While episode one of Channel Zero (Syfy’s new creepypasta anthology series) didn’t blow me away, episode two was at least a strong gust of wind. The creepiness intensifies, secrets are revealed and the plot thickens.
Sheriff Gary Yolen’s daughter, Katie, is once again mesmerized by the mysterious show, Candle Cove. One of the characters begins to speak to her, telling her to look under her bed and that they miss her. We’re then greeted with screaming and a phone call to Mike from Katie’s mother, Jessica, saying that Katie has stabbed her brother Dane with a hook.
Finally utilizing his child psychology, Mike attempts to speak to Katie in the hospital while his mother goes to a local TV station to see if anyone actually has a copy of Candle Cove (only to meet an over-the-top fanboy weirdo). Mike doesn’t get too much information from Katie other than he needs to go inside “the cave”. Mike and his mother head down to “the cave” (an abandoned warehouse) and after some searching, Mike discovers the body of the one child never recovered in the murders: his twin brother Eddie.
Episode two of Channel Zero finally starts getting its act together. The editing isn’t as quick and disjointed, the flashbacks make sense and the pacing flows better with longer scenes. Not to mention that the creep factor gets amped up. The colours are more muted this time and the long, faraway shots of people in the distance make it so unnerving, especially when Mike is climbing the stairs of the factory,
While Channel Zero is noticeably getting better, the acting is still hurting the series. At this point I’m more inclined to believe that it isn’t the actors, but the fault of bad directing and bad takes being edited together because the acting isn’t consistent. Mike’s mother was a monotone stone in the first episode but episode two shows her coldness melt away and actually bring some emotion in her role. She showed genuine confusion at the TV station, fear at the warehouse and even cried when her son was found. She’s still a little stoic but at least it’s clearer that it’s due to her becoming numb from all the pain she’s been through.
Sheriff Gary and his wife Jessica show no emotion at the hospital and talk to each other as if they’re discussing what to have for dinner. This isn’t a normal reaction to your son getting stabbed by your daughter, who is now in the psych ward. Show some crying, comfort, shouting, anything!
What can we say about our main protagonist? The writing and imagery for Mike’s development is very strong as the line between his sanity and the supernatural elements becomes blurred. Are the figures he’s seeing a manifestation of his own guilt? Or is he just susceptible to the evil forces of Candle Cove? Unfortunately this subplot can’t run at full speed with the busted ankle of poor acting.
I sort of get that the writers are going for a traumatized and mentally fragile man. I also get that they’re trying to make the audience feel like there’s something off about him but Mike is supposed to be at least a little likeable. His monotone and stoic nature combined with his Mr. Rogers-style speaking is so off-putting and unintentionally creepy that it’s more effective than the overall atmosphere of the show. Mike’s lack of tact in anything he says or does is so frustrating, yet he wonders why it lands him into trouble?
Aside from all of that, Channel Zero is slowly but surely becoming its own thing and while some speculation was put to bed in episode two, many more questions remain. Where is Gary taking Mike? Why is that lady feeding that nightmare fuel, tooth-child? The unnerving nature of Channel Zero is a refreshing change up from the gore and shock fests on TV right now and the simmering build up (along with my own intrigue) will keep me watching.
With the lack of originality currently being seen in movie and TV land it’s safe to assume no source material is safe. If there’s a buck to be made, you can bet that someone somewhere is willing to throw it up on a screen. It comes as no surprise then that producers were also willing to borrow from Internet Creepypasta in Syfy’s new anthology series, Channel Zero.
When Channel Zero was first announced my eyes rolled so far into the back of my skull I went temporarily blind. But after seeing the trailer for its first season, I decided to give the show a chance, and to Channel Zero’s credit they decided to use one of the better Creepypasta: Candle Cove.
If you’re not familiar with the original story it’s a quick and interesting read, but to sum it up Candle Cove is a short story written in forum posts about a creepy children’s show that may or may not have existed. With that in mind, I was left wondering how exactly Channel Zero could stretch that out to a full series.
Episode one begins with a child psychologist, Mike Painter, being interviewed on some talk show about his life, including the murder of his twin brother Eddie when they were 12. After attempting to answer a phone call from a child, the staff of the show turns into puppets. The child on the phone giggles manically and Mike wakes up in bed, knowing he has to return home to face his demons.
