Arcade Game Review: Panic Museum 2-DON’T SHOOT THE HOSTAGES!!!!

Well, it’s been a while. I’m back from my holiday, and I’ve brought a new idea back with me. While on holiday, I got the opportunity to play in various arcades in some spare time and I played through numerous games while I was there; primarily: arcade shooters. They’re one of the few games I’ll play in a modern arcade. I’ve never been one for games of luck and I’ve never really been a fan of driving games so that narrows the potential options for play down significantly. Unfortunately, these games seem to be getting increasingly uncommon, at least where I went. So today I’ll be starting a new series of reviews: Arcade game reviews. I feel like arcade games deserve their fair share of love too and it makes my blog a little more unique due  to the small proportion of arcade game reviews to home console game reviews. Just don’t expect reviews of 2p machines and the like. They’re not my thing and I doubt everyone wants to read a six detailed paragraph review about a Simpsons 2p machine. Anyway, today I will be talking about one of the more notable games I played during my short vacation: Panic Museum 2.

Panic Museum 2’s story is relatively straightforward. You play as one of the two protagonists, Chris and Akira, as they investigate the disappearance of one hundred people at a run-down amusement park. There are a total of five different paths you can take through the theme park, each with two levels and a boss level making for a total of fifteen levels as well as a final level where you fight the final boss. At the arcade I went to, for some reason the machine wouldn’t allow me to pick which level I wanted to go to, but I’ve seen in a number of playthroughs that the game does allow you to choose the order you complete them in. After every boss, you get a figurine, and once you get all five, you’re able to fight the final boss. The story in Panic Museum 2 isn’t all that great, but it doesn’t really have to be. I could probably count the amount of arcade games with a good story on one hand so it’s not that bad or noticeable. It gives you an excuse to shoot things and a reason for doing so and that’s really all you need. It’s certainly not a pro but it isn’t exactly a con either.

Shooting in Panic Museum 2 is action-packed and satisfying; you can almost feel the impact of every single bullet and not needing to reload only further serves to make the shooting intense. There are plenty of different enemy types to keep you on your toes and prevent the gameplay from becoming too stale. I was impressed by the creativity of some of the game’s bosses. Most of them are pretty unique and the fights with them are some of the most entertaining parts of the game. They’re not perfect though. Compared to the rest of the game, the boss fights are quite easy. The Skeleton boss in particular went down like a sack of bricks. Apart from two of the bosses-the elephant boss and rollercoaster boss-I found the game’s bosses to be an absolute breeze, and that’s including the final boss. It’s an odd complaint to make I know. Usually bosses in arcade shooters are ridiculously hard to make you put in more credits to defeat them yet for the most part, Panic Museum 2’s bosses are a light challenge at best. Nevertheless, the boss fights were very enjoyable.

However, this is where the game’s biggest negative rears its big ugly head. The hostages. Those one hundred missing people aren’t just part of the story, they’re also a game mechanic. Throughout the game, you’ll become very well-acquainted with them and the overwhelming amount of grief they cause. Getting hit by enemies isn’t the only way you can lose health. Accidentally shoot a hostage with even a single stray bullet and you’ll lose a bunch of health as well as taking a hit to your score. Every single one of these b******s  are meticulously placed so you end up shooting them out of instinct or while hitting an enemy or projectile. It deliberately takes advantage of an arcade shooter’s twitchy instincts and reflexes to punish you over and over for what would normally be a good split-second decision. One second you’ll be fighting a big enemy and the game will be screaming “DON’T STOP SHOOTING!!!!” at you and the next you’ll shoot what you think is an enemy ready to strike you only to lose a credit because you shot a hostage instead. I swear, I lost 90% of my health during my playthrough to these annoying assholes determined to pop up out of nowhere and take up as much of the screen as possible during a firefight.

Anyway, I digress, I still had a lot of fun playing the game. In particular, I loved how often it changed up the gameplay. There are plenty of shooters which just have you fighting your way through mobs and mobs of forgettable grunts until you get to a boss without any variation. Panic Museum 2 manages to spice things up without completely abandoning the core of what it actually is. Occasionally, you’ll come across a sort of minigame that forces you to change up your tactics. At one point you have to remember a sequence of colours and cut the coloured wires on a bomb in the right order. Another time, you have to constantly watch three different elevators that could arrive at any second bringing enemies and *shiver* hostages in them. As well as this, the few minibosses there are proved to be fun to fight and I even enjoyed fighting some of them more than the big bosses. The mirror wizard battle was particularly memorable and exciting due to how the boss rotates the room around you as you fight it.

Overall, Panic Museum 2 is a great arcade game, if brutally hard. If not for the (dare I even say their name?) hostages, this game might of been up there with Time Crisis and House of the Dead as one of my favourite arcade shooter games. It definitely delivers a unique and entertaining experience for fans of these types of games, as well as proving to be a challenge, but sometimes it challenges an avid arcade shooter player’s instincts a little too often. Looking for a tough-as-nails arcade shooter to push you to the very brink of your ability? While certainly not challenging for the right reasons, Panic Museum 2 is sure to scratch your itch. Just DON’T SHOOT THE HOSTAGES!!!!!

Pros:

  • Gameplay is fast, frantic and fun
  • Variety in gameplay
  • Lot’s of different enemy types and minibosses
  • Creative boss designs
  • Plenty of levels and you are able to choose which one you go to next
  • Multiple endings

Cons:

  • DON’T SHOOT THE HOSTAGES!!!!
  • Some of the most cringeworthy voice acting I’ve ever heard(even for an arcade game)
  • Graphics are plasticy and bad for 2010
  • Bosses are too easy compared to the rest of the game

Verdict: 3.5/5  

Difficulty: Hard

Cheapness: DON’T SHOOT THE HOSTAGES!!!!(very prevalent)

I’m going to be away for a week

Hey everyone!

Just a quick notice to say that I’m going to be on holiday for the next week. Unfortunately there isn’t any Internet where I’ll be going so I won’t be able to write any more posts and upload them while I’m there. Hopefully I should be able to get a new post up a day or two after I come back but until then, goodbye!

LISA: The Painful Review-Profusely Punishing and Certainly Painful

Game Name: Lisa: The Painful

Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux

Developer: Dingaling Productions

Publisher: Dingaling Productions

Price: £6.99 or $9.99

Let’s face it. Life is hard. Even in our day and age where we’re more secure than ever, surviving is still a seemingly impossible task. Maybe that’s why post-apocalyptic games are so popular. You can at least find some solace if you learn to accept and even celebrate the end of times. Fallout, Mad Max, *insert well-known zombie game here*, these are all popular games in the post-apocalyptic genre. Yet we’ve never once had a post-apocalyptic video game like LISA: The Painful. LISA is a subtle name; I had no idea what to expect upon booting it up for the first time and now I see why. There are thousands, possibly millions of video games out there. Many are simply alright, many are amazing and many are downright bad, but every now and then there comes a game like LISA. Games that completely rewrite the rules of what defines a video game and make almost every other game look like trash with their astounding singularity and uniqueness. LISA is certainly painful alright, and now here I am, typing this up in an attempt to explain why it’s a good thing.

