Day: 19 November 2020

Wonder Woman 1984 Streaming on HBO Max Christmas Day 2

Wonder Woman 1984 Streaming on HBO Max Christmas Day

Wonder Woman 1984 is now set to release on Christmas day, simultaneously in theatres and streaming on HBO Max. The decision to stream simultaneously is a direct result of the Tenant disaster, reported by The Verge, that brought little return in the US.

Unlike Mulan, which debuted exclusively on Disney Plus in September, Wonder Woman 1984 will only stream for one month; afterward, it will remain in theatres. By releasing the film to the streaming service it allows Warner Bros. to compete against Disney’s Soul, releasing Christmas day on Disney Plus.

Call it a Christmas present from Warner Bros., call it bold, call it stupid, call it whatever, but be sure to tune in to HBO Max from December 25th till January 25th to catch Wonder Woman 1984 for little to no cost. There will be no additional cost for subscribers that already stream HBO Max, as with Disney’s Mulan. The $14.99/month rate is all a subscriber would continue to pay.

The great news is if someone has never subscribed to HBO Max, then there is a high probability that they can watch Wonder Woman 1984 for no charge through a free trial. According to the HBO Max free trial Q & A web page, a free trial is unlike other streaming services that may last one month or even two weeks; a free trial with HBO Max is only seven days. The web page also confirms that all content is available to those under a free trial, so Wonder Woman 1984 should be available. However, there is never a guarantee that HBO Max will allow this rare and unique viewing of a showcased filmed to be viewed for free, but it doesn’t hurt first to try the free trial to test the waters.

Those that choose to undergo the free trial will need to cancel one to two days before the trial ends to escape a pending charge on their account. If it turns out that Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t available through the free trial, then a $14.99 fee is still about the cost of a theatre ticket; if friends or family join the viewing, then money is still being saved. Also, when people subscribe, they get more than just a one-time viewing of Wonder Woman 1984; they can replay it over and over along with all other films and series available on HBO Max while available.

These special viewings are extremely rare and prove to be a godsend during these dark times. Times that may determine how future films are released, especially if people continue being cautious due to Covid-19 or any other potential pandemic that might arise. Take advantage of these moments and see Wonder Woman 1984 from the comfort of home surrounded by friends and family this Christmas.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review 2

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review

LittleBigPlanet and its subsequent sequels, including the PlayStation Vita iteration, were some of my favourite PlayStation exclusive experiences over the years. When the opportunity arose to check out the PlayStation 5 version of Sackboy: A Big Adventure, I was curious to see just how well the series would translate over into a more, traditional platforming experience.

Fortunately, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a fun launch game that borrows elements from its predecessors in a new package that feels a little familiar but ultimately still fun for both newcomers and veterans alike.

Unlike LittleBigPlanet, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a more of a story-driven experience, one curated by the developers rather than on user-created content. Those wanting to scratch their creative itch can still deck-out their sack person with an assortment of costumes, both full sets or individual pieces that can be found strewn around the levels.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review
Sackboy: A Big Adventure

As mentioned earlier, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is more of a traditional platforming experience, with the game split up into five distinctly-themed worlds with over a dozen levels present in each. Around ten or levels within each world are your typical run to the end affair, while the rest are reserved as bonus stages, and co-op only challenge levels that spice things up from the rest of the game.

Unlike LittleBigPlanet, levels in Sackboy: A Big Adventure are fully 3D and not restrained to a 2.D plane, making it closer to something like a Mario game, or Media Molecule’s Tearaway Vita and PlayStation 4 title. Like its arts & crat inspired world, A big Adventure seemingly borrows and hodgepodges together the best elements found in other platformers and creates something that although, may not feel wholly original, still offers up a good time for fans of the genre.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure will please younger audiences or those who perhaps grew up with the original LBP and now have kids of their own, as Big Adventure exudes a kid-friendly cartoon-like charm that permeates the entirety of the game. From the title itself, which looks like it was inspired by the Uncrustables kid-approved snack brand by Smuckers, to Sackboy’s newfound childlike voice. Sackboy: A Big Adventure adequately checks all the boxes that make for a fun game for kids.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review
Sackboy: A Big Adventure

One area the game does fall short, is in regards to the voice acting, or rather the lack thereof. Some dialogue is indeed voiced, but for the vast majority of the game, particularly in between worlds, the title lacks any sound whatsoever. A reliance on gibberish or a made-up language would have been welcome as the lack of sound entirely cheapened an other high-quality experience.

