Game Reviews, Games

Review: Soundfall

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Landing itself somewhere between a twin-stick shooter and a rhythm game, Soundfall feels like it’s not really doing one or other of these particularly successfully. Saved by an incredible soundtrack, Soundfall has the potential to be a really incredible game with an exciting concept, but is let down by repetitive gameplay and a weak story.

Soundfall

Read my full review at Push Square.

Game Reviews, Games

Review: This War Of Mine: Final Cut

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Originally released on PC in 2019 for the original game’s fifth anniversary, the acclaimed survival game This War Of Mine: Final Cut has been repackaged in a for new-gen consoles. Hitting PS5s with remastered versions of the original and DLC locations, This War of Mine gives a harrowing and to the point view of war from the perspective of civilians trying to survive.

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Set in the fictional city of Pogoren in the equally fictional Graznavia, This War of Mine has two cycles within which players must navigate a cast of characters. During the day, the characters will be at their shelter, and activities are based around daily survival: making improvements to the shelter, ensuring everyone is fed — you can even teach children basic survival skills. You can also craft items ready for trading with travelling tradesmen or people you may bump into while scavenging yourself. At night, the characters are split up – one person can go scavenging in local areas to find supplies, or you can have them stay home and guard the shelter from other scavengers or rest for the next day.

Read my full review at Push Square.

 

Game Reviews, Games

Review: Death End re;Quest

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A character becoming trapped in a VR MMORPG isn’t new ground. It’s been done plenty of times before in anime, manga, and video games. You name it. We’ve seen it. For a new title to come into this genre, it has to really give something special to stand out – can Death End re;Quest deliver on that front?

Read my full review at Nintenpedia.

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2022 challenges, Challenges

2022 Challenges: March Recap

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After being off to a pretty shaky start, I feel like March was much more positive for the challenges and I made some headway in everything, even if the numbers haven’t jumped up a whole lot.

Platinum 15 games

March end total: 2

In March I finally managed to get the platinum in Cozy Grove. I cannot believe how long this took me in the end, and I feel like I definitely didn’t do it the most straightforward or easy way. Cozy Grove was actually my second most played game last year according to the end of 2021 PlayStation stats that came out, which just shows how much time I’ve put into it.

Get the platinum in Persona 4 Golden

I was really sick for about a week in March and I couldn’t bring myself to tax my brain too much so I played Persona 4 Golden solidly for that entire time. I have all bar one trophy, which is really quite annoying as I need to do another playthrough for it to get to level 90 and fuse one persona and then the platinum is mine!

Watch 30 anime

March end total: 1

I finally finished an anime, miracles do happen! I watched Blue Period, which I really loved a lot!

Watch 30 films

March end total: 9

I watched two feature length documentaries in March; Three Identical Strangers and Tell Me Who I Am, both of which were absolutely crazy stories, I can’t believe what the people involved had to go through. Both were so interesting though, I’d definitely recommend! I also watched Turning Red, which I really liked a lot.

Watch 30 anime films

March end total: 2

I watched Jujutsu Kaisen 0 which was incredible. I really think it’s the superior anime at the moment, over Demon Slayer anyway.

Read 18 books

March end total: 8

I read quite a lot in March. I got my first Kindle, and a free three month trial of Kindle Unlimited, so I’ve been trying to make the most of that. Chelsie of The Runaway Chelsie Blog and I also had a day where we tried to read as much as we could in 24 hours (spoiler – we did not make the full 24 hours). In March I read The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson, the first and second Zodiac Academy books by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti, They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera (which I’m still not over), and finally Hector and the Search For Happiness by Francois Lelord (which I honestly could not recommend to anyone). I’m doing pretty well on the reading front!

Clear physical Switch and Vita backlogs

NO!

