Gamer Cinema: Hellraiser: Hellworld

Well, it's Halloween, and there's a Hellraiser movie where a video game is involved. That, along with the recent announcement of Clive Barker rebooting the Hellraiser series, makes Hellworld seem like pretty good material for the latest Gamer Cinema. The basic plot goes pretty meta: There's an MMO based on the Hellraiser franchise, and one kid out of a group of friends apparently got to into it and committed suicide. Two years later, most of that kid's friends are still playing the game (really?) and score special invites to an exclusive party for super fans of the MMO. But crazy shit goes down and something even more sinister is going on behind the scenes at the party.

Honestly the biggest problem I have with this movie is what I feel is false advertising. The Netflix description seemed to peg it as Pinhead trapping the kids in the videogame world and torturing them, when in reality the "game" is more of a quick plot device to get the teens to the party. I was hoping for either silly or creative video-game themed kills, but what you get is very run of the mill stuff here, along with the usual cliches' of people stupidly going off on their own and getting trapped in easily avoidable situations (which actually describes the party itself, even in 2005, teens weren't this fucking stupid in most horror films). There's also a lot of confusing back and forth about real & imagined stuff and it might be the teens dealing with the guilt of their friend's death but the movie stumbles pretty badly on that thread. Pretty much the only noteworthy stuff is seeing Henry Cavill just a little before he hit it big in Tudors and Lance Henriksen just slumming it here and clearly not giving a shit. Ultimately, as a horror film, it's not completely terrible, just wholly unoriginal and cliched. So not a completely awful choice if you are looking for a brainless slasher flick to watch on Halloween.


Arkham Origins is like Season 4 of Community..

Yeah, remember when Dan Harmon left Community? It was the same actors, same setting, but it felt, lesser. There were less risky jokes and plot lines and the same irreverent spirit was gone. Hell there were even some continuity issues along with retreading old plots. It was an ok substitute, but it wasn't the Community that was the best comedy on TV for the last 3 years. This is Arkham Origins, it's got a familiar style and setup to previous Batman games, and it does a perfectly ok job at imitating the previous efforts, but it's a noticeably lesser one, with virtually no risks taken, treading a ton of familiar ground and if you are a comic book fan, having some pretty big continuity errors. On top of that, nothing runs quite as smooth as it did in the previous Batman games, everything stutters just a little. In the end, do I like it? Yes, but I'd have a hard time recommending it at $60 to all but the most ardent Batman fans out there, who basically need a fix. Otherwise, you are probably better off waiting for the inevitable next gen entry most likely being worked on by Rocksteady as we speak.

This a huge release week in videogames, if your aren't counting the new consoles which will have a bunch of already-released titles, this is probably the last big release of multiple titles before the end of the year. There's Assassin's Creed IV, Battlefield 4, WWE 2K14 and Sonic: Lost World. Admittedly I'm not a huge fan of the AC series, but this change in direction means I'll at least give it a shot. The reviews for the new Sonic game are all over the board, I'm not hopeful but I plan on checking that one out too. I don't care about BF4, I just don't, so I'm not even going to bother, especially when the 360 & PS3 versions apparently run like ass, so why bother. Finally, as a wrestling fan, WWE 2K14 should peak my interest, but WWE games are sort of like Madden, yearly releases with little innovation. 13 was actually pretty good, but I honestly haven't played it a ton and see no reason to upgrade just so I can have official versions of wrestlers I downloaded. I'll be more interested when the next-gen version comes out and hopefully we can do things like survivor series matches, rumble matches with more than a few guys in the ring at once and competent AI, which was very present in the excellent N64 titles, but completely absent these last two generations. That's all for today, I will hopefully be back Wednesday with either a gamer cinema or some impressions depending on how my schedule works out.


Gamer Cinema: Dead Space: Aftermath

Though EA has bigger franchises under their belt, somehow Dead Space is the only one that's warranted two movies. It takes place between the first two titles, where a crew tries to salvage a piece of the alien artifact that tends to drive people insane, which they do, but of course it drives them insane.

