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Electric Dreams (1984)
Lighthearted '80s fun with solid lead performances
'Electric Dreams' isn't the sort of film I'd usually watch, but I was drawn to it for a few reasons. The first was Lenny von Dohlen - I'd only known him as Harold from 'Twin Peaks', and thought he was a peculiar choice for a lead role. The second was Virginia Madsen; I'm not too familiar with much of her work, but I watched 'Candyman' a few months ago and thought she was a brilliant actress. Neither of these two performers disappoint in 'Electric Dreams'.
The writing is a little hit-and-miss, especially when the computer begins to acquire a personality. It isn't as detrimental as it could have been, though, due to the film's lightheartedness.
This was director Steve Barron's first feature project and the only film he directed in the '80s - he spent most of the decade directing music videos for the likes of Bryan Adams, A-ha and even Michael Jackson. The director's background will make a lot of sense when you watch 'Electric Dreams' -- if you're expecting something quite cerebral like Spike Jonze's 'Her', you'll be disappointed.
'Bright' should have taken some pointers from its title and lightened up a little. How seriously are we expected to take a film which features orc gangsters, elves using iPhones and a fight between Will Smith and a fairy? *Very* seriously, it seems. Smith is given a few lines that are reminiscent of Alonzo from 'Training Day', but apart from these brief pauses from gloom the film is entirely devoid of humour.
The world-building is far too superficial. There are even references to 'Shrek' in this film. Sometimes allusions to pop culture and the real world work in fantasy (e.g. in Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' books and Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' series), but it's a total misfire here. The world of 'Bright' seems to be a carbon copy of our own world, and we're just expected to accept the fact that it happens to feature elves, orcs, magic and the like.
The specifics of the film aren't as bad as its premise: the performances are fairly decent (Edgerton does what he can but is heavily restricted by his character), the soundtrack is forgettable but passable, and the visuals are occasionally impressive.
I can't recommend 'Bright' to anyone in sincerity - the world-building is comparable to something a 13-year-old would produce for a creative-writing project. I was drawn to this film after asking myself the question of how director David Ayer and writer Max Landis make a premise like this work... the answer: they don't.
Some problems in the presentation but overall a solid Disney film
The qualities of Disney films that most people like are sustained in 'Moana' and generally presented with great skill and wit. Auli'i Cravalho handles her debut role excellently, and Dwayne Johnson makes a much better voice actor than I expected. The setting of 'Moana' is fresh and seems to be arranged with integrity and a genuine interest. My only substantial complaint about this film is that the distribution of songs seems somewhat inconsistent, dominating the first half to the extent that the narrative isn't as easily followed as it should be; the world of 'Moana' is harder to break into than those of 'Frozen' and the other recent, memorable Disney films, and so the directors probably should have taken a little more time to explain it to the audience before we hear half a dozen songs. The good in 'Moana' definitely outweighs the bad, though, and my 7/10 rating *almost* became an 8/10.
To Paris with Love (1955)
It's no 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' -- far from it!
Alec Guinness starred in an impressive number of very good comedies in the 1950s, and most of these are now sadly quite obscure. The obscurity of Robert Hamer's 'To Paris with Love' *isn't* such a tragedy, however. There are one or two genuinely funny lines in this film, but the laughs are far too infrequent to justify watching it, even in light of its rather forgiving 78 minute runtime. The performances are not too bad and Guinness's is predictably solid, but when the film's problems are situated in the writing and directing even a legion of A-listers would probably fail to elevate it out of mediocrity. To the fans of 'Kind Hearts and Coronets' who've found their way to this later pairing of Hamer and Guinness: don't get your hopes up.
Doctor Strange (2016)
The story is run-of-the-mill but the visuals are first-class
Scott Derrickson's 'Doctor Strange' plays it safe most of the time by adhering to the familiar comic-book movie format (origin story, followed by training, followed by a battle with the villain). But as the saying goes: if it isn't broken, don't fix it. While the narrative side of 'Doctor Strange' doesn't offer anything new, the visuals are pretty exceptional in at least a few segments. Marvel have been outperforming their rivals for at least the last few years when it comes to cinematography and design, but in this film I'd argue that the visuals surpass even other recent films from the same studio such as 'Deadpool' and 'Captain America: Civil War'. If aesthetics rank highly on your list of qualities to look for in a film, look no further.