2022 challenges, Challenges

2022 Challenges: February Recap

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I know I said this in January, but February went so quickly. I can’t believe it’s almost a quarter of the way through the year? That’s mad! Anyway, here’s probably the worst Culture Shack Challenges update since they began…

Platinum 15 games

February end total: 1

I didn’t manage to add any games to my total in February. I definitely could have if I wanted to buy some cheap, easy games, but I’m a reformed woman. That life is behind me. Challenging and/or entertaining platinums only here!

Get the platinum in Persona 4 Golden

I did not manage to get the platinum for Persona 4 Golden, but I can feel in my bones that it is imminent.

Watch 30 anime

February end total: 0

Anime watching is real slow-going you know? I am watching some shows but I didn’t finish any in February, yet again!

Watch 30 films

February end total: 6

I added The Tinder Swindler (my mind is still blown tbh) and The Duke to my films list for February! Both pretty enjoyable in their own way!

Watch 30 anime films

February end total: 1

Okay, starting to feel like I’m slacking, you know? I didn’t add anything here either.

Read 18 books

February end total: 3

I added The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson to my completed reads list. It’s the second instalment of the Truly Devious series, and I quite enjoyed it.

Clear physical Switch and Vita backlogs

What I have done in way of progress for this was to buy another physical Switch game, so things are going terribly.

2022 challenges, Challenges

2022 Challenges: January Recap

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January went so quick, it’s mad! I actually had a really positive start to the year for the challenges, so this recap is actually going to have some things to add to it. Let’s go!

Platinum 15 games

January end total: 1

In January I managed to get the platinum for Doraemon: Story of Seasons. True to my word when I set the challenge, it definitely wasn’t a 10 minute job and did pose some sort of challenge, so that objective was cleared! It had also been sitting in my backlog for some time so I also managed to clear a game from my backlog which I’m super happy about.

Get the platinum in Persona 4 Golden

I have not yet got the platinum for Persona 4 Golden, but I am working on it!

Watch 30 anime

January end total: 0

Okay so when I said January was going well, but uhhh… not for anime it turns out.

Watch 30 film

January end total: 4

In January I watched The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorised Bash Brothers Experience, Encanto, Afterlife of the Party, and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. A strong start on the films front! At this rate I feel like I can get this one done early in the year and free myself up for the rest of the year, which would be really good.

Watch 30 anime films

January end total: 1

I watched The Garden of Words in January, so a slow start on this front. I need to get into the habit of watching a film a week, or to pull ahead on this one because it’s one of the challenges I’ve found in the past that it’s easy to fall back on.

Read 18 books

January end total: 2

Ahead of target on this one, I have to read one and a half books a month to hit this by the end of the year and I’m actually at 2 and a half so far, so that’s a relief. In January I read The House In the Cerulean Sea and A Medal For Leroy. 

Clear physical Switch and Vita backlogs

I haven’t started on either of the handheld backlogs yet, but now my joycons are fixed, there’s no holding me back! I want to get Persona 4 done, and then I feel like I’ll be well on the way with this.

 

Games, Platinum Review

Platinum Review: Angels of Death

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Available on: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Android
Played on: PS5 (PS4 version)

Angels of Death is a horror game originally created on RPG Maker and released back in 2015 as freeware and later in 2016 on Steam.

As far as my own experience with Angels of Death goes, I watched and loved the 2018 anime adaptation and that was my entry point into it as a property. I knew vaguely at the time that it was a game adaptation but as a horror game it didn’t strike me as a very “me” game as I’m notoriously a huge wuss – I had to get my housemate to sit next to me for moral support whilst I played Until Dawn. 

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Watching Angels of Death really piqued my interest and spurred me into playing the game. I knew I loved the characters, and knowing the plot really helped ease any anxieties going into playing, as no matter how disturbing it got I knew what was coming.

