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Gears Of War 4 (Game Review)

I purchased this game on release day - I got home, loaded it up and thought I'd try it out. Roughly 15 hours of play later I emerged bleary eyed into the real world with a brand new but startlingly familiar Gears Of War experience under my belt. I'm going to break this short review into four mini categories; Campaign, Multiplayer, Mechanics and my Final Verdict.

You'll see some familiar faces.

The campaign for Gears Of War 4 spans 6 acts with various numbers of chapters within each which ran me around 11 hours or so at normal difficulty, so its a robust story for a AAA game when compared to other similar titles with a much shorter offering. The pacing is quite solid, so much as it can be when the sole premise is shooting things in the face but it manages to keep things fresher still with multiple enemy variants and factions to blast into slime. The game has you taking the mantle of JD Fenix (voiced by Liam McIntyre of Spartacus fame) the son of the great and gruff Marcus Fenix, and your friends as they uncover a disturbing mystery surrounding the disappearance of a bunch of villagers. Spanning the course of a single night, the campaign has you adventuring from place to place, slaying robots sent by the 'new' COG (The Coalition of Ordered Governments) as well as the brand new and enigmatic Swarm race. The mystery surrounding this race is an excellent draw that made me very eager to find out just what the hell was going on and kept me playing for huge periods at a time. If you've played the previous games you will be instantly comfortable with the style of the engagements and the nature of the story as it doesn't do too much to mix up the tried and true formula. The Swarm makes for a familiar foe as they resemble the Locust in a lot of ways (although they do bring some interesting new beasties to the table). The only frustrations to be levied against the campaign is perhaps its rather unsatisfying conclusion (sequel bait) and that whilst it does do everything we know and love from previous games very well and even implements new things such as various weapon, enemy types and even a weather system which can effect engagements, it perhaps feels a little too familiar in places. The only real problem I had was the world building. Everything in the Gears Of War universe seems expertly crafted; the architecture, the scenery, the weather and even the characters' dialogue is all extremely effective at creating a world that I wanted to know more about. But for every hint filled conversation, for every mention of the events between Gears Of War 3 and this game, there never seemed to be any pay off and it seems like the creators are keeping all of the tastiest morsels for a future game, not that I'd mind playing through another adventure with JD and co.

The Swarm are a formidable foe.

The multiplayer of Gears Of War 4 also suffers from the same "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality as the campaign but it feels like enough has been added to almost fully round out the experience. It is disappointing but expected to see micro transactions in play here and they take the form of cases. You can spend in game credits or real money to buy cases of gear. There are cases for Horde, versus multiplayer and elite cases and each case gives you a mixture of different rarities of cosmetic items, character skins or "booster cards" for each mode. Whilst there are no massive advantages gained through spending money, having spent £40 plus on the game at launch made this feature slightly bitter to the taste. There are your standard modes such as execution, war-zone and whatnot as well as a new and improved "Horde 3.0" - most of it being a fairly familiar Gears fare that benefits from the new weapons and tighter controls of the new era. Horde however is where the game shines. Fun, addictive and fresh enough to keep me entertained for hours. You now start Horde mode with a fabricator, a machine that uses energy to construct turrets, traps and weapons for you to use to your advantage, you can place the fabricator wherever you wish which allows for a lot of interesting combos of traps, choke points and turrets which helps to keep it fresh. At this stage I haven't played too much of Horde and perhaps once I learn the maps better and find that one ideal spot for the fabricator then it might lose some of its shine but until then I'll be happy enough blasting away.

Multiplayer is as fun and frantic as ever

Mechanically the latest offering is more or less brilliant. I knew this game was not developed by the progenitors of the series, Epic Games but I really didn't notice. Rod Ferguson (once of Epic) and his team at The Coalition have taken the very good foundations of what makes Gears Gears and have tightened all the screws, polished everything off and and added in a few new layers without upsetting the balance. The feeling of immense nostalgia almost overwhelmed me the first time I chainsawed an enemy or the first time I popped a skull with a long shot, and the new cover executions and more responsive movement just made the experience all the more pleasant. In short not everything has been improved upon but nothing appears to have been made any worse and the use of the Unreal 4 engine makes the game quite beautiful to behold. The lighting effects when making my way through an abandoned fort at night combined with excellent sound design made for quite a spooky and intense time.

