Kevin C. Wong

August 2021

Apple Arcade - Towaga: Among Shadows (2019) [+]

Towaga: Among Shadows is an arcade shooter. You are the last light warrior of your tribe. Travel through 47 phases to relight the five temples, defeat two minor bosses, and finally defeat the big boss.

Each phase is about 3 minutes long and there are three types of side-view battlefields:

  • ziggurat - you are stationary on top of a ziggurat, about in the center of the screen. Bad guys come from the four corners and you shoot them down.
  • plains - you are stationary at the bottom center of the screen. Bad guys come from left and right and sometimes from the upper corners.
  • sky - you are flying the sky and bad guys come from all directions. Use left joystick to move and right to shoot. The sky has boundaries that cause you damage if you fly into them.

This game plays very well with a controller. Usually you're shooting with the right joystick, triggering your equipped spell with either trigger, and recovering from stun with A button. In sky levels you add left joystick for movement.

You collect shards which you use to upgrade your character.

  • More beam power
  • Wider beams
  • More hit points
  • Faster hit point recovery
  • More mana points (to trigger spells)
  • Faster mana point recovery

Your main weapon never changes. You will unlock spells and you equip one at a time. Each spell can also be upgraded.

  • Damage nearby enemies
  • Freeze nearby enemies
  • Slow nearby enemies
  • And there are five other spells. I only used Freeze.

You can also unlock outfits and each one gives you a specific bonus.

After the main 47 phases there is a part 2 campaign with 20 more phases. There are two survival modes for ziggurat and sky. There is a multiplayer battle mode (I think). But only the campaigns are interesting and even though new monsters are added the gameplay starts to stale. Luckily it's a shortish game, 10 to 20 hours, and you can switch from hard to normal mode and back at any time.

It's an entertaining light joystick arcade game and once you're done with it you can move on to other Apple Arcade games.

Spot Reviews 08/27/21

Cabot Cheese [/] Cabot is a farm coop of family farms in the North East and they make lot of different cheeses and other dairy products. I bought cracker cut cheddar cheese. Pre-sliced so it's convenient and tastes fine. Not my favorite type of cheese but something you can share with people. And it's fine supporting small farmers.

Podcast - Brains (2021) [/] Hosts Julian Shapiro and Courtland Allen interview two intelligent people in each episode. I listened to the episode with Alexandra Botez and Shaan Puri. Kind of interesting but there was not much structure and with only half an hour they only seemed to hit like two topics. Other episodes also seem about half an hour so not high hopes of engrossing discussions.

Movie - Hickok (2017) [/] On a bit of a lifelong downswing, ex Army officer and now gunslinger Wild Bill Hickok (Luke Hemsworth) is convinced to become a small town lawman not-quite-controlled by saloon owner Phil Poe (Trace Adkins) who is aiming to marry Mattie (Cameron Richardson) who happens to be Hickok's old flame... It's a direct-to-video movie and kind of looks it.

Anime - Queens Blade II (2009) [/] The second season was better than the first in that there was an actual season-long plot. The competition finally starts and warriors get eliminated. All the while the Queen has an evil plan and is using the competition to eliminate potential rivals. Still a lot of T&A which kind of gets old to be honest.

TV Series - The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) [/]

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is a 6-episode Marvel Cinematic Universe drama. Sam Wilson aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie) teams up with Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) as they chase after a group of super soldier terrorists, the Flag Smashers. In the first episode Falcon decline to become the new Captain America so the US government gives it John Walker (Wyatt Russell), not super-powered but a soldier with three Medals of Honor.

The new Captain America and his partner Lemar Hoskins aka Battlestar (Clé Bennett) are also chasing after the Flag Smashers but kind of working at cross-purposes with Falcon and Winter Soldier. And actually Captain America has the coolest arc as he becomes overwhelmed with the job and is pushed past his breaking point to eventually become a different super hero.

Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl) returns and is forced to help team Falcon. Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) also returns and has a nice secret reveal later on in the series. The fight scenes are pretty good and special effects are also pretty good. I believe this is one-off series so the story is well contained and the loose ends are intended for the next Captain America movie.

Overall a good series.

Apple Arcade - Way of the Turtle (2019) [+]

Way of the Turtle is a 2D platformer using 3D graphics. You play a turtle (male or female) trying to remove an island curse so you can leave and return home. As you wander the island you pick up gold and a few powers while avoiding or jumping on enemies and solving puzzles.

You get four powers

  • Wall climbing by jumping between two walls.
  • Blue shell - crouch and stop (otherwise you never stop moving unless you run into an obstacle)
  • Green shell - zoom a short distance to get across big gaps
  • Red shell - destroy enemies you touch

Each shell has two levels with the second level used to get through specifically marked walls (which also means you back to old areas to do spots you couldn't get to before). You can only change shells at save points which are frequent enough that a lot of times you can clear monsters with a red shell and then go back and use a green shell to do stuff.

