Alt:Mag is a website for anybody whose interests may fall on what might be seen as the less conventional side of life, away from what might be considered ‘normal’. We aim to create an environment for readers to celebrate their interests rather than feeling embarrassed or alone about them.
We love to write articles about gaming, anime, movies, internet culture, music, life issues and much more!

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10 Years of Alt:Mag (and Beyond...)


Hi all, Lewis here. Hope you're surviving out there. Oh yeah, Alt:Mag turned ten years old today.

It feels like a lifetime since I first created this blog as an update blog for a magazine that never came out. Amazingly, that crude blog grew to become something a lot more polished as time went on, and has enjoyed somewhat of a lukewarm following over the years. Many articles have racked up hundreds of thousands of views, and some incredibly talented writers have contributed some amazing posts throughout the blog's history. I want to say a huge thank you to all of them. And to anyone who has taken time out of their day to read our articles or share them: thank you!

If you will allow me to indulge myself for a moment, I just wanted to say that this is a huge personal achievement for me too. I've always been a creative person, but Alt:Mag was the first thing I ever did that I persevered with. I have autism, and those close to me know that I have a tendency to natter for hours about the things I love. As much as I'd love for people to love everything I love, it's just not possible. That's why I decided to take to the internet to share my thoughts in the hopes they'd find others who were just as interested as me. Turns out it paid off, and ten years later, the website is still here. 

Alt:Mag is also something I closely associate with my friends. I will never forget the days me and all the gang would rock up to comic conventions in our official Alt:Mag t-shirts and hand out fliers promoting the site to unsuspecting cosplayers. And of course, how could I forget the time me and my buddies shot a promotional movie in our home town about a (maybe homeless?) guy who really just wants to play Pokémon Yellow. For these reasons Alt:Mag will always mean the world to me.

Despite Alt:Mag celebrating such a significant milestone, it currently sits dormant, with the last article being uploaded in November of last year (one I'm quite proud of, to be fair). I just wanted to write this post to let you know that I am still writing articles behind the scenes. Unfortunately for Alt:Mag diehards (if you exist), I've turned into a bit of a perfectionist. Gone are the days of uploading a two paragraph article with an unrelated photo of Mad Dog from Time Crisis just because I felt cheeky that day. When I write an article I'll spend weeks on it. Sometimes they will even remain unfinished. This article drought won't last forever though. I hate to see great blogs go silent, and I will try my best to ensure that Alt:Mag doesn't suffer the same fate.

I really hated Kerrang! magazine, didn't I?


But honestly, the main reason I've not had time to write here recently is because I've been involved with something outside of Alt:Mag: The Dreamcast Junkyard. Some time in 2018, DCJY founder Tom Charnock reached out to me and asked if I wanted to write for the website, an offer I accepted in an instant. Not only is the Dreamcast my absolute favourite game console, but The Dreamcast Junkyard (especially Tom's writing) was heavily influential on Alt:Mag all the way back to when I first started the site back in 2011. Even today, The Dreamcast Junkyard and Alt:Mag share a lot of similarities, in the sense that they're both not-for-profit blogs that writers gravitate to because they just want to write their thoughts about something they're passionate about. I'm incredibly proud to be a part of everything going on there, and have made a lot of great friends in the process. It's ridiculous how alive the Dreamcast scene is in 2021.

I've been very involved with a lot of things Dreamcast Junkyard (and as an extension things within the DC scene), and I thought I'd link them all here in case you're interested. These range from small informative articles and podcast appearances, to quite substantial pieces of investigative journalism (at least by my standards) and involvement with upcoming book projects and even a physical magazine. 


Dreamcast Junkyard articles I've written (some highlights):


Podcasts I've appeared on: 

  • The Dreamcast Junkyard DreamPod - My monotone voice appears on quite a few episodes of the Junkyard's official podcast. If you're into this system, there's hours of audio goodness in store for you.
  • Dreamcast Years Episode 10 - I appeared on Andrew Dickinson's podcast to discuss some incredible games that were released in the year 2006. Very fun episode, and an excellent podcast in general.


Physical media I'm involved with:

  • The Dreamcast Junkyard A to Z of Dreamcast Games by Mike Phelan - Friend and fellow punk from the Junkyard, Mike, wrote an incredible guide that covers every physically-released Dreamcast game ever. It's been available to download for free for quite a long time, but many have always wanted to see this impressive body of work released in physical form. I was more than happy to put my graphic design abilities to the test to create the cover artwork for the physical release of this book. Follow the Junkyard for more information on the book's release in the future.

