Episodes: 9 in the first season
Length: 25-45 minutes per episode, with most around 30 minutes
I’ve listened to… All of the story
Transcripts Available: Not that I could locate
The Premise: Mike takes a job to run a fire lookout tower in the remote forest, hoping to get away and work on his novel. But once there, he begins to hear and see strange things, eerily similar to the fate that befell his predecessor in the tower.
My Review: Tower 4 is from 7 Lamb Productions and tells a spooky story of isolation and conspiracy. I stumbled across the show and quickly was drawn into the narrative style and lives of the characters. The focus on nature really caught my attention, and being someone a little more constrained by the responsibilities of life, the freedom of being in the wild is, well, intriquiging.
The story focuses on Mike’s life in the eponymous Tower, including his relationship with his one and only contact to the outside world, Amber–the lookout for Tower 3. The story manages to weave the two personalities together into a very interesting narrative. Both appear unreliable at times. Mike is harboring his own hurts and demons, and maybe the isolation is a bit much for him. The constant question as I listened was what was coinicdence and what was something sinister. Amber provides a skeptic’s balance to the events. But as Mike begins to distrust her, I as the listener did as well. She manages to easily dismiss the events–is that because she knows more than she’s telling, or because Mike is making more of the events than they are?
Despite this constant duel between potentially unreliable narrators, the relationships between Mike and Amber is nice to hear. There are some really natural, friendly moments between them. Throughout the course of the episodes, their relationship provides a platform to deepen both characters through their interactions and snippets of the past. They are both wounded in some way, running from something in the woods. That common hurt allows them to grow closer, showcasing their strengths in their interactions. It also leads to a good bit of the conflict. I’d be remiss to not include the forest as a character here as well, and the way the setting interacts within the world is really well done. It is the backdrop, but also begins to seemingly take on more agency as the story develops. I leave the episodes so far feeling as if the forest is not simply a neutral location, but could be either friend or foe.
The storyline overall is paced well. It starts relatively calm, with Mike learning his role and exploring the area. The strange elements begin to creep in on the fringes, but develop more and more quickly as the story progresses. It shows enough to keep the story interesting without ever really revealing what all is going on. The story balances reveal and concealment very well, with each new piece of information moving closer to the truth. And yet it does not rush the ending. In fact, season 1 ends in a way the opens up a myriad of questions for season 2.
The story has a first person narrative approach, and I found it very easy to listen to Mike throughout. The writing, descriptive level, pacing, and tone of voice are rather relaxing. For me, that made those tense moments stand out all the more from the surroundings. It’s easy to be lulled into a feeling of peace in the forest, away from everyone. And yet this podcast demonstrates one less common reason why that can be a very dangerous thing.
Interspersed are excerpts of Mike’s book, telling about his past relationship and the way it fell apart. There is a real sense of grief, loss, and guilt not only in the narrative sections, but also in Mike’s reflections on this event and other parts of his life. It provides a deeply introspective tone, and the events of the story serve to highlight this. Mike is at once finding similar patterns and trying to respond differently, to choose a new path for his life. And yet it seems like some forces may have other plans.
Overall, I have found Tower 4 to be a wonderful show that makes me happy every time I see it show up in my feed. The characters are inviting and human in their motivations and interactions, and I continue to listen to see how they will play off one another. Each twist of the plot brings it deeper and deeper into the world of the weird, steadily building up strange occurrences. Just as the pieces begin to fall into place, something else takes things off course. I love a story that starts simple and explodes into dozens of questions and mysteries, and Tower 4 does that exceptionally well. If you want to puzzle over some clues and get lost in a conspiratorial mystery, I’d recommend you find a quiet place and tune into the first season.
Episodes: 8 publicly available. Patreon supporters have access to episodes in a weekly format ahead of public release, with a total of 47 weekly episodes currently available for $5 and up Patrons.
Length: Monthly cuts are 35-45 minutes in length. Weekly episodes are 5-10 minutes each.
I’ve listened to… All 7 public episodes and maybe (definitely) all the Patreon episodes. I got hooked.
