We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season

We're Alive: The Complete Third Season Cover

Review #200

After spending over two seasons with these characters, We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season manages to throw some more curve balls and still end on a satisfying, ominous and hopeful note.

Much of the first half of the third season focuses on resolving the loose ends of seasons one and two. The biggest and most obvious one being who betrayed the group to the Mallers. No spoilers, but the whole idea of writing in journals explained in the first season finally gets a nice arc. Before the narration of the epistolary sections felt like crutches. Yes the reason behind it made sense, but it felt jarring more often than not. If narration in audio drama is a turn off for you, then you’ll be pleased to know the sections where a character describes a scene are limited and the quality of writing has improved. Not that it was bad before.

The middle is all set up for the final battle between man and the zombie horde. Where as in previous seasons, the zombies acted more like set dressing, here they are fleshed out and are a more immediate threat. You may recall me tweeting on twitter about certain moments as I was listening. Again, no spoilers, but let’s just say I ran the gambit of feeling happy, sad, angry, surprised, etc. Basically every core emotion within a single episode, most of it in the back half.

The climactic finale We’re Alive: The Complete Third season is so tense you desperately want to cling to some sort of normalcy within this apocalypse, but with both sets of characters knee-deep in zombie blood, you feel there’s no hope for anyone. Throughout it, you’re on the edge and waiting for something to change—even if it’s bad—oblivious to the seeds of hope that have already been placed.

We’re Alive: The Complete Third Season is a good stopping place for the casual fan, but for the vast majority of people who have followed these characters—not finishing the fourth and final season may seem a fate worse than un-death.

5/5 Stars

MarsCorps

MarsCorp is a 12 part sitcom audio drama made from the production company Definitely Human. Yes, you heard right. Sitcom, like Fuller House and Home Improvement and the lot. Unlike its less-than-stellar relatives, MarsCorp’s humour, wit, and setup is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

Set in 2070, it’s about a team of scientists whose mission is to colonize the red planet. The atmosphere is stunning and dead-on, immediately grabbing it’s viewer and refusing to let go. A lot of very talented people obviously spent a colossal amount of time on the sound design alone. The sound designer for the show is one of the best I ever heard. I truly felt like I was in their world from the beginning all the way to the end.

The pacing is unusually precise, never skipping it’s narrative beat. The comedy is stellar as well. It’s dialogue and character heavy humour is done admirably. On a lot of comedy audio dramas, they usually sacrifice it’s story and pacing to tell a joke and disrupt all tension in the scene. In MarsCorp, however, it’s comedy and story mesh together extremely well and one never feels disjointed from what is happening.

The theme song captures the nuance and tone of the show quite well. It may be my favorite theme to an audio drama yet. The song itself warrants several hundred repeats.

The characters are both interesting and fleshed-out by the excellent writing and superb voice acting. Each character has a vivid and likeable personality. The laissez-faire and humorous attitude everyone has on board is more infectious than We’re Alive!

As stated before, I’m not the biggest fan of science fiction. But I highly recommend MarsCorp to anyone who enjoys heartwarming and witty characters, engaging stories, and realistic sound design.

5/5

Endurance: The Complete Epic Series (1-6)

Endurance Cover Art
Author Picture

Produced by Word of Mouth Productions, Endurance is a space opera on the surface, but not at its core. Using the tools of other science fiction before it, the creators of Endurance go wide, rather than deep into their story. The result is a cast of characters who might as well be complete strangers and an episodic structure promising one thing, but giving something else (for good or ill).


The first episode has its social stigma in the portrayal of Choi, a tech-savy asian business tycoon with a stereotypical accent. It's not as bad as stuff from the forties and fifties, but you'd be hard pressed not to roll your eyes at the voice.


By the time episode five rolls around, you have a general idea of where the overall arc of the story is headed. Executed almost like the first Avengers film in which each character is introduced in a creative and interesting way, the first half of the series acts as both a mystery and "page turner."


