Review: Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

valkyria chronicles (4).jpg

Valkyria Revolution PS4 (Custom)Well, veteran developer Media Vision gave it the old college try, but as a set in the past side story to the fan favorite Valkyria Chronicles series, Valkyria Revolution isn’t so thrilling as a game experience. Packed full of overlong exposition, mostly pretty visuals ruined by stiffly animated characters, and somewhat weak gameplay, this one manages to be somewhat lifeless despite trying very hard to appeal to longtime fans and players new to the series.

That said, the music is great, some of the timely political intrigue is interesting enough, as is the main storytelling device of a teacher and student discussing events that happened decades earlier. But the core gameplay never rises above mediocre thanks to somewhat loose controls and a “tactical” side that really doesn’t add much challenge. It’s not a “bad” game per se – it’s just one where you may feel too much time was spent on making a game packed with too much of some stuff and too little of everything else.

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Songs For Spies (A Playlist)

Wow, you take some time off the internet to get better and stuff just falls apart in a bunch of places, huh? Anyway, as some of our intelligence agencies are under pressure from a guy with not too much intelligence at all, I decided to sweep up some music off YouTube to keep our sly guys and gals upbeat and maybe chuckling a little.

1. Secret Agent Man – Johnny Rivers
(Yes, the DEVO version is also recommended!)
2. I Spy (For the FBI) – The Untouchables
(feel free to substitute the cool Jamo Thomas version if you prefer)
3. Spy World – Wall of Voodoo
4. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell
5. Heroes – David Bowie
6. Back In The USSR – The Beatles (but you get the Motorhead version just because it’s awesome)
7. Vanishing Spies – Frank Black
8. Don’t Worry About The Government – Talking Heads
9. Every Breath You Take– The Police
10. We Are Detective – Thompson Twins
11. The Big Heat – Stan Ridgway
12. Territorial Pissings – Nirvana
13. Men In Black – Will Smith
14. Senses Working Overtime – XTC

Um, I think that’s it – feel free to add your own tunes to this little mix. Over and out.

-GW

Now, Where Was I?

Oh, right. Had some medical appointments this week and got a few more as a result. Whee. I need a vacation from all this poking and prodding, but it looks as if most of that quality time I’d prefer lazing about will be spent hanging out in waiting rooms listening to people griping about waiting. Feh. I’ll be replaying this cool kookiness on a loop in my head to drown that droning out:

(thanks, GoodOldDaysReturns!) 

I’ll try to get a few posts up this weekend, as the backlog is biting my butt hard and I do need to whittle down the pile of stuff somewhat.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Review: AereA (PS4)


 
 

While it’s not as great as it should have been out of the gate, there’s still time to fix this sleeper up with a decent patch and make it an even better product.

Developer Triangle Studios’ AereA makes for an interesting blend of familiar elements that gamers willing to overlook its flaws should enjoy. Indie publisher Soedesco has released this as a marquee mid-priced ($39.99) retail and digital game and it’s clear they’re wanting it to be a sleeper hit for casual to veteran ARPG fans. Colorful visuals, fast-paced gameplay and a superb score (by Deon van Heerden) are all strong points. Unfortunately, game balance issues, a poor English localization, and the lack of any post-game content hurt the overall experience.

A sort of love child of Diablo, Wild Tangent’s Fate series and Runic’s original Torchlight, the Unity-powered visuals and emphasis on action are initially impressive. Additionally, the ability to play couch co-op with up to three other players is a nice touch (no online play is supported). However, the very straightforward story progression, a total lack of personality in its four mute heroes, and some technical/UI problems made me grimace more than grin through my 22+ hours with the game.

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Review: Perception (PS4)

TheTree (Custom).jpg 

Your perception of Perception as a horror game will go a long way towards fully enjoying the experience it offers. It’s more a first-person adventure game with horror elements where developer The Deep End Games uses lead character Cassie Thornton’s blindness as a means of both physical and mental exploration.