The story in Sackboy: A Big Adventure positions Sackboy as a brave knitted-warrior tasked in freeing his friends from the evil Vex, who aims to turn Craftworld into his own twisted version of reality using something called the Topsy Turver. In essence, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a kids game with a simple but engaging story that should keep younger audiences entertained while giving enough of an impetus to see things through to the end.

Graphically, Sackboy: A Big Adventure looks the part, with each object and material present in Craftworld featuring a realistic texture that looks as if it was ripped straight out of someone’s craft kit. Additionally, the PlayStation 5 version of the game, thanks to the inclusion of the new Dualsense controller, further creates a realistic sense of place, as each surface in Sackboy: A Big Adventure has a unique feel and sound when walking across it, which can be felt through the Dualsense controller’s haptic feedback and built-in mic.

Sackboy: A Big Adventure Review
Sackboy: A Big Adventure

Although not imperative to the experience, the Dualsense controller of the PlayStation 5 more than justifies the next-gen version of Sackboy: A Big Adventure. Finally, for those who like collect-a-thons will likely appreciate the PlayStation 5 version of the game, as the inclusion of activity cards helps organize and make tracking missable. collectables feel intuitive and easy.

At the end of its yarn, Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a fun romp through a craft-inspired world that feels as if it was cut from the same cloth as something like Yoshi’s Crafted World, rather than LittleBigPlanet, however, this is not a bad thing, especially for those looking for a traditional platforming experience. Sackboy: A Big Adventure is a content-rich platformer that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age and is a worthy addition to the PlayStation 5 launch line-up.

Ashens and the Polybius Heist (2020) Review 4

Ashens and the Polybius Heist (2020) Review

I remember stumbling upon Stuart Ashens’ Youtube channel back during the infancy of the popular platform and immediately finding the channel to be charming in a strange, almost tacky kind of way. In a sense, this echoed the very subject matter often put on display, on the now iconic, brown sofa that has become the symbol of the channel itself.

Flash forward over a decade later, with a feature film already under his belt, I’ve come to realize that, no it wasn’t the brown sofa that made Ashens great, but the person behind the camera, the true Stuart Ashens. So in that regard, going into his second movie, Ashens and the Polybius Heist, I was hoping to see more of that charisma translate into the film.

Thankfully, not only is Polybius Heist, a better film than its predecessor, it also captures the essence of the channel in a way that I feel can appeal to both fans of the Youtube channel and those just looking for a campy and mostly lighthearted film.

The movie opens on Stuart, as an exaggerated version of himself, trying to break into the premises of a Collector who is in possession of a rare and vintage game. One that apparently does not belong to him. This scene quickly explains to the audience who Stuart Ashens is, referencing both his Youtube Ashens channel in addition to setting up his in-universe Collections Agency plot point.

Ashens And The Polybius Heist (2020) Review
Ashens and the Polybius Heist (2020)

Audiences are then greeted with the opening sequence for the film, which does its best job in parodying the aesthetics of the Bond films. Unfortunately, I found this sequence to be a tad too long, in which point I began to notice the stilted animations of the obscured figures, something that ultimately robbed the opening of its charm.

Fortunately, moments like these were limited to whenever the Polybius Heist relied on special effects. The film as a whole looked great, with lighting and makeup that completely eclipses 2013’s Ashens and the Quest for the Gamechild. The titular Polybius is based on a real-world rumour surrounding an arcade cabinet that is said to have been discontinued due to concerns regarding mental fatigue. The film uses this as its central crux, which is an apt choice as it naturally feeds into Stuart Ashen’s love for obscure videogames and tat.

