Archive for October, 2010

I’m making a deal with myself to try and update this at least once (preferably twice) a week. There you are, it’s on record now.

Stuff what I have done lately:

Wii Remote Plus Dated For Europe
Wii And DS Sales Tumble
Professor Layton Vs Pheonix Wright Announced

Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode I Review
Left 4 Dead: The Sacrifice Review
Alan Wake: The Writer Review
Dead Rising 2 Review

Box Office – Paranormal Activity 2 Has Biggest Ever Horror Opening
Vampires Suck Review (Ungraded)
Guess How Much Money Resident Evil: Afterlife Has Made?
Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Pt 1 – Now Not In 3D

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I made this review as a tester for Movie-Moron.com. I thought I’d post it up here too. I’m probably not going to be doing this sort of this again as it took far too long and I prefer writing to narrating.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Review

Music doesn’t work in comics. Music-based plotlines don’t work in films. Games don’t work in comics. Games don’t work in films. Straight comic adaptations don’t work in films. With that in mind, quite how Scott Pilgrim Vs The World manages to be anything other than complete rubbish in both film and comic form is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a twenty-something loser with a girlfriend who’s still in school, playing bass in a band that nobody cares about and sharing a mattress with a gay roommate. His boring, albeit peaceful, life is shattered one day when he dreams of and meets Ramona Flowers (who happens to look a lot like Mary Elisabeth Winstead) and begins stalking her. Upon falling head over heels in love with her, he then discovers that they can’t be together until he defeats her seven evil exes.

It’s a concept that’s completely bonkers, which plays perfectly into the hands of director Edgar Wright who has demonstrated an understanding of insanity throughout his entire career, with films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz and TV’s peerless Spaced under his belt. His passion for the source material and his love of videogame culture seep through every single frame of the film and add to the richness of the movie. It’s possibly the closest films have ever come to feeling like games, which is saying something considering how awful ninety-nine percent of all videogame movies are.

Classic songs from games of yesteryear sweep effortlessly through the film’s soundtrack, while arcade-style pixellated graphics and game scenarios are toyed with so easily you could be forgiven for accidentally trying to grab a controller.

The action crackles along with a fierce intensity that rivals most proper explosion-and-bullet movies, building in ferocity and silliness with each passing battle. Defeated enemies explode into coins and everyone in the film possesses ridiculous weapons and martial arts moves.

The cast are completely brilliant in their po-faced delivery of every line of dialogue, with great jokes, visual gags and references to classic games thrown together with incredible speed. Everything flows forward with the kind of hyperactive energy that only a person brought up on gaming could really be able to follow without getting totally lost. In fact, it’s so stylish that Zack Snyder is probably watching it crying into a semen-soaked sock.

The comic styling is wonderful throughout, managing to feel like an animated graphic novel without being soulless. The feeling that Scott Pilgrim inhabits that strange twilight zone between gaming and reality feels genuine, despite the amount of CGI on display. The film manages to bounce from one insane idea to the next with no slowdown and no need for silly explanations. One minute Chris Evans – no, not that one – is depicted as an egotistical skateboarding filmstar, the next Brandon Routh has superpowers thanks to a vegan diet. It’s tough to think of any film within the last five years that’s managed to chuck all these crazy ideas around and still made it work. This is the film that proves games can be transferred properly to the big screen, and not end up accidentally hilarious or soul-destroyingly awful. The trick is to not base it on an actual game.

If there is a problem to be had with this near-flawless film, it’s surely the age rating. Nobody under the age of twenty will understand it, which is one of the requirements. You have to be nostalgic for the theme tunes of Zelda and Final Fantasy, else you just won’t appreciate it. Scott Pilgrim is made purely for twenty-something gamers who want their own crazy adventure and are as hyperactive as the protagonist. If you understand geek culture, you’ll love Scott Pilgrim. If not, go out and play sports, you massive fanny.

5 stars.

