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by Tt Shinkan
June Foray, the voice behind Rocky the Flying Squirrel from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and Granny from most Looney Toons cartoons. She passed away Thursday at age 99, just eight weeks shy of her 100th birthday. She’s considered the “First Lady” of voice acting with a career stretching almost 71 years in film and television
Dave Nimitz, a close friend of Foray, confirmed her death on his Facebook page. Nimitz wrote:
“With a heavy heart again I want to let you all know that we lost our little June today at 99 years old she is resting peacefully now with her beloved sister Geri and Sam her brother-in-law I'm going out of my mind with the loss and losing all three of them within the last month-and-a-half but they're in a better place now truly cherish my time with June and in the family for the last 14 years she is now in heaven with her family and my mother if I don't respond right away please forgive me I need to disappear from Facebook for a while Saturday we are having a private family only memorial for Sam So lts very bittersweet for me."
Foray’s voice acting credits include Talking Tina on The Twilight Zone, most of the female roles in Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Lucifer the Cat from Cinderella, Squaw from Peter Pan, Grandmother Fa from Mulan, Cindy Lou Who from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Magica De Spell, Ma Beagle, and Mrs. Featherb from DuckTales, and many others. She has more than 300 credits and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame honoring her voice work.
Not only was Foray a voice actress, she was a fighter for animation. She and others helped establish the Annie Awards which recognizes animation excellence and even pushed the genre to be recognized by the Oscars.
Foray won the Annie Award for “Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Television Production” for Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries in 1996 and 1997.
In 2012, she was nominated for her first and only Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program” for her role as Mrs. Cauldron on The Garfield Show, where she won and became the oldest entertainer to be nominated for and win an Emmy at the age of 94.
Source: Vanity Fair, MeTv, Vulture
by Emily Reuben
Japan’s Castlevania game series was once a must-own title for gamers willing to test their vampire killing abilities. Known for its relatively difficult gameplay, Castlevania is a nostalgic name for those who grew up with the NES and SNES systems, sparking memories of dark, gothic environments, whip-wielding heroes, and annoying Medusa heads. While a nostalgic title, the series has continued since the days of early Nintendo side-scrollers to feature more open-world, RPG-esque styles of gameplay which make most critics pine for the retro days of yore. When fans heard about an animated adaption of the once-beloved game series, many hoped it could compel the series to rise from its coffin of nostalgic obscurity.
Step into the shadows of the hell house
Netflix’s Castlevania shares it’s name with the first entry title of the Castlevania series, however is primarily based around the third entry in the game series, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse with some additions to plot and nods to more recent titles in the series.
Castlevania starts off in the fictional country of Wallachia, in the year 1455. A woman, Lisa from Lupu, decides to seek out the knowledge of Vlad Dracula Tepes and becomes his wife. After their home is raided by the church, Lisa is burned at the stake as a witch, the clergy labeling her scientific equipment as “Devil’s machines”. Enraged at his wife’s murder, Dracula gives the clergy one year to repent as he builds a hellish army. The show then turns its focus to Trevor Belmont, the last surviving son of his family, as he continues his family’s work of destroying creatures of the night that are terrorizing the walled city of Gresit.
The additions made to Castlevania’s plot were definitely needed in order to make a mini-series. While the game is able to convey the majority of this plot in a few short title sequences, it is simplistic and focused more on gameplay than storytelling. Castlevania manages to keep the story intact for fans of the game while making it more coherent and enjoyable for those unfamiliar with the game series. The most interesting change is the role of the church. While the overarching villain of the series is Dracula, he is shown in a more sympathetic light than in the games. It can be argued that in this first season the church is the true villain of the show. The show offers an interesting take on religion and indoctrination that is not often explored in the animated genre.
Overall, the plot is easy to follow and should be entertaining enough for just about anyone. The ideas concerning a corrupt religious government is an interesting notion, especially considering that Dracula is also an entity in this world. Between the church and Dracula, Castlevania urges you to think twice on which is the lesser of two insidious evils.
Visuals sharp as the crack of a whip
The best part about Castlevania’s animation is hands down the gruesome imagery. Eyeballs are ripped from their sockets; babies are stolen by hideous Hell monsters; limbs go flying; the list goes on. Castlevania does not shy away from gross and gory animation, which makes this show a delight for horror fans. Considering this is a world in which blood-sucking monsters are prevalent, the grim reality of Castlevania’s world is made abundantly clear to viewers and emphasized in these unfortunate situations. When the viewer is able to see these terrible things unfolding onscreen, the stakes seem much higher than if they had been censored or made more “family friendly”.
On the whole, Castlevania looks great; the characters have interesting designs, and the world holds an eerie, gothic tone in almost every shot. The animators did a great job with the often intense lighting. More often than not, the most impressive bits of animation are due to the spectacular character and environmental lighting and can make even a still close-up pleasing to the eye.
