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It’s Mental Health Awareness Month, So Here Are Some Thoughts on Hellblade

One of the most inspired games of the generation also tackles the subject of mental illness like no other pop culture object has before.

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In my life I’ve ended up in the nuthouse twice. The most recent I was being treated at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. It was mostly uneventful, and the details aren’t worth getting into, at least not here, because this is about a video game and not specifically about me and my inane issues. But the thing that stuck with me the most during the course of that uneventful day was overhearing a conversation while I was watching ESPN on one of the televisions. A man with five o’clock shadow (I’ll never forget his voice, or his scruffy face) was talking to a doctor about why he was brought in. He was incredibly clear, concise, eloquent, calm, collected, and articulate. The problem for him was in just trying to explain — plainly and rationally explain — what was going on in his head, in a way that made sense to other people. He kept having to deal with everyone around him assuming he was schizophrenic, he told the doctors, and it affected his life in ways that he thought were worse than the voices. He couldn’t find or retain decent work, he couldn’t live a normal enough life, and everyone kept assuming he was psychotic. He wasn’t.

The man suffered from Paracusis (you can Google it, since I won’t do it justice explaining it here), and for him he kept hearing faint chatter far away, but in only his left ear. He could never make out the conversations, as the voices simply weren’t audible enough. He didn’t know who was speaking, or where the discussion was being pointed, and he obviously knew it wasn’t real and that he would have to just go on ignoring it, these whispers and murmurs. But the doctors wanted to suss out more about his case before going down the rabbit hole of medication, and family history, and whatever else they needed to know (I wasn’t intentionally trying to eavesdrop the entire time.)

His husband showed up soon after, and explained the history of his condition and how they couldn’t afford certain medications because he couldn’t work, and on and on it went, back and forth with the rugged-chinned man and the staff and the voices to his far left, until I was allowed to leave later that night. I never learned his name. I will never see him again, nor speak to him or get to ask him how he’s doing. He was very nice to me, and thanked me for turning the TV to something he could watch, sports. He said it helped him focus and drown out all the talking and commotion and disruption. The open area we were in was silent, but I simply nodded and we just went back to watching ESPN that afternoon.

That story doesn’t really have an ending, or a point to it, and it’s been years since I’ve thought about any of it. Despite whatever nonsense was going on in my life back then, that small respite was a wholly unique situation I had to be in to be able to see a different perspective, from another person I would have never otherwise meet. On paper these things sound scary and crazy, and in some ways they are, but you totally miss the humanity behind things like psychosis and paracusis and all the other disorders we suffer from. And the moment I started playing Hellblade , that entire day from the emergency room to check out immediately rushed back to me, and hit me like a wave. The weight of an ocean of memories flooded from my television and swept me out to sea, and I was beached in a new world. It was foreign and gorgeous and frightening and new, and yet I knew it so well. There’s a familiarity that unsettled and intrigued me when the game begins and Senua rows her boat down a lazy river, and the only other time I’ve felt so understood and vulnerable while playing a game was Gone Home away back in 2013. So it’s been five years of playing video games, and not once has anything come close to being personal and touching in such a way as to compel me to write about it.

And now, apropos of nothing, I present to you a completely apt, fractured day by day breakdown of my thoughts on the game. The first few are me playing and writing notes, and then the last few are just processing everything while watching the 30 part documentary series on the making of the game, which I highly recommend if you’re still reading this far in and really want to know more about game development because it’s fascinating.

Day #1

I’m fashionably late to the party on this game (what else is new); Hellblade finally came out for the Xbox One though, and that allowed me to get completely sucked into its madness, months after it received most of its awards and dissection and acclaim and analysis. I haven’t been as obsessed with a game in quite some time, and it’s hard for me to remove the background on how it was made from the game itself, when evaluating and talking about Ninja Theory’s masterwork.

Call it what you will, bias, research, clouding judgement, I don’t care, but this game is making me reconsider so much about game design and life and creating narratives about yourself that after going through their YouTube series of ‘Making Of’ docs, I became infatuated with Hellblade in a way I’ve rarely felt for a piece of pop culture. First it was Steve Gaynor and The Fullbright Company, and now it’s Ninja Theory and everyone who worked to make such a risky vision into a success. Ironically enough, both Hellblade and Gone Home are games that got under my skin in the best way, by never actively trying to scare you. Traditional horror games use all sorts of spooky tactics against you, but the ones that stick with me long after I played them just instill the possibility of fear, and instead just makes it seem like death is around every corner. But the most devastating effect outside of the Gothic / Celtic art style and design, and the frightening (and gorgeous) heavy metal Scandinavian atmosphere, is finally getting characters scarred by mental illness.

One of the things smart people (most especially writers) love to do is long-form personal essays and think pieces about mental illness, because it seems to afflict every one of us. Why intellectuals are cursed with degenerative brain diseases that slowly decay brilliant minds into oblivion is a question for the ages, and one that I can’t answer. My dad jokes that we use our heads so much they run hot, and burn out onto the side of the road, and if I’m going to use that analogy then I guess there really isn’t a great system in place for roadside assistance. Hellblade comes the closest I’ve ever seen a game become an emotional support tool, masked as an action horror game, and as hyperbolic as that comes off I truly mean it.