The Premise: Arthur Lester awakens with two startling revelations. He cannot see, and there is another voice inside his head. The story follows him and this entity as they try to understand what has happened, getting drawn deeper and deeper into a web of otherworldly conspiracies that put them both at risk. Using the Chaosium system to provide some additional framework to the story, it takes the listener on a mystery adventure deep through cosmic horror unknowns.
My Review: In the interest of all transparency, this creator reached out to me on Reddit and asked me to review the series. I had been eyeing the episodes for a while, so decided to take a listen. After listening to the 7 monthly cuts of episodes widely available, I decided it was well worth the $5 investment to get access to more, and I have just been listening to as many as possible since.
Malevolent is cosmic horror, and it delves into that genre quickly with rituals, sacrifices, ancient evils, and plenty of bizarre deaths and evocations. If you are familiar with lovecraftian stories, this will feel familiar, but far from stale. The plot twists and turns into danger every step of the way, constantly ratcheting up tension, while using brief moments of pause to summarize and reflect on what needs to happen next. One thing I found very interesting is that each of the weekly episodes ends with a choice that $10 and up Patrons can vote on, determining which path the characters will follow. I think the plot works seamlessly around these plot points, and even with outside control, the writing ensures the decisions are consistent with the world and characters as they are developing. The story also does a great job of providing subtle hints and clues throughout the story so that listeners can begin to piece things together. It is hard to create a sense of the uncanny through audio alone, but Malevolent manages to incorporate by providing just enough details so that the listener begins to realize the pieces aren’t aligning. And then the bizarre shines through, mimicking that real world feeling.
Arthur is the main character, a private investigator now being forced to solve what may be an impossible mystery for human minds to comprehend. The stakes are high; an entity has moved into his head and, while seemingly an ally, there is no guarantee that the arrangement will last forever or end well for Arthur. He is a sympathetic character, and I find he demonstrates a good level of thoughtfulness in the story, while also having his moments of panic and helplessness. While we might all like to imagine we would escape mostly unscathed, Arthur shows how easily human ingenuity can be eclipsed by the otherworldly.
The Entity, which is the title I will use to avoid any potential spoilers, is just as stuck as Arthur, and yet may know more than they are letting on. That’s a great deal of the character tension, because while they are working together, Arthur and the Entity are in adversarial roles simply due to their situation. As details emerge, they serve to further complicate the tenuous partnership. The Entity also fills in some of the details and provides an excellent narrative voice. Since Arthur cannot see, the Entity explains things as they happen. I think this allows the story to sidestep one of the potential pitfalls in audiodrama in general. The audience is provided a detailed descriptions of characters, scenes, and events. This made me feel like I was getting the chance to play along, wondering if Arthur would take the same thing from encounters or places that I did, following the same leads.
The sound design for episodes is also fantastic. I think the story is served well with a blind main character. Arthur is just as surprised by sudden sounds and noises, and it creates a deeper sense of immersion. Additionally, the spooky noises, background sound effects, and wonderful skill of additional voice actors really serves to create a dynamic and engaging world. (Correction, all the voices are provided by ONE PERSON! Even more impressive, because I had no idea.) It is very easy to get sucked in and walk alongside Arthur through his perilous journey. I found episodes flying by as I listened, caught up in a world I could not see, but could easily experience.
As a brief aside, the story does use the Chaosium system, as stated in materials. I am not an actual-play podcast person, nor have I played an in-depth RPG-style tabletop game (but plenty of other tabletop games). I mention it to say, after reading up a bit on the system and some of the Call of Cthulhu rulebook, I can see how the system helps provide some additional structure to the story. That said, it is not an actual-play podcast and does not use dice rolls. I also never found myself lost or confused because I do not have the RPG experience. My one hesitation prior to listening was the reference to Chaosium and worries that I would be in the dark. Fortunately, I have not found that to be the case in the slightest.
Overall, I am so glad I gave this a listen. It is a great spooky story where the unraveling tale keeps me hooked. I am working to put the pieces together as the story develops, feeling like I am walking alongside Arthur and the Entity as they get pulled in deeper and deeper. The writing is strong, dialogue well written and acted, and sound design on point to create an immersive experience. I have been able to get lost in the world and the mystery of Malevolent, and I think it is an excellent listen if you need a little more otherworldly terror in your life. And who doesn’t, right?