Each episode is standalone, focusing on a single character and having a full arc. Some pack more of an action vibe, while others are quiet moments. Episode five is perhaps the most emotional scene, dealing with issues like assisted suicide in a believable and almost heartbreaking way. The first episode is a Die Hard-type adventure with very little internal conflict. Episode six is a perfect blend of the two and offers a nice midseason finale for the series.


Endurance manages to be its own thing and still pack a punch episode to episode. Some are hit or miss, but the scope of the project is something to be marveled.


Expect the remaining six episodes shortly after the 200th review of We're Alive Season Three goes live on January 29, 2017. Plus a little something extra.

Michael L Bergonzi    Website   

The Fairy Tree Review (Zane)

Listening Order

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 13
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 18

Review

The Fairy Tree is a role-playing audio drama with a choose-your-own-path narrative. Unlike Michael did in his last review, I’ve decided to be bold and jump down Alice’s rabbit hole into a wacky, yet charming adventure.

For starters, the production of The Fairy Tree is incredibly admirable. The voice actors are marvellous and completely transform one-dimensional side kicks and villains into full-fledged adventurers. The background noises fall nothing short of amazing.

However, it has a lot more beauty than substance for most of it. One may not feel immersed into the world much due to the very short episodes which can be from 3 to 8 minutes long and it breaks all tension and pacing. Perhaps if the episodes were a little longer, this would not be an issue. Also, a listener will not feel like they are important to the overall story because (the HERO) doesn’t do anything besides choose between only two options. I would recommend that there were more directions that one could choose.

As Michael has also stated, there are really no consequences for the “decisions” one makes. I felt like I was heavily detached from what was happening. There are no witty dialogue options for you to choose, nor the actual consequences of your actions as the narrator just tells you what you have done. In the end, it felt like a nice little getaway to a new world, but now I have to go back to work at the fish-canning factory.

3/5 Stars

A Choose your Own Audio Adventure: The Fairy Tree (Michael)

Author Picture

Listening Order



Chapter 1
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 12
Chapter 15
Chapter 17

Review



The Fairy Tree is a choose your own adventure story done in an audio drama format. Since there are multiple routes you can take, this review will follow the path outlined above. This playthrough  erred on the side of being a kind, magical character and not fighting head on when you playing it smart can get you far. Call it my cautious personality.


The production value is top notch and worth the money you pay for it, assuming this style of story intrigues you. The adventure is short lived. At least for the path taken by me. Check out Zane's review for a different perspective and route taken through this fantasy adventure.


Headphones are key to experiencing the full effect of this audio drama. While it's not technically 3D as far as I can tell, it is highly immersive. That sense of being enveloped from both sides separates The Fairy Tree from free or even other paid productions. Again the price of admission is worth every penny.


It goes without saying that your mileage will vary. Not just because of the subjective nature of art, but due to the simple fact that your journey will be different from someone else's. Of course there's the caveat of limited combinations and permutations of plot events. Nowhere is this more clear, than when you're essentially given a redo for a decision you made early on in the story.


That's by far the biggest problem with this audio drama. It doesn't warrant repeat listens and there's no real sense of consequence for the actions you choose.

Michael L. Bergonzi   

Flushed with Love Review

Borrowing from the golden age of radio and over-the-top cigarette ads, Flushed With Love is a fresh and comical take on the 1930’s gangster adventure drama, full of action, love, and fish guts.

Instead of an excruciatingly detailed plot, it decides to shot itself with a machine gun and bandage it’s holes with priceless zaniness. It is straightforward and easy to understand, but the narrative is far from uninteresting. The tale of a fishmonger and his wife getting involved in the mafia is a brilliant idea and one full of opportunities to tell jokes. One cannot take this overly seriously.

The voice actors are great in their roles and add a lot of personality. Their characters are wacky, insane people living in a Great Depression era and they pull them off admirably. The original musical score is astounding and captures the vibe of 30s jazz. The sound design in general is amazingly detailed and precise, which compliments it’s audacious tone. However, what really sells the show is it’s advertisements, which are some of the funniest I’ve ever heard.

