRESSO] Ninjala NSWITCHDDL | Not Squids, Ninja Kids, Now

Ninjala NSWITCHDDL.jpg

GungHo Online Entertaiment’s ninja themed free-to-play answer to Splatoon, announced years ago, then delayed but now available.

Gameplay-wise….. it’s basically Splatoon, but built as a melee based score deathmatch affair (with respawns), with the ink gimmick replaced by the Ninja Gum, essential as you can throw it, use it to dash mid-air, to transform into an object, or to fashion a stronger version of your weapon. If you can get enough “gum energy” from the drones, that is, which can also be used to activate a super move, alongside regular abilities with cooldowns.

Given this is melee combat only, weapon clashes are frequent – if not constant – so it’s not good that despite tutorials with Youtube videos baked in, trying to gain the upper hand always feels messy. No wonder, since it basically boils down to a QTE guessing game. There is more to Ninjala, there are abilities and complexities to learn (like wall running), but after a confusing first impression (made worse by a completely unbalanced matchmaking), where you either keep winning or losing without knowing WHY, you realize there the cool ideas and mechanics are flawed regardless.

On top of that, there are only 2 maps available right now, two modes (battle royale or team deathmatch), but the game is already bursting with freemium bullshit: various currencies, gacha, battle passes, cosmetic stuff like hats. And a story mode..10 bucks/5 eurobucks for chapter. ALSO, there are consumable weapon skins.

Art direction obviously apes Splatoon and it’s pretty good (ditto for the audio department), but technically speaking is just alright, though fairly stable in my experience.Mind you, it’s fun, despite the messy gameplay (some really messy design choices) and lack of content at the moment.

I’d just buy Splatoon 2 instead, to be blunt, but it’s worth try as it’s “nominally free”.