Goon Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse Soundtrack

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Rock on, Ho-rror Ho-mies! 😉 xo)

Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.

The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.

Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.

The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.

There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.

 

#TerrorTuesday: The “Horror Noir” Edition

(Submitted by Mr. Dr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for reminding us this lil’ slice o’weirdom eXXXists. I plan to re-open this investigation immediately! 🙂 xoxo)

It was another one of those hot L.A. days. I poured myself another shot of cheap whisky and said to myself, ‘You’re a tough guy. You’ve been slapped twice, choked, beaten silly with a gun, shot in the arm until you’re crazy as a couple of waltzing mice. Now let’s see you do something really tough—like watching a made-for-TV monster movie.”

I humored myself and I found it: the, uh, stuff screams are made of…

Cast a Deadly Spell is nifty little number that attempts to fuse Raymond Chandler and H.P. Lovecraft into one bizarre creature. Set in alternative 1940s when magic is in vogue and the creatures of the night mingle with average folks, It has all the trappings of a classic film noir (hard-boiled detectives, sleazy clubs, stylized dialogue, femme fatales, etc.), but paints it all with a coat of Cosmic Horror. If that last part wasn’t clear, they drive the point home with their protagonist: Phillip Lovecraft.

This film does for lovers of the grotesque what Who Framed Roger Rabbit does for toon fans. Almost every scene has a zombie, werewolf, or fiend amidst the detective action. The story is decent, but it’s really about seeing noir and nightmare come together in a beautiful way. The monsters are fiendish and Fred Ward as Lovecraft is the perfect jaded gumshoe, bringing enough down-to-Earth wit to ground this peculiar picture.

For those wanting to crack the case, click on the box below:

Ho-stess’s Semi-Related Side Note: I just started playing Blues and Bullets (I was craving a good noir mystery), and so far so rad. I’m only in the first episode, but the first murder scene I investigated is creepy as all heck!! I’ll update you as I get further along, but since it’s been out for a while, maybe you fiends already have some thoughts on this one? Would love to hear what you think if you’ve playing it, too. 🙂 xoxo

UPDATE: I should’ve researched this game a lil’ more before I started playing it. I finished Episode 2 and immediately went to dive into the neXXXt installment, only to discover that IT DOESN’T ExxxIST!!!! 🙁

Chapter One was released in 2015, and apparently Chapter 2 didn’t come out until almost a year later. Although it hasn’t been officially announced as cancelled, it doesn’t look like we’re getting any more installments. Apparently the development company basically ran out of money, so there are currently no plans to finish his tit-le. Such a shame, too, because the story was super intriguing. Would’ve loved to see ho-w it all ended up. (And that little dog murdering piece of shit Bruno needs to feel my wrath!!! ;))

Oh well…It’s still a fun lil’ cocktease. Feel free to check this half-game out if self-torture is your thing. 😉 xoxo

 

NES Friday the 13th: The Movie :)

Ho-wdy, you valiant Voorhees lovers! I’m not sure about you kinky kreeps, but I happen to love the living dead poop out of the NES Friday the 13th game…

…And so does director Michael Ramova! So much so that he directed this nifty short film based on that eXXXcellent 8-bit horror show! 🙂 Funded through Indiegogo (by Friday Fiends like me :)), Mr. Ramoval did what Paramount couldn’t and brought Jason to 2017. You just can’t keep a bad ghoul down. 🙂

Check it out below, Kinky Ho-s! 🙂 xoxo

Goon Review: The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 1: Ties That Bind

(Thanks so much to Mr. Andrew Peters for this radass review…I love all of TT’s TWD tit-les, and I shall be checking this one mout posthaste!! 🙂 xoxo)

Before we get started on the review, doesn’t that episode sound familiar? Like we’ve heard it before. Was this a title for another Walking Dead game or a superhero game of some kind? Anyway, it’s irrelevant. So, the third season of The Walking Dead subtitled A New Frontier debuted not only it’s first episode, but its second one as well, although for now we will only be talking about the first which is called Ties That Bind Part 1 and it does have some relevance into what happens. Personally, I would love a second season of The Wolf Among Us or Tales From the Borderlands, but I do want to see some closure with Clementine’s character, if done justice.

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Being the fourth Walking Dead series from Telltale, I was worried about this season coming off as stale, seeing as how TWD: Michonne was so milquetoast, it may as well not have existed. Not only that, any incarnation of TWD seems to pander to an audience that only wants to see gore and zombies, shaping itself after the television show. Michonne really suffered from having too many characters that had no substance and you didn’t care about them, which was extremely disappointing seeing as that’s what these games are known for. However, we’ve grown with TWD’s main character Clementine over two seasons. We’ve watched the decaying world – both the state of humanity and the physical form of them – tear away at her as she has resisted to become anything less, but the end of the second season saw her and Jane being pushed to the limit by an old friend.

However, A New Frontier doesn’t throw us right into Clementine’s situation yet. We’re introduced to a new character, Javi. The game opens right as the outbreak is taking place, but people aren’t really aware of it, as we see Javi running to his brother David’s home and explains that he’s late because the highway was congested. His brother insults him, even hits him, because their father died and Javi, being the favorite son, should have been there, but we learn that Javi was never really around. We’re also introduced to other family members, like David’s son Gabe, David’s wife Kate, which the two seem to have a mutual interest in one another and there are various other family members, but the only other one that really matters is Mariana, Javi’s younger niece. Suddenly, Mariana is bringing her grandfather’s favorite drinking cup to him as the others tell her that he’s sleeping, to which she tells them he isn’t… dun dun DUN! Not the strongest opening the series has had, but it was really decent, maybe even a little chilling. Javi’s got some potential to be a good character, so let’s see what’s in store.

