Saturday, 31 August 2013

Zombie Wall Decoration - Review

Around this time last year I got sent some zombie make-up to review from Joker's Masquerade; a cool fancy dress website. The make-up...went wrong and transformed me into something strange (here). After destroying the make-up kit with the help of a wandering Catholic Priest I buried the remains in my back garden where it lay until last night when the alignment of Saturn, Pluto and Mars according to ancient rites resurrected the unholy make-up in a new hideous form.

I awoke to find an animate zombie wall decoration in my bed, pretty scary stuff to wake up holding that, I retreated downstairs but the wall hanging followed, getting into my front room I tried to shut it out but alas too late! Charging into my garage I was still pursued. Fully intending to die I somehow slipped around the beast and locked it in, all it could do was watch in impotent rage as I reclaimed my house and barricaded up the doors and windows.

I was expecting the zombie wall hanging would be a cut out, maybe a cardboard one but instead it is printed on a clear plastic sheet. The zombie is 6 foot tall but weirdly it has no feet, a strange omission I felt as it just looks strange to end at the ankles. Also though the height is good the width is too wide for my liking, it wont fit on the back of a traditional door for instance, again I thought this was a strange design choice.

The actual design is a bit cartoony but I reckon it looks quite cool, love the details such as intestines hanging out, and the bone showing through the fingers, it is also good quality printing as well, no complaints there. Advantages to having plastic sheeting is that should any blood or gore be spilt it can be easily cleaned up, maybe the perfect plastic sheeting for the serial killer who wants to instill a Halloween vibe? Not that I'm recommending that.

The Zombie Wall Decoration can be purchased for £4.99 here, if your going all out for Halloween this year then this would be the perfect accompaniment if you have the space. Talking of Halloween decorations...why there also a load of those on the Joker's Masquerade website! In all seriousness I love Halloween decorations, the tackier the better I say, they are something that can just be left up all year long to give a cool, spooky vibe to any house.


On a last note there is a fun little flash game you can play on the website called Attack of the Funky Disco Zombies, you suck up ghosts in a vacuum cleaner, shotgun zombies apart and have a weird dance off with a zombie, not bad.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Annunaki's Errands (2013) - Zombie Horror Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)

Once again the siren call of the X-Box Indie channel demos call me back to dip into another horror. Annnaki's Errands is a first person shooter, don't get your hopes up though; it is not a remotely good one!

The game starts off with a text box story which automatically scrolled too fast for me to be able to read and I consider myself a fast reader. Fear not for I looked in the options screen and read the tale of delight. Basically you are a sailor whose boat got trashed and you washed up on an island run by a fifty foot Goddess. She hates men for some reason so has killed all of them on the island and turned the woman into zombies for her army. She gives you an errand to do for her, in the demo this was collecting diamonds in a series of tunnels.

The real reason there is only females in this game is to try and get boys to buy it I'm sure. The cover art is terrible and I very nearly stopped there and then. Zombies are all the same identical bikini clad zombie female re skinned to be different colours. They look like they were designed by a child on MS Paint, very bad looking things indeed. The zombies either materialise from behind you, or hang down from the ceilings, making a variety of moans when shot at. Your gun makes the zombies spurt blood that looks like hand prints.

The levels are maze like and you have a health bar and ammo count, it is very basic and not at all interesting, the best thing about it is the soundtrack but that is just a nondescript groaning tune. One to avoid really, run from Annunaki and her stupid errands, run my lad!


Monday, 26 August 2013

Bionic Commando (2009) - Sci-fi Videogame Review (X-Box 360, PC, Playstation 3)

I picked up Bionic Commando a few years back for dirt cheap, as it is the bank holiday weekend (not that it makes a difference as I don't work Mondays anyway) I decided to plough through the game.

Working as a sequel to Bionic Commando Rearmed 1 and 2 this sees you playing as Nathan Spencer the hero of those games. He has been imprisoned for the last five years after bionics became made illegal. On the way to be executed (no idea why!) you are instead given a reprieve in order to help the FSA government defeat the pro-bionic terrorist group BioReign who have decimated Ascension City for reasons unknown. If Spencer completes his mission his handler 'Super Joe' promises to give him info on his missing wife's location. I had heard how terrible the plot twist was in this game, it is truly hilariously bad, I will say that much!