The Patron Saint of Suicides
Episodes: 14 episodes in season 1.
Length: 20-35 minutes per episode
I’ve listened to… all of season one, very eagerly.
The Premise: Years ago, a flash robbery on a train went wrong and ended in bloodshed. And now, bodies are showing up on the train tracks with the same Lucha masks worn by the perpetrators. The podcast follows Haven Otomo, one of the attack survivors, as she navigates her recovery while walking alongside the investigation into these new deaths.
My Review: This is a strong mystery crime thriller that introduces a cast of phenomenal characters and develops a compelling interwoven story about grief, loss, recovery, pain, justice, and revenge. It starts with two primary focuses, following Haven as well as the investigation into new deaths, led by Victor Blossem and Zoey Gibson. As the investigation progresses, Haven’ connection with a survivor’s support group makes her invaluable to the investigation as they try to figure out why these suspects are turning up dead. I very much enjoy stories that start with divergent stories and weave them together, and I think this manages to bring the two sides of the story together in a wonderful way.
The character of Haven is developed over the course of the season in very compelling ways, revealing deep pain and remarkable resolve. She has a habit of patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge to help people contemplating suicide, fulfilling a role as impromptu therapist on many occasions. Through this, listeners also learn of her own recovery and progress, as well as her lingering wounds. Haven’s perspective is generally told in her own words, with a biting level of insight and honesty, even when exploring those moments of uncertainty and insecurity. She has her flaws and these are generally displayed openly throughout, with her own awareness of her weaknesses servicing to add a layer of internal conflict that feels very real. Even when she can recognize pitfalls, sometimes she is unable to avoid them.
In addition, there is a whole cast of strong characters that exist within the world. They show different responses to trauma and grief, each in different stages of healing. I really appreciated the way these trauma reactions were handled throughout, noting how challenging it can be to recover from an event like this, but also demonstrating how people find healing and recovery at times. That’s not to say it is all happy endings, and there is a very authentic exploration of death and suicide throughout, both from central characters and secondary or tertiary ones. So, it is important to know that suicide and death will be frequent themes in the episodes. If you couldn’t guess by the title.
In addition to the treatment of trauma, I really appreciated how the story spoke about race, privilege, and the impact of mental illness. It fluidly incorporates many systemic factors that often negatively impact marginalized groups (such as the impact of mental illness of members of a minority group, or how police relationships can be shaped by race and status). In doing so, it adds layers of complexity and realism to the story that deepen character motivations, strengths, and weaknesses. It is a thoughtful story that tackles challenging topics in an effort to provide a believable and increasingly complicated story.
The writing was engaging and well developed. Each episode left me wanting more of the story, introducing new twists and turns. Dialogue is well-written, narration is thorough without becoming distracting, and the internal workings of Haven’s mind provide the chance for the audience to really connect and understand her more fully. In addition, I really enjoyed the glimpses of her standup sets for the additional view into her world provided. The plot is complex, but developed wonderfully throughout each episode. The finale episode was remarkably done. It is a crime thriller with hints of a whodunnit throughout, so I won’t give anything away besides noting it is an exceptional episode that really did justice to the story as a whole so far.
It is a complex story, and so I feel I have tried to capture some of that in this review. But it is certainly a fascinating and emotional story to listen to from start to finish. I am interested in hearing where it goes from the finale of season one, but I have no doubts there are plenty of intriguing ways to further develop and explore the characters. While it deals with heavy topics, it is something I wished I could have binge listened to (had I not listened as it released) because each part was so good. Now that all of season one is out, I highly recommend listening to it as soon as you can.
I’ve been a gone a bit. That probably comes as no surprise because, hey, it’s 2020 and life has been a chaotic ride. That said, I am getting back into the swing of things. Or trying because it is 2020, so best laid plans and all of that…
To kickstart the process, I would like to cover a roundup of a few new items that have popped up over the past few months (no specific time frame because, to be honest, I can’t tell one month from the next). These are stories that I have found organically, been following creators from prior projects, or been contacted by the creators as a review request. I did a similar roundup before and found it a nice change of pace. There is no unifying theme to the ones I chose beyond being things I have listened to recently that are not quite long enough yet for me to review fully on their own. Who knows, maybe you will find something new to listen to!