Saw: The Game Review

Posted: October 17, 2010 in Review
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Saw: The Game Review

Saw is an appalling game based on an equally appalling series of horror films. While the first film was fairly decent, the following five sequels (with a seventh and final film due out in October) got progressively worse. The series concerns the activities of the villainous Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), a man who catches people who are doing wrong and places them in ‘traps’ designed to cause as much physical pain as possible and/ or a gruesome death (usually both). We’re told it’s not torture porn because it’s all in the spirit of morality, which is where this dubious game comes into play.

You are Detective Tapp, a minor character from the first film, who has been captured by Jigsaw and forced to partake in a series of gruelling games inside the world’s biggest asylum. After escaping from the original trap, Tapp undergoes a series of challenges where he has to save the lives of those his relentless pursuit of Jigsaw has hurt (and some other random nobodies). Can Tapp escape the sinister scheme? Can he catch Jigsaw? Can he save his own soul? If you’re familiar with the Saw series at all, then you know that the answer is no – he’s going to die horribly.

Where to begin with a game this terrible? It’s so bad, it’s hilarious. Jigsaw appears to have around a hundred people trapped in the asylum, half of whom have orders to kill Tapp, the other half have already died in background details. This ensures that you’re not just walking around looking at the bland textures and eye-gougingly awful environments because every now and again you get someone innocent to murder gruesomely.

The combat system is shockingly bad. You pick up a weapon, hold left trigger to aim and press X for a strong attack or A for a weak attack. Either way, the weapon’s swing is incredibly slow and seventy five percent likely to completely miss the person you’re aiming it. In fact, if the other person is unarmed, they’re probably going to win the fight because fist are the most powerful (and useable) weapon in the entire game. No wonder you get an achievement for killing one person with every kind of tool. Some people have bomb collars on that will attempt to set yours off unless you kill them or run far enough away from them. Most can be dealt with, hilariously, by simply bolting a door and left to ’splode on their own.

You can also be killed just by walking around. Fail to spot one of the many (emphasis on many) tripwires littering the asylum at ankle-height and you’ll find your head gets blown off by a shotgun. Open a door and fail to complete a quick-time event and you eat shotgun. Walk on glass and your health will drain away. Activate a checkpoint and the door will slam shut behind you, regardless of whether or not you were finished exploring. This is the pinnacle of badly-designed dross.

As for figuring out Jigsaw’s villainous scheme, the first room gives a pretty clear indication of how things are going to play out. The door is locked. The bathroom stalls have strange symbols written on them. If you look in the mirror – oh! Yep, there it is; a number combination. Accessed by turning 180 degrees. Pure gaming gold, right there.

It doesn’t get any better. You continuously come across the same puzzles over and over again, like using different sized gears to make a machine turn, playing ‘pipes’ with electricity and multiple escape points and attempting to make two pipe ends meet by joining up smaller pieces. These puzzles are used over and over again, mostly when you get locked in an area with a timed death sequence, and quickly become a hazard to your sanity.

As for freeing other people from their traps, it gets funnier. You have to solve a puzzle (one of the three mentioned above, a block-sliding grid or a tile-pairing challenge) to a time limit before the other person dies in yet another poorly animated cutscene. Because it’s a game and not a film, it’s tough to find empathy or even to be revolted by what’s happening onscreen. Most of the puzzles can be blundered through by repeating and memorising every time you fail, while others are so hilarious they can be guessed at and solved instantly. Quite how any of the puzzles are supposed to help Tapp overcome his obsession is a question not answered here.

Also, saving the people doesn’t seem to matter one jot. They’ll either be killed seconds later by a different trap or will run off and somehow escape. You’ll never see them again and there is no closure for their stories. It’s weird, too, how the game fails you if they die when the staple of the film series is the hyper-violent death scenes. Surely it should continue? After all, text on the loading screen reads, ‘every choice has a consequence’ and yet this linear, choice-free game is devoid of any resulting actions.

As for the traps – the real reason any Saw film fan would give this game a second glance – they are as decidedly nasty as you’d expect (again, it’s not nearly as shocking as they would be in a movie.) As an example, one sees a man bent backwards, one has a man trapped in a furnace while another features a spring-loaded casket filled with buzz saws. They capture the silliness of the films really well.

