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

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

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

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

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.

Caalo Xan Season One

Caalo Xan is as science fiction as one can get, having a hound as the leading character, a team of swashbucklers travelling through the Galaxy, and meeting a weird and alien cast of friends and foes along the way.

Multiple things about the audio drama can hook the audience. It has an excellent original song playing at the beginning and end of every episode, which can draw anyone into the atmosphere and tone, very much like how an audio drama should. Another excellent thing are the sound designs. Actions scenes are given a boost on life due to the laser sound effects, the soft, creeping footsteps of enemies, and the speed of the spaceships. The characterization is extremely well done, as the dialogue flows naturally and their topics of discussion really humanize them into something more than a ragteam of misfits.

However, there are some technical problems with the audio drama that might make it hard for people to listen to. First, some of the voice acting could’ve been better, as they are often monotone or just feel like an actor reading off a script. There is little believability when it happens.  Another problem I noticed was the inconsistent volume levels, ranging from extremely low to intolerably high. As such, immersion is almost immediately broken when this occurs.

It’s shocking to learn that over forty people have given their voices for this project, so it’s obviously a collaborated effort to mimic the 1940’s radio drama style, which succeeds splendidly. While science fiction isn’t my favorite genre, the compelling stories and memorable cast of characters overshadows the technical problems the show has.

3.5/5 Stars

Gallowtree Season One

Gallowtree Radio details strange events from a town somewhere in England. These events range from literal identity theft to “homeless zombie scum” taking over the world… so predictable, huh? This is very much a story-driven podcast.

Listener’s should be aware that Gallowtree’s concept is noticeably similar to Night Vale, so if you like that podcast, odds are you will like this one. Basically, it’s as if Night Vale was set in a British horrorshow that’s being run by a mentally disturbed anarchist. Although the setting might turn some listeners off, Gallowtree has high production value and good voice acting.

Despire the limited voice cast, I felt that the narrator had a vivid personality and a very loud, creepy voice that suited the tone wonderfully – in particular, the tone and atmosphere. It does wonder for the tone and atmosphere. The writing is a little fast-paced if one is not paying attention. They could easily miss some really good social commentary and important details into a 1984-esque world.

The show has good pacing and good writing, often making references to problems in contemporary society, such as religion, police brutality, politics, and numerous other topics. The 22-minute format reminds me more of a science fiction TV show on the SyFy network than a podcast.

The background noises are so detailed and precise that it only makes you more involved in the insane world it presents. Small things like the echoing background noises sound more like a disgusting sewer than anything else, with rats scuttling across the floor and vault doors slamming  shut so politicians and zombies can’t get in.

This is obviously a labor of love, as it was made by only a few dedicated people who so obviously love the impact Night Vale had on podcasting and audio storytelling. Anyone who is a fan of creative, creepy stories and excellent social commentary should take a ponder at the British craziness that is Gallowtree.

4/5 Stars