Archives for category: guest review

We here at McDonald and Blank are pleased to announce the newest addition to our staff, Ms. Gabriella O’Grady.  Ms. O’Grady is the entertainment editor at, operating out of Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.  We asked her for a few thoughts on her newest obsession, the Nintendo 3DS title Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Some games do the same thing over and over again, copying and pasting themselves into irrelevance.  Previous iterations of the Nintendo series Animal Crossing would appeal at first, then quickly lose their luster once you had sold all your fruit or seashells.  Nintendo didn’t want to repeat itself this time, and I’m happy to say that “Animal Crossing: New Leaf” definitely has some new leaves.

You are The Villager, a stranger with an untrusting smile who rises to power as mayor of a small island.  This part takes about ten minutes.  Once reliably entrenched as ruler of all he surveys, the Villager remakes the land to suit his whims using the mighty wheel of capitalism.  Your goal is to earn a 100% approval rating from your citizens, which can be done by diving into different projects like establishing city ordinances and breaking ground on public works projects for your people.  You can establish laws that prohibit overdevelopment, protecting the lush green environment while at the same time limiting your economic growth.  You could also deregulate everything, allowing the invisible hand of business to make money at all costs, trees be damned.  You can even establish laws that dictate happiness from your citizenry, who then never complain or raise dissent.  After all, that would be against the law.

Your predecessor, a forever aging turtle by the name of Mayor Tortimer, has retired and moved to a new island.  This island can be used to play games via Wi-Fi with your friends, where you can obtain new fruits, bugs and fish for your village.  You can do this by trading with your friends, ripping them off, or flat out stealing from them.

smash bros villager tonight, you

Once you’ve stolen everything you want for your village, you’ll find that the game is more customizable than any previous iteration in the series.  In other Animal Crossing games, players could only donate to the town hall and wait for their donations to bear fruit.  In New Leaf, you choose what you want built and where you want to build it.  Fountains to commemorate your majesty?  Bridges to new lands, ripe for pillaging?  Yes and yes.

Your villagers, which include old faces from previous Animal Crossing titles as well as some new ones, can be pushed around as you see fit.  Particularly unpleasant villagers can be ensnared with your butterfly net or simply whacked with a shovel until they fall in line.  It makes that 100% approval rating slightly more elusive, but the sheer entertainment value is easily worth it.

If you think the Villager’s indomitable lust for power is going to be confined to this title alone, you are mistaken.  He will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the new Super Smash Brothers game coming out for the Wii U and 3DS.  He uses items like his shovel, axe, or even fireworks to be an unstoppable nightmare in the game.  The villager is an interesting new evil in the world of Nintendo.

smash bros villager coming home wif me

Speaking of evil, Tom Nook returns, of course, to keep you forever in debt and collect all your bells.  Aya Kyogoku, co-director of Animal Crossing, insists that the raccoon like trickster is misunderstood.  “He’s just passionate about his business,” she writes, “He’s not like a loan shark.  He doesn’t add a handling fee or anything like that.  He can wait as long as it takes for you to pay him back.  He’s not as bad as other people might think he is.”  Tom Nook still makes players live in a tent until they can give him a down payment on a house.  A tent in monsoon season, Tom Nook?  And here I thought this time we might be friends.

Interestingly, Tom Nook is not actually a racoon at all.  He is in fact a Tanuki, a trickster beast from Japanese folklore.  The origin of the leaf motif in Animal Crossing comes from an old tale where a tanuki turns leaves into money.  Yet no matter how many leaves you present to Tom Nook, you still seem to be in his debt.

Acting as the mayor and having access to Tortimer’s Island add in hours of extra game play possibilities.  In earlier Animal Crossing titles, everything would be unlocked right off the bat.  In New Leaf, items like the coffee shop, the Happy Room Academy, and the many gardening options unlock as you go, which keeps you playing for “just one more thing.”

