Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Top Six Plot Twists in the Harry Potter Series

Plot twists represent a very important aspect in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Every book has an impacting twist that changes our outlook on certain characters, events, or settings. These twists make reading the Harry Potter series even more exciting to read a second (and third and fourth…) time through as we now see the clues and hints that point us to the bigger picture and it’s amazing. And today, I’ll be counting down the Harry Potter series’ best twists! These twists are ranked by their impact in the book and series’ storyline, their tentative balance between storyline clues and shock value, and the about-face perception they have on our viewpoints. Let’s dig in.

#6-Hermione’s Time Turner in Prisoner of Azkaban

Book 3 exposed a lot of twists, turns, and reveals in the iconic Shrieking Shack scene; so imagine our surprise when we get one last twist that comes straight out of science fiction land. Hermione’s Time Turner is one of the most talked about things in Book 3 and that’s because it was done SO WELL. Hermione’s strange behavior and even stranger skill in attending so many classes was revealed because of time travel. I love this twist so much as time travel was never talked about at all until this moment yet we aren’t cheated by the notion that wizards can time travel. It seems very natural in the Harry Potter universe. What’s more, the reveal leads to one of the most brain boggling scenes in the franchise with two Harrys and Hermiones at the same time. Many discussions of paradoxes and predestination were born from this reveal alone. Finally, Hermione’s Time Turner saved two lives and got us wondering what else there is in the Harry Potter world that we don’t know about yet.

#5 Tom Marvolo Riddle is Lord Voldemort from Chamber of Secrets

It’s hard to remember that at one point in time this twist was profound. Voldemort is barely mentioned at all in this book and BAM, he’s the main antagonist. In the back of all of our heads, we knew Voldemort would eventually return but we didn’t expect him to do so quickly and in the form of a diary as well. It’s certainly quite chilling when Riddle wrote his name in the air and with a simple flick revealed “I Am Lord Voldemort.”  AGH!  IT WAS RIGHT THERE!

This twist certainly gave us an early insight into Tom’s pre-Voldemort’s life and showed us what kind of man he was even at a young age (something that we saw more of in Book 6). But here, we learn that he was a charmer, a manipulator, and a scheming wizard already bent on building his own legacy. The reveal also works quite well as we are led to believe, but with little overemphasis, that Tom is a stand up guy who unfortunately accused the wrong person. Unlike other twists on this list, this twist’s reveal stuck around until the very end of the series, it’s that important.

#4 Mad-Eye Moody is Barty Crouch Jr. in Goblet of Fire

So the “Goblet of Fire” movie made it painfully obvious that something was up with Mad Eye Moody. Hey, he’s licking his lips creepily and is drinking from his flask constantly! What’s up with that? The book downplayed this quite a bit as Barty’s impression of Moody was almost spot on, even fooling the likes of Dumbledore.

This twist is just so mind blowing that I can’t help but admire it. Every weird little detail, like the missing Polyjuice Potion ingredients or Barty Crouch’s name on the Marauder’s Map, is so obvious that we slap ourselves on the forehead for missing it. And it’s not like the Time Turner twist where we didn’t know time travel existed, we have straight up seen the Polyjuice Potion used before in an important scene just two books ago. This twist further piles up as Hammer Space was introduced earlier during the Quidditch Cup so we know that large rooms could be contained in smaller enclosures. This plot twist is so good that you really can’t help but wonder why the characters don’t talk about it more in the proceeding books.

#3 Pettigrew was Scabbers (amongst a few other twists as well) in Prisoner of Azkaban

So again, the movie kind of forces too much emphasis on this twist but the book, thankfully, pulls this off wonderfully. Oh my gosh, there’s so many reasons why I like this twist. So like the Barty Crouch Jr. twist, we are given many hints at the true nature of this reveal such as the existence of Animagi (we first see this in Book 1 via Professor McGonagall), Scabbers/Pettigrew’s missing finger, and the Sneakoscope.

But what makes this twist very noteworthy is that it comes as a great, well-delivered gut punch! Okay, Sirius is revealed to be an Animagi. Oh crap! That’s crazy! That’s how he was able to do all his escape feats! And then we are revealed that Lupin is a werewolf. This is not as surprising because this is a bit more obvious given Snape’s lesson and Lupin’s health.

