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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

Warcraft: The Beginning (Movie Review)

When most students finish university, they celebrate by taking their friends out for dinner, a drink or throwing a house/flat party to end them all. Most of my friends left as soon as they finished, and I hate flat parties with a vengeance, so I marked the occasion by treating myself to two cinema trips. The first time, I re-watched Disney’s remake of The Jungle Book; the second, I watched something new. That “something new” was Warcraft, Duncan Jones’ take on the long-running game franchise by Blizzard Entertainment. Films based on video games have had a bad reputation ever since the Mario Bros. leaped onto the big screen in 1993, but Warcraft aims to change all that with an all-star cast, a huge budget and - most importantly - the games’ creators at its back. Today I’m going to tell you, as a newbie, if it’s worth the two-hour trip.


Taking its cue from the first game, Warcraft (or Warcraft: The Beginning as it’s marketed in Europe) tells the beginning of the age-long war between humans and orcs. However, unlike your typical fantasy film, it opens from the viewpoint of the orcs - specifically Durotan (played by Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan. With his home world dying, and his wife about to give birth, Durotan reluctantly joins Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a warlock, in travelling to the new world Azeroth. Durotan wants nothing more than to make a new life for his people, but Gul’dan plans to take it by force through his soul-sucking magic, the fel. This sparks conflict not only with themselves, but with the humans fighting to protect their home: Commander Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), his brother-in-law King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and novice mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). While the orcs ready to conquer Azeroth, Lothar is forced to turn to Medivh, the reclusive Guardian (Ben Foster), and half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) for help. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and the actions of both Lothar and Durotan pave the way for the war to come.


The Warcraft games have been around since 1994, and since then we’ve had, to my knowledge, four main games (including the famous World of Warcraft), eight expansion packs and a heck of a lot of books. I’d never touched any of them before I saw the film, but I know it’s a huge amount of material to adapt - too much for a single two-hour film to cover all at once. Fortunately, new director Duncan Jones took on the project with the help of Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s Snr. Vice President of Story Development, and chose to adapt the story of the first game, adding elements of later instalments wherever they could. Few adaptations can boast of having the games’ creators involved, but Blizzard’s involvement is literally clear from the word go (thanks to their logo in the title sequence) - and for the most part, it pays off. The film has the look and feel of the games, a lot of references to please the fans and, most importantly, deep characters on both sides of the conflict. However, the sheer number of them, coupled with the strict time limit, contribute to my one major issue with Warcraft: there wasn’t enough time for them all. The film shifts between so many characters, it doesn’t make time to establish them as Peter Jackson did in The Lord of the Rings. This means, inevitably, some characters (e.g. Durotan, Lothar and Garona) get more screen time than others (e.g. Khadgar and Llane). The film’s length also affects the pacing, leaving little time to get used to the world of Azeroth - in ten minutes we move from a long prologue on the orcs’ home world, to a brief introduction to Lothar in the dwarf city Ironforge, to the human capitol Stormwind where the humans’ side of the story begins. From there the film moves rapidly from one scene to the next, giving barely enough time to savour the sights while the story progresses. It feels like a three-hour film stuffed into two hours. It’s a shame because, otherwise, Warcraft is one of the best game adaptations I’ve seen in recent years. Few are given the budget, respect and creators’ involvement it received (B-movie director Uwe Boll wanted to direct the film, but Blizzard turned him down flat).


While most films based on video games have poor characters, bad acting and appalling CGI, Warcraft is the opposite; a must when dealing with the games’ main stars, the orcs. They are to Warcraft what dinosaurs are to Jurassic Park, and they don’t disappoint. The orcs were made with the same motion-capture technology as Avatar and The Hobbit, but despite their stylised appearance, they all act and feel more alive than the likes of Azog the Defiler. They have their own stories, goals and motivations which drive the story and fuel the conflict, as a human character’s would. Durotan, the Frostwolf chief, wants to live peacefully with humans for the sake of his wife and son; his second-in-command, Orgrim, wants to do what he feels is right for his people; Garona is torn between staying loyal to the orcs and helping Lothar protect Azeroth; and Gul’dan wants to use fel magic to conquer Azeroth and make a new home for the orcs. Their goals and methods are flawed (in the sense that people’s goals can be flawed in real life), but like us, they each set out with the best intentions in mind and deal with the consequences in their own ways. This often makes them more believable and interesting than the human characters. That said, Lothar, Llane and Medivh aren’t flat by any means - they, too, have stories and goals of their own which generate conflict for both the orcs and themselves. While he fights to protect the kingdom, Lothar struggles to maintain a relationship with his son; King Llane tries to keep his allies together while searching for a way to stop the orcs’ threat peacefully; and Medivh… let’s say he has his own agenda which spells trouble for Lothar and Khadgar. The human cast are never idle, but apart from Medivh, their character arcs aren’t as complicated as the orcs’ are. It doesn’t help that their lines are often cheesy and filled with clichés, e.g. “From light comes darkness, and from darkness comes light.” Because of this, and the film’s decision to open with Durotan and Gul’dan first, I became more invested in their journeys than I did with the humans. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself feeling the same way.