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As they check the room, zombie gramps bites grandma on the face and another on the hand. David takes them to the hospital and Javi looks after Kate, Mariana and Gabe. We cut to someone time later and the four seem to have been traveling in a van not down by the river, but all over looking for food, gas, maybe even a home. Gabe and Mariana are asleep in the back seat, giving us the players some time with Kate and Javi to get to know them as Kate lights up a phatty and your first big choice is to toke with her or not. Okay, TWD, I get it. Weed’s legal now. This wakes up the kids just in time as you find a junkyard and you decide to explore it. Before doing so, you get a little bonding time with Mariana, kinda like how Lee did with Clem back in the first season. It was a nice touch to call back to that subtly, even if it doesn’t seem as strong. It’ll make sense when you play it.

Things go sour quickly after the group finds a cache of food and Javi is jumped by a group that seems to share a similar mark on their body, like they were branded like cattle. Javi lies about the having others with him and is en route to their base when a tree falls in the middle of the road, blocking the way and crashing the truck. Upon exiting, you have the option to shoot the driver or let him go, but that all depends on how cold blooded you are. Turns out that tree falling was no coincidence as the little saboteur reveals themself as… get ready for it… CLEMENTINE! She’s back and she’s a little older and has a potty mouth and an attitude. Oh Clem, what made you this way? Well, this is something you should know if you are playing with saved games from Seasons One and Two. The game shapes her and her past after what choices you made during your gameplay, which is very, very cool. If you don’t have any previous game saves, the games creates her past at random, so on my PS4 playthrough, I saw what happened to Clem and Jane after the events of the second season and although it was predictable, it was very sad because I liked Jane’s character. On my playthrough on PC that you can watch, I had no saves, so one was created for me and it was just uneventful and only led to Clem missing a finger for no reason. Huh, okay then.

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Clem and Javi pitstop at a safe town where the people seem friendly and you’re even introduced to a few new characters and get a little insight into Javi’s past. Personally, I liked Tripp who’s basically a loveable oaf. It doesn’t take long before Clem causes some problems and lands you in one of their homemade holding cells, but the most interesting thing is that nobody really seems to care about what happened. You’re given the option of sticking up for Clem or throwing her under the bus and if you do that, then I must believe you have no soul. You’re also given the option of sneaking out at night with one of the characters you met or waiting in the morning for Tripp to take you to the junkyard. Now, believe it or not, your choices will seemingly have a vastly different outcome. First time, I chose to sneak out only to arrive at the junkyard with two of my family members dead, so I went back and played again, waited for Tripp and got a much happier outcome… for the moment.

This is where the game really starts to take off. Seeing as how the truck is destroyed, Javi manages to convince Clem to head back to the junkyard to find his family and depending on how you converse with her, you can build a nice budding friendship, which is what I’m doing. I’ve missed Clem and I can’t be mean to her, seeing as we’ve already been through so much and I know what she’s lost. Once you reach the junkyard, it looks as if it’s been turned over and lit on fire, but you quickly find your family and everything seems like it’s going to be alright… yeah, sure. If there is one thing The Walking Dead tries to do way too much, it’s lull you into a false sense of security. I do have to admit, it kinda worked here. As Javi’s relationship was building with one of the characters, it became more clear what was going to happen, seeing as The Walking Dead just can’t help itself from steering away from this one trope, but it kinda got to me, especially as graphic as it happens. Your final choice is to stay and fight your attackers with Clem or bail with your family.

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After a long, overdue wait, Clementine is finally back and it’s great to see her again (especially after the remarkably disappointing Michonne). As gamers, we’ve grown up with Clem and to see her as the teenager she’s grown into is both depressing and you’re proud of her at the same time for making it as far as she has and depending on your choices, you get hints that she’s still the same girl you’ve grown to love. I’m excited to see what else she’s been up to since she’s been gone and at the time I’m scared at what might happen to her. At first, I thought Javi was just gonna be a cliched character with nothing interesting going on and was only going to be a vehicle for Clementine, but he’s actually shaping up into a likeably guy. Even if you decide to be a dick to everyone with him, you’re making the choices, so you still root for him. Javi and Clem make a great pair and luckily it’s not a retread of the father-daughter dynamic Clem and Lee had, but it’s something new altogether. Survivors becoming friends and that’s what The Walking Dead is all about! Part Two of Ties That Bind is looking to be another great episode, so we’ll dive into that one soon.

Goon Review: Batman: The Telltale Series: Episode 3: New World Order

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks Kinky Ho-bot! 🙂 xoxo)

Oh man, we are in for a world of shit (a New World Order, amirite?). The third episode of Telltale’s Batman series entitled New World Order is all amount making some choices that seem like they are going to have some serious repercussions and lemme tell ya… they do. Oh, they do. I feel like I am saying this and going to continue saying this, but this episode has you making the biggest decisions yet, one of which is really gonna leave you feeling dirty if you do, but damned if you don’t.