Cassie is drawn by recurring nightmares to abandoned mansion Echo Bluff and as she’s completely blind, her own perceptions are being challenged. The unconventional visual presentation, use of echolocation, and mix of mystery and time travel are all plus points here. There are flaws as well, but for the most part the 5 to 6 hours you’ll spend as Cassie should please the more open-minded horror/mystery adventure game fans out there.

Perception - Echo Bluff (Custom).jpg 

Cassie’s trip through the seemingly empty mansion is hampered by the presence of The Presence, not so nice angry spirits (who don’t bring presents, by the way) that change up the initially tap-happy caning she does into memorizing rooms and whacking objects as little as possible. While this adds tension to the experience, some parts of the game end up being learning experiences thanks to an auto-save system that forces slight to moderate backtracking and replaying areas if you end up getting Presenced to death.

In other words, you’ll likely need to unlearn your first half hour or so of gameplay and rely on memory and/or using an optional guidance system that points you in the proper direction while still allowing exploration. That said, some of the game’s scares are somewhat avoidable by popping into assorted hiding spaces until trouble passes while others may make you jump a bit based on your level of immersion. Of course, if you’re not easily frightened, the game may seem light on scares unless you want to encounter them.

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That Does Not Compute (Again!)

(thanks, castleleafb!) 
 

The mostly good to so-so news of my first post-discharge checkup was kicked in the head hard by some not so good medical news (can we get an order of that CKD on stage 3, please? Thanks!) and my stupid laptop actually being deader than I thought with me not having the money to have it repaired. Great. Anyone want to hire an old coot who knows too much about games and movies but hates the current payola screamer setup (because it’s unethical among other reasons) to go near YouTube or Twitch? Yeah, I thought not.

As for the laptop, ASUS estimates it’ll cost $520 (minus shipping!). Bleh, but I want the job done right. Sure, I could go the cheapskate neighborhood route for the repair job, but my luck with that stuff is lousy. I sent my PlayStation 3 to Phill Katz at The Repair Kings over a year ago, but never got it back. Ten years of game saves and my idea for book about that era of games? Gone and nope, long story short… the cops were not much help.

Anyway, for the time being, it’s the chuggy XP setup I’m typing this on that can’t even run Steam or any other download service thanks to low memory and not enough hard drive space. I guess it’s time to break into the collection to sell off more stuff, as I’m gathering by poking around that my poor kidneys aren’t going to get any better and I guess it’s time to pare down the game library to a more manageable size. I’m taking the rest of the day off, but reviews for Valkyria Revolution, The Caligula Effect, the excellent Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds and a couple of blu-ray posts are all on the way.

(thanks, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZDjRj_pjO-G5AT90q0aCaw!) 

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

Arrow BirdAmong other things that showed up in the mail while I was hospitalized for about a month was an absolutely stunning 4K Blu-Ray conversion of Dario Argento’s first film, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage courtesy of Arrow Video.

Packed with bonus features (including a new interview with Argento) and physical goodies collectors will love, this limited edition joins Arrow’s other giallo as another essential worth tracking down. While the film is the director’s tamest horror flick, it still packs quite a memorable visual punch thanks to some creative camerawork, cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) and a few genuinely terrifying moments that still shock today. Continue reading

Neon Chrome Makes For Entertainment Outside The Game Space

 

This was amusing enough to have me typing a game-related post sooner than expected.  So, one game PS Plus users got this month for free was Neon Chrome, a top-down twin stick shooter/action RPG (I guess it’s a sort of rogue-like thanks to the random maps?) that has been around since 2016. PS Plus owners also get PS4 Pro support and a free cross-platform Vita version… unless they’ve downloaded the game demo at some point during the last year. Oops.

It seems that there’s a problem where the game demo won’t update even if you delete it and any save files. Oops. The only solutions are to contact PlayStation Customer Support (use the chat option for fastest results) who will hit you up with questions before hooking you up with a new code. It’s a reasonably fast process, so don’t let the average of 28 users in front of you be a deterrent. I thought I’d have enough time for a to boil water for cup of tea, but the doorbell rang and my number rolled up before the water had boiled.