In LISA, you follow the journey of Brad, a broken man who didn’t have the best upbringing and is addicted to a drug called Joy. The game’s introduction is very affecting, using beautiful imagery with very little dialogue to establish the world and the characters. Right at the start of the game, Brad finds a baby all on its own in the wilderness. After taking it back to his friends, Rick, Cheeks and Sticky, they find out that the baby is a girl. What would otherwise be an insignificant detail is shown to be a big deal, as an unknown event called the ‘White Flash’ caused all females in the world to suddenly disappear leaving men in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with no way of breeding or satisfying their sexual urges. Brad’s friends suggest handing it over to Rando, leader of the gang ‘The Red Skulls’, so the world can be re-populated and saved. Brad however, refuses and decides to shelter the girl he later names Buddy from the world. Shortly after some emotional cutscenes of Brad, his friends, and Buddy bonding, Brad comes back to his house to find Buddy has been kidnapped, and Cheeks was killed trying to stop them.

Lisa is a game, no, an experience that pulls no punches, instead giving you several brutal blows straight to the heart. Yet so little of it is done with dialogue. You never know what form the game’s heartbreaking moments will take next and the game is all the more shocking for it. Entering a battle only to watch as your attacker blows his brains out, instantly killing himself and abruptly ending the battle. Exploring an icy wonderland only to have suicidal footballer’s throw themselves at you with bombs strapped to their bodies. Forcing your companions, your allies, your friends to play a game of Russian Roulette just so you can get a few more pornographic magazines(they’re the game’s currency. Yep). These are just a few of the dozens and dozens of examples sprinkled throughout the game like metal filings on a poisoned cake.

Speaking of companions, they are easily one of my favourite parts of the game. In total, there are thirty different companions that you can recruit to your party through a number of different ways. Some are easy to get, simply requiring you to give them some mags or joining your party automatically as you progress throughout the game. Some are hard and require you to go out of your way to do fully-fledged sidequests. Despite their varying skills and usefulness, characteristics and personality, easiness and hardness to obtain, all of them are equal when it comes to how susceptible they are to dying. Maybe you’ll be forced to make a choice that results in one or more of your party member’s dying, maybe they’ll be killed in the aforementioned Russian Roulette minigame, hell, maybe they’ll just get decapitated in battle by a mutant. Although I do wish there was more dialogue and interacting between party members, I still felt like I shared a blood oath with some of these characters and cared for them deeply. What’s even better is the game’s ending is slightly varied depending on your party. For those who want to know, I completed the game for the first time with Terry Hintz, Rage Ironhead and Sonny.

From the get-go, LISA makes it clear that the fictional world of Olathe is as unforgiving as it gets. Sometimes you’ll be forced to sacrifice party members to keep your items. Sometimes you’ll even have to sacrifice your arm to prevent them from being killed which results in your combat capabilities being severely hindered. However, there’s one part of the game I have mixed feelings about: Joy. Brad isn’t just addicted to it as part of the story, it’s actually a game mechanic. Over the time, Brad(and other party members addicted to joy) will get the status effect ‘withdrawal’. This reduces Brad’s physical attack power to almost zero and even reduces his maximum health making battling a hell of a lot more difficult. Over time it will go away, but the only other way to cure your withdrawal is by taking more Joy. This counters all the effects of withdrawal and fully heals Brad as well as increasing his damage and critical rate drastically. Unfortunately, this increases how often you’ll get withdrawal as well.

Throughout the game, I thought this was a great unique mechanic, and I still do. The problem I have with it though is how it affects the game’s ending. There are ‘two endings’ in LISA as well as a secret ending. You’ll get one of them just by beating the game but to get the other one, you have to beat it without taking Joy. Of course, this isn’t easy and requires a lot of effort and skill to do so it must result in something ama-it’s almost the exact same as the other ending. The only difference is that there are a few extra bits of dialogue after the credits. For a game that seems dedicated and determined to make sure your choices matter and affect how you play the game drastically, this felt very out-of-place and disappointing for me. Thankfully, the secret ending you get by defeating the game’s harder difficulty setting, Pain Mode, is a lot better. Apart from this though, the only other complaint I have about the game is how easy it is to go bowling off a cliff, instantly killing yourself while the game is still transitioning to the next area.

Similar to the much more popular Undertale, LISA is a game that escapes description. No matter how many paragraphs I use to describe this game, no matter how much detail I use, it’s impossible for me to give you the same experience the game does. If you’re looking for a game that will surprise you, exceed all your expectations and leave you absolutely flabbergasted(and slightly dead inside) by the end then LISA checks all those boxes and more. The game may only be about seven hours long but if it went on any longer than that, I think I would have broken down. Achievements and different events give the game quite a bit more replayability if you truly want to be a broken man like described on the game’s Steam page. I was honestly surprised at how much I missed in my first playthrough. Just… get it. Whether I’ve convinced you or not, get it. It’s only £6.99 and you can always refund it if you don’t like the first two hours so there is very little to lose… at least in material terms. There’s simply nothing quite like it out there.

Pros:

  • Unique experience
  • Choices affect the gameplay
  • Interesting, multi-layered characters and companions
  • Large amount of companions add replayability
  • Achievements
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Nice graphics
  • Great writing
  • Gameplay still manages to be fun

Cons:

  • The two endings are barely different
  • Easy to fall off ledges when screen is transitioning
  • Occasional moments where the game forces you to take a certain action
  • Perma-death attacks could be considered cheap

Verdict: 9/10

Buy the game on Steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/335670/LISA/

Flash Friday: Sort The Court

It has recently come to my attention that I rarely ever review new games for Flash Friday. Most of the game’s I’ve reviewed were made over five years ago or possibly even longer ago than that. The only real exception is Medieval Cop but that series is still a year old. So, I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to try and balance the amount of new games and old games I review. I don’t want to completely phase out the old ones as it’s important to remember the classics, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the more recent gems to grace the Internet. Today, I’m starting with Sort the Court. Lately, for some unknown reason, it has been blowing up on Youtube which in most cases, is an instant ticket to overpowering reputation and fame. That doesn’t mean the game is exempt from criticism however. Games and the like can easily be overhyped and made out to be better than they actually are in this day and age and my intention today is to find out whether there really is something special about this apparent ‘masterpiece’. Is it really as good as it has been made out to be?

Sort the Court is as simple as it gets in terms of gameplay. People come up to you and ask a question. You then answer them by pressing Y for ‘yes’ or N for ‘no’. Depending on whether you answer them ‘yes’ or ‘no’, either positive or negative things can happen that affect your three stats: population, happiness and gold. These choices can be anything from giving a dragon gold so it doesn’t eat your people to hiring strange characters to investigate mysterious happenings or kill monsters to simply choosing to drink a cup of tea your butler prepared for you or not. The goal of the game is to indirectly create a bustling city through your choices and get into the esteemed Council of Crowns. Despite how boring this game probably sounds, it’s actually surprisingly addicting and fun due to a number of reasons.