Mike does return to his hometown and stays with his mother while he visits an old friend, now sheriff, at the police station. He asks to look over the files of the five children who were murdered (Eddie included) and when questioned why, he lies and says he’s writing a book. Later that evening, the group of friends reminisce about old times and when Mike notices the sheriff’s daughter watching a strange show, he questions the group about Candle Cove—with the writing more or less the same as the forum posts in the original story.
After a series of weird, disjointed and badly edited flashbacks to Mike and his Brother in the 80s, Mike realizes that there may have been more to Candle Cove than he thought, and that the children’s show may have just been a major player in the murders. It’s now up to Mike to solve the mystery and stop the murders from happening again.
As far as a series premiere goes, Channel Zero didn’t start out all the strong. The acting was far too wooden and all the characters seemed uncomfortable. Mike’s mother didn’t seem all that pleased to see him, saying she was happy despite the awkward monotone voice. The character of Mike is far too reserved for my liking. Despite the trauma he endured as a child, his hiding of the past and what he’s doing just doesn’t make any sense. I know he didn’t want to go back home but he could be a least a little happy to see his friends. Speaking of his friends, there’s no sight of them in his flashbacks. The only other kids shown besides Mike and Eddie are a group of bullies. If these friends were so close, where were they when Mike and Eddie were bullied?
The editing between scenes was jarring and distracting, especially with the flashbacks. Why are we cutting to Eddie getting his arm broken? What purpose did that serve? Some of these scenes work all right (like Mike remembering his psychotic episode) but most of the cuts were a pointless attempt to keep the viewer on their toes like American Horror Story.
What Channel Zero has going for it is that it already has a decent story to follow and so far, following that story is working. The writers didn’t change too much and the bigger plot they’ve added is creepy and interesting. The isolated and dark atmosphere really unnerved me and was a nice change from cheap jump scares.
The biggest issue with episode one of Channel Zero is that it’s trying way too hard to be , but when the writing allows it to be its own thing, it’s great. Channel Zero needs to take a step back and breathe and shouldn’t feel so much pressure to be like other horror shows. It needs to loosen up and just be itself.
Despite its meh premiere, Channel Zero deserves a chance. Here’s hoping the actors and writing finally slip into the pool after getting their toes wet. I look forward to seeing how this story pans out.
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is one of the many criminally overlooked gems in the Vita library. While it’s a far from perfect game, and against typical gaming conventions by design, there’s nothing quite like it out there. It’s a weird game that revels in its own idiosyncrasies, breaking conventions of how you’re “supposed” to make both visual novels and role-playing titles. As a sucker for anything weird and “out there,” it carved out a little spot in my heart when the original release hit last March.
With Daybreak Special Gigs, an expanded re-release, I was surprised to not just get more of the same. While the core narrative remains—outside of an extra new chapter—Toybox’s revision can be seen as a director’s cut of sorts. Some characters get more exposition and internal monologues, which made me care about them more. For example, Sayuri, a character who’s been haunted by ghosts her whole life, gets standalone sequences of flashbacks that I don’t recall being present in the original. Little flourishes like this make the cast feel less cookie-cutter, and the narrative feel less like a vehicle for your self-insert protagonist.
That narrative is the primary draw of the game, as you’ll spend most of your time scrolling through text. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Huntersessentially amounts to an episodic ghostbusting story, with the protagonists finding new haunts each episode, learning new backstory, and going in for the kill—erm, capture? The cases are gleefully campy and macabre, from vengeful fiances to wrathful rockers, and the characters manage to feel authentic and relatable throughout each “episode.” Peppered with references to Ghostbusters, X-Files and even Supernatural, the plot is strange love letter to cheesy horror media that I love, and by consequence I love the end result.
What some people might not love, however, is the way the story progresses. While it’s technically true that Tokyo Twilight Ghost Huntersis a visual novel, it also doesn’t play like any other visual novel on the market. Outside of certain actions, there aren’t actually any dialogue choices per se. Instead, players progress through the story by navigating two separate wheels—one with emotions, the other with body parts. For example, a “fist” coupled with “hand” means you express anger; a “heart” with a “hand” means bad touching on another character. At least sometimes, because both those things can produce totally different results in different circumstances. The game doesn’t actually explain how the wheels work, leaving players to determine the best way to use them. Personally, I love the system for being an intentionally obfuscated puzzle and for forcing players to think about their response, or if they even want to respond. However, some people might not appreciate how complicated it is, preferring a more traditional system.
