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The Moaning of Life: Death (2013)
Karl With Madame Comfort; Karl Comfortable With Death?
Karl meanders through Africa and Asia, visiting in on funerals, grave-sites, cemeteries and mausoleums. How do these different cultures deal with and treat the dead? And how will Karl reflect on their rites and ceremonies? Karl's primary 'moan' in this episode is that the dead are taking up precious land - land that the living could be making good use of. From this point, we see Karl get his hands dirty with the deceased almost immediately. He tends to the preparation of a one-month long deceased Ghana woman; making her up, maneuvering the corpse to new positions, and presenting her to the mourners in a life-like pose. This latter part, Karl notes, is like moving a mattress.
He visits Taiwan (where false mourners are employed to shriek down the funeral hall), then the Philippines (where the living reside alongside the dead in close quarters). Here, Karl is particularly impressed, for those living among the colorful graves and sepulchers make use of the mausoleums as pseudo-homes. The stone and marble structures are put to real-world use, addressing Karl's initial gripe with the departed. Or at least beating out some sort of compromise. In this cemetery, Karl attends an exhumation. The five year long buried woman is dug with no ceremony or pause, sorted into clumps and shoveled into a single plastic bag.
Karl then assists villagers with the construction of a coffin, and the subsequent trawl of this heavy box through a jungle track. We now find that this sub-culture places coffins upon a cliff-face. Hauled up by hand, kept 'closer to god' and most strikingly, out of the reach of wild dogs, these coffins stick to the cliff-side like bizarre, wild furniture. The height here worries Karl, for he notes that he gets dizzy hanging curtains.
Finally, Karl returns to England, and proudly displays a custom-made coffin ordered earlier in the episode. There is a twisted gravity to the unveiling of this confectionery-themed coffin, and when Karl lays within the narrow container it is equal parts absurd and sobering.
Finally, Karl presents a memorial to the Ghana woman from the same episode. It is a weird take on the memorials seen upon park furniture ("This bench is dedicated to so-and-so"), and we close the loop on this death-inspired sojourn. There's more meaning here than you might expect, and Karl has a fractured take on the memory of the dead, yet it is considered and thoughtful in its way.
A Fat Fairy And A Fly Fisherman
Ren's bout of sociopathic behavior manifests itself in a run of prank calls and practical jokes. His anti-social actions need curbing, and so we are introduced to Jiminy Lummox. This guardian over Ren's actions is a play on Jiminy Cricket (duh), but instead of the cute, green insect companion, we are shown a massive, floating, dim-witted ukulele-playing goon.
Ren must control his temper, or the violent consequences will become suddenly apparent. This episode makes a few good gags (the bizarre advice the lummox gives after each whack), but there isn't much development with the idea, and the animation has looked better on the reaction shots of Ren, I must note. But, have yo9u ever wanted to see how an oven-ready chicken would react to a joke call? This episode can probably help you.
Bass Masters sees Ren as a master fly-fisherman, with Stimpy as his frustratingly (to Ren) talented assistant. The real stars of this episode are the fish themselves. They aren't mindless drones to be plucked from the water at leisure, they are talkative and curious. Watch as they snack on chum and cracker-jacks, and as they join Stimpy for a rub-down.
Wilbur Cobb joins the pair after an unexplained jail-break. As to why he is featured in this episode I have not yet determined, but he's harmless enough, and his inane rants are strangely absent(?). In the end, this episode gives a few good laughs (the traveling salesman bass is great) but the direction of the plot is lost once they hit the water. Fishing becomes secondary, and pleasing the local head fish seems to be the sudden priority. Role reversal (the hunter becomes the hunted) finishes off this aquatic animation pretty neatly too.
Fat Fauna Fight for Female Fancy
The real star of this episode is the phenomenal character drawing of the lummoxs - the massive, squat, neck-less land-monsters. These characters are representative of the stupid oafs and ignorant morons that have been the friend of cartoonists and comic artists since the dawn of illustration.
