Tag Archives: Reviews

Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Scary
Since tomorrow is the 2014 edition of the Capitalism-fest that is Hallowe’en and the “scary things” closet has already been opened once again and a whole bunch of horror media sent barrelling our way, I thought I’d consider the role that video games play in our annual celebration of creepiness. Hurrah!

I’m a sucker for horror movies: creepy ones, silly ones, gory ones; you name it, I’ll devour it. Horror video games, on the other hand, can GET THE FUCKING HELL AWAY FROM ME.

Joel Cuddles

Largely, horror films completely fail to give me the creeps: perhaps it’s the knowledge that it’s all just a big scam, and the girl being chased by the guy with the big axe isn’t really being chased, and the guy with the big axe doesn’t really want to examine the girl’s internal organs in minute detail and with the complete opposite of surgical precision. Like everything in the movies, it’s just a big ol’ fake and there’s really nothing to be scared about at all.

At best, a surprise set-piece will give a brief shock, but never nightmares: the only things in recent memory to actually, properly, scare me were the Spanish original of [.REC] (which, incidentally, I will never ever watch again; not because it was too scary, but because the next time I see it will be a disappointment and I want to maintain it as one of my favourite horror films of all time) and pretty much all of The Descent (which was largely an hour and a half of Scary Things Jumping Out at You in the Dark™). Aside from that, I’m pretty unshakeable even in the face of maddening terror. When it comes to horror video games though, then you can rewrite all the rule books and Consequences Will Never Be the Same.

It’s here that I should probably define what I mean when I say “horror game”:

Horror Game [hawr-er geym]

n.  A video game whose predominant function is to scare, or thrill, above and beyond a regular ‘action’ game.

“I played this horror game last night and it was so scary that I accidentally vomited out my internal organs.”

It’s not a necessary prerequisitive for horror-games to be action-based, but most fall under the well-trodden banner of ‘survival horror’: your Resident Evils, your Silent Hills and your Alone in the Darks. These (almost universally) place you in the scope of some city-wide outbreak of nasties keen to chew on your face; away from which you must navigate your way (from fixed camera angles) in a third-person manner whilst simultaneously trying to find your wife/daughter/dog and understand what the hell’s gone wrong with the world. Even so, there are plenty of other horror-filled titles that meander away from the standard ‘shoot at and run away from the monster things chasing you’ to encompass psychological horrors, as well as the physical ones. I can categorically say that I will never, ever ever ever play Amnesia: The Dark Descent: I may own it on Steam, thanks in some manner to some Humble Indie Bundle somewhere along the line, but I’ll never install it.

Broadly, I watch horror films to be amused (usually by their shocking production values, hilariously bad dialogue and entertaining special effects), not to sit on the edge of my seat. but I can at least appreciate that some find horror films “scary” in some way. Horror video games, on the other hand, require direct input and often an emotional attachment (likely with the main character or perhaps for a “damsel” in “distress” that provides the key focal point for the story slash action) which amplifies the terror through your desire to see them survive the ordeal.

With a horror film, you know everything’s on rails and that the horror will progress without your direct involvement; you’re just along for the ride until the credits roll. If you do get scared, the action will progress regardless and you’re safe in the knowledge that, in 1-2 hours’ time, it’ll be over; no matter how much (or little) you engage with the scares. Where horror movies largely stick to the same sort of tropes (meaning you can largely predict how and when the scares are going to take place, who’s going to die, when something’s going to jump out, yada yada), proper horror games don’t have the same heritage and traditions and are tend to be far more innovative and inventive with how they give you the creeps. Aside from the more direct input that the player has on the action in a horror game than horror movie, this might also arise because of the relative infancy in which horror games inhabit, at least when compared to the 100-odd-year history of cinema.

Around this time last year, Naughty Dog unleashed one of the defining games of the PS3 generation in the form of The Last of Us; a survival-horror (ish) adventure game combining tension, emotion and zombie-ish things into a snowball of praise and Game of the Year (GotY) nominations from gaming critics. A year on (and with its recent re-release on PS4 in the form of a ‘remastered’ edition), many critics still view it as the high point of the previous console generation, drawing comparison with some of the ‘greats’ of cinema and banding around nicknames like “the Citizen Kane of games”. Still, given that the first, proper, piece of horror cinema is almost a century old now (widely accepted to be the creepy, unsettling The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), it’s unsurprising that video game developers have caught on to the main tricks of making a survival-horror game scare both physically and psychologically, becoming genuinely innovative with its horror engagement and leaving much of cinema’s generic horror output writhing in the dust.

LastOfUs

Given the immense (and almost universal) acclaim in which it is still held, I kind of feel I should play The Last of Us, but it just doesn’t grab me enough to give it a go (pun very much intended). I don’t go overboard for survival horror, and never have been: I think one reason why I dislike survival horror is that it takes itself so darned seriously (that Silent Hill dog ending aside), whereas all my favourite horror films (The Evil Dead, Saw, The Happiness of the KatakurisZombieland) are those ones that blow things over the top and deploy entertainment and/or comedy to complement the terror. The slow, tense styles of most survival horror titles hold no sway: the prospect of having to tensely save ammo/health and be frightened to death around every corner is often not the greatest motivator.

Instead, I prefer to be far more ‘gung-ho’ in my gaming style: it’s much more enjoyable to be charging around levels at full-tilt, full unloading clips of ammo in every available direction and trying to have as much fun (and cause as much chaos) as possible; preferably to a soundtrack delivered by Andrew W.K. or Turbonegro or something equally mental. This does, however,tend to make me a bit rubbish at stealth-based games like Thief and Hitman, let alone standard survival-horror games where you’re encouraged to save every last bullet and avoid alerting the entire zombie horde by careering around throwing grenades at the scenery. For shoot ’em ups of every colour and creed, I far prefer those that distribute copious amounts of ammunition and supply copious hordes of ghoulies/baddies to use it on; such as the glorious Bulletstorm or the masterpiece of Halo. “Saving some ammo for later” just isn’t in my dictionary, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When I do stray into the darkened realms of horror gaming, I tend to to fall back on my love for zombies and zombie movies as a crucial pivot and gossamer connection to the world I know and love. And, even then, I like my zombie games to be entertaining struggles rather than bleak journeys of mere survival based on scavenging for crumbs of survival; the likes of Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead providing far more amusement than any number of repetitive, po-faced Resident Evils. I’ve recently been playing through Organ Trail (Director’s Cut) once again; clocking ever more hours into its cheesy, tongue-in-cheek conversion of the classic Oregon Trail into a homage-filled zombie survival adventure and enjoying every minute of it. And even then, if Plants vs. Zombies still isn’t the best zombie game ever made, then I’m a giant heron.

