Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Queen (and The Crown)

For those interested in the British Monarchy.

"The Queen" is a movie that deals with the death of Princess Dianna, and the old ways and beliefs of the Queen (played by Helen Mirren) being challenged by her newly appointed Prime Minister, Tony Blair (played by Michael Sheen). Now this movie will not be for everyone. There is almost no action to speak of, and around 20% is news footage of actual events which does get jarring when put against the acted scenes. The acting is fantastic though, especially Helen Mirren's representation of the Queen.

For those who watch the series "The Crown" though (which so far has only had 2 seasons) this feels like an episode of that, and it should given it was written by the same guy - Peter Morgan. I don't normally review series because over the course of a show, seasons can get stronger and weaker. I'll make an exception for that today given the subject matter.

As you might know, I like movies and shows with a metric ton of violence and gore. Throw in some sexy eye candy and explosions and I'm a very happy man. Both The Queen AND The Crown (so far) have absolutely none of that. Everyone is proper, each scene is dialogue. There's very, very little death and yet, I love it. I just find it so different and fascinating from the rest of the media that I consume.

Also, Corgis are cute!

This makes it very quirky to recommend, especially to those who have no interest in the British Monarchy. Yet if you are feeling adventurous or curious, I recommend watching a few episodes of The Crown so you can get a taste. If you find it a bore fest then stay away from the movie. Otherwise, you'll probably enjoy "The Queen" as I did. I still only give it 2.5 stags out of 5 though. Because the series (at least so far) is better, and has some stronger single episodes.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Finding Paradise

It was probably on the Moon?

The sequel to To the Moon sees Neil and Eva attempting to grant another client their "last wish" and as expected, complications arise. Like the first game, this one is an interactive novel made in RPG Maker albeit pushed to its boundaries to host a load of mini games too. For the most part it is uncovering the patient's story and solving simple puzzles. Much like To the Moon it also hit me in the feels, though to a lesser extent (measured by number of tissues required) possibly because the story isn't as deep this time around.

The machine that makes happy lies.

Giving out much more might ruin things for you, but I can still highly recommend it to everyone rating it 4 paper airplanes out of 5. If you are only going to play one RPG Maker game this year though and haven't played To the Moon yet - play that one instead.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Spiderman: Homecoming

Where spidey's suit gets an upgrade!

This movie follows a very excitable and young Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) right after his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and how he keeps sacrificing his personal life on the chance of working with the Avengers again, despite regularly getting ignored by his handler. When his patrols come across some thugs in possession with alien tech, he decides to take them on solo to prove himself.

I suspect Spidey is up for this.

While I wasn't looking forward to another reboot of the Spidey franchise, I must admit this did a very good job of doing just that and linking it to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Holland also fits the character well as does Michael Keaton who plays a likeable and memorable adversary. I question some of the other casting choices but overall they do their jobs well and the story is both visually stunning and highly entertaining. Definitely one I would like to see again, I give it 4.5 suit ladies out of 5.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Resident Evil 5

Where health packs come in spray form.

When bio terrorists unleash a plague in Africa, it's up to Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar to stop them, and kill all the infected natives that get in their way! There's a lot to like in this very cinematic game - the graphics are great, the maps despite being one way are concise and to the point and you could play it co-op if you wanted. There's also a ton of optional reading material for those that interested in the lore.

Doubt you'll find a reason for this stupid jump though.

The enemies, especially the final boss, are nice (by that I mean terrifying) though fortunately they are on the slow side especially since ammo is always scarce. Some also require very specific methods to win against which is a negative for me. Not doing exactly the right thing at exactly the right time or shooting the right spot often results in a game over. Have fun when you are out of ammo. Similar Quick Time Events can also insta-kill you if you aren't on your game.

Still definitely worth at least one play through, just expect to require multiple runs to unlock all the extras. I give it 4 uroboros out of 5. Yes that's how they spell it in this game. It sounds really weird.

King Arthur (2017)

That time King Arthur was Robin Hood.