The coins are used to buy upgrades like a map of the island so you can teleport a bit. You can also find shards (which are rare) and four shards lets you get an extra heart slot (you start with three). And finally you can find gophers to rescue (there are 42 of them and they don't provide any benefits but are Easter Egg accomplishments).

This game reminds me of a Super Mario World sort of game though a little simpler. Family friendly graphics and sometimes tricky but it's not too hard of a game. I played this with an XBox controller and it's freaking smooth gameplay (touch pad controls can be difficult in some of the tricky parts and sometimes seemed to slightly lag for me). This is the first iOS game I've played that, with an external controller, feels like a Nintendo console game.

Overall one of the better Apple Arcade games.

Spot Reviews 08/20/21

Trader Joe's Turkey Club Wrap [+] It's a 600 calorie cold turkey burrito with salad stuff. Tastes pretty good even refrigerated -- the one I got was not too dry. A bit light for lunch but I guess satisfying for lighter eaters.

Movie - Darkest Hour (2017) [/] Drama about Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman) covering just before he became Prime Minister to about a month after. Focuses on the behind the scenes politics and how Churchill and his family dealt with the pressure. With Kristin Scott Thomas playing wife Clemetine and Lily James as his new secretary... It's a very talky character drama relying heavily on Oldman who almost manages to make this an interesting movie.

Movie - Cosmic Sin (2021) [-] Netflix science fiction action movie. In the far future when Earth finally makes first contact with aliens it goes wrong. A scratch group of commandoes takes it upon themselves to stop the alien invasion. The plot doesn't really much sense. Bruce Willis has a more than cameo role but seems here for his badass persona. Special effects are fairly good but maybe the money should have been spent on a better script.

TV Series - Chernobyl (2019) [+]

Chernobyl is a British 5-episode drama based on the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster. Episode 1 is like the night of the disaster, episode 2 covers the next couple of days, then a week, a month, and several months later.

Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård play Valery Legasov, head scientist directing the cleanup efforts, and Boris Shcherbina, a party officer placed in charge of the cleanup operation. Emily Watson plays a fictional scientist investigating the cause of the disaster (which apparently took many USSR scientist working as best they could since the state didn't want the truth to come out). Each episode has one or two other main characters that pretty much only appear in that episode, covering doctors, miners, soldiers and victims.

I like the behind the scenes because I lived through it but it didn't seem that serious from the perspective of a California teenager. Yes there was a nuclear accident and fairly widespread but seemed to be taken care of. The series points out that it could have been much worse except for the efforts of the USSR to mobilize vast resources to contain the meltdown. And the series also points out how much of a coverup there was.

It's a fairly engrossing series even for a period piece.

Comics - Robyn Hood (2012) [+]

Robyn Hood is a hero from Zenescope Entertainment. Robyn Locksley was high school rebel who is transported to an alternate world with magic. She becomes a Robin Hood-like hero and once back on Earth she starts a detective agency with her witch friend Marian Quin. Later on Robyn operates on her own and has crossovers with other Zenescope heroes.

She's kind of like a contemporary Green Arrow, although I guess most archer heroes are like that and it doesn't help she has a green costume. No trick arrows except for a few provided by her inventor friend Liesel Van Helsing. Robyn tends to battle a lot of demons and supernatural foes to go along with the usual underworld criminals.

I read the first five trade paperbacks (which start once she returns to Earth). Interesting stories as she tries to decide what kind of hero she wants to be and then goes through a bit of a funk then regains her love of doing good.

Spot Reviews 08/13/21

Hallmark Movie - Her Pen Pal (2021) [/] Hallmark movie. Wedding planner Victoria (Mallory Jansen) is organizing a destination wedding in France for her best friend. While there she encounters her child hood pen pal Jaques (Joshua Sasse) and they hit it off again until Victoria's ex-boyfriend realizes he might still have feelings for Victoria. It's average for Hallmark.

iOS Game - Micro Breaker (2019) [/] Freemium breakout game in a limited 3-d playing area. With power-ups and each level has three stars of achievement. Gameplay is fairly smooth for touch. Has occasional ads.

Nature's Intent - Cauliflower Rice [-] This is just finely chopped cauliflower which you microwave for a minute and serve. By itself tastes like cauliflower and feels like cauliflower. If you mix it with sauces and meats then you can almost pretend it's rice, though your body can tell it hasn't had carbs and you'll have a certain yearning.

Movie - The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) [+]

Seventeen yeas ago I reviewed The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) and besides the fact I wrote better back then I also thought the movie was average good (and I probably watched it in a theater). I recently watched it again and this is such an old-fashioned practical effects science fiction movie that looks a bit dated.