Okay, so enough about full-on ‘horror’ games; what about scary monsters and nice sprites in mainstream gaming at large? There’s an increasing trope for so-called ‘regular’ (non-scary, or mainly non-horror-based) games to artificially use ‘scary’ sequences to add to the drama or tension of a regular ‘action’ game, particularly in first-person person shooters, to varying degrees of success. Half-Life 2‘s superlative Ravenholm sequence is still one of the scariest (and most memorable) sequence in a modern first-person shooter, whilst the Sander Cohen section from BioShock – with all of its weeping angel-style mannequin-splicers and haunted theatre props – is one of gaming’s most expertly-executed creep-fests. Whilst Treyarch’s Call of Duty titles – with their schlocky zombies and undead Nazi footsoldiers – just feel like a tired resurrection of the same old trope of taking a standard game and trying to shoehorn some shocks into it, Red Dead Dedemption‘s glorious DLC/story expansion ‘Undead Nightmare‘ managed to implement a superlative zombie mode with infinite more care and grace.

Aside from traditional survival-horror games, there’s still a whole bunch of originality to be found within the ‘horror’ genre; resisting the mainstream horror genre’s tropes of endless wandering through endless dark, tight, grey corridors shooting zombies and collecting herbs. The likes of Project Zero (multi-platform, 2001-), Eternal Darkness (GameCube, 2002) and Cursed Mountain (Wii, 2009) come critically acclaimed by those in the know, demonstrating that there’s innovation to be found if players wander off the beaten survival-horror path, and the indie community also seems to be leading the charge in horror gaming of late; with particular successes such as the aforementioned Amnesia series, Penumbra: Black Plague and, this Hallowe’en’s breakout hit, Five Nights at Freddy’s. The equally-fascinating and terrifying Slender: The Eight Pages (which I have played; although not for long) demonstrate that terror can be inflicted without a bullet ever being fired.

So, despite the fact that I’m active only in the fringes of horror gaming, I’d wager that the genre is in fair health; so long as you steer clear of the kind of trash that The Evil Within appears to be peddling. With the growing success of Oculus Rift and true-VR gaming, I can only imagine that the successes of immersive, truly scary video games will also go interstellar. Schlocky, jumpscare games might not be my exact cup of tea, but I’m fully in favour of the injection of psychological, unsettling horrors into video gaming as a whole and engaging stories that place less emphasis on shooting space marines and more on tapping into the brain’s psychological fears. Game designers, take note plz.

Anyway, since this post has mainly been about scary things and personal gripes, I thought I’d leave you with a wonderful scene of beauty and harmony and everything that is ‘right’ with the world; don’t have nightmares.

MemeCenter_1375716630592_653

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Sevens: Sonisphere 2014

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Okay, let me start off by making one thing clear: Sonisphere 2014 was just EPIC. For four days, Knebworth was host to wall-to-wall awesomeness, and I suppose that it’s now my job to try and boil that down into a short(ish) summary of all the rad stuff that happened, and the major outcomes of the festival. In that spirit, then, here’s a quick run-down of the seven bands I enjoyed the most over the course of Sonisphere 2014, along with the recounting of a few memories. Let’s crack on, shall we?

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1. Metallica [By Request]

Without a doubt, Metallica were the band of Sonisphere 2014. They may have shared headlining duties with the mighty Iron Maiden (and The Prodigy), but you could just tell that Metallica were going to be the band hitting the top gear. This was pretty clear once we entered the arena on Sunday morning to find that Metallica had completely torn down most of the main stage and replaced it with their own setup (and still hadn’t finished it, meaning that Gojira came on late). From the entire backdrop of video wall, the ‘D’ walkway out into the crowd, and the beach ball-deployment mechanisms (see later), Metallica meant business.

And what business it was. With a setlist constructed by the fans, Metallica By Request was always going to be some kind of monster and from the opening twangs of ‘Battery’, the show was unstoppable through ‘Master of Puppets’, ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ and onward toward more choice cuts from Kill ’em AllRide the Lightning…And Justice for All and Metallica [the Black Album]. Despite the popularity of Death Magnetic, the only songs extracted from beyond 1991 were ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ (which went down a storm) and the steamrollering ‘Fuel’, which led to one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night. Even “the new song” ‘Lords of Summer’ went down a treat, along with the standard classics like ‘One’, ‘Creeping Death’ and ‘Enter Sandman.

The master-stroke, though, comes in the final moments: out of nowhere, hundreds of black “Metallica by Request” beach balls fall from the heavens of the stage into the front of the crowd; ricocheting around the arena during the closing songs with gay abandon and a sense of universal glee shared by both band and audience. And heck, when { Metallica } are having this much fun, you know you’re in for a real treat.

p.s. SIT DOWN, LARS

KillEmAll

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2. Ghost (B.C.)

I’ll be honest: before Soni 2014, I’d only really heard of Ghost (B.C.) in passing. I’d only ever really encountered them visually, and so had (not unjustly) assumed that they were a standard Scandinavian black metal band after having seen their outlandish stage garb and semi-religious iconography. Oh, how wrong I was.

Earlier in the weekend, a friend described Ghost as “black metal channeled through surf rock,” and yet that doesn’t really reflect what Ghost is and are: they’re simultaneously the heaviest and not-heaviest band; a bizarre mix of style that you wouldn’t think would work on paper, and yet triumphs spectacularly. The band themselves are anonymous; five bemasked Nameless Ghouls providing the backing noise over which Ghost’s frontman vigilantly presides. Papa Emeritus (II), naturally, is the band’s lifeblood and conduit with the audience, yet he’s so unconventional a frontman that it’s almost refreshing how much an antidote the band are to the traditional ‘rock star’ image and caricature.

Throughout the set, Emeritus paced the stage with a gentle, faux-papal demeanour, gesticulating to the crowd like a preacher addressing his congregation. If the band’s fascinating music-scape is anything to go by, ‘congregation’ is an appropriate term to reflect the awe in which the Sonisphere masses drank in Ghost’s performance, undoubtedly winning over a large swathe of new followers; me included. Certainly, their foray through a handful of album tracks along with a cover of ‘If You Have Ghost(s)’, they most definitely affirmed their place as [my] “Discovery of Sonisphere 2014,” and guaranteed a place for their entire back catalogue in my ever-expanding music collection. (F)rock on.