You know the regular Arthurian tale goes out the window when the opening involves gigantically monstrous CGI pachyderm. This sets the tone for the rest of the film which has amazing fight scenes (especially when Excalibur is involved) followed by massive turds of cinematography. Expect montages a plenty. Also in one dialogue section I was starting to get a migraine due to how many cuts were involved. Seriously what idiot edited this?

"Are you calling me an idiot!?" Yes I am.

That aside, it also suffers from the problem of having a weak / bored female lead and the plot doesn't really help the main villain of the show who would have been better served being a pacifist to get to victory. At least Arthur himself is OK, even if he is in more of a Robin Hood type tale. Such mixed results with this one, but I don't think the good out weights the bad.

I'd watch the fight scenes again, but everything else? Pass. I give it 2 stone sheaths out of 5.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

FPS the movie?

A very theatrical shooter that lets players be regular soldiers with no superpowers (well, apart from semi-regeneration). I very much like the replayable tutorial mission in this as it is very important in upping the players skill level (for any FPS game) before they hit the field. Compared to the other FPS games I've been reviewing lately, Call of Duty 4 is not a long game - but it is a difficult one.

The graphics, game play, ballistics, AI and voice acting are all top notch. It's almost always on the rails though with only one way forward - just like a theme park ride. While I don't quite like the multiple perspectives the story entails, it is serviceable. The "flash back" mission to Pripyat is perhaps one of the best levels I've ever played - not just because it scratches that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. itch.

Look out for those Monolith soldiers...

The biggest drawback is it does suffer a bit from clown car baddies, where sometimes there seems to be no end to them coming out from literally nowhere, and can be intensely frustrating. Still one of the best FPS games I've played and one I definitely recommend, I give it 4 Calls of Duty out of 5.

Meanwhile in Neverwinter Online

The Siege of Neverwinter is back on, which is arguably the best for Stronghold progression! You can also get the purple level Siege breaker Griffon if you missed it last time, or just hang onto the currencies for future rewards when it next comes back. It seems to be one of the more frequent events.

Our guild is currently the lowest ranked now of the Greycloak Alliance, which is expected given our active player numbers. Still, with their help we are now at Guild Hall level 10 which is great - halfway there! Well, not quite but I like to dream. :)

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Rush Hour 3

"He's Mi and I'm Yu."

The unlikely law enforcement team Carter (Chris Tucker) and Lee (Jackie Chan) are on the case to hunt down an assassin and find crucial intel on the triad. It's a straight forward and decent story from the usual police genre boilerplate which means there aren't too many surprises. Jackie Chan's action sequences are fantastic as usual and the comedy parts are hilarious when done right.

With Hiroyuki Sanada, sword fights are mandatory!

It does go a bit too far perhaps when Carter forces a French cabbie to sing the American National Anthem at gunpoint and a few other similar sections which strain the suspension of disbelief but otherwise it is an enjoyable watch. Definitely one for fans of either lead and/or of the Rush Hour franchise. If you are anyone else though, it's one of those "watch if nothing else is on" movies. I give it 2.5 cuts out of 5.

Friday, 19 January 2018

TimeShift

Mad scientist decides to LARP as Hitler.

Thanks to cutting edge tech that can alter the past, one mad man changes the timeline entirely to control the world, and obviously you have to stop him. Set in an alternate 1939, you aren't given much reason to help a band of demanding and impatient rebels other than your main adversary is the leader of the evil regime oppressing them.

It's like being the Flash!

Fortunately it is a fun albeit on the rails task, with no incentive to explore the decent maps on offer. You will also be using your limited time control abilities to solve puzzles, some I feel are a bit mundane to waste the ability on but its the gimmick here so it is put to full use. The abilities are very handy in combat though - especially since the enemy always has a tactical advantage over you. Later on, they start getting nice armor too.

Definitely a solid shooter and one I can recommend to fans of the genre. I give it 3 rewinds out of 5.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Coyote Ugly

Don't ask for water.

It's a familiar story - a shy girl pursuing a music career moves to a big city, runs into heavy resistance, and resorts to working at a sleazy bar to make ends meet. To succeed, she has to overcome her shyness. With a predictable plot and a few montages to help it along this quickly becomes one of those, "watching it since nothing else is on" movies.