Bionic Commando is stupidly serious and 'gritty'. Giving such a bleakness to the characters does nothing but leave me cold, is really quite silly how 'emo' everything gets. Nathan Spencer is moody, unlikeable, miserable and a complete dick, not a pleasure to be forced to be that character. The people on his side are all horrid, horrid people, Super Joe and his superior both just laying into Spencer constantly saying how useless he is. The enemy characters are barely in it enough to even have any sort of personality to them. The commander of BioReign had virtually no screen time and a woman Spencer used to know who now works for the enemy is just awful, full of as much angst as him.

This came out at a time when it was unconsciously decided to make every single game full of muted dark browns and greys. As such the game looks supremely bland, there are city streets, caverns, woodland areas and docks but all look very plain and bizarrely large in scale. This would be good but there are invisible pockets of radiation that kill you immediately should you accidentally go into them which means for the most part you are funnelled down levels that look giant but are actually very condensed. This is woven into the plot as is the fact that if you go in water you very quickly drown. Maybe good if you fall in deep water but on more than one occasion I fell into water that came up to my waist yet I still drowned as if fully submerged; just damn annoying. When killed the ragdoll animation as your corpse flings itself across the game world at a hundred miles an hour got to be very irritating also.

Where Bionic Commando succeeds is making you feel like a powerful almost super hero type character. Your left arm is robotic and able to be used as a grappling hook, swinging around the levels is fun and the abilities you have to destroy opponents are really quite fun. You can throw objects as large as cars at enemy soldiers, you can use your grapple to grab enemies, or spin it around like a whip to take out multiples at once, or just equip yourself with a limited use super weapon (homing missiles, grenade launcher, super machine gun, or shotgun) and blast the hell out of everyone.

Most levels seeing you swing from bit of scenery to bit of scenery, usually towards a marker on your map which will either be the exit, or a homing beacon thing, hacking which opens up more of the level. A lot of times all enemies must be killed to proceed past electric barriers. A lot of the levels are very short, you can swing across them very quickly to get to the long load for the next small section of game. The engine apparently can't cope with interior levels well as there are virtually none in the entire thing and the ones you do get are very small. Also I must say on one occasion when there were too many enemies on screen the game crashed, not impressed with that!

For the most part you fight weedy soldiers but on occasion you fight enemies piloting mech suits of various kinds. The mechs are a lot of fun to fight, satisfying to knock bits of weapons and armour off of them and then used the fallen object as a projectile to damage the mech more. Boss fights are infrequent but I had fun with them.

In general the combat is good, certainly the best part of the game but all too often it is the miserable storyline and bland locations that just drag Bionic Commando down. If it had just been more light hearted, not as much angst and swearing and more effort made to give the game a unique feel rather than just another brown and grey shooter, albeit one with a cool grappling hook ability then this could have shined, as it is it just doesn't, not at all.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Dungeon Siege III (2011) - Fantasy Videogame Review (X-Box 360,Playstation 3, PC)

Dungeon Siege III is an RPG from Square Enix, I had never played the previous Dungeon Siege games but thought it would be an isometric hack and slash loot fest style game much like Torchlight was. I was pleasantly surprised to see there was a lot more to this game as it has plenty of interesting side quests, conversations, and Mass Effect style dialogue choices that seem to have the ability to drastically affect how the game plays out.

30 years previous a commoner girl; Jayne Kassynder seen as a Saint by the Church of Azunite rallied the people of the land of Ehb in a battle to wipe out the heroic 10th Legion which had protected the kingdom for over 400 years. She accused them of killing the King and with huge support every single last Legionnaire was wiped out or so it was believed. A remaining member; Odo has kept protected all the children of the Legionnaires and plans a meeting to resurrect the lost group and retake the kingdom from Jayne who has been fighting an endless war against the new Queen. The meeting is ambushed though with the majority of the descendants murdered, just a couple survive the ambush including the player character who is either Lucas the Knight, Anjali an Angel like being, Reinhart a mage, or Katarina a half witch who fights with firearms (the character I chose).