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The third episode opens up with Harvey in the hospital and depending on if you attempted to save him or not, he’s either going to still look as sharp as ever or like half the man he used to be. I mentioned in the last review on Episode 2 that I felt Batman would have attempted to save Harvey and knew Selina could handle herself, so I acted on that. Harvey looks good and all, seems thankful, but something isn’t right with the guy. Seems like the drug he was giving may be resurfacing some old, violent feelings. This is immediately followed up with a seemingly tough decision to help either Officer Montoya who is in trouble with the Children of Arkham or Harvey who seems to be in a similar predicament. I say seemingly because it had no effect on what happens to any character this episode and Batman doesn’t seem any closer to finding anything out about this new villain.

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That’s enough about Batman, what about Bruce Wayne, who this game is really about? Giving the recent light about his family’s dealings with crime boss Carmine Falcone and how Thomas Wayne was pretty much a despicable scumbag, Bruce is being told he’s gotta step down as CEO of Wayne Enterprises, but not to worry as they have already found a perfect replacement; Oswald Cobblepot! Clearly, this stinks and I’m not talking about the fish in the room. Bruce knows he’s being setup and this interaction is actually quite a bit of fun as you can play on all different reactions Bruce would have, like from being apologetic and self loathing or the route I took, being a smug, sarcastic dick to Oz. Screw this guy. He’s already shown his intentions, so there is no reason to be nice to this guy. At the end of it is another decision that I hadn’t really noticed a major outcome of and that is to have Lucious Fox leave Wayne Enterprises with you or stay on board as your eyes and ears. As I said, I’m not sure what difference this would make, but I told him to stay put. Never hurts to have a spy on the inside.

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So, why would Wayne Enterprises appoint Oz, a criminal, as the new CEO? Well, not only has he wiped his background (I guess it’s that easy), but it also looks good for the company to appoint the guy whose mother was unjustly committed to Arkham by Thomas so he could steal her fortune. Told you this guy was a scumbag. Seriously, the more I hear about Thomas, the more I hate him and it somehow really changes the impact Batman’s origin has on you. Sure, he’s doing the right thing, but his dad kinda deserved what he got. Even Vicki Vale seems to think so and it’s up to Batman to try and set things straight with her in another interaction that, you guessed it, seemingly doesn’t have any consequence. For the first time in this game, maybe even a Telltale game, I’m beginning to feel like my actions don’t have any real weight to the world it’s shaping and maybe this – the game’s – outcome is predetermined. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions.

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The game also has some more detective solving to do, but this time around, I gotta admit that it feels weak and I wasn’t fascinated with it. In fact, I found myself rushing through it just to get the story moving again, because that’s where the real interest is. I wanted to see what happens next. This time, the investigating takes place at a train depot where Batman attempts to further unravel the Children of Arkham’s plan, but when Catwoman shows up, things go to shit real quick and you’re treated with another fight sequence along with your first duel with this new bad guy. It’s not a tough brawl, but it is pretty fun. Batman and Catwoman escape back to her place and I think we all know what could happen if you play your cards right. And I did. And they do. Pow. I knew I shouldn’t have, because of Harvey’s feelings for her, but I can’t resist her or the real connection we (I mean Bruce, of course) have. Look at that babe. How could you not? Needless to say, Harvey shows up and attacks them both revealing his true self, big bad Harv. Bruce and Selina notice that he has a personality disorder and like good friends, you are forced to whoop his ass and once you are done, he leaves. Sure, I was feeling a little guilty, but that Selina Kyle… M’ROW!

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For the finale of this episode, Bruce needs to address the CEO change at Wayne Enterprises and is asked to read from the teleprompter or ad lib. I think I knew what we would all do. I slang mud at Oz, because once again, fuck that guy, dropped the mic and walked off stage. If you thought that was intense, brother, you ain’t seen nothing yet. While in the audience, Bruce is having a chat with a character we know and is well established who pricks him with a pen, injecting him with the same toxin Harvey was at the debate. This character then reveals themself to be the leader of the Children of Arkham! I won’t say who or even what the villain’s name is, because that would spoil it (although in later reviews I will have to, but for now you will be spared), but I have to admit that it got one over one me. I didn’t see it coming. Not in a long shot, so kudos to Telltale!

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All in all, New World Order seemed to have some very heavy decisions, but you notice quickly that they had absolutely no consequence… at first. Later, I started think about what if I had done something differently, like not snogged Selina. I couldn’t help but wonder if Harvey still would have gone ballistic if I had been there. Now that I think about it, most likely. I feel like the consequences in this episode are short lived, if at all and won’t have any effect in later episodes. They didn’t seem to have that much of an impact, but I do have to say the story here is really start to take noticeable shape and I’m beginning to really feel for Bruce. I don’t think he’s no longer an whiny emo kid, but rather a good guy on the fence about everything. Who his father is, what’s happening to his best friend, his feelings for a girl. All while some twit is taking your company out from under you when you know he’s up to no good and a new villain is causing problems. I gotta say, you really start to feel that pressure on every decision you make, so maybe they don’t have to have an impact, because they are making you worry that they will. It’s these kind of decisions that Telltale has cleverly inserted into the game so that you will want to play through a second or a third time.

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So even though the detective stuff wasn’t anything to write home about, there was some action that felt pretty good finally be able to do more as Batman, but it was this story where you really feel the characters becoming who they really are and that’s what made me hooked. I like these characters – including Oz, who I was unsure about for the first two episodes – and I can’t wait to see what happening next, especially since we now know who the villain is and Bruce has the drug in him! Shit’s about to get real!

