Monday, 31 March 2014

The Witch and The Hundred Knight

Just over a decade ago Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) unleashed the Disgaea series upon the world, a series that spawned four sequels, five spin-offs and an anime. Yep, needless to say, Disgaea, NIS' first game to be released outside of Japan, quickly cemented them as a force to be reckoned with. Now comes their latest title, The Witch and the Hundred Knight, a game that is both a success and a failure.

Developed by Nippon Ichi Software and out on the Playstation 3 now comes The Witch and the Hundred Knight, an action role-playing game that, compared to the 2D fan favourite Disgaea, brings the action into the third dimension. You play as The Hundred Knight, a small armour clad demon who, despite his tiny stature, can wield large, powerful weaponry. Metallia, a foul mouthed and powerful witch, has summoned the Hundred Knight. The reason; for the past 100 years she has been in a mortal struggle with a rival witch known as Malia the Forest Witch, and needs you to defeat her. Once defeated Metallia can spread her Niblhenne Swamp across the land. The story is surprisingly rich and layered, yet the characters right from the get-go are either completely boring or just plain annoying. This is especially evident in the case Metallia whose edgy, almost angry teenager personality is just cringe worthy at times. Considering this is the character that is giving you missions, the character that you should technically be sided with, it just seems like a bad choice to make her, you know, fucking aggravating!

The world presented to you in The Witch and the Hundred Knight comes in stages, with Metallia's house in Niblhenne Swamp being your base of operations. Though closed off at first, the player is able to instantly warp from the Swamp to a stage if a Pillar, important landmarks through the game, has been activated. These Pillars tie the world together, and without having the good sense to activate them, makes exploring a chore. Despite gameplay being split into stages, some stages have an open-world feel, and give the player quite a bit of freedom. This ability to ramble, explore and get lost is incredibly welcomed, and usually makes for the best gameplay moments in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. That said the game, for some bizarre reason, puts a time limit on exploration. To avoid this you'll find yourself merely leaving an area... then walking back in, thereby restarting the timer. It's a totally unneeded addition to the game, as well as a huge time waster. Boo!

Battling is focused on the age-old hack-and-slash mechanic, but The Witch and the Hundred Knight does try and inject some substance into the tired mix. For instance, dodging at exactly the right time slows the gameplay down, and gives the player free reign to pound away at their foe, free from any kind of retaliation. Attacks can be strung together too, and the ability to create your very own attack string is a fantastic addition that puts quite a bit of choice in the players’ hands. With this added layer of complexity to the battling, it ends up being fun and free form, if a little tedious at times. But sadly that's what The Witch and the Hundred Knight ultimately oozes, tedium. Though challenging at first, later in the game you'll find yourself going on autopilot during the fights. This, on top of the undercooked story, endless text-based game sequences and bizarrely underutilized Raid mechanic (which lets you raid the houses of villagers) leads to the game feeling like a mishmash of ideas, unsure of what exactly it should be.

Though cute to look at and certainly packed with a good deal of worthwhile moments, The Witch and the Hundred Knight just doesn't hit the mark. It'll appeal more to hardcore NIS fans, but everyone else should probably be a bit more hesitant.

The Witch and the Hundred Knight falls on its sword and just manages a 3/5, [★★★☆☆]

Denis Murphy

The Witch and The Hundred Knight at CeX

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Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss Everdeen in the second instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy; Catching Fire. For those who don’t know, The Hunger Games is an annual death match pitting two randomly selected “tributes” from each of Panem’s 12 districts against each other in an artificial arena. There are no rules and it the games can only end when one tribute remains alive. Sounds brutal, I know, but this is how the Capital instils fear into the masses and keeps them all in their respective places.

Through an act of defiance, Katniss managed to emerge victorious alongside the second tribute from her district, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), by threatening joint suicide to avoid having to kill each other. In Catching Fire, it is revealed that this simple act sparked an uprising and Panem is in danger of rebellion. Much to President Snow’s dismay, Katniss inadvertently became a beacon of hope and he is determined to crush her along with everybody’s dreams as soon as he possibly can.

Things take a turn for the worst when Katniss and Peeta are thrown back into an arena for a special edition of The Hunger Games where the tributes are selected from previous winners. Sporting every trap you can think of, from poisonous fog to rainfalls of blood, this arena is far more unforgiving than any before it.

It’s not all action and revolution mind you, there’s an underlying love triangle deep enough to make any girl warm inside. Torn between her childhood sweetheart and the partner with whom she suffered the most chaotic experience of her life, Katniss is forced to battle heartache whilst she struggles everybody alive. The fact that her and Peeta’s on screen relationship has no choice but to continue doesn’t really help matters either.  

I really can’t fault this film at all; from the casting right down to the special effects, every last detail is fine-tuned and spectacular. The storyline is near enough identical to the novel so no complaints there, and the acting does every character justice. Just like in the book, they all have distinguished personalities, regardless of how little their role and this is followed through on the big screen.