No other interactive title (a commercially available and widely marketed video game, mind you) has attempted something on this scale, in this way before, and I find that astounding. Just the fact that they went for it, even if the game didn’t come out so well, is something I respect, and unless you use medical research technology or virtual reality to get over other illnesses, this is one hell of a journey into psychosis…and hell. You also go to hell in this game. That’s fucking cool…as hell.


Day #2

Immediately this game presents you with a few harsh truths you’ll have to learn to live with, playing as Senua rowing your little boat down a stream. You hear voices talking to Senua, talking about Senua, and also talking to you, the player. It’s the most compelling mixture of core mechanics and storytelling I’ve seen in quite some time. Incorporating her illness into your gameplay so starkly slowly sinks you into the same illness. You can’t remove the voices from the game, and you can’t cleanse it from your character, no matter how hard either of you try to run away from it or ignore it. They weave nasty rumors and insults into the story, and comment on events like a Greek chorus, but also aid you in combat and make you question traps in the environment. It’s a double-edged sword, and holy shit is that analogy a good alternate title for this video game, now that I think about it.

The unreliable narrators, these angels and devils that sit upon your TV’s speakers, constantly spew this shit at you, but in hushed tones, which is more unnerving and annoying and ultimately effective in getting under Senua’s (and your) skin. They question Senua’s backstory, her motives, her past, and at the same time question the person holding the controller and what the hell they think they’re doing playing this game, trying to control and influence her. It’s bizarre, a constant breaking down of Senua and the fourth wall to try and drag you down as well. It oftentimes doesn’t feel like you’re truly playing as Senua, and I can’t remember a game relying on that level of removal from the player before. There’s a sense you aren’t wanted, tampering or meddling with her affairs, finding out more about her or aiding her journey, and all that makes me want to do is get closer and feel more connected. But there’s always something in the way, either by deception of the narrative or through the obstacles placed in front of you as the player. It’s wild, but speaks to how fucking with you constantly puts you in the right state of mind to go along with Senua.

And once you go deeper into the chaos, and become more familiar with the world around you, you get hit with this creeping notion that something is watching you. Literally, not figuratively. And before you know it you see faces in fucking everything and it’s so messed up — hell, at first glance, I had to get up and walk away on my initial playthrough. Senua’s mother Galena is hidden in a waterfall, and then some rocks, and later all sorts of places, as the single most creepy collectible you can imagine. The brain automatically looks for people in non-human objects, as I later found out while looking up research for this. It’s called Pareidolia, and it’s coupled with FMV of actors calling out from beyond the grave to Senua. The best way I can describe seeing people talk to you in mountains and clouds is like when you get harassed by mosquitoes, and one lands on you and it’s irritating, so you get paranoid about being bitten the whole day. It’s like that, but irritating for your soul and not necessarily your skin; you just want to smack it away. but it buzzes around every corner of the map regardless.

And speaking of Full Motion Video, I simply cannot fathom how anyone made this game a reality, because it’s the most photo-realistic video game my eyes and ears have been privy to in close to thirty years (Jesus I’m getting old, I can say that now…three decades, Christ). Senua skips over the uncanny valley, just jumps over and clears it, and it’s drop-dead gorgeous. Since she’s the only character model in the game worth rendering or looking at without a dead animal carcass as a mask, she gets the most natural animation and lifelike facial features and skin and hair. Watching the behind the scenes documentary series on the making of this game, you can gain great insight into how such groundbreaking tech Ninja Theory created without a publisher behind them. It’s DIY creation on a microscopic scale; it’s incredible how many times they bring up ordering items off of Amazon or Ikea in order to form the world of the game.

But Ninja Theory didn’t just stop at Senua and actress Melina Juergens’ star-making mo-cap performance: they fill every inch of space and time they have into voices and faces and water (and faces talking to you inside of water, for that matter), and it’s a perfect case of getting more by using less. They had to sacrifice so much that their previous projects relied on, and wisely chipped away at things they knew they couldn’t and shouldn’t work on to craft Hellblade into what it is. There’s not much AI going on, not many characters on screen, no collectibles, no other fluff, it’s just what needs to be there and all that fat cutting pays off, because it’s wonderfully paced and extremely thought out from all facets of design. They blend fantasy into horror, and fiction into reality, and lies into truth, objectivity into subjectivity, and by the end you get a twisted horrifying masterwork that blends gameplay into story and environment into character.