So, in the interest of all transparency, I supported the Kickstarter for Unseen. As someone who truly has enjoyed other Long Story Short Productions’ podcasts, I threw my money at them when I heard there was a new show. I have written previously about the “end of the world” anthology series Zero Hours. And it’s also the creators of Wolf 359 (which I still won’t review, because IT’S SOOOOOOOOO GOOD” is not a valid review). Each episode is a standalone story taking place in a world much like ours, but where magic is real. Some humans can see it, most cannot. The themes of the story deal with very universal experiences in terms of love, belonging, purpose, and understanding. There are five episodes out currently, and so I am sneaking them in here because it is such a new release. The stories have been diverse so far, but engaging and interesting all the same. I have enjoyed learning about the world through the episodes, and I look forward to see what more is developed.
Now for some spooky sci-fi horror happenings deep under the sea. Primordial Deep is the story of a team setting out to find a sea monster. Throw in some shady secret organizations, a great cast of characters that are charming and repulsive, and a history of incredible work from this team (creators of Janus Descending-which if you haven’t heard, you should go listen to RIGHT NOW), and you have an absolute thrilling start to a show. While trying to find a sea monster is a terrifying enough premise, deep below water there exists many wonderful and horrific creatures. The character development in the first few episodes has been really great, and I cannot wait to see how this team responds to what will surely be increasingly dangerous straits over the season.
I’ll be completely honest and say I am not sure if this was one I found organically from Reddit or from their request to review, but either way, I have enjoyed the two episodes so far. It is a fantasy story and, as I have mentioned somewhere on this mess of a blog before, fantasy is kind of my first love. It tells the story of two Azure Scouts sent to find their nation’s greatest, most legendary hero to save the day from encroaching evil. While they do reach him they are unable to leave right away and so remain, hearing the true stories behind his exploits. I have so far found it well written and acted. The frame story works well and leads to a more anthology-type experience; however they are obviously all linked and developing the same story and world. I am really excited to learn more about the world, creatures, and systems at place in Matysia. Bonus: The title link will take you to their youtube page where episodes are narrated and accompanied by soem pretty cool illustrations!
By the wonderful group working on the SCP Archives is a new spooky story. This tale is about uncovering the mystery of what happened to the purported utopia of Everton. The story not only takes place in the relative modern day, but also during the development of Everton, providing parallel storylines that will (hopefully) shine some light on the many mysteries surrounding Everton. Episode one introduces the story and throws in some secretive government agencies, cosmonauts, and a good mix of cult references. Fans of SCP Archives will definitely recognize some familiar and very talented voice actors, and it makes for a very enjoyable, immersive listening experience. There are two current episodes, and I am really excited to listen to episode two as soon as I can, because episode one started some great threads that I cannot wait to follow!
I think almost every audiodrama I followed has recently pointed me toward The Oyster, and I am very thankful. The Oyster tells the story of humanity after catastrophic environmental changes force everyone underground. The catch, however, is that only about 80% of the population was able to be saved. Decisions were made based on a values-point system and integrated neurological technology. If you are thinking that sounds like a great recipe for some dystopian shenanigans, you would be right! For those in the bunkers, hope comes in the form of Eden 2070, a return to a habitable part of the surface. However, resources are short, and so challenging questions arise about how humanity can survive. Enter The Oyster Project, a way to save resources while suspending people’s consciousness in a state of enlightened bliss. This comes from the folks who created Darkest Night, and there are definitely some similar themes in terms of neurologic/cognitive science and how that can be used or twisted. One of the other things I really like is that they have woven in some modern terrors, including climate change and systemic racism, to show how horrifying it can be. It is uncomfortable not only because of the futuristic, sci-fi terrors, but also because it brings up some ugly truths about the world we already live in.
(I did not find a support link. Please let me know if there is one so I can update accordingly!)