Angels of Death focuses on the protagonist Rachel Gardner, who wakes up one day in a hospital where she is receiving counselling after having witnessed a murder. She soon realises that she’s not in a proper hospital, and tries to escape. Leaving the floor of the building she finds herself in, she ends up on another floor and soon finds herself being chased by a scythe-wielding maniac named Isaac ‘Zack’ Foster. After a series of events, Rachel learns that the building she is in is the site of a murder game, where each floor is inhabited by a murderer who determines the theme of each floor. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Rachel and Zack cut a deal with each other, teaming up to escape, and the game is spent traversing the floors of the building seeking escape and avoiding the perils put on each floor by it’s inhabitant.

Littered through each floor there are puzzles which require solving. These can be a little frustrating as you have to do them exactly as the game wants you to, so does tend to require a bit of trial and error even if you’ve figured out the answer to each puzzle.

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There are a few sequences throughout Angels of Death where you find yourself having to run from peril, which really opens you up to the weakest area of the game – it controls very poorly. It’s hard to do anything with any kind of precision, so trying to turn corners when in a chase feels like a matter of luck at some points. It can be frustrating but there’s a liberal amount of auto-save sprinkled through the game so restarting sequences isn’t too much of a chore if you find yourself having to retry.

Visually Angels of Death is nothing special, but it has a certain charm. Having been originally created in RPG Maker, it’s fairly simplistic and rudimentary – something that can be said not only for the visuals, but the gameplay and (lack of) voice acting. The main dialogue throughout Angels of Death is completely text based, with the odd peppering of sound effects, like maniacal laughter, throughout.

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Angels of Death offers interesting characters and an intense storyline to it’s players, however some of the characters do feel a little underdeveloped, and the game doesn’t really offer much insight into the reasons behind the characters actions past Zack and Rachel. It’s here where the anime comes into a world of its own and offers more lore and depth to all characters. The anime and the game work really well in tandem with each other and provide a more full experience for the consumer. Of course, it’s not vital to have both and they can be enjoyed independently of each other. The whole experience feels really special, and the plot of the game is a really well realised and put together journey.

8 stars

 

 

Moving onto the platinum trophy, it’s a fairly straightforward get. The trophies throughout are linked to certain things you have to do in each chapter – a lot being to fail at certain puzzle aspects or to get caught. The guide I used from PSN Profiles is good as it tells you when to save to avoid having to replay long sections, but you will have to read the trophy description to get this information.

My PS5 tells me I played for 9 hours, so a fairly quick platinum to get. I feel the simplicity of the trophies, coupled with the guide make this a really fun and easy platinum to get. The game itself being enjoyable makes any slog for the platinum feel minimal and definitely opens the player up to enjoying the enhanced lore in the anime.

Platinum difficulty rating:

2_stars

 

 

Film Reviews, Films

Review: Encanto

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The Madrigal family have been blessed with supernatural gifts for a few generations. Each family member goes through a coming of age ceremony where they’re granted their gift by the omniscient power which seems to reside in a candle and also grants their house magical powers. The family member’s powers range from heightened hearing, super strength, healing, and…. nothing. Our protagonist Mirabel is the unlucky one, the one member of the Madrigal family since the gifts started being granted to not receive a gift.

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Mirabel is a sweetheart, unfazed for the most part about her lack of a gift. In fact, the opening number of Encanto is Mirabel literally singing the praises of her family members and how incredible they and their gifts are. Whilst Mirabel doesn’t treat any of her family members any differently, the same cannot be said the other way and Mirabel is somewhat ostracised from the family as a result.

After her cousin Antonio’s birthday where he is granted his gift, Mirabel realises the house is losing it’s magic and the family members are losing their gifts. Along with her estranged uncle Bruno, Mirabel decides she’s going to fix things and get the magic back.

Mirabel’s grandmother (who I’ll call Abuela, as they do in the film) is easily the worst of all the Madrigal family. I get that she’s the matriarch and the plot of Encanto mostly stems from her being awful, but I just felt like there was nothing redeeming about her at all. She’s controlling, bossy and far too concerned with appearances. You don’t really see anything of her to make you warm to her or think that she might be a good person early on in the film, and so it’s hard to really care about her character. The focus is very much on Abuela’s negative personality traits, which is to the detriment of the plot.

