Not So Random Film Of The Week: Panic In Year Zero!

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Oh, I just LOVE that song! Oh, wait…

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It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I don’t feel fine!

I recall the first time I saw Ray Milland’s Panic In Year Zero! some decades back as a kid, I laughed at a few things from some of the histrionic acting and direction, the incredibly poor science on display (back then I was a science whiz), Frankie Avalon’s perfect coif (that pomade he was using was pretty much disaster proof) and every woman being a second class citizen and second fiddle to the men in the world it presents. I still laugh now, but it’s more of a dry cackle of late. The film’s less that rosy display of humanity comes off as only a fraction of where we are today with reality rolling up with a nice ice cold dose of “hold my (insert obviously named) beer, pal.”

Despite its flaws, it’s a really good “B”-grade film that’s quite dated on a few fronts, but the message hits home because hell, who wouldn’t want to get the heck out of town after major cities fall under multiple nuclear attacks? Well, if you’re a tightly knit family unit like the Baldwins, who happen to be on a camping vacation when all hell breaks loose, you get in your trusty sedan with that handy trailer attached and try to survive the trip into the mountains as chaos breaks out everywhere. Saying this film is a total blast is an understatement as well a a nice and corny joke (ha and ha).

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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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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

(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Flesh Eaters (1964)

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Cheesy, but very perfectly so.

TFE_adI think about Jack Curtis’ exceptionally cheesy but really awesome sci-fi/horror hybrid The Flesh Eaters maybe a bit more than I should, but there’s a good reason for that. It was one of the many fright films I grew up watching on television so many times that its unnerving 91 minutes were engraved in my brain for decades. While I’d seen many other horror/sci-fi films as a kid, this particular one stood out for the unsettling for a kid gore factor and overall tone that screamed EC Comics-style nightmare fuel.

I found out later in my teens that it was written by very prolific DC, Marvel and other publishers comics writer Arnold Drake who also made storyboards for the film to assist the director. It’s also by location, classifiable as a New York-based film because it was partly shot in Montauk, New York. The plot kicks off as a small seaplane takes off from Manhattan, runs into a bad storm, and is forced down on a small island in the area with, let’s just say, some rather interesting results in store for all involved.

 

 

On that plane are faded starlet and professional drinker Laura Winters (Rita Morely), her lovely but very harried assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin), and debt-ridden pilot for hire Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders), all of whom survive the in-flight stormy surprise landing. They soon meet a German-accented marine biologist Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) who’s all by himself on the island save for his little microbial friends whom we will soon find out more about. The not so good Professor has taken up some evil WWII experiments in breeding nasty little bacteria who need fresh flesh to thrive, and between the human and many more fish skeletons that start turning up in the troubled waters around the island, everyone is in for quite a bad time if something REALLY stupid happened to that plane, right?

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It’s too bad the folks on that plane didn’t see the beginning of the film as the in-flight movie, as they kind of missed out on a few important things…

Guess what happens to the plane? Free popcorn to the winning guess!

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Review: Dawn of Fear (PS4)

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How come no one has a sledgehammer handy so they can bust the heck through those locked front doors in these games?

DOFYou’ll either like or not like Dawn of Fear ($19.99) for a few reasons. You’ll like it if you’re a big of the classics for the strict, stick to the script “survival” horror gameplay borrowed liberally from the first Resident Evil, with a touch of the more unsettling Silent Hill for good measure, very limited save function, static to a fault camera angles, blind spots, rigid aiming, low ammo counts and all. You’ll not like it for all that if you’re a newer survival horror fan or an old fan of the genre that’s moved on to games with more freedom of movement and a plot that makes more logical sense. Plus there’s a somewhat spotty localization that needed a bit of work, as it’s a bit cringe-worthy on the grammar side. Oh, and there were some pretty awful bugs and glitches at launch, some of which stopped the game cold and either forced a restart, or had you go back to an old save to hopefully restore things.

A recent patch helps a great deal, though. It turned the sluggish movement speed to an always run animation that helps a tremendously (even though the instructions still state holding the Square button runs, when it now doesn’t). Although you’ll now zip into camera angles that switch so fast it’s tricky to not run back into an area you just left. Glitches that were major visual and technical ones seem to be stomped out, but sometimes areas you explore still load in pieces. For example, you’ll be walking running into a dark room in that mansion and the lights suddenly switch on, but it’s not the lights, just an area on the map that’s loading in its pre-rendered details (oops).

 

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Review: 3000th Duel (Switch)

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Well, that’s true in real life, as well…

3000thWhat’s in a name? Well, If you take things way too literally, Neopopcorn sounds like a really bad time at the movies if you choose to munch on what’s in that box as a substitute for the real thing (well, minus the nasty, salty fake “butter” glopped on top these days) and 3000th Duel sounds like a straight to cable flick you’d accidentally find on a random channel at about 3 am or so. Fortunately, neither of these are true and you have some shopping to do on Steam or the eShop now.

