Review: Unravel

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via Wikipedia

Unravel (2016)

PS4 / Rated E

Puzzle / Platformer

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Coldwood Interactive


When this little indie game from Coldwood Interactive named Unravel was first announced at EA’s 2015 E3 press conference, it immediately caught my attention.  A very nervous Martin Sahlin, the game’s creator, came out on stage and proceeded to introduce us to the game, and its adorable little star, Yarny. (Seen below)  I remember being instantly intrigued with its mechanics and instantly charmed by the games irresistibly cute visual style.  It later went on to release in early 2016, but it seemed to be a game that largely flew under people’s radars…including mine.  After about a year I finally dipped my toes into what Unravel is all about and I was met with a very charming experience with some unique platforming elements that make it standout from some of its peers.

As I mentioned before, the game stars a small red, cat-looking creature named Yarny, who is made entirely of yarn.  Yarny is constantly in awe and wonderment as he explores the objects and environments around him.  The game starts you in a small house that includes pictures of different locations that are important to the homeowner’s life.  Yarny explores these environments and collects memories along the way, slowly telling the emotional and nostalgic stories of the homeowner and their family throughout the years.

It is a very gripping story structure that drives you through the game.  There no cut scenes and a scant amount of characters, but the whole story is told through pictures and mirages in the environments that you explore.  Some of these stories were a little tough to understand, but the game does a fantastic job at capturing the various moments and emotions that families experience, whether it is the happy moments or the sad moments.  It is harrowing at times and will most likely relate to your life in some way.  Unravel, despite its simple concept, has a way of resonating with players, making it a special experience.

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via Coldwood Interactive

The game is made up of twelve different levels spanning environments like forests, mountainous hilltops, and snowy valleys…to name a few.  These levels require you to use Yarny’s body made of yarn to get pasts its various obstacles and dangers.  Yarny can create rope to swing across gaps, make bridges, and maneuver objects.  If that was not enough, Yarny also unravels (insert title card) as you make your way through the level.  If you are overzealous with your yarn usage, you will eventually run out of yarn and Yarny will be stripped down to his basic frame.  To combat this, there are various “checkpoints” in the levels that allow you to re-spool, giving Yarny more yarn to work with.  I did not find myself running out of yarn too much, but it does add another layer of complexity to the levels and their thoughtful design.  In terms of overall difficulty, the game is not too challenging.  There are moments where the game will get you, but death is never really a burden given the generous checkpoint system.  You also can warp back to the latest checkpoint if you find yourself stuck.

One gripe I have with Unravel’s mechanics are the floaty controls that sometimes make tougher platforming sections a little frustrating.  There were some moments in the game were tighter controls would have been more helpful.  There is a trophy (on PS4) that requires you to go through each level without dying and I quickly found myself giving up because the controls were not as up-to-snuff as I would have liked them to be.  There is also the tiny issue of freshness when it comes to the game’s mechanics.  Unravel does a commendable job, for the most part, of giving you new challenges that change things up, but this evolution in gameplay starts to taper off when you get to the later levels.  Due to the game’s simplistic nature, it is tough to constantly give you new ways of using the mechanics at your disposal.

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via Coldwood Interactive

But let us talk about the game’s main attraction: just how darn cute the whole thing is.  There is an enormous amount of detail that went into the game’s visual style from the environments to Yarny himself.  Everything has a tactile feel to it and Yarny looks super realistic.  Coldwood Interactive most likely drew some inspiration from Nintendo’s games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Wooly World.  The game’s score is also well done, meshing perfectly with the game’s heartwarming story of family and nostalgia.

Despite the few issues I had with the game’s mechanics Unravel still manages to invoke tons of feeling, something you do not see too much from puzzle-platformers.  The game’s eye-popping adorability is what pulls you in but it is the gripping and emotional story that convinces you to stay.  It is a relatively short, but powerful, experience that manages to do some cool things with its yarn-based mechanics.  Unravel is worth your time.  It is worth it alone just to see Yarny’s curiosity of the world around him.

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Review: By the Sea

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via IMP Awards

By the Sea (2015)

R / 122 min.

Drama / Romance

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent

Director: Angelia Jolie


A French seaside resort sounds like the perfect locale for a romantic getaway weekend.  The fresh and salty breeze kisses your face as the sound of the waves crashing upon the beach fills your ears.  It is relaxing just thinking about it.  It sounds a lot better than this damp and foggy day I am currently experiencing.  Unfortunately, By the Sea, directed and written by actress-turned-director Angelina Jolie is anything but romantic…or a good movie for that matter.

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via The AV Club

The film, starring Angelina and her ex-real-life husband Brad Pitt, is a reflective piece on the subject of grief and love.  It is a deeply personal film about a couple, Vanessa and Roland (played by Jolie and Pitt), at a crossroads in the relationship who decide to go to a French seaside resort to perhaps sort things out in their marriage.  Instead, things seem to take a turn for the weird when they begin to meet some new friends around the town, two of which happen to be a newly-wed couple next door.

What brought me to this movie was the obvious draw of a voyeuristic look into the real-life relationship of Jolie and Pitt.  It was no secret that their marriage was hanging on a thread and that things were not all roses and dandelions between the two of them.  By the Sea was advertised as a personal art-house piece about a couple going through a rough patch.  It does not take a genius to connect the dots and theorize that perhaps the movie is a story about the director’s marriage.  Despite these theories, we get nothing of the sort.  Instead, we get a rather odd voyeuristic look into the sex life of the couple next door thanks to a hidden peep hole that offers Vanessa a view into their life.  Feelings of jealousy and lust begin to creep into her thoughts as she becomes addicted to the peep hole while Roland is off getting drunk at the resort’s bar.

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via Rolling Stone

This fascination with the couple next door is certainly something I was not expecting, but it is just too bad the overall plot is boring.  The film never managed to grab me like I thought it initially would.  It does not help that 75% of the movie is one big moan fest full of self-loathing and blank stares.  Everyone just lies around drinking and acting all mopey-dopey.  The performances feel lifeless, especially from Jolie and Pitt.  The dynamic and chemistry between their two characters is the backbone that the movie relies upon but the two never feel invested in their characters.  For a movie so personal it was surprising how detached the two felt from it.

There is one department of the movie that deserves praise and that is its cinematography.  Angelina Jolie is a great director who looks to have a future ahead of her that does not solely include acting.  She takes a simplistic angle on the film, with some great minimalist shots and a lot of silence.  It was at least pleasant to look at, despite the boring travesty that was taking place in the resort.  There was also a nice orchestrated musical score that added to the movie as well.

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via Collider

Things only get worse as the movie creeps towards its conclusion, but I never found it in myself to care.  By the Sea must have been tough to create given the circumstances of what Jolie and Pitt were going through at the time, so I have to commend them for attempting to put something like this out there in the wild.  If you came into this movie looking for an irresistible look into the two’s love life however, then you are going to be madly disappointed.  It is quite possible you might self-loath yourself just as much as the characters in the movie.

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Review: I Decided.

