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Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: Review

*slight spoilers*

I feel like I’ve just run a marathon.

Article 5

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I picked this up.  I’d read the synopsis on Goodreads and thought that the premise looked pretty good.  So I happened to walk by it in the library last weekend and thought “Awesome!”

I was excited, to say the least.

I’m a huge fan of dystopian novels and the idea behind Article 5 was no exception: a heavily militarized America after a war and the now strict rules dictating the lives of citizens.  The country is essentially governed by the church and the military, who rule by forcing citizens to follow a new set of religiously based laws known as the Moral Statutes.  After the main character’s mother failed to follow Article 5, having a child out of wedlock, she is arrested and her daughter is sent on a journey towards freedom.

The unfortunate thing about this whole situation though is that with this novel, your mileage may vary.

Now, this book starts off rather strong, giving a rather quick intro to the world and this society, showing off the strength of the main character and her determination to find her mother and discover some sort of freedom in this world.  I was enthralled by her love for her mother, the only family she has, and the lengths she’s willing to go in order to save her.

There were characters introduced with great promise and who had awesome chemistry with Ember.  Rosa, my favorite by far, is a smart-talking Hispanic girl with the courage to defend herself in a misogynistic dystopian America.  And Ms. Brock, a scary-as-hell headmistress who knows how to get her word across.  These were great additions to an already promising story, so I was psyched to have found this book.

And then I hit page 98, where everything fell apart.

It’s such a shame, too.  The author had built this brutal world filled with believably ruthless people, driven by desire and desperation, even sorrow.  And it all crumbled not even one-third into the story.  This is where it got kind of painful to continue.

It all started right after the main character finally met up with her love interest and AAAAAAAAAAGH the chemistry was terrible!  Right off the bat Ember lost all of her gusto and ambition.  She was transformed from this strong female character into a dumbass in distress.  Absolutely intolerable as a person, let alone as a protagonist, I almost shut the book.  But I pressed on, hoping to find the girl that had graced the story at the very beginning of the whole thing.

But what contributed to this downfall of the story?   How did it get so bad so quickly? The biggest chunk of the book was riddled with so many problems in plot:

  • The most selfish protagonist I have read about since Bella Swan.  Her love comes back to rescue her and she bitches at him the entire time for not being “the same Chase” she left behind.  Even though he is clearly suffering from PTSD she refuses to give the guy a break! She even runs away from his twice and almost gets both their asses killed.  Another thing some reviewers have complained about his how she yells at Chase and chastises him for almost killing people who were essentially going to rape her.  Completely ungrateful for any intentions he has about protecting her.
  • Chase was in love with her – why?  I mean, I can see how he felt about her when life was “normal”, but this whole journey was just unbelievable.  His patience was simply unreal.  Though, yes, we can argue that he was doing this very much so out of his guilty conscience for the death of Embers mom.
  • I really wanted to love this romance, but Ember was so awful that when they did get some intimacy going between them, I just found myself squirming in my seat, slightly disgusted. I couldn’t’ even enjoy the romance in a “romantically driven” book!
  • The fact that Ember didn’t realize her mother was dead got kind of old after a while.  And by hat I mean that she commented on hoping to find her unscathed so many times that by the time she does find out what really happened, you feel annoyed at her rather than sympathetic for her loss.

…to the overall writing:

  • There were a few inconsistencies with certain elements of the story.  Sometimes I would read something and instantly feel confused, like the author had stuck something in there, forgetting to introduce the concept or even mention when a certain event had happened.  As if half of some stories are just missing from the book. At one point Ember mentions that a character’s arm shifted in his cast – what? He had a cast now?  Also on page 171 Ember mentions that girls born out of wedlock have to wear scarlet 5’s on their shirts – but why mention something like this so far into the story?  This is a point brought up I guess to show some kinds of reference to The Scarlet Letter, but it’s effect is totally lost at this point.
  • Ember as a character fails at thoughtful introspection.  Until she realizes just how awful she was at the end of the story, she essentially pats herself on the back throughout the whole ordeal, thinking “I have great intuition about people!” and other things that make her so resourceful.  Except not.  Not even likable.  I guess Simmons was trying to make Ember sound smart, but she just couldn’t.  It just wasn’t possible at this point, and throwing in random big words didn’t help either.  She doesn’t deserve to use words like “loquacious” or “fleetingly”.  It just out of place and forcefully “poetic” for such a simple-minded girl.
  • The wording was awkward.  So awkward.  There were quotes I just didn’t quite understand, and while I figured that the author was trying to go for that artistic dystopian style, this book fell far from the mark.  I often felt like some sentences didn’t even make sense. And even when they did, it just served to make the protagonist sound like a whining child. Just a select few:
    • As if submerged in a pool of ice water, my fingers finally thawed enough to pull down my shirt (141).
    • People change? Not good enough.  Obviously he was different, but that didn’t explain why he’d arrested us or set us free, it just made me want to kick him again (143).

