Death in Paradise

Note: spoilers ahead!

I was surprised to see I haven’t written about this show until now. With another re-watch just started, I checked to make sure I hadn’t already covered this show, as it’s become one of my favorite mystery series, despite a few small flaws.

The premise for Death in Paradise is a London DI has come to St. Marie to be DI for the island’s police department, which also has one DS and two officers. Despite such a small police force on the island, like any other mystery show this place is murder central, and each week they must solve the crime, often involving tourists and other outsiders to the island. There’s a wide variety of the type of people, careers, etc. involved and it greatly helps keeping the show interesting.

The cast has revolved throughout the years, with Officer Dwayne Myers lasting the longest (though he left last year). The biggest change was when original series DI Richard Poole was murdered at the beginning of series 3. Incoming DI Humphrey Goodman was pretty much the complete opposite, and it took quite awhile for me to get used to and like him. What I didn’t like was the forced romance (or at least attempted on his part) with DS Camille Bordey, who was already beginning to get involved with DI Poole. With DS Bordey replaced with DS Florence Cassell, it is now a friendship between the two, and it’s much more natural and fun to watch. More recently DI Goodman was replaced with DI Jack Mooney, who is a mix of both previous DI’s, and I have quickly come to like him the best. Rounding out the wonderful cast are the long-running parts of Catherine Bordey (restaurateur, mom of DS Bordey, and recently-elected mayor of St. Marie) and Commissioner Selwyn Patterson.

Of the few mystery shows I’ve watched over the years, Death in Paradise has become at least one of my top 3 favorites. I’ve enjoyed pretty much episode, and even with all of the cast choices I’m still keeping up with their lives, quirks, etc. I look forward to what comes next, and if the series comes to an end sooner than later I hope it’s a well-written and received one!

Choosing a Synth … Part 3

Has it already been almost two years since I wrote the second entry about looking at a possible synth?! Well things never stand still, and even since that last entry many new synths have come along, and a few have dropped off or been replaced with updated models.

Subtractions

  • DSI Prophet REV2 – This was a hard choice, but ultimately this isn’t what I’m looking for in a synth. It’s too big for my needs, and I still think its sound is thin compared to the far more expensive Prophet 6 and OB-6. With the expensive and now-discontinued Pro2, I’m disappointed DSI doesn’t have a smaller synth available.
  • Korg Minilogue – As seen below, Korg has released a newer version.
  • Nord Lead A1 – I’ve concluded this just doesn’t have the programmability I want in a synth, and I’m frustrated that Nord is STILL ignoring their synth line!
  • Moog Sub 37 – Moog has replaced the Sub with the Subsequent. The latter didn’t make this list, due to price and frankly overkill interface.
  • Novation Bass Station II – This modern synth has had its time in the spotlight and quite honestly could use a successor.

Additions

Behringer VC340

Behringer has been an absolute monster in the synth world since the debut of the Deepmind. Even more popular than that was the release of their Model D clone. Seriously, if I already had a keyboard I’d be considering that. An upcoming release that’s caught my eye, however, is the VC340. An analog string and voice synthesizer (the latter doesn’t interest me as much, especially the vocoder) with my preferred 37 keys, this synthesizer would make an excellent choice for ambient and Vangelis-like arrangements. At $600 this is an excellent contender, but as it’s still unreleased I will need to wait on some reviews.

Moog Grandmother

In my previous posts I didn’t include the Mother-32, primarily due to the fact that it didn’t have a keyboard. Well Moog has remedied that with the Grandmother, a pared-down Sub-style synthesizer featuring what I consider to be the superior-sounding oscillator and filter (compared to the Subs). Yes it looks a bit wacky and retro, but for the sound alone and Moog’s stellar build quality and support this is a serious contender. At $900 this will take some thinking and budgeting. It’s too bad I don’t spend another grand and get the even larger Matriarch! Rawr!