Day #3

From the moment this game starts to the very end gameplay twist (I won’t ruin it but it’s fitting in how sad it is when you realize what you have to do), Hellblade presents what I consider to be the most unsettling and haunting experience I’ve ever gone through. There isn’t a single jump scare throughout, and all it relies on is a singular unbroken camera shot, forced perspective, and a disturbing atmosphere that hangs over every tree and house and person to have walked through the world. It goes from a forest of illusion to a depressing shipwrecked pier all the way to the dungeons of hell and everywhere between, but it all feels like a prison of Senua’s mind that you’re locked in with her for hours. It can straight up make you distraught like it did with me, which really pushed me and Senua to finish our quests despite how rough it gets at times. And I’m fully aware this is so personal and individual to each person who plays it, and most gamers won’t be phased by a single thing. I think Hellblade works if you have thick enough skin, and can be pretty cool if you look at it from the right angle.

But there was a moment involving a fire that breaks out, and you instinctively run away through the flames to safety that the game has you repeat in one section. And to start the environmental puzzles, you have to knowingly and willingly start the hallucinations (or flashbacks, I guess) and one in particular was the most galling thing I’ve ever heard in a game or movie. The screams of people being burned alive was so piercing at one point I thought I was in an interactive snuff film, it was completely jarring and set me off. I thought “holy shit, people recorded and programmed that to happen?”, as if the developers at Ninja Theory had legitimately set a family on fire in the studio to get the realistic sound effect just right for the game. It really fucked me up — I was stunned at how much it fucked me up, and I even ended up turning down the audio for that entire level.

It made me feel complicit in her suffering, in my own, and that made an emotional investment in a fictional character all the more significant. Because it really wasn’t Senua who I was rooting for: it was who she represents. Everyone who has ever lived with their brain working against them, everyone I’ve ever known or met, and myself; Senua is all of us. And that can definitely come off as cheesy, or hokey, or eye roll inducing, but I would rather a game swing for the fences and end up being any of those things than the alternative: boring, lazy, trite, or downright offensive. Gaming has covered most of those poor qualities already to a tee, and there aren’t as many examples of out of the box design like Hellblade to hold up and cherish, from both an artistic standpoint but also a development one. How a studio of less than 20 people, on a strict budget, can pull off something that outclasses contemporaries all across the board is a fever dream.

Ironically enough, most of the heavy lifting doesn’t come from the writing, which is odd when I look back on the entire experience. There’s a lot of deep dives into the lore of Norse mythology in the form of hidden runes you zoom in on to get the equivalent of an audio log. All of the performances are incredible, but not every conversation strikes a chord, especially when you endure repetitive lines about “darkness” over and over. But the strengths outweigh whatever I can nitpick, or the few moments near the end that felt long in the tooth. And I’ve seen some derision around about this entire game not working for them, and I get it. Anyone can mock something that comes off as poignant to one as ridiculous to another, and I can’t really argue with how one should feel about art or how they interpret it. I just sat and played and reacted, and then started writing when I was finished with it the next day, instead of firing off tweets. I made sure to not read a single word so I wouldn’t get my reaction spoiled, and then I ran into a tweet storm and got soured, and thus I feel like an idiot. Oh well.

No amount of opposing viewpoints, however valid, and no amount of BAFTA awards and GOTY discussion podcasts has swayed me about that first impression, and that’s all that matters to me. I might feel differently about it down the road, that’s usually the case with most things, not everything can stick forever. And having God of War come out right after certainly doesn’t do the combat any favors, let alone the various other things it does better because it had more development time and money behind it. But I don’t want to compare third-person action games that use Helheim as a setting and feature melee combat about abused warriors. I really just wanted to try my very best to praise something that uniquely handles and challenges an issue that hits home for me, and for that, Hellblade firmly rests as an all-time memorable gaming experience, and as something I’ll bug my friends about for years until they play it because I couldn’t stop shouting “holy shit man, you gotta buy this thing cold and blind! Trust me!” until my jaw falls off. Maybe that’s why so many writers write what they write: they just don’t have any other way to convince friends to believe them about stuff they should try.


Day #4

On reflection, there’s a ton to talk about as it pertains to Hellblade and its gameplay. And I’m not even talking about the whole permadeath mechanic, which I believe is actually a fake-out to induce paranoia about dying with a ticking clock and a cloud of the unknown surrounding your actions (get it?). The darkness spreads up your arm, your disease gets worse the worse you do in the game, her curse is a metaphor, all that stuff (do you get it yet). But there are lots of little clever things the game does that only smacks you once you step away from it (and devote a whole week to writing about it, I guess.) Demons coming out of nowhere and with no warning in my life definitely made me think of how effective it was in the game, and the longer I think about it the more I appreciate its depiction of mental illness. The constant lying and harassing and exaggerated thoughts, they’re unrelenting and so painfully accurate. Every line that swirls around you are dripping with self-loathing and a pervasive sense of dread, it pervades and permeates and corrodes and smothers everything in its path until you’re miserable. There is a scarcity of hope, and by the end it doesn’t matter, and the entire time you’re fighting and being chased by legitimately scary shit. Hela is a big, naked baby doll looking thing and I wanted no part of that motherfucker and its cracked, bald face with its dead eyes. Yeesh: shivers when I think about that monster.

