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[Movie Review] The Thing prequel… remake… whatever this is October 16, 2011

Posted by Colin in Humor, Opinion, Review.
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Here it is: the thing we’ve all been waiting for. They’re finally getting the band back together. That’s right, it’s… The Thing we’ve all… The Prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing!

Coming next year: The Squeakuel

Now, I thought it was a little odd when they announced that not only would they be telling the story of the Norwegian outpost that dug up the alien specimen, but they would be hiring back the entire cast of the first movie.

You see, through the miracle of digital reverse aging (ala Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy) the original actors from John Carpenter’s The Thing have reprised their roles as grizzled Antarctic scientists engaged in a deadly ‘whodunit’ with an alien-murder-beast.

Suddenly, 'The Thing' isn't so cool anymore...

“But Colin,” you say, “they can’t bring back the WHOLE cast. Isn’t Wilford Brimley dead? And also, weren’t you supposed to do something with Sid Meier’s Civ World like two months ag-” “WE DON’T TALK ABOUT THAT,” I scream, eyes wild and mouth frothy, quickly changing the subject back to dead celebrities.

Pictured: crack cocaine for civilization fans

While no, Wilford Brimley may not be technically dead, but for the purposes of this review, let’s pretend he is (besides, when has Hollywood ever let a little thing like an actor’s death stop them from making a movie?) For this production, Brimley’s character has been re-imagined as a kind-of-cute twenty-something scientist modeled after Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

The designers on this project clearly cared for her the most: she has, by far, the most expressive face of the motley crew, showing a diverse range of emotion from ‘mild fright’ to ‘terror,’ and all the confusing feelings between.

However, her uncannily human features only serve as a reminder that this film’s special effects budget was slashed mid-production, forcing the designers and editors to frantically  cut anything they could. Their answer, as you can already guess, was to give each character increasingly grandiose beards. Yes, I know, eyebrows and eyes can be the most expressive parts of the human body, but covering for your lack of lip-syncing with man-fur is an animation trick students use to finish projects in a crunch. Most of the time these digitized Norwegians don’t even open their mouths when they speak.

Actually, keep your mouth closed. I'm sure it smells like pancakes and Zach Galifianakis.

The film opens as a Norwegian researcher goes to recruit the Wilford Brimley stand-in (honestly, I can’t remember her name so we’ll just call her Wilma Brimley) to come to an Antarctic research base and help get the alien specimen out of the ice. Thirty seconds later, Wilma and her awkward-yet-undeveloped-love-interest are on their way, escorted by a helicopter pilot and his black friend, who we’ll name Kurt Russell Jr. and Keith David II.

Wait, which movie came first?

Pretty soon all hell soon breaks loose. People die, The Thing replicates, and parts of the base catch fire. Wilma quickly discovers the alien can’t recreate inorganic material (fillings, etc.) which recreates the blood-test scene from Carpenter’s film, but minus the tension and dramatic payoff. But Five minutes later, this fact is neatly forgotten in favor of a pop-out-and-yell-BOO type scare. Yes, this movie uses the same scare-tactics as Scary Maze.

There is never any dramatic tension. It might be because I knew everyone on the base was just a computerized semi-human, or because the monster itself is also completely digital so it looks less like a creepy insect-puppet and more like the boss monsters in Resident Evil 4, but I just didn’t get a sense that these people were in danger.

Or rather, I knew they were in danger, but I didn’t care – that is the biggest flaw with this movie and it isn’t one that anyone could avoid. This movie is trapped in the series canon. It’s a prequel to a remakebased on a short story, and even though it’s four degrees away from the source material, it is stuck a circle of continuity that doesn’t let the filmmakers expand their universe in any significant way.  If you watched John Carpenter’s The Thing, you already know how this story ends: everyone dies. Everyone. There is no ambiguous ending; the monster wins this round. It’s just a matter of piecing together who died in what way.

And speaking of John Carpenter, a number of scenes from that movie are recreated shot-for-shot in this one. It’s a nice homage, but it fails to recreate the sense of isolation and danger that Carpenter’s film had. Couple this with the utter failure of the computerized actors to distinguish themselves with anything resembling personality, and you have a movie that’s literally forgettable. When it was over, I walked out of the theater and couldn’t remember a single character’s name, or even how many people died on the base. And what happened to Wilma Brimley? She just kind of disappears towards the end. Is that supposed to be ambiguous?

