A modern portrait of the American wasteland we left behind.
It’s a Sunday morning as I park in a gigantic empty lot off a busy highway. Closing my car door, my footsteps walking on cracked pavement is the only sound other then the the cry of a random Gull and the low swooshing of vehicles a mile away. These are the parts of the world I’ve always felt most comfortable. The places that time has left behind.
Growing up in poverty near a Lake was always the exact juxtaposition I have used to describe myself. Every summer, fishermen and tourists would travel to the cool shores of Lake Ontario to swim, fish, eat ice cream and have cookouts. Their cars packing every small village road, making riding your bike to and from your own favorite year round destinations a much more dangerous ordeal. Most summers I’d be excited to see the influx of new faces in the area. Not that I’d ever interact with anyone. Notoriously shy, if it wasn’t a Metal Gear Solid video game or Stephen King novel – I avoided it.
It was these summers that would birth some of my best and worst qualities. A strong self determination and work ethic only to be kneecapped by a bitter resentment that I still struggle with to this day. But that resentment always seemed to clear up by the end of summer. Annually, I found myself on my bike at the park, as the morning dew seemed to stick around longer, watching bleary eyed and hungover carnies begin deconstructing the Tilt-A-Whirl after the final summer fair of the tourist season. With their U-Haul taillights in the distance, the little village felt like mine again. Even if I never belonged there in the first place.
Winters in a small lake town in the North East are even darker than normal. The snow hushes everything but the whipping whistle of the wind and the occasional ice caps crashing against the shore. You can hear the lake moan for miles.
It would be on those particularly desolate grey afternoons where the ghosts would be most active. If you had the courage to bear the elements (which I often did to feed my teenage junk food vice, as the only store within twenty miles was a small gas station down by the Marina) it’d be easy to see through stinging, watery eyes, kids playing by the shore, salty fishermen loading up their pick up trucks right outside the local inn and the Tilt-A-Whirl, still erect across the bridge in the park. It’d only take a second glance to dissipate the phantoms but it became a comfort of mine. Letting the world spin while I took my time and stood in place didn’t scare me because I knew it would come back around once more.
So back in present day, the door closes behind me. I see a man ahead of me on a park bench nodding off. I, quietly give him a large berth. Let him rest. Often the places time forgets are populated by forgotten people as well.
I walk by dark window after dark window, you can still see the outline of store names and logos on windows and walls or in some cases, spell out the brand in the absence of dust where the neon lights once settled. I am comfortable in one of my own favorite local haunts. Another melancholy destination. A living memorial for competitive consumerism that turbo capitalism has all but slayed. I am in your typical American mall. The concrete walking track the elderly use sits as a horizontal tombstone of a time long passed.
A time period that still exists in Bratz Rock Angelz. Which takes place almost completely, in a mall. Also, a game that is so damn dull and void of things to do, I wrote that entire sad, flashback you just read while playing the game itself. I guess you could kind of classify it as a walking simulator? It says it’s an adventure but if this counts as an adventure than you could call pretty much anything an adventure. Like changing a flat tire. Or doing your taxes.
In Bratz Rock Angelz, the game begins with Jade getting a job interview for the hottest fashion magazine but once she is interning there she realizes that her boss is a total bitch and her twin rivals also work their and sabotage her employment. So after she gets let go the rest of the gals plan a party for her to make her feel better. Planning this party becomes a time consuming task, as you basically have to take each girl out clothes shopping, apply new make up and do a whole bunch of stupid shit for themselves while their friend waits on the verge of tears.
Then they party out and do pose off’s to the same six songs that make up the entire soundtrack of the game and decide you know what? That magazine sucked anyways. They’re going to start their own fashion magazine. Which they all do in their own office despite all being sixteen. So then you do all of that stuff for awhile and buy clothes and flirt with the stupid smoothie kid and do some more stupid shit until you have a breakthrough and come to the startling revelation that this game kind of sucks.
Also, I know what you’re thinking. I’m not saying this game sucks because I am a nearly thirty four year old man playing a Bratz game. If it was good I would be more then happy to report it. I gave Barbie her fair share. I am not the discriminating type. It’s just hard to get behind a game that doesn’t offer a lot. It is an open world featuring a bunch of Bratz universe characters, which I could see being enjoyable for fans of the series but there just simply isn’t a lot of interaction that takes place. The controls are a bit stiff but it really doesn’t matter considering you don’t need to have good reflexes for any of the mini games.
The most challenging activity is the pose off which is achieved by pressing buttons in sequential order under the time limit but the difficulty for all mini games is just baby soft, refusing to let you lose at any point in time. I think a bit of a challenge could have gone a lot farther in an otherwise semi-interesting gaming world.