Review: Gear.Club Unlimited 2

Yeah, yeah. I’m not a big Mario Kart fan these days. So sue me. Granted, I do like the series a lot and yes, it’s fun as heck and all that. But when it comes to racing games or in this case, pure driving games, I tend to prefer a bit more realism these days or at least something that works as a hybrid of simulation and casual play where you can dip in and enjoy a game that has actual cars to mess around with. On my other consoles, it’s been a wealth of choices for quite some time and I’m more than pleased with the selection I have. On the other hand, we have Nintendo’s last two home consoles (Wii U and Switch) that up until late last year, had a grand total of three GOOD titles that featured licensed cars, one on the Wii U from 2013 and two which came out in 2017 and 2018. That’s just plain nuts.

 

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That versatile Unity engine sure does a car body good in this game.

gcu2_boxartAlthough both have a few issues that keep them from being as great as they should be, I’ll still recommend Microïds and developer Eden Games Gear.Club Unlimited ($44.99) and Gear.Club Unlimited 2 ($59.99) because warts and all, they contain a decent amount of actual licensed cars and are quite lengthy racing experiences when all is said and done. Yes, the load times are somewhat long (grrr!) and the handling can be squirrelly (and more so in the sequel even with the patches). But there’s a certain cool factor when you take a an actual licensed domestic or foreign car out for a test run from the dealership or can afford to add it to your digital garage and full-on race it whenever you feel that need for speed.

Speaking of garages, should there be a third game in this series, Eden should trim and simplify the garage function in order to give players a speedier means of car management between events. Keep the paint and sticker customization, but relegate everything else to a slick menu that’s faster to navigate. Also, adding the ability to drive freely on any unlocked course as a means of learning the handling model would be an excellent addition (as well as bringing back fond memories of the best parts of Eden’s Test Drive Unlimited games from the late 2000’s).

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Slipstream (1989)

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This one’s a real woozy-doozy, folks. But an innnnteresting woozy-doozy.

Welcome to this latest installment of VSAH, folks! Definitely check out this month’s other reviews from Todd at Cinema Monolith, Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies, and Sir Wolf (you’ve been knighted, pal) over at Wolfman’s Cult Film Club.

slipstream 1989Ambition can be a weird and wild thing at times, particularly when it comes to film production whether it be a big deal studio film or tiny independent flick. Taking a pack of awesome ideas and turning them into reality (well, of the cinematic kind) while keeping an audience hooked into the world you’ve created it a risky business, specifically when it comes to fantasy and science fiction.

Granted, the actual “science” in most sci-fi is at best, suspect and at worst, more than enough to yank a viewer clean out of the experience and leave them scratching their heads raw (ow!) while they try and figure out what the hell is going on in some scenes as they miss an important plot point or three in the process.  On the other hand, a film like Steven Lisberger’s (TRON) absolutely ambitious 1989 film Slipstream isn’t going to be one where you question the science all that much (if at all) because you’ll likely be questioning a few other more important things from parts of its plot to some offbeat cameos that may add to the star power, but come off a bit too much like stunt casting or a few folks popping in for a fast paycheck.

 

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Bill Paxton, doing his best Bill Paxton doing Christian Slater look, circa 1989.

 

The film certainly kicks off ambitiously enough with a properly bombastic Elmer Bernstein main theme and a wonderfully shot flying sequence using one of a few of the custom made aircraft created specifically for the production. That plane is carrying the somewhat cantankerous “peacekeeper” Will Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his able-bodied assistant Belitski (Kitty Aldridge) and said plane is chasing a man in a nice suit (Bob Peck) running away from them to no avail. He’s caught up with and captured by the pair who plan to take him to some faraway location to be tried and executed for the murder he’s committed. Unfortunately for them, their nattily dressed prisoner is swiped by Matt Owens (Bill Paxton), a genial illegal arms dealer looking to make a big score when he discovers how valuable that prisoner is before he decides to try his hand at kidnapping.

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Clock Simulator: Seconds Count in This Addictive Oddity

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This little piggy’s maybe gonna run out of time… unless you can help out  a little bit.

cs_boxSo, yeah. There’s a new game called Clock Simulator for the Switch, it’s a port of the PC version, that adds two mini-games to the mix, it’s a mere $3.99 and you should give it more than a few minutes of your time because it’s strangely addictive, that being a clock thing. No joke here, this is a pretty impressive variant on the rhythm game where you need to be even more precise with your button pressing than usual. Perfection is not an overrated thing at all, at least as far as this deceptively basic time sink goes.

It’s also a very cool way to learn a specific skill (pressing a button exactly one second at a time) that may not seem as if would come in handy at all, but in fact, is quite helpful if part of your job is clock-watching. Granted, if you work at any job with a clock nearby or are one of the many who constantly check their favorite timekeeping device, this game may either cone in quite handy or make you wince a tad. Either way, just don’t tell your boss about it (unless you’re the boss, of course).

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“Time enough, at last…” but don’t stop pressing that button, pal.

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Random Film of the Week: One Good Cop

one_good_cop_xlgI think it was sometime back in 1990 when I was living in a somewhat crappy apartment building on the corner of 112th Street and Manhattan Avenue in Harlem, NYC when a bunch of people rolled up in a few vehicles and started cleaning up the street directly across from me. Weeds were pulled, the basements in the two or three abandoned buildings on the corner were cleared out and if I recall correctly, there was even some exterior and interior painting done that made it seem as if those buildings were going to be fully renovated at some point. All that work also chased away some of the drug trade on the block (a good thing) and at some point I felt things were looking up for the area.