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via Henncredibly Dope

I Decided. (2017)

Big Sean

Rap / Hip-Hop

GOOD Music / Def Jam


When you stack up Big Sean’s I Decided. against his previous albums like Hall of Fame and his debut Finally Famous, it is quite clear that the Detroit-based rapper has taken a more introspective turn in his career.  Songs like “Dance (A$$)” and “Guap” are a thing of the past compared to his more recent offerings.  Dark Sky Paradise was a good indication of this change, mixing fun and more lighthearted party rap with deeper, reflective tracks.  I Decided., Big Sean’s fourth studio album, is not unlike what other rappers have been doing lately, but it still is Big Sean’s best work yet.

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via Dancehall Hip-Hop

Things get rolling, theme-wised, in the album’s intro track.  Big Sean’s older self, voiced by actor J.R. Starr gets hit by a car and dies.  He is then reincarnated as his present self in another life.  The whole album serves as a reflection on Sean’s life, with his older self is giving him advice and wisdom every step of the way.  It is a cool theme, but one that is underused.  The intro track came and went but I was only reminded of the theme later in the album on “Halfway Off the Balcony.”  I Decided. has a clear and consistent message throughout, but I would have liked the bits with J.R. Starr to be sprinkled a little more throughout.

“Bounce Back,” the most popular song from the album, also happens to be one of the highlights from the project.  It is an upbeat banger about bouncing back after taking an “L”.  Big Sean has some great flow on the track, similar in style to the flow found on Drake’s song “6 Man.”  Next on the track list is “No Favors,” a controversial collaboration with everyone’s favorite rabble-rouser Eminem.  Produced by WondaGurl, the song marks the first time Eminem has appeared on a Big Sean’s album.  Big Sean’s verse is great, but the biggest take-away is Eminem’s verse, where he makes a bunch of verbal jabs, including a threat against Ann Coulter.  Whether he meant it or not (he probably did not), people are still taking some offense.  This is not the first time Eminem has said something controversial.  He is the king of controversy of course.  It should not be a surprise to anyone.

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via Saint Heron

These are not the only bangers that appear on the album.  “Voices in My Head/Stick to the Plan,” produced by Metro Boomin, is another great track with a double-edged sound.  In the song, Big Sean tells himself and his listeners to stay true to himself and to heed the advice of your elders.  Then things heat up and quicken as Metro steers the beat in a new direction with the second part, where Sean convinces himself to stay focused amid the endless distractions of drugs, money, and sex.  One of the more personal tracks, “Sunday Morning Jetpack,” is a song full of nostalgia and the struggles and how they made him the person he is today.  The song features The Dream, who gives a great hook over a breezy beat.  The song almost acts as an alternative “One Man Can Change the World,” one of the strongest offerings from Dark Sky Paradise.

Not every track is a slam dunk.  “Same Time Pt. 1,” featuring Big Sean’s lady friend Jhene Aiko, is an underwhelming ballad that features a less-than-stellar verse from Aiko.  I was expecting a little more from the TWENTY88 duo.  There is also “Inspire Me,” which is a cliché and sappy tribute to Sean’s mother and the role she has played in the rapper’s life.  It is sweet in concept but does not bring anything fresh to the table when compared to similar tracks from other rappers.

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via Stupid Dope

I Decided. is capped with “Bigger Than Me,” a booming track featuring Starrah and the Flint Chozen Choir.  Big Sean wraps up the album, going off about how he has made it to the top but still needs to improve as a person.  There are some great moments with the choir and a nice verse from Starrah.  The track ends with a phone call with Big Sean’s grandma, just like his previous albums.  A lot of I Decided. is predictable, but it is the culmination of Big Sean’s career in a good way.  Big Sean has matured as a rapper and a person and that is prevalent in almost every corner of his latest project.  There are bangers galore and reflection aplenty.  Big Sean fans will rejoice.

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Review: DOOM

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via Pinoy Tech Blog

DOOM (2016)

PC / Rated M

First-Person Shooter

Publisher: Bethesda, Zenimax Media

Developer: id Software, Certain Affinity, Escalation Studios


DOOM doesn’t waste any time before throwing you right into the action.  There’s a demonic invasion…and it’s your job to kill every single demon that falls in your path.  DOOM is a constant thrill ride from start to finish, turning the notch of intensity up with every level you play.  I’ve only played the game’s campaign, but that was all I needed out of this experience.  I just needed an excuse to kill a lot of demons…and DOOM delivered in every way.

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id Software has created a game with a hell of a lot of style.  (Pun certainly intended…yay for bad jokes!)  The game’s initial moments, which have you donning the iconic suit of the Doom Slayer, immediately set the mood and tone for the rest of the game.  As you make your way to an elevator, the main theme starts to play and we get the game’s title sequence.  Perhaps the best part of it all is the final beat of the song, which perfectly syncs up with your character cocking his gun, ready for the hell-bent mission awaiting him.  It’s the perfect introduction for the game, immediately putting you in the right mood.  It’s always important for a game to nail its initial moments, and DOOM’s first impression is outstanding and wild.

Understandably, the story tends to take the back seat for most of the game.  DOOM takes place on Mars where a UAC facility is being invaded by the evil and demonic forces of Hell.  You play a man who wakes up on an alter in the bowels of the UAC facility.  Upon freeing yourself from your chains, you quickly find your Praetor Suit, the suit that turns you into the Doom Slayer.  You then begin to realize that the facility’s demonic invasion has been enabled by Dr. Olivia Pierce, the game’s main antagonist.  With help from Dr. Samuel Hayden and the facilities’ VEGA system, your mission is to prepare yourself to stop Hell’s forces and end the demonic onslaught for good.  There’s nothing complex about the plot which mainly serves as an excuse for you to make your way through the Martian facility and eventually the pits of Hell.  It’s hard to knock the game because of its story since the game clearly knows what it is all about and why people are playing it.  You’re here to kill demons and DOOM clearly recognizes that, which is a good thing.

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via ONRPG

Besides the campaign’s objectives and waypoints, the other force that drives you through the game is the metal soundtrack that accompanies your every action.  Unlike most games where the soundtrack is mostly passive, DOOM’s soundtrack is an active soundtrack, one that really motivates you to kill the demons that step in your path.  The soundtrack, written and composed by Mick Gordon, is full of gritty and electronic metal.  It pairs with the game perfectly and does a great job at painting the game’s atmosphere.  There were many times where I was bobbing my head to the beat of the music while murdering hordes of demons onscreen.  It just felt right.  It made for some kick-ass moments.  It’s an example of a well-realized soundtrack that really jives with the game it’s accompanying.

