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Breaking upwards

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Many independent film makers hope to have their films released to the public in theaters. Only a few make it this far. Only a few of those make a film that is below $20,000. And only a few get picked up and have a distribution company move their film.
http://www.breakingupwards.com/

I’m glad to say this one made it. I hope everyone and anyone who gets a chance to watch it on April 2 do so. Opens in the IFC theater in NYC on April 2. I personally saw this in a free screening in class. I enjoyed it, it may not be for everyone but its a funny and touching story. I got to have a Q & A with the director/actor/producer.  Made in New York by New Yorkers. With a Budget of 15,000.

Note: Average Hollywood film budget Now 8-30 million dollars. Average Independent budget Now $50-100,000.

Written by Theonlypersonhere

March 23, 2010 at 12:53 am

Posted in Films

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Review: Bayonetta on the PS3

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This will be a deeper look into Bayonetta, a second look if you will. If you want a quick gist of what the game is about, I suggest you read the original posting for Bayonetta on our blog. You can find it here.

I was looking forward to reviewing this for a while, considering the entire PR around it and the fact it featured a strong heroin character filling the same shoes as Dante from Devil May Cry. Not that her being a woman really changes anything besides it’s rare to actually see a strong female main character that didn’t need any saving nor is she shaking at the knees at the sight of another man she loves. Although how she is portrayed in the game and themes behind it may lead some to think otherwise.

In Bayonetta, you learn the main character of the same name, was found at the bottom of a lake within a casket, suffers some kind of amnesia besides her knowing she’s a witch and has super powers. With the help of a man named Enzo, she’s seeking whatever lead she could find that could relate to her forgotten past; while in turn, help’s Enzo with his shady dealings so he could have enough funds to do the research necessary as well as keep them afloat. A possible side story they could make a game of, but this game will be focusing on the first part where they are trying to find out more about Bayonetta’s past.

I know I have done reviews similar to how IGN does it with a break down in parts but it feels a bit archaic and even IGN does a large body of an review before the basic break downs so I will attempt to follow suit.

Personally, I was lured to the game by it’s over-the-top action and battle mechanics. Since I was a real fan of Devil May Cry 3, and this was under the same director, it seemed like a no brainer that I should get this game. Just so you folks know, my review will be based on my experience playing ridiculous beat’em ups such as Devil may Cry 3 and God Hand. Speaking of God Hand, since Clover was disbanded, much of that staff created Platinum Games which made Bayonetta, as well as God Hand when they were still known by their formal studio name. The game is littered with references from the history of Sega, Capcom, as well as Clover’s line of video games. While there are a few many would recognize such as when Rodin says this line “’what da’ya buyin? I heard that in a game once.” A reference to the merchant in Resident Evil 4, there are some much less obvious like when Bayonetta draws the markings on Amatersu from Okami upon Luka’s face. There is also what I thought was a Viewtiful Joe reference, the After Burner Kick being to the Red Hot Kick, I learned it was actually after the game After Burner, a game akin to Ace Combat.

The game has very deep and rich combat system where the flow and effectiveness of it will reflect that of the player, rather than just mashing buttons.  The game ranks you after every fight, based on time, combo score, and damage taken. While weak combo’s can give you higher combo score for little effort, you will burn more time trying to kill enemies so your time ranking will make you suffer. In contrast, if you kill the enemies extremely quickly but you barely combo nor did you maintain the combo multiplier, you will suffer in combo score ranking, dragging the overall ranking down. There are many ways to accomplish all these goals at the same time where as long as you use the elements given to you, you will earn your Platinum rankings like a pro.

The game gives you some pretty basic commands. Punch, Kick, Shoot, Jump, Lock on, and Dodge.  Punching and kicking in different combinations is the foundation of the game’s combo system. Shooting will auto target an enemy, doing minimal damage but it helps maintain the combo multiplier in case you don’t think you can’t get to an enemy in time. One of the game’s unique features is Witch Time, when you successfully dodge an enemies attack with the dodge button, you will enter a state in which you enemies will be slowed down to a crawl while your attacks double in effectiveness, such as damage and ability to knock down foes you normally wouldn’t, and your attacks will also rack up the combo score multiplier significantly faster. This feature is the key to defeating certain enemies while it outright improves the gameplay overall, giving you the breathing room to control a crowd, the power to manage the more resilient enemies, obtaining the Platinum rankings, as well as shorting the time it takes to bring down bosses. You can even reflect projectiles using witch time, so while there is a time and place for difference combos and weapons, it’s always time for witch time. The onother thing that’s major about Bayonetta though, was that you can equip weapons on both her hands and her feet. This adds a little spin to her move set and can dramatically change the way you play.

