Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Limbo is a unique 2D platform game that takes place (I assume) in Limbo; the place between life and death that lies at the entrance to Hell. The game is black and white, and is very German expressionist in its look (think the 1920's Nosferatu) If I had to sum up Limbo I would say it feels, and sounds like a 2D Ico.
A young boy wakes up in a dank dark forest. Maybe on a quest to find a loved one, or maybe just on a quest to escape the nightmare he has found himself in.
The game takes place over one looong level. There are no real enemies in the game, instead you (playing as a small boy) must traverse the environments, and avoid the many traps littering the place. There are bear traps, falling blocks, spiked pits, and even spinning blades to avoid, each leads to instant gory death. Though the game is black and white it can still be quite graphic, the bear trap death for instance sees the trap close over the boy severing his head, while falling into a spiked pit will lead to the boy being impaled on one of the spikes.
Though there is just the one level the locations do change. Starting off in a forest your journey takes you through silent towns, watery underground caves, and giant industrial areas. All in black and white, but all looking really unique with their film noir look. The boy himself for the most part is a black outline, with 2 bright white eyes. At times all you can see are the eyes of the boy as he makes his way through the dark locations. The boy is able to climb and jump up ledges, drag obstacles such as crates to help him up higher ledges, and trigger switches. The game is never too hard, though later puzzles involving gravity reversals, and lifts crank up the difficulty. Each time you die (of which there will be many deaths) only puts you back a small amount, and reloads instantly so is never frustrating.
There are other characters and creatures in the game world. Early on a giant Spider harasses you, while other humanoid shapes run from you, and impede your progress. These disappear in the later parts of the game which is a shame, but works in the context of you travelling from more alive natural areas to giant concrete factories.
There is no music to speak of, but there is constant background noise. Rain splashing down, birds tweeting, steam pipes, and creaks all form to make an alive feeling place.
Onto badness though. The game is amazing and special feeling, but is quite short. I had completed it in around 2-3 hours. The game is pretty much linear, with no room for exploration, the theme of the game means repeated playthroughs would make sense, but it is not worth the cost. The game is 1200 Microsoft Points which is about £9 or £10 maybe? 800 would have been a far more realistic price as there just is not enough content to warrant that inflated price.
Still the game is atmospheric and dark, and is special. I would recommend getting it if it's ever discounted.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Supernatural for those that don't know is an American TV show about two brothers; Sammy and Dean who travel the back roads of America hunting down monsters and ghosts. The boys are played fantastically by Jared Padalecki, and Jensen Ackles, Sammy is the sensible one, while Dean is more reckless and gun ho of the two. From here are spoilers for the previous 2 seasons, so beware!
Having sold his soul in exchange for Sam's life Dean has just one year to live. The Seasons main plot line revolves around the brothers search for a way to save Dean from being dragged to Hell. With the yellow eyed Demon dead there is a power struggle over who is to command the recently released Demon Army. It turns out that a head Demon named Lilith still sees Sam as a threat, so many episodes are based on her quest to kill him.
The Season gets off to a great start with 'The Magnificent Seven' where Dean and Sam discover that the seven deadly sins were among some of the Demons to escape in the brief moments the gateway to Hell was opened at the end of Season 2. It sets the trend for the higher action of Season 3, as well as the higher body count for the good guys. Many characters are killed off by the end of the Season, some who are just introduced in Season 3, but also older reoccurring characters from the previous 2 Seasons.
There really are not that many average episodes in Season 3, the weakest I would say is the Christmas themed 'A Very Supernatural Christmas' which concerns the anti-Claus, as well as features several flashbacks to the boys childhood. There is a lot of humour throughout the episodes as usual, with two episodes in particular being based on jokes. The first 'Mystery Spot' sees Sam stuck in a Groundhog Day situation where the same day keeps repeating over and over again with Dean dying in a variety of tragic, and then hilarious ways. The first time he is killed tragic music plays, but later on during a montage of Dean deaths it is just hilarious as Dean is crushed by a falling desk, slips in the shower, gets poisoned by a Taco and many more funny ways. Sam is fantastic in this episode, and his utter frustration at reliving the same day for hundreds of times in a row is fantastically funny. The other comedy episode 'Ghostfacers!' is done as a fly on the wall documentary with Sam and Dean only showing up as secondary characters. Everything in this episode from the credits, to the ending is done as if it was a show of 'Ghostfacers!' Very funny.
The Season sees the introduction of several cool characters. Early on a mysterious beautiful woman called Ruby shows up. She has an intimate knowledge of the boys, and is armed with a dagger that is able to permanently kill Demons. An English thief called Bela is also introduced. She works with the boys in several episodes, but always ends up screwing the boys over in some funny way. Characters from previous Seasons feature quite a lot, especially Bobby who features more heavily. The misguided Hunter Gordon Walker also makes an appearance, as does the FBI Detective in charge of the boys arrest.
