Sunday, August 09, 2020

"Destroy All Humans!" Review

 A sense of hedonistic anarchy courses through "Destroy All Humans!" You play an egotistical, comically overpowered alien who lays wanton waste to an unsuspecting Earth, subjugating man and beast alike to your control.

Originally released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, the gameplay holds up two generations later thanks to an impassioned overhaul by developer Black Forest Games. Few of the nagging anachronistic issues from the previous release remain. If you didn't realize this was a remake, you would have a hard time telling it isn't a new game.

Ample boosts in visuals and framerate give the game a modern feel. This is the template that developers should use with remasters going forward. By staying true to the spirit of the original without staying devoted to its shortcomings, Black Forest achieves something memorable.

While the game is a linear story at heart, its sense of open-world destruction grants you feelings of freedom. You can attack objectives in a number of different ways, or just simply mess around while procrastinating your objectives.

Bolstered with witty writing and a sense of humor that sends up 1950s sci-fi flicks, "Destroy All Humans!" is a welcome blast from the past that easily becomes the definitive way to play the cult classic. If you feel its tractor beam tugging at you, resistance is futile.

Publisher provided review code.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

"Yakuza Kiwami 2" Review

After lurking on the fringes for the last couple years, "Yakuza Kiwami 2" is ready for its Xbox One spotlight.

Newly released on the console and PC following a 2018 PS4 release, the game is ready to stretch out to new audiences.

Those gamers are in for a treat. Over the past few years, Sega has demonstrated an uncanny ability to produce sweeping, open-world sagas under the "Yakuza" banner with impressive regularity. Part of the reason for the prolific release schedule is the regular inclusion of remakes.

Like "Yakuza Kiwami," which dropped in 2016 and was a remake of the original PS2 game "Yakuza" (2005), the "Kuwami" sequel is a redux of the PS2's "Yakuza 2" (2006). Rebuilt from the ground up to treat the story from the original as though it were a new game using the "Yakuza 6: The Song of Life" engine, the remake lifts the original well past the trappings of the PS2 original.

Not only are myriad quality-of-life updates in place -- gone are the days of tedious memory card save points -- but countless details of the production have also improved several degrees. From combat, to the menu system, the visuals, sound and story pacing, "Yakuza Kiwami 2" lifts the source material to heights it could never approached on the original hardware.

The Golf Bingo, Virtual-On and Cabaret minigames flesh out the open world as you work your way through the seedy underworld. You shape your character's personality along with his skills and attributes. The side touches round out the character and make you feel as though you're inhabiting a genuine person rather than an archetype.

Adjustments to the main story integrate the beloved Goro Majima character more directly into the mix, making the dagger-wielding thug a playable character. Following Majima through various developments, he fits into the franchise's first two games more naturally.

A story told with depth and passion, the mob opera that "Yakuza Kiwami 2" sings a haunting and resonant song of antiheroes jockeying ruthlessly for power, money and influence. By returning to its roots, the series continues to thrive as it ages.

Publisher provided a review code.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

BOOK REPORT: "The Martian Chronicles"


The Martian ChroniclesThe Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bradbury's sci-fi opus stands as a landmark challenged and inspired developing writers to dream of far-off futurescapes.

That said, it holds up poorly and gets more anachronistic and backward as the decades pass. In 2020, it's a decidedly rough read that often resembles tales told by a drunken great uncle.

Burdened by clunky, unlikely visions of dystopian angst and even more alarming spurts of casual racism, this is a book you may remember fondly from your youth that you'll regret to re-encounter as an adult.

What stands out to me in revisiting the classic is the choppiness of the storytelling. Bradbury excelled at vision and spectacle but faltered in the nuts and bolts of delivering story arcs and crafting memorable characters.

Mark Boyett's narration in the Audible version is whimsical and steady, matching the rhythms of Bradbury's tale-spinning to help cast the spell of a narrative.

Bizarre and thought-provoking in both positive and negative ways, this is an absurd peek into a past vision of the future that is best regarded at a safe distance. 

Publisher provided review code.

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

"We Should Talk" Review


"We Should Talk" is a dialogue tree game that you can knock out in 15 minutes. Then you'll find yourself diving back in to replay it again and again, choosing different paths to see where you wind up.

The premise: You're a woman whose relationship with your girlfriend is on the rocks, and you find yourself at your favorite bar to mull things over. You respond to texts from her as you run into friends and strangers, making choices that could destroy or firm up your romance.

As you make your choices, you shape your character's motivation, goals, background and hangups. You base your responses on mix-and-match sentence fragments that determine your tone and delivery.

Developer Insatiable Cycle added an impressive amount of depth to the short-form premise, providing reason to come back again and again. There truly is no wrong way to play it. You can be callous and indifferent, soothing and loving, or -- like most people -- a complex, ever-shifting mishmash of inconsistency.

It's a hectic and comical joy to juggle exes, friends with benefits and creeps as you work out your home life. The levels of intelligence and heart make the writing sing with authenticity.

While the game may seem slim and inconsequential, it's a refreshing chance of pace to those who are looking for something fresh and intellectual. The psychological net the game casts dwarfs most other narratives in terms of scope, providing a fascinating dive into the motivations and demeanor in the dating scene.

Publisher provided review code.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

"Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire" Review

Bullet hell shooter fans are accustomed to guiding ships through torrents of twisted metal through space. With "Sisters Royale: Five Sisters Under Fire," developer Alpha System shakes up the formula by swapping out ships for buxom bodies.

A vertical-scrolling shooter, the premise casts five high-powered sisters as they compete for the hand of the angel Yashin. 

Multipliers and power-ups abound, with endless chances to up your scores and unleash screen-melting waves of firepower upon your enemies.

While the gameplay is on the slim side, and the visuals pander to base tastes, "Sisters Royale" adds enough twists to the genre to become relevant.

Publisher provided review code.


Saturday, July 18, 2020

BOOK REPORT: "The Man Who Was Thursday"

The Man Who Was Thursday: A NightmareThe Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A surreal journey into the realm of the absurd, Chesterton's novel is filled with compelling dialogue, intriguing twists and thought-provoking themes.

A gathering of European anarchists who seemingly scheme to tear society asunder -- with each of the leaders assuming a day of the week as a moniker -- evolves into a mishmash of distrust, backstabbing and subterfuge. All the while, parallel developments call the entire premise into question,

While some of the ideas seem less than fully developed, I appreciated the craftsmanship it took to build the rickety path.


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