Review: Lydia (Switch)

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Lydia_SwitchA short, haunting and intense game about an unhappy childhood leading to destructive teen years and an adult redemption of sorts, indie developer Platonic Partnership’s striking Lydia ($4.00) isn’t either a happy-filled “fun” experience or a game that’s easily forgotten once played. It’s a slice of life story where a little girl goes through a troubles with her alcoholic and otherwise less than perfect parents and as she grows into her teens, things go from bad to worse as a key event takes place that changes a few lives forever.

There’s a use of time as a storytelling element along with the stylized visuals that may go over some heads, bit it’s a simple thing, really. As the game covers snippets of Lydia’s troubled life through adulthood and the ending is a conclusion that’s somewhat of a direct one, it’s a case of seeing her world through her eyes. Her visions go from childlike in her younger years to to more or less her view of reality as seen by someone who’s not an artist, but more a realist in how she deals with a particular and sad issue many go through. The level of humanity here is somewhat intense, as the game’s not shy at using raw language throughout as we see Lydia’s plight unfold in dreams and the real world. Adults can be more monstrous that an imagined creature in a closet.

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Review: OVERPASS (PS4)

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Grandma needs to move to a place less hard to get to…

overpass ps4There are a couple of ways to play Zordix Racing’s super challenging and very (very) methodical off-road game OVERPASS ($59.99). You can go into all the tutorials and learn the ropes, failing and retrying as you go, then hit the Career Mode’s many racing events in a few ways, earning sponsors, a team to manage along with race-earned cash to repair rides and purchase plenty of gear and upgrades. You can just hop into Quick Race, Custom Race, or hotseat-based Multiplayer and play on an assortment of tracks with any ride, learning as you play. Or, you can just mix in all the game modes and get an extreme and extremely lengthy experience that’s part driving sim and part puzzle game where you’ll need to successfully navigate some deviously designed courses that will test your skills and patience.

The game could use some patching to fix a few bugs with the physics and free up camera control (holding R3 down to look around is a pain), but even still, a warning comes for casual players: it’s definitely not for everyone, especially those expecting something purely arcade-like. This definitely isn’t a Motorstorm or Baja: Edge of Control despite its announcer’s twangy voice and a bit of genetic soundtrack action. When you approach the game from a simulation aspect, it’s a lot more enjoyable, although as they say, your mileage may vary when all is said and done. There’s definitely a LOT of game here for that money, although the day one DLC might be a bit of a pesky bit of business for some players resistant to that sort of thing.

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“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

 

Of the two disciplines, the assorted buggies are the most fun to drive here, especially once you get a few upgrades and start fiddling with crafting the fastest and better handling rides. You’ll need to try and damage your rides as little as possible in Career, as repairs stack up and get costly, affecting performance to often great degrees if you don’t repair. Quads are a totally difficult thing to get used to throughout as you need to control the driver as much as the vehicle here, adjusting his or her body on the fly lest you go tumbling down a slope or over a steep hill. The unforgiving nature of the physics here means you’ll feel as if a stiff wind could send your driver flying off that ride, but they’ll fall off before the wind starts blowing anyway. This is clearly NOT a game about stunts and flashy moves and it doesn’t pretend to be. Add in the manual transmission options if you like, and parts of the game get really teeth-gnashing even when you get better at them.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Night Tide (1961)

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Sirens go off: A figure of speech, as it were.

night tide mpSpoiler Theater: In Curtis Hanson’s beautiful, haunting and unsettling romantic thriller, it’s a case of Boy meets Girl, Boy gets Girl and Boy, Oh Boy, does Boy lose Girl, But That’s Sort Of A Good Thing?  Night Tide is a dark and moody film set by the Pacific, with an old pier carnival and its seaside surroundings as the main setting and what could be seen by some today as a few problematic elements in some of its troubled characters. I still think it’s an excellent film, mind you. But after watching it with a few friends recently, I see it’s also a film where some viewers applying more modern thoughts to its story may find an issue with their overall enjoyment. You’ll see.

A young sailor on leave named Johnny Drake (Dennis Hopper) goes to a seaside amusement park at night. He pops into a jazz club where he sees a lovely woman (Linda Lawson) sitting alone enjoying the music. He crosses the room, asks her if he can sit at her table because he can’t see the musicians from where he is, then proceeds to sit facing the woman, not the musicians. He tries to strike up more conversation, but she asks him to let her listen to the tunes instead. He then tries to buy her a drink twice, but she refuses both times. Suddenly, a strange, middle-aged black-clad woman (Marjorie Cameron) comes into the club, approaches the other woman and starts speaking an untranslated foreign language (Greek?) to her. The young woman is upset by this and quickly hands Johnny some cash to pay for whatever she was drinking and rushes out of the club.

