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Movie Review: Shazam

We all have a superhero inside us, it just takes a bit of magic to bring it out. In Billy Batson’s case, by shouting out one word – SHAZAM. – this streetwise fourteen-year-old foster kid can turn into the grown-up superhero Shazam.

 

 

After almost 20 years in the making, Shazam probably felt like the film that was never going to happen; Since the early 2000s, the project has struggled to come to fruition, but this Spring it became the seventh instalment in the DC Extended Universe with director David F. Sandberg at the helm. According to IMDB, Shazam has grossed over $300 million worldwide so far, a respectable sum in just three weeks.

 

We begin in 1974 in New York, where a young Thaddeus Sivana is in a car with his father and brother. During an argument, Sivana is transported to a temple known as the Rock of Eternity, where he meets Shazam, an ancient wizard looking for a champion to replace him as the last living member of the Council of Seven Wizards. In the search for someone pure of heart, Sivana proves to be tempted by the Eye of Sin displayed in the temple, which has previously proven to be dangerous. As a result, Shazam rejects him back to his own life. In the shock and mania of his experience, the family car is involved in a car crash, leaving his father with life-changing injuries and his brother blaming Young Sivana for the incident.

 

 

In present-day Philadelphia, foster kid Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is struggling to settle in his new foster home. He’s trying to find his biological mother who he was separated from at a funfair as a child, so is reluctant to accept his new family’s hospitality. Whilst running from the bullies who attacked his foster brother, Freddie (Jack Dylan Grazer), Billy ends up on a subway train that takes him to Shazam. In desperation for an heir, he chooses Billy to take his power and his name, transforming the fourteen-year-old into a fully grown man who looks suspiciously like Zachary Levi. With his new persona, Billy and Freddie bond over their love of superheroes to train and experiment with the powers that come with his new name of Shazam.

 

Meanwhile, a now Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong) returns to the Rock of Eternity after a lifetime of research to steal the Eye of Sin, using it to seek revenge on his family and take on Shazam to obtain his power just as any respectable villain would.

 

 

For me, the humour in this genre is not unusual anymore, though it is certainly refreshing for DC as it’s presented in a way that feels natural not only for the characters but also the actors. Levi and Grazer have a great on-screen rapport and have proven in previous roles to both be excellent comedy actors. I hope in particular that fans of action-comedy series Chuck are not disappointed as Levi’s Shazam shares similarity with Chuck’s frantic, yet charming, personality as a tech wiz turned CIA agent.

 

On paper, Shazam doesn’t sound like it could translate to the big screen as well as the rest of it’s DC counterparts, but it’s proven me wrong. It doesn’t offer the serious, dark plots or the edgy characters we’ve come to love from DC, but if anything I think that has worked to Shazam’s advantage.  It’s taken what we loved about Deadpool (especially Deadpool 2) and marketed for a wider audience so that those who find superhero films either too intense or overly complicated will hopefully feel less alienated. It’s not going to suit everyone, but hey, neither did Ben Affleck as Batman.

 

 

The action scenes are strong, which according to Editor Michael Aller, were difficult sequences to work on. The plot twists are not exactly groundbreaking, but no less satisfying to watch.

 

 

I really enjoyed the film and it gets a 9/10 from me.


April 27th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

Multiplatform Game Review: Vaporum by Fatbot Games

Vaporum is a grid-based dungeon crawler RPG in an original steampunk setting, inspired by old-school classics of the genre. Stranded in the middle of an ocean, in front of a gigantic tower, the hero has to find out what the place is, what happened there, and most importantly, who he is.

 

 

Vaporum is developed by Fatbot Games and originally released on PC in 2017. Key Features of the game include: First person real-time combat, Puzzles and level-wide objectives, Gadget-based RPG system, Lots of exploration, loot, plenty of character customization, a mysterious storyline filled with secrets, fully voiced main characters, and an Immersive steampunk setting.