  • Dreamcast: Year Two by Andrew Dickinson - Another book I'm involved with, but this time it's my writing that will appear in it. I really loved Dreamcast: Year One, an excellent book that covers the Dreamcast's 1999 release in the UK. Year Two will be covering the year 2000, and two reviews from myself of two of my favourite Dreamcast will appear within its pages. I have also contributed a column to the physical zine that comes bundled with the book if you backed a certain tier on KickStarter. Exciting!


I know I said "allow me to indulge myself for a moment", but I guess I spent this entire post indulging myself. Either way, thank you for reading Alt:Mag. Here's to ten years, and beyond.

Live on and be yourself!

Catherine: Full Body - Improved but Problematic

The year was 2011. Our last full year on earth, apparently, if the 2012 conspiracies were to turn out to be true. During this year, Atlus' rather uncreatively-named "2nd Creative Production Department" - the team behind the beloved Persona JRPG series - graced us with something unique: Catherine. A puzzle game, of all things.
I was excited. However, my initial excitement came not from

Every Season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Ranked From Worst To Best

Disclaimer: Mega spoilers incoming!

Ah, Buffy…truly one of the greatest live-action shows ever made, or at least in the top 10. In a lot of ways, Buffy changed television and what we could expect from it. It took the overdone 90s sitcom, tossed it out the window, and offered people something completely new. However, not all seasons of Buffy are created equal. While the show is entirely deserving

Ooblets Is the Ray of Sunshine We All Need (Game Review)

The internet isn't all doom and gloom, you know. Believe it or not, if you look hard enough on them there social media platforms, you will find pockets of sunshine everywhere; communities of people who have found a safe place to exist and be themselves online. Of course, we don't often think about the internet that way, because those happy pockets are stitched onto a big shirt of seething anger

Undertale: One of the Best Choice-Driven Games

Last night, I completed Toby Fox’s Undertale for the first time ever since its release back in 2015 (yes, I know – late to the party again). And…wow. This game undoubtedly has a million articles written about it already and mine is sure to get lost in the pile, but it deserves those numerous articles. It’s a fantastic game. You probably didn’t need me to say that outright given the amount of italics I’m using to prove my point, but I’m saying it anyway.

There are certainly many other choice-driven games in the world and they’re all brilliant in their own ways. I’ve played a number of them myself, like Life is Strange, Heavy Rain and the entirety of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series. Considering that Heavy Rain and The Walking Dead graced our screens in 2010 and 2012 respectively, Undertale certainly didn’t pioneer choice-driven games. But given the incredible amount of high praise its received, both in 2015 and in the years since, it can perhaps be called one of the best.

Yeah, I know – taking into account the other three games I’ve mentioned, Undertale falls short in terms of general production value. After all, it’s an indie game. But what it lacks in pretty graphics and better mechanics, it more than makes up for in its story. It’s genuine, complex, and deeply heartfelt. Many games tell great stories that capture us in some way, but it’s been a long time since one made me feel the way Undertale did.

Because it doesn’t really matter how many hours of gameplay there are, or how much money has been pumped into the production machine. Undertale is but an independently developed RPG that can be completed in a handful of hours, but I consider it to be better than Heavy Rain. I even consider it to be on an equal footing with Life is Strange, which is saying a lot coming from me – I happen to hold Life is Strange in very high regard.

One of Undertale’s best features may just be its characters. Sure, the protagonist may be a little one-dimensional, but the characters around them are anything but. As soon as Toriel comes along, saving us from Flowey, we fall for her sweet, motherly nature. We eat her butterscotch-cinnamon pie and watch her read in her rocking-chair by the fire. She’s one of the first monsters we meet, and she shows us nothing but kindness.

Then, of course, there’s Sans and Papyrus – both completely meme-worthy, both hilarious and just as compassionate. They crack jokes, make spaghetti and argue like siblings do. Papyrus even has a racing carbed. They may remind us of real people that we know in the real world, and that’s important because it strikes a chord within us. Because, yes, they’re supposed to be the bad guys and capture us, but they never really do. They come to see us as a friend, and they treat us that way. We show them mercy, and in return, they show us the same.

The same goes for Undyne and Alphys, Asgore, and even Asriel in the end. The same goes for every monster we encounter and choose to spare in the game. After the brief intro at the beginning, explaining the war between the humans and the monsters, the kindness that we’re shown by everyone comes as something of a surprise. We start Undertale ready to fight our way through it like any other game, ready to attack, win, collect our spoils and move on without a second thought. We’re ready for that because we see the word ‘monsters’. But the game forces us to rethink. As soon as we discover that we can choose mercy over fighting, we suddenly realise that not only do we not have to kill, we may not particularly want to.

