Game Review: Jackbox Party Pack 7

Jackbox is one of the most popular party games available on the internet, and this new edition is certainly not a disappointment with many good games. The $30 pack includes 5 different mini games, including a 3rd version of popular game Quiplash.

Of the available games, 3 of the 5 are great games that are easily replayable, especially in larger groups. The latest version of Quiplash, a game where you answer question prompts, is very intuitive and fun with many tweaks to create a fresh experience. Another amazing new edition is Champ’d up. The game focuses on drawing and creating your own champions which they fight in an arena and the winner of a specific topic is voted for by the audience and other players. The game allows people to take many creative approaches and players can do as they please. The third great game in this pack is Talking points, where you effectively have to present various slides made by other people. While not for everyone, this game is very fun and can lead to some hilarious moments.

In my opinion, I feel as if the other games don’t live up to the standards. The last two games are a game where you work as devils to disrupt human life and the other where you have to guess prompts using limited words. The games feel clunky overall and while still good, are inferior to the three mentioned before making the pack not great value-wise.

Overall, I would recommend this version if you don’t own any other versions of the game. I would rate it an 8/10 as while there are many great games, it is hard to justify the price of $30 when there are many other great Jackboxes you could get on a sale for much cheaper.

-Benjamin L.

TV Review: Legend of Korra Season One

The Legend of Korra was one of the most anticipated animated sequels for its time, given that it is the successor to the widely popular Avatar the Last Airbender. The show had a lot of expectations on its initial release and after rewatching it years later, I would say that, overall, it is actually a good show even with the harsh criticism from devoted fans.

In general, I would still recommend watching the show given that it is still an entertaining show like its predecessor and still has quality animations. I still enjoyed watching the fights and scenes overall but it felt like the story was lacking compared to the previous show.

The characters were still appealing overall, with few exceptions, and the world itself was well built and introduced an interesting dynamic that was engaging and different from the original show.

Some complaints I had were that many characters and their stories felt rushed and incomplete, with the finale of season one being very anticlimactic compared to any of the other finales in the previous show, although it is understandable given that the show was created under the pretense that it would only have one season and 12 episodes compared to the vast size of the previous seasons of Avatar. Overall the story and characters still meshed together in spite of this and the episodes were exciting up to the finale.

Overall, I would still rate the show highly given the conditions of the show, regardless if
the expectations were initially high. I think that initial expectations and comparisons between the show and its predecessor played a major role in the reaction of the fans, although if looked at as an independent show, it is still high enough quality overall to be rated well and is still a good watch.

-Benjamin L.

The Legend of Korra is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Game Review: Pokemon Black and White

In recent times, in light of the pandemic, many people have fallen back on their hobbies and favorite franchises. One of the most common franchises is Pokemon as many people grew up with video games and collecting trading cards. In general, the quality of recent Pokemon games has severely declined, leaving the GBA and DS games as the pinnacle. One such DS game that I would recommend is Pokemon Black and White, often one of the most contentious games in the series.

For those who want a great Pokemon game to play during the breaks and wind down, this game is amazing for not only beginners but also experienced players. The game is based on the region of North America and contains 151 original Pokemon. The story of the game is well built and delves into interesting concepts not explored in previous Pokemon games. One major aspect of the game is not only the great, new Pokemon that were introduced but also the sprite animations that make it stand out over all the games in the other series. The game is sleek while still having the classic Nintendo aesthetic. Each Pokemon sprite is lively and animated, just adding to the visual appeal of the game. The pacing of the game is also exceptional compared to other games. The game still follows the traditional gym badge system and various new environments are well distributed and it never feels too elongated or quick. As a result, the game is a satisfying experience that is generally above the rest of the options.

One of the most common complaints for the game is the Pokemon design and overall concept of the evil team. While certain designs are lacking, they are still unique and not every new pokemon, especially the large batch of 151 can be perfect. The evil team may also be goofy to people who base their opinions on the traditional Team Rocket and nostalgia, however, the differentiation is something fresh for the game that helps it more than it hurts it. In addition, the ideals of the team are actually integrated into character development which is something unprecedented for Pokemon. Overall, most of the criticisms for this game come from the high expectations for traditional Pokemon fans and the lack of nostalgic appeal, which is something that I would rather applaud the game for. 

In general, I would rate this game a 10/10 experience for the average Pokémon fan. The game does have its flaws but overall, in the grand scheme of Pokémon games, it is a must-play and a worthwhile experience for those who want something different from the current direction of the Pokémon franchise.

-Benjamin L.

Film Review: Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is an intriguing romance movie that creates an interesting
narrative using past societal expectations. As for the movie itself, while it is not
something that I would personally watch, I did enjoy watching it with my friends and
found that the movie was good overall. I would personally recommend the movie if you are really looking for older romance movies as what you get out of the movie is still satisfying regardless of whether you like the category or not.

