Video Games

Alt-Frequencies Review

Alt-Frequencies is one of those games that I really wanted to like.  The premise is super fascinating:  You’re continuously being sent back in a time loop that lasts for a few minutes.  Within that time loop, you can record messages from different radio stations, and send them to other stations to help get the word out about government conspiracies.  How successful you are at getting said message out is entirely up to how much you pay attention to the different stations, and the different characters’ lives while you try to break the loop with your puzzle solving skills.
At its core, Alt-Frequencies is a mystery puzzle game.  I played it on PC, but it originally was for mobile, so the concept was using the touch screen to record messages.  I believe this gameplay can still be done on PC, but the developers of Alt-Frequencies made the game accessible to blind players by making sure you can turn on a mode that only has you using your keyboard.  It also automatically uses your screen reader to read menus, and any non-narrated segments of the game.  This was a wonderful thing to find out and made me instantly buy the game, because we need to support indi developers that have accessibility at the forefront of their minds.  But with all of that aside, how does Alt-Frequencies stack up as a game?

 

GAMEPLAY

 

Like I said, the gameplay is rather simple.  You hit enter to record a message, the up arrow to send a message, the space bar to hear a message you recorded, and the left and right arrows to switch between radio stations.  When you hear something you think is noteworthy and want to send to another station, just record and toggle over to the station you want to send it to, hit up, and they’ll react in a way that clearly tells you whether or not you got the right message to the right person, or whether you need to try something else.  It’s decently easy to figure out what you need to be doing and who you need to take cues from in regards to the puzzles, but at the same time I had a bit of a hard time with some of the later puzzles because it wasn’t super clear who you needed to send what to.  I’m not sure if that’s just my lack of puzzle solving skills, but a teeny bit more direction in where to go would have been nice in the later segments of the game.

 

It would seem like the mechanics would get boring, but I thought for how simple they were they were well executed, and I found myself wanting to find out what was going to happen next in the story.  Speaking of story…

 

PLOT

 

The plot was interesting, but didn’t land it’s mark.  The game when you know what you’re doing lasts about 2 hours tops, and for as much as they were developing the political intrigue it needed more time to have the story be ended satisfactorily.  It felt like we had just gotten into the meat of it, and then it slammed the breaks and the story ended.  The ending itself is a bit obligatory too, and doesn’t really feel like what we were heading towards story wise is what was supposed to happen.  I enjoyed the game overall, but really wish there was more time dedicated to fleshing out the story.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters and the radio stations themselves are the saving grace of this game.  The voice cast was really good at portraying their roles, and making me interested in what was going on for each radio station.  We have a small college station, jerky talk radio show host with more depth to him, big talk show duo and a few others I don’t want to spoil.  But as you go through the time loops, you can toggle through each station and hear how it’s effecting each person.  Do they buy into the time loop stuff?  Should they be doing something about it?  All of these emotions and plot beats are very well executed by the characters, and that’s why the length of the game is a bit disappointing – I really wanted to see more of a plot grow with the cast we got, and although you do see what all of them were doing in the final chapter, I just wish we would have gotten maybe two or three more chapters so the plot came to a better conclusion than we got.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Alt-Frequencies was still enjoyable to play overall.  If you want a short game just to play to pass the time, I’d say pick it up and give it a go.  It’s only $7.99 USD on Steam and I think for that price, you definitely get your money’s worth.  Even though I wanted more from the game, I liked what we got from it at the same time if that makes sense.  A solid 5 out of 10 for me, not annoyed I played it, but nothing that I’m wanting to play again any time soon.

 

You can pick up Alt-Frequencies here.

Anime

Lost Song Review [Spoiler Free]

I was in the mood to watch a fantasy anime after watching a lot of the heavier shows out there (Evangelion, Angel Beats, stuff like that) and when I was scrolling on Netflix, Lost Song’s description was interesting to me.  A magic system based on song, and a girl who wants to fulfill her dream of singing at the Starsong festival?  Sounded like my type of fun, adventurous, entertainingly tropey kind of fair.  What I got instead was a show that started out that way, and ended up in an entirely different direction all together.  Did this show succeed in trope subversion?  Or did it’s plot twists just make it fall flat.
…It fell flat.  Pretty darn hard too.

