Batman: Arkham Asylum


I don’t remember it raining that much…

For a mere $5, I downloaded this gem from the Playstation Store during their Steam Summer Sale knockoff. And boy, was it well worth my lunch money. I’m not a Batman purist or anything. The extent of my Batman knowledge comes from the latest Christopher Nolan trilogy because I tagged along with my husband to see them. Therefore, I’m in no position to comment on how this game follows the comic lore. I’d heard the Arkham games were fun, and for $5 I was willing to check one out.

I have little criticism for this game. I’m going to come out and say the graphics and visuals were great. I loved the voice acting and designs for the characters as well, even though Harley Quinn looked like a super skanky cheerleader on speed. She was hilarious, by the way. I was sad when she bowed out of the narrative. While the bosses and Batman staple characters looked great, Joker’s goons that you fight throughout the entire game were pretty boring.You seriously fight them all the way through, even during the final boss fight. I was hoping for more interesting Titan transformations I guess.

The surroundings managed to stay relatively fresh, even when I found myself revisiting the same areas through the narrative. Instead of being really lazy, they made changes or cut off certain areas to force you to explore more. And no glitches! None! The game ran smoothly, with understandable loading screens. The music wasn’t very impressionable, I will say that.

I enjoyed the gameplay and battle system. For video games that I play on my own limited time, I am relieved when I can pick up the controller five days later and still remember how to play. Look at it this way: it took me a month to finish an 8-10 hour game. When fighting goons, you have two primary attack buttons. When leveling (a simple, to the point leveling system, might I add!) you can slowly add variations to the combat. I flung out my batarang during battle just for fun. The batclaw was great for taking down the annoying goons with the stun rods. I got the inverted takedown, which is really situational so I didn’t get to use it as much as I would’ve liked. You basically have to be perched on a gargoyle, undetected, and wait for one of Joker’s henchmen to walk underneath you. Then Batman strings them up in the air, which almost always made me chuckle.

Speaking of gargoyles, I’m not entirely sure how swinging back and forth between them makes the enemies lose track of Batman. It’s pretty obvious he’s there. I mean, just look at the big black cloak flapping in the air. I’m sure it was the best improvisation they could come up with at the time. Otherwise, enemies will just shoot at you until kingdom come because Batman won’t use a gun for whatever reason.

During Arkham Asylum you fight toe-to-toe with many Batman baddies, who even I recognized. I found the boss fights to be experimental and different, but not in the frustrating way. The encounters with Scarecrow were my favorites. I enjoyed each one. I’m not entirely happy with how he was “defeated.” Aside from the Scarecrow encounters, expect to be using your batarang a lot.

Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and tools was fun to tinker around with. I upgraded the batarang a lot because I wanted to be able to hit 3 goons at once and I also wanted to control it as it flew just like Xena’s chakram in her PS1 game. Batman’s tools do have some battle applications, but the bulk of their usage comes with exploring the asylum. You can grapple and blow walls up to your heart’s content. Why would you want to? Well, all sorts of goodies are scattered and hidden throughout the game in places like alcoves and sewer grates. You’ll find patient files (There’s a Calendar Man? Really??), Chronicles of Arkham tidbits, interview tapes (some of them are pretty disturbing) and, my personal favorite, Riddler trophies. Collecting trophies and solving his riddles elicits some great responses from the Riddler. It was a great distraction. I would try solving his riddles just to hear his snide comments. Collecting Riddler’s hidden goodies unlocks different Challenge modes and stuff that I admittedly didn’t experiment with.

Batman: Arkham Asylum was an entertaining game to pick up and play for an hour or so whenever I had the time. It isn’t a long, involved game, though it does have a plethora of extra things to do if you’re willing. I, for one, enjoyed my brief time with Arkham Asylum and am totally open to experiencing the other game as well.



Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones


Don’t get too excited; this badass-ery is a double-edged sword-chain-whip-thing.

It’s official: Steve-O and I have come to the conclusion of our journey through the Prince of Persia trilogy on Playstation 2. If you’ve read his “Roast of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within” post, you’d know our experience with the middle installment was less than pleasurable.

So then, does the trilogy end on a high note or a low note? I’m gonna say it ends on a middle note. Coming fresh off of Warrior Within, we were on a  high during the first few hours of gameplay that, unfortunately, quickly faded each time we sat down to play for a few hours.

We had a very sour taste in our mouths after finishing Warrior Within (by glitch-killing the Dahaka, of all things!). I did some sleuthing online and the general consensus seemed to be that Two Thrones was superior to its predecessor. Thank the gaming gods, because we weren’t sure if we could suffer through a repeat of Warrior Within without the Dahaka. The game starts off with the Prince and Kaileena returning to his city, only to find it in bloody squalor. Apparently the stuff he did in Warrior Within undid Sands of Time. Therefore, evil vizier hath returned. Half-naked Sand Empress gets kidnapped and the opening is you chasing her kidnappers through the city where blood is being shed all over the place thanks to pesky sand demons running amok.

Traversing rooftops via wall-running and pole-jumping is familiar territory. Dagger plates and spring boards were added for more variety. Like my programming issues with the other PoP games, you have to hit the button before you actually want Prince to stick his dagger in the plate or spring from the board. I also didn’t like how there was a separate button command to spring from the boards or to spring from the boards and transition into an attack to kill the enemies waiting for you on whatever platform you’re advancing to. There’s never an instance when the player wouldn’t want to kill the enemy. Ever. So just kill them without making me remember to push a separate button when I’m already hectically button mashing X so he’ll jump instead of falling to his death for no reason. Because, again, response time in these games is terrible for the precision that is required.

A new feature that impressed right away was the quick kill. After spending 15 minutes pressing the same button per trash encounter in WW, were were immediately jumping off the couch with glee when we could stealth kill enemies in one or two blows. In the beginning of the game, it really cut down on time wasted dealing with run-of-the-mill sand demons. Sadly, this was not the case for the long haul. This game was released the same year as the first God of War. Let’s just say that between the two of them God of War got quick-time button prompts right and Two Thrones failed. Like, epic fail. As with the rest of the commands in this game, the majority of the time you’re expected to know when to push the button before the game actually tells you to push the button. But don’t press the button a second before the second before you are given the prompt! You’re still screwed then, too. After the first couple of hours of the game, stealth kills turn into 3-5 button presses that vary depending on the enemy you’re killing and become too frustrating to bother with. And they aren’t obvious like in God of War and other games. The screen color fades and you’re given a slight flash of the prince’s blade (which is sometimes OFF SCREEN). Like I said, the prompt is usually displayed after the fact, which is my main gripe.

