Tunic (PC)

Platform: PC (also available on Xbox and Game Pass)

Where do I begin? Having made my way through 95% of the game’s content because nostalgia ruled my heart, I can clearly see the love and passion that went into it. It invoked that feeling of being a kid again playing on the SNES or the N64, of retro consoles before we got into modern gaming. Of finding secrets hidden behind random walls, and of guidebooks that came with the game filled with artwork, tips and help. It heavily borrows, or inspired by, elements of the Zelda games. Those worlds had so many secrets to find, and no hand to guide you. You had to figure out how to solve everything and where to go. The recent other game I finished playing had a similar deal. The graphics are cutesy, in a 3D isometric world and you play as an anthropomorphic animal – in this case, a fox – as you traverse in search of items of power.

Our mighty hero, yes, the tuft of hair moves even while stationary.

Developed by one man, Andrew Shouldice, for several years until he partnered up with publisher Finji to help polish and finish it up. This game is a prime example of why anyone working on anything solo needs a friend, a buddy, just somebody to bounce ideas off and tell you “This is a stupid idea” when you come up with a truly stupid idea. The last half of the game falls under this entire category. To me the game ended wonderfully when I collected the three random items I needed. In fact, it should have ended there officially but Andrew went and committed a gaming cardinal sin. You never take away the player’s upgrades near the end of the game. Start of the game is fine. But if I’ve taken the time to explore your carefully crafted world, went down all the nooks and crannies to find items to better myself, and you reduce me to barebones? You know how I feel? Like you don’t care about the player having a fun experience. It feels like you created a game because you wanted a world filled to the brim with secrets, with hidden paths and shortcuts and failed to remember you need a fun core gameplay loop.

Trusty stick before I found the sword


Combat is the worst thing about this game, and it is the core mechanic. You press x/y/b, depending on which slot you like, three times for your sword. The first two swings stand in place, and the third lunges. You can dodge three times at the start, but because of stamina, it’ll take time to refill. If you run out of stamina, such as dodging three times, the meter turns red while it refills and you take additional damage. You are only invincible during the start while there is dust on the ground. Except I’ve repeatedly found that sniper enemies will still hit while there’s dust on the ground and only the first half second counts as a dodge.

See that tick under invulnerability? Past that, snipers do hit. Love being lied to by a game.

Many of the stronger enemies have a strong predilection to running away from your attacks until they back into a wall. Given how you stand still for your first two attacks, you can see how infuriating this might get. You can alleviate the issue by using a found magical grappling hook to pull enemies towards you, stunning them momentarily. You only have 8 uses of it with your un-upgraded magic meter, and the only way to restore it, short of using a shrine, is to eat blue berries (150 gold) or hope the enemy drops little blue cubes which refill a small portion. You can find additional tools that all use magic, as well as various items that buff, heal, or damage enemies. Gold is earned from defeated enemies, or hidden away in chests. Upgrades start off relatively cheap but get insanely expensive quickly, costing upwards of a 1000 gold. There are several items that cost as much, and having scoured the world, and fought numerous enemies, there’s no way I could buy all of them without spending several hours mind-numbingly grinding away.

A section of the overworld

The world in question is very intricate, with several different zones that are interlinked by often hidden methods, out of sight, or locked behind several mechanisms. There is eventual fast travel. The map at first might seem too simple, but closer looks reveal little drawings showing secrets or paths, merchants and your position. Like Zelda games, there are various dungeons which require an item or tool to get to, and which become the theme for that zone. There’s a bit of backtracking as getting new tools allow you to reach previously unattainable areas. It borrows also from Dark Souls with the use of the shrines that heal you but also refresh all slain enemies, and that you drop a portion of your currency on death. You can recover it later and cause a mini-explosion which damages nearby enemies. Yes, there are sections which you’ll be running through repeatedly on your way to your body because the save points are far and few, and the shortcuts aren’t yet apparent.

The Bosses

These are the worst part of the game because they grind everything to a halt. The bosses are overdesigned: given moves that attack much more rapidly than the dodge system can handle, or have such fat pools of health that even with max upgrades, it feels like a slog. Some of the later bosses have such varied movesets, and abilities, that I can’t help but feel jaded because all I have is a boring 3-hit combo. I can find a shield eventually, but it can only block 2-3 hits before running out of stamina. It can parry, but the system is so obtuse that I only got it reliably working one time. You hold right trigger to block, but if you double press it quickly, you can parry. Except there’s a noticeable delay to me pressing the action, and it happening, and given the fast paced nature of each encounter, there’s too much effort for minimal gain as a player to reliably learn it.