And I keep coming back to the central mechanic of the voices; I think I’ve written about them in every single entry every day this week so far, but I can’t stress enough how realistic it is, even if it’s not one to one with my experiences or yours. Just the paranoid double checking, people laughing at your mistakes, commenting on you, debating in your head, an angel and devil on your shoulders that whisper into your ears. They call out in combat to avoid attacks you don’t see because they don’t want Senua to die because then they do. And in puzzles they only want you to suffer because they don’t care about your well being. They never do. It screws with you and helps you and you cannot ignore the voices, and it’s the perfect foil, not the villains or antagonists or enemies, because it really is the biggest obstacle to Senua and people like her. It’s one of the strongest ways to connect to a playable protagonist, through that use of 3D audio, and another way to show and not tell about the overall story and world. It just builds all of it in an organic way, because you might not be getting the facts, but you definitely understand the truths by the end.

Day #5

As I finish up rehashing over and over my admiration of this game, there are some loose threads I had written down that don’t fit into a paragraph or larger point very well. I’ll rattle them off because there’s so much that impressed me I had to dump my brain onto the sheet. Like how breathtaking the ending level in Hell was, and how it’s my favorite depiction of Hell maybe ever. It’s just the most heavy metal shit going on, and somehow I’m reeling from the story, and drudging through the lakes of blood to avenge Senua’s lost love. The history of mental illness that surrounds Senua’s family was touching to me, despite how harrowing the details are if you read about all the details you miss during the game. There’s stuff you miss for sure — it’s worth looking up if you’re even mildly invested.

I am in love with the forest of illusions, and the visual puzzles that use color and light and perspective to get through. And later there’s a trial near a big tree with a sword in it that uses perception, and robs you of sight, that is scarier than almost all other games. The blind trial makes you use sound, and barely anything else, and it’s the most anxiety-inducing section of that entire game. Holy fucking shit did it get me good.

And I’ll end on a weird note: this game could be played in another language, or without any dialogue at all, and it would be almost as effective. Just some vague mumbling surrounding your every action and thought, the constant visual trickery and deception, and it instills a constant state of uneasiness that infects all the gameplay. It gets under your skin and burrows deeper into your psyche. This is to games what Koyaanisqatsi is to film; strikingly pure in its form and content, and without anything that overly makes it too gimmicky. There is no HUD, no obvious loading screens or hard cuts, no text overlays or other nonsense, its all diagetic and in the world and explainable to some degree, which is a wonder to behold in the same way the new God of War is a wonder to behold. But I don’t recall such a terrific example of using audio as a primary replacement for parts of a traditional HUD: that is truly outrageous and ingenious.

I don’t have an end to any of this, in the same way I never got an ending to the story at the top about the man who heard voices. I guess that’s fitting, since the ending of Hellblade can be just as head-scratching and alienating and deflating. But I’m going to give it a pass, since it perfectly balanced on a high-wire act for eight hours and only stumbles in the last two minute cut-scene. It’s a small nitpick in an otherwise memorable experience filled with the raw potential that only games can give through interactivity and creativity. I feel so pretentious typing that, but I don’t care at this point.

I wrote 4,000 words already. I have nothing else to say.


Also published on Medium.

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You Won’t Believe This, But That Live-Action Halo TV Series Is Facing Development Troubles!

The series has lost director Rupert Wyatt, and reports of budget concerns put the adaption’s future in jeopardy. But what else is new?

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I’ve been following film and TV news for the better part of a decade and a half, and writing about it for nearly as long. And, in that time, you start to become numb to the cycle of development — creatives are always leaving, executives are always balking, and yada yada yada. Let’s just say there’s a reason why most of the movies in development hell stay there — once a project begins circling the drain, it’s hard to really pull it back out. So after years of this painful back and forth — this developmental ballet — I start to lose faith entirely. For pop culture that has been developing for years, my optimism for it actually get made morphs into the fun category of “I’ll believe it when I fucking see it.” Which, for the record, is why I still don’t believe Kingdom Hearts III is coming out next month. I don’t care that it has a release date, I don’t care that it has gone gold — until the damn thing is in my hands, it’s just vaporware. And you know what else is just vaporware? That goddamn Halo TV series.

Or should I say live-action Halo movie. Really, it’s all the same tale — Hollywood has been trying to monetize the Halo brand since shortly after the first game was released, and became one of the defining video game titles of this millennium. Creating a movie just seemed like the next logical step, and Hollywood recruited Alex Garland to do just that. And Peter Jackson to do just that. And Neil Blomkamp to do just that.  And D.B. Weiss to do just that. And so on and so on. Eventually, that entire project stalled and Microsoft, with the live-action rights back in their hands, decided to shift the game’s adaptation to the world of television, and partnered with a pretty big name to do it: producer Steven Spielberg.

That was five years ago. Just to show how much the world of TV has changed since then, Microsoft initially planned to release the series independently, through the Xbox TV brand. That brand no longer exists which, to these outside eyes, would seem to indicate the TV series was no longer happening. But, nope! After years of silence, Microsoft returned and announced that the TV series was still happening (sure), and that it would be released on Showtime (sure.) A little more time passed. I assumed the concept of a Showtime produced Halo TV series was just some weird fever dream I had. And then, boom! the Halo TV series was off towards the races, with Showtime hiring on showrunner Kyle Killen, a bunch of writers, a big name director — everything! The plan was set for filming to commence at the tail end of 2018, for a late 2019 launch.