When it comes to the actual act of demon slaying, this aspect of the game felt great as well.  The combat is extremely smooth and fast, which worked perfectly for this game’s style and feel.  The game runs nicely as well, which also enhanced the gameplay.  There’s a variety of guns that you unlock as you make your way through the game.  These guns all felt right and the upgrades that you acquire through skill points that you collect also make for more varied gunplay.  The shotgun and the heavy machine gun are your best friends, but weapons like the Gauss Cannon and the rocket launcher are a good way to go when battling tougher and beefier enemies.  I never felt like I was using the same weapon for too long.  I was constantly switching weapons to give myself the advantage when battling certain enemies, which is great from a game design standpoint.  There are also glory kills, which allow you to “finish off” enemies when they are low on health.  The advantage of performing a glory kill is that the enemy drops health when performed.  These kills were a novelty in the beginning, but they begin to grow old as you advance in the game.  The variety of these kills tapers off quickly and they become quite repetitive.  I never stopped performing these kills because of their benefits, but it’s a shame id Software didn’t do anything to change up the formula.

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via WCCF Tech

There’s no shortage of demons for you to kill in the game.  The game relentlessly throws demons your way left and right, which makes for a thrilling experience.  It’s non-stop action from start to finish with little bits of respite sprinkled throughout.  The enemy variety is great, starting you off with a couple of measly demons.  As you progress your way through the game, more enemy types are thrown into the mix, each with different strategies and move sets.  By the time the final level comes around, all the enemy types are joining forces to get a piece of you, making for some hectic late game firefights.  In addition, there are only a couple of boss fights in the game (three to be exact) which were a little underwhelming.  The three boss fights, including the final boss, were epic and grand in scale, and a lot of fun, but I would have liked to see a little more.  There were a good deal of open rooms with waves of demons coming your way.  It would have been nice if some of these rooms were actually boss fights, especially earlier on in the game.  This is only a minor complaint with the game however, as the action is still very relentless and a ton of fun.

I only played the campaign, so I can’t speak on the multiplayer modes or the Snapmap functionality, but the campaign alone is enough for me to recommend this game to anyone who hasn’t already taken the dive.  DOOM’s campaign is extremely polished and it has a ton of style which is established right from the get-go. The combat is great and only made better with the superb soundtrack that drives you through the experience.  At the end of the day, I came to DOOM because I wanted to kill endless scores of demons, and I can’t think of any other game that nails this experience better than DOOM.  Get ready to kill a lot of demons…Doom Slayer.

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Top 10 Games of 2016

Why hello there and welcome.  As Mr. 2016 starts to pack its bags and head for the door, it’s about that time to look back at my top ten games that really captured my attention over the past year.  2016 has been full of great gaming experiences that have varied across the board.  I’m not a machine, so there was physically no way to look at every game that was released this year.  Trust me, if I had the time (and the money) I would have delightfully gorged myself in every gaming experience I possibly could.  So, I’m going to focus on the games that I did play.  They will probably differ from yours but that’s okay.  Let’s take a round of applause for opinions!  Anyway, without further ado, let’s take a look at the games that really grabbed me this year.


A Game That I’m Going to Be Playing Within the Next Couple of Days, but Won’t Have Enough Time to Finish Before the End of the Year: DOOM

Yes…the unnecessarily long title was probably not needed for this category, but I wanted a place to quickly shout out DOOM.  This was a game that was perpetually on my backlog all year long.  I had the game in my Steam library, but I never bit the bullet and sat down to play it…until now.  I regret not getting around to this game sooner as so many people have been absolutely raving about this game.  However, since I’m a prime procrastinator, there’s never been a better time to sit down and finally play DOOM.  I have a feeling I am going to really like this game, but I probably not going to finish it before year’s end, which makes me uncomfortable with putting it on this list.  I figured a quick little shout out in the beginning would suffice.  This is a game you, like me, should absolutely play if you haven’t already.

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Best Game from A Previous Year: Her Story

Maybe it was just me, but I was really creeped out while playing this fantastic FMV-style detective game.  It was late at night and I had all the lights turned off.  I had my headphones in so I was totally zoned in on the experience in front of me.  Her Story sits you in front of an old 90’s police computer with a search feature and an archive of snipped videos from seven days of interviews of a woman.  There’s no guidance or handholding, which means it’s up to you to piece together who the woman is and why she’s being interviewed in the first place.  It’s a neat premise that is super effective at making you feel like a top-notch sleuth.  Viva Seifert does a marvelous job at portraying the emotions of the woman and really sells the part.  Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I was really creeped out because as you start to find the darker secrets hidden within the interview clips…silhouettes of an unknown person randomly appear on the computer screen as it flickers.  This messed with me at 2 AM in the morning.  Damn that game was effective.

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10 – Planet Coaster

Okay…so close your eyes and imagine Roller Coaster Tycoon.  Remember this game?  Yeah it was great.  One of the best games of my childhood.  Now…imagine it getting injected with an enormous number of steroids.  Now you have a beefed up and ridiculous version of Roller Coaster Tycoon.  This is the best way to describe Planet Coaster.  Now I must admit, my time with Planet Coaster is slim compared to some of the other games on this list due to me being a busy person, but I have enjoyed every single minute of my time with the game.  Just like other theme park sims out there, the game gives you a plentiful number of tools that allow you to create vibrant and entertaining theme parks.  Planet Coaster takes things further by giving you an insane number of object placement tools that essentially allow you to create an infinite number of buildings, scenic pieces, and…well, basically anything.  It’s almost like a 3D Modeler in the sense that there are a limitless number of things you can build in the game.  If you have the time (and the artistic skill) you can faithfully recreate any of your favorite real-life amusement parks with stunning detail.  I might not have created a fully functioning theme park yet, but I have created my fair share of death rides and horrific scenery pieces.  Perhaps my death park won’t be a hit with guests…but at least I’ll have a hell of a time imagining and building it.  P.S. Here’s my K-Pop Roller Coaster of Death that I built. It has a fun ending that’s surely going to be a nightmare hit:


9 – Batman: The Telltale Series

Say what you will about Telltale’s brands of games, but I whole heartily enjoy them.  Despite their technical hiccups and an engine that’s past its prime, their games still manage to tell engaging stories with memorable characters.  In Batman, you get to control one of the most iconic characters, Batman (probably self-explanatory looking back on this sentence).  Sure…a video game about Batman is certainly no novelty, but what makes Telltale’s offering different from the rest is the inclusion of Batman’s other half…Bruce Wayne.  No other Batman game (at least from what I’m aware of) tells a story that predominately feature’s Gotham’s billionaire playboy.  Just like any other Telltale game, we get a fantastic story that deals with Bruce’s past and its effect on the city and the people that inhibit it.  You are in the driver’s seat, making the decisions that will ultimately shape the city of Gotham and its people.  The Batman stuff is cool and the QTE action sequences are thrilling, but it’s the Bruce Wayne portions of the game that really make this game a standout above Telltale’s other adventure games.

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8 – Mafia III

Man, Mafia III has a kick-ass introduction.  I’ll take this a step further by saying Mafia III might have the best production of the year.  Everything from the story and its documentary-style presentation down to its stellar licensed and original soundtrack make this a thrilling ride from beginning to end.  You play as Lincoln Clay, a Vietnam veteran who travels back home to New Bordeaux, Louisiana (a.k.a. New Orleans).  After a night of welcomes, drinking, and cheer things go horribly wrong in an exciting introduction.  These events fuel the revenge fantasy that Clay partakes in as he rampages through the city with the goal of taking out the Italian Mafia that betrayed his family.  Although the gameplay tends to get a tad repetitive at times, it’s the game’s fantastic writing and its cast of characters that secure the game’s place on this list.  Mafia III also takes place in 1968, which means southern racism is a real thing for Lincoln Clay.  The way this game “gamifies” racism is something I have never seen in a game before.