Now what would be the player’s incentive for trying to get good rankings, or good combo scores when they could honestly just get through each fight simply doing the bare minimum? Halos. The rings, bearing absolute resemblance to the rings in Sonic the Hedgehog, are this game’s form of money. You will use halos to purchase new moves, items, weapons, costumes, and accessories.  All of which, besides the costumes, will make the game much easier to play since you will have more options, so you would do well to earn some of those halos if you don’t want to get frustrated with the game since it will be more and more brutal as the game continues on from level to level.  There is no level up system, there is no open world to explore, it is a classic from level to level action game. You will be able to choose which levels you want to play so return trips are not only possible, but encouraged to find any hidden items you may have missed the first time.

Despite the game type, it does try to cater to everyone besides children. If you’re a hardcore action game fan, you will find a very rewarding combat system with all the oomph and pizzazz you would come to expect from action games nowadays, while for those who simply like action games but was never the type to try to string anything longer than three moves together, you will find a place in Bayonetta all the same where the very easy and easy modes have a automated combat feature where so long as you’re pressing a button, the game will string combos and maneuvers for you until you can do them yourself.

Now the themes, probably what has brought as many people in to the game as a there are many people it turned away. There is no holding back when it comes to game’s use of sensual themes short of an adult film. You will frequently see Bayonetta strip down to her birthday suit while all the naughty bits are cleverly censored, this will be while she’s summoning demons from the bowels of hell or when she’s performing her ridiculous combos. You will also notice that much of how Bayonetta does things always involves some kind of curvaceous dance much like that of a belly dancer; not surprising since a belly dancer was whom Platinum hired to model Bayonetta’s movements.  Even when she’s pulling a lever, she will wrap her legs around it in a sensual matter. This doesn’t really take away from anything since the theme was very well put together throughout the game’s design making what would seemingly be out of place anywhere else, right at home. The game features a heaven versus hell motif among these themes, while the angels uses divine axes and trumpets that propel holy energy at you, Bayonetta uses dark medieval times style torture devices via Torture Attacks, finishing moves you can do when you have the appropriate magic power, from Iron Maidens, guillotines , spiked wheels, and even a very risqué finisher using a wooden horse with a spiked back.

Lets talk about what I didn’t like about Bayonetta now…

There really isn’t that much that I didn’t like about Bayonetta, most of it has to do with how the game was ported from the XB360 version. There are many times when the frame rate suffers because there is just so much going on a lot of times, at least that’s what I wanted to think before in the later parts of the game when there is even more insanity but actually runs at a very smooth pace so I don’t know what’s going on with when the slowdowns actually do happen.  The biggest gripe is probably the cut scenes they have in the game. For one thing, there are A LOT of them.  I spend just as much time playing the game as I am watching it, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are also quick time events put in throughout a small percentage of these cut scenes, where if you aren’t careful, you will get a death marked up onto the board, penalizing your ranking as well. I was never a fan of the “press X to not die” mechanic since it doesn’t do anything more but annoy the player. There is no skill aspect, nor does it contribute to the experience, it just exists for the sole purpose of pissing you off. While the story may have plot holes as large as the grand canyon, it was forgivable due to the already ridiculous nature of the game, it would’ve been nice if they actually animated most of the cutscenes. The story is told through a mix of flipping film strips and in game sequences. While the characters do as they always do in the in-game sequences, the film strip style didn’t actually have any real animation. None of this is actually prerendered, they are actual 3D models put in semi still life. I say semi because things like their hair, scarves, and grass are still blowing in the wind but the character themselves don’t have moving lips nor are they doing any actual moving at all. I’m sure this was intentional, but with the way it was done it felt like they just ran out of time animating and just slapped it together to save money and time. It’s a very minor annoyance since it does have a certain level of style I can appreciate.

