Review: V-Rally 4 (PS4)

V-Rally 4Sliding sideways onto retail and digital stores for consoles and PC some 16 years (!) after the previous installment, V-Rally 4 ($59.99) attempts to capture the spirit of the series’ somewhat floaty control system while adding modern HD visuals and online play. While everything didn’t quite work out as well as it should at launch (the reason this review is later than usual), some recent patching has fixed a number of the game’s issues. That said, expect to do a good deal of car tweaking for the optimal experience.  Rally fans who want a game that demands constant fiddling with settings and plenty of pre-race practice just may find a decent to acceptable experience comes with that high level of patience the game asks for.

Developer KT Racing has made a tough off-road game that packs in a ton of content in its single player and online modes using real life cars on fictional tracks set in some very pretty locales across the globe. If you go in expecting a total pick up and play experience out f the gate, the mix of arcade and simulation elements may not quite jibe thanks to the default controls being a bit too loose (requiring the aforementioned fiddling) and the solo mode forcing you to pay to enter some races and then pay your in-game manager and crew for their efforts at keeping your small but growing garage of rides in racing shape.

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“Slide, Charlie Brown, SLIDE!” A super-light touch is key to playing this game (or else).

That said, as with the still mighty V-Rally 3, and the still surprising Dreamcast version of V-Rally 2, at some point the more dedicated players who stick with the game will indeed snap into that zen-like state, get into the game’s squirrely handling and very likely enjoy the ride. Amusingly enough, it seems the developer knew the game would frustrate some players and yep, there’s DLC out that allows a career mode boost as well as a digital guidebook to its cars and tracks. Granted, the former is completely optional and the latter should have been included as part of the price (and seems to  have been in a newer update), but these days optional buy-ins seem pretty much unavoidable in some games.

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Coffee Talk 1: The Daily Grind, I Guess

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Despite that name, no aliens were harmed in the making of this post.

 

I’m no coffee connoisseur, but I’ve certainly had my share of awful cups over the decades. Granted, I was never a badass brew-meister, but amusingly enough got my first gig making coffee at a law firm I worked at back in the early 80’s as a messenger/light legal clerk (or: a messenger who could pick up and deliver all sort of legal stuff from paperwork to banking related stuff). No one else in the small office could make a good pot of coffee, although there were two secretaries who did the basics with the office’s pricey Bunn automatic.

One day, one of the gals was out sick and the other kind of refused to make the coffee, so I figured “what the hell, it doesn’t look *too* hard”, only to discover one reason the guy running the firm wasn’t happy with the coffee was no one had EVER cleaned the darn machine. Ugh. I ended up hoofing it down to the nearest deli, buying a few cups of coffee there for the lawyer, rushing back and giving the Bunn and area around it a thorough scrubbing. At one point, the lawyer popped out of his office and saw what I was doing and was kind of floored that someone would go to all that trouble. Yes, he reimbursed me for the coffee I’d bought and told me that I was now responsible for getting that brewer brewing up his cuppa Joe. Pressure much?

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Beefarino Get! Or: Coming Attractions

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I guess there was a mild white earthquake while some person was laying out text for this DVD cover artwork. Check out the original poster for a clue as to what’s what.

So, yeah. I needed to snag a film for a blogathon and as I’m on a budget these days (well, I’m always on a budget!), I ended up picking us a little addition to the library that, along with a bunch of other films I own just so happen to be from South Korea. Everyone needs an odd obsession or three that’s legal yet somewhat comical and one of mine is legal variants of films that come from other countries. I need to do a post on this at some point I guess.

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Yes, the subtitles are optional. I like the clean animated menu design here (which makes me wonder if the US release uses the same one).

As you can see, the film runs fine (on a Blu-Ray, a PS4, PS3 and standard DVD player from my quick tests). Quality-wise, it’s acceptable, but definitely not anything close to a Criterion Collection remaster.And before you ask “How’s the film?” I’ll tell yoy now that you’ll have to wait with bated buffalo breath for my verdict until next month’s installment of (shameless plug time:) Video Store Action Heroes to find out.

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So shameless… yet so pluggy.

-GW

Review: Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse (Nintendo Switch)

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No it’s not Last Embrace: The Game, but a worthy adventure finally hitting the Switch.

Switch owning adventure game fans, take note: George Stobbard and Nico Collard are back in action for the first time on that console in Revolution’s excellent Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse. In terms of performance, the games looks and plays like the PC and other console versions and the added behind the scenes features split up into extra content are nice additions to an overall solid package that makes for a fine purchase. What starts as a murder in an art gallery switches into George and Nico getting involved in a bit of globe-hopping world-saving thanks to… oh, you’ll see. The game’s got a corker of a plot that takes time to kick in, but it’s got enough twists and turns to keep you playing until the wee hours.

Sticking to the familiar point and click style with inventory-based puzzles and snappy, often humorous dialog, this is a game to savor as it teases the brain with its ever expanding mysteries.Both leads are really great at figuring out (well, with assistance from you) how to cope with everything from trapping a cockroach in a matchbook to having to deal with a few near-death experiences where it seems almost unlikely they’d make it out alive. While somewhat lighthearted in tone throughout, things do get much serious as the threat evolves from what seems like a simple art theft gone wrong to all figurative (or is it literal?) hell breaking loose.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is a Good Thing to Have), Part 2

You’re either back for more… or you fell asleep reading that first part and just woke up in time for part two. Well, here you go, then. Some of today’s entries are coming out after October, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. Anyway, here are six more games to look forward to (unless you’re too freaked out to want to try some of the scarier ones, mua-ha-ha-haaaa!):

 

 
Home Sweet Home (PS4/PSVR/Xbox One) – If the trailer is any indication, this could be one of the downright scariest stealth/horror games of the year. I missed out on the PC version of this truly scary-looking Thai horror game from Bangkok-based indie dev Yggdrazil Group Co.,Ltd, but my pals at Mastiff Games seem voraciously intent on putting me under the couch with this upcoming PS4 and Xbox One port. The PS4 version will support VR as an option (I’ll take my scares flat, thank you much) and if you prefer your games on a disc, this one’s going to be a GameStop exclusive in addition to a standard digital download on PSN and Xbox Live. I may have to shell out for the disc version, as this one certainly looks scary enough to be a keeper. That and I want to have the option of maybe loaning that disc to a friend or two who hate horror games but are slowly coming around. Then again, I have the feeling that this might be one of those games that sends them back down the ladder to being too skittish to fire it up.