Studied as another piece of fauna in Ren's 'Untamed World' series, he and his stupid assistant observe the rituals and behaviors from behind camouflage, providing commentary on the joyfully animated proceedings of these hairy, smelly and idiotic lummoxs. They pick their nose, play with their gut, and beat their chests like when in their mammalian rituals, all while the two presenters get ever so closer to interact with the rare and usually shy beasts.
As we watch, two lummoxs compete for the attention of a female (a grotesque, hook-nosed whale) in typically bizarre fashion (it involves their soiled, Y-front underpants); this is the climax of the episode, and it has the best laughs. Again, the animation and background art (reportedly recycled from a previous episode) are top-notch.
In John K.'s unmissable style, we are also treated to another fractured take on 50's-era advertisement. This time it's the melding of an unlikely mascot and an unlikely product: 'Chalky Cheesfist'. This cute little guy saves the inevitable dinner party by supply cheese from his enormous, chalky fist (made of said cheese, of course). This mini-episode is brilliantly designed and animated - I can't help but think that this character had enough charm to make it into regular rotation. But it was never to be - for by the first time we saw this character, John K. had already been excused from the proceedings.
Mouldy Cheese? Check. Irritable Scotsman? Check.
If the title of this cartoon doesn't interest you, you might be in an induced coma. Magical Singing Golden Cheeses are just as they are described, and it is Stimpy's job to attain them for the starving pair, (called Stimpington and Renwaldo in this episode). Originally intended as one of the few 'Stimpy's Storybook Land' episodes, this medieval tale is pretty bizarre; featuring a sado/masochistic village idiot (just how Stimpy 'outwits' him is a great sequence), a slumbering, subterranean giant, and some decaying, transforming(stinky) cheese. The gross humor (watch Stimpy ram a crow bar under a toe nail the size of a dinner plate) and ironic fairy-tale ending make this episode memorable and pretty special.
'A Hard Day's Luck' features (to the best of my knowledge) the secondary character of Haggis McHaggis. This maniacal, neck-less and miniature Scotsman has a temper that makes Ren look like Ghandi, and it is a true test of his fuse's length when he discovers a leprechaun ready to grant his wish. Irritated in concert by the leprechaun and his dribbling, lumbering manservant, McHaggis finds his emotional scale zips from 0 to 10 in milliseconds, only noticing his failings when it's too late. This episode features some excellent sight gags and reactions from McHaggis (his swollen, reddened, twitching eyeball is hilarious) as well as some great voice-acting.
Frontline: Kill/Capture (2011)
A Question of 'Intelligence'.
This documentary picks up directly after the death of Usama bin Laden, and puts that successful operation in the context of the Afghanistan conflict as a whole. Here, we are introduced to a program initiated by the US forces: the Kill/Capture program. The question is posed, and is examined fairly evenly: will this program play a decisive part in ending the Afghan conflict? We are told that with this initiative, there have been more than 12,000 militants captured (or killed). Targeted in these night raids are Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, and with this program's success, we are told that mid-level commanders in the Taliban now make up the majority of targets; so extensive are the Kill/Capture operations that night raids have condescended to taking out these lower-level insurgents.
Frontline takes us to the Khost province, at this time thought to hold a moderate count of bunkered or hidden insurgents. Embedded in a US Marine unit, the journalist shows the effects of a day-time raid gone wrong; the address was incorrect! Here, a tribal leader supportive of the Government (as far as we know) is subjected to a search of his compound regardless. Now the documentary changes its course as we are taken on a critical inspection of the US Intelligence machine.
Third-party journalists (The New Yorker) and Pentagon advisers provide some insight to the US stratagem; mostly they are critical and convincing, but they give no clear alternative anyway. Sure, the current policy employed by Petreaus / McChrsytal may be imperfect, but we're never shown where their errors were, if any. Here, the film is annoyingly silent on alternatives.
These JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) operations undertaken to 'keep the Taliban on the run' are revealed as effective in the short term, but potentially at odds with the overall US strategy and therefore the Afghan peoples' interests. By creating an atmosphere of aggression and suspicion, the worry is that the population will sympathize with the Taliban. This questionable reasoning is reinforced when we are shown defectors and threatening language from some disillusioned villagers.
