Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring | iZombie, Season 5
Long journeys beginning and ending...
Game review - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Game summary: An emotional account of two brothers journey into the wild to bring the medicine for their father's ailment. (IMDb)
I have to say that I already knew about a certain event in Brothers: A Tale of Two Suns that I won't spoil here, but knowing it was coming made me hope that it would still work well and, unfortunately, that wasn't the case - the story just doesn't have enough weight to it for that moment to land as hard as it really should, even if you know about. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you might enjoy this game a lot more.
The main reason for that is the unique control system, as you control the titular brothers/sons at the same time, which can be a little confusing - although they always felt like they were more my fault than the game's. After all, the controls are literally for movement and one interaction button for each brother, so it's not exactly that hard a game to pick up and play.
And the situations you have to deal with aren't that limited either, with the Interact command getting a whole lot of different uses in countless contexts - especially when interactions with people require you to use one brother in particular, meaning you might have the right idea, you just need the right boy for the job. The 'puzzles' are so well-designed, that it can take just a glance to figure out what's needed at times.
Brothers looks pretty good too, with an exaggerated, cartoony aesthetic that works well and remains consistent throughout. It also helps to avoid things getting too grisly, such as when you find rivers of blood streaming across a battlefield littered with the bodies of dead giants. A pleasant, if forgettable score keeps things going nicely too; but I really think subtitles for the fictional languages spoken would've helped - you get the point easily enough from gestures and context, but it doesn't feel quite enough.
So why doesn't the story work when knowing about the critical event at the end? Part of it is knowing it's coming and waiting for it to happen; another part is the above language difference creating distance between player and character; but a big part of it for me was that it made what had come before feel wasteful and pointless - something I really don't want to feel at the end of any story.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an odd little game that didn't quite work for me thanks to the event near the ending that I knew was coming at some point, and it's too weak a story to hold up otherwise. The world design is really good though, as is the unique way of integrating the unique controls into multiple different situations that require more thought than initially appears.
Audiobook review - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Book summary: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them. In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. (Goodreads)
My only issue with the story of The Fellowship of the Ring itself isn't so much to do with what Tolkien wrote, but the decision of his publishers to split The Lord of the Rings into the three parts we know it as today. The movie adaptation made the brilliant move of bringing a major death from the start of The Two Towers into this story to give the ending more impact, whereas it does just kind of stop here.
Like I said, that's not a criticism of Tolkien, because why would he write in a climactic moment a third of the way into the story? From his perspective, it made and does make perfect sense to be written how it is and, as far as I'm concerned, is beyond criticism as a result. It does help that the world the story takes place in is so well done that you can forgive this minor 'issue'.
The chief problem(s) with the audiobook version is the format, which I don't really think suits a story like this. First off, there are just too many characters for one person to give unique voices too, with narrator Rob Inglis doing his best, but it can sometimes be difficult to tell who's talking from dialogue alone and requiring the 'said X' part to be read before identifying the speaker.
Also, I'll admit I'm not a fan of the regular poems and songs, which Inglis also performs, as you can effectively just skip over those in the book to the next piece of the story. With the audiobook, it's a case of having to listen through them regardless of enjoyment or fiddle around with with scanning through the time key until you get past it.
This might also be an issue for some when it comes to Tolkien fleshing out the world he's created. I hugely enjoy the mythology, lore and history that we discover through various tales told by a number of characters, but for those that just want the story to proceed, it might prove frustrating. I actually have to admit that even I drifted off when certain parts of legends were being explained that I had no interest in.
Issues created by the audiobook format aside, The Fellowship of the Ring is a great book and is highly recommended. I get that it won't be for everyone - especially the lore dumps - as it can be very slow, but the world-building makes everything seem that much more real and credible, which is a testament to Tolkien's knowledge and love of history and myth that he was able to replicate the epic scale of time in a work of fiction.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring remains a great story, even if the audiobook format is my least favourite way to enjoy it, bringing in issues that the book and movie don't have. It really is just the format that's the problem here, with the characters and especially the world being superbly realised. A highly enjoyable listen when out walking.
TV review - iZombie, Season 5
Season summary: Liv faces off with the U.S. military, Major worries about dissent in the ranks, Peyton tries to make the world see Seattle differently, and Ravi works tirelessly on a cure to stave off violence. (Amazon Prime Video)
Even before starting this fifth and final season of iZombie, it felt like there was too much to take care of in terms of all the plot threads that had been built up and left unresolved - then the show adds even more antagonists and the end result is one big mess. And this time, not even the show's strength - the main cast - are enough to rescue it.
And that's because there's just too much plot to get through. Fun character moments (like in the image above) are few and far between, meaning the show is coasting on goodwill built up over the previous four seasons, but it's just not enough. The cast do still look like they're enjoying working with each other, but that doesn't translate into audience enjoyment anymore.
There are so many twists, turns and swings of power that it becomes boring. There's so many ancillary plot threads and characters to deal with that iZombie just can't cope, jumping around from group to group and location to location where it gets to the point that you just shrug and say "sure, why not?" Most of what happens this season doesn't make sense, so you just stop caring.
Honestly, I had to pause the penultimate and final episodes multiple times because it was so cringingly, skin-crawlingly bad that I felt bad for watching it. Long-term antagonists - who should've been killed off long before - are disposed with a shrug and the new antagonists are only a threat because the 'heroes' of the piece are so incompetent.
I get that there are large groups of people in the US who would behave like some of the human villains in the show, but they tend to be idiots who only don't get arrested because the people who should be locking them up either give them a pass or are in agreement with their goals - here, we have a high-tech military operation actively looking to take down these dumbasses and failing at every step.
Guess what? It doesn't make your characters look great if the threat they're up against is so mortifyingly stupid that the only reason they're a threat in the first place is because the heroes are even bigger idiots. I get that iZombie wanted to increase the stakes for the final season, but it's done so artificially here that you just can't take it seriously, going out with a whimper rather than a bang.
iZombie's fifth season is terrible, sacrificing the show's strength - its characters - to focus almost entirely on the multiple plot threads, which one season was never going to be enough to wrap up even before they added new antagonists and factions to the mix. The only redeeming factor is that a conclusive ending is provided for the characters, so you might as well finish their journeys if nothing else.