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Issue 11, 2017

Issue 11

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News

  • Tutoring Review Reveals Discrepancies

  • Landslide victory for Rouhani in Iranian election

  • Further Concerns with Student Health and Counselling

  • MSD Privacy Update

  • Fairer Fares Update #263

  • Let Girls be Girls

  • TPP Negotiations Continue

  • Facebook Files

  • New App to Legitimise Rent Bidding

  • Features

  • papua

    Double Colonisation: West Papua in the Pacific

    – SPONSORED – Any real understanding of ourselves and our existing cultures calls for an attempt to understand colonialism and what it did and is still doing to us. — Albert Wendt, Towards A New Oceania, 1978. West Papua occupies the western half of the New Guinea island and is home to two Indonesian provinces […]

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  • DAN

    A Land Long Clouded

    – SPONSORED – Imagining Decolonised Cities presents a symposium: What is a Decolonised City?   [Beginning with: The Mind] I had planned to go for only half the symposium, a typical Pākehā response — pop in, see the speakers I wanted to then leave, back to my own life and whatever it was I normally […]

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  • coral

    Coral Reefs: The Responsibility of Science, or Society?

    – SPONSORED – On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake and cycle of tsunamis now known as the Sumatra-Andaman event devastated much of Southeast Asia. Coastal communities, especially in western Indonesia, were inundated with walls of water up to 19 metres high that penetrated over two kilometres inland. The death toll was (conservatively) estimated at […]

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  • new

    Watch This space: Territories, Borders, and New Guinea

    – SPONSORED – “The first thing we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds […]

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  • papua

    Double Colonisation: West Papua in the Pacific

    – SPONSORED – Any real understanding of ourselves and our existing cultures calls for an attempt to understand colonialism and what it did and is still doing to us. — Albert Wendt, Towards A New Oceania, 1978. West Papua occupies the western half of the New Guinea island and is home to two Indonesian provinces […]

    by

  • DAN

    A Land Long Clouded

    – SPONSORED – Imagining Decolonised Cities presents a symposium: What is a Decolonised City?   [Beginning with: The Mind] I had planned to go for only half the symposium, a typical Pākehā response — pop in, see the speakers I wanted to then leave, back to my own life and whatever it was I normally […]

    by

  • coral

    Coral Reefs: The Responsibility of Science, or Society?

    – SPONSORED – On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake and cycle of tsunamis now known as the Sumatra-Andaman event devastated much of Southeast Asia. Coastal communities, especially in western Indonesia, were inundated with walls of water up to 19 metres high that penetrated over two kilometres inland. The death toll was (conservatively) estimated at […]

    by

  • new

    Watch This space: Territories, Borders, and New Guinea

    – SPONSORED – “The first thing we demand of a wall is that it shall stand up. If it stands up, it is a good wall, and the question of what purpose it serves is separable from that. And yet even the best wall in the world deserves to be pulled down if it surrounds […]

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  • Arts and Science

  • A review of American Gods in lieu of its television adaptation

    In recent years Neil Gaiman has become a pocket of the internet’s nerd crush of choice, thanks to the success of books (and their adaptations) like Coraline, the enduring relevance of his fantastic Sandman series, and his relationship to fellow internet crush Amanda Palmer. Like any cultural icon that draws a rabid and loud fan base on the internet, a backlash happens with questions inevitably circulate about whether their fame and fandom is really justified. Having now read a chunk of the Sandman series, and polishing off American Gods, this reviewer is more than happy to jump on the Gaiman bandwagon and loudly sing his praises.

    I mention this because the version of American Gods I read (the 10th anniversary edition with a cool new throwback cover) makes the claim that it is a “Bestselling Underground Novel.” Apart from the apparent oxymoron of this statement, it is informative to the changes the internet has fostered in the way we consume culture. Cult books, films, and music were cult for the very fact that few people were able to access the material and those that could, struggled to connect with other fans. The internet has largely obliterated these obstacles, providing mainstream success and acknowledgement to the likes of Gaiman, and yet somehow the idea of “cult” maintains as a synonym for “good” or “classic”. Even in an era when most of us are able to access an inexhaustible (and free) trove of culture through our computers, we still desire to find that piece of culture that the mainstream has neglected. In this environment I suppose the oxymoron of “Bestselling Underground Novel” will just have to suffice.

