Monday, 24 August 2015

Game Review: Enter the Q.U.B.E

Q.U.B.E Director's Cut has finally made its way onto the Xbox One. If this news surprises you then it certainly did me – I had never heard of it before it was advertised on the console e-shop. Apparently though, the game was first released in 2011 to much applause. However, last year it was re-released in a “director's cut” version with additional puzzles.

The premise is simple – you make your way from room-to-room solving various puzzles involving coloured cubes. Your character controls the cubes by using a pair of gloves. Usually the gloves only allow you to extract and retract the blocks into the ground or walls.

I have not played the original so I cannot compare graphics or the original gameplay to the newer version. That said, the graphics in the director's cut were crisp and bright most of the way through the game. I did experience frame rate drops a few times later in the game but not so often that I would be willing to complain about it.

The challenges do change with each section you progress through. For example, you have to move the cubes to influence the direction of a ball to help it reach a goal. 

There is another version of this later in the game but in the dark and some challenges also involve rotating whole segments of the room.

The puzzles start off fairly easy but get a lot more challenging towards the end of the game. I did not always find a consistency in the level of difficultly between challenges though.

Q.U.B.E has no multiplayer function but this is a good game to play with a friend. It's great fun troubleshooting solutions.

There are a few parts of the scenery you can walk through and get stuck on which is annoying. Considering this is a revised edition of the game there is really no excuse for this not to have been fixed.

Finally, I need to address the elephant in the room. A lot of people have compared this game to Portal because of its style. It is clear the developers drew inspiration from the series but there are no temporal-making guns to be found. 

Gameplay wise this focuses solely on blocks to solve puzzles and nothing else – so the game stands on its own two feet. But the developers could have used a different colour scheme or room layout to have avoided this comparison to the popular franchise.

Q.U.B.E Director's Cut gets 7/10.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Lego Jurassic World Review (Nintnedo DS Version)

Hello, there! I hope everyone's enjoying their summer. I know it's been a while but here I am with a fresh review.

Hot on the heels of the T-Rex juggernaut that was Jurassic World, Lego released a game version of the hit movie on several gaming platforms.

I played the Nintendo 3DS version so I do not know how similar they compare to other versions.

But regardless, if you would prefer playing this game on the go rather than stuck in the house on the Xbox One then it definitely is worth your money.

The game allows players to relive all four films - although to begin with you will only be able to access the original and Jurassic World. 

As this is a Lego interpretation of the series, it takes some creative liberties with the plots and levels. While the stories are similar to the source material, the game does bypass some parts and focuses on the main points.

All the characters are also made of Lego, of course. The cut scenes are not bad but I don't understand why you can only watch a handful in 3D. It kind of defeats the purpose of being on the Nintendo 3DS.

Also the audio quality of the voices is awful. There are taken straight from the films but it sounds like they were recorded in a toilet.

The gameplay itself is pretty good. The controls are straight forward so anyone can play. While most puzzles again are straight forward some require you to look around and explore different areas before they can be solved.

However, if you have played previous Lego games Jurassic World will give you a sense of deja vu. There is nothing new in the game mechanics compared to previous games.

Lego Jurassic World gets 7/10.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Salma Hayek takes the lead role in the very dark and bloody Everly. The movie was released last year but I have only just heard of it.
Anyway, this movie got quite mixed reviews. Personally I enjoyed it for the most part but I can understand those who did not.

Everly is a hooker who finally snaps and kills her ex-partner's henchmen in her flat. Realising what she has done, Everly holes up in her apartment in readiness to fight the other gang members her ex will send her way.

I would carry on with the plot but that is pretty much all there is to tell. As you can imagine this is a film full of gun fights and explosions as Everly slugs it out with gangsters. The fight scenes are a great watch and intentionally funny in places.

If you are looking for a story with substance though you will not find it here. While Salma Hayek makes a nice piece of eye candy for the guys and pleases their inner-five-year-old's list for shooting and things going boom – it's a film that will not appeal to anyone else.

The film does attempt to be quirky at times but there parts just left me more confused than anything else. There is definitely a Quentin Tarantino style the film makers were going for with Everly but it's not quite there.

While Tarantino indulges in random quirky characters or moments in his movies (usually anyway) he tends to make them have some serious relevance to the plot – e.g a main character. Everly on the other hand can get away without them.

Everly is an extremely gory film and not one to watch on a Sunday afternoon with the family.

It gets 5/10 from me.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Game Review: Avatar of the Dead

Hey all, between packing and moving house I've not had much time to review any books, films or games this last week so this is going to be a short one just to tie you over.

I have been playing Avatar of the Dead...or rather I played it twice and no more because it has no replay value. It is an indie zombie survival game you can get on the Xbox 360.

When you begin you get dumped in a dark map by a van with its lights on with no explanation as to how and why you got there. Armed with only your fists you are told to find weapons - which you will use to fight off zombies. I found a shovel and nothing else after that. The zombies come out of the dark but you can usually hear them coming and half of them look like crash test dummies. Then you hit them...again...and again...until they're dead.