So yeah, that new feature turned stale pretty quickly. And they couldn’t have left it at that, either. The first real boss can only be killed with said quicktime events. The prompt didn’t even show up half the time (looked online and found out it was a common glitch). This turned the fight into a frustrating guessing game. Then the final boss fight was another hair-tearing practice in quicktime masochism. Being the final boss fight, it was harder. There’s debris circling the floor. This means that every time I failed at a quicktime event, the boss would throw Prince to the ground and he would get hit by at least one circling boulder because he doesn’t know how to get off his butt without staring at the sky for a while and then doing three fancy acrobatic rolls first. I’m very glad I never have to do that again.

Due to certain plot events I probably shouldn’t disclose for fear of spoilers, you now get to play as the prince’s alter ego. Dark Prince pops in at certain points throughout the game. He’s actually pretty funny. I laughed quite a bit whenever he berated the prince for being such a lame softie. Dark Prince and WW Prince would’ve gotten along just fine. As the game’s cover art suggests, when Prince turns Dark, he literally turns black and also gets an awesome whip. This awesome whip makes stealth kills way easier. The way it alters battle is fun. However, the new battle perks come at a steep price. Remember the end of WW, when the prince was a sand wraith for a little while? If so, I’m sure you recall the health drain. While annoying, it wasn’t a game changer because the drain would stop when Prince’s health fell to 25%. In Two Thrones, the health drain doesn’t stop until you’re good and dead. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but WW did something better than Two Thrones. To create the sense of urgency sequences now left vacant by the Dahaka’s defeat, the developers thought it would be cool to have sections where the player must negotiate crazy platforming sequences (with added torch swinging via chain-whip that we always forgot about between gaming sessions) against the clock, so to speak, thanks to the health drain. When playing as Dark Prince, sand refills health. So in the beginning of the game, when they were being easy on the player, it wasn’t a big deal. Later on… well, let’s just say I haven’t expected mandatory level memorization since the SNES era, so pardon me for being annoyed at having to suffer through the same area over and over again until I achieve flawless (Megaman) precision. And that’s assuming the prince responds to your commands as you hope and doesn’t jump to his death just for fun. I almost thought Steve-O was gonna throw the controller through my brand new TV screen in a fit of rage when he was doing the final Dark Prince platforming sequence. It was overcome-able, but not before the most painful half hour of the game. The health drain must be percentage-based, because we had all the health upgrades and still managed to run out of health.

Speaking of health upgrades, obtaining them is relatively similar to WW. The prince must go off the beaten path, wall-run and dodge roll around all manners of sharp, pointy objects to gain his prize. Except this time around there’s no fancy water sword waiting for you afterwards.

Sand upgrades are handled a little differently in this game. Instead of solving mini wall-running trial and error puzzles, you approach a sand portal and have to kill its guardians. According to the strategy guide we were referencing, killing the fancy captains or whatever they were was supposed to reduce the amount of enemies appearing from the portal that we had to kill. I didn’t find this to be true at all. Even when killing the captain first, ten more sand abominations would pop out of the portal. Aside from dealing with the sloppy combat, I didn’t really have a problem with this new method. The only let down is when you spend time killing cronies to be rewarded with “Sand Credits”… AKA, no reward at all. Scattering this artwork/concept design currency throughout the game in treasure chests is fine. Putting it in sand portals is not fine. My guess is that the developers realized from WW that gamers didn’t really get a chance to use all the fancy offensive moves they created because we’re too busy using the limited sand we have to rewind time because enemies never drop health unless you’re Dark Prince. 

Enemies never dropping experience or health is my long-running gripe with this series. Why bother suffering through the terrible battle system if you aren’t rewarded for doing so? I’d call this an action game pet peeve, but I can’t think of any other games of this nature that do such a thing. I tried running away from enemies when able, but that was a pain in the rear too because the prince refused to leave enemies be. He’d insist on facing enemies and remaining in battle stance the entire time I tried pulling him away from them. I felt like I couldn’t win either way.

Most of the aesthetic features are better than the previous installment. The graphics are better. They still suck, especially considering God of War was originally released the same year. The music is so, SO much better than WW-Godsmack “I’ve forgotten what kind of game this is supposed to be,” music. Sorry, but in my mind the only action series I’ve played that can pull off the metal vibe is Devil May Cry. Two Thrones has great music that suits the setting. They also brought back the original voice actor for the prince, who I liked better.

The enemy designs are kind of boring, now that I think about it. The bosses looked cool, but everything else you fight feels dull and uninspired. Character designs are fine. And by fine, I mean damn fine because the prince runs around topless the whole game and the femme du jour actually isn’t dressed like a complete hooker.

In retrospect, the first PS2 game, Sands of Time, was the most enjoyable. This is strange to me. In my experience, I find game trilogies start off decent, the middle game veers too far off and sucks balls, then the finale not only fixes everything wrong with the second but it supersedes the first. I don’t feel that way about the PoP trilogy. I also don’t feel that anyone in their right mind would recommend these titles as fun or good games. Especially after playing current gen games that got action platforming right; i.e. the Assassin’s Creed series, Prince of Persia (reboot?) and the Uncharted Series.  This trilogy planted a seed, I’ll give it that, but I really can’t see forgiving everything else wrong because of it… Even if I played these games when they were first released.

Epilogue: After forcing ourselves to play all three Prince of Persia PS2 games, Steve-O and I watched the movie, featuring Jake Gyllenhall as Prince Dastan (they gave him a name… WTF?). We both agreed the movie was enjoyable because it had little in common with the games.


Kick-Ass 2!


Not bad for homemade masks, huh?

I  finally watched Kick-Ass 2!  Considering my degree of unabashed-worship of the first movie, the fact that I could restrain myself long enough to attend with SPAtrick is remarkable itself.  More remarkable still, is that I’ll surprise her with a second review in a week’s time!  Next comes the rain of frogs and plague of locusts!

