Sunday 28 February 2016

Mini-Reviews #4 - Winter Happened

Did ya think I was done? I've got another load of quick-fire reviews to get through...

Life is Strange
I wasn't initially bothered about this, on the presumption that it was a game about teenage girls and angsty social interactions. Not the sort of thing that I'd want to be seen playing, if that makes any sense. Still, I started hearing more and more buzz about the game and its time travel hook so I tried it out...

First impressions... bloody hell teenage girls are annoying, oh my god the lip syncing is so off it's painful, what tone does it want to have? All those concerns were still valid hours later, but I have to say, the game did win me over. I still don't really get the logistics of Max's power (what, she can reverse time without moving, so she's effectively teleporting? Without people noticing?) but the story does get more compelling, the drama does become engaging (I'll admit some of the moving moments were executed well, despite being somewhat hammy) and ultimately, it's a more complete, polished story about cause and effect than anything Telltale's done recently. Speaking of which...

Telltale's Game of Thrones & Tales From the Borderlands
Telltale's been kind of going through the motions recently, I feel. I've played through all of their Game of Thrones and Borderlands episodes and that's the conclusion I've come to. Game of Thrones had its moments and really felt authentic, but came with a somewhat fitting flaw - the high death count really made the whole thing feel depressing and hopeless.  Which is great on the TV show but when you're the one driving these characters to their fates? Ew...

A lot of people love Tales from the Borderlands, and that's fine, if the sense of humour is your thing. To me it came off a bit smug and show-offy, I would've preferred a subtler approach. It's still nice to have a lighter game from Telltale though, and it does feature possibly my favourite scene from any of their games.

But yeah, they're still going through the motions. The Michonne mini-series doesn't look too promising...

Until Dawn
Well, I've been harping on about story based games so far so I might as well talk about Until Dawn, a horror game starring such desperate D list actors as the cheerleader off Heroes and Mr. Robot (I haven't seen that show, maybe I should give it a chance). Until Dawn takes a clich├ęd premise and proceeds to have a lot of fun... not subverting any expectations. In fact, all I can really say is that the tension of not knowing whether I'm one quick-time event away from a permanent character death is what made Until Dawn interesting. Other than that, it's a very pedestrian walk down generic horror lane, with virtually every trope imaginable and at least twenty jump scares too many. It does have some ridiculously detailed, uncanny-valley pushing facial animation however. I might be a bit more invested if I wasn't half expecting Hayden Panettiere's character to regenerate like she always did on Heroes. Speaking of which...

Heroes Reborn
Oh god!!!

What the hell happened to Heroes? When it originally got cancelled, everyone was pretty sick of it as far as I recall, but it never sunk this low, I swear. It's not just the recent stream of high quality TV competition that worked against this - in almost every single facet, this is the worst show I've seen in years. Awful writing, awful characters, embarrassing effects. I could go on but I can't, I just... can't bring myself to write any more about this stupid... just look at it! Get it out of my face, I need to get back to something good...

The Martian (film & book)
Yay! First of all, I love that someone’s finally managed to make a survival story that works without any shoehorned emotional baggage. The Martian hasn’t got any time for that crap. It’s all about solving problems, not crying about them.

I saw the film first, and wasn’t expecting the it to work in such an engaging, uplifting way. I look back now at the likes of Gravity and Interstellar, both films I liked, thinking why couldn’t they have had a bit more fun too? Great cast, great direction, great visuals and a great sense of humour… you get the idea.

Reading Andy Weir’s novel was interesting because it made me realise how largely faithful the film was, and also the way it was written almost as a technical how-to guide for surviving on a deserted planet. I’m exaggerating slightly, but the scientific approach that was already prevalent in the film is significantly expanded in Weir’s prose. It manages to retain a solid sense of humour and excitement throughout, so… if you asked me which version of the Martian to go with? Both!

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

I went to see this recently. It's alright. Here's the thing - you've got to really be a fan of the album before you go to see this. It's literally a visualisation of the music rather than a play that makes use of the music.

You'll probably get a kick out of it if you're familiar with folks like David Essex and Jeff Wayne himself (who was indeed on stage and conducting), but, you know, I was born in the 90s...

It felt like a bunch of sci-fi fanatics dancing around with ridiculous props, pyrotechnics and a general chaotic atmosphere, like it was all about to fall apart at any moment: Kids not singing in time with each other, a "hologram" of Liam Neeson appearing every five seconds for awkward narration, dodgy background CGI... The music is all good, in a surreal 70s way at least, but, you know, just make sure you're a fan of it before you check it out.

Other Things...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Great! Can I really think of something original to say about it? Probably not.

Undertale - I could write for ages about why this is probably my favourite game of 2015 but that would make me an 'Undertale preacher,' and those people scare me.

The Hateful Eight 70mm Roadshow - Great Tarantino film made that bit more special by the presentation. The roadshow's over now so no point recommending it!

Spectre - Fun but flawed Bond film. Liked it at the time, thought about it, realised how lazy some of the writing is, watched it a second time, liked it a bit. The opening is good.

Super Mario Maker - This isn't a review, this is a plug. I made some levels, go check 'em out.

Halo 5: Guardians - LOL REQ POINTS GET IT? REKT! Great Arena multiplayer, dodgy everything else. Agent Locke is boring. Why am I writing this?

That's all for now, see you again whenever I decide to accelerate my plans to release something meaningful. Adios!