Injustice: Gods Among Us (2013)
The favourable opinion of a non-fan
I've never been a big D.C. (or Marvel for that matter) fan, and I've played fewer fighting games than almost any other genre. In other words, I'm not the target audience for this game. Yet I really enjoyed every moment of 'Injustice: Gods Among Us'. I don't know what die- hard fighting fans will make of it; maybe it's too accessible for some of them, but as a relatively casual player I can't think of much to criticise. I *do* wish that Batman's playstyle was a little smoother -- playing him seems a little trickier than the rest of the characters. The story is surprisingly good - the fighting fits within the narrative rather than the other way around, and this is probably why it was such a success. The sequence of events feels natural, and not just an excuse to line up the next opponent. Many of the story fights actually add to the plot in some sense, and so the player is always left with an impression of progress which runs much deeper than just beating the current level. I bought this game in the sales but would in retrospect happily pay full price -- the amount of content is *very* impressive. There are enough unique challenges to not only acquaint you with all the characters, moves and settings, but to also fill dozens if not hundreds of hours. (The fact that I haven't logged many more hours on this is largely due to the fact that I'm not very good with fighting games and just *know* that I won't get very far with the additional content.) This game, in brief, is definitely worth your money and time
An unconventional approach to horror which mostly works
In this game, you play the title character, a young boy called Lucius who happens to be the son of the devil. This is quite a departure from most other horror titles, and the effect it creates means that 'Lucius' isn't really a horror game at all, as you're implicit in the planning of all the atrocities committed throughout the story. The fact that it probably won't scare you doesn't mean that you will find it unenjoyable, though. 'Lucius' takes the form of a puzzle game, and a few action sequences are spread throughout the title; bear in mind, though, that the action isn't sufficiently frequent to appeal to someone who dislike puzzles and strategy. If you choose not to rely on walkthroughs (which, I admit, I did on a handful of occasions), you'll be spending a considerable amount of time riffling through drawers, shelves, rooms and cellars, looking for the various objects necessary for the completion of your mission. Your mission, invariably, is to eliminate the multitude of inhabitants and employees of Dante Manor. As you have the physical capabilities of a normal eight-year-old boy, you won't be relying on machetes, sledgehammers or firearms for your kills; instead, you have to use your environment. This complements the puzzle-based nature of the game, as, on occasion, the main challenge of your mission seems to be knowing just which weapon you should use. If you've seen 'The Omen', you've undoubtedly already drawn a handful of parallels between this game and the film. Whilst the acting talents of performers like Gregory Peck and Mia Farrow are sadly unreplicated in this uncannily similar game, you'll surely find enough interaction - whether object- or person-based - to immerse yourself in the world of Lucius and Dante Manor.
Two Worlds (2007)
A tepid contribution to the genre
Many reviewers are describing Two Worlds as 'so bad it's good', but to me that sounds like settling for mediocrity when there's a vast number of superior RPGs out there. (I wouldn't spend my time trying to justify Eragon if I could just watch Lord of the Rings!) This game really throws you in at the deep end without giving you a reason to swim. Barely an hour into the main story you find your map dotted with about half a dozen quest markers, each of which you need to visit in order to advance. You have three ways of getting around in Two Worlds: you can walk, you can ride a horse, or you can teleport. Walking from A to B is the tried-and-true method, of course, but you'll soon grow tired of being swarmed by monotonous waves of enemies every thirty seconds; and the types of opponent you encounter are about as uninteresting as those in any MMO starter area (big spiders, wolves, shirtless bandits, etc.). Horse-riding was marketed as one of the major selling points of this game, and the fact that one of the core skills you can invest in relates to mounted combat demonstrates how highly the developers value this aspect. The problem is that horse-riding really isn't worth the effort. Gamers familiar with Red Dead Redemption and The Witcher 3 will be accustomed to having a mount that is only a whistle away; don't expect any such convenience here. Secondly the horses really don't seem to take to the terrain in Two Worlds, and attempting even a slight hill will cause your mount to hit an invisible wall. The mechanics of horse-riding are horribly clunky, and the mounted combat isn't very enjoyable either. The teleports are probably your best option, but in order to use teleport sites you first have to travel to them -- by foot or horse, and so the above-listed problems really can't be avoided. Some reviewers seem to like the combat. It doesn't get much more complicated than click-click-click with the