Korg minilogue XD

Since my last entry Korg has released the minilogue XD, and for not much more than the original minilogue there’s a few notable changes and improvements that make this a serious contender. This adds a digital “multi-engine” and the full 16 buttons for the sequencer. At $619 I feel this will be in the top 3 synths I’ll make a final choice from.

Korg MS-20 Mini

In my past entries I’m surprised I didn’t include the Korg MS-20 mini, or at least give a reason for why it wasn’t included. While it has a few negatives such as its build quality and potentially unruly sounds, the fact is from what I’ve heard it may just have the perfect sound that I really want. My favorite examples come from Michal Patulski’s YouTube channel, especially his Classic 70’s lead video; I mean listen to it! Like any classic analog synth there’s no patch storage, but if you create something worth keeping you can jot it down on a patch sheet (my favorite is from reddit’s edge11), and that’s so charmingly retro that it’s actually a point in this synth’s favor. At $460 it will take a bit of thinking but it may edge out the minilogue XD. There’s no doubt, in my final choice one or more contenders will certainly be a Korg!

Waldorf STVC

This is a last-minute addition, as I didn’t know this thing even existed! While I removed the Waldorf Blofeld in the previous post, I know they make quality hardware. Like the VC340 the STVC is a string and vocoder synth, this one based on the streichfett module, adding the keys, patch storage, additional interface components, and more. At $900 it’s not terribly more than the VC340, but I don’t know if I could choose it over the Grandmother (the latter can offer far more sounds). This is also an unreleased synth, so like the VC340 I’ll need to wait for some reviews to judge it better.

Yamaha Reface CP

Like the Korg MS-20 Mini I’m not sure why I’ve never listed any of the Yamaha Reface series synthesizers, as they’re a perfect first instrument (and one of the few to include speakers!) with mini albeit usable keys. While I initially liked the CS for potential ambient and Vangelis-style sounds, it’s actually the Reface CP I’ve decided to put on the list. I’m a huge fan of the electric piano’s sound, especially as heard on the Firewatch soundtrack. I also prefer the CP’s interface of knobs rather than the CS’s sliders, and I think long-term the CP will hold up better. At $360 this is almost an impulse-purchase, but I will need to decide if its non-synth sounds is not gonna bug me (I know I can always add on a synth module later on).

The Umbrella Academy

It’s pretty rare for me to check out a new series or movie on Netflix, let alone something comic-related. I’m pretty burned out on the latter (seriously, give me a superheroes-meets-GoT deaths please!) and for the former I just don’t have much free time when I can happily re-watch something I know will be at least moderately entertaining. Well, I did finally give in to my wife’s requests to watch The Umbrella Academy, and I must admit I liked it for the most part.

The series begins showing 43 women spontaneously giving birth. Seven of these (did the rest survive?) are adopted by an eccentric billionaire and raised together at the Umbrella Academy. While six of them grow up to be superheroes and lead varying lives, one of them (Vanya) doesn’t have any apparent powers and instead spends her time trying to play the violin well enough to join a local symphony. The show starts to pick up at the death of their adoptive father, and throughout the episodes we see how each live and cope with various situations as well as the overall plot, which is that the world will supposedly end in the near future.

With a large cast it’s nice to have enough episodes to give focus to each one along with moving the plot forward. There were several of the heroes that I really liked and could identify with, while some of the others were either boring or I didn’t like and was tired of the increasing screen-time they would get. The best has to be Ellen Paige’s Vanya and her story, and it becomes central to the plot by the last episode. The season ends on quite the cliffhanger, and I look forward to seeing what comes next.!

Until Dawn

Your choices have consequences.

Introduction

When I had a PS3 I didn’t play Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain, but when I heard about Until Dawn, an interactive horror story/movie for the PS4, I finally took the plunge. This was one of the few games I played and finished long before watching Markiplier play it, and I enjoyed watching his play-through just as much as when I played it.