The same can be said of the combat, which you’ll have to experience once or so during the thirteen episodes. In theory, it’s a grid-based strategy game. In execution, it’s a bizarre hybrid of turn-based RPG, trap-laying, and straight-up guesswork. Players use a map, which they lay traps on before battles, to pinpoint the location of the main spectre (there are other, weaker ghosts on each map.) From there, they try to figure out the ghost’s movement pattern, hope it stumbles into a trap, and try to plan your attacks one or two turns in advance, hoping they hit. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s also sort of a refreshing break from role-playing conventions. For those put off by the “guesswork” portion, Daybreak Special Gigs alleviates some of the original’s frustrations. The game automatically sets recommended traps for you, and characters can now take more than one action per turn. While this makes it significantly easier, it also makes it simpler for people to get back to the visual novel portions, which are the highlight of the package in my opinion.
Aside from the new narrative content and tweaked gameplay, the rest of Tokyo Twilight Ghost Huntersis the same. The same wonderful score, the same gorgeous animation, the same evocative art direction—it’s the same charming, weird little gem it was to begin with, just a bit more polished. It’s still not for everyone, and I suspect some people will outright hate it for being so “out there,” so to speak.
Yet I still can’t help but admire Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters, especially with the refined Daybreak Special Gigs release. As someone who loves oddball visual novels, like Lux-Pain and Time Hollow, Artbox’s supernatural romp is a slick, clever title that’s unashamed of being different. In a market of conformity, I’ll take that over a cookie-cutter open-world game any day of the week.
It’s been an exciting year for BioWare. Development has been well underway for Mass Effect: Andromeda, with the game’s first gameplay preview revealed last month. And BioWare Edmonton, who develop the Dragon Age and Knights of the Old Republic series, are reportedly working on a brand new IP. But that new IP may see a major shift in leadership shortly. The IP’s Project Lead, Cameron Lee, has announced he is leaving his role at BioWare.
“From my very first day of making games I’d always wanted to work with the studio that created some of my favorite games; Knights of the Old Republic,Baldur’s Gate, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Jade Empire,” he wrote. “About 5 years ago I had the opportunity to do just that and helped bring Dragon Age Inquisition to the world.”
Lee previously served as producer for the immensely popular Dragon Age: Inquisition. And while his work on the title helped bring the series onto current-gen consoles, his current work for BioWare was as Lead Producer of BioWare Edmonton’s new IP. The gaming community has little knowledge as of yet what his work was like on the unannounced IP, even though he leaves behind a strong team.
“The new IP continues on with its development, shepherded by a leadership group with a vision that I think will change the way people experience BioWare games,” Lee explained. “Everyone working on the New IP is amazingly talented and their work continues to exceed even the lofty expectations at BioWare.”
Lee isn’t the first major BioWare departure this year. Earlier, a variety of team members on Andromeda left the studio before the game was even revealed. While departures can be coincidental, it’s certainly concerning why so many major players at BioWare are departing from the organization. Either way, Lee is ready to move on and is ultimately happy with his decision.
“This is a pretty hard thing to do, but it’s the right thing at this stage of my life. My wife and I are expecting our first child and we’d like to do that in a bigger city,” he concluded his blog post. “While I can’t discuss what I’ll be working on next, it’s fair to say that creating massive, AAA games is still what gets me excited to go into the studio every day so stay tuned for more on that in the next month or so.”
Try to remember what it was like in 2014. Robin Williams passed away, the Ebola virus became a global epidemic, Cuba and the United States made up, Malaysian aircraft kept disappearing, and a marketing campaign made people think that Titanfall was going to be the best thing since penicillin. Fast forward to today and we finally have a Titanfall game that is worth playing, but after the realities of the first game, is anyone still interested?