While at first glance the character designs and all around gothic style are promising, Castlevania is not exactly an animated marvel. Typically the foreground of the frame holds the most action. This is not necessarily uncommon in animation or filmmaking as a whole, however, this is strange in Castlevania due to the lack of movement in the background. For example, Trevor Belmont may be engaging with another notable character, waving his arms angrily or cracking his whip in an aesthetically pleasing way, but characters in the background are frozen in time, staring silently ahead. Instead of reacting to the action in front of them, these background characters feel more dead than alive and really drag down the overall quality of the animation. Yes, animation is an expensive medium, so it is not unreasonable to have some frames containing slightly blurred, motionless background characters. However when the shot remains unchanging for more than a few seconds it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to see lifeless sacks of flesh zoning out behind the main cast, disrupting the animatic flow within the frame.
On a similar note, there is some inconsistency regarding the scope of Castlevania’s animated world due to the lack of attention to the background. The town of Gresit feels nearly empty in many shots, with only a few scattered villagers here and there. A notable scene involves the villagers forming a mob and pursuing Trevor with one shot showing a huge number of villagers posing a threat, but in the very next shot there are only three or four. This inconsistency makes Trevor’s plight seems like an easily solved problem; the man fights vampires, so he can probably take on three normal humans.
Animation flourishes when there is great attention to detail. Shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Gravity Falls make sure to include minute details to keep the viewer engaged. Often, more can be discovered in these shows by looking at the background and the smaller details hidden behind the focal point of a shot. This is something that Castlevania ultimately lacks and could definitely benefit from in future seasons. While Castlevania’s animated style and tone are quite pleasing, more attention to polishing the movements and reactions in the entire frame would be much appreciated.
The holy water burns so good
Most adaptations of video games fail and fail hard. Luckily, the first season of Castlevania has enough care for the source material to make it a fun experience for viewers. Obviously, this mini-series could have been nothing more than a quick cash grab with the name alone, but the creators paid appropriate attention to the game lore and fleshed it out enough for the animated medium. While by no means a perfect adaption, Castlevania contains enough gothic character to warrant a watch.
All images from ScreenRant and IMDb
From the studio that developed the Kirby games, Smash Bros, as well as Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap comes the new free to play game Team Kirby Clash Deluxe. This surprise title was announced the day it was launched directly after the 12 April, 2017 Nintendo Direct. Team Kirby Clash Deluxe features teams of four Kirbies fighting together to take down a large assortment of bosses. There are four different combat roles to chose from: Sword Hero, Hammer Lord, Beam Mage, and Doctor Healmore.
Fantastically Mundane is an original radio drama produced by byte. Through writing, audio editing, and voice acting we tell the tale of Aisling University of Arcane Studies' four most awkward misfits and their adventures in magic, demons, and social anxiety.
Characters Episodes About Cast and Crew
by Emily Reuben
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for all previous episodes of this series.
“Shine Bright as the Sun” is the climax of season 2 of Blue Exorcist. Rin has just drawn his sword after struggling all season long with his confidence. Todo is still trying to get under Yukio’s skin figuratively and literally. Shura has just arrived to help Rin and Bon. Despite the main cast collectively coming together to fight the Impure King, the episode is rife with annoyances.
The first problem of the episode that becomes apparent is the writing. For some reason, every character feels the need to give exposition during the action. The rule “show don’t tell” is being blatantly ignored, making for a dull fight replaced with words rather than animation. While just about every character engages in this, the worst example by far is Mephisto Pheles, who has spent the last few episodes watching the action unfold while lounging about. One of the most blatantly distracting lines he utters is one wherein he just spells out the meaning of the show’s title, Blue Exorcist, for those who hadn’t caught on. A bit subtler yet also more annoying, toward the beginning of the episode, he recites a quote from Nietzsche that encapsulates the main theme of the entire series: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” This on-the-nose moment really breaks the tension, because the quote brings the struggles of the two sons of Satan into sharp focus, revealing just how predictable the story will end up. After this statement, it is difficult to imagine that any viewer will have difficulty determining the future sequence of events.
Rin is shown in this episode to have a Jekyll/Hyde complex when it comes to the character we have been with for most of two seasons. Besides Human Rin, his body also houses some deeper-voiced demon entity that represents Rin’s demon side. The thematic problems that this raises regarding Rin trying to overcome and embrace his demonic heritage aside, this contrasts to the treatment of Yukio as his relationship to his brother and father are repeatedly called into doubt by Todo. The writing for Yukio’s scenes has been the best of the season so far, but the writers really drop the ball in episode 11. While certainly not as bad as Shiemi’s dialogue, the writing lacks the weight and sense of import that it bandied just weeks ago, which is really a disservice to the awesome character the writers were building up. The way the show is framing these two, they are dealing with virtually the same problems, and while Rin has been shown trying to embrace his heritage, Todo’s jabs at Yukio suggest that he is dealing with his problems in the opposite way, allowing the abyss to gaze back into him.