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7 – Gears of War 4

Before I go into any detail about why I liked this game, I should mention that I only played Gears of War 4’s single player campaign.  Sure, this means I might have missed out on some of the game’s other features, but I frankly don’t care.  Multiplayer games are not usually my thing, so I was perfectly content with breezing through Gears 4’s exciting and thrilling campaign.  The campaign ushers in a new host of characters, while making a ton of callbacks to the original trilogy.  The good news is the new characters are very likable and the banter between them is entertaining, even though it might make you roll your eyes a bit.  The action is satisfying and varied and each sequence never overstayed its welcome.  You’ll be doing a variety of things over the course of the campaign, but I never found myself getting bored with what I was doing.  Gears 4’s weather effects are also something new this time around, and they demonstrate the visual beauty of the game.  There’s nothing like a storm of environmental effects that will make you appreciate a game’s looks.

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6 – Watch Dogs 2

I was most likely part of the minority that liked the original Watch Dogs that released in 2014.  However, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like that game didn’t have its fair share of issues.  I’m not naïve…the game was far from perfect.  Watch Dogs 2 improves on its predecessor in just about every fashion down the board.  Marcus, the game’s protagonist, is actually a likable character this time around and the supporting cast is just as enjoyable…despite my premonitions.  The setting, San Francisco, is a bigger and better open world that just feels more alive.  The story is more enticing (despite a couple of trip ups towards the end) and relevant.  Maybe the best thing of all is that the game knows what it is and runs with it.  There’s a lot of hacker culture, from the game’s characters to its loading screens, and it never takes itself too seriously.  You’re supposed to have fun with Watch Dogs 2, and boy did I have a lot of fun.

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5 – That Dragon, Cancer

And the award for Most Emotion goes to That Dragon, Cancer.  This game, whether you know someone who dealt with cancer or not, will hit you right in the gut with an emotional one-two punch.  As someone who lost their mother to cancer this year, this game spoke to me in ways I haven’t experienced in a piece of interactive media.  The game serves as an autobiographical tribute to developer Ryan Green’s son Joel who passed away from a terminal form of cancer.  You play through a series of vignettes that are often rich with symbolism and even richer with emotion.  This is a very personal game, and Ryan and his wife Amy really open up over the course of it.  There’s a lot of raw emotion that comes from some of the events in the game, some that were very hard to watch and play through.  There’s some clunky interaction at some points in the game, but that shouldn’t detract you from this experience.  It’s a short little game, one that will leave you feeling all sorts of ways.

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4 – Day of the Tentacle Remastered

What?  You’re probably wondering why an old-style adventure game from 1993 has made it onto my list.  Day of the Tentacle was remastered this year by Tim Schafer and the guys at Double Fine…so technically it counts as a 2016 game.  That’ll be enough from you.  Anyway, this was my first time playing through the cult classic adventure game and it proved to be one of my absolute favorite adventure games.  The story is a zany tale about a purple tentacle with eyes on world domination.  You play as Bernard, and his two friends Laverne and Hoagie, who set out on a time travelling adventure to stop Purple Tentacle from taking over the world.  The humor is some of the best I have seen in an adventure game and the solutions to the game’s puzzles cleverly use the time travel mechanics in fun ways.  The amount of work that Tim Schafer has put into the game’s fresh and updated art and modernized mechanics really gives this game an archival quality.  The audio is remastered as well, putting the cherry on top of a fantastic remaster.

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3 – Inside

Inside is a game that took me by surprise.  Developed by Playdead, who you’re probably familiar with as the developers behind Limbo, the game cements itself as one of the best 2D puzzle platformers out there.  As you control a red-shirted boy running through the forest in an effort to escape an unknown force, we are immediately met with a beautiful and atmospheric dystopian world.  It’s a dark world, with contrasts of red, that really makes it visually appealing…and often unsettling.  Every area in the game is really detailed and meticulously animated, which had me pausing to stop and stare at my surroundings at various points in the game.  As you make your way deeper into the environment, you begin to uncover even more secrets about the world.  The game features no voice and hardly any music, which also adds to the game’s mysterious allure.  Gameplay-wise, Inside keeps things fresh from beginning to end with well-designed puzzles that never get repetitive.  There’s no tutorials or hand-holding, which means the game teaches you through death.  You die a lot in the game, but thanks to a nice checkpoint system and fast load times, deaths never feel like a penalty and they teach you what to do and not to do.  It’s really smart and demonstrates effective game design on Playdead’s part.  Inside is a masterclass at what small indie games can be, and the game is worth it alone for the ending.  The ending makes for one of the most WTF moments I have ever experienced in a game.

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2 – Heavy Rain Remastered

I don’t want to hear it.  Yes, I’ve put another old game on my top ten list for 2016.  What are you going to do about it, huh?  Again, this remaster of Heavy Rain was released in 2016, so it makes my list.  Another reason why the game climbs its way to number two is because this was my first experience with the highly-lauded adventure game designed by David Cage and French studio Quantic Dream.  Over the course of the game you control four characters, Norman, Ethan, Scott, and Madison who each have their own complicated stories that all intertwine in ways you wouldn’t imagine.  The performances by the actors were great and they really made it seem like I was watching a gritty film noir.  The story is captivating and its some of the game’s smaller character moments that really put it above the rest.  People love to have the “are games art?” conversation and this would be a game I would give as an example as to why they are.

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1 – Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

There’s a good chance I might not have ever played a game prettier than Uncharted 4.  This is obviously not the only reason why I highly regard this game, but hot damn this game is beautiful.  Everything from its facial animations down to the various settings showcase the game’s technical and graphical prowess.  Being that this is Nathan Drake’s final adventure, the story is also emotional and bittersweet.  The performances from Nathan Drake (Nolan North), his brother Sam Drake (Troy Baker), Sully (Richard McGonagle) and Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) are all top notch and really enhance the story and its emotion.  There’s also the introduction of two new characters, Nadine and Rafe, that make for two great antagonists.  The exploration and the action sequences are some of the best in the series and the set-piece moments are big and gorgeous.  That car chase is some next level stuff.  The gunplay is great and the familiar gameplay elements like climbing and swinging are the best they have ever felt.  Perhaps the best part is the game’s ending, which is intensely satisfying and puts a nice big bow on Nathan Drake’s adventures.  Naughty Dog has created a masterpiece…and there’s not much else I really need to say.

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Games I Didn’t Have Time to Play but Deserve a Mention:

Final Fantasy XV, Stardew Valley, Dishonored 2, The Witness, The Last Guardian, Hitman (I’ve played a little bit of the game, but not enough to have an opinion.)