 

    • This is what my life has come to, I thought, watching him.  Taking clues from some a guy who is clearly waiting for some kind of sign from the universe (218 -After he saved her stupid self COUNTLESS TIMES. Unbelievable.).
    • His eyes burned with the anger I knew he only reached through fear.  How did I know that about him? I though fleetingly.  How could I read that, when I hardly knew what was feeling? (293)
    • I was the one who held things together, not the person who stirred up trouble (239). – Read the first three chapters and you’ll just facepalm at this.
    • I could go on and on with so many  more, but I won’t.  And if you’re thinking that these are quotes that just don’t make sense out of context, I promise that reading them in the story won’t make them any better.

…to things that just bugged me as a reader:

  • Chase should have had the POV in this story, not Ember.  His story would have been so much more interesting to hear!  How exactly did he get to where he was?  Why did he love Ember so much?  What was it like to live with all of the guilt form his training?  Though now that I think of this, this story would have been better told from ANY other character’s perspective.
  • Why did Simmons drop Rosa?  There was no reason to drop Rosa.  She was actually a likeable character in this story, and she essentially got lobotomized and left for dead in the reformatory.
  • The romance is not developed in the slightest.  One moment Chase and Ember are having their little drama and the next they’re making out, then the next they’re angry, then the next everything’s forgiven, and then something else utterly frustrating happens. And to make matters worse, what development we do get comes from page long flashbacks that have nothing to do with the story. I ended up skipping a few, just annoyed.  It’s such an unrewarding system.

The ending was promising however.  And I mean, I almost forgave the book for its shortcomings at the end, in which Ember hatches an admittedly smart plan in some sort of escape mission, showing her bravery and FINALLY some development as a character.  I was impressed, and yet confused by the comeback.

Overall, this book had me shaking my head for its majority.  It was so hard to sit through this thing, but I wanted to be able to say that I stuck it out.  It was an interesting journey, but that hardly makes up for the shortcomings of the novel as a whole.  As great as the first 90 pages and the last 10% of the book were, they can’t possibly cover for such an awful middle section.  Because that’s all I remember.  Upset and anger at Ember and annoying sympathy for Chase, who was essentially sacrificing himself for someone that readers were ultimately unable to connect to.   This is a sad case of a book with an awesome premise and –eh- somewhat terrible delivery.

The author does have her good points, and when she shines she really shines.  The action scenes were amazing, well-written, and pulse-pounding.  The tension and atmosphere are spot on in some parts and very vividly presented. The supporting characters overall added to the atmosphere of this brutal world, pulling in the audience for more of what was to come.  Unfortunately, when she falls short, she plummets.  The writing did not come off nearly as poetic as I’m guessing she wanted it to, and the  book, as well as Ember, come off as being way less deep than they think they are.  Want some good prose?  Read Ally Condie’s Matched.

If I were to rate this book, I’d have to give it a 2 out of 5. It has its good points, but they don’t even come close to making up for the absolutely insufferable parts of this journey. Not worth buying, somewhat worth a library loan. And it’s certainly not worth reading the other books in the series.  Oh, didn’t I mention?

It’s a trilogy.

-Andee

How Bad was the Mockingjay Ending? (Spoilers)

It’s either brilliant or unforgiviable.  Depending on who you ask.

How I (We) felt:

Okay, so this is one of those books that has divided readers.  Chances are that you fall somewhere between the spectrum of:

1) The ending was so realistic and great for the series!

And-

2) That ending just ruined the series!

Myself, I would place somewhere in between, but actually closer to number two.  I don’t think that it anywhere near ruined this amazing series, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted.  I wanted so badly to like it.  I really did.  But I actually felt a wave of disappointment and slight disbelief over the way the story ended.  I felt like the epilogue had just given up and flopped over, totally undoing the greatness of everyone I had come to admire.

Now, that’s just my own opinion.  I rarely react this way to stories, usually finding something to critique positively and taking as objective a stance as possible to review the material.  But… with this I just can’t.  This hit me at my core.  I had such high hopes.