occasional use of a hotkey. The fighting animations are one of the better aspects of this game, I'll admit, and I found a fair amount of enjoyment in seeing how my character wielded and attacked using the various weapons on offer (which, again to this game's credit, are very numerous). I don't think anyone is going to be citing the plot as one of Two Worlds' must-try qualities, and amidst all the swarming and general tedium you'll probably have to refresh your memory of the story's events pretty quickly. The side quests are fairly average for an RPG; they neither make nor break the experience. The voice acting is simply horrible and the writing isn't much better. These aspects, if not the ones mentioned above, will almost certainly prevent you from appreciating the plot of Two Worlds. Overall, the bad outweighs the good in my opinion. If you've poured thousands of hours into dozens of great RPGs and really can't find anything else to add to your wishlist, you may salvage some fun from all the monotony and second-rate gameplay. If there are other RPGs out there that you're even mildly interested in, on the other hand, I'd strongly advise *against* making Two Worlds your next purchase
Death Note (2017)
Your appreciation of a classic series will suffer if you watch this.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined Napoleon Dynamite with Final Destination? Me neither, but I think I've found the answer. The first ten minutes of the new Death Note film tell us quite clearly who this film is aimed at. People who like teen dramas but are partial to a little gore may like Adam Wingard's adaptation. The rest of us won't. My hopes for the remaining eighty-or-so minutes were set rather low following a poor opening act, and my downgraded expectations – I'm disappointed to say – were completely justified.
The original Death Note had some great characters, but this latest film will probably sour your appreciation of them. What I had in mind when I pictured the Light role was a performance like Rami Malek's in Mr. Robot. Nat Wolff is probably good enough for Paper Towns and similar films, but the character of Light Yagami seems to demand someone of a higher calibre - an actor who's able to convey his character's complexity through expression and convincing delivery.
The blame for Light isn't Wolff's alone to bear; much of it belongs to the writers (the creative talents behind the latest Fantastic Four and the mercifully near-forgotten Immortals). In this film, Light is far too embracing of his overnight-demigod status. We don't see any of the inner moral struggles or self-questioning that really defined the character throughout the original story. The writers seem to acknowledge that there should be a dilemma, and in one blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment we hear Light tell his confidant: "I guess I should feel guilty but don't." That's it, really; from this point on Light is as ethically two-dimensional as the worst 80s' action villains.
Lakeith Stanfield's "L" is perhaps even more of a misfire than Wolff's Light. There's really no sincerity in L's lines, or in Stanfield's delivery of them. The actor seems to pay superficial homage to L with some of the character's recognisable mannerisms, but neither Stanfield nor the writers give us much of an indication of L's brilliance.
The third major performance in Wingard's Death Note belongs to Margaret Qualley who plays Mia, Light's girlfriend. Her character is arguably the most inexplicable and definitely the most unnecessary. Mia – as indicated by her name – seems to be Wingard's take on Misa Amane. The similarities don't extend much further than the forenames. The supporting characters generally do a passable job, but that's all. You may be questioning my failure to mention one of the main selling points of this film – Willem Dafoe's Ryuk. I've omitted it from my review up to now because there isn't much to say.
Fans of the original Death Note may be enticed by the first shots of a discarded apple core, but the iconic shinigami becomes quite a bore as the film progresses. Dafoe is a very good voice actor, but his talents aren't really put to the test here.
The rest of it - music, cinematography, editing and the other more technical aspects of the film - are neither good nor bad. Maybe that's quite a boast, as mediocre is as good as it gets in Wingard's Death Note. I can't honestly recommend this to anyone. It's an inferior product in every conceivable way.
127 Hours (2010)
How could a director like Danny Boyle hope to make a film about a man who spent five days with his arm trapped under a rock?
This is the question I asked myself when I first heard of '127 Hours', and I asked it again (this time with even greater bewilderment) when I saw how well-received it was. I had numerous opportunities to watch this film over the past six-to-seven years, but I could never convince myself that I'd enjoy it. Then, with little else to watch, I decided to give it a chance. My only regret is that I hadn't given it this chance back in 2010.
There are no surprises to '127 Hours' - no twists, narrative intricacies or other film-making favourites. The expression 'What you see it what you get' applies to this film more than almost any other. In spite of that (or *because* of that, perhaps), '127 Hours' is an exhilarating experience.