Dungeon Siege certainly has some budget issues that mean it is not of the standard of 'triple A' games. The voice acting is pretty average with an echoing effect making it sound like everyone is talking via a mic. Character models are not in huge abundance, it is easy to see that a lot of people you meet are the same character model with just facial hair changed to give the impression of someone new. The huge set pieces the game attempts are reduced somewhat by sometimes average graphics and an engine that doesn't allow too much stuff to occur meaning key events either happen off screen or shown via admittedly nice looking drawings with a voice over giving information.

Locations are nicely detailed and have character to them, from the huge city of Stonebridge to the Dwarven mines of Glitterdelve each look distinctly different it is just a shame that camera control is limited in such a way that your unable to lift it high enough to get a decent look at the locations. On the subject of fiddly things the item equip and level up screen is a bit of a hassle as you are only able to equip items to the two characters currently in your party, your supporting character must be switched out to equip others which was a hassle when your inventory is full up.

Yet for all these small issues I did actually have a lot of fun with this game, the story may be quite simple and not very original or exciting but there is a charm given to the game with it's odd placed humorous moments such as the sarcastic automaton constabulary of Stonebridge who speak in posh English accents and the Goblins obsessed with cats. Side quests are plenty and not at all boring and while there are dungeons as the title implies you also get a variety of different places to fight in such as a tribal village in the swamps, a haunted mansion, and an iron smelting foundry among various others. You get access to 9 different powers per character which can themselves be levelled up in various ways such as the ability to summon a magical fighting dog, or various types of stat boosts. It is fun to choose how you level up your character. Enemies are varied and plenty, from the usual assortment of human foes to witches, cyclopes, ghosts, robots and giant spiders, though no zombies! Bosses are also in abundance and you often get to speak to them afterwards to decide their fate which brings me onto the favourite part for me.

By the choices you make story beats are vastly different, for instance beating one of Kassynder's Angel Generals early in the game I was given a choice on whether I wanted to kill her, imprison her, or let her go. Much later in the game I was able to see what a huge difference my actions seemed to make. There are many such moral quandaries such as this throughout Dungeon Siege, another example is an errant mage who has been planning the destruction of a city and its people. Do you have him executed and please the city folk, or do you take him into your own custody so that he can teach you all the ancient magic he knows? These choices lead to vastly different end sequences. Sure most the choices you make only get looked at in the ending but it gives the game replayability.

I played this in single player but it can be played with up to 4 players, as it was I was on normal and did not get a game over screen once, the friendly A.I was actually competent and always quickly revived me when I was killed in the later sections of the game. Dungeon Siege III surprised me, it was a lot better and involving than I expected. A solid 12 hour RPG that doesn't do anything too different but what it does do it does so competently.


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Dead Island by Mark Morris (2011) - Zombie Book Review

Dead Island the book is based on Dead Island the videogame which was a co-op zombie survival game released back in 2011. Going by the Resident Evil series of books written by S.D Perry I expected a trashy, often boring A to B style mess. Some minor spoilers for the game here so beware!

After a zombie outbreak on the tropical island of Banoi four survivors who discover themselves immune to the strange virus are united by a call from a mysterious individual who promises them rescue if they can get to his location at an offshore prison complex. What follows is a hellish battle against the undead as cocky Logan, rapper Sam, Chinese spy Xian Mei and ex Australian cop Purna head across the island of the damned to reach their alleged saviour.

Dead Island the videogame did not have much in way of plot, after a bizarrely detailed intro spiel for each of the four characters they were pretty much shunted all over the island via a series of fetch quests with no personality given to any of them. Morris finds a way to include the origin stories for the four but again it seems to serve no real purpose, not his fault. What Morris does thankfully is give the characters actual personalities and re-creates events from the game with more depth than just 'kill everything that moves'. Being such a fan of the game I feel the need to discuss the main differences.

The game has far more survivors, most of which are written out to streamline events, an early example is the lifeguard Sinamoi who was surrounded by loads of fellow survivors in the game but in the novel he is alone. Zombies are still in massive abundance but only in certain areas, the whole jungle area has barely a single zombie in it, while the super zombies do not appear at all anywhere on the island. Vast sections are ignored for the book, e.g the rich people holding out in the mayors offices are not mentioned at all, nor the return to the hotel either or virtually all of the human enemies apart from a couple of ragtag groups.

