Category Archives: Review

Charlie Murder – Review

We can’t have a Summer of Arcade without a 2D Beat ’em up now, can we? Charlie Murder fits the bill perfectly and, in a way, is almost a homage to other beat ’em ups in the same vein such as games like Castle Crashers and Scott Pilgrim that hit the XBLA way back when. Charlie Murder has a dark, moody and twisted tone to it – similar to that of Ska Studio’s previous Dishwasher series – that separates it from the crowd. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as moments of comic relief – mostly via cutscenes – let us know that Charlie Murder isn’t a game that take itself too seriously and is, at the end of the day, supposed to be a fun experience. Which it is in spades; but it’s not without its noticeable imperfections.

If you’ve played the aforementioned Castle Crashers or Scott Pilgrim, then you’ll know the level of enjoyment you’ll get out of them will greatly increase when playing with friends. And exactly the same principle goes for Charlie Murder. I completed the whole game playing alone, and, at times, the constant onslaught of enemies became a bit of a slugfest. Of course the addition of a friend wouldn’t change the gameplay, but it does help to have a buddy with you to even up the numbers and share the experience with. Plus, there’s no “I” in band or Charlie Murder! There is more to Charlie Murder than just a constant barrage of enemies, as the game neatly has light RPG elements that sees you increase your defence, strength, speed and anar-chi (magic) along the way, with a variety of clothes and food to buy to increase your stats, but for the most part you’ll be spending a lot of time tapping that x button to punch, kick and shoot enemies – – which becomes repetitive even from the early stages of the game.

Charlie Murder 1

You start off with only one attack, which does feel limited and somewhat stingy at first, however soon enough you’ll unlock special attacks – that you get by buying tattoos – that are unique to each of the five playable characters. You can switch characters at anytime from the menu during your play through, though it’s not advised as the stats of your current character don’t carry over to another playable character; therefore you’ll be to weak to progress in the latter stages and you’ll, essentially, be starting all over again. Another change-up to the gameplay is the fair few amounts of on-rails segments, which see you on a broom like a wizard, a skateboard and a car. They’re are all fairly basic and similar but they’re fun enough and break up the otherwise repetitive punch and kick gameplay. There’s a few Guitar Hero-esque parts throughout, too, which sees Charlie Murder perform live and usually acts as a segue for story beats.

There’s numerous boss-fights along the way too, with none particularly standing out or outshining the other as they’re all taken down and defeated in a similar fashion — beat them to death. They’re all unique in look and have a different set of attacks, so it’s a real shame they’re all beaten the same generic way as the last. They definitely prove to be the most challenging part of the game though, which is largely due to the large health bar they have. There’s no difficulty option, which, at times, can prove to be a problem. The difficulty does seem to spike somewhat randomly towards the latter end of the game, with some basic enemy attacks almost taking out half of your health. It’s not ‘Dark Souls unfair’ but I imagine even the most skilled of players will probably find themselves having to stock up on beer (health-packs) in order to progress.

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The story in Charlie Murder is a basic one, but it’s one that I wished had’ve been more fleshed out. The short of it is, Charlie started his own band which didn’t include his old bandmate, to which the old bandmate goes a little bit crazy, gets demonic powers, starts a band of his own, and wants nothing more than to kill Charlie and his bandmates. The story is told via flashbacks as you progress through the game, though there needed to be more cutscenes to take the story to the next level. It’s commendable that I was invested in the short story told even though there was no voice acting or lines of dialogue, though. We see a lot of the rejected bandmate’s side to the story (Lord Mortimer) and we mostly see him act out violently in jealousy and plotting his revenge, though we never see the lead star of the game Charlie’s side to the story.

The sound of Charlie Murder is somewhat diverse, as in some moments there’s no background music and all you’ll be hearing is the groans and battle cry’s of the enemies you’re pounding. In other situations, however, fast-paced rock music will be playing, which fits perfectly with the chaotic combat and post apocalyptic world. There’s not really a whole lot of incentive to replay Charlie Murder after completion, unless you want to try out all of the five playable characters, though the journey’s still going to be the same. The 800 MS Points is more than reasonable enough for you to sink your teeth into the 6-8 hour campaign though, with achievement hunters and completionists looking at – probably – 10-12 hours.

king tepes

Charlie Murder doesn’t reinvent the 2D beat ’em up wheel, but nor does it claim to. It’s not the most enthralling single-player experience and you’re undoubtedly going to get more out of it if you have a few buddy’s to play with, but fans of the beat ’em up genre and fans of rock music will find plenty to love in Charlie Murder.

