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Movie Review: 1313: Giant Killer Bees!

1313-gkb

Released: 2011
Genre: Sci-Fi
IMDB Rating: 2.9 / 10

You know what, I’m not gonna rip this movie a new one right off the bat. I knew what I was getting myself into when I started watching it – I did review 1313: Cougar Cult back in the day, after all. Having seen Cougar Cult I knew that there wouldn’t be enough budget to pull off special effects (because all of the money goes into young men pulling off their clothes instead), but a little part of me wanted to see how they were going to (try and) pull off giant killer bees. Well, the long and short of it is they couldn’t, and they didn’t.

Me every second of this movie.

Me every second of this movie.

The Plot

Somewhere in the Caribbean there is a mystical research facility that is an abandoned hospital for exterior shots and someone’s house for interior shots. Here, in a high-tech breakfast nook/laboratory, research involving dipping bees into liquid is ongoing. But what research could you possibly be doing that involves dipping bees in liquid, I hear you ask? I can’t believe you couldn’t figure it out – they’re trying to make a more hardy bee that won’t die off simply because humans insist on killing the planet! These bees will be able to stand up to anything – pollutants, harsh weather, shirtless men everywhere, you name it.

Unfortunately Professor Generic wants results faster than the facility’s three-man team who never do any actual work can manage, so he sends in Too-Tight Wifebeater to spike the bee’s liquid with some other liquid. On the plus side this does make the bees more robust, but on the down side it also turns them into giant angry zombie werewolf vampire bees. These new and more deadly bees have a craving for man flesh, and upon stinging the more rugged and virile specimens these very same men become mindless drones so quickly that it blows all their clothes off.

The team must obviously do all it can to stop the bees from spreading from the island (?) and infecting other bees, and to do this they either lay around on beds in nothing but their underwear feeling themselves up, or in the shower feeling themselves up and never actually using soap and I fucking give up trying to make sense of what the hell was happening here.

The Walking "we weren't hot enough to get into actual porn" Dead

The Walking “we weren’t hot enough to get into actual porn” Dead

The Visuals

Visuals? What visuals?! Let’s keep this nice and simple:

  • If you want to watch an actual sci-fi thriller, don’t watch this. It’s not at all thrilling and there’s no actual sci-fi to it.
  • If you want to watch something that’s homoerotic, don’t watch this. It contains neither homos or anything erotic.
  • If you want to watch good-looking men running around in their underwear, don’t watch this. Rather just watch porn.
  • If you want to watch something with a strong environmental message, don’t watch this. For all the prattling on about saving the environment I’m fairly sure you could’ve drained the Hoover Dam for all the unnecessary showering that was going on.

Also don’t watch this because watching this is physically very difficult since it has a very strange colour balance and everything looks like the cameraman got bacon grease on the lens and couldn’t be bothered to wash it off.

Have to have the occasional bee to ground the movie in its title.

Have to have the occasional bee to ground the movie in its title.

The Feelings

Pulsating rage.

Again, perhaps I’m not really in a position to be angry – I should’ve known better about what I was doing to myself, or avoided watching the movie altogether. But I’m angry anyway!

There really is no point to this film – its plot is flimsy, the acting is horrific, the production values are non-existent, and for the one sad attempt at a sex scene you could’ve cut the sexual tension with a dessert spoon. The action, for lack of a better term, is also very short-lived – 1313: Giant Killer Bees! is only about 80 minutes long, but at least 40 minutes of that is taken up by men feeling themselves up or walking around a deserted castle (for reasons that well and truly escaped me).

Don’t ever watch this – not ever.

My Final Rating: 1 / 10
Buy 1313: Giant Killer Bees! at Amazon.com

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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in Movie Review

 

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Game Review: Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles

Release Date: 19 August 2011
Platform: Wii
Wii U eShop Release: 5 August 2015

I’m hardly what you could call a hardcore gamer: I’m not good at moving in a 3D environment, I don’t like big scary monsters, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is one of the longest games I’ve played in terms of story, and Kirby’s my personal hero, so I don’t quite know what I was thinking when I dived into a JRPG that would ultimately rob me of 90+ hours of my life, took me 5 months to finish, and left me a little crippled once the end credits rolled. I guess the fact that it was on sale and I had no real concept of what a JRPG demands of its player and that I don’t really think things through before diving into them may have been partially to blame…

But it was a helluva ride, and I enjoyed it immensely 🙂

In the beginning, there was the throw-down.