The penultimate boss fight consists of you fighting against several waves of various mobs of enemies you’ve already encountered before. There’s 7 in total, and each contains roughly 20 or so units to fight. This entire ordeal begins anew should you die. This entire section happens after you find the three magical items, and lose all your upgrades. You are at your weakest fighting the strongest enemies in the game. It is not fun. It is simply a chore. It is the type of idea a friend would have said, “Hey, Andrew, I don’t think you’ve played any modern games, but this is a stupid idea.” It gets better, or worse? This section of the game features invisible enemies that give no indication of position, except for when they attack, or are above water. If you do manage to hurt one, it reveals itself. If you try to attack them, they float away from you at high speeds so you waste your time. They also kill you in two hits.

The final boss fight has two phases to it. Luckily, you get to go around the entire overworld again to acquire back your upgrades without any added benefits! The boss kills you in 3 hits at maximum upgrades. I have to spend 20 minutes for phase one, and then the same amount for phase 2 and I have to execute with perfection. Yes, I haven’t beaten it yet, and probably won’t. These are some of the worst gameplay choices I’ve ever seen in a game.

I was at 6 and 5, and still struggled.

Closing Thoughts

The combat with the magic system works great in the first portion of the game, the enemies are fine tuned enough that they require skill to avoid their attacks, and aren’t too fat with health. It did not feel like the bosses were designed with a healthy attitude. One like, “hey, how can I use the systems I gave the player in a fun and challenging way that relies on their own skill?” Instead, we got the usual mentality rearing its ugly head of “Fuck you, player.” Every boss is a fat sponge of HP with mechanics that stop all your moves or learned abilities resorting to one possible play: mash attack and dodge attacks. Though sometimes you can’t, because of that aforementioned limit to stamina, and bosses react by throwing out multiple attacks and projectiles that cannot be fully dodged. This detracts immensely from the experience. The latter half of the game turns into a chore by spiting me for playing by purposefully crippling my character.

Which is a shame to be honest because that initial moment of first starting the game, of being unsure where to go, and slowly learning what you had to do, it had echoes of greatness to it. And as you explored finding hidden chests, you’d get those bangs of dopamine, the thrill of being proved right that there was something tucked away! But then you started to fight enemies, and after the fifth cowardly enemy, you started to take offense to the design. You have to be aggressive but you constantly get punished for it. You collect all three magical items and then find yourself going, “what now?” and the game also tells you that. And then when you do find out, it turns the game into a giant chore. I don’t feel any accomplishment or pride that I got past that section. I feel annoyed, you purposefully wasted my time. That whole section was filler because you don’t know how to end your game.

Then I learn of the secrets. Of how if I listen to this random wind chime, I can figure out directional inputs on the d-pad, and input a random string of d-pad commands to summon a treasure chest, or to open doors. Of the game leading me to a hidden website link, where I can download an audio file which can then be run through an audio spectrum analysis program to find a hidden message. I have to analyze the random scribblings on the wall to find a code. Pardon me to all them politically accurate words, and apologies to the autistic community in advance, and all those with legitimate mental issues, but… How retardedly autistic did this developer get? You poured all that time and effort into designing something like that but you can’t be bothered to create a fun combat system beyond three strikes? You can’t be bothered to fine tune the bosses to such an extent as you fine tuned those secrets?

Apparently that shape on the wall is a d-pad combination, but following the line and pressing the directions regardless of starting point do nothing.

This is another one of those Game Pass games that got the Microsoft treatment where they influence positive reviews of the game. It’s a 6/10 game at best, and the nostalgia is what helps keep the rose colored glasses on so you can’t see the ocean of red flags. If I didn’t consider the later portion of the game, and maybe if the puzzles didn’t require a savant or autistic mind to normally solve, pardon my bluntness, it would be a much better experience. And if the bosses had their health meters tweaked, and their damage lowered, it would be a better game. It took me 13 hours to get to the final boss and explore much of the world (9/12 hidden secrets and half of the fairies), and if the boss wasn’t such a health sponge, I’d give it another go until I beat it.


Elden Ring

To preface, I am a hardcore gamer as it were. I started with Doom, and have played every category possible, I’ve worked my way through all of the souls games, even the Nioh series, I remember playing Ninja Gaiden, I know it all. I love games, and I put my all into them. So as it were, when I find sections unsavory, I don’t merely say it due to my inability but because there is serious fault to be found instead.