The other obvious problem in this episode is the entire scene with Shiemi and Izumo. In addition to prolonging the audience’s exposure to these two, there is a lot of imagery in this scene that’s only apparent function is to stimulate the audience of this shonen, action anime. This exchange between Izumo and Shiemi is not only painful in how much it wants you to care about the feelings of these underdeveloped archetypes of femininity, but also in just how much time it takes away from the action.
On a side note, it’s also weird that Izumo is trapped at the same time Rin and Bon leave to fight the Impure King and while Shima and Konekomaru descend from the mountain to find help. All of this action is happening, but these two are still struggling after everyone else seems to have accomplished far greater feats. How long has Bon’s dad been bleeding in the grass? Needless to say, this anachronistic handling of these two exorcists doesn’t do the show any favors.
Failing to learn from its past mistakes, “Shine Bright” inexplicably reintroduces the practice of unnecessary flashbacks back into Kyoto Saga. Episode eleven commits fully to its folly in a way past episodes had not. Instead of showing clips from past episodes to remind the audience of basic plot moments, “Shine Bright” boldly shows viewers clips from mere minutes before in the same episode.
Not all of the episode is fault worthy. In the fight between Todo and Yukio, some of the designs used to show Todo slowly regenerating are appropriately unnerving. Instead of solely showing amorphous ash reconstituting itself as Todo’s body, there are shots where the ash can be seen forming his skeleton, which adds a lot to the grim tone of his scenes with Yukio. Though this concession is small, it is deserved nonetheless.
Instead of delivering a big finish, “Shine Bright as the Sun” brings the action to a close with a resounding “Meh.” With some of the worst writing of the series on display and clumsy character writing, “Shine Bright as the Sun” does anything but, barely able to muster a paltry glow. After the momentum of the previous two episodes building to a well written culmination of intercharacter tension, episode 11 of Kyoto Saga feels like even more of a letdown.
All Images From: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for all previous episodes of this series.
by Emily Reuben
Warning: This review may contain spoilers for all previous episodes of this series.
After the previous episodes of forced insertions of character development and drama, “Mysterious Connections” offers a slight change of pace. Yukio finally arrives at the temple and learns about the robbery of the Left Eye. He also learns that Rin has had an outburst resulting in his confinement. Disappointed in his brother’s inability to control his powers, Yukio tags along with Shura (Rin’s mentor) to visit and scold Rin. Shura delivers a letter addressed to Rin from Bon’s father, Tatsuma, and the remainder of the episode is spent retelling the events described in the letter.
The mysterious letter details the past of Bon’s father and the struggles he had faced when first taking over leadership of the temple. More importantly, the episode relates the acquisition of Rin’s sword (The Koma Sword) he received from Father Fujimoto in the prior season and Fujimoto’s involvement in these events. This adds some much appreciated explanation of character motives in relationship to the developing plot.
At this point, Kyoto Saga seems to be following the manga too closely. This is strange to say, as Kyoto Saga’s very existence is based on the fact that Blue Exorcist’s first season didn’t follow the manga closely enough. The biggest issue when adapting a manga into an anime is pacing. Sequences that only last a few pages in the manga turn into 6 episodes of an anime, effectively slowing the plot to a halt. Having read through the Blue Exorcist manga and knowing where the plot is currently headed, it is clear that far too much time has been spent on exposition in the anime adaption. This doesn’t mean that Kyoto Saga has failed as an adaption, however. It has certainly shown growing bonds between characters, rising tensions, and heavy foreshadowing of future events as opposed to remaining completely devoid of interest. The set up for an interesting season is definitely here, it just seems to be taking too long to actually amount to something. Only time will tell if the slow build-up will be worth the wait.
While the pacing up until now has been rather slow, what Kyoto Saga has been doing well is evolving character relationships. “Mysterious Connections” is no exception in this regard. One brief exchange between Yukio and Shura does a much better job at foreshadowing Yukio’s character than the entire last half of the previous season had managed to do. Yukio is by far the most interesting and charismatic character in the series, so it is genuinely impressive to see allusions to his character addressed with subtlety.
It is exciting to see Kyoto Saga begin to pick up the pace and demonstrate its ability to develop and expand on established characters. Hopefully, “Mysterious Connections” signifies an improvement for the remainder of the season and isn’t just a fluke.
All Images From: Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga
Adaptions of Japanese horror films seem to be a popular trend in American media, especially in the early 2000’s. A notable amount of these titles appeared in American theaters to varying amounts of success, including
The Grudge (2004), Pulse (2006), and One Missed Call (2008). With a few exceptions, most of these American adaptions are far less inspired than their Japanese counterparts, and as a result, many are forgotten shortly after their release. The film that started this trend of American re-interpretations of Japanese horror films, The Ring (2002), is one of the exceptions. Based off of the Japanese film Ringu (1998), The Ring was met with mostly favorable reviews and remains a title that is still heavily recommend by horror fans. While the American version of the The Ring was followed by both a short film and sequel, these titles have remained fairly unpopular among the general movie-going public and have been met with harsh scrutiny amongst critics. This year’s newest addition to the franchise, Rings, falls victim to the same old clichés that had plagued earlier entries in the franchise and ignores the factors that had made the original film a hit. Thus, Rings makes for a drawn out rather than horrific film viewing experience.
by Emily Reuben
The Pokémon franchise has experienced significant growth in the past few years. The release of Pokémon X and Y signified the series' leap into 3D, essentially reinventing the 20-year-old formula. To boot, the series has been brought into the public eye thanks to the runaway success of Pokémon GO. Pokémon Sun and Moon continues to expand on the series mechanics and style in a new, refreshing manner while managing to appeal to both veteran players and newcomers alike.