In the movie, the Polybius first catches Ashen’s attention when his business partner Benny (Eli Silverman) mentions that he has begun looking into it, after finding some old documents that he obtained from the university. Of course, this intrigues Ashens in wanting to pursue what in essence is the nerdy equivalent of an Indiana Jones treasure. Furthermore, without going into spoilers, the audience soon discovers that Stuart himself is intrinsically tied to the fabled Polybius machine. This eventually ties into the latter half of the film and its conclusion and helps give the movie an overall sense of purpose, beyond just finding an obscure videogame.

The bulk of the film has Ashen’s break into the facility in which the Polybius machine is held, which happens to be inside the main base of the film’s antagonist, Antony Agonist (Stuggy). Agonist is portrayed as the literal antithesis to Ashens, in that he is staunchly against retro tech, due to having to put up with too many hand-me-downs, as he explains in the movie.

From here, Ashens and the Polybius Heist does its best Oceans impersonation by gradually introducing the rest of the cast and the core members for that make up the heist team. The cast ranges from real-life friends and fellow YouTubers, such as Berry Lewis, to Robert Llewellyn of Red Dwarf fame.

Ashens And The Polybius Heist (2020) Review
Ashens and the Polybius Heist (2020)

My favourite scene in the film takes place during the heist, in which Jarred Christmas, who I believe plays himself and is the Mole of the group, tries to buy some time by chatting up another character. This scene quickly devolves into the two revealing to the audience, their strange lawnmower fetish. Somehow, this fits the weird and eccentric world of Ashens and the Polybius Heist and makes the scene genuinely funny.

This mix of talent somehow comes together better than expected, although no one, in particular, seems to steal the show. Instead, everyone involved does their job well and to the point, delivering a fun movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

My biggest gripe with the Polybius Heist comes in how the feature depicts both gaming and the Polybius itself. Firstly, is the depiction of the Polybius machine which seems to take the form of a Raspberry Pi board, rather than a traditional Arcade PCB. Perhaps this was intentional, but I feel it would have been better suited as something more akin to a real arcade board, or even the polar opposite, in something abstract, rather than it resembling readily available, existing hardware.

Finally, during a scene just before the heist, the core cast is seen playing a game on an older CRT-style TV. The game on display seems to be a made-up sprite-based FPS, with each of the players using everything from NES pads to a tablet. Again, perhaps this was intentionally poking fun at how bad gaming tends to be depicted in films, however, considering that is an Ashens movie, maybe a reliance on a more authentic and retro gaming setup would have been a better fit.

Devil May Cry: Special Edition (Xbox Series X/S) Review 10

Devil May Cry: Special Edition (Xbox Series X/S) Review

From as far back as the heady, 16-bit days of Street Fighter 2, iconic Japanese videogame publisher Capcom has built itself a famed yet dubious reputation for releasing mega-hit games and then following up those releases with re-packaged versions of those same titles with only iterative changes and additions, chief among them being additional playable characters.  Case in point, the Devil May Cry (DMC) franchise has practically made the Capcom re-release a generational tradition, having begat a “Special Edition” version of every mainline entry since Devil May Cry 3 (sadly, Ninja Theory’s western-developed black-haired step-child DMC: Devil May Cry isn’t considered by Capcom to be part of the family, only getting a “Definitive Edition”).  Following a time-honored ritual so sacred that you could set your watch by it, each DMC: SE release has been headlined by the inclusion of Vergil (twin brother, arch-rival and forever frenemy of series protagonist Dante) as a playable character.  So is true for Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition, and while it’s arguable that this re-packaged and refreshed action game might be yet another $60 cash grab by the house of Mega Man, there are a few extenuating factors that might still make this edition worth picking up for a first or even second time.

Of course, like with every Special Edition that has come before it, playable Vergil is just one of the perks.  Legendary Dark Knight Mode (a harrowingly difficult horde mode) and Turbo Mode (which speeds up gameplay to 1.2x speed, that’s 20% faster) make their return from Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition, offering up new challenges for series veterans and gluttons for punishment alike.  Also, as a re-release specifically targeting the next-gen (now technically current-gen) consoles, the game offers up two High Framerate Modes (4K/60fps or up to 120fps for lower resolutions depending on your panel’s capabilities) as well as support for ray-traced reflections in both 4K and 1080p resolutions (with framerates capped at 30fps and 60fps with ray-tracing turned on, respectively).  As someone who currently games primarily on a monitor as well as two televisions that all max out at 1080p Full HD despite owning an Xbox Series X, I found it kind and considerate of Capcom that they didn’t leave my neanderthal equipment out in the cold and offered me an invite to the ray-tracing party everyone’s been talking about. 

