Games

Mobile Gaming Could be Great

I often find random games on android that at first, are seemingly well made and appealing. Often they’re simply clones of more popular games, and I’m curious as to how they adapted. One such game was an adaption of Slay the Spire. At first it seemed doable, but then it was painfully obvious that the game was designed to be antigamer. So many games are designed to not be fun, but that you have to pay if you want to have fun.

This is completely backwards! When did hell freeze over, when did these developers think gamers should be treated like a piece of consumer meat? I’m never going to spend a dime on a game if the game being fun is conditional entirely on spending money. I can’t even begin to comprehend the greed that goes into such a decision. It’s like a) design a fun game that people want to spend money because they enjoy it or b) design a game to leech all money and that every aspect and gameplay element hinges on whether money cam be earned.

Sure, you’ll make a couple thousand bucks, even more if you hook a whale. Some might say these developers need to design a game that way to compete with AAA mobile gaming titles, but that’s a load of nonsense. I’ve come across maybe 10 games, on mobile, that weren’t pure money sink pits, and they were some of the most fun I’ve had for days. The gameplay encouraged… Wait for it, more gameplay! Not for me to input my visa and pay for more features.

Honestly, both Google and Apple need to come up with a curated app store for games in which each game is vetted, and if there’s any transaction or money to be spent on gameplay, that game is not allowed in the store. Sorry, but your greed is not allowed. If there’s money to spent on say, cosmetics, then the game can stay. But the moment you start messing with the core mechanics to encourage spending, not only should your game not be allowed, but you should be lambasted across the entirety of the store for your greed. So that everyone and everybody can know to stay far away. End careers in game programming before they even begin. Weed out the bad roots before they take hold. I’m sick and tired of greed in my games.

Movies

Extraction

This is how you make a movie about rival drug dealers kidnapping children and the attempt to save them without appearing that you have an agenda against them. Not Rambo Last Blood, a racist fueled exploitation flick. One should take notes on how to make violence tasteful without appearing, as I said, racist. Enough about Rambo Last Blood, this movie is called Extraction and it stars Chris Hemsworth as a mercenary with nothing left to lose. Who takes up a suicide mission to save a drug crime lord’s son from a rival drug lord. Story takes place in Mumbai and Dhaka. Scenery is chewed through by the explosive, frenetic yet easily followed action and set pieces. All the close combat action is well shot and easy to follow. And never did I feel that it was over the top, or that our hero had an extreme hatred for his enemies (ok last time I mention Rambo).

It was a well crafted story that managed to bring some layers to our otherwise static hero vs villain tale. All the characters in such a story are never given enough time to flesh them out and make them feel real. At most, we can identify with our main and see the layers unfold for them. Here we saw that not just our hero is layered, but that his enemies and allies are as well. They managed to make them human, like “somebody’s father” and that is what makes them more compelling to watch. I like knowing my hero’s story, knowing whether they’re tortured by their past, or that they love their son very much but cannot be there for them. I like knowing my villain is a true piece of work, who has no qualms about killing children to achieve his goals. These moments of humanizing the characters to be more than pieces on a chess board, is what helps elevate this movie beyond a simple action tale. There is a message here to be found, even if it may be masked slightly. And what I took away, is that a child’s life is worth saving even if the parents might not be. That although we may run away to escape our problems, eventually those problems will return to haunt us in another shape until we finally face it head on. Until we are free of our demons, and have learned to accept them, we cannot find peace.

Beneath the violence and action that encompasses this movie, there is a surprising humanity and soul to it all. I’d definitely recommend this movie for a watch. If nothing else, you’ll be left entertained. It reminded me of Tears of the Sun. Another movie well worth the watch.

Movies

The Platform

I was repeatedly sought to see this movie for it had a message akin to Joker or so I was so told. Joker was subtle and insidious. This movie beat you over the head every 10 minutes, and not kindly too. I would equate it to torture porn. Wholeheartedly unneeded, and left a bitter viewing experience. I had to mute and block much of the screen, reading only the subtitles at times.