 

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Pathologic 2 Comes To PS4: The Only Time “Going Viral” Is A Good Thing

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Grim, the understatement of GIF explanations.

I still haven’t played Ice-Pick Lodge’s rather unsettling survival horror game Pathologic 2 other than a demo from a few years back, but I want to eventually. The first game was quite good, but woefully depressing as its three playable characters each with their own aims, tried to figure out the dealing with the deadly plague that had taken over a small town with only 12 days to find some sort of resolution. That the game initially came out in 2005 makes it suddenly timely in some respects, but if you’re going to go pick it up on PC, don’t expect to be much of a “feel good” experience.

The stylized visuals and very methodical gameplay featured a mechanic where quests disappeared once a day was complete, so fast work was required in some areas lest a character integral to the overall plot expire. The interesting thing was it seemed impossible to do everything that was tasked, so the replay value was in maximizing one’s efforts and trying the figure the most efficient means to work through problems that arose. The tensions that arose from doing certain tasks while the Sand Plague crept inexorably forward made the game compelling, especially when one didn’t use any walkthroughs and took each day as a challenging survival puzzle of sorts.

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Capsule Review: Knightin’+ (PS4)

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Warm and fuzzy, indeed: Familiarity does not breed contempt here.

Knightin' PS4When you play Knightin’ yes, you’ll be fightin’ monsters, traps, and more.
A bit like Zelda, and you’ll say, “Well, duh. I think I know that score!”.
But this game’s shorter, so you oughta temper expectations.
It’s great to vacuum up some time, but might not sweep the nation.

You just start playin’ – soon you’re slayin’ all creatures in you path.
Bosses are tough, but skills and gear can beat down all their wrath.
The writin’s great – you may let out a chuckle as it goes.
I wish the game were more fleshed out, four dungeons here just blows.

But still, they’re great – appreciate the hat tip to nostalgia.
Timing and precision rule, lest you go to Valhalla.
The tunes are bliss, they sure don’t miss that classic gaming beat.
A big grin and a toe that taps work even in defeat.

Collision woes may give you throes, but practice makes perfection.
See and learn those areas where parts need a correction.
It’s all good, though – the game will flow when things go with the plan.
And if they do a sequel – well, I’ll surely play that, man!

 

Knightin’+ is $5.99 on PSN, but you can get it digitally on Switch, Xbox One and PC as well. The EastAsiaSoft physical edition seems to be sold out, but you can see if Play-Asia can get you one, as they’re the only place to get it for the retail price outside of an auction site’s gouging. It’s quite nostalgic and funny, gets straight to the point with no filler and it’s worth a few plays even if you’re just collecting the 16 trophies. Indie developer Muzt Die Studios and port house Ratalaika Games did a great job overall here. Sir Lootalot’s adventures may seem short, but there’s a good chance you be back for more as the game is so much fun to play. And yes, a longer sequel would be nice.

Score: B+ (85%)

-GW

-Review code provided by the publisher

Hyper Galactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000: You’ve Got To Have Balls

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Yeah, yeah. So do I, buddy.

The team at Blue Wizard Digital (Slayaway Camp, Friday The 13th Killer Puzzle among many others) is at it again. This time, the classic game PONG gets the treatment and as you can see, well, if you’re a fan of vintage PONG or even PONG-curious. you’ll see even better that the vintage game has taken on a whole new life. Hmmmm, every time I type the word PONG, there’s a weird sound effect. Hear that? I should go put some music on or something.

I’ll keep this preview as short as can be because I need to go play this and review it, but if you got a grin going at that video, you’re on board the hype train and I’b about to come by and collect your ticket. The nice thing here is the game is a mere two bucks on Steam, but until March 10, it’s 34% off, so even the cheapest-minded cheapskate can buy and play this. Not that I think you’re all cheapskates mind you – budgeting correctly is important in this day and age, correct?

-GW

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Demo: ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky

This Looks Good, Right

“I can’t believe it’s THAT good, right?”

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It’s up… and it’s good!