Score: 7/10

 

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Kick-Ass 2 – Review

If you’ve read Kick-Ass 2 the comic book, then you probably know it’s not up to the same high quality of the first. If you didn’t know, it’s mainly due to over-the-top, unnecessary violence. So suffice to say, Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t live up to the heights of the first. Thankfully though, writer Jeff Wadlow manages to include the story from the Hit-Girl miniseries into the film as well, which nicely sees fan favourite Chloë Grace Moretz get plenty of screen time.

chrs mintz plasse

Kick-Ass 2 is really a three-part tale; we see Mindy Macready dealing with the death of Big Daddy, as she hangs up the cape and cowl of Hit-Girl and tries to lead a normal life of a teenage girl. Kick-Ass/Dave Lizewski joins a team of superheroes known as Justice Forever. And we see the villain of the film Chris D’Amico/The Motherfucker seek revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father, by forming a supervillian team of his own, the aptly named ‘Toxic Mega-Cunts’. Flipping between characters’ stories really keeps the flow of the film going and makes for a grand scale ending when their paths cross. It’s a nice fresh pace for the 103 minute running-time, filled with violence, laughter and melodrama.

 

 

Chloë Grace Moretz’s entrance as Hit-Girl in the original is one that will never be forgotten, though It’s not all violence for her this time, though, as we see get to see more of the teenage girl that is Mindy Macready and how she’s dealing with life after Big Daddy. She’s killed numerous thugs and gangsters in her life but she’s yet to come up against the nasty personas of a particular group of airhead girls at her school. It all culminates in one particular graphic vomiting scene that really feels unrealistic in contrast with the grounded reality of the film and actually feels dam right unnecessary. Although, yes, the film was on a fairly small-scale budget of $28 million, the vomit trick just felt cheap and tacky. Perhaps a little too much time is focused on Mindy and her ‘Mean Girls’ storyline, but she kicks absolute ass when she’s Hit-Girl. A particular standout from her is a fight scene that sees her going toe-to-toe with a worthy adversary.

kick ass and hit girl

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is likeable as ever as Kick-Ass, though my only real gripe is that he’s 24-years-old and looks a little too old on screen to be playing a teenager in high-school. (I don’t know how they’re going to get around this problem in Kick-Ass 3, but that’s one for the writers to figure out!) If you remember from the first film, Dave Lizewski tried so hard to get with his girlfriend Katie, but she’s awkwardly/messily brushed off towards the start of the film, and there’s not a mention of her thereafter. It does make sense in the brunt of things, as Dave finds a new love in a member of Justice Forever. His relationship status with her towards the end of the film isn’t really clarified however, and is a little annoying not to have clarity there.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse is even more demonic and psychotic in his role as the cowardly, spoilt teenager, as he ditches the Red-Mist gimmick and becomes the world’s first super-villain, The Motherfucker. While not a physical specimen in size, his highest paid member of his team, ‘The Mother Russia’ (Olga Kurkulina) more than makes up for that due to her sheer size, strength and domineering presence on screen.

There’s good performances from everyone throughout actually, but it’s Jim Carrey who’s at the top of his game as the born again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes, who is almost like the second coming of Big Daddy. Although it’s somewhat of a minor role, he’s presence is felt in every scene as he’s funny, charming and domineering in the role. It’s a real shame that he hasn’t taken part in promoting the movie, because it could well be his best performance in years and it goes well against his typecast.

jim carrey

The film all builds up to an end battle between Justice Forever and Toxic Mega-Cunts, which is both an epic and fitting conclusion, to which Director Jeff Wadlow deserves praise for capturing all the madness that unfolds so well. So all in all, Kick-Ass 2 isn’t as memorable or as fun as the first, however it’s still an enjoyable film that can be loved by both comic fans and casual audiences.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – Review

To put it simply, you’ll never have played a game quite like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. For whatever reason, you may have, at some point or another, plugged in two controllers and tried to play as both player 1 and 2. All you need is the left stick and left trigger, and the right stick and right trigger to simultaneously be in control of two characters at once in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, though. It’s the closest you’re ever going to get to a co-op experience in a single player game (excluding npcs, that is). Although the two two playable characters at once is Brothers’ USP and core element of gameplay, it also proves to be the game’s biggest flaw. And it’s a flaw that, unfortunately, cannot be overlooked or ignored.