 

Combat in Vaporum takes place in real time. Each enemy type has a distinctive set of strengths and weaknesses, and various kinds of attacks and defense mechanisms, so you have to employ different tactics to beat each one. A Lot of time is spent fighting progressively more difficult enemies on a grid based movement system which limits you to simple left, right, forward, and backwards movement and 90 degree turns. This leads to you being able to hit an enemy, step backwards and force a melee-only enemy to step forwards so you can hit it again and move before it can hit you, effectively killing it. This is simple versus a single enemy, but much more daunting versus multiple enemies and mastery of the tile based grid movement system is a must as jarring as it is. Combat is quick and lethal with little opportunity for healing. If you get backed into a corner, it easily becomes a situation of standing there taking turns hitting each other until one of you are dead. The gadget based system is more accurately a steampunk version of spells and is very fun and satisfying to use to defeat enemies.

 

 

The movement system is jarring at times and clunky. It did give me motion sickness due to the way the character moves. The character’s head bobs down and then looks back up after each move, and turning is a sudden start then stop that can disorient you. It must be stated this is one of only two titles to ever give me motion sickness, and even with developer help I was not able to prevent it; only limit it by turning off the options for headbob, screen shake effects, and idle camera animation. The head bob while moving was still there as was the up-down motion of the character breathing, but this did help to somewhat mitigate the motion sickness.

 

 

Most mechanics in Vaporum are very simple. However, combining these mechanics creates intriguing puzzles and level-wide objectives where you have to use both your wits and reflexes. While most puzzles and riddles are contained in a single room, progression objectives can span an entire level or even multiple levels. The puzzles themselves can consist of finding the button, moving crates in set patterns and triggering pressure plates in a specific order, with later levels adding lethal traps and teleporters. While solving the puzzles feels rewarding, it is a double edged sword as completing the puzzles are required for progression, but it is very frustrating when you get stuck on one, and they quickly become monotonous and boring at that point.

 

 

The games graphics and Audio are top-notch and perfect for a steampunk title and really help to immerse you into the game world. The voice acting is pretty good for the most part with only a couple lines of dialogue that felt off. The story is good even though it is set up with the stereotypical woke up with amnesia trope. The controls on the other hand make it clear this was a title ported over from the pc, and while clumsy and clunky and frustratingly annoying at first, once you learn and memorize them they no longer present as much of an issue.

 

Check out the video version of this review here –

 

Or check out Lone’s stream of the XBox One version –

 

For more info on the game, head over to the Vaporum website.

 

I give the game a solid 5 out of 10, it stands good on its own merits, but as a port it feels lacking in the quality of life department.

~Darsch

 

[Here Darsch reviews the PlayStation 4 Port of Vaporum, released early April 2019, also on XBox One and Nintendo Switch. ~Lone]


April 25th, 2019 by Darsch
Posted in Game Review, Gaming, General, Multiplatform, Nintendo, PC, Playstation, Xbox | No Comments »

PC Early Access First Look: Satisfactory from Coffee Stain Studios

Satisfactory is a first-person open-world factory building game with a dash of exploration and combat. Pioneering for FICSIT Incorporated means charting and exploiting an alien planet, battling alien lifeforms, creating multi-story factories, entering conveyor belt heaven, automating vehicles, and researching new technologies.

 

 

Satisfactory is satisfying and out now in Early Access from Coffee Stain studios, the same studio responsible for “Sanctum” and “Goat Simulator”.

 

Satisfactory is a survival game about exploring an alien planet, taking its resources and building massive factories. It is one part survival and exploration game and one part factory sim. The game is satisfying to say the least.

 

 

I decided to choose the first starting area offered of the three biomes, a grass land with plenty of flat land to build on and a decent amount of resources but long distances of travel.

 

The other two biomes were a lush forest with plenty of biomass (used to make power and fuel) but few building opportunities and a rocky desert with a mix of the two but little biomass.

 

 

The game launched into early access with –
• 6 tiers full of milestones that unlocks machines, resources, equipment and vehicles
• 3 different starting areas/biomes on a large handcrafted world (30km2)
• Vehicles with automation capabilities
• Equipment and weapons
• Alien creatures
• Multiplayer

 

With the following coming as the game reaches full release:
• The rest of the FICSIT milestones and tiers
• More machines, resources, vehicles, equipment and weapons
• Improvements on core gameplay, systems, UI/UX, Quality of Life
• Iterate on world, exploration, landmarks, rewards and creatures
• Full narrative
• More optimization
• Dedicated server support
• Mod support

 

 

My first game session started out as many survival games, stranded alone somewhere with nothing and you have to gather resources and craft what you need as you go.