And I never believed that shit for a goddamn second. This is a Halo live-action project we are talking about. It’s doomed to fail. And if news from today is any indication, the process has begun in earnest.

As reported by Variety, the “big-name” director hired to helm many episodes of the project, Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), has departed the series. On the surface, it seems like an innocent enough departure: standard scheduling issues. Wyatt even released this statement corroborating the reported reason:

“It’s with great disappointment that changes to the production schedule of Halo prevent me from continuing in my role as a director on the series. My time on Halo has been a creatively rich and rewarding experience with a phenomenal team of people. I now join the legion of fans out there, excited to see the finished series and wishing everyone involved the very best.”

So yeah: “changes to the production schedule” is the culprit. But the question must be asked: why did the production schedule change in the first place?

Well, thankfully, /Film looked into just that, and found that production on the series is not going as smooth as it might have sounded like it was a few months ago. The budget “has spiraled out of control” according to the website’s sources, and the people in charge are none to happy about what the series is becoming. Well the first few scripts were in line with what Showtime was looking for, latter scripts saw “the entire series balloon in size and cost, leading to some cold feet.” Well it’s possible the series might work through these issues (Game of Thrones, which Showtime is clearly hoping to ape here, ended up doing so), history is not on this franchise’s side as it paves its way to the live-action realm.

And, in my mind, that makes absolute sense. Putting aside the curse an old Hollywood witch doctor performed upon this franchise some time ago, I always thought that TV was a weird fit for the Halo brand. The games are massive, large scale explorations of intergalactic war. They are big war movies, essentially. Unlike Game of Thrones (which peppered its big fantasy moments with plenty of scenes involving political intrigue, dramatic exchanges, and other TV budget friendly concepts), there’s not a whole lot more to Halo than the big action sequences and massive, universe spanning lore. Which is fine and dandy for a big blockbuster movie to tackle. But a TV series? I literally did not see how this could happen. And if these troubles just continue to get worse and worse, that may indeed be the case. Will yet another live action Halo project fall apart right before it reaches the starting line?

…Probably, yeah.


Also published on Medium.

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Cuphead Bosses, Ranked in Terms of Difficulty (In Getting Them to Help Me Move This Weekend)

The boss characters of Cuphead are notoriously a challenge…to get to help with even the most basic of moving requests! Fuckers.

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This is a real list of the Cuphead bosses, ranked in order of difficulty. It also is a tier list of difficulty to get them to help me move this weekend from Brooklyn to Manhattan, specifically Chelsea, so I can get to work without a real commute. A five-minute walk is way better than an hour train ride or taxi back home, after all.

Will any of these overpowered assholes lend a hand? Let’s dive in and find out.

S Tier

Grim Matchstick

Fuck this dragon. Fuck him to hell. He is the hardest boss in the game…to theoretically help me move in over a weekend. This guy would dodge you forever, never get back to you, burn your stuff with his fire breath turning into little jumping marching fuckers, and the whole time you just jump from cloud to cloud in the opposite direction like an asshole. Fuck this boss. I hate him. Fuck him forever.

Image result for cuphead bosses

Rumor Honeybottoms

I hate this bitch, woo boy. Boy oh boy did my life slowly lose years as my cells disintegrated one by one. I cannot express in words how disgusting and difficult it was to beat this queen bee bitch motherfucker shit cock it makes me so mad. I wouldn’t even want to ask her to help me move because I know what her answer would be and I don’t want to hear any sass or attitude. Even her minions are the damn worst: the fucking pig cop and bees, and those other bastards. And her pink balls of death to boot! The whole stage is impossible, and no one that disorganized in life can or should help me move my stuff, which is already so neatly labeled and divided into boxes

Dr. Kahl

Another total jerk, wow, can this dude please fuck off. Too busy building robots and shit that piss me off, not enough time being a reliable friend who can give me free medical advice or, you know, help me move this weekend. You can’t see his health bar or use the progress meter to determine how far you are in the fight, and you can’t see his schedule or determine if he’s really going to a wedding out of state and“just can’t, man”, or whatever. None of his robot bots or little bombs and aeroplanes would help either, they would just get in the way. This was just infuriating and grueling and grinding for no reason and I had to be in the air the entire time. Fuck this shit, I’ll move in to my new apartment all by myself.


A Tier

Beppi the Clown

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck this clown and fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck him getting near my stuff and getting clown make-up all over it. Fuck his circus friends, and his roller coaster, and the merry-go-round, and all of that other shit in the way. The dog balloons that track you, it’s all too zany and crowded and suffocating and Beppi can go fuck himself and find a new profession. He is someone who would say yes, I think, but like I would have to do him a favor and ,yeah, no: I’m not having this guy in my life. Ever. Fuck clowns.