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Encanto is really visually spectacular. It’s wonderfully colourful and seems very authentic to it’s Columbian setting (from an outside perspective anyway). I believe the majority of the cast are Latinx also (please correct me if I’m wrong!), which helps the film feel very authentic. I loved how all of the members of the Madrigal family had a family resemblance but their character designs were so unique to them, and the characters themselves are really fun and it’s really cool to see them using their gifts.

Whilst Encanto is really visually appealing, that’s pretty much where the positives end for me.

The pacing of the film was just terrible, frankly. Far too much time was focussed on setting up the Madrigal home, explaining the history of the family and the gifts of each family member, that by the time the movie got into the crux of the plot there was barely any time to resolve matters so the ending feels incredibly rushed. The plot had a lot of potential but then just flatlined leaving the ending feeling anticlimactic and like things were resolved too easily given the lead up.

I also felt that for all her shortcomings, Abuela’s redemption was really disappointing. She got a second chance she perhaps didn’t deserve, and this feeling is largely in part due to her not really having much positive characterisation. By the time Encanto wraps up, she was very much still a villain in my mind and didn’t do much to endear me to her.

The songs are also largely forgettable, in my opinion. After I finished Encanto, I have thought approximately 0 times about any of the songs. I’m not sure I would even recognise one if I heard it. I know one is called ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ but when I think about it, I just get the tune of ‘Where You Are’ from Moana (understandably that’s more of a me problem than any actual similarities between the songs). Judging from the reaction of the internet, I’m definitely in a minority here, but for me this was one of Disney’s weakest soundtracks in a long time.

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I did like Encanto, there is a lot to like about it but it did leave me feeling quite underwhelmed and frankly, given the hype I have seen about it on social media, a bit confused! What am I missing? Encanto is one of Disney’s weaker films and not one I’d rush to rewatch any time soon.

6 stars

 

2022 challenges, Challenges

2022 Challenges: The Beginning

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Happy New Year to all my followers and readers! I hope 2021 wasn’t a total garbage fest for you all, it was okay for me but I feel glad to see the back of it! Here’s to a much better 2022!

Thinking about 2022, I want things to change. I felt like in 2021 I had my priorities totally wrong with the challenges and my focus was on things that were totally not what I wanted to really be doing. I got the platinum in a lot of games in 2021, sure, but did I play any good games? Not especially! I’ve found over the years I’ve done a few things like that, and I feel like I’d like to reprioritise things so I feel more fulfilled at the end of the year!

So, here are some slightly more targeted ~achievable~ challenges for 2022!

Platinum 15 games

I know I said in my intro that I was going to reprioritise, but I felt like it wouldn’t be Culture Shack without some focus on platinum trophies. I am going to come up with some criteria to the games I’m going to platinum so that I only get ones that actually pose a challenge and aren’t little 10 minute jobs I’ve bought just to ping the trophy. There might even be a shortlist of games I want to try to get the platinum in, who knows? This challenges leads on nicely to my next one, the first sub-challenge in Culture Shack history!

Get the platinum in Persona 4 Golden

I’ve been threatening it for years, but this year I’m finally going to do it. I’m going to get the platinum in Persona 4 Golden. I really tried in 2021, but I got caught up in other things. I first started playing the game in March 2014, so this is seven years in the making! Out of all of my challenges this is the one I’m most determined to do!

Watch 30 anime

For a self-confessed anime obsessive, I sure haven’t watched much anime lately. I really want to change this. This also comes with a sub-challenge of sorts – I want to watch one show per season. I went a bit crazy with seasonal shows the last couple of years and it was really overwhelming to keep up with, but at the same time it’s cool to be part of the hype. By paring it back to one show per season I think this will allow me to manage things a lot easier and still be part of the ‘conversation’.