I hope some people are willing to keep an open mind, because Respawn Entertainment tried to address every complaint about the original when they made Titanfall 2. They changed so much that the biggest issue with the original Titanfall is now the biggest reason to play the sequel. Of course I am talking about the brief radio messages that made up Titanfall’s single-player campaign, for which, I think we can all agree, using the word “campaign” is being particularly generous.
This time those brief messages have been replaced with something you can actually call a single-player campaign.It is not, however, what you would expect from a triple-A narrative. Imagine a collection of the greatest set pieces you can think of for a first person shooter with giant robots and wall-running. Connect those set pieces with a disjointed-feeling story, and you have the campaign of Titanfall 2. I hope that doesn’t give you a bad impression of the campaign. Yes the game could use a little work in the story telling department, but you won’t care once you get to the really good stuff.
I won’t spoil anything for you, since the campaign is why you should show up for Titanfall 2; however, I would like to offer a few examples. It should come as no surprise that the majority of the first level is a series of jumping puzzles meant to teach you how to maneuver your character. Later in Titanfall 2 there are similar puzzles, but Respawn ratchets up the difficulty since you’re more experienced by then. I would say that you spend the majority of your time outside of the robot, but some levels are all out titan brawls with no reason to go on foot.
Some levels also include mechanics that no one would have expected in a shooter. The most unique mechanic in Titanfall 2 allows you to jump between two dimensions that have different paths you can traverse. The different dimensions also have different opponent A.I.s in them, and switching between the dimensions usually allows you to run away when overpowered. That said, the amazing thing about this level is how the two dimensions are entangled. I was able to manipulate items in one dimension and my interference caused them to change in the other. It’s a neat trick that doesn’t always work perfectly, and thus breaks the immersion on occasion, but I was so enthralled that I sat in one room testing out the causality of my actions for ten minutes. Titanfall 2 even avoids the issue that many people had with the original Mirror’s Edgeby just showing you where to go. At the start of every platforming puzzle is a hologram that will show you how to proceed if you get lost.
If pressed I would say that I have three complaints about Titanfall 2’s campaign, and the big one it is that it is short. I completed the campaign in a single sitting on the regular difficulty. To make matters worse, the very end of the story is rather boring. The campaign of Titanfall 2 is all about the journey, but the destination feels a little lackluster for a campaign that pulled out all the stops. It’s less important, but I also have an issue with how your player character, a titan pilot named Jack Cooper, is treated. Before the game starts, you watch a cinematic that explains that titan pilots are the Halo Spartans/Space Marines/Destiny Guardians of this franchise. One of them is worth 20 regular men, but that idea comes off as being a little disingenuous when the main theme of the story is that you are a fish out of water. If the jet pack strapped to my butt really makes me that deadly, then stop building titans and make butt jet packs for everyone. Three-dimensional maneuverability really is the only difference between the pinnacle and gutter of Titanfall society. Yes, I know this comes off as nitpicking, but the way everyone worships your pilot is a little silly.
The other half of Titanfall 2, the multiplayer, is just as strong as the campaign. Since it is brought to you by the developers who revolutionized Call of Duty, expect a lot of similarities between Titanfall and Call of Duty. In both games you move around fast, die in only a few hits, and unlock your equipment through gameplay. Also, in both games your gear is divided up among various classes of items with different abilities (rifles, machine guns, shotguns, etc.). On top of that, Titanfall also adds the ability to wall-run, double jump, and call down the robots that give the game its name.
The strange thing about the multiplayer modes is that you can’t play as your campaign titan, and the way you interact with titans is very different than it is in the campaign. I once commented that the titans in the original Titanfall felt like bigger versions of your player-controlled pilot, and that titans really didn’t affect gameplay that much. This time around the titans feel like a crucial part of the game, but that’s mostly due to a new dynamic between the pilots and titans. In multiplayer, every titan drops with a single battery that you can steal when you’re not in a titan. Once you have the battery, it can be placed inside any titan on your team. The stolen battery then gives that titan a shield, and now it can take far more damage than other titans. This means that success is no longer the domain of the team with the best set of digital trading cards, especially since the digital trading cards from the original Titanfall are not in this sequel. Instead, the victorious team is usually the one that works together to steal batteries while also completing various other tasks. This new symbiotic relationship really does change how you approach the multiplayer modes by forcing you to employ some sort of strategy if you want to win.