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Inside (hehe ;) Review

(Back to Back Gaming goodies fer ya, courtesy of Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks for this, Ho-rror Ho-mie!! Your vids are too cute!! 🙂 xoxo)

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Playdead’s first game Limbo was about a boy searching for his sister in Hell. Of course you wouldn’t know this, because the game doesn’t tell you. It has no direct narrative as to what is going on, but cleverly leaves it up to the player to figure it out as they play the game. And that’s what this review is; my interpretation of the game. Now, it’s not completely vague and a lot of the stuff is pretty easy to guess what is happening, so I did do a little research and it turns out there are many like minded folk, so keep this in mind as you are reading this review, that what I’m telling you is both my experience of the game and then comparing to others. There’s no dialogue or cutscenes to tell you what is happening, but rather you get subtle clues from objects or something happening in the background or something you have to overcome face to face. It was something that hadn’t really been done before and it was really fresh and cool, mixed with the art style, everything being silhouetted in the foreground and ominous music and puzzles varying in difficulty, Playdead made their mark. It was a semi-difficult, dark toned and yet rewarding adventure.

Their latest game, Inside, follows the same formula, but feels like it improves on them at the same time. , Inside is also a 3D side scrolling puzzle platformer, but takes things out of the shadows and gives them some color while keeping them vague. You play as a red shirted boy who is making his way through the woods while being chased – and avoiding detection – from faceless men. Now, I literally mean faceless. That’s one of the first things you will realize about the game as once you start, you are instantly dropped into this world; nobody has a face. At first, it may seem like a cool art direction, which it is, but as you play and you learn about what is happening and realizing who or what the these men are and what they are doing, it becomes clear as to why they are faceless. Shortly after, you see them loading dozens of people into trucks and driving away, but again, the reason is never told and leaves you to figure it out. As you march through the woods and through a cornfield, you happen upon a farm, but right away you will notice something very wrong; all of the animals are dead (with the exception of some cute chicks) and there seem to be some sort of parasitic worms. Beyond that, you venture into a rural area where people are being marched into what seems like a factory. Suddenly, you realize they don’t seem to be marching against their will, but almost as if they are being mind controlled. Further and further as you explore, even going as far as underwater exploration in a tiny little James Cameron sub, you find yourself in a lab and to get through it and to get answers, these mindless people seem to be helping you and this is an interesting part of the game. There are thing helmet devices scattered through the game that the player will need to use to control these people to help with puzzles. This may include, using brute strength in numbers to pull something open or to control someone elsewhere to open a door. These become increasingly difficult as the game progresses, but nothing that is too frustrating and I’m sure with a short amount of time, you can figure them out on your own. All of these will reveal answers, but will you like what you find at the end?

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As I was saying, the plot is never made clear, it’s never told directly to the player what is going on or what exactly anything is. You are left to figure that out through your adventure and it leaves it up to your own interpretation. You easily and quickly get a feel for the oppressive nature, like the population is being controlled by these men that seem to be guarding places or chasing after you with flashlights and dogs (that will rip you, a little kid, apart!), so you may guess that it’s the government. But, what exactly do they want with all these people? Why mind control them? Along my adventures, I was noticing all of these tubes that people seemed to be stuffed in, mixed with all of the dead animals, led me to believe that in this world people are being farmed for food. Yes, we got a Soylent Green situation happening here. I also made the conclusion that this probably took place during the early ‘80s from the aesthetics, but didn’t fully make this conclusion until at one point in the game you see a tape recorder and stacks of VHS tapes. By now, you start to realize how government controlled everything feels and the game’s George Orwell-ian vibe is thicker than oil. It’s a dark, dystopian 1980’s future and you don’t even realize it until you are nearing the end of the game. Now the end of the game is a little mind boggling as it kind of steps into Akira territory, but mixed with other subtle props in the background, you get the feeling that this was being controlled all along. Keep in mind that there is an alternative ending that is achieved by finding and destroying thirteen hidden orbs throughout the game that is a little more direct on what’s happening, but it’s not any happier.

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The game mechanics are rather easy, you just move left or right and jump when necessary. You can also grab objects to reveal passages or to move items to help you solve a puzzle. It’s easy and the game doesn’t prompt displays on how to move about or control, but rather treats you with some intelligence and eases you into how the game is played through increasingly difficult puzzles and situations. It doesn’t show you exactly what to do, but rather hints at how to go about figuring something out, so you aren’t left hanging, but you aren’t having your hand held either. However, it’s not just the puzzles that will be trying to stop you, it’s various things in the environment, like some sort of concussion blast that will literally blow this poor kid apart unless you time his movements right and use obstacles to block the blast. Another thing it a long haired, naked child that swims in the water and seemingly wants to drown you, thus forcing you to cause diversions or be very quick before either you run out of oxygen or you are pulled into the dark abyss.

I could keep going on, but Inside is a short experience (I beat it in just under two hours) that you should indulge in. It’s not about heavy handing a plot or theme to the player, but rather letting them figure it out and it manages to impact you with emotions from the oppressive imagery and what seems to be happening. I can’t wait to see what Playdead comes up with next. I’m sure it will involve horribly killing a child. (#DaretoDream -D.P.)