As I previously said the four characters are fleshed out far more for the most part. Logan and Purna in particular have a proper character ark, Logan starts off as an utter jerk but really grows into a likable character. Serious Purna at first has no desire to help anyone but herself but through a series of events comes to want to protect those that deserve protecting. Sam is just a stereotypical nice guy, while Xian Mei is pretty much a blank slate not having much personality at all. Side characters such as Jin get more time to develop, though the mysterious Ryder White remains just as empty as his videogame equivalent.

There is tons of violence here, the details of the state the zombies are in is always described with relish, and the violence inflicted on them is also spoken of in detail, lots of zombie action here. What was a change to the typical undead story is that the group of survivors are immune, so many times they find themselves being chomped down on by the ghouls. Also I found different than the usual zombie tale is that the monsters don't react to sound, they need to see, or maybe smell fresh meat to react so the survivors are able to drive around in vehicles with relative ease.

Dead Island is a very easy book to read, it is not remotely complicated with often quite simple writing in its 334 pages that mean you can just blast your way through it, it is always fun and never feels like it is just ticking off a list of plot points and locations but actually giving you a story that is far better than what you are given in the game even if covering the same bases. Some dark themes are introduced also, rape seems to be a big topic, crops up quite a lot, uncomfortable reading, the old adage of humans are always the real enemies, zombies just victims. Also added here are a variety of zombie children which was a nice touch. The zombies much like the game are of the running variety and can be destroyed in the good old way of destroying the brain.

I had a lot of fun reading Dead Island, big thanks to my friend for buying me a copy. Despite knowing exactly what would happen it was still a good read, just a shame the restrictions of the established game lore led to a conventional end sequence and the huge cliffhanger it ends on left me wishing things had been wrapped up more nicely especially as a novelisation of the next game in the series Dead Island: Riptide was never written.


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Crestfallen (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

Crestfallen is a short six minute horror film from Jeremiah Kipp (who also directed the weird Drool) and is about a young woman who decides to commit suicide after finding her husband in bed with her best friend. I often feel that no manner of zombies and monsters can ever come close to the real horror that can be experienced in life.

Starting off with the suicide the film then traverses in silence the events that led to her deed revealing in short snippets what has occurred, almost like the fragmented thoughts that would be flowing through her mind at that point. The whole piece is silent with an almost fantasy like tune playing over. Harry Manfredi who did the theme tune for Friday 13th is responsible for the score, it's other worldly quality juxtaposes with the surreal bathtub suicide to create an encapsulating shell that perfectly compliments the movements of the piece, often sharply cutting from bright, sunny memories back to dark, tortured present with a sinister chordal snap as if to elaborate on the downward spiral the woman's life has taken.

The way Crestfallen is set out is almost perfect in its execution, Kipp does more with the direction to create emotion, and the real head space of a victim in these six minutes than many manage in feature length films when they have time to develop characters. I didn't like the resolution, it made sense, I won't argue that, but a bit too soppy for me, but maybe I'm just a bit bleak in that regard. Masterful direction, an inverted fairy tale that veers close to sweetness.

Crestfallen can be viewed here.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Sinister Visions (2013) - Horror Film Review

Little did I realise yesterday when I put up the trailer for Sinister Visions that the release day was today! I even mentioned the date in my post but it didn't click at the time. Sinister Visions is a horror anthology that brings together 5 different tales, and a few more fun extras besides.

Succubus is the first story and follows cool intro credits. It starts off well enough with a static screen giving an explanation of what a succubus is. The plot has a girl on an expedition accidentally breaking open a strange device, the gas inside the egg like thing goes into the girl and she becomes possessed by a demon. Back at home the demon side compels her to find men to take. The effects for the demon were great but I was left disappointed as the story just never really went anywhere or had any type of resolution.