First of all, the characters that come to you in your court are vibrant and colourful. Each of them have their own unique design that makes them stand out, and most of them are recurring! You’ll be seeing certain characters quite a lot, and each of them can help you in different ways. If you allow the blacksmith to setup shop, he’ll occasionally give you a gift of gold to thank you and sell you swords to keep your city safe and happy. Chester will give you a lot of gold if you let him eat some of your people and eventually, he’ll ask you to find a way to break the curse upon him that forces him to eat innocent people to survive. This leads you to ask for help from another character: the witch. Some of the characters such as Chester have their own mini-arcs where you can help to solve their problems in exchange for great rewards. Everything feels interconnected and it’s rewarding to help your loyal subjects out.

Unfortunately, this is where the game’s problems arise. Some choices are just very obviously the right choice. As I mentioned above, the blacksmith will offer you gifts of gold for free to say thanks, and you have the choice to decline him. Why the hell would you decline him? I must of accepted over ten gifts from him throughout the game and not once did it result in something bad happening. As well as that, the order in which the characters come to you is completely random, meaning if you’re unlucky, certain character and story arcs can take ages to resolve. One of the game’s biggest ones involves forging a sword to kill a nearby dragon threatening your town and finding a hero to wield the blade. Eventually, the blacksmith forged the sword for me and I was tasked with finding a worthy hero to wield it. The first and only hero to come to me was a suspicious thief who I did not allow to take the sword. Over ten days later, and not a single other hero came to me. Once again, the thief came, but just wanting to get rid of the dragon, I gave it to her. Consequently, the townspeople became unhappy I had just giving the sword to a criminal.

Also, the game sometimes doesn’t give you enough information on the choices. For example, there were many an occasion where a character asked for money but it never really specified how much money they wanted. This led to me going into debt twice, but despite this, I still found the game quite easy. Those two times I went into debt were the only times I went into debt, my citizens always had enough happiness and my population was in a constant state of perpetual growth. The difficulty is only really a minor complaint however as I wasn’t really looking for a challenge. Anyway, I’ve been negative for too long. Sort the Court’s music and cutesy graphics are top-notch for a free online game and they kept me engrossed for quite a while. It took me an hour and a bit to get into the Council of Crowns which is considered the end of the game. If you still have some unresolved stuff to take care of however, the game let’s you play past this point indefinitely which is a nice addition.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Sort the Court. It proved a pleasant distraction and despite its simplicity, I never really got bored of it. Some characters and choices appear way too often-I can’t tell you the amount of times I hired Skelly or gave Little Timmy a gold coin-but it doesn’t detract all that much from the overall experience. Sort the Court’s recent popularity isn’t surprising considering how easy it is to get into and how hard it is to get out of. Sort the Court will prove a memorable experience at the very least due to how much it stands out from the crowd and you’ll probably be tempted to revisit it in the near future thanks to its charm and allure. It’s nothing groundbreaking in terms of gameplay, but I don’t think I’ve played a single game that nails its presentation as much as Sort the Court.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Cutesy graphics
  • Nice music
  • Recurring, colourful characters
  • Easy to grasp and get into
  • Decent length(around an hour)
  • Can play past the ‘end of the game’

Cons:

  • Game doesn’t give you enough feedback on some choices
  • Too easy
  • Some choices are very obviously the right choice
  • Some choices appear way too often
  • Due to random order of choices, can take ages to get a certain arc resolved

Masterpiece   Amazing   Worth your time   Average   Meh   Waste of time   Kill it with fire

Play the game for free here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/graebor/sort-the-court

Ranking the Season Two Teen Titans Episodes From Worst to Best

Although the series was still finding its feet and attaining the right mix of dark, serious moments, and lighthearted comedy moments, Season One of Teen Titans proved to be a success. It had its fair share of bad episodes *cough* *cough* Deep Six, but they didn’t really detract from the season as a whole. Now the writers were feeling a little more confident, they decided to try out some new ideas resulting in some of the most creative episodes in the series, as well as the introduction of a new Titan: Terra. Fans of the show seem to be on two sides: Those who love Terra, and those who absolutely hate her. Certain people aren’t going to be very happy with me whichever side I’m on so I may as well spit it out. I’m the latter. My dislike of one aspect doesn’t completely affect my judgement of the season’s arc however, and as someone who’s now watched the season over four times, I’m determined to give it a fair chance. No matter how convicted I am to this task however, I’m sure not all of you will agree with me, and that’s fine! Feel free to leave your favourite and least favourite episodes of the second season in the comments below. Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at Teen Titans Season Two.

#13 Every Dog Has His Day

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Oh Beast Boy. Why do all your episodes have to be so mediocre? Apart from The Beast Within, I can’t give you one BB episode(apart from his Season Five arc episodes) that was great or even that memorable. This episode is no exception. Beast Boy gets mixed up with another green dog who happens to be a childish alien’s pet and it’s up to the rest of the titans to save him before he leaves Earth forever. While the plot is wacky, it’s not all that engaging like one of Mad Mod’s episodes and although it has a few funny jokes here and there, that’s the only real merit the episode has. To its credit, I do like the design of Soto’s spaceship which fits with his immature nature, but overall the episode is just ‘meh’ at best.

#12 Transformation

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Transformation is an episode about puberty. Yep. Can you imagine that meeting? “Okay, we still need an idea for one more episode of Teen Titans. Anyone got any ideas? Let’s make an episode about puberty!” I mean, they are teens but was this episode really necessary? It just feels like they ran out of ideas and they needed one more episode for the season so they just said “Let’s make Starfire ugly for an episode!”. Like with Forces of Nature, the moral feels a bit shoehorned in and the whole narrator part just felt wholly unnecessary. In conclusion, it’s just a decent, but overly uninteresting episode.

#11 Fractured

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The above picture pretty much sums up my reaction to this episode. People either seem to love this episode or despise it and unfortunately, I’m on the latter side. After re-watching it a few times over the years, my dislike for it has significantly decreased but I still don’t see how people can love this episode. It’s similar to Mad Mod’s two episode and Mumbo Jumbo’s episode but I find that this episode isn’t nearly as clever with its jokes. Fractured doesn’t really have a focus point and thus it lacks many of the references and cultural gags that those other episodes contain. I found Larry more annoying that funny; much more annoying and I would have completely forgot about Johnny Rancid had he not appeared in Revved Up and the Season Five finale. It’s certainly not a forgettable episode like Transformation, but I didn’t really want to remember some parts of this episode.

#10 Date With Destiny

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Date with Destiny is the only good comedy-centric episode in Season Two in my opinion. Kitten is a really annoying character, but in a good way. Whoever came up with the idea that Robin should be forced to go on a date with a spoilt and pampered girl much to Starfire’s disdain is a genius. It’s nowhere near the greatest episode in Season Two but the tension between Robin, Starfire and Kitten makes for a hilarious atmosphere and some great comedic moments. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a fan of the Starfire and Robin ship that didn’t like this episode. However, the villain, Mothman, is kind of boring. Hell, Kitten was more memorable a villain than him, even if it was for the wrong reasons. At least she had a personality. The episodes only get better and better from here on out.

