It’s not quite a romance in space, but writer Bob Koester know how to elicit the same emotions as a Harlequin novel. Interpret that however you want, but personally the milieu of Companions convoluted the romance arc, leaving it watered down and by no means easy to follow.
The story’s setting is hands-down hard science fiction, while the primary drive comes from the two love interests. The main problem with the characters is how they interact and that has nothing to do with the actor’s performances. Koester complicates their method of communication by adding a layer of confusion to an already loaded script, filled with a lot of exposition that doesn’t add much substance. They talk through a virtual simulation and the dialogue during those scenes will make you re-listen at least once, because you don’t know who’s talking: the online avatar or the person controlling it?
One thing which stood out was the non-linear structure of the story that’s combined rather elegantly with a classic victorian-esque frame narrative, though obviously set in the future. In addition to the frame, the story also skips around the lives of the protagonist, dodging the “boring” bits through obvious author sleight of hand.
Whether it’s a romance masquerading as hard science fiction or hard SF pretending to be a romance, Companions is worth a listen or two. Just don’t expect to understand everything even a second time through.
Interview with Companions’ Writer/Director
In a recent interview with Audio Drama Reviews sister site “Audio Drama Digest,” creator Bob Koester sat down with us to explain the behind the scenes of the story. You can find that here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”