The Jungle Book is a 2016 live action plus CG action/adventure film by Disney Studios which is based on the 1967 animated Disney film of the same title which is in turn based on a collection of stories with that same title published in 1894.
Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is a “man cub”, a human boy who was separated from his family when he was just a baby and raised by the wolves Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and her pack after he was brought to her by the black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), who still visits them as a friend.
Mowgli lives peacefully among the animals for a number of years, until one year while at the watering hole during a drought they encounter a fire-scarred tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) who has a vendetta against humans for disfiguring him. He tells the wolf pack that if the boy isn’t gone by the end of the drought then he will kill Mowgli. The pack debates what the best thing to do is, but Mowgli decides that he should leave for the benefit of the pack and Bagheera offers to guide him to the nearest man-village.
Shere Khan hunts them as they try to travel safely and Mowgli makes new friends along the way who help him on his journey, including Baloo the bear (Bill Murray). Mowgli’s clearest route to safety is to be returned to a man-village, but he doesn’t know their language or any of their ways and he doesn’t want to leave the wolf pack who have been his family his whole life.
This movie has a great set of voice actors, and it’s fun to see these actors apply their voice talens to a familiar franchise, though, as with many of the Disney live/CG remakes it did sort of leave the question “why did this need to be remade? Wouldn’t the time and effort have been better spent on something new?”
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the Nintendo Switch is a 2019 polished and expanded version of the 1993 Game Boy game of the same title. It is part of the Legend of Zelda series of games that came out shortly after The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and has a very similar look and game engine and many of the same items, but has its own feel and story and additional items and enemies all its own.
The story begins at an indeterminate time in Link’s life, and not even clear which Link it is (as the characters named Link in the series as a whole are actually generations of heroes with the same name, rather than a single character), but I think it’s most likely given the timing of the game that this is the Link from A Link to the Past some short time after that game (because he mentions Zelda. The game begins with a ship that Link is sailing on running into a fierce storm that causes a shipwreck, and he wakes up on mysterious Koholint Island to the face of someone who looks very much like Zelda.
This game is, to this day, a major departure from the series in that it is missing many of the major elements that define the Zelda formula. Most of the games are defined by the magical Triforce and the three people that seem to be tied irrevocably to each of its aspects: Zelda for wisdom, Link for courage, Ganon/Ganondorf for power. But this is not a game about Zelda, or about Ganon (a little funny that a Legend of Zelda game barely mentions the titular princess).
The game is almost entirely the same as the original Game Boy version. The mechanics, enemies, dungeons are generally the same. The most noticeable change is the graphics, which are all 3-d rendered and look very pretty and glossy, and it’s fun to see the update. Other graphics related changes such as the overworld is split up into clear “screens” that scroll from one to another, they instead flow smoothly. A big change is that the Switch takes advantage of having more buttons by assigning dedicated buttons to the most vital items like the sword and the shield–in the original game boy game there were two item buttons that you can assign to anything including the sword and the shield, so if you wanted to use two other items, you couldn’t use the sword and shield at all. There is also a new side game where you can build your own dungeons out of preset room blocks, and a new optional dungeon which you will have to find yourself that’s not part of the main quest.
Whether you played the game when it originally came out or you’re new to it, this is a fun game to get hold of. It’s a good introduction to the series as well, because it is a little more forgiving in some ways than the others in the series.
Visuals The main update from the original are the visuals and they look very nice! Kindof a cute and glossy overhaul, making the character and enemy designs much more detailed than the original Game Boy version was capable of.
Audio Catchy as ever, The Legend of Zelda series has always had excellent earworms.
Challenge Overall this is probably one of the Zelda games with an easier learning curve. The top-down view is easier to navigate for beginner players than the modern full-depth worlds. The phone huts throughout the world give you hints on what you’re supposed to be working on next. If you die in the overworld you can choose to continue on the exact same screen without penalty (this is extremely handy for younger players) and if you die in a dungeon although you have to restart from the beginning you at least get to keep any progress you made (i.e. keys collected, doors unlocked) before you died. It’s a good choice if you want to introduce a kid new to video games to the world of Zelda.
Story The story is pretty light and not particularly sensible. Link spends the game risking his life to wake the godlike entity whose very dreaming defines the island and everything on it. It seems like a really bad plan, and never at any point in the game seems like a good idea, but it’s the only way to move forward with the plot.
Session Time Since you can save anywhere and continue back from that same screen on the overworld this makes it very easy to pick up and down. Although dungeons would require a little bit of re-playthrough you can at least keep progress made. And of course the Switch still has the major advantage of being able to sleep and unsleep very quickly.
Playability Controls are easy to pick up, of course it takes some skill and practice to get get at attacking and dodging effectively.
Replayability There is some replay value in trying to collect all of the secret shells that are scattered throughout the land, to try to earn the rewards, and also to tackle the secret dungeon that’s been added in this version, find all the pieces of heart, and etc.
Originality Of course this incarnation is a remake of an earlier game, so you can’t judge this incarnation fairly on its originality. The original game itself used the format of another game of its time very closely: the SNES game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, including many of the same items. But even at that time it did add a significant number of new things and had its own feel.
