I haven't had anything lengthy to post about in quite a while, so my LiveJournal has been dormant, and I've been more active on Twitter instead. But there have been four neat things I stumbled across this year that I'd like to share: two video games and two cartoons.
The first video game came out in March, "Ori and the Blind Forest". It's technically a 2-D platformer, but it's far more gorgeous than any other 2-D platformer I've played. It's of the Metroidvania family, which means you get to explore your world and gradually gain new powers to access places you couldn't reach before. You start the game in a dying forest, and your mission is to bring it back to life by releasing the spirits of Water, Winds, and Warmth, each of which are hidden in locked temples. Retrieving the key to each temple is an epic adventure itself. The game art is beautifully drawn, the orchestral soundtrack is magnificent, and the gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable. It's currently on sale for $11.99 on Steamonline.com.
The other game that got me hooked this year is an obscure title with a huge cult following, "Undertale". Made mostly by one person, it features old-school MIDI music and retro graphics, but it has charm and cleverness that grow enormously as you go deeper into the game. It's a traditional JRPG game with an ingenious hook: you don't have to kill any of the monsters if you don't want to. The story is breathtaking, especially at the end. If "Ori" was the Boston Philharmonic, "Undertale" is Bob Dylan with a guitar. It's on sale at Steamonline.com for $7.99.
"Madoka Magica" starts off with the same basic formula as Sailor Moon and most other Japanese magical girl series (cute animal arrives and offers teenage girls magical powers in order to fight off evil), but the creators made one tiny twist to the formula which sent the whole series off the rails into unexpected, unpredictable territory. The series is only twelve episodes long (plus a theatrical follow-up movie called Rebellion), so it's tightly scripted and doesn't get bogged down like the series that go on for years. The animation is stunning, the soundtrack is energetic and moody, and the English dubbing is excellent. Unfortunately the series is expensive to buy on BluRay due to short supply; you might be better off finding it on a streaming service (Amazon Video has the first four episodes available to see if you like it).
A friend hooked me up with a promo short from "The Amazing World of Gumball" and I immediately got hooked. It's full of 10-year-old-boy humor, about 1/3 The Simpsons, 1/3 Monty Python's Flying Circus, and 1/3 Calvin & Hobbes. The show focuses on Gumball the cat and his fish-brother Darwin, but there's a cast of dozens, my favorite of which is Anais, their 4-year old little sister who is the only intelligent person in the entire city. Expect ludicrous humor, bad puns, frenetic action, and a complete absence of boredom. It airs weekday afternoons on Cartoon Network and can be purchased on Amazon Video too.