Review is a video game you can play on iOS, Android, or on a browser online. I first played it on an iPad after my daughter expressed interest because she saw Ryan, from Ryan’s Family Review, playing it. After awhile, I paid to get the ads removed and one day, curious about the purpose of the game, I played it myself.

I liked it.

You play as a Slither, a snake with two eyes and a body. You can build your Slither, if you so choose, from a select set of colors or you can choose from a pre-made set. At first, I made my own but eventually settled on a pre-made black and yellow. The more pellets you eat, the longer your snake. The snake’s length is essentially its score so the goal is to grow your snake as big as possible. If your head hits into another snake’s body, you die. While the pellets one can eat on the map increase your length, the dead snakes give even more, adding a competitive edge to exploring and slithering around on the map, though it doesn’t have to be that way.

To my relief, a lot of other snakes are actually happy to simply eat and try not to kill each other. Some do, some don’t. I find it more relaxing when we’re all happy to just eat to get big and go on our merry way. Lately, I’ve been playing on my phone more since that has the option to play against the A.I. The game-play is faster and to me, maybe the most noticeably different thing, is the A.I. snakes are maybe not quite as aggressive or coordinated as some snakes online. By coordinated, I mean both that at least once online, I did feel two snakes were actively working together to kill mine, and they succeeded, and also that the other players know the exact right way at the exact right moment to destroy me with ease. They have good coordination in their own timing.

In any case, both experiences give me a little snake to make into a big snake, and I think I’m so cute when I’m little and so proud when I get big. I’m generally content to get over 1,000 though lately, I’ve even managed to get on the leader-board against the AI. In fact, as I type this review, my latest and best score from tonight (4/12/2018), is 18,501.

My approach is to mostly just work on eating whatever I can get to with as little danger as possible. I tend to play with caution though the more willing you are to risk, the faster you can get big. One strategy I saw on YouTube was to get on the leader-board and then make your snake into a big circle and go in and out of your coil to eat whatever is nearby in or out of it. I sometimes use that even when I’m not on the leader-board. It does put me at risk of being wrapped, but it’s a risk I take. I mean, playing the game itself and being near other snakes is a risk too. Sometimes instead of a circle, I just go up and down and hope maybe another snake ran into my tail.

Once I do get bigger, I might try wrapping the smaller snakes. Some do their best to spin and hope and work to getting out, and they do, because I might move on, and others outright give up and kill themselves. Another video I watched suggested a lot of good, aggressive tips, but I prefer to play at a calmer, passive pace. helps me unwind, literally and figuratively.

You can play on a browser for free and see ads. The iOS version is also free with ads though for that one, you can pay to have them removed. It cost $4.32, and I do feel I have received my money’s worth from both my daughter’s and my own enjoyment. Since I paid for it on the iPad for her, the ads were removed when I put the game on my own iPhone as well.

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Powerful with a Little Bit of Tender

I learned about Janelle Monáe from my favorite writer, Trudy on her blog, Gradient Lair, in this piece: Janelle Monáe’s Womanist and Afrofuturist Trilogy of Songs. Since then, she’s been one of my favorite musicians and definitely someone whose work I appreciate and anticipate.

Last week, she released two new music videos, Django Jane and Make Me Feel, that will be on her album premiering April 27th, Dirty Computer. They were a treat, and I’m especially happy with Make Me Feel: the beat, the colors, the inclusion of her close friend, Tessa Thompson, the celebration of the feelings described in the lyrics, and the visual queer celebration of a woman flirting with and lusting for another woman.

From Janelle herself in this interview with the Guardian:

Rumours have long been whispered about her sexuality, but Monáe has thus far resisted publicly defining it; she characterises herself again as “sexually liberated” and she declines to frame Make Me Feel in literal terms. “It’s a celebratory song,” she says. “I hope that comes across. That people feel more free, no matter where they are in their lives, that they feel celebrated. Because I’m about women’s empowerment. I’m about agency. I’m about being in control of your narrative and your body. That was personal for me to even talk about: to let people know you don’t own or control me and you will not use my image to defame or denounce other women.”