In conclusion, Gears Of War 4 is a game that confuses me because I can't quite decide whether the lack of improvements/changes is a failing or absolute genius. All I can be certain of at this stage is that there is a lot of value to be had from this game whether you're a hardened veteran of the Locust wars looking for a huge shot of nostalgia or a modern gamer looking for the cutting edge of 21st century gaming - I think you've come to the right place. The game is a feature heavy, action heavy balls out shooter with a little bit of Nathan Drake humour mixed in this time around that compliments a bedrock of genre defining mechanics to make something which is if not quite perfect but certainly a very special game indeed.

Verdict: Must Buy

Will you be giving the regenerated Gears Of War a go? If you already have it what do you think so far? Let us know down below or via our Facebook or Twitter pages!

Don't Breathe (Movie Review)

Home Alone 5: Kevin's Revenge

Don't Breathe is a 2016 American Horror film, directed and co-written (with Rodo Sayagues) by Fede Alvarez. A gang of three Detroit thieves; played by Jane Levy, Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minette, have made a career for themselves by robbing rich people, trashing their homes and selling their possessions. When they decide to steal from who they think would be an easy target -a blind Army veteran (Stephen Lang) with $300,000 in hiding- they get more than they bargained for. Trapped in the house of a trained killer, the thieves are now caught in a fight to escape with their lives. Being able to skilfully distance itself from the worn trend of paranormal jump scares for the sake of jump scares, Don't Breathe intertwines a unique premise with expert direction to create what almost seems like a genre within a genre.

Not bad for playing generic thieves, though anyone could have played them.

Firstly, one of the most enthralling ingredients put into Don't Breathe is the casting of Stephen Lang in the completion of the character as The Blind Man. With what seems to be every horror film having some paranormal-themed ghost; demon, or monster as its antagonist, more films in the genre are seeming to lose originality. However, we've come to accept most as the scare-fest in our local cinema at the time, and often an engaging story is swapped for an endurance test of jump scares. Don't Breathe stands out with its simplicity of a human threat. On paper, you don't believe this would really be a horror. Maybe a suspense-thriller at best. Onscreen, Stephen Lang as The Blind Man makes you feel on edge whenever onscreen, even when just standing there in the hallway because you have no idea what will happen next. Lang has less than 13 lines of total dialogue in the film. The majority of the time, he's a silent and unpredictable killer with a particular set of skills even Liam Neeson would hesitate to go up against. If he hears something vibrate, he will shoot it point blank range without a moment's notice. Lang brilliantly captures the character of a man who appears frail and unable to defend himself who is suddenly revealed as a terrifying monster.

The best I've seen of Stephen Lang to date.

Talking about Lang's effectiveness as The Blind Man and Don’t Breathe’s unique individuality as a horror come down to the genuine craftsmanship of its director. Fede Alvarez has co-written and choreographed the execution of Don’t Breathe’s camera work, pacing and simplicity of premise and it blends together into a cocktail of tension and payed off suspense. Don’t Breathe doesn't take long to get going. It lets you know in a matter of around 15 minutes that these three thieves are scum. Scum with their own reasons, but scum who steal from people nonetheless. Before you know it, you’re seeing these three in the house of a blind killer, realising they’ve bit off more than they can chew. Tension never drops from this point onwards. There are moments of complete silence but the game of cat and mouse between the thieves and The Blind Man never stops you feeling on edge. It even misdirects you. You see the thieves trying one method of escape, that has you thinking about how they’ll be thwarted and it shocks you with something different entirely. Wipes, zooms and silence are handled in a way that even a single breath in a moment of silence by one of the thieves will make you gasp as you see the close-up on The Blind Man’s face. This is the kind of cinematography that has viewers analysing what has been put into the scene’s structure and why it so effective. It will only make you want to go back to view for a second time and think “that was a damn good scene”.

Your eyes will ironically widen in suspense.