First and foremost, I will try my damndest to keep spoilers to a minimal.  The movie isn’t quite a week old, after all.  Some of my major discussion points will likely touch upon minor spoilers, but as telegraphed as some are, I’ll avoid major spoilers as best I can.  If you’ve even glanced sidelong at a trailer for Kick-Ass 2, you realize that both sides of the roster have exponentially increased.  A judicious chunk of this review will be discussing the roles performed by the supporting cast and crew, so if you consider knowing the names and status of additional heroes and villains in the sequel to be a spoiler, consider yourself warned!

Okay, I will approach the subject by saying that there seems to be a definitive bias in characterization leaning toward the heroes, so the meat of the discussion will be on the heroes (with one glaring exception, due to how flat-out bad-ass her role was performed).  I wouldn’t fault the film for this; aside from the Motherf*cker (and even that is a stretch), not a single major villain is meant to be even remotely sympathetic.  A case could be made for one of the minor villains, but minimal spoilers, dammit!

We all knew what to expect from Dave, Mindy, and the rest of the returning crew, so I’ll put that on the back burner for the time being.  Rounding out the hero roster, we have comedic actor legend Jim Carrey (Colonel Stars and Stripes), Clark Duke’s enhanced role (Marty),  Donald Faison (Doctor Gravity), Robert Emms (Insect Man),  and Lindy Booth (Night Bitch).  I’ll start out by coming clean; I caught the trailer revealing Jim Carrey’s inclusion a little late.  When I was told he had been cast, I had to scratch my head a little bit, trying to remember his latest cinematic inclusion I could recall.  I’ve been out of the movie loop for a while, fair warning, but in my recollection, he’s been out of the spotlight for the better half of a decade.   Regardless, I’d  say his performance was adequate.  Considering the character he was meant to play, his dialogue was appropriately delivered and sensible, while not exactly a performance for his highlight reel.  In my older (and considerably more jaded) age, I’ve come to reason with A-list actor/actresses performing mundanely when mediocrity is really all the role allows.  That considered, Carrey’s performance was not disappointing; never did I see Stars & Stripes and sigh in discontent.

Clark Duke continued his role from the first movie with a fair bit of added emphasis, and I’ll leave it at that.  He extrapolated his initial role seamlessly, as well as the reasonable, organic character growth expected of the continuation of the story.  The character, Marty, finding himself embroiled in some of the situations he did seemed a bit of a stretch to me, but I believe the actor handled the adjustment admirably.

Donald Faison was a bit of an odd beast, to me.  By the time of his introduction, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect of him, given the tone set by previous scenes.  His initial dialogue led me to resign him to comic relief; however, shortly thereafter he has an act or two of bad-assery.  And such was his lot throughout the length of the movie; I’m still on the fence about which camp he primarily falls within.  When you consider the level of camp-iness set by the movie, however, this is easy to take in stride.  I will throw the role of Robert Emms in this paragraph as well; he was a supporting role at best, and considering the depth and time constraints set by stronger plot characters, I think he performed adequately.  He encompassed the spirit of the heroes’ goals in his introduction alone, and fulfilled his following obligations as combat-filler just as well.

And Lindy Booth.  Aside from having the simultaneously-least-original-but-funniest superhero name (Night Bitch, really?), all I can say spoiler-free, is that she was an archetype before character, really.  When you see her introduction and demeanor, her role throughout the better part of the remainder of the film will be unsurprising,   I will commend the writers on giving her a very real approach to certain situations, as brief as it may be.  Finalizing the hero roster we have a pair of grieving parents, who took up masks in the wake of the loss of their child, and respond to the call-to-arms against villainy as any middle-class couple would; wanting to leave it to the police initially, and then arming themselves with brick-filled pocketbooks.

Before addressing the roles of veteran heroes, I’ll dabble in the newcoming villain’s roster.  “Black Death” is, 100%, mob muscle.  His introduction, which is coincidentally all of his characterization, paints him as such.  His costume design is visually striking, (my personal favorite of the bunch), but that’s literally all there is to him.  Next, we have “The Tumor”.  Like Black Death, his introduction tells you virtually all you need to know of him; he’s violent and angry, and short.  The characterization behind most of the villains was, seriously, no longer than “Let’s try to stereotype them for one-hit jokes, lol.”  A point addressed by the movie!    Considering the tone set by the film, however, this is no surprise.  Furthermore; let’s face it.  These characters were pure fodder.  We were never intended to have an emotional tie with them, why would we fault the script writers for failing to develop that connection?  Similarly generic was the comically-named ‘Genghis Carnage’, although he has the honor of ‘most spoken underling dialogue.’  I think he may have actually had four lines!

Rounding out the villain roster, we have Mother Russia.  The show-stealer.  Without getting into too much kick-ass (ba-dum tshhh) detail, I will say that she was the face of villainy, hands down.  Her performance was absolutely archetypal; the attention spent on fulfilling her niche showed.  I couldn’t stop myself from leaning over and whispering to SPatrick “Jesus Christ, she’s like a female Dolph Lundgren!”  Before any of you rage at me, yes, I know Dolph is Swiss.  It was in reference to Ivan Drago.  Toward the end of the film, I found myself thinking “If they had two of her, it would have been a done deal.”  She carried the villainous team, hands down.

Now, on to the recurring cast.  I’m fairly certain they cast a new actor for Todd; Augustus Prew.  Of all the returning characters, his performance was the most underwhelming.  I can’t imagine stepping into the shoes of a character established by another actor is easy, but it just seemed like he missed the mark.  Too much of the personality was lost in the shift, and the role of Todd just seemed to serve to fill a vacuum.

I have minor grievances about the roles of both Dave and Mindy.  Primarily, both seemed to have lost their teeth, so to speak, in the interim between movies.  Dave has a bit of trouble handling a group of gang-bangers when he had previously been tortured and in life-and-death shootouts with hired mob gunmen.  I understand they were trying to emphasize the trainer/trainee relationship between Dave and Mindy, but it just seemed a little inconsistent.  And Mindy, a.k.a Hit Girl…I wasn’t thrilled with the length of her bout of soul-searching.  As a plot device, I understand the need to show her attempting to ‘fit in’.  However, it dragged on for far too long.  I won’t pretend to be an expert on the matter, but this is the sort of thing that, I believe, could have been halved in duration, not lost its significance, and preserved pacing.  When I go to watch a Kick-Ass movie, do you think I want to watch over an hour of Hit Girl pining over hanging out with the cheerleader uber-bitches?  Not exactly.