Country Music and My Mom

If you have read any of my reviews on the E-Fix, it is easy to see that my musical interests lie primarily in rap, hip-hop, pop, and EDM.  I have been trying to broaden my horizons, but at the end of the day I always come back to the familiar sound of hip-hop and rap.  It has not always been this way though.  This might be surprising to some, especially to people I know.  Before the days of my more recent musical tastes, I used to be a big fan of country.  I can attribute this to my mom.  She was the one that introduced me to country.

I started listening to country back when I was living in Frederick, Maryland.  I was in elementary school at the time, around third and fourth grade.  I was young and did not necessarily have a choice in the type of music I was listening to.  This was a time where I was not allowed to use the internet.  Digital music was not a thing.  Physical CDs were the norm.  I was not able to pick up the latest Lil Wayne album, even if I wanted to, because…well, I was in third grade.  What I listened to was usually whatever my parents were listening to.  My mom was a big fan of country and I can recall countless road trips where country was coming out of the car’s speakers.  Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, Toby Keith, Gretchen Wilson, Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, Big & Rich, and Tim McGraw, to name a few, were some of the staples that we would listen to time and time again.  We did a lot of traveling back in the day.  When you are living in Maryland and the rest of your family lives in Pittsburgh, frequent road trips occurred around the holidays.  I would sit in the backseat of our mini-van, listening to songs about summer, small town nostalgia, pick-up trucks, and America as I slowly developed a taste for country music.

An album I considered a favorite back in the day was Sherrie Austin’s Streets of Heaven.  This is probably a deep cut to most fans of country.  Sherrie Austin was not a big name in country, but this album resonated with me.  Songs like “Singin to the Scarecrow,” “Small Town Boy,” and “Streets of Heaven” were some of my favorites, songs that I would play over and over again on my handy-dandy portable CD player.  Ah, the days before smartphones and MP3 players.  I continued to listen to country music for a couple of years, but times slowly started to change as I got older and moved on to middle school in Smithsburg, Maryland where I was introduced to new friends and different music.

It was in Smithsburg where I was introduced to hip-hop and rap.  I knew the genre existed, but I was never able to listen to it because of my age.  However, the friends I made in Smithsburg listened to rap, so through osmosis I started to pick it up and I quickly grew a liking for it.  Remember middle school socials?  Those (often awkward) experiences also opened up my musical horizons, introducing me to both classics and newer hits in pop, hip-hop, and rap.  It was also around this time when I asked for Chris Brown’s debut album, and a Rihanna album, for Christmas.  Yes…Chris Brown’s debut album was my first physical hip-hop album.  You can laugh at me all you want, but Chris Brown was one of the first artists that I grew a liking for in my early days of hip-hop listening.  Since then he’s gone south, but he was still important to me.

Time went on and I started growing up.  I moved from middle school to high school and from Smithsburg back to Pittsburgh.  As I grew older, my hip-hop and rap tastes became more seasoned as I broadened my knowledge of the genre.  I still kept up with Country music, usually because my mom would always show me the newest Carrie Underwood track.  She was my only connection to country music.  Even though my musical tastes started to diverge from hers, I still felt connected to country music in a weird way.  I stopped listening to it on a daily basis, but it was still a part of me.  

Then my life took an unexpected detour.  In the words of Carrie Underwood, “Jesus took the wheel.”

My mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer.  It was the summer of last year when she started to experience symptoms like throat pain when eating.  At the time we thought it was just some sort of indigestion or acid reflux, but after countless doctor visits and consultations, we were not getting answers.  After ruling out everything else, they decided to test for cancer…and that is when they found the cancer…which was already in its later stages.  There was still hope, but things started to look grim as time went on.  This was one of the toughest times in my life, and it only got tougher as her health started to degrade.

I will never forget one of the nights I spent with my mom in the hospital.  At this point, we knew she wasn’t going to make it.  After countless rounds of chemo and radiation, the cancer just did not want to go away.  We were sitting by her bed, me and other members of my family, and we started to go through the songs she wanted to play on her funeral slideshow.  To give you some background, the funeral home that took care of us put together a DVD slideshow that would play on the TV’s in the room.  The slideshow was comprised of pictures from her life and the DVD version would have an audio track with her favorite songs.  We were going through the list of songs she wanted to have on her slideshow, and one of them was Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying.”  We played the song in the hospital room, which might have been the most bittersweet moment I have ever been a part of.  She was slowly starting to fall asleep as the song played on; family surrounding her.  

At the time the song meant so much to me.  In the song, a man in his early forties gets word that his father has a mysterious life-threatening illness.  The song’s a bittersweet story about taking life as it is and living each day to the fullest.  My mom lived her life the same way, taking each day and living it to the fullest.  I could not think of a more perfect song about her life.  She later passed away in March, surrounded by our family in the hospital.  It was the toughest moment in my life.  Losing a loved one is always tough, but when you lose parent it is on a whole other level.  When you lose someone that has played a big part in raising you through your most formative years, you life changes drastically when they are gone.  My mom meant so much to so many people.  She was my best friend.  She was also my connection to country music.

Just like all things in life, everything moves on.  I took the rest of my college semester off to help around the house.  It was a taxing time for me, so I thought it was best that I took a break for myself, while at the same time I was back at home to help out my dad and my little brother.  I later went back to college in the fall and that is when life started to become more “normal.”  I was back at school, but I always made sure to go back and visit whenever I could on the weekends.

It was on one of these trips back home when a flood of nostalgia hit me like a tidal wave.  I usually like to have something on during my road trips, whether it is a podcast or music.  This time around I decided to change things up and I found the country music station on the radio.  It was a while since I had listened to any sort of country music, so my tastes were out of touch.  My mom was my only connection to country music, so my tastes had lapsed.  After a couple of songs or so, Carrie Underwood’s newest song, “Church Bells,” came on the radio and that is when it hit me.  That is when the nostalgia hit me hard.

I started to think about what my mom would have thought of the song.  She was one of the biggest fans of Carrie Underwood I knew, so I immediately knew she would have loved it.  It was then that I looked up into the sky and I started cry.  Yep, there I was, crying in my car going down the highway with a Carrie Underwood song on the radio.  I probably sound like a middle-aged woman fresh off an ugly break-up, but I could not get through the full song without crying.  I started to think about all the times I listened to country with my mom on our various road trips across the country.  I did a lot of reminiscing on that trip back home and it was on this trip that I rekindled my taste for country.

On my weekends where I was home, I started to dig up my mom’s old country albums and I started to look at their tracklists.  I didn’t recognize most of the songs, but there were still a ton of songs that I started to put into my music library.  Country music now started to populate my library, taking a seat next to the other genres of music that had a handle on my library for the longest time.  I also started to seek out new country music.  There was a time where I scoffed at country music, but I quickly realized how silly I was.

Although my musical tastes still tend to lean towards hip-hop, rap, and EDM, I have gained a rekindled appreciation of country music.  These days I still find myself mostly listening to country songs from my childhood, but I am always broadening my horizons.  Country music has always been a part of me, despite my lapsed frandom of the genre, and this is all thanks to my mom.  I have tons of memories that I will always remember my mom by, but country music is something I will always remember her by.  She is probably up in heaven giving me her latest country music recommendations, and I could not be happier.  