 

For more, let’s get into the review!

 

STORY

 

The story in Lost song follows two main characters.  Finis, a songstress who has the power to use songs, which work like casting magic spells in this world, who is being used to make sure one kingdom wins obligatory fantasy war.  Rin, a country girl, who also has the power of song, and wants to work her way to getting to the capital so she can sing at the Starsong festival.  Eventually, these two paths converge, and that’s pretty much the plot without spoiling anything major.  I thought the first six episodes of  the show did a good job of showing us the world Finis and Rin live in, and the problems they both had to face.  The show honestly plays out like an RPG for Rin’s plot:  Find new party member, learn new spell, run from soldiers, rinse repeat.  What I found far more interesting was Finis’ story, and her love story with Henry and I wish we would have seen more of this throughout the first half of the show.

 

It turns out, that there is a reason revealed in the second half of the show, that explains why we didn’t see Rin and Finis meet sooner, and it’s honestly a pretty good plot twist that I wasn’t expecting to happen.  How the show handled this after the fact however, didn’t really land at all, because to figure out why it was a good plot twist, I had to look for final episode discussions to see people explaining what the heck was going on.

 

The second half of the series was a confused mess of the show dropping this plot point, trying to explain it to us, trying to make sure it really really made sense and that it wasn’t a convoluted  mess (spoiler, it was) and the final episode’s epilogue, while sweet to an extent, leaves more questions than answers.  Plus, it leaves a ton of plot holes that I’m still trying to figure out after watching.

 

A good plot twist can’t drive a show.  I think Lost Song was really hoping that it would work, and that making this different than the average fantasy show would make it stand out amongst its peers.  This plot twist does the opposite however, and just makes Lost Song confusing and forgettable.  It wasn’t a bad ride by any means, but the show left no lasting impression on me and as of now the biggest thing I can say about it is “It was fine’.”

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters were your average fantasy tropes.  The valiant  knight, the sad damsel who can’t lift a finger to protect herself, the country girl with big dreams and a heart of gold…I’m fine with a story either being plot driven or character driven, and this story obviously was going for an impactful plot, but the black and white nature of the characters was a bit heavy handed at times.  The bad guys were 100% evil and got theirs, the good guys won the day, and the main characters fate is…a bit murky?  Honestly I can’t talk enough about how wonky the plot twist made the show.  The ending for a certain set of characters is really unclear, and I highly doubt that we’ll get any content telling us how their fate ended up ending up, for lack of a better term.  If the plot stuck it’s landing and was executed well this wouldn’t bother me too much, but since the second half of the series went off the rails, it just was more obvious that the characters weren’t really fleshed out.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

 

You can pretty much tell what’s going on at any given time in the show.  It’s a very what you see is what you get type of series, so other than there being sections where music is playing only and not knowing what’s happening, and one episode that has narration and visuals (but that whole episode is a confusing mess so I doubt watching it would have really helped), the show is clear to follow beginning to end.  No audio description for this one, but there is an English dub that is probably the best part of the show for me.  That and the music, the music is fantastic.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The best way I can describe this show is Ar Tonelico:  The anime.  It honestly hit a lot of the story beats as that game did, but the game spent more time fleshing out the world and characters so it worked way better.  If Lost Song was a 24 episode anime, or even 18, then maybe it could have done service to the story it was trying to tell.  As it stands at 12 episodes, the second half of the story feels jarring, rushed, and that our characters just had to go with it so the show could end.  I won’t say it was a bad show, but it wasn’t a good one and it could have been if the plot twist wasn’t just thrown in there to make the show more interesting.

 

I’d give Lost Song a solid 6 out of 10, and that extra number is for how epic the music is.  It’s really a 5 out of 10:  I don’t feel annoyed I watched it, but it didn’t leave any lasting impression on me.  If you want a nice show to pass the time with and aren’t expecting too much, then go ahead and give this one a watch.  The plot twist genuinely shocked me and was a really good concept, I just wish it was executed better than it was.

 

Have you watched Lost Song?  Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

 

Anime

Hi Score Girl Review

Netflix has a lot of anime guys.