New monsters, new adventures
... some old faces bring new twists to both the aesthetics and strategy of the game in the way of Alolan forms.
The two most exciting aspect of any new Pokémon games are the new Pokémon and the new region. The Alola region is unique in that it is separated into four islands. Each of these islands are diverse in their appearance and offer varied environments, such as deserts or mountains, keeping the visuals from becoming tired or repetitive. New life is added to these virtual environments with the addition of Pokémon cries as the player explores and images of wild Pokémon inhabiting the area. Overall, Sun and Moon do an excellent job in making Alola come to life.
Various new Pokémon have been added to compliment the Alola region. Sadly, the player will encounter Pokémon from past generations more often than not, making it difficult to assemble a balanced team consisting of new creatures. However, some old faces bring new twists to both the aesthetics and strategy of the game in the way of Alolan forms. These Alolan forms grant old Pokémon new typing and abilities, further developing the competitive aspect within the game.
Cutscenes, cutscenes and more cutscenes
Upon first booting up the game, it is clear that Sun and Moon are far different than any previous Pokémon game. The Alolan region operates on a tradition known as The Island Trials, which replaces the Gym Challenges used in past Pokémon games. These trials require the player to challenge multiple captains across the Alolan islands and eventually defeat each island’s Kahuna, which acts similarly to a gym leader. These challenges are similar enough to keep long-time players invested, but also offer a refreshing new challenge.
Another significant change is one that many players may find grating. Veterans of the franchise may be annoyed by the amount and frequency of cut scenes intertwined within the gameplay. Initially, these cut scenes are charming and offer more character development than any other Pokémon game in the past. However, as the game progresses it becomes apparent that exploration has taken a backseat to these cut scenes in favor of story development. While the addition of a more fleshed out storyline is appreciated, I found myself rapidly skipping past dialogue in an attempt to simply continue playing the game. In the case of Sun and Moon¸ the story hinders the player’s experience to individually explore the region and make progress. These scenes not only interrupt gameplay, they also guide the player through the game, making this the easiest Pokémon game to date.
While some players may appreciate the redoubled focus on building a narrative, events in Pokémon Sun and Moon often feel like they are happening around the player as opposed to being influenced by the player. At several points during the story, the player feels less like an actor, and more like a spectator. Previous entries in the series emphasize the player as an active protagonist, but in this case, the player’s role in the main narrative too often takes a backseat to other supporting characters.
Face lift for a 20 year-old battle system
... the player can easily end up in a seemingly endless loop of knocking out opponents while trying to isolate their desired Pokémon.
The introduction of Z-Moves adds more diversity to Pokémon battles and makes for some very interesting animations. However, outside of using them to witness the new animations, there was never a point in the game where I needed them to defeat an opponent. Even in battles against trainers who could harness Z-Moves, I never had any difficulty defeating them without using them myself. More importantly, the animations quickly become stale once you’ve seen them a few times, and there is no way of skipping them. Essentially, while Z-Moves make for some interesting new gameplay, reusing them becomes more tedious than fun.
Replacing horde battles is the ability of wild Pokémon to call for help during a battle. A wild Pokémon can call another Pokémon to fight alongside it, making the battle two against one. While this is a handy mechanic for leveling up a party, it can become quite annoying when a Pokémon continuously calls for help after their previous assistance has been defeated. This plays a significant role in the battle experience when the player is trying to catch a Pokémon, as only one opposing foe can remain in order to attempt a capture. That little quirk can make catching certain Pokémon extremely tedious, as the player can easily end up in a seemingly endless loop of knocking out opponents while trying to isolate their desired Pokémon.
Sleek menus make for solid gameplay
The most notable and welcome addition to Sun and Moon is the improved interface. The menu screen manages to included multiple extensions without feeling cluttered or overwhelming. The change I found to be the most useful is the implementation of type advantages and weaknesses in battle. While experienced players are most likely familiar with the various move types and their effectiveness in a given situation, new players will be able to jump right in without becoming overwhelmed. For players already accumulated to Pokémon’s battle mechanics, this change minimizes the chance of mistakes in battle that even the most seasoned of players are prone to.
Smaller changes such as shortcuts to previously used items in battle make the overall experience much more fluid and user-friendly. Outside of battles, the general menu screen continues the trend of easy accessibility, allowing the player to access various features such as online interactions, items, or the new Pokémon Refresh with ease.
