Review: Far From Noise (PS4)

far from noise posterShort yet very replayble and guaranteed to make you think a bit about life on a few levels, George Batchelor’s brilliant Far From Noise is a compact indie game well worth a buy. If you love your games way on the weird side, this meaningful meditation will capture your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. Given that in the game you’re trapped in a car perched precariously on the edge of a cliff and have nothing to do but wait as a bit of nature pops in for a visit, it’s one of those experiences where revealing too much spoils the fun.

Let’s just say this visually simple and mostly text-driven affair makes for a great bedtime tale where you encounter a talking deer that more or less helps you see things from a few perspectives. A bit of philosophy, some star gazing, a few guests and even the weather are your main companions as your character addresses his or her fears during a long night where it seems anything can happen. While seemingly simplistic, the visual style hides some nice effects and excellent use of controller vibration and the PS4’s color bar (which emulates the game’s day to night to day cycle as time passes).

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Review: Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back (PS4)

Bubsy Box“Wait. Accolade is still around?”  That’s the first thing that popped into my head as I fired up Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back on my PS4. About ten minutes in, the second thing I thought was that Accolade was not only alive and well, they’d somehow created some sort of time vortex where mid-level mascot character Bubsy came back to the gaming scene with newly polished visuals but the same old gameplay that’s guaranteed to frustrate some players while entertaining a handful of others.

In other words, veteran speedrunners or kids who like a challenge will very likely love this latest “2.5D” entry in the series. However, those who expect something along the lines of the superbly sublime retro-ness of Sonic Mania or Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap may find this a tough ball of yarn to swallow. While it’s got its share of issues, it’s not a terrible game by any means. just one that needs some fixing up. Yep. it’s another one of those gems where patience is key, practice helps out a great deal, and it’s probably another case where a post-release patch or two will help things out greatly.

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Review: Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut (PS4)

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When Slayaway Camp popped up on PC last year, it caught a lot of people by surprise (just like any decent masked serial killer would, mind you). The winning combination of intentionally blocky visuals, Sokaban-style sliding puzzles and optional (but necessary) comic use of gore made the game as fun to play as it was to show off to skeptical friends who initially didn’t see the appeal in such a simple looking game as a horror experience. Well, guess what? It’s baaaaaack and ready for its console close-up, (stab, stab, stab).

Even if you hate horror-themed games, Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut has a sneaky (but not subtle) way of luring you in because those sliding puzzles are really tempting to tackle and you’re hooked in (ouch!) before you know it. Don’t like violence against blocky, block-headed camp counselors and other serial victims? There’s a slider to turn off the pixel “gore” on the options screen. R to PG in a flash? Yep. Hell, there are sliders on that option screen for all sorts of oddball stuff, some of which you’ll see right away while others are intentionally vague. This is a game that aims to please and hits that eye with an arrow every single time (ow!).

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Blu-Ray Review: Blood Feast/Scum of the Earth

Blood Feast_AV107So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.

Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.

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Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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.hack//G.U. Last Recode – Launch Trailer: Time to Deep Dive Back In

 

Good gravy, veteran developer CyberConnect2 is made of of some incredibly busy and possibly crazy (in the best possible manner) people. Those power-packed Naruto games they’ve been doing great work on have set and raised a few bars in the anime to games scene and now, it’s .hack//G.U. Last Recode getting a superb-looking and super-polished remaster, now available on PS4 and PC.  I’ll need to grab this one when I have actual free time as I’ve been a big (but silent) fan of the .hack series since the PS2 days and while I was hoping the originals would get full remakes with new assets and features, this update of the second series will do more than nicely.  So, yeah – go add this one to your want list as it sure is coming in hot and pack to the gills with new stuff.

 

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn

GARBNADWhat do you do after making one of the most influential horror films ever? Given that George Romero really didn’t have much of a clue that his first film, Night of the Living Dead would become such an essential genre masterpiece, the director went on to make a few different films between 1971 and 1975 that were either interesting failed experiments or more polished but flawed films all worth a look. Arrow Video has restored and collected three of Romero’s post-NOTLD works in George A. Romero: Between Night And Dawn and yes, it’s a set worth adding to your library.

The three films include the somewhat disappointing romantic comedy There’s Always Vanilla, the surprising, mature drama Season of the Witch and a return to horror of a different yet similar kind in The Crazies. While the grim, brilliantly disturbing horror flick Martin is missing in action here (the set’s sole flaw), with these three films you can see a director learning and growing into an even more confident artist. Interestingly enough, in interviews included on the special features, Romero states his total dislike for There’s Always Vanilla on a few fronts and yes indeed, the film is his weakest effort.

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Mega Cat Studios Keeps The Classic Game Flame Burning Bright

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Well, wow. “Meow You’re Playing With Power!” Thanks to PA-based Mega Cat Studios, collectors and gamers who own a Nintendo Entertainment System or equivalent now have three NEW games to snap up this Halloween (or heck, anytime they want provided they’re in stock). Here’s what’s new and ready to ship:

Creeping It Reel is an NES chiptune album with NES rendered, officially licensed Dancing Pumpkin Man dance moves and a fully playable pachinko game full of treats.

 

 

Creepy Brawlers marries monster movies & boxing to the NES.  An achievement system, counter attacks and enemy evolutions to keep the scares high and health bars low. This one’s also available in a Limited Edition if you like your games extra collectible.

 

Justice Duel is a four player couch co-op action game with a full featured single player campaign, mech-eagles in top hats and an array of weapons. As with Creepy Brawlers, you can also nab a Limited Edition if you’re into adding variants to your library.
I haven’t unearthed my NES in a long time, but it’s very likely going to get dug up and placed near the TV soon. Thankfully, I have a CRT in the living room so I don’t need to worry about fiddling with assorted connection methods for my HD set. Hey, some games were made to be played in true nostalgic fashion, I say.
-GW

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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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus: Less Is More Or Less Better For Overall Overkill

I’ve been pretty quiet on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for a good reason. I’m ignoring the off-balance people with zero (or less) sense of actual history (not to mention actual videogame history) hating on Machine Games and publisher Bethesda Softworks (it’s all white noise to me, pun mostly intended) while also not poking around the internet for every bit of information because I like my games relatively unspoiled. One of the problems with modern game “journalism” is the need (that’s not needed) to ruin a game too early because some can’t not reveal spoilers or keep an embargo correctly.

Me, I want to go in ice cold with the windows open (brrrrr!) and be thrilled and surprised at what’s been cooked up. Nope, I’m not going to tell you that you should go out and grab yourself a copy of the game and a console or high-end PC to play this on (although you probably should if you have that disposable income and want to support the developer and publisher in this crazy year of too many solid games and not enough time to play them all). As always, it’s your move, folks.

-GW