Comic Book Review: Axcend Vol 1 – The World Revolves Around You

(Submitted by our SuperheroScifi-tastic buddy, Mr. Prince Adam. Thanks, Heroic Ho-mie!! 🙂 xoxo)

“From New York Times bestselling creator, Shane Davis (Superman: Earth One, Rage of the Red Lanterns) and the superstar art team of Michelle Delecki (JLA, Wonder Woman) and Morry Hollowell (Civil War, Old Man Logan), AXCEND is the tragic tale of 3 teens who find the balance of humanity resting on their shoulders. When a group of gamers mistakenly set loose a virtual reality game into the real world, they risk everything to save an existence they always sought to escape. Fantasy and reality bleed together in the epic first volume of AXCEND, collecting issues #1 -5.” (Image)

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Ever since his stint on the pre-New 52 Superman/Batman and through to his work on the art for the Superman: Earth One graphic novels, I have been a fan of Shane Davis. When it came to following his first creator owned endeavour, I had no hesitation following his other work. This is Shane’s first go around as writer and artist on a book. His first opportunity to truly create a world and the characters that inhabit it. Oh and what a intriguing world it is. Really, Shane Davis has to do double the world building in this comic book. He has to create the fictional game of Axcend, three of the Avatars of the game and then the characters in the “real world” that are playing the game. Both these sets of characters are equally unique and interesting. Our lead character Eric Morn’s game avatar Axcend can create portals, and resurrect every time he is killed. Rayne is an absolute bad ass in the game. She’s dominant, almost dominatrix-esque and has two linking magical chains, that she uses similarly to Wonder Woman’s lasso, The final of the 3 avatars is Ruin. As his name suggests he is the big “Boss” the other two are trying to take down in the game. Ruin utilizes energy absorption, flight, his superhuman strength and telepathy to dominate the game and the other players. I won’t lie, the game is fictional…But I would definitely play it. If I had to choose a character to play as…it would be Axcend! He’s the novice, would-be hero of the game and I’m a sucker for the underdog. Shane Davis spends little time actually in the fictional game world, but he puts so much emphasis on the XP points and the characters special moves, you can’t help but get lost and hyped in the game.

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As cool as those segments of the story are, the real hook is the characters playing as those avatars, and why they are playing the video game.

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While the premise revolves around a virtual reality video game, the characters playing that game are dealing with real world, contemporary problems. Eric Morn is an average high school student, who lost his twin brother in a traffic accident. Since then, he has been withdrawn and a bit anti-social. Playing video games is a relief from his sadness and his escape from reality. Rain is a superstar pop singer. While the media obsesses over her and her management team uses her, she doesn’t have true friends or supporters in her life. She turns to video games, because she can shape and mold her image and also have relations with other gamers in co-op modes, Ruin is a Hispanic high schooler who experiences bullying and gay bashing from his peers. His retired army vet father is verbally abusive, constantly telling him he has amounted to nothing. He’s even gone so far as to try and slit his wrists. Thus in the game, he creates a commanding and physically dominant character to escape his perceived “shitty” real world. These are rather deep and heavy themes at play with these characters. However, these are issues that are plaguing teenagers today, so I appreciate Shane Davis shining a light on them. Many people play video games for the sheer fun of it but there are those who play them to escape their troubles. It’s important for non-gamers to understand that, so once again, kudos to Shane Davis for highlighting that.

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While highlighting the positives of gaming, the book also highlights the negative. All three characters become so engrossed in the game, it begins to consume their lives. Eric can’t concentrate on his class because he’s too focused on thinking about the game. Rain is so fixated on the game that she devises a financial strategy in the hopes of investing, or even buying the game outright. Meanwhile, the minute the persona behind Ruin gets home, he absconds to his room waiting for the next update. I’ve seen and read stories about people who get addicted to video games to the point where it consumes them, and they are unable to function or be productive outside of the gaming world. This book is not all about deep themes and character drama. There’s plenty of action that is spread throughout this story. Right from the start, Eric gets sucked into the game, through his console and literally becomes Axcend. It’s very reminiscent of the Tron franchise in this aspect. However, Shane Davis gives us Bizarro Tron when our characters became their game characters in the real world. I’m talking about full-on costumed/armored characters, complete with their superpowers intact. They are recruited in the real world, by the game’s training mode, “Dog”, who has been pulled through to the real world by Rain. He instructs her to recruit Axcend to stop Ruin, who has killed the President of the United States and taken control of the White House, My one real issue with this story is Ruin deciding to kill the President, because his Dad was bragging that he served for, and met Ronald Regan. That being the catalyst to promote such an attack seems like a bit of a stretch. This comic book also has a bit of an Inception vibe going on. I say that, because the Axcend game “comes to life”, if you will, during extreme circumstances. Eric becomes Axcend after getting hit by a bus, having an out of body experience. Rain, pulls Dog out of the game and becomes her character, after getting high on pills. Ruin becomes, well Ruin, after trying to slit his wrists. Since nothing is explicitly stated, it’s conceivable to believe that the game seeping into reality is due to hallucinations to these circumstances. There are a couple of massive twists in the third act, which I refuse to outright spoil here. However, I will warn that things involving Dog, Axcend and Ruin are not exactly what they seem. Be on the lookout for some buzzwords and hints of these twists. They’re there, if you pay enough attention.
Art-wise, Shane Davis is wonderful as always. Since I’m biased towards Superman, his Earth One books will always be my favourite work of his. That is in no way knocking what he’s done on Axcend. I loved that at least one of the main characters was Latino and of ethnicity. Also, that one was female is great too. It would’ve been disingenuous if the cast of characters was comprised of three white males. Females and Latinos play video games, too. Speaking of the game, the fictional look of the game’s environment has a bit of an 80’s game look to it, while the three characters have a more modern game aesthetic to it. Rain, or Rayne when in game mode, looks like a cross between DC’s Katana, The Pink Power Ranger and Indigo from Supergirl, given that both characters are A.I. Axcend looks like a cross between Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern and Iron Man. Ruin was the more generic looking of the three, Essentially he’s a stripped down version of Guardians of the Galaxy’s the Executioner and He-Man’s villain Trap Jaw. Axcend’s power of creating portals to travel from one location to the next looked great. It gave me some Sliders feels, so I give the artwork extra points for that. The final battle was so big and bombastic in scope. When you’re looking at the pages, you’ll swear that this is the common wet dream of Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich, and Jerry Bruckheimer.