I love that about Undertale – the choice, and the sheer amount of choices that you can make. Each monster you encounter is a choice, to spare or to kill, even Sans, Papyrus and the rest. And while you should feel bad about killing these innocent creatures, you don’t have to, because it’s a choice. And whatever choices you make, you carry with you all the way through to the tailored ending. Granted, I’ve only seen the Neutral and True Pacifist endings because I refuse to commit genocide, even in a game, but the Genocide ending is valid in and of itself. It’s another set of choices that you’re free to make. It tells another story, just as well-written, though a lot less beautiful and a lot more…well, genocidal.

It’s an ending I simply wouldn’t find fulfilling. I already know I wouldn’t go back and achieve the Genocide ending, because I decided, after the True Pacifist ending, that I would never kill a single monster in Undertale. “It’s not that deep!” I hear you cry? I beg to differ.

That’s what I meant when I talked about Undertale making me feel something. Not only did I love each character, I felt like I knew them on a weirdly personal level – not only the major side characters, but each and every monster I encountered. Alphys and Undyne even remind me of specific people that I know in my life. And not only are they comparable to real people, these characters have their own personalities, their own dreams, hopes and fears like anyone else. One of them is an aspiring stand-up comedian. Another loves his hat. They’re all just like you – thrust into a random encounter, feeling as if they have to fight but ultimately, not really wanting to, and feeling relieved when they don’t have to.

I mean, really…how can you fight creatures that mirror you so perfectly? That’s the genius of Undertale. Monsters aren’t monsters at all, not in this game. Discard your binary way of thinking and look at this town – a shop, a library, a pub, houses, where monsters work, have a quiet one and just live. Ignore what every other game tells you. Think about the kindness these characters show you and the kindness you can choose to give. If nothing else, Undertale teaches us that kindness can go so far and touch so many – that’s true for the game, and for real life.

Tiger King: When Entertainment Wins Over Truth

Every factual documentary has an agenda. It’s a sometimes-unfortunate truth that every single series or film comes complete with a biased lens, and I say "sometimes" because it isn’t always a bad thing. Every narrative has to be told from a certain standpoint. There are countless documentaries out there, particularly true crime, that use their position to bring some truly terrible issues to light, and focus their agenda on justice. They’re based on facts, they’re well-rounded, and they do not place entertainment value above the truth. That’s the point of a documentary, and many would agree with me on that.

So, when Tiger King arrived on Netflix, selling itself as a documentary, I was hopeful that some real issues would be touched upon. Real issues, like the gargantuan issue of big cat breeding in the States, and how we can begin to tame it. I’d never heard of Joe Exotic before, and from the many memes and hashtags that were trending on Twitter - #freejoeexotic being one of the most popular – I figured he’d turn out to be the underdog, the lovable hero of the story. Boy, was I wrong.

It’s no secret that Joe is a terrible person. He owned and operated a roadside zoo, kept his animals in less-than-stellar conditions, paid his employees an awful wage of $150 a week and manipulated a number of vulnerable men into marrying him. He threatened Carole Baskin’s life on the daily and even paid a guy to actually off her. Oh, and he didn’t provide sanctuary to exotic animals – he bred them, ripped the newborn cubs from their mothers, and charged hordes of people to take selfies with them. This is all made clear on the show. So why on Earth do people like Joe Exotic?

The answer is relatively simple. When we read books, watch films, or binge shows, we look for a hero to zero in on. In any story, we look for someone we can empathise with and join on the journey, someone we can root for. In The Keepers, it’s Abbie and Gemma. In The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez, it’s Jon Hatami. In Tiger King, it’s Joe Exotic. He becomes the hero because he’s the first person we meet, and because, intentionally, we’re shown the good about him before we’re shown the bad. And at first, he seems relatable – after all, he came from nothing, and he seems to love the animals. He’s what some might call ‘the salt of the Earth’. Not only that, but he's a gun-toting, gay polygamist with a mullet - the sheer madness of it is somehow endearing to the audience, and we root for him almost instantaneously.

Again, every documentary has an agenda, and every single one of them deals in entertainment. They have to entertain us, or we wouldn’t watch them, as shallow as we are. But there’s a major and important difference between being entertaining, and making entertainment the prime objective. The makers of Tiger King know better than anyone how terrible Joe Exotic is. They’re the ones who spent actual time with him, at his zoo, and captured, on camera, all of his awful exploits (including the stuff we didn’t get to see). But they’re also the ones who hold Joe up as the hero.