Next up comes a few zombie shorts, the first about found footage of a scientist was hilarious, it had me laughing out loud, short, stupid and fun with some great direction. The next zombie short was set up as an advert, not as funny but it was still a nice little break from the main anthology. This flows naturally into the next anthology tale; My Undead Girlfriend. In this one a man heavily in debt to a surreal loan shark has a plan to marry a rich woman so he can pay off the loan. Unfortunately she turns into a zombie which puts a wrench in his plan. Another light hearted story that brought to mind Peter Jackson's Braindead (or Dead Alive if your American) in the crazy dinner scene. Probably the best acting of all the stories here. Overall acting for Sinister Visions was quite patchy, many of the actors don't have English as their first language so this is most likely the reason why some of their lines come off strange or over emphasised.

Mother Knows Best is next that finds Kim Sonderholm in the leading role. Sonderholm is in most of the tales, almost like the glue that holds it all together, he even directs some of them. I was not keen on him in Little Big Boy but here he is a lot better having been given better roles than the often confusing one in that film. Here a man with a controlling, dominating mother invites over a girl to his house with disastrous results, a far more straight up horror than the ones previous that had a good build up.

A Woman Scorned follows Mother Knows Best and is about the revenge a woman has on her cheating husband and friend. Quite a grim tale with a soundtrack that borrowed (in my mind at least) from John Carpenter's The Fog. Over acting by the female lead here I felt reduced some of the tension.
Last up is the grim Genital Genocide that has a serial killer on death row talking about the awful crimes he committed with plenty of gruesome flash backs involved. The serial killer has a real presence to him and leads to a fun ending, and also the end of Sinister Visions.

Overall this was an enjoyable film, no one story takes up too much screen time, I felt that maybe having an over arching story tying the separate ones all together would have helped (like the Creep Show films). Good soundtrack, direction and look. Sure it might not be that scary but it never gets time to get boring and has plenty of blood and female nudity (as always if you are into that). Females suffer a lot in this film! If your after something different then this is for you, released on DVD today.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Parasitus: Ninja Zero (2011) - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)

Parasitus: Ninja Zero is a 2D side scrolling fighting game which has the look and feel of the classic Castlevania series of games but with more fighting much like BloodRayne: Betrayal did. I always feel comfortable to review the lesser well made, or more generic X-Box Indie games but better ones like this not so much as it feels like there is lots I did not see in the all too brief demo.

No idea what the story is, I guess you play as Ninja Zero. In the demo of the 2nd level I got to play I was storming a castle full of zombies, zombie dogs, and demon creatures. There are many different levels in the stage, just like Castlevania, but in the traditional sense, there were no multi route levels like the later Metroidvania style ones.

The game is heavily pixalated which give a fantastic old school look to things, enemies spurt out blood when you hit them, you yourself explode into blood when killed. Armed with a sword you slash up the monsters and attempt to block their attacks. It was quite unforgiving, each time I got to the end of stage boss (possibly) before getting decimated, quite tricky to block when you are being assaulted from multiple angles. The Ninja Zero guy moves fast, has trails like Alucard in the almighty classic Symphony of the Night had and is fluid to control. Him and the many enemies all look great and have plenty of animation. There is some platforming but for the most part this is combat focused, even going as far as too rope you in levels until all the enemies have been slain. Later levels promise huge boss creatures to fight.

As you progress you unlock different moves, wall jumping is a given from off the bat and special attacks can be used by filling up a gauge. Music fitted the tone of the game well. Basically I loved this game, it looks great, is very fluid but also very unforgiving and tough. At 240 Microsoft points this was more than I can currently afford, but as an endorsement it has gone on my list of games I want to buy some day. The worst thing I can really say about this is that the title and cover art are very lame, put me off even wanting to try the demo for the last 2 years.


Sinister Visions (2013) - Horror News and Trailer

I did a news post about this anthology back in March (found here). A trailer has now been made for this which I shall include below. Sinister Visions is due for release on DVD 13th August, I should be putting up a review around that time so stay tuned to see if it is something worth watching!

Sinister Visions looks to be a fun anthology, the trailer surprised me with how funny it was, fingers crossed it will be there are zombies which is always a good sign.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Dawn of the Fred (2013) - Zombie Horror Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)

I have returned from my holiday and so I thought I would slide back into my blog with a traditional review of one of the many billions of X-Box Indie games clogging up my hard drive. Dawn of the Fred is an arena based zombie shooter, hardly an original spin on a zombie game then.