Examples like those aforementioned are the reason why the jump scares in Don’t Breathe are actually genuine. There are such long periods of silence, unease and shock that you wouldn’t even think of them as jump scares. That’s because, unlike your average horror, like certain involved paranormal activities *cough cough*, Don’t Breathe takes it’s time. The fact that the antagonist is a blind war veteran (unless you think the thieves are the baddies. Depends how you look at it) who is a human threat instead of some invisible voodoo spirit, has really given Alvarez the chance to surprise you. There are moments when you think something/someone is going to jump out but doesn’t. You think a situation is going to escalate in one way but spins the chase on its head entirely. You’re in the middle of scenes where instead of a loud thud and an instant scream occurring, something quietly reveals itself onscreen, leaving you to search the screen and find it yourself. Don’t Breathe doesn’t hold your hand and patronise you like a 15 year old watching The Woman in Black 2. It takes it’s time and builds up tension effectively until it’s sure you can be frightened in a justified manner. This is how the scare-factor in a horror should really communicate with its audience.

When you're favourite Game of Thrones character dies.

A real gripe with the film would be its very beginning. It starts with what appears to be a plot-hinting part of the story in the film’s third act. Once things kick into gear and chaos ensues, you pick up what may and may not happen based on what you’ve seen in the first minute. It takes away some of Don’t Breathe's amazing unpredictability. A second negative of Don’t Breathe is something that might not be a negative for everyone, but the “who’s the actual villain?” question between the thieves and The Blind Man, is all dependent on how you look at it: at the start of the third act, the straightforward premise of Don’t Breathe suddenly takes a 45 degree turn with an unexpected twist. It’s definitely what you wouldn’t have expected and following events definitely make your jaw drop slightly. It certainly doesn’t drag the film down beyond saving but it feels like Don’t Breathe went back on itself. Don’t Breathe’s strength comes from its initial simplicity of thieving degenerates trying to take advantage of what appears to be a weak, old man who can’t see and unexpectedly end up becoming the victims themselves. On the other hand, without the twist, the well-oiled machine of the film's premise could have run out of steam and made the third act stale. At this point, we’ll never know. Although, does it detract you from the overall enjoyment? Definitely not. Despite going to what almost feels like a generic horror trope (not totally, but almost), you’re not derailed from the intense thrill journey of Don’t Breathe.


Being an example of how production scale doesn’t make the experience, Don’t Breathe is a memorable and captivating journey of both thrill and terror. Through the efforts of great directing, a brilliant performance by Stephen Lang and praise-worthy camera work, you’ll be thrown into a heart-racing journey that will go by quickly but will stick with you for a long time after. It feels like a suspense thriller within the horror genre. Controversial twists and nitpicks aside, Don’t Breathe stands out among the generic jump-scare bundles you’ve been subjected to this year with the strength of a simple premise and eventful pacing that will make you unable to take your eyes off the screen until the credits roll. When you need a nail biting reminder as to why breaking and entering’s a questionable choice, Don’t Breathe is a mesmerising reason that will make your hairs stand on end.

Rating: 9/10

Pokémon Prism Official Trailer Released! (ROM Hack)

Back when I first started creating Alt:Mag as a magazine 5 years ago, one of the main articles in the first issue was going to discuss the wonderful Pokémon ROM hacking community. One of the ROM hacks I made sure to put pride and place in the 'Hall of Fame' section was a work-in-progress hack of the Game Boy Color game Pokémon Gold called Prism, which was made by an awesome dude who goes by the name of Koolboyman... and what an excellent work-in-progress it was. I have always loved the Gold, Silver and Crystal games for their expansive gameplay and the incredible amount of things you could get up to in the massive worlds they took place in - so to see a ROM hack like Prism attempt (and succeed) to take the expansive nature of those games and push things even further blew my mind.
I reached out to Koolboyman via Twitter and even put together an interview for what became a two page spread on Pokémon ROM hacks for the magazine, but eventually the magazine was scrapped in favour of writing articles on this here website. That two page spread still exists though and I'll even display it below for you (click on the pictures to see bigger versions).