And Christopher Mintz-Plasse.  Jesus Christ, you could write a thesis on how messed up this kid is, and it’s a good thing.  As the only villain on the roster with more depth than you can soak your feet in, it’s good to be able to try to rationalize why the crazy creepy kid is doing what he’s doing.  The degree of difference in the direction the character of Chris D’Amico has taken between films really illustrates the toll the events took on him, and did wonders to establish his growth as a character.  From film A to film B, Chris easily takes the cake in character development and response to the impact of the respective films.  To do this while embellishing his role as comic relief (and his dialogue has no shortage of that) speaks volumes to the amount of care that went into his characterization.  I could easily see one person writing him off as a spoiled kid, with write-off one-liners whose sole purpose is to secure chuckles, while the person next to them considers Chris completely severed from reality due to his fathers’ death, with the occasional “oh shit” moments of realization.  You get as much as you’re willing to think into his role, and the fact that the role performs at least adequately at each end of the spectrum is impressive.

Aside from a disagreement pertaining to the length of Hit Girl’s adventures in High School drama-land, the pacing was respectable.  We were treated to witness the actions of heroes and villains in spurts enough to keep curiosity sated and, truth be told, even the high school drudgery was sated with enough entertaining dialogue to make it bearable.  The soundtrack seemed a little more ambitious than the original (which borrowed more-than-heavily from tunes in existing films).  A lot of the underlying music was definitely inspired by music from the first movie, but was remixed enough to breath at least a little life of its own.  All in all, if you were a fan of the original, absolutely check it out.  It serves a very solid continuation of the storyline set by the first film, and a few quirks aside, met the expectations set by the the original.


Silent Hill: Revelation


Why is Pyramid Head even here?!

Oh, where to start? Silent Hill: Revelation has been on Netflix so I’ve been meaning to watch it in the comfort of my own living room for a while now. It is only an hour and a half of time spent wishing this wasn’t a sub par video game-to-film adaptation, even of its own niche. While I won’t put it on par with the last couple of Resident Evil movies they’ve churned out, it is still pretty abysmal.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume the following people are the only ones who went out of their way to see this film: fans of the video game, fans of horror movies, and unfortunate tag alongs. I’m a fan of the video game, of course. Actually, Silent Hill 3 (the video game entry this is loosely based on) was the first Silent Hill I managed to complete. Sure, I had all the lights on and hugged a strategy guide while playing, but I did it! Like other Silent Hill fans, SH3 left a lasting impression on me. I tried to leave my lofty impressions at the door when I entered the movie theater to see this for the first time, but I’m still amazed at the screenwriter’s complete disregard for the base material. Seriously. Filmmakers must have something against taking a perfectly understandable video game story and recycling it into a movie. I have no problem seeing the same plot regurgitated into a film. I’d imagine that’s why fans go to see these movies. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but when I go see a movie based on a video game or a book I’ve read, I want it to be a live-action representation of what I’ve imagined based on the source material. Some artistic license is understandable. A complete bastardization is not.

I think those grounds alone, not counting what I’ll be going on about soon, are enough for die-hard fans to be disappointed about. People who like horror movies who went to see this for a Halloween fright were probably disappointed as well. Because, really, this movie ain’t scary. It has some good imagery (I’m a sucker for the Otherworld transitions), but nothing compares to the first Silent Hill movie. See, the first Silent Hill movie completely screwed with the story as well. But it had horrifying events and images that screamed Silent Hill. I’ve only watched the first SH movie twice and there are scenes I can instantly recall with a shudder. Barbed-wire rape scene, anyone?

Revelations did no such thing for me. The only part that really stuck out for me was the mannequin room. Not because it scarred me for life, either. Just because I liked that part in the game and the new mannequin monster had a cool design. I really wish they would’ve made real-life counterparts to some of the monsters in SH3. The annoying Double Head dogs (damn I hated those things), the frustrating Pendulums, the disgusting “Insane Cancer” enemies… None of them got any love. In fact, all we got of Valtiel was a freakin’ statue. Sure, the statue Sean Bean got to hang from was neat, but I wanted to see Valtiel, just like in the game! But no, they basically swapped his role with Pyramid  Head. Valtiel was supposed to be Heather’s “guardian,” to ensure she made it to Silent Hill so god could be born. I’m so annoyed with Pyramid Head being Silent Hill’s mascot. Anyone who has played Silent Hill 2 can tell you Pyramid Head is the bomb diggity but he doesn’t belong anywhere except SH2. He is a figment of James Sunderland’s imagination, for crying out loud! While I appreciate being able to see Pyramid Head in sweet HD lopping off limbs and heads, he’s being cheapened and it upsets me.

One basic storytelling rule I was given while obtaining my creative writing degree that I still agree with is, “Show, don’t tell.” I personally feel that this applies to all kinds of storytelling; be it novel, film or video game. Use action and movement to show what you’re trying to get across, don’t bore your audience with history lessons and soliloquies. Revelations had way too much “Blah blah The Order, blah blah Alessa,” moments and not enough “For the love of god what is going on?!” moments. Even the quirky “Happy Birthday” phone call from Leonard would have been welcome. Again, not enough twisted and frightening moments to make this Silent Hill or horror movie material. They’re too busy boring the audience to death with a Silent Hill history lesson.

The acting in the movie was as good as it was gonna get, given the poor dialogue. Sean Bean’s “Ode to Rose” in the beginning was pretty terrible. Anything that isn’t a Shakespeare sonnet that starts off with, “Rose, my love,” instigates my gag reflex. I have no complaints about anything else I’ve seen Sean Bean in, but again, the poor writing probably has a lot to do with it. Much like Kit Harrington trying to pull off a teenage Vincent the writers threw in so Heather could have a love interest… puke! Their entire “Dream Versus Reality” conversation that somehow devolved into Vincent trying out the world’s worst pick-up line was painful to watch. I really can’t believe they did that to his character. AND **SPOILER** they killed off Douglas in the first twenty minutes of the movie! He was creepy, but still. At that point I knew there was no chance for the movie to have the “Possessed Heather” ending.