This is another Reddit find! Have you ever wondered what NPR would sound like if superheroes existed? Well, wonder no more with SPR – Superhuman Public Radio. They manage to really evoke the style and approach of NPR, while addressing the fantastic reality of a world with superheroes and villains’. The first episode explores how the gig economy effects supervillainy, and I found it incredibly charming. The parody ads set in-universe made me smile, and the tenor of the stories had the reassurance of a soothing NPR story, while also introducing some great comedic and thoughtful ideas. If you want something a little more lighthearted in your feeds and like a good superhero story, then I think this will fit the bill nicely.
The creator for this final podcast reached out to me via the contact form and requested a review. It is a supernatural story focused on an unnamed narrator investigating the weird and the unexplainable. Which, honestly, is right up my alley, so I was happy to listen and review. There are two episodes so far. The first one I think threw me as I was not 100% sure what to expect, but as the pieces came together, it introduced some interesting ideas for supernatural investigation. I went into the second episode with a clearer expectation and found myself easily immersed in the story. The initial episodes allude to a relatively complex world in Arcane, and I only have a few glimpses so far. What I have heard has caught my attention, and I look forward to learning more as new episodes release.
(Also could not find a support link. Happy to update!)
The Deca Tapes
Episodes: 8 episodes in this contained story
Length: Generally around 25-35 minutes
I’ve listened to… the whole story
The Premise: Recordings have been released detailing the lives and events that befall ten strangers kept together in a small, confined location. The strangers, each with their own roles in this micro-society, narrate the events. These events are also cut together with news, radio, and interview clips providing more background on who the ten people are and how they arrived there. I don’t want to say much more, because anything else might give away some of the fun twists and turns.
My Review: Looking for a really interesting mystery? Something with a bit of whodunit, a bit of conspiracy, and a whole lot of piecing clues together to uncover the big picture? The Deca Tapes manages to bring a lot of ideas together in a really successful format. It is a very serious mystery and deals with some adult themes and content throughout. But the way it all comes together makes for a wonderful ride. I’m going to do my best to avoid giving too much away, because the slow reveal is certainly one of the strengths of the story as a whole.
Each episode follows a single character and outlines a bit of their life. Some pasts (and presents, for that matter) are horrifying, some are sad, and many live in a messy grey area. Character development is brief, since most only get one episode to really share their perspective; however, they manage to be unique in voice, motivation, and personality. By midway through, a listener can start to recognize and understand how characters are likely to respond as new situations face the group. There are some characters with more thorough development, background, and personality, but each serves their place in the overarching story.
The clips from outside the group serve to provide a lot of character development, as well as push the mystery forward. These ended up being some of my favorite parts, because I felt each one gave some clue to the mystery, and I was hungry to learn more. On top of that, the backgrounds of the characters shared through this format were really creative. I was often surprised by the directions the stories took, and the writing took care to avoid some of the more obvious or expected tropes. As the character backgrounds come into focus, it makes it clear how each was assigned to their role, and why that might not always be for the best. If you do the math, though, you’ll notice that not every character gets their episode. Which I think works in the end, but my greedy curiosity would have loved more.
Another strength is that the writers clearly set out to tell a specific story. The plot is tight and moves at a good pace. Each episode serves to reveal a little more, and I certainly felt a growing sense of dread as the pieces began to line up and the big mystery became clearer. With eight episodes, it does not drag, nor does it feel too rushed. The preparation and storytelling considerations up front really help this story stand out.
My main critique would be the ending. Not because it was bad; it was completely fitting and appropriate given the direction of the story. I think it also threw me for an unexpected loop related to the timeline, but I won’t say more. However, I was left wanting more. I wanted more about these characters, more about their journey, and more about the shady stuff going on behind the scenes. It’s not that the ending did not wrap everything up nicely, but rather that the story really captured my curiosity. I was sad to see my time of studying this tiny portion of the universe end. And if I’m being honest, I really wanted there to be ten tapes. Because the Deca Tapes. But I think that might have been a little too on theme, and maybe not entirely consistent with the overall message.
The Deca Tapes is a well-paced, somber mystery that explores greed, religion, human nature, fear, and a lot of other deep concepts. It take a “found tapes” style approach, but develops those more fully so that it becomes a very vibrant story. While I had figured out a good bit by the end, as I mentioned, there were still some surprises waiting. It’s a solid story, written well, and executed beautifully. At eight well-constructed episodes, it is definitely worth listening to, even if you turn out like me and end up craving even more.