IfYouHaveGhost

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3. Karnivool

I admit it, I ❤ Karnivool so hard. They’re a monumentally good live band, and one that seems to constantly be on tour in some form or other (this is the fifth time I’ve seen them in less than five years). Hitting the Saturn stage in the middle of Sunday, even I must concede that I was worried that the Vool’s meandering, progressive rock/alt-metal would wither in the daylight and without their ambient, atmospheric lighting and stage presence. I needn’t have worried, though, since the music – as ever – is perfectly capable of transporting you to a hypnotic, dreamlike world of robust prog-metal, regardless of the time of day.

Karnivool’s forty minutes on stage were woven from their typical headline set; drawing from 2009’s Sound Awake and last year’s Asymmetry albums. There are no surprises in the order, nor ad-hoc song changes; just the regular Karnivool machine delivering the tight, sonic experience that they’re expertly-programmed to output. Whilst fellow Aussie band Airbourne were vomiting forth faux-rock’n’roll and pre-planned ‘spontaneous’ acts of rebellion, Karnivool graced the Saturn Stage with maturity, charm and precision. Sound is the factor which holds it together.

Karnivool

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4. Babymetal

Of course, a lot of the pre-Sonisphere hype circulated about the inaugral UK (and European festival) appearance of “internet sensations” (yuk) Babymetal, and how they’d go down in front of a stoic heavy metal crowd that would, later in the day, be gearing up for real metal delivered by Anthrax, Iron Maiden and Slayer. The three girls from Japan were accompanied to the stage by projection of a tongue-in-cheek ‘back story’ video, heralding their status as the new Goddesses of Heavy Metal, before launching into album openers ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’, ‘Megitsune’ and ‘Gimme Chocolate!!’.

Of course, while Babymetal will forever be associated with The Girls, they’d be nothing without the juddering metal backdrop. The backing band provide the foundation for Babymetal’s cosmic stage presence; painting the musical stage on which The Girls sing, dance and cavort around with choreographed abandon. Inter-song solos and noodles from each of the members also goes light-years to proving that they’re not just a dance/pop band; they’re an (albeit constructed) machine of genuine musical talent and merit under the curtain of semi-contrived gimmick.

It’s a shame that, at least for the day, Babymetal could only grace the Apollo Stage for a fleeting half an hour, but it’s certainly enough to satiate the ravenous and (maybe) convince a few of the naysayers to rethink their stern opinions. Either way, for thirty minutes on a gloomy Saturday in Hertfordshire, we were witnesses to the arrival of the new Goddesses of heavy metal; and how refreshing that was. The revolution is here; the time is now.

BabymetalDeath

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5. Hundred Reasons

The assembled crowed at the Saturn Stage on Saturday afternoon felt small, but perfectly formed. After a few years of splitting-up, re-forming, playing comeback and anniversary shows, Hundred Reasons haven’t released new material for seven or so years. Sonisphere 2014 saw them going back in time twelve years, with a full rendition of their essential debut album, Ideas Above our Station; addressing a small but rabid fanbase who can sing along with every word.

Throughout their set, 100R looked for all the world like a band enjoying themselves. With each member now otherwise invested in other projects, the Sonisphere semi-reunion (they got together back in 2012 to do a few proper renunion shows to celebrate the Ideas… ten-year anniversary) had all the feeling of a weekend get-together rather than a run-of-the-mill show. Dutifully, Colin Doran’s lyrics soared over the backing provided by Hibbitt, Gilmour et al. and the voices of the assembled congregation, delivering an atmosphere worthy of a band in their heyday rather than one that’s been off the circuit for far longer than most of us would like.

If nothing else, Hundred Reasons reminded us why 2002’s post-hardcore soundtrack meant so much to so many, and convinced us (if we ever needed convincing in the first place) that the UK music scene is a poorer place without Hundred Reasons in it. Boys, you’re sorely missed.

ShatterproofIsNotAChallenge

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6. Max Raptor

…And the award for “Craziest Moshpit of Sonisphere 2014” goes to Max Raptor!

I’m not sure what I expected when I walked into the Satellite Stage tent to settle in for Max Raptor. What became clear was that, within seconds of launching raucously into their opening song, most of the central area of the tent was taken up by a frenzied [mosh/circle] pit that continuously ebbed and flowed with the motion of bouncing limbs and beaming smiles until well after Max Raptor had left the stage.

Not elsewhere across the weekend did I witness such a constant whirlwind of bodies, fervour and fun as during Max Raptor’s short (but sweet) set – the boistrous (but cordial) moshing throughout the show was accompanied by a jovial wall-of-death and, at one point, the sight of two guys dressed as 1970s long-distance runners sat on each others’ shoulders and jousting across the pit.

I wasn’t familiar with any of Max Raptor’s material before I saw them; even now, I’m almost tempted to keep it that way. Because, you see, to hear them on CD and in the manacles of a recording studio would ruin the memory of witnessing a true punk rock band being completely let off the musical leash for a festival show. They’re a band to see in the flesh, not just on record. Their debut album (Mothers Ruin, fact fans) might be the best ever written, but I’ll never know because I’ll never listen to it; nothing can compare to the real Max Raptor experience, smiles abound.

MaxRaptor

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7. Nirvana Defiled

I’m not sure what I was expecting to hear from Nirvana Defiled; a regular, main stage hardcore(ish) band [The Defiled] playing an 11pm show in a titchy tent as a Nirvana tribute band. I think, in the main, I was just hoping that they wouldn’t screw it up – having watched The Defiled play their regular set on Friday and not been bowled over, a friend and I headed into the Bohemia Stage on a high and settled in to watch the potential car crash of the same band attempting to raid the Nirvana back catalogue. Instead, what we got was one of the most enjoyable musical experience in recent memory, and hats well and truly eaten.

Nirvana Defiled took to the stage in complete costume – ragged cardigans, plaid shirts, pink hair, bras and baseball caps; even with the other (redundant) member of the four-piece The Defiled dolled up in drag as Courtney Love being pushed around in wheelchair – before belting into a perfect rendition of ‘Breed’. For the remainder of the show, The Defiled crushed through the likes of ‘In Bloom’, ‘Negative Creep’, ‘Rape Me’ and ‘Heart-Shaped Box’, before sending the entire tent into a mass frenzy with an intense rendition of the obligatory ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ before exiting the stage and leaving genuine smashed guitar all over it.