    That wasn’t just a ramble either. Rather, cultural change of this type is a prominent theme of American Gods, which pits our old and less rational belief systems against our new, more rational, and technologically based ones, in the middle of which is the main character and reader-proxy Shadow. Shadow is the prototypical “everyman” and our entry into the America Gaiman creates. Shadow is key to the novel’s success as the narrative takes us on a journey across this America while encountering various gods and characters from various mythologies along the way. In a text as reference heavy as American Gods, it would be easy for the narrative to slip into unintelligibility or come across as superior — as if the author were flaunting their superior knowledge. But Gaiman is able to make the novel feel inclusive, and this is where I give him the most credit. Not only does Shadow help the reader navigate the novel’s dense references, Gaiman manages to make him feel wholly human, providing American Gods with an emotional centre around which the author’s more eccentric themes and desires can revolve. The success of the television adaptation will rest heavily on Ricky Whittle, the man tasked with portraying Shadow and his ability to avoid being swallowed by the more showy characters and actors around him.

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  • Social Experiment Films

    Die Welle (The Wave) (2008)

    Set in a German high school, students in a class on autocracy unknowingly become a case in point for how easy it is for a group powered by toxic ideologies to take over the ruling class.

    “Could a dictatorship possibly take charge of Germany again?” The question garnered a number of “nos” from students. In an effort to prove a point, the teacher steadily creates a dictatorship type arrangement with him as a leader. Labeled as a volunteer experiment for the betterment of the class, students must stand to speak as it “improves circulation and increases concentration,” and a class uniform is established to “reduce mental effort” spent deciding what to wear and “decreas[e] disparity between student’s incomes.” Over the week, the student body becomes more empowered and dedicated to the cause, developing its own salute and name — The Wave. Students who do not associate with The Wave become social outcasts and in turn revolt against it.

    Films like this are wonderful because they open your eyes to how you could be influenced by your surroundings. Are we really above succumbing to negative ideology through institutionalisation and media spoon-feeding today? I don’t think so. We celebrate consumption when living standards of 49 of the world’s least developed countries are lower today than 30 years ago. Labeling others who vote differently to you as “deplorable” and shutting down organised dialogue at universities — that’s anti-democratic and oppressive.  

    Films like this highlight how society is constructed and regulated by rules formed until their grip becomes autonomous, but also how elements of group identity can be severely destructive to our society.

    — Mathew Watkins

     

    The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

    Based on the infamously unethical psychological experiment conducted in the 1970s, this film serves as a chilling reminder of how ordinary people can act extraordinarily under extreme circumstances. When 24 male college students are set up in an isolated mock prison system, it becomes evident almost immediately that the students assigned the role of guards are taking things too far, and the “prisoners” begin to become seriously concerned for their welfare.

    The film is expertly written and takes an in depth look at how a prison-like institution can elevate a person’s ego with power, as well as dehumanise a person by stripping away their individuality. The “guards” are given sunglasses to hide their emotions and give them more authority. The “prisoners” are referred to as numbers and forced to wear rough cut dresses and stockings over their hair. The criticism then falls upon the “government” (the professors) who continue to do nothing to keep such authority figures in check.

    Like a modern day Lord Of The Flies, we are reminded that without a moral system in place, or without a system at all, people tend to regress to a more primal hierarchy wherein the more powerful rise to dominance and maintain it through sheer strength. A minority of weaker people may or may not realise they are, collectively, stronger.

    It comes as high praise to the film that I’ve spent most of the time discussing its subject matter that I’ve barely mentioned any other aspect of the film.

    — Finn Holland

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  • The Vegetarian — Han Kang

    Not feeling bleak enough? Need a good distraction that’s darker than the final weeks of semester? Give The Vegetarian a try! It’s okay kids, before you go shouting out “BUT WHAT ABOUT BACON THOUGH,” please know that I’m not here to convert anyone to a meat-free diet. That being said, once you’re done with this one… you may kind of feel like it.

    Winner of the Man Booker International Prize, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian uses the passive, quiet, and dutiful wife Yeong-hye as a vessel to ask questions surrounding life and death, pain, sex, and the taboo of mental illness. Told through three perspectives of those close in Yeong-hye’s life, the three-part novel is blunt and beautiful; subtle and scary. Kang’s prose is simple, seamlessly flowing through the pages. You will find yourself oblivious to the world. The short 183 page novel won’t drain you, but enhance the creation of an impactful aftermath.

    Perhaps Yeong-hye is a soul burdened by the modern condition: trapped and isolated throughout her life, always obedient to patriarchal obligations and constantly meeting others’ expectations — of course this can make one grow weary. The Vegetarian tells of her pain in a surreal and spiritual way. Her almost mystical quest for an organic transformation is strange, yet not too distant to relate to; an escape from everything, and yet a true survey of the human psyche.