Honestly, I’d deliberately not followed any development news, interviews, screens and trailers of the upcoming FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE because as I’ve said in the past many times, I prefer going into a game as cold as possible for the surprise factor and how that actually helps my sense of wonder continually activate, even if it’s a game that’s been re-imagined or has had multiple versions created over the years. In this case, the approximately 45 minute long Unreal engine-powered demo that dropped on Monday is visually, pretty spectacular stuff and the gameplay is a mix of styles  old and new, with a bigger nod to the new. This bodes quite well for the final version we’ll see on April 10, 2020.

I’ll resister my EXTREMELY middling complaints about the demo here just to get them out of the way first. I didn’t like the variations in destructible objects. Those wooden Shinra boxes you should smash up when you find them go down with a weapon swing by Cloud or a few shots by Barrett, but cardboard boxes, some crate-like objects, and a few metal barriers bounce or just get knocked around with no visible damage? Eh, well. Although, some striped sawhorse barriers hide handy items you can find once knocked away (explore everywhere!). My other minuscule complaint is with the music, which is phenomenal, but I want a choice of the original tunes as well as the new remake versions. As I said, these “complaints” are tiny, but this was only a demo and it does note, the quality isn’t 100% representative of the final game at all.

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Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations: Two Cuckoos In A Happier Dance

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A pair of kings.

Classic comedy fans, take note: Well, this is a fine mess, and a particularly good one coming soon on both Blu-Ray and DVD on June 16.

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Get one for yourself, and one for a friend!

The comedy films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been beloved around the world since they were first released between 1927 and 1940. So beloved that many of the available copies are blurred dupes printed from worn-out negatives. Now, the best of their short comedies and two of their finest features have been fully restored. They look and sound as spectacular as when they were first released… Here are a few videos that prove it:
FEATURES
* NEW! 2K and 4K transfers from the finest original 35mm materials in the world.
* WORLD PREMIERES! Laurel and Hardy’s legendary 1927 silent “pie fight” film THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY makes its video debut after being “lost” for 90 years! The only reel of L&H bloopers and out-takes, THAT’S THAT!
* Classic short comedies BERTH MARKS, BRATS, HOG WILD, COME CLEAN, ONE GOOD TURN, HELPMATES, THE MUSIC BOX (the legendary Academy Award winning “piano moving” short), THE CHIMP, COUNTY HOSPITAL, SCRAM!, THEIR FIRST MISTAKE, TOWED IN A HOLE, TWICE TWO, ME AND MY PAL, THE MIDNIGHT PATROL, and BUSY BODIES in addition to the feature films SONS OF THE DESERT and WAY OUT WEST (which includes the team’s famous soft shoe dance routine).
* EIGHT HOURS of EXCLUSIVE extras – 2,500 rare photos and studio documents, audio and film interviews with L&H co-workers, original music tracks and trailers plus a full restoration of their one surviving color film, THE TREE IN A TEST TUBE.
* Commentaries by L&H historians Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann
*Restorations provided by Jeff Joseph/SabuCat in conjunction with UCLA Film & Television Archive and Library of Congress.

Eight hours of special features? That’ll get me to watch those first, then. I grew up with these gentlemen on the TV screen quite frequently, so I know I’m going to be laughing too hard at the main events. Those features will be the educational part of the day’s programming.

-GW

Sakura Wars Story Trailer: The More You Know, The Better It Gets (As Long As You Don’t Know So Much)

 

It’s quite the year for nostalgia in games, am I right? Final Fantasy VII, Langrisser I & II, the Yakuza Remastered games, a new King’s Bounty, and more are on the way, but there are a few firsts for the US and Sega’s Sakura Wars is at the top of the hit parade for many, I think, as it’ll be the first officially licensed game to make it westward on console. This trailer in only a hint of that’s to come, but I’m going to stay away from bigger reveals because I love going in as blind as possible on some games because it keeps them more interesting and yes, I’m happier with no or as few spoilers as possible.

-GW

INFINI: Pardonnez mon français, mais ce jeu est bizarre (et doit être joué!)

Barnaque_LOGO-Nouveau2017MiniWell, to be honest, my French is perfectly awful, but Montreal-based art team/development studio Barnaque has me completely intrigued with its new title, so It’s making me feel inspired enough to drag out the Google Translate language mangler thing. INFINI, set to release on PC for Steam and itch.io March 4, and on Switch a bit later this year. Here’s a video and screenshots along with a description of the game from the developers, David Martin and Émeric Morin:

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