Pokémon finally masters 3D
Sun and Moon is far more visually attractive than the previous entries in the Pokémon series. As mentioned previously, Pokémon X and Y was the series’ first exploration into full-blown 3D, so players excused many of the graphical complaints. Unlike X and Y¸ Sun and Moon seem more accustomed to the realm of 3D. The Alolan region looks absolutely stunning and manages to feel much bigger than the preceding generation. Another notable change is the character design. Instead of the “chibi” look utilized in X and Y¸ the player and all of the featured characters are more proportionally correct, as well as more appealing to the eye.
While the visuals are to be complimented, smaller graphical errors have carried over from X and Y that should have been fixed. The biggest example can be seen in any battle with more than two Pokémon. The amount of lag experienced is a bit perplexing, seeing as horde battles (where much of the lag previously occurred) have not been carried over from X and Y. In Sun and Moon’s case, this lag occurs in double battles, which are far more common than horde battles were in X and Y. The lag really slows the pace of battles and manages to dampen the excitement, especially during battles against Totem Pokémon. Though it should be noted that this may be because of uneven support across the original 3Ds and the New 3Ds XL hardware platforms.
Not enough challenge; too much hand holding
....streamlined features answer long standing problems with the franchise....
I stated previously that Sun and Moon are by far the easiest games in the Pokémon series to date. This is largely due to the guide featured on the map that shows the player exactly where to go to progress through the game. There is little room for error here, as it is nearly impossible to become lost or confused. Aside from the new map, several other factors come together to make progressing through the story a breeze.
After almost every cut scene, the player’s Pokémon are healed to full health. Because these cut scenes happen so often, it is very rare that a Pokémon center needs to be visited outside of first accessing a new town, or healing items used. This makes boss battles extremely manageable, seeing as how the player is always given a chance to recover beforehand. Similarly, any negative status effects are easily remedied outside of battle through Pokémon Refresh, nearly eliminating the need to purchase status healing items.
Returning from the past generation is the Exp. Share, an item that allows all Pokémon in the player’s team to gain experience after a battle. This item allows for multiple Pokémon to gain experience at once without switching Pokémon during battle. While this is great for speedy playthroughs, the Exp. Share is just another tool that holds the player’s hand in an already easy game. The Exp. Share can be turned off at any time, making the game slightly more difficult, but its mere existence is a testament to the low-level difficulty the Pokémon series has begun to favor. Even without using the Exp. Share, there is little in the way of challenge during the main story for longtime players of the series.
One long-time fans will rejoice at is the elimination of HMs, or Hidden Machines. In the past, HMs have required players to replace more effective moves with HM moves in order to bypass physical barriers strewn throughout the games. Sun and Moon instead have various Pokémon that can be called upon at anytime to eliminate obstacles in the overworld. While this is a feature that has been long awaited, players no longer have to strategize around making room for HMs and are free to use the moves that work best for their respective teams without consequence.
All of these factors combine to create a game with little in the way of challenge for experienced players. The streamlined features answer long standing problems with the franchise, but little is added to keep the challenge intact. Newcomers may have a bit of difficulty grasping the basics, but with all of the in-game help included, the learning curve has been greatly flattened.
The Alolan region is full of inventive new Pokémon and gorgeous new environments that are genuinely fun to explore. Many new features and updates keep the Pokémon formula fresh. However, while this game may be the most welcoming to newcomers of the series or those who have not played a Pokémon game in years, veteran gamers will still have to look to the post game and competitive online-play to prove they are the very best, like no one ever was.
All Images From: GameRanx, VG247, Prima Games, Geimen, SegmentNext, Pokefans.net, Pokémon
by Emily Reuben
It seems today that all you see are over anticipated titles that never meet fan expectations. Many otherwise decent games fall victim to these overblown expectations. In the case of Owlboy¸ fans had 9 years to let fantasies of the game’s potential run wild. With the finished product finally available, the question emerges: how does it stack up?
Owl-song of the pixel-art genre
The very first impression the game imparts on the viewer as the title screen loads is the gorgeous sound design. The orchestral score swells, and it instantly immerses the player before they even get the chance to press play. The soundtrack of the whole game is so full of wonder and majesty, it truly is hard not to become invested.
Once that intrepid player starts a new game, they are greeted with some of the most aesthetically pleasing visuals that have come from sprite based games in the last few years. Breath-taking vistas of floating islands coupled with unique character designs make the aesthetic of the world feel alive. The adventure of the game will take the player through caves, ancient ruins, tundra, spiny mazes of thorn, and even to the interior of a pirate ship or two.
Story as classic as the graphics
The player takes control of Otus, a mute owl student struggling to learn the ancient ways of the Owls. While patrolling his hometown with his human buddy, Geddy, a gang of pirates attack the peaceful town. Absent from their guard posts, Otus and Geddy find an ancient Owl relic after following a troublemaker into some ruins in town. From there, the duo must do their best to stop the pirates as they continue on their rampage of relentless destruction.