In the beginning, there was the throw-down.

The Plot

Eons ago at the dawn of creation two titans, the Bionis and the Mechonis, came into existence on a world of endless ocean. The two titans engaged in a battle that was seemingly without end, until eventually they managed to strike and kill one another in a set of final devastating blows. Their corpses, locked forever in battle, became the ground on which life arose – biological life on the Bionis, mechanical life on the Mechonis.

The lifeforms on the two titans don’t like one another, and the game picks up one year after the devastating Battle of Sword Valley on the land bridge formed from the Mechonis’ sword that connects the Bionis and the Mechonis. The story follows Shulk, a young Homs from Colony 9. Shulk is a scientist investigating the Monado, a mystical weapon that was supposedly used by the Bionis itself in its battle against the Mechonis, and the only weapon in existence that can kill a Mechon (the various mechanical lifeforms from the Mechonis).

When Colony 9 suffers a Mechon invasion and a number of its inhabitants are killed, including Fiora (Shulk’s lifelong friend and mild crush), Shulk vows to get revenge on the Mechon for what they’ve done. He and his friend Reyn set off on what will become a truly epic adventure that will span the entire world, bringing them into contact with various creatures that make their home on Bionis, in an attempt to restore peace to the world and to ultimately learn why the two titans engaged in battle in the first place.

Behind its lush blue scenery lurk monsters that want to beat the crap out of you.

Behind its lush blue scenery lurk monsters that want to beat the crap out of you.

The Gameplay

Let me start this off by saying that I’m 99% sure that Xenoblade Chronicles was actually made by a coven specialising in black magic rather than actual game designers. Not because the game is particularly amazing visually, but because I can’t believe that the humble Wii could actually run this. Granted I was playing a download version that booted directly from the Wii U’s internal harddrive which would speed up load times and the like, but in terms of sheer scale and what is on offer visually it’s far and beyond anything else I’ve seen Nintendo’s last-gen system throw out.

In terms of gameplay, there’s an awful lot to learn, but thankfully everything’s introduced in a nice steady manner to get you accustomed to activities both on and off the battlefield. If you read all of the on-screen prompts that display during the game’s early stages (which I didn’t) you’ll be well prepared to take on the world of Bionis (which I wasn’t).

The first thing is your team, which is made up of three characters. To begin with you’ll have Shulk, Reyn and Fiora, but over time the party will grow and deciding which three you want as the active party will make all the difference to how battles play out. Each character has their own set of strengths and weaknesses (my usual party was Shulk, a good all-rounder, Reyn, a tank that would distract the enemy, and Sharla, who essentially acts as a medic), and these make up what are known as talents. In battle the player controls the lead character, but all three will auto-attack the enemy provided they are in range. This gives you the chance to manoeuvre around the battle field and focus on talents; these are essentially special attacks that do additional damage and have bonus effects (even more damage, status effects, etc) but take time to charge up between use. Defeating enemies will award you battle points, which can be used to level these talents up more. The more talents you use in battle the more the party gauge fills, which you can use either to activate chain attacks or to revive members that have been knocked out (I only figured this out at around the 60-hour mark).

It’s essential when picking your active party that, in the event you use a chain attack, that everyone’s talents line up with one another. Since some effects, such as dazing an enemy, require three separate moves, the party’s talents need to be complimentary in order to pull things like this off. Of course, it’s all a bit in vain when you run into an area when you’re at level 15 or so, with all the enemies being around levels 12 to 14, when suddenly a level 81 creature comes out of nowhere and promptly beats you to a pulp. Thankfully the game is forgiving in that, if you’re defeated, you’ll just be sent back to the last landmark you visited without losing any experience gained from the battle and then you can try it all over again.

Outside of battles there are also innumerable side missions to complete. The reward for these differs depending on the type of mission, be it for currency, experience or gear. Completing missions also increases affinity between the party and the area, which unlocks more missions and assists in the way your characters interact with one another.