 But where the other animated films based on EA franchises have just been mediocre, Aftermath, is truly awful. The most jarring thing about it is the absurd changes in animation styles. The "present" scenes look like a very low budget CGI kids cartoon wit awful stiff animation and I guess it must be budget, because the flashback sequences have pretty good animation for the most part (except for some reason it changes up again near the end to another style that's off-putting). It's another bunch of characters that are one-note and hard to give a shit about, having very little to do with any impact on the series, so it's hard to care about anything. The story-telling style is completely pointless and sometimes even redundant, re-telling scenes from a different perspective without getting any new insight or info. But the worst is probably the evil organization interrogating the survivors, it's like the worst of cartoonish villainy that makes no sense. They torture them for info before even asking if they are willing to co-operate, they kill all but one of them for no really discernible reason other than, you know, evil and all that. The previous film I could at least understand fans of the series getting some enjoyment of, this entry should be offensive and off-putting as an incredibly cheaply done quick cash grab that even the most hardcore fan would have trouble enjoying on any level.

That's all far today, I should be back tomorrow with some game impressions-Definitely Arkham Origins, possibly Lego Marvel Superheroes if I have time.


TheTop 7 best and worst launch titles...

Firstly, apologies for now Sonic Lost World impressions, admittedly I had not kept up with the release date and  with all the reviews popping up I thought it was coming out this past Tuesday. But, with two huge console launches upon us, it should be remembered that as always, games make the system, and while console launches are usually flooded with mediocre or simply forgettable titles, so are so bad and ill-conceived that you wonder how they even got made, while on the other hand, every console usually needs one big standout title to get running off the ground. Here's 7 prime examples of both the worst and the best of console launches, starting with the worst:

 7. Perfect Dark Zero (Xbox 360): You know what, Perfect Dark Zero is a perfectly (no pun intended) ok game. The problem is that given it's pedigree and the fact that Microsoft dumped a Scrooge McDuck's money bin worth of cash to acquire at the time super developer Rare ok wasn't anywhere near good enough. Merely being competent for the flagship launch title and follow-up to one of the best shooters of all time just wasn't going to cut it. Maybe it was more a victim of hype than anything else, but it's not like those expectations weren't earned, it'd be like if Valve released Half-Life 3 to launch their new Steam OS and it was just a decent title, it would be a huge letdown for so many it's virtually unfathomable.

6. Altered Beast (Genesis): It was impressive that the Genesis gave us damn near perfect home versions of arcade hits such as Golden Axe and Altered Beast, the problem is once you get some of these games home and they aren't quarter-munchers, the cracks really start to show. Altered Beast is a prime example of this with sloppy controls, bad hid detection, cheap boring gameplay and the fact that you plunked down good money for a game that at home could be beaten in under an hour.

5. Make Your Music (Sega CD): You know what would be awesome? Being able to edit and make music videos of your favorite musicians. Was your favorite Marky Mark? I won't judge. What I will judge is this sorry excuse for music editing software, with horrible low-res FMV, bad editing tools and a surprisingly limited number of clips and videos. A constant presence on worst games of all times lists and it's well-earned.

4. Street Fighter The Movie: The Game (Playstation): Til my dying breath I'll defend Street Fighter the movie as one of the most hilariously awful yet entertaining flicks of all time, I can't help but love Zangief's stupidity, Raul Julia chewing every bit of scenery he's in and Jean Claude as All-American Guile. But it did result in arguably the stupidest unnecessary game of all time. So we already have the Street Fighter video game series, which is well-regarded, so they make a movie. The movie bombs, whatever, you still have the hit game series. But what do they do? Make a game based on the movie that's based on the game! On top of that, it's truly awful, trying to be like Mortal Kombat with digitized fighters, but nowhere near as polished, and I've never thought of Mortal Kombat, especially early Mortal Kombat, to be particularly polished to begin with.

3. Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES): Imagine you wake up one Christmas morning in the mid-1980s to find you got a NES for Christmas! You'd be one happy camper. Unless your parents thought you needed an "educational" game and got you this monstrosity instead of Duck Hunt or Super Mario Bros or hell even Gyromite. Don't get me wrong, educational software can be fun (see Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail, Typing of the Dead, etc), but Donkey Kong Jr. Math is one of the worst examples of "edutainment" titles there is. It controls horribly, it's not creative and it's just boring.

2. XY/XX: Feel the Magic (DS) : Yup.  I'm not actually opposed to dating sim games as a rule, but they have to be wrapped up in some attractive packaging like say an RPG. When you make it a bunch of confusing poorly designed mnigames that make us of some of the DS' more embarrassing features to use in public (like the microphone) you have a huge loser on your hands here.

1. Night Trap (Sega CD): But really, I'd gladly take any of the above over Night Trap, which sadly I actually owned. The first of many awful FMV-driven games that were barely games, besides terrible low-res vids, a plot that makes Uwe Boll movies look like Oscar contenders and actors they mostly grabbed for your local dinner theatre (along with Dano Plato in literally one of her last desperate grab for cash roles) the game didn't even function half the time, missing button cues so traps wouldn't go off and having the most convoluted house-monitoring system ever. An eternal top contender for worst game ever and easily the worst launch game I've ever played.

So there's the worst, but hey sometimes literally all it takes is one great title to really sell a system, as evidenced by these 7 seminal games:

7. Soul Calibur II (Dreamcast): Ah, Dreamcast, we hardly knew ye. But we still got some awesome games with your short time on this Earth, one being a better than the arcade port of Soul Calibur II, still one of the best fighting games of all time. It's one of the few 3D fighters that truly excelled at being 3D, something even current series like Dead or Alive haven't really mastered. That along with tons of single-player content which is still very rare for fighting games.

6. Halo (Xbox): Very simply put, without Halo, I don't know that Microsoft would have a significant presence in gaming today. Sure, there would've been an Xbox, possibly even a 360, but I think both would've basically sputtered and been non-contenders without this flagship franchise to carry them. Halo presented multi-player FPS on a level not really seen before on consoles and it really resonated in a way I don't think even modern series like Call of Duty or Battlefield have done. And the single-player is surprisingly solid as well, which nearly now modern FPS games even really attempt these days.

 5. Wii Sports (Wii): The best pack-in of all time? Probably. Its easy to look back and see Wii Sports as merely a shallow tech demo, but it's what made Nintendo undisputed king of this last generation after falling into near irrelevancy during the last two. Why? Because it's simple, unintimidating fun for literally nearly everybody and in one session you "get" what the Wii was all about when other consoles constantly struggle to really define themselves at their launch. For better or worse, it also made motion gaming a thing that will probably be around from now on in some form, and very few titles can claim to really push such new and different technology forward like this, especially a launch title, which usually doesn't take advantage of the best aspects of the system it's on.

4. Tetris (Gameboy): The original gameboy wasn't a great system. The battery life stunk, it was bulky as hell and many of the games released pretty much sucked. But that didn't matter, because it had TETRIS, easily the most popular puzzle game ever. Hell, without Tetris to bolster the Gameboy's success at launch, Pokemon may not even have been nearly as popular because the install base wouldn't have been there to buy it.

3. Super Mario Bros ( NES): Quite literally, Super Mario Bro. saved the video game industry. I have no doubt games would still be around today, but would they have the same cultural imprint? Probably not. It's still a masterpiece in not only platforming, but general game design and the reason Mario is head and shoulders above all other video game characters.

2. Super Mario World (SNES): Is it possible to improve on perfection? Because That's exactly what Super Mario World did, and when it was most needed, as Nintendo was facing heavy competition from Sega with the Genesis, which already had a good head start. But Super Mario World is arguably (and probably not really arguably) the best 2D platformer ever made. It is just ridiculously fun and filled with secrets you may never find even spending 100 hours on it. The blue-print for every platformer going forward, and still better than 99% of modern ones.