The worst part is you could see the disgusting violence that was about to happen long before it did, therefore why would the movie continue to actually show it for such an extent? It can’t be to reiterate its message that the world is currently run in a such a manner that those who are wealthier leave naught but scraps for those that are poorer while both sets are led astray by the owners of such a system. To show extreme violence with the sole purpose of violence is unsavory. If you can heavily imply the violence, there is no need to explicitly show it. Unless you’re going for shock value; at which point, you’re devaluing your external message. This isn’t John Wick or some other revenge fantasy. This is one of those attempted allegorical art house films. Be tasteful with the gore and violence.

It felt like they were trying to make it feel like Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now with our main character’s descent from a moral and good man into madness and then a moment of redemption. Perhaps that was the purpose they sought with the movie, but I digress. It did not feel that way at all. It felt cheap. Somebody’s idea of prison torture porn.

I’d skip this movie. The amount of symbolism and beating you over the head repeatedly is off-putting, having the main bring the book Don Quixote with him is just… Why don’t you defecate in a character’s mouth while climbing to freedom to further iterate that everything is shit? You wait, you do. I feel bad having Joker even mentioned in this review, it doesn’t deserve such disrespect.

Movies

Terminator: Dark Fate

Spoilers Below, You have been warned

When I go into a Terminator movie, I expect a certain level of action and philosophizing about chosen ones and all that. This rendition of the story is a sequel to Terminator 2 and starts off directly addressing that in the prologue by establishing Sarah Connor and John Connor’s grim fates (get it?). Then the story moves onto a new set of characters because the future has been changed. A supposedly male spanish-speaking Terminator lookalike appears and sets the stage as the villain. A female humanoid, kung-fu fighting, system UI in her head analysing the situation, badass appears and sets the stage as the equivalent of Kyle Reese but more awesome. While Kyle was the father of the chosen one, she is a warrior and the right-hand of the main character – who must be saved – but in the future. The fate of the human race lies in hands of a young, Mexican girl named Dani.

This character is the worst part of the movie. It’s not that it was acted bad; in fact, the actress in question was 30 at the time playing a young 18 year old girl and I didn’t realize until googling afterwards. So she did a remarkable job. Her character, though, is a joke and so incredibly hard to believe that she’d somehow turn around the human race from certain doom. If the character would have had a closer connection to the supposed bad guys that want her dead, Legion aka the new skynet, then her character would have had more impact. She’s a nobody with no combat experience or expertise, and somehow future her can rally people together. I digress.

The rest of the movie is absolutely awesome. Grace is the aforementioned badass, who turns out to be a severely augmented human with her own power core – basically a cyborg. Sarah Connor eventually meets our fantastic duo and promptly shows off her own badassery. Together they learn things. Story moves along. And finally we meet Arnie. He’s playing an aged T-800 who, after completing his mission, has derived purpose from having a family and over time, gaining sentience. He understands the pain he’s caused Sarah Connor. As soon as they developed his story, I knew it was going to be for emotional impact from when he inevitably dies. I still shed a tear then, knowing it was coming. I could have watched a whole movie just about an aging Terminator trying to survive in our world. Especially one that has gained sentience and feels remorse for its actions. I digress.

I didn’t mention Grace because she’s obviously a throwaway character meant to die to give Dani the resolution needed to carry on for the future. She died similarly to how a certain Terminator did in a previous movie. I would have preferred a movie about her instead too. Anyone but what they went with. Given that, but given the solid performances by Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the action sequences, and fidelity and everything else, I’d rate it as a solid watch. Like 7/10, worth giving it a view.

Games

Control vs Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

I initially planned to write this on November 25th, but life happens. Coincidentally, both games have been further updated by and/or recieved expansions. This does not matter to me. I will review based on what I experienced at the time. Game developers should take the time and delay if needed to create a near perfect vision of their creation. Unless I’m a cheapskate and wait for a sale a year down the line, at which point there’s been plenty of updates. Not the case for Fallen Order, was the case for Control.

Control is a masterpiece of a game, told with perfect craftsmanship of third person shooter rpg games at their best. I played it on a base PS4 and combat only struggled at the absolute most chaotic moments but because I had become well attuned to the game’s systems by then, I could still see and envision what I had planned to do. And therefore in those moments, when the framerate would slow to a crawl for a breath, I could still make commands and finish the fight with barely a scratch. Fallen Order struggled to even load in if I ran too far ahead, and would often send me falling through the map. Or I’d reach a narrow hallway and freeze up; and a door would materialize. Or said door materialized on top of me, and I fall through the map floor. Fights were filled with janky animations or enemies stuck in a T-pose. Beat a boss stuck like that. The worst T-post bug of all was when I discovered a hidden area and workbench but Cal got stuck in that aforementioned bugged pose and I did not receive it (double saber upgrade). Happened again the second time. Finally unlocked it at the third planet at which point I had already done quite a bit. Wished I had it a bit sooner.