As far as I can tell, this movie is about a group of computerized Norwegian Troll-Hunters who dig up the parasites from Resident Evil and receive a visit from a digitally-remastered and gender-swapped Wilford Brimley and… actually, yes, I would see that movie, even if it sounds like obscene fan-fiction.

Pictured: everything I know about Norway

Even taking into account the potential geek-sci-fi appeal, I can’t get over how indistinguishable the characters are in this movie. It’s like the writers put the traits of the original cast up on a wall and threw darts at it to develop their personalities, but all they could hit was the word “Beard.”

It just goes to show that a computer still can’t display true emotion the way humans can. Or maybe they weren’t computers. Maybe they were some creature trying to trick us into believing it’s human, studying its prey, waiting for the perfect moment to… wait a second.

[Guest Review] Earth Defence Force: Insect Armageddon July 10, 2011

Posted by baconsamurai in Review.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Earth Defense Force: 2017 is one of my favorite games. As such, a review for the sequel, Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon was not only inevitable, but an absolute necessity. Unable to write it myself, our fantastic guest contributor, Ivory Harris, has stepped up to the plate to bring you a review for the next chapter in the EDF saga.

Float like a jet-powered butterfly, kill giant bees.

Alongside a number of cult followers, I was worried when I initially discovered that Earth Defense Force 2017, an under the radar budget shooter with an emphasis on wanton destruction, was getting a sequel. Based on a series of titles by Japanese developers D3 Publisher and Sandlot studios, this new title would be handled by American studio Vicious Cycle Software. How did they manage one of the most entertaining pick-up-and-play titles in years?

Well, in a word: Awesome. The series revival runs with the original concept that made EDF such an appealing adventure, scaling back on some aspects while raising the bar on others. There are bugs to blast and giant robots to bring down in satisfying city rocking explosions as Earth Defense Force returns to its ambiguous bargain-bin glory.

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[Review] Shadows of the Damned June 23, 2011

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It’s impossible to look at Shadows of the Damned and ignore its pedigree, and when you have a game made by a dream-team of Japanese developers like Suda51 (No More Heroes, Killer7), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil, Vanquish), and music by Akira Yamaoka (Silent Hill), why would you?

You play as a demon hunter, Garcia Hotspur. When Fleming, the lord of the dead, becomes fed up with you killing his minions, he personally whisks your girlfriend Paula away to Hell. Accompanied by a shapeshifting magical skull named Johnson, you head into the underworld to save your damsel and put a bullet between each of Fleming’s six eyes.

More after the jump.

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[Review] Vanquish October 27, 2010

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Whether you love or are indifferent to Vanquish depends on one thing. If you view the word “ridiculous” as a compliment or an insult. If you’re the former, my friend, you are in for a real treat. The latter may need some cajoling, but if like a challenge, speed, or are looking for something unlike anything you’ve ever played, you can’t go wrong with Vanquish. Now if only the level of nirvana the game transcends you to wasn’t so brief.

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Review: Metroid: Other M September 8, 2010

Posted by eboku in Review.
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Metroid-Other-M-Box

The Metroid series is generally heralded by the hardcore gamer as something very precious. The original trilogy, which was on the NES, Game Boy and Super Nintendo, broke the rules of what a 2D platformer was. Nintendo established that in Mario Bros, you are supposed to go to the right of the screen and jump and avoid obstacles. When Metroid came out for the NES, the game was all about throwing the player into a big, open environment scattered with power ups and monsters giving the player a sense of isolation – to demonstrate this the game designers had the player go to the left of the screen to get that first morph ball power up. Nintendo had Mario, Zelda and Metroid and all 3 franchises demonstrated completely different schools of thought in game design that have evolved over the past 25 years. But what happens when you change something fundamental about the series?

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Check This Out: Limbo (XBLA) July 26, 2010

Posted by eboku in News, Review.
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LIMBO-XBLA-Box-Art

 

I’m sure many of you watched the Microsoft E3 presser in complete agony right after Metal Gear Rising left the stage and things like Dance Central and Kinectimals  took over telling us that they are taking the Nintendo route of the past 3 years (While ironically Nintendo made it clear that they were coming BACK to us with a lineup of kickass looking Wii games and of course, the 3DS). However, the one thing Microsoft looked like they were going to deliver on, like last year, was the Summer of Arcade. A line of above average, higher quality Xbox Live Arcade games to keep us playing during the usual summer drought of new releases. Upon watching the montage, there was a game that was black and white and showed a child running away from a giant spider and I was immediately interested. At least more interested than Dance Central. Kinectimals.