I was part of the masses so excited for this, I had my preorder copy ready and waiting. I read up on what it would offer, the sheer scale and scope, and I was bedazzled by it all. I had absolutely loved Dark Souls Remastered, and in many aspects Elden Ring delivered. That sense of awe and mystery as you explore uncharted regions, completely unsure of what to do except wander, and kill what you can, run from what you cannot, and slowly accumulate a massive hoard of treasures and loot. The rush and exhilaration of the dance of death, of timings and striking, blocking or dodging, and then the sense of victory over your opponent. The scale of grandeur is vast, with serpentine labyrinths, and even the simplest cave will yield a lengthy exploration of its secrets. Hidden walls aplenty, and a lore that can be pieced together to explain the world, and your purpose. And in doing so, start to realize what must be done. It took me roughly 15 hours to realize I had to go to the Stormveil Castle, and by then, I was severely over-leveled for the boss.

Adorable scary boss bear sleeping

I have sunk in nearly 60 hours since its release and I cannot with any good conscience recommend this game to anyone in its current state. There is a boss you have to eventually beat, a lovely fellow called Starscourge Radahn, in a sort of cinematic battle with summoning NPC’s resembling a raid. I cannot understand how any individual at From Software, especially the director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, let this pass quality control. There is nothing fun about it. It is a tedious, downright frustrating experience that completely sullies, mars, and ruins Elden Ring. It is the ultimate representation of the developer idea of “Fuck you, player.” Every moveset in the boss’s repertoire is capable of killing you in one hit, lovingly called a one shot. To add insult to injury, in the boss’s phase 2, he acquires 4 magical skulls that all one shot, and have an explosive radius. The insult comes in that there’s this item, a magical physick, that lets you combine different effects for a one time use. One such effect says to block any one hit. Well, General Radahn doesn’t obey the rules. Even with that on, he’ll still instantly kill you with one of his skulls.

The fact this is a necessary boss, and not mentioned in any reviews leads me to think everyone of you lying, gaming “journalists” was paid off, and with as easily as a free review copy. A 10/10 implies that there isn’t a single moment during the entire game that slows down, or infuriates, or straight messes with the player. I could do every single thing correct, make 0 mistakes, and General Rahdan will kill me still. Skill has gone out the window, and is replaced by luck. Until there is a patch severely downgrading or balancing the boss, I will not be playing this game. From Software has lost the ball hard, and I think the director has let all the praise get to his head thinking he can do no wrong. He needs to relearn what makes a boss good, and replay Dark Souls. There wasn’t single moment in that game that I felt was unfair, or complete bullshit, everything had a way to be overcome without sweating bullets. Man’s come so far up his own ass, he can’t remember what it’s like to not be made of bullshit. I have done everything leading up to the Erdtree, except for General Bullshit. Well, that’s a lie, pretty much all of the northern snowy region is composed of bullshit bosses where skill doesn’t matter because the other half of the battle is luck. I don’t feel great that I beat X boss, or an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. No, I feel cheated, like “oh, he didn’t do his bullshit move this time around.”

Elden Ring is a 7/10 game at best, masquerading itself as a 10/10 because it brings several new things to the open world genre and does them exceedingly well. And yet, in all its brilliancy, it spectacularly falls apart towards the end. The powercreep in the strength of mobs and bosses is insane, and the player cannot compete with it. There isn’t enough of a farming method in the late game (80s and up) to grind the stats needed to have a somewhat even playing field. It is obvious that the early game and mid game received lots of love and care, lots of polishing, but this final bit feels like slog and a half. Fun has gone out the window because everyone can kill instantly while I have to whittle away their hp.

I started my playthrough as a melee user wielding a longsword and a shield, I transitioned into a great shield with a +19 longsword. And I was doing good. But then the wall known as Radahn showed up, and the snowy region and suddenly, melee weapons that didn’t have some sort of magical power sucked immensely. It felt like all my efforts at bettering myself went down the drain, 60 hours down the drain because I feel like a fly trying to attack a giant. So I used the in-game option to rebirth, and change my stats around to a new build. I reformed myself as a mage, and found the enemies I struggled against earlier die in 2 hits from my spell. My special katana could one shot most enemies. I felt good again. Like I had purpose. I tried a random boss that was giving me trouble as a melee, and wiped the floor with him. Emboldened by this endeavor, I set out to fight General Radahn once more. This time, I can consistently get him down to low health but then his bullshit breaking the rules skull kills me through my one time invincibility shield. To those that have beaten him, congratulations, but don’t try and tell me that he’s remotely a good boss. He’s the worst designed boss in the history of boss fights, and that’s saying something. If you’re telling me the director came up with this, then it’s time he retires from games for good. Be a consultant or something.