#9 Terra

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Let me start this off by saying I hate Terra(the character).  I know I pretty much just sentenced myself to death for the crime of having an opinion on the Internet but I will not be silenced dammnit! Maybe I’m just biased because I prefer the Raven and BB ship over the Terra and BB ship. Beast Boy is too good for her. Fight me. Anyway, onto the episode. I think they did a pretty good job of introducing Terra in this episode, at least until the ending. Watching this for the first time, she seemed like a decent enough character. Her power was cool and although she seemed a little rough around the edges(get it?), I thought she could shine with enough development. Slade is an instant plus for an episode and thankfully he’s just as chilling as he was in Season One, except his target is Terra this time. The ending was just dumb though. They had a simple misunderstanding and Terra just completely blew it out of proportion. I know they had to separate her from the titans for the story arc, but I can think of a hundred better ways of doing it. A good introductory episode with a lacklustre ending that feels forced.

#8 Only Human

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While Cyborg may be my least favourite member of the Teen Titans, I can still appreciate his good episodes. Only Human is one of these good episodes and although it’s not one of the best of Season Two, it’s still entertaining. Cyborg’s fight against Atlas was intense; what better villain for a Cyborg who misses his human parts than a supposedly perfect robot who thinks humans are puny and weak? The mechanic and the whole ‘respect’ moral was an otherwise dull part of an entertaining  episode but apart from that, Only Human is a strong, well-written Season Two episode even if it pales in comparison to the episodes higher(or lower?) on this list.

#7 Winner Take All

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Winner Take All is 100% fanservice and it’s awesome. Ever since superheroes(and supervillains) were created, there has always be the omnipresent playground question of who would win in a fight. People today are still obsessed by the idea if Captain America: Civil War and Batman vs Superman is anything to go by and, as with any form of superhero media, the ‘Who would win in a fight?’ question was present during Teen Titan’s run too. Admittedly, it would of been a bit dull if it was just a tournament amongst the Teen Titans so some extra superheroes plus Gizmo were thrown into the mix as well. Some of the best action in the series resides in this episode, the fight between Robin and Speedy being particularly noteworthy. The story wasn’t that great but did it really have to be? No. I’m just sore that we never got to see the Tournament of Heroines which was teased at the end of the episode. That would of been awesome to see.

#6 Titan Rising

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This episode is awesome. There’s plenty of action, Slade makes an appearance, Terra returns(though whether that’s good or not is debatable) and just the overall feel and atmosphere in this episode fills you with a buzz of trepidation and giddy excitement. But do you know what got this episode the most points from me? Yep, you guessed it! Raven and Terra’s relationship is the most memorable part of this episode for me. Raven barely puts up with the other Titan’s, so she isn’t going to be so welcoming to an outsider. Their little spats are simultaneously tense and hilarious to watch but Raven learns to tolerate Terra by the end. She was right the entire time about not trusting her however considering how she later becomes Slade’s apprentice. All of the Titans are at their absolute best in this episode and for five years and five separate viewings, it has never failed to thrill and entertain me.

#5 Betrayal

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If I can give Season Two’s main story arc one thing over Season One’s main story arc, it’s that the setup for the finale was so much better. Although Apprentice was great, most of the episodes building up to it were seemingly so unrelated to it and could be mistaken for normal singular episodes such as Forces of Nature and Final Exam. Season Two handles it with much more grace. The assault on Titan Tower is one of my favourite fight scenes in the show. Seeing Robin and the rest of the Titans take cover behind rubble, protect their home and almost get overwhelmed is one of the most epic scenes in the show. As well as this, despite my dislike for the Terra and Beast Boy ship, I couldn’t help but smile at the funfair montage. Finally, the House of Mirror’s scene and Beast Boy’s fight against Slade made the episode even more incredible than it already was. One of my favourite season arc episodes(not counting the finales).

#4 Fear Itself

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This is another episode that I really don’t think gets enough credit. Whenever people talk about the best Teen Titans episodes, I rarely ever hear them talking about Fear Itself. From the creative introduction and fight with Control Freak to Raven’s confrontation of her fears, this episode kept me hooked all the way through. Despite the dark atmosphere and the fact that parts of this episode are downright terrifying, there are still a few moments where the episode manages to make you laugh. “What did I tell you? Funny guy goes firrrrrrrrrssssstttt!!!” has got to be one of Beast Boy’s best lines in the show, and that says a lot. On top of this, the episode is full to the brim with horror movie references. Seriously, this episode deserves way more recognition. I know literally ALL of Raven’s episodes are good, but Fear Itself is still a strong contender for best Raven episode.

#3 Aftershock Part Two

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Okay, this is probably going to be the most hotly debated episode position on this list. While I do like the second part of Teen Titans Season Two finale, it’s just lacking something that the first part had. It’s not the action, there’s plenty of that. It’s not the lack of a menacing villain, Slade always manages to fill that role and go beyond. It’s not that it’s more comedic, Aftershock Part Two is as serious as serious can get. The problem I have with the second part is Terra herself. I never really liked her character but I could put up with her in the first part because she seemed to finally find her place in the show: A former friend turned heartless villain by the Titan’s arch-nemesis. Yet, in this episode, her character is completely turned around for seemingly no reason. She showed no mercy when she sealed Beast Boy in a gaping chasm. She showed no mercy while she was presumably drowning Raven to death. She showed no mercy when she was obliterating an entire goddamn town of life. But five minutes into the episode she’s suddenly “Can’t we just be friends again?”. The Titans, Beast Boy especially gave her more than enough chances to redeem herself, but now they’re past that and are going all out, she’s suddenly a good guy. Not to say, this episode is bad, many of the core fundamentals that made the first part so amazing are here, but Terra made me like this episode just a little less than the next two episodes on this list.

#2 How Long is Forever

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Season Two got off to a significantly stronger start than Season One with How Long is Forever. Debatably one of the saddest episodes of Teen Titans, this episode combines a depressing story with an important moral, some great action and even a few comedy moments which don’t interrupt the episode’s more serious tone: “I’m going to be bald?!?!?”. Seeing all the titans grown up without the company of one of their friends is heartbreaking, yet also insightful. Don’t tell me you didn’t freak out when Robin, now going by the name Nightwing made his epic entrance into the episode like an absolute badass. Warp was a villain that could have done with a little more character but that’s literally the only complaint I have about this episode. Not just one of the best episodes of Season Two, but one of the best in the entire series.

#1 Aftershock Part One

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I know it seems weird, but I like Aftershock’s first part more than Aftershock’s second part. Terra is completely committed to being a villain in this episode and when she does play one, without any hesitation, she makes a great foe for the titans. The episode starts off seemingly normal and carefree until Terra smashes a rock into the T-Car completely wrecking it(not for the first time and not for the last). Despite the battle being five against one, Slade’s helping hand and the titan’s hesitation to fight their former friend leads to a crushing defeat. This episode is a rollercoaster all the way through and the episode’s peak comes in the form of Robin and Raven’s desperate battle against Terra making for one of the most intense and high-stake fights in the series. Aftershock Part One lives up to its name. An aftershock is a quake of lesser magnitude following a large earthquake in the same area. I think we can all agree that the first part of Aftershock was definitely the larger one, and that’s why I consider it the best episode in Season Two of Teen Titans.

Overall, I didn’t really like Season Two’s main story arc as much as Season One’s, but the arc episodes were still epic and the good singular episodes were honestly much better and much more prevalent than Season One’s singular episodes with fewer bad ones. However this is my opinion, so someone’s bound to disagree with me. Feel free to share your opinions on the best(and worst) Season Two Teen Titans episodes as I’m interested to hear what you think!