Review: Doctor Strange

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via Nerdy Rotten Scoundrel

Doctor Strange (2016)

PG-13 / 115 mins

Action / Adventure / Fantasy

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams

Director: Scott Derrickson


I am pretty much at the point where I will go to see any Marvel movie when it comes to theaters.  I have reached a level of confidence with these movies, knowing full well that I am going to enjoy the product that is presented to me on screen.  Maybe I am going to get burned one of these days, but that has not stopped me yet.  Doctor Strange was one of the few Marvel movies that I was not totally hyped for.  I have no affinity or familiarity with the character, so I had absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into in terms of the story it was going to tell and the characters it was going to present.  These preconceptions quickly fell to the wayside as Doctor Strange turned out to be one of my favorite movies of the year.

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via Wallpapers Insider

There was a brand of complexity to this movie that made it enticing and engaging from the start.  We are quickly thrown into a world were reality is promptly turned on its head as sorcerers manipulate the world around them in alternate dimensions.  Based on the trailers that I saw before going into the movie, I knew that this movie was going to be complex and abnormal.  It only took a couple of minutes before what looked like London was being manipulated as if it were a kaleidoscope.

But let us get this out of the way right off the bat: Benedict Cumberbatch makes a great Doctor Strange.  Going into the movie I was unfamiliar with the superhero, his origins, and his personality.  After some conversations with some people, I was told that he is intelligent, egotistical, and kind of a wise-ass.  I quickly made connections, relating him to Tony Stark, who happens to be one of my favorite characters in the Marvel universe.  After seeing Cumberbatch deliver a role that matched these traits down to a T, I quickly realized that I was going to enjoy this character.  He sells the role perfectly which makes him instantly likable, or not likable if you are not a fan of wise-cracking know-it-alls.

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Although the movie is structured around him, his supporting cast is great as well, especially when you look at the names that adorn the cast list.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Mordo, a master sorcerer who finds Doctor Strange, a broken (both physically and emotionally) neurosurgeon on a quest for healing, and takes him to a secret place where he learns about things like mysticism and alternate dimensions.  There’s also his love interest Christine, a fellow surgeon who’s played by Rachel McAdams.  Although her role in the movie is semi-small, she still does a great job with it.  Tilda Swinton plays the role of the Ancient One, a mysterious sorcerer who’s essentially the teacher, bringing Strange under her wing.  Finally, Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays Kaecilius, the movie’s primary villain.  He has the looks of a fallen sorcerer turned evil, but he was the one character that had me wanting more.  There’s not much to his character, which was unfortunate.

The story involves Doctor Strange looking for healing after suffering from a bad motor accident that heavily damaged his nerves in his hands…his tools on the surgeon’s table…his claim to fame.  His ego drives him to find curing, but he is essentially put in his place by the Ancient One who opens his mind to the world of mysticism and sorcery…a world Strange never knew existed.  He then takes on the path of knowledge as he quickly learns about the world of sorcery.  In his studies, he starts to learn about darker magic and begins to uncover some darker secrets that spell trouble for the Marvel cinematic universe.

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via Just Jared

In my opinion, it is the movie’s visuals and cinematography that really make Doctor Strange shine.  Like I mentioned before, the world is constantly being manipulated by the sorcerers in the mirror dimension (a dimension that “mirrors” the real world but the actions that take place in it have no effect on the actual real world), giving the movie an Inception-esque appearance.  There were multiple times throughout the movie where I was like, “huh, this would make for a really bomb-ass wallpaper!”  There are some other scenes, like the surgery scene in which Strange’s astral body (I’m not going to explain that) is directing Christine who’s operating on Strange’s physical body.  There’s some cool cinematography going on in some of these scenes that really make this movie a visual delight.

After going into Doctor Strange with absolutely zero expectations, I can officially say that I am sold on Doctor Strange as a character and I am excited to see his role in the larger Marvel cinematic universe.  The movie’s cast is nothing to scoff at and the movie delivers some of the best visual effects that I have seen in a long time.  Even if you have no familiarity with the characters, like I did, Doctor Strange is still worth checking out.

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Review: Luke Cage Season 1

luke-cage-s1-posterLuke Cage (Season 1) (2016)

Netflix / TVMA

Action / Crime / Drama

Starring: Mike Colter, Simone Missick, Theo Rossi

Creator: Cheo Hodari Coker


He just wanted to be left alone, but the city needed a hero.  That’s one of the things I love about Netflix’s host of Marvel TV shows.  The featured superheroes, or vigilantes as some might say, never revel in the spotlight that is thrust on them.  They never bask in the glow of praise (or hate) that gets thrown their way.  They just do what they feel is necessary.  They get the job down because it’s the right thing to do.  Luke Cage, the star of Marvels’ Luke Cage, was just the neighborhood guy, hanging out at Pop’s barber shop in Harlem.  However, after his name gets tarnished he needs to fight to clear his name and save his neighborhood.

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via gamers.vg

Some superheroes wear capes; others wear hoodies full of bullet holes.  The one thing that Luke Cage absolutely nails, among other things, is its titular hero.  We got a taste of Mike Colter’s Luke Cage in Netflix’s other series Jessica Jones, but this time around he’s front and center.  He’s an ex-con who literally just wants to be left alone.  He’s the neighborhood guy that everybody loves.  He also has superhuman strength and durability, which comes in handy more times than not.  The show doesn’t waste any time in showing you that Luke’s bulletproof.  I was going to count how many hoodies he lost because of bullet holes…but I quickly lost count.  Colter brings a toughness to the role that I really like.  He also does a good job at portraying a man who has a lot of demons, demons he wrestles with all season.  Luke’s a complex character, one that ever so relatable.  As a white male, I would be lying to you if I told you that I related to Luke Cage, but there is a massive demographic of young black males that will quickly identify with Luke’s character, especially in light of the events in current society.  This isn’t by accident either.

Another aspect that show creator Cheo Hodari Coker nails is the story, full of great supporting characters as well as villains.  Like all of Marvel’s Netflix shows, the story stays grounded in Harlem, a city full of gangbanging and corruption.  One of the neighborhoods’ biggest players is Cornell Stokes (Mahershala Ali) who goes by the name of ‘Cottonmouth.’  I absolutely adored Ali’s performance as the classy gangster hungry for power.  Nothing made me giddier than the show’s iconic scene that has Cottonmouth demonstrating his power in front of a portrait of late rapper Biggie Smalls.  It’s a great example of the show’s fantastic cinematography.  Cottonmouth’s not the only player in Harlem though.  There’s also councilwoman Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and Herman “Shades” Alvarez (Theo Rossi).  Both give great performances, along with some other villains that I won’t mention in fear of spoilers.