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I’m glad I am following Shane Davis on social media because had I not been, I would’ve missed this book entirely. As noted, this book borrows elements from Tron and maybe even Inception, yet alters those ideas to make it their own thing and create an entirely new story for the comic book genre. The story deals with deep themes, gets pretty intense and emotional for the character, but never loses the sense of spectacle a tale such as this needs. Strong story, characters and great art make this one of the best books I’ve read all year. Since the cliff-hanger ending will drive me (and likely you all) nuts, you can bet I’ll be returning to Axcend whenever volume 2 is released. This is a definite MUST READ!

Batman: A Telltale Game- Chapter One- Realm of Shadows Review

(Happy #SuperheroSunday, fiendbots!! This rockin’ review brought to you courtesy of Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks, So Much More than Ho-rror Ho-mie!!! 😉 xoxo)

Over the years, no matter the media, we’ve seen a lot of different iterations of The Batman. From campy with nipples on his suit to somewhat serious and dark tone, everyone has their own idea what or how the Dark Knight should be represented. Telltale Games representation of the caped crusader seems to be a mish-mash of numerous Batman incarnations, like the Arkham series from Rocksteady, to the TV series Gotham and even a little bit of Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s actually a pretty good mix for the most part and although a few things bugged me, it’s overall really, really good.

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The game starts out with some action as Batman is taking down some seriously armed thugs and the game then cuts back and forth to a conversation with Alfred about Bruce pushing his limits. Sound familiar? Well it should, because Alfred went on and on about it in Batman Begins. In fact, another similarity it shares with that film is Batman is still relatively new to the scene. The cops have a task force specially designed to hunt him down, led by James Gordon, who is actually in cahoots with the Batman. The other cops don’t seem to know this as they will just open fire on the poor bastard. Anyway, after knocking out the thugs, Batman has his first run-in with Catwoman, rocking the Jim Lee style costume and black goth makeup. For a video game character, she looks pretty hot, as much as I hate using that word to describe looks. After a brief battle, she escapes and Bruce returns to the Batcave to analyze the data he found on the scene Catwoman was trying to steal. Of course, more lecturing from Alfred, Batman’s parents are still dead, blah, blah and now comes the oddest addition to the game. You ready for this?

telltale1 telltale2Oswald Cobblepot (you know, the Penguin?) is Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend. He’s looking a lot like David Tenant (“NICE!!!!!” -D.P.) and has a thing for crime. Clearly this is the major influence coming from the show Gotham, but it’s kind of… weird. I dunno, I didn’t hate this change, it just kinda threw me off and I can’t seem to get use to the idea. In any case, the two haven’t seen each other since they were kids, yet Bruce is able to recognize him right away (probably from keeping an eye on him) at his fancy party he’s throwing for Harvey Dent, who is running for mayor against the corrupt Mayor Hill, who I mostly remember as kind of a weenie from Batman: The Animated Series. Carmine Falcone crashes the party and tells Bruce and Harvey to play along or they’ll regret it. Of course being a Telltale Game, that option is very much up to you.

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After meeting up with Oswald, or “Oz” as Bruce calls him and Oz calls Bruce “Brucey” (just go with it), you learn the Cobblepot fortune is gone and he tells Bruce he plans on bringing Anarchy to Gotham and taking back what is his, clearly setting his character up very early. However that won’t be so easy with Carmine Falcone in the way, who Bruce knows he has to take down if Harvey is ever going to get elected and set the city straight once and for all. You finally get to be Batman once again and start solving crimes and taking down scumbags, but the game has plenty of surprises in it and one hell of a cliffhanger ending that will leave you in anticipation for the second episode.

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This is just as much of a Bruce Wayne game as it is a Batman game. Actually come to think of it, it’s more of a Bruce Wayne game. You spend a great deal as the billionaire playboy analyzing data or making important decisions. These decisions will come back to haunt you and will shape the game you play in later chapters. For instance, toward the end you have the option of giving the evidence against Falcone to either Jim Gordon or reporter Vicky Vale. I forgot to mention that talking to Vicky also has its consequences, but it all depends on how you approach her and one crucial bit where you can choose what kind of statement to give to the press, if you decide to leave one. As usual, all of the decisions have to be made in precise timing, each answer representing a different attitude and possibly affecting your future relationship with that character.

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Playing as Batman has a few different modes. Knowing it couldn’t be answering questions, this is where the game throws the QTEs (remember, that’s Quick Time Events) at you and they come at you real fast. I often found myself pressing the wrong buttons or not quick enough, yet there didn’t seem to be a real consequence for doing so. I noticed there was a little Batman meter in the lower left corner that filled up when you pressed a button correctly and decreased when you messed up. I never decreased it all the way, but I assume the game would end and you start at the checkpoint. The fight scenes are pretty satisfying, maybe more so than a button masher, but the real fun comes in the detective parts of the game. That’s right, you get to solve puzzles! Using different gadgets for a multitude of things, like tracking the trajectory of a bullet or figuring out how to take out a number of armed guards, the game leaves you to solve these clues using the devices they give you. There is a small number of these in the game, but that’s alright since it’s a really solid Batman story.