You play as one of a variety of characters including the titular Fred who have to survive rounds against waves of zombies. The demo at least had access to two locations; a house and surrounding garden and a supermarket and car park. I like that effort has been gone into making the arenas feel more like real places than most lazy, lazy zombie games.

The graphical style has some real charm to it, it reminded me of Behemoth's style (them of Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers) though does have a lot less animation. The zombies look great and have variety such as hulking zombies and slug zombies who leave a trail of sticky goo behind them. The sound is also good, has some traditional horror style to it rather than the usual forgettable trash, don't get me wrong, none of the tunes are memorable but at least they are not identical to everything else.

There is a shop in each stage which can be used to buy new weapons using gems that the zombies drop when killed. A load of weapons, lots in fact. The shop is a bit fiddly to use and I had trouble exiting it frequently. There is also a vending machine where extra ammo and health can be purchased between rounds. The next wave of zombies is always up to you to start so none of the usual rushing feeling of being in between rounds.

Dawn of the Fred is up to 4 players, is fun enough even if it does not do anything different to all the other arena games out there, is just a far better example of one and has had more effort put into it. As with all arena games it soon gets boring and there is not a lot of animation to anything also. Some real charm though and for 80 Microsoft points you can't complain too much.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Drool (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

Well first of all I call Drool a horror but it is at its heart an artsy film. As anyone knows most art films can be interpreted many, many ways. Drool could be seen to be a short erotic film but I saw it as something slightly different. There used to be a late night TV show called Headf*ck that brought together lots of surreal and strange art films and music videos. Drool would fit right in.

A naked man slithers around the ground of a strange white realm, he is covered in slime of some sort. A robed woman watches on before going to the man and drooling slime out her mouth all over him. The woman then de robes and she writhes around naked on the ground also while the man drools slime over her. The the man is gone, Drool ends with the naked woman laying there, possibly dying.

You can kinda tell from the description I just gave that this is one strange piece of film. It has a droning, unsettling score to it that created a sense of demonic works going on, the woman, almost witch like seems to have some sinister power over the man who looks almost new born in his actions, as if she created him and then absorbed his essence into herself, or he himself consumed her. The black and white look also helps in creating the sense that they are not on this world, like they are between the veils of reality. The actors manage to convey a lot of meaning just from their movements, impressive what you can get out of a silent film.

Drool is a 4 minute long bizarre, unsettling and weird piece, it is something I think I would watch again. Directed by Jeremiah Kipp (who directed The Sadist, and The Pod among others) it can be viewed here.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Binary Domain (2012) - Sci-fi Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

Trying to work through my giant backlog of games at the moment, I recently went through Syndicate which was loads of fun, but the premise of giant syndicates ruling the world backed up by cybernetically enhanced agents didn't really earn itself a place on this blog (though being able to hack into enemies implants to cause them to commit suicide was fantastic!). Binary Domain was the next game on my list to play, this one justifies its inclusion here, dealing as it does with the concept of robots becoming self aware Terminator style.

Binary Domain takes place in the early 21st century on an Earth where rising sea levels have destroyed most the cities of old, new cities were built on top of the flooded ruins, built by robots. During the creation of robots a new Geneva Convention was created which banned the creation of human like robots. An attack on the American based Bergen robotics company by a robot identical in appearance to humans (termed a 'hollow child') leads the authorities to the conclusion it must have been created by the Japanese based Amada robotics company. An international 'Rust Crew' (team of soldiers dispatched to deal with any breach of the New Geneva Convention) are sent to Tokyo to investigate Amada's HQ and bring in Amada himself for questioning. You play as an American; Dan Marshall who is joined by fellow American 'Big Bo' as well as English, Asian and French soldiers.