I know I keep coming back to how they mutilated the story and characters, but I can’t help it. I will at least say this: before seeing Revelations for the first time, I KNEW no one would have the balls to include Heather puking up a fetus and then show crazy Claudia choking it down, only to explode when “giving birth” to god. I knew that scene would never make the final cut in a movie being marketed to relatively mainstream media. I didn’t get my hopes that high. But the alternate ending written for the movie, while including Pyramid Head kicking ass and not taking any names, still left a bit to be desired. The ending teaser makes me almost hope they do another movie. Do Downpour’s story (the story was one of the few things I liked about Downpour), even though I know they’ll mess it up, have daddy and mommy reunite, and end this crap. Bow down gracefully instead of dragging it on through a million installments like Resident Evil.

They did right by including songs from the game soundtracks. The work Akira Yamaoka did on Silent Hill 2 and 3 is incredible. The music, opening dream sequence, and mannequin room were the only parts of the movie that satiated me. Unfortunately, they were too brief and too spaced out.

Fans of the video games will hang on throughout the movie, hoping to feel like they’re  being transported back to Silent Hill. I fear Revelations is too dull and not engaging enough to interest anyone else. I’m no movie critic by any means, but I can tell you that when it comes to movie adaptations of video games, this is one of the lowest of the low.

The Roast of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within


Trust me, he’s not as tough as he looks.

Time for another retro-review!  Generally speaking, I have a soft spot for older games.  Most of the games populating my Top Ten are over a decade old.  Over the last few years I’ve found myself getting progressively easier to please when it comes to movies and games, to the point where I’ve started wondering if my claws fell out (Breath of Fire II notwithstanding).  Then we came across the second Prince of Persia game!

I remember the first Prince of Persia being revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time of its release by taking action platforming in a new and exciting direction.  Hell, it spawned a spiritual successor in Ubisofts’ triple-A annual cash cow, Assassin’s Creed.  What I fail to see, however, is how a series can survive at all when it has the audacity to pump out the miscarriage that was Warrior Within, as only the second installment.

Before getting into the awful things I really want to say about this exercise in masochism, I’ll touch up on the things that I actually did enjoy about the game.  At times, the locale was dreary and dark enough to set the mood adequately.  The grey sky overlying the shipwreck and adjacent caverns were pretty spot on in representing what was in store for Prince.  If only I, as the player, were smart enough to pick up on the cues that early.  Crap, wait…this is the GOOD stuff section.

The Prince’s character design is decent, if a little boring.  However, I will give the game a small bit of leniency, as it came out in the era that basically pioneered brooding gritty heroes.  The style of weaponry is pretty exotic, although it didn’t exactly scream Middle Eastern to me.  Enemy designs were actually great, a breath of fresh air from the whopping two or three plain-jane enemies you encountered in the first title.  Sure, they were primarily palette swaps of two different attack-patterned enemies, but it was nice to see them wear a scarf every now and then.  Or a black spiked banana-hammock!    And then there is the Dahaka.  I’m going to come clean right now; teenage memories of running from the Dahaka are the only reason I opted to replay this title.  While I usually frown at the prospect of an unkillable boss in a game, there are two exceptions that stick out in my mind: Nemesis and the Dahaka.  They’re not entirely dissimilar in execution, either; you’re running for your life, making split decisions on the fly while some terrifying thing threatens to instantly kill you at your first error.  If it weren’t for the Dahaka, I’d have stopped playing two hours in. And I never give up on a game.

Annnnd…that’s it.  Honestly.  That’s about all I’m drawing as positives to this game.  Even then, there are caveats to most, if not all, of these pros.  So, without further ado, here is a mountain of reasons you should avoid this game like a back-alley hooker when rent is due.

Let’s start at the very basis of any game; its gameplay.  No, not even its gameplay, its genre.  The original Prince of Persia, while not flawless by any standard, had at least the resemblance of a firm grasp on what it was trying to be.  An acrobatic platformer/puzzler, with middling emphasis on combat, right?  So, naturally, we would expect something in a similar vein from its successor.  And I think that Warrior Within tries, but too many glaring inconsistencies just kill the experience.  For instance, they shifted a good deal of emphasis to combat.  Respawning enemies, explosive enemies, bosses and mini-bosses, constantly-evolving powers; it has all the elements of a Devil May Cry knock-off.  That would be all well and good…except the combat is beyond terrible, due to the fact that Prince has the preternatural ability to do the exact goddamned opposite of what you want him to do in nearly all situations, due in no small part to yet another terrible decision I’ll talk about later (the fact that, with an entire controller at their disposal, Ubisoft insists on making two buttons do about four things each).

Let me wrap up Prince of Persia combat in a nutshell.  Is the enemy a ninja chick?  No?  You can a) Mash square until one of six hits gets through the enemy’s guard, or b) Press triangle to throw them to the ground and stab them (if you’re lucky, you’ll throw them over a ledge instead of yourself).  Or use the secondary weapon for the four hits or so they can survive through.  Sure, you could do some square-triangle combo, except for the fact that melee combat timing is nonexistent.  It queues button presses, which works fine for a game like Mortal Kombat, where the fights are one-on-one and in a contained arena.  However, if Prince of Persia wanted to be a platform fighter, having time-sensitive button presses to chain combos on the fly is kind of part and parcel to the genre.  Can you imagine a game like Devil May Cry queuing button presses?

Or, is the enemy a ninja chick?  Well, if it is, better throw that secondary weapon, unless you have all day.  They can’t be vaulted and whenever you try to evade near an enemy, Prince vaults them.  Ninja chicks also chain together six hit combos, so you’ll be blocking for quite a while.  When there’s two or more of them, you’ll have a hell of a time with them jumping on your back while you’re block-locked from their friends you can’t evade-roll away from.

And the awful controls certainly don’t restrict themselves to combat alone.  I can’t tell you how many times he would vertically run straight up a wall we were trying to run across while being chased by the Dahaka.  Forced perspectives make you make blindly leap in one of two possible directions when pillar-hugging, oftentimes your objective is flat-out outside camera range so your objective is to suicide dive until you find the right pillar.

Speaking of visibility issues, typically, I don’t complain about graphics.  My all-time favorite game’s graphics are awful this day and age. But in a game like Prince of Persia, having your objectives virtually indistinguishable ledges and branches when the colors of the background bleed together and your two-pixel indication is a meager one shade lighter than the rest of the cavern, factored with the resolution on a 55″ television…we had a few head scratchers.