Playtime Legend of Zelda experts will probably breeze through most of it, as it is one of the easier games in the series, but there are still quite a few dungeons to discover and defeat as well as plenty of things to discover in the overworld.
Overall The original incarnation of this game is still one of my favorite Game Boy games, an excellent entry in the Legend of Zelda series, and although it borrowed heavy from its SNES predecessor it is still an entertaining and fun game in its own right. This remake of it makes it easy to find for a new generation, as well as updating the graphics and adding some new content, and it was a great deal of fun to revisit it. You can buy it for the Switch for $60 anywhere Nintendo Switch games are sold.
Watership Down is a survival adventure book written by Richard Adams published in 1972 that might arguably be classified as fantasy as well, which was adapted into a well-known children’s movie in 1978. It follows a group of young bachelor rabbits who run away from their warren when one of them has a premonition of coming disaster. The book follows them as they try to find a suitable location for a new warren and try to settle back down.
Multiple rabbits are point of view characters throughout the book, but the most important rabbit to the story is Fiver, the one who has the premonition of disaster (an upcoming construction site where the warren is located), which might be psychic or might just be intuition based on the sudden incursion of signs announcing the construction project. Hazel is the one who first believed Fiver’s warning and helped convinced the others to make their escape. Most of the group are pretty scrawny, secondary members of the warren, except for Bigwig, who is a member of the Owsla, the warren’s internal enforcers. And then there’s Blueberry who seems to not think like a rabbit at all, coming up with new strategies that no other rabbit would even consider.
As they travel across the English countryside they come across other dangers, and meet rabbits from other warrens, and try to avoid humans as much as possible. Before their flight, they have never left the area immediately surrounding their warren, so they come across many things that seem fantastical from their points of view. All they really want is a stable and happy place to live, trying to find food and eventually mates (can’t establish much of a warren with only male rabbits!).
The book is marginally speculative, if you like to have something of the fantastical in the stories. Fiver’s premonitions and Blueberry’s unrabbitlike thinking are the sort of things that might be considered speculative. And the ease with with different species of animals communicate with each other and rabbits strategize their actions together. Besides that the rabbits have a rich tradition of storytelling wherein they tell trickster myths about El-ahrairah, the greatest of rabbits, Prince of a Thousand Enemies. The story as a whole is given a sense of realism despite this speculation, because the author apparently did a lot of research into rabbit behavior and rabbit social structures and the like in preparation to write this story, that it all feels very real.
I’ve heard the book/movie referenced often enough that I wanted to give it a try. I had so few preconceptions about the story that I assumed that it was a nautical tale from the title. The myths were my favorite part of the book, to the point that I was always disappointed when one of the myths ended–the real-world stuff was interesting enough, but paled next to the myths for me. Overall I’d recommend it, especially if you like to get references to classic literature, since this one does seem to come up pretty regularly. It’s a compelling tale of survival.
Minit is a puzzle adventure game with a very short time limit published by Devolver Digital in April 2018.
The story begins as the duckbilled protagonist finds a sword lying on a beach. But it turns out to be a cursed sword that will kill the holder one minute after finding it, only to be spawned back at his house only to repeat again and again and again! Apparently these cursed swords are being produced at a local factory, so you need to go find the factory and complain. Which wouldn’t be so hard, if you didn’t respawn every minute. Minit is an incremental problem solver, where for each incarnation you have a minute to try to make some kind of progress, find a new item, find a new friend who might give you a clue, open a new shortcut to save you time next time. Where the trend is always bigger bigger bigger, bigger world to explore, larger and larger map, it’s an interesting take to head in the other direction. The game is fun, has a good sense of humor and the minute limit keeps everything pretty fast-paced.
Very minimalist, down to being strictly black and white (not even gray). Cute graphics, but not complex at all.
Likewise, extremely simple.
Challenge Low to medium level of challenge. Persistent players should be able to make their way through just by relentless exploring. There are a couple parts where you have to fight against multiple enemies–you can make it easier if you can find some heart containers first, but it shouldn’t be too hard for most gamers.
Story Quite light on story, just enough to justify the scenario (with the cursed sword) and the quest (to resolve the issue at the sword factory).
Session Time Very short! A maximum of a minute, in fact, as you will die at a minute anyway and restart from a house. This does make it a very easy game to pick up even if your time is scattered.
Playability Very simple controls, generally just arrow keys and attack, so very easy to pick up, and to understand the scenario.
Replayability There are various collectibles, like coins and hearts and other items. I finished the game only finding about half of them, so you could keep playing if you wanted to find them all.
Originality The overall story and style is similar to other games, but the interesting tweak here of the 1 minute time limit is an interesting twist on the concept, and was the main thing that made me pick it up.
Playtime I finished the main quest of the game in about three hours. I haven’t tried to find all the collectibles, so I don’t know how long that would take.
Overall It’s a fun and simple idea for a game that doesn’t take a lot of skill or attention, and has wonderfully short play sessions to make it easy for people who game in scattered spare time. Worth the time to play through it, but don’t expect it to last you a long time. $10 on Steam.