    It is important to warn that the The Vegetarian may trigger some people. Some content throughout can be heavy and hard. Despite this, it is also seriously important in literature to bring to light scenarios that are very rarely mentioned, especially in novels, or at least those that are presented in a way that’s heavily flossy and untrue. But don’t let this dissuade you. The Vegetarian is a beautiful, harrowing, and insightful experience.

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  • Death, Sex, and Money

    For the podcast Death, Sex, and Money, distributed by the reputable WYNC Studios (also responsible for 2 Dope Queens and Crybabies) the premise is simple: “Things we think about a lot, and need to talk about more.” Host Anna Sale invites her guests to openly and frankly discuss the “taboo” topics that have challenged them, and the great thing about this show is that it’s challenging for the listener too, subverting our expectations about the human experience.

    Host Sale is a superb interviewer and her warmth, wit, and compassion prompts her guests to be totally honest. The interviewees are, more often than not, ordinary people with extraordinary stories, which is a refreshing change from the podcasting world’s love of long-form celebrity interviews. However, sometimes the guests are famous, with Sale interviewing the likes of Brooke Shields, Alec Baldwin, and Anna Chlumsky.

    The memorable part of this podcast is that it focuses on the personal experience of the “taboo” topic, not the topic itself. Instead of a general exploration of gender transition, or undocumented immigration, Death, Sex, and Money delves into genuine and specific moments in a person’s life: what is it like to transition while working as a prison guard? What is it like to return to an empty home because your parents have been deported?

    Death, Sex, and Money frames vulnerability as strength. Take guest Rashema Melson, for example. In 2015, Sale interviewed Melson after she shot to fame as the “Homeless Valedictorian”. Despite growing up in a homeless shelter, Melson was dux of her high school and had been awarded a full scholarship to the prestigious Georgetown University. Yet by 2017, when Sale checked back in, Melson had left Georgetown and was getting divorced after a brief marriage. Melson’s challenges were depicted as a core part of life: getting a little lost, and figuring it out.

    Tune in to Death, Sex, and Money for inspiring, funny, heart-breaking, and humane interviews about people doing the best they can.

     

    Episode to start with: “Orange Is The New Black’s Diane Guerrero on Debt and Deportation”.

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  • She is just a poem

    (come if you dare

    to these mysterious islands)

    frozen in glossy post-card form

      she is adorned

         with dreams

            ready for you / to

               fantasise

               romanticise

               over gorgeous big brown eyes

                  gorging thighs¹

     

    The newspapers locate us. “Struggles of farming and living without water”; “Moana Directors say thank you Samoa”; “Samoa’s $131m project approved”; “Win a Toyota Hilux!” Small, filtered glimpses of a place like our own but different; where ads for holidays in “White Sand Polynesia” still get printed even though we’re already there. Some places exist only in photographs, or, maybe — the sand is always whiter on the other side.

    We are in Samoa. Turn around and face the ocean. Look at how blue it is. How the horizon is not a line but a gradient. How the sky and sea never look better than when they become one. Think of the peace that comes with having at once everything and nothing to look at. Behind us, the sand; the bush; the shade. A few empty fale. A dream.

    Europeans first placed foot on this soil in 1787. They came ashore on the north coast of Tutuila in what is now American Samoa. 12 members of the landing party and 39 Samoans were killed. What did each see in the Other — light hitting tense arm; a glint in the eye; the arch of a furrowed brow; blood spilt on the sand to be washed away as the tide rises? Does a threat look like what you know, or what you don’t?

    Yuki Kihara’s Coconuts That Grew From Concrete, on display at Artspace until July 1, explores how one’s Other can be shaped into another’s Own. The wall, on the left as you enter, is covered with a large poster: paradise. In the centre of the room is a standalone structure, covered in newspaper pages: a land with wants, needs, desires. And hanging — one in a gilded frame, others unframed canvas — around us, are beautiful Frankensteins: women stitched together from early 20th century tableaux photographs of Samoan subjects by Pākehā photographers, destined to be postcards, and painted portraits by European Old Masters.