But isn’t that everyone’s story?  From what I’ve gathered from reviews, most people are not very satisfied with this ending. They wanted their own storylines to wind up in the mind of Collins, later to be etched on paper.  And while life of course doesn’t work that way, I couldn’t help but find myself in that camp.  I guess it largely stems from the fact that I feel like there was so  much set up, great story lines and ideas bolstered by a steady pen… to be ultimately deflated by the same tool in the last pages of the book.

These emotions come from just a few key points:

  • Prim died.  I know, I know, Katniss needed a way to give up Gale and a reason to kill Coin.  But I can’t help but feel a bit angry at this.  Katniss started this whole thing essentially to save Prim’s life when she volunteered.  And to see her die was just kind of backwards.  I’ve actually seen some folks online suggesting that the mother should have died instead, which I agree with.  There was so much time spent showing how much Prim was growing up despite, keeping her chin up despite everything around her.  She was Healer2.0, and it would have been more appropriate, in my opinion, to have her carry on the tradition while building a new world with her sister.
  • I’ve been Team Gale from the start.  I liked Peeta as a character, but I thought he’d be just as fine with any other girl.  Really.  Gale and Katniss had this chemistry and strength between them that I thought was just beautiful.  Why give that up so easily?  Alternatively, had she ended up on her own without a love interest at all she might have seemed a bit stronger in the end, preoccupying herself with the state of Panem.
  • The epilogue was cold, distant, and I didn’t care for the kids. And I didn’t feel like much was resolved at all. I felt hopeless.  At the end of the rebellion.  What.
  • Finnick, come back please!  Your death was so completely pointless!  I waited so long for him to see Anna again, so I was crushed.

In addition, there are just some points that are unresolved.  So many questions needing answers!  I was really hoping to see the future after the war.  What happened in the capital after Paylor became president?   What TV thing is Gale doing?  Is he a dystopian Ryan Seacrest?  Please God, no…  And did he really have anything to do with Prim’s death?  Did Coin? Are people from the capital and districts integrating?  Where will everyone live?  And a lot more that I had hoped we’d gain insight on.

I guess I was really bothered by the fact that the epilogue didn’t answer anything of the sort.  Nothing to help the audience know this new Panem and its potential future.

Another huge complaint I’ve been hearing is how “the book is just a total mess”.  And I will gladly disagree with that sentiment. The plot was very well paced, for the most part, I think.  The fighting was action packed but I didn’t get lost in it.  I wasn’t overwhelmed.  I thought it was well written and the tone was always spot on and the story flowed.  It wasn’t until the underwhelming ending that I felt some kinda way about it, like more could have been done to end this deserving series on a truly strong note.

The Reality:

BUT, while I do feel this way, it is important to keep in mind that this is in fact a first person perspective.  What we get is what’s important to Katniss, and I do commend Collins for sticking to that perspective, even though she probably knew that readers might not be 100% happy with the way things ended up.  I respect her as a writer.  And while I may not agree with her choices as the storyteller, I respect them as well.  No matter how pointless Finnick’s death seems (RIP bro).

For all my whining, the epilogue does sum up the state of mind of Katniss very well and gives us an honest description of what her life has become because of what it once was.  She feels emotionless almost, it seems, distant from the people around her.  She doesn’t even give the names of her children, which actually really pissed me off while I was reading it.  “Boy” and “girl” was essentially what we got, and I felt nothing for these kids as characters.  I wanted to love the children of the Mockingjay! I felt no hope for the future, nothing for this Panem which wasn’t even described in the end.

But you know what? This is still the POV of, essentially, a war veteran.  She talks about how she finally had kids when Peeta had nagged her enough, and while I was upset at her coldness, I realize that yeah, Katniss might not be all there anymore.  How would I feel having/raising kids in the world she now sees, covered in the shadows of her past?  I mean, the kids are playing on a graveyard for goodness sakes.  It is a realistic ending.

This is just something I think we should keep in mind when critiquing/criticizing the book.  And as I mentioned in my Crossed book review (which you can see here), we can’t blame the author for this.  This is just her interpretation of her own work, and I can’t argue with it.  I respect her decision, and I  just wanted to give my own opinion on the matter since I’ve been seeing much debate about the ending.  So here’s my own perspective.

Peace.

-Andee

CROSSED Review: Ally Condie (Spoilers)

 

Image

Huh.

I’ll admit it.  That was my reaction to Ally Condie’s second book in her Matched  series. Crossed picks up where the first story left off, with Ky sent out to die in the Outer Provinces from whence he came, leaving Cassia to pick up a new ally in pursuit of finding her love.  And thus begins the next part in our three part series of rebellion!