James Franco leads the film, joining a small but competent team of supporting actors. I was recently impressed by Franco's acting in the mini-series '11.22.63', but now consider '127 Hours' to be his greatest performance. He captures both the resilience and desperation of his role excellently, and I doubt that a lesser performer could have handled the lead in a film like this.
The visuals are by necessity rather simple, but there are one or two quite memorable scenes, largely due to the sharp camera-work. The editing in the opening and concluding scenes is also commendable.
I don't consider this to be the greatest Danny Boyle film, but it's certainly of an expected quality for those familiar with titles like 'Trainspotting'.
Virtually neck-and-neck with the original
'Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords' is the sequel to one of the best games of the 21st century. It had an awful lot to live up to, and I believe it did so surprisingly well.
Many of the companions are fun to interact with and bring along on your adventures. Players of the original 'KOTOR' will be pleased to find themselves reunited with more than one familiar face. One of the companions is simply awful, and barely deserves mentioning. The character I'm referring to is a droid-like drone, and you *won't* want him around for long. I have no further criticisms of the companion system, though; in fact, I'd say that a few of the player's sidekicks are outstanding. I'm chiefly thinking of Atton and Kreia - two characters you meet very early in the game - but it could be extended to several others.
The story is considerably more complex than the original game's. Some people will welcome this; others won't. I *did* welcome it, and found the network of plot twists and unforeseen developments to be fascinating. The RPG quality of the game also means that the twists may not occur on your playthrough, or that you may experience other developments that I haven't faced.
This game has two key antagonists - Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus. (This isn't really a spoiler as they're featured on most cover art!) I don't think that either of these two Sith Lords are quite as intimidating as the original game's Darth Malak, but the way in which they are written will really challenge your perception of the 'Star Wars' universe, especially where the Force is concerned.
The planets and other environments open to exploration are broadly as good as those in the first game, but I found it slightly disappointing that none of the worlds became quite as immersive or deep as Taris, the first planet the player experiences in the original 'KOTOR'. I view this rather negatively, but not all players will: some will welcome the lighter approach to the worlds of 'KOTOR II', as you can cover more ground in less time. My only other criticism of the landscapes of 'The Sith Lords' relates to Korriban. You may recall visiting this planet in the first game. I do, and I remember finding it considerably more interesting and enjoyable in that earlier game.
The side quests maintain the high quality set by the first game, you'll be pleased to hear. It should also be noted that there appear to be a greater number of them in this game, and many of them can be completed very quickly. They're absolutely worthwhile, though, as they often expand on the player's understanding of the various lands, characters and events experienced throughout the game.
Pazaak and swoop-racing both make a welcome return. Pazaak hasn't really changed a great deal (although I don't think NPC pazaak players are quite as easy to find), but the swoop tracks have been made significantly more challenging - and addictive! Overall, whilst 'KOTOR II' falls slightly behind the original game in certain areas, I believe that it actually surpasses it in others. The first one was a great game for RPG fans. The second one is a fantastic game for 'Star Wars' fans. It's definitely one of my greatest gaming experiences this year, and I have to recommend it to almost all gamers.
The Walking Dead: Say Yes (2017)
A weak narrative with a few worthwhile moments
I often read or hear criticism of 'The Walking Dead', especially its latest season. Some have said that the show has run its course; others have said that there are too many things going on compared to earlier seasons; others have criticised the 'character specials' like the one given to Tara a few months back. Compared to many fans, I'm quite forgiving of this seventh season. In fact, I think it's a good season. I don't think I can defend this latest episode an awful lot, though. It was decent, but the writers can do much better. My main complaint about this episode it isn't very effective from a narrative point of view.
There's a moment in the middle of the episode where we see a small crowd of walkers gather around Rick, and it looks like our protagonist's end has finally arrived. Michonne looks on, helpless and devastated, and we the audience have to share her anguish... Except, no one believed that. This kind of scene might have worked well in the series' early episodes, but were we really supposed to invest in the idea that Rick has been taken down by a handful of walkers in the middle of a fairground? (Also look out for the *awful* CGI deer in this scene!) The episode makes a second narrative insufficiency, a little later on. Rosita and Sasha join forces in a plan to assassinate Negan. In the final moments of 'Say Yes', we see Sasha wielding a sniper rifle. This doesn't make the intended impact for two reasons. Firstly: do we really believe that Sasha will be the one taking out Negan? Secondly: we've known for weeks that the Alexandrians are plotting revenge on a big scale, and so showing one of the characters holding a gun really isn't much of a game-changer.