 

After about 30 to 45 minutes I had the start of an automated factory going. After two hours though, I had miners set up gathering an endless supply of copper and iron ore, feeding it onto conveyor belts and into my smelters & to be turned into ingots, then further down the assembly line they would be turned into other building resources I needed to further automate things.

 

 

The game has a simple gameplay loop that is easy for me to lose my self in and it can be relaxing while trying to solve logistic problems such as how to get resources from point A, at the top of a mountain, to point B far below and away the most efficient way possible. This is the core of the game.

 

It takes time to get really built up, two days in and I am still working on getting my factory running and unlocking milestones, this games progression system. Milestone can be thought of as levels with in each tier that give you blueprints and upgrades. it is very simple and helps to give the player guidance towards what to while building the factory.

 

 

If I had to rate the game in its current early access state I would give it a 5 out of 10, but, as it’s an early access title and many features, such as the narrative & several tiers of upgrades and buildings, are simply are not in yet and early access is expected to last at least a year.

 

Check out my first look preview video below for a better idea –

 

Satisfactory is one to watch for gamers interested in this style of game or newcomers looking for something different but fun.

 

Want to play youtself and support the developer in Early Access, or just wishlist for later, head over to the Epic Game Store page or the games website


April 5th, 2019 by Darsch
Posted in Gaming, General, PC, Real Time Strategy | No Comments »

EGX Rezzed 2019 Developer Session list, 4th – 6th April

The Developer Sessions bring you face-to-face with world renowned game creators as they present their latest projects, take part in panel discussions and answer your questions. Most sessions will be live streamed on the EGX Twitch channel and will be available to watch later on the EGX YouTube channel.

 

Thursday 04th April

 

12pm: Total War: THREE KINGDOMS

Speaker: Michael Whelan (Author, Creative Assembly)

There you are – a legendary warrior and proven leader, destined to unify Ancient China. Nothing can stand in your way! That is, until your sworn brother defects to your nemesis, frustrated that you’ve named your step-son the next in line to lead. Meanwhile, that very step-son assassinates your Prime Minister, inciting a civil war and escaping with his mother back to the unknown foe who sent them to your ranks as spies years prior. This is Total War: THREE KINGDOMS, Creative Assembly’s upcoming strategy title. Learn more about the new and reimagined systems that make this one of the most complex, and personal, conflicts the studio has ever released.

 

1pm: Rock, Paper, Shotgun presents: Creating the comic book world of Void Bastards

Speakers: Ben Lee (Creative director, Blue Manchu), Cara Ellison (Narrative designer, Blue Manchu) & Katharine Castle (Hardware editor, RPS)

Void Bastards is a first-person “strategy shooter” about boarding, robbing and escaping from procedurally generated spaceships, inspired by System Shock and created by some of the developers of BioShock. In this talk, art director Ben Lee and writer Cara Ellison sit down with Rock Paper Shotgun to discuss how they’re making the game’s comic book universe, both artistically and narratively.

 

2pm: Character building from the Wild West to the Modern Dark Ages

Speakers: Konrad Czernik (Senior concept artist, Techland)

Take a peek at the character design process for Call of Juarez and Dying Light 2, with Techland’s Konrad Czernik. From American antiheroes to hideous mutations, see how Techland finds character in unlikely places.

 

4pm: Anno 1800

Speaker: Bastian Thun (Anno community developer, Blue Byte)

Anno 1800 is the latest addition to the acclaimed Anno franchise and delivers a rich city-building experiences, including a story-based campaign, a highly customisable sandbox mode, and the classic Anno multiplayer experience. This new and exciting PC title is set during the industrial revolution, and combines innovative gameplay with beloved features drawn from 20 years of Anno history.