The reason for that is entertainment, plain and simple. Joe is, undoubtedly, a criminal and a bigot, but he’s also entertaining and that not only gets people watching, it keeps them watching. The makers of Tiger King know that. It’s why they let the issue of big cat breeding, and more broadly, exotic animal abuse, slide in favour of completely irrelevant speculation spouted by Joe, like whether or not Carole Baskin really killed her husband two decades ago. It’s why they force the perspective so we end up thinking of Joe as an underdog who tries his best, and rooting for him as such. Simply put, they know what works. If it’s a toss-up between a closer look at the harrowing animal abuse, or showing Joe shooting some dynamite, I think we can all say what’s more entertaining.

Then, of course, there’s Carole Baskin. Just as we need a hero to root for, we need a villain to struggle against. The show presents Carole to us only after we’re forced to listen to Joe ranting and raving about everything she’s done to him. From the get-go, we’re doomed to not only distrust her, but actively dislike her, despite the fact that she’s perhaps the sanest person on the entire show. She’s certainly the only one who runs a GFS-accredited sanctuary. And yes, she doesn’t pay her volunteers because, well…they’re volunteers.

The disappearance of her ex-husband, Don Lewis, isn’t particularly something I want to get into too deeply here because it deserves its own article. Suffice it to say that there’s precisely zero evidence Carole had anything to do with his disappearance. Again, the idea that she did is juicy, and draws people in. It’s likely that without that separate storyline, Tiger King wouldn’t have received half as much attention as it did. You only need to glance at the hashtags on Twitter to know that many people swallowed the narrative that Tiger King was offering because they’re still perpetuating it. Not even Doc Antle – not just a creepy guy, but also the ringleader of what appears to be a sex cult – gets the same kind of treatment that Carole suffers from on social media.

With that, Tiger King seems to have it all – a downtrodden, entertaining frontman, the uppity villain, an unsolved disappearance and a murder-for-hire plot all rolled into a single seven-part series. Of course people were going to watch it and talk about it. That’s the point of entertainment. It had one job to do – to keep people coming back – and it did that. But what it delivered in entertainment, it all but ignored in facts.

The main issue with Tiger King is that it presents itself as something it’s not. It masquerades itself behind the guise of documenting true events but twists the narrative in the name of entertainment. Not only that, but it does nothing substantial with itself. There is no fight against big cat breeding – other than the one Carole’s fighting – and no desire to spread any semblance of truth. If Tiger King was interested in the truth, Carole Baskin would not be such a hated figure, and Joe Exotic would be vilified rather than revered. But that wouldn’t be half as entertaining.

There’s something sinister about a show that is cut from the same cloth as a reality show posing as a documentary. There’s something even more sinister about the fact that people simply accept things for whatever they’re said to be. Tiger King is no more a documentary than Jersey Shore. It tells us nothing new, only presents us with carefully modified portions of the story, and does nothing to try and solve any of the issues they bring up. It’s viewing for viewing’s sake, observing a group of people as they struggle against each other, laughing as the time-bomb ticks down.

To go back to what I wrote earlier, all documentaries, even the well-rounded ones, have to choose how they tell their story. Every narrative has to be told from a certain standpoint, whether it’s based on facts or entertainment. But in documentaries, entertainment should never preclude the facts, should never get in the way of showing events as truthfully as possible while striving to remain as objective as possible. That’s the point of documentaries – they document the truth in order to bring an issue to light. If we consider Tiger King a documentary, then we may as well throw Keeping Up with the Kardashians in there, too. After all, where do we draw the line?

That’s the real question, and it’s not one with a simple answer, either. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that all shows calling themselves documentaries simply want the truth, that all of them are created equal. But they’re not. While film-makers shouldn’t be as eager to deceive us as they are, we, as the audience, shouldn’t be as eager to buy what they’re peddling.

Tiger King is not rooted in facts, but entertainment, and that’s the difference. It’s a reality show, at best, with a villain for a hero. It’s not on a search for truth, or justice. It’s not about morality. It's about entertainment.