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Review: Nitro Ball (Nintendo Switch)

Nitro BallFlying Tiger Entertainment has been dropping some awesome Data East arcade hits from the 80’s and 90’s across a few platforms, but thanks to my rather hilariously large backlog, I’m just getting around to playing my first title in the Johnny Turbo’s Arcade series: Nitro Ball ($7.99). This one’s a 1992 oldie that’s an instant classic in the form of a killer mash-up of Smash TV and a crazy pinball game without the flippers full of super busy rapid fire action that’s packing a heap of period pop culture references doctored up a bit but still very recognizable if you know your classic 80’s flicks pretty well.

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I’d make a “Gun Ball Rally” joke here, but almost no one would get it.

I very vaguely recall this machine from my arcade crawling days, so getting the chance to see and play it again got me grinning immediately despite a wee bit too many deaths that followed. Things are quite chaotic right from the start and like any great arcade game, you’ll likely spend the first few minutes learning the ropes and figuring out how to stay alive in order to make it to the next part of a map.  While it’s only got five stages (Strange Football, Combat Field, Ghost Town, Aliens World, Space Station), as you’d expect if you’re an educated fan of these types of games, it’s all about the replay value and the many laughs you’ll have while blasting through those maps multiple times. The difficulty ramps up in spots as enemy goons swarm in from all sides and yes, sub-bosses and bosses can be cheap (hey, they’re just doing their jobs!). But overall, I’d call the game pretty balanced.

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The Horror of Too Many Scary Games (is A Good Thing to Have), Part 1

Although horror-themed games are released all year long from developers and publishers of all sizes, the number definitely increases as the Halloween season approaches. I’m currently playing a few quite interesting to downright too damn creepy titles that should keep you up at night if you’re into that sort of thing. I’ll divide this into a few parts because my inbox is a bit loaded with what’s looking like some really fun games of varying degrees of scariness. Let’s start with five for now:

The Conjuring House (PC) – Holy #@*+. Well played, Morocco-based RYM Games, well played. Here’s a game that knows what it wants to do (make you too scared to keep playing) and it gets right to it with the scary stuff after an extended opening cinematic sequence that gets your heart pumping before handing you control in the middle of a chase sequence. Gee, thanks. So far, the game is absolutely dripping with atmosphere and the Unreal 4-powered visuals definitely get the job done. That said, the English translation needs a bit of tweaking as some awkward text mars the experience when it doesn’t match the spoken dialog. Still, this is going to be one of those games that sucks players in and should keep them jumping long after they’re done. It’s out September 25 on Steam, so keep an eye peeled (or else). I’ve got my fingers crossed for solid console port (PS4, please) if only to keep further away from the screen. Or: playing this on my laptop has been pretty damn frightening with those blasted creeps right up in my face, yahhhh!

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The Unseen, Soon to Be Seen and Spoken Of

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Today’s bad joke, courtesy me: “Look, Buster – that’s NOT how you take the train!”

Or, Debbie over at Moon in Gemini is hosting another fine blogathon and as I have a rather massive backlog (hey, I’m building a movie fort!), I’ll be doing two Roger Donaldson films I’ve not seen but just so happen to have here thanks to the fine folks over at Arrow Video: Sleeping Dogs (1977) and Smash Palace (1981). I hear both are quite excellent.

That PlayStation Classic? A Great Idea With Some Interesting Caveats

So, I waited a day plus for the internet to do its usual barfing and bellyaching over Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Classic (and yes, some people actually really love the concept and were neither barking nor bellyaching,  but breaking out the hugs and searching out pre-order news) and while I’m all for the thing doing well, there are a few potential bumps in the road that may keep it from being an instant purchase. Of course, I’m kidding myself a bit here, as it’s practically guaranteed the Classic will sell to many Sony diehards who want either a perfect gift for themselves or the kids.

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Well, this brings back memories. Er, memories that I still own three original PlayStations, so the Classic being 45% smaller means I can squeeze one into the vaults at some point.

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Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle: Hit After Hit (Minus a Few Hits)

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Now, you’re playing with POW… er, never mind… wrong company!

At a mere $19.99, the Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle is one pretty solid deal that’s out now on consoles and PC. Check out this hilarious “retro” trailer and get that wallet out, folks:

Yeah, it’s missing Black Tiger and Magic Sword (which have appeared as titles in other Capcom collections on PC and older consoles) and the two Dungeons & Dragons games (which are still available on last generation systems and PC the last time I checked). But these games are made to be replayed and you’re getting two titles (Armored Warriors and Battle Circuit) that are making their debut on game consoles (whee!)

Capcom has certainly been on a roll lately with all these returns to greatness. Now, all we need is a Quackshot remake and more arcade classics, plus some nice HD versions of the Mega Man Legends and Tron Bonne games and we’re even more golden. Hey, a guy has to dream every now and then (well, more often than that, actually).

-GW