As the weather warms up and optimism grows around the U.S. over a successful vaccine rollout, there’s potential in the air that the rest of 2021 can be salvaged. While I am one of the many eager to step out of self-hibernation and into the world once more, the past few months has been good for video games, reading, and watching. Here’s a brief roundup of what has been keeping me entertained until those summer vibes eventually lure me away from the comfort of my own home.
If you follow my blog consistently you’ll know that Cyberpunk 2077 has taken up most of my gaming hours. What was meant to be a main story focused playthrough turned into an attempt at clearing away almost all of the side quests the game has available. From NCPD (Night City Police Department) Scanner Hustles to Gig assignments given by fixers, I’m nearing full completion of these smaller, optional quests that aren’t tied to the main story or the supporting characters V meets throughout Night City.
These smaller quests can be arduous and repetitive after you have done a ton of them with little to no variation between them, but I do take great pride in clearing out all the criminal activity going on in each neighborhood, and I’m thoroughly impressed by how close I am at completing these tasks until all that’s left are the story and character related quests. It won’t be long now before I finally beat my first run of Cyberpunk 2077 over the summer.
Ori and the Blind Forest
I wrote about my attempt at taking a stab at Ori and the Blind Forest for the Nintendo Switch after I received it as a Christmas present last year. Being that this is a platformer video game it’s a tough one for me to get through because I’m terrible at playing them overall. Still I wanted to make a valiant effort at trying it out, especially when the video game is absolutely beautiful to immerse yourself in. When I started playing Ori I did relatively well for a while until I no longer wasn’t.
Even if you’re playing on the easiest setting with this game the challenges are still difficult and unforgiving at times. When I thought I couldn’t get past a new part in the game I eventually found a way to progress, though, with a lot of cursing and teeth grinding on my part. Unfortunately, I have finally encountered my first insurmountable wall with Ori and the Blind Forest and no matter how many times I’ve gone back to it, to see if today will be the day I overcome the hurdle, I can’t go any further. I know part of it is my lack of finesse and timing with wall jumps, but if your interest in playing games is to enjoy the story and what was built you’re not going to get much of that when you’re too busy being stressed and frustrated over being stuck.
For the time being me and Ori are on a break until I’m ready to pick this one up again. Or until I can get help from one of my gamer friends who are far better at platformers than I’ll ever be.
Those familiar with GRIS might sense the irony here. Didn’t you just say you’re horrible at platformers? Yes, except this game was also given to me as a birthday present last month and by the same person who gifted me Ori and the Blind Forest. My older sister is very good at researching what are the best games to play, but seems to have a knack for choosing the type of games I tend to steer clear of. After playing about 30 minutes of GRIS recently it seems far more forgiving and less challenging than Ori and the Blind Forest.
From what I heard of GRIS it’s a video game that tackles grief in a really unique way. My short time with the video game has unveiled a beautiful, strange world that this unnamed girl you’re playing as has to navigate through. Accompanied by a haunting and emotional soundtrack I was instantly drawn into the game.
GRIS is definitely one I plan on coming back to, between my jaunts in Cyberpunk 2077, over the next few months.
These Violent Delights
Continuing my goal of reading at least 20 books by the end of the year, what I have read so far has been wide and varied. I have switched from classic literature to YA to graphic novels. This month I have started reading author Chloe Gong’s debut YA novel These Violent Delights, which reimagines the Montagues and Capulets of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as two opposing gangs, the White Flowers and the Scarlets, in Shanghai, China.
A mysterious contagion seems to be spreading throughout the city and causing people to rip their own throats out, affecting both members of the White Flowers and Scarlet Gang. Despite the personal grudges Juliette Cai and Roma Montagov have against each other, they’ll have to set aside their differences and work together to figure out what is causing this violent reaction and how to stop it.
I’m only a few chapters in but it’s an intriguing new spin on a well-known love story and family feud that has stood the test of time. It appears Gong’s novel is the first of many to come, and so far I’m finding the very atmospheric setup and the strained relationship between Juliette and Roma enough to keep me reading.
WandaVision & Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Marvel’s commitment to expand on the stories of supporting characters that don’t always get to be front and center in the MCU started with the release of WandaVision earlier this year and continued with Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+.
As a fan of the Marvel movies it was a no brainer to prioritize these new shows on my TV watching schedule. After finishing WandaVision I was excited to jump into Falcon and the Winter Soldier next. While WandaVision became a meditation on grief and loss, Falcon and the Winter Soldier examined the legacy left behind by Captain America and what it could mean for a Black man to potentially take up the mantle.
What’s surprising about these Marvel shows is the way the writers manage to balance complex topics with the usual Marvel sized action and adventure you come to expect from their brand. Aside from being entertaining both shows give you a lot to think about by the end of it.
Movies based on video games have been mostly disappointing. The gripe from most gamers is that Hollywood doesn’t seem to know how to do them right. When the trailer for the new Mortal Kombat movie came out it seemed to show a lot of promise, or at least a better attempt at honoring the history of the fighting game.
I had the chance to catch the new film on HBO Max recently and while I can’t really compare it to the 1995 version, since I’ve never seen it, I thought it was an enjoyable adaptation. Many of the notable characters from the game made it into this new version, like Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Sonya Blade, Jax, and many others. Those familiar with the games will love the references incorporated into the movie, such as beloved lines said by the character themselves or the fatalities that do wind up in the film. Considering how bloody and gruesome the game’s fatalities can be, especially the latest installments of the Mortal Kombat games, it’s amazing how far the movie managed to go with the violence and gore without veering past the R rating.
Shadow and Bone
I’m a sucker for a good fantasy story and Netflix’s Shadow and Bone ticked off all the boxes I love about the genre. Magic? Check. Fantastical world setting? Check. Girl chosen to save the world from catastrophe? Check. Potential love interests a heroine has to choose between? Also check.
Based on the YA fantasy series by Leigh Bardugo Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina Starkov who discovers she’s the fabled sun summoner that Ravka has been waiting for to dispel the region of the Fold, a shadowy barrier that’s filled with dangerous monsters, splitting the area into two.
I never read the books nor have I heard of the series before it became a Netflix show, but after watching the first four episodes I’m convinced to add Bardugo’s fantasy series to my never ending list of books to be read.
What have you been playing, reading, or watching lately? Share them with me in the comments!