When I watch Make Me Feel, it sends my heart a flutter and gives me a little smile.

My favorite visual part is probably where she’s crawling behind a lot of legs in different-colored pantyhose, herself wearing a yellow bodysuit and knee-pads as she makes her away across the floor. The first time we see her behind them, she’s singing the “powerful with a little bit of tender” lyric and playfully taps one of the legs. My favorite audible part is probably where the drums (or something that sounds or reminds of drums) kicks in and she runs to Tessa. It’s a fun, powerful shift.

The close-up of her butt in jeans reminded me of George Michael’s music video, “Faith,” with some notable differences. In the George Michael video, he is wearing blue jeans that have stains and are ripped. Janelle’s jean’s are instead almost like a special type of pantyhose jeans adorned with red roses and green stems and leaves, an expression of her femininity. I went to re-watch the “Faith” music video and some Prince music videos to look for similarities of possible inspiration. One of the feminists I follow, Melissa McEwan, referenced Robert Palmer on Twitter (“I hope this video makes Robert Palmer weep and scream at the heavens.”), so I took in a quick reminder of that music video too.

Prince helped Janelle with this album, which I am grateful we are able to experience after his passing. Thank you, Prince. Thank you, Janelle.

Django Jane is another celebration of oneself as she lists off her accomplishments, what’s been said about her, and her identity as a Black woman. I want to take a moment to acknowledge that the lyrics specify body parts (pussy, vagina) and that while one can certainly talk about one’s own body, which she does, to understand and recognize that some women, trans and non-binary, may not have those parts and are still women. Giving birth is also not a woman-specific thing, noting since that is part of the lyrics of what “we gave.” The “we gave” portion leads into this part: We fem the future, don’t make it worse/You want the world? Well, what’s it worth? And I do like the challenge in those last two questions. Another audible part I liked was the lyric, “cue the violins and violas,” along with the actual music to follow. Also, if anyone in any kind of official capacity or can even just reach those who are and have the power to do so, the music videos really should have closed captioning to make them more accessible. As of my typing these words, they don’t. I hope in the future those who benefit from such things will have them so that we can all enjoy this delightful and inspiring work together.

I am very much looking forward to Dirty Computer.

Tekken 7 Review

Greetings, all. I’m Cathy also known as Cat to some people. I’m going to review Tekken 7. If you’re unfamiliar with me, I’m a huge fan of Devil Jin and Jin Kazama. In fact, I mostly play these games for those characters. I do not play at a competitive level and mostly practice and fight the CPU in modes provided by the games. I will approach the game from this viewpoint, and a very large chunk of it will be about the story.

In fact, that’s where we’ll start. I am not going to shy from spoilers, so if you care about that, stop watching now. The story presented to us throughout the trailers over the years is Kazumi asking some figure, we later learn to be a guest character, Akuma from the Street Fighter fighting game series, to kill Heihachi if she can’t. He’s going to do all these terrible things, he being Heihachi, and the trailers build up this big final showdown between Heihachi and Kazuya with Jin not at all present. Kazumi aside, Tekken players have seen this story before, and it ended with Jin being a big factor-by that, I mean Tekken 4.

Well, in the case of Tekken 7, we got the story that was advertised. I’ll say that. And I had a lot of complaints about Tekken 6 not being that, because that was going to be some big showdown between Jin and Kazuya and instead, we got an entire mode dedicated to two crappy expansion characters. Of note, Alisa is one of my mains, but my head-canon of her is extremely different from Namcanon. I even change her name to Melissa to indicate she’s my version of Alisa.

I think the story mode was handled better in that I got to be some different characters as opposed to stuck with two expansion characters. Overall, I still prefer the Tekken 5 approach best. In that game, characters get prologue art, a cut scene or two I call interludes with other characters they meet at the tournament, of relevance to them, and then an ending.