After thinking we have seen it all, the Scabbers’ twist comes out full force and we are shocked that this grown-man-turned-rat had been with Harry this entire time. Holy crap. I think this twist really hones in the fact that the Harry Potter series has layers of intertwining plot elements that are not contained within their individual books. Scabbers, this innocent, comic-relief character, is actually a back stabber and works for the Dark Lord. And of course, once this is revealed, Scabbers escapes and eventually finds Lord Voldemort and resurrects him. Not only does this twist has impact but it has consequences as it kicks off Harry’s war with Lord Voldemort. Damn I love Harry Potter.

#2 Quirrell is Two Faced in Sorcerer’s Stone

The first Harry Potter twist and one that would set the twist benchmark for the rest of the series. First off, people new to the series would hopefully find this twist surprising in that there was a twist to begin with. Readers perhaps knew Snape wasn’t the guilty party, there’s a lot of emphasis on him after all, but perhaps readers were surprised that it’s Quirrell who Harry faces in the end. Poor, stuttering, Professor Quirrell. Nonetheless, J.K. Rowling does not insult the reader with this twist. Quirrell was there in Diagon Alley when Gringotts was broken into, he had a lively conversation with Snape, and Hermione bumped into him during the Quidditch game (which broke his concentration on Harry). Well played, Rowling.

Perhaps the one fault I have with this twist is the lack of impact it had on the rest of the series. Yes, Quirrell was mentioned occasionally here and there but nothing too meaningful or insightful. Before the final books were released, many fans guessed that Quirrell would return similar to other recurring elements. But surprisingly, he didn’t. This lack of series impact is unlike our final twist that forever changed the books…

#1 Snape Kills Dumbledore in Half-Blood Prince

Rosebud, Luke’s Father, “he was dead the entire time;” some twists are so iconic that we know them despite not even seeing the material. Snape killing Dumbledore is so iconic that it has reached this level of spoilers. It’s that good.

Why does Snape killing Dumbledore have a huge impact on us? I think the foremost reason is how so unexpected it is. You see, we were pretty sure Dumbledore would die in one of the last two books but what we didn’t expect was the method of his death. Most people probably guessed that Voldemort would kill Dumbledore (or Malfoy as they read Book 6). Snape killing Dumbledore though comes almost out of nowhere leading us completely aghast. And mind you, by the time Book 6 came out, Harry Potter was a global phenomenon that had die-hard fans combing through the preceding books. Nothing in those five books even hinted at this.

The second reason why this spoiler is so iconic is how much it changed the name of the game. Dumbledore is dead, Snape is a traitor, Hogwarts is no longer safe, and the Order of the Phoenix is in trouble. Harry’s fallbacks are gone or tattered and he can only rely on a few people now. Dumbledore’s death drastically changed the standard series’ plot in Book 7 as Harry Potter no longer lives at Hogwarts taking magic lessons; he is on the run, on a quest to destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes.

And to top it off, as a sweet cherry on this amazing twist, the reveal is iconic because how succinct it is. Snape Kills Dumbledore. You only need three words to describe this twist. And because everyone is already so familiar with the characters we were in dire peril of being massively spoiled for it. I’ve heard and read stories of jackasses driving up to Book 6 releases and shouting, “Snape kills Dumbledore” and driving off. Those people are the worst.

It’s because of this twist that Book 7 was heavily, HEAVILY guarded from spoilers. The series’ book artist couldn’t divulge anything to her husband, book stores clamped down hard on distributing books, the list goes on. When Book 7 was released, I read it as fast as I could and stayed away from the internet until I was done. Everyone was so wary of spoilers because of this twist. And because of that, I can think of no other twist that deserves the number 1 spot more than this one.

What do you think? Do you think these twists deserve their spots? What twists do you think I left out that caught you by surprise? Let me know in the comments section!

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Let’s get Creative with Dixit!

I got two board games for Christmas; the first was Camel Up and the second one was Dixit. Of these two board games, I think my friends like Dixit more and it’s easy to see why! The game is simple but it promotes a massive amount of creativity. The rules are like a combination of Apples and Apples and Balderdash with a fantasy twist to them. Basically, each player (3-6 usually) gets six cards with very strange, surreal drawings on them. The “active” player picks a card and says a clue that represents his/her card. This clue can be anything from a phrase, a poem, song, word, or, my favorite, sound effects! You lay down that card and all of the other players pick a card from their hand that best matches that description. Once the cards are in, the active player shuffles them and lays them down for all to see.

