Monthly Archives: August 2018

Ready Player One

rp1covOK, you got me. I’m gonna adress this elephant in the room, right here, right now.

I haven’t read Ready Player One.

I wasn’t even aware of the novel by Ernest Cline (whom my brain stubbornly insist on calling Ernest Borgnine. Why? I don’t know! There isn’t a single black combat helicopter in the damn book!). I only found out about it when El Spielbergo started production on the movie of the book. Then I found out that I should’ve been aware of it, seeing as it’s brimming with pop culture references from things close to my nostalgia-filled core.

And then I forgot about it.

The thing with nostalgia-filled cores is that they tend to have memory problems. Every single bit of free space being filled with nostalgia and all that.
Yeah.
But fret not, dear readers, as I now hold the movie in my hand! And I plan on watching it, right now!

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For those of you who, like me, have been living under a nostalgia-heavy rock (enough with the nostalgia already! –ed.) the plot is fairly straightforward. The year is 2045. The world has gone to crap, but everyone is playing a real cool immersive VR game called OASIS. In it, you can be and do anything you want. The game’s eccentric creator, James Halliday, died years ago and revealed he’d hidden a special easter egg in OASIS. Anyone who finds the egg, gets Halliday’s stock in the company, making the winner the sole owner of OASIS. Enter teen Wade Watts. He happens to find the first clue and in doing so, sets off a massive race to the easter egg. Joined by his friends, he’ll have to do anything to keep the easter egg from falling into the hands of rival company IOI.

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There. Standard plot, set up, characters. In the hands of the right director, this could be an enjoyable actionflick. In the hands of the Spielmeister it becomes so much more. Spielberg manages to add that spielbergian touch to the film that makes it transcend its generic story. The millions of easter eggs, nods, visual references and callbacks to popular franchises from other films are enjoyable on their own, but when they’re added with such a loving touch…  Example: earlier in the film, it is mentioned that Halliday’s favourite music video is Aha’s Take On Me. “Great,” you think, “another reference to a song from the eighties! Nice one.” But is goes so much further than that. When Wade and his love interest have to escape some nasty IOI goons, Spielberg lets them do so in a way that mirrors the bit in the Aha video where the girl and the pencildrawn dude escape some goons. Blink and you’ll miss it, but when you see it…

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So there’s a cool story, with added spielbergian touches and millions of easter eggs. But does the movie deliver beyond these three given things? I think it does. We get decent acting (Ben Mendelsohn is terrific), believeable CGI and a fantastic score made up of original music (with occasional musical cue references of its own) and songs from the eighties. Honestly, I wasn’t bored a single minute of the movie’s lengthy 2 hours and 20 minutes runtime, and I’m ready for a second viewing to catch the hundreds of easter eggs I missed on the first go.

So yeah, I’m convinced. Great movie. Consider my nostalgia-levels replenished. What? Have I read the book yet? What book?

Jan

Guns, Gore And Cannoli (SWITCH)

ggccovGuns, Gore and Cannoli had players assume the role of Vinnie Cannoli, an infamous mobster kneedeep in a zombie outbreak sometime during the thirties. Thanks to Vinnie’s fighting talents and survival instincts they could cut a bloody path straight through the zombie hordes, using a braod variety of bloody weaponry.
I was hooked.
And now there’s part 2! Which promises to be bloodier, gorier, funnier than before. Just what I wanted!

In guns, Gore and Cannolli 2 the main part is once again played by Vinnie Cannoli. The maffioso with a mouth has been taken captive by goons of the Dark Don. This shady character is a new mob boss, who is out for Vinnie’s blood. Literally! When Vinnie learns this Dark Don also has a deal going on with the Nazis, his already simmering blood starts to boil, and he goes berserk. He goes on a bloody rampage, using an updated array of guns, and violences his way through hordes of mobsters, monsters and Nazis, all the way up to the Dark Don.

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I had a great time! Blood is dripping from the screen, enemies run around bleeding, on fire, de-limbed! Explosions! Nazis! Mutants! Crazy weapons! It’s as if developer Crazy Monkey Studio stook every bit of enjoyable pulp literature and combine dit to make this encredibly entertaining shoot-em-up!

Vinnie is controlled with the left stick and aims using the right. Aiming is done in a 360 degree circle around Vinnie. He jumps like magic Johnson and kicks like mr. Miyagi. I’m flying through the levels like crazy, all the while grinning like an idiot. Dark Bavarian castles, bunkers, the landing in Normandy… Vinnie blasts enemy scum everywhere. And the fun only increases in multiplayer. Three extra players can join Vinnie in a co-op battle against the enemy hordes. Fun guaranteed!

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Grapics are also very satisfying. Guns, Gore and Cannoli maintains the same handdrawn visual style of its predecessor. The cartoonesque violence  works well in tandem with the buckets of handdrawn blood. Voiceacting and soundtrack are on the same level of quality, and I’m regularly laughing out loud at the many popculture references.

