Sunday, 8 March 2015

Game Review: South Park Stick of Truth

It’s loud, crude and unapologetic - this week I have been playing South Park: The Stick of Truth.

This is the part where I usually introduce a bit of background to what I’ve been playing or reading but, quite frankly, if you’ve never heard of South Park then where have you been? 

Despite the show’s success and its continued television presence after 18 years, it is quite surprising that the series has only ever had two video games. 

The original, simply titled South Park, was a 3D platformer on the Nintendo 64 which came out way back in 1998. While that was a first-person game where you took control of one of the four main characters moving through a 3D level, Stick of Truth is completely 2D. 

The first impression you’ll get is that it feels like you’re playing an interactive episode of the show. You create and control your own character “new kid” throughout the duration of the game. 

If you’re disappointed that you can’t play as either Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman, don’t worry, they turn up pretty quickly and will follow you around to help in fights. You can only have one follower at a time but you change between characters to your heart’s content. 

Arriving in South Park you join a fantasy games some of the kids are playing. Basically the two groups - humans and elves - are fighting over the Stick of Truth. Whoever controls it controls the universe - or so they say. 

But what starts off as a harmless kids game quickly escalates into a much bigger adventure involving a UFO crash, Nazi zombies and every other story to have featured in the South Park TV series for the last several years. The game does well to cram all these plots together to come up with something new which keeps the story going. Also it is a great nostalgia trip. 

A lot of the game is spent battling other opponents. Unlike the 1998 game again where you were free to attack as much as you wanted, Stick of Truth uses turn-based combat. Also you will have to constantly upgrade your weapons and armour as you progress. 

This isn’t as straight forward as changing outfits as well - to get the absolute best out of what you’re using you will have to use add-ons to your weapons and armour. The effects and advantages they give you vary and can really change how fights go. This can be quite daunting to get used to at first but after a few hours you’ll start picking up what works and what doesn’t. Battles take a little practice to get a hang of as well but once you’ve cracked it it’s a lot of fun.

Stick of Truth is a bright, colourful game that stays true to its source content. It’s very funny and has lots to do but is one to avoid if you’re easily offended. 

It gets 8/10.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Movie Review: Sharknado Two

Probably one of the silliest film franchises to hit our computer screens this last couple of years (yes, computer) is the Sharknado movies (see why I said computer?). 

If you’re not familiar with the films I will give you a rundown of what they are about: Sharks + tornado = Sharknado. That’s pretty much it. 

The first film was about a bar owner called Finn (subtle) trying to save his family after a sharknado hits his hometown and the raining sharks start to eat everyone. 

The second one delivers the same thing except this time in New York…because…I don’t know, Finn and his family are just there.
What can I really say about this film? The CGI sharks look like they’ve been designed with Windows 95, the acting is terribly, cheesy and over the top and there is no rhyme or reason to any of it. 

And while most modern movies like to replace real life rules with Hollywood movie rules from time to time, Sharknado Two likes to piss all over them. If I had a penny for every time this film did that I would be a millionaire.

But this is the thing, despite all of the above Sharknado isn’t actually a bad film. Why not? Because it knows it’s premise is ridiculous and it never takes itself seriously. 

The team behind the Sharknado films are the same people who brought us Z-Nation. Now while Z-Nation has far better acting and effects, it is still a guilty pleasure like the Sharnado franchise. 

Sticking with Z-Nation, there is nothing you have never seen in another zombie series or movies before but the series takes this in its stride. As a result it often has silly plot points and jokes all the way through. 

Sharknado is intentionally over-the-top for the sake of being so and that makes it hilarious. The original film was so popular that the production team managed to get a good number of cameos from famous fans. While it is really funny though, the bad acting did start getting on my nerves half way through. 

Sharnado: The Second One gets 6/10.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Movie Review: Snowpiercer

This week I have watched a little known 2013 movie called Snowpiercer. Set in the future, the film is about the last train in the world after the planet freezes. 

Snowpiercer travels on a non stop loop of the world while the passengers live on in a self-sustained eco-system. But the film is about the disgruntled second class passengers (who are kept in squalid conditions) who embark on a revolution to get to the front of the train. 

