Mini Metro | The Rocketeer | Frasier, Season 3
From under the ground to high in the sky
Game review - Mini Metro
Game summary: A strategy simulation game about designing a subway map for a growing city. Draw lines between stations and start your trains running. (Steam)
I've got both the desktop and mobile versions of Mini Metro, although I haven't played the latter (I got it for free, so don't judge) so this review is based entirely around the 'big screen' version of the game. The problem is, I think that the nature of this game would work best as a mobile title, even if there aren't really any serious flaws other than the expected repetition of such a limited premise.
And yes, it is very limited indeed, although the game isn't exactly deceptive about what you'll be doing, so I don't want to criticise it too much for that. It would be especially hypocritical seeing as a I generally keep to playing the London map anyway so never make the most of the game as it is! Regardless, I don't think many people will play extended sessions of Mini Metro anyway, as one game is usually enough - at least, for me.
What I will praise Mini Metro for unreservedly is how pleasant an experience it is to play. The controls are simple enough, so there shouldn't really be any issues picking up what you need to do even as further options open up as you progress. But what really impresses me the most is how nice an audio-visual experience such a simple-looking game could be.
Everything's kept simple and clean, with no gratuitous elements or unnecessary flourishes, with the simple style allowing for greater visual feedback for the player when something's going wrong - which will happen often. The sound design is also pretty great too and tends to be quite soothing in its own way, which is helpful when things begin to get complicated.
The biggest issue I have with Mini Metro is the random nature of how maps can start and progress, meaning that you might have certain games where you find it easy to build up a system quite quickly that'll take you a long way, but the next game might prove extremely hard and leave you frustrated and eager to close the game. I don't think that the game should've been made entirely predictable for how each map would play, but a higher level of similarity to ease players in when you repeat a map would've helped.
Mini Metro is a limited game, but does what it sets out to do very well, so it feels a little mean-spirited to judge it for that, but the randomness that can make play sessions frustrating because of the game rather than player error do drag it down. Still, it's definitely enjoyable enough in small bursts, with a very pleasing audio-visual aesthetic.
Movie review - The Rocketeer
Movie summary: A young pilot stumbles onto a prototype jetpack that allows him to become a high-flying masked hero. (IMDb)
The Rocketeer is one of those movies that I would say feels like it's greater than the sum of its parts, but I think that would be doing a disservice to some of those parts. The best of which is how this movie looks and sounds, taking place in 1930s Hollywood, which isn't your typical setting for a comic-book action-adventure adaptation after all.
Playing into that is Timothy Dalton, who looks like he's having great fun as Neville Sinclair, chasing after the jetpack used by Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) for his own nefarious ends. Jennifer Connelly is great as Jenny too, with plenty of moments that feel like she could've come across poorly if not for Connelly being so charming and thoughtful in the role that you can always find a way to empathise with her.
Campbell himself doesn't deliver the deepest performance, but it's a role that really doesn't demand it either, being a simple case of a generally decent guy wanting to save his girl while saving the day from the villains of the piece. That might be a little reductive, but it works nonetheless, as does Alan Arkin as his cool and unflappable friend/mentor, Peevy.
The Rocketeer also has a more complicated plot than might first be thought, with so many people wanting the jetpack and allegiances shifting constantly that you can't just switch off or you'll lose track of who's working with who. It's not exactly a brain-tester, but it does mean you have to pay attention to the movie, which is never a bad thing.
I've always liked this movie since I first saw it and it's pretty easy to see why the director, Joe Johnston, was hired by Marvel Studios to make Captain America: The First Avenger. There are heroes, villains and even a Howard Stark-esque character in the form Terry O'Quinn's Howard Hughes, with an ending left open for a sequel which The Rocketeer unfortunately never got.
The Rocketeer might be 30 years old now, but it's still just as fun to watch now as when I first saw it as a kid, even if it's a bit of a time capsule now, seeing even American criminals standing up to fascism and Nazis rather than embracing it. The look and sound of the movie is great too, making you wonder why there aren't more action movies in general that take advantage of different time periods to create something unique.
TV review - Frasier, Season 3
TV summary: Continues to highlight Frasier's tensions with his father, on wider fronts than just the home; Niles also becomes separated from Maris during this season; Daphne begins to have a more serious love life.
Frasier's third season is when I remember 'classic' Frasier starting, with the shorter hair the character would keep for the rest of the series marking that particular turning point then. It was a bit of a surprise for me to discover that this was my least favourite of the three seasons so far, although - this being Frasier after all - it's still incredibly good.
I think the biggest 'problem' is that the quality is a little too spread out, meaning that each episode has one or more moments of genuine brilliance, but there aren't a large number of episodes that stood out on their own as great from start to finish. Then again, this season does have one of the best in the show's entire run in the shape of "Moon Dance", so it may be just a karmic trade-off.
It's especially strange how good that episode is because of how little there is of Frasier in it, with Kelsey Grammer directing the episode (this was his debut directorial effort on the show). It's hilariously funny, sweet, poignant and it also has one of my favourite serious moments courtesy of the late, great John Mahoney when Martin tells Niles he's aware of how he looks at Daphne. It's a small moment, but it speaks volumes about both characters.
Frasier's third season is still brilliant fun to watch, although the least good season so far - 'least good' being the key term as even though it's the weakest of the three seasons so far, it's still better than even the best seasons of plenty of other comedy shows. A lot of future plot threads are set up here, most notably Niles' split from Maris, leading to the best episode of the season.