In terms of what I liked about the movie, the characters feel as if they each had a role and portrayed well what they were designed. Given that I have not read the book or do not watch many romance movies, I cannot speak for the plot itself although it felt as if there were some holes towards the end in terms of the story and resolution which could be fixed with more time in the movie. While the story between characters feels somewhat unexplored for most of the movie, the characters themselves do a good job at foiling each other and create an interesting dynamic.

As for the way the movie portrays a story overall, it felt as if separate pieces of a story were put together, rather than it being one cohesive story as many parts of the movie often left me wondering how characters got there in the first place. While many characters are well written, it also feels as if some characters were entirely unnecessary and played almost no role. Some characters even felt so pointless that they were taking away from the main
characters, although, given the short time of the movie, it is possible that there was no effective way to portray all the characters in the way the directors wanted to. In addition,
while the movie was mostly enjoyable, there were some scenes that, by more recent
standards, felt more awkward than funny which is their presumed intention.

Overall, while I have many complaints about the movie, I would still recommend
seeing it as it was still an enjoyable experience to watch with friends. The ending is still
satisfying which is the goal of the movie and it still portrays the themes of the title well,
presenting both sides and helping define the meaning of the title overall.

-Benjamin L.

Pride and Prejudice is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Phineas and Ferb: Candace Against the Universe

Phineas and Ferb were one of the biggest childhood shows of this generation, and the attention that this movie received is no doubt due to the many nostalgic memories many people had. The show sheds light on Candace, one of the main characters and older sister of the two brothers who create all the inventions. I would recommend and rate this movie fairly well as it provides a new view on a childhood favorite.

The movie overall was good and had many standout aspects. What story and character
development lacked, the soundtrack and environment did more than made up for it. The soundtrack especially was outstanding given what the show is meant to portray, and the songs fit the situation and character interactions perfectly. The movie also has the same witty humor that the show had when it aired, with minor interactions between characters livening up the movie and creating a fun atmosphere. The story was not necessarily deep, but it allowed the characters themselves to shine rather than detracting too much of the viewer’s attention while still being relevant to the development of the main characters. One minor issue I had with the movie is that many side characters were just there to be in the show, rather than having some sort of impact. They felt more like afterthoughts rather than side characters that were important in one of our favorite childhood shows.

Overall, I would still say this movie is one of the most entertaining animated movies to have
come out recently and is worth watching for not only the nostalgia but a great time overall as there are many comedic and wholesome moments throughout the movie that remind us why this franchise is one of our childhood favorites.

-Benjamin L.

Film Review: Black Panther (spoiler free)

Many superhero movies often fail to live up to standards set by fans and are looked
down upon. Black Panther is not one of those movies. In light of recent events, many are
rewatching movies such as Black Panther to celebrate the work, and it certainly is a movie worth celebrating. Black Panther focuses on social issues while providing both an entertaining watch and a top tier soundtrack. Overall, It is a must-watch given the quality of the film.

Of the recent movies, Black Panther stands out among them due to many aspects. One
of the major selling points of the movie was the action scenes. The scenes are not only action packed, but also flow well and very natural. None of the scenes feel like they are forced and have very smooth transitions. The action and music are very compelling and the music bolsters the excitement of the scenes. The soundtrack is another major boon of the movie. All the songs played (or lack of it) fit each scene extremely well, enhancing the mood and making the scenes more lively. Each track is composed wonderfully and brings out the most in the movie.

Another major aspect of the movie is the social ideas brought up. The movie addresses
many social issues and approaches to fixing them in tandem with the growth of the characters themselves. Many characters are well represented, although there is little African American representation, and are brought out in a primarily positive manner. The only complaints that I had after watching the movie were the primary motivation of certain characters overall and how irrelevant a few characters were, although it is a minor complaint compared to how good the movie was overall.

In general, I would rate this movie as one of the best movies to come out over the past
few years and it certainly lives up to the hype it received upon the release. I would highly
recommend this movie for those who have not watched it or those who want to rewatch it, as it is highly exciting and absolutely worth the time.

-Benjamin L.

Black Panther is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Game Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (spoiler-free)

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a popular game, primarily revolving around a “killing game” based on trials. It is the first main game of three, originally released in 2014. The goal is to solve the mystery of each trial and to find the killer. The game contains a wide cast of characters, including 16 students and one bear. Overall, Danganronpa is a very interactive game with a unique trial system that makes the user feel engaged while also learning about the large cast. 

One great part of the game is the art style and game design itself. The environment you are in is not only visually intriguing, but contains a wide variety of different areas. Each area is well designed and pleasant to look at. The art style also matches very well with the actual gameplay mechanics and design as the user interface contrasts the background. The art is also very unique compared to other games as the game is effectively a visual novel, making it a fresh experience. The characters in the game are also quite compelling. Every single character is a master of their craft and provides their own unique experiences. Their personalities and the way they interact with each other always brightens up the game. The characters and their designs were by far my favorite part of the game. Each invoked a certain emotion in you regardless of whether or not you liked them, making the game more enjoyable and entertaining as a whole.