Anyway, enough about Alt:Mag, and more about Pokémon Prism, because earlier today the main man Koolboyman (man) posted up a very exciting trailer for a new build of Pokémon Prism and oh my gosh, it has got me absolutely hyped beyond belief. It looks AWESOME. Prism was already fantastic when I played its Summer 2010 beta, but now we're getting a full version?!? The planets have aligned. This is an incredible day for the Pokémon ROM hacking community because here we have a ROM hack that truly shows the extent of how much you can really modify these games to create something completely new and original. Just watch the trailer below and you'll see what I mean:

The features shown off in the video are just a taste of what is yet to come, but damn I'm so stoked for this. Some features that really caught my eye include the fact that there is not 16, but 20 badges to collect and that there's also newer Pokémon like Sylveon in Prism included in the hack - complete with well-animated sprite art that looks like it came straight from an official Pokémon game. The main feature that made my jaw drop however was the new changes to character customisation. In the Summer 2010 beta you could change your sprite in shops, but now you can now choose from a number of different female and male character models and completely modify their hair and clothes colour, as well as their skin tone. Now that's just amazing.

The hack has been given a tentative release date of December, which isn't too long to wait, but for now you can keep up-to-date on Prism's progress on the Facebook page and Koolboyman's Twitter page as well as the hack's respective thread on the PokéCommunity forums.

How Anime Makes You Cry

If there is something that distinguishes Anime from other mediums it is its capacity to provoke strong emotional responses. This is particularly true in the case of sad stories. It’s not uncommon to hear fans recall particularly sad scenes or even recommend a show based on its capacity to trigger crying episodes. But why is Japanese animation so good at this? What makes it such an effective tear-jerking machine?

One of the reasons Anime is capable of making people cry is because of how much the audience ends up caring for their characters. This might have something to do with the way they are designed and animated. Characters like Nayuki from Kanon (Futono, Nakamura, Hatta, Nakayama, & Ishihara, 2006) and Mirai from Beyond the Boundary (Tanaka, Senami, Saito, Nakamura, & Ishidate, 2013), for example, are given delicate features, and cute mannerisms. At first glance this seems to be a superficial choice, but apparently it can make characters more emotionally relevant. Research has shown that people tend to care more for aesthetically pleasant movie characters (Konijn & Hoorn, 2005). Protagonists don’t have to be perfect though. While Nayuki and Mirai are presented as both emotionally and physically strong, they are also clumsy and immature in at least one aspect of their life: Nayuki needs an army of alarm clocks in order to wake up early, and Mirai has trouble making enough money to eat properly. Writers probably do this to give them an occasional image of helplessness. An attribute that could elicit a protective attitude in the viewer. Regardless of this, many experts believe that the spectators’ tendency to care for a fictional character has more to do with how they treat other people. Affective Disposition Theory argues that one of the first things an audience does is assess the characters’ moral behavior. If they are good, they wish for their success and fear their misfortune. If they are bad, the opposite happens (a detailed explanation of this process can be found in Zillmann, 2011). Research has found, for example, that people tend to feel more emotionally involved towards a movie character if they show good intentions (Konijn & Hoorn, 2005). Making their protagonists kind isn’t a rule creators follow strictly though. The title character from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzimiya (Ishihara, 2006), is both attractive and energetic. But her tendency to impose her will onto others and physically abuse them may have ended up alienating some viewers. This changes in the movie, were the story focuses on the efforts of her schoolmate Kyon, trying to restore his timeline with the help of the extremely shy Yuki. Following more sympathetic characters might have allowed viewers to experience a higher level of involvement; which would explain why the film received more positive reviews.

Kindness seems to go a long way when trying to win the viewer’s heart.