Strategy is something you will have to consider every time you make a decision in Titanfall 2. Even the titan you call down will affect the flow of a match. Titanfall 2 offers up six different multiplayer titans with different skillsets. You can also think of them as the rifleman, scout, support and the other classes that most first person shooters use. As with those classes, Titanfall 2 forces you to learn the capabilities of every titan to succeed. Would you rush a distant sniper’s nest with a sub-machine gun? That’s a bad strategy, but the same level of thinking is applied to the titans. The Ironman chest laser of the Ion titan might be your favorite thing in the game, but it won’t do you any good if you try to fight in close quarters with the melee focused sword swinging Ronin titan.
At every level, Titanfall 2 creates a meta-game of rock, paper, scissors that encourages you to consider the pros and cons of the equipment you take into the game. That meta-game is also why I can’t figure out how modes like pilot vs pilot or coliseum made it into the final product. Pilot vs pilot is exactly what you imagine and does not allow anyone to call down a robot to assist them. In coliseum you’re forced to take on another pilot by yourself. Neither of these modes allows the multi-layered gameplay mechanics to come into play. That’s probably why most people seem to play the bounty hunt mode. In that new mode you find yourself in a three-way fight between your team, an opponent team of real people, and another team of A.I. controlled NPCs. It creates a real cat and mouse game as everyone fights across each map to take down whatever NPC has a bounty on its head.
Since it’s a Titanfall game, I wasn’t surprised to find long load times in the multiplayer modes (when compared to contemporary games); however, I was surprised to find that some of the equipment for each class/gun only unlocks once you’ve used it for a while. This is especially confusing when you realize that Titanfall 2 encourages a general understanding of all guns, maps, and titans. As a result I found myself using the same gun over and over again. The reason for this was simple; I had unlocked a lot of attachments for it. I could have tried another gun, but with no attachments unlocked I was only putting myself at a disadvantage.
In the end there isn’t that much in Titanfall 2 to criticize. It’s not a perfect game by any definition, but what game is? It’s also not a game that will convert random people into first person shooter fans. What you will find in this game is a series of shooting and platforming set pieces that will make you think, “Wow! I just did that? I am awesome, all hail me!” Those set pieces are accompanied by a multiplayer that is fast paced and cleverly designed. My recommendation is to pay the sticker price and enjoy the roller coaster ride.
For whatever reason, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains a point of contention amongst gaming enthusiasts. The “cool” kids of the community would have you believe that Bethesda’s fantasy opus was never good, that it’s “overrated,” et cetera. Bologna. Skyrim, to date, is still one of the most ambitious open-world gaming experiences, and some of the best several dozen hours I’ve spent in a video game. It was a landmark achievement for the medium, and it still is. Few games can boast worlds as open as Skyrim, or side quests that are more memorable than entire narratives of other titles. Keeping my adoration for this game in mind, then, it’s easy to see why I’d be excited for a remastered version. The prospect of exploring this wonderful game with a fresh coat of paint was enticing, and getting the PC version for free just sweetened the deal.
As it turns out, “free” is about the only way I’d recommend getting this version. Skyrim Special Edition is one of the most egregious rip-offs in recent gaming memory, in my humble opinion. People who don’t get the free upgrade have to shell out 40 American smackers on PC or 60 on console. For what you’re getting, that’s absolutely insane. That’s because what you’re getting is a version of a game that offers minimal graphical enhancements at the sacrifice of the game’s framerate, and in some cases, a version that looks noticeably inferior to the original. An upscaled resolution can’t hide the fact that this new version is a lazy port marketed as a “next-gen experience,” intended to sucker consumers into spending $60 on a game that’s half a decade old.
For the sake of comparison, I played both the original and Special Edition on a PC with specs well beyond what the game recommends. Going through the early parts of the game again in the latter was dismaying. The framerate would start to chug for no apparent reason, on top of running slower in general. The textures in some areas look muddier and less defined. The game’s notorious bugginess reared its head much more frequently than the original. All of this is to say that this “special” version runs worse, looks worse in some areas, and acts weirder, which is almost an accomplishment.