Image result for cuphead bosses

Wally Warbles

Why is there a bird stuck in a birdhouse, and why is there a baby bird in an egg, and at the end, why is he fighting from an old timey hospital stretcher? How is this dingus supposed to help anyone, let alone himself? Also, this fight is a pain in the ass. Same with attempting to ask for help this weekend when I hire the movers to come over and drive between boroughs and unpack my stuff up four flights of stairs. It’s extra for the movers to go without the elevator, that’s why I need friends. Is Wally one of those reliable friends? No, no he is not. I mean, possibly, if he had hands with fingers and not wings and feathers. God damn there is no room on the screen for this boss fight and I hate it. The art is cool but it is so fucking cumbersome to dodge for so long without hitting him. Screw Wally.

The Devil

The literal devil would want me to check back into hell soon, why would I hit up his phone asking for more help? I’m not signing any deal with the devil for a move this Saturday.

Hopus Pocus

This is one of those mini-bosses during the King Dice fight, and he was the hardest for me IMHO. And I want nothing I own to disappear if he were to help me move. He has that crazed look in his eye, this fucking rabbit. He might like, want shit, and steal it by hiding it and doing magic and other garbage tactics like that.  I don’t like him, I don’t like dodging his moves, and I don’t like that look. That crazy look. It’s unsettling.

Phear Leap

Another King Dice mini-boss who sucks ass, but this time part of the screen is obscured for no god damn reason. Asshole. Trees and shit going by, you can’t see anything. No way, nah, I don’t fuck with that, or a skeleton horse who gambles on the ponies. He probably owes people money, and I don’t want that involved in my life. “Hey, can you help me move Friday?” “Sure, you owe me though! Ha ha.” And then I get my thumbs broken. No thank you.


B Tier

Phantom Express

This is my favorite boss battle in the entire game, and is only difficult because of the large amount of twists and different segments, and how slightly different they were back-to-back. sprinkled with lots of floating soap bars to parry. But it’s awesome, aesthetically and mechanically, it’s just super cool to learn the steps slowly and beat this right before the ending boss at the casino. But I’m not sure who on the train would come help me move, like which skeleton dude. And I can’t rely on any of them, since some don’t have hands, only wheels. Like, the conductor? Or the first ghost guy with the eyes? Can he even see what he’s doing? Who knows, but at least they seem nice enough to want to help, even if they can’t.

Ribby and Croaks

An unexpectedly tough fight for being so early in the game. I blame the fact that these two fucker frogs pull a Dragon Ball Z and fuse together to form an unholy alliance: a fucking slot machine that spits out the hardest shit to avoid. And half the time you can’t damage this stupid thing! The ending of this fight, and whatever comes before to whittle your health away, is dumb and I do not like it. Also, while it would be good to have two guys help lift boxes up the stairs, especially strong ones like boxers, I get the feeling they are too busy “training” or “working out” to do anything. Muscle heads. They wouldn’t take off their boxing gloves anyways, in order to lift anything. They would just drop it and blame each other. Asshats.

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Cala Maria

I would be too afraid to talk to her, or even approach her, to engage in a discussion about whatever inane bullshit I have going on in my life, let alone the nerve to say two words to Cala Maria. It’s not intimidation or timidness, really, just the way she shakes her hips in the water, it’s mesmerizing. I can’t talk to her. We’re moving on now to the next boss.

Djimmi the Great

This sneaky motherfucker. This magical, dodging little shit. He would be the kind of guy to lie to you and say “yeah I’ll be there, for sure” and then at the last second send a text message with some lame ass excuse and bounce. He’d duck you for two weeks and then ask, like a smug asshole “how did the move go?” Great Djimmi…it went great. Thanks a fucking lot.

Pirouletta

Pirouletta seems very stuck up, and prissy, and I don’t even know why I would need her. Can she lift? Can she endure the stairs up and down for an hour? Why would she want to? Because she knows me? Is that a good enough reason? Maybe she is nice enough to offer, and I would just say no and go without the hassle. Or maybe I wouldn’t even mention it to her at all. I really don’t know.

King Dice

You don’t ask him to move. You ask him if he needs help with his move.


C Tier

Cagney Carnation

This entire section involves people who are real 50/50 calls, and Cagney is just a weirdo. A total weirdo who I don’t like fighting, and I would be unsettled being around him. Anger problems. Not hygienic. Creepy friends. Bad company. Vines with thorns. The whole thing irks me, and while I could use his help, and he might say yes, I just don’t see this happening. His arm length would be appreciated, but I don’t want to pick leaves and shit off the floor after he left, and I don’t want my new place to smell. Sorry bud.

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Captain Brineybeard

I would like, hang out with this guy, but only in certain places. Not in my home. Not getting anything wet, he would show up drunk, and happily so, and just fucking destroy shit. No thanks. His whale and squid would be too much of a hassle too. Again, the help is appreciated, but one laser beam and it’s all over. Fuck that, no thank you, see you next week Captain.