While the characters of Warcraft are hit-and-miss, there’s one aspect of the film that didn’t disappoint me: the visuals. A mixture of practical sets and CGI was used to bring Azeroth to life, and although Jones faced challenges taking a stylised fantasy world into live-action, there were very few moments when I was taken out of it. Locations, weapons and armour are all based on their counterparts in the games, but they strike a balance between being true to the games and feeling practical. This matters because, as fans know, weapons and armour in the games are huge; if actors wore them at full size, they wouldn’t be believable. The only thing that let me down were the shields used by Llane’s forces, which looked too ornate to be convincing. The CGI, however, fared better. The orcs, creatures and magic are all rendered digitally and, despite being stylised like in the games, they somehow manage to put the film’s practical effects to shame. It’s not an easy achievement when you have live actors fighting hundreds of giant CG orcs that look like they were pulled straight from the games. The film’s key locations - Draenor, Stormwind, Kharazan and the Black Morass - are also rendered with CGI, with practical sets used for interior shots. They’re beautifully made, but sadly, the film moves so quickly you won’t get to appreciate the effort put into them. When a scene starts in a new location, the most you’ll get is an establishing shot around two seconds long before the drama kicks off. Some won’t even give you that before the swords and hammers clash. It’s one of the few things both newcomers and fans will complain about. It’s a shame because, when the swords and hammers do clash, they don’t let up; the fight scenes are fast and brutal. As a newcomer to Warcraft, I was surprised by how violent they got. Many orcs and humans are killed through the course of the film, and the ways in which they go out are savage for a 12A rating. Humans are crushed and beaten while they’re down, and orcs are slashed and shot in gory detail. Anyone looking for violence won’t be disappointed, but if the film ran at a slower pace, it would’ve been more enjoyable. No matter how good a fight scene is, it only becomes great with a break long enough to let you rest before the next one. In Warcraft’s case, it feels like one dazzling fight after another. Fans and action filmgoers probably won’t mind, but anyone else may find it exhausting. I wouldn’t recommend it to families or the faint of heart.


It’s not every day you come across a game adaptation that’s even half-decent - if you’re a fan, or a newcomer willing to keep an open mind, you could do worse than give Warcraft: The Beginning a chance. It won’t be the film of the year, but it’s better than most others of its kind - and it may well be the best we get until Assassin’s Creed is released.

Are you a long-time fan of Warcraft? Are you planning to see the film with your warband or use it to draw new people into the games? Comment below and tell us what you think of the new film!

Call Of The Beastmen DLC: Yay Or Nay?


This past week The Creative Assembly released the first substantial DLC for the critically acclaimed Total War: Warhammer entitled Call Of The Beastmen. The DLC costs £13.99 for us UK players and has been met with mixed reception.

As a MASSIVE Warhammer fan I of course picked the DLC up as soon as it launched and having dabbled with it for about 5-6 hours total I can confirm that the content itself is very good. The Beastmen themselves are an excellent addition to the game, their mechanics, units and story driven campaign are all a hell of a lot of fun. So why the mixed reviews?

Cygors are terrifyingly huge.

One steam user by the name of Mekeji hits the nail on the head "This DLC is way overpriced for what it is..." and he would in my humble opinion be correct because as fun as it is to see a group of angry giant Minotaurs smash a unit of Dwarfs to mush, it's not quite £13 worth of mush. Sure there's a unique campaign solely for the Beastmen but even that buckled on does not appear to justify such a hefty price tag for a new race. This comes following the insane backlash that followed the whole Chaos Warriors DLC debacle, which resulted in CA (Creative Assembly henceforth named) releasing this statement on the official forums explaining the DLC policy going forward. Does any of this apply to the current situation?