Now, I loved Matched.  It was a breath of fresh air!  I’d just finished the Hunger Games series and I actually felt kinda into the whole dystopian vibe, so I went to the library, saw the green cover, and there went the rest of my week.  Really it took me only two days to finish that bad boy, and at the end I squeed. Hardcore squeed.  A satisfying love triangle within a 1984-esque society that’s actually not a hackneyed mess?  It was a dream come true.  I was invested from the first chapter and finished the book in record time, laughing, crying, and wriggling in my bus seat as I finished the last chapter, people seemingly too freaked out to sit next to me.  Matched made a true fangirl out of me, and so I anxiously waited to get to the next book.

So a few days later I finally get Crossed.  And from that point onward I felt as if the story was for some reason going by much slower than I had anticipated.

Now I’ll admit that Crossed was sort of disappointing.  I was expecting more, with better scenery than the first movie since now they’re in the wild, and a much bolder and engaging romance between our two narrators.  But I found that I actually had some gripes with the story:

  • The pace was so slow, it took me longer than usual to get through just a few chapters.  Reading across the span of 60 pages took longer than i felt it should have.  This is my biggest complaint, and the biggest one I’ve heard so far from fans.
  • The setting was rather disappointing   Now, I can see how this sort of thing might be very new and invigorating for someone like Cassia who’s been sheltered all her life, but to the audience it just ends up reminding us of The Host, just with a better written romance.  All of this potential and it’s spent it in a cave?
  • Questions, oh so many questions!  While I thought that the book was pretty decently paced, for what it is, I thought that there were some questions best in this story, not what is surely to come in Reached.  Why did Xander give those blue pills to Cassia?  What happened to Laney?  Who was the Enemy?!  This last one I actually did expect an answer too, and was greatly surprised when we got nothing more than a simple hint from Ky at the end about one possibility: could it be the Rising?
  • Some character gripes. I really hated it when Vick died.  I didn’t feel that it was entirely necessary.  And while Eli is a likable enough character (they all are, thankfully), I feel like he’s really just there for the shallow purpose of assuaging Ky’s guilt for leaving the camp decoy’s behind.  He didn’t really change the game or have anything significant to contribute to the plot.  If he had ended up dying at some point I would have felt sad because he is a nice kid, but I wouldn’t have been distraught.  Kind of a wasted opportunity and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly he lent to the story. But I’m sure he won’t disappoint in Reached.

But for my complaints I will say there there was a lot that I enjoyed in this story:

  • The scenery, though a bland choice in my opinion, was beautifully described and Condie really, truly pulls out the beauty in everything.  The musings of the characters gave me insight into the landscape.  I’m a tried-and-true city girl, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel, at least once, that I myself was in that canyon, writing poetry to myself about the walls of the caves or the plants of the valley.
  • People have complained about how the characters are actually far too reflective, stopping the plot at every chance to ponder their past or the mysteries of the cavern and how it might relate to their own lives and situations.  But I actually appreciated this. For one thing, Condie is a master at her craft and she writes amazing prose and poetry.  Every time Ky went back into his own story, his observations about the environment always played perfectly with the narration. These two elements really complemented each other and while the book did have me falling asleep at some points, I can forgive it because of the payoff of this wonderful, introspective writing.  It’s hard not to appreciate beauty.
  • The romance, while not as enthralling as I would have liked, is very realistic.  More realistic than the whole Hey let’s give Katniss three books to play around and finally settle on one of us thing from the Hunger Games series.  The protagonists kissed, they never took each other’s touch for granted, and they argued.  Nothing sexual and raunchy or over the top.  It was wonderfully balanced, and the tone was very much in line with the way it started in Matched.   And I actually like the role Xander played as suitor much more in this book.  He was suave and mysterious, an equal match for Ky.  I respected him more in this book.   And believe it or not, I can actually see Cassia ending up with him in the end of it all.  This series can go in a few different directions and still get a satisfying ending, I believe.   Condie’s set this up very well and I commend her for that.

In my opinion these points push the book into a rather favorable light, overall.  This wasn’t a bad book! I would even say that it was a good book, though not quite up to par with its Matched  predecessor.  There was a lot of mystery that I would have liked to see unraveled, and so I was a bit disappointed with the story itself.  But I do think that this book is rather well paced for the sake of the series as a whole, even though it the plot moved as slow as molasses at some points.  While I would say I had to plod through parts of it I had to never force myself to actually start reading it again.