Devil May Cry: Special Edition (Xbox Series X/S) Review 1
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition – Review Images Provided by Capcom

Better yet, within the ray-tracing toggle there is an additional toggle that provides the option to prioritize quality or framerate, which essentially boils down to prettier reflections in puddles, mirrors and so on in exchange for a framerate that will see occasional drops, versus a rock-solid framerate with blurrier reflections and other small details sacrificed here and there.  During my first couple of hours playing the game I opted for quality just so I could see how lovely things could look, but I eventually switched over to framerate priority once I realized that there was simply too much going on in the game to pay attention to how crisp my reflection looked in a shop window as I blasted past it.  To be honest, while ray-traced reflections are always nice to have, the gothic architecture of Devil May Cry 5’s Red Grave City, which serves as the setting for much of the game’s story, is a poor candidate for showing off what ray-tracing can really do, as its historic, carved-granite buildings and cobblestone streets provide few clear surfaces for those reflections to be cast on.  It all looks fantastic, mind you, but if it’s mainly reflections you’re looking for, don’t expect the likes of Control on Ultra PC settings or Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5; ray-tracing in Devil May Cry 5: SE is more of a touch-up on an already gorgeous face, rather than a full make-over.

Okay, now about Vergil…  First, the good news.  Dante’s twin brother is playable right from the start at the main menu, so players aren’t required to play or finish the main Devil May Cry 5 campaign to unlock him (a good thing too as the game does not appear to support previous-generation save importing from the original release).  As an almost exclusively melee-based character, Vergil plays noticeably different from either of the game’s main protagonists Dante or Nero, wielding his trusted weapons, the Yamato katana, Beowulf gauntlets and greaves, the Mirage Edge sword and the Mirage Edge blades as his four main weapons (a.k.a. Devil Arms).  His throwable Mirage blade projectiles lack the bombastic punch of Nero or Dante’s trademark guns, but embedding one or multiple blades into a targeted enemy enables Vergil to quickly teleport to that enemy whether they be on the ground or in the air, setting them up for devastating combo chains and leaving foes nowhere to hide.  

Devil May Cry 5 (Ps4) Review 5
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition – Review Images Provided by Capcom

This ability flows perfectly into Vergil’s deceptive “trickster style”, where he can use teleporting in just about any direction to evade attacks or instantly bring himself into striking range of an enemy, and he can also temporarily call upon a doppelganger in demon form that can mimick his attacks at varying speeds to create and/or stack lethal new combos.  Layering Vergil’s deep list of upgradeable moves for each weapon, as well as his Concentration, Devil Trigger and Sin Devil Trigger abilities on top of all that, you get a character that is extremely fun to play and master.  The bad news however is that just like in Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition,  Vergil is only “playable” in the strictest of senses; meaning that players can play as Vergil through the entirety of the original campaign, but aside from a very brief prologue cutscene, there are no cutscenes or narrative underpinnings to tie the levels together.  No side story, no enlightenment regarding what Vergil might have been up while his archrivals Nero, Dante and V were battling their way through Red Grave city and the Demon Realm to thwart his plans, zilch.  In the end, Vergil is just a “guest character”, which is somewhat disappointing.

So, is Devil May Cry: Special Edition worth the scratch?  It really depends. Clearly, the players who stand to gain the most value from purchasing this re-release are those who have bought or plan to buy a next-generation console and for one reason or another haven’t played or finished the original DMC5 campaign yet, as it is for them that the game will yield the most surprises and offer the most longevity.  That said, if I were to draw a Venn Diagram titled “gamer groups interested in buying DMC5:SE” that encompassed the DMC-curious, franchise die-hards looking for new challenges, and brand new 4K60/120 HDTV owners, I’d be willing to bet that there would be a sizeable amount of overlap.  Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition is still one of the best looking games of last generation, and if you’re looking for something dazzling to flex the muscle of your next gen console and give your thumbs a serious workout at the same time, you could easily do far worse, especially on Xbox Series X/S where there are fewer standout next-generation games to play.

