Review: Nightmare at Noon (1988)

Home, James

So, if good guys wear black, I guess, uh…

NAN.BR.Cover.72dpiWhile it’s absolutely packed to the hilt with stunts, thrills, and explosions galore (and how!), Nico Mastorakis’ 1988 flick Nightmare at Noon isn’t exactly the brain food of action movies. In fact, if you go in expecting even a decent plot to speak of, your brain may beat you somewhat senseless about two minutes in and turn itself off so it can enjoy the wild ride without you gargling on about what small amount of plot there is. Basically, if you miss the opening credits, there goes the story, and there’s not much there to begin with (and even less if you’re looking).

All you need to know is a secret scientific agency (or not so secret, as they roll around in two black custom vans with their agency’s name on them!) has chosen a small US town to experiment with some nefarious goings-on and it’s up to a handful of gun-totin’ tourists and local heroes to make things right.  So you get Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, and Kimberly Beck starring with George Kennedy and Kimberly Ross versus that town full of newly green-blooded raging townspeople and a bunch of well-armed bad guys. A strangely silent Brion James kicks the flick off as the mysterious Albino, but despite all his evil machinations, his total lack of dialog actually hurts the film despite the nearly non-stop action that follows. I gather he was paid enough for bleaching his hair and wearing some contact lenses to make him look albino and decided to charge by the word for dialog or something?

(Thanks, ScreamFactoryTV!)

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Capsule Reviews: Ghost Grab 3000/Singled Out (Switch)

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You can’t be afraid of no ghost when you have the ability to use a nuke as an option.

I’d like to think that Matt Glanville (@crowbarska) has a working time machine permanently set to 1983 he’s not telling anyone about, as his games I’ve played to date all look and play like solid arcade hits of around that time. Switch ‘N’ Shoot is still one of the more thrilling and flawless uses of single-button gameplay I’ve experienced and now you have two more retro-inspired titles to  blast away with, both quite good and deceptively simple on their surfaces, but each will have you hooked in for as long as you’re playing.

Ghost Grab 3000 ($4.99) is a nifty shooter that’s a hybrid of bullet hell and strategic shot placement as its lead character needs to line up or gather well-armed ghosts and blast away as many as possible while trying to survive each round. There are a couple of weapons to whip out in an emergency situation, plus a nice upgrade system with over 100 combinations allowing you to tailor your ghost grabber as you like. Part of the fun is buying those upgrades and enhancing your character, as you can create a hero that makes the game easier or, if you want to play with as few upgrades as possible, harder. That’s a bad idea, by the way – go buy and use those upgrades, I say.

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Soul Searching: Going Native (With Dragons on the Side)

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Make mine a double, please…

In the load of stuff I need to get to in this current crazy time, review code for a little game called Soul Searching popped up in the inbox a while back and you can say I’m intrigued by the project enough to move things around and play for a bit. I’ll get to the main story mode later in this post, but let’s talk minigames for a bit. There are seven ‘Short Stories’ as the game calls them, and they can be accessed from the menu and played in any order you like. but the game will run them consecutively if you start from the first one and complete each minigame.

Publisher nakana.io has released a few unique titles so far where its different developers’ personalities are on full display in each work, so there’s a lot going on in each game, from the art styles to the approaches to gameplay. Soul Searching is brim full of weirdness as the simple pixel-heavy art in the main game gives way to some rather intense slices of mind from its developer in minigames that feature assorted visual styles ranging from simple childlike scrawls to vector graphics and crude polygonal characters. In those brief segments, you almost get a sense that indie developer Kayabros (Talha Kaya) is working through some of life’s problems and you’re along for the ride for better or worse.

(Thanks, Nakana Games!)

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Review: Demon’s Tier (PS4/Vita)

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Instructions for real life, as well.

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Nostalgic is the good word here.