In addition to all this is the almost endless customisation of your characters – defeated enemies and completed quests will often reward you with armour and weapons which can be used to boost your party’s stats, and a side game allows you to craft gems to attach to different pieces of the armour for further stat boosts. Again, making sure that the party is properly balanced in terms of its stats will have a huge part to play in the outcome of a battle.

Well don't you look friendly?

Well don’t you look friendly?

The Feelings

Overwhelmed, frustrated, satisfied and sad.

For people who’ve played this kind of game before Xenoblade Chronicles might not be all that and a bag of crisps, but for me it was amazing. My review doesn’t really do justice to the sheer complexity of its story, character development, and very involved gameplay. It’s an unforgiving game in that it will demand of you your time, your emotions and the bond between you and your firstborn, but if you’re prepared to give that all up it’s a game that returns the favour in spades.

The only problem now is that I find myself unable to start a new game because they don’t offer the same depth as this one, so the only option is to pick up Xenoblade Chronicles X and immerse myself in that for what will likely be the rest of 2016.

My Final Rating: 10 / 10
Buy Xenoblade Chronicles at Amazon.com

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Posted by on March 17, 2016 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

OoT

Release Date: 17 June 2011
Platform: Nintendo 3DS

As I throw myself further and further down the rabbit hole that is the mythos and story of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I felt that it was time that I played the game that so much of the franchise’s story hinges on. Ocarina of Time is revered by Zelda die hards and, in many quarters, holds the distinguished title of the best video game ever made.

With all that in mind and a new New Nintendo 3DS in hand I decided that now was as good a time as any to see what all the fuss was about. The Gods above help me if any of the aforementioned die hards read this review, but I can’t sit here and claim that this is the best video game ever made, because it’s not. It’s a good game, and the 3DS remake has done wonders to rejuvenate its aging Nintendo 64 counterpart, but it has been far surpassed in the years since it came out.

The fuck is this?

The fuck is this?

The Plot

We begin yet another jaunt through Hyrule in the very pleasant Kokiri Village, where the Great Deku tree has sent a fairy called Navi to call upon a young boy named Link. The Deku Tree has been cursed by Ganondorf, and Link must do his best to lift the curse. Successful in this endeavour but too late to actually save the tree, Link is instructed to find Princess Zelda with Navi’s help.

After some serious breaking and entering into castle grounds Link meets Zelda; she believes that Ganondorf, who is currently meeting with the King of Hyrule to pledge his allegiance, is actually after the Triforce and the attainment of god-like power. She asks Link to find the Spiritual Stones which will give him access to the Spiritual Realm where the Triforce is kept.

Spiritual Stones duly collected and an ocarina fished out of a moat, Link proceeds to the Temple of Time to activate the stones. Unfortunately as he opens the door to the Sacred Realm Ganondorf appears and takes the Triforce of Power for himself, and Link awakens seven years later to a very different world.

To defeat Ganondorf Link must wield the Master Sword, but was too young to do so when he first opened to door to the Sacred Realm. For seven years his spirit remained dormant in the Sacred Realm until he was able to take the sword and defeat Ganondorf, but he will need the help of the Seven Sages. The Sages can use their combined power to seal Ganondorf away, but unfortunately five of them do not realise that they are Sages. Link must travel back and forth through time and scour the five temples under Ganondorf’s control to free the Sages that are held captive and awaken their power if Hyrule is ever to know peace again.

The fuck is that?

The fuck is that?

The Gameplay

With the exception of when I accidentally through the 3DS across the room trying to attack something (I forgot I wasn’t playing Twilight Princess anymore, which required flicking the Wiimote to attack) the controls for this game work a treat. Different buttons perform different actions depending on the item assigned to them, with the inventory of items appearing on the lower touch screen along with maps of either Hyrule or the dungeon you happen to find yourself in. Everything else is very intuitive.

I’ve never actually played the N64 original, but I have seen plenty of videos. At the risk of being burned as a heretic the original is starting to look damn ugly – polygon graphics are only well-remembered in games for which there is nostalgia. That being said, this remaster has largely done wonders for the graphics. There is the odd exception (that particularly butch Impa being an example) where they could have put in a bit more work making things a bit less blocky and pointy, but given that this was a launch title for the 3DS I’m not going to complain too much.