In general, I would rate this game a 10/10. The game is absolutely worth the price point and the interactive visual novel is both entertaining and well written. The game may start somewhat slow but the gameplay itself and world overall make up for it. 

-Benjamin L.

Pokemon Conquest Game Review

Pokemon Conquest is a Pokemon spin-off game, a game that uses different gameplay mechanics from the normal games that were released during the 5th generation. The game is effectively a tactical role playing game which functions similarly to a chess board. Conquest is generally a different experience compared to the average Pokemon games since it also draws from traditional Japanese lore and designs. 

One thing that draws players in is the unique gameplay and visual design compared to the normal games. The grid based battle system and large map makes gameplay and battling a fresh experience and the different moves of each pokemon allows for hundreds of different ways to play. The game also includes traditional japanese influences which spice up the game as it is something that is less commonly seen in western games. The game also still maintains many things about what makes pokemon great in the pokemon themselves and how they interact and battle with others.

While the game is solid overall, there still are many issues with the game as a whole. One major complaint is the post game after the main story. While the main story is still hours of content, much of what happens after the main story is effectively the same thing but from the perspectives of different characters. This devalues the game for me as not having much to look forward to after is a disappointment given the potential of a game like this. Another complaint is the general access and pool of pokemon. The way pokemon level up and their upwards potential is based on the characters as well, meaning that each character is limited to a specific pokemon which and inhibit the potential of teambuilding and gameplay as you would need to obtain hard to get characters just to use 1 singular pokemon at the maximum potential.

Overall, I would rate the game a 7/10. I would recommend it if you enjoy rpg games and Pokemon, although the many fundamental issues and inherent lack of a post game make it hard to justify over the other great games out there. 

-Benjamin L.

Game Review: Genshin Impact

Of the many free games released this year, Genshin Impact is easily among the top of them. The game combines amazing gameplay mechanics from great games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and with modern art and storytelling. The art and animations are a major boon for this game, as the environment and characters created all look amazing and gameplay is smooth. The plethora of different areas and characters to fight with or against offers various ways to play the game for different people so there is certainly a character that suits everyone’s playstyle.

Every character in the game is unique and appeals to a large audience. There are many
different characters with different abilities and weapons for players to pick up. Combat with each character is fresh and you can use up to 4 characters on a team and combine their skills. The characters are also well designed in conjunction with the world and storytelling, making the aesthetic of the game top tier compared to many free games. Summoning in this game is also very exciting and is very accessible without spending money.

In terms of issues with the game, some people may not like the longer games that require constant investment over a period of time. For newer players to these types of games
progression may feel too slow. The price of summoning for new characters and premium
content is also a bane for many players.

Overall, the game is still great for all players, even those that don’t spend. I would rate it a 9/10 as sometimes the game feels like it isn’t complete. However, updates for the story are rolling out and the game is still constantly being developed so I look forward to what comes and would highly recommend it.

-Benjamin L.

Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest

Fire Emblem Fates is a trilogy of Fire emblem games that was released throughout 2016. Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest was the second of two that were initially released. The games are a tactical RPG that focuses around managing characters and attacks, similar to a chess board. Birthright and Conquest differ in story and the routes you choose. Conquest is the latter version that is not only harder, but provides a different focus on deceit and lies.

One major thing that conquest has going for it is the large cast of likeable characters. Unlike Birthright, Conquest’s characters contain varying amounts of personality while also bringing back likeable characters from other games and versions. While character development itself is lacking, the characters are fleshed out enough to create an entertaining atmosphere regardless of the situation. The mood and tone of this version reflects the main themes of the story. The dark and gloomy environment further builds upon the game and the story is significantly more engaging than Birthright.

Regardless of the idea that Conquest is better and more detailed than Birthright, the game still has some major issues. Unlike Birthright, conquest is designed to be much harder and limits options in order to prevent over-leveling. As a result, while the game isn’t inherently much harder, the difficulty scaling increases exponentially so early game mistakes can make a large difference in the late game. The game in general is not as beginner friendly when compared to Birthright, although this is partially mitigated by how it is the second game of the story. Another complaint is that in order to fully understand the second game, you have to also play the third version in Revelations. Without playing that game, the ending feels somewhat empty and confusing as a result, thus making the game as a whole less satisfying to complete.

Overall, even with the various complaints, I would rate it an 8/10 and think it is still worth playing. The game is still entertaining and gives a good measure for the modern fire emblem games. Unlike the other two, the story progresses at a reasonable rate and it doesn’t feel as clustered. The game, while not my first choice for a modern Fire Emblem game, is still worth the time and money put into it.

-Benjamin L.