Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Blu-Ray Review: Whisky Galore!

Whisky Galore_AF004If the great Ealing Studios’ 1949 version of Whisky Galore! didn’t exist, director Gillies MacKinnon’s excellent 2016 version would be an even better film than it is. That’s an odd compliment, I know. But the original film’s boozy aroma lingers heavily in the corners of this newer version, smiling down on MacKinnon’s capable cast as it plops down on a bar stool with a sigh of contentment. This newer film has a fine cast and some absolutely gorgeous cinematography (it’s enough to make you want to consider a move to wherever in Scotland it was shot just for the rocks alone), as well as humor that goes down smooth with a bit of water added.

While not exactly laugh out loud funny through and through, there’s one early scene that had me doubling over with a good belly laugh. As soon as it’s announced that the small village is completely out of whisky, one old chap gets up, walks out of the pub he and his friends inhabit daily, walks over to a his home and promptly drops dead outside as it begins to rain. For some reason, I found this hilarious as well as the following scene where his friends gather around his coffin to send him off. I’m guessing it’s because I’ve heard people say they’d “literally die” if they didn’t have a particular guilty pleasure handy, but seeing it happen was actually amusing and made me think how many real-life friends would drop like that over booze, chocolate, or bacon if they were suddenly taken away.

Hey, I’m a practical man. Less friends means less gifts to buy this holiday season, folks.

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Review: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (PS4)

Bubsy Box“Wait. Accolade is still around?”  That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.

In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.

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Mail Call 2: Movie Nights, Endless Version

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Eep. The backlog gets bigger with some nice entries to the library. Yeah, I’m old and have very varied tastes in my viewing preferences, so what? Anyway, reviews will go up as I get to these and a stack more discs I’ve gotten that need to be watched. Keep, ’em, coming, folks. I do need a decent movie watching pal, I’d say. Not that it’s boring watching movies at all, but it’s just nice to have someone to bounce commentary off between films. Eh, whatever. Off to do some eyeball exercises and catch up on classics and non-classics alike. Back in a bit.

-GW

Mail Call 1: Hello, Homicide Division

L.A. Noire PS4

Yep. Looks as if I’ll be busy for a bit being a dick. That’s DETECTIVE, to you, pal. Watch that mouth or it’ll be missing a few teeth. Oh, wait. I’m talking to myself here. Aheh, sorry! Anyway, thanks much Carey at Rockstar Games for this treat. I’d been re-watching a ton of film noir over the last month in preparation for this updated version, so my mood is set for a grand time in this sprawling version of 1940’s Los Angeles.

L.A. Noire is out today for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Go get it. Edit: Yeah, the game was running in the background as I was typing, so I zipped back to it after posting this without completing it, heh. Oops. Well, I stand corrected and now I’ll go sit back down and complete another case. Back in a bit.

-GW

Review: Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut (PS4)

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When Slayaway Camp popped up on PC last year, it caught a lot of people by surprise (just like any decent masked serial killer would, mind you). The winning combination of intentionally blocky visuals, Sokaban-style sliding puzzles and optional (but necessary) comic use of gore made the game as fun to play as it was to show off to skeptical friends who initially didn’t see the appeal in such a simple looking game as a horror experience. Well, guess what? It’s baaaaaack and ready for its console close-up, (stab, stab, stab).

Even if you hate horror-themed games, Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut has a sneaky (but not subtle) way of luring you in because those sliding puzzles are really tempting to tackle and you’re hooked in (ouch!) before you know it. Don’t like violence against blocky, block-headed camp counselors and other serial victims? There’s a slider to turn off the pixel “gore” on the options screen. R to PG in a flash? Yep. Hell, there are sliders on that option screen for all sorts of oddball stuff, some of which you’ll see right away while others are intentionally vague. This is a game that aims to please and hits that eye with an arrow every single time (ow!).

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Blu-Ray Review: Blood Feast/Scum of the Earth

Blood Feast_AV107So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.

Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.

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Review: theHunter: Call of the Wild (PS4)

For a hunting game, Avalanche Studios and Expansive World’s fantastic, deep simulation theHunter: Call of the Wild makes for a pretty meditative game experience that’s also become one of my favorite games of a busy with favorite games kind of year. While it’s not for everyone, it’s a game almost everyone can play because of the sense of freedom the two massive maps allow. Want to go for a miles-long hike in the woods snapping photos of wildlife? Go for it. Want to just take a few deer down for experience and cash for better gear? That’s the point of the game (if you couldn’t tell from the title).

That said, this isn’t a hopped up Duck Hunt or a blazing fast-paced arcade experience with bucks popping up like brainless buckshot fodder. You’ll be trying to be as quiet as possible as you work your way around to your target only to have it scamper away after you’ve made too much noise or committed some other faux pas. Amazing visuals and sound design aside, this one’s going to be a niche game for some players who simply don’t like the sport. On the flip side (and as noted for a second time), those looking for a game where easy to kill woodland creatures are a “thing” will probably tap out from the laid-back (yet paradoxically tense) art of tracking, trailing and taking down a target.

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L.A. Noire Switch Trailer: Portable Detective, About To Go On Patrol

 

With all the ruckus on some sites over Red Dead Redemption 2 being Rockstar’s next big thing, I’m truly hoping no one sleeps on the still (and now more so than ever) stunning crime saga that is L.A. Noire. The game is getting a full on remaster for PS4 and Xbox One that’s going to land in stores November 14th along with this newly created Switch version that has console-specific functionality and yes, some pretty stunning visuals. I don’t yet own a Switch, so I’ll be aiming to grab the PS4 version when it launches. That said, this one’s definitely going on the long want list of Switch titles thanks to developers continuing to do some truly amazing work with the hardware.

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This has definitely been a spectacular year for Nintendo’s new console and it’s clear that a lot of former naysayers are chomping on some fresh crow pie these days.

-GW

Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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