Thumbs up for eye candy! :P

Pity the lead actress (Piper Perabo) wasn't a strong enough singer that she required a bigger name to do her song (of almost MTV quality) towards the end but at least they explained it early in the piece. There are no huge flaws to speak of, but no huge successes either. Ultimately I did find it bland, and not one I'd want to see again. It still gets 2.5 songs in the dark out of 5 though.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Ghostbusters (The 2009 Video Game)

How the movies should have continued.

Set directly after the Ghostbusters II (1989) movie you are put into the shoes of a rookie who joins the Ghostbusting team on their next adventure. Dubbed the "Experimental Equipment Technician" you can use the funds collected from captured ghosts and collected cursed artifacts to upgrade the performance of your proton pack, expanding your weapon array to match the growing resistances of your foes; provided you still have funds after damaging public property.

Watch your aim, rookie.

Everything about this game is absolutely top notch, capturing a good balance of comedy and horror and having cool segments of working with the other Ghostbusters as well as segments where you are solo. The maps are beautiful, graphics are good, the voice acting, story and game play are superb. Indeed, the only thing I can possibly fault this on is the initial long loading time.

Other than that, I highly recommend this game not just to fans of the original movies, but to all gamers. I give it 5 ghost traps out of 5.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Butterfly Effect

Change the past to change the future.

Evan is one messed up kid, not just because his dad is in the looney bin or due to his memory lapses. It's mostly because he has a bunch of worthless friends. Fortunately, he has two things going for him. A) He grows up to look like Ashton Kutcher (who plays his adult self, could be worse) and B) he can go back in time where he can alter his past, which in turn changes his present.

A regular human proves to be Evan's greatest foil.

The idea behind this is very cool, where his lifestyle and his friends alter with each change. Unfortunately how it is presented, especially in the first half of the movie is a jumbled mess of annoying time skips. Sure, the blanks are filled in during the second half but it isn't really successful in making me care much for Evan. Especially since his entire life he is bullied by someone two feet shorter than him.

An interesting take on time travel, but not one I'm keen to see again. I give it 2 burning dogs out of 5.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Project: Snowblind

Featuring a very acrobatic protagonist (in cutscenes only).

It is the year 2065 where graphics have a dated blocky look and villains still have stupid plans; providing many "save rooms" for protagonists to thwart them from. Apart from those anomalies, this is a decent shooter by Eidos. Enemies have decent AI and the maps seem to always have a stealth / alternate option to get through.

Some parts have no option but mass slaughter.

The augments and gadgets you get as the hero - cybernetically enhanced due to a "mishap" in the tutorial - are also cool. You can hack turrets and battle bots and make them work for you. There are also bigger mechs and vehicles that you (and the enemy) can freely pilot. That's on top of being able to see people through walls, turn on semi-invulnerability for take and hold missions, total invisibility for get from point A to B tasks, etc.

If it sounds like you are a walking cheat code it is because you are and the game does get easier as more of those powers become available to you. It still is a fun ride though, and one that might interest old game FPS enthusiasts. I give it 2.5 EMP grenades out of 5.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Bag Man

Seems like everyone wants that bag.

Jack (John Cusack) is tasked with fetching a bag for a wealthy employer, with the stipulation that he never look inside it. Getting the bag is a non-event, but hanging onto it while waiting at a motel for the exchange proves troublesome. Not just because there are a lot of people after it, but because the plot is needlessly convoluted with characters going back and forth from locations for no purpose.

She has many costume changes, all with little fabric.

The mystery of what's in the bag is interesting enough to keep watching but I have to wonder what the heck the screenwriter was doing to some/most of the story. Apart from the odd location shifts, there are a number of long, pointless scenes and irritatingly stupid decisions being made. At least the eye candy is nice. Not enough to make up for the rest of it though, I give it 1.5 bags out of 5 and am not interested in watching it again.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Legendary

Do you like Griffons? You won't anymore.

Bad stuff first: The silent protagonist is not very likable since he was either stupid or greedy enough to open Pandora's Box. On the plus side, he gains an interesting quasi-vampire ability that lets him absorb energy from dead monsters to heal himself. The abrupt cut scenes also take some getting used to. Lastly, a massive, game breaking clipping bug near the end requires fiddling in game files to fix to progress to the climax, a sure sign of lack of testing.