The films most confronting moments are with the journalist's interviews with current Taliban commanders. These figures come across as true absolutists, fanatics and worst of all, ruthless. The threatening language they use ("Jihad cannot be stopped", "We will attack US citizens in other nations" etc.) is textbook Jihadist 101, and is subject to the law of diminishing returns, not to mention exposing the Taliban philosophy as a truly one-dimensional cause. This twenty-year-old commander seems to be reciting these tag-lines by rote, and I can't help but ask "what else was he ever going to say anyway?" The most astounding figure thrown at the viewer is the embarrassing count of voters at a recent regional election, (we're never told for whom the election was for). A paltry 3 citizens voted out of a population of 100 000 or more. This number displays just how disconnected the strategy can be at its worst. But it is never said if this election would have been even offered had the region been under Taliban rule to begin with
Nights: Journey of Dreams (2007)
Do You Dream in Colour?
Beautifully rendered cut-scenes welcome players to this game. Through them, we are introduced to a modern London-type city as well as the two protagonists of the game: a boy named Will, and a girl named Helen. They are both symbols of innocence, yet each has their own personal problems with which to deal with. Will has a major (and unhealthy?) attachment to his father, while Helen has a conflict between spending time with friends or her violinist mother. There is an attempt to weave these personal conflicts into the story and game-play, and we are taken on a journey the long-way-'round to resolve them. Does it sound odd? Well wait, it gets stranger still.
Disappointingly, a silly and decidedly poorly rendered owl character is the voice of reason in this title. He greats your selected character and attempts to give you a run-down on the dream-world in which you have found yourself, (even though his knowledge is far from complete). I am always let-down when these sorts of characters are used because they too are a convention, all the way down to the silly round glasses and dry, pompous English characterisation. I wonder what a bumbling, foolish and reckless owl character would come across like! Besides, after playing quality titles such as Super Mario Galaxy, you notice how inexpertly this owl has been constructed. But enough about the damn bird Once you've become NiGHTS, you can fly about the place by either aiming with the Wii remote on-screen, or by using the stick on the nunchuk controller. Most people seem to prefer the latter method due to the non-responsiveness of the former, (this seems to be the current trend for Wii titles!). It is shown side-on and it is the player's job to line it up with the inexhaustible supply of "rings" and "blue chips" that are thrown at you. Flying thorough and collecting these things quickly allows you to gain combo scores or "links" as they're called in this game. And that's about the size of the game-play you are either flying cleverly, speedily or accurately in order to fulfill whatever goal it is that they've given you at the moment. Once this goal is met, you are given grading this is on a scale between an E, (the lowest) to an A, (the highest). This gives the game some replay value, and also a kind of grading reminiscent of school reports marked by an authoritative teacher.
The difference in quality between the cut-scenes and the in-game presentation is vast. The cut-scenes are some of the best I've seen in terms of their fluidity, colour and movement. The in-game graphics are really unmemorable with disturbing amounts of bright colours and unclear scale and perspective. Sure, you're not required to perform anything too tricky when playing as NiGHTS, but it seems unfair when you come to a complete stop before you're even given a chance to react. Luckily, it achieves its high speed fairly quickly, and most interruptions can be overcome reasonably. We visit forests, ruins, cities, a Broadway district and others, but you're always doing similar things it seems. Sure, you have a few sojourns as a white-water raft (don't ask) or as Will or Helen themselves, but it somehow feels like it's missing something to me as if the level design wants you to rush past in case you notice that the world itself is a sham.
NiGHTS: Journey Into Dreams requires players to defeat bosses throughout the adventure as well. These things are (again) very unusual characterisations, and are usually brought down with a particular technique that NiGHTS allows. They range from magical chameleons to strange stems bearing evil cat-heads. NiGHTS is fairly defenseless, yet it still manages to take these guys down with the "paraloop" technique (a loop-to-loop), or a strange method where it grabs with both hands and then boosts into whatever it may be you're holding. I suppose the bosses themselves are imaginative, but they really just appear at the end of a line of missions, as if the developers themselves had given up on giving them context or meaning. Where did they come from, why are they here now, what do they want? Much of this title is inexplicable.