In Until Dawn a group of teenagers meet up at a remote lodge in the mountains (see they’re already screwed) one year after a similar meet-up resulted in the deaths of Josh’s two sisters (that should be another alarm bell going off!), whose family owns and used to live in the lodge (where the parents are now, who knows!). As soon as the teens meet old tensions, memories, and petty rivalries flare up; it’s hard to feel there’s any genuine friendship or romance, which does detract from an otherwise quite solid and engaging story.

Gameplay

The game uses a mix of in-game cutscenes as well as letting the player control the current “star of the scene”. Sometimes the in-game cutscenes come about pretty frequently and interrupt gameplay, which can be annoying. During some of these scenes, the player will need to make a quick decision such as which way to go, or to choose a safer or riskier route. At other times while the character is running or climbing a random button will pop up, and if the player doesn’t press it quick enough something will happen, which can affect the current character’s story as well as further story ramifications. There are also points where the character will need to use a weapon to hit a specific spot in a short amount of time, and whether it hits affects the storyline as well.

One interesting concept shown to the player early on is that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all, to let events transpire without any interference or influence. This does factor in later on as a few characters’ survival actually depends on this. It’s a neat twist, and it can actually be hard to remember at which points to actually do nothing.

The Therapist

In between sections of the game, the player will be in the office of a therapist, who will ask the player to describe their feelings, choose between images, or other methods to judge the player’s (and the unknown-until-the-end character’s) reactions. With each visit the office evolves (or breaks down, depending on the view) and leaves the player wondering just what is going on with this supposed therapist. It adds an interesting layer on top of the game’s story, but it does pull the player out of the action and main story of the game somewhat often, so I’m not sure just how necessary it is. If it’s meant to be a game-within-the-game, or some sort of meta the “real” game is actually the game-within-this-game, well again it doesn’t add a whole lot and the game would flow much smoother without it. At the end of each session, the player is presented with a “Previously on Until Dawn” video montage, which doesn’t make any sense if the game has been going for awhile, and instead of a helpful reminder or catch-up becomes an annoying repeat of recent game scenes.

Conclusion

Ultimately I enjoyed Until Dawn very much, and I really wish there were more games like it; not necessarily horror, but at least with a story of intrigue and second-guessing as time goes on. The graphics and gameplay were exactly what I wanted in a current-gen game, but some more prominent music and sound effects would have really helped. I liked the split-second decisions and aiming moments, mainly because they weren’t over-used. I hope to play Detroit: Become Human in the near future, and I look forward to Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan.

The Good Place

Holy forkin’ shirtballs!

As mentioned in my Black Mirror post, we’ve been watching a little bit more TV on Netflix. One show that we recently binged was The Good Place. I had seen its icon several times, but it was only after learning it was created by Michael Schur, co-creator of Parks & Recreation, that I finally wanted to see what this show was about.

Before we could blink, my wife and I had binged both seasons on Netflix, and are itching for more! We loved the cliffhanger ending of season 1, and likewise the season 2 ending is leaving us wondering just what will happen next.

The casting of this show is perfect. We’ll start with the obvious, Kristen Bell as Eleanor. She reminds me of a younger Amy Poehler; her wit and facial expressions are always just perfect! Ted Danson is wonderful, and as a fan of his from films such as Body Heat I’m happy to see him just as sprightly on his feet, both literally with his body movement/posturing as well as his deliveries, especially in reaction to Kristen. Rounding out the lead actors is William Jackson Harper. Playing Kristen’s friend and supposed soul-mate Chidi, William’s deadpan delivery and over-reactions are great contrasts to both Kristen and Ted.

The rest of the cast are also great, each one with at least one unique trait and outlook on life. Even when everyone’s on screen it never feels too crowded or suffocating; the viewer can easily follow along with each thread of dialogue and reaction to what others do and say. The first two seasons on Netflix are easy to burn through, and have definitely left me wanting more and seeing what ultimately happens to Eleanor!