This is a third person cover based shooter that reminded me a lot of Vanquish due to the robotic enemies. Every single enemy in the game from lowly robot soldiers to the hulking great bosses can be shot to pieces, armour, limbs and heads blown off. Shooting the legs results in enemies crawling 'Terminator' style towards you in pieces, shooting the head off confuses the robots and makes them turn on their own side, while you can disarm the 'Scrap Heads' by blasting off their arms. Robots get air dropped by huge flying gunships, as well as carried in individually by flying bots. For the most part these robots are humanoid in appearance, though there are a huge variety of enemies such as ones that resemble apes, spiders, and more. Bosses are gigantic and a lot of fun to battle, from a giant near unstoppable gorilla like one to an Avatar inspired mech. All take visible damage as you battle them, combat is a lot of fun.

Points earned from destroying your foes can be used to equip power ups, while each of your team can have a variety of options upgraded on their weapons. There are a lot of characters you get to have in your squad each with different skills. Based on how you treat them you gain or lose their trust, so if you keep shooting them they will grow to hate you (they do have the irritating desire to suddenly run in front of your gun and then blame you when they are hit). You can talk to them using a microphone but that is a bit unreliable, is far quicker just to communicate using the controller. You can give them basic commands but to be honest I never bothered and was no worse off for that.

The plot was ok, plenty of lengthy cut scenes that were quite cool at times and quite violent. The initial attack on the American robotics company saw someone rip off their face in grim detail, later on a discovered Hollow Child has a cigar stubbed out on its eyeball, quite grim stuff, especially when Hollow Children are programmed not to know they are robots and so react as if human. Your teammates are not bad, even the irritating ones I came to like by the end of the game. Plot twists are many but there was nothing that blew my mind. Binary Domain is split into three distinct sections. The initial infiltration of lower Tokyo, next the fight through New Tokyo, finally the assault on the Amada company HQ. The game does do a decent shading of the issue of if artificial life has a right to exist, not just black and white; well handled including themes of racial persecution.

Third person shooting from start to end would be boring but there are lots of one off sections such as a long slide down a watery hill, battles from inside a truck on a long highway, a jet ski chase and lots more. These sections are a welcome diversion from the main game and cool to get to do something that would normally occur in a cut scene. Not so welcome are the walk and talk sections that have you moving at a snail's pace.

After a shaky start I really enjoyed Binary Domain, played through it in three sittings, the characters may be a bit hokey (it is a Sega game after all) but it was a literal blast playing through it and had some great sci-fi b-movie style music that I adored. Is cheap now so there is no excuse to not experience this solid shooter for yourself. As a last comment the game manages to squeeze in robot zombies! Randomly enough just before these appeared I was honestly  thinking to myself I had never seen robot zombies before, the game must have read my mind.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Falling Skies: Season 1 (2011) - Sci-fi TV Show Review

Long was I asked to check out Falling Skies, and you know what? Eventually I did. Falling Skies is a sci-fi series that takes place in America 6 months after an Alien invasion has left the majority of the world dead or imprisoned.

Tom Mason is the 2nd in command of a section of a resistance army fighting back against the alien invaders and a former history of war lecturer (as everyone is keen to remind you constantly). First in command is Captain Weaver, the two don't always see eye to eye as Weaver sees the civilians travelling with them as a burden, whilst Tom recognises they are vitally important for morale. During the initial attack children were captured by the aliens and turned into worker drones via a method that involves affixing an alien parasite to their backs (these kids are known as harnessed, thanks to my belligerent friend for reminding me of that terminology). One of these harnessed kids happens to be one of Tom's own. Fighting a battle against a seemingly unstoppable occupying force what can the resistance army really do?

It isn't hard to recognise that this show must have had quite a small budget. Most the huge set pieces occur off screen, the CGI on the enemy mechs is not fantastic, and to be honest not a lot really happens and occurs on the same sets. To say I loved the show would be a lie, but I did keep wanting to come back. I found Falling Skies to be quite relaxing, characters sit around talking, occasionally fighting the odd Skitter (an insectoid type alien; these and the bipedal mechs make up the majority of the alien invaders). The first 7 episodes followed this format, there were no huge twists or turns, nothing much happened much at all but it was comforting following these mostly likable characters each episode. The final 3 episodes were amazing, the plot twists and action sequences completely over took anything that had happened previously and I found myself wishing the whole show had been that way, I was glued to my seat and finished the season chomping at the bit to see season 2.