Now. This is where Dixit’s true unorthodox nature comes through and what makes it stand out. If at least one player, but not all, correctly guess which card is the “active” card, both the active player and the other player(s) get points. But if none or all of the players correctly guess the active player’s card, then the active player gets no points. The beauty of this game comes from your clue. Your clue should not be too obvious or too obscure, you have to find that healthy balance between the two. And that is where the real fun of the game comes in. What clue will you think up of when you see an armored rabbit looking at three doors, or a self-mutilating plant, or planets arranged on a galaxy-size abacus? “The unknown?” “Depression?” “John Lennon?” The possibilities are almost endless.

Image from kazoodletoys.com

Unfortunately, this can also be a drawback for new players as I found it hard initially to get in the swing of things. Mine and other player clues were either too vague or too easy for our opponents so we didn’t score a lot early on. There is definitely a certain mindset you should have when approaching this game similar to how you would tackle Scrabble, Boggle, or Balderdash. But once you find that train of thought you ride it forward towards the Land of Enjoyment!

The other major drawback of the game is the number of playable cards. Although 84 cards is an amazing number, there definitely should be more cards to help satisfy the intense variety of illustrations. Some cards are just so specific that it can be easy to identify them no matter what clue the active player gave. Luckily, there are several expansions to this game that adds more cards to the already large set. Each expansion, from what I can tell, adds 84 more cards making the expansion set well worth it. What’s more, Dixit is one of the few board games that’s organized to handle more expansions in its box which is AMAZING. So many games don’t do this and it’s a bit of a pain to carry two boxes of the same game around. Dixit cuts the BS out and gives you a great box that can easily handle several expansions.

Buy it? Buy this game if you want something light that is easy to learn and not competitive. This game is fun for those who have a creative flair (plus a beer or two helps makes the clues all the more crazy!)

Leave it? Leave the game if you want a strategic game; this is not one of those games. Also, if you don’t like Balderdash or Once Upon a Time, then this is a game you should skip.

So in the end, Dixit is a great, fun little game that should be played for fun, low key parties, family, or as a break between longer, more intense board games.

Favorite Games I Played in 2015

2015 was another good year for video games for me and I played a variety of them ranging from indie games (a rarity for myself) to big blockbuster hits and from JRPGS to an unique spin on the first person shooter genre.  Many of these games I’ll likely play again down the road but for now lets dive in!

Games I played in 2015

3DS: Link Between Worlds, Phoenix Wright-Dual Destinies, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Majora’s Mask

DS: Apollo Justice (started), Hotel Dusk: Room 212 (started) Fossil Fighters (gave up on)

PS2: Dragonquest 8

PS3: South Park: Stick of Truth

Wii U: Mario Maker, Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles X

PC Games: Her Story, Undertale, Huniepop, Tales from the Borderlands, Wolf Among Us, Star Wars: KotOR

image from gamerevolution.com

Biggest Timesink: Dragonquest 8

So I bought this game on a whim at my local video game store shortly before my internship last summer.  With no internet in the residence building, my primary entertainment indoors was either Battlestar Galatica and Dragonquest 8.  The funny thing was that I was planning on playing multiple games but this game was so big and I had sank so much time on it (last check was well above 70 hours) that not only was it the only game I played, even King Trode scolded me for lollygagging.  But I can’t help it!  The minigames, the sidequests, and those damn Minimedals took up a lot of my time.  The game was fun (even if the voice acting was a bit hokey), challenging, and entertaining all around.

Favorite Indie Game: Undertale

At initial glance, Undertale appears to be another SNES-style RPG with the only thing going for it a unique combat system. However, this is definitely not the case as the game will make you question many standard video game tropes and what it means to be the protagonist of your story. These ideas were further enhanced for myself as I had just played Dragonquest VIII, a fairly typical RPG, which adhered strictly to these tropes. The characters were stellar, the music was top notch, and the story was a wild ride, definitely check it out.

Biggest Guilty Pleasure: Huniepop

Okay, just hear me out; I initially bought this game because I saw YouTube-star Markiplier enjoying the hell out of it. From what I saw, it was a crude, raunchy, dating-sim parody that you play for laughs. What I got was not only a, dare I say, strategic game where you have to plan your gifts and puzzle actions, but a tongue-in-cheek look at how video games clumsily handle women characters. Is the game’s humor and overall appeal satirical or intentional? You’ll be the judge of that. Who knows, I might even dedicate an article to this game on my blog but for now, let’s just let it be.