Got a PC or Nintendo Switch? Go get this game, pronto. Indie developer Neopopcorn’s mostly excellent 3000th Duel ($14.99) is a nice surprise overall and well worth a few plays because you can tailor your hero’s skills to your liking through a deep series of upgrades and multiple weapon choices. The game is more or less, a side-scrolling Dark Souls-like or similar challenge where the smallest foes initially take off large chunks of your character’s health, and bosses? Well, you’re going to be enrolling your hero into a health plan and double dipping on a life insurance policy here until you upgrade weapons and skills.

 

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Review: Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary (PS4)

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Just make sure you stick the landing, Miss B.

BVYou’re not buying that excellent Bayonetta/Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle ($39.99) from Sega strictly for the plots of both games, that’s for sure. Both titles hold up mostly excellently in terms of visuals and controls, but the writing is more of an excuse for some lengthy and visually lovely in-game cinemas that pad out both run times. Granted, both games are made to be highly replayed, especially Vanquish, which seems short at about six hours, but there’s a lot more to it once you mess with the difficulty and as with Bayonetta, play through like the bad-asses both characters are. If you’re into both games, they’re far from “one and done” experiences.

 

 

The two stories here actually enhance how wonderfully crazy and brilliant the gameplay is for both titles, especially when you go from hanging onto every word in cut scenes and free yourself from simple button-mashing to pulling of perfectly timed strikes of all sorts in the flagrantly sexy Bayonetta to taking down enemies and bosses with the fast slide and shoot moves from Vanquish. That said, the latter’s plot about Russian-led forces commandeering a huge US-built microwave-powered space cannon to decimate California and threaten to do the same to New York might be something a few players might find blows their minds a bit. Bayonetta’s still phenomenal opening just throws you into battle as it plays out, then teaches you the ropes before the real challenge begins. Trying to explain the plot here? Good luck – just enjoy the cut scenes instead and kill a lot of enemies and bosses when they’re done.

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“I thought you just used microwaves for Hot Pockets and cold coffee!”

Both games allow for unskilled players to get in their kills although the latter game is more punishing if you try and flail through it and refuse to pick up on all it’s trying to teach you. Then again, it may take a bit of getting used to the controls in both titles for some who’ve not yet played both games – your mileage will vary based on how adept you are at picking things up and dealing with the forced camera angles in Bayonetta. Vanquish has a bit more freedom in its camera, but on the harder modes (there are four difficulty settings), speedy, precise play becomes a must. Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: The Navy vs. The Night Monsters (1966)

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“You’re gonna stay in this picture and LIKE it, Mister!”

the navy vs the night monsters-MPFrom looking at this list in comparison with these much longer ones, it seems to me that in the 1960’s, science fiction flicks exclusively made in the US were in a bit of a rut. You can also see from those longer lists that horror films have fared far better and you can probably name quite a few memorable fright films from the era off the top of your head from Carnival of Souls, Night of the Living Dead, A few Herschel Gordon Lewis flicks, Rosemary’s Baby and many (many) more. Let’s just say that truncated list in the last sentence was about 20 or so films before common sense made me edit it down.

The reason I’m focusing on US-made films is simple. As other countries were just more prolific and innovative in their sci-fi films and during this time, the US seemed not to know what to do well despite kicking off and ending the decade with some pretty solid films (1960’s The Time Machine and 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey). Which brings us to one of the less stellar efforts of the decade, 1966’s The Navy vs The Night Monsters. The film looks and feels as if it was made a decade earlier and interestingly enough, the best thing about it is the actress playing the requisite eye candy, Mamie Van Doren. “Best” meaning she plays her role as straight as can be does it without chewing the scenery or mugging it up for zero laughs like some of the guys here do. Stripped of its silly jokes, it might have been a decent “B” flick, but hey – some things just won’t die a natural death.

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Review: Terminator: Resistance (PS4)

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Hi!  I’m Darryl and this is my other brother, Darryl and we’ll be killing you in a sec…

TRcoverWell, isn’t this a big surprise?

Reef Entertaiment‘s shockingly good Terminator: Resistance ($59.99, PS4) is the best game in the long running series of games based on the franchise since the one-two punch of Bethesda’s two very solid PC games, The Terminator: Future Shock (1995) and SkyNET (1996). What’s so astonishing is this new game’s developer Teyon is responsible for 2014’s RAMBO: The Video Game, which was raked over the coals critically for a number of issues, with being a simple rail shooter where movement was automatic and had too many QTE (Quick Time Event) sequences and some technical woes some of the biggest problems.

The Polish developer (who also has a branch in Japan) has been around since 2006 making a number of games for multiple platforms and to me, they’re a tiny bit like Cauldron, the Bratislava-based developer who made a number of journeyman-like titles across multiple platforms for a few publishers over the years. Whatever budget they had to work with here, Teyon really took the Terminator license seriously, going back to the first two films for inspiration and knocking it out the park as a result. Interestingly enough, there’s a even a Bethesda Softworks touch in the interaction scenes with other characters as choices you make affect a few outcomes and even the lock picking mini-game is lifted from the later Bethsoft-made Fallout games.

 

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