Quick Review: Vivarium (2019)

2020-12-21 - Reading time: 2 minutes

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This should have been a home run. Decent cast. And an interesting foundation of an idea.

A young couple looking to buy a new home become trapped, alone in community of identical homes. After repeated attempts to escape, always, inexplicably circling back to building #9, a box appears with a newborn baby inside: raise the child, and be released, print on the box promises.

For a while there it felt like a compelling, bizarre supernatural mystery in the best tradition of Twilight Zone's creepiest.

And then... just as it gives you a taste of where this might finally be going... nothing.

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It yanks the rug out, and practically waves a scolding finger in your face for wanting more from the film. It punishes you for it with a an eye-roll of an ending that's nowhere near as clever as it probably thinks it is.

There's some creepy atmosphere, decent acting, but it literally goes nowhere at all. Just enjoy the trailer and imagine your own, more interesting film.

2/5

(Vivariam is currently included with Prime Now.)


Mini Review: DLC Quest

2013-03-21 - Reading time: 3 minutes


DLC Quest is a humorous jab at the game industry from the perspective of a retro platform game that requires the purchase of downloadable expansions to perform even the most basic functions. 

The game begins with no sound and no animation.  In fact, you aren't even able to jump or move left!  These features aren't included out of the box, of course. Instead, you are granted the privilege of purchasing these advanced gameplay features from an in-game vendor.  All of the gags you would expect to see are here, including the infamous expensive horse armor.  Thankfully, as the game reassures us early on, no ACTUAL real-life currency is involved. All transactions are conducted using coins collected inside the game.

Unfortunately, there isn't much of a "game" here.  Unlocking DLC is required in order to progress the purposely generic, but ultimately uninspired "story".  Once you get going, it's pretty much a straight path to the finish line: Collect enough coins to unlock  the next DLC pack, rinse, repeat until the credits roll.  There is no death.  In fact, there is no way to fail. In that respect, DLC Quest is, in a sense, closer to old Lucasarts adventure games.  Enemies function merely as passive roadblocks that only additional downloaded content can alleviate.

Ultimately the only real replay value is in doing speed runs, collecting coins, unlocking the DLC as fast as possible, and comparing your times against a leaderboard.  Currently the top 10 is filled with people who finished the game in 12 minutes.  I believe I spent just over twice that amount of time playing.  The recent addition of a second quest ("Live Freemium or Die") helps extend the value, but this is still a short game.

DLC Quest is a genuinely funny commentary on the state of micro-transactions and downloadable content in gaming.  It may run the joke into the ground by the end, but at roughly $3 in most digital stores, it's worth a look.  Just don't expect any sort of serious challenge.

Rating: 3/5 (Good)
Platforms: Steam ($2.99), Desura ($2.99),  XBL (80 MS points per quest), Mac App Store ($2.99)
Developer: Going Loud Studios


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