The Season is shorter than the previous 2 which is disappointing. Rather then 22 episodes there are just 16 which is a shame. The last episode feels quite rushed and is not the epic one I expected. I can't help feel that they originally aimed for 22 episodes but then cut it down (maybe due to the writers strike?) A shame. The show is still amazing though, and defiantly has not shown any signs of running out of steam. I love Supernatural!
Sunday, 25 July 2010
Timeshift is a first person shooter that was released to not much acclaim a year or so back on PS3, and 360 (maybe also PC). The game attempted to stand out from the identikit crowd by the usage of Blinx style powers that lets you mess around with time.
The story is really bare bones, and never explained in too much detail. It is quite cool though, well I think so. The game starts at a laboratory in modern day. A Scientist has stolen a high tech suit. He sets off the Labs self destruct sequence before vanishing into thin air. Another Scientist quickly gets into a similar suit, and too vanishes into thin air just as the lab complex explodes wiping out everyone left inside. You play as the 2nd Scientist. It turns out that both the suits are able to time travel. Scientist 2 travels back in time to try in pursuit of the thief. He arrives in 1947 to find a vastly different world. The thief; Dr Krone has altered the time line so that he now rules America. He has used his knowledge of technology to turn the world into a steam punk nightmare. Giant robots stalk the streets, while his army are armed with plasma, and Tesla guns. He broadcasts his rule over giant TV screens set up all over the war torn City you find yourself in. Joining up with the Resistance you must hunt down and stop Dr Krone, if for no other reason than his suit is the only one of the 2 capable of returning to present day.
The game gets off to a bad start. The rain effects are fantastic, but for the first few levels the locations are really bland. Destroyed streets, and rubble strewn apartments are not too exciting. Later levels get more interesting though. Half Life 2 style open driving levels break up the proceedings, while most later levels are based around various well defended bases of Dr Krone.
The game feels very last generation, it is similar in feel to oldies like Project Snowblind, and Pariah. While the game looks ok, the soundtrack, and sound effects are really generic, and don't stand out in the slightest. The games difference comes in the form of time powers. You are able to pause time, rewind time, and slow time down to help you defeat the Soldiers, and progress through levels. Slowing time down is basically just bullet time, seen a billion times before. It speeds you up, while slowing enemies movements. It is used in puzzles as well though, such as retreating from a time bomb, or passing between the spinning blades of a giant fan. Pausing time lets you snatch weapons out of enemies hands which is amusing. It is also used for puzzle situations, such as being able to pull two switches at the same time to open a gate, and to walk on water. The last power you have is to rewind time. This is the least used of the powers. In regards to fighting enemies you can use it to return thrown grenades. In terms of puzzles it can be used to recreate destroyed structures such as bridges, and also to reverse the flow of wind in wind tunnels. The powers are cool, but it is always quite obvious when you are supposed to use which powers in regards to the puzzles. Your suits A.I always helpfully tells you.
Enemies for the most part are Soldiers of Dr Krones Army. They use all the games weapons, such as sniper rifles, machine guns etc. There are special Soldiers as well which turn up. These include super fast ones (that need to be fought in slow motion), Soldiers who teleport, as well as ones protected with special energy shields. The really big robots only appear a few times, and show up as bosses.
For the most part the game is just straight first person shooting. A few Half Life 2 style driving sections as mentioned, as well as some sections where you man a gun emplacement, whether it be on a vehicle, or defending a objective.
All the usual guns feature, but some have a futuristic twist to them. My favourite weapon, and the most over powered one is a Gears of War style crossbow that fires an explosive bolt. It is too overpowered though, as one hit from this weapon makes any enemy explode into bloody chunks. Multiplayer deathmatch is included, but I had no incentive to try this, I doubt anyone is playing it anyway.
The game is very old fashioned in feel, and really cannot compete at all with most the FPS games out there. It is better than was made out in reviews, and if you see it cheap then defiantly pick it up. It is just nothing special. Be aware the game has quite long load times in places, and can be frustrating at times.
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Dragon Quest is an amazing long running series of RPG's from the land of the rising sun. The latest entry in the series; Dragon Quest IX has just been released in Europe, Dragon Quest: The Hand of the Heavenly Bride is the 5th game in the series, and the 2nd Nintendo DS Dragon Quest game.