There is a wonderful promise waiting at the end of the Condie rainbow and it’s the final, hopefully revealing book of Reached, where we should get the unraveling of all of the mysteries of the Society, its motives, and maybe even its origins.  Despite the short-comings of this sequel, I feel that just leaves us with more anticipation for the final part of this dystopian trilogy.

So if I had to rate this book, I would give it a 3/5.  No more, no less.  A good book, but it didn’t quite fulfill our expectations and it certainly did not live up to Matched.  A good effort sadly suffering from a slight case of sequelitis.  But the series is so worth a read.

~

Now, I don’t usually write reviews, but I felt compelled to for two reasons.  A) Writing helps me figure out my own honest opinion about the book, and B) I recently read some reviews that just pissed me off.

Honestly.

It takes a lot of effort to write a book!  That I’m sure of, and I’m tiring of seeing people sh*t on Crossed because it didn’t completely bend to their desires or answer every question that they had.  Good stories take time and pacing, and this book at least gives us some beautiful insight into Ky’s past and his own thoughts.  I actually felt like Cassia was a secondary character to him in this one, but I’m OK with that.  The two person perspective worked and I don’t think people are giving any of this credit for what it is.  It’s like people are somehow reading with their eyes closed!  There was so much subtext and so much mystery to it.  You can’t take every line, every work at face value.  This series is deeper than that.

But even more than that, I’m just sick and tired or reading reviews like “OMG this book sucks where’s Xander????” and “Condie f-ed this up, what was she thinking this is not the romance I wanted!!!1!!!1”.  It’s upsetting because I love seeing criticism from both sides. But at least do it respectfully.  Some reviews just seem like folks decided to ride the hateful bandwagon together, insisting that Condie just pushed through the second book in an attempt to make money and cheat her readers.  That she can’t write.  That she wasted our time.

And I’m not trying to shoot anyone down for their opinion.  We’re all entitled to what we think and how we feel.  But when you start attacking the author (and not even in a well-presented manner), I’m done.  Your review has just crossed a line.  We’re here to critique the book itself and not throw uneducated accusations at someone who wanted to give you a good experience.  It just hurts me to see people who obviously didn’t take anything from this book trying to blindly tear it down.

Let’s open our eyes when we read.  Remember, we get what we take away; at least make the experience count.

-Andee

The Mirror Lied: A Walkthrough

So, I got this game called The Mirror Lied, by Freebird Games.  It’s this indie game that is… well, it doesn’t really have a genre.  Alternative maybe? Can that be a thing here?

This game has inspired countless pages of speculation and analysis online, and so I got kind of interested.  What could possibly be so interesting about this little RPG, this small indie game that just popped up one day and took the so many by surprise?  I knew I had to try it, and couldn’t type the name into Google without getting any spoilers, so I knew it was time to take advantage of this free download.  Let’s have a look.

I can’t wait until they explain the title!
I can’t wait until they explain the title!

WARNING: Spoilers.  From this point forward.  Completely.  So I really suggest you play the game first, and you can download it for FREE here: http://www.desura.com/games/the-mirror-lied

Overview:

What an interesting game.  I thought it was a horror RPG from the second I opened it. The first thing you see are a few clips of an empty house.  And then this phrase come on screen:

A bird landed on water today.  It flew away.  Come’re, birdy.  Oh, too late.

You start off as this little girl, who wakes up in a bed and finds herself alone in a house.  At least,  think she’s alone.  She’s a small redhead, with a cute tawny dress on, sleeping surrounded by stuffed animals.  And, oh yeah, she has no eyes.

...good morning...
…good morning…

Yeah.  “Great!” I thought, “Let’s get started.”  So upon leaving the room I made my way to a staircase.  One thing I can say right off the bat is that the house seems to have this atmosphere that just gets at me. It’s amazing unsettling and quiet with nothing but the ticking of a clock.  Not even 5 minutes into this game and I can’t help but feel incredibly lonely.  The atmosphere is like… just imagine being in your house as a kid when no one else is home.  And there are clocks everywhere. Yeah, you’re welcome.

Study 1

So I go downstairs and head into a room that seems normal enough. A study, I’m guessing.   I take a look around and there’s some good stuff here!  I go to the bookshelf and I get a text box: “The books have titles, but the pages are blank”.  And then I go to the table.  “Assorted book with smudged titles.”  There’s a computer I need an access card to log into, a map of the world, and a globe that is apparently emitting a strange odor, or so the game tells me.  And what’s under the microscope?