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A fairly recent complaint from some gamers is that too many games hold your hand. Brothers, from start to finish, most definitely doesn’t do any handholding. You’re dropped into a fairy book-like world, where the language is of no recognisable descent, though everything seems friendly enough. Your task at hand is easy enough to understand, though not an easy one to accomplish. You take control of two young brothers (one a few years younger than the other), who have to retrieve “The Water of Life” to save their dying father’s life. Just like Bilbo Baggins’ walk to The Lonely Mountain is no walk in the park, the journey to the water of life sees the brothers work together in a variety of clever ways, in light-hearted, rural surroundings into more sinister territory.

Friends are made along they way, lives are saved, and the bond between the brothers grows as you progress. No matter how far away the brothers are from home and how immersed you are in the experience, the game doesn’t hit you over the head with a hammer to remind you of the task at hand, but rather it subtly reminds you – via brief cutscenes – of the boys’ ill-ridden father. It should take you no longer than 5 hours to complete, though you won’t be getting the most out of it if you go into it with the ‘race to the finish’ mentality. Much like Journey, you’re going to see and find things you wouldn’t have before if you take your time to explore the surroundings. It’s a fine case of substance over length.

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Controlling the younger brother with right analog stick and the older with the left may sound like a simple concept, but it’s one that is very alien – especially at first. I was frustrated even during the opening segment, as I was struggling to perform a basic task. The gameplay will require your full attention and will play tricks on your brain sometimes, though when it comes to controlling the boys on foot, you will pick it up and get used to it. However, when the boys are performing tasks together such as paddling in a boat, the controls feel very sticky and contrived. The paddling of the boat is just one example of many problems with the controls, and not only does it prove to be frustrating, but it takes you out of the experience and stops the game’s momentum and flow dead in its tracks.

I feel for developer Starbreeze, as I’m sure they tried everything they could to make the game’s ambitious gameplay and control scheme work as best as they could, and I can only imagine how much of a headache it must’ve been to design and program. However, patience is a virtue, and the more you appreciate Brothers for the world, story and experience instead of the problematic controls, it’s going to be a game you’re going to get a lot out of. There’s plenty of action and fast-paced set pieces throughout, though it’s the quieter moments that will stay with you after completion. Cleverly, the game’s achievements are all based around optional moments if you choose to do them, and although they don’t directly impact the story gameplay wise, they will affect you, the player, emotionally.

brothers 1

For example, there were three black rabbits and one white one. You have the option to dye the white one black so it doesn’t get bullied anymore. It’s so simplistic yet such an engaging heart-felt moment. The game’s visuals really bring the world alive, and not only because each new setting and area pretty to look at, but also for making new and diverse gameplay challenges. There’s benches that can be found throughout, which you can simply sit on and admire and take in the beauty of the world. The soundtrack perfectly matches each new scenario and setting along the way as well, though the only trouble is, I found myself so immersed in the world and concentrating on the controls, it was – almost – going in one ear and going out the other.

Without going into spoiler territory, I’ll just say that Brothers’ ending is one of videogame’s best endings of all time. Yep, of all time. It’s right up there with the best of them and will be remembered in a long time to come. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons kicks off Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion in the right way, and will be remembered for its evocative ending, charming world, and unique-but-troublesome gameplay.

Score 9/10

The Wake #3 – Review

the wake #3

Has anybody else been a little disappointed with The Wake so far? Not that the first few issues have been bad by any means, but Scott Snyder has created himself a good problem to have: He’s raised the bar very high for himself. The first two issues of The Wake teased us a lot, posed a lot of questions, but didn’t give us a whole lot of answers. It is a horror book, so of course everything wasn’t going to be laid out in front of us to begin with, but the series has a lot going on, has introduced us to a lot of characters and a lot is still shrouded in mystery. Good news though: Issue 3 is the best yet, and is action packed from start to finish.