After charging players to add blood and gore into the game you can imagine that many gamers were skeptical about the future of Total War following the past few years of very hit or miss DLC in terms of both value and content quality. One thing is certain though. The Beastmen are viciously satisfying to play as and a price tag shouldn't matter too much if you're a Warhammer buff like yours truly, but in the future I certainly hope that CA take heed of the fans' reaction to Call Of The Beastmen and price their next content accordingly.

The Beastmen are masters of carnage.

As I go back to burning through the Old World with renewed fury I can't help but feel a tiny pang of distrust for a game developer that I've put so much faith in in the past but also somewhere deep down I see a glimmer of hope, a hope created by the fine product that Total War: Warhammer is and the lessons they have already learned from their previous titles. Here's to war!

In short, unless you are a hardcore fan I wouldn't recommend buying this until it's on sale. The content is solid but the price point is steep.

ReLIFE (Anime Review)


A Pleasant Pill To Swallow

ReLife is a Slice-of-Life comedy anime, following the story of Kaizaki Arata: 27 years old, single, unemployed after quitting his first postgraduate job and is now unable to get interview success anywhere else, leaving him in a depressed slump. At this point, he meets Ryo Yoake, a mysterious cheerful chap who offers him a second chance opportunity known as the ReLife program: an experiment involving taking a magic-like pill that makes you look 10 years younger and sending you back to high school for a year. Have you ever felt like your life hasn’t turned out the way you wanted? Anyone who spent their late teens to early twenties in university or post-education training will tell you 100% of the time that the real world is always different than you’d expect and your plans probably end up the same. Combining its aesthetics, humour and character development, ReLife gives you the opportunity to take a look of what was and what could be of your own life alongside the journey of its protagonist, mixed with an unexpected level of depth that will still leave you with a smile on your face.

Those eyes, man...
 
Firstly, as everyone will be thinking this from the get-go, the animation looks gorgeous. Not because of the settings or backgrounds but because of the specific look to each of its characters. The high school students, youthful Kaizaki included, may come off as having the generic Super-Fun-Time-Kawaii-Japan appeal at first but that’s a charm of its premise. The 27 year old, fully-suited adult Kaizaki for example, is drawn as quite serious and sharp like other adult characters. His transition to his 17 year old look strikes you not because of looking obviously younger, but because he looks full of optimism. Young Kaizaki and the other younger characters have that joyful glimmer of hope in their eye, that shining colouring to each complexion. These jolly visuals mix incredibly well with the music to boot. The opening theme Button by the band Penguin Research (Most adorable song and band names ever) is upbeat and yet wonderfully mellow. The ending theme of each episode is a different decent track by a different artist. As soon as the opening song starts playing and those glossy, happy characters come onscreen, you can’t help but instantly feel better about yourself no matter what sort of day you’ve had.

A wonderfully colourful cast of characters

Where ReLife really hits its stride is the combination of hitting points home in a serious tone but also sandwiching it between layers of relevant humour. A lot of the funny with ReLife stems from the actual fact of a 27 year old man readjusting to high school life: trying to not be formal speaking to 17 year olds, actually trying to master algebra (as if anyone ever could) and as any man struggles with, attempting to hide how much beer you actually drink from teenagers. However, humour also simmers over the individual stories and backgrounds of each character: from being oblivious to attraction from girls, a socially awkward student creepily learning to smile or Ryo occasionally being a smiley yet manipulative sociopath. This is how ReLife uses it’s comedy to hit the nails of aspects of how school life on the head. The know-it-all who can’t seem to take a joke; the socially inept genius whose doing their best to come out of their shell, the joyful idiot whose blissfully ignorant to his surroundings, the sweet airhead with long-time friends that would murder for her: we’ve all had at least several if not all of these sort of friends in school, college or university at some point. ReLife makes you look through the eyes of Kaizaki, as possibly an older person as he is and you can’t help but smile being sucked back nostalgically into this sort of world as he is.

The embodiment of our 17 year old selves...