The game takes place over the lifetime of a Human male. The game starts with his birth. 8 years later the boy travels the land with his Father Pankraz. Your Mother was captured by Demons soon after your birth and taken to the Demon realm. The only person able to get to the Demon realm is the legendary hero. You and your Father are travelling the World in search of this legendary hero. The game is roughly split into 3 sections. The first sees you as a boy with your Father, the 2nd part sees you as a man looking for a Wife, while the last part has you with your children locating the legendary hero. The story is very good, and surprisingly emotional, there is a lot of bad stuff that happens to you, and those you love.
The game like the others in the series is a turn based RPG, random encounters seeing you fight enemies in order to gain experience points with which to level up, as well as get gold coins to buy better weapons and equipment. You have a team of up to 4 characters, but also are able to hold 4 in reserve who can be switched into battle at the start of any round. Unlike many games of this type there is not an abundance of characters for use in your party. In recognition of this the main hero is able to recruit Monsters into his team in a Pokemon type way. It is only in the last third of the game that you no longer need to rely on Monster team members.
There are many Towns, Castles, and Dungeons spread over the games world. Most Towns/Castles have a specific quest associated with them, weather it be investigating a Cavern in search of a Monster that is terrorising a small farming community, or rescuing a kidnapped Prince or a myriad of different things.
The monsters in this game are much the same as previous Dragon Quest games, as is the case with the Final Fantasy's. They are a collection of animals, and monsters, and most have amusing names such as the giant birds 'Grudgerigars'. As usual the title Dragon Quest is misleading as Dragons do feature as enemies, but they are hardly main enemy types. As usual should you fall in battle you appear at the last Church you visited with all your experience gained intact, but half your Gold removed. There are banks you can deposit Gold in though. Bosses in this game are far fewer than usual. Many Dungeons don't have bosses, when they do appear they are usually story related rather than being a Boss for the sake of a finish to the location.
As said the story is quite bleak at times with many people being kidnapped, tricked, and even killed. The main antagonist is a Demon Priest, and his cohorts who are attempting to open a gateway between the Demon realm and the Human realm so that the Lord of the Demon realm can invade.
The game is really good, and the graphics are bright and colourful. Also, there are zombie enemies. Early on Ghouls make an appearance, they are quite a low level enemy type. More common undead are undead Knights, they come in a variety of types, and have an eyeball hanging out its socket. Towards the end of the game Necromancers appear more commonly. So undead = an excuse to review the game on this average Horror blog!
Really recommend getting this, specially as it is under £10, and is a 30 + hour game. DS exclusives include some pointless stylus controlled mini games, as well as the option to swap objects with other Dragon Quest DS owning players.
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Yet again I am reviewed a blooming Turtles game on my beloved Horror blog. Yet again I say how is a tale about a bunch of deadly mutants not Horror? How is a giant Alien brain attempting to take over the world not Horror? How is an army of robots and stone men not horror?! Heh. Turtles in Time: Reshelled is a remake of the classic side scrolling fighter from the mid 1990's. I'm not sure if it was ever an arcade game, but it was on the Snes, and a vastly different version was released on the Megadrive (called Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist). This remake features all new graphics, and sound rather than the previously released arcade perfect port of Turtles a few years back.
The game starts with the evil Krang, and his henchman Shredder stealing the Statue of Liberty. The heroic ninja Turtles leap into action to stop them. However not long into their battle Shredder manages to teleport them far back into the past where they wont be able to thwart his plans, but by defeating the robots, and monsters of Krangs army in each time zone they are able to gradually progress through time... Back to the Future! (TM)
In a shocking move the game lets you play as one of the 4 Turtles. As usual Donatello is the best character to use as his staff has a long reach. The game is up to 4 players, and as with most games of this type is only really fun with more than one player. As usual I only got to play the game in single player mode.
Much the same as the original version the game can be quite bland. Each level sees you advance left to right in a straight line. There are no lifts, or vertical movement to spice things up, though there are 2 levels in which you are on a small vehicle. The levels are not too exciting. They range from Prehistoric times to a Pirate Ship level, a Space Station, and even a Train, but apart from the different location they all feel quite similar. Each level has its own obstacles to avoid. The Space Station for instance features laser beams, and ice rays, while the Prehistoric level sees rocks falling from ceilings, as well as Pterodactyls who fly by dropping rocks on you.
The enemies mostly are comprised of the Foot Soldiers. These robot ninjas come in a variety of colours, and armed with a variety of weapons such as bombs, axes, swords, and throwing stars. Other enemies include large stone warriors, usually armed with heavy weapons such as rocket launchers, and steel rods. The bosses are the highlight in the game. Of course Krang and Shredder appear, but also a bunch of assorted mutants, from a robot Turtle at the end of stage 2, to the fly version of Baxter Stockman, and my personal favourite; a double team of a Werewolf, and a Spiky Turtle.