The story itself is really bad. Let’s start with the voice-over telling us repeatedly throughout the story that fighting is about who’s left standing, nothing else. That’s it? Nothing about training? Nothing about learning through failure to be better? And while we’re at it, “left standing” and “still alive” can mean two different things, but the context of the climactic moment in this game is Kazuya kills Heihachi, which would mean that main theme of the story then is that in order to fight, you should kill the person so you are the only person left standing. I don’t think that’s a good message. And I think even if the message were that the game seems to confuse fighting with winning and to me, they’re not the same thing.

Another bad component of the story is the Jin hunt. There are a lot of characters who should be going after Jin in some capacity: Kazuya, Raven, Miguel, Hwoarang. Nina was having the Mishima Zaibatsu search for him, but when Heihachi showed up and took the Mishima Zaibatsu from her, his logic went that in order to expose Kazuya, he needs Jin and my initial reaction that was, “No, you don’t.” And then the story proceeds with them not getting Jin and exposing Kazuya anyway, so that pretty much confirmed exactly what I thought. And do not get me started on Lars. Oh, nope, it’s too late, we have to do this. If you don’t know me, Lars is my most hated character ever. He goes after Jin under the pretense of, “We have to put everything on Jin. Now my initial reaction was, “I don’t know what he means. What, like execute him, put him on trial? What?” And by the way, no, he doesn’t.

So let me see if I have this straight. This turd from the last game, last mainline story game, went and took over half of the Tekken Force, as part of some rebellion to the hostile world take-over and then after he gets exactly what he wants in Tekken 6, he still think she needs Jin, that Jin can solve the entire world’s problem because Jin was the entire world’s problem. Now I have always had a problem with the fact that Tekken 6 includes this “over half” line of the Tekken Force because I don’t actually believe some half-baked expansion character can do that and this now half-baked plot point only further convinces me. But anyway, Jin’s like, “yeah, the solution for everything is for me to kill Kazuya because I have the Devil’s blood.”

Now, they could have made this work better with instead of saying, “We need Jin for reasons that don’t make sense, actually, we don’t want Jin’s body in the wrong hands because the likes of Kazuya or the UN may not simply kill him but try experiment on him, and he’s dangerous because Devil.” Oh, and you do not save people from tyranny by killing one person.

I really wish I could be done talking about Lars, I hate him so much, but this story is so, so bad. I hated playing Scenario Campaign, and I especially hated the contrived drama of Alisa’s shutdown as some dramatic death and the ridiculous excuse for a friendship these two had and all of this awfulness is shown as, “yeah, we really did that, and we’re sticking by it.” Alisa could be so much more and better without him. But anyway, back to that annoying butt-head. The story also says that the only reason Heihachi fathered this turd was to prove that he did not have the devil gene. The story also says Heihachi dropped Kazuya off a cliff to prove it to him that Kazuya had the devil gene. Otherwise, the fall would kill Kazuya. So, based on the game’s own logic presented in its own story mode, Lars should be dead because Heihachi would have killed him in trying to prove he did not have the devil gene and yet…what a failure.

The narration is by a man who lost his family to the war, and one of the reviews I skimmed said the deadpan narration was comical though perhaps not intended to be so. I mainly found the opening funny because I wondered what story I walked into that started talking about a son’s love for his father. Anyway, I kept wondering if he’d be Gigas or something, but no, and overall, I don’t think I cared for it. The story mode focuses on the Mishima family so a lot of characters do not make the cut for having a presence here, yet nameless here does.

Can you believe that I’m still not done in telling you how bad this story is? So, as mentioned earlier, Kazumi asked Akuma to kill Heihachi and, we later find out, Kazuya too. Akuma, he’s in this story even though a lot of other Tekken characters aren’t, goes to do that, defeats Kazuya, and given that he was asked to kill him, said he was there to kill him, guess what he did not do? He did not check to see if Kazuya was dead, meaning he did not kill him. He just left!