It may now be twenty years since Kurt left this world, but for forty or so minutes in Knebworth, late on a Sunday night, Nirvana were alive and well and full of the kind of reckless energy that took them from mere rock band directly to musical legend. And, without a shadow of doubt, it was glorious.

SmellsLikeTheDefiled

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So there we go; my brief (if a little late) review of most of the awesomeness from Sonisphere 2014. Honorable mentions should also go to all of the other bands I managed to watch over the course of the weekend: Hounds, Atari Teenage Riot, 65 Days of Static, Anti-Flag, Limp Bizkit, The Prodigy, Fort Hope, Centiment, The Virginmarys, Alestorm, Deftones, Devin Townsend Project, Reel Big Fish, Alice in Chains, Kerbdog and The One Hundred. Special mentions should also go to the ‘extra-curricular’ activities over the weekend, from the Official Unofficial Sonisphere Bin Joust International Invitational to the Toolbox Hill-Descent Masters. For four or so days, my life was filled with music and other tomfoolery, and it was spectacular.

Thanks, Sonisphere; you were awesome. Same time next year, yeah?

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews #13: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – The Graphic Adventure

IndyTop

Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
Platform: PC (version tested), Amiga, Atari ST, Mac
Release Date: July 1989
Developer: Lucasfilm Games
Publisher: Lucasfilm Games

Way back at the beginning of January, I made a promise to ‘Play More Point-and-Click Adventure Games (at least one per month) and Blog About Them.‘ As such, I felt that it was appropriate for my first adventure game, er, adventure to delve into the depths of time and unearth a relic that’s almost as I am and, as such, has long-since been forgotten by all but adventure game connoisseurs. With that in mind, for January’s point-and-click odyssey, I decided to dust off LucasArts’ Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade tie-in adventure, plunder its nostalgic treasures, and see what comes out in the wash.

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IJLCTGA finds LucasArts (then still known under ‘LucasFilm Games’) still very early in its adventure game career and it most certainly shows; not only graphically, but also in terms of writing, puzzle design and overall vision. That’s not to say that it’s a complete Neanderthal – indeed, IJLCTGA marked the introduction of the now-classic ‘Look’ and ‘Talk’ verbs to the LucasArts canon of adventure games – but, in comparison to the later SCUMM-engine classics of Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max Hit the Road, it’s almost neolithic. Individual scenes and areas are sparse with objects to interact with, little in the way of deep conversation with NPCs, and experimentation with items isn’t rewarded with witty asides or funny dialogue in the same way that later games took so much pleasure in delivering. Despite the fabulous basis provided by John Williams’ superb score for the Last Crusade movie, music isn’t the IJLCTGA‘s strong point either (you’ll go forever without hearing a note, then some scenes have sound) but at least the primitive pixellised graphics show some solidity; even if Indy tends to stand out from the pretty backgrounds kind of like the cartoon archaeologist that he is in the movies.

That being said, the skeleton of the classic adventure game system is alive and well, and the constant back-and-forth of trailing between areas, picking up items and hulking them around in Indy’s TARDIS-like pockets will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played an adventure game. As such, it’s easy to get going straight away and plough right into the adventuring; which is good, because you’re thrown in pretty much immediately without an introduction or prologue, save for a brief ‘third wall’-breaking message from Indy: “Hi, I’m Indiana Jones. Welcome to my game.”

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Not that you really need an introduction, given that the game accurately (if rather broadly) follows the major events of the third Indiana Jones movie. Although this breeds familiarity and instantly lets you dive into the main game, this seems to come at the expense of a proper, three-dimensional story and character development; neither of which can be found here. The story can be subjective, though, depending on certain actions: in some playthroughs (depending on what you do at various times) you’ll visit particular scenes and areas from the movie; in others, you might skip them entirely. There’s also a comedy of inconsistencies: for example, you’ll solve a Führer-based puzzle in Berlin by replicating the movie exactly; but in the Grail Temple, reaching for the obvious wooden cup isn’t necessarily the correct choice.

In fact, the movie’s pivotal point is warped beyond recognition, such that is literally random as to which is ‘true’ Holy Grail; unless you happened to stumbled on the entirely missable clues from way earlier in the game and unintuitively piece them together to work out the solution. If not, then you’ll have to keep re-playing the whole of the Grail Temple until you magically stumble across the correct Grail; which, as you can imagine, is a whole barrel of laughs if you choose poorly and have to replay the same three puzzles through up to ten times). It’s just another inconsistency in a game that often feels like a patchwork of ideas, crudely glued-together and shoved out of the door without the addition of any sort of depth or bolstering of either the gameplay itself, the overarching story or the playability of certain sections. A victim of its obligation to coincide with the release of the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie? Perhaps.
Yes, because that's the rational thing to do when you've just crashed a biplane into the side of a house.

Yes, because that’s the rational solution when you’ve just crashed a biplane into the side of a house.

Naturally for a movie blockbuster, the original source material piles action on thick-and-fast and, so, it’s not surprising that this bleeds into the tie-in game. Where later LucasArts games held a strict rule that death was unattainable, the final third of the IJLCTGA descends into a mess of mandatory arcade sequences and scruffy 2D melee and aerial combat where you’ll see your fair share of ‘Game Over’ screens: take a wrong step, and you’ll be sent back to the title screen to re-load your latest game save. I’m led to believe that the combat sequences around Castle Brunwald and the escape from Germany can be avoided (with suitable dialogue choices within some of the sprawling conversation trees that develop when you cross a Nazi guard), but I rarely had such luck even when re-loading and repeating interactions to find each guard’s weak spot. Each time, you’re thrown out of the immersion and into a deep pond of frustration; the onset of each combat sequence inevitably leading to the ‘Game Over’ screen  and the loss of yet more patience.

The primary problem (aside from often-ridiculous difficulty spikes and sometimes-incomprehensible juxtaposition in context of the rest of the game) with mandatory arcade sequences in adventure games is that they tend to detract from the main thrust of the game; story-based point-and-click adventuring. I have to admit that I was forced to resort to the (lifesaving) Universal Hint System on more than a handful of occasions in order to circumnavigate the game’s second half of crippling, frustrating action segments. Whilst I relied on a complex web of savegames around Castle Brunwald and only sparingly leant on FAQs, the soul-crushing escape from Germany – and string of unskippable guard interactions – was enough to force me to throw trial-and-error out of the window and rely on a helpful walkthrough merely to save me (or my PC) from violent injury. The end result is that you end up feeling somewhat ‘robbed’ of an adventure game; so forceful is the game’s abandonment of traditional point-and-click action halfway through in exchange for sub-par arcade-style progression.