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via News Times

But who’s on Luke Cage’s side?  At first, Luke’s relationship with Harlem detective Misty Knight (Simone Missick) is a rough, but the two slowly warm up to each other as the season moves on.  They both are in search of justice and want to make sure that it’s found, no matter the cost.  It’s also refreshing to see Rosario Dawson get substantial screen time as Claire Temple, a good friend of Luke’s.  We have seen Dawson in both Daredevil and Jessica Jones as Claire, but only in smaller, more supportive roles.  This time she’s a prime part of the story, helping Luke find answers and seek justice in any way that she can.  She has experience tending to heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which makes her a qualified sidekick on Luke’s quest for vengeance.

The first couple of episodes chug along at a slower pace, but the story quickly picks up at a faster and more thrilling pace.  Although the main focus is Luke’s quest to avenge Pop’s (Frankie Faison) death, we also see bit and pieces of Luke’s past as an ex-con and how he became the superhuman that he is now.  I think these bits of backstory are neatly framed within the context of the story and they never feel too egregious.  They also play a big part in developing the characters and their motivations in the story.  Even though I enjoyed the show’s story a great deal, it was still lacking a thing that all good stories need: conflict, which might seem silly when you see Luke Cage fighting his way through gangsters and taking bullets like hunting target.  “Of course there’s conflict, what are you talking about!?”  Sure, there’s a surface level conflict, but I never felt like Luke was ever in real danger at any point during the course of the season.  There’s clever ways that the plot tries to build roadblocks in Luke’s mission, but I always knew in the back of my head that Luke was going to be just fine.  That’s the problem when you have a character that is, literally, bulletproof.  There were, of course, an abundance of thrills but these thrills were the byproduct of well-choreographed fight scenes and action moments…never the byproduct of conflict.

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via Digital Trends

Let’s circle back to a positive aspect of my time with Luke Cage and that is the show’s production and style.  Everything from the imagery to the show’s amazing soundtrack play a big role in putting you in the city streets of Harlem.  I already mentioned it previously, but the scene including Biggie’s portrait is a perfect example of the show really embracing Harlem’s culture.  There’s also the soundtrack, which is heavily influenced by old-school rap.  It even boils down to the show’s episode titles, all of which are references to the classic rap duo Gang Starr.  The show’s creators really understood the culture and setting that they were working with and hit a hole-in-one in terms of Harlem’s look and feel.  It did a great job at placing you in the beating heart of Harlem’s neighborhood.

If I had to rank Marvel’s Netflix shows as of right now, I would probably put Luke Cage above Jessica Jones but below Daredevil.  Regardless of its place among its sister shows, Luke Cage still excels on its own.  There’s a few blemishes, specifically with the conflict for a near-invincible vigilante, but the story delivers a wonderful cast of characters placed in the beautifully painted depiction of Harlem.  Ever since I saw Mike Colter’s Luke Cage in Jessica Jones I knew I wanted a full-on show devoted to the character, and Luke Cage delivers and succeeds in its mission.  But seriously, Luke really needs to buy some higher-grade hoodies.  Don’t they sell bullet-proof hoodies?

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Review: No Man’s Sky

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via Moby Games

No Man’s Sky (2016)

PS4 / Rated T

Action / Adventure

Publisher: Hello Games

Developer: Hello Games


What do you get when you mix together a fresh new idea, an unconventional publisher-developer relationship, a massive development cycle, and hype levels the size of space itself?  You get No Man’s Sky, a game that I really wanted to like.  Sean Murray and the team at Hello Games promised to make an expansive game rooted in boundless exploration and science-fiction nostalgia.  They teamed up with Sony to bring a console exclusive that would be revolutionary to gaming.  Unfortunately, the game was treated like a AAA game with the size of an indie studio.  When you pair that with a plethora of broken promises and an unclear scope, you get a game that lets a ton of people (like myself) down.

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via Gear Nuke

Again, I really wanted to like No Man’s Sky.  The game brought and touched upon a ton of different concepts and ideas that would have made for a fantastic game if handled with a little more care.  The prospect of getting in a space cruiser and flying through the endless expanse of space, exploring different planets and their wildlife on the way, is an idea that should get any sci-fi nerd bouncing with excitement.  On top of that, a fluctuating space economy and the ability to interact with different alien species paint should have made No Man’s Sky the space exploration game we all were waiting for.  So where did it all go wrong?  Why did the game fall short of its expectations?

One reason is reality of the game’s planets versus what we were promised over the course of the game’s prolonged development and PR cycle.  If you watched any of the game’s demos, you probably saw a lush and vibrant ecosystem, filled to the brim with a wide range of mystical creatures roaming about.  It’s a setting that looked ripped from a painting.  It was beautiful, and it got a lot of gamers excited to explore the game’s randomly generated planets for themselves.  We all bought a ticket for the hype train.  We all bought in to the Sean Murray’s tremendous vision, one that might have been a little too far-fetched.

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via Segment Next

At the end of the day, No Man’s Sky is just a game.  A game with limitations, just like any other game.  What Hello Games was promising fans was a game that would exceed technological innovation.  Instead, what we got were computer-generated planets that looked barren and empty, usually with some sort of radiation or extreme temperatures that make exploration a major pain in the ass.  Instead of these mythical creatures we saw in pre-release footage, we got a fair amount of atrocities that looked like the by-product of an animal creation algorithm gone wrong.  Remember EA’s character creation game Spore?  The creatures that you encounter in No Man’s Sky look like Spore rejects.  The ecosystem in the actual game just doesn’t match up with what we saw leading up to the game’s release.  This made planet exploration a bummer, especially when I started to see a lot of the same animals and planets over and over again over the course of my travels.  Random generation is great, but the limitations of such a system started to become apparent after my visit to my fifth planet.

Besides flora and fauna, you can also explore abandoned outposts, monoliths, and other structures, some populated and some empty.  Inside these buildings you can find new items, upgrades, money, and directions to other locations of interests.  The variety of these buildings, just like the animal and plant variety, starts to quickly wear thin as the buildings you explore start to become super familiar as you go on.  The monoliths, which are essentially ancient alien structures, are the most intriguing structures to explore as they offer the most variety and they also look amazing as well.

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via Investor Place

The universe of No Man’s Sky feels empty as well.  Talks of a space economy and different alien species that you could interact with made me believe that the world we would be exploring would be a living and breathing galaxy.  Instead, members of these different alien species stay in the same spots, whether it’s in a space station or a planet’s outpost.  They talk in foreign tongues which makes it next to impossible to feel like you are actually having a conversation with an alien.  You can find tomes throughout the galaxy that help you understand these species’ languages, but this doesn’t help the fact that these NPCs that you encounter are lifeless quest givers.  The space economy does deliver in that you can find different prices for materials in different space systems, but I don’t think these prices are determined by any meta-statistics.  If I were to sell tons of iron to a space trader, the price of iron across the galaxy would not go down, which is a shame.  A space economy that actually reacted to players’ buying habits would be amazing.