 

Random statement to start a post off with, I know, but I didn’t realize how much anime there was on Netflix until I just decided to scroll down the page after watching something.  It’s crazy!  Like pretty much anything I’d want to watch is on here, pretty fantastic.  That’s pretty much what got me into watching anime again, if I’m being honest.  I tried getting on Funimation’s site to watch stuff, the site’s interface was too clunky for me to care, and the same goes for Crunchyroll.  I get not realizing blind people would want to watch anime (I don’t really but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt) but at least have your sites comply to the web accessibility it should and have some headings on there so your site isn’t a pain to navigate, geez!
But that’s a digression for another post.  Netflix has a lot of anime, it’s accessible, and that means I’m all over it~

 

So what was the first anime I decided to watch, you say?  Why, the topic of this blog post!  After reading the premise of Hi Score Girl, it instantly made me interested.  A romance that takes place around all of my favorite things, retro gaming and the 90s?  I’m all in!  But how does this show hold up in the end?  Let’s jump into this review and see!

 

I’ve decided to split my anime reviews into sections.  Headings are my brains best friend, and the best way I can write my thoughts down.  The three things I’ll be reviewing anime on is story, characters, and accessibility of the show.  What is that last category?  Well since I can’t review visuals, instead I’ve turned that section into Accessibility.  Things like how easy is the show to follow?  Does it have audio description?  So basically visuals, but from a blind point of view.

 

Now for   real, let’s get into this!

 

STORY

 

The story of Hi Score Girl is pretty simple at it’s base.  Haruo is a gamer, one of those crazily obsessed, kinda jerky gamers and Ono is the rich girl in school that is aloof, but surprise surprise also into gaming!  She escapes her daily struggles by venturing into the arcades, and is like, top tier amazing and Haruo can have none of that so is a jerk to her until they slowly grow a bond throughout the series, that of course leads to love.

 

The story is basic, but the plot beats are not.  This story takes place over a series of years, from their elementary days to high school and seeing the slow burn of their romance is just really sweet and charming.  The pacing never feels out of place, and seeing the story be related through the lens of the gaming boom in the 90s and early 2000s is really relatable if you grew up in that era.  It’s super nostalgic  hearing the characters talking about Final Fantasy IV, VI, and Chrono Trigger being released, being so happy that amazing voice acting is getting into games, and the running joke of the oh-so-many Streetfighter 2 ports.  That basically is the backdrop for the love story, and it works really well because both blend together perfectly, simply because both characters are into gaming, and the writing for both the accurate gamer depiction and the characters themselves just give the show and it’s characters really good chemistry.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters are really well written.  As much as I think Haruo at times lends a little too much to the jerky gamer guy trope, it doesn’t detract from his character because we see throughout the story what lies underneath.  Ono is silent the entire show, but she is so expressive with her actions that it really doesn’t feel like it.  Koharu, although I was a tad annoyed a love triangle got into this show, is also a really well realized character and you feel for her also, and the way they do the love triangle trope subverts the trope quite nicely I think.

 

The supporting characters are really great as well.  Haruo’s Mom is the best, we need more single Mom’s in shows!  She’s just so much fun, and anytime she was on screen I enjoyed her being there.  There’s a really fun aspect of the show I don’t want to spoil if you haven’t watched it, that I’d count as supporting characters and adds a lot to the gaming aspect of the show that makes it feel like this is someone’s life we’re looking at, and it isn’t just a show.  Haruo’s school friends, Ono’s supporting cast…all just great additions to the show, and if I talked about them all individually we’d be here all day.  Characters are great, long story short lol.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

 

 

Netflix usually doesn’t have audio description for anime.  It’s one of those mysteries I’ll always wonder, “WHY?”.  But for Hi Score Girl, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it had audio description for the episodes, maybe because they’re counting it as a Netflix Original?  Anyway, it helps the show so much.  Like I said earlier, Ono is silent the entire way through other than grunts and expressions, so having the audio description say what she was doing just added so much to the smaller moments in the series.  Having the narrator say what she was doing at any given point in time made her my favorite character, and I don’t think that would have happened if audio description wasn’t there.  I really hope Netflix continues to do this for anime, I think there’s a stigma on it where it would detract from the show but it definitely doesn’t and I mean…you can turn it off if you don’t like it XD


The rest of the show it was nice to have for sure.  It wasn’t intrusive on any of the scenes like it sometimes can be when there’s major action or something, they didn’t duck the audio for the show too much when they had to.  It really just added to the experience and I don’t think the show would have been as fun to watch without it.