I feel disappointed that Kazumi really was dead because that means we have five Mishima characters throughout the series (Heihachi, Kazuya, Jin, Jinpachi and now Kazumi), and the only woman among them is the one who is so definitively dead, her role in the story is actually a flashback even though she was the arcade boss.

I’m almost done on the story part. After you beat the story mode, you can get endings for other characters by playing their episodes. On the one hand, this made unlocking their endings really easy. On the other hand, most of these endings were not very good and even if they had good points, they were generally pretty short, presumably because of time and effort dedicated to the awfulness of the Mishima story. Devil Jin appears in his own and Hwoarang’s episodes. Jin appears in Miguel’s. I knew going into this game that I couldn’t think of any version of the story that would satisfy me after the debacle of Tekken 6 so my main bar was some good Jin and Devil Jin footage and there was so little of it, I’m overall disappointed.

Onward, to everything else.

Arcade Battle is only 5 matches and left me confused with the ending of Akuma flexing his power and then getting a Game Over screen, thought I’d done something wrong. I haven’t really looked back since playing the story mode. Treasure Battle is similar to past Ghost Battle modes, but you do not get to pick from three different opponents and you do have to deal with these gimmicks like turbo battle, double damage, aerial combo and Special Matches against certain characters. They are Kazumi, Heihachi, Devil Kazuya, Jin Kazama, and Akuma. After awhile, these gimmicks are mildly annoying and if I’m not in the mood, I will exit. Rare items are too rare. After awhile, you’re mostly earning money and just waiting around to hit the 2,000 battle mark to unlock everything at once. I mainly wanted Jin’s Tekken 6 coat and since I’m not very good at using him, I tried Katarina and Lucky Chloe some, that also took a long time.

The practice mode is great. It has the usual elements and maybe past games had this feature, and I didn’t notice but you can practice at specific points in the stages that have wall, balcony and/or floor breaks. I’ve done a lot of practicing. I think because I didn’t play Tag 2 much and my mind struggles a lot since November 9th of last year, it helps alleviate stress and maybe one day, I’ll be able to do those electrics every time or almost. I can say that I’ve been doing them more often and even got up to 3 at once.

New game-play mechanics include a Rage Art and Rage Drive. I love using Rage Arts. I usually don’t even try for a Rage Drive but if I keep practicing, maybe I’ll work them in. Devil Jin starts with a hellsweep, but the one or two times I focused on trying it in a Treasure Battle match, it didn’t go well and I guess I gave up on it. I saw this really powerful Rage Drive combo with a Katarina player on Twitter and tried to learn it. I never did, but I learned the first part, and she has since become one of my mains. Hopefully, I’ll remember to go back to trying it. My mains this time around include Devil Jin, Jin Kazama, Katarina, and Alisa. To a degree, you could include Lucky Chloe though I admit, it was mostly for manipulating the CPU. I picked up at least one combo. And you know, I wanted to add more mains, but when you start dedicating time to specific characters to learn more. well, it feels like there’s only so much room in my brain for them sometimes. I missed Xiaoyu and Lili so played them a little but when I do a rotation of my main characters in Treasure Battle, I don’t even think of trying them. Maybe I will, now that I’ve written this review.

That was quite a tangent but back to mechanics. Bound is gone, and now we have um, a tailspin move, and I don’t remember on Tekken Zaibatsu if the “s” stood for “spin” or for “screw,” and the game itself doesn’t seem to actually say, so, but it’s a spinning move. And the spin can be used in combos. There are also, some moves have new properties called Power Crush, like Jin and Devil Jin have had Corpse Thrust for at least since Tekken 5, no, even longer um, but that is now a Power Crush move. Um, and for someone like me, that was extremely helpful against the CPU in Treasure Battle. The game lacks other usual modes from past games like Survival and Team Battle. Um, I liked Team Battle so I miss it. Survival’s nice too, I mainly like miss Team Battle though.