This show holds itself to a very high standard of comedy. At times, however, the comedy can seem a little reference-heavy and rather than engross the audience into its setting, it just reminds the audience of other media. It blatantly breaks the fourth wall several times, which can be a little jarring. Some people might not mind some of the very obvious references, so in that case, you might find this funny all the way through. The simplest way to describe the humor is that when it hits, it hits hard. But when it doesn’t hit about 5% of the time, it’s almost painfully noticed.

Overall, Flushed With Love is a great radio show that feels and sounds straight out of a Three Stooges episode. It’s impeccable comedic timing, hilarious references, superb voice acting, and spectacular sound design makes this a must-see if you have any appreciation for compelling storytelling.

4.75/5 Stars

Jack Flanders: Dreams of Rio, Week One

Author Picture

Part of Tom Lopez's "Jack Flanders" series, Dreams of Rio has heavy emphasis on the setting, rather than the actors. Judging by how quiet some of their lines are and how overpowering the background sounds are, it seems Mr. Lopez was going for something a bit different than the standard character-based audio dramas.


That combined with what seems like random, but authentic noises, recorded from actual places in Latin America makes the first half of this production feel almost too real. A classic case of truth being stranger than fiction. Fun fact, Mr. Lopez travelled to Rio de Janeiro & the Amazon to record the soundscape for this particular story.


Not only is Mr. Lopez raising the bar for ambience in audio dramas by essentially location scouting (The Cleansed comes to mind as well), he is also a bit of an entrepreneur. While some people may find issues with how he distributes his shows, the Jack Flanders series, as well as hundreds of other audio entertainment can be streamed for a small monthly fee. Rather than going the direct download route, Mr. Lopez is providing a Netflix-type service for his art. Something which some creatives tend to shy away from as it feels too corporate or


Mr. Lopez's company "ZBS Media" has over 238 hours of audio entertainment. Those not interested in paying the monthly streaming fee can get this and other shows for a one-time cost of around $25, depending on the show. The site is zbs.org (download) and can also be found on zbsmedia.com (streamed).


After listening to the first episode, the desire to hear how the story unfolds is almost pathological. Luckily ZBS Media has a 7 day free trial period where you can listen to all of his audio dramas. Something, which is recommended after you hear the ending of the first episode.

Michael L. Bergonzi   

Return Home (Episodes 1.1-7.3)

Return Home is simply an experience. Very few podcasts I’ve listened to in my long history of reviewing audio dramas (a whole three months!) have elicited such an emotional response. This is storytelling at its absolute finest.

The simple, yet charming adventures of Jonathan Barker, Amy Reynolds, and Buddy Nutters in the decrescent, strange town of Melancholy Falls is mesmerizing. It’s truly a testament to say that were-bunnies is not the strangest thing they encounter.

As Rod Serling would tell you, iconic music is important if you want to grab the audience’s attention and draw them closer to the screen. Or…iPod. The music is top-notch, blending a spine-chilling cola with a loud pianoforte smoothie to create an instrumental that embodies the weirdness of Melancholy Falls. As for the background effects, it is hyper-realistic. It can make one feel like they are right next to a creepy ghoul or Buddy’s toe-jam.

There’s a reason why Return Home has been nominated in 16 different categories at the Audio Verse Awards. Everyone who has worked on the podcast is extremely passionate about their work, which shows with its flawless execution.

Return Home achieves something that audiences are not accustomed to: perfection. It’s one of those rare instances where if this was made to be a movie, it would pale in comparison to the audio version. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Return Home with it’s original story, inspiring and believable characters, it’s superb sound design, and the allure of wanting more.   

You cannot just listen to one episode and stop. It’s as if there was something in the frequency that will make you come back for more…

As Jonathan Barker would tell you, “Let’s go find the weird!”