1.  Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64): When you only launch with 2 games, one of them better be the best game of all time. And arguably, that's Super Mario 64. It wasn't just completely amazing, it invented a new genre, the 3D-platformer, and got it right the first time. That pretty much never happens. Nothing else has really come close, except maybe the Mario Galaxy titles, and they are more of an evolution of the same formula that started with this title. You could've never gotten another game on your 64 and still been pretty happy because it's just so re-playable. And that makes it the best launch game of all time.

Will either of the new consoles have something to top any of these games? I doubt it, but on the bright side, there doesn't seem to be any serious contenders for worst launch game either. That's it for now and next time I'll be back with a gamer Cinema hopefully tomorrow.


Gamer Cinema: Dead Space Downfall

Another in EA's many attempts to make an animated spin-off, Downfall takes place before the cult hit Dead Space, showing just what happened on the Ishumura before Isaac Clarke and crew investigate the infested ship, bascally showing how everyone aboard went crazy and either slaughtered others and themselves, or got slaughtered by the various Necromorphs infesting the ship.

Admittedly I may not be the best person to review this, I'm just not a huge fan of Dead Space. I tried the first game and pretty much found it annoying and silly rather than scary. Though to be fair, that's my reaction to most horror games. Someone who is a huge fan of the Dead Space series may get far more mileage out of this than I, who only has the basest knowledge of the franchise (or they may be far more harsh, who knows).

So I'm going to judge it more on it's merits as a space horror flick, and on that level, it's pretty boilerplate. Nothing awful, mind you, but it's your fairly standard slaughter-fest of one-note characters who barely have time to show off even one defining trait before they get slaughtered, so it's hard to give a rat's ass about any of them. This could be solved with awesome gruesome death scenes and/or great action, but the movie falls pretty short on those as well. I mean, the movie is fairly gruesome, but it doesn't understand the whole idea of less is more and has so much gore from the start it gets old quick. It tries to shove some religious fanaticism in there with a whole subplot about a religious organization that wants the mysterious marker making all this horrible stuff happen, but it's not particularly developed in any meaningful way. Honestly the best thing I can probably say is that it's on par with many big horror releases of the last few years, but only because almost all of them have been unimpressive at best.

That;s all I really have for today, at latest I should have a new post up Wednesday with impressions of Sonic: Lost World for the Wii U, but I'll probably try and get something in before then as well.


The Marvel movie you'll probably never see.

Out next week, but with the demo dropping today, I thought I'd take a crack at the latest Lego game. Now, in cinematic world, you'd never see all these Marvel heroes in the same game. Despite Disney owning Marvel, Fox owns X-Men and Fantastic Four, Sony owns Spider-Man, etc. But in videogames it's luckily a little different as the new Lego game featuring Marvel characters big and small shows. That's probably going to be the biggest appeal here, as the gameplay isn't drastically changed from most previous titles. To be fair everything seems just ever so slightly improved from the last licensed title, Lego Batman 2. The graphics look a bit better, the action is a little faster and snappier, and at least based on the Sandman boss at the end of the demo, more creative as well. I still think it probably isn't worth picking up at the full $50, but these games tend to drop in price quickly and it's probably going to be a very worthwhile pickup at $30 or less.

Arguably the biggest thing out this week is a $5 game, but it's from the same people who brought us the celebrated Walking Dead series, so it's pretty well anticipated. Based on the Fables comics series, you play a Bigby AKA the Big Bad Wolf, who is sheriff in a town full of fair tale characters. I admit I wasn't a huge fan of Walking Dead. I did dig the style and story, but anytime they tried to introduce gameplay, it just broke the immersion because it was terrible. Wolf Among Us seems like a more confident entry, with a better style and improved QTE moments, so this may be something I get in on.

That's really all I have for today but I should have a Gamer Cinema up tomorrow. 


Kids' stuff?