 

screenshot01-800x450

On paper, Limbo can be described as a 2D Puzzle Platformer. In real life, it can be described as a 2D Puzzle Platformer that explores Fear, Phobia, Paranoia and Loneliness. The story is loose, It’s about a young boy searching for his sister is some kind of nature and industrial nightmare. If you have arachnophobia, like me – then some portions of the game would be hard to progress.

Saw

So the gameplay works as such: You run forward in what is basically one giant level broken up into checkpoints. There are no transitions or breaks in between areas except that you are running forward. each check point in the game has some sort of event or puzzle that you need to solve in order to progress and the puzzle can be as simple as jumping out of the way in time so the giant bear trap swinging on the rope doesn’t cut you to pieces to figuring out a more complex pulley system in order to get some gates open. There is not much “action” in the game as its all centered around moving/dragging objects and pure reflexes. Like any puzzle game, there were some segments I simply stared at for a good 10 or 15 minutes until I had a Miles Edgeworth ‘Eureka!” moment and felt really bad about myself shortly after for not getting it sooner, but that’s half the fun!

 screenshot06-800x450

Limbo is about horrible things. It’s a nightmare that you are trying to escape out of, this is like if David Lynch made a video game. The game has style. The developers opted for soft black and white visuals as you can clearly see in the screen shots as well as a a soundtrack that is nothing but atmospheric noises that causes anxiety. It’s a pretty game. One thing that really sticks out are the seemingly hundreds of death animations. You will die a lot in this game. Failing to figure out a puzzle or trap in time will result in death, if watching a little boy that looks like a Disney character get mutilated in different ways is your thing, then this game is for you!

The game is available on Xbox Live Arcade at 1200 points. Maybe it would be a better bargain at 800. Did I find it to be a worthwhile purchase? Yes, it was a fun ride. However once you beat it its hard to go back to since its the same puzzles again unless you want to go for the achievements. The game is a bit short too, as it can be completed in an easy 4 to 5 hours on a first run through. It’s a good showcase indie game and its also something fun to show to your friends when they come over. If you love 2D platformers, liked to be scared and are looking for something a little different, I say download the demo and check it out!

1200 points seem a little high to you? Blame the people that buy Call of Duty map packs at that price. I did and I feel better about it, and more ashamed.

Limbo was developed by Play Dead and is on the XBLA marketplace for 1200 points.

Buy This: Bit.Trip Runner July 23, 2010

Posted by eboku in Review.
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bit-trip_runner

I got into an argument the other day with one of my roommates. He recently got into the OnLive Beta, the service that streams full games over the internet connection right into your monitor via computer or set top box no matter what specs your machine is running. He was showing it to me and while it was impressive, seeing Assassin’s Creed 2 running on a low-tier computer, the controls had a slight lag to them. After trying out FEAR 2 and Borderlands, the lag was confirmed and honestly – if that isn’t fixed by the time of a public release I think the service could fail as gamers would not accept laggy controls! He didn’t feel that even a .5 ms lag would make a difference to people. I disagree! That is life or death in Mario, Counter Strike and Bit.Trip Runner. 

Anyone unfamiliar with the Bit.Trip series, it’s a line of games that features simplistic graphics accompanied with some sort of simple rhythm based mechanic that demands perfection from the player.

Ah, perfection! This is like the Demon’s Souls Wii equivalent in terms of hating your life but feeling oh-so good about yourself when you complete a level. The object of the game here is that your pixilated man runs through what is basically an obstacle course where you need to jump, duck, kick and spring your way through the end without hitting anything while trying to collect gold bars scattered throughout the level.

 

The game has no mercy on the player, you either make it through the level or you get sent back to the starting point, forcing you to collect gold bars again. It’s about reflexes, repetition and memorization with a dash of hating your life but in that really good way because you know if you screw up: It’s your fault. Or your batteries died.

I fully recommend this game for anyone looking for a challenge or something different from the standard FPS/RTS/RPG/3 Letter Popular Genre. The game has kept me up every night for the past week, letting me channel the frustration that my real life has been giving me the past week month! But I’ll end this with Buy this. It goes for 800 points and it is worth it.