You've probably noted that I've given this episode 6/10, which is a fairly favourable rating. That's because I didn't actually *dislike* 'Say Yes', but after what I consider to be a very good few weeks, it strikes me as something of an anti-climax. It wasn't all bad, though: the development of Rick and Michonne's relationship, whilst advanced a little superficially, feels rather important and perhaps forebodes some unfortunate but not unlikely tragedy. Rosita gets some well-needed attention in this episode, too.
Overall, it isn't the worst episode of the series; it's certainly better than the Tara special! It just doesn't feel essential: you could pretty much skip this episode if you ever decide to re-watch the show.
Doctor Who: Turn Left (2008)
Dark, brilliant and unmissable
When I first saw Catherine Tate playing the loud-mouthed bride in one of the Christmas specials, I have to say my expectations were low. I thought an actress known primarily for comedy would negatively affect the mood of 'Doctor Who', and not allow it to reach the intensity of earlier seasons I'm glad to say that I was proved wrong. Tate's Donna Noble has become arguably the most brilliant companion of the Doctor, and whilst this is largely due to great writing, the acting never disappoints. Catherine Tate's dramatic abilities are released on an unprecedented scale in 'Turn Left', as she is the focus of almost every scene in the episode. Beginning with a light-hearted encounter with a fortune teller, Donna Noble is taken on a terrifying journey which is developed around the question, 'What would have happened if the Doctor never met Donna?'. This may sound like a 'filler' episode, but I'd argue that it is one of the greatest episodes to date. A considerable number of familiar faces return in this episode; I won't say which as I'd be ruining the surprise. What I *can* say, though, is that the performances are all highly praiseworthy, including the one given by the hitherto underused Bernard Cribbins. Overall, I rank this episode very highly. It provides the context for the incredibly decisive final few episodes in this season, but satisfies wonderfully in its own right.
Doctor Who: Midnight (2008)
The modest appearance belies a fantastic episode
'Doctor Who' has taken us to distant planets, parallel timelines and the end of the world. It's a testament to the show-writers' creativity that one of its most exhilarating episodes takes place almost entirely in a single room the size of a train carriage. This episode, 'Midnight', begins with the Doctor and Donna parting ways on a well-deserved holiday. With his companion busily sunbathing, the Time Lord boards a large vehicle which at first seems like a plane but is in fact more like a train or RV, and gets to know his fellow passengers. It isn't long before trouble appears. Whilst the threat in this episode seems as real as any other, we're reminded in 'Midnight' that humanity can be more frightening than any of the Doctor's foes. This has been a recurring message since the show's revival in 2005, but I'd argue that it hasn't been captured so effectively since the Eccleston episode, 'Dalek'. It almost has a Hitchcockian quality - and I never expected that from 'Doctor Who'. Indeed, the unexpected is found in abundance in 'Midnight', and it is this quality which makes it an exhilarating experience.
Fallout 4 (2015)
Loses some of the series' RPG qualities but improves in other areas
I think we may have been holding 'Fallout 4' up to a rather harsh set of expectations. 'Fallout 3' was one of the best games of the decade, and 'New Vegas' was another excellent title. Unless Bethesda pulled off the best game of the year, there'd be a lot of criticism.
The introduction was great, and I'd place it leagues above the first scenes of 'Fallout: New Vegas'. Bethesda successfully place this game firmly within the context of a nuclear apocalypse, taking us closer to the initial devastation than ever before. It's also in the earliest moments of the game that you realise that your character can talk! Bethesda's long-awaited decision to give player characters a voice worked rather well, and I hope they expand on it in the future.
Whilst I have praise for certain character-related modifications made in this game, there are also some problems. It's very hard to play an evil character in 'Fallout 4'. As many people have pointed out, your choices tend to range from 'very kind' to 'reluctantly kind'. That didn't really inconvenience me as I tend to play do-gooders on my first playthrough, but I do find it disappointing that the range of moral choice available to players in the earlier games has been significantly reduced.
Bizarrely, as player choice is restricted where decision-making is concerned, it is expanded tremendously in another area: the workshop. For the first time, we are given the ability to expand a fairly vast number of settlements, giving you the choie to install security, add stores, build homes and - most importantly - attract settlers to populate them. One of the key factions, the Minutemen, also tie in with the settlements feature, as you'll often be called upon to defend them from a variety of Wasteland threats.