Flash Friday: Demons Took My Daughter

Its been a while since I reviewed one of Nerdook’s games. I’ve already reviewed two his most popular, Monster Slayers and Deadly Neighbours, and one of his less popular games, Monster Legions. What game do I do next? Deadly Neighbours 2 would be the obvious choice but screw continuity! Another one of Nerdook’s games that I have good memories of is Demons Took My Daughter. Not exactly a subtle title. You have simple titles like Monster Slayers, Deadly Neighbours, then you have DEMONS TOOK MY DAUGHTER. It gives you more of an idea of what to expect while still keeping the gameplay a mystery. Nerdook’s games are experimental, and like all experiments, some are going to go better than others. Is Demons Took My Daughter on the successful side, or is it a failure? Seven years after playing it for the first time, it’s time to give it another look.

Demons Took My Daughter takes the tower defence genre and gives it a unique twist. Instead of having an aerial view of the battlefield and mainly being an observer of the battle, Demons Took My Daughter has you right in the thick of the action. Demons approach from the left of the screen and head right towards your daughter’s soft toys which you are apparently using to find her somehow? You can build towers in stacks, forcing the demons to go up and over your defences instead of straight ahead. As well as moving the father to place towers, you can also move him close to demons to have him automatically attack them for a bit of extra damage. However, there’s no real targeting system and I often got frustrated when I couldn’t hit that one demon stealing a soft toy surrounded by twenty other demons.

In terms of enemies, Demons Took My Daughter is most definitely quantity over quality. Certain demon types are often spawned in big waves and the screen can get cluttered very easily simply by the sheer amount of stuff on the screen. This also means that levels can seem to stretch on forever, even if in reality, it’s only a few minutes. This is especially true on Wrath’s levels where the game bombards you with dozens and dozens of tanky horned demons. That’s not to say there isn’t any variety in enemy types, there are quite a lot of different ones. Quick demons, the aforementioned horned demons and more unique ones such as ghost demons which have a high dodge chance unless you use a certain tower to reveal them and soul stealers who take souls you need to build your defences and move them out of your reach.

Variety in tower types isn’t lacking either. You’re only allowed to take six tower types into a level so you can develop your own strategy based on the level. I’ve never been big on strategy so I had a hard time choosing which ones to take. Some towers shoot both left and right but cost a total of five souls, some are more effective at the bottom of stacks as they shoot upwards, some slow or even stun enemies. There is a lot of freedom in how you hold back the hordes of persistent demons though some towers work better on certain levels where certain demon types are more prevalent. In total, there are twenty eight levels, four for each of the seven deadly sins. Each set of levels have their own themed demon types and a boss on the last level which shakes things up a bit.

Despite this, the game is very dull and it doesn’t take long to get repetitive. Whatever demons you’re fighting whichever towers you use, you’re still going to be simply jumping on demons again and again as your character automatically attacks them. At times, it seems like the game plays itself, especially once you build as many tower stacks as possible and are forced to simply wait for the level to end. The different blocks add a bit of fun and engagement but I got through the entire game just fine using only curse and slow blocks. The only upgrades available for purchase require golden souls which means completing a level without losing any soft toys. Combined with the overly long levels, it can seem like it’s not really worth the effort meaning the game doesn’t have much of a sense of progression. As well as this, the only achievements are three Kongregate badges.

Overall, I don’t think Demons Took My Daughter is one of Nerdook’s best works by any means. The concept is creative and it feels like a lot of effort was put into the game, but when it comes down to it, the game just wasn’t all that fun, at least to me. This game is a far cry from the likes of Monster Slayers and Deadly Neighbours and apart from the graphics, it’s lacking in a lot of character that is usually found in Nerdook’s other games. It’s good for a bit of mindless fun in short bursts, but that’s really it. By no means is it a demonic game sent from the pits of hell, but it’s no angel of a game either, it’s simply stuck in purgatory.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Unique gameplay
  • Large variety of tower and enemy types
  • Decent length(around an hour and a half)
  • Nerdook graphic style
  • Different, refreshing take on the Tower Defence genre
  • A bit of replayability

Cons:

  • Annoying music
  • Levels can be overly long and repetitive
  • Screen can get very cluttered
  • Game is very automated
  • Game can easily be beaten using only one or two tower types

Masterpiece   Amazing   Worth your time   Average   Meh   Waste of time   Kill it with fire

Play the game for free here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/nerdook/demons-took-my-daughter?acomplete=demons

Volume Review: Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Game Name: Volume

Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

Developer: Mike Bithell Games

Publisher: Mike Bithell Games

Price: £14.99 or $19.99

I’ll be honest, I’ve never really be a fan of Stealth games, so I’m probably not the most qualified person to review one. In the few stealth games I have played, I’ve often sunk to abusing enemy AI and running straight past them like a headless chicken. So when I heard that Mike Bithell’s new game would focus on stealth and remaining undetected, I was instantly put off due to my previous experiences. Nevertheless, I bought it during a sale and for almost two years, it remained undisturbed in my Steam library. After neglecting Volume and the Stealth game genre as a whole for a long time, I’ve finally decided to give it another chance. I wasn’t expecting much from Mike’s previous game, Thomas Was Alone, but that only aided it in blowing me away. Is Volume the same? Can it surpass my stealth game bias? Let’s find out!

In Volume, you play the role of Robert Locksley, a boy seeking to take down a totalitarian government by streaming himself sneaking through simulations of various buildings and teaching people how to steal its contents without being detected. The way he does this is by using a device called the ‘Volume’ which has its own AI programmed to help Rob called Alan. Most of the targets Rob tries to take down are only given a small description and portrait but the game’s main villain: Gisborne, makes his presence much more apparent through a few cutscenes. Rob is a modern day representation of Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and several other characters such as Tuck(Friar Tuck) and Jo Little(Little John) are mentioned but never really fleshed out as much as Rob. If you’ve never played Mike’s previous game, Thomas Was Alone, then you’re in for a treat as the voice acting is absolutely masterful and really makes the characters feel grounded and real; an achievement made even more impressive by the fact that some of them aren’t all that solid such as Alan, the AI. Danny Wallace in particular gives an excellent performance.

Mike Bithell’s strong point has always been first-rate storytelling and it certainly shows in his latest game. I grew attached to Rob and Alan throughout the course of the game and I was certainly interested to see where the game’s story went, especially considering the Prologue cutscene. Unfortunately, while the story is investing, the way it is executed is sub-par to say the least. Most of the story is communicated through voiced dialogue at the beginning of certain levels and it’s quite intrusive. Trying to listen to what the characters are saying and sneaking through a large building at the same time is not easy. To be honest, I simply started waiting around at the start of the level for the dialogue to finish before moving on. Apart from that, for the most part the world’s lore is brought to light in a disjointed and disorganised way through text documents dotted around each level. In total, the game only has three or four fully-fledged cutscenes and though beautiful, I found they were quite stilted despite the rest of the game running smoothly on my computer.