5 Documentaries to Satisfy your True Crime Cravings

The interest in true crime has exploded in recent years, thanks, in large part, to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and all the streaming services out there that consistently provide us with batches of fresh content. While the general public have always enjoyed the macabre (with shows like CSI and Criminal Minds proving to be long-running favourites), true crime really seemed to explode into the mainstream with Netflix’s Making a Murderer, back in 2015 - we all remember how big it was. Since then, we’ve been positively spoilt with the number of factual documentaries, both series and films, that delve into the darker side of human nature. Here are five of what I consider to be the best…

1. Lorena (2019)

Lorena is a four-part series that follows Lorena Bobbitt’s 1993 trial for the assault of her husband, John Bobbitt. It was a story, and a case, sensationalised around the world. Why? Because she chopped off his penis, with a knife, while he slept.

Now, surely this kind of thing doesn’t just happen, right? Lorena claimed that John Bobbitt, while married to her, had abused her physically, verbally, and sexually. She’d attacked him because she’d snapped. Enough was enough.

The story goes rather deep, following John’s trial, and even taking a look into further allegations made against him by other women. It’s a wild ride.

Check it out on Amazon Prime.

2. The Keepers (2017)

The Keepers is a truly heartfelt series about the rampant abuse within Catholic institutions, the murder of a nun, and the solidarity between those who want justice.

Sister Catherine Cesnik was a teacher at the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore before her untimely death in 1969. She was well loved by her students, who, decades later, are the very women featured in the documentary investigating her murder.

The kicker? Cesnik had suspicions that some of the priests, specifically Joseph Maskell, was sexually abusing the girls at the school. She had no proof, but she was looking into the matter during the time she was murdered. It’s almost as if someone wanted to make sure she stayed quiet about the abuse – someone like the very priests she suspected.

The Keepers is currently on Netflix.

3. Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist (2018)

There’s really nothing quite like Evil Genius. The series documents the bizarre 2003 murder of pizzeria employee Brian Wells, and the subsequent investigation into the diabolical plot that killed him.

The plot involved Wells delivering a pizza to a particular spot, where he claimed to have been jumped, and had a collar bomb strapped around his neck. He was then sent to rob a bank, the bomb detonating, thus killing him, shortly after.

The whole thing was almost certainly orchestrated by perhaps the strangest duo you’ll ever meet – Bill Rothstein and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong. The show focuses primarily on Diehl-Armstrong but looks at a host of others who could have played a part.

Why did it happen? The short answer is money. The question we might never know the answer to, however, is whether or not Brian Wells himself was a willing participant.

You can find Evil Genius on Netflix.

4. Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer (2020)

Ever since Bundy’s capture in 1975 and the explosive trial that followed, there have been countless books, films and documentaries made about him and his crimes. He’s perhaps the most talked-about serial killer in history, with the victims all too often fading into the background.

So, while this documentary is certainly about him in a sense, it’s refreshing to see someone take a deeper look at the girls who suffered at his hands. Not only do we find out more about them, we see interviews with their families – mothers, sisters and friends who are all still grieving for their lost loved ones.

Primarily, though, the show looks at Bundy’s long-term girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, and her daughter, Molly. They share their memories and experiences with Bundy before, during, and after his horrific murder spree. Fascinating stuff.

Another great series on Amazon Prime.

5. The Confession Tapes (2017)

First, I feel I ought to give a word of warning for this series; it will make you angry. It will make you want to scream and throw your computer. It’s tough on the emotions, as it should be.

The Confession Tapes looks at several different cases involving possible false confessions – confessions that then led to murder convictions. Investigators are shown using controversial, and even illegal, techniques to extract these confessions – holding and interrogating the suspects for hours, threatening them, and keeping them from calling a lawyer.

The bad practice of some law enforcement departments in America is astounding, and is exactly how so many wrongful convictions happen. This series is unforgiving in its portrayal of the law’s abuse of power, and those who suffer for it.

The Confession Tapes is currently on Netflix.

What do you think of the documentaries featured on this list? Which is your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or via our Twitter or Facebook pages!

Dune - The Attitude of the Knife

In Frank Herbert's bestselling novel Dune, one of the lessons Paul Atreides learns is the attitude of the knife - cutting off what's incomplete and saying: "Now, this is complete because it's ended here." It's a lesson that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures have taken to heart with their upcoming film adaptation; instead of trying to film the entire story at once, they've decided to film it in two parts. According to Legendary's CEO Josh Grode "there's a logical place to end the movie before the story is over." Denis Villeneuve (director of Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) is directing the film and he's assembled a hell of a crew to help him breathe new life into Arrakis. However, all the fans are desperate to know one thing: Where will his film end? In this feature, I will discuss three scenes from the novel that could serve as the film's ending. I will explore them in detail, so if you haven't read the book, I strongly suggest you close your browser now and buy a copy. I'll be including scenes that don't appear in David Lynch and the Sci-Fi Channel's versions of Dune. Now that that's out of the way, let's get started!