While the audience disposition towards characters explain why they feel sad, it doesn’t tell us how emotional arousal reaches high enough levels to trigger a crying episode. Excitation Transfer Theory (Zillmann, 1996) states that residual arousal from previous events can combine with those provoked by a current situation, elevating the intensity of the experienced emotion. This makes sense given that certain aspects of the emotional experience, like the feeling of excitement, is maintained by the release of hormones in the bloodstream. A process that can take a couple of minutes to dissipate. The tone of the previous experience also seems important: People tend to feel more involved when watching a depressing scene, if they’ve previously seen another sad clip, instead of a happy one (Zillmann, Mody, & Cantor, 1974). Excitation Transfer would explain why people feel progressively sad with each adversity the brothers from the movie Grave of the Fireflies (Hara & Takahata, 1988) have to experience. But what happens in the case of a TV series? People watching Clannad (Ishihara, 2007) had to wait days between sad events; and even months just for the second season to start. More than enough time for their arousal levels to normalize. In spite of this though, the series is referred to as one of the most emotionally intense dramas ever produced. How is this possible? Well, one explanation could be that watching Tomoya and Nagisa face another misfortune, reminded viewers of all the past difficulties the protagonists had to go through. And, given that recalling unhappy memories is enough to induce people into a sad mood (Westermann, Kordelia, Stahl, & Hesse, 1996), it’s possible that these past scenes may have increased the emotional arousal of viewers. Something that would have made the current event seem even more depressing. If this is true, it could explain why viewers feel more emotionally involved with every additional sad scene, even when they are separated by several days or weeks. Interestingly, it also suggests that, as a series progresses and the depressing moments accumulate, the capacity of a scene to remind viewers of past adversities will have a stronger effect on their emotions. Maybe even more so than actual tragedies. One of the saddest moments in Clannad, for example, isn’t the result of suffering or dead, but of Ushio, standing in a flower field, crying over the loss of a toy Tomoya had just bought her. When he tries to explain that they can buy another one, she calls it: “Dad’s first gift”. A phrase that reminds the audience of all the time together they have lost in the past years.
Longer dramas might benefit from reminding the viewer of the 
protagonists’ past misfortunes.

The repeated exposure to sad scenes eventually puts the viewers in a position where they can barely control themselves. And given that we are naturally biased to express intense sadness through crying, tearing-up becomes almost unavoidable. But just to be sure, Anime directors like to introduce a very effective technique: They make their characters cry. The referred scene in Clannad, for example, is followed by a close-up to Tomoya’s face trying to contain his tears, only to burst up crying. Exposure to this type of content has a predictable effect on people. In an experiment with vignettes, participants reported a higher tendency to feel bad and offer their support to someone in trouble, if they saw them crying (Hendriks, Croon & Vingerhoets, 2008). This result can also be improved by the appropriate soundtrack. A recent study showed that when people listen to sad music, they tend to rate images of individuals crying as more pleasant and kind (Hanser, Mark, Zijlstra, & Vingerhoets, 2015); making them even more deserving of sympathy. Additionally, watching someone tear up has the potential to stimulate any related ideas in the user’s mind; a process known as Spreading Activation (Collins, & Loftus, 1975). It’s possible then that a scene depicting a beloved character’s eyes filling with tears could be promoting the activation of a similar response, in an already highly aroused viewer. In other words, crying scenes would have a dual effect: They push the audience to an unbearable emotional state, while also showing them a way out of it (1).

Well animated tears could make crying unavoidable during states of 
high emotional arousal.

The theories and studies we’ve discussed allow us to understand how Anime manages to provoke such strong emotional responses. But there might be other variables involved. For instance: People could feel either engaged or detached depending on the type of adversity the main characters have to face. Viewers of The Pet Girl of Sakurasou (Ishizuka, 2012) may feel fully invested in the love-triangle, but completely disregard the vocational setbacks the male lead has to go through. It’s also possible that individuals with different age, gender or beliefs would develop opposite attitudes towards the same character. There are still many questions to answer. Sadly, while there is plenty of research in respect to video games and movies; empirical studies that focus specifically on Anime are hard to find. We hope that this type of articles motivates fans and academics to perform their own investigation. Maybe even their own experiments.

1. While crying is a natural response, it’s not considered an acceptable behavior in most social contexts. As a result, many people actively try to avoid crying while watching a movie. The effort put into blocking any unwanted behavioral response could work in favor of the emotional experience though. According to an experiment, people who inhibit themselves from crying while watching a sad short, show higher arousal levels than those who allowed themselves to tear up (Labott & Teleha, 1996). This would facilitate the accumulation of emotional arousal. Thus improving the involvement experienced in future scenes.

Collins, A. M., & Loftus, E. F. (1975). A Spreading-Activation Theory of Semantic Processing. In Psychological Review, 82(6), DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.82.6.407.

Futono, N. (Producer), Nakamura, S. (Producer), Hatta, Y. (Producer), Nakayama, Y. (Producer) & Ishihara, T. (Director). (2006). Kanon [Television series]. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

Hanser, W. E., Mark, R. E., Zijlstra, W. P., & Vingerhoets, Ad. J. J. M. (2015). The effects of background music on the evaluation of crying faces. In Psychology of Music, 43(1). DOI: 10.1177/0305735613498132

Hara, T. (Producer), & Takahata, I. (Director). (1988). Grave of the Fireflies [Motion picture]. Japan: Studio Ghibli.

