Review: ECHO (PS4)

ECHO_Keyart_Cube_LogoSneaking onto PC last month and out now on PS4, ECHO is one of the smartest games I’ve played this year. Developer Ultra Ultra has created an intentionally initially slow-burning hard sci-fi game that relies heavily on its innovative gameplay that’s bound to keep you on your toes. It’s also got spectacular visuals, brilliant sound design and a pair of excellent voice actors (Rose Leslie and Nick Boulton) bringing their characters to life in what’s basically one character talking to an AI interface as she tries to survive a gilded palace filled with replicas of herself trying to kill her. While it’s got its share of (primarily technical) flaws, it’s a worthy experience that shouldn’t be missed if you like your games to shake you up a bit early and often.

After a century in space asleep, a woman named En is awakened by her computer, London and informed that their ship has reached its destination. The pair has traveled all the way to a strange planet because En wants to bring back to life a friend whose remains are inside a cube-shaped device she wears on her back. The opening is a deliberately paced buildup as En lands on the planet and makes her way into The Palace, an endless ornately designed structure that’s the size of the entire planet. There’s a great deal of exposition during the game with much of of it establishing a backstory for En’s long journey as she explores her initially unlit surroundings. When she locates a spot to place that cube, The Palace reacts by coming to life and over time, producing many copies of En that eventually end up coming after her with murderous intent.

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Review: Detention (PS4)

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Detention BlockWhile thematically similar to The Coma: Recut from Devespresso Games, Red Candle Games‘ excellent Detention ($12.99 on PSN) manages to add a more psychological as well as historical tone to its scary elements. Set in a 1960’s era Taiwan during the horrfic period of martial law known as The White Terror, the game works extremely well as a short but solid game experience that gets as much mileage from its frightening imagery as it does with its somewhat timely political allegory

This isn’t a “survival horror” game in the zombie-packed Resident Evil vein and while it has a more similar vibe to the early, more thoughtful (but weirder) Silent Hill games, there are no weapons to wield here or a need to stock up on healing items for your trip through this virtual hell-space. This one’s a pure side-scrolling horror adventure game where you’ll need to avoid or appease the freakish ghosts you’ll encounter as you try and escape from the nightmare that Greenwood High has become.

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Review: Raiden V: Director’s Cut (PS4)

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How great is UFO Interactive’s Raiden V: Director’s Cut? So great that I went and grabbed the previous installment on the PS3 (which just so happened to be part of this past weekend’s PSN Flash Sale and was $2.99 very well spent), slightly kicking myself (ow!) for missing it a few years back. I’d been cutting back on arcade shooters for a while, but something about this well-aged series has always drawn me to it. It’s probably because it brings back certain good memories, but it also helps that it’s been a consistently entertaining set of games despite some lesser console versions not being as fun.

This newest installment is more polished visually and aurally and thanks to its busy color palette and tons of explosions, it really looks and feels a hell of a lot busier to the eyes and reflexes. There’s so much going on that I found myself laughing out loud (to no one in particular, as usual). Skilled developer MOSS has reworked the traditional vertical arcade game screen so it’s packed with information to the point of distraction should your eyes float to the left or right of where the real action is. But you won’t let that happen, right?

Hey, the future of the planet is at stake, pal – eyes on the prize and all that.

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Raiden V: Director’s Cut Blasts Onto PS4, PC

 

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Holy Cats – bullet hell pioneer Raiden is a quarter of a century old. Actually, it’s 27 if you go by purely chronological order, but I believe the series took a tiny bit of time off between installments and developer changes. Anyway, UFO Interactive and developer MOSS are finally jetting out the PS4 and Steam versions with added content (it seems Xbox One owners who got this last year are missing out) as Raiden V: Director’s Cut .

 

 

If you’re a longtime fan, well you know the drill in this arcade shmup: earth gets invaded by a fleet of alien ships and it’s up to you (solo play) and a partner (if you go co-op) to take out the trash before it blows all over the globe. Actually, those aliens end up invading a few global spaces, so it’s up to your fast reflexes and non-blinking eyes to get the job done.

Game Modes:

•Story Mode – All new story full of twists and turns! The story alters depending on your performance!
•Boss Mission – Defeat bosses under special conditions and compete in the leaderboards!
•Gallery – Dozens of character, concept, and game art waiting to be unearthed!

Features:

Tag in a friend and unleash devastation on your enemies!

Extreme Graphics – Full 1080P support to bring every explosion, missile attack, and Boss Kills to earth-shattering realism on HDTVs and monitors!

Tri-View HUD – New levels of frenetic, heart pounding, pulsing action as real-time game status changes, command center data and gameplay simultaneously update you on the action and your performance!

Fully narrated storyline for the first time in the series!

Fight your own path through a branching storyline!

Choose between three different ships to pilot, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and outfit them with nine different weapon types!

In addition to the game currently available on PSN, gog.com and Steam, you can also download some really nice free themed wallpapers for your PC here. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get some eyeball exercise with a side of reflex action testing (or, I’m downloading this as we speak, folks).

-GW

ECHO on PS4: To Die For (Over and Over Again)

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Well, any previous thoughts I had about the PS4 version of ECHO being “lesser” in visual quality from the PC version got a nice kick in the head with those lovely screenshots below arriving in my inbox. The console version drops on October 11 for a very reasonable $24.99 via PSN, but I’m betting collectors out there would snap this up as a limited edition physical version. Eh, we’ll see how this does, but friends I know who bought the PC version seem really pleased with their purchase.