My main problem with the game is the new graphical style. It just looses so much of its charm with its new average 3d models, it would have been cool if they had included the option to have the original graphics. When enemies are defeated they blow up, but the explosion is really crappy, and doesn't even cover the obvious fact of the defeated enemy just vanishing into thin air. The game is quite easy, and also quite short, defiantly not worth the Microsoft points asked for (I believe it is 1200 Microsoft points). I love the whole lore of the Turtles, but it doesn't give you value for money here. Apart from the main game there is also a survival mode which is identical save for the fact you just have the one life and no continues. On the plus side the music is cool, and the voices are entertaining. I would imagine it would be much more fun in co-op.
Oh yes, there is a level missing! The Snes game had an ace level set in the Technodrome that culminated in a fantastic boss fight against Shredder that required you to fling Foot Soldiers into the screen at him. This omission really grates, I remember that it was my favourite level of the Snes version, sucks that it's not here!
Sunday, 18 July 2010
Bayonetta is an action adventure game in the vein of Ninja Gaiden, and Devil May Cry. It got almost universally good reviews, being praised for its fantastic main character, and fluid game play.
You play as Bayonetta; a Witch who awoke 20 years in the past with no memories. She heads to the Town of Vigrid where two different supernatural clans used to be based. 500 years ago there was a Sun worshipping clan called the Lumen Sages, and a Moon worshipping clan named the Umbra Witches. They worked to shape history until a war wiped them out. Bayonetta hopes that the answers to her past will be found in this Town.
The plot is really weird and kooky in places, and I must admit I did get a bit confused by the whole thing. Basically in each level of the game Bayonetta is under constant attack by Heavenly beings. Their announcement is always met with religious music playing, and they embody the foundations of Christianity. In the game there are 3 different planes of existence layered on top of each other. There is Paradiso where the Angels live which is a place of utter beauty, there is the normal Human world, and then there is Inferno where Demons come from. People in the Human world cannot see Angels or Demons, instead they just feel their presence. Most the game takes place in Purgatory, a place where you can fight Angels away from Human eyes.
Bayonetta is a naked long legged Witch. She has a catsuit magically made from her own hair which covers her. Her attacks incorporate hair, and so the more powerful the attack, the less she is wearing. There is a heck of a lot of moves she can do. She has two pistols strapped to her hands, and two pistols strapped to her ankles. She can summon giant high heeled shoes, and fists to attack enemies. She can turn into a panther, a crow, and bats to help in her fighting, and for her finishing move she can summon ancient torture devices such as an iron maiden to finish enemies off. Boss battles always end with Bayonetta summoning a gigantic Demon from Inferno. There are a multitude of different weapons you can get access to, as well as a shotgun you also get access to a sword, whip, demonic claws, and even a pair of ice skates! By careful use of the dodge button you can initiate 'Witch Time' that slows everything down allowing for extra punishment.
Enemies are unique in that they are all Angels, the Demons being on your side. There are lots and lots of different enemy types, most incorporate cherub faces, whether your fighting flying cherubs, or gigantic monsters they are adorned in religious imagery, and are mostly white. Killing enemies leads to the appearance of Halos which are the games currency. By visiting 'The Gates of Hell' (a bar) you are able to upgrade your weapons, buy new moves, buy items to help cure you, regain magic etc, as well as other knick knacks that improve your stats.
The game is really crazy and fun. There are many references to other Sega games with two levels even having direct homages to them. For example one level in which you are riding a rocket opens with Bayonetta saying 'Welcome to my Fantasy Zone' before the Space Harrier music starts and the game pretty much turns into Space Harrier for the duration. The story is confusing but frequently funny. Main characters include a spy reporter called Luca who believes Bayonetta murdered his Father, a young girl who bears a striking resemblance to Bayonetta and refers to her as Mother as well as a mysterious witch in red who turns up to battle at various times.
The bosses in the game are for the most part completely gigantic and dramatic. They are the Cardinals of Virtue, the big wigs in the Heavenly command. They include a giant upside down flying head with two snakes protruding out of it, a gigantic holy woman, and a head that is defeated by you ice skating up its tongue before lopping its head off revealing its squirming purple brains.
There is a hell of a lot more I could say about this game. It is really really fun, and much better than the elitist hardism of Devil May Cry. Lots of unlockables mean lots of replay value. While the story isn't exactly coherent it is at least skipable if you so wish. If your looking for a outlandish game with the attitude of Killer 7 and with added empowerment then this is the game for you. A beautiful love letter from Sega.
Friday, 16 July 2010
Twilight gets a lot of hate, a lot of hate. Up until last Tuesday I was one of those haters. I mean sparkly vampires, and corny romances don't lend themselves well to 100% percent support. I went to the cinema with a friend and her daughter to see the third film in the series. But what did I think?