Not too long afterwards, I was going to work and saw a film crew taking up space in the area and it seemed those buildings were going to be used for a movie shoot and not fully renovated after all. Drat. It turned out that scenes for a film called One Good Cop were being shot and despite the somewhat ratty condition of the area, people started popping up to watch the filming. That was in part due to Micheal Keaton being on the set for a few days filming a key action sequence that required a rat wrangler and a whole lot of rats, a few other actors and stuntmen and a panel truck that was key to the scene’s finale.

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Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen on Switch: The Fifth Time’s (Still) The Charm

Gransys in the spring is a wondrous place to be – just don’t mind the constant monsters trying to snack on your bones.

So, I’ve played a Dragon’s Dogma game on my PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and PC, so seeing this finally coming to Switch is making my poor wallet tingle. No, scratch that, it’s in the corner setting itself on fire. Eh, no worries, though. I’m just going to sell off some stuff in the library to pick this up as a retail purchase and try to carve out some quality time (which sadly, can’t be bought for all the spare loot in the world). Anyway, Thanks very, very much to Capcom for this seemingly timeless gem I’ll be purchasing once again. I kind of knew it was coming (it’s the closest thing to a Monster Hunter game but with more user-friendly controls and a more unusual “online” element), but this trailer was indeed a thing of wonder to behold.

-GW

Update: Vague, With Purpose

Er, Happy New Year, belatedly. Well, 2019 isn’t over for a while and it’s still early enough where I can get away with using that greeting a few days late, right? Good. I kind of didn’t realize it was THURSDAY until I turned the news on earlier and the guy reading the teleprompter said it was. I actually laughed because I though he was about two days off. Oops.

(Thanks, AndreaDudette!)

Anyway, the condition my condition is in is kinda not stellar, but I’m abiding. I’ll say no more about that, but yeah, it’s something that’s been lurking about and of late seems to be keeping me from being a bit more… shall we say, optimal. Eh, I’m going to dip into the pile of drafts and notes I have here and post some stuff to keep me less consumed by one or two things and more distracted by other (and more enjoyable) stuff. Hmmm. I think that’s vague enough for today. Off to stare at some pending articles and go finish a couple. I’m not much of a resolution guy these days, but I may as well make a few and surprise a few folks, no?

Back in a bit.

On Storytelling: 30 Seconds or Bust

So, yep, I’ve been a bit unwell these past few days, but things are looking up. Or rather, I’m looking up at the ceiling earlier this morning and remembering “Oh yeah, I have a lot of writing to do!” as assorted creaks and groans emanate from under the covers. If one’s body is supposed to be a temple, mine is the heart-wrenching (ow) Temple of Doom, minus the fun but deadly mine cart stage. Oh, it used to be there and a hell of a ride it was (a regular E Ticket experience, whee!). But you know how things fall apart over time? Well, that part dropped into the lava about ten days ago and along with all the King’s horses and most of his men. It’s so NOT good to be the King when this sort of thing happens, but we push on. When the going get tough, the tough… kinda go back to bed for a wee bit.

Anyway, as a quick writing exercise as well as a tick towards some much needed humor, I’ve decided to practice on an unwilling audience this form of torture that I hope you appreciate (whipcrack!). Well, it’s not as bad as it sounds (hopefully).

(Thanks, James Bond 007!)

Now, pay attention.

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OUTWARD: Here Comes The Harder Working Hero Type

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Nice hat you have there, friend. Er, just don’t go and lose your head in that coming battle.

While it’s not set for a release until March 26, 2019 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, developer Nine Dots Studio and publisher Deep Silver are getting the word out that OUTWARD is going to be quite a special RPG worth playing multiple times. As you’ll see from that trailer right below, the game aims to combine fantasy elements, survival simulation and what looks to be a fairly challenging game world full of many things that want your chosen character pushing up daisies at every opportunity.

 

 

Your character is going to be a standard non-hero type who needs to make their way through the game’s unforgiving sandbox world that continually auto-saves progress (meaning you can’t sneakily replay an old save file when you get waylaid by some big bad whatever). Here’s a very brief rundown on what to expect in the final product:

Key Features

Survive in the wilds as you explore a vast and harsh land
Play solo or cooperatively, split-screen locally or online
Ritualistic, step-by-step approach to spellcasting
Constant auto-saving means you must live with your decisions
Encounter dynamic defeat scenarios
A unique experience with every playthrough

The game will also ship with two-player split-screen or online modes so you can share the pain with a pal on the couch or at a distance. SO far, so good, I say. Of course, the proof will be in that tasty-looking pudding (or: the game does look really nice from what I’ve seen).

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Now that I think about it, March is kind of right around the corner, so getting the good word out now will be a huge key to this game’s success. My fingers are crossed for some hands-on time with this one, as if everything it attempts can be pulled off, genre fans will have a whole new obsession that’s got what could be endless replay value when all is said and done.

-GW

Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (Nintendo Switch)

superbrothers switchSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.

That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.

 

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Valfaris Demo: Merry, Merry, Quite Contra-ry (Slight Return)

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You’re going to want this, trust me.

Well, wow. Valfaris has a demo up on Steam as we speak (but only until December 31st) and hell yes, it needs to be played, especially if you love pixel art and animation wizardry, ear blazing metal soundtracks and so far, very tight ganeplay for a demo build. That video below shows off a bit more of the game, but as you’ll hear, things may change between now and the launch window. As with the meaty, mighty, and metal-ly Slain, what’s here is visually and aurally spectacular and will only get better as development continues.

 

(Thanks, Digital Uppercut Productions!)

 

Uh, that’s all I have to say, as I’ve paused the demo only to bang this post out and will now go back to that demo and rock some more. Keep an eye peeled for Valfaris on Steam and consoles sometime in 2019.

-GW

 

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Okay, we DO need another hero, after all.