Just about the only positive thing that can be said about the game is that it manages to capture the film of the films quite well. The game is devoid of colour, relentless bleak and thoroughly unpleasant, just like the films. It’s also badly written, poorly acted and totally shit throughout, just like the films. The only saving grace is the vocal appearance of Tobin Bell, who takes a sinister delight in leading your by the hand through all of his puzzles, providing hints when you get too stuck. You know, just like the real Jigsaw.

In short, Saw is an awful game, worth playing if only to see how games aren’t supposed to be made. Technically incompetent, wholly unsatisfying and devoid of any semblance of fun, Saw is the kind of game that’s used as a last resort is torture camps. As in, ‘tell me what I want to know or I’ll make you play an hour of this!’ Probably a highly effective threat.

10%

Dead Rising 2 Review

Finally, after four long years of waiting, after all the teasing videos and images, after that excellent taster in the shape of Case Zero, the sequel to one of the greatest launch games of all time is here. To say that Dead Rising 2 has a hell of lot of expectation on its shoulders is a bit of an understatement. Dead Rising 2 has so much expectation on its shoulders that anything less than a solid gold slice of zombie-based sandbox mayhem will be a complete waste of those four years. Happily, Capcom have risen to the challenge and delivered what might be the best game of the year.

It’s been a couple of years since Frank West and Isabella Keyes escaped the Willamette mall with the truth of what happened there. Zombie outbreaks have occurred in isolated pockets and have been more or less contained. The world has moved on and zombies have become a part of it.

Former Motocross champion Chuck Green managed to escape the Las Vegas outbreak with his daughter Katey and went on the run to Fortune City. Unfortunately, Katey managed to receive a bite on her arm. In order to keep the infection at bay, Chuck must give her regular injections of Zombrex every twenty four hours. To pay these expensive medical bills, he takes part in the extreme sports game show ‘Terror Is Reality, where zombies are brutally slaughtered for entertainment. After another victory, Chuck is knocked unconscious in an elevator shaft. When he wakes, he finds that the zombies have gotten free and taken over Fortune City. To make matters worse, a tape has been leaked to the press showing someone in his bike outfit releasing the zombies. With a military rescue arriving in seventy two hours, Chuck’s time is short: can he survive for long enough to prove his innocence?

If that plot summary sounds a little bit familiar, that’s because it is. In truth, Dead Rising 2 is so similar to its predecessor that you could be forgiven for thinking that Capcom accidentally released the same game twice. You still have a tight time limit. You still get around via a vent shaft. You still rescue survivors. You still defeat psychopaths. Items still break after a while. You still have to manage your time efficiently to survive. Even most of the achievements are identical! Half of this review could easily be a cut-and-paste job and there wouldn’t be a problem.

But where the game really comes alive is in those tiny differences, those few new features and adjustments that were sorely lacking from the unrefined first game. The most obvious new addition is the much-discussed ability to create new weapons out of old ones. It’s a fantastic idea that is introduced brilliantly, too – you’re shown the maintenance room, which has a bat and a box of nails. Everything that can be combined with something else has a tell-tale blue icon above it to help you. Not only are the new weapons far more durable than normal, many of them turn useless items into hysterical ways to make the dead deader.

Take the humble plate. Pathetic on its own, but mix it with a cement spinner and you have a destructive plate launcher, capable of clearing a room at a hundred paces. A bag of gems turns into a shotgun when combined with a leaf blower. The comedy hat becomes a death mask with a little battery power. The list is simply staggering.

Backing up the new weapons are the ‘combo cards’, special items that double the amount of experience points (PP) you get with each kill. They can be found anywhere – by levelling up Chuck, rescuing survivors, defeating psychopaths, even by looking at film posters around the mall. You’re rewarded for creativity and for trying out ridiculous ideas by levelling up faster, although you probably won’t want to use any other weapons after you create a new item called the ‘Defiler’.

Perhaps the biggest difference between this game and the first one is the amount of extra breathing room you’re given. There are only seven ‘cases’ (story missions) on offer, with breaks between every two to let you give Katey her Zombrex. With good time management, it’s possible to save over fifty survivors and complete the entire story in your first run – compared to the frantic dashes that occurred in the first game, the pace is nearly relaxing.