The latest pairing from COWCAT and Diabolical Mind, Demon’s Tier+ ($9.99, buy it!) is an excellent example of a really good game that got much better with a slew of quality of life improvements. While the game follows a clear Gauntlet meets Diablo style of play, a strict time limit and intense difficulty combined with randomly generated levels make for quite the thrilling, replayable ride.

This isn’t a simple “one and done” trophy hunt at all. Rather, the game is an equal to Diabolical Minds’ other retro-inspired pixel-packed releases, Riddled Corpses EX and Xenon Valkyrie+, two other solo or  two player co-op team-ups worth a look. It almost feels like the developer has captured a trio of long lost late 80’s arcade machines in these three titles, all of which demand practice and patience to master, just like the old days.

Story:

Thosgar, a hated king attracted by demonic rituals, turned into a dark and diabolical being… destroying almost all of humanity and flooding the world with monsters. This story became a legend and peace returned to the land.

A thousand years later, a mysterious pit appears in a village after a huge earthquake where an evil aura emanates from…

Will you be the hero to save this world?

Don’t you hate it when that happens? Well, good. Grab your PS4 controller or Vita, and let’s send those demons back to where they came from, pronto.

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Random Film of the Week: Shin Godzilla

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They’re going to have a meeting about having a meeting, most likely.

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Sometimes, a kick to the Shin works.

Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s Shin Godzilla is, for all intents and purposes, more of a grand live action anime because it translates much of its visual style and energy rather successfully from some of both of its creators’ previous well-known animated works. It’s also a sly poke at Japanese government bureaucracy where every decision has to go up a few ladders and lengthy meetings are constantly being held even as a horrific, mutating monster makes its radioactive presence known.

As a reboot of the classic franchise it works excellently in delivering a new and more terrifying Godzilla that mutates from a googly-eyed giant, arm-less gilled beast that flops and slides along because its body can’t hold it up, to a 400-foot tall nuclear blasting fiend that requires a lengthy cooldown after it uses its powers. This isn’t a Godzilla who’s a kid-friendly lizard who punches other monsters in the face and goofs around. Nope, the film takes it back to the more horror-laced 1954 original in terms of tone, laying on a modern plot where every decision made needs discussion and division heads and other leaders change into fancy jumpsuit ensembles just to look official while executive orders are issued.

(Thanks, Funimation!)

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Review: SEGA AGES Thunder Force AC (Switch)

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Memories, Golden Space Roast Edition…

1990’s Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis game, Thunder Force III was such a great and very challenging entry in the series that it got an enhanced arcade version in Japan called Thunder Force AC, which has now come back as the latest SEGA AGES release on Nintendo Switch ($7.99). It’s a game I used to play along with a ton of other space shooters on the Genesis as well as developer M2’s second enhanced port of a Thunder Force title (Lightening Force: Quest for the Darkstar) that’s a must-buy.

You get a flawless version of the game with the new ability to play with three other ships from other titles in the series (you’ll need to play a bit to get to three of them), and the game is another example on a fine example of M2 making a good game even more stellar on Nintendo’s platform. At the time it was released, the game was quite the spectacle with its parallax scrolling, some fancy warping effects, plus a few other neat visual tricks. Oh, and the music was (and is) perfection and thankfully, you get a music player function in this version.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: No Blade of Grass

no blade of grassSo, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.

Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shocker No Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.

Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.

(Thanks, The Film Archives!)

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Review: Dark Nights with Poe and Munro (PC)

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There are no incorrect choices in this game, as you’ll discover.

In the fourth episode of six in D’avekki Studios rather excellent FMV (full motion video) game Dark Nights with Poe and Munro ($12.99), there’s a rather neat dark surprise in store for fans of their first FMV game, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. I won’t fully reveal that surprise, but sharp-eyed fans will have grasped it already from a single screenshot. Let’s just say that I hadn’t yet visited the Doctor’s office and had it on my Steam wishlist for a bit until that episode in Dark Nights had my brain spin around in my head and my wallet flew into my hands from across the room – SOLD. I’ve only put about four hours onto the (maybe) deceased Doctor’s couch, but it’s definitely been worth the session fee.