I quite liked the Minutemen and their quests, but I wasn't so keen on the Institute. They just don't look as authentic as the other factions we've met. A certain degree of sci-fi can be very fitting in an apocalyptic RPG, and I think the contrast of '50s culture and futuristic technology really gave the earlier 'Fallout' games their charm. Around half-way through this latest game, though, I felt that they went a little too far. Given the importance of the Institute, this detracted somewhat from my ability to enjoy the story, but I still acknowledge that it had some very good moments.
Do I think it's as good as 'Fallout 3'? No. Do I think it's a good game? Yes. I've logged well over 100 hours on it, so something must have worked!
The start of something great
I learned to love 'The Witcher', but it didn't come easily. It took me three or four attempts to advance past the first level, as I found it very hard to enjoy the combat. When I eventually convinced myself to stay and at least put in a few hours' work, I found that most of my earlier criticism washed away. It isn't as exhilarating as the combat in the second and third 'Witcher' games, but it presents its own strengths in offering a more strategic approach, turning boss battles into tests of ingenuity and wit rather than button-mashing.
When the story is good, it's very good. The quest(s) relating to King Foltest are particularly interesting, and there's arguably more intrigue in the first game's plot than in those of the later instalments. I'd argue that the primary villains aren't as well-written as later ones like Letho of Gulet ('Assassins of Kings') or Dettlaff ('Blood and Wine'); they seem a little too cartoonlike to ever become truly intimidating. Still, the good definitely outweighs the bad where storytelling and writing are concerned.
I played this before reading any of Andrzej Sapkowski's novels, but fans of the author will appreciate seeing some of Geralt's most memorable book scenes represented in the game. Unlike most game adaptations, though, there's a significant amount of choice offered to the player - and sometimes you can make a choice which directly contradicts the books. The developers, in this sense, have successfully combined the freedom of role-playing with the structure and solid narrative context of the novels; I don't think I've ever seen a feat like this replicated in another game.
'The Witcher' is a great RPG, and in a genre which tends to draw its inspiration from a select few contexts, this game really stands out as a unique work. Unlike many promising titles, 'The Witcher' was given the sequels it deserved.
Wiedzmin 2: Zabójcy królów (2011)
A first-rate, fast-paced adventure
Although 'The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings' happens to be my least favourite game in the trilogy, I still found it very enjoyable. It begins with a very exciting introduction, and the new combat system is well-explained in the opening quests. Also rather early in the game we meet the antagonist of 'Assassins of Kings'.
My favourite of all the 'Witcher' villains is from this second instalment: Letho of Gulet. Letho is a man of colossal proportions, and matches his incredible power with a sharp, cunning mind. Some of the other characters introduced in this game are also rather memorable, but none so much as Letho. The perfectly written villain is just one element of a very good story.
These days, we're all familiar with RPGs offering players a choice. We were also very familiar with this feature five years ago when this game released. Still, none of the games I've played have offered a choice quite as significant as one of the ones presented in this game, in which your selection will change at least 6-8 hours of gameplay.
I wish this game had been as open to explore as the other 'Witcher' games, and I think more investment in side quests could have been made. Still, play 'Assassins of Kings' and you'll be signing up for a first-rate fantasy adventure, full of highly entertaining battles and well-written, well-acted characters.
Don't be fooled by its modest appearance!
In 'Undertale' you play Frisk, an androgynous young human who has entered a world of bizarre creatures. Luckily for Frisk, the first of this alien landscape's inhabitants to be encountered is a very helpful goat who takes them into her home and provides them with food and shelter -- but not all encounters end in such hospitality.
From socially awkward aeroplanes to demonic flowers and pun-loving skeletons, your travels in 'Undertale' will acquaint you with a wide variety of eccentric characters, all of whom have different ideas about Frisk, the first human to enter their land in a long time. The plot may sound ludicrous, but I advise even rather serious sorts to give it a chance. As the story advances, you'll realise that you've grown surprisingly attached to (some of) the things that call the Underground home.
The game features a lot of fighting, typically performed by pressing a certain key at the right time and using the arrows to dodge enemy hits in a 'Space Invaders' style. You're also given the choice to spare the creatures you come across (even the bosses), which has huge narrative implications.