The best – and most subtle – difference between the two games is the notable improvements to the NPC survivor’s AI. Where before a perfect run could be scuppered by a lone plant pot, this time survivors can move, climb, navigate and dodge with Chuck. They also no longer go sprinting into a horde of zombies while unarmed. There’s even a new symbol that flashes to let you know when a survivor is close enough to travel to the next area with you. It actually turns the rescue operation into a fun activity, as opposed to a chore, although some of the survivor’s demands before they’ll come with are absurd – one semi-naked woman asks that your be in your pants too, while another forces you to take part in her painfully boring button-matching mini-game.

Being in a city just outside of Vegas, there’s also an obsession with money. It can be found littering the floor inside casinos, won from slot machines, gained from rescuing survivors, beaten out of ATMs (or withdrawn, with the correct tool) and the cash goes a long way to helping you. It can buy vital doses of Zombrex for people who need it, be given to survivor as a bribe, or buy a variety of colourful weapons from the rip-off merchants (sorry, looters) who set up shop in key locations around the city. While it’s initially a worry, you’ll soon have more than you know what to do with.

The save system has also been vastly improved, allowing you to recover from accidentally wrecking your run with ease. You can also port over any progress made in Case Zero and begin the game with a level five Chuck and several valuable combo cards. Of all the new features, the improved save system is the one that is the most vital and it should not be underestimated.

The other major differences to the single-player experience are small, subtle, and completely brilliant. Vital items (money, keys, etc) come with you when you restart the game (not Zombrex, unfortunately), you can kick while carrying people and deliver wrestling moves to a downed zombie. The visuals have been given a shot of adrenaline and the game looks like a proper next-gen game, with crisp textures, facial expressions and some excellent attention to detail throughout. There’s also more music pumped out through the many casinos, making the experience much less quiet than before. There’s also a last-minute plot twist that transforms this gory comedy into a genuinely terrifying horror game. Even Fortune City feels somehow more alive – despite being dead – than the mall in Willamette, heaving with things to do, see and explore. The scope of the place is staggering, easily housing a space at least three times the size of the first game.

The other new features added to the game are all online. Two players can now team up and take on the dead together in a co-op game, although, weirdly, you’ll both be playing as Chuck. While it’s a great new feature that adds to the variety of the experience, it is perhaps a bit disappointing that you both have to be doing the same thing at the same time – you can’t split up to seek out different objectives. Bizarrely, if one player is experiencing lag, the cutscenes seem to play out without the character models in them, which somewhat damages the experience.

You can also take part in the Terror Is Reality games and go head-to-head against three other players for the prize money. It’s a great way of earning extra cash – anything you make can be put into your save file immediately – but the games themselves veer wildly between fun and dull. Target shooting game Bounty Hunter can be fairly entertaining, as is the excellent finale SliceCycles, but most of them are incredibly boring. Zomboni, for instance, sees you all squirting crushed zombies into a container, while Master Shafter has a multiplayer quick time event sequence that is almost painful to endure. Terror Is Reality also suffers from the same flaws as the Resident Evil 5 multiplayer, in that it can take ages to set up a game, leaving you forced to watch the same cutscene over and over every single time you want to play. There’s no option for playing again with the same group either, while the lack of computer-controlled bots mean that you simply have to wait or other humans to join your game.

While there are some flaws with the multiplayer aspects of the game, the single-player experience is practically flawless. It actually feels more like a true ‘go anywhere, do anything’ title than any other sandbox game. You could spend your run attempting to use the myriad of new weapons, seeking out the survivors or just sticking to the main plot – it’s entirely up to you and the game will constantly put a smile on your face with the sheer lunacy of the design. From the hilarity of the electric wheelchair to the sight of a fat virgin in dominatrix gear, you definitely won’t forget your short stay in Fortune City.

What is there left to say about Dead Rising 2? If you didn’t like the first game, you won’t like this one either. However, the many fans will be more than satisfied by the improvements, no matter how small and subtle they are. Were the four years worth the wait? Absolutely. No doubt about it, Dead Rising 2 is the ultimate zombie game.

91%