A girl called Bella is dating a Vampire called Edward, but a Werewolf called Jacob also fancies her. Meanwhile some Vampires with a grudge against Bella is raising an Army of Vampires to descend on the Mountain Town of Forks and kill both Bella and the Cullen family (Forks residential Vampires) That's about it for plot, most the story revolves around the love triangle of Edward, Bella, and Jacob, and around Bella's wish to become a Vampire (which Edward, and seemingly every other character opposes).
The film isn't that bad, and I found myself quite into it. It helps that I like romance films anyway. Not being or every being in a relationship in the real world I find it easy to like romance plots, and root for the lovers to get together/sort out their problems. Not having seen the previous 2 films I was worried I would be a bit lost, but reading the Wiki plots for those helped a bit. It was easy enough to work out what was going on. The characters are all hyper attractive for the most part. The Cullen family Vampires, the weird red eyed Vampire things, as well as the Werewolves are all stunning looking people so it was easy on the eye.
The Vampires in Twilight differ from normal Vampires. For one, they glitter in sunlight. This does look as terrible as it sounds, but thankfully there were only one or two scenes this occurred in. The Vampires have cool orange eyes, and very pale skin, but don't have Vampire teeth, and can go out in the sunlight. They appear to be made of pottery which was weird. At first I thought it was just crappy effects, but no, the Vampires are made of pottery, and shatter as such when attacked. I found it quite odd that no one notices that the Vampires are Vampires as they look completely different to the rest of the Town.
The Werewolves hang out wearing barely any clothes in their human form, and as Werewolves they are gigantic and look quite fearsome. Vampires are the mortal enemies of Werewolves, the origin of this is shown during the film. Some of the origins of the Vampires themselves are also shown which is cool. Better done than the terrible flashback sequences in Angel.
The film deals with themes of opposition. The Werewolves and the Vampires conflict, the misguided Army of young Vampires tricked into hating the Cullens, and the love triangle that sees Jacob and Edward competing against each other.
There is a few scenes of action, with some cool fighting, but at it's heart Twilight is a love story. I think anything that introduces young people to horror is good, and shouldn't be slagged off without being given a chance.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Ghostbusters are amazing aren't they? I had forgotten how much I love the Ghostbusters until I played this game. Both Ghostbusters 1 and 2 are really good films, Bill Murry, Dan Akroyd et al are fantastic. For this game they all reprise their roles, and are fantastic! Not only do they reprise their roles, but other key characters from the films also reprise their roles such as the character of Walter Peck.
The game takes place in 1991, a few years after the events of Ghostbusters 2. The Ghostbusters are doing well, and supported by the Mayor of New York on a Government contract to keep the City Tourist friendly. They take on a new member (the character you play as) a young boy who is hired to test out experimental ghost busting gadgets. Soon after the start of the game a psychic shock wave shakes the City emanating from a exhibit at the Museum dedicated to Gozar (the main demon thing from Ghostbusters). The shock wave frees Slimer from his containment unit so the Ghostbusters head to the Hotel he was originally caught in to get him back. Soon after the Stay Puft Marshmellow man makes a surprise return and ghost sightings spread like wildfire. It is up to the Ghostbusters to discover what has caused this outbreak of Ghosts.
I played the demo for this game ages ago. I hated the demo! I found the controls confusing, and the gameplay frustrating, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Thankfully the actual game is a billion times better. It doesn't help the demo that it's from a section about halfway through the game (and quite a hard section at that), and the controls really were not very well explained at all. The proper game itself has a useful tutorial opening (disguised as hunting down and capturing a escaped ghost at the Ghostbusters HQ).
You play as the unnamed rookie who teams up with random members of the Ghostbusters in each level. You are silent, but the main Ghostbusters are constantly talking amongst themselves as well as gently mocking you. They are really funny, and really feel like the same characters that were portrayed in the films. Bill Murry as Peter Venkman in particular is really funny. The voices don't sound like they were just phoned in.
A knowledge of the films is pretty much essential to really enjoy the game. The soundtrack is the same as that in the previous films, and the plot is basically Ghostbusters 3, referencing, and linking the previous films together. Locations are a mix of old and new. As well as the Hotel from Ghostbusters you also revisit the Library location as well as the Museum of Ghostbusters 2. New locations include Central Park, a mysterious Island, as well as several Demon Realm levels.
