What’s Making Me Happy This Week?: Picross Luna

With Malacañang allowing two Chinese firms previously blacklisted for corruption by the World Bank to be involved in Marawi’s rehabilitation, ICE losing almost 1,500 undocumented children they’ve forcibly removed from parents awaiting asylum hearings, & that disastrous interview with the cast of Arrested Development, it hasn’t been a great week. But that shouldn’t stop me from looking at the bright side. If Ireland was able to repeal its abortion ban, then maybe things aren’t as bad they seem. Inspired by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, let’s take a look at what’s making me happy this week.

I love playing Picross. If you don’t know what it is, you are either in for a treat or trouble. Also known as Nonograms or Griddlers, it’s a puzzle where you have to fill in the correct cells on a grid based on the numbers on the side of the grid, which would reveal a picture. The mechanics are simple, but it’s fun, addictive & engrossing. I could play it for hours, even if it can get frustrating & complicated.

I still have fond memories playing Picross DS on the Nintendo DS I share with my cousin back when I was in college. It was the first time I tried it & I was immediately sucked in thanks to its simple mechanics & interface. My favorite iteration was Picross 3D, which was essentially Picross with a cube. These two games are perfect for handheld’s then-unique touchscreen controls, & the fact that you can play them anywhere & anytime is a huge plus.

I didn’t get to play Picross again after my Nintendo DS broke thanks to its faulty hinge. I never sought it out afterwards, because it came at a time where my interest to play video games dropped. But when Polygon published a video enumerating the best free Picross games a few days ago, & oh boy did it reignite one of my forgotten passions.

There are a bunch of free Picross games cited in the video above, depending on how familiar you are with the game & where you plan to play it. I chose Picross Luna, a free mobile Picross game that has a story about a cursed moon keeper. You advance the story by solving each puzzle inside a huge 10 x 10 grid that reveals a bigger picture. I still haven’t gotten that far with the story mode, since it takes a very long time to complete a bigger image. There are also normal puzzles you can solve, which is great for those who want to feel that buzz of accomplishment sooner in their heads. It’s wrapped in a beautiful, soothing aesthetic, filled with cooler colors & calm, ambient music that ensures you’ll rarely get stressed; even as the difficulty increases. That effect does get ruined by the ads that quickly play after you solve a puzzle, but it’s a small caveat for what is essentially a free game.

If you are interested in playing Picross on your smartphone, you should only play Picross Luna if you are familiar with the basics. It doesn’t have a great tutorial, so beginners can get lost easy. I highly recommend checking out the other Picross games in the video to find out what suits you.

I’m so glad I watched that Polygon video. It reminded me of one of my favorite pastimes that I somehow lost interest in. I don’t see that happening again soon, especially since now that I have it on my phone, I can play it at my own convenience. I will definitely lose some sleep thanks to this game, but it will be worth it, especially once I unlock those big pictures.

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Movie Review: Throwback Today is a Fun, Inventive Ride That Takes a While to Take Off

TL;DR: This charming sci-fi film about second chances is at its best when it fully explores its premise.

Stories about being able to find a way to redo one’s life is a rich, thematic vein that’s been done many times before, but rarely have they’ve been brought to life full of clever ideas as Throwback Today. It focuses on Primo (Carlo Aquino), a talented, aspiring production designer who lives an ordinary college life. He has a close relationship with his stubborn father (Allan Paule), who’s the only person taking care of him ever since his mother died. He loves to hang out with his best friends & work together with them on school projects, but the one he’s closest to is Andie (Empress Schuck), his best friend who unbeknownst to him is harboring a crush on him.

Everything seems to be going well until he meets Macy (Annicka Dolonius), a flighty woman with a troubled past. They quickly become a couple that transforms into an intense, passionate romance that consumes them both, causing their lives to go off the rails. They have a nasty break up, & Primo is left reeling from the relationship, losing his direction in life. To make matters worse, his father dies & he might end up homeless soon. But one day, he finds out he can communicate with his past self by chatting with him through an old iMac.

Thus begins his wild journey towards self-improvement, but it takes a while to get there. The movie’s first act is predictable & rushed, which doesn’t give the movie a solid foundation once it takes more risks during its second act. The production values look cheap, but understandable for an independent filmmaker making his feature debut.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. It takes its conceit & pushes it to it to the limit with boundless energy , affording it with more narrative paths to take. It also helps that Carlo Aquino is a charming presence throughout the movie & Annickus Dolonius livens up a role that isn’t fully formed in the script. While the ending undercuts its message, Throwback Today is a fun, inventive romp about second chances.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week?: Love, Simon

With Baste Duterte & Bong Go riding a jetski in the uncontested Benham Rise, President Duterte proclaiming he wouldn’t hire a politician or a woman as his next Chief Justice, & the fact that there are more teachers or students killed by guns than active-duty military deaths this 2018 in America thanks to another school shooting, it hasn’t been a great week. But that shouldn’t stop me from looking at the bright side, because it is the only way to keep me sane. Inspired by NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, let’s take a look at what’s making me happy this week.

I saw two pieces of entertainment that made me so happy it made me forget we live in a miserable wasteland – one of which is seeing Changing Partners on the stage – but let’s focus on Simon for now.

Simon, as he mentions early in the film, lives a normal life. He has a loving, supportive family & a group of best friends he hangs out with. He doesn’t get into trouble nor is he failing in class.

But what many people don’t know is he’s gay, and he has no plans of coming out any time soon.

Everything changes when someone at his school shared an anonymous online confession with the pseudonym “Blue” revealed that he’s gay. He decided to contact him in order to meet someone who shares his ordeal. Soon enough they’re both sharing their dreams, anxieties, & intimate thoughts. He finally found someone whom he can show his true self.

But his lifeline is in danger when Martin, his oblivious classmate, accidentally read these emails & used it to blackmail Simon, so he can become closer to Abby, one of Simon’s best friends. Simon is left scrambling as he tries to turn Martin & Abby into a couple while hoping Martin wouldn’t reveal his true identity & ensuring his correspondence with “Blue” never ends.

Adapted from the young adult novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Love, Simon is a sweet high school romantic comedy that just happens to focus on a closeted gay kid. It’s keenly aware how important the act of coming out is for closeted non-cishet folks & what the consequences are for revealing their true identities, while maintaining a funny, sentinmental vibe with its sharp zingers & cringe-inducing moments.

And yet, what stands out about it the most is how typical & inoffensive it feels, even though it focuses on queerness. We still live in a world where members of LGBTQA+ community are discriminated, abused, or even killed just for existing. The fact that a major Hollywood studio decided to release it worldwide turns the movie’s normalcy into a transgressive act. Hopefully a day will come where a movie like this isn’t subversive anymore, but for now, let’s hope that those who haven’t came out yet have seen it, and give them the courage to reveal who they really are; or at the very least gave them the comfort that everything will work out if they did.