Game Reviews, Games

Review: Fairy Tail

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Fairy Tail follows the plot of the anime, set from around the end of the Tenrou Island arc to approximately the end of the Avatar arc. For the uninitiated, that spans around 160 episodes from about 122 onwards. You’re therefore much better off going into Fairy Tail with some knowledge of the property already, but there is an in-game encyclopaedia with plot reminders and a glossary of terms which will help familiarise the unversed. Though Fairy Tail does retread old ground, and for the most part does it very well, some points are skipped over for brevity and emotional depth is often lost as a result.

Read my full review at Push Square.

Game Reviews, Games

Review: Distraint Deluxe Edition

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Available on: PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Android, Microsoft Windows, iOS
Played on: PS4

In Distraint you play as Price, a man who has the job of foreclosing on properties with overdue debts, and evicting tenants. Price’s dream is to become partner of the firm he works for, but as the events of Distraint show, that comes at a price (heh). Our protagonist is visited by the ghosts of his parents who beg him to change his ways before it is too late, and throughout the game Price is subjected to hauntings and various disturbing imagery to persuade him to change.

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Distraint is a 2D horror adventure game, where you progress by solving puzzles. Though relatively short at around the hour mark, Distraint tells a compelling story, and you get to witness Price change from ruthless to someone who feels remorse for their actions, and appears to genuinely change. The puzzles throughout are interesting and engaging, and though some can be hard to figure out, it’s not in a way that ever seems frustrating or like the game is trying to trip you up on purpose. There can be a lot of back and forth, however, as you need to take one item from one area to another, or trigger something in one part of a room and dash to another in a time limit. Sometimes this element gets a bit monotonous, but the game isn’t long enough to dwell on this issue for too long.

Distraint‘s sound design is pivotal to the whole game. Where its simplistic 2D art style don’t necessarily create a horror vibe on their own, paired with the game’s soundtrack you’re given something that feels eerie and creepy throughout. The music was what really got my heart racing, as at certain moments you’ll hear the screeching of violins or a high pitched noise, and it really creates tension and puts you on edge throughout.

The whole set-up of Distraint is one that makes you feel uncomfortable, from the walls dripping with blood, to the residents of a care home who are living in less than ideal conditions. Distraint makes you feel at one with Price’s moral dilemma and makes you live his pain, even if for the short time you’re playing it.

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Distraint can be played as a commentary on capitalism; Price spends his days reclaiming properties from those his higher ups send him to, but it is only his employers who benefit from this. Price himself lives in a run down apartment every bit as dreary and dilapidated as the ones he is reclaiming, another cog in the system working only to benefit the bigwigs above him. It’s definitely a game to give you something to think about, and stays with you long after you’ve finished.

There didn’t seem to be enough to Distraint to get me fully on board. The puzzles are fun, and the development of the main character is interesting, but somehow it felt it lacked depth and perhaps would have benefitted from being a longer game to flex this. The price tag makes this almost a non-issue; I paid £1.99 for the game, and with that you can’t really go wrong.

7 stars

 

 

Game Reviews

Review: Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk

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Nippon Ichi’s latest release Labyrinth of Refrain: Coven of Dusk is a first-person dungeon crawler where you play Tractie – that is, the Tractatus de Monstrum – a mysterious book with a soul trapped inside, able to communicate by filling out its pages. Tractie is under the control of a witch named Baba Yaga, or Dronya as she goes by in the village of Refrain. The titular labyrinth is a no-go area for humans, so Dronya decides that Tractie is going to explore on her behalf, and throws it down the well that serves as the entrance to the labyrinth.

You’ll need to report back into Dronya after fulfilling a set requirement in order to progress the game. Early on this is a bit frustrating, as it means you have to abandon your position in the labyrinth to get back, but eventually you’ll learn a skill called Mud Exit which creates a one-use portal to teleport back to, making exploration much easier.

Read the rest of my review on Push Square.

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Game Reviews

Review: Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier

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Planet of the Apes: Last Frontier is set between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes – the two most recent movies in the franchise.

With the power of PlayLink, up to four players can decide the fate of humans and apes alike, as we take control of Jess, the head of a human settlement, and Bryn, an ape in a mountain tribe. If playing along with the PlayLink app isn’t cutting it for you, fortunately you can also use multiple DualShock 4 controllers. In fact, playing this way is preferable, as you’re not threatened by connection problems if your wi-fi isn’t behaving. Still, the option for PlayLink is there should you need it.

Read the rest of my review on Push Square.

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Netsuzou TRap

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Anime: Netsuzou TRap
Studio: Creators in Pack
Crunchyroll description: Yuma, a high school second-year, is enjoying every day now that she has her first boyfriend. After she asks for relationship advice from Hotaru, her beautiful long-time friend who has many boyfriends, Hotaru teases her for her inexperience and playfully does things to her that even her boyfriend doesn’t do. Yuma and Hotaru’s secret relationship continues to escalate, and Yuma finds herself unable to deny how it makes her feel. This school drama tells the story of the interwoven lies of these two girls with boyfriends.
Genres: Drama, Shoujo Ai
Original run: 05/07/2017 to 20/09/2017
Episodes: 12

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I’m not sure what I expected Netsuzou TRap (NTR) to be going into it, but I know it wasn’t what I got. The Crunchyroll description makes it sound like some sort of cute drama about two girls who realise they have feelings about each other. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I honestly hated almost all of it, and had it not been for the fact that each episode not been 8 minutes long and I was desperate to boost my numbers for my anime challenge, I would have given it up after giving it three episodes.