About halfway through this title that sense of "I've seen this before" occurred to me. I then realised that this game is the Peter Pan story/myth in disguise (in this case it's louder clothing). We have a mystical, youthful character with the ability to fly who captures the hearts and hopes of neglected children. NiGHTS gives them hope, responsibility and self-esteem in order to resolve their personal problems. It is a rite-of-passage story, decorated with magical décor in order to charm and enchant its protagonists.
But apart from that, it is only a so-so experience for a gamer. Sure, it can be satisfying linking up all of those rings and chips, but I couldn't help but feel that it was a little pointless, and I found NiGHTS the character fairly shallow and one-dimensional. I expected her to be more mischievous and reckless, rather than the clean-cut responsible figure it turned out to be. The bright pink jester outfit with a twist is a misrepresentation I think NiGHTS should be dressed like a school-teacher or librarian!
Gory Gun Game Gives Grief
House of the Dead: Overkill attempts to continue the tradition of SEGA's gory gun games. Typically, players take on the role of a plainclothes agent in an attempt to stop the mega-lo-maniac intentions of a global corporations CEO. But what makes this title the bastard-child in the series is that unlike every other House' title, there was no arcade machine released to build an audience. A small consolation may be that previously featured on the Wii were the 'classic' House' games numbers 2 and 3. Released on a single disc with various adjustments, this title had already found a natural home and a somewhat successful reception. Could 'Overkill add to the series constructively, or was it an unnecessary addition to the now decade old (or more) canon? With its speckled and dust-scratched appearance and muddy, warbled audio, 'Overkill in its entirety is a complete homage to B or even C grade 'Grindhouse' films of the seventies and eighties. This has a refreshing and kitsch flavour, and shows that the developer has put some thought into making the title unique where possible. The choice of stylisation gives the game an identity, and artistically it conveys the dirty, underground world of shock cinema well. Obviously, this feature of the game is purely aesthetic, and it's apparent pretty quickly that although the detail is there, it has absolutely no direct effect on the game play itself. In essence, the 'Grindhouse' flavour is really just a skin to a horror-themed light-gun game.
The filmic flavour extends to the presentation of the games levels, as each chapter is presented as a possible movie in itself: "Papa's Palace of Pain" (clever alliteration and the only 'house' level in the game), "Ballistic Trauma" (a goofy mix of mutants, firepower and a hospital. Here, the reference to Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" is more than subtle). The given scenarios range well, and we're given trains, carnivals, prisons and other video game staples, yet unlike every other entry in the House of the Dead series, the range of enemies in the game is stunningly limited. Mutants (not Zombies, as the game itself stresses through its voice-over dialogue) are overwhelming the most common of enemies. These are represented by a handful of character models and are re-used throughout the entire game. Granted, they are fairly well modelled, but I can't help but think how much more interesting things may have been with some more location-specific mutant creatures.
Unlike other titles in the House of the Dead series, 'Overkill asks little of the players' dexterity. Enemy after enemy stagger towards the player from the centre of the screen while this may be more realistic behaviour, it makes little challenge for the player. Ninety percent of enemies are shot at close-to-mid range, and their behaviours vary little. Occasionally, one or two of them get creative and (gasp!) throw a bottle or knife, but these are easily dismissed with a single shot. In other words, the game has a limited variety of action. I find this baffling, as the game is 'on-rails' (no free-movement), and so particular creativity and care is required to hold interest in what could otherwise be classified as a very repetitive game play premise: (aim, shoot, reload ad infinitum). Titles such as Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles and even the House of the Dead release mentioned earlier make efforts to challenge aiming, speed, pattern recognition, timing. 'Overkill only grazes past these concepts, rather going for a higher-body count and bigger calibres together. This approach is fine for the short-term, but modern gamers often require more than this.