Maybe the tester got turned to bird feed before he reached that spot.

Other than those, this is a solid first person shooter which has a decent line up of mythical beasts to fight against with some really good ideas behind them. The wall climbing werewolves need to be decapitated to be permanently slain, the fire lizards are stuffed if they get hit by water, and so on. Of course there are also bad guys with guns too and all the AI is quite passable.

Special mention must go to the maps, which while linear as expected from a FPS are quite sprawling and nice to travel through. I liked this game, and the difficulty does ramp up through the missions so those accuracy and dodge timing becomes very important. I'd recommend it to people who like shooters and can are ok to fiddle with files to fix that end bug. Still, such a bug cannot be overlooked so I only give this 2.5 evil fairies out of 5.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Mark Hamill is still awesome.

Continuing on from The Force Awakens, the majority of this film sees the rebels on the run from the Empire First Order while Rey attempts to convince the retired Luke Skywalker to come back into action. Once more, the acting and CGI are good but this time around I do have to question some decisions made about the plot.

New cute critter to market - check.

Rey's arc - I quite liked everything there from the island and almost everything with Kylo. The rebels running is fine and drives most of the movie. Luke is great. There's just one "side quest" which is mainly moving pawns across the board in a very round about way. This is completely useless. COMPLETELY.

Why? (spoilers ahead - highlight to read) I am talking about Finn's role here. Without the thief's info, more rebels would have made it to their destination resulting in a bigger final battle like Hoth, than what seems to be a final "skirmish". Alternatively, they could have played the "not everyone is good/evil card" better by making a rebel traitor (the thief) because his family/friend is held hostage by the enemy, giving him the same motivation as Finn. 

The mechanic girl could have been introduced the same way and had her major role finding and stopping him. Rey might have rescued said people, and the thief could have had a redeeming bit. No Finn required - they could have made a stronger movie by killing him. No odd phone call to the glasses alien who was clearly too busy to take a call either.

On things are more complicated than good and evil note, I wish they ballsed up and actually made Kylo not evil, but nope. After the epic co-op part of the movie someone just put their foot down and said they needed him as a villain. Shame. I'd love it if they can make Kylo the Jedi and Rey the Sith in the next flick but I doubt they will deviate much further from their stock standard formula.

An entertaining action film and one I'd probably watch again eventually. The thing is my wife and I just watched LEGO Batman the day before and guess what? LEGO Batman is better. I give this 3.5 Jedi mind tricks out of 5.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The LEGO Batman Movie

You mean nothing to him. No one does.

Batman as an action comedy in the LEGO universe sounds like a bit of a stretch so I was pleasantly surprised at how good it turned out to be, especially as this movie has a bunch of other pop culture references yet acknowledges all the other Batman films. The first 15 minutes are especially enthralling and the CGI is amazing all throughout.

He's happiest when he is fighting.

The plot deals with Batman's fears, his attitude to everyone around him, and that no one - not even the Batman - can be alone on an island (despite his best efforts to do so). The play on the love hate story with the Joker is particularly funny and well done. Of course, being a LEGO movie there are a few bits where "Master building" comes into play which was slightly out of whack for me since most of the movie I forgot that they are actually in the LEGO universe.

I really liked this and it is one I'd want to see again! It is definitely better than some of the other Batman films out there. I give this four 110% expendable sidekicks out of five.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Game of Thrones: Intrigue

The only thing intriguing is how this passes as a GoT game.

It has the Game of Thrones name on the box and the characters on each card, yet the theme is lost completely in this card game - which ultimately is for children. The play is simple - everyone takes turns creating a pyramid of cards where only similar colors are allowed next to each other. If during your turn you cannot put down a card, you take a penalty token and are eliminated that round. If you cleared all your cards you take an Iron Throne card which has a negative value.

So many decisions. Wow.

In the next round the player adjacent goes next where the process repeats until everyone has had a chance to "go first". At the end you add up your penalty points, subtract the Iron Throne values and whoever has the lowest value wins. Given I could explain the whole game in two paragraphs shows the simplicity of it, which is far too simple for my appetite. The only plus is that the cards can help people remember character names in the show. I give it 1 pyramid out of 5 and for me, it's not worth playing.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Question: Do you replay games?