This game wouldn't be so bad if the zombies took less than nine or ten hits to kill - yet yif you're hit more than three you die and have to start over (even though you're hitting them with a shovel).

Also the graphics are awful. If you try the punch attack it looks like you are swinging a pair of mannequin arms around. The shovel probably doesn't do much damage because when you swing it - and that term is being generous - it twitches and that's it. The map is very limited and the reason why it is so dark is not for atmosphere - it's to hide how bad the graphics are.

Avatar of the Dead gets 1/10.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Vikings: Season Three Review

One of my favourite historical dramas returned recently - Vikings. As recently as a year ago a lot of people had not heard of this show, despite having some big names attached to it and already being into its second series. 

Skipping forward to when the third season began two months ago, a lot of people I know were finally talking about it. 

Vikings follows the life of King Raynar Lodbrok and his people as they raid foreign lands. At least, that was the original premise. Series three starts with the Vikings returning to the kingdom of Merica (somewhere in England) to set up a colony following a truce with King Ecbert. 

While we knew this was coming, the show seems to spend way too much time on the Vikings settling in and doing farming, farming and more farming. It’s only really around episode three that the action starts to really pick up again. But, sadly, the best action doesn’t arrive until the last three episodes when the Vikings attack Paris. 

There are a few surprise twists along the way but nothing this series which really leaves you stunned. The only twist that really got me was the death of one of the main characters but even this you see coming from a mile off.
Set and atmosphere wise Vikings still delivers. The fighting scenes are fast, bloody and graphic as always and the sets - including Paris - are really well done. The acting is still top notch and there is that familiar injection of humour that only works with Ragnar’s character.

I wasn’t as impressed with this series as I was the first two because of the lack of action and a lack of major developments in the story. But the siege of Paris in the final episodes was a return to form - they definitely saved the best until last.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Black Sails Season Two Review

I’m very much in a pirating mood this week after binging on Black Sails, a rip-roaring high seas drama you can find on Amazon Prime. 

Some of you may remember I reviewed the first series this time last year. While I enjoyed the first outing of Captain Flint and his crew, I did find the original series a bit ropey in places. 

However, I can safely say the second series has addressed many of my gripes. But before I get into that, here’s a recap of what the story is. Black Sails tells the fortunes and lives of various crews out of the pirate haven of Nassau - although the series predominantly focuses on Captain Flint and his men. At the end of the last series the crew had set out looking for Spanish gold, only to run into trouble and become stranded. However, by the chance, the same island they get stuck on is the same one that has claimed the Spanish ship carrying all that booty. 

The second series starts where the previous left off but once again takes a different direction to what you would expect. Captain Flint - through a lot of plotting and convoluted events regains his captaincy and sets sail back to Nassau. 

From there on the series jumps from character to character, covering all sorts of minor plots that ultimately tie together in the series finale. The series also doesn’t shy away from misleading viewers early on in a very clever way.

Anyway, back to my complaints of the first series. I felt a lot of characters in the first series had about as much personality as a cardboard box. I’m happy to say that is not the case this time round. One of the strongest performances comes from Captain Flint and the flashback sequences that tells us his back story. 

While bits and pieces of his story were hinted at in the first series, this time there is no messing about and everything is put into place. The reason why he became Captain Flint and the way this part of the story is told is nothing short of genius - episode six if you’re interested.

But despite a heavier emphasise on character, the show has not watered down on the amount of action. There are enough battles and explosions to keep action fans hooked. The series also remains very grisly - so maybe one to pass on if you’re faint of heart. 

Black Sails season two gets 9/10.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Game Review: Borderlands the Presequel

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is a first person shooter set on the moon of the distant world of Pandora. Although this is the third game in the series, it is set before Borderlands 2 - hence the title. 

As in previous games, you select one of four characters and battle your way across Pandora’s moon slaughtering bandits, nutters and the local curious wildlife in the process. 

The game play is very similar to previous incarnations of Borderlands but the biggest change is the jump mechanic. Being on a moon and in lower gravity you can jump very high and over long distances while enjoying slow fall time. 

If you’ve picked one of the three human characters (Athena, Nisha or Wilheim) you will also have to frequently refill your air canister or risk suffocation. If you select Claptrap - the robot - this isn’t a problem. Jumping doesn’t cost you air but the extra jump does - so watch out. 
As for the story, you are trying to help a man named Jack regain control of a space station belonging to the Hyperion Corporation that has been taken over by a military group called the Lost Legion. 

For those who have not played the series, Jack is the villain in Borderlands 2 and this is the story of how he became such an a***hole. 

As usual the game isn’t heavily story-driven and focuses more on the game play than anything else. Sighting targets with weapons is as good as it’s ever been and so are the rest of the controls. There is also a nice new selection of weapons to try out as well. 

But while the game stays true to its core mechanics, graphics and humour, there is a lack of anything big and new. 

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel gets 6/10.