Microscope 1

Huh.  Alright, seems innocent enough.  Moving on.

Hall 1

So I head out  the door to the dining room, and here’s the scene.  Paintings on the walls, cabinets, a large dining room table to the right, and a mysterious staircase.  And right in front of me, a plant.  It looks kind of lonely so I stop for a moment and name it Ralph.  He’s thirsty apparently! ’ll remedy this situation quickly enough, I’m sure.  So I head over to the cabinets to search for anything useful, and I get… pesticide and a small key. Ok.  Fair enough.

 I also picked up a teddy bear.  And a bucket.

Afterwards I head into the other rooms scattered among the hallway, nothing particularly intriguing or out of place in any of them.  There’s a wooden chest I need to get into, but I have no key. I went into the bathroom were I found a filled bathtub, a toilet in the corner, a lamp and  painting.

Tub 1

I head back into the hallway and water Ralph.  And holy crap! The plant grows to twice its size.  I guess this plant just makes as much sense as the rest of this house. And then the phone starts ringing.  So I head over, pick up the line, and guess who’s there?

Hi, Leah.  Birdie grew wings today. Wait for me, Leah.

Hm. Ok.  Maybe it’s my… father?  My sister.  My cat.  Ok, I have no idea. They hang up the phone, that creepy AOL dial up noise plays, and I’m alone again.  Right.  I’m not scared.  This isn’t a horror game at all.

While I was still at the table, I decided to take a look at an object sitting on the left half of the dining table.  It appeared to be a small box, and I received a prompt to open it.  A rather melodic, yet somewhat cryptic music box tune of jingles and bells started playing.  “Hey!” I thought, “I found the soundtrack!”  Pretty creative stuff, and great timing since the only other background noise of a ticking clock was starting to freak me out.  So I thought it was time to try out that mysterious flight of stairs and I went down into what must be the basement.  I saw two boilers to the left and a room down below.  I tried to enter, but the door was barred by a table.

Basement

Alright…. To the right I saw a panel with three switches.  I toggled the first one, and then the second, but the third was stuck.  All I got was a note that said “Wait for me at 3:26”.   Sure.  I trust that.   So I head back into the study and check the microscope again.

Microscope 2

Meh.  It probably means nothing.  So at this point I’m completely lost.  Where do I go?  No clue. This is not a hard game at all, but it can get pretty confusing if you aren’t paying attention. I decided to head back upstairs to my room to look for clues, and behold! There’s a bathroom to the left of the screen.  And there’s another bathtub. Filled with water.  And a toilet.  I flushed it, and there’s apparently something stuck in it… I got a piano key!  So I go to the piano and play a song.  Cool.  That does nothing.

I head back downstairs to check on my little plant friend and of course he’s thirsty.  I top him off, he grows, and I notice that the room seems a little different…

Hall 2

Yeah.  So the paintings are empty now.  They ran off.  No, I have no explanation or any of this.  I wander back into the study and there’s a shiny thing on the wall.  It’s a wooden key.  Cool! Now I can open that chest in the other room I’ve been eyeing. I also check the microscope.

Microscope 3

Um.  I walk out and head over to the adjacent room and open the wooden chest to receive a tiny key.  I walk back out to the hallway and the phone starts ringing.  Great.

Hi Leah. It’s 3:26.  End.  Ok, it’s time to see what all this is about.  I head back down to the basement and unlock a small chest with the tiny key.

Pistol

Sure.  Why not.  I then head to the levers and toggle switch 3 at last, and hear what sounds like some sort of muffled explosion.  I head back upstairs…….

Fire 1

I’m sorry, allow me to zoom in on that face.

There we go.
There we go.

OHMAGEEEERD my house is on fire!  What?!  How!  What… who lets a little girl set her own house on fire?!  I’m probably 12!  I may not have a face but I still have feelings! And quite frankly, I’m a little hurt.

So I run around like an idiot trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do – a way out or maybe a safe zone – but there are none.  The whole bloody house is on gosh dern fire, shaking and quaking and red injury screens constantly flashing, and I’m stuck.  I tried to head back downstairs, but that was a stupid move since the boiler literally exploded, sending me back up into the dining room.

...really?
…really?

Then that darn phone rings.

Hello Leah.  Don’t be afraid. Birdy flew away today. Catch it on its way over Africa. Sleep it off, it’s not too late. Bye, Leah.

Yeah, yeah.  Ok.  Wait, what?  Sleep it off?  Are you nuts!  But at this point I’m out of options, so I decide to take the helpful advice and head up to my room and crawl into bed.  Then I sleep.