And yet the storyline is fine. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is suitably bad-ass and the universe has a Warhammer 40k feel even though I know little about W40k lore. It gives me nostalgic feelings and I guess today I view it as a good action sci-fi movie set in a media franchise that was limited but had depth.

Apple Arcade - Where Cards Fall (2019) [/]

Where Cards Fall is an Apple Arcade puzzle game. In each level you need to get this kid to the exit portal which is on platform usually higher than him. There are other platforms on the map and there is one to three stacks of cards.

You move the stacks around and pinch and expand to build a card house, usually with a flat roof. Use these new platforms to move the kid to another stable platform (the kid can jump across small gaps and climb down a level by himself).

Later levels you have areas where you can stack cards but the kid can't walk on, or stacks that create houses with sloped roofs that allows climbing up a level or two.

In between levels are short vignettes about this kids life and his travails at home, school and with his friends. There is no dialog and the vignettes are short so you're getting 50-odd glimpses that tell a story of this kid.

I did about 20 levels before I got bored and this game has 50+ levels. There is a good hints system that shows an outline of where the next house should be built. Graphics and sounds are good. UI was ok on my 10-inch iPad but sometimes I had trouble pinching and contracting/expanding card stacks (you can't zoom into the scene nor rotate the view).

This was an Apple Arcade release game and it's not bad.

Spot Reviews 08/06/21

Seeds of Change - Brown & Red Rice with Chia & Kale [+] Two servings which you just microwave for 90 seconds to prepare. Fairly tasty for brown rice, with a bit salt (there's added sea salt).

Apple Arcade - Word Laces (2019) [/] This is a word game. A picture is shown on the top. One or two letter bubbles are on the bottom arranged in two columns. Form words related to the picture by starting at one bubble then dragging to a bubble on the opposite column then back again, sort of like badly lacing a shoe. When you finish a word the bubbles disappear and more slide up from the bottom. Once you've done a few words and used all the bubbles the level ends... interesting and got challenging fast (there is a hints button) but not my kind of game.

Netflix Movie - The Ice Road (2021) [-] Liam Neeson as a trucker who takes on a dangerous assignment. A team of three trucks has like 17 hours to get one wellhead to a remote Canadian mine that suffered a gas explosion. With roads impassable they have to take the ice road, basically a frozen over river. Meanwhile someone doesn't want to let them succeed so besides the elements and the road they have to contend with sabotage and later more direct intervention... It does come off as tv-of-the-week quality and unfortunately a bit of a waste to watch.

Movie - Frozen II (2019) [+]

I heard that Frozen II was not as good as the first one which made it move way down in my to watch list but I did finally watch it and it's pretty good.

When elemental magic threatens Arendelle it's up to Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) and their friends Kristoff (Jonathan Goff) and Olaf (Josh Gad) to venture into the Enchanted Forest and unlock its mysteries. Inside the forest they find a lost squad of Arendelle warriors and the Northuldran people who are a nature-respecting one-with-the-elements sort of people. Both sisters must together and separately find a way to restore elemental balance to the forest and discover some secrets of their family...

It's a good story with some musical numbers. Instead of being about sisterly love it's a bit more about both sisters becoming more independent of each other, especially Anna who often wants to tag along but is now forced to be the heroine of her part of the story. There's a touching scene with Olaf and some comedy bits from Kristoff as he tries to find the right time and place to propose to Anna.

As I said this is a good movie. A good family movie.

iOS Game - Tiny Room Story: Town Mystery (2021) [+]

Tiny Room Story is a tap-based puzzle-solving game developed by Kiara Games. You are trying to solve the mystery of your father's disappearance (and all the townspeople for that matter). Each chapter you visit a location which is a set of connected rooms. Each room is an isometric view and you have to swipe right and left to rotate the room so you can see all the walls.

Tap to interact with objects. If it's an item you can pick up it automatically goes into your inventory. If it's something you manipulate the item moves (many clues are hidden behind or under items) or you get a closeup where you tap to do stuff. Tap room exits to leave and everything is clearly marked and if you can interact with something then it's useful/needed to solve a puzzle.

Puzzles I've seen:

  • Find missing parts to activate a machine or object.
  • Find the numbers or symbols for a password.
  • Manipulate an item in the correct sequence to reveal the next clue.
  • Move items around in order to open doors (or get to an alternate entrance).

I've played the first third of the game and sometimes the puzzles are repetitive in mechanics though different setting and there's a plot going on so it remains interesting. But half the puzzles are fairly unique and in general the chapter areas are fairly small so you don't have to remember a clue that won't be used for half an hour.

The puzzles kind of vary in challenge. I'm not that great at puzzles so had to look at a walkthrough a couple of times (Appegamer has a good guide that both doesn't use videos and is up to date because some of the other guides seem to be based on an older version with slightly different puzzles).

It's been a pretty fun game and I spent the $3 to unlock the rest of the game.