 

CONCLUSION

 

If you couldn’t tell, I really enjoyed watching this show.  It’s full of sweet moments, humor, and gaming, and all of it meshes together to make a very fun slice of life anime.  I can’t wait to see what happens in season 2!

 

Have you watched Hi Score Girl?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Cartoons

Steven Universe: The Movie Review [Spoiler Free]

I was planning to post something else today, but then I was able to find Steven Universe:  The Movie to watch, watched it, and wanted to talk about it.  So time for a review on the movie, spoiler free!

 

I want to start by saying, this movie is going to spoil the plot of Steven Universe for you.  Like, the entire series, so if you want to enjoy the ride of watching the series first if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t start with this movie as your first piece of Steven Universe media. If you don’t mind being spoiled, haven’t seen the show, and are fine with just enjoying the journey of watching, then by all means watch this movie first and see if the show is for you.  It will give you a good indication of what the show is all about, because it has everything good in the show in this movie.  Some of the bad things too in my opinion, but the good outweighs the bad.

 

Now if you’re a Steven Universe fan like myself, this movie is just for you.  All the characters you know and love are in character.  There’s one new character that is a great addition to the show’s lore that I hope we see more if we get more Steven Universe content.  The movie itself, I think has a nice beginning and end.  Like the end is stellar.  It hits all of the emotional beats it should have, brought the character’s arc specifically for the movie to a close.  The character made specifically for the movie by far was my favorite.  She goes from being annoying, to you feeling so much for her, and hoping she has a happy ending.  Her ending was very satisfying, and her story in particular didn’t feel nonsensical or rushed, which is prone to happen with movie specific characters.  Her story ties into the lore perfectly, and I hope we get to see more of her if we get more Steven Universe content.

 

The middle of the movie was the weakest part for me.  I thought the plot we went through for the main set of characters was rather tropey, and although they handled it better than most, I would have preferred to see the rest of the Crystal Gems be a bit more active in the story.  The B team had it’s time to shine, and that was nice to see, but for the first half of the movie I wish the main cast had been a little more there.  It was mainly Steven’s journey, which I get he’s the main character of the show, but having the Gems come into play at the end of the movie instead of being active players throughout I was a little disappointed happened.  Like I said, the mid-section of the movie wasn’t bad, I just wish it had been handled a little differently.

If you’re a fan of Steven Universe music, oh boy are you in luck!  This movie is packed with songs.  For me, I wish there were a little less songs, even though I liked every song in the movie:  At a certain point, it felt like they just were padding the movie instead of filling it with character interactions, which is what I prefer in Steven Universe.  I think cut maybe 3 or 4 songs from the movie, add more character moments, and there would be a nice balance between story and music in the movie.  As it stands, it feels like they filled the movie with songs to fill out a soundtrack.  Which is fine, but when it hinders the story telling a bit I think is when you need to cut down, and it personally got there for me music-wise.

 

As far as watching it blind is concerned, Steven Universe has never been tooooo great at making it obvious what is happening when the characters aren’t talking.  During some of the songs they have important plot points happening, and sadly Wikipedia doesn’t really go into in depth detail about what is happening in the movie for it to be perfectly clear.  I wish there was a bit more description in the show, or at least have audio description for the show so it’s easier to follow without watching with sighted friends.

 

All in all, I enjoyed the Steven Universe movie.  I think about 30 minutes could have been cut from its run time because of the previously stated tons of  music, but said tons of music didn’t make the viewing experience any less enjoyable.  I really hope we get more content in this Universe (I really want more of the Diamonds please) and I think this movie is a great addition to the universe of Steven Universe.  I highly recommend watching this movie if you’re a Steven Universe fan, and if you’re not worried about major spoilers for the show, give it a watch if you’re curious.  It gives a good indication of the show’s highs and lows, and overall is super fun to watch.

 

Have you seen the movie?  Let me know what you thought of it in  the comments!

