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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Blu-Ray Review: Children of the Corn

COTC_AV106Back in 1984, I didn’t see Children of the Corn because if I’m not mistaken, I believe I was “Stephen Kinged Out” by so many adaptations of his work popping up in theaters and not being all they could be. Amusingly enough, when this screener of the nicely restored 2K version popped up from Arrow Video in my mailbox, I’d actually been thinking about films made from King’s novels and short stories thanks to the recent arrival of IT into theaters.

I’d read a long time back that King wasn’t too fond of director Fritz Kiersch’s film partially thanks to the rewritten script by George Goldsmith altering and adding elements to King’s original short story. Let’s just say that the end result is a mixture of good intentions and lousy cost-cutting and leave it at that. Well, okay – that would mean this review would end at that last sentence, so I’ll elaborate if you care to read any further.

The best things about the film are the principal actors giving it their all, a few very effective shots and a nice reliance on “less is more” when it comes to onscreen violence. The worst things are some truly crummy visual effects that weren’t good back in 1984 (and really stink now), the abrupt ending that feels as if was added in post-production and the addition of two annoying kid characters (and a voice over narration) that give the film a sappy gloss that lessens the horror factor geometrically.

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Loominoodle: Let There Be (Ambient) Light

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“Hey, kids! Take care of your eyes… OR ELSE!”

loominoodleAs someone who’s done plenty of TV viewing and gaming at night for ages in near dark to pitch black rooms, I’m at that ripe older age where a few things needed to change. For one, a bit of ambient lighting was something I’d looked at for a while on and off, but never quite committed to in that “Oh, I’ll check this out more later” manner us professional procrastinators do so well. Well, not getting any younger and a nice email out of the blue from the PR guy from Power Practical got a Luminoodle Bias Lighting strip sent my way to try out. Before you even ask if it works, yes indeed it does and my eyes are now happier when camped out in front of the TV these days.

The basic Loominoodle ($9.99) comes in white and is fairly simple to install within about three to five minutes (not counting if you need to move your TV off a mounting to dust off the rear panel first or need to remove a few things close to it like a game console or three so you can turn your TV around). All your HDTV needs is a rear USB port to connect to and you’re golden. Note to pet owners: you’ll absolutely want to gently escort them from the room your TV is in into a closed one for a few minutes  before you install the strip. Hey, you try to explain to a over-eager dog or cat that the thing you’re unrolling isn’t a new toy. Notice they aren’t giving a hoot as they try and ruin your installation process?

Anyway, all you do is turn your TV on, look down at the instruction sheet, plug the Loominoodle into the rear USB slot and get to rolling out the strip according to the pattern you’ve chosen. It’s got a very sticky 3M double-sided tape backing that adheres to your set yet is flexible enough for you to overlap edges in order to make perfect corners. Once you’re all done, get that flat screen back in place and get ready to see the difference a little ambient light can bring. In short, my eyes are in love with my Loominoodle and I’d say the rest of me is pleased as well. There’s also a Luminoodle Color Bias Lighting strip ($19.99) that comes with a remote control unit and allows for a number of customization options, so I’m putting that down as a gift suggestion for a few folks I know could use a little extra (ambient) light in their lives.

-GW

Review unit courtesy Power Practical (thanks, Ben!)

Blu-Ray Review: Django Prepare A Coffin

DPAC_AV085Some years ago I made the big mistake once of looking up how many Django films were made after Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 original and I think I had a headache for the better part of half a week from sifting through all those titles and trying to figure out if there was an actual sequel made or if any were worth tracking down for the bucket list. Eh, I survived that project by tapping out and concentrating on stuff that was less mentally taxing.

The same can’t be said for most of the folks who violently buy the farm in Ferdinando Baldi’s 1968 film, Django Prepare A Coffin (aka Preparati la bara!), a pretty good kinda-sorta sequel/prequel that’s nowhere as brutal or unsettling as the first film, but certainly has its interesting and amusing moments. Arrow Video has a fine and dandy restored version that’s been out for a bit, but I’m finally getting to some of the deep backlog stuff in my library, so here you go.

Filling in for Franco Nero is the great Terence Hill (aka Mario Girotti) and he does a pretty darn good job playing Franco Nero being Django. The script he’s saddled with (pun intended) is a bit of a mess, though. Then again, you’re very likely not watching this for the importance of the script, right? Right. That out of the way, the film still works well as a good way to kill 92 minutes and leave you with what should resemble a wry grin or its equivalent.