    The Burton Brothers are among the photographers whose images are used. They kept a diary of their time in the Pacific, which was published as The Camera in the Coral Islands. They wrote of a Samoan woman they photographed:

    “Here, for instance, is a girl dressed but little according to civilised ideas, very much of her form, her bosom, her shapely limbs being freely revealed. She is just a poem, and no thought of impropriety suggests itself for a moment…”

    In Kihara’s Odialisque (After Boucher), a Samoan woman lies on her side, head propped up by one arm, the other covering her breasts. Her hair is tightly curled. Her face is round. Her eyes slant toward the camera. A flax skirt and woven mat reinforce the Otherness that would define how she was read when turned to postcard. Kihara has transposed her, cropping the photograph so that she is cut off at the waist, onto Boucher’s The Odialesque: a woman reclined on a huge bed of pillows and velvets with her naked back to the viewer. The two images fit seamlessly: the figure’s legs extending easily from ‘ie tōga to bedspread.

    Where does fantasy end? The paintings are reproductions, their pixels visible if you look up close. The wallpaper has fractures down its seams. Paradise has its fault lines, where tensions heighten to the point of collapse. Its end point is its source. To follow the lines, from pale leg to flax skirt, or brown stomach to white hip, is to look for the connections in difference: to shape someone’s Other into your Own and be made complicit in the act.

     

    looking with new eyes

      nothing is left

         she one the post card

            has Frozen to death.¹

     

    1. Selina Tusitala Marsh. “Statued (stat you?) Traditions.” Wasafiri 25 (1997): 52-54.

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  • Interview: Otoboke Beaver

    Otoboke Beaver are a no-holds-barred, wild punk band made up of four women from Kyoto, Japan. They work full-time at standard, respectable jobs during the week, and spend their weekends on jaunts around Japan throwing walls of screaming sound at their audiences. Their lyrics are entirely in Japanese, and they have recently made waves at South by Southwest and on tour through the UK with Korean surf-rock band Say Sue Me. Salient got the opportunity to talk to them just after they returned from Austin, and got the lowdown on their live show, womanhood in the Japanese music industry, and their favourite bands.

     

    Salient: I understand you have recently come back from SXSW. How was that experience? Was it daunting coming into it from something of an outsider’s perspective, or did you find it a welcoming environment?

    Accorinrin: People in Austin welcomed us so much, and I was so happy that so many people came to our first show! Everyone was friendly, and imitated my dance straight away.

    Yoyoyoshie: I felt we were welcomed more than in Japan. It was so fun!

    Hiro-chan: I feel people in Austin welcomed us! I was also happy for the audience to talk to us, they were so friendly.

     

    S: What bands have influenced the sound that you try to create?

    A: Jun Togawa, Hikasyu, songs of the Showa generation in Japan, and indie music in Kansai.

    Y: I feel I have been influenced by Japanese music. I love Yura Yura Teikoku and Oshiripenpenz.

    H: There are no bands that have influenced me especially, but I like indie bands in Japan, garage rock, and new wave.

     

    S: If you had to condense it into a couple of sentences, how would you describe the experience of your live show? I’ve heard that it’s incredible!

    A: Misplaced violence for you <3

    Y: Due to Accorinrin.

    H: I think our performance is felt close to us. For example, waves of sounds, hot air of ours.

     

    S: In terms of lyrics, what experiences and ideas do you draw upon? It seems like you use a lot of local Kyoto slang; is that quite close to your own identities?

    A: My experience about love affairs and my delusions. Kyoto slang is familiar to me and what I usually use for lyrics. Wording is so interesting.

     

    S: What is it like working as a woman in the Japanese music industry? Do you ever feel patronised? I once had a man that was convinced that because I was a woman, I was fundamentally unable to plug a lead into an amp — have you experienced anything like this?

    Y: Nothing else. Now everybody has the opportunity to play active parts, and I don’t think women fear because they are women.

    Pop: It is true that there are many men who work in music industries and women have parts of being inferior in power, but I have never felt this especially. I have women friends who work as sound techs. I wonder why they thought you couldn’t plug a lead into an amp.  Everybody can do that.

     

    S: Would you say that your music is part of a rebellion against the roles of womanhood set out in Japanese culture?

    Y: We sing songs about men and women in love affairs.

    H: Hmm. Not the rebellion but the claims that there are such women like us.

    P: Maybe so. I think there is a trend that women must be cute, like idol culture and announcers in Japan. I don’t know what is bad, but we express ourselves freely. Because there are demands of cute men, I think it is okay there are supplies of cool women.

     

    S: What are some of the fun experiences you have had while being a part of this band?

    A: The fact that our music is out all over the world.

    Y: Having gigs in the US. Reactions from the audience were so interesting.

    H: Gigs overseas. And it is always funny watching Yoyoyoshie stage dive into the audience.