And the glitches.  Oh God, the glitches.  We encountered more than a few, and the walkthroughs we referenced online spoke of considerably more!   We’ve had to quit and reload on multiple occasions; sometimes the Prince would channel his inner Neo and just go into suspended animation after a jump.  We pulled a bookcase out farther than the game had intended, glitched through it, and were incapable of pushing it back into place.  One of the earlier bosses invisible-stabbed me through the chest…after I had knocked her on her ass.  We had an incident with invisible enemies, much earlier than stealth enemies were supposed to show up.  In almost poetic fashion, I managed to kill the final boss, the Dahaka….because he glitched out and just stood, motionless, staring at the wall, for ~60% of his health.  I wasn’t proud of it, but I thought it was perfect ending note for the absolute mess that the game was, and I was glad to be done with the game.

This is getting a bit verbose, so I’ll wrap this up by touching up on those caveats I had mentioned earlier.  Earlier I had said the character designs were pretty great, and they are….unless you happen to be a woman.  Unsurprisingly, Warrior Within ascribes to the “less is more” theory when it comes to women’s attire.  Your first adversary is a no-nonsense, badass woman who, despite how at odds it is with what little characterization she has, feels the need to rock the butt-floss and slut-top.  Think Ivy from Soul Calibur, but with less class. And Kaileena, Jesus, she’s just as bad.  Way to set back women’s rights by about sixty years, guys.

And I’ll wrap this up with what is one of my biggest grievances with the game.  I had said earlier that the scenery and background were pretty good for this type of game, and that’s true…the first one or two times you go through an area.  The game uses the past and present mechanic to justify sending you through the same half-dozen areas two or three times, and while that has the potential to work if they had made the areas drastically different, it falls short and just feels bland.  You basically play through a third of the content that other games of this nature offer, three times.  Oh, but you kick down a ladder and reach a previously-inaccessible area!  And then dance through some saw blades, drop down a tapestry, and into….the room we were in half an hour ago.

Aside from Breath of Fire II, I’m having a hard time thinking of a game I’ve recently played that failed this hard to deliver.  We’re going to rough it out and play the third PoP game, but I can think of no situation where I’d recommend playing this title.  If you’re an action platformer fan, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  If you’re an avid PoP fan, you’ve already played it, but in the off chance that you’ve skipped it…do yourself a huge favor and just read a plot synopsis.

Want a finishing punchline?  PSM gave this game a 10/10.

Tomb Raider


     Oh hi! Just let me introduce myself. My name is Sara and I’ll be you feminist, err… game reviewer for the evening. Well, I guess I can try to be both and respect the sanctity of the male dominated video game industry and, ya know, ignore the fact that I have girly bits and am not traditionally feminine… Or not. Let’s not. Sorry boys, but one of your new time favorite games got a thumbs down from the girly squad, and I think you will be surprised which one!

     So I had the pleasure (and I’m serious here. This game was a good time!) of playing the Tomb Raider reboot where we (the 90’s-era gamer kids) get to see a beloved character’s origin story. Or part of one, at least. I was super excited because I had played the first one when it came out and loved that there were badass women out there I could be like (Looking back, I was a little disillusioned). Being a wife and mother in a small northern New York town didn’t have large appeal to teen me. Go figure. So now that I am a wife and mother in a small northern New York town… I wanted to relive my glory days of being one of the first girl gamers in the world (yes the world… let me have my nostalgia). What I learned? I got old.

     Cynical too. But who cares about what women think of video games, right? Girls don’t game as much as boys, right? (see: )

      Maybe not, but we have some pretty high standards when we do. Before we get to my nit-picking, feminist rant, let’s talk about the good stuff! The overall composition of the game is great. It is visually striking and felt more open world than I had expected a linear plot line to allow. I think most of this came from the lack of a mini map overlay and points of interest popping up all uninvited. I found this much more immersive than other games I’ve played before. I know games like Drake’s Fortune beat this one to the punch but I still liked that they stayed with it instead of doing something revolutionary. This will be the only time I say that I liked how UN-revolutionary this game is, BTW.

       I also loved the details of the relics you can find in-game, even if they seemed to only be there for the nerd factor. The cinematic quality of the game is great and it defiantly felt more like a movie in some parts (in a good way). The first ten minutes were crazy! Laura drowns, gets punched in the face, lights herself on fire while predicting “This is gonna hurt,” only to fall into a pit where she gets shanked with a metal spike. After the first encounter with some of the Endurance’s surviving crew members she gets captured and has to escape with her hands bound by sneaking around. I had so much fun and nothing made my night more than shooting that first jerk in the face! Blood thirsty, I know, but girls have needs too 😉


     Laura is the ultimate starter bad-ass. She is a nerdy scholar drawn to really messed up situations and she has the overwhelming need to, ya know, live. Best part is she is pre-op (implants anyone?) and clothed like an actual normal female who doesn’t work on a pole. The Rambo-esque cover made me all kinds of excited for tomb crawling and bears trying to eat my innards (Crystal Dynamics, why no bears!?). So when every Tomb Raider game known to man (and woman) went on a STEAM sale for less than $20 I begged the hubby for it. The deal: sell my soul to Guild Wars 2 until I hit level 80 and I could have it (I also negotiated in all the DLC’s for the reboot). That is the fastest I have maxed out a toon in an MMO, ever.

     Was it worth it? Not really. It appears that Laura didn’t just lose her boobs, she lost her balls (after the game’s introduction). It truly felt like after the first half hour or so Laura threw her hands up and said, “OK I’ve done all the cool survivor thingies I know how to do. Where are all the men who are supposed to protect me!?” The whole point of this game is to show how Laura Croft became a “survivor” (cue Destiny’s Child music) but several times (you know, at the key plot point where we would expect to make vital decisions about how the protagonist is going to survive) the plot becomes a living, breathing monster and eats up all of Laura’s options. There is a big flashing arrow with a sign that says “You Must Go Here.” This ties in well with the start of my feminist rant: if you are going to make a game with a badass female lead you have to let her, well, lead. When the main character cannot come in all their awesomeness and save the day the game starts to lack, um, awesomeness.

     Let’s do a little role play. We all like role play, right? Ahem… that is why we play video games. So let’s say Laura Croft wasn’t female, but a hot-blooded male. And not just any male, a testosterone-filled action hero male. Would Stallone or Willis let their grandfather figure commit suicide to save them? Yeah, probably, but only if it was the event that propelled them on a bloody path of vengeance. When Grim takes a suicidal swan dive to keep Laura from turning herself over to the Solarii we don’t get a ripple of homicidal anger from her. At that point I was like, “Man saves you from a very bad time and you don’t want revenge? You’re not human.” But OK, I’ll let this go. I know that whole trauma thing can crop up at strange times so I’m sure we’ll get back to how pissed off she is that the Solarii killed grandpa eventually. Or not.