There's talk of 'Overkill having issues with its frame-rate and responsiveness. I want to confirm that these problems certainly do exist. Again, I find this baffling, and can only chalk it up to lack of experience on part of the development team. Of course, it does not ruin the experience, but it certainly undermines it, especially when much simpler and less ambitious titles have perfected frame rate issues. Hell, even a launch title "Rayman Raving Rabbids" had smooth and responsive on-rails first-person-shooter sections. I'm not sure what could have caused this stuttering effect that the game suffers from, but it certainly harms the experience.
Musically, the title is both varied and confusing. A lot of effort has gone into providing a soundtrack to the experience, and for the most part it is suitable. Other times, you find yourself distracted, as if the developers wanted you to feel simultaneously frightened and amused a near impossibility. Killing mutants in grotesque, half-dark environments could be scary, but doing it to an absurd funk song is confusing. It elevates the experience almost to a parody and seems to land the game somewhere between a nerve-wracking scare-fest and a silly shooting gallery mini-game. Audio effects are good for the most part, with loud shot-gun blasts and mutant screams. Strangely, the voice-overs from the two protagonists are mixed unevenly. Washington (the detective based lazily on characters such as Shaft and Jules Winnfield) spouts his garbage loudly and clearly, whereas Agent G's conversed rational and sensible comments are often mixed under the music, resulting in a poor, mumbled reproduction. On another note, it is never explained why these two are put together, and even more ludicrously, it is never shown or explained which of these two men you play as! I find particularly irritating for some reason.
I could go on about the games goofy monetary and reward system, it's depressingly easy level bosses, and it's amazingly shallow mini-game set, but I don't think it's that necessary. For those looking for a major body harvest, this is the game for you. Just be warned that the kills are inversely proportion to the games variety and replay ability.
The Crystal Method
We control Layle, a young all-American type teenager with telekinesis powers provided to him by crystal power. What is crystal power? It's something that crystal bearers (which there are several of in the game) have within them. It is an innate power that varies from character to character some can shoot fire, some can crystallize people and objects and so on. Layle's power is quite modest, and by the end of the game we will surely have mastered his limited move set (if the Wii control allows that). The action is real-time, so the 'Final Fantasy' of the title is at best a misleading, at worst a grab at an established name. I suppose the subtitle and sub-subtitle are the qualifiers here, and are surely intended to make a clear distinction from the main series (although why the 'Final Fantasy' lettering outweighs the others is not hard to ascertain).
This title has more in common with Zelda: Twilight Princess than any Final Fantasy title this player has experienced, and although on the surface it may seem like a cheaper, less sophisticated homage, it is soon apparent that the game adds its own flavours and ideas - for better or worse. Although the cut-scenes use the in-game graphical engine (with an applied filter I'm guessing) and seem a little underwhelming, it is the in-game graphics that are the true peak of the artistic merit in this game. Throughout the kingdom we visit many varied, colourful, imaginative and memorable areas. I call them areas because they rarely span beyond the visible horizon, but they are remarkable nonetheless. This is the second game that I have deliberately stopped to admire the scenery more than once (the other title being 'Okami'), and it is no accident that the developers included an in-game screenshot tool. I'm yet to import then into a PC, but I must add that these 'shots look strangely blurred (over compressed?) when viewed in the Photo Channel.
Aside from Layle's lack of flexibility in his attacks, the single method that he does have is pretty satisfying to use. Battles are all set-pieces in that groups of monsters appear in designated areas all at once, signified by an ominous and sudden audible countdown. There's no free roaming baddies whatsoever, and if you want to 'grind' your character for Gil (currency) or items (used for forging accessories) you'll need to find one of these areas and complete it within a given time limit. There may be ten or fifteen goons to dispatch and they're sometimes spread out across a pretty large area. Luckily, the only navigational tool the game provides (a small, on screen radar) is useful for tracking down the straggling foes. The game offers variation in how you defeat enemies by allowing Layle to pick up various items strewn about the battlefield and launching them at enemies. What will a jar of water do to a half-man/half-cactus creature, what will a jar of oil do to a floating, flaming eyeball, and so on? After any of these clumsy battles, it's then a matter of closing the game's portals called 'miasma streams', which are long, thin vertically aligned mini tornado-type deals. Yes, the game is pretty odd.