What isn’t very forgivable though is the screen tearing and frame rate drops during all the cut scenes. Nearly forty percent of the time, there is large frame rate drops and sometimes screen tearing can last as long as four seconds. Sure, it’s not enough to last the scene, but it’s long enough for you to go “What the hell was that?” These issues could’ve been easily solved with v-sync or simply doing a better job at porting it. Apparently Platinum Games didn’t even plan on putting it on PS3, it was Sega’s decision to bring the game over. While I thank Sega for bringing it over, they also could’ve done a better job, if necessary, just delay the game and work out these issues. There was also the issue of load times occurring in mid cut scenes and while picking up items before a patch was released. Can they patch up Bayonetta to improve it? They sure can as proven by their Install to HDD” feature provided by their patch. From what I’ve read, some features in the PS3 can also improve on the aesthetics  for the game, which thankfully I did have on. Would Sega actually do it though? It’s up in the air, because they sure didn’t mention making the patch that they did, and they could very well be working on it now, but it’s wishful thinking and I only see what stands in front of me and that is a great game bogged down by poor porting.

So what would the final verdict be on this game? Besides some technical issues involving the porting, the game is a blast from beginning to end, where the story only outdoes itself with every chapter you go through. The characters a tad cliché but you won’t be forgetting Bayonetta for a long time. Game play is solid and just as any good game should, has very high replay value as you will want to unlock the rest of the weapons, constumes, replay levels and work on your combos. Heck I might give Bayonetta a spin just beat down some angels. While the gameplay mechanics would only lure the hardcore, the visuals and insane boss battles will bring in the rest. Could use a few less cut scenes though…

If you’re a fan of games like Devil May Cry or even God of War, you will enjoy this game and you probably didn’t need me to tell you that. For anyone on the fence, you should at least give it a rental or heck, borrow it from a friend who will likely own it because they know what a good game is.

Story:  Cheesy, although you won’t forget characters like Bayonetta anytime soon.

Graphics: Very Pretty. The details and the designs of the enemies are not only unique from each other but there is a large variety so there is much to see on top of Bayonetta’s own flashy course of destruction. The levels are nice to look at but you’re mostly in this to beat up the baddies.

Game Play: Phenomenal. Battle mechanics are spot on without the frame rate getting in the way.The game is feature rich in adding on to your fights so they don’t have to be the same everytime. Bosses are practically a chapter on their own due to the ridiculous amount of health on top of intense choreography and battle sequences.

Sound: For some reason the choice of BGM for most of your fights is their own rendition of “Fly Me to The Moon” among the many tracks of gothic hymms. The voice acting is actually quite good but the main attraction is of course Bayonetta herself.

Replayability: You’ll unlock more difficulties on top of more items and even characters as you play after the initial completion of the story. Even if this is all done, it’s fun just to mess with the variety of attacks that are given to you, or even try to beat the insane people on the leader boards.

Game finished on Normal Mode with mostly stone statues…don’t judge me! Game was patched with the latest version.

Written by vigorot

March 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Game reviews

Batman Arkham Asylum

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Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC

Ah, this game certainly raised a lot of fuss in its development, a majority of it being “It’s a game based on a comic, and those are never good.” And this game looked to changed that mentality.  That mentality is definitely a strong one since game based on movies and comic books are usually made with one thing in mind, a quick buck and this always lead to poorly designed games that left a lot of customers burned and unhappy, both fans and non-fans alike. So what is it about this iteration of Batman that is so different? While I myself am not a huge comic book fan, I have dabbled in many games and they happen to include games based on comic book characters and I saw this iteration as a chance to pave the way for future GOOD comic book games. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

Presentation: Oh the shine and polish of the look and feel of this game screams with developer love. From the stylish menus to the brooding ambience that has made me love Batman is all well and sewn together into a strangely unique experience that you won’t get from another game. While other games have bloom and heavily detailed scenery, the design of the environment is not like any other.

Sound: The choice of sounds used in Batman remind of me very much of the tracks you hear from the most recent batman movies, I wouldn’t be surprised if they said that’s where their inspiration was drawn from. The voice acting is also top notch,  although probably due to my own bias since I loved the batman animated series and that very casting crew makes a return. I love me some Mark Hamil Joker, don’t you?

Gameplay: Now, they can spit shine the game all they like but what good would it do if the game didn’t play the way it looked? Thankfully you can actually feel shine just as you see it. Batman had a very simple yet elegant combat system,  that focused more on strategy and flow rather than straight brute force. There was also a lot of freedom in your moves, allowing you to be inventive with what is given to you. Things like boomerangs, bat claw, even tackles and throws can be flawless pulled off with the simplest of button combinations, none of which exceed more than two, and each of these have their time and place to be used. This kind of philosophy behind a combat system is one that I always liked, where you can at all times you have many choices, but you need the experience to know how to use them properly and each choice can be used to great effect when it is done so.  The gameplay experience is not limited to just mechanics however as there is the rest of the experience. Just like the dark knight, you have to do a lot more than get into fist fights and that means taking down your enemies from the shadows. You can dangle off gargoyles to string up baddies, use baterangs to pick off targets and even do a quiet takedown in which batman would knockout an enemy via just enough suffocation to make the target blackout, or at least that’s what it looks like he’s doing for we never see that thug ever again.