Hendriks, M. C. P., Croon, M. A., & Vingerhoets, AD J. J. M. (2008). Social reactions to adult crying: The help-soliciting function of tears. In The Journal of Social Psychology, 148(1). DOI: 10.3200/SOCP.148.1.22-42

Ishihara, T. (Director). (2006). Suzumiya Haruhi no Yūutsu [Television series]. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

Ishihara, T. (Director). (2007). Clannad. [Television series]. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

Ishizuka, A. (Director). (2012). Sakura-sō no Pet na Kanojo [Television series]. Japan: J.C. Staff.

Konijn, E. A., & Hoorn, J. F. (2005). Some like it bad: Testing a model for perceiving and experiencing fictional characters. In Media Psychology, 7(2). DOI: 10.1207/S1532785XMEP0702_1

Labott, S. M., & Teleha, M. K. (1996). Weeping propensity and the effects of laboratory expression or inhibition. In Motivation and Emotion, 20(3). DOI: 10.1007/BF02251890

Tanaka, G. (Producer), Senami, R. (Producer), Saito, S. (Producer), Nakamura, S. (Producer) & Ishidate, T. (Director). (2013). Kyōkai no Kanata [Television series]. Japan: Kyoto Animation.

Westermann, R., Kordelia, S., Stahl, G., & Hesse, F. W. (1996). Relative effectiveness and validity of mood induction procedures: A meta-analysis. In European Journal of Social Psychology, 26(4). DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1099-0992(199607)26:4<557::AID-EJSP769>3.0.CO;2-4

Zillmann, D. (1996). Sequential dependencies in emotional experience and behavior. In Kavanaugh, R.D., Zimmerberg, B., & Fein, S. (Eds), Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. (pp. 243-272). New Jersey: Erlbaum.

Zillmann, D. (2011). Mechanisms of emotional reactivity to media entertainments. In Doveling, K., von Scheve, C., & Konijn, E. A. (Eds), The Routledge Handbook of Emotions and Mass Media (pp. 101-115). New York: Routledge.

Zillmann, D., Mody, B., & Cantor, J. R. (1974). Empathetic perception of emotional displays in films as a function of hedonic and excitatory state prior to exposure. In Journal of Research in Personality 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/0092-6566(74)90025-7

Sausage Party (Movie Review)

A Unique Meat Feast

Sausage Party is an adult computer-animated comedy film directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon (Madagascar 3), writers including Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End, The Interview). With the look and feel of a food-esque Toy Story, Sausage Party follows the journey of supermarket foods come to life. All food in supermarkets view humans as Gods, and they want nothing more than shoppers to buy and take them home to what they believe is “The Great Beyond”. Once the truth is revealed regarding what really happens to food that is taken home, a sausage named Frank (Seth Rogen) goes on a journey of belief, love and survival to achieve his one goal: to get his meaty form inside his girlfriend, Brenda the hot dog bun. While not the most memorable or captivating adventure to come from Seth Rogen & crew, Sausage Party has some great components based on the unique and saucy ingredients blended into its recipe.

A partially-nutritious cast of characters, with a dash of stereotype.

Starting with what’s fun about Sausage Party, it would be its unique setting alone as a new playground for Rogen & Goldberg’s standard, laugh-filled adult-themed writing. It’s hilarious to see what an R-Rated, over-the-top comedy does when in the setting of inanimate food objects that have come to life. A banana’s face gets peeled off; a potato is skinned alive and a jar of peanut butter holds his dead wife: the jar of jam. There’s so many sausage-in-bun sex puns that you'll never make eye contact when eating hot dogs ever again. Sausage Party is full of adult humour, and any responsible parents will know not to let their children see it - it pushes its certification to the fullest by throwing uncensored raunchy and violent metaphors in your face until you at least get a few howls of laughter out.

 Simply a quest to get that meat in.

