EssRec-Bee and Puppycat

Welcome to Essential Recommendations! My occasional blog post in which I recommend you guys books, films, videos games or anything really that I find cool. Last time, I recommended the brilliant Killing Is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Linean essay detailing the nuances of a video game that challenges the current perception of military first person shooters, the depiction of violence in entertainment and even the portrayal of post traumatic Stress disorder. This time, it’s an online cartoon about Bee, an out-of-work twenty-something who has a life-changing collision with a mysterious creature she names PuppyCat. So yeah, not exactly keeping to a  theme.

Bee and PuppyCat

By Natasha Allegri and Frederator Studios

Available on YouTube, Kickstarter Page (funded)

This is pretty much required watching for anyone who is a fan of Adventure Time and the similarities are clear from the start: magical pets, crazy adventures and a childish psychedelic art style bordering on a drug trip. It’s no coincidence: series creator Natasha Allegri is a crew member on Adventure Time and it well-known within the community. However, as someone who is categorically not a fan of Adventure Time, I wanted to post this so encourage people who maybe wrote off Bee and Puppycat for its similar AT ‘vibe’.

Source: http://jailboticus.deviantart.com/art/Bee-and-Puppycat-in-Fishbowl-Space-392317801

You might write off B&P as a Adventure Time rip off, but you’d be oh-so wrong.

The series has a beautiful art style that’s almost impossible to describe (and probably why I keep referring to its closest relative, Adventure Time). Every frame has this beautiful fluid motion to it, and the characters are wonderful animated and expressive. What drew me in was the sound however- it’s crazy and over the top but so beautifully made and pitch perfect. The voice acting is also wonderfully crisp, simple and soft-spoken. It doesn’t feel jarring or out-of-place like I’ve found Adventure Time to sometimes suffer from. To someone studying sound design, it’s really inspiring to see something so detailed and unique sounding in a cartoon. Either way, keep an eye out for new episodes soon- a whole series was funded through a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign and I couldn’t be happier. You can find an Ask me Anything interview on Reddit by Natasha and the executive producer Fred Seibert here. Also check out Bravest Warriors by the same studio if you’d like something similar.

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EssRec- Killing Is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line

EssRec! My genius marketing term for Essential Recommendations in which I rattle off essential recommendations; be it books, films, games, trailers or whatever. This is my very first ‘EssRec’ so I thought I would start it off with a bang! An unconventional, wordy and incredibly niche bang! but a bang! nonetheless. Allow me to introduce you to:

Killing Is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line

by Brendan Keogh

Information at Goodreads, Available from Amazon, Gumroad.

Bang!

Art by Daniel Purvis

I’ve spoken before about how I believe Spec Ops: The Line to be one of the most important games in modern video game history. From its sweeping criticisms of modern game design, war, the effects violence and killing in both the real world and it’s portrayal in entertainment, a story line that deals with complex issues such as PTSD, war crimes and the current political climate and characters that are so real and developed you feel a definite, if at time strained and regrettable connection with, Spec Ops is bold, brash and unapologetic as it forces you to experience a spiral of escalation and ugly look at the true human condition. It’s a game I’d recommend everyone play and experience and please, please if you have not or do not know the story don’t read this book, and don’t spoil it for yourself! This game is meant to be played without any knowledge or expectation of what you’re going to experience. The ignorance and shock of going into this game fresh is its defining feature.

Anyway I’m not here to gush about the game, but rather this Brendan Keogh’s brilliant 177 page piece about it. He writes a book that is the perfect companion piece to the game and will keep you thinking about Spec Ops for years to come. He goes through the story chapter by chapter, missing nothing, questioning and analyzing everything. His criticisms, comparisons and references are spot on but also have a brilliant accessibility his writing isn’t pretentious or overly academic (which is, admittedly, what I thought I was going to be in for when I bought it)- Keogh writes like a true fan of the game, speaking honestly about his experiences with it- both good and bad. The best part is his charting of the characters journey- pointing out the flaws, mistakes and shifting intentions and mindset of the main character. Killing is harmless is a good remedy to a problem that plagues video games, especially ones as complex and detailed as Spec Ops– that of length. Games that run over dozens of hours and that potentially take you days to finish are hard to follow at times- understandably, how are you to remember the intricacies of a two-minute conversation after hours of gameplay and other scenes? There’s no ‘Previously on Knights of the Old Republic’ like you’d get on 24. Keogh’s piece bridged the gap nicely, and his in-depth look at the music and soundtrack was a particularly high point, as it was something I’ve been hoping to find discussed in depth for some time.

I don’t want to spoil anything else- either the game or the book, but I would recommend it highly. Well researched, fulled referenced and very well written, it’s great read if you’ve just played or enjoyed Spec Ops: the Line. The best way to enjoy it, I found, was to read a chapter of the book, then play that chapter in the game. You’ll see things you never noticed before, I swear.

Finally, If you enjoyed Spec Ops or Killing is Harmless, I can also recommend a brilliant two part Extra Credits video on it (Part 1 is spoiler free, part 2 is all spoilers all the time!) and the review on Zero Punctuation (hint: he likes it!) as well as a pretty good analysis by Errant Signal. If you’re in a reading mood, this piece by Tom Bissell is very good. Enjoy!

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