Tipsy Troop

Three alcoholics? Yeah, okay. I can convince them to do anything, but who needs that, honestly?

Baroness Von Bon Bon

I’m going to assume she is royalty, which means I can’t approach her, get near her, ask her to go to a sub-par neighborhood, or have her touch anything that would dirty her gloves. Really I would want to hang with the candy and waffles and shit that protect her, THOSE people I would fuck with. But if they’re busy guarding the castle, the gingerbread one with pink frosting, then it might be hard to manage the schedules and I would just not bother. That’s what this tier is really for: these bosses could go either way and it makes it hard to pull off, you know? No hard yes or no, but just this weird lingering dance of words. Moving sucks.

Mr. Wheezy

HELL NO am I having this dirt bag over. HELL NO am I having his wheezy ass huff and puff and fail to help me at all. HELL NO am I having this sleazy scumbag get my shit covered in smoke, smelling up the joint. He would want to be there in a heartbeat, and he would say yes of course, and just smoke the whole time. Nope. Don’t want or need his help. It’s too much of a detriment, and the cost analysis of this premise is just C- tier all the way. Nope nope nope.


D Tier

Hilda Berg

On the surface, she seems like a big bloated fatass who loves to complain. But that’s because she IS a big bloated fatass who loves to complain! Which is why she would easily be a good friend of mine, and at least show up to my move to heckle me as I do everything, but then offer to get food afterwards because she is always hungry.

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Chips Bettigan

I would use Chips to gamble my life savings away in a casino so I had enough to just live in a mansion and buy new clothes and furniture. Fuck moving, I’ll bet it all on red on the roulette wheel!

Sally Stageplay

I was a drama kid, and I feel very connected to Sally and that dude in the background. We stage people stick together, and she would show up no problem. And hopefully that other dude, who just shows up every now and again. Stage hands are good at carrying things!

Werner Werman

I am not a rat. I cannot trust rats. Rats are disgusting, and he seems like a German Nazi rat. I don’t know about this guy, but if he builds a cool cat robot to help me, then by all means! Join in and help lift boxes from the truck to the living room. How would a cat do that? I have no clue, but he should be able to build the cat with thumbs, that would do the trick.

Pip and Dot

Two heads are better than one, and Pip and Dot seem cool. I like playing Dominoes, I don’t know if that is cool with them or like a war crime to their people, but I would get along with them enough to triple the workload. I also don’t know if they’re too small or not, I don’t have a sense of scale on their actual size but I need all the help I can get.


F Tier

Mangosteen

Mangosteen is an anthropomorphize magic 8-ball, so he can only bring me good luck, right? And he always has a smile on his face, so that’s encouraging, probably a good spirit to be around, bring you some energy after a hard day of moving. Moving always brings so much stress and anxiety, nobody enjoys it, so why not have Mangosteen around to chill with, you know?

Goopy Le Grande

Goopy would be immensely helpful, I think, because of his literal and figurative flexibility. Being able to help me plug in things behind furniture, growing big to carry boxes up stairs, it would be a dream to just knock everything out in one day and then grab food after. He obviously is a polite man, tipping his cap to start the fight in the game, and I feel guilty for killing him and then shooting his headstone, but Goopy is straight with me, he’s legit. A true homie through and through.

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The Root Pack

I would just eat them for energy, so I can unpack faster and set up my new place.

Mr. Chimes

I love this dude, and I wouldn’t even ask him to help me in any way, because I just want him around to make me happy. We can just play puzzle games all the live long day, and then he’d clap his cymbals together and I’d laugh, and it would be just a rather refreshing experience, overall, I feel, to have Mr. Chimes around for an afternoon.

Lollygagging about in my brand new apartment. Just me and my best pal, Mr. Chimes. That’s the dream, folks.

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Games

A Shot for Shot Breakdown of How Fucking Insane the Super Mario Odyssey Ending Is

I spent way too much time working on this ridiculous premise for an article, but it had to be done. It simply had. To be. Done.

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First things first, let’s all watch this clip in the otherwise masterful Super Mario Odyssey and then I can break down why it is one of the most batshit insane things Nintendo has ever done. This cutscene was so impossibly stupid and crazy, that I had to talk about it and wonder out loud why more people are not talking about it.

This game is a master work, and it still somehow hampered by the laziest and most misogynist writing for children’s entertainment I’ve ever seen. Absorb this nonsense and then let’s dive in:

Okay, process that shitstorm, and just sit with it. Okay, now we can break it down part by part, added with commentary to make sense of the senseless trash that ends this wonderfully fun game. It’s mind boggling, but I spent an afternoon learning how to create many GIFs out of a YouTube video. The process has gotten easier over the years, but still, it was a lot of work for a gag.

So first off, you become Bowser in an earlier boss fight. You go to the moon, go through lava levels and stuff (which are not on the actual moon, but I’ll give that a pass). All without an oxygen helmet (less of a pass but okay, I’m still with this for now). The fight ends with you throwing the hat aka Cappy onto Bowser to become him, and fight your way out of danger with Peach to save her life. Again. But here is where things really get out of hand.