This game continues the tradition of Final Fantasy's high standard of musical material the soundtrack in this game is excellently composed and memorable. There have been criticisms that the musical styles do not suit the in-game content (for example, battle music that kicks in some of the areas resembles country n' western rodeo music. As strange as this is at first, the rollicking, slapstick mood it provides is something to remember). Other areas such as the intricately detailed coastal area, encrusted with brightly-coloured shells and corals, are accompanied by a Caribbean style steel drum motif that gives Layle's costume change of shorts and flip-flops a real beach holiday feel that even the most weathered of city-dwellers can't help but feel envious of. On the whole, the soundtrack gives each area an identity that is both complimentary and listenable.
For those looking for a simplified Final Fantasy experience, I can think of no better alternative. Fans of Zelda may find something here also, but do not expect tricky problem solving or multi-levelled, hostile dungeons. Layle's problem solving skills are not yet up to Link's (although his 'hookshot' skills seem to be). Layle cannot level up all that much either, with his base stats being reliant on the equipping of up to three accessory items. Each bit of equipment needs to be fused together with items that can be laughably easy or mind-shatteringly difficult to obtain.
Colourful, bright, surprising and simple are the main gifts this game provides; while getting lost, getting confused and cringing at voice-work are some of the lumps of coal it heaps onto your lap. This player though, admits that after completing the entire game for the first time, held no hesitations in restarting the quest from the beginning. The feeling was that there were still areas, items and 'reactions' (battle achievements) to uncover. As well as some stray miasma streams to seal up. I'm sure they're out there somewhere, but can I get past those detracting elements mentioned above to bother finding them? We'll have to see...
Disaster: Day of Crisis (2008)
This game is ambitious in that it attempts to tie together many different video game styles. Typically, this turns out to be a problem. You often find that when this idea is put in to practice, rather than the sum of the parts making something great, you normally get many average additions that total to mediocrity at best - as if all the ingredients must be watered-down Thankfully, "D: DoC" mostly avoids this phenomenon. It manages to do this by putting an attention to detail on the controls and tasks presented to you that give both reason and context. Further to this, the control schemes (and there are quite a few) are successfully put together and (for the most part), avoid that feeling that they're there out of obligation.
As Raymond, it's not long before you're asked to perform some unusual commands. Sure, the old alternating shake up-and-down in order to sprint with both controllers isn't new, (in fact the launch title Rayman Raving Rabbids was the first to abuse this), but there are some other unique and admittedly clever Wii motions that I thought actually added to the game. When you discover an NPC in need of rescuing or reviving from the many natural disasters this game throws at you, you're asked to perform CPR (jolt the remote downwards in time to an ECG display), reach across chasms to link hands with stranded citizens (time a long arc with the remote perfectly) or lift rubble and debris from trapped people (fill a bar by tapping A, then lift with both controllers in time). On paper, controls never seem that exciting (just take a look at a graphic of some of the combos in the Tekken series for example!) but this game makes use of them nicely because you are constantly asked to perform something new, and you're never sure when you approach something just what you'll need to pull-off. And, unlike some other titles that make use of flamboyant air-waving controls, this game doesn't make you do things that feel redundant. And any annoyingly large movements you make are never for very long.
One thing that I really like about this game is when you come up against some armed enemies. This is where things really get exciting. You turn a corner, or jump out of your car or something similar, and suddenly the screen streaks excitedly and you're thrown into Ghost Squad or Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles type action. The reticule is the pointer, and the Z button makes Raymond duck into cover. Cunningly, the C button concentrates the aim and power of the gun to enable devastating head-shots or accurate "trick shots". Gun nuts shouldn't be disappointed as there is a respectable enough choice of weapons and upgrades. Pistols, Shotguns, Assault-rifles, Bow-casters and Rocket Launchers are the main firearms available. And, as you'd expect, some are better for close, mid and long-range attacks. Interestingly enough, the gun firing sound effects are routed through the remote speaker. The scratchy sound of this speaker has a mixed effect: sure, the virtual trigger you pull has a nearby and realistic location for its gunshots, but the tiny speaker gives them the sound of a toy! The speaker does get taken advantage of when news bulletins from the radio are piped out of it. The AM-band noise and bad reception actually makes the thing sound like a portable radio for a minute or two.