Not only does the film have a gorgeous, Pixar-style look but it also has a full box of ammunition aimed at what almost seems like every group of people possible. Sausage Party really slows down during the second act for some necessary discovery and world development but it never stops with its social commentary on beliefs and racial food profiling. From lesbian latina taco shells to standard cultural feuds between western bagels and a middle-eastern lavash (a sexist flatbread with a goatee), Sausage Party is full of edible players that pass tongue-in-cheek banter back and forth at what seems like almost every other line with at least half being humorously effective.

 Though it can get cheesy at times (Tehehe).

When saying only at least half of Sausage Party’s raunchy banter is effective, it’s sadly because you get to a point during its third act where the dynamic almost runs thin. Watching scenes like a bunch of tequilas in the alcohol aisle having a Mexican fiesta certainly does put a smile on your face, but by the time you get to the 122nd innuendo about inserting one thing into another, you almost want nothing more than for the story to progress forward. At least over half of Sausage Party’s “inn-your-endo’s” are effective, but a fair few of those will also lose their power punch after the first viewing. Nevertheless, as Sausage Party delves a bit deeper into its satirical metaphors, your grin grows even wider as belief systems asking “why are we here?” and “what’s our salvation?” are bashed, if not literally sliced open with a steak knife. It’s as if you can almost hear Christian parent associations grind their teeth whilst Seth Rogen echoes his signature chuckle into the distance.
Even if you get tired of its innuendos and over-the-top humour three quarters of the way through, the ending takes the heights of what Sausage Party was riding on and soars it into the stratosphere. If anyone hasn’t been offended, cringed or simply laughed off their posteriors, you can't help but at least smirk at what you're seeing (even if it is in a feeling of awkward surprise). It’s along the same lines as to what you’ve already seen up until that point but it’s such in an unexpected way that it’s almost hilariously ridiculous and will probably have you and your mates chuckling whilst randomly bringing it up in a Rogen-Goldberg film discussion a year from now.


Sausage Party won’t be winning any Oscars but it excels in not trying to be any more than what a film of its premise is meant be: a good laugh about a bunch of food going on an adventure, with a filling in the form of discovering faith whilst fighting for survival wrapped in a toasted layer of hard-hitting social and sexual-racial satire. Its strength comes from not caring who could get offended, giving it free reign to try and envelop you in as many cackle-worthy and risqué adult jokes as possible. Depending on your own tastes, you may not love every minute of Sausage Party but some of you with a low-brow sense of humour will also laugh uncontrollably at least a few times. Whether you want to give Sausage Party a repeat viewing or not will be about 50/50 odds, but you’ll certainly enjoy the ride in the meantime.

Rating: 7/10

Visual Novels: Why They Are Worth Your Time!

The first visual novel I ever played was a fan translation of One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e (literally meaning One ~To the Radiant Season~). This visual novel (or simply VN) is from 1998 and follows the life of Kōhei Orihara, a high school student who lives from day to day while gradually being drawn into a mystical alternate space known as the Eternal World. I never got to finish each storyline

You Should Be Playing: Inside

The 29th of June this year saw the release of a brand new, compelling and innovative game. Pretty much straight away it was picked up by some of Youtube’s most prolific gamers, including Pewdiepie and Markiplier, and praised by many for its immaculate graphics, its simple but thought-provoking puzzles and its intriguing sense of mystery. The game is Inside, published and developed by independent studio Playdead. (Warning: there’s plenty of spoilers ahead, so read with caution).

On the surface, some might wonder exactly what all the fuss is about. It could be seen as just a simple side-scroller, with limited controls and an ending that raises more questions than it answers. But, at least to me, that only served to add to the beauty of the game. If there’s one thing that Inside proves, it’s that controls and the way the game is played do not need to be complex for a game to be interesting. The main point was the tantalising obscurity of the story and every player’s inevitably desperate search for the truth, or at least some semblance of it.

The game pretty much throws you in at the deep end without so much as even one armband. All you know is that you’re a nameless young boy who appears to be running from something, and judging by the nearby men and trained dogs who will kill you on sight, they’re the ones you’re trying to escape. There’s no dialogue to help you along the way, no cutscenes, and certainly no context; the game is almost like a puzzle that you have to piece together yourself, as you run, sneak, jump, climb and swim your way through various landscapes, including a forest, a farm, a factory of sorts and a body of water.