There are lots of different enemy types, but fall into 2 different types. There are ghosts who you must wear down by shooting your proton lasers at. These include the famous one such as Slimer, as well as game specific ghosts such as tramp ghosts, and Gozer cultist ghosts. Once their energy bars are worn down then you can throw out your trap to capture the ghost. The other enemy type are possessed objects. These are far more varied. They include everything from stone gargoyles, flying books, stone cupids, giant golems (made out of objects such as coal, or furniture), and more. The possessed enemies can just be blasted till they fall apart. All the enemies have their own bios you can read on the pause screen
You have access to 4 types of weapon. The iconic proton beam is the first one you get access to, other ones include a slime gun (that can also be used to tether objects and enemies together), a shotgun style weapon (that can slow down ghosts movements), and a high powered machine gun type beam that doubles as a rifle beam. The weapons can all be upgraded by collecting money. The money is earned by not only catching ghosts, but also by destroying the surrounding areas. It is really funny how little the Ghostbusters care about damaging the locations they find themselves in, often making jokes about the damage they are causing.
After each mission you go back to HQ where you can wonder around and look at objects you have collected (hidden in each level is a variety of special objects that appear at the HQ once collected). These objects range from possessed Ghostbuster toys to evil paintings, and masks. All have a little bio which is usually quite humorous to read. The HQ is fun to walk around and the evil painting from Ghostbusters 2 is even there!
The game is not very hard, but is fun. There are a few frustrating moments in the game but these are rare. You never get to drive the GhostbustersGhostbusters theme never plays in its entirety. Loading screens have the first part of the song, and the end credits have part of the song, but it never shows up in full anywhere which annoyed me!
The game is defiantly worth picking up if you have any interest in Ghostbusters. The Wii version features more cartoony visuals, but I assume the actual game is the same. I do also own the Wii version so will review that when I have played it. The game does support up to 4 players in a special multiplayer mode in which I assume you get plonked down in a location from the main game in order to clear the area of ghosts and monsters, but as usual I never got to try it this way.
Monday, 12 July 2010
This is the 2nd zombie film I have seen from New Zealand (the first being the gore fest Brain Dead). Last of the Living is another zombie comedy, but has less in common with Brain Dead, and more in common with the likes of Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland albeit on a much lower budget.
Last of the Living takes place 6 months after a zombie apocalypse has swept the globe. 3 losers Morgan, Ash, and Johnny while away the days drinking, watching films, and playing video games. To them the apocalypse was the ultimate adventure, and they are happy, if a bit bored in their lazy lifestyle they have chosen. They don't see the undead as a threat, and the only real negative thing they seem to have about current events is the lack of females. While out driving in Johnny's modified Cadillac they come across a female survivor. She is a Scientist who has the potential cure to the apocalypse, and a plan to implement it. Deciding to make a difference to the world (and to possibly pull the attractive girl) they decide to team up with her on her mission.
The film is really really funny, but also manages to be downbeat, and depressing. The 3 lads comprise of a geek (who always wears armour when going outside which gets him heckles from his mates for being a wimp), a self obsessed jerk who is convinced he is Gods gift to women (he phones up random girls he used to know on the off chance they are still alive and may want to hook up), and a crazy man (his biggest wish is to perfect his 'special move' he created when boxing, as well as get his Rock bands demo tape heard despite him being the only surviving member). The characters play off each other fantastically, constantly insulting each other, but genuinely do care about each other. The female character in comparison is much more subdued and bland only seeing the bad side of the apocalypse, and driven on her mission. There are a few other characters, but for the most part it is just these 4 the film revolves around.
The contrast between the lads and the girl is brilliantly done. Hearing the boys describe their Towns last stand against the zombie hordes is hilarious. They didn't actually participate in the last stand but described the 6 day long stand off as 'sounding awesome' from their vantage point at a house hanging out. The girl just can't understand how such lazy people could survive. The undead are not taken seriously by the boys. They see fighting zombies as a game, and get great pleasure in battling the zombies, and ogling the female zombies.
The film concerning the death of the world is downbeat at times, which the excellent soundtrack compliments, you come to care about the likable characters, and really want them to win. A few niggly problems with the film. I really don't know if there would still be power 6 months after the apocalypse. Phones, household appliances all operate fine, and shops still have full power (lit up, music playing over the intercom, electronic doors working). It would be cool if power did last that long after the apocalypse! Characters also don't really seem to value life. When people die they are sad up until the next scene when the dead characters are pretty much discarded and never mentioned again.
The zombie effects are not brilliant, mostly just face make up to show the zombies, but there is variety, everything from chained criminal zombies, to bride and groom zombies to workmen zombies, and it is funny when characters reckon zombies as ex girlfriends, friends etc. The zombies also have a disparity in how they act. Early on in the film the zombies are the slow, dim witted shuffling kind, while later on the zombies are more the 'rage' style zombies being able to run super fast. I think the reason the characters are so careless about death is that they know they cannot survive and are just making the most of the time they have left happy in the knowledge they have survived longer than friends and family.