Uncategorized

September 2019 Update

Hi guys!  It’s been a while.  I wanted to write an update post because well, in all honesty, I’ve missed writing this blog and want to get back into it again.  The biggest reason why I stopped was I was working a lot on my YouTube Channel and music and found doing that, plus trying to find content to post on this blog on a weekly basis, was splitting my focus a bit too much for my liking.  So I decided to focus more on music releases, and when I have something to write about on here, I do.

 

Which, was another factor:  I wasn’t doing a lot of stuff I felt like I could write about.  I don’t know why that popped into my head, but it did and just sort of stopped me from posting over here frequently.  Recently, I’ve been getting back into doing more gaming, and watching more anime, reading more books, having a lot of opinions on things going on in gaming and the like…and just really missed writing over here.

 

I think the biggest thing for me was timing it in a way that I wouldn’t get burned out, so what I’m planning to do is post twice a month, instead of feeling pressured to do a post every week.  I feel that’s the best way for me to work, since that’s what I decided to do on my YouTube Channel, and it lowered my stress levels immensely not feeling like I had to post once a week.  So starting in September, I’m going to be making a blogging come back!

 

As it stands now, I’m going to have two posts up a month on Wednesdays.  I’ve already started writing down a list of articles I want to write, so will churn through those for now and hope I can keep my momentum up with this.  I can’t express how happy it’s made me that people have found posts on this blog even though it’s rather inactive:  I’ve had a few people contact me about gaming accessibility, had some nice discussions about shows with others, and I really want to get that sort of discussion going again, and share how I feel about the various nerdy things that I love.

 

So, tomorrow, I’ll have a post up for you guys that isn’t just an update.  Keep your fingers crossed that I can revitalize this blog!  As always, thank you for reading!

Cartoons

She-ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3 Review [Spoiler 3]

I’ve been skeptical about She-ra for a while guys, I’m sure you noticed in my season 1 review.  I was fresh off of Voltron and the train wreck that was that ending, but I loved the old She-ra and had always mentioned to friends and family that I’d be on board with a more dramatic reboot with more fleshed out characters.

 

Seasons 1 and 2 were good, but I was still on the fence about it at the end of season 2.  There was potential, but the plot, pacing, and characters just weren’t quite there yet for me.

 

But season 3, season 3 you guys!  It was only a six episode season, but season 3!  UGHHH it was so good!  If you want my TL;DR opinion:  go watch season 3 right now.  If you’ve also been on the fence about giving this show a try, watching up to season 3 is going to make you decide whether or not you want to be into this show for the long haul.  For me, season 3 took me from being mildly interested in the show, to being heavily invested and willing to recommend other people watch it.  With my gushing out of the way though, onto my spoiler free review of season 3!

 

This season was one of Netflix’s infamous half seasons:  6 episodes for a full “season”.  For once, this didn’t bother me though, because the pacing of the episodes was done so well, and a lot of plot relevant  information was given to us in an even pace.  None of the episodes in season 3 were filler which was nice:  I felt like season 2 tried a little too hard to balance the goofy with the serious, and didn’t do a great job.  In season 3 however, each episode had some comedic beats, but they didn’t take away from the serious parts of each episode.  The character work still is a tad shaky, but it’s definitely improving and I think the balance between character development and plot progression has been fixed.  It doesn’t feel like either is suffering, like in previous seasons.  I’ve said before that the show needed to either be plot centric or character centric, but it’s somewhat proven me wrong in season 3 by doing both well.  I’d personally like more character growth, but if this is going to be a slow burn character wise, which it seems like we’re going for, then I’m all on board for this amazing scifi/fantasy epic story that season 3 has started to give us.

 

I feel like She-ra is having the opposite  effect Voltron did.  Voltron season 3 was the last amazing season.  In She-ra, season 3 is the start of it being a fantastic show that I can’t wait to see more of.  Certain characters still erk me, but now it seems like they’re doing so because of a clear vision for the story to go and it’s not just a case of characters fitting tropes.

 

Season 3 is sosososososo good guys.  Like I said, it got me over my Dreamworks Voltron burns and makes me have hope for this to be a fantastic show.  Please don’t prove me wrong She-ra!  With the amazing pacing, epic plot, and fabulous characters, I highly recommend watching season 3, and giving this show a chance.
Have you watched She-ra and the Princesses of Power Season 3?  Would love to hear in the comments!