Where the game starts to show its age, however, is the overworld. Hyrule Field, which acts as a central hub, is nice and big and all that, but I get the feeling it was included more as a means of showcasing the environments the N64 could pull off than for actually adding any great value to the game. The problem is that, with the exception of a few side quests, there’s really nothing to do in this huge field other than run across it to get to the place you actually need to be. It’s all fun and lovely the first time, but after the 12th time you have to run to Kakariko Village it starts to get a bit mundane.

A nice addition to this version for the uninitiated is the Sheikah Stone, which will play short videos that give you hints and clues as to what you need to do next if you get lost. I do feel that Nintendo could’ve toned Navi down a little (to borrow from the game’s Honest Trailer, she’s the sidekick equivalent of the Microsoft Paperclip), but hey ho I guess you can’t have everything.

The fuck are you?

The fuck are you?

The Feelings

Mildly let down.

I think the main issue is that I went into this game expecting far too much based on the hype that surrounds it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can believe that when this game came out it must’ve been mind-blowing: the 3D “open” world, the graphics, the story and the admittedly very good dungeons combined would have made for an unparalleled gaming experience at the time.

Unfortunately for me, it’s the ‘at the time’ that’s a problem. I have no nostalgia attached to this game, and because of that it’s age becomes more apparent. Ocarina of Time is a product of its time when you couldn’t just hop onto the internet for a walkthrough or gaming tips; instead you relied on talking to your friends and seeing what they’d discovered and exchanging hints and tips. This mentality is very apparent because some of the little side quests have nothing to indicate that they’re there and actually coming across them without the help of a walkthrough would be down entirely to chance.

This isn’t to say that this is a bad game, because it certainly isn’t. It’s just that (1) other games in the franchise have so successfully built on what it established and (2) games have come a long way since Ocarina of Time first came out that I don’t think it quite deserves to overshadow everything else the way it does in some people’s minds.

My Final Rating: 7 / 10
Buy The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Game Review

 

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Game Review: Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Kirby's Epic Yarn

Release Date: 25 February 2011
Platform: Wii

By this point in time the fact that I am a Kirby fanatic is a well-established fact. That being said there is no game out there that I would recommend to anyone more highly that Kirby’s Epic Yarn (not many people I associate with will listen to this recommendation, but I’ll go ahead and make it anyway), nor is there a game that I have played that has given me quite as much joy and fun as this one has. It is, quite simply put, the best game to ever grace a console, and it is against this game which all other games should be measured.

No more tears Mr Bear

No more tears Mr Bear

The Plot

While out for a little stroll one day Kirby happens upon a tomato, his favourite food, and decides he wants to eat it. Sadly this tomato just happened to be possessed by Yin-Yarn, a rather devious sorcerer. Using his magical powers (whose source lies in a magical, and presumably evil, sock) he banishes Kirby to Patch Land, a world made entirely out of fabric.

Once in Patch Land Kirby quickly discovers, now that he too has been transformed into a textile, that he can’t inhale anything, copy an enemy’s abilities, or float around as he’s so accustomed to doing. On the up side he is able to use a whip, and with a little bit of effort manages to rescue Prince Fluff, the ruler of Patch Land.

Together, Kirby and Prince Fluff set out to find the missing pieces of magical yarn that once bound Patch Land together and stop Yin-Yarn from conquering both Patch Land and Dream Land.

* insert X Files theme song here *

* insert X Files theme song here *

The Gameplay

To start off with it’s worth mentioning that this game began its life completely unrelated to the Kirby franchise, with my favourite little pink marshmallow being added in later. This accounts for the fact that Kirby has a completely different moveset to those found in his more traditional outings.

Taking us back to the good ol’ days of the NES Kirby’s Epic Yarn has you grab your Wiimote, hold it sideways, and begin a mission of absolutely adorable proportions. In terms of its controls the game handles beautifully (the only exception being the portions that rely on using the Wiimote as a pointer, which can be slightly unreliable) and is very easy to become accustomed to, even with Kirby’s new arsenal of moves.