As we can relate going from living through teenage years all the way to adulthood, ReLife’s characters also have their darker moments along their journey. Kaizaki for example, has a troubled past which you learn more of as the series goes on, leading to the reason he’s unemployed in the first place. These troubled years have affected him in such a way which, when you notice them, gives you a bit of a “woah…” moment. You may go from silently judging him in episode 1 to fully relating and empathising with him later on. You may not relate to him because of going through his EXACT situation (I certainly hope you haven’t); but because in this day and age, it wouldn’t be normal if an mid-twenty-something DIDN’T have baggage: something they can’t shake from their thoughts that holds them back or just really drag you down during those moments alone, all accompanied with a smile and a friendly attitude to make those around him not worry. When being in the adult world for at least a couple of years, it can’t be helped to look back into our times at school with nostalgia goggles: a simpler life seeing your friends every day where your biggest worry is one of the end-of-year exams, if not any relationship drama in your social group which as ReLife also depicts accurately, is a luxury you lose when everyone trades their school text books for bills and working full time. What’s beautiful about ReLife is seeing Kaizaki slowly developing from being bleak about the world due to coldness of corporate work culture to being refuelled with that cheery spark in his personality. It’s an example of how keeping good friends will make you able to get back up again once you’ve fallen. Kaizaki even develops further by using his experience of the real world to help others develop themselves. There are so many heart-warming scenes like this.

Kaizaki even gives life advice with his adult years of experience.

If anything would be dragging the series down at all, it would be a mini story arc which takes place between several of the female characters, covering at least a few episodes. It more or less involves a mixture of jealousy and confusion leading to social exclusions and some very unfortunate misunderstandings. Don’t get me wrong, parts of this side story depicted accidental social mishaps turning into more unnecessary drama, muchlike today, pretty dead on. Although, the problem is that it was dragged out a bit too much. Kaizaki took a bit of a back seat during this time, which was a bit of a shame as I was enjoying his own interactions with the students a lot more. On the other hand, taking a step back and seeing what happens before deciding if to take action is part of Kaizaki’s story itself and does all come full circle, affecting to main story’s destination. It just would have been nice if the schoolgirl friendship drama was leaned out by 1 or 2 episodes to give more time to Kaizaki or other characters.

When the drama you're watching between your mates gets heated....

Verdict

A unique premise and a carefully crafted mixture of drama and comedy make ReLife a heart-felt experience, making you more than likely make you want to go back to those Year 11 English Literature lessons and lunch time meet-ups in the school court yard. With each episode, you’ll be invested more each time into these adorable characters as you learn and empathise with them but it’s more of the protagonist, Kaizaki Arata himself, that you’ll be cheering on. This character and his story is almost a representation of how we’ve all felt during those low moments and his journey upwards is a well-needed lesson that if you’re ever feeling down on yourself, you’re not alone. Pacing issues with side-story arcs aside, this series is a memorable delight that will leave you grinning and chuckling every time.

Rating: 9/10


ReLife is streaming on Crunchyroll now. Give it a go!

Let's Talk About: Assassin's Creed II


Assassin’s Creed II was handed down to me a few years ago by my older brother, along with his PlayStation 3. I didn’t know much about the game, and so I kind of put it to one side in favour of other games like GTA V and some Silent Hill titles. But after stumbling across it like some kind of hidden relic a couple of years later, I decided to give it a try, and I discovered just how much I’d been missing out.

It’s not exactly news that AC II is a fantastic game. It’s been out since late 2009 and is often considered the best of all of the AC games, or at least coming in second, with the first game generally rated pretty low in comparison. And it’s not hard to see why when you consider the beautiful, sprawling world of Renaissance-era Italy, the fluid controls of free-running and combat, and the mammoth amount of missions that are available to you, seemingly without limit. I’m not exaggerating when I say I really thought there would be no end to this game, and that prospect was definitely fine by me.


From the beginning the story had me hooked. The protagonist, Ezio Auditore da Firenze and his entire family struck a chord with me. I enjoyed seeing this completely realistic depiction of a (slightly) typical family and the individual lives they were all leading; where Ezio was first introduced to me, not as any kind of assassin, but as a protective brother and a devoted son. His character, and those of his family felt real to me, solid and fleshed out with several dimensions. And of course, I was inevitably heartbroken when his father and two brothers were publicly hanged; the very event that sets the rest of the game in motion.