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I don’t think it’s Telltale’s greatest game (so far, I give that nod to A Wolf Among Us…Fuck yes, I LOVE that game!!!!“), but I can’t make the assessment yet, as this is only the first chapter and there are four more to go. Minus the whole weird Oswald Cobblepot thing (and even that could turn around), this is a really cool, really tense Batman story, even if it gets a little too melodramatic at times. I can’t wait to see where they go with Oz and to see Catwoman return and what her relationship with Bruce/Batman fleshes out into and if Harvey will become Two-Face… or if there are any surprise villains for future episodes? Guess we’ll have to tune in to the same Bat-channel when the second chapter is released. (On Sept. 20, if you were wondering. ;))

Goon Review: 7 Days to Die

(Submitted by Andrew Peters…Thanks, my fellow survival ho-rror loving ho-mie! 🙂 It’s interesting to see the end results of this particular game. I fo sho would’ve backed the shit out of it when it was on Kickstarter, and I’m still going to check it out. I’m just maybe not in a super rush, especially after getting your take on it… 😉 xoxo)

Let me start off by saying that I truly love video games. Not all video games, mind you, but a whole hell of a lot of them. I don’t have a specific genre that I love more than another, but gun to my head, I would have to go with survival horror. Like, actual survival horror or something more semi-recent like Alien: Isolation, where you have limited ammo and it relied on stealth, thinking a situation over and not being hasty and using your tools to survive. I’ve also like a lot of the older PS1 RPGs, because not only were there so many secrets, but you got to know the characters and involved in the story. Now, I know I have stated many times that I have mixed feelings on zombies. I love old zombie flicks, especially the Italian cinema zombies, but now I feel they are overused and they all look the same and plots are far too similar. Having said that, I’m also not into Minecraft. At all. In fact, in 2011 when I was at E3, I was playing a demo of it and people were watching. The booth babe was walking up to each player and asking what they were building and what they thought of the game. When she approached me, I honestly replied, “I don’t know. I have no idea what I’m doing or what’s going on. Am I supposed to know or did I miss something? This is kinda dumb.” I set down my controller and left.

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So, why did I talk about those various things and my experiences with them? Well recently I played 7 Days to Die on PS4. I know it had been out on Steam for PC before that, but I played the console version. When I read that it was a mix of RPG, zombie survival horror and castle defense with some Minecraft thrown in for good measure, I thought that this sounded really interesting and to be honest, it is. A game where you literally have to craft everything and I do mean EVERYTHING. Clothes, weapons, armor, food, shelter… the list goes on. Not only that, it pits you against the undead, which will run at night or all the time if you choose for them to do so in the options. You also have to beware of your elements. You can freeze to death or die of heat stroke and I noticed something else about the rain, like how wet you are? Guess it can destroy certain armors? I dunno, I couldn’t figure it out. However, you can also build all kinds of shelters or fireplaces and make yourself food or drinks to keep you alive. As you do so, certain aspects of your character level up and holy shit, is there a lot of them.

Now while all that stuff I listed could be considered “awesome” to most gamers, I found it to be far too overly complicated and confusing. After you choose your stereotyped character, you are immediately thrown into the game with no idea what is happening or going on. Immediately, I began wandering around, but there is a small tutorial that gives you the basic functions for some of your actions… note that I said SOME and some basic missions to accomplish that will be the basic roots of everything you need to do, like make a shelter, make a fireplace, make armor, make a stone hammer. Okay, so I have to build all of this shit, because apparently it’s some sort of post apocalyptic world where none of that shit lasted? Ok, that’s the point of the game, so whatever. You’re either with it or you’re not. I unfortunately was not. I did not enjoy this. I did not have fun. Probably because I suck at this type of game.

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Right away I felt lost. It took me some time to get my bearings on the game and when I thought I was, I calmed down a bit and was kind of enjoying it. But then, I began to suffer from heat stroke and this is where my biggest issue is with the game. This didn’t stop. It was constantly happening and as a first time player, there was nothing I could figure out to do. Getting water or finding shelter would be the best thing to do and I was even instructed to do so. But when I found shelter, I was given no indication on what to do. Ok, so get some water then, but from where? That wasn’t clear either. Soon, a couple of zombies were trying to break down the door and all I had was a goddamn rock hammer. Needless to say, I died. A lot. If it weren’t zombies killing me, it was the fucking heat stroke or in one case a bear. A fucking bear came out of nowhere and killed me. Oh and everytime you die, you have to backtrack to where you died to get all of your stuff back and then re-equip it. Hooray for tedious tasks!

I don’t consider myself a casual gamer, as I constantly play games, new or old. I can pick up any game, figure it out and be really good at it. I enjoy trophy hunting as well, which adds challenges to most games. But with 7 Days to Die, I have never felt more inept in my life and this includes my first time with a woman. (“Lol!!” -D.P.) I struggled so hard to figure out what I was doing, mostly because of the vague mission tasks you are given. They tell you what you need to do, but not much else besides that. While I am trying to figure this out, a random zombie (which, by the way, feel really scarce and I honestly didn’t see that many) would start attacking me, so I would have to back off and come back later, only I would start getting heat stroke and frantically and angrily try to figure out what to do in that situation. It’s a game that is constantly throwing obstacles, challenges, tasks with random difficulty spikes at you, with little to no instruction on what was going on or what to do. Unless you somehow know what to do, which I didn’t nor could I figure out. Just thinking about this game makes me feel frustrated, like it gave me PTSD.