“So, what’s the game about?” you ask? Well, I’ll let talented indie developer Ultra Ultra’s Game Director Martin Emborg tell you himself here.  Me, I’ve got bigger fish to poach. No, seriously – I’m poaching fish for dinner tonight and I just stopped to post this before I got to my cooking. Back in a bit.

-GW

Symphony of Eternity VS My Old Eyes

SoE_Nintendo.PNGGrrr. I like a few of Kemco’s old-school style JRPGs, but I avoid the mobile versions because I hate playing games on a phone and having ads pop up every five minutes because I’m a complete cheapskate who doesn’t like buying additional content if a game says it’s free to play or has a budget price point.

Amusingly enough, I’ve picked up a few of their PSP, Vita and Nintendo 3DS releases over the years and for the most part, like what I’ve played. That said, their latest Nintendo 3DS/2DS game, Symphony of Eternity, ($7.99, Nintendo eShop) is making me go cuckoo because while I like it so far, warts and all… it’s hard to see the darn game thanks to a kooky design choice.

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Blu-Ray Review: Don’t Torture A Duckling

DTAD_AV099Toss the name Lucio Fulci into a decent horror film conversation and it’s quite possible it may turn into some sort of cranky debate about a few of his more outrageous films that feature copious amounts of gore and violence (often against female characters). There’s an excellent video essay by Kat Ellinger called Hell Is Already In Us included on the fantastic Arrow Video restoration of Fulci’s Don’t Torture A Duckling that drives home the point that the director was merely holding up a mirror to some of society’s madness and letting his camera do the dirty work. While not as relentless as his later work, what’s here is a pretty effective blend of thriller and pointed social commentary that’s still got a mean bite all these years later.

Considered by the director to be one of his personal favorites, Duckling’s blend of Italian countryside setting, shocking (off-screen) child murders and handful of suspects where everyone has either a direct motive or abnormal/amoral proclivities that can be seen as motives makes for a pretty unsettling experience. Adding to the film’s grim tone, Fulci also skewers his faith but good here with some knife-twisting fierceness and a killer finale that’s either going to make you cringe or crack up laughing (or preferably, both). This is a film that’s tough to watch, but extremely well made and even thought provoking in its own manner.

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ECHO: Death Becomes Her (Multiple Times)

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While ECHO is out now on PC, I’m really more interested in developer Ultra Ultra‘s upcoming PlayStation 4 version set to be released in October. Partially because I hate the constant upgrading of PC hardware and mostly because I’m really curious to see how the Unreal 4-powered game looks on Sony’s hardware.

Granted, looks aren’t everything in my book. Great gameplay is always going to be far more important than pretty visuals at the end of the day. But it seems the dev team here is striving for both and if that trailers above and screenshot gallery below are any indication, succeeding in their mission.

The game’s story also makes me want to dive in feet first, so I’m avoiding reading anything else about the game until I get to take it for a spin myself. That said, if everything falls into place with this one, En’s big, deadly adventure could be one of the better original IP this year

-GW

 

 

Review: The Coma: Recut (PS4)

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The Coma Recut PS4Ah, high school days. The loads of homework, Salisbury “steak” and canned veggies for lunch, getting shoved into lockers by bullies, and that curvy teacher you’ve got a secret crush on transforming into a hideous axe-wielding demon-thing who will try really hard to chop you to pieces after hours…

Wait, what?

Okay, that last bit is why you’ll be way up too late on a school (or work) night and all bleary-eyed and freaked out in the morning if you’re playing The Coma: Recut. This remastered version of the Korean survival-horror cult classic, The Coma: Cutting Class manages to be pretty scary stuff from developer Devespresso Games and publisher Digerati. If you’re a fan of games such as Clock Tower (both the Super Famicom original and its first sequel on the original PlayStation), this one’s well worth snapping up.

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Arrow Video October Releases: A Yay For These Boos

My big-ass backlog has kept me from updating these Arrow release lists, but the next few months of Blu-Ray/DVD’s coming are looking really phenomenal. A few reviews of the October lineup are incoming here, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out what’s coming soon to empty out your wallet:

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Children Of The Corn (Blu-Ray, 9/26/2017):

From the mind of celebrated horror author Stephen King, the man behind such classic terror tales as The Shining, Carrie and It, comes one of his most chilling offerings yet – Children of the Corn.

A young couple on a road trip find themselves lost in the back roads of rural Nebraska, eventually winding up in the seemingly abandoned town of Gatlin. But the town is far from empty – as the pair soon discover, it’s inhabited by a twisted cult of murderous children thirsty for another blood sacrifice…

Adapted from King’s eponymous short story first published in 1977 and starring Linda Hamilton (The Terminator), Children of the Corn has gone on to spawn one of the most enduring horror franchises of all time.

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Features
– Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
– Original stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Brand new audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan
– Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
– Harvesting Horror – retrospective documentary featuring interviews with Fritz Kiersch, John Franklin and Courtney Gains
– It Was the Eighties! – an interview with actress Linda Hamilton
– …And a Child Shall Lead Them – a brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin
– Field of Nightmares – a brand new interview with writer George Goldsmith
– Stephen King on a Shoestring – an interview with producer Donald P. Borchers
– Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of Children of the Corn – interviews with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias
– Return to Gatlin – a look back at the iconic filming locations in Iowa with host John Sullivan
– Cut From the Cornfield – an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg on the infamous “lost” Blue Man Scene
– Disciples Of the Crow – 1983 short film adaptation of Stephen King’s story
– Storyboard gallery
– Original theatrical trailer
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin

FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Sullivan and Lee Gambin

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