You'll see your fair share of these

You’ll see your fair share of ‘Game Over’ screens: don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Of course, it’s easy to criticise IJLCTGA with the benefit of twenty years of progress in video game design. I guess the problem is you can’t judge a twenty-four year-old game by today’s standards; no matter how you look at it, it just won’t add up. Considering IJLCTGA in the context of PC gaming (and, in parallel, the entire point-and-click genre) largely still in its infancy, it’s easy to see the influence it’s had in setting some of the key themes for the entire genre and, those pesky arcade sequences aside, there’s a solid adventure game buried amongst the archaelogical rubble.

As I hinted at in my opening sentences, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has somewhat been eroded by the ravages of time and, much like Dr. Jones in his most recent movie outing, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade defiantly shows it age. However, like any archaeological artefact, look hard enough and you’ll find some gold beneath the grime, and there’s a sprinkling of (albeit somewhat primitive) charm to be found among the frustrations. The arcade sequences will always feel like a punch to the stomach, but there’s some fun to be had when you’re let loose to point-and-click to your heart’s content. Remember: it’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews: Best of 2013

2013

As the new year approaches and 2013 draws to a close, it’s just about time for my annual review of the good, bad and ugly things from the past year (for reference, here’s my one from last year).

It’s been an eventful year: from finally finishing The Thesis and handing in the beast to partying hard at the likes of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Knife Party; from jetting all around Europe on various work-related shenanigans, to gallivanting up and down the country to visit family, friends and loved ones; from finding gainful employment in academic research, to presenting that research at various important conferences and meetings including the UK Space Conference and the European Conference on Space Debris; from all of the good times with spent with the ones I love, to the lessons learned and the personal growth. 2013 has been spectacular, like a bright star in the night’s sky.

There’s a lot to wrap up so, without further ado, let’s boogie:

Mov

Best Movie ~ RUSH. Ron Howard, you did F1 proud.
Runners-Up ~ Wreck-It Ralph,  Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The World’s End.
‘Didn’t Think Would be Good but was Actually Brilliant’ of the Year ~ Robot and Frank.
Movie Performance of the Year ~ Daniel Brühl getting Niki Lauda’s mannerisms down to a tea. Well played, Brühl.
Runner-Up ~ Tim Key as the flawless Sidekick Simon in Alpha Papa. “I think I handled it pretty well.”
Most Disappointing Movie of 2013 ~ I don’t think I went to see any bad movies in 2013. Sure, The Great Gatsby could’ve done with a few more car chases and buildings blowing up, but it was still pretty damned good.
Unnecessary Movie Sequel of the Year ~ A Good Day to Die Hard.
Debatable Physics of the Year ~ Gravity. Great film, but even the most die-hard fan must admit that the science is a little, well, shaky.
Best TV Show ~  Game of Thrones season three. That show just keeps getting better and better
Runners-Up ~ Top GearWeekly Wipe, The Ambassadors, QI.
TV Moment of the Year ~ Game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding. Nothing can ever compare. So many feels.

Review_Games

‘Didn’t Get To Play But Really Want To’ of 2013 ~ Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Tales of Xillia, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, The Stanley Parable, Broken Sword: the Serpent’s Curse, Gone Home, The Cave, Puppeteer.

Best Mainstream Game ~ Grand  Theft Auto V. So ambitious, so entertaining, so perfect.
Runners-Up ~ Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, Bioshock Infinite.

Best Downloadable Game ~ Papers, Please.
Runners-Up ~  Organ Trail: Director’s Cut, DLC Quest, Lilly Looking Through, Anodyne.

Disappointment of 2013DuckTales: Remastered. It promised so much, but couldn’t deliver.

Video Game Character of 2013 ~ Trevor (Grand Theft Auto V). Unhinged, uncompromising, unbelievable.
Runner-Up – Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite).
The 2013 ‘Development Hell’ Award ~ Team Ico’s The Last Guardian. Perhaps the rise of the PlayStation 4 will finally give us a release date to get excited about.
The 2013 ‘Hidden Gem’ Award ~  Lilly Looking Through: a delightful (but short) point-and-click adventure game, funded through Kickstarter and brought to life by Geeta Games.

Review_Music

Best Gig ~ Iron Maiden (London O2 Arena).
Runners-Up ~ Karnivool (Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms), The Ataris (Southampton Joiners), [spunge] (Southampton Cellar), Knife Party [Haunted House] (London Brixton Academy), Black Sabbath (London O2 Arena).
Best (Rock/Metal) Album ~ Turisas – Turisas2013.
Runners-Up ~ AFI – Burials, Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork, Biffy Clyro – Opposites, Karnivool – Asymmetry.
Best (Electronic/Dance) Album ~ Daft Punk – Random Access Memories.
Runners-Up ~ Kavinsky – OutRun, How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion, Anamanaguchi – Endless Fantasy, Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks, Chipzel – Spectra.
Disappointment of 2013 ~ Alkaline Trio – My Shame is True. Not bad, just disappointing.
Mash-Up of the Year ~ Isosine – ‘Little Sickness’ [Disturbed & Of Monsters and Men] (video link).
Song of the Year ~ Daft Punk – ‘Get Lucky’, VERY CLOSELY beating Turisas’ equally superb ‘For Your Own Good’.
Runners-Up ~ AFI – ’17 Crimes’, Sound City Players – ‘Mantra’, Nine Inch Nails – ‘Copy of A’.
Best Cover Art of 2013 ~ Kavinsky – OutRun (link).
Comeback of 2013 ~ Black Sabbath. The heavy metal Gods return, and what a return it is; a superb album (13) and an even more superb live show, the Sabbath once again prove why they’re not only the inventors of heavy metal, but also it’s saviours.
Steampunk Anthem of the Year ~ The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – ‘The Gin Song’ (link)
‘Why Won’t it Go Away?’ of 2013 ~ Bloody Robin bloody Thicke’s bloody ‘Blurred Lines’.
Music Video of 2013 ~ Peter Serafinowicz’s glorious version of ‘Get Lucky’ (video link).

Review_Motosport

F1 Driver of the Year ~ How can it not be Sebastian Vettel? The man was flawless from lights to flag, and fully deserved to take his fourth consecutive title.
F1 Best Race ~ Monaco. It’s not often  that Monte-Carlo offers excitement and the spectacle, but this year it really nailed it.