Incredible that 60 hours can be ruined by one experience

Loved the character design

Overall, even with the masterful combat, the scope and scale of the world, the wonder of exploration, it all gets marred by having a necessary boss be such a burden that it ruins the entire experience. The end game does little to help alleviate that feeling either, with enemies that seem to exist solely to make player exclaim, “oh, what bullshit!” I don’t recommend this game in its current state, and every single reviewer that gave it a 10/10 needs to take a good long look at what that actually means.

Update 1

I consulted with the reddit nerds and was able to bypass said Captain Bullshit. I shall continue my adventure, and will post updates after that. As it were, I stand by my words. This boss is in need some kind of balancing check, whether it is his ability to switch aggro (who he’s attacking) on a dime, or his skulls/floating rocks? that obey no rules and instantly kill.


Jungle Cruise

After watching another family friendly movie, F9, I decided to give this one a go. Dwayne Johnson is always fun, right? And it was! I had a blast of escapism, and loved the sense of adventure into the Amazon it provided. I missed these old adventure movies where the characters would go into the jungle and conquer traps, and natives. Just some good old campy fun. Like Romancing the Stone, or going more modern, a few of the Rock’s movies: Jumanji, Journey 2, The Rundown.

Now, besides the fun, I felt Dwayne Johnson was out of place here. His muscles most definitely ruining any immersion. No way was his character’s backstory what it was. I laughed during those scenes. But, he did have chemistry with Emily Blunt and she was simply divine to watch. A pure joy. Her character’s earnest need to explore and find the truth behind her bedtime stories came across beautifully. I loved watching her outwit her opponents. Simply remarkable. What was great about Dwayne Johnson was his delivery of lines; hilarious. The brother felt a complete trope and caricature and pandering to the LGBTQ+ crowd that one would typically find in a Netflix production. The plot mattered little as to the character himself, his purpose was to hold back the main character and bridge the villain to her and then redeem himself in the final act. Could have been any other kind of character, a sister, a mother, a father, a close friend, could have had any sexuality but it didn’t matter because regardless, they’d be trying to spin the narrative of how nobody respects that kind of person but family. Why not a drug addicted brother, and his redemption? Or a destitute/bum and this is his saving grace. Point is, that aspect of his character added nothing to the plot.

There was an over abundance of CGI but there was also plenty of practical effects, so as a viewer, in the moment, I enjoyed it. Later on though, I noticed the glares and cracks in such use of CGI. It makes the scenes forgettable. I find it difficult to remember besides major points of the plot. Happily though, the cinematography is beautiful. Wide, sweeping panoramic shots of the jungle and rivers.

Overall, I can see why Disney might be wanting to continue making movies out of their theme park rides. There’s a potential here for lots of money. Alas, I don’t think Jungle Cruise will do that. It released at a bad timing, and the movie itself while fun is also meh. Like I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of Dwayne Johnson or Emily Blunt, but as for the movie itself… Maybe?


Control (Revisited)

This game still remains my favorite third person action adventure game in the last decade. There is not one aspect that I would change after having replayed it for free courtesy of Epic Games, and paying for the season pass. Those two expansions were beautiful additions, that helped answer some questions and as always, give more. The world of Control is a place steeped in mystery, and with that comes the fear of the unknown. Are there monsters in the shadows? Of course there are! But thanks to the hard work and effort of the Federal Bureau of Control, the world remains a relatively safe place. As the newly appointed janitorial assistant, Jesse Faden, you – the player, must help eradicate the parasites that have infested the ever-shifting building.

You eventually arm yourself with the so called service weapon, a sentient entity that provides you with an array of different forms of weaponry. You can craft these possibilities at the safe points, designated “control points”, with materials gained from the enemies you defeat – former humans corrupted by the antagonistic force and otherworldly entities. You can eventually acquire paranormal abilities to aid you in your duties. The strongest by far being telekinesis – in fact, this second playthrough was remarkably easy thanks to that ability being the first one I apply all the skill points I can to. These points are gained from completing quests (main or side) and finding hidden areas.

Combat is crisp, quick, and unforgiving. Know your enemy and the game is easy. Coming into it blind, it is a terrifying experience. Wary, and full of tension, you get startled at every twist and corner. The fear of the unknown keeps your wits sharp. Coming into it a second time, it is an action game where I’m the terror come to cleanse these wicked things. To quote a familiar franchise, “Rip and Tear” which is exactly what happens every time enemies appear. Decimate their ranks to ash as fast as possible to get back to the juicy parts – to exploring the map and finding out more secrets and knowledge behind what makes the world of Control what it is. To help unmask some of the mystery.