Combat, whether it’s on foot or in the sky, is largely underwhelming.  While exploring planets, you have a multi-tool, which allows you to mine for materials as well as fight enemies.  You can upgrade the tool with better upgrades and abilities as you go.  When exploring planets, your only enemies are aggressive creatures and the flying sentinels that scour the planetscape, waiting for someone to cause trouble.  The creatures are easy to take down with your multi-tools’s blaster but the sentinels become a real nuisance as they traverse through the air.  The gun combat doesn’t feel great and I often found myself recklessly shooting my gun in an attempt to destroy the sentinels.  Combat does get easier with subsequent upgrades, but it never felt fun, which is a big problem.  In the air, your space ship has blasters and lasers that aid you in taking down pesky space pirates you track you down if you have any valuable cargo on board.  These fights were the most frustrating of them all.  The space pirates zoom by you and do nimble acrobatic maneuvers through the air as you try to shoot them with your sluggish aim.  Your best bet is to park yourself in place and turn your ship around in an attempt to take down the enemy ships.  This, again, was not fun at all and was the source of a good amount of deaths.  In fact, most of my deaths in this game came at the hands of space pirates.  Luckily they have no interest in your cargo as you can go retrieve your lost goods in the same place where you went down.  There are no stakes to these fights, which makes them a little easier to swallow.

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Up to this point, I have probably talked about half of what you do in No Man’s Sky.  The other half you may ask?  Well, you are going to spend a lot of time with inventory management, which is another major detriment to the game’s experience.  The thing I like about No Man’s Sky’s user interface is the inspiration it draws from Destiny’s user interface.  Unfortunately, navigating through your inventory becomes a hassle thanks to the limited space that you have right from the get-go.  Your Exosuit (your spacesuit) has an inventory as well as you ship, which usually has a larger inventory.  These inventories are pretty small in the beginning which makes resource mining a pain.  I constantly found myself having to sacrifice some materials in order to make room for rarer materials and items.  It also doesn’t help that suit and ship upgrades take up inventory spots as well, which makes upgrading your gear a tougher decision that it should be.  Your inventory space should never get in the way of upgrading your gear.  In order to expand your inventory, you either have to purchase suit upgrades at outposts or obtain bigger and more expensive ships with more space.  Again, as a player you should never have to upgrade your inventories in order to make them useable.  Moving resources and items around in order to make room for other things is a big portion of the gameplay, which is a major shame.  It starts to become a drag really quickly.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that half of your playtime will be spent in the game’s inventory menus.  You’re going to be managing your inventory a lot…which is not my idea of a good time.

Finally, I feel like I need to talk about the multiplayer aspects of the game, rather the lack of multiplayer features that the game has to offer.  You have the choice to name the systems, planets, animals, and plants that you discover in hopes that another player will stumble upon your discoveries.  Why else would name these things?  However, the reality of such a massive random generation algorithm means that millions of planets are being created.  Sean Murray has made it pretty clear that the chance of stumbling upon someone else’s discovery are pretty slim.  Over the course of my playtime, I found nothing that was discovered by someone else.  Because of this, I found myself skipping the naming process, sticking with the randomly generated names that the game gives to these different aspects of the universe.  I stopped claiming ownership of such discoveries, because in the end, they don’t really matter.  Realistically, no one is going to stumble upon your discovered planets…which is a damn shame.  This is the theme of No Man’s Sky.  It’s a damn shame.

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via Segment Next

I could go on for multiple paragraphs, but this review is starting to run long.  There’s a bevy of great ideas and systems that No Man’s Sky implements, but they all feel half-baked and undercooked.  Black holes, Hyper drives, puzzles, and the mysterious Atlas are aspects of the game that I haven’t talked about.  However, none of these things managed to stick out because they were either mishandled ideas or cheap by-products of another random generation.  I admire Hello Game’s commitment to fixing the game and trying to make it a better experience for players after the game has launch, but a lot of these problems could have been fixed if expectations were tempered and promises weren’t made.  The No Man’s Sky we were expecting versus the No Man’s Sky that was put on shelves are two different products that tell two different stories.  One could have been a defining addition to gaming history while the other was the product of a hype train gone off the rails.  I wanted to like No Man’s Sky so much, but in the end it’s a game that just can’t get into.  Who knows, maybe the game will be different in a year’s time with the developer’s plans to update the game, but I don’t think I will be making the return trip into No Man’s Sky.

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Review: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

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via Cinergetica

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

R / 98 mins

Adventure / Comedy / Romance

Starring: Adam Devine, Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza

Director: Jake Szymanski


Craigslist is a wonderful thing.  It’s easy to post and sell your things without having to worry about shipping costs and all the other stuff that comes with shipping packages around the world.  Instead people come to you and buy your stuff with cold hard cash.  I’m oversimplifying it (a lot) but it really is a great thing.  As it turns out, you can also use the website to find wedding dates.  In Mike and Dave Needing Wedding Dates, the movie from writers Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien (Neighbors), Mike and Dave…well, need wedding dates so they go to Craigslist to find their lucky ladies.  Just like their idea, the movie is stupidly funny but not that great.

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via College Movie Review

Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron) Stangle are a pair of party-hard brothers who always seem to screw up every family function they attend, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or family reunion.  They always cross the line and things go south really quickly, as shown in the film’s introductory moments.  By the request of their father, the two are asked to attend their sister’s (Sugar Lyn Beard) wedding with two wedding dates that will keep the pair in check.  After a tedious and thorough process (involving Craigslist and a gross amount of blind dates) the two stumble upon two very “respectable as f***” ladies, Alice (Anna Kendrick) and Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza).  The girls are a wild pair but they keep themselves under control just long enough for them to get the chance to attend the wedding in Hawaii with Mike and Dave.  Let the shenanigans begin!

As far as story goes, Mike and Dave is pretty boilerplate when it comes to crazy wedding comedies.  The movie gives us nutty family members, a stressed out bride, a rehearsal dinner gone wrong, and lots of alcohol-fueled antics.  The film doesn’t do anything to change up the formula and as a result we get a largely uninteresting story.

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via Tribute

Despite the unoriginal script, there’s a lot of stupidly hilarious R-rated insanity that leads to a good bit of laughter.  Moments like a weird massage and a pre-wedding ecstasy trip gone too far make for some hilarious moments.  Writers Cohen and O’Brien are no strangers to R-rated comedic romps so anyone who’s a fan of the Neighbor movies should feel right at home here amongst the shenanigans.  There’s some downtime, sure, but there are definitely some humorous scenes that make up for it.

The most puzzling thing about this movie, however, are the two female leads, Kendrick and Plaza.  It’s almost as if they put no effort into their characters.  The girls, despite their slightly insane nature, are actually pretty boring and the two don’t do a good job of selling their characters at all.  It’s a shame because their male co-stars, Devine and Efron actually work pretty well together.  Their chemistry shows on screen and some of the movie’s funniest moments come when the two are together.  It’s just too bad this same type of chemistry can’t be said about Kendrick and Plaza, who are two very funny people.  This film could have been a lot stronger if everybody pulled their weight.

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via Main Echo

Despite the movie’s absurd moments, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza, as well as the uninteresting story, hold it back. I really wanted to like Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, but I was expecting a lot more out of Kendrick and Plaza.  Luckily the movie’s humorous moments prevent it from being a total wash.  I had a good time with the film, but it’s not a movie that’s going to stick with me in the long run.

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