Creator Toby Fox's music in 'Undertale' rather simple but highly enjoyable, and certainly enlivens both the exploration and combat. I was pleasantly surprised at how appropriate the various tracks are, and how Toby Fox seemed to implement each one at just the right moment.
This is a very cleverly designed game, and its simple appearance belies its intricate narrative and excellent writing. An outstanding job.
Wiedzmin 3: Dziki Gon (2015)
The greatest gaming experience of my life
When I finish a game, I never start it again straight away, typically leaving at least a few weeks between playthroughs. Often I never even return to it. 'The Witcher 3' was the exception. As soon as I completed it, I launched it again on Death March (i.e. very hard) difficulty, and began my journey once again. Why did I break my habit of shelving a completed game? The answer: 'The Witcher 3' has *everything*.
In Geralt's third and probably final appearance as a game protagonist, we're taken on an unforgettable adventure. The basic premise of this game is actually very simple: find Ciri. Ciri is a friend of Geralt and the Kaer Morhen Witchers, and she is in grave danger when all the signs indicate that the Wild Hunt are attacking. Supporting this story, as you may expect in a fantasy RPG, is a huge number of side quests. What you may not expect, though, is just how good these can be!
Whilst the Wild Hunt and the myriad other antagonists certainly contribute to 'The Witcher 3' in a brilliant way, I believe that it's the people we get to know (and reunite with, in some cases) who really bring this fantasy to life. Several supporting characters, who would almost certainly receive rather superficial and unsympathetic treatment in a lesser RPG, are written and performed incredibly vividly and imaginatively. One such character is a man you'll meet relatively early in the game - the Bloody Baron.
This couldn't be done, of course, without strong writing. I'd also say, though, that Doug Cockle and the rest of the cast give some outstanding performances - arguably the best I've ever seen in a game. I admit to having never really cared much about the quality of voice acting in a video-game, but 'The Witcher 3' has raised the bar substantially.
You'll connect with 'The Witcher 3', its plot and its many characters, but that isn't all this game offers. The exploration is truly great, too. From the hectic and troubled town of Novigrad, to the brutal mountains and desperate settlements of the Skellige Islands, no two places in this game are alike, and everywhere you go you'll find a story worth hearing.
The game mechanics are very smooth (which is important in some boss fights!), and the interface is accessible for people who don't really care to learn the intricacies of potions, crafting, augmentation and the like.
Overall, this game has provided the most incredible gaming experience I've ever participated in, and I recommend this to... just about everyone!
Another success from the golden years of Star Wars gaming
I've read one or two reviews which are critical of 'Jedi Academy' on the grounds that it is too similar to 'Jedi Outcast' and doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Whilst I do think that's a valid point, it certainly didn't detract from my experience of the game - an experience which I found immensely enjoyable. In 'Jedi Academy' you play Jaden Korr, who is canonically a human male but can be played as several well-known alien races like the Kel Dor (Plo Koon's race) and Rodian (Greedo's). On my playthrough I chose the Kel Dor, which I admit later regretting due to the fact that the voice sounded nothing like a Kel Dor voice. (Perhaps it's unfair to pick holes in a 14-year-old customisation system!) The rather superficial appearance of your character isn't the only thing you can customise, though. As you progress through 'Jedi Academy', you are introduced to different fighting styles, which culminates in the ability to choose your own lightsaber. If you thought this feature was good in 'Knights of the Old Republic', wait until you see what 'Jedi Academy' can offer. Overall, I'd say that whilst this game falls slightly behind 'Jedi Outcast' in one or two areas (e.g. a less memorable villain, a less challenging final level), it's a fantastic way to spend 10-15 hours (per playthrough, that is), and I'm almost certainly going to return to this game at some point in the future.
The premier Star Wars action experience
Even now, in 2017, this game holds up as a fantastic action experience. 'The Force Unleashed' may have been more visually ambitious and 'Battlefront II' may have been a more grandiose idea, but I've rarely found a more exhilarating game experience than the deadly lightsaber duels of 'Jedi Outcast'. In this game, you play as Kyle Katarn. You'll be familiar with him if you've already played earlier 'Jedi Knight' games, but your gaming experience won't be diminished if you haven't. The early scenes of 'Jedi Outcast' show Kyle and his partner Jan attacked by a formidable Dark Jedi called Desann. Desann is one of the most well-designed villains in 'Star Wars' game history, and is certainly one of the most menacing, rivalled only in my opinion by Darth Malgus (SWTOR) and the various Dark Lords of the 'KOTOR' games. Kyle soon realises that he must reawaken his Jedi powers and, as Anakin Skywalker once said, this is where the fun begins. Over the course of 'Jedi Outcast' you'll battle hordes of Imperial Stormtroopers and Dark Jedi whilst closing the distance between you and your ultimate enemy. The levels are very enjoyable, and I don't recall a dull moment in the game. Overall, an excellent title.