There are some moments where the graphical upgrades surprised me, sure, but they were few and far between. Running around on an open plain at sunset is slightly more astonishing than it used to be, and the draw distance is notably improved in some areas (snowcapped mountains not flickering, for instance.) Yet when I found myself captivated by the game, I saved, exited, and jumped back into the original. The improvements are marginal, and rarely noticeable. That means the only noticeable thing is how comparatively chuggy the whole thing is compared to the original, and made me more tempted to just keep playing that version. Maybe if you played the original on the 360, and play this version on the PS4, you might get a little more out of it, but I doubt it.
The further I got into this “special” edition, the more I was left wanting. I wanted actual anti-aliasing, not the smudgy filters that Bethesda are convinced looks good. I wanted a smooth framerate, not random slowdown and generally slower movement. I wanted a better version of one of my favourite games, only to realize that the original is, in fact, that better version. In truth, I’ll probably play more of that in the coming weeks—revisiting it got me in the mood again.
As a critic, my job is to advocate for consumers. In my professional opinion, Bethesda is treating consumers like a collection of gullible rubes. Selective screenshots and video clips, coupled with a refusal to cooperate with some gaming outlets point to a willingness to scam people for what is essentially a worse version of a five-year-old game. Make no mistake—it is a scam. Having the audacity to ask full retail price for this game is egregious at best, scummy at worst, and dishonest all around. Actively trying to prevent advanced word-of-mouth further compounds the problem. Consumers are expected to go into this blindly, maybe spending their game budget for the month, under the pretense of getting a better version of one of their favourite games. That’s wrong. That’s bad business.
Consumers aren’t stupid, however. I suspect that once they catch wind of this, there’ll be some sort of backlash, and rightfully so. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition isn’t special, and it’s a worse edition than the original. Skyrim is still, to me, a perfect ten, and one of the best gaming experiences I’ve ever had. This new edition, however, is half the game of the original, and at several times the price.
Don’t be fooled by this Khajit’s wares.
Editor’s Note: Played partially on PlayStation 4 and PC with NVIDIA 1080 Founder’s Edition, Intel Core i7-6700K Processor (4-Cores,) 64GB DDR4 SDRAM Memory
Aksys and Spike Chunsoft are bringing the first two games in the Zero Escape series to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita as part of a double pack called Zero Escape: The Nonary Games.
News of this comes from a post on the PlayStation Blog, which reveals that the collection will include Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, neither of which have ever been on PS4. While Virtue’s Last Reward is already available on Vita, this will be the first time Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has appeared on the handheld.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has been rebuilt from the ground up since it originally came out on the first Nintendo DS in 2009, and will feature HD graphics and both English and Japanese voice acting, unlike the original version of the game.
It is worth noting that this collection doesn’t feature Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, the third and presumably final game in the series, which launched on PC, PlayStation Vita, and 3DS earlier this year. Those who purchase The Nonary Games on Vita will still be able to play the final Zero Escape, but if you’re looking to get the full story you won’t be able to do so on PlayStation 4.
The Zero Escape series revolves around nine people being trapped in an enclosed space and forced to play a life-threatening game by series’ antagonist Zero, whose identity serves as one of the games’ several mysteries.
This is the second visual novel compilation Spike Chunsoft is bringing to PlayStation 4, with Danganronpa 1•2 Reload offering Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair to consoles players for the first time in 2017.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games will be available in spring of 2017.
As the Marvel brand slides into blockbuster ubiquity, the studio needs to take care in ensuring that they aren’t just the most successful superhero factory on the block, they are also the best. Enter Dr. Strange, a movie that conforms to the usual superhero origin tale beats, yet tells them through such beautifully unhinged imagery that they feel fresh. After keeping all of the previous MCU flicks tethered to the ground through gentle sci-fi, this one dives into mysticism and magic, going full geek in ways comic book fans never dreamed was possible in a blockbuster even a decade ago. Dr. Strange proves that Kevin Feige and co. still have some tricks up their sleeve with this endless Marvel cinematic odyssey, and the future looks strange indeed.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the weirdo physician, Dr. Strange. He opens the movie as New York’s star brain surgeon—as arrogant and brilliant as Tony Stark but in scrubs. After an unfortunate car accident claims his amazing hands, suddenly Strange’s life seems to have no purpose. Desperate to find a cure for his damaged fingers, Strange flies across the globe and ends up in a temple run by Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One. She’s essentially a Yoda figure, who trains Strange in inter-dimensional magic that can be used for anything from traveling through portals to beating up bad guys. At the same time one of Swinton’s former students, played by Mads Mikkelson, has gone to the dark side of these magic ways, with a plot for world domination hidden behind his dark eyes. That means that good ol’ Dr. Strange best learn his tricks quickly. there’s going to be a big ol’ battle by the end of this thing.