The enemy design is not bad, I wish there was more in the way of set pieces, usually only one or two enemies are encountered at any time, a few episodes revolve around human enemies which gives some nice variation (and saves some budget no doubt) but the big question is how likable are the main cast? Tom is an ok character, he is not fantastic and as the season progressed he looked more and more like a ruddy faced clown; I have no idea why but he seemed to be caked in blusher. Captain Weaver is played fantastically by Will Patton even if his role of a hard man with a secret soft heart is hardly original (love the almost unnatural friendship he has with child soldier Jimmy). Pope, the 3 sons of Tom, and the comically bland Asian guy are all kinda fun also. The female cast suffer quite a lot though. Toms oldest son Hal has a girlfriend who is captured quite early on, no big shame as she was too cocky for my liking, the groups Dr lady doesn't really do much despite having one of the main roles, there is an annoying as hell religious girl who spends the episodes preaching about having faith in God and on one occasion decides to start playing piano whilst the group are supposed to be hiding from enemies. There is one good female character Margaret so is not a total lost cause.

Falling Skies season 1 is not fantastic, but it is very watchable and never boring, there isn't a single bad episode and as I said the last 3 episodes are fantastic. Some may say skipping on the origin story for the events was a bad move but characters provide the back story, look forward to the 2nd season!


Friday, 2 August 2013

The Conjuring (2013) - Horror Film Review

Boy am I tired, but my blog is thirsty for an update and I have just returned from seeing The Conjuring at the cinema with my sister. Directed by James Wan who also directed Saw and Insidious I was expecting to get my fill of fear. This one is based on true events apparently.

The year is 1971 and the Perron family (consisting of Carolyn, Roger and their 5 girls) have moved into a creepy old house in Rhode Island that just happens to be haunted. With a whole host of supernatural hijinks going on the terrified family call in infamous paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to help them stop the evil. A demonic force has latched itself onto the family and is not willing to give them up.

Insidious scared me so I was expecting good things here. The whole sub genre of supernatural forces assaulting a family (Insidious, Mama, Sinister etc) has on the most part been successful in creeping me out but I fear that much like the Paranormal Activity series of films this type is running its course as I found myself numb to a lot of the scares. Like others of its ilk The Conjuring follows the cycle of day and night, day time being investigations, night being when the true creeping dread occurs. It is genuinely unsettling and creepy at times, the house the family live in is old and creaky, the hidden basement is maybe the spookiest looking basement I have seen in a film yet. There are some great sequences here, an early game of a blindfold clapping hunt had some unsettling moments and the film does a good job of building up tension and atmosphere but usually fumbles the ball and gives a payoff that is often disappointing, the trick ending being a prime example. Jump scares are used, but sparingly and Paranormal Activity style sequences of characters being dragged about by nothing are rife, The Conjuring is at its best when it is giving new ways to produce chills.

Based on a true story it just felt like there was less danger, you knew right away the main characters survived the events and so you never got to properly fear for their safety. While the events of the film are bizarre and definitely supernatural I got the impression they were sticking to the reported facts so much that more fanciful stuff couldn't occur. A later demonic possession angle also mitigated the scares somewhat. Dealing with one person, even a possessed person is far less frightening than an invisible presence that could be anywhere.

For all its faults I did enjoy The Conjuring, the actors are mostly good, or at least fun to watch, Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) is great as Ed Warren, his relationship with his wife in the film Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) is believable and understated, these two people are deeply in love but subtleness creates this far more than grand scenes of romance ever could. The family are ok, do the job well but none of them stand out. The direction is quite cool, it riffs off horror films of the 70's such as The Exorcist and some shots that wouldn't have looked out of place in an Evil Dead film. The sets look fantastic, special mention goes to the Warrens room of cursed items they have. I have a real fear of dolls and puppets (I refuse to watch Team America for that very reason) so the appearance of a sinister porcelain doll as part of an intro tale was well appreciated. The ghosts themselves are nothing special, kind of bland if I'm honest.

At times chilling, at others predictable and by the numbers I nonetheless did enjoy The Conjuring and it certainly worked its magic on my sister who spent a lot of the film with her hands covering her eyes. Though it is showing early signs of getting stale I think there is still some life left in this style of film, Insidious 2 is on the way so I guess that will be the litmus test.