Having read the books, I already knew exactly what was coming next, but this film still had me glued to the edge of my seat. It's 145 minutes of relentless suspense, sucking you further into their world with each passing second. It’s a film that forces passion into your veins, lights a fire in your heart, and spills tears of joy, despair and excitement alike. This series is shaping up to be one of my favourite book-to-film adaptations of all time. Bring on the finale, I say.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire gets a 5/5, []


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire at CeX

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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare

In 2009 PopCap Games released the first entry in their Plants vs. Zombies series; a 2D tower defence game that spread like wildfire across almost every hand-held platform. Followed by a direct sequel in 2013 that (despite some controversy) was downloaded like hot cakes, the newest entry into the franchise has arrived in the form of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a fresh take on the series. But the question is - will Garden Warfare appeal to the fanbase that fell in love with the series and its tower defence roots, or was it a mistake to mess with the already popular formula?

Developed by PopCap Games and out now on Xbox 360 and Xbox One (out on PC in June!) is Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, which trades up the 2D tower defence genre for a third-person  shooter vibe. For far too long have the zombies in the series merely shuffled towards the plants, only to get completely obliterated in the process. This time the Zombies are fighting back, and compared to previous instalments, the action is more in your face that ever before.

There are four classes for both the Plants and Zombies factions, with each one having a vastly unique role within in a squad. When playing as the Plants the player can choose from the Peashooter, Sunflowers, Cactus and Chomper, while the classes for the Zombies come in the form of the All-Star, Engineer, Foot Soldier and Scientist. While at first the names of the classes can be a little confusing, once into the game Garden Warfare's classes pretty much fall in line with 99% of every other multiplayer shooter out there. For instance on the Plants team, the Sunflower heals other members in the squad, while the Cactus class is essentially the sniper of the group. This also extends to the Zombies, as players will notice that the All-Star is basically like the Heavy from Team Fortress, complete with an oversized weapon.

Despite the fact that they're the run-of-the-mill classes just neatly disguised, each has a number of attacks at their disposal and the ability to upgrade their weapons further as the game progresses. This itself opens up gameplay immensely, and it seems that PopCap Games have taken a page from Valve's book when it comes to creating a successful competitive shooter. Needless to say, the teams and classes in Garden Warfare are expertly honed into a fantastically compact selection that will suit any play style or strategy. 

There are a few modes on offer here, but if you're looking for a solely one-player experience, then only one mode will cover those needs, Garden Ops. However, going into Garden Warfare looking for a one player experience is a bit like playing Heavy Rain and hoping Ethan's dead kid will pop up out of his grave at the end and say, “LOL! I was only pretending, Dad!” It just won't happen. Nope, Garden Warfare is solely focused on multiplayer and this is most evident when playing the Gardens & Graveyards and Team Vanquish modes. 

Team Vanquish is a typical team death-match mode, but with a maximum of 12 players a side, it makes for an incredibly fun, hectic and insanely replayable head-to-head monster mash. Gardens & Graveyards is a bit more in-depth, but has its feet planted firmly in the classic “capture the flag” mode. In this mode Zombies will need to take over 6 consecutive gardens, while the Plants will need to defend them within the space of 5 minutes. The game modes on offer here, though pretty scant compared to other online shooters, are fantastic and will keep you hooked for ages.

Garden Warfare could have been a cheap cash-in. It could have been PopCap Games' shitty venture into the world of the online shooter. It could have been a lot of things, but it's none of those. Instead Garden Warfare is an incredibly fun, colourful and, believe it or not, deceptively difficult take on the genre. While newcomers to the genre will have quite a lot of fun in Welcome Mat mode, a mode that eases new players into the idea of an online shooter, gamers already familiar with the formula may be surprised how in-depth Garden Warfare is. 

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare infects us all and gets a 4/5, [★★★★☆]

Denis Murphy

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare at CeX

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Friday, 28 March 2014

What Maisie Knew

What Masie Knew is a new film starring Steve Coogan and Juliane Moore, it is based on the book of the same name by Henry James, but updated from a 19th Century Story to a 21st Century story. Coogan and Moore play Beale and Susanna, both parents of a child called Masie, played by Onata Aprile. It needs to be said right now that Onata Aprile is the loveliest little girl and so sweet and brilliant that, unless you are devoid of paternal or maternal instincts entirely, you will find yourself tearing up during her performance at least once. You may even have to send a flood warning to your eye sockets if you are particularly sensitive.

The film is very simple, remarkably visceral and realistically. You should stop reading and watch it because nothing I can say will come close to the explosive emotional value of the film. The cast it superb and the script is airtight. Beale is an art dealer, very busy and has no time to spend with Masie, and doesn’t really give a shit about her but is very good at pretending he does. Susanna is a rock star, surrounded by men wanting to get up inside her as often as possible.