Raymond, a true multi-talent, jumps behind the wheel of a car more than a couple of times. This is usually to escape some sort of impending doom (which I won't spoil), however there are some chase scenarios. Control of the vehicle is like Excite Truck: hold the remote flat and tip and end up or down to turn left or right. These brief sojourns in the vehicle again, are pretty refreshing, but they do lack any depth to the game play, and are usually just a matter of steering sensibly and keeping out of the way of some monster pot-holes. Even though these parts are a little bland, I must admit the controls themselves are sufficient.
The interesting thing this game offers is in its onslaught of different emergency situations. Volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods and hurricanes are all guest-stars in the game it's a meteorologists wet dream. The events themselves feel realistic and genuinely threatening the time frame in which they occur is ridiculous, but it is a game after all. My personal favourite was a volcanic eruption. This featured river-like lava streams, eerie falling ash and poison gas and a lahar (landslide/mudflow). Raymond is faced with these things relentlessly. Its fun, and you do feel like you survived just by the skin of your teeth.
There aren't many games out there that "D: DoC" can be compared to. That's not because of its exceptional quality, graphics or any other single component. It's because most developers seem to avoid the mixing-up of genres to this extent as if the individual styles are somehow diluted when combined, and can result in the best of nothing and the average of everything. But I think "D: DoC" walked this line quite well, and in the end I believe most players with an open mind will be happy with what it achieves.
Not Quite What I THORt
'Thor' makes an excellent start as pseudo-historical action adventure, but its misguided focus on redundant elements within the script mean that the film falls short of the promise it makes early on. We begin at Asgard: it is portrayed artistically, magically, and convincingly - a golden, sacred, Romanesque kingdom ruled by the father-figure of the film: Odin.
Sir A. Hopkins plays this character spot-on; he expresses wrath, pathos and vulnerability interchangeably. Under-used throughout the script, he is given only a moderate chance to flex his divine will and power, and he is put away fairly annoyingly to make way for the less convincing and single-sided character of Loki (portrayed unevenly by T. Hiddleston).
Like all modern comic-to-film adventures, the fish-out-of-water mechanism is employed in what seems to be an ever shortening delay from the film's outset. Read: Thor is banished to Earth. Here he we see a cast of supporting players (N. Portman et al) who give Thor the vast majority of his admittedly explanatory dialog. There are a few tries at comic relief here (just how *would* a man-god react to a modern hospital, restaurant and so on...?), but they are fleeting.
Action sequences are just as sparse, and even more baffling is that they are really rather small-scale. Lack of scope is what the film suffers from - and what seemed like the beginning of the end sequence was revealed to be *the* end sequence. Choreography is mixed too; there are some satisfying big hits, but they have to make their way through scrambling, scuffling brawls. Thor's most interesting enemy is dispatched late in the film, but this sequence seems to have arrived too late to have any sway on the plot for this viewer.
3D effects are well executed, and the typical cheap shots of pointy things for the sake of pointy things is tastefully avoided. When it *does* happen, it is with purpose and sound timing. Visuals are smartly married to excellent sound design, the technical aspects are what carry this film through its slumbering second-reel.
Cinematography is victim to repeated tilting of the frame. There is hardly a square shot in the film, and all mid-to-close shots are tilted up to 45-degrees or less. Even establishing shots are annoyingly angled, disfiguring the space of the sets and disorientating the viewer from the physicality of the character movements and local spaces of scenes.
Performances are apt all round - it is a testament to the performers to see them break through some of the stilted characterizations. Thor himself is well played, though most of the performance is carried by physical presence, not emotive expression or dialog. His goofy costume is accurate but plasticy, his comrades literally look like sci-fi convention-goers. I exaggerate not.
The film is worthwhile overall, but suffers from a small-minded script. At least Odin, blessed with divine knowledge, managed to take a nap through the dullest areas of the film. For this, I envied the Gods.