Scene #1: Harkonnen Victory

The novel is split into three parts, or "Books", chronicling Paul's rise to power on the desert planet Arrakis. At the end of Book One, Paul and his mother Jessica flee into the planet's southern regions to escape their enemies, the Harkonnens. Their noble family, House Atreides, is overthrown and Paul's father Duke Leto has been killed. House Harkonnen is back in control of Arrakis. While hiding away in the desert, Paul has a series of visions triggered by the planet's "spice" melange. The mind-enhancing drug gives Paul the power to see the future and even read genetic memories passed down to him by his ancestors. He learns, to Jessica's shock, that her unknown father is the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen; and she will soon give birth to a daughter named Alia. Paul also foresees a future for himself and his family - the Fremen, the planet's desert-dwelling nomads, will give them sanctuary. They will gain power and prominence amongst the Fremen and Paul will become Muad'Dib; a messiah destined to free the Fremen from the Harkonnens forever. As he and Jessica come to terms with his new abilities, Paul mourns his father and swears to avenge him.

When I heard of Legendary's plan for Dune, this scene was the first possible end point I thought of. As the end of Book One, it's the earliest point Denis could choose to end the film... but it's not the most ideal. At this point in the story, only a few clashes have taken place: a failed assassination attempt, two skirmishes between Atreides and Harkonnen forces, and the final attack that drives Paul and Jessica into hiding. Viewers who haven't read the book will expect at least one more battle or conflict before the credits roll - and sadly, they won't get it here. As for Paul's visions, they could work both for and against the film if it ends here. Although they set up future events and pave the way for the next film, the revelations Paul uncovers would be too much, too soon. Newcomers and casual viewers won't have the time to absorb Paul's discoveries before the film ends. If Denis Villeneuve's Dune is to succeed, it will need a more exciting ending. Luckily, the ideal scene may be just around the corner...

Scene 2: The Testing Station

In the early scenes of Book Two, Paul and Jessica are rescued by their swordmaster Duncan Idaho and Imperial ecologist Doctor Kynes. They take shelter in an abandoned testing station - one of several the late Duke wished to investigate - which is, in fact, being used as a secret outpost by the Fremen! Paul learns that Kynes is the mysterious Liet; a Fremen leader who commands all the tribes on Arrakis. Liet sends for a Fremen tribe led by his brother, Stilgar, to take in Paul and Jessica. However, Harkonnen forces discover the outpost and attack, intent on taking the last of the Atreides dead or alive. Paul and Jessica escape, but Idaho dies defending them and Liet is captured. The Baron orders his men to execute Liet and reinstates his older nephew, Rabban, as ruler of Arrakis. "The Beast" Rabban has already earned a reputation for brutalising his subjects, but his uncle orders him to oppress the planet harder than ever! Meanwhile, Paul and Jessica begin their search for Stilgar's tribe.

Before I started on this feature, I re-read the first two parts of Dune. I realised two things when I reached this scene: it’s the literal halfway point of the story; and potentially, the best place where the new film could end! It gives the reader time to absorb Paul’s revelations before topping them off with one more – Liet Kynes, the Imperial ecologist ordered to betray the Atreides, is bound to protect them by his Fremen connections! Liet faces a difficult choice in this scene, which in itself makes for a satisfying climax you might see at the end of a film. And then, there’s the Harkonnen attack. Although it’s on a smaller scale than the later battles in Dune, it has the makings of a big screen finale worthy of The Lord of the Rings’ battle at Amon Hen! Compare this scene with the climax of the Fellowship of the Ring film, and you’ll see they have a lot in common. Paul and Jessica are our heroes running from a fight they can’t win. The Harkonnen soldiers are Dune’s Uruk-hai, an unstoppable menace our heroes must escape from. Finally, Kynes and Idaho are this scene’s Aragorn and Boromir, two warriors giving their lives to ensure the heroes escape. The battle already has the right components in the book, but Denis could raise the stakes higher if he wishes. In January, Dave Bautista (the actor playing Rabban in this year’s film) teased a fight scene between himself and Jason Momoa in the new season of Apple TV’s See. Jason is playing Idaho in the new film, so many people – including myself – mistakenly thought that he and Dave would butt heads in Dune as well. Rabban and Idaho never crossed swords in the book… but there’s still a chance they may fight on the big screen. Peter Jackson created the Uruk-hai Lurtz to give the Fellowship one last fight at Amon Hen, so Denis could bring The Beast Rabban to Liet’s station and give Liet and Idaho the fight of their lives! Whatever happens, it’s guaranteed to be a tearjerker. Duncan Idaho is one of the book’s most beloved characters, and he’s being played by one of today’s most loveable hunks! Fans of the character and the actor will want to pack tissues.