If Alien is Jaws in space, then The Wake is Alien under the deep blue sea. (A similar concept to Deep Blue Sea as well, actually, but the less said about that movie the better.) Issue 3 sees the crew in a real state of panic as the creature(?) has escaped and isn’t in the best of moods. One fantastically horrifying scene, which involves the monster giving off neurotoxins similar to that of The Scarecrow’s, is a particular standout for shock value alone. The main crew is thinned out, which in my eyes is a good thing and means we can now focus on protagonist Lee Archer and just a handful of others.

There’s a somewhat predictable reveal at the end, but at least it’s progress in terms of driving the plot forward. The art by Sean Murphy once again is consistently top-notch. The inkers/colourists aren’t credited in the book, though whoever’s doing the colours is really bringing the book to life; particularly so with the often use of a moody blue and purple. The Wake stepped its game up this issue and will have me coming back next time. I only hope it continues on the momentum it’s now created for itself.

Score: 8.0

Batman Annual #2 – Review

Batman annual #2

What I’m most fond of when DC releases Annuals for their books is that they’re usually a standalone story – and usually a prequel too – that doesn’t require you to be reading the mainline book. Of course I am reading Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman on a regularly basis, but to others who aren’t (why not?), it could/should entice them into buying monthly issues. Batman Annual #2 does tie into the current Zero Year story arc ever so slightly, but it cleverly doesn’t restrict new readers from jumping onboard and enjoying it just as much.

Written by new writer Marguerite Bennet (with Scott Snyder helping out with the story) and drawn by newcomer Wes Craig, the tale is told from three different characters – Batman, (new guy) Eric Border, and Arkham’s oldest inmate The Anchoress. There’s one central theme though: Arkham Asylum. Batman’s there to test out Arkham’s level of security, which is like being put through an obstacle course of death (though he seems to be enjoying himself). Eric’s there on his first day as an orderly, and most of his time is spent exploring the asylum. And The Anchoress’ story focuses on how and why she’s in Arkham Asylum.

It’s the interesting dynamic between the sympathetic orderly Eric Border and antagonist The Anchoress which is most interesting, though. Everyone has forgotten and lost interest in Arkham Asylum’s oldest inmate, apart from newcomer Eric. Her tale of how she was first put into the asylum is heartbreaking, but years have passed and she’s clearly become delusional. She claims that the locking up of familiar rogues has turned the asylum into a place that was once used to treat those who needed help – and she’s holding Batman solely responsible. She does a pretty good job of painting Batman as the villain, actually. Considering we don’t get a whole lot of monologue from Batman in the latter stages of the book to see him verbally defend himself, we don’t get to see his point of view or side to the story, unfortunately.

Greg Capullo has really raised the bar with his artwork of Batman since the New 52 debuted, but I’m happy to say I have no qualms whatsoever with fill-in artist Wes Craig. He does a really good job of making The Anchoress look both crazy and creepy, and I hope we see him on another Bat book in the future. What could be potentially labeled a throwaway story, as The Anchoress doesn’t quite fit the bill of the usual Batman rogue gallery and isn’t someone we’ll likely be seeing again anytime soon, writer Marguerite Bennet should be credited for introducing a new villain into the fray and running with it, where so many others would’ve played it safe. Batman Annual #2 won’t go down as a classic standalone story, but it still makes for an interesting and enjoyable read.

Score: 7.8

 

 

Batman ’66 #5 – Review

Batman '66 #5

If you’ve ever wanted to see Mr. Freeze and The Penguin slide down an ice slide together – whilst bickering, no less – to land into a perfectly positioned lifeboat, then good news, this issue has just that! Batman ’66 has been such a change of pace from DC’s mainline New 52 books, and I’m hoping that its success can pave the way for more light-hearted, old-school style DC books. ’60s Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, anyone? ‘Holy Deep Sea Diver’ the possibilities are endless.

#5 sees the Boy Wonder Robin with the responsibility of breaking Batman out of Penguin and Freeze’s ice dungeon, whom Freeze and Penguin seem to have forgotten about. And quick question: Does anybody else read Mr. Freeze’s dialogue in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice? It really brings the book alive and adds another layer of comedy to one of the more comical book out there. There’s cheesy lines and slapstick humour littered throughout, all while moving at the as come-to-expected brisk pace.