Just like an angel.
Just like an angel.

Bed Fell

So after the whole “I burnt my house down thing” Leah wakes up in a bed on a table downstairs.  Ok.  I would also like to point out that the room is in completely perfect condition… except for the bed… for it’s situation.  Our little lady doesn’t seem to care in any case, and hops down off the table, ready to get started once more.

I walk down the hall and I see two blue arrows pointing me towards the plant.  Looks dry, so I head into the bathroom to get it some water.  It looks a little strange, like… darker somehow.  But I ignore it and head over to see Ralph.  After I water him (it’s a boy) I walk back into the study. Nothing too strange it seems, and I can’t do anything until I get an access card for the computer.  So I head over to check on the microscope.

Microscope 4

Yup, seems about right.  I walk out and head upstairs to my room.  I didn’t even realize that the phone was there until it started ringing.  I picked it up.

It’s open, dummy. The table was burnt off.  It’s no longer blocked.  Go under, and don’t forget to drink water.

I hang up figure that it’s probably time to head to the basement.  I head downstairs, and as soon as I try to open the door I receive a prompt to shoot the lock with my pistol.  “Great! I thought, until I realized I had no bullets.  Touché game, I get you.  I have to earn the right to use this gun, like a good 12 year old.  Alrighty then.

I walk upstairs and wander for a few minutes, watering that greedy plant until I remember that there is a cabinet! And I had a key!  I searched through until I found the right drawer, and I used my small key to get a medium key.  Sure, that works.  Now what?

Bullets, that’s what!  Turns out I needed to go to the cabinet to the left of the cabinet I was at, use the key to get another key, then use that keep to open up the first cabinet I was at before.  Then I get two bullets.

Ugh.

I get back downstairs and shoot at the lock, which lets me into what seems to be an office of sorts.  There is a blackboard with math equations and books scattered on the table, all in some foreign language, the game informs me. I walk over to a shining object and receive… an access card! Finally!  Now I can head back to the study and pop this puppy in.  Once at the computer I login, noticing that the map has lost yet more pieces of itself.  Only Eur—Afri-Whatever is left.

I think.
I think.

Turns out that I have 7 unread messages, starting at 2:06 PM and ending at 8:01 PM.  I begin to pour through them one by one.

1.  Leah, abandon birdie, it lies to you.

By the way, right after I opened this, half of the map disappeared.

I literally have no idea when this happened.  WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN.
I literally have no idea when this happened. WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN.

2. Leah did you see my message?

3.You must kill birdie before it flies over Europe, Leah. Respond ASAP.

4. It just flew over Europe.  What are you doing, Leah?

5. Respond Leah, the birdie is coming.

6. We had a deal, Leah. Respond.

7. I have to go. Kill the birdie at all costs, Leah. Good bye.

Ok, officially creeped out at this point.  Kill the birdie?  “Alright” I’m thinking,  “but I don’t know why you’re so upset man. According to the map, Europe doesn’t even exist anymore!”  So I walk to the bathroom to get some water for Ralph.  I look at the tub.  I question the tub.

Tub 2

And yeah.  That water is definitely red.  So I leave, water my buddy, then hear the phone start ringing.  It somehow got downstairs onto the dining room floor.  I… didn’t do that.

Hi, Leah. This is birdie. Birdie is about to fly over you. Have you been drinking lots of water?

A pile of glass crashes in front of the plant.

Good. Come, Leah.  Dial tone.

It’s finally go time!  But first, I head into the study out of curiosity just to check… and yep, the map is completely empty.  I walk back out to Ralph and douse him in pesticide.  Once he’s all ready, I start climbing.

We are not at a cutscene. I find myself on the roof at night.  Little Leah raises her arms, and a giant white bird dives down and carries her off.

Roof

They fly for a few seconds until the sky suddenly turns blood red, and I see Leah pull out her pistol.

Birdie

The screen goes black, and she shoots.  When the image returns, Leah is gone, and the bird flies alone for a few seconds in the night sky before it starts flashing, and disappears as well.  Then credits roll.

Confused?  Yeah.  Then you’ve pretty much just played The Mirror Lied.  It’s hard to explain this game, so I hope that you were able to glean some understanding about the actual gameplay from this walkthrough.  More so than just show where everything is and providing spoilers for those who are curious, I really wanted to show my own view of the game and the thought process I had while playing it.  So this is more so for enjoyment than instruction.  And at some point I thought that if I wrote out what I was seeing, the game might make more sense. But nah, didn’t happen.