As the game goes on, the story does not make too many surprising turns. It seems obvious that the story is present to serve as a vehicle for beautiful visuals, impressive sound design and reasonably tight controls. The generic story does not take away from the experience, but it does make one wonder at the possibilities of a story that could match the striking visuals.
Gamers may experience minor turbulence
Borrowing elements from 2D puzzle platformers and twin stick shooters, Owlboy packs a fun challenge. While the difficulty never gets out of hand, there were a few points that offer more complex gameplay, specifically the boss fights. The majority of these fights require memorizing a pattern of attack, however, some are more reliant on the player’s ability to act quickly and think even quicker. These segments are challenging enough to make the player feel genuinely accomplished and empowered to seek new and greater challenges.
Some mechanics have a few kinks in them. The auto-aim is a bit too sticky at times, and distinguishing allies from adjacent objects is vexing when trying to pick things up. Despite these minor hiccups, most of the gameplay is superb and without a hitch.
A genuinely pretty game wrapped in charming writing, Owlboy delivers a fun experience sure to transport any gamer to the Owl world. Through challenges that never feel unfair, the player is taken on a journey to a fantastical land filled with underdogs, pirates, and plenty of adventure to be had.
All images from: MobyGames, cgm, TechnoBuffalo and PlayingDaily
by Emily Reuben
Ever since the release of P.T. in 2014, numerous games have mimicked the successful formula which made P.T. a hit among horror fanatics. Despite the quantity of these knock-offs, very few are able to compare with the haunted atmosphere and masterful implementation P.T. managed to achieve. The Survey is no different in this regard. While The Survey manages to have a similarly chilling ambiance, exhausted horror tropes and unremarkable gameplay leave much to be desired.
Haven’t I heard this story before?
...what separates The Survey from less effective titles is the use of the cell phone, specifically the “survey” app.
The Survey details the lives of two children subject to their parent’s negligence and abuse. Lilith is an exceptional painter forced to paint for her parent’s profit. Meanwhile Marcus, Lilith’s younger brother, is ignored and even beaten by their alcoholic father. Lilith and Marcus’ accounts are relayed through a series of journal entries the player is tasked with uncovering throughout the course of the game, similar to other entries in the genre such as Layers of Fear.
The player takes on the role of Marcus alone in a narrow, dimly lit home armed with nothing but a flashlight and cellphone. Periodically, Marcus receives messages and tips from his phone, alluding to another person being in the house. This apparition can be seen at multiple points throughout the game as it appears to be looking for Marcus.
While this narrative line is nothing new, what separates The Survey from less effective titles is the use of the cell phone, specifically the “survey” app. While collecting journal entries and exploring the home, the player is prompted to take a survey on their phone. The initial questions are general and appear to be unrelated to the story. After a few questions, the survey becomes peculiarly specific, asking the player questions specific to the locations in the house. Eventually, the survey takes an uncomfortable turn when it notifies the player, “She heard you. Hide,” before quickly closing.
This warning is the height of the game’s narrative tension. Unfortunately, around halfway through the tension disappears along with the survey app. For a game titled The Survey, the actual survey is short and ultimately unrewarding, giving a false illusion of choice as events are relayed in a linear fashion. This is truly a shame, as the idea of the survey and its initial implementation build up the atmosphere substantially, but turn out to be a waste of a genuinely good idea that had shown a fair degree of promise.
Scary surroundings and spooky sounds
One of The Survey’s strengths is the eerie atmosphere created within the house. Sound is a rarity throughout, and when it occurs is appropriately muffled. The weakest aspect of sound is the rare instances of voice acting which occur over a radio transmission and television. While it is clear the intent is to implement an almost surreal or unnatural quality through heavily digitized and distorted audio, the execution leaves something to be desired. Because the only verbal sounds occur in these instances, they tend to break the muted, subtle sound established as the norm, as this disembodied voice is the only voice in the game.
As in most horror titles, darkness is pervasive in every room. The lighting
that exists lures the player into a false sense of security. The game succeeds at striking a healthy balance between the comfort of light and the safety of hiding in the shadows from that which follows.
Immortality is a curse, not a blessing
...knowing that there is no real way to lose certainly takes the “survival” out of survival horror with the “horror” leaving soon after.
The biggest failure of The Survey is a trap almost all modern survival horror titles become subject to: there are no stakes. From the first encounter with the apparition, it is evident that death is an impossibility. Instead, the game focuses on relaying its story, thus the player is unable to die in order to continue finding journal entries.
When this revelation occurs (and it occurs very quickly), there is little to be afraid of. While creepy imagery and suspiciously moving objects offer a sense of unease, knowing that there is no real way to lose certainly takes the “survival” out of survival horror with the “horror” leaving soon after. Because of this, the game needs to be viewed as an experience, or else boredom may quickly ensue.
Crashed again? The horror!