Anyway, a nice guy named Caesar was on my case and did me up right. Considering I’m still in recovery mode (among other things, I’d had a stroke and a few seizures) and Sony has a tight two-minute per line of text time limit, we did alright with my chuggy typing and I got both versions of the game downloaded within about 25 minutes. Of course, I’m not even planning to play this game for the foreseeable future thanks to the rather HUGE backlog of games and movies I have. I’m going to try and kick out a short review this week for a recent arrival, but we’ll see how the therapy visits go this week.

-GW

 

ALIEN: Covenant – The Crossing: Coda Blue


 

Well, well, well. This is very interesting indeed. For one, it’s excellently shot and edited, albeit about a minute too short for my tastes. “Too short?” you’re thinking? “It’s supposed to be a SHORT!” you say. Well, okay, it goes like this: although it’s the perfect bridge between Prometheus and the upcoming ALIEN: Covenant, it feels as if it’s absolutely popping up on the AC Blu-Ray as a bonus. But curious me wants to know if MORE was shot because I have questions.

What would be cool is if future disc, streamed and cable versions of Prometheus add this onto the ending as a post-credit sequence just to give that film a bit more oomph. It certainly needed a kicker that was better than the ending it got in the theatrical cut. That said, I wonder if this gets shown in the theater before the big-deal feature? That would work as well for those new viewers who haven’t seen the previous film and want a brief wrap-up appetizer befre the main course.

Anyway, I can predict the future! Well, sort of. As in I know that HBO very likely has dibs on the first-run cable rights to this one. Easy-peasy reasony squeezy is this not at all shocking video:


 

So, I guess that’s going to end up on a disc as well (mark my words, I guess). Hmmm, okay… back to work. I’m a bit behind in stuff thanks to more stuff and wanted to watch the original ALIEN at some point today. But that’s not going to happen, so I did the next best thing and dug out my ancient Kenner ALIEN Movie Viewer for a quick fix.


 

Yep, it still works fine, noisy cranking reel action and all. The film strip in the cassette is a bit scratchy, but this kid’s edit still packs a punch. I still can’t fathom that Kenner toy line, though. A film you’d never take a child to gets merch no one probably bought for the kids they were marketed to. Still wish I bough more than one of those hideously stiff but super-detailed ALIEN figures, though. Mine and its box got mangled by my younger brother when I wasn’t around for a few years, grrrr!

Back in a bit.

-GW

The ‘Invisible Director’: Jonathan Demme

(Thanks, IIIkidAIII!)
 

Many will mention the frightening, eternally brilliant The Silence of the Lambs today as the late Jonathan Demme‘s best film and yes, you’ll hear about Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, Married to the Mob, Philadelphia, or even Rachael Got Married as other strong entries in his career. While I love all of these dearly, 1984’s Stop Making Sense is probably going to be my go-to Demme flick when I need a fix. Go track down a copy even if you’re not a Talking Heads fan because it may make you one. I saw this probably a dozen times upon its initial release and can still recall packed screenings where the energy in the theater was so powerful, some people got up and danced during a few of the songs.

(Thanks, droehntanne!)
 

In thinking about his body of work, I’ve probably always seen Demme as an ‘invisible’ director because his best stuff looked almost effortless in that way the camera caught perfect, natural or unnatural moments where everything was where it needed to be. Re-watching all the Hannibal Lecter-related films a little while ago showed me that of all the directors who’d made films with the character, it was in Demme’s where he (as well as the other characters) seemed the most human (especially Hannibal… in the most twisted manner, of course). Naturally, that’s also a result of great actors doing their thing. But you can watch much of Demme’s work and see moments where you’re being addressed by a character as if you’re in the same space they inhabit. In addition to movies and TV work, Demme also directed a number of music documentaries about Neil Young that are worth tracking down. In terms of his other music video work, this New Order classic still gives me a charge after all these years, so I’m sharing it for those that may have never seen it:

(Thanks, Rhino!)
 

Back in a bit – this sort of post is a bit draining to write, but it seems it’s going to be a thing as time passes.

-GW