F1 Overtake of the Year ~
Fernando Alonso’s stunning start in the Spanish GP. Shows what “home advantage” can do.
“Should’ve  Gone to Specsavers” of the Year ~ Hamilton stopping at the wrong (McLaren) pit box in Malaysia. LOLOLOLOLOL.
Most Improved of the Year – Romain Grosjean. The boy’s come of age, finally.
Team Orders of the Year ~ Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia. “Multi-21, Seb. Multi-21!”
Crash of the Year ~ Kamui Kobayashi on an empty circuit in Moscow :S (video link).
EverythingElse

Best Purchase ~ It’s a toss-up between my LEGO Sopwith Camel and my GeekyJerseys ‘Rogue Squadron’ hockey shirt. I love them both 😀

Best Book ~ Kaja & Phil Foglio – Agatha H and the Airship City // Davey Havok – Pop Kids // Toby Frost – Space Captain Smith: A Game of Battleships

Best Internet Video ~ BirgirPall’s superb I Broke Star Trek (video link). SPAK LET ME IN. HLEP ME KIRK.

Best Photo of 2013 ~ Bill Murray from ‘Reasons my Son is Crying’ (link).

Most Apt Phrase to Sum Up 2013 ~ “Pope Francis and the Chelyabinsk meteor totally came in like a wrecking ball but then the badgers moved the goalposts in one of their drunken stupors.”

Person of 2013 ~ Andrew W.K. The man is a complete god. He tweeted to me for my birthday, for crying out loud.

Looking Forward to in 2014 ~ Season four of Game of Thrones. Less Than Jake & Reel Big Fish at Portsmouth Pyramids. Turisas at Southampton Talking Heads. The Hobbit: There and Back Again.  (Hopefully) passing my PhD viva and becoming a proper Doctor of Philosophy and shit. Final Fantasy XV. Formula One getting shaken up to its core. Watch Dogs. The LEGO Movie. Porsche’s return to Le Mans and endurance racing. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

BEST MOMENTS (no order)

New Year’s fun and frolics in Southampton; The SUMMER Party; BTCC action at Thruxton; WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone; LEGOland wizardry for Ben’s stag do; Jorge Cham (PhD Comics)’s seminar at Southampton University on the ‘Power of Procrastination’; birthdaying in London and the QI Christmas special; #Ockfest frolics; weddings for Alice & Ben and Ben & Sarah; #IronSunday and #BlackTuesday with Maiden and Sabbath at The O2; adventures in London for Knife Party’s ‘Haunted House’ and the game of #GetTheHeckOutOfBrixton at 4am; Andrew O’Neill is Easily Distracted at The Art House; not-crashing the weddings of Alice & Ben and Ben & Sarah; emitting Eurovision-based LOLz at Shez’s place; THE SUMMER PARTY in sunny Lugwardine; work trips to Darmstadt, Friedrichshafen, Glasgow, Toulouse; gigs for [spunge], The Ataris and Karnivool; Many #TabletopNight meeple action with the usual crowd; and plenty more besides.

Everyone, you’ve been awesome.
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And, to finalise, here’s a delightful electronic/punk rock playlist to celebrate December and calibrate 2014. It’s called 013/12 – The Long Road to Redemption.

Playlist_01312

2013 is dead. Long live 2014. 

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews #12: Books N’ Stuff (Feb ’13)

Books1

In a staggering move, in the last couple of days I’ve managed to finish two whole books. Granted, the first is one I’ve been reading very slowly since the beginning of October and only just got round to polishing off, and the other I’ve been dipping into for a month but isn’t really that long; but knowing me, and the fantastically slow pace I get through books, getting to the end of anything is something remarkable.

I used to read every day, and lots: when I first came to uni, I’d read 30-40 pages a night, and rapidly got through a lot of Discworld and Star Wars Expanded Universe stuff. Since I’ve been doing my PhD and living with Bryony and such, I just don’t devote much time to reading anymore; so it usually ends up being a quick few pages in the five minutes before I go to sleep, and maybe a few chapters in a coffee shop on my single day off on the weekend. However, I kind of made it my unofficial New Year’s resolution to do more reading (unrelated to, but kind of similar to Andy’s and Dan’s ’52 Books in 52 Weeks’ efforts; click here to find Andy’s blog on the matter), particularly the sort of steampunky adventure tales I’m into at the moment.

So, armed with a Christmas haul of Waterstone’s vouchers and book tokens, I picked up a few new books, the first of which was this:

Lavie Tidhar – Camera Obscura:

CO

I chose this on a complete whim, largely because I was won over by the stunning cover and spine artwork, but also because I was drawn in by the synopsis with such phrases as ‘murder most foul’, ‘whirlwind adventure’ and ‘reptilian royalty’. I was largely unperturbed by the fact that this is technically the second in the series (the ‘Bookman Chronicles’), given that there didn’t seem to be any real key plot points that require reading them in order, so ploughed straight on in.

On the whole, the story is a solid, rip-roaring gaslamp-era romp: set (initially) in a steampunky, alternate Paris, focus is largely drawn on Lady De Winter, an agent working for the underground, governmental organisation of the Quiet Council, pursuing the perpetrator of a string of grizzly murders on the Seine; but also on the hunt for an alien artefact arising from China that’s drawing major attention from the city’s factions. The initial set-up is mouth-watering, but the fast-pacing of the story quickly diverges from those promising beginnings to vault into a heady tale of villain-chasing and mystical powers, and the promise begins to deteriorate. There’s enough excitement to be had, though, but it’s at the expense of exposition, and leaves one wishing that the story would focus and flesh out one area of the tale before moving to the next. Indeed, chapters rarely exceed five pages, and it ends up feeling too much like a slew of set-pieces strung together than an opportunity to augment any emotional connection with the characters.

That, however, remains the major criticism, since the text itself reveals enough of the historical (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec! The Moulin Rouge! Nicola Tesla!) and the fantastical (Mechanical prosthetics! Gateways to other universes! A reptilian Queen Victoria!) to maintain a constant interest, and the tale contains abundant levels of dialogue and thought-process; even if a lot of the discourse is the sort of cliched conversation you’d find in any low-budget action movie. In that sense, both the story and the medium through which it is presented act merely as architects for the imagination: on their own, both remain ultimately underdeveloped and leave the reader wanting, but adding a sprinkle of mental imagery to fill in the gaps goes a long way to fleshing out the under-developed plot with something of more substance. Of course, that may not appeal to those readers who want the text to develop itself and communicate its own tale, but this is a book more akin to a ‘choose-your-own-adventure’; providing the bare bones of the universe, but leaving it to the mind to solidify the full experience.