Simple one I'll leave up for a few days... in this age of MMOs and game backlogs, how often do you go back to replay a "finished" game? Replaying due to DLCs or "new/updated content" does not count. I'm talking along the lines of winning say Doom 2 or the original Warcraft. Will you ever play through the whole thing again?

Friday, 5 January 2018

Overlord

Where goblins are made cute!

This fantasy game sees the player control the titular Overlord, revived in his dilapidated tower after a band of heroes had destroyed it. He's pretty tough as a spell casting knight but ultimately terribly outnumbered by the foes in need crushing to expand his domain. Instead of going the Diablo route where one guy -can- slay the enemy army, this one uses a cool and unique mechanic in minions.

Minions are little goblins who come in four different varieties each with special traits and weaknesses. These little fellas fight for you, break barrels for you, loot for you, carry heavy things for you and most importantly can reach places you cannot. They are also incredibly stupid, equipping the strangest gear such as pumpkin helmets and dead rat hats (from freshly killed rats no less).

Minions hard at work, pillaging hobbit homes.

Apart from light strategic combat, this also means there are a lot of puzzles in the game - most of which are thankfully easy though the terrain sometimes gets in the way. The mushrooms in the water cave will annoy you for sure! Still, the premise and mechanics are good. The voice acting is great, and the story where you must fight each corrupted hero now embodying one of the deadly sins complete with a slight twist in the end is fantastic. More so because you don't actually -need- to be evil, as the game still gives you a modicum of free choice.

I give this four rat hats out of five and highly recommend it to everyone! :)

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Constantine (Game)

The Keanu Reeves Constantine, not Matt Ryan's Constantine.

Continuing the games based on movies trend, Constantine suffers from many flaws. A questionable "filler" plot filled with holes and time skips, wooden voice acting, and low quality graphics with Constantine's running motion being quite unnatural. My biggest gripe is everything being dark. So dark you will be always be using the "True Sight" spell which puts you in first person mode and turns all the colors into an odd shades of oranges and blues.

Armed with relics (cough firearms cough) as you fight through demons both on Earth and in hell, the game is ultimately a series of fetch quests. It does have some saving grace though - the puzzles and ideas are quite neat, as is the quasi QTE spell casting system. Time slows down while casting but doesn't stop, meaning enemies can still hit you and disrupt your spell. The "strange at first" battle music also gets my thumbs up.

For all the demons, people with guns are still the most dangerous.

I ended up enjoying this game because of the theme and ideas, and give it 2 water puddles out of five. Not sure I can recommend it to others though.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Wolverine: X-men Origins

The movie was good. The game is better!

Much like Iron Man, this is "based of" the movie - weaving in key plot points into the padded out story (filled with helicopters), but in this case the story is much more cohesive and quite interesting given the approach of having two interwoven timelines: the present day and a past operation in Africa with his old team.

It's also pretty wild!

More importantly, the game play is very engaging and visceral. Wolverine isn't as restricted as he is on film, bloodily executing and dismembering foes from the opening cut scene right through the entire game - and it is very fun! I especially appreciate that each new enemy is introduced as a "mini boss" first to let players figure them out before they start appearing as a regularly. 

I really liked this game and highly recommend it! 4 mutants out of 5.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Iron Man (2008 Game)

The movie was fantastic. The game, not so much.

While this is "based of" the movie, in reality it only starts and ends like it - with a ton of filler between those two points. That's not a bad thing on its own, but when it makes for a nonsensical plot combined with clunky controls, enemy AI that only has one setting (advance and shoot) and poor graphics, that's just a recipe for disaster. Here's a cut scene screenshot as a sample:

Pepper on boob duty.

It does have some good things though: the idea of power modulation and level design that lets the player fly all around and in most cases, through interiors is a plus, but not enough to make up for the rest of it. It's funny that Stark also ignores the "main" bad guy for the majority of the game and instead basically goes on a killing spree to "save lives". I give it one tank QTE (Quick Time Event) out of five.