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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 »

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 »

Multiplatform Game Review: Anthem

Anthem is a shared-world action RPG, where players can delve into a vast landscape teeming with amazing technology and forgotten treasures. This is a world where Freelancers are called upon to defeat savage beasts, ruthless marauders, and forces plotting to conquer humanity.

 

 

Anthem, the would be savior of bioware, the game that was going to compensate for letdown after letdown. The great equalizer, Is in reality, just another letdown from the once great Bioware.

 

Bioware is dead folks. It died when the founding doctors left it after Star Wars The Old Republic and Mass Effect 3 were released. To see proof of this look no further than the shitastic Anthem. I hate saying this because I had such high hopes for this game but it’s less of a game and more an example how not to make a looter shooter (hint, don’t use frostbite engine for one) and how to make a load screen simulator!

 

 

The very first thing that stands out about Anthem is how beautiful the game is. The second, is the insane amount of long load screens that should not exist in a game in 2019. Bioware code named Anthem: Dylan, after the singer in the hopes that Anthem would revolutionize the way we view games like Bob Dylan changed how we view music. They failed on this front like they have failed on so many aspects of Anthem. Need to change your loadout? LOAD SCREEN! Need to respawn? LOAD SCREEN! Spawn into a mission set to public? Get ready for three or four load screens back to back as the game teleports you to the rest of the group who are now half way through their mission. Oh, by the way, the missions take less time to complete than they do to load, and this is on a good pc with superfast broadband speeds and a fast storage device!

 

 

The game also suffers from invisible enemies and random frame rate drops on the best pc hardware you can get for gaming! (Did I mention I have an awesome pc?) The game is terribly optimized, using the frostbite engine which does not have the framework in place for basic looter shooter functionality, or real inventory. This is why we can not switch out equipped weapons in the field, contrary to that drivel Bioware fed us about it breaking game flow. They already broke that with abilities that have drastically different cool downs, which prevent you from doing combos more often, thus making the combo system feel clunky and broken, but man is it so nice to watch a swarm die to a combo!

 

 

On top of all of this the game’s main focus of loot is a broken mess with inscriptions (affixes to those familiar with Diablo) not working or not being relevant to the weapon or gear you have equipped. The loot grind is poorly executed at best with nothing really unique and only four different gun models in the game. Bioware has fortunately recognized this and are working towards fixes to make the loot system work better and are even removing common and uncommon items from the lvl 30 loot tables after listening to feedback given by diablo 3 veteran and main man behind itemization; Travis Day.

 

Remember that awesome E3 footage that showed the strider walking and then getting attacked and the freelancer receiving a legendary item? That was an entirely scripted and acted scenario that never once appears in the game. Walking striders and competing factions just sadly do not exist. It would have been a nice touch if such things could happen as showcased in that E3 video, but that’s how things work though in building hype for a game, we usually are never shown actual live gameplay but a scripted video instead.

 

 

The missions are a terrible repetition of two different types with little diversity. You have the defend the point against waves of enemies and collect items while killing enemies. That’s it, and while the actual gameplay can be fun it is confined to this weak and broken system that get rather boring quickly. Added to this list of terrible choices and things is the fact Anthem was meant to be a story driven experience but the great storytelling Bioware is known for just is not present! The story is generic at best with some cool events here and there, but with dialogue choices that ultimately lead nowhere and do not matter, and no memorable characters except for Owen. I will fight you on this, Owen is the best thing about Anthem!

 

 

That all being said, Anthem does have promise and potential if EA lets bioware have the chance to fix it. Pass this one up for now and check back in 4 to 6 months when they release new endgame content (or in a sale ~Lone) and have had a chance to update and fix what is broken, if they even can. Currently, endgame is just repeating the final story mission of the game over and over.

 

Right now, a dissapointing 1 out of 10 though.

~Darsch


March 9th, 2019 by Darsch
Posted in Gaming, General, Massive Multiplayer Online, Multiplatform, PC, Playstation, Xbox | No Comments »

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