Control excelled in the sense of making you feel like a god, utilizing a good progression system that slowly made you better and better unless you were already skilled at shooters. If that’s the case, then it feels like they did a great job at holding back that tidal wave feeling of “let me destroy things” while simultaneously providing you with plenty of action and the hidden possibilities which could reward you with hidden weapons and better loot. The metrovania type gameplay, which I like to say it feels more like Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time gameplay, allows the player to go where they want while still having a linear sense of main quest line. The side quests offer hidden rewards and better upgrades. Fallen Order had the idea in place but it feels like they were told to scrap the microtransactions but they still had all these animations, so they put them in as the cosmetic rewards found in hidden areas and chests. The aforementioned double saber and other upgrades are found alongside the main quest line and anything else that is hidden is merely a cosmetic except for a few easily found stat upgrades. It is not worth the time unless you want to gloat about achievements or feel slightly more healthy – not like it changes how fast you die. It also has that Metrovania/LoZOoT feel and it does feel immersive and rich and inviting. However, it immediately loses its appeal during combat when things don’t turn out as they should due to either input lag or bugs. Such as Cal not rolling in time or getting caught on a pixel of something blocking said roll. Pressing for heal and Cal speaking plus doing the animation and bd-1 replying but then not actually getting healed. Then having to get away again, and try the process again. The parry animation requires me to be psychic because even knowing when the enemy is gonna attack, I can’t be sure Cal will actually parry in time or still be getting ready. Dark Souls 1/2/3, or Bloodborne, even Witcher 3 never had it this bad at trying to counter. It plays like a PS2 game but nowhere near as good as Jedi Outcast or Jedi Academy. It did do well with the sense of becoming better and slowly more powerful. I just wish they did more with it.

Visually Control is absolutely beautiful and creepy and haunting. It also very eerie at times. The lack of music and only hearing your own footsteps causes you to constantly look behind you in game, and in real life – especially if you play at night. The soundtrack is one of my favorites this year. I particularly enjoyed Poets of the Fall’s fake band/alter in-game band Old Gods of Asgard. Fallen Order also was equally beautiful and haunting, and scary at times. The sense of nearly instantly dying, two hits usually. I tried jedi grandmaster but that was insanity so I played it on Jedi Knight. Everything was smooth sailing until I ran afoul of an iceberg in the middle of a calm sea. All the bosses were easy(ish) and required semi-psychic guesses/skill/eventual memorization. That is until near end game, when you run across a typical good guy turned bad seeking power boss and the man just wipes the floor with you. Ten tries later and you start to doubt your skills. “Did I fluke every other enemy and boss? No, this ain’t right.” Eventually get a parry in. This is the moment I realized the parry animation window was easy to press but the timing was so slow, I had to try to preemptively press the button. Shamelessly, I dropped the difficulty to Story mode. And the boss felt like the other bosses on Jedi Knight difficulty. After the fight, I put it back. Both games I play a style of dodge and then attack. It works well.

I didn’t mention much about Control‘s combat because saying anything other than it’s amazing and creative and fluid would spoil it. Saying anything descriptive of the game is a spoiler. That is how the story of it is designed. It is one of my favorite stories for a video game. To say anything would not be good for the potential player. I can say the difficulty is hard to start but once you conquer your fears and learn to control your fears (see what I did there), then the game gets easier. Slow down and pace yourself. There is a set amount of enemies every time and a sound effect plays when you’ve killed them all. Fallen Order also has a set amount of enemies for a map but they reset if you heal at a mediation spot. Dodging for days is the best form of combat and making sure to strike from the back. When sufficiently skilled up, you slow a blaster or rocket shot and then pull the shooter of said shot and hold them in front of the shot. Remember Cal, you are a good guy. Hear a guy give a speech about how he’s waiting years to fight a worthy opponent, and then draws his weapon only to be force pushed off the cliff. Fool didn’t realize Cal ain’t worthy. We are totally a good guy character.