Best Moment: The Fart Battle in South Park: Stick of Truth

God this game.  Unsurprisingly, this game was so damn funny and I understand why people like it so much.  There were so many great moments but the one that I have to go for is the epic Fart Battle I had against Cartman.  When this happened, I was simultaneously laughing my ass off while pressing the button as fast as I could.  This went on for at least five minutes and in the end I couldn’t make it but god damn was that great.

Worst Line Delivery: The Character Nikki Ann-Marie in Huniepop

In Huniepop, you can date a variety of girls that fit the standard tropes in anime, video games, and so forth.  One of those girls, is the geeky introvert, Nikki Ann-Marie.  Rather than trying to pass her off as aloof but still have some sense of humor, kindness, and passion, Nikki’s voice actress instead portrays her as a character whose constantly bored.  It’s kind of annoying after awhile as Nikki has the potential to be as memorable as some of the other girls.  I think what really seals it for me though is Nikki’s reaction towards your gifts comes off as feign interest rather than genuine intrigue and that’s too bad.

Best Supporting Cast: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Ah KotOR, although I’ve had my fair share of amazing characters, especially in Undertale and Tales from the Borderlands, KotOR takes the cake.  You can’t help but love your ragtag team even if Carth is a wee bit of a nuisance with his “Carth wants to talk about something/no he actually doesn’t.”  What I like about my crew is that there’s always a situation for one of them even if I use some more than others.  Plus they got great chemistry!

Favorite Antagonist: Handsome Jack from Tales from the Borderlands

Flowey is evil because he has no soul, the Crooked Man does what he does to improve fable lives, and Dhoulmagus wants to resurrect the greatest evil of all time.  These are all noteworthy antagonists but the one to take the cake is Handsome Jack.  Although we see Handsome Jack prominently in Borderlands 2, the biggest change here is Rhys.  Now, Jack can directly interact with you and it’s awesome.  How far should you trust him?  He’s a smooth talker with bouts of rage and lots of charisma.  Jack dramatically affects Rhys’ storyline and makes him change for the better.  Jack is insane, conniving, and hilarious and I love every bit of it.

Surprise Hit: The Wolf Among Us (tWAU) and Her Story

So I bought tWAU on a Steam sale around March, 2015 as I always wanted to try out a TellTale game but without paying full price for a game. After checking a few reviews online, I thought this looked good and dove into it. Wow, that’s all I have to say about that. I kept coming back again and again to play this game. Many times, I would start and end each chapter in almost one sitting. TellTale really told an immersive story that made you think about your decisions. Bigby is a great protagonist whose personality can range from angry law enforcer to a “jerk with a heart of gold” depending on how you play him. This game was great and I’m sad there’s not a sequel to it yet.

Her Story is another game that took me by surprise. I actually played it fairly late in the year (December) after I first heard about it in the Video Game Awards. Going into the game, the only thing I knew about it was the tagline “A Video Game About a Woman Talking to the Police.” Mary actually played this game with me and she was my note taker. We went back and forth what to look up next and she would write down many different dates and search terms to help us organize the story in our head. If you want a good detective game with no hand-holding, go for this one!

image from craveonline.com

Favorite Game I played: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

In 2015, I sunk a lot of time into several games, especially when I was interning at Fossil Butte. Even after I turned off the TV, I still looked forward to playing these games again whether it was because of their comedic value (South Park), story (Wolf Among Us), characters (Undertale), or immersive gameplay (Splatoon+South Park). It’s quite hard to pick which is the overall favorite new game I played in 2015 cause a lot of the games were good for their own reasons. However, if I had to pick my favorite it would be Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic just edging out the Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds.  Both of these games were great RPGs that gave you a large degree of choice in progressing the narrative.  But while a Link Between Worlds basically retold a Link to the Past, KotOR told a whole new story using the Star Wars background.  So many characters were good and I wish I got to know more about them like Canderous, HK-47, and Jolee.  The morality scale, the missions, and the planets were so well done.  It’s too bad I got spoiled for the game or else it would have ranked even higher in my love for it.  After playing this game, I really wanted to try out Mass Effect so that may be for another day but still, this game was amazing and definitely my favorite game I played in 2015.