Yahtzee Croshaw – Jam:

Jam

Best known for his consistently superb video game reviews over at The Escapist’s Zero Punctuation, it’s sometimes overlooked that Yahtzee is also a fantastic full-blown novelist. Jam, his second book, is a sheer delight and deftly combines his dark playfulness with accomplished storytelling to create an engaging, humour-filled tale.

The plot is essentially one of a standard zombie-horror premise, except one in which the zombie flood is actually, er, jam. Imagine an undead apocalypse set in Brisbane, except with a tidal wave of carnivorous jam; throw in secret government agencies; a MacGuffin of a software build stored on an ever-changing-hands hard drive; and a rag-tag collection computer nerds, coffee baristas and Goliath Birdeater spider. Turns out, Australia has succumbed to a flood of man-eating Jam that assimilates organic matter, chomping through the majority of the populace during a busy rush hour, leaving roommates Travis and Tim to awake to a scene of Brisbane covered in a sea of preserve with only a few pockets of civilisation remaining. What follows is a 400-page romp as the gang traverse the Jam; meeting other survivors along the way and attempting to escape the red menace, but not before they figure out what’s happened, and why. Often encompassing events which traverse the silly and end up in the downright bizarre, the story is amusing and page-turning: the concept, posing a stereotypical zombie apocalypse à la 28 Days Later, except with a jam-based twist, is a virtuoso move, and one which opens up a wealth of opportunities for entertaining set-pieces and inventive goings-on.

The tale bounds along at quite a pace, maintaining a constant level of tension balanced perfectly with comedy, levering an effortlessly engaging narrative that scarcely has a problem preserving (pun most definitely intended) the reader’s attention and interest throughout. It’s delivered in an easily accessible style; delicately paced to avoid plot dead-zones and balanced to ensure that the tale neither becomes too heavy, nor too trivial. Unlike Camera Obscura, this is a world which is fully constructed, with complex inter-personal relationships which are integral to the ongoing tension of the adventure. And far from being predictable, the book regularly throws up unexpected events to maintain the pace and scenes which keep just on the right side of the silly/serious boundary to retain the novel’s graceful vision of a farcical, jam-based version of Dawn of the Dead. A unique, entertaining piece of work, it’s most definitely a valuable read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough: I command you to seek it out, spoon it up and get stuck in.

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews: Best of 2012

2012

As the new year approaches and 2012 draws to a close, it’s just about time for my annual review of the good, bad and ugly things from the past year (for reference, here’s my one from last year).

So, without further ado, let’s boogie:

MOVIES & TV

Best Movie ~ The Dark Knight Rises
Runners-Up ~ The Raid, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
‘Didn’t Think Would be Good but was Actually Brilliant’ of the Year ~ Sightseers. A masterpiece in British black comedy.
Movie Performance of the Year ~ Tom Hardy as Bane, The Dark Knight Rises. He can’t beat Ledger’s Joker, but still a chilling portrayal of the muscled maniac.
Most Disappointing Movie of 2012Skyfall. Just remarkably… average. Bond deserves better.
Unnecessary Movie Sequel of the Year ~ Taken 2. 
Crowdfunding Achievement of the Year ~ Iron SkyWhat a film. Glorious.
Best TV Show ~ Sherlock
Runners-Up ~ The Thick of It (series four), Game of Thrones (season two), Peep Show (series eight)
TV Moment of the Year ~ Sherlock‘s stunning misdirection and sleight-of-hand at the climax of ‘The Reichenbach Fall’.

VIDEO GAMES

I totally haven’t played many ‘new’ video games in 2012, so this section is looking rather bleak. Oh well, here’s to 2013!

‘Didn’t Get To Play But Really Want To’ of 2012 ~ Assassin’s Creed 3, The Walking Dead, ZombiU, LEGO Lord of the Rings, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, Black Mesa, Dishonoured, Fez, Journey

Best Mainstream Game ~ The Last Story (Wii)
Runners-Up ~ Pandora’s Tower (Wii), Dear Esther (PC)

Best Indie Game ~ Retro City Rampage (PC)
Runners-Up ~ Dustforce, Ticket to Ride, Botanicula (all PC)

Video Game Character of 2012 ~ The Slenderman (video link)
Crowdfunding Achievement of 2012 ~Double Fine Adventure (web link)
Best Non-Game Game of 2012 ~ Dear Esther (PC)

MUSIC

Best Gig ~ Andrew WK (HMV Forum, London). Best gig ever.
Runners-Up ~ Justice (Bestival, Isle of Wight), Alestorm (The Cellar, Southampton), 2:54 (The Jericho, Oxford)
Best (non-power metal) Album ~ Rush – Clockwork Angels
Runners-Up ~ Blaqk Audio – Bright Black Heaven, 2:54 – s/t, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – This May Be The Reason Why The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing Cannot Be Killed By Conventional Weapons
Best (power metal) AlbumSabaton – Carolus Rex
Runners-Up ~ Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – Ascending to Infinity, Ascension – Far Beyond the Stars, Ensiferum – Unsung Heroes
Disappointment of 2012 ~ Yet another year passing by without a Daft Punk album (although I hear we might get one in 2013, fingers crossed)
Music Video of the Year ~ PSY – ‘Gangnam Style’ (video link)
Song of the Year~ Chairlift – ‘I Belong in Your Arms’ (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Blaqk Audio – ‘Fade to White’ (video link), Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody – ‘Dark Fate of Atlantis’ (video link), Rush – ‘Headlong Flight’ (video link)
Most Stealthy Penis-Laden Cover Art ~ Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix (web link)
Breakthrough Band of 2012 ~ 2:54
Steampunk Anthem of the Year ~ The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing – ‘Brunel’ (video link)
‘Why Won’t it Go Away?’ of 2012 ~ Gotye – ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ (video link)
‘Not Guilty At All’ Pleasure of 2012 ~ Ke$ha – Warrior
Mash-Up of the Year ~ Ke$ha vs. Lamb of God – ‘Tik Tok Redneck’ (by Isosine, video link)

MOTORSPORT

F1 Driver of the Year ~ Fernando Alonso. Drove the balls off that Ferrari, but just didn’t quite make the championship
Runners-Up ~ Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg, Sebastian Vettel
F1 Best Race ~ The final race in Brazil. What a spectacular close to the season.