From then on, the game becomes nothing short of a veritable roller-coaster ride. The main goal of the game will have you traversing across Italy to Tuscany, Forli, Venice and even Rome as you locate and methodically assassinate each of your targets. You’ll find allies in big names like Niccolo Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci as well as in groups of regular citizens and courtesans, gradually learn a host of new free-running abilities and discover an entire range of weapons at your disposal, like daggers, swords, maces, poison blades, and even what can only be described as a miniature firearm for long distance kills.

The chief missions, or rather the compulsory ones, are so diverse and interesting that I never felt ready to stop playing. A personal favourite would probably be competing in the four Carnivale challenges, consisting of a race, a game of capture the flag, woman-charming and a fist fight, in order to win a golden mask. No two missions ever seemed the same to me, and I barely ever knew what to expect throughout the majority of the game. From conducting a stealth assassination upon a ship, to flying Leonardo’s prototype flying machine over Venice, all the way through to infiltrating the Vatican to assassinate your final target; these are just a few examples of the missions that make up Ezio’s incredible story.


The game’s major storyline really is something that will easily keep anybody entertained for hours but if you happen to find yourself wandering from it, you’ll come across side-quests and extras within the first five seconds. You can loot crates, collect feathers, glyphs and statuettes, scale view-points, participate in races, practice your combat skills, act as a courier, complete extra assassinations on the side and buy yourself some new armour or dye your clothes. There are even six hidden assassin’s tombs dotted throughout Italy, five of which are optional side-quests. All of them require you to stealth your way through the secret entrance, before you have to free-run through the building to your goal. In the tombs you’ll find hoards of treasure along with a special assassin’s seal in each one. These seals can be used to unlock the Sanctuary beneath the Villa Auditore, where you can obtain the Armour of Altair. When you consider that it’s the strongest armour going, this side-quest becomes more than worth it.


In short, I loved this game and I know my feelings are shared by many others. I play a lot of games of different genres on a lot of different platforms, and I’ve found it hard to discover any that manages to top AC II. It’s everything I could want in a game; the stunning graphics that somehow manage to make Italy even more beautiful than it is, the fun of Ezio’s free-running and climbing, especially on major monuments like the Duomo, the challenging-but-not-quite-frustrating new methods of assassination you can employ, the intricate puzzles, the countless extras and the exquisite storytelling behind everything; it’s the closest thing to a truly perfect game that I’ve ever encountered. Honestly, I’ve yet to meet anything that comes close to matching it.

You Should Be Watching: Log Horizon


The year is 2016 and as always, I’m late to the party. The difference is that this party started in the November of 2013, and boy did I miss out! Of course, you already know that I’m talking about from reading the title of this article: the anime series Log Horizon!

We at Alt:Mag don’t endorse the apocalypse, I swear.

In an age where virtual reality is available to the masses - providing

You Should Be Playing: Enter the Gungeon


After spending hours readying my body for Enter the Gungeon by playing Nuclear Throne on repeat the night before release day, I had sent my expectations and overall hype into the stratosphere. The idea of playing yet another dungeon crawling, bullet hell, top-down shooting gunfest had started to grind me down, but after re-watching the trailer at E3 I realised that Gungeon is a wonderful concoction of my favourite games: it takes the map style of The Binding of Isaac and throws in some Nuclear Throne difficulty to beat my ego down just when I think I'm getting good at the game. Despite my countless deaths within the first few hours of playing, I’ll be damned if it isn't easily the most rounded and addictive game I’ve played in a long time.


Enter the Gungeon is, as I said, a rogue-like, dungeon crawling, murder simulator. If you like games that don’t hold you by the hand and instead throw you into the deep end with bricks tied to your feet, then you’re in luck. Once you've finished the tutorial and you've chosen one of the four ‘Gungeoneers’ to try your luck with you’re allowed to explore The Breach, a starting area that you can fill up with NPCs you save from The Gungeon. There are several NPCs that you can save which then open up shops in The Breach. They sell items and weapon unlocks at the cost of ‘Hegemony Credits’, a currency which you receive at the end of each chamber. There are other NPCs that come with more useful bonuses, such as an elevator to skip chambers or unlocking you some new items to use. Having multiple NPCs to save in order to populate The Breach gave the game’s replay-ability some purpose, as if it needed any.
Once you’re finished with all of that you can climb the stairs and, uh, enter the Gungeon.