This weekend we have two absolutely huge releases more geared towards the younger crowd, but certainly with their share of older fans as well. First up, the latest in the Skylanders series, Swapforce. Of course the king of the collectable action figure game hill has some seriously stiff competition from the recently released Disney Infinity. Granted kids will want want they want, but Skylanders seem like less of a heartless cash grab-though you may need to buy a few extra characters to experience everything the game has to offer, you can play the whole game to completion from the start and the characters can interact without needing to buy "sets" (also no power discs, which see, like a huge scam to me). The edge Infinity offers is in its' iconic characters and wider variety, but at least from the reviews I've seen, Skylanders more concentrated Diablo-lite  gameplay is the better offering so far for those who care how good the game actually is. My wife got me the last release, Giants, for Christmas, and it had it's hooks in me for a couple months. I could certainly myself getting back into it for this new release, but given that I'd have to pay for a new portal and probably would want to get some new figures as well, I'll probably wait til my backlog is a little lighter, maybe even invest in a next-gen version if I have one of the newer consoles by the time I get around to it.

As big as Skylanders is, it may be overshadowed by the far more affordable collect-a-thon that is Pokemon X and Y, the first Pokemon game for the 3DS. It features a long overdue graphical overaul, which will allow for more dynamic battles and minigames to build up your Pokemon so as to offer a little more variety than just battling over and over again. Of course battling other Pokemon is still the core so the question is will it feel entertaining? You are probably either in one of two camps here-That this is the same Pokemon you've loved for the last 20 years; or it's the same Pokemon for the last 20 years and you're just bored with it. I fall a little more into the second camp, but I've been looking for a good excuse to upgrade to a 3DS XL and a bundle that came with a free copy of the latest Pokemon would certainly entice me, so hopefully Nintendo will put one out come Christmastime.

That's really all for today, my next post will most likely be Monday or Tuesday.


Gamer Cinema: Dante's Inferno

Dante's Inferno is sort of a weird beast. The game was EA's fairly shameless attempt to do a God of War rip-off, and it was seen a such, coming and going without much fanfare. But EA also does this thing with a lot of the properties they own where they are making direct-to-video animated films (that are surprisingly graphic and violent). Even though the game didn't make much of an impression, there apparently is a full length feature film coming out. So I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out the animated feature.

I admittedly have no clue how close this sticks to the game as I never played it (not a huge God of War fan not to keen to play an obvious knock off) , but I'd imagine at least the premise is the same-Crusader Dante's fiance is brutally murdered and stolen away by Lucifer and he must travel through all the stages of hell to rescue her, facing various challenges along the way. Pretty straightfoward right?

Except that Dante is a downright awful human being, and this is slowly shown throughout the movie. Yet Dante always seems to react to this stuff like it's a sudden revelation, like he was in complete denial of how much of a bastard he is. It's hard to sympathize with a guy who acts like he's a wronged innocent one second and then a complete bastard the next (and this happens in nearly every stage of hell). Granted, he's trying to rescue his fiance who is completely innocent, so points there, but he completely brought this on himself in every way possible, he shouldn't really get any redemption here.

Plot and character issues like that aside, it's still fairly watchable, just kind of uninteresting. The animation takes an interesting direction, as each circle has a different style to it., but that's the biggest positive I can give here. Much like the game it's based on, Dante's Inferno is pretty forgettable with a hero that's extremely hard to root for on any level.

That's it for today, I should definitely have a post up this weekend with thoughts on this weekend's big releases-Skylanders Swap Force & Pokemon X/Y.


The latest in mildly interactive movies...

Much like LA Noire and Heavy Rain before it, Beyond Two Souls might barely qualify as a game to some. The gameplay is minimal at best, focusing more on the cinematic aspect and storytelling. Well, if you are charging a full $60 for this, it better be one hell of a story. Inevitably though, it's not. As pretty as LA Noire was, it was also pretty broken, and Heavy Rain's story was of debatable quality at best and the gameplay was truly atrocious, basically being quicktime motions for every little activity and sometimes not even being that responsive. After playing the demo, I can pretty confidently say that while the presentation and acting is certainly up a notch from Heavy Rain, it's still got the same boring QTE gameplay all games of its ilk have, and it  got old within minutes of playing. Granted, Heavy Rain has somewhat of a cult following, so fans of that will probably eat this up, but I'm not too inclined to spend my money or time on something that clearly desperately wants to be a movie but isn't good enough to be one so it tries to be a game instead and fails at that too.