sevendays2Graphically speaking, it’s clearly wasn’t made for the PS4 as everything looks blocky and choppy and honestly, looks like shit. Maybe I’m just hating on the game now, but visually I would say it’s not impressive. I didn’t have problems with the sounds, but I didn’t get to hear that many as I never made it too far into the game. Speaking of another problem I had, what’s up with the hit detection? It seems like zombies or fire or whatever random bullshit the game threw at me could hit me when I was nowhere near it, yet I literally had to be within docking distance of a zombie to hit it. Don’t know what docking is? I’ll let Diana charmingly explain that to you… (“What I do is not up to you…” ;))

This is so disappointing. I really wanted to like this game and I really wanted to get into it, but unfortunately it’s a game made specifically for a specific type of gamer and that’s not me. You can check out my videos below and hear me go from frustration, to almost nearly enjoying myself and then to rage.

Comic Book Review: Tomb Raider: The Beginning

(Submitted by Prince Adam…Thanks, my SuperHeroSciFi Fiend!! 😉 xoxox)

“In this prelude to the exciting new entry in the Tomb Raider video game saga, lead game writer Rhianna Pratchett reveals the untold story behind Lara Croft’s earliest adventure. Join Lara and the crew of the Endurance as they prepare for a thrilling journey to uncover the lost kingdom of Yamatai. For over fifteen years, the Tomb Raider adventures have been some the most enduring and popular in the world of video games. Now, Lara Croft’s bold new re-imagining is further explored by some of comics’ most talented creators in this exclusive volume.” (Dark Horse)

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I haven’t played a Tomb Raider game in decades. I remember enjoying the ones I did play though. I don’t care what anybody says; I really liked the two films that starred Angelina Jolie. With the game franchise recently rebooted a couple years ago, and a film reboot on the way, I thought now would be a good time to get back into the franchise. Before I play the new games, and well before the new film comes out, I thought I’d check out her comic book adventures. Luckily for me, Dark Horse published this book that takes place before the game. Unluckily for me, and unfortunately for every person who’s already read this, it is the most boring graphic novel in all my years of reading comic books. That’s not hyperbole on my part; it’s straight up fact. There is no adventure present in this book whatsoever. All you’ll really get in this book is essentially the ship crew of the Endurance preparing for a journey in the hopes they will uncover the lost kingdom of Yamatai. One of the positives of this book is that on a crew where ¾ of the people only care about making a hit reality TV show, Lara Croft actually gives a shit about the archeological significance of potentially finding this lost kingdom. We also get a sense of her father’s fame in the world of archaeology, and that Lara desperately wants to make her own way in the field, and carve out a legacy all her own.

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There are two particularly interesting characters in this book. One is Captain Conrad Roth, a former Royal Marine and now commander of the Endurance. The flash backs and story about his mission and capture in Somalia, and how he got free, was one of the more intriguing subplots of the book. As, too, was the character of Joslin Reyes and her flashback featuring her partner getting killed in a bust of a drug den. She vows to get revenge for her partner and his family, and once she does, she quits and then takes a job as a ship mechanic upon meeting Conrad Roth. I thought it was great that the story highlighted two characters with interesting back stories, but those stories accounted for about 5 pages of a 48 page story. However, when the story promises to be the untold story of Lara Croft, but she does basically nothing in the story, on some level, the story has to be considered a failure and a letdown.

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The art is handled by two artists who do half the book equally. Nicolas Daniel Selma and Andrea Mutti are the artists. Their styles are quite similar that the switch isn’t overtly noticeable. The art is enjoyable and really well drawn for the most part. If I had to pick a favorite of the two artists, I’d pick Nicolas Daniel Selma. His art is more consistent, and out of the two artists, he draws a better Lara Croft. Both artists are capable of drawing action scenes as evidenced by the Somalia flashback and the drug bust shoot out. However, this was a rarity in this book because a large portion of it featured imagery of characters standing around talking. The best piece of art in this book is the cover. Brian Horton’s work looks stunning, and is a perfect match for the aesthetic of the game; I wish the entire book had been drawn like this.

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I was so excited to read this book, but in the end was largely underwhelmed. This book is the epitome of a cash grab tie in. While I am not opposed to such things, I do get upset when they are done poorly, which is most certainly the case here. If you’ve been away from the Tomb Raider franchise, and want to read this to get back into the swing of things, like I did…..DON’T! I’m sure you can glean all the pertinent information you need from cinematic scenes in the game, and by actually playing the game yourself. Despite my negative reaction to this book, I will read the subsequent comic book that followed this. I’ve been assured that it is much better then what I read here. So here’s hoping my next Tomb Raider review will be a positive one.

Ho-stess’s PS– You KNOW I had to include some bonus Lara shots!!! Happy #WCW, Kinky-Hos!!! 🙂 xoxo

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(Those are from the OG nude mod we all heard tales of…I’m sure if I’d seen these back in the day I would’ve splooshed an ocean!! ;))

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(Hey! Don’t judge!! I’m sure she gets very lonely on those long treks… ;))

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(and just bc no one really got my costume at SDCC last year, here’s AJ’s Lara and I totally twinning!! 😉 xoxo)

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(See?? It was a totally rad costume…Except for me forgetting my guns. 🙁 Oh well…This year I’m actually planning in advance for Comic Con, so ho-pefully my costume will be cumplete this time!! 😉 xoxo)