It should be noted that while graphical glitches did not occur while playing the game, managing to make The Survey advance past the loading screen was a horrifying experience within itself. After crashing six times on the lowest graphical settings, the game seemed virtually unplayable. By sheer luck, the game finally progressed passed the loading screen. A quick review of Steam forums reveals that this is not an isolated problem and that some players have been unable to play the game at all. With this information,it may be wise to wait until the game has been patched until making a purchase.
For a game that costs only 4.99, The Survey is a harmless entry into a tired genre. If you can manage to get the game to play, there is some genuinely unsettling content and innovative mechanics with in the game. Sadly, many of the better ideas are left unexplored in favor of more traditional gameplay. This appears to be Robert Gammon’s first foray into making games commercially, and for an inaugural game, it earns praise for its interesting concepts. However, a lackluster second half and an atmosphere robbed of tension leave the players wanting more. However, as the game’s tagline asserts, “in the end, everybody gets what they deserve.”
All images from: Steam and in-game footage.
by Emily Reuben
This review is based off the PC version of the game.
Every artist knows the maddening feeling brought on by writer’s block. A person could easily be driven to insanity in search of true inspiration. Layers of Fear, capitalizes on this idea, bringing to light a truly creative idea that, sadly, falls victim to horror clichés and repetitive settings in its execution.
A game well framed
The best part about Layers of Fear is the first few minutes of the game. You are an artist dropped into an enormous Victorian styled house, candles illuminate almost everything, and there are numerous notes to be found that reveal the information about the character. Very little information is given, so the player must discover by finding notes written by the artist. The task is simply to figure out the secrets surrounding the disturbed main character. If the game should be commended on anything, it should be for its spectacular presentation.
The game does a great job of creating an uneasy atmosphere that really sets the tone for the remainder of the game. A slow reveal of grotesque paintings and smeared paint on the walls act as a constant allusion to the artist’s descent into madness. From this, it is clear that there was a close attention to detail regarding what should be placed in the environment surrounding the character. Another great example within the game is the constant appearance of alcohol, showing the instability of the artist.
Darkness is prevalent in every room, making some areas hardly visible. The almost non-existent lighting in certain areas makes each step a cautious one for fear of what may be lurking in the shadows. Besides the grim lighting, the music that plays as you stumble about is ominous and foreboding. It is that pervasive, aural unease that truly sets the mood. Layers of Fear does an incredible job of setting up its environment, even within the first ten minutes of gameplay.
Painting with wide strokes
Sadly, after about ten minutes into playing Layers of Fear, it becomes apparent that there is more lost potential than actualized potential. While the atmosphere is initially very well done, the game suffers from repetitive hallways and rooms which make for a boring gaming experience. It is very easy to become turned around simply because many of the rooms look exactly the same with no characteristics that distinguish them from each other. Even the paintings on the walls are repeated throughout the game, which is something that could easily be remedied.
The only exception to this is the occasional horror element resulting in rooms becoming warped or the walls oozing with black paint. This does add a surreal look to the game, giving it a unique look. These instances are few and far between though, and ultimately, they shape the environment very little on any large scale. Overall, it is tiring to see the same patterns and layout in every room after so much effort had been put into initially establishing the game’s environment.
Spooky at best
The scares in the game are almost non-existent for those that have played games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent,Silent Hill, or most other psychological horror game. The only reason to be afraid is the occasional jump scare. While the jump scares are by no means overdone, they really don’t add much to the game. Oftentimes, the jump scares serve to take the player out of the action and to break their immersion.
Layers of Fear relies more on the psychological element as opposed to the physical, but even that falls short. It seems that the developers felt such a lack of inspiration for their horror game, they made a main character who equally shared their lack of vision. There is no material here that is truly unique. What this game does, other games have done better.
The concept of a struggling artist battling against writers block has a wide range of possibilities, but sadly they fell far short of expectation. The gameplay adds no new mechanics to the genre, the atmosphere (while initially impressive) is generic, and there is no reason to be afraid of anything in the game. Outside of the interesting surreal approach,Layers of Fear is nothing new, and does not have enough material to warrant the widely positive reception it has accumulated.
+Beautiful graphics and music
+Attention to detail
-Scares are cliché
-Generic horror formula
All images from Layers of Fear
Originally posted on February 18, 2016
by Emily Reuben
Being a fan of Nintendo’s ever-popular Pokémon series, I am always excited to see what new innovations Nintendo and Game Freak will add. With 720 monsters to catch and train, there are almost endless gaming possibilities. Despite the often celebrated replay value of the Pokémon series, some players complain that the formula is far too predictable. In every game you are guaranteed to have a starter Pokémon, train a team, fight gym leaders, and take on the Elite 4.
This can easily become tiresome to some players. This is where the Mystery Dungeon spin-offs really shine through. Instead of trying to be the greatest Pokémon trainer, the player is turned into a Pokémon themselves and the ultimate goal is to explore dungeons. The newest edition to the Mystery Dungeon series, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, adds progressive battle mechanics, new areas, and an interesting story, while continuing to improve on what that had originally made the series a hit.