Everything inside the Gungeon is a homage to all things gun related. All the mobs you encounter in the game are part of the ‘Cult of the Gundead’, a group of disciples that worship ‘The Gun’, a powerful artefact known throughout the universe as a weapon that can shoot into the past and change the future. They must defend their temple from anyone who wants to get their grubby mitts on the gun; which is you... you bastard.
Not only are these guys adorable as anything, but each mob has its own unique and hilarious style. The majority of the disciples are bullets, ranging in calibre from pistol shells, to shotgun pellets, to sniper bullets, and each has their own different attack style based on what type of bullet they embody. Most of Gundead come at you with guns blazing, which is slightly disturbing if you imagine the bullets they’re shooting being its younger brother or something, but others will use their spells, or melee attacks, or even their own bodies in order to stop you. It only gets more ridiculous the further down you make it, which turns each chamber into a treat as you try to conjure up an image of what kind of monstrosity will kill you this time.
Each floor, or chamber, is procedurally generated and increases in difficulty with each chamber cleared. The rooms do retain a certain structure, so you can implement tactics from previous runs and eventually work out a plan for each type of room layout. You must explore the Gungeon by clearing out each room and killing the enemies holed up inside. There is no linear pathway to take, so you must keep clearing rooms until you find the boss room, clearing that room will grant you access to the next chamber. One of my favourite things that Gungeon has implemented is the ability to quickly warp to different rooms in the chamber, cutting out the tediousness of constantly having to slowly walk to the other side of the chamber because you hit a dead end and the boss room must be all the way over there.

At the beginning of the first chamber you are equipped only with your starting weapons and a few ‘blanks’, these are consumable bullet-shells that wipe off all enemy bullets on the screen and also prevents them from firing for a few seconds. These, alongside your health bar, can be replenished through loot from enemies or purchased at the shopkeeper. At the end of every chamber is a boss battle that tests your mettle and won’t go easy on you even if this is the furthest you've gotten in twenty lives.


Each boss is randomly chosen from a pool of pre-determined bosses for whichever chamber you are in. For example, on the second floor of the Gungeon I encountered the Beholster, a Beholder from D&D that thought its death ray was a bit unfair and picked up several guns instead. After you defeat each boss you are given a reward alongside some health, but if you manage to clear the boss without taking any damage then you are awarded with one of the five ‘master rounds’, a pick-up item that can be traded to an NPC for bonuses.

The dodge roll mechanic will become one of your best friends if you want any chance of getting to the final chamber. It grants you half a second of invincibility whilst you roll, but you become vulnerable again just before you land. I found it easier to think of it as a tumbling roll, where you jump over the bullets, instead of just rolling through them. You can also reload as you roll, which buffs up the pace of the game substantially by keeping the ball rolling as you glide around the room.

Each chamber is full to the brim with objects you can interact with, and one of the more glorious methods of defence is table flipping, where you flip a table onto its side and use it as cover from enemy fire. The table only has enough durability to protect you from a handful of bullets, but it provides you with an advantage and has saved my ass plenty of times. There doesn’t seem to be any use for all the other objects, though. Just smash them if you’re feeling down and want to break some stuff.


Now, it wouldn't be a dungeon-crawling game without hundreds of items to memorize and learn the difference between the trash-tier and the useful, and Gungeon has hundreds of items, weapons, accessories, and pick-ups for you to learn about. This isn't a negative point in the slightest, as each unique weapon can be utilised by each character in different ways, so testing out which item is a must-have for which character is worth knowing. Of course, you could be extremely unlucky and get absolutely nothing from all the loot drops, forcing you to try your luck with your starter weapon and pray that luck grants you a good weapon or a quick death so you can try again.

One of the main ways to get your fix of weapons and pick-up items in this game is from loot chests. There are a few found in each chamber, some of which are locked, that once opened will grant you either a weapon or an item. As I mentioned, the consistency of useful items and weapons to bad seems to be completely luck based, but you are able to clear a chamber with just your starting weapon, but don’t expect to clear it quickly.

The amount of crazy weapons, mob designs, pick-up items, and level layouts are something that keep me hooked on this game. Gungeon puts itself above the rest with its fast-paced gameplay, humour, and its unique boss fights that keep you on the edge of your seat as you desperately try to get a perfect run. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I'm feeling extra confident about my next run.

Enter the Gungeon is available now on Steam and the Playstation Store for £10.99.

For more video-game related articles and reviews follow Louis Stowe on twitter: @Louis_Stowe

 
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