Watch 30 films

I got so close to this target in 2021, and I think my mistake was only picking up steam in the latter half of the year so it felt like more of a chore. I can definitely do this!

Watch 30 anime films

Do you know how many unwatched anime blu-rays I have? A lot. Not in 2022. In 2022 I’m going to watch them… maybe not all, but most!

Read 18 books

I nailed the books challenge in 2021, and I really loved doing it. I was always an avid reader as a kid and the literature part of my degree really smashed that out of me. Now I’ve got back in my stride I reckon I can read 18 in 2022, that’s only a book and a half a month!

Clear physical Switch and Vita backlogs

My backlog has gotten out of hand, and I need to resolve that. I’m starting with my handhelds, and purely on the physical games I have so that I have some sort of structure. There’s 6 and 7 games per console so hopefully this won’t be too much of a task.

If you’re interested the games are as follows:

  • Our World Is Ended (Switch)
  • The World Ends With You (Switch)
  • Valthirian Arc (Switch)
  • Cafe Enchante (Switch)
  • Langrisser 1 and 2 (Switch)
  • Octopath Traveller (Switch)
  • Hakuoki Edo Blossoms (Vita)
  • Exist Archive (Vita)
  • 7’scarlet (Vita)
  • Tales of Hearts R (Vita)
  • Steins;Gate (Vita)
  • Pyschadelica of the Black Butterfly (Vita)

 

What do you think of my challenges for 2022? Have I bitten off more than I can chew yet again? If you have any suggestions for last minute considerations, let me know! As well as these challenges, I also have a lot of plans for the blog so I can hopefully be more active, and a lot of life goals I’m determined to achieve! Let’s make 2022 our year!

2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: October Recap

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Wow, long time no recap! I said in my last update I’d get better at doing these on time and have done the complete opposite, whoops. I’m very aware I haven’t been posting so much, and I really want to rectify that, but life is hella busy sometimes you know?

Anyway, on with the challenges update! I’ll spare you a long list of everything I’ve added (or not) up until now and just do a totals kind of post, it’s nearly December so I’ll do a more detailed post at the end of the year!

Watch 45 anime

October end total: 17

Things aren’t looking so good for this one, you know. I’m having a problem where I can never seem to sit down and concentrate on anime (or games, it’s very annoying). I think I’ll be able to get up to the halfway point by the end of the year, but it’s looking unlikely this will get done.

Read 50 complete manga

October end total: 2

We might as well call this one now, because things just aren’t happening here. Time of death: 1.00pm on 4th November 2021.

Watch 30 films

October end total: 14

Almost halfway! I’m stupidly optimistic about this one, you know. I probably shouldn’t be, but I think I can do it or at least be a good way through!

Watch 30 anime films

October end total: 6

Hmmm…. I reckon a halfway target of 15 movies by the end of the year is probably more likely than the full 30, but we’ll see how it goes!

Get 35 platinum trophies

October end total: 18

I was doing so well on this challenge in the first part of the year, but as I mentioned earlier, I have really been struggling of late to sit down and play games. I think I can probably add a few more onto this total, but I’m not sure how stupidly optimistic that is.

Clear 30 games from my backlog

October end total: 1

Oh man. The backlog just keeps growing. Sure, I can sit down and watch 10 seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race in 2 weeks, but can I concentrate on a game for an hour? Can I heck. I’m also calling the end of this challenge, it’s never going to happen!

Play 12 Switch games

October end total: 2

So I did play Ys XI: Monstrum Nox for review (see my previous post) but I’ve not played anything I actually already owned, which is pretty shameful. I’ll be trying to fix this!

Read 12 books

October end total: 11

A challenge I’m going to actually achieve?! What a miracle! I’m actually reading my 12th book now, I’m about halfway through, so this is definitely going to get done! Hooray!