Since we can’t inhale anything and we can’t copy abilities Kirby’s new trick is to whip enemies and unravel them, turning them into balls of yarn that can be used as projectiles either to defeat other enemies or to destroy blocks that get in your way. This whipping mechanic is also used to open up pathways by latching onto zippers and to swing from buttons to reach higher platforms. Additionally Kirby also has a few different transformations that are used in specific parts of the game: a giant missile-launching, havoc-wreaking robot, a  buggy, a firetruck, an electrifying, Waddle Dee-abducting UFO, a weird star-shooting ship, a rocket ship, a dolphin, a penguin, and a train.

Visually and in terms of audio there’s nothing that can hold a candle to this game. Every inch of it has been so lovingly designed and crafted that even by general Nintendo standards, and the standards of the Kirby franchise in particular, there’s so much charm and delight coming from the TV screen that you may well need an insulin shot.

A complaint often leveled against this game is that it’s too easy. Granted even by Kirby standards this one gives you very little in the way of challenge as it is completely impossible – at worst a little fairy will swoop in and pick you up from where you fell, and you’ll lose some of the beads you’ve collected. This didn’t detract from the game for me because, even though a lot of people complain that Kirby games are too easy but I’ve yet to play one (and believe me, I’ve played a lot) that were ever actually difficult.

What challenge there is, like with all Kirby games, comes from trying to find all of the game’s hidden collectibles, beads that are scattered throughout each level, and the medals that come with collecting enough beads. I’ve poured more hours into this than I care to admit, and I still haven’t reached 100% completion.

Kirby the Destroyer marches onto the battle field.

Kirby the Destroyer marches onto the battle field.

The Feelings

There really are no words to describe how happy this game makes me.

The fact that you can’t die means that this is the perfect game to relax with after a tough day. If you’ve had a bad day, give me a call. I’ll order some pizza, we’ll pop this little gem in and have a bit of a run around Patch Land. Trust me, nothing bad can happen to you when you’re a pink woollen marshmallow riding on a fabric dinosaur trying to collect shiny beads.

My Final Rating: 10 / 10
Buy Kirby’s Epic Yarn at Amazon.com

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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Game Review

 

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Movie Review: The Darkest Hour

The Darkest Hour

Released: 2011
Genre: Sci-Fi / Horror
IMDB Rating: 4.9 / 10

Over the years as a young, aspiring academic (or, to put it another way, that other grad student you give all the marking to), I built up a small collection of movies fun enough to provide background entertainment to the pile of scripts that seemed to be breeding faster than I could mark, but that didn’t require my complete attention to make sense. The Darkest Hour is one of those films. Although I’m no longer stuck behind a mountain of marking, this movie is still a fun little distraction that’s best reserved for Sunday afternoons when you want to watch a movie but aren’t averse to drifting off into a comfortable nap either.

It doesn’t do anything amazing and by all accounts it isn’t an amazing movie, but as a mindless alien invasion movie that doesn’t push any boundaries it’s incredibly watchable and will keep you sufficiently entertained for 90 minutes.

Well, the aliens clearly aren't here for cultural reasons...

Say, “We’re all going to die!!”

The Plot

Sean and Ben are best friends travelling to Russia to pitch an app that’s the unholy love child of the Facebook check-in function and Tinder. Unfortunately it would appear that their business partner has already ripped them off and sold a similar but not-similar-from-a-legal-standpoint app to the Russians instead. Depressed and running out of marker pens to hide the holes in their suits, they head off to a local Moscow club to forget their troubles.

It’s here that they meet Natalie and Anne, two women enjoying the sexual prime of their youth who just love Russia but can’t understand why the natives are so insistent on speaking Russian. Taken by Sean and Ben for their incredibly sexy ability to produce near-complete English sentences, the four strike up a conversation just as the whole world is about to go to hell in a handbasket.

Just as the party’s about to really kick into high gear the power fails entirely as what looks to be an aurora appears in the night sky; an aurora that’s slowly descending to the ground, but an aurora nonetheless. Of course it isn’t really an aurora – these are invisible aliens protected by a forcefield of electricity which keeps them invisible and allows them to disintegrate their prey on contact. And, naturally, humans (and one poor dog) are the prey.

Sean, Ben, Natalie and Anne must now work their way through the increasingly ashy streets of Moscow while avoiding alien detection in an attempt to make it back to the (in their heads) alien-banishing safety of America. To do this they will enlist the help of several crazy Russians, a cat wrapped up in fairy lights, and a lone nuclear submarine out to save humanity.