Gameplay in Volume is straightforward and satisfying. You can crouch behind walls to hide and move past enemies, hide in lockers and trapdoors and whistle to make an enemy move to a certain point. Various gadgets are thrown into the mix to help you solve certain challenges though  very few levels have more than one gadget. Stealth games generally fall into two types: A part-sandbox stealth game where you’re given an assortment of gadgets and are left to find your own way to the objective and a more streamlined and linear stealth game where there’s only really one solution to a level. Volume is most certainly the latter. Not that I mind. I suck at stealth games so having it simplified certainly made it less frustrating for me but fans of the latter should look elsewhere to get their stealth fix.

More enemies are introduced throughout the course of the game such as Rogues who can see all around them in a circle and Knights who only have a melee attack, but are fast and have a massive line of sight. While the AI is smart for the most part, it does have it’s stupid moments(I’m looking at you Archer). It’s particularly apparent, yet also funny when you can keep going round and round a pillar to completely shake off enemies who walk too slow to keep up with you. The game also utilises Steam Workshop and a level editor to allow players to create their own levels for a little extra replayability. As well as this, there are twenty four achievements though most of them boil down to completing a certain amount of the story or using a certain gadget x amount of times. By the end of the one hundred level campaign, I had all but four of the achievements, and it only took me another hour of playing to get them. Unfortunately, you can only get the achievements in the core levels meaning you can’t work towards them in user-made levels and instead are forced to replay the campaign levels.

All in all, it took me about seven hours to complete the main campaign and another hour to 100% it. Whether the amount of content is worth the £14.99 price tag is depends on whether you’re interested in the Steam Workshop levels. Despite its debatable price tag, the 7+ hours you play will be enjoyable and accompanied by some beautiful graphics and some excellent music. I personally didn’t tire of the gameplay but I’ve heard of some people becoming bored due to its repetitiveness. For this reason, I think Volume is best enjoyed in short bursts as I played it, rather than slogging through it all in one session. Mike Bithell is a skilled game designer, and Volume only further proves that point.

Pros: 

  • Decent Campaign Length(around seven hours)
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Unique, stunning graphics
  • Steam Workshop content and level creator
  • Rewarding, fun gameplay
  • Phenomenal voice acting
  • Great story
  • Meticulously designed levels

Cons:

  • £14.99 is a bit expensive for what’s on offer
  • Only really one solution to every level
  • Story and lore is mostly told through text
  • AI can be a bit stupid sometimes
  • Gameplay can be repetitive
  • Not much replayability

Verdict: 7.5/10

Buy the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/365770/Volume/

Ranking the Doctor Who Season One Episodes from Worst to Best

Doctor Who has been a much-loved part of British Culture for over fifty years now, both in its classic and modern era. Even someone like me, who never really watched the show couldn’t escape its presence. Calm down! I never really used to watch the show, but not too long ago, I saw all the episodes listed on Netflix and said: “What the hell?”. After recently finishing the first season, I can safely say I haven’t come to regret that choice. Doctor Who isn’t infallible however, and there is a bad episode blended in with the gems from time to time. So, as I did with Teen Titans, I’m going to rank every episode of each season, from worst to best; except this time, I’m unbiased and coming into the show for the first time. Just remember, this is only my opinion and it’s completely fine to disagree with me. Feel free to leave your thoughts on my list in the comments below. Now then, let’s start up the Tardis and go back in time to 2005, back to the revival of Doctor Who.

#13 Aliens of London

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Yes, this is quite a cliche choice. The Slitheen, or if you want to get technical, the Raxacoricofallapatorian(the bane of every spelling bee contestant) were probably the worst villains in the first season. They got some justice in ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’ but we’re getting off-topic here. In my opinion, they’re just a bunch of wasted potential. When you get down to it, the Slitheen(screw you, I’m calling them that from now on), are actually quite a terrifying race. Hulking figure, razor sharp claws and the ability to disguise themselves as humans. But then, they had to throw in that unfunny farting gag that just completely ruined them. Also, the doctor gets the date wrong and Rose ends up missing for an entire year. Wait, how the hell did he get the date wrong? He’s been doing this for centuries forgodsake!

#12 Boom Town

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Again with the Slitheen. This could of been a good episode, it really could of. But compared to the excellent ‘The Doctor Dances’, it just didn’t stand much of a chance. There’s some genuinely funny parts of this episode and the Doctor has a confrontational debate with his opponent that causes him to deeply question and revi- it leads to nothing. They tried to be clever by bringing some of the Doctor’s darker actions to light but in the end, it turns out Margaret is just an evil villain and the Doctor was right all along to want to take her to be executed. As well as that, Rose is absolutely despicable in this episode. Mickey’s rightfully angry that she just left him on Earth and expects him to continue to remain her boyfriend despite her being away 95% of the time. Mickey was framed for murdering her because of her actions and he never complained once, yet god forbid he move on with his life and get a new girlfriend. One of the most infamously bad episodes of the first Season.

#11 The End of the World

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My feelings about this episode are… mixed. On the one hand, it did an admirable job of introducing new watchers and re-welcoming old fans to the creativity of the Doctor Who world. You can really tell they’re proud of all the different, zany alien designs they came up with by how much they show them off throughout the episode. On the other hand, the plot was passable at best. Someone’s trying to sabotage the station? Why, the black-cloaked figures with long, sharp claws handing out strange metal balls don’t seem suspicious at all! I found Cassandra to be a dull villain and there was a brief thing about subservience and slavery that never really went anywhere. While this episode is definitely creative, it’s lacking in pretty much every other area.

#10 Rose

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Modern Doctor Who got off to a relatively strong start. It was a great episode, but nothing really amazing. We’re introduced to the 9th incarnation of the doctor as well as his companion: Rose. The Autons were a decent villain to bring back for the first episode though what they did to the Nestene was questionable at best. CGI in live action usually isn’t that great at the best of times, but a big, unoriginal orange lump? Really? Another thing about this episode is it was never actually resolved how the governments of the world managed to explain millions of mannequins coming to life and attacking every human in sight, even killing some. I guess it did show just how powerful some of the Doctor’s enemies could be but did they really have to kill off Clive? I’m still sore about that well into Season Two.

#9 The Long Game

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Okay, the concept for this episode was a great and modern idea, but it left us with so many unanswered questions. For a start, how the hell did the Jagrafess manage to take control of the Earth? Yes, it’s using the media, but it controls it through the editor. The Jagrafess is a lump of flesh stuck to the roof so it can’t exactly do much as long as you don’t get too close. It doesn’t look like the Editor is getting anything in return so why the heck is he doing what the Jagrafess says? They never explain how the whole zombie control thing works and Adam is so badly-written a character it’s no surprise he only got one episode as a companion of the Doctor. Great concept, but bad execution.

#8 World War Three

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World War Three was the only good Slitheen episode in Season One. Rather than making the Slitheen a laughing stock, this episode-for the most part-actually makes the Slitheen a formidable foe. We get to see them mercilessly hunt their prey down. Rose, the Doctor, Jackie, Mickey and even MP Harriet Jones are all forced to confront the deadly aliens in some form or another. Particularly notable instances of this are the chase in Downing Street at the start of the episode and Mickey and Jackie’s desperate struggle in Mickey’s kitchen. Both of these scenes had me biting my nails at the tension. While a Dalek is terrifying, I think a clawed green hand ripping through a large wooden door like it’s paper comes close to the level of fear the Dalek’s instill. Mickey also had a major part in the episode for once, and was awesome. Just a bit of a nitpick but I wish they didn’t kill off Ganesh. I liked him.