Scene #3: The Spice Agony

In the final scene of Book Two, Paul and Jessica have joined Stilgar's tribe. Paul has proven himself in combat and finally met the girl of his dreams: Chani, the daughter of Liet Kynes, who has appeared in his visions since before he came to Arrakis. Now, it's Jessica's turn to earn her keep. She agrees to undergo the spice agony; a ritual in which she will attempt to become the Fremen's new Reverend Mother. To do so, she must "change" the Water of Life - the bile of a drowned sandworm - and absorb the memories of the previous Reverend Mothers. Jessica performs the ritual without declaring her pregnancy, putting the unborn Alia's life at risk. Mother and daughter survive the ritual, but Alia awakens to consciousness prematurely and takes on the Reverend Mothers' memories as well. Jessica succeeds in changing the Water of Life - making it safe to drink - and secures her place among the Fremen! Stilgar's tribe celebrates by drinking the changed Water, and Paul and Chani become lovers.

Jessica’s rite is the very last point where Denis could end the film. I have my doubts, but I chose to include it because the rumour mill’s been working overtime the past few months. A screenplay, supposedly by the films’ screenwriters Eric Roth and John Spaihts, has appeared on the web. I haven’t read it myself – nor do I intend to for fear that it’s fake – but if it’s real, then it’s likely Denis Villeneuve’s Dune will end with Jessica changing the Water of Life. For me, it’s both encouraging and worrying. At this point, Paul and Jessica have achieved their immediate goals: they’ve joined the Fremen and claimed new positions of power. Also, Paul has fulfilled his visions of Chani – one of the first plot threads established in the book – and the two have become a couple. The last remaining members of House Atreides have two goals left, and they both become the focus of Book Three: amassing an army and taking back Arrakis. Book Three picks up two years after Paul and Jessica join the Fremen, so ending here could work in the film’s favour. However, I believe it could be a gamble. If the leaked script is genuine, and most of its scenes make it onto the screen intact, the finished film could be anywhere from two-and-a-half to three hours long. I wouldn’t mind it being so long, but not everyone has the energy to sit through a three-hour film without stopping. If Denis wants the film to succeed, he and his writers will need to make every word and second count. The pacing will need to be as tight as a doorseal; and the dialogue sharp as a crysknife. They’ll only get to make a second film – and adapt the rest of the story – if the first film succeeds. If Denis plans to leave off here, I truly hope it does.

Unless the screenplay is proved genuine, there's only one sure way to know where Denis Villeneuve's Dune will end. Will you be seeing it this Christmas? Where do you think it will end? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook & Twitter. And until December, may Shai-hulud clear the path before you!

Little Nightmares: Three Years On, Mysteries Are Still Being Unraveled

Little Nightmares was an instant hit upon its release back in 2017. While in some ways it seemed to follow in the footsteps of Playdead’s Limbo (2010) and Inside (2016), it also quickly proved to be like no game we’d ever played before.

We’re thrown into the world of Little Nightmares without much explanation, save for what was posted on the official website – we know who Six is, or, at least, her name, and we knew that we’d be coming face-to-face with a number of quite literal nightmares, like the Janitor and, eventually, The Lady. And while these behemoths of the game are undoubtedly terrifying, the game has the kind of atmosphere that, on its own, is enough to chill you.

As Six, we awaken in a darkened room, in what appears to be the bowels of a ship, known as The Maw. From the first note, the music of the game is truly an experience – it sets the tone for every chapter and keeps us on our toes, reminding us that we can never really relax. Each room is shrouded in shadows, and the sheer mystery of where we are and exactly what we’re trying to do only deepens the further we go. It seems we’re trying to escape, but why? From what? Who is the Hanging Man? Who is anyone? And, of course, why are we so desperately hungry? Three years on, these questions still seem to have no discernible answers.

As we progress the game does seem to throw us hints, but the answers are still hardly set in stone. For example, we see the Janitor wrapping up children and transporting their bodies to the Chefs in the kitchen. It’s presumed that he’s raising them to be cooked, and fed to the Guests of the Maw. While this seems plausible, we never see him kill a child, and we never see the Chefs cutting up or cooking a child’s body. The seed is planted, but what grows from it appears to be up to us, the players. Some even think that the Janitor is friendly, inexplicably trying to save Six from whatever she’s running towards.