I really enjoyed this film, it has a likable cast, and made me not only laugh out loud in places, but also really worry for the characters as well. A very good film, New Zealand's (low budget) answer to Shaun of the Dead!
Sunday, 11 July 2010
Monkey Island 2 is my 2nd favourite point and click game of all time. Only Toonstruck is higher on my list, and that's only because it no longer exists in any playable form. Monkey Island is the sequel to The Secret of Monkey Island. The special edition of that game was released last year. Again for the 2nd game the graphics have been totally redone, and the voice actors from 3, 4, and the Monkey Island Episodes have given the characters of the game voices for the first time ever.
Monkey Island 2 takes place a few years after the events of Monkey Island. Guybrush Threepwood is in search of a legendary treasure called Big Whoop, and has travelled to lawless Scabb Island in his search. A series of strange circumstances leads to the resurrection of Le Chuck. He was a Ghost Pirate in Monkey Island, now he is a Zombie Pirate, and a angry one who wants nothing more than to kill Guybrush. To defeat him Guybrush must locate the treasure of Big Whoop.
This game is so much better than Monkey Island. That game was fantastic, with a great script, but this one is even better. There are more Islands to explore, more characters, and more puzzles. The game is split up into 4 chapters, with the search for the map to Big Whoop in chapter 2 comprising the majority of the game. Point and click for those who don't know basically means (in the original at least) you control your character by clicking where you want him to go. There are commands at the bottom of the screen such as Pick Up, Push, Talk To etc with which you can interact with the objects, people, and locations of the game world. For the remake the commands are all hidden out of sight, brought into play via the shoulder buttons on the controller, and Guybrush can be moved around more easily via the D-Pad or left analogue stick.
The locations again are all Pirate based, the game being set in the Caribbean. The initial 3 Islands you get access to are all different feeling places. You have Scabb Island with its Swamp, and Graveyard, Phatt Island which is a Dictatorship, and Booty Island which is permanently in party mode. The characters are all fantastic creations, made even better with the addition of voices for them. Many characters from the first game reappear, and there is many references to past events. Favourites of course would have to be Le Chuck, Guybrush, and Elaine Marley (all returning characters) but voices really made the characters of Stan (the used coffin salesman), Mad Marty (the tone deaf laundry worker), and Wally (the wimpy cartographer) come alive more than they had before. Not all the voices are like I would have liked. Largo Le Grande in particular I didn't really like the voice for.
The problem with playing the game so much is that I can do it with my eyes shut, so the experience got a bit boring for me. That is only because I must have played the game from start to finish at least 30 times by now. The puzzles are clever, but there are some obscure ones hidden away in there. The graphical style again is not too smooth, though this comes with trying to match the animations of the new characters to the pixel-lated ones of the old game.
Differences from the original Monkey Island 2 then? As well as redone graphics, and voices the soundtrack has also been redone. The music in this game is one of the best soundtracks ever for a game, but I found myself missing the midi tones of the original. You can switch between the original game and the remake at the flick of a button, but it is a shame that you can't play the original game with voices enabled. Other changes include achievements (not very exciting though) and a commentary at key parts of the game. I could imagine that would be quite interesting to listen to, I shall do so one day.
If you want to see what a great script in a game should be like, and be genuinely entertained by a very funny game then this is for you. Plus it has a zombie in it!
Saturday, 10 July 2010
I like cheevo mining (playing back through old games to get additional achievements), and recently played through F.E.A.R (known as Fear from now on) in pursuit of some. Fear was quite an early 360 game, and was ported over from the PC. It was billed as a survival horror first person shooter due to the presence of a creepy ghost child in a red dress called Alma who popped up at points throughout the game.
You play as the Point Man for a secret special ops group of the U.S. government specialized in dealing with paranormal threats. A man named Paxton Fettel has escaped from a cell, and has gotten control of a battalion of soldier clones that he can psychically control. Your squad have been charged with hunting Paxton down, as with him captured his psychic link with the clone soldiers would be broken. Starting off at some abandoned offices you soon learn that his clone army is assaulting Armacham Technology Corporation (ATC) which leads you there. Eventually you discover ATC's experiments with a young girl called Alma who it seems Paxton is trying to locate. It seems that both you and Paxton have some connection to this crazy ghost.
The game is first and foremost a first person shooter. The main enemies are the clone soldiers who reminded me heavily of the main enemy of Half Life 2, both in looks, and voices. The soldiers yell out commands to each other and show a surprising degree of A.I. They try and flank your position, use cover, and even try and retreat should they get too battered. The other type of enemy is the ATC security forces. They have been instructed to stop anyone from finding out ATC's secrets. At some points in the game when the clones and ATC both turn up they start fighting between themselves letting you either watch, or use the distraction to take them all out. The enemies are fun to fight, and are quite varied, especially with the introduction of invisible assassins (that the recent Wolfenstein copied) and powerful mechs.