Looking to scratch that pesky SRPG itch? Well here's Disgaea D2 for you. Though there have been several Disgaea titles, this one is a direct sequel to the first game, the most likely reason for being is that while the mechanics improved and evolved over the course the series, the characters arguably have not so why not bring back the original awesome cast? Anyways, if you are into SRPGS you know exactly what you are in for here. Having played through quite a few of them myself recently including the previous entry in the series, I'm not in a huge rush to pick it up but I do really enjoy the series so I'll likely get it somewhere down the road.

That's really it for today, but I should have a gamer cinema up tomorrow or Thursday and then a post about Pokemon X/Y and Skylanders Swap Force this weekend so it should be a pretty packed week.


Video Day: Holding Out for 101 Heroes...

Hey been a long weekend, but I have been having a blast finally really getting into The Wonderful 101, so I thought I'd make a video, enjoy and I should have a regular post up tomorrow or Tuesday...


Gamer Cinema: Silent Hill: Revelation

So being that it's October, and there are a pretty decent amount of video game-based films that are horror-focused, I figured for the next few weeks I'd keep the horror theme going. So here we are with the follow-up to Silent Hill, which is loosely based on the third game in the series.
Taking place several years after the first film, the father (Sean Bean) and daughter from the original have basically pent years on the run, constantly moving and changing their names in order to stay hidden from the cult supposedly trapped in the demonic hell version of Silent Hill that is still looking for her as a key to their freedom. Somehow the cult manages to kidnap the father, so of course the daughter has to return to Silent Hill in order to find him.

This sequel actually manages to be less vague than the original, completely dismissing the idea of hallucinating from the fumes, and not dealing with the concept introduced in the first film where there is a normal but abandoned town and then one in another dimension filled with freaky monsters and just plain weird stuff. It still manages to be pretty nonsensical though. One of the most confusing scenes is where some goons take a character strapped to a gurney into a room filled with the demon nurses. These respond to movement, pretty much slashing and clawing blindly at anything they sense. The goons should know this, they are part of the evil cult and yet somehow are taken by surprise as if they didn't know what would happen. Also characters are often knocked out either for seemingly no reason only to be attempted to be killed later, like bad cartoon villain logic.

The one positive of the previous film I could point to was the really well done visuals. Sadly the sequel clearly had a smaller visual effects budget and it really shows. The ash effect looks incredibly fake, the newer monsters look awful and at times even silly and the sets mostly look like they belong in a silly carnival haunted attraction. I can't even recommend this to people who enjoyed the original as it lacks any of what anyone would've found appealing in the previous film.

That's it for today, look for another post sometime this weekend.


Nintendo is finally changing the formula...

How many Mario games have there been in the last few years? Seems like too many. So when Nintendo unveiled yet another Mario game that basically seemed like New Super Mario Bros. in 3D with the major innovation being a novel but unimpressive cat suit, my reaction was pretty much meh. But then they unleashed this new trailer, and much like Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS, it looks more inspired and crazier than I could've imagined. Multiple Marios? Carrying around a canon? Or a Pirhana Plant? A Goomba costume? It seems like their will be a lot of new fun things to play around with that could make this the most inspired Mario game in a long time.

And see that? It's a shop in the new Zelda for the 3DS. That has all the tools available at your disposal so you can tackle the dungeons in pretty much any order you want. That's pretty huge. It pretty much throws the traditional Zelda game on it's ear not to mention the formula for other games like it where you'll need to get certain items to even attempt certain dungeons. This always for  lot more flexibility and experimentation.

So is Nintendo going to be able to turn it around with steps like these? It's impossible to tell really, but it's certainly some important steps in the right direction.

That's all for today, but I do plan to have a gamer cinema up tomorrow.