One of the reasons it’s taken until now for Kevin Fiege to even dare to step into Dr. Strangeland is that this world is far less user friendly than that of most Marvel characters. Conceived in the 60s primarily by Marvel artist extraordinaire Steve Ditko, Dr. Strange was rooted in the mysticism and psychedelic drugs of the era. The character is hinged on the spiritual lessons and mind-bending imagery that kept hippies glued to comics as they aged. In Sinister/The Exorcism Of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson, Feige has found the perfect filmmaker to bring this distinct world to the big screen. Derrickson is an openly spiritual filmmaker and though he’s primarily focused on horror in the past, he’s always used a sense of the surreal and the uncanny to underline his houses of horror. Dr. Strange lets Derrickson cut loose with his wildest obsessions while still staying true to the Marvel formula and it’s pretty magical to behold (pun intended, with apologies).
The imagery in the film is absolutely astounding. Cityscapes bend and contort to suit the spells. Walls of buildings spiral out into kaleidoscopic eye candy designed to keep viewers off balance. It’s an astounding recreation of the type of psychedelic comic book imagery that Ditko made famous in these books in the 60s, only vividly made real through the kind of digital manipulation that’s only become possible on this scale in the time since the MCU was created. Throw in some gentle eastern philosophy to tickle brains and you’ve got a superhero movie that should appeal to a diverse audience looking to have their minds warped. The way the spells and rubber reality plays into the action scenes also allows Derrickson to deliver superhero beat ‘em ups the likes of which we haven’t seen on the big screen before. The filmmaker delights in toying with the expectations of superhero spectacle since he can deny them all in this world if he so chooses (and especially has fun with his twisted solution on the usual “evil falling from the skies” MCU climax).
As usual, performances are also top notch with Benedict Cumberbatch clearly relishing the mixture of sarcastic one-liners and spiritual rebirth that the film provides. He’s another new big-brained genius with superpowers and attitude to add to this sprawling cast of super folks and he should be able to bicker with them satisfyingly once the crossovers kick off. He gets just the right amount of existential angst mixed in with the heightened cartoon heroism and even his initially dodgy American accent snaps into place by the end. Tilda Swinton is amusingly odd and all knowing as The Ancient One in a brilliant bit of cross gender casting. Chiwetel Ejiofor can feel a bit wasted as her second in command, but since he’s clearly being set up for bigger things in future movies, it’s forgivable. Mads Mikkelson has a typically two-dimensional no-name Marvel villain to play, but offers such a quietly disturbing/powerful presence that he turns the lack of backstory into mysterious strength. Unfortunately Rachel McAdams is stuck with a thankless “girlfriend at home” routine, but fortunately she’s a strong enough presence to make that human and likely has more substantial work coming in future MCU efforts.
If there’s a problem with Dr. Strange it’s just down to the MCU formula becoming increasingly predictable. It’s not like there’s any suspense regarding whether or not Dr. Strange will become a hero and save the world. Likewise while the usual sardonic MCU humour is present and welcome, the story and world are so dark and serious that the comedy can occasionally feel unwelcome and inappropriate. There were clearly a few growing pains in contorting this new type of Marvel movie into the established brand, but not many. For the most part, it’s what makes Dr. Strange so different from the usual Marvel hero that makes this flick such a pleasure. You will indeed get all of that usual MCU comfort food, only wrapped within a genuine headtrip of spiritual philosophy and mind-numbing surrealist eye candy that feels unlike any blockbuster cranked out of the House of Mouse (the Inception comparisons are overstated, Strange goes further). This movie is a delight and after the victory lap all-star quality of Civil War, it’s nice to see the studio still has room for expansion and experimentation within the obscenely bankable Marvel movie formula.