#7 The Empty Child

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The Empty Child was mostly just a setup for the second part of Season One’s second two-parter but it was an entertaining setup. We’re introduced to Captain Jack, my personal favourite character in the entire show Humour is almost as prevalent in this episode as the subsequent one and the execution of the Empty Child Plague was chilling to the very bone. Not only that, but it had surprisingly more action than most Doctor Who episodes if Rose hanging from a barrage balloon wearing a Union Jack shirt is anything to go by. An enjoyable episode with good pacing and writing, but not outstanding like the episode that came after it.

#6 Bad Wolf

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Bad Wolf was a seemingly omnipresent message throughout the first season, following the Doctor and Rose wherever they went, so upon seeing it as the title of the episode, you know s***’s going to go down. Despite this, the episode keeps you in the dark for the majority of the episode, keeping you guessing about what’s actually going on. This episode’s message on the media was a lot more subtle, but still got its point across better than ‘The Long Game’ did. I loved how it made fun of modern TV shows such as Big Brother though that may be my hate for reality TV talking. Like ‘The Empty Child’, it was mostly just setup, but that didn’t stop it from being an engaging episode.

#5 The Unquiet Dead

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This was the first episode of Doctor Who that really got me invested into the series. Charles Dickens was absolutely brilliant in this episode and I was sad when the Doctor didn’t ask him to be a companion considering he’s one of his greatest fans and all. I do suppose he died one week later but he still could of been a temporary companion like Captain Jack. ‘The Unquiet Dead’ tries to give a scientific explanation to the supernatural and does a great job of doing it without being massively confusing or convoluted. More of the Ninth Doctor’s personality is brought to light and although the villains didn’t really have a face, their plot was still frightening. This episode is a joy to watch all the way through.

#4 Father’s Day

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For years, casual watchers and fans were plagued by omnipresent questions about the Doctor Who universe. Chief among these was the question: Why can’t the Doctor just go back in time to defeat his villains? Fortunately, this episode was broadcast and answered that question, while also giving some focus and much-needed development for Rose. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan of Rose(put your pitchforks down), but I found that in this episode, she was relatable and even likeable. It’s not exactly a unique concept; going back in time to stop a loved one from dying, but Doctor Who handles it damn near perfectly in this episode.

#3 Dalek

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This was the episode classic Doctor Who fans had been waiting for. Easily the most recognisable of Doctor Who villains, the Dalek had been a favourite for years. There was just one question: How would Modern Who handle them? Thankfully, no punches were pulled in re-establishing the terror of the Doctor’s greatest foe. One Dalek. That’s all. Yet it managed to upgrade itself and fight its way through one of the most secure underground bunkers on Earth without getting so much as a single scratch. As well as this, it’s made clear that the Doctor isn’t always the noble hero many make him out to be. “You would make a good Dalek Doctor” is one of the most chilling lines of the series. Somehow, against all odds it also managed to make me feel a sense of sadness and even sympathy for a Dalek. That on its own is enough to get the episode into the top three on this list.

#2 The Parting of the Ways

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Doctor Who finales, (most of the time) are pretty damn good, and the finale of the first season is no exception. We were already made familiar to the Daleks’ impressive power and fortitude in the episode of the same name, and finding out there are millions of them still alive was alarming to say the least. The Doctor works frantically to try and defeat the Daleks while Jack and a small group of Satellite Five survivors try to buy him time. Rose is sent back to her time as the Doctor doesn’t want her to get hurt and she, Mickey and her mother try to get back to help him. It’s an intense episode, only helped by the fact that at the end of it, Jack and his small group of renegades couldn’t kill a single Dalek, even with the futuristic weaponry at their disposal. A phenomenal episode, second only to…

#1 The Doctor Dances

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I’m about 99% sure it’s impossible to dislike this episode. The Doctor Who team must of used some nanogenes to make liking this episode part of our genetics. All jokes aside though, this really is a phenomenal episode. After listening to the banana joke, I knew this was going to be my favourite episode of the first season. It’s humorous, there’s plenty of action, an intense chase scene at the beginning, a really well-written mystery surrounding the plague and Capatain Jack. Need I say more? Captain Jack elevates this to the top five on its own.When he joins the Doctor at the end, I was positively squealing in delight. This episode contains all the best parts of Doctor Who and more. Easily the best episode of season one.

While the first season had some ‘meh’ episodes, for the most part it was a great first season for modern Doctor Who. It managed to satisfy long-time fans by bringing back enemies such as the Daleks while creating new ones such as the Slitheen and the Jagrafess to prevent the series from being too stale. That was just my opinion however and it’s completely fine to disagree with me! Feel free to share your thoughts on the first season in the comments below as I’m interested to hear what you all think.

Castlevania Review-What a horrible night to have a curse

Movies or TV series based on video games have a reputation of being really, really bad. Looking at examples like the Super Mario Bros. movie, The Angry Birds Movie and the Street Fighter movie only seems to prove that video games just don’t work in this form of media. Despite this, the companies that make these movies don’t seem to be disheartened by the negative stigma surrounding video game movies as the recent Assassins Creed movie proves. Is it impossible for video games to make the jump to the big screen while still being entertaining? Another very recent series seems to think not: Castlevania, the animated series.

The Netflix series follows the adventures of Trevor Belmont, the main monster-slaying character from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. In the games, it was quite simple. You enter Dracula’s castle, fight through his demonic army and slay the evil vampire lord. The animated series however, tries to add some characterisation to Belmont’s world. Dracula gets almost the entirety of the first episode to flesh out his character. He isn’t evil simply for the fact he’s evil, in fact, he has good reason to want to eradicate humanity. In the first episode, we see him meet a young doctor called Lisa who seeks the knowledge Dracula holds in his castle so she can use it to help the ill. We aren’t shown much of their interactions after that, but she eventually becomes his wife only to be burned at the stake by the church for the crime of being a ‘witch’. The ancient vampire is of course, enraged by this and gives them one year to prepare while he builds up an army from the depths of hell.

As you might of guessed, the animated series isn’t nearly as black and white as the NES games it is based on. Throughout the four episodes(yes, just four) that make up the first season, the villainy of the church is a prevalent theme. Trevor Belmont, one of the last of the Belmont family remaining, is also one of the few people capable of stopping Dracula, yet the church excommunicated and exiled his entire family simply for coming into contact with the supernatural they worked to stop. So Dracula’s army is slowly making their way across the country razing all in their path with barely any resistance, and the one person who can stop them isn’t exactly happy to help.

Speaking of Trevor Belmont, he’s a brilliant, well-written protagonist. We first meet him in a pub where he is swiftly drawn into a brawl over his family name. He’s rude, snarky, seemingly drunk all the time and constantly fires off a barrage of sarcastic quips. Yet he’s also surprisingly tolerant, loyal to certain people and f***ing badass. One of the only things I dislike about him is he’s a little too R-rated in my opinion. Yes, I know this series wasn’t exactly supposed to be family friendly and for the most part I’m fine with that; but it seems like almost half of everything Trevor says is ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’. Thankfully, this is much more controlled by the season’s second half. Gore is also very present in this series, and to an extreme level. There’s eyes getting whipped out, impaling and even a baby being eaten at one point. I wasn’t too bothered by it, but if you’re not a fan of gore I recommend you stay far away. Most of the first two episodes is made up of dialogue setting up the world and characters but the third episode is where things really kick off.