The character you play as - Point Man has bullet time powers. You are able to briefly slow time down which is key to taking out the many enemies, as well to escape explosions. You can hold up to 3 weapons at a time. These range from the normal guns expected such as assault rifles, and shotguns (the shotgun is a very cool weapon in this game!) to more experimental weapons such as a gun that fastly fires bolts that can pin enemies to walls, and a long range rifle whose bullets totally strip the skin off the victims it hits leading just a bloody skeleton behind. The aiming for the most part is annoying though, as even zoomed in you never get to really have precision on where you are firing, so I tend just to spray bullets in the general direction of enemies.
The game like Condemned all takes place in ultra realistic locations. The game even uses the same objects, such as identical calenders showing up. This makes the game feel like it takes place in the same game world as Condemned. Starting off at dockside warehouse, you go to the ATC HQ, as well as derelict buildings, and a underground vault. There are friendly characters you encounter during the game which splits up the fighting, but most the chatter takes place over Point Mans headset he is wearing.
The Supernatural element of the game mostly revolves around Alma. Usually when nothing is happening (there are lots of times when you are exploring places with no enemies) the screen will rumple, static will play and then you will see Alma creepily walking around. A few points she will actually be after you, but mostly it is just to try and create fear. Paxton does the same to you, and also you have hallucinations every now and again that transport you to a Hospital setting where the walls literally ooze with blood.
Talking of blood, the game is quite bloody. You are not able to maim enemies, but shooting them results in lots of clouds of blood, as well as the walls, and floor getting caked in the stuff, this looks real cool. The locations have lots of destructible elements, mostly windows, and crates, but there is nothing better than making an entrance to a room via shotgun blast to a window.
The game is really not scary, and the plot takes itself far too seriously, but despite this it is fun, and addictive. The later Fear games reduced the fear element and added in more mechs and action, but Fear is at it's best when there is action punctuated with slow exploration sections.
Friday, 9 July 2010
I was alerted to the release of this film by a very intrusive advertisement in the fun Quantum of Solace video game. Chasing Vesper in Venice I rounded a corner to be confronted by a poster advertising the film. Predators is a film featuring the enemy of Aliens everywhere - Predators.
The film starts with 9 or 10 people awakening during free fall towards a dense Jungle. None of them know how they have gotten there, and don't trust each other. Each person is armed with a different weapon, and are from a variety of walks of life. Among them is a young Dr, a Prisoner who was on Death Row, a Tribesman, Soldiers, a Mexican Drugs Cartel member, a Yakuza member, as well as Mercenaries. Led by the Mercenary they head off to find out exactly where they are. They soon discover they are on an Alien planet, and also that they are being hunted by some mysterious assailants. Morpheus from the Matrix appears and reveals that they are all on some kind of Game Reserve Planet, and that they are there to be hunted for sport by Predators. They must work together to defeat the Predators and find a way to escape the Planet.
The film really reminded me of Cube. Cube set in a Jungle, and with Predators. The way they are all strangers, and have all been kidnapped, plus an early deadly trap sequence all reminded me heavily. The film starts off great. Until about a third of the way through the film the characters don't even know what they are being hunted by. It would have been cool to have discovered along with the characters what was going on, but the films title kinda gave the game away.
The Predators are cool as always. There are plenty of Predator view infra red perspective shots, and all the iconic Predator weapons are used; including Spears, the Discus, the blue plasma gun thing, and the fantastic 3 red dot weapon. It is set as a direct sequel to the original Arnie fest Predator. One of the characters recounts the events of that film as she was one of the people who debriefed Arnie following his return from his film. The characters are quite a likable bunch overall. All ooze attitude for the most part, but highlights include the hilarious serial killer/rapists (his rant about only being armed with a knife while everyone else had high powered weapons was fun), the Yakuza member was cool, and calm, and the main characters of the Sniper lady, and the hawk nosed Mercenary were great. It's a shame that some of the other characters were killed off before they had a chance to shine, but all characters were completely different from each other.
The film was only a 15 but there was plenty of action, explosions, gun fights, and brawls. There were a few of the iconic Predator kills (head and spine pulled out the body) and plenty of spilt Predator blood (luminous green of course) Plenty of guns in the film including a fantastic mini gun, and a stylish shotgun.
I was surprised how fun I found this film. Alien VS Predator was pretty terrible, but this was fun. Of course, not a patch on the original film, but a worthwhile entry in the sometimes dodgy series. It is a shame I missed the final kill of the film (due to a real life fight breaking out in the Cinema!) and the trailer is very misleading in that it shows cool things that just don't occur in the film itself!.