It’s a kooky plot, but it’s a fun plot.

Efficiency is perfecting the quick and brutally painful death.

Efficiency is perfecting the quick and brutally painful death.

The Visuals

Like the film as a whole the visuals aren’t exactly pushing the boundaries of 2011 CGI technology, but they are perfectly serviceable – a bit like the Syfy channel’s line of wonders but on a good day. Given that you don’t actually see the aliens in their full computer generated glory until much later on, the most fun thing comes from seeing a lot of humans getting disintegrated (and this is a lot of fun to watch). Second place goes to seeing the remaining humans run around from an alien’s point of view – somewhat boxier than our fleshy forms are to our own eyes, but with the added benefit of seeing electric currents. I feel that evolution really let us down on this front – being able to see other people’s electric fields would be really cool.

You invite aliens to your planet and this is how they treat it. Breeding will out.

You invite aliens to your planet and this is how they treat it.

The Feelings

Entertainment in repose. I think I’ve seen this movie in its entirety maybe twice, but no less than ten times if you were to piece it all together from the times I’ve drifted off to sleep watching it. That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun to watch, because it is – it’s just that The Darkest Hour, unlike a clingy lover, is happy to let you go as far as you want with it and then let go once you’ve had your fill.

My Final Rating: 6 / 10
Buy The Darkest Hour at Amazon.com

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Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Movie Review

 

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Book Review: 77 Shadow Street

77 Shadow Street

Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Horror / Science Fiction
Published: 2011

Oh Dean Koontz, what have you wrought upon us this time? Me and Mr Koontz go way back – before I was strong enough to handle the sheer epicness that can be a Stephen King novel, and before I became fully engrossed in the works of James Herbert, I had Dean Koontz. And Dean Koontz had some amazing books, Phantoms being the obvious standout. But then things started going downhill and I realised I was just reading the same book with slightly tweaked locations and characters over and over again. The final straw came when I read The Taking (I must have been about 16 at the time). At first I was enraptured, I was engrossed, I had no idea what was going on and honestly felt that this might have been a return to form. Then I got to the end, and I have never been so infuriated by an ending that I ended up literally throwing the book out of a window.

This brings us to 77 Shadow Street. I had successfully managed to avoid reading any Dean Koontz novels for the better part of a decade, and this one looked like it had potential. And that, dear reader, is exactly why it is so frustrating – it does have AMAZING potential, and a spin on the haunted house genre that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. Unfortunately the characters and the actual story are thinner than the paper the book is printed on (and my copy’s a mass market paper back, so you must know how thin that is) and the overall tone so overly dramatic that it becomes painful to read. The next time Dean Koontz has a good idea I implore him to send it on to an author who can do more justice to the concept.

The Plot

Welcome to the Pendleton, the book’s eponymous location, wherein you will be subjected to this novel’s excellent ideas and tepid execution. The Pendleton of today is a series of luxury apartments, originally designed as a rather immodest family home. The problem with the Pendleton, unbeknownst to its original occupants or anyone who has subsequently had the misfortune of living there, is that the building is located on a fault in the space-time continuum. I will give Mr Koontz credit here – this concept is introduced far better and made a lot less silly that it sounds just blurted out like that. Every 38 years this fault opens, and the spirits of the past are lurched forward into the future. The year is 2011, and the fault is about to open up once again, jettisoning the Pendleton’s inhabitants into a complete hell from which they may not return.

It all starts out simply enough – shadows in the corners, rooms morphing so that they’re still kind of the same but something isn’t quite right, all standard enough. The problems start coming in when the Pendleton’s original inhabitants, most of whom were murdered and whose bodies were never recovered, begin turning up looking a bit dazed and confused but otherwise healthy. After them, the monsters begin turning up. Again, I will give Mr Koontz credit for these – the creatures are very vividly and eerily constructed, and they aren’t the sorts of things that you would want to trifle with. To begin with everything happens in brief, momentary lapses before returning to normal, but eventually the Pendleton and its inhabitants become stuck in this hellish otherworld inhabited only by these monstrosities, where everything moves in unison, and where they are the only humans, and the Pendleton the only building, anywhere on Earth.