Bowser tries to marry Peach this whole game, and you and Peach are ready to be married right here and right now? What? Why haven’t you done that already you idiot, you saved her life a million times because Miyamoto can’t get his raging boner over cartoons from the ’30s. I’m surprised he didn’t steal blackface for these games but they really should have put an end to this troupe after Sunshine was about him getting arrested for graffiti. She was the star of her own game, and used her womanly emotions to fight off enemies! Jesus fucking Christ.

If you liked it you should have put a ring on it, but somehow here we are. Okay, so Mario shrugs after escaping the collapsing lava mountain or whatever. At this point things should just wrap up, a nice kiss, and a real wedding for this poor blonde woman. But no, that would be too easy.

Then their hat ghosts go to knock boots in a celestial dreamscape, sans their corporeal forms. As a symbol for Mario and Peach fucking? What the hell is this shit?

Mario, angry looking for some reason, after saving this helpless fool who I know for a fact isn’t, turns to her…

…the hats are waiting with baited breath making googly eyes…

…as he pimps walks up to her, doesn’t hear the gigantic and colossal dinosaur get up and run over to him????

He is a minimum of like 800 pounds, don’t tell me sound works in space and then use that as an excuse to mask his blindside shoulder hit Nintendo, that is garbage logic and you know it. So Bowser knocks his ass out, after being totally defeated and exhausted, and just finds the strength to wake back up. Yeah okay. Also we know that gravity is not normal, from like the gameplay and the jumping on the surface of the moon, but now it’s back to normal gravity? What gives? Did no one edit this before it went out to the public? Is there no editors or proofers or reviewers for stupidity in all of Japan? I know there are, hire them Nintendo, for the love of god.

Ok so Bowser, a gigantic monster who does nothing but kidnap royalty and race go-karts with strangers and enemies (the ones he made by being evil)  PROPOSES with piranha plant flowers, just magically ready to go, like WHAT you already tried the plan of stealing her for marriage and now you try asking her politely? AFTER? You KIDNAPPED HER what the fuck is this shit, those are living flowers who EAT PEOPLE she isn’t going to choose you right then and there.

So Mario freaks out as if she is going to say yes, like what dude? Why are you panicking? Why are you not finishing the job and murdering this sick creep? He runs over to her and shows her a different flower, the rocket one, in an attempt to win her heart in this sad pathetic competition? What? Uhhhhhhhhhhhh excuse me, you stole his idea and gave her weak ass flowers, not that you needed to, because to remind you my dude you SAVED HER LIFE and chose to NOT MURDER Bowser, he is right there!!!! So they feverishly and fruitlessly compete for her love and affection, scaring the ever living shit out of her, and she isn’t making a decision right after all of that shit, that is traumatic. How she ended up with these two after all of these years is beyond me, she deserves better or is just so damaged she can’t quit either. But that’s another column about her well being. Does she do anything as Princess? Who is the Queen? What are her responsibilities?

Is she confused, did she think Bowser saved her because Mario controlled his body? Why is Mario having to do this, and why can’t she decide, this makes no sense at all, it’s so obvious. Their motivations are all wrong, and logic has clearly stopped being an issue decades ago in the Mushroom Kingdom.

Okay so she gets pissed and storms off, lady you could have died. But maybe it’s just too much all at once and too ridiculous, okay, so just thank Mario he is right there, and leave to talk about it. She says something to the ghosts, what does she say to the ghosts, I don’t know, moving on, she’s walking to the ship wait what. You’re just leaving? Them behind? Excuse me? What the fuck is that, you’re just going to bounce like that? That’s not your ship lady, who said you could go on the Mario ship, with his logo, after he RESCUED YOU.

So Mario consoles Bowser LIKE THEY ARE FRIENDS or some shit, are you shitting me? This isn’t Mario Kart Double Dash, you can’t just team up all of a sudden, the entire length of the game you fought each other IN TUXEDOS AND TAILCOATS.

She fucking leaves them behind! On the moon! What an ungrateful bitch! You stole the ship to leave them to die! She waves goodbye, like this isn’t her abandoning them, a betrayal of the highest order.  And Mario has to leap and get to the ship, HIS OWN SHIP, in order to get off the moon with her. And so he ends the game by throwing his hat at the screen into a logo. That is the end of the game. Bounces off of Bowser’s head, who caught up to them by running? Isn’t he slower than Mario in every conceivable way?

WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK WAS THAT

HOLY SHIT

WHAT IN THE FUCK

what was that nintendo

that is how you end that game? really

give us the ending from super mario world, that was a real ending

im not even going to give you the decency of proper punctuation or grammar or capitalization, fuck you nintendo writers and copy editors and storytellers and narrative designers

luigi won a mansion in a fake contest through the mail

bowser jr thought peach was his mother

birdo is a poor soul trapped in a corporeal body and deserves the true form free from the social construct of a gender spectrum

the supreme court is stolen and illegitimate

im losing my mind

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