 

5pm: Eurogamer’s 20th anniversary: The best games of the last 20 years

This year Eurogamer celebrates 20 years of bad puns and video game coverage! Come and join editor Oli Welsh and and a panel of guests as they state their cases for their favourite games of Eurogamer’s lifetime – and help us decide which is the best of them all.

 

 

Friday 05th April

 

11am: Digital Foundry: How an engineering company attempted a gaming world record

Tech start-up Hadean partnered with CCP Games to deliver a 10,000-player deathmatch experience at GDC, breaking the world record for the most players involved in a single online battle. But how did they do it? Digital Foundry lifts the lid on the project, with a live Q&A panel giving EGX Rezzed audiences the first ever in-depth look at the record-breaking tech.

 

12pm: Dreams

Media Molecule’s Dreams gives players the opportunity to express their imaginations through games, music, animation and more. Head to the team’s developer session and discover the incredible creative possibilities of their upcoming title.

 

1pm: Rock, Paper, Shotgun presents: From Ignis to indie – Designing Final Fantasy XV & beyond

Speakers: Wan Hazmer (Co-founder, Metronomik), Daim Dziauddin (Co-founder & creative director, Metronomik) & Katharine Castle (Hardware editor, RPS)

Metronomik co-founders Wan Hazmer and Daim Dziauddin are interviewed live onstage by Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s hardware editor, Katharine Castle. The pair discuss their experience of working on big budget games, Final Fantasy XV and Street Fighter V respectively, and how it’s informed the development of Metronomik’s debut title, No Straight Roads.

 

2pm: Developing Road to Guangdong – A new road trip game

Speakers: Alex Darby (Game design & programming ) & Yen Ooi (Writing & story design)

Join veteran game developer Alex Darby and insightful storyteller Yen Ooi as they explore the creative processes behind Road to Guangdong’s development. Learn about the game’s driving and management gameplay, and discover more about Sunny and Guu Ma’s emotionally rich road trip across China.

 

3pm: Character death: More than just a plot device

Speakers: Armand Constantine (Narrative design manager, ArenaNet), Clayton Kisko (Game designer, ArenaNet) & Linsey Murdock (Game designer, ArenaNet)

Creating compelling non-player characters in video games is tricky enough – but killing them can be even harder. Giving characters a meaningful enough relationship to the player that their death has impact, without making people feel like the death was used as a cheap way to escalate drama, is a tricky line to walk. Join members of ArenaNet’s narrative and design teams to talk about lessons learned and strategies used in Guild Wars 2.

 

 

Saturday 06th April

 

12pm: Developing Daniel: How a new type of choice & consequence system affects your experience in Life is Strange 2

Speakers: Jean-Luc Cano (Lead Writer & Co-Creator) & Luc Baghadoust (Lead Producer)

Join Lead Writer and Co-Creator Jean-Luc Cano & Lead Producer Luc Baghadoust as they delve into the story so far, and how the intricate new choice & consequence system in Life is Strange 2 changes the way players have to think about their actions.

 

1pm: Nutshots & Nazis: The Sniper Elite story

Around 20 million players, and loved by fans across the world – but how did Sniper Elite get here? Rebellion devs look back at the series’ prodigious evolution in this retrospective panel, and look to what the future may hold for the sharpshooting series.

 

2pm: Sea of Thieves – The story continues

Join key Sea of Thieves representatives discussing the rich lore of the game and how that background detail is having an increasing impact on gameplay. Whilst the Expanded Universe grows through extrinsic media such as books and comics, the in-game world of Sea of Thieves continues to develop a life of its own.

 

3pm: Rock, Paper, Shotgun presents: The story of Hytale – Growing a game from a modding community

Speakers: Sean McCafferty (Content manager, Hypixel) & Chris Thursten (Publishing, Hypixel)

Sean McCafferty and Chris Thursten from Hypixel Studios explain how a modding community grew into a game development studio – and how Hypixel Studios’ first game, Hytale, came to be. See the game’s growth from early concepts to where it is now, and learn about the challenge of breaking new ground in the blockgame genre.

 


 

Please post below what sessions you want to cover, remember, you NEED to be able to use Facebook for this live coverage and if you can’t, then be able to write up summaries of other things going on.