Visually, the show is stunning with detailed animation and great character designs. It reaches its peak with the final scene in the season, where **SPOILER** Trevor and Alucard(another playable character from the game) fight to a stalemate. Each of the characters fight in their own specific way which was a joy to watch. While Alucard was more controlled, fighting in a stance and barely changing his movements, Trevor was unpredictable, constantly changing his movement and dancing from foot to foot to try and throw Alucard off guard. At one point, Trevor even employs the cheap tactic of a kick to the groin to try and get an advantage and the resulting dialogue was hilarious. **SPOILER** After watching it, I was left with my mouth open, aching for more. One of the other playable game characters, the powerful witch Sypha Belnades, is introduced in the episode prior after a brief, yet awesome fight with a cyclops. The only playable character not to appear at all in the season was the pirate, Grant DaNasty. Hopefully he’ll show up in the next season which has already been confirmed.

Overall, I loved Castlevania. While it does make some changes, for the most part it stays loyal to the game. Dialogue is well-written and full of comedy gold, and the new spin on Dracula and the other characters feels necessary considering modern expectations. However, it has its flaws. First of all, it really could of benefited from just a couple more episodes. Because of the small amount of run time for the season, the first two episodes and parts of the third episode are an exposition fest with around 90% of the episodes made up of characters talking. The last episode-while leaving me wanting more-also left me with a sense of dissatisfaction. It ends almost abruptly, right in the middle of one of Dracula’s assaults leaving more questions than answers. Finally, this may just be my personal opinion but I didn’t think the soundtrack was that great. None of the pieces were particularly memorable or struck me as something special, hell, in quite a few of the scenes, it’s completely silent apart from the dialogue. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the show’s second season, which is confirmed to have double the amount of episodes. Fans of Castlevania and those who are new to the series alike will find something to like here, provided you don’t mind a bit of gore.

Watch the series on Netflix here: http://www.netflix.com/

Plague Inc: Evolved Review-A Pox on All of Steam

Game Name: Plague Inc: Evolved

Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, Playstation 4

Developer: Ndemic Creations

Publisher: Ndemic Creations

Price: £11.99 or $14.99

Ever wanted to destroy the world? The thought isn’t exactly alien to gamers like us. There are plenty of games just for embracing our more chaotic side. While saving the world is all well and good, it’s often just as fun, if not more fun to destroy it. Even in games where it isn’t the main focus, there’s always a way to bend the game’s rules to commit evil. Come on, we’ve all trapped a Sim in a room with no exit or stopped building a rollercoaster in Rollercoaster Tycoon so we could watch the little pixel people crash and burn. Today, I’ll be looking at one of the most popular world-destroying games: Plague Inc: Evolved. This game has picked up quite a bit of traction and remains one of the most popular games on Steam. Is it really as enjoyable as it’s given credit for? Let’s find out!

What you do in Plague Inc is pretty self-explanatory. You attempt to develop a plague that is infectious, deadly and complicated enough to infect the whole world, kill every human and prevent scientists from curing it. However, you don’t do much in the way to directly control your plague, instead indirectly controlling it through upgrades. When you start a game, you pick a location to start your plague and begin infecting the world. Over time, you collect DNA points, either automatically or by clicking DNA bubbles that randomly appear on the world map. These can be used to improve the transmission, symptoms and abilities of your plague. This may be making it more resistant to certain environments and weather, giving it the ability to spread through certain means that are more effective in some areas than some, or making it harder to cure.

You’ll probably enjoy your first few games as you learn how to play, but you’ll soon realise that the game is actually incredibly repetitive by nature. There’s only one real strategy to win and you’ll be using it every single game if you want a chance. Only upgrade transmission until pretty much the entire world is infected then refund all transmission upgrades and just buy as many symptoms as you can. Your plague remains hidden as long as it has no symptoms and all my attempts to try and balance transmission and symptoms have ended with failure. Humans just develop the cure too damn fast that the second your plague is discovered and the world isn’t fully infected, it’s game over. Even with the maximum amount of upgrades that make it harder for them to find a cure, they can still create it in a matter of minutes, and then you’ve lost.

As well as that, if your plague kills everyone in the world but the inhabitants of one country, you lose. Madagascar and Greenland particularly cause a lot of trouble. When your plague is discovered, they close their seaports like a mouse trap and it’s literally impossible to infect them and win the game no matter what you do. If this doesn’t sound that fun then you’re right, it isn’t. I honestly can’t understand what makes this game so popular. Maybe it’s because of the huge amount of content on offer. It’s what drew me in in the first place. There are over 150 achievements to earn which will keep you occupied with the game for quite a while if you’re not bothered by the mind-numbing gameplay. On top of this, there’s a level editor which allows you to make your own campaigns and share them on the Steam Workshop, a collection of side campaigns separate from the main campaign and a co-op mode which you can play with your friend. Finally, there’s even multiplayer.

I only played one multiplayer game admittedly, but I had no desire to play another one afterwards. On paper, it seems like a decent enough concept. Two players go head to head, controlling their own plague in an attempt to eradicate the whole of humanity first. To win, you have to infect the most humans. Doesn’t seem like a problem at first, but here’s the thing. The amount of humans you kill, doesn’t mean shit. In the one game I played, I had infected the most humans and started killing them off, my opponent only having infected the entirety of Greenland while I had claim to the rest of the world. No matter what I tried, what upgrades I got, I couldn’t infect Greenland and take it from him so I just killed off all the people I had infected thinking I would win. So, after a while, my plague had killed over six billion people with him only having infected a meagre one billion. And I lost. His plague survived longer than mine so he won despite me infecting and killing way more people than him. What the fuck? Multiplayer, is more of a last man standing than a race to utterly destroy humanity and in my opinion, that’s just stupid game design.

In conclusion, I don’t think Plague Inc: Evolved lives up to its gargantuan popularity at all. I tried to have fun, I really did, and for the first couple of games, I saw where people were coming from. But it didn’t take long for me to tire of the game’s only real draw. Some of the more creative and unique pathogens such as the Vampire pathogen which has you control a powerful vampire attempting to destroy the world and the Simian Flu which allows you to infect and take control of monkeys to spread your plague kept me interested for a little longer but the principle and strategy remains pretty much the same. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of strategy games, but I thought the whole reason people loved them was because they allowed you to formulate your own ways of grasping victory. Plague Inc: Evolved is as far from this as it could possibly be, and for that, I unfortunately can’t recommend it.

Pros:

  • Lot’s of content and Replayability
  • Steam Workshop
  • Over a hundred achievements
  • Multiplayer
  • Co-Op Mode
  • Several disease types that change up the gameplay slightly

Cons:

  • Get’s very repetitive, very fast
  • Only one real strategy to win
  • Multiplayer win conditions are stupid
  • The cure is developed way too damn fast
  • Music is dull and gets repetitive
  • Madagascar and Greenland

Verdict: 6/10

Buy the game here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/246620/Plague_Inc_Evolved/