     

    S: What are the bands/artists that you’re most excited about at the moment?

    A: To tell the truth, I am buried in our own songwriting.

    Y: The band named Have a Nice Day! and its fans are interesting and insane. And now I’m interested in British rock bands like Blur. So cute!

    H: BLONDnewHALF and NEMU (both are bands in Kansai).

    P: JJJ (hip-hop) and Skirt from Japan. Shobaleader One, Clap! Clap!, White Lung, Bonobo, and Slowkiss. Slowkiss became friends with us at SXSW.

     

    S: Does being Japanese create any difficulties for you in terms of making your music and touring? Conversely, what do you think are the great things about making music and living in Japan?

    A: I want more holidays, as we all work as full time workers.

    Y: I want more holidays. I heard that it is easy to take long holidays in the UK. There are many hot springs in Japan, so we like to go to them when we do Japanese tours.

    H: I think it’s interesting and good that Japanese words have many meanings and feelings in same words.

    P: I think that Japan is centred around J-pop culture ultimately. We have often said “our music is for overseas.” So our music is enjoyed by outsiders.

     

    You can find Otoboke Beaver’s new EP Love is Short at otobokebeaver.bandcamp.com.

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  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius — Dave Eggers

    Dave Eggers is self-aware. But not as self-aware as I am, writing this review and acknowledging that I’m attempting to recreate Eggers’ self-aware literary style, which is aware not only that his book is fiction, but that he is aware how he is trying to make the reader aware that his book is fiction, and I am aware of all of this, making me the most aware and therefore the winner.

    The author of this review wishes also to acknowledge that the entirety of this review is not necessary to read. Only the very last paragraph will be of any practical use in a reader’s ongoing existence. The preceding paragraphs will merely be blatantly egoistic and indulgent exercises in post-modern literary craft. They will additionally be somewhat sad, or joyful. The author is undecided in an annoying sort of way.

    My parents are both still alive. But they could have died at any moment throughout my childhood. That they didn’t was an act of perverse sabotage to remove the possibility of my, or my siblings’, lives being at all “chosen,” “special,” or “tragically glamourous.” I am furious. I have spent the last two decades trying to scramble bits and pieces of glamour and unique purpose out of a mundane, stable existence. It is only slightly working.

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is not that. But it is perfectly good enough. It is a memoir of sorts, detailing in a swirl of edited facts and renamed heroes the confusing life of Dave Eggers himself. His parents did die, sadly. He wrote this book as a scourge upon his own skin, aiming for total catharsis. His writerly gift makes this bearable to read. As a note of interest, he also wrote The Circle, which has Emma Watson in it.

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  • Mommy Dead and Dearest

    On Monday, June 15, 2015, at 7.32am, a Facebook account belonging to Dee Dee Blancharde and her daughter Gypsy posted an update that seemed extremely out of character: “That Bitch is dead!” On checking the family’s Springfield, Missouri home with no response, neighbours called the police who found Dee Dee’s body inside, stabbed to death. There was no sign of Gypsy, who was paralysed from the waist down and required a wheelchair, and she was presumed missing. She was found safe the next day in Wisconsin, staying with the family of a man she had met online. She didn’t have her wheelchair.

    Upon arrest it was discovered that Gypsy could walk just fine, and that ever since she could remember her mother had told her she could not use her legs and was not allowed to. In fact, the entirety of her medical history, from breathing difficulties to cancer, had been fabricated and forced upon her — over 20 years of extreme abuse — and she saw no opportunity for freedom other than to murder her own mother.

    Mommy Dead and Dearest is an amazing documentary from director Erin Lee Carr, sure to feature on every true crime recommendations list for the next ten years. It is equal parts sad, frustrating, and unbelievable. With full access to Gypsy’s medical and court records, Dee Dee’s family members, Gypsy’s father, and interviews with Gypsy herself from prison, the film lays out a story thick with twists and complex layers.

    For her entire life, Gypsy Rose Blancharde was her mother’s prisoner. She was force-fed, excessively medicated, and never alone. Among the list of ailments Dee Dee claimed Gypsy to have had were: leukemia, muscular dystrophy, asthma, epilepsy, and limited mental capacity due to brain damage. Her mother shaved her head, claiming the “chemotherapy would make [her] hair fall out anyway.” Many of the medications Gypsy was prescribed induced the symptoms she was claimed to have. Seizure medication caused her teeth to fall out. Dee Dee convinced doctors to approve numerous surgeries, inserting feeding tubes and removing Gypsy’s salivary glands. It can only be assumed that the combination of Dee Dee’s doctor shopping to collect the perfect records, Gypsy’s outward appearance, and the massive support group the two had acquired online, portrayed a situation that seemed too extraordinary for doctors to doubt. Gypsy did not know the year she was born; while assumed to be in her late teens, it was discovered she was in her mid twenties.

