Monday, July 31, 2023

Comedy Science Fiction Animated Web Series Episode Review: Futurama - The Impossible Stream

Futurama has returned from the dead yet again with the broadcast of the first episode of the eleventh broadcast season, or the eighth production season. Yes, the season numbering is weird, but blame the Cartoon Network executives for that because that channel's two seasons of Futurama were broken up into four parts.

I'll admit that I'm a huge Futurama fan. I briefly changed my screen name from Lopantu to Bender followed by Flexo, both in 2000, before settling with MetaFox the next year when I got my first arcade cabinet with a Seta game of the same name. I'm not the rose-tinted glasses type though, so I was cautiously optimistic about this episode but prepared for a possible letdown since the series has been off the air for 10 years. That's a long break, so I wasn't sure if the showrunners would be able to get back in the groove right off the bat. 

I didn't have to worry, as it managed to hit the mark with its usual dose of satire relating to today's world, as well as jabs at itself and the executives who cancelled it. The episode starts off right where the series ended in 2013 with "Meanwhile". The Planet Express crew learn that the time-stopping shenanigans of that episode messed with time itself, pulling the world ten years forward into 3023. Fry is distraught that he has been in the future for twenty-three years but has nothing to show for it. He decides to watch every television show ever made. This leads to some funny names of shows that are parodies of popular television and streaming shows, callbacks to previous shows-within a show such as their Twilight Zone parody The Scary Door, the Emeril Lagasse parody Elsar, and a surprisingly funny jab at Netflix's anti-trans comedy specials from Ricky Gervais and Dave Chapelle.

The episode truly kicks off when Fry decides to binge all of the episodes of All My Circuits, Futurama's parody of soap operas which is more like a telenovela parody today as those are the only variation of shows of that type that remain popular. The professor puts Fry into a binging suit, while the rest of the staff gets All My Circuits renewed so that Fry can keep watching episodes before he runs out of them.

I'm not going to say more, as it's definitely worth watching. So far Futurama has all of the humor and wit of its predecessor, reminding me a lot of the humor of the Comedy Central run of the show after the release of four films which ran for four years from 2009 to 2013. The voice actors step into their roles perfectly as well. This aspect of the show especially feels like it never went off the air in the first place. Time will tell if the series retains the heart of the show as well, but as Bender says about Futurama is definitely true. It's back, baby!

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Friday, July 28, 2023

Open World Action-Adventure DLC Review: Sea of Thieves - The Legend of Monkey Island: The Journey to Mêlée Island

The Journey to Mêlée Island, the first chapter of the free Legend of Monkey Island Tall Tale expansion for Sea of Thieves, is available now. It aims to blend the open-world action-adventure pirate swashbuckler with the inventory-based adventure mechanics of the Monkey Island series.

The story fits snugly in between Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island. The Pirate Lord invited Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley Threepwood to honeymoon in the Sea of Thieves. However, there is a curse that makes Guybrush, and presumably Elaine in future chapters, relive memories of past adventures that create a skewed version of whatever island is being remembered.

This makes it possible for pirates from the Sea of Thieves to physically travel to Mêlée Island. Because of this, Kate Capsize and the Pirate Lord want to hire a pirate to free the honeymooners from their curse. The Pirate Lord wants to rescue them, while Kate wants revenge on Guybrush because he switched his face for hers on a wanted poster which caused her to be imprisoned on Phatt Island.

Most of the people on the island appear to be from Guybrush's memories because the SCUMM Bar patrons the chef, the lookout, the shady merchant, the shopkeeper, the ghost pirates, Otis the prisoner, and the three loitering pirates all appeared in Guybrush's first adventure. The presence of Murray could be from the skewed memories due to the curse. I'm glad the latter was included as I really loved Murray in this chapter, especially after he gets what he wants. The animators deserve a raise for Murray's animations.

One character that doesn't belong is a cursed skull from A Pirate's Life Tall Tale who is known as the Cursed Captain. He appears to have actually made it to Mêlée Island but got stuck up on the wall of the SCUMM Bar by the three important pirates. There's a lot of potential for story there and I hope Rare doesn't squander it in future chapters.

I thought the puzzles were fun. I liked how they integrated the Sea of Thieves mechanics into the puzzles too. The sword, tankard, and lantern all were used fantastically. The crane puzzle, especially, was great. It was a head-scratcher, especially when the crane wouldn't lift it. I was stuck for a while before I jumped into the water to see what was going on and saw the solution. That puzzle was something that felt like it could have been in the series proper.

The voices used the voice actors from The Secret of Monkey Island Special Edition or Terrible Toybox's Return to Monkey Island for those that weren't in the LucasArts joint. They were just as excellent here as they were in the preceding games. The music was also used well, with the Monkey Island theme popping up as you approached Melee, the familiar SCUMM Bar music that faded out in volume as you got further away from the bar, and Walt the skeleton pirate playing the skeleton ship theme on his violin. Bonus points for the name Walt, too.

There were some aspects that didn't work as well, however. Hunting for pieces of eight was tedious and not fun at all. At the end of the chapter, I couldn't find all of the money needed for the optional content, so I just gave up and ended the chapter four pieces of eight short. The walk up and down the hill to get to the lookout and back also wasn't fun, and he didn't have enough pieces of eight for the trouble. I kept jumping off early on the path down and losing health. Getting hurt was worth it though, because it cut down on all the tedious walking.

The Journey to Mêlée Island was a good start to the Sea of Thieves Legend of Monkey Island expansion. The story, voice acting, music, and puzzles were great. I really hope the next chapter ditches the money collecting and long walks because it felt like artificially extending the time required to finish the chapter. If the issues with this chapter are sorted in future chapters, we could potentially be in for a great time.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Friday, July 21, 2023

Sea of Thieves: The Legend of Monkey Island - The Journey to Mêlée Island Is Available

Rare's open-world online multiplayer pirate action-adventure swashbuckler, Sea of Thieves, now has more pirate goodness with the addition of a Monkey Island campaign. All of the voice actors from the Monkey Island series have returned as well.

There will be three episodes. The first episode is The Journey to Mêlée Island, which is available right now!