Before I go any further I do appreciate the initial concept is very farfetched and raised a lot of questions. Well if you were expecting those and basic engineering questions to be answered at all…you’d be completely and utterly wrong. But once you move away from that and only focus on the class struggle of the film - which is the entire purpose - it actually is pretty solid for a movie.
Also, for such an unknown film, this has a lot of famous people in it. Chris Evans (Captain America) plays Curtis, the leader of the underclass; his mentor is John Hurt and his sidekick is Billy Elliot. With such big names starring in the movie and also giving great performances, it’s surprising this film wasn’t as big as it was. 

The action is pretty much constant and the settings in each carriage are impressive. One carriage is designed to look like a school while another is an aquarium. You genuinely don’t know what to expect until the characters get there. 

Snowpiercer however is not for the faint hearted. It is very gory and does not cut away from brutal deaths or injuries like most films do. This is not something you should watch with your kids.

Snowpiercer gets 7/10.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Ebook Review: Red Moon

When a strange object is detected crash landing on the moon, a team of three US soldiers is sent to investigate. That's the premise for Jack Goodwind's novella Red Moon (Line of Blood Saga). The book is only 69 pages and a good introduction to the series if you're just after a taster.

I found the characters a little 2D in places but they get better as the story unfolds. High pressure situations lets us see a lot of their other traits and this makes them feel a lot more human and relatable.

The build up to what actually crashed on the moon is well paced and leaves you slightly on edge. What the soldiers  - led by Major Joe Evans - find is superbly described, as well as their environments. It is easy to imagine being there.

This is a good introduction to what sounds like a great series. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ebook Review: Spilt Milk: A Collection of Short Stories

Spilt Milk is a collection of short stories by US writer DK Cassidy. On the surface of it the tales told within its pages seem to follow very different characters contending with very different situations and daily lives. But if you read it all the way through a lot of the characters actually cross paths: sometimes in major ways, sometimes in minor. 

Something a lot of short stories struggle to do is build personality in their characters simply because of the limitation of space. However, DK Cassidy does not waste a word when writing about hers. The characters are given inner monologues and this door into their mind helps a lot to build a picture about the protagonist you are reading about. Some of them are in very dark places and this is captured well in her words. 

My favourite of all the stories was Octopus. I can’t really say anything without giving the story away. So you should go and read this great collection of short stories!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Movie Review: Battle of the Five Armies

Hey everyone, remember how excited we all were when we heard Peter Jackson was making The Hobbit trilogy? And hey, do you remember how disappointed you were with the final film? Yep, there’s nothing worse than me bringing that up to worsen your January blues. 

I’ll admit I’ve only just seen this film, not due to laziness but rather constant technical faults at my local cinema. And now that I have seen it I can honestly say I don’t think I missed much not getting to see it before Christmas like everyone else. 
Don’t get me wrong, Battle of the Five Armies is a good film. The fighting is on a grand scale, is epic and the special effects are top notch once again. 

Sadly what this film has in style it lacks in substance. The dragon, Smaug - you know, the evil one that has been the vocal point of the entire trilogy - is killed off in the first ten minutes. I know the second film ended on a cliff hanger and they had to pick up where the dragon flying off to cause destruction left off - but killing him off in the first ten minutes? 

The townsfolk wash up on a cold, bleak shore and spend a good while standing about not looking sure what to do with themselves. I can tell you the audience felt exactly the same. 

Meanwhile King Thorin becomes ill and jealously protective of his gold. This leads him to risking war with the elves and the townsfolk. Thorin naturally calls on the dwarfs for reinforcements and they all square up on the battlefield. But they all suddenly become friends again when an Orc army descends wanting to claim the mountain because of its strategic vantage. No prizes for guessing how it ends. 

Like I said it’s not so much this is a bad film. The fighting has enough energy to keep it going but there’s no pacing and nothing else going on. For an ending to a trilogy of this size it is a letdown. 

Battle of the Five Armies gets 6/10.