What kind of Pokémon are you?
As in every Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, the player is required to take a quiz to determine which Pokémon they will become and who their partner Pokémon will be. The questions are extremely vague, but even so, they serve a purpose. Every answer selected helps to determine which Pokémon character the player’s personality aligns with. Something great that has been added is the ability to reject the quiz’s result, meaning that the player does not have to be stuck playing a Pokémon they do not like.
After the quiz, the player is shown a cut scene set in space. Two legendary Pokémon, Deoxys and Rayquaza are introduced to set the tone for the game. Rayquaza has left its normal territory, worrying Deoxys, who states that there must be something awry.
From this scene it is apparent that something ominous is about to take place. With this in mind, the player wakes up as a Pokémon, confused about their past. During the beginning of the game, a series of tutorials take place, which can be quite tedious. For players that are well acquainted with the series, the tutorials will probably be extremely obnoxious. They are not skippable and last for the first few dungeons.
Personality no longer second to dungeons
The plot is nothing too complicated. The game is certainly more focused on exploring dungeons than it is with character development or story. This is one area that every Mystery Dungeon game falls short in. Characters are never given too much personality outside of “wanting to be an explorer”. Super Mystery Dungeon succeeds in adding much needed character to a series with emotionless partners and non- playable characters. The player’s partner Pokémon has flaws and goals. The player’s Pokémon reflects on certain situations depending on which options are selected. With these advances, characters seem to be much more relatable and amusing than those in the past.
A whole new world to see
This game is much bigger than any of the previous games. Instead of being confined to one small town and multiple dungeons, Super Mystery Dungeon allows for the player to explore 5 new continents. This makes the game feel bigger and more alive. There always seems to be a new dungeon area to explore. The dungeons are each randomly generated, meaning that each time exploring will be different than the last.
Vibrant cutscenes and game world
Super Mystery Dungeon looks very similar to the previous installment, Gates to Infinity on the Wii U. The character models are in 3D, making Super Mystery Dungeon the first handheld Mystery Dungeon game to transition to 3D models. The models look great and really help to make the game feel more immersive. Cut scenes have much more character to them because the 3D models allow for more movement and expression than static pixels. For the most part, the game utilizes bright colors to give it an innocent appearance. This works very well during some portions of the game, however, there are instances when this appears childish and does not fit the tone of the story.
While the design is by no means perfect, I would say that this is the best looking game in the Mystery Dungeon series because of the added motions of the characters and detail to environmental design.
A few of the newer gameplay mechanics are derived from advances in main series Pokémon games. For example, Mega-Evolution and Awakening have been added to reflect additions in Pokémon X and Y. This adds many new Pokémon and types available for gameplay, which is always a nice feature. The most useful advance is the addition of team sets. This allows a player to make pre-set teams for dungeons and select a team whenever entering a dungeon, removing the need to make a tedious trek for a favored teammate. New held items called “Looplets” allow a character to collect “Emeras.” Emeras give teammates a temporary stat boasts while in a dungeon. Some of these boasts effect statuses like defense and attack, making the Pokémon stronger, while others allow the Pokémon to avoid traps and stat reductions, essentially allowing for more personalization regarding teammate abilities and strengths.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is an excellent addition to the Mystery Dungeon series. While the game is still extremely simplistic in regards to story and character, there is much more focus in both of these areas than in previous installments. Dungeons also have many new mechanics which allow for many strategic styles of gameplay. With a combination of new dungeon mechanics, interesting characters, and an updated game design, Super Mystery Dungeon appeals to longtime fans of the series and newcomers alike.
+More character personalities than previous games
+Ability to choose characters
+Many new gameplay mechanics
+Multiple new areas to explore
Originally posted on November 24, 2015
On a special Button Mash, the new editors sit down to talk their favorite films and their new positions. Check it out!
This review is based on a playthrough on a PC running Windows 10 on an NVIDIA Geforce GTX, intel i7 processor, with 8 Gb of RAM.
While a main series Pokémon title has never been introduced for home console, every new Nintendo release offers some sort of Pokémon battle simulator with more impressive graphics while maintaining the same familiar rock-paper-scissors style of fighting present in all Pokémon titles. Pokkén Tournament takes a new approach joining the ranks of other fast-paced fighting games, offering a unique experience for fans of the Pokémon series and fighting games alike.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Byte is doing a month long Byteing Question about the most iconic female characters and why they matter. Every day two writers will look at two characters that are important to them in many different ways. Today, we look at Hermione Granger and Arya Stark
Being one of the most popular franchises in all video game history, Nintendo releases a Legend of Zelda title on almost every console. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has always stood out in the Zelda franchise for its compelling characters, tone, and story, making it a perfect title to update for a new generation of players. In almost every way, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD improves on the original game, while adding a much needed challenge.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Byte is doing a month long Byteing Question about the most iconic female characters and why they matter. Every day two writers will look at two characters that are important to them in many different ways. Today, we look at Garnet and Aerith