You can find them here: The Deca Tapes
I’m revamping how these reviews are laid out. The original format was efficient, but frankly not up to my standards. So I’m changing it up from here on, and will be going back to update the old ones. And i’m going to do away with the “ratings.” It just does not feel right to me. So, here is the updated format. I think it’s a little more true to me.
Episodes: 48 (4 Seasons)
Length: Generally around 30-40 minutes
I’ve listened to… 4-5 Episodes
The Premise: A man discovers a hidden story about Tanis, this lost place. As he begin to uncover what Tanis is, he is drawn deeper into a complicated history that promises more and more mystery.
My Review: I tried to get into Tanis, because the mystery seems so intriguing. It’s a really unique idea and, following along on the subreddit, sounds like they go some really interesting places. It has so many pieces that I generally love in a story, like time and space instability, supernatural elements, puzzles and clues, multiple dimensions. All kinds of fun stuff, frankly. But for me, I just have been completely unable to get into the story and stay engaged. The interactions between the main characters always end up feeling very artificial and stiff. There are great leaps in logic that leave me feeling confused, followed by the character missing incredibly basic things. You can tell it’s a scripted story because of how forced some of the dialogue ends up being. And oh my, the pauses. They must receive royalties for every dramatic pause because the episodes are chock full of them.
I’m so torn on this series. On the one hand, I really want to love it. But I simply have not been able to make myself listen to more. I think this would have been more palatable to me had I not listened to a couple of podcasts by the same creators prior to starting Tanis. They use a lot of the same beats and techniques across their shows, which is to be expected. But whereas I was able to overlook it once or twice, by the time I reached Tanis, I was worn out. With the world of excellent audiodrama out there, I simply have not been able to convince myself to sit through the poor execution to appreciate the intriguing story. And I hate that, but there are a lot of people doing both well.
That said, there is a lot they do well from a technical perspective. The sound quality is great, the music is well suited, and they maintain a rather reliable schedule of updates. I truly believe this podcast could be incredible if they brought on some new voices and perspectives to help them escape some of their bad habits and tropes. But, for now, I’m not going to dedicate any of my precious listening time to Tanis.
To see this review in the original format, click “Read more.” Otherwise, please enjoy this updated version.
Station to Station
Episodes: 10 current episodes
Length: Generally around 30 minutes
How I Found It: From the Directory of Independent Audio Drama
I’ve listened to… 10 episodes.
The Premise: A scientist is missing, leaving notes for his friend and lab partner to uncover. But what happened to him and why does no one else seem to remember he existed?
My review: This is a rather slow burn of a story. It’s not loud and in your face like some similar stories in the genre, but a little more reflective and subdued. It builds tension that keeps you hooked, but it’s more the quiet, uneasy sort of tension. If I’m being honest, it was that quality that made it hard for me to get into at first. Because there was not a lot of urgency from the main characters, I found myself wondering what the big deal was. I’m glad I stuck with the story, though, because as all the pieces fit together, it really explodes into this interesting, thoughtful world. The exciting elements are not running from monsters, but trying to decide how to do what is right in an impossible situation. It feels more…philosophical, I suppose. What caught my interest most by the end was wondering how I would react in this situation. And if all this is happening, what are the broader implications?
I had some difficulties, however. I like to listen to podcasts when I am driving. This one made that difficult due to the rather quiet voices of the cast. I’d have to crank the volume up, and then get deafened a scene or two later. That’s a small annoyance, but it definitely makes it more challenging. I probably missed some information and connections because I simply could not make out the dialogue. Were I using headphones, this likely would have been less of an issue. But I also would have far less time to enjoy all the wonderful audiodrama out there. And perhaps this is just personal, but I also had some difficult telling the three main characters apart. There are three primary female leads, and while one was distinct, two tended to run together for me. I had to spend a lot of time staying focused on context. That made me glad I listened to the episodes in more or less one go (across a few days, but not over a release schedule), because I would have struggled even more trying to keep all the characters straight otherwise.