Split/Second Review May 27, 2010

Posted by baconsamurai in News, Review.
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Whist perusing through my game collection, I saw a trend. Single player RPG, single player RPG, single player action game, fighter, single player RPG. With the exception of Little Big Planet and (if I’m with the right crowd) Super Street Fighter IV, I lacked any accessible multiplayer games. No matter how hardcore you are, there comes a time when you need to have a Rock Band around.

I can tell you right now, Split/Second is now that game. A fun, fast paced spectacle of an arcade racer, that despite it’s flaws, is an absolute blast to play.

More after the jump.

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Gentlemacho. Heartbreak or Win? May 6, 2010

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While perusing through Destructoid, I saw this. Gentlemacho. “Victorian gentleman!?” I shouted, “Whips enemies with his mustache? It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to be,” and I began to weep openly for I would never become a Victorian gentleman with a magic mustache.

Then I watched the video. Oh god. My world-view was shattered. Imagine the year is 1997 and you just got around to watching the episodes of Batman: The Animated Series with Mr. Freeze. Immediately afterward you say “Mr. Freeze is in Batman and Robin? This movie will be amazing. I’ll go right now.” It was that level of soul-crushing disappointment.

So out of morbid curiosity, the same sector of my brain that really wants to try a KFC Double Down, not because I think it will be good (I don’t), but just because it exists, I plunked down 80 MS points to bring you the review of Gentlemacho after the jump.

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First Review! Beat Hazard April 28, 2010

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Beat Hazard – PC Game

I decided to kick off my first review for the site with something that may be a little unknown, perhaps… a little indie?! Not a bad flavor to start off with!

“Beat Hazard” is a game developed by a group called Cold Beam Games Now, the hook of the game is that the entire game engine is powered by reading whatever MP3, FLAC, OGM and other music files you have on your hard drive. By now you are either thinking “But I already played Audio Surf!” or “What?”. Fear not, anyone that has ever played a game of Geometry Wars or even Asteroids should feel at home with this game, and for new comers it is very intuitive to get into!

The premise of the game is to shoot everything on-screen while moving your ship around evading gunfire and debris from enemy ships for the duration of the song you selected while maintaining a high score. The game itself acts like an audio player visualizer, the game’s engine analyzes the song file that is playing in real-time judging th Beats per Minute, volume and overall intensity of the song. For example – if you are playing a song that has very soft vocals or light instruments, less enemies appear on-screen and in addition your actual weapon power is decreased. However if your song increases in intensity you can count on waves of enemies appearing in addition to increased weapon power with the graphical visualizer pumping more colors at you creating a chaotic environment. The game has a tendency to throw “boss” ships at you when a song hits a certain climax that always seems appropriate. Everything in the game is linked to music, making each song a unique experience! I had a ton of fun experimenting with different songs. My personal favorites are “A Brand New Day” from Dr. Horrible, “I Feel Fantastic” from Jonathan Coulton, “Blue” from the Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack and surviving the 7 minutes of a One Winged Angel from Final Fantasy VII was pretty epic in itself.

The game has a dozen features that makes you want to come back. It features a multitude of achievements and an “Album Mode” where it throws you in a game where it tests to see if you can survive the duration of an entire album. The game also has ranks you can build up – for every few ranks you earn, you receive power up bonuses before each song. Players that play the game long enough can unlock the final “elite” ranking and unlock the “Insane” difficulty mode. To earn these ranks, as stated the game is very score based. To earn the highest score possible you need to collect score multipliers that appear every so often after destroying a ship or earning the “Dare Devil” which is to not fire a round for 5 seconds and the “Survivor” where you not explode for a certain amount of time.

At the end of the day I say that this is a very enjoyable game. As for control schemes, I played this with a wired Xbox 360 controller so it played exactly like Bizarre Creation’s Geometry Wars. Move with the left stick, shoot in the direction with the right stick. However those without controllers can easily play with a Keyboard/Mouse setup. The only issue I really had with the game is if you have a gigantic MP3 collection, navigation through the folders can be cumbersome as it does not let you sort music files by date and there is no quick scroll making large albums or expansive folders almost a chore to navigate. However those issues can easily be fixed by a quick patch if they see fit to do it. The game is available on Steam for $9.99. Worth it? Yes. Buy it. Now I have to see if I can beat Final Fantasy VI’s “Dancing Mad”. Black Mages Version.