Back to the newer game, which is a more TV-like prequel to events in The Shapeshifting Detective (one of the better FMV games we’ve played) featuring the radio host duo from that title. You get six very replayable chapters featuring John ‘Poe’ Pope (Klemens Koehring) and Ellis Munro (Leah Cunard), both superbly possessing their roles, coming off a bit like this decade’s Mulder and Scully, but with a struggling radio show and much more supernatural goings on. Their relationship is a lot more complex (all together now: “it’s complicated!”) and the game uses that as both backdrop and foreground material for their escapades. All six chapters delve into their radio relationship as well as what happens off-air, with multiple choices that can lead to some, shall we say innnnntersting outcomes. Or, Death certainly doesn’t take a holiday here in some episodes, is all I’ll say.

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Review: TT Isle of Man – Ride On the Edge 2 (Switch)

tt-isle-of-man-ride-on-the-edge-2-switch-description-charKT Racing has clearly put a Kylotonn of work into bringing TT Isle of Man – Ride On the Edge 2  ($59.99) to the Nintendo Switch and it’s truly an impressive effort on the hybrid console. The developer has recreated the recent PC and console experience perfectly in terms of complete content on the Switch with a few very obvious concessions to the lower-powered hardware. On Switch, there’s a tiny bit of texture draw-in plus some low resolution textures such as bike shadows, some of the signage, plus logos on your rider’s gear, which can all be a bit fuzzy in static shots. Despite these flaws and some long loading times, the game completely soars when in motion, particularly in docked mode. In handheld mode, the game is fine, but as a simulation that requires zen-like focus (there’s no in-race music for a reason!), every little detail needs to be seen at the best resolution available.

Where TT2 impresses constantly is in the excellent bike detail and its thrilling overall sense of speed thanks to excellent visual representation in the various camera modes and some tremendous sound design. The sheer intensity when you get to flying down a course and don’t go flying off your bike is nothing but a pure adrenaline rush, and the game will make you appreciate the art of the learning process. That said, it feels like a bit of understeer is in play on corners and you’ll crash a lot as a beginner and a great deal less (or not at all when you get better) as you get accustomed to the controls, which can by fully customized and come in a few styles from amateur to professional. Got a first or third party Switch compatible controller with a Rumble feature? DO please use that over the handheld’s Joy-Cons. The game goes from trickier to control and a bit too shaky to one where analog controls make things more manageable. The game is playable with Joy-Cons, mind you – it’s just more difficult if you stick to the standard control scheme and/or if you have the dreaded left Joy-Con drift issues some users have experienced with the handheld.

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Review: Guard Duty (PS4)

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Oh, this is the same game, alright…

guard duty PS4Ratalaika Games has been pretty much killing it lately in terms of quietly porting and publishing little indie games that sometimes pack in a few surprises despite the low budget price points. While there’s a core group of fans who snap up most of these games for fast trophies, once in a while there comes something that’s worth a second look because it taps the right vein in the right place and is more than a simple trophy hunt you can rush through in an hour or so. Welcome to Sick Chicken Studios’ Guard Duty ($9.99, Cross-Buy with PS Vita!), folks.

This is a fantastic albeit brief homage to old computer games from the mid-80’s and the 1990’s and absolutely nails that aesthetic to a T with perfect stylized pixel art and animation, some hilarious (and fully voiced) writing and solid point & click gameplay. There’s a plot that blends in medieval and futuristic elements really well, but I’ll not spoil that for you here as the story works best this way. After an intro that teases that medieval and future melding, we meet Tondbert, loyal Guard to the Castle of Wrinklewood. He’s having a bad day that started the night before as he was stupid drunk while on duty and let a odd stranger into the village, which has led to the Princess being kidnapped. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

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