     Let’s not get me started on Sam… Anyone order a useless princess plot device? Here is a tip for anyone who wants to write one of these action-adventure stories: don’t put two extreme stereotypes next to each other and expect them to play nice. Laura = female put in the traditionally male slot of a standard “save the princess” plot, and Sam (regardless of the cutesie gender flopped name) acts like no real man or woman ever would. Laura finds her multiple times and Sam never goes, “Hey, you have all those nice shiny weapons! Can I haz one?” What’s worse is that Laura The Badass is besties with a mewling idiot. I don’t know about the rest of you but I like my friends to at least try fighting back (or at least not putting themselves in compromising positions). At least she is hot I guess, cause, ya know, that’s all that matters for a worthless plot device.


     Yeah that smug look on his face is because he knows boys only want to have something attractive to look at while gaming…

     Enter the person who is the “real” action hero: Conrad Roth. He is the man. He is literally the guy every red blooded (British?) boy wants to be. And let’s not forget he is Laura’s mentor/babysitter. But he is also where Laura gets her “permission” to be badass. You see, Laura apparently wasn’t born a bad ass like the drowning scene in the opening cinematic suggests. Roth quickly becomes her cheerleader and repeatedly tells her, “You can do it!” (see: ). So when he bit it I thought Laura would become the badass he once was (and her father was too, apparently). But noooo, stupid Alex has to go and take over the hero role. That little wanker is also a cheap plot device thrown in to make nerdy gamer boys feel more heroic. Yep, sorry but his only purpose is to once again sacrifice himself to get the tools and save the day so that little Laura won’t get hurt. Why in the world would you have a NPC do all the leg work in an action-adventure game!? “But Sara,” you say, “The mission was about a woman heroically saving a man!” Ah, no. The mission was for Laura to (finally) save the day! Did she? No. But I can’t say I felt bad when that little glory stealer got permanently removed from the picture. It should have ended with Laura sniping her way into the belly of the ship, finding the tools after a nasty mini-boss fight, and then finding that stupid twat on the way out so that Reyes can give him grief for acting like a little brat! Breathe Sara, breathe. The male gamers just needed someone to connect with so that they could feel like they had a hand in saving Laura. I’m sorry, but I thought Laura was supposed to be saving them.

     Now here is another interesting tidbit that further enhances my belief that this was a game targeted to boys. They cut the rape scene. Yep, that lurid act women are afraid of (and we actually talk about) is way too taboo to put in a game for boys. Why? Boys don’t want to talk about it. It’s tough to see someone like yourself (I.E. another man) doing something you know is wrong and (because it involves sex) risk getting aroused by it. To that I say watch please! I know this video is about video game violence but the same principal applies to sex and violence. I am a big believer in the experience and if you think most people are going to see a “suggested” rape scene and be like “Aww yeah!” I think you have serious trust issues. 99.5% of the time these themes will make people uncomfortable. It sure as hell made me grimace. But it is never good to avoid talking about these issues! What better way to tackle the issue of rape than to experience the effects that being raped (or almost being raped) does to a woman than through the eyes of a woman? It would give teen boys more reason to keep their buddies from acting like rape is the trendy thing to do. And I hope that in the future, female video game heroes can stand up and give real world women the confidence to blow the brains out of anyone who tries to rape them. Girls play games too, and we need to start beating that into the industry’s thick skull so when we see games like this Tomb Raider reboot come out and it’s not the reboot we were hoping for, I want more women to call them on it. (Can I suggest hiring an actual feminist to fact check?)

     To step away from the cultural taboo, let’s talk about where these really dramatic moments are placed in regard to the plot. I thing the first half hour of game play should have been the last! I started the game with a “Hells yeah!” and ended with, “I have to save her again!?” The plot innovation just dissolved after Roth got killed and I was left with a mushy “damsel in distress” game that suggested Laura might be a lesbian? To which I again say “Hells yeah,” but they could have played it up a bit more.

      All in all, an A- for design. The visuals were awesome, there were no noticeable bugs when I played, and her equipment was innovative and fun to use. C+ for plot/story. This started so well but the experience soured over time. I can tell the main focus for the developers was how the game played. The crowning achievements are the fun shooting galleries. Not even the two pain in the ass bosses near the end were enough to keep it from being boring. Meh to killing Mathias in a cut scene. And I’m still mad I didn’t get to actually boss fight Himiko. What could have been a better way to end the game than fighting an all-powerful sun goddess zombie!? The developers dropped the ball on that one!

     Well, there is my list of gripes but I seriously hope you read these other extended reviews that I found very compelling as well, and thanks for your time!

The Last of Us


Here’s hoping they aren’t looking at a Bloater.

At long last, the moment has arrived! Hubby and I finally finished playing through The Last of Us! Our journey with Joel and Ellie is now complete, leaving me with an unsettling void as I realize they’ve left an emptiness inside of me that no other media I’m currently involved in can fill.

I’m late to the ball game on this one. I’m sure anyone reading this article has either already beaten this game or exhausted themselves reading all kinds of lovely tidbits about this game online to hold themselves over until they can play it. Well, bear with me. I still need to express myself about this award-winning creation of Naughty Dog’s and talk about why this does or doesn’t deserve all the perfect scores it received. Major gaming outlets and critics hand out praise and perfect scores like candy it seems. Oftentimes, I feel like they’d wax poetic over a pile of dog poop on a plate if it was decorated with pretty flowers. So it’s time to see this game through lifelong gamer lenses.