Ultimately, both are good games but Fallen Order is stricken with a need to severely overhaul or update combat. Humans need to be dismembered as well or you can stop calling it a light saber. Let me use one of those fancy electric weapons. Anyways, Control is the better game to play. You’ll be immersed from the getgo and not get pulled out due to bugs or frustration. If you think ahead and carefully before entering any rooms, you can see how a fight might play out – where you can hide.

TLDR; Fallen Order is a good game marred by bad choices and inexplicable design ones too. Control is a masterpiece of third person rpg games. One needs updates to get better, the other has had them.

Movies

Code 8

This is a story about superpowers but nobody is a hero. Just regular downtrodden folks albeit powered with abilities trying to etch by an existence. The protagonist is not a hero, he’s a boy trying to eek out a living so he can provide for his ailing, sick mother. The antagonist is your run of the mill gangster trying to sell drugs except he’s got mind reading powers and his bodyguard who can withstand bullets. This gangster is ill and employs a young girl who can heal him because she’s got healing powers.

The opening sequence establishes that New York and America was built by powered folks who are now a minority and are replaced by automation. The powered individuals go to the corner store and wait for a truck to come by who will ask for types of powered folks to help with construction. The similarity here to Mexicans and other minorities is obvious. If the powered individuals can’t find work then they turn to crime to provide for their families. Laws are put into place to further persecute them. The cops treat them as less than human, and are distasteful and outright cruel to them.

The story kicks off when the boy accepts a job from a crew of criminals led by a man who has telekinetic powers, and they themselves run under the leadership of the aforementioned mind reading gangster. The story is dark and depressing and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no happy ending. All the characters are flawed. And for their actions, they have to repent. Either by death or prison. It’s a very sobering view of a potential world. This isn’t Marvel or DC, this is reality and it is unrelenting. While I enjoy some stories not having a happy ending, I feel this is one such tale that would have benefited from such an ending. The powered folks should have revolted back against their oppressive governments and taken a land for themselves. I would have preferred that story.

As for the acting itself, I found that everyone did a good job with what they had to work with except for the lead actor, Robbie Amell. He comes across as feeling like he’s dead in the eyes and kinda lackluster. Whereas his cousin, Stephen Amell – as the telekinetic criminal – is more believable in his emotions. His anger is felt. His charisma shines through. Greg Bryk as the gangster comes off as a slimeball and real prick of a man. These actors become the characters they are trying to play except for Robbie Amell; he feels misplaced. Oh well, he’s got time to improve.

All in all, it’s a good movie and a great story if not a little bit too depressing. The special effects are solid and the forced perspective they used to create drones and robots sometimes suffers from being obvious. I recommend watching this movie, and perhaps they’ll do a sequel to this world they’ve created.

Movies

6 Underground

Wow! What an entertaining movie! The action kicks off from the start and doesn’t let down until the very end. It was quite humorous too, at times, and in contrast to the violence that would be occurring on screen. Director Michael Bay does what he does best: cars, guns, hot women, and explosions. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It reminded me of movies such as The Losers or Smoking Aces. Just pure fun. Not a whole lot of thinking needed; leave your brain at the door.

Ryan Reynolds is great as the wisecracking, enigmatic One. Mélanie Laurent is kickass as a former CIA spook, named Two. Corey Hawkins does a decent job at playing the honorable soldier and sniper, named Seven. Six was played by Dave Franco as the driver for the opening sequence: a car chase that sets the tone for the whole movie. Ben Hardy played Four, the parkour expert and former thief. Three was basically the secondary comic relief, and done well by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. And Five was the beautiful yet deadly doctor of the team, played by Adria Arjona.

All of the actors did very well, you could tell they were having fun playing their roles. And they had such a great chemistry too. Many of their interactions brought me to laughter. The villain was also done well because you truly despised him, though that would be more a testament to the writing than the actor – Lior Raz. And speaking of the writing, the movie is quite political. You can clearly see the real life parallels that they tried to accomplish. I don’t like discussing that, so I’ll let you be the judge of what propaganda they are peddling. Outside of that, it’s a solid movie. Except for the cars blowing up upon crashing, but it’s Michael Bay; it’s to be expected.

I definitely recommend this movie to watch. Be advised the violence is quite graphic; in fact, the whole movie played like it was a comic book come to life. I would watch this again with my friends and family.