F1 Overtake of the Year ~
Hulkenberg on Grosjean/Hamilton in Korea. The Hulk: You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.
First-Lap Madness of the Year – Spa-Francorchamps and Grosjean’s Falcon Punch into most of the field. Earned him a one-race ban, but what a way to do it.
Crash of the Year ~ Antony Davidson at LM24 (video link)
Video ~ Gymkhana 5 (video link)
Nine-Times World Champion of the Year ~ Sebastian Loeb. What a driver, the likes of which may never be seen again in the World Rally Championship.

PROJECT 500

(see Empire’s 500 Greatest Movies of All TimeProgress: 350/500

Best Movies (I hadn’t seen) ~ The Bourne Identity, AI: Artificial Intelligence, Dog Day Afternoon, Zodiac, Schindler’s List, Paris Texas

New Discoveries ~ Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network),

Disappointments ~ Killer of Sheep, Russian Ark, Andrei Rublev

Best Car Chase ~ The Bourne Identity

Most Out-of-Place Car Chase ~ Blow Out

Most in Need of a Car Chase ~ The Leopard

EVERYTHING ELSE

Best Purchase ~ Andrew W.K. bobblehead (web link). Just amazing.

Best Book ~ Yahtzee Croshaw – Jam

Best Internet Video ~ Counting Song (video link)
Runners-Up ~ Batman Maybe (video link), Vincent Van Dominogh – Starry Night (video link), C-Bomb – Bowl Date (video link)

Best Reaction Video of 2012 ~ Kermode’s and Transformers 4 (video link)

Tweet of the Year ~ Jim Howick: ‘I’ve lost my eggs and I can’t ring them because they’re on silent.’ (link)

Most Apt Phrase to Sum Up 2012 ~ “It’s a Gangnam Style world, we’re just living in it” – Josh Groban

Best Discovered Drink – Guinness Punch

Word of 2012 ~ ‘Pleb’. A welcome return for one of my favourite put-downs.

Man of 2012 ~ Andrew W.K. The man is a complete god.

Looking Forward to in 2013 ~ Potentially becoming a doctor (again, copy paste last year); Django Unchained; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug; another thrilling F1 season; Daft Punk’s 4th album and potentially playing live shows (!!!); a new Karnivool album (hopefully); and a whole bunch more.

Best Moments (no order) ~
Autosport International at Birmingham NEC; Stewart Lee’s Carpet Remnant World; Alestorm at The Cellar; Andrew WK at London HMV Forum; Kayaking on the Wye; OckFest 2012; World Endurance Championship at Silverstone; Tim Key’s Masterslut at the Nuffield Theatre; the Bestival experience with the University of Southampton Roadshow (and being officially in the Bestival programme, no jokes); more awesome movies than you can shake a stick at; the November ‘Apocalypse’ weekend of 2:54 in Oxford followed by Hereford shenanigans; Charlie & Jade’s wedding and awesomeness; Farnborough Air Show; Goodwood Festival of Speed; Nuremberg, Freiberg, Devon; the list goes on…
Everyone, you’ve been awesome.

2012 is dead. Long live 2013. 

[Zinar7]

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Sinister Reviews #11: The Last Story

 

 

Genre: JRPG. Third-Person Adventure
Platform: Wii
Release Date: March 2012
Developer: Mistwalker Studios
Publisher: Nintendo
The Last Story is a conundrum: brilliant in places; tragic in others. Pushing the graphical bar right to the top, Mistwalker’s latest JRPG  arrives just as the curtain’s beginning to drop for the Wii: while in the main it succeeds in the face of adversity, a few unforgiving niggles ultimately prevent it from achieving true greatness.

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Sinister Future

Currently, it’s looking like my review of Destroy All Humans! might be my last, at least for a while. Time is quite precious to me at the moment and, as it turns out, playing games is a lot more fun than writing about them. It’s always been my intention to ‘up’ my use of this blog, and that I should update more regularly – but less formally – than what I’m doing currently. My first few reviews for No More Heroes and LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 pretty much wrote themselves: Indeed, I knocked those out during short breaks at work. Of late, however (starting with Epic Mickey, which took about six months before I actually posted it) I’ve found significantly higher barriers from me getting them done; partially because I’ve been so darned busy at work that I’ve no motivation to pseudo-‘work’ in my free time by writing reviews, and also partially because the backlog of EVERYTHING I currently have. I’d much rather this be a freeform blog in which I’m free to talk about whatever I want in a relaxed way and when I have something I want to say, rather than expending all my creative juices on formal reviews and having little time for more jolly fare. I’m hoping I can keep up reviews of new stuff (i.e. new music/videogame releases), such that my opinions will be useful to others who’re considering picking up the same release, but my experiences with other stuff may be documented in a more relaxed manner.

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Sinister Reviews #10: Destroy All Humans!

#10: Destroy All Humans! (PS2)
Genre: Action-Adventure, Sandbox
Platform: PS2 (version tested), Xbox
Release Date: June 2005
Developer: Pandemic
Publisher: THQ

If Edward D. Wood Jr. could have made video games, he’d have produced Destroy All Humans!; heck, there’s even a trailer for Plan 9 from Outer Space included in the game’s bonus feautres. An homage to old, Fifties B-movies like Plan 9Day of the Triffids and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the game focuses on the plight of Orthopox and Cryptosporidium from the planet Furon: two extra-galactic creatures with a lone flying saucer, charged with invading Earth and placing humanity under the iron fist of the Furon Empire. Like its B-movie counterparts, Destroy All Humans! is highly-entertaining with some cheesy action and even cheesier comedy, but ultimately won’t bring home the silverware.

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Sinister Reviews #09: Prince of Persia – The Fallen King

#09: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King (Nintendo DS)
Genre: Platformer, Action
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: December 2008
Developer: Ubisoft Casablanca
Publisher: Ubisoft
Falling within the second reboot of the Prince of Persia franchise in 2008, The Fallen King marks the Prince’s return to the two-dimensional world after the highly-rated Sands of Time trilogy embraced three dimensions and revolutionised the action-adventure genre. Being the first proper Persian outing onto handheld consoles (one turn-based strategy spinoff aside), fans will welcome the opportunity to dodge traps, leap chasms and die frequent jaggy-rock deaths while on the move as well, not just from the comfort of their sofa.

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