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Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2 just makes me smile. In a good way. And I bet it’d make you do the same thing. Go now, young padawan, and buy it!

Jan

Escape Room: The Game

ercovI’ve just spent the better part of two hours trying to find the antidote to a deadly poison first, then escaping from a jail cell. It’s been a nerve-wrecking two hours, I can tell you. And all because of a board game. That’s right, a board game.

Those of you thinking I’d let myself be locked into an escape room, which are all the rage these days, are only half wrong. What I (and mrs. NxG alongside me) did, was play two of the four scenarios included in the board game version of Escape Room: The Game. And it plays like an actual escape room. At the start of every scenario, players are handed an envelope. On it, is the plot for said scenario, and upon opening it, an hour-long timer is started. Inside the envelope are a number of things. This ranges from riddles, clues or evidence to floor plans, photos, etc. All these things should help players to find a specific set of four keys, that can be inserted into the special chrono decoder. When correct, the second envelope containing new hints, can be opened and the whole key-searching experience can start over again.

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Each scenario is divided into three parts, each with its own set of envelopes. The hints are divided into visual things and things you actually have to do something with, like fold or write on. Luckily, these can be downloaded and printed from the games website, so that they’re brand new when one has forgotten all about this game and wants to go again. Players that want to add to the atmosphere, can download the free app of the game. All it does, is add scenario-specific music and ambience, but man, it does the trick! The amount of tension it add… Wow!

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At the start of a scenario, before the envelope is handed out, we already get the chrono decoder. This black, battery-operated box serves as the countdown clock. It signals after certain amounts of time, which is when we’re allowed to pick one of eight hint cards. It also acts as decryption device. The four keys we need, have to be inserted into the machine. When correct, a fanfare sounds. When false, the clock drops a whole minute. Upon closer inspection, there are also keys to certain riddles on the device, like the morse code, an alphabet wheel and so on. These can be used in certain adventures, in combination with certain enveloped clues.

 

Defeated, we finished our bowl of snacks, and decided to keep the remaining two adventures for another time. There’ll be no Nuclear Countdown or Temple of the Aztec before we’ve recovered from the heavy emotional blow of having to spend a lifetime in jail.

Which is like…  24 hours?  More or less?

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Escape Room: The Game is a highly addictive and fun, yet nerve-wrecking way of passing time. Each adventure has the hour-long time limit, so it’s perfect for some time-killing with your brainy, nerdy, geeky friends. Or by yourself, when you’re the geeky, brainy, nerdy one without friends.

Jan

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron (PS4)

aotlboxI simply adore bullet hell shooters. I’m not exceptionally good at them, just mediocre, but boy do I like my shooters with a load of bullets. So imagine my joy when I was told I could review Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron. A bullet-hell shooter, set in an alternate post WWII universe, one of my most beloved historical times (although not actually historically correct –ed.) I was over the moon!

The first thing that sets Aces of The Luftwaffe aside from other games in the genre, is the ability to play with 3 friends in co-op. Each player picks a character and plane, and the squadron then takes off, ready to battle airborne nazis. No friends? No problem: a single player can play just as well. All four planes are controlled at the same time, following the squadron leader.

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At various points in the game, players are awarded with skill points. These points can be spent in the customization screen, where each member of the squadron has a massive skill tree to unlock. Ranging from special abilities to new skills or health upgrades, players have to pick very wisely where to spend the points if they want a perfect loadout. Skill tress are reset easily though, and by replaying earlier levels, extra skill points can be unlocked, so the possibility of having a fully unlocked skill tree is there.

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Also new to the genre, are the character’s flaws. Each of the four characters has a specific flaw, that serves as a setback, temporarily rendering them more or less useless. There’s the character that can’t control his temper, shooting at everything, including squad mates. Then there’s the poisoned one, reacting slower than usual. There’s also the pilot with fear of heights, occasionally leaving the squad behind while she regains her composure at a lower altitude. And finally the narcoleptic, who falls asleep and needs protecting. While these flaws are fun and new, they seem to come into play only at scripted times, never at random.

The gameplay is just a joy. I’m flying around, dodging bullets, laserblasts, rockets and fireballs, all the while dishing out insane damage with equally insane powered-up weapons. I’m loving every bit of it. The visuals, the sound design, the story, the action, the supercrazy villains. Every zany second of it.

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The only major gripe I more than once shook my head at, is the voiceacting. The actors are clearly doing their best, but all too often, it shines through that English is not their first language. What you get is 4 American pilots, and their all talking with a Germanic accent… It’s a bit bizarre to say the least. But again, that’s just this nit-picking OCD reviewer delving deep to find even a single flaw.

Aces of the Luftwaffe – Squadron is a most enjoyable shooter, which I’d recommend to everyone. Even if you don’t like shooters: this game will make you like them.

Jan