On and on the Foundation goes.

There are two expansions added to the game, one taking place after the game ends titled the Foundation and the other linking the game, Alan Wake, more tightly and intrinsically into the world of Control which can be accessed after completion of a certain main quest mission. Both of these are tiny little masterpieces in their own rights, each telling a compelling story while adding more to the world and simultaneously deepening the want to know more. I am infinitely more excited to future works by Remedy Entertainment.

Another astonishing experience that I gained this time around was that I played on a PC capable of RTX. The graphics were stunning, and I was kept fully immersed into the simulation – sorry, game. The Bureau’s glass offices reflecting everything else around them, I had no choice but to forcibly slam Jesse through each so I could stop running into areas that I thought had treasure but were merely reflections. One time, in the expansion, I was scared in the dark, and I kept running into a wall because I thought there was a chest inside. When I returned to safety, I thoroughly disintegrated that wall of glass with my essentially rocket launcher mode. Point is, graphics merely supplement the already phenomenal story and gameplay. They don’t distract. You don’t go “wow, that was a pretty game, but the graphics was the only thing good about it. Why didn’t they spend more time with story or gameplay?” Control is an equal package of perfection.

If you haven’t played this game yet, I definitely recommend that you get around to it. It’s a harsh world, but the secrets contained within are worth the effort. And if you’re a fan of Poets of the Fall, you get to experience the wonders of their music within Control. Curious newcomers should check them out if interested.


Mortal Kombat (2021)

As is tradition with the Mortal Kombat movies, this one, like all predecessors, will have a terrible plot and execution but the fatalities will be glorious. And after viewing, this was precisely the case. I understand now why Warner Bros released the first 7 minutes on YouTube. That opening scene is the best fight of the entire movie.

Let me list the good in the movie before explaining the bad. The good parts are:

  • Fatalities: gruesome and what fans of the games wanted to see.
  • Character quips: in-line with the games, and well deserving of the characters.
  • Special effects: the budget clearly was spent mostly on this and it shows.
  • Camerawork: easy to follow along with the action and clear focus.
  • Costumes: great job at adapting the video game characters into real life.
  • Game References: fans will catch many of these and put a smile on their faces.

To address plot, which one doesn’t come to see with a Mortal Kombat movie, it is an incredible shame that this film decided to, once again, make it a set-up and prequel to the tournament. You can’t and shouldn’t call this movie Mortal Kombat if there’s no tournament. I would have called it something like “The Defenders of Earthrealm: Mortal Kombat Stories”. That makes better sense and helps diminish the disappointment when someone watches this movie expecting to finally see the tournament, for once.

What we got was a poor man’s attempt to put a coherent story for this franchise. Which is doubly shameful because the video games, especially the most recent MK11, have an actually decent plot. In fact, you’d be better off watching all the cutscenes of that on YouTube and you’d have seen a better told story. This film starts with a great scene between Hanzo Hasashi versus Sub-Zero and then jumps to a piss-poor MMA fight scene with our new protagonist Cole Young played by Lewis Tan. The actor here did a great job with what he had to work with. His martial arts background was clearly displayed, and it helped with the camerawork because there were no rapid cuts between stuntman and actor. Anyways, the story quickly develops into Cole on the run from Outworld assassins and on a journey to Lord Raiden’s temple. And then it simply stays there.

Enough on the plot, let’s talk about the fights. Some were enjoyable, others were a bore. Some were CGI fests and required even more suspension of reality – Goro would have killed his opponent with one punch, or the many that he threw in the barn would have ended them. I actually found myself reading stuff on my phone several times because the fights were merely fluff on the way to the fatalities.

Overall, it’s a fun watch for fans of the game. Kano is hilarious at quipping, and often references the game. The characters are worthy of their in-game counterparts. And as often stated, the fatalities are worth the price of admission. I didn’t talk much about the actors/actresses or the screenwriters because this is Mortal Kombat, and all people want to see is gruesome death and combat. Acting skills are of little importance as much of the movie is stunt work. This isn’t a movie you take to pad your resume, but rather because you wanted to have some fun. However, for the screenwriters, this is the opposite. This will not pad your resume in the slightest because the writing was banal and atrocious. Inserting game quips is not a testament to your skill. Lines such as: “How’d you get that?” – “He was born with it.” – “What do you mean?” – “It’s a birthmark.” This will forever cement one as a terrible screenwriter.

Mortal Kombat is available now on most streaming services and in theaters.