Customizations are again not as good as what Tekken 6 offered. My Alisa customization in Tekken 6 wore a blue best over a long-sleeved black shirt, not an option. She wore shorts with her Battle Boots. You can get the Battle Boots this time but if you want to use them, they are with the bikini bottom. Again for all the tops like in Tag 2, you cannot pick say a specific pair of gloves you want with a shirt or jacket. Gloves either come with it or they don’t. The hair options regress even more because I can no longer get the bushy ponytail I used to be reminiscent of Leona from King of Fighters for Alisa. For me, that is a significant part of my vision for the customization I want so that was a loss. I’m thinking about making a video of how backwards customization has gone for another time.

Another thing that’s gone is replays. They’d be a few seconds to show what happened at the end of the match, and you could use that time to pick a button for a specific win pose if you wanted. You can still try to get a win pose you want, but the time frame is much tighter, and I miss the actual replays themselves as well.

The game has this cool feature that offers a jukebox where you can customize what music you listen to in the game. You can use tracks from past games, and that’s really great. I tend to turn the music off because I concentrate better with none at all in Practice, and then just don’t bother turn it back on a lot of time but when I do have it on, I don’t like some of the Tekken 7 tracks, so I’m glad I had this feature to set them to other ones.

Moving on, I really, really love that technology has come to a point where we can all so easily share things, especially on PS4. I can show off my customizations and clip some random funny thing that happened. I’ve even used it to analyze what I might be missing in practice through like a frame-by-frame replay.

Quick remark on customizations. Before Patch 1.03, you could get some really dark black colors on your people and then after the update, many of them turn to a lighter gray that I know myself and others did not like at all. That it was so hard, it was hard to see sometimes, like in actual matches, but I find it hard to believe that it couldn’t be better handled.

Anyway, back to sharing. I can see if my PS4 friends liked the things I shared on Twitter. Another perk of technology sharing is being able to watch so much top-level Tekken play so easily, thanks to YouTube and Twitch.

So, all in all, I found some things to enjoy this game, and I do intend to keep playing. Um, but I do kind of feel, that with the long wait, um, and even with my, what I felt, tempered expectations, of kind of saying, I didn’t like Tekken 6, I didn’t like these things, I know that these things can happen again, and trying to ready myself for what it could be, I’m still disappointed that so many things changed and not for the better. And I do hope that eventually, if this series continues, um, we can go back to a better place, similar to what we had before instead of feeling like the series is slowly stripping away some of the, a lot of the things that we took for granted um, in enjoying what Namco, not gave us, but you know, they put forth for us to buy. And so, you know, hopefully things will get better. Well, let me re-phrase that because I am not an optimistic or hopeful person when it comes to Tekken. Um, it’ll be nice if that ever happens. I’ll say that. I do not expect it to happen and it is, I do hope, that things do not keep getting worse. At the very least, I can say that.

So anyway, thanks for listening and/or watching my video. Bye-bye.

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The Fifth Season – Book Review

The below post was originally written in November 2016 for my Tumblr and has been copied and back-dated here to match that.

Spoiler warning: I will talk about really big and important spoilers in this book.

This book was so interesting. I read it because it won a Hugo award and some of the writers I follow on Twitter said it was really good when that happened. Plus, it was on sale a few weeks ago. Anyway, it starts by inviting the reader to begin with the end of the world, the world being a place called the Stillness. One of the book’s characters causes something terrible to happen, intentionally destroying a city in the process. That’s only the beginning consequence though, compared to happen to the rest of the Stillness and not meaning much to you, right away, in light of a tragic event happening in your life at this time too.

Yes, that’s right: you are a character in the book. You have whole chapters dedicated to what you’re going through, telling you what you’re doing and how you feel, where you’re going and your purpose in that trek: the search for your daughter who might still be alive with the husband who killed your three-year-old son. Your chapters are between those about Damaya and Syenite. You know these two though the reader doesn’t know you know them at first. You know them because they were you at earlier points in your life, and those things they went through culminate into what you’re experiencing at this stage of your life.