There is also the atmosphere in the game that will only exist in batman.  Joker will constantly taunt you throughout the game with his snarky remarks and trademark laughter as he guides you through the asylum. You will meet some of his still colorful subordinates but they don’t quite match up the insanity that is the Joker.  This truly adds to the experience as listening to what the characters have to say, will also have an impact as to what your next move should be, so it’s not just simple I’m blowing hot air right now, don’t mind me, I’m just eating a sandwhich mindless bantering, there are queues in the dialogue you will want to listen to cause it could very well mean whether or not you’re going to see the continue screen over and over again. All in all, Batman’s gameplay is heavily entwined with all its parts rather than just a few.

Conclusion: I didn’t want to touch on the story too much because there are many surprises left unsaid, otherwise they wouldn’t be surprises. I feel that the game really redefines what a comic book game should be, and there are a few things that it does that the other games didn’t do besides the game play mechanics.

Didn’t try to retell a story: While the game still featured much what made Batman what we know today, it didn’t try to rehash a story that’s already been told; or worse yet, take an existing story and just make a video game version out of it, a real no no. If we wanted a movie experience, we watch the movie. We want the animated cartoon experience, we watch that, please don’t imitate something in a different form. The story in Arkham Asylum is actually written by the writer for the original animated series on WB, where you first see Batman in a dark and gritty world. The game had its own story, it didn’t try to imitate another game, all it did was “You’re the freaking Dark Knight, you WILL be he freaking Dark Knight, and it WILL be awesome.” It is the only likeness you will see with other games, is that it features batman.

Development Time: Unless the game is an established line of best sellers, games usually have one year at most and that’s if there was some level of faith in your work. If you’re some kind of movie tie in, you’ll have at most half a year.  Batman had at least two years to work with while the looming “You’re based off a comic book” mentality hanging above their head.  Quite impressive, and there was just so much love put into this game with many nods to the old fans as well, even to guys like me that only watched the cartoons.

Wasn’t just a comic book game: Even if it wasn’t based on batman, what they accomplished in the game could also stand on its own, with mechanics that have a lot of polish and level design that still astounds me with all the attention to detail.

I do have a few quirks against the game such as how the final battle was handled and the camera choices when dialogue is exchange between batman and some of the npcs but they hardly drag down the experience considering how much the game has to offer and how well it does it. Now there is a lot of things I haven’t mentioned but I covered what I thought was most important. So what more is there to say about this game? If you haven’t played it, you should, it’s available on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and if you’re still reading this review you are likely to own one of those three. If you’re a batman fan, you don’t need me to tell you to buy this ASAP. The best way to let developers know you want their game, is to actually buy it retail, writing a letter helps too.

This review was based on my play through of all of normal mode, played a few challenge modes. PC version all settings on max via ATI Radeon HD 4890.

I’ll be putting a second opinion up for Bayonetta now that I’ve actually finished it. I have to say I have some nice things to say and some nasty things to say. Mostly nice, I promise.

Written by vigorot

March 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Yugioh 5D World Championship 2010 Review

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The game is obviously based on the Yugioh card game. It includes 2 different modes

  1. The old-school option of facing any number of opponents in world championship mode
  2. The newer story mode option where you get to be a character playing RPG-style through season 2 of the Yugioh 5D’s story arc.

Story Mode: This plays like a very standard RPG, except with card playing instead of killing stuff with swords and magic. You play as a character of your own creation, and the writers squeeze you into the storyline as an important character that’s always been there. Considering the lack of new dubbed episodes for that season, it’s a way of finding out what happened. As in squeezing an entire season of material into like 10 minutes of screen time way.

It has plenty of tutorials for players early and the starting deck you get to use isn’t that bad. The first couple of opponents are also very easy to deal with and there’s no real penalty for losing. Players do have to upgrade their decks as the game goes on, but for the most part the story mode opponents won’t give anyone problems till later, which by then a player should be ready. I would actually call it a pretty good teaching tool to help new players get into the game, which I’m guessing the designers had to work hard on. So props on that.