Popping in for the occasional narration, but otherwise not directly involved in the majority of the plot, is an elusive character that refers to itself as The One. The One appears to be an omniscient observer of this alternate world and the entity that controls the creatures living in it. The Pendleton inhabitants need to find a way to outsmart these creatures and make their way back to their own reality without becoming a light snack for a grossly mutated cat. This will be remarkably easier than it ever should have been.

The Writing Style

From the above you may be questioning, if this genre is your thing, what exactly is wrong? Well, let’s take a particular little section from the book and analyse it. This one stood out in particular for me, but there were many more like it:

Movement in the courtyard drew his attention. Something appeared around a bend in the winding walkway, a creature previously concealed by the riot of wicked vegetation. [He] hissed involuntarily through clenched teeth, because although he didn’t know what kind of beast revealed itself below, he knew at once and without doubt that it was hostile to human life, and evil.

Really? You’re standing in a building, looking through dirty windows at an overgrown garden in the dead of night with no lights to be seen. From this overgrown garden a creature that you cannot clearly see emerges, and you know instantly that it is evil and hostile to human life? Come off it!

Then there are moments like this:

He felt rejected, after all, as he’d felt when the cocktail waitress humiliated him fifteen years earlier. Now the world was rejecting him. He had felt small and stupid when she dissed him, but so much better when he took what he wanted from her, her sister, and her girlfriend…

Really? We’re going to brutally rape (as the novel describes) three young women because one of them, in your words, ‘dissed’ you? Come off it!

I could go on and on until I’d quoted the better part of the book, but I hope I’ve made my point. The melodrama in this book is more palpable than the supposed pure evil floating around the Pendleton. Then there’s the fact that it’s written in such a way that the characters can decipher things that they really shouldn’t be able to. When you get to just over halfway through the novel you find out exactly what is going on and who The One is. Again, credit to Mr Koontz for coming up with a really good idea. Sadly, what Mr Koontz giveth, Mr Koontz also taketh away. Once you know what’s happening everything that has already taken place makes a lot of sense, but you have to wonder how all the characters are going to figure it out. Well, it sure as hell isn’t going to be through a long journey of discovery – not two pages after you find out what’s happening, one of the characters just blurts out ‘this must be the answer!’ and solves everything. BELIEVE me, there is no conceivable way ANYONE would have been able to just figure out what was happening. Ugh.

And this is my general problem with the book as a whole. Along the way there are some genuinely creepy moments and some exceptionally clever twists that keep the plot going, but the way that the characters interact with themselves and this alien environment are utterly unrealistic. After all the trauma the novel is also wrapped up in such a nice, shiny pink bow that it actually feels insulting to those of us who plodded through it.

The Feelings

Frustration mainly. Frustration mixed with the feeling that this could have been so much more than what its underwhelming delivery amounted to. My issue is that I don’t have time for crappy books – my reading time is precious and I don’t have nearly as much time to devote to it as I’d like, so I feel hurt when I’m suckered in by a good concept and then repeatedly beaten by poor choices on behalf of the author. Of course this is partly my own fault because I can’t just stop reading a book once I’ve committed to more than two chapters.

All that being said, I do think that 77 Shadow Street has its place – were I still a teenager and still acclimatising to horror novels I would probably have been enraptured with its story. If you fall into this category (and I don’t mean that in an insulting way) or you feel like reading a haunted house book that doesn’t require a lot of thinking (again, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – we all need that mindless book from time to time) then this may just whet your appetite. Unfortunately it probably won’t do much for you if you are used to reading authors of a greater calibre than Dean Koontz.

My Final Rating: 3 / 10
Buy 77 Shadow Street at Amazon.com

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Book Review

 

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Game Review: Kirby’s Dream Land

KDL_BoxartOriginal Release: August 2, 1993
Original Platform: Game Boy
Virtual Console Release: June 30, 2011
Price: £3.60

For all I can be a bit strange at times and I enjoy a movie with a good disembowelling as much as the next person, I also pride myself on having a thriving inner child. This side of me is particularly apparent in the games I enjoy playing. I’ve played the likes of Resident Evil and ZombiU and nearly crapped myself, and the joint analogue stick controls on FPSes just confuse me. So, when it comes to video games, I prefer to keep it cute and colourful. Like, ‘my-corneas-are-burning-it’s-so-bright’ colourful. For reasons I don’t truly understand I also derive immense amounts of joy from playing really old games on really new hardware, and the good people over at Nintendo have made a lot more money out of me from their back catalogue than they have off of anything new they’ve released.