Along the way you’ll come across a host of puzzles, many of which will be relatively painless but will have you scratching your head at least a few times nonetheless. Each one is different from the last, and to find a solution you’ll often have to make use of the landscape or items around you; a farmyard puzzle will have you enlisting the help of a flock of chicks, whilst many of the underwater puzzles will involve a submarine.

As I mentioned before, it’s quite clear from the outset that you’re being hunted, although the reason why is left largely to your imagination. Make no mistake that if you get caught either by the men, the dogs, or the searchlights, you’ll typically die a visibly gory and brutal death; a notion that becomes significantly darker when you remember that you’re playing as a child. Inside’s sinister feel becomes suffocating at times, the greyscale environment almost threatening to swallow you whole whilst menacing dangers are either hot on your trail, or just around the corner. And of course, there’s the ominous mystery of what you’ll find at the end, if anything.

That's all without even mentioning the humanoid, ‘zombified’ creatures. As you play you’ll see them attached to machines through which they can be controlled, kept underwater and shuffling awkwardly through the factory. At one point you’ll be forced to try and blend in with these ‘zombies’ to avoid getting caught, by copying their exact movements in a sort of test. You’d better hope you don’t mess up either, as those who were once hunting you are looking on, presumably searching for anyone who doesn’t belong. 

There are a lot of theories surrounding the game, since there are no official answers. Some speculate that the creatures have been ‘zombified’ purposefully so as to create a completely docile and obedient workforce or group of test subjects, and that the young boy is the only one to have escaped it. Others theorise - and this has indeed been backed up by the game’s secret ending - that the boy himself is being controlled, by none other than you, the player. Many wonder who those in charge are, and what exactly it is that they’re looking for. Perhaps they’re also being controlled, by an even higher power.

But then you’re faced with the ending, a rollercoaster of twists and turns that I doubt any player would have been expecting. You eventually come across a mass of limbs, most likely a test subject, being held in water. Your mission is to release it, and once you’re sucked inside of it you’re able to control it, sending it hurtling through the factory, destroying anything in its path until eventually it escapes, and sits motionless as the credits roll. No answers are given, no hints of any kind, and, for me at least, the ending felt like an entirely different game to the rest of it; purely because it was so out of the blue.

Of course, theories abound as to what the ending means. Some suggest that the game is symbolic of the act of sex and conception, which is a pretty far out idea. A couple have posited that perhaps the ‘blob’, for lack of a better name, was controlling the boy and drawing him in, so as to try and escape with his help. There are even claims that the higher powers knew the ‘blob’ would escape and even planned it out in advance.

The complete lack of answers leaves the game wide open to various kinds of guesswork as to its true meaning, something that Playdead have done before with Inside’s predecessor, Limbo. No matter what the meaning may be however, many agree that Inside is a beautiful game. At times, it almost seems more like a work of art. Its stunning visuals, silent storytelling and truly unique feel all serve to prove that Inside will have anyone hooked from beginning to end. 

Inside is currently available on Steam for £14.99, as well as on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

Suicide Squad (Movie Review)

The Stale Ayer of DC

Suicide Squad is the third superhero film in the DC Cinematic Universe (DCU), written and directed David Ayer (Known for Fury, Training Day etc). It follows a government agency led by frightfully authoritative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis); deciding to recruit imprisoned super villains for high-risk, off the books, suicide black-ops missions in exchange for time off their sentences and the opportunity to do some good. Task Force X, AKA: The Suicide Squad is born. Following an incredibly rocky start to DC’s new film franchise empire with Batman vs Superman, there has been a massive wave of hype and hope for Suicide Squad’s potential for humour and action to explode on the screen. Its well-and-lesser-known complex characters in a crime action comedy-drama setting paved the way for a darker version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Coming out of its 123 minute run with a few days for digestion, it can certainly be said that Suicide Squad is better than Batman vs Superman though that isn’t really saying a lot. At all.

10 Crap Flash Games We All Played In ICT Class Instead Of Doing Work

Disclaimer: This article is merely a nostalgic look back at my high school years and is in no way encouraging school students of any age to slack off instead of focusing on their lessons! Stay in school kids!

I really want to tell you about how I was the kid in class who always concentrated and never slacked off. Well I can't, because I, like the rest of my fellow teens, rejoiced whenever

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