For the vets that are looking to play with as many cards as available, story mode is where most of the packs are unlocked so not playing here isn’t an option. Doesn’t mean it has to be a total snooze though. To unlock other packs you have to face other characters just standing around waiting for you to duel them, and their decks are actually better made then the story mode ones. Plus they tweaked up the AI a little so they’re smarter than before. So there are challenges to keep the vets interested and the new players learning.

World Championship Mode: Most of this content sadly enough has to be unlocked in story mode, but it is a nice feature once that’s done. You get tons of different opponents, tag matches, tournaments, etc. Quite frankly I wished the game had a version where it was only this was available, and you can unlock stuff just by playing this mode. When everything is available this is where most of the fun comes from, too bad it takes a lot of doing non-fun things to get there.

Unlockables: For the most part this is why most vets play this game. We want to unlock the latest cards and the hardest opponents the game has to offer so we can test out deck ideas without spending a bunch of real money in real life on something that might not work. To do this you have to play through the story mode and face everyone there 3 times. One of the complaints I had in last year’s game was you couldn’t unlock certain packs since the opponents needed to unlock them weren’t available till you beat the game. And sadly enough that complaint gets to repeat itself here. Just feels extremely pointless to me since they would’ve been useful and fun when I was trying to play through the story mode, but beating story mode lets me unlock better packs so I don’t need the old stuff anymore. Just feels like a pointless dick move on the game designer’s part.

Anyway, unlocking the packs involves beating story mode, beating everyone 3 times, and a few interesting challenges for the last few packs. For those you would have to look for an FAQ for since the game gives absolutely no clue on how to get them otherwise. Hell I had to look up one just to tell everyone about the 3 times thing.

Problems: Sadly enough the game fails the most when it’s not doing anything card related. Along with the card-playing the game also has the player do puzzles like push a bunch of giant boxes to get to the next area, run through area with conveyor belts that’ll push you forward or back, put X items into Y spots just to get to point Z, sneak past guards, etc. And they are all unskippable wastes of time. Allow me to scream something at the game designers, NO ONE WANTS TO SOLVE NON-CARD RELATED PUZZLES IN A CARD PLAYING GAME!. People play card games to play with cards, NOT deal with a bunch of puzzles.

It’s obvious that the puzzles are meant to waste time, slowing down the player so the story mode feels longer then it really is, especially since you’ll be stuck in that area until you solve the dang puzzle. The cherry on top of the puzzles of annoyances are the retry option. See every puzzle will let you start over whenever you screw up, in which case they’ll repeat the message of how to reset the puzzle. Fail the puzzle multiple times and you’ll be seeing the message a lot, another thing they won’t let you skip. The puzzles definitely are not fun to play, and don’t add anything good to the game. At least with the card-related puzzles people can see combos they would’ve never figured out otherwise. The only thing you figure out here is how boring a needless puzzle can be.

And last non-card related part is the racing min-game (another unskippable feature). The object is to usually either outrun someone, keep them from outrunning you, or getting to the goal before time runs out. Once again a very unnecessary feature, if I wanted to play a racing game I would be playing a game designed for racing. This gets especially frustrating since the most of the races were dirt easy and the final one is hard as hell to do. Felt like a pathetic attempt to trying to make the race look like a legitimate part of the game instead of the total waste of time it truly is.

Conclusion: Fact is these card games they all follow the same basic concept. Win a bunch duels to unlock a bunch of opponents and packs to unlock more opponents and packs, and repeat said process until finished. Yes it’s a giant grindfest but we do it just to reach our end goal of being able to play with all the latest cards. And to its credit the game accomplished that, the game actually does have all of the booster packs that was available upon this game’s release including most of the promos.

That said the process of getting to the end was made needlessly annoying. The puzzles have nothing to do with the card game that people actually want to, they’re just tossed in to annoy/slow down the player. The racing is the same, a useless waste of time that only forces a player to do something (s)he had absolutely no intention of doing. It’s like if you were playing a fighting game when after a few battles, the screen would turn into a chess board and you weren’t allowed to proceed with the game until you have won that game of chess. They give the “just get it over with so I can go on to something I actually want to do” feeling instead of anything even closely related to fun.

So if you’re looking for a card game that has most of the up to date cards, this is the right place. You just have to go through needless pains to get them.

Rating: 6 out 10.

Written by taifighter

March 2, 2010 at 2:07 am

Posted in Game reviews

Tagged with , ,