Mad Max (2015)
Embraces the spirit of the films to great effect
I don't think many people like the 'Mad Max' films for their plot. They tend to like them because of the apocalyptic theme, the brutal aesthetics, quirky characters and high-speed chases. You should be pleased to hear that the 'Mad Max' game has all those qualities in abundance. Whilst the theme of 'Mad Max' may closely resemble the slightly older apocalyptic game 'RAGE', I found it to resemble some of the 'Red Faction' games more closely than anything else. Like 'Red Faction: Guerrilla', it has a fairly interactive (i.e. destroyable!) environment, there's a huge quantity of activities scattered across the map, and the story is typically advanced by returning to a quest-giver and completing an action-packed recon/destroy/retrieve mission. Completionists or perfectionists may complain of a certain amount of monotony after a while, but I never found it dull. I'd recommend it to anyone who particularly enjoys games about the apocalypse, games involving lots of driving, and games which allows lots of destruction.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (2014)
I don't know why I bought it, and I don't know why I enjoyed it!
I bought 'Octodad: Dadliest Catch' in the Steam sales a while back. It was greatly reduced in price, and when I purchased it I admit not having much interest in playing it. A few months later, though, I completed whichever game I happened to be working my way through, and found myself browsing my Steam library for a new one to try. I decided to install 'Octodad', thinking that it may be a fun way to pass half an hour. I was wrong: it's a fun way of passing dozens of hours. Unlike 'Goat Simulator' and other similar games, 'Octodad' actually provides a ludicrously funny context; your floppy misadventures through a church, supermarket and fishing boat (amongst other things) are, believe it or not, plot-related. At times I found this game more challenging than I'd expected, and I was in a constant state of surprise at how amusing I found it. It isn't a great game, and it certainly won't make an appearance on a list of my favourite games, but 'Octodad' certainly makes for a pleasant experience. I'd recommend this game to fans of physics games, parents, and people who occasionally want a break from 'heavier' games.
The most memorable Star Wars gaming experience by far
I've been a fan of Star Wars for many years, and I've played many of the franchise's games. Some of them provide excellent action ('Republic Commando', 'Jedi Academy'), but none of them are memorable in the way that 'Knights of the Old Republic' is. In fact, the only Star Wars game which I think approaches it in terms of quality is its sequel. The premise of 'KOTOR' is fairly simple: You play a soldier whose mission it is to stop a powerful Sith Lord, and in order to do so you have to find several components of an ancient map. It may sound like a cliché RPG, but on your travels you'll encounter so many interesting people, fascinating stories and incredible quests, you'll never want it to end. I know I didn't.
Bicentennial Man (1999)
Spoils its initial potential.
For the first 45-60 minutes of 'Bicentennial Man', I was asking myself how the critics could be so irrational. It was shaping up to be a great film! Then, of course, their analysis started to make sense. A number of very good films are divided into superior and inferior halves, for instance Stanley Kubrick's 'Full Metal Jacket'. In this case, the downgrade of quality is noticeable but not significant enough to damage my enjoyment of the film. Sadly, that isn't the case for 'Bicentennial Man'. This film sees the perpetually enjoyable Robin Williams take on one of his most peculiar roles - a lifelike robot styled after one of the creations of literary giant Isaac Asimov. The casting of Williams seems like a good choice at first: the robot is spontaneous, upbeat and endlessly curious about the human condition. As the film progresses, though, the director seemed to get the idea that our android protagonist shouldn't just imitate humans, and instead focus specifically on behaving just like Robin Williams. With the exception of the sentimental closing minutes, the second half of the film gives us little more than an onslaught of predictable puns and forgettable humour. With around an hour of the film relying on cheap comedy in place of meaningful science fiction, I don't believe much could be salvaged from 'Bicentennial Man'. If you're drawn in by the story outline or subject matter, I'd advise you to try another Asimov adaptation (or simply read or listen to one of his amazing stories!).