But seriously  check it out.  Get on desura.com and get yourself this game!  It’s free, and if anything it’ll make you think.  And that is what I enjoy about it.  Every time you replay it there’s something new to discover, and when you find a game with that quality to it, you know it’s worth checking out.

BIT.TRIP RUNNER Review

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So this is a little gem that I bought quite a few months ago after getting some recommendations, and I have to say that it’s one of the most colorful and upbeat games I’ve ever played. BIT.TRIP RUNNER is definitely a star amongst games in regards to its style, that amazing soundtrack, and it’s challenging yet oh-so-rewarding gameplay. This is just a quick review of the aspects that I like about the game more so than an analysis, and I won’t bother to look at the story here. I’m looking at BIT.TRIP RUNNER as a sole game, not as a part of a series.

Let’s check it out.

Overview

BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a platformer in which you play as the principal character known only as Commander Video. Your goal is to run to the beat of the music while avoiding obstacles so that you can make it to the finish line and advance to the next level. Plain and simple. You can also collect power ups and gold along the way, which can take you to a bonus level that allows you to rack up a high score.

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Style

This game is set in the magical land of Who-Knows-Where, and the environment seems to be made of rainbows and acid. An absolutely stunning game with perfectly mixed bright and dark tones, sparkles and stars… It’s basically a land of absolute wonder. The main character is very simplistic in design yet the backgrounds are awe-inspiring. And despite the eccentric colors, nothing seems out of place or painful to look at.

And to me, the strongest point of the game’s visual style is the retro design choice, made even better by the fact that the environment actually reacts to your presence. I mean, just look at these majestic creatures, constantly following you with their gaze, watching you…. .

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Though they are kinda cute.

Music

This soundtrack is amazing. That’s it. I don’t know how much more I need to say. It’s upbeat, energetic, spunky, funky, and all around a feel good time that goes on for the duration of the level. And the gameplay is set to the beat of the music, so if you mess up and have to restart the level, Commander Video actually taps his little feet and starts running when he’s back on track with the rhythm of the song. But what makes the music even better are the power-ups available once you clear the first minute or so of running. They instantly upgrade your basic 8-bit style beat into a chorus of angels. But rather than just taking my word for it, have a listen.

Video by YouTube’s David G:

Gameplay

So this is where the game really sparkles. Despite the amazing music and the artistic rendition of Wherever-Land, the gameplay is the greatest contributor to how beautifully simplistic yet challenging this game truly is. For one thing, the controls are tight, and I mean truly spot on which is an absolute necessity for this game. Just think Super Meat Boy tight. So if you mess up it’s most likely because of your own timing. As the player you are held completely accountable for any and all successes and failures which fosters a great sense of accomplishment and helps track your improvement as a player.

Overall

This is a fantastic game. I love its energy and charisma, its finesse and charm, and you can tell that the creators put their hearts and souls into this production. And it was well worth it! The music, the visuals and the tight controls are all just… spot on. They fit so well together and create this uniquely satisfying side-scroller. This is quite remarkable considering the game doesn’t seem to be the heaviest in terms of plot. Not to say that there isn’t one (I’m not even taking the other games in the series into consideration at the moment). But this is one of those games that doesn’t need overly complex storylines and a plethora of characters to keep the player invested. The need to beat these levels, to ride along with the music, and to explore more of the gorgeous scenery constantly pushes us forward and towards the next level.

Goal copy

Now, I won’t say that it’s absolutely perfect. It comes pretty close, but ones thing that bugged me was actually the accuracy. What I mean is, if your computer happens to be rather slow or if your keys stick, you might get frustrated with the gameplay not working in your favor. I spent a few frustrating minutes trying to make a jump – just ONE jump – from one platform to another because my laptop’s space bar tends to stick a bit. I made it eventually, but beware that the tech issues in your life could be brought to life when playing a game that really does require such tight controls. It’s a strange complaint, isn’t it?

And one other thing that got to me was the fact that if you bump into anything or mess up, you get jetted back to the very beginning of the level. It’s not the worst thing ever and I wouldn’t even go so far as to call the game unfair in this regard, but with no checkpoints to lean on I got pretty frustrated trying to beat some of the levels.

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This is a game that truly tests your patience, and I won’t lie – it can be trying at times. But when you finally jump over that last hurdle and pass the level, you can’t help but pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Perfectly challenging, and perfectly rewarding. It’s a definite buy and you can get it for (one penny) less than $10 at the Steam Store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/63710/.

So take a look and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.