Video Games

So I’m Kind of Obsessed with Space Channel 5 Part 2 – Aka, a Review

Game accessibility doesn’t always start and end with it either needs to be an audio game, or it needs to have straight up accessibility features built into the UI.  Sometimes, all it takes is solid gameplay, simple controls, and game mechanics that are easy to grasp, and entertaining enough to mix up into different levels.

 

I recently went through the process of setting Steam up on my computer.  It was to test out a demo of a game that I was told it was going to be accessible, and turned out there were features in menus, but not for the gameplay.  I had gone through the process of setting it all up however, which wasn’t very easy to do (Steam setup isn’t accessible, but workable.  Topic for another post) so I figured, why not keep it installed on my computer, and play some games I knew I had always wanted to play, but were only on Steam.

 

I asked on Twitter for some game recommendations that a blind gamer could play, and got a response from a fellow blind gamer.  Their list was super helpful, and on it was Space Channel 5 Part 2 – a rhythm game from the Dreamcast era, that had easy controls, and said every pattern you were supposed to match verbally.
It’s been a week, and I’ve already clocked 9 hours into this game!  It’s so much fun, and such a basic setup.  It’s not only a rhythm game, but it has a plot that’s equal parts epic, and epically ridiculous.  The soundtrack is fantastic – very reminiscent of Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy music, and I find myself bopping to the music and wanting to replay the levels just to hear said music, and watch specific story beats in the game.

 

Now the big question for blind gamers, is it accessible?

 

For the most part, yes.  The game itself is playable, but when you first boot up the game, there’s a game config screen that doesn’t speak, and it just seems like the game didn’t load.  My computer doesn’t have the best specs, so I thought I just wasn’t able to play the game, but when I had sighted assistance, they had to setup the config screen initially.  After that, the game loaded with no issues…in Japanese.

 

So upon further research, there’s a glitch in the game that starts the language in Japanese.  To fix this, I went into the text file of the config in the PC folder for the game.  Change the voice language from “1” to “0” and reload the game, and you should be good to go!

 

As far as level accessibility, there was one hang up in Report 5 that I’d like to point out.  At that part of the game, there’s one section where you’re dancing against a robot, so instead of verbally voicing the commands, they just make robot noises.  There’s a later section in that level where all they say is “Chu” for every command, and you have to shoot with different patterns there.  So what I did to get past that was watch this video, write down what Ulala was saying, and toughed through it as best I could.  I really just wanted to beat the game, so wasn’t  trying to get a perfect score, but those sections would totally be memorizable in later playthroughs, and I really want to work at getting good at the two sections in this report that I’d have to memorize.

 

But yeah, I love this game!  The goofy camp of the plot is totally my aesthetic.  I love all of the characters – Ulala is the best – and the gameplay mechanics are so sound.  It’s simple, and tons of fun, to the point where I’m trying to find other rhythm games exactly with this gameplay.  Sadly no luck yet, but still on the hunt!

 

This game is accessible, and I don’t think it was trying to be.  But it’s nice to find a mainstream game that just is accessible right out of the box more or less, simply because the controls and gameplay are just easy to grasp, and hard to master.  Having it all voiced was also nice, and something that easily makes a game accessible and it something common in mainstream games, so it’s definitely a step developers can consider when thinking of easy accessibility options.
This isn’t a game I see talked about a lot in the “What games are accessible to play for the blind” talks that pop up so much in blind gamer circles, so I really wanted to spotlight it on the blog, and hopefully help other blind gamers find it.  It’s hard to find good rhythm games to play, so I really hope you enjoy this one if you decide to pick it up on Steam!  I got it on sale, and it was totally worth the price.  I know I’m going to continue replaying this, I already have been turning it on to play through Reports again, and I’m trying to chug through the Ulala 100 stage dance challenge mode.  It’s just a game that’s huge amounts of fun, and I can’t recommend it more for fans of quirky games, with simple gameplay and a lot of heart!

 

So in the words of Ulala, this has been my swingin’ report show!  I really hope this helps anyone considering picking up the game and checking it out!