This brings us to Kirby’s Dream Land, or, as I like to think of it, the childhood I never got to experience. I owned a Game Boy back in the day, but at the tender young age of 7 I wasn’t really earning enough in terms of a salary to be rolling around in glorious grey cartridges. Also, I was decidedly less strange as a child, and I don’t think this game’s cuteness would have appealed to me back then.

The Plot

Whilst I didn’t get to play this game as a child, it does keep to the same premise of so many of the games that I did enjoy from the 8-bit era: you don’t need a hell of a story just to run from one end of the screen to the other while avoiding enemies.

Loosely, the game takes place in Dream Land, which is Kirby’s home. All of the food in Dream Land has been stolen by King Dedede (who, in later games, is one of Kirby’s nemeses/best friends) and is being kept in his castle. It’s up to Kirby to venture through Dream Land, beat the crap out of all who oppose him (but in an adorable way since Kirby is, technically, a child) and get the food back. The story doesn’t actually affect the gameplay in any meaningful way, but it does add to the overall charm of the experience.

KDL_Title

The Gameplay

The game itself, and this is true for most of the games in this franchise, is incredibly easy, even in comparison to other platformers of its time. This series of games is intended to be an introduction to games and is primarily aimed at children. Whilst I can imagine that watching a hypothetical future child of my own playing this would be overwhelmingly endearing, I believe the only way to truly experience it is to be in your 20s and shout vile obscenities when an exploding coconut (which you never see in time) lands on dear Kirby’s head. Many a night I have laid in bed, cursing these coconuts and vowing my revenge when I save Dream Land.

But I digress. In addition to being quite simple, Kirby’s introductory outing is also quite short – split over 5 levels divided up into a number of smaller areas, you can play through the entire game in a one hour sitting. The goal is simple: Kirby starts at one end of the stage and, by defeating or avoiding various enemies and keeping an eye out on the terrain, you need to make it to the other end of the stage. Each level has a mid-way boss who is quite simple to defeat, and at the end of the level will be the final boss who can also be defeated with relative ease. The only boss who will provide any real difficulty is King Dedede himself, who has a tremendously annoying habit of inhaling you and then spitting you out across the room.

So far as your enemies go, they’re all rather innocuous (except the birds – those things will fly out of nowhere and take you down. They have also brought my vengeance upon themselves) and, provided you know what each enemy type can do, it’s easy enough to dispatch whatever you come across by inhaling them. Failing all else Kirby can fly over most obstacles, so there isn’t really an awful lot that can hinder your progress.

Then there’s the music. I imagine if children’s dreams had a soundtrack, it would sound a lot like what you’ll find in this game. You know that music you just listen to and you can’t help but smile because you feel your soul is being hugged by a baby unicorn? It’s like that. And don’t get me started on the little tune that plays when Kirby beats a main boss and does a little dance. I honestly don’t think there’s a happier sound in the world, and thankfully it has been retained in most of the franchise’s later games.

The only thing that may strike people who have played later games in the franchise before this one is the lack of Kirby’s copy ability. The copy ability, in later games, allows Kirby to inhale his enemy and duplicate its powers (swords, spears, spikes etc.), but here all you can do is inhale enemies and then spit them back out as projectiles. The only power that you will be able to make use of is the microphone, which allows Kirby to blast his voice and destroy any enemies that appear on-screen. I can do a similar trick whereby I sing out loud and watch all nearby persons run for cover. On a particularly good day I can make their ears bleed.

KDL_Dance

The Feelings

Oh, the feelings that Kirby will elicit! If you have any soul, you will walk away from this game feeling like the child inside you has been reborn. Once you have managed to achieve your vengeance against the birds that keep flying directly at you and the coconuts that like to drop on you, you will be able to go out into the world feeling all warm and fuzzy inside as though a kindle of kittens (that is the proper collective noun for them – I like my readers to leave feeling like they’ve learned something) has taken up residence in your heart. Seriously, just go play the game and see what I mean.

My Final Rating: 7 / 10

TRAILER

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Game Review

 

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