As mentioned in the Crunchyroll description, the premise is that two friends are dating two friends, and they fool around with each other and eventually realise they have feelings for each other, not their boyfriends. What the description doesn’t mention is that a lot of the ‘playful’ things Hotaru does to Yuma are completely unsolicited and in fact downright rejected, giving a really rapey vibe to the whole show.

Let’s start by examining the characters. You have Yuma, the main character, who is possibly one of the most idiotic and oblivious characters I’ve ever come across in anything. She could have everything spelled out for her and she still wouldn’t understand. It takes Yuma the full 12 episodes of NTR to realise she has feelings for Hotaru. Quite why she does is anyone’s guess, because Hotaru is a real piece of work. Hotaru constantly ignores Yuma’s protesting and forces herself onto her on more than one occasion, all the meanwhile telling Yuma it’s for her own good because she doesn’t want to lose her boyfriend, Takeda, due to her inexperience. Hotaru is manipulative to the extreme, and doesn’t care at all about Yuma; never asking her feelings or even listening to what she’s saying.

As if these two delights aren’t enough, the worst is yet to come. Hotaru’s boyfriend, Fujiwara, is the scum of the earth. I know that’s the point of him, to make Yuma look like the obvious choice for Hotaru, but honestly I kind of feel like him and Hotaru deserve each other. For every negative attribute Hotaru displays, Fujiwara just amplifies it. Throughout the whole show you think there can’t be much left for him to do

The only bright spot on this whole stain of a show is Yuma’s boyfriend, Takeda. He’s genuinely a nice person, which is apparently rare in this universe. He cares for people, and just doesn’t deserve what Yuma puts him through.

I feel like the point of NTR is to get you behind Yuma, but it’s just not possible. She is so thoroughly unlikeable, that there’s just no lure to invest in her as a character. She doesn’t care about others, why should we care about her? In discussion with my housemate about NTR, he said the only resolution to the plot that he would accept is if all the characters got hit by a truck, “except Takeda… he’s alright”, and I have to say I agree.

Conclusion:

A vapid excuse for a show that wants to push towards a happy ending for characters who don’t deserve one. It has it’s funny moments, but nothing that stands out on reflection. It should be an easy show to forget, but it’s so bad it regrettably lingers in memory.

 

Game Reviews

Review: Blue Reflection

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Blue Reflection is the latest offering from Gust, the developer who previously brought us the Atelier series. A brand new IP, Blue Reflection focuses on the story of Hinako, a former child ballet star who starts a new high school. She discovers that she’s a Reflector, the game’s version of a magical girl, along with her new friends, Yuzu and Lime. As the story unfolds we learn of a parallel world, The Common, where monsters feed off emotions. Hinako and her friends must use the power of friendship to defeat the evil Sephirot and save the world.

Read the rest of my review on Push Square.

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Game Reviews, Games

Review: MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death

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From Compile Heart, the developer of the reasonably popular Hyperdimension Neptunia series, comes a new game from a fresh intellectual property. MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is the story of a world that is suffering an eternal nighttime. Legend tells the story of a chosen Machina Mage who must turn the key to restart the world and restore order. The world of MeiQ is made up of five parts, and a mage has been selected from each part to partake in the quest. Enter the cast.

Read the rest of my review on Push Square.

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Game Reviews, Games

Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse

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The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is a PlayStation 4 game based in the same universe as The Huntsman film series. Billed as an “episodic role-playing game with card collecting elements”, the game follows the story of a girl, Elisabeth, who goes on a quest in an attempt to save her brothers from the corruption of the Ice Queen.

Read the rest of my review on Push Square.

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Game Reviews, Games

Review: The Wolf Among Us – The Crooked Mile

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Telltale Games has released the latest episode of The Wolf Among Us across Europe, subtitled The Crooked Mile. With the success of The Walking Dead, Telltale have high expectations to reach with The Wolf Among Us, but episodes 1 and 2 proved that they were up to the challenge.

Readers of Culture Shack will know how much I love this series, you can read my full review over at Filmoria.

Film Reviews, Films

Review: Last Vegas

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Billed as The Hangover for pensioners, my first cinema trip this year was to see Last Vegas. With a central cast of Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline, the “Flatbush Four” head to Vegas to celebrate the marriage of Billy (Michael Douglas) and his 31-year-old fiancée (of course), where they meet Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a lounge singer in a casino.

The bulk of the film feels very predictable, with the first 30 minutes introducing the characters and their respective problems. The tone of the film is light, and there doesn’t ever seem a doubt that each problem won’t be left resolved. Some jokes you can see coming a mile off, and in a world where the shock factor seems to be the highest indicator of laughs, a change of pace on that front is not necessarily a bad thing.

Once the foursome arrive in Vegas, the predictability continues with gambling, parties, scantily clad women, and rather creepily, the Flatbush Four judging a bikini contest of girls young enough to be their grandchildren.

One gripe I do have is that what should have been the films biggest laughs, were left a little stale for me as they were featured in the trailer, which by the time the screening rolled around, I had seen more times than I care to count. The average cinema-goer doesn’t go to the cinema quite as often as I do, and judging by the laughs the gags still got, I was perhaps the only person who felt these certain jokes had become over-worn.

With six Academy Awards between the four main actors and Mary Steenburgen, the film is expectedly well-acted. Robert De Niro in particular stands out, stealing most scenes he is in, providing the emotion throughout the film as well as plenty of laughs.

Leaving predictability and perversion aside, Last Vegas is still a pretty good comedy film, more than matching recent comedy films I’ve seen (Anchorman 2 not standing). Whereas some recent comedies have jokes which are few and far between, Last Vegas keeps the jokes coming, and all feel well-timed and at the right level.