March 28th, 2019 by Lonesamurai
Posted in Staff | No Comments »

Netflix TV Review: The Umbrella Academy: Season 1

A disbanded group of superheroes reunites after their adoptive father, who trained them to save the world, dies.

 

 

I will be the first to hold my hands up and say that seeing the trailer to The Umbrella Academy initially left me feeling a bit cold. The opening to the trailer left me expecting a terrible mix of Harry Potter and Slaughterhouse Rulez (the latter being one of the worst films I’ve ever seen). I was proven wrong by several people who personally recommended it to me, plus the improved second half of the trailer sold it for me. Based on the comics books of the same name by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the adaptation was originally planned as a film in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2017 when the project was approved for a television series by Netflix.

 

 

We begin in 1989, when on the 1st October, 43 women from all over the world gave birth, but none of them experienced a pregnancy prior to this day. At the news of this phenomenon, Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore), an eccentric billionaire, made it his mission to adopt as many of the babies as he could. In the end, he formed a family of seven children who he raised as an elite group of superheroes. We’re introduced to the siblings in the present day as they discover that their father has died, which is where we quickly learn that his funeral is not only the reunion of the brothers and sisters, but the beginning of many questions for both the characters and the viewer about who he really was and how he died.

 

 

The timeline goes back and forth as we understand the dysfunctional family within The Umbrella Academy from youth to present day, teasing at the individual tales of the people only known to their father by numbers rather than names. One (Luther (Tom Hopper)) has super strength, Two (Diego (David Castañeda)) can control the trajectory of thrown objects, Three (Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman)) can turn lies into reality, Four (Klaus (Robert Sheehan)) can talk to the dead and Five (known as Five or The Boy (Aidan Gallagher)) can time travel. Five’s power is significant to the story and he has foreseen that the end of the world is days away. Six (Ben (Justin H. Min)) is deceased and we know very little about him other than Klaus can still communicate with him beyond the grave. Finally, Seven (Vanya (Ellen Page)) appears to have no power. Her father’s continuous reminders of this and encouraged isolation from her siblings leaves her as a shadow compared to them. Little does she know, that she has more to give than anyone… and more to take way for that matter.

 

 

The casting is strong, featuring familiar faces such as Ellen Page and Tom Hopper to name a few. Other than occasional rusty combat scene, no one disappoints.  Even Mary J. Blige as Cha-cha, an assassin sent to find Number Five is a nice surprise as she proves to be a capable actress in yet another genre.

 

 

At ten episodes, it’s certainly not a big commitment, but in all honesty, I believe the story could have been told in eight or nine if it shortened some of the many flashbacks, such as the tragic life and times of Leonard Peabody and why he’s so invested in Vanya. Having said that, if these things are rushed, maybe we would be left with too many unnecessary questions. The finale was a tad far-fetched (but when was the apocalypse ever anything other than far-fetched?) and I didn’t feel quite as invested in it as I hoped, but it’s still worth watching for the explosive CGI and that punchy soundtrack to pull it all together like any superhero production should. Without completely ruining it for you, season two is certainly an option if Number Five’s got anything to do with it. It would also help if Netflix gives a second season the unconfirmed (but likely) green light.

 

 

Sometimes the superhero genre can be isolating, bringing a world to the screen just for the people that appreciate their comic book origins. It’s totally understandable; the fanbase are some of the most loyal, enthusiastic followers you can find, so they should be valued and shown gratitude with strong storytelling and attention to detail. The Umbrella Academy however is a welcomed exception for people like me, who with minimal experience of comic books, felt included and informed throughout the series. The plot was understandable despite the several branches to it and the general strangeness of the situation they’re in, so if you’re looking for a refreshing take on superheroes that offers a more inclusive approach, The Umbrella Academy might just work for you. It’s not perfect, but the show is about flaws and how despite them, we can overcome, so it’s good enough for me.

 

 

Check out the trailer, see what you think –

 

Umbrella Academy Is a New Class of Superhero Story and a solid 8 out of 10

~Gemma


March 14th, 2019 by Gemma
Posted in General, Movie Review | No Comments »

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