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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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Review: The Solus Project (PS4)

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Survival/Crafting games are a dime a dozen these days (or cheaper if you poke around at PC game bundle sites, heh), but a game like Teotl Studios and Grip Games’ The Solus Project manages to rise above the digital ton of games that are less “survival” oriented and more about scampering around shooting at assorted organic life with food and water meters acting like gas and oil tanks in an arcade racing game.

What’s here is a also a fine sci-fi adventure game where the environment on planet Gliese-6143-C is possibly your worst enemy, but other things can also do you in if you’re careless in your roaming. Interestingly enough, the game later dips a toe (okay, its entire being) into horror elements and the unsettling sense of dread the early exploration brings turns into moments where you might be too freaked out to take another step. That the game slides through a few genres along the way ends up being a nice touch because it’s completely unexpected.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Climber

The Climber_AV089Don’t feel a bit sorry for poor Aldo (Joe Dallesandro) in The Climber (L’ambizioso), writer/director Pasquale Squitieri’s slick, sleazy 1975 crime action flick. The guy is so damn stubborn right from the get-go that all his big plans keep exploding in his handsome face thanks to his bull-headed determination to out gangster all the Italian gangsters who’ve ever gangstered. He scores some hefty wins in the material world, but it’s all a façade as the clock is ticking down on him as the bodies pile up.

It’s a great role for Dallesandro although he’s saddled with a derivative script that has him be a complete block-headed goon and most of his opposition be just as dumb or dumber. That said, if you love violent crime dramas with great soul-jazz-rock soundtracks and can flick off your story-starved brain for a spell of mindless violence, this is a pretty solid little movie when all is said and done.

After skimming profits from a Don Enrico’s (Raymond Pellegrin) illegal cigarette take, New York-transplanted Aldo is badly beaten and tossed onto a roadside (ouch). He gets lucky after he’s picked up by a gorgeous redhead named Luciana (Stefania Casini) who takes him to her apartment where he gets lucky a second time when she decides to sleep with him. The next day, he’s off to get revenge against the Don by looking up a guy he used to be partners in crime with in order to plan a heist (that goes wrong, of course). Our non-hero gets away with his ill-gotten gains, but he’s swiped off the street not long afterward and taken to the Don for punishment. “Is this the end of Rico Aldo?”

Well, not quite.

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Review: Infinite Minigolf (PS4)

IMG_art.jpegAn apt title if there ever was one, Infinite Minigolf ($14.99 on PSN) is yet another successful attempt by Zen Studios to monopolize all your free time. While it’s short on included courses (three variants with scaled difficulty with two more on the way), a fairly easy to use course editor will hook you in and extend the lifespan somewhat, um, infinitely. The pick up and play appeal is high right out of the gate so casual to expert players can hop in and start putting away within a short amount of time.

In fact, the game relies so much on players just diving in that it eschews any sort of tutorials or tips popping up in your face every few seconds. Of course, I’m not sure many gamers groove on announcers blabbing away while they’re trying to sink a 30-yard putt around a spinning radio control 4×4. But this game is almost too calming with the super-clean HD art, relaxing mall muzak score and cheery-looking generic characters. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. This is exactly the sort of game to relax with after a crazy day (or after watching the evening news, ha-ha).

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Review: Leap of Fate (PS4)

 

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If you’re going to play Clever Plays‘ excellent twin stick action/roguelike Leap of Fate, you’ll want to make sure your controller is either brand new or of recent vintage. The game requires such precise aiming and fast reaction times if you plan on succeeding and a too-well broken in controller can male an already challenging game even more so. Yours truly found that out within the first few minutes of play when my first character got wiped out because the left stick on my Dual Shock was a bit loose.

On one hand, my first hour or so was spent dying and retrying more than I wanted to even with what I thought were some decent skills gained from many previous retries.  However, after borrowing a newer controller from a friend, the amount of deaths dropped dramatically (although I still got zapped by certain strong enemies or bosses and their cheap tactics). On the other hand, the game is actually set up so that you can gain from losing thanks to the randomly generated levels and mission types giving you decent goodies on occasion. Still, progression is what it’s all about at the end of the day and despite a few hiccups, what’s here can be pretty addictive.

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