In the end, while I enjoyed it, the more reserved tone of this story made it a little harder for me to get as caught up. I did not ultimately feel as connected to the characters as I have in other audiodramas, partially due to my own difficulties distinguishing the characters, but also because I felt like there was less background. They remained very focused on the present moment of the story, fitting within the theme of the podcast, but less engaging for me. That said, their final episodes also left me wanting more. There is a season 2 in the works, apparently, I will almost certainly tune in to hear more of this story. It may not be my all time top podcast, but it’s one I am glad to have found and am excited to hear more of.
Find them here: Station to Station
Happy National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day, apparently. I feel like a legitimate answer to some cats’ questions could be Rabbits, so let’s go there.
Episodes: 10 in Season 1. Season 2 was recently announced. Season 1 felt like a pretty complete story, so I hope that another season does not serve to detract from what they created.
Length: Generally around 45-60 minutes
How I Found It: Recommended from a Reddit Thread. (Creators also made Tanis, the Black Tapes, and The Last Movie)
I’ve listened to… All of Season 1.
The Premise: A woman’s friend goes missing in mysterious circumstances, and she sets out to find out what happened. As is typical in such stories, the truth draws her into a very complicated world. She discovers an ancient game, like an ARG (as they repeat over and over), with dire consequences for the players.
The Good: Interesting puzzles and clues. I like the conspiracy feel of it. The story unfolds at a pretty decent pace, and the plot is intriguing.
The Bad: The writing is….poor. Dialogue tends to be rather stiff and formulaic. The narrator is engaging at first, but then appears to try to hard to earn her nerd cred, ending up feeling forced. The concept of a podcast to help find her friend also begins to feel flimsy as it is not structured like the plea of someone trying to find their friend, but more like a documentary. And if I hear, “but more on that later…” again…..
My Rating: I’ll get to it when I get to it.
Season 1 was entertaining and a reasonable thing to listen to, but I mainly listened to see how they would wrap up the story. It was enjoyable, and I liked some of the final twists. While I’m curious about Season 2, it’s not going to be something I rush to listen to, and I may just wait for some initial reviews.
You should listen if…you like puzzles and conspiracy theories, and don’t mind a bit of a repetitive style.
Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.
Merry Christmas! This has nothing to do with Christmas. I arbitrarily chose Tuesdays to release these, so here we go!
Within the Wires
Episodes: 28; Season 3 is ending soon.
Length: Generally around 20-30 minutes, but they seem to be getting shorter.
How I Found It: From Welcome to Night Vale
I’ve listened to…all posted episodes.
The Premise: You are learning about this strange world through audio recordings that have slipped into our world. Each season follows a different set of recordings from a different set of characters, but take place in the same universe. The first follows a woman listening to relaxation tapes in an unusual facility. The second a series of audio guides for an artist’s museum collections. This third season follows taped memos from a government official. Each one adds a little more depth to the world.
The Good: I enjoy this style of worldbuilding, the unfold as you go approach, so it really kept me intrigued. The unknowns in each season definitely keep me listening for more pieces to the puzzle. Writing is solid, voice acting is great. It comes from the same folks as Welcome to Night Vale, so the overall quality is very high. Which makes it a joy to listen to. They tend to be a little more meditative in tone, so I do have to be careful I don’t fall asleep (the relaxation exercises in season 1 were really bad for this!), but I like the calmer tone compared to other podcasts I listen to. And the fact that it stays so engaging with such a laid back style is really remarkable.
The Bad: It feels like there are a lot of ads? I usually don’t mention this (because, hey, you gotta make money) but with the episodes seeming to get shorter, it feels like there is less meat to make room for more advertising of other podcasts and sponsors. Also, the first season is by far the best, so far, and the revelations from subsequent seasons have not been as interesting. This is due in large part to the mystery and exploration element of the first season. Now that I know a bit about the world, the additional things I learn are less exciting.
My Rating: Season 1 – Always up-to-date. Since then? I’ll get to it when I get to it.
For me, it’s a bit middle of the road, but always feels like a nice break. I know I’m going to learn something new and continue piecing together not only the season’s story, but also the world.
You should listen if…you are interested in hearing some alternative history and reality that makes you work for some of the information, but ties it all together nicely in an unruffled package
Want to know what this is? Why I’m doing it? What my arbitrary rating system means? Read this post here for all the not-so-juicy details.