In my review of last week’s issue of Batman ’66, I expressed my disappointment in how it read like a normal comic does on Comixology (unlike the cinematic transitions we got in the first three issues) but when a book’s this fun and puts a smile on my face, I’ve quickly gotten over it. Besides, I’d be no better than one of Penguin’s goons wearing a t-shirt with goon written on it to nitpick anymore! Non-comic book readers aside, I don’t see no reason why anyone couldn’t pick up Batman ’66 and enjoy it.

Score: 8.5

The Wolverine – Review

Hugh Jackman’s back for the 6th time(!) to play Marvel’s most most popular X-Man, and this time it’s a standalone venture to Japan away from the main ensemble of the X-Men. But is Japan a culture shock for Logan? Or does the city of Tokyo welcome The Wolverine with open arms? Well yes, and no.

For folks not in the know, since 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, we’ve had two prequel X-Men films since then (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: First Class), but The Wolverine is the first that takes place sometime after the events of X3. A film that takes place after the events of a movie that released seven years ago may seem like an extremely long time, but the good news here is that The Wolverine is, essentially, a standalone film, that even newcomers to the series should be able to jump right into and enjoy. The only real tie back to previous films is – spoiler – the reoccurrence of Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) through dream sequences.

Loosely based on the 1982 limited series comic book ‘Wolverine’ by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller, The Wolverine sees Logan visit an old acquaintance, Yashida, in Japan – whom he’d once saved from a near-death experience during a war some years prior – to grant him a dying wish. Without going into too much spoiler-ish detail, Logan finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and finds himself target enemy no. 1 before he can even get his get claws out.

Wolverine #4

The Wolverine may not be the biggest budget X-Men movie to date, but it is the most visually impressive. Partly to do with the visceral beauty and culture of Japan, and fully to do with director James Mangold’s brilliantly captured action sequences. From James Bond to the Bourne trilogy, we’ve all seen high-octane rooftop chase scenes and larger than life action set-pieces, but the action in Wolverine manages to be both fast and frantic, but yet also manages to feel so grounded and not out of the realm of danger or possibility. A heart-racing train scene is the most memorable of sequences, and is as every bit of fun as it is exhilarating.

Hugh Jackman is psychically ripped – even more so than before – this time around as Wolverine, though it’s not only his hulking structure and physique that stands out on screen, it’s a memorable performance due to the different side we see of Wolverine. He’s at his most vulnerable; his healing powers and immortality have been taken away from him, and it’s the first time in Logan’s life that he is is reduced to a man; a vulnerable man with a target on his back. And there’s a Viper ready to strike.

The Wolverine #3

Svetlana Khodchenkova plays new mutant and main adversary Viper, and is every bit as sexy and seductive as she is cruel and deadly in the role. We don’t get a whole lot of screen time with her in the two hours running time, especially if you want to compare her to, say, a DC movie villain like Bane or Zod, which may disappoint fans of the baddies out there. However, her motives are made clear and her characteristic traits are fleshed out well enough. Although Viper doesn’t get her hands dirty until the end, it’s her ninjas and expert archer, Harada, who do most of the fighting throughout and take part in the aforementioned great action scenes.

 

Luckily for Logan, he’s not alone, though, as newfound friend and love interest Yukiko (Rila Fukushima) and Mariko (Tao Okamoto) – the granddaughter’s of Yashida – are on-hand to help. Both ladies are great in their respective roles and we get enough downtime with them both to get to know them, but they’re tied to one unfortunate problem I found with the film: the slightly convoluted family tree of Yashida’s family. Male figures – father, fiancée, ex-lover – pop in and out of the movie with a grudge held against Yukiko and Mariko, though in the end it becomes a B-storyline and makes it hard to remember who’s who exactly with the main thread of the story taking place at the same time.

The Wolverine #2

Unfortunately The Wolverine’s biggest disappoint is its very final act, which plays out like a bad videogame boss battle would. Yes, for whatever reason a huge steel machine is pitted against Wolverine to conclude, to as expected results. The generic battle is a real shame, too, as it’s the only real major slip-up to an otherwise anything but generic X-Men movie. A great ensemble of women, fresh new foes and, once again, a great outing from Hugh Jackman make The Wolverine a must-see movie and the surprise comic book movie hit of the summer.

Score: 8.7/10