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is almost perfect except for one irritating detail: everything happens “tomorrow.”  Just paid off your house? Upgrades will be done tomorrow.  You finally run into Mr. Tortimer?  His island will be ready to visit tomorrow.  If I didn’t time travel in the game so often, I would throw my 3DS out of a window waiting for “tomorrow.”  I get that it is supposed to give you something to look forward to, but “tomorrow” always feels like a an arbitrary wait for what you’ve already shown me is possible.  It’s like constantly waving a twenty pound bag of candy in front of a child and telling them that they can have it “tomorrow.”  That kid is going to hate you quick.

Why do tomorrow what you can do today?  Zip it.  I’m the mayor of this island, and I want what I want, and I want it now.  At least I have a few villagers to catch in my net while I’m waiting…

smash bros villager disaster girl


Stick with me here for a moment as this post isn’t about a video game, it’s about being human.  I downloaded a game today from the Playstation Store called Papo & Yo.  I didn’t know anything about it except that I saw a trailer for it about a year ago and something in it had grabbed my attention.

Now I’ve played plenty of buddy games in my time, from Jak and Daxter to Ratchet and Clank.  I spent hours upon hours with Link and Midna, Wander and Agro.  I love the interactions, the snappy banter and the attachment that grows for your companion. But when Papo & Yo gave me control, the first thing I noticed was that I was all alone.  No pals around, just a small boy in a school uniform, somewhere deep within a Brazilian favela—a ghetto.

The only goal seemed to be to catch up to a young girl as the favela sprang to a magical life around her. Derelict houses got up and walked on four legs as I explored.  The old-fashioned keys of clockwork toys sprouted from the dingy walls, each composed entirely of glowing chalk lines.  It was beautiful.  Progression came quickly and I finally found my buddy, a tiny robot that clung to the boy’s back and acted as a little jet pack.  His name turned out to be Lula, not Papo or Yo.  In fact the boy’s was revealed to be Quico but I was having too much fun to consider who this Papo & Yo might actually be.

Together at last, we ran upon a creature.  A slumbering giant with horns sprouting from its head, we comically hopped on its massive belly for some extra spring needed to reach a high spot.  It woke and followed us and soon we discovered it loved coconuts.  Of course, we gathered them for it to eat.  We were bonding, building trust.  We used the coconuts as lures to get him to weigh down trigger plates and bowl over walls.  Harmless and helpful, I quickly found myself attached to him.

As some brightly colored frogs leapt out of a pipe, the monster playfully chased them, forgetting the coconuts entirely. I found this absolutely endearing.

Until he caught one.

First, he ate it.  That didn’t feel right.  It seemed out of character for this gentle titan but before I could afford any time to consider why he did it, the beast transformed.  Bursting into flame and clearly enraged, it charged, grabbing the little boy in its powerful grip and viciously hurling him.  Hitting the ground, I regained control and ran but the monster was too fast and too big and too strong.  I was overtaken and thrown again, but this time the boy let loose a scream, the horrible, helpless scream of a small child.

At that moment, my stomach tightened as I painfully realized that I was acting out a metaphor.  I was playing a part in the designer’s allegory. Papo & Yo wasn’t some buddy adventure.  Papo & Yo was Papa y Yo.

Daddy and I.

I was finally able to escape the monster’s rage and find a cool, blue glob of something that calmed him back down. But our relationship wasn’t a friendship anymore. It was the uneasy alliance of a young boy needing vital assistance from a ticking time bomb with only a toy robot to protect him. Together they ventured out to locate a shaman who could cure the beast’s rage—the kind of magical solution only a child believes must exist.

High art is a bitter fruit. You must suffer to create it, and understand suffering to appreciate it.  What is it about pain that opens the door to human understanding?  Playing Papo & Yo, I feel like I experienced the intense betrayal a little boy must feel when his own father starts to beat him.  To tell a tale like this, you have to hurt.  You have to feel a pain that’s beyond anything most of us will ever understand.  I’m so thankful for my time with this game today, but fuck this guy’s dad for being the inspiration to make it.

Brett Haile is a writer and graphic artist living in Austin, Texas.