I doubt it.

But that’s part of the fun (or horror, depending on how you see it) of Little Nightmares. We’re given all the elements of a story – the characters, the setting, the atmosphere – and we’re allowed to run with it. The possibilities are truly endless. It’s even been posited by many fans of the game that Six isn’t benevolent at all, despite how sweet she may seem. After all, she does attack and eat one of the helpless little Nomes, and even absorbs The Lady’s power by eating her. Could it not be true, then, that Six is the titular little nightmare?

She very well could be, at least in my mind. The Lady may seem sinister, but perhaps she only seems that way thanks to the framing of the game. Framing is everything, after all – she looms over us throughout the story, a giant compared to Six, and we know she has incredible, devastating power. But what, exactly, is the nature of her power? How did she come to wield it? And what’s with all the bloody masks?

So many questions, and so few answers. And while it’s certainly frustrating having no answers, I almost don’t want them. It’s a paradox, I know, and an annoying one at that.

I like being left to wonder exactly what Little Nightmares is really trying to tell us, if anything. Some theorise that it’s a direct reflection of our own society, one where the elite gorge on luxuries while others go hungry and suffer beneath a terrible system. Some theories question whether The Maw is home to a gluttonous God, one that feeds on the unsuspecting Guests. It’s thought by some that The Lady is keeping the world safe by endlessly satisfying the entity – if so, that would make Six the one who ultimately wreaks its wrath upon the world, and thus, she really would be a little nightmare.

These theories all have equal merit it seems, and that’s how I’d like it to stay. There’s something brilliant about having no answers because it keeps the questions circling your brain, and in that sense, a story never really ends. That’s why mysteries like Jack the Ripper and the Roanoke Colony persist, because they’ve never been solved. These events regale millions of people centuries after they’ve happened. They retain a strange kind of legendary status because, quite simply, they’ll never die.

No doubt, with the imminent release of Little Nightmares II some more hints may be offered up, and some mysteries within the Little Nightmares universe may be solved. But until then, here’s to not knowing.

Little Nightmares is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC for various prices. Little Nightmares II will be available this year for the same platforms.

Sonic the Hedgehog (Movie Review)

Sonic the Hedgehog is 2020’s attempt to break the video game movie adaptation curse. Its plot plays it safe, leaving it up to the leads to provide the entertainment for fans and families alike. The result hits with a much more delightful impact than expected, making me wish I was born 20 years later so I could grow up watching this movie with wonderment. 

In essence, Sonic the Hedgehog is a fish-out-of-water buddy adventure; Sonic, the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog gifted with super speed, has been hiding out on Earth for a while to escape from being found by a tribe of echidnas who want his power. Partnered with a small-town cop, an on-the-run road trip ensues as they escape the power-hungry madman that is government scientist, Dr. Robotnik. Does that sound familiar at all? If so, that’s because Sonic the Hedgehog’s story is what feels like the 101st of its kind. That and a couple a plot holes that get wider the more you think about them, Sonic the Hedgehog shouldn’t be as enjoyable as it is; but in actuality, the screenplay is not where its charm lies.

After a character redesign that led to the film’s delay, the titular Sonic himself is as adorable as he is lovable. Ben Schwartz, the hedgehog’s voice actor, has always been able to bring a cartoonish, lighthearted cockiness to even his live action roles. Blended with this Sonic’s mix of confidence, vulnerability and child-like fascination with Earth’s delights, the film’s scenes that focus on the importance of friendship and loneliness are enough to melt the most stubborn of hearts. 

Keeping the cast small allows Sonic the Hedgehog’s exchanges to be more focused and quick, providing an opportunity to showcase the writer’s talent for witty dialogue. James Marsden, playing the small town cop, works well in being the everyday straight man who’s a bouncing board for Sonic’s larger-than-life personality. Jim Carrey as Dr. Robotnik comes off as a return to form that we haven’t seen from him since 2003’s Bruce Almighty. Carrey injects the character with the same animated, zany flair and energy that put him on the Hollywood map in the 90’s. 

Bolstered by well-done effects shown off in entertaining action sequences, boredom never rears its ugly head in Sonic the Hedgehog, making the 99 minute runtime feel just about lean and entertaining enough to be a great time for everyone. Fans of any of the classic SEGA games will get more joy out of it than others, but there’s something on offer for all thanks to the extraordinary personalities of its lead characters and the actors behind them. It doesn’t do much to change the formula, but it does a lot in making video game movies stand tall with what else is out there.


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