    Dee Dee used her daughter’s sickness for attention, sympathy from strangers, and simple monetary gain; through Gypsy, she received thousands in donations, free trips to events and theme parks, and praise for the perceived unconditional devotion she had for her child. As for Dee Dee’s family, there was little love; her step-mother alleges Dee Dee once tried to poison her food, while her father jokes about throwing her ashes in a toilet. Dee Dee’s nephew says he always expected his aunt to piss someone off and get herself killed, as if that’s not a big deal. Not once did they suspect Gypsy wasn’t really sick. The only person who has anything nice to say about Dee Dee is Gypsy, in handcuffs.

    Throughout the documentary the legitimacy of Gypsy’s current statements are called into question, but personally I never found myself doubting her. She has no reason to lie anymore. Ironically, prison is the freest Gypsy has ever been; she can walk, engage with others, she has access to an education, her system is clear of drugs, and her feeding tube has been removed. When asked which version of her life she prefers, Gypsy replies affirmative to being incarcerated with no hesitation. It’s shocking how normal Gypsy could have been had she ever been exposed to anything resembling “normal” in her life, and it’s that normal life she hopes to attain when she is eligible for parole in 2024, just before her 33rd birthday.

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  • World to the West

    Developer: Rain Games

    Publisher: SOEDESCO

    Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Windows), Wii U

    Review copy supplied by publisher.

     

    There’s nothing worse than wasted potential. You’ve probably seen at least one film where you’ve immensely enjoyed the first two thirds, only to see everything fall apart at the end, turning a potential favourite into just another average piece of trash. Sadly, it can happen to games as well, and it especially sucks when it happens to a charming little indie game.

    World to the West has a lot going for it. A spiritual successor to the 2D platformer Teslagrad, you play as four unique characters in a top-down action adventure, reminiscent of several Legend of Zelda games, including A Link to the Past. The story, inspired by European adventure comics, sees the characters come together from different lands to explore the world, fulfil a prophecy, and defeat an evil businessman. It’s nothing especially ground-breaking, but there are some funny moments, especially in the first two acts. Finishing the story will get you around seven to nine hours of total playtime.

    The gameplay emphasis is very much on puzzle-solving, using each character’s abilities to navigate the map. Lumina can use lightning powers to dash across gaps and activate switches; Knaus can dig underneath soft ground, crawl through small spaces, and use dynamite; Miss Teri uses her scarf as a grappling hook and for hypnotising animals; and Lord Clonington is a brawler who can break down barriers with his strength. Although the puzzles aren’t highly difficult, they still feel rewarding to solve. The world can perhaps be best described as “semi-open”: while you are free to explore much of the world, the main paths needed to complete puzzles are heavily telegraphed, while certain sections require you to unlock new abilities. There is some combat which is fairly basic, but it can be avoided in most circumstances.

    However, you don’t control all four characters at once, at least not initially, and this is pretty much where things fall apart. Throughout the world are totem poles, which act as checkpoints where you can fast travel to other parts of the map. A character can only use a totem pole that they have discovered themselves, so getting each character to a certain point means navigating an area as each character. This isn’t much of a problem in the early stages of the game, when all of the characters are split up and have their own quests to complete, but once they’ve all met and the map opens up, it becomes an exercise in tedium. See what I mean by wasted potential?

    Much of the game’s charm comes from its visual design, with a distinct cartoon-like aesthetic and cute character models. While there isn’t much texture to it, perhaps hamstrung by budget limitations, it does give the atmosphere a whimsical feel; I would have no problems whatsoever with giving this game to a young child. Unfortunately, said budget limitations have also resulted in a distinct lack of polish, with a number of glitches and poor translation (Rain Games being a Norwegian studio) being present during my playthrough. The PS4 version I played also appears to have had a visual downgrade, with certain visual elements present in the PC version being missing.

    I really wanted to like World to the West, but its flaws are numerous and glaring enough that what began as a fun little romp through a fantasy world slowly turned into just another average indie game. If the navigation was more streamlined and the niggling issues were sorted I would be much more comfortable recommending this game, but at the moment it’s a tough sell. And that sucks.

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  • About the Author ()

    Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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    Go Watch TV: Rick and Morty and Secular Humanism

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