You know the setting for Last of Us, right? 20ish years after a zombie outbreak cleverly disguised as a fungus ravages human society and leaves humanity a scarce, violent mess. I say ‘disguised zombie’ outbreak because the ‘infected’ are basically identical to zombies. Except if we come out and CALL them zombies… well, zombies are so overdone. Besides, no one will take us seriously if we say zombies. So we say infected. Cordyceps infected, to be more specific. Don’t you dare laugh at the thought of fungus ruining civilization as we know it. If you haven’t googled images of cordyceps fungus taking over the bodies of spiders and ants, you need to. It is pretty damn creepy and serves for a great sci-fi “What if” scenario. Definitely less cheesy than the premise of mitochondria acting in Mitochondrial Eve’s best interests, like in Parasite Eve: one of my favorite games of all time. *Cough*

There’d be a whole lot less things to shoot at and get killed by if this fungus growing over and controlling people’s brains didn’t make them violent maneaters, amirite? Not that this game has any shortage of PEOPLE to shoot at and get killed by. Now, I’m no psychologist or sociologist or anything, but it seems weird to me how cheap human life becomes in a lot of post-zombie apocalypse movies and video games. It’s like 99.9% of the decent human beings got selectively picked off. All you have left are thugs and killers who shoot at anything that moves. I’m also not even remotely optimistic, but it just seems strange to me. There is a settlement of people Ellie and Joel stumble across later in the game who seem like a well-established mini-civilization. Until you find out they’re cannibals, which really seems to upset Ellie. Not really sure what her deal is. I mean, people gotta eat, right?

So sadly, you spent a majority of the game shooting back at people who are shooting at you for whatever reason. The fungus zombies become the least of your problems about halfway through the game. Clickers became suspiciously rare after we saved up the 100 supplements (or steroids, or whatever those bottles are supposed to have in them) to get shiv master to make dealing with them a lot easier. Then 100 MORE for level two. Anyway, by then Clickers will seem tame compared to the damn Bloaters, who are just like those Left 4 Dead Boomers. Big and fat with annoying projectiles. While Boomers projectile puke all over you, the Last of Us Bloaters throw bright orange sacs that explode, filling the air around you (presumably?) with health-draining spores? How is that possible? Can someone tell me what that orange crap is? It can’t be spores, because then Joel would be infected by breathing it in without his mask and then it’d be Game Over, right? People must not be able to breathe in the spores, or else why would Joel put on a mask whenever he enters a heavily infected area? I need someone with a PhD degree in Mold Studies and high suspension of reality capabilities to explain this to me.

Dealing with jerk-off thugs and infected undead people is executed through a battle system that is reminiscent of Naughty Dog’s other money maker, the Uncharted series. The duck and cover mechanics are rather similar. Everything else is a pile of adjustments to make the game much harder. You don’t auto-regen health if you escape gunfire long enough, as in Uncharted. This is a pseudo-survival horror, so you need to scavenge the area for materials to make consumable healing items, shivs and fun explosives such as molotovs. As an aside: I still can’t figure out how Joel can light a molotov then change his mind and stick it in his backpack without it going off.  Then I get even more mad when I think about that after thinking about how much damage I took when I was too close to the blast radius. But I just carried that thing around on FIRE in my backpack for two hours, what’s the problem guys?

The game tries so hard to BE hard that it lets a lot of weird inconsistencies happen that I have difficulty wrapping my head around. For example: people will shoot at you nonstop (literally nonstop… they never have to deal with that pesky “reloading” business) and unload the Middle East’s entire illegally smuggled ammunition cache on you, but once they’re dead there is nearly no ammo to be found. Apparently I always killed them JUST as they shot their last bullet on me. Or after they die their gun miraculously disappears and you don’t get to steal the remainder of their bullets.

I wish the game would have relied less on drawing in the shooter crowd (and not only because my video game shooting skills leave a lot to be desired). It would’ve made more sense if ammo was scarce for everyone. Not just the player.

I mean, who wastes 15 clips of ammo on some random man and teenager passing through? Why wouldn’t the enemies try stalking you too? I think it would’ve been fun to do some more dancing with people who are also trying to sneak up on you and shank you instead of reserving that stuff primarily for cutscenes.

This game is hailed for being intense and atmospheric. Doing a silent stealth mode while trying to take down unaware Clickers and Runners are some of the most intense moments out there. One small thing I would suggest to make the game even more intense and scarier would be to make it more seamless. Like Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, it is pretty clear when you’re safe and when you’re not safe. After killing all the enemies in an area, someone will say “Okay, that’s all of them!” and you move on with scavenging for supplies and you release your finger from the trigger. How do they know they killed all the enemies? Why can’t you spend the entire game never knowing what is around the next corner? Or wondering if you’ll attract a Clicker by opening a door? No, instead they pretty much give you a free exploration pass after you killed all the enemies in an area. This is an intensity buzzkill for me.

That’s why this game is a survival-action-adventure, not a survival-horror, I suppose.

The main selling point of The Last of Us is the relationship that blossoms between the main characters. Without spoiling too much, I’m going to say their conversations and the subtle ways they warm up to each other are definitely the highlights of the game. Dialogue (and lack thereof at points) is well written. Most of the time they actually spoke in believable conversations. The voice acting is superb as well. I couldn’t believe Joel was voiced by Troy Baker, also known as Booker from Bioshock Infinite! Aside from having Troy Baker in common, The Last of Us and Bioshock Infinite also set the bar when it comes to character development. Maybe in overall story writing as well, but ask anyone who played either of these games and they’ll tell you the relationship between Joel and Ellie or Booker and Elizabeth was really what kept them up late at night with these blockbusters.

Something else that’s created a lot of buzz online is Joel. Or, more pointedly, Joel’s lack of… refinement, let’s say. Okay, he’s a selfish, insensitive prick most of the time. But you know what? According to the writers, so aren’t most of the other humans out there. Therefore, MOST of the time I felt no guilt and didn’t blink at the things he did. As Ellie says, they weren’t given a choice. Almost everyone else in the world had no problems shooting and asking questions later, why should Joel be any different? Shooting at someone who shot at me first doesn’t have the same moral implications to me as, say, dragging an innocent priestess who was minding her own business to her death by crushing her in a trap mechanism so I can advance to the next room like in God of War. See the difference? The only thing about Joel’s character that caused me to pause or shake my head was how he treated the people he cared about. I can’t say anything else without spoiling, so I’ll just leave it at that. Once my husband even said, “Joel’s mean I don’t like him!” because he was a jerk to Ellie. Not because he killed some thug who was taunting us from the other side of his rifle.

Now that I’m done making remarks about this game’s shortcomings that the media happened to ignore and questioning the things they over hyped, I’m gonna come out and say I really like The Last of Us. It’s definitely up on top of this generation’s offerings and makes me happy I stuck with Sony when times got rough. Naughty Dog are only getting better and better… They need to hurry up and release another Crash Bandicoot game already!