Gunnar Enigma, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla Edition Glasses Review 4

Gunnar Enigma, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Edition Glasses Review

For someone that spends countless hours in front of screens, the constant screen light does take a toll on my eyes. Be it for gaming or for just doing work, this light can be damaging, especially when you spend 50+ hours glaring at some sort of screen. Even knowing this, I never would have invested in Gunnars, or any eye-strain glasses before, and I wish I had.

This is where the Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Gunnar Enigmas came into the picture. The latest in the company’s tie-in glasses that takes cues from Ubisoft’s newest historical outing as the springboard for the design. While they can come off as stereotypically “Gamer” at first glance, Gunnars are a great tool in the arsenal of anyone stuck in front of a screen for job or play, and something that helps more than I thought possible.

Gunnar Enigma, Assassin'S Creed: Valhalla Edition Glasses Review
Gunnar Enigma, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Edition

The frames have a Norse inspired concept throughout the design making them feel both simple yet striking. The carrying case and foldable box give the glasses a sense that they are part of the Valhalla package, acting as an extension of the universe Ubisoft Montreal crafted. The wide amber lenses both work great for gaming, and for work, giving a full-field view on any screen, while protecting your eyes and being comfortable and easy to wear.

Picking up the glasses, it is striking how well-built they are, even at first glance. The attention to detail, even on these plastic frame is staggering. The metal hinges, mixed with the clean design make them light but sturdy. Even putting them on, they fit comfortably on my nose, making them easy to wear for long periods of time. The dark green with Valhalla accents are both sleek and have enough style that even non-gamers would have no problems wearing these at any office job.

Gunnar Enigma, Assassin'S Creed: Valhalla Edition Glasses Review
Gunnar Enigma, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Edition

The design and contour of the arms make them easy to wear, even when sporting a set of over-the-ear headphones. In testing, I was wearing the Valhalla Gunnar Enigmas for close to 6-7 hours a day, with a variety of different headphones, including from the likes of Razer, SteelSeries and Sennheiser, and never did I find the glasses got in the way, or caused problems with my usual office or gaming routines. I often forgot I was wearing the glasses—only remembering after I was trying to edit a photo.

Speaking of coloured lenses, let’s touch on the purpose of the Gunnar Enigmas: the reduction of blue light eye strain. Despite what sounds like a gimmick, the glasses work, and better than I thought possible. While I am no stranger to the blurred vision that comes from long stints of looking at the bright white of a screen from either a Word document or other such activities, just wearing the Gunnars, helped reduce the headache and adverse effects that entails. Even after the first day, I could get a sense for how much the glasses helped, with headache and eye pain reduced significantly.

Gunnar Enigma, Assassin'S Creed: Valhalla Edition Glasses Review
Gunnar Enigma, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla Edition

Even jumping over to gaming, recently reviewing both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, I was amazed at how I could look at the HDR scenes on display, with their shockingly bright segments without squinting or giving myself a headache in the process. For someone like me that needs to often spend days looking at different games and testing all features, including HDR; the Gunnars managed to make what could be a painful task bearable and often allowed them to be enjoyed, even after countless hours of staring at the same shockingly bright screen. Yes, even diving into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was enjoyable, and while I don’t think you necessarily need these particular glasses to enjoy that game, it sure was a fun way to be part of the experience.

A the end of the day, Gunnar came through with a stylish and comfortable solution to a problem anyone that sits in front of any sort of screen has. As infomercial-y as blue light filtering may sound, it works and gives a notable improvement for when you find yourself in front of a screen for hours. While I personally enjoy the look of the Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Gunnar Enigmas, really anything they have in their range should address your needs. The comfort these particular glasses offer, along with their unique style and look make them well worth the investment, especially if you are eagerly awaiting your Viking gaming journey.

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