5.5/5

The Killing Joke Review (Yes, again)

The Killing Joke Graphic Novel Cover

Preamble

To Batman fans, “The Killing Joke” is one of the most quintessential comics in recent years. Comic book readers tend to agree: The Killing Joke is Joker’s true origin story. Last time you heard Zane’s thoughts on one particular Killing Joke adaptation found on YouTube. This week’s review is the same story, but with a different cast and crew  behind it. Whether it be adaptations or reviewing the same exact audio stories, I’d like to do more of this in the future. Call it a spin on the saying: “Different Strokes for Different Folks.” With that said, let’s get down to the review.

“The Killing Joke” Review

The only way to mess up an audio adaptation is with over-the-top acting and bad sound effects. When you’re adaptating a story from a comic book, people tend to gloss over sound effects and go straight for the acting itself. In this particular adaptation, every line of dialogue comes straight from the comic. Like the last “The Killing Joke” review (written by Zane Sexton), this one is also on YouTube. As the title of this one will say, it’s a motion comic and audio dramatization. While the visuals aren’t required, it might’ve helped with the performances.

Not to say they were bad, but they were no Mark Hamill or Kevin Conroy, which they seemed to be trying to emulate in their performances. The actors playing Joker and Batman/Bruce Wayne were over the top is some instances and melodramatic in others. It was hit or miss, more often than not, and a struggle to get through the entire story. The first 10-15 minutes were the most awkward, as if the actors were finding their way into character.

That said, it’s hard to live up to the graphic novel’s acclaim. Even the animated movie failed to capture the story, according to most critics. The general consensus was the off-putting scene in the “prologue” with Batgirl that wasn’t in the original story. Unlike the animated movie, this audio adaptation is faithful to the source material and it’s perhaps its greatest flaw.

If you’ve never read The Killing Joke or know nothing about it, you might enjoy this. Aside from those two reasons, you’re better off listening to the one Zane Sexton reviewed on the site or reading the graphic novel.

It’s as simple as this: if you know what’s going to happen in a story, then the only thing that can make it engaging comes through with the production itself. As far as this adaptation goes, it barely scrapes by.

3.5/5 Stars

The Killing Joke Review

A new twist on one of Batman’s most famous tales, The Killing Joke is an audio drama made by WMSC 90.3 FM. It’s well-crafted, with strong characters, and production quality making it a must-hear experience.

The story mainly focuses on The Joker and how he became a super villain, sometimes interjecting Batman’s investigation into Joker’s crimes. The radio drama switches from past to present and back again, which might make it a little confusing at certain times, but it’s a minor nitpick. The supporting characters, such as Alfred, provides interesting commentary into the Batman mythos, but overall has little impact on the plot. Despite the minor problems, the story is very dark and extremely well constructed.

The voice acting is superb. The voice actor for The Joker engulfs himself in the character, creating a man who’s been driven insane by death, misfortune, and rational, yet poor decisions. Joker absolutely loves being in his inner-asylum.

The production quality is very good, with no technical problems. The background noises for the various settings complete the mood and atmosphere, whether you’re at a deranged carnival to a basement filled with horrors.

But the best aspect of this radio drama is the dialogue. The voice actors steal the show with their believability and the conversations between Batman and the Joker are both interesting and disturbing. It can make one believe that good and evil are really not so different after all, that our own perception on ourselves is the only barrier between heinous acts and good deeds.

This version of the classic Batman vs. Joker story is one that should be experienced by any fan of the dark-winged hero.

5/5 Stars

Listen Here

Cast

Kevin O’Leary as Batman
Brendan Maly as The Joker
Rob Dickerson as James Gordon
Morgan Vasquez as Jack’s Wife
Jeremy Doyle as Pseudo Joker/ Hood 1
Michael Sangregorio as Det. Bullock/ Hood 2/ Cop
Antoinette Fasino as Barbara Gordon
Mike Bufis as Carnival Freak

Site Updates

New interview posted on Audio Drama Digest. A YouTube-based company/troupe.

Next Review will be another version of The Killing Joke. This time another adaptation of the classic Joker origin story.