Now we’re going to switch, reader, so that so you are not the second-person character in the book, Essun, but back to being my reader. Essun is an orogene, and it took a long while for me to check and realize the book had a glossary to state more explicitly what that means. Orogenes use orogeny. Orogeny is the “ability to manipulate thermal, kinetic, and related forms of orogeny to address seismic events.” Orogenes are dangerous and oppressed. They are used and denied human status with much effort into controlling them. Stills, people without orogeny, outnumber and fear them, sometimes killing them in their prejudice or calling on others to rein them in and take them somewhere else.

Instead of the more common “Mother Earth” reference of our own world, this one has “Father Earth,” and “evil earth” is a phrase used to exclaim or express frustration. The people still swear with a word like “fuck,” but they do so along with “rust.” In the chapter that Damaya meets her Guardian, Schaffa, he tells her, “You’re a gift of the Earth – but Father Earth hates us, never forget, and his gifts are neither safe nor free.” This earth in the Stillness is a dangerous place where people fight to survive, based on their teachings from stonelore, telling them how to manage until the next Fifth Season. On and on it goes, manipulating the orogenes all the while.

Like many other media items I review for this blog, The Fifth Season contains some ableism regarding mental health, including a casual use of “crazy,” as Essun thinks and decides things, using the word as a descriptor. On a more serious level, Essun considers that a man, her husband, Jija, that killed his own child, might not fit the label of “sane” and that in her trauma of not thinking for two days, she might not either. Trauma can affect a person’s mental health, such as PTSD, so her acknowledging it has some merit, but it still might fall into the trap that “crazy” equals “bad.” I’m conflicted and uncertain because I know some people on Twitter I follow and respect use “crazy” for themselves in a way to reclaim it. The part relating to Jija is more overt in being a problem.

In March earlier this year, a 4-year-old girl named Leiliana Wright died in Grand Prairie, Texas. She was killed due to abuse from her mother and mother’s boyfriend. She is not the only abused child to die in Texas, and right now, the state I live in is in a crisis where CPS is underfunded. Children are hurt or dying. I bring this information up because I want to point out the harsh and upsetting truth that child abuse is real and common enough for the number in Texas to reach into the thousands. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Essun’s urge to question Jija’s sanity stems from the wrong belief that we can lay blame on a person’s mental health condition instead of the actions they committed and the sum of all the system in place of her world amounting him dehumanizing his own children the instant he learns they are orogenes. Oppression is deliberate and in a system perpetuating the belief that orogenes are dangerous, deadly non-human beings, killing one, even if that one is a person’s child, is in fact, the system at play, working as intended. It is morally wrong, and the immoral action is not the product of mental illness. Even if it were, people commit immoral actions without having mental illness all the time. In the end, sane or not, Jija still killed his son.

The novel explores systemic oppression at length, from questioning the history that’s been erased to showing how orogenes are treated by others, to how Essun, throughout different periods of her life, has felt, trapped by it. For instance, in the chapter where the reader is introduced to Syenite, she must meet with Alabaster, the highest-ranked, ten-ringed orogene. Each chapter concludes with some written work as part of the world-building, such as a proverb or part of the stonelore rules. The chapter introducing Syenite and Alabaster ends with a blurb about telling “them,” presumably referring to orogenes, they can be great someday, that they must be perfect to be respected on the same level as everyone else, making them bend over backwards for what they can never achieve.

The book does not offer a resolution to Essun’s driving purpose of trying to find her daughter and instead has her stop for a bit in one place and meet up with the very man who set the whole season in motion at the book’s beginning. To be honest, I didn’t even realize that, fully realize it, until I was trying to decide if I would buy the sequel or not. I did buy that, by the way, though I don’t think I’ll be reviewing it. This book was good, so I recommend it, assuming you have an interest in the science fiction and fantasy genre and its sequel.

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