The Nintendo Switch was recently unveiled this month as a hybrid gaming console capable of handling both TV and on-the-go gaming. Speculated for months, Nintendo’s reveal brought major questions towards the Japanese gaming giant: including whether their recent offering would be competitively viable on the console market. But it seems Nintendo is taking at least one step forward to assure the Switch will perform well among consumers: Nintendo Switch source Emily Rogers claims the new console comes with 4GB RAM.
It’s that time of year again. The time where you turn the lights down, the music up and prepare to wet your pants with some horror games. With less than a few days left until Halloween, you may be asking yourself, “What should I play”. There’s quite an extensive library out there but here are some relatively new (and inexpensive) games that you may have missed.
A young pumpkin maid, Amelia, accompanies her witch mistress, Charlotte, during Halloween for trick or treating. Charlotte insists on visiting a cursed mansion where a mysterious host is having a party. Before Amelia knows it, she is on her own and has to search through the massive mansion to uncover its dark secrets, delicious candy, and find Charlotte.
Why you’ll love it
If you’re a fan of 2D RPG Maker games likes Corpse Party and Mad Father, Trick and Treat is certainly the game for you—albeit a little more light-hearted—but Trick and Treat still manages to keep a good balance between scary and cute. The art style is adorable and pulls off the creepy yet classy look. It has a multidimensional story with a rescue mission, exploration and solving a mystery. The music is charming, well timed and isn’t distracting, and the characters are hilarious. While the map is a little small and the gameplay short, the puzzles, multiple endings and relatively easy gameplay will be enough to keep you entertained. It’s definitely a neat little game that keeps the theme and feel of the Halloween season. Trick and Treat is available for free on Steam.
A farmer struggles as his crops fail from a blight that is spreading across the land. With no more hope left, the farmer ventures out to find out the cause and save his farm.
Why you’ll love it
Disturbed is a point-and-click, choose-your-own adventure style game with both horror and fantasy elements. The frustrating deaths are plentiful and add extra gameplay time and achievements to your Steam account. While the artwork is simple, its sketchbook style adds an uneasiness as you play and keeps to the mood of reading a book. It’s a simple game but a good play nonetheless. Disturbed is free to play on Steam.
An escaped prisoner finds his way into an old empty house in the middle of the woods. The creepy place makes him afraid of his own shadow and he must keep himself calm as he solves all the puzzles and mysteries of the house.
Why you’ll love it
This 8-bit, pixelated, 2D side-scroller is a charming yet freaky find. Don’t let its art style fool you; the scary moments make you jump in both fear and frustration as you fight to keep your character’s heart rate down. Since the game is non-linear, you can explore to your heart’s content around the creepy property. There’s always something new to watch out for as you pass by objects and the constant puzzles are both fun and challenging. Breathing Fear can be a bit frustrating with the character being so easy to startle but that’s what makes the challenge. Breathing Fear is available for $3.29 on Steam.
It’s 3AM and your neighbours are having a party. You don a hockey mask and go on a killing spree to stop them and finally have some peace a quiet.
Why you’ll love it
I’m cheating a little bit since this game isn’t technically horror but it’s fun if you’re a fan of hack and slash films. Your character goes from house party to house party to find new ways of stealthily killing the guests. The levels change up every time so there’s always new methods of killing. You can straight up stab them, poison the punch, electrocute etc. The possibilities are endless. The 8bit art style and bright colours really give Party Hard a delightfully 80’s feel with an awesome soundtrack to match and the character designs and writing will make you laugh the whole way through. Despite the monotonous gameplay, Party Hard is a great way to vent out your frustrations during your neighbour’s loud Halloween party. Party Hard is available for $13.99 on Steam.
After receiving a message that your mom is in the hospital, you rush to her aid, but your car crashes and you’re forced to take a stroll through the woods. Little did you know that those woods would have you face off against creatures that will do anything and everything to see you dead.
Why you’ll love it
Despite being an Early Access game, The Cursed Forest is stunningly beautiful. The calmness of the woods with the colours of autumn set the mood for the darker things to come. As you explore the woods and pick up notes, dark and ancient things begin to haunt you at every turn. The Cursed Forest has just the right balance of calm and fright that will leave you nervous throughout the whole game. The Cursed Forest is available for $11.99 on steam.