Masie has a nanny called Margot who is blonde, Scottish and beautiful, ingredients that basically lead to Susanna and Beale splitting like an iPhone screen on a pavement. Beale marries the lovely Margot to make sure he gets custody over Masie, which is done as nothing more than a ‘fuck you’ in the direction of Susanna, who in turn marries a young bartender called Lincoln. It’s pretty obvious from early on that the intention of the plot is to get the two young and attractive characters (Margot and Lincoln) together for a special kind of cuddle, and wouldn’t it be brilliant for Masie to go off with them and have her irresponsible parents abandon her with them?

It doesn’t take too long before Margot and Lincoln start to realise that their new significant others are utter bastards and through a few twists of fate end up exactly like you’d want, with Masie in their care. None of this really matters; Onata’s wee face, her ability to just ignore her parents craziness and deal with her life as it comes, her decision to stay with the nice people instead of the stupid ones will make you emotional and it’s going to melt that icy cage around your heart. For about fifteen minutes after I saw the film I wanted to have children… then I saw some real life ones screaming because they got the wrong kinds of crisps and infanticide seemed more appealing again.

I honestly give this film a heartfelt recommendation. It really should be a must have, but will probably get overlooked, which is super sad. Best film literary adaptation since Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet.

What Maisie Knew gets a 4/5, [★★★★☆]

Dave Roberts

What Maisie Knew at CeX

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Thursday, 27 March 2014


After being fired by Activision from Infinity Ward (a company they founded) Jason West and Vince Zampella aimed to bring their gaming expertise elsewhere. While the true reasons as to why they were fired remained largely unknown, in 2010 they formed Respawn Entertainment. As you probably know Infinity Ward is the developer who created the Call of Duty series, right back to 2003's first World War 2 centric instalment. Of course the series has changed quite a lot since then, and has moved into a more modern/pseudo-futuristic setting as of late, but Infinity Ward have made an undeniable mark on the gaming world. So, with the two biggest players leaving Infinity Ward and starting their own company, what kind of game did they make? Why, a first-person shooter, of course! I guess you can't teach old dogs new tricks, but in the case of Titanfall, you can strap the dog into a 20 ft. tall hulking mech.

Developed by Respawn Entertainment and out now on Xbox One and PC is Titanfall, Respawn's answer to Call of Duty. The story here is extremely linear, so before you read on, if you're looking for a game with a layered single-player campaign, keep well away. This is not the game you're looking for. The single-player campaign, despite being inter-cut with various scripted sequences and voice-overs, is merely the multiplayer aspect of the game... Seriously, that's it. Throw in a wafer thin storyline that harps on about two factions fighting for resources and you have Titanfall's narrative in a nutshell. But at the end of the day, I don't think many gamers expected much else. Titanfall wasn't made with a single-player experience in mind, but rather a multiplayer one, and it does that pretty damn perfectly.

The difference with Titanfall compared to other first-person shooters is the fact that the action happens on two levels; on-foot like any other FPS, but also within a massive mech (mechanised armour) known as a Titan. Firstly, the on-foot combat is fantastic, and despite what you're already thinking, it doesn't feel boring or inferior compared to controlling a Titan. That's down to the fact that the player can use a jet pack to hover in mid-air and run along or up walls. Both of these abilities when combined make for swift and gloriously free form player movement that Mirror's Edge only dreamt of. From running up walls and onto buildings in order to jump on top of a passing Titan, to jumping from the third story of a building right down through a second story window of the adjacent building, the on-foot segments in Titanfall are absolutely brilliant, fast and utterly frantic. 

After a certain amount of time, each player can put in a request for his or her Titan, and once deployed it comes hurtling down through the atmosphere and crashes to the ground. They're absolutely huge, and once inside players take full control of the Titan, its arsenal and its unique perspective over other non-Titan players.  Of course, while you can now kill other players with ease, either through your heavy firepower or merely stepping on them, you will now also be a huge walking target. These two forms of play, on-foot and Titan, make Titanfall utterly unique while also opening it up for varied gameplay. Needless to say, the weaponry both on-foot and when using a Titan is top notch, yet does feels uncannily similar to the Call of Duty series. Guns are robust, diverse and deliciously pleasing to unload upon an enemy.

With a total of six multiplayer modes to invest time into, Titanfall has all of your multiplayer needs covered with modes such as Last Titan Standing; a mode that pits Titans against each other with only one life at hand, and Pilot Hunter; a mode that is effectively team deathmatch. However, the biggest downside to multiplayer is that there can only be six players per side at any one time. Titanfall does prevent the game from looking sparse through the addition of a few bots, but it's not enough most of time, which leads to Titanfall feeling a little empty.

Overall Titanfall isn't for someone even remotely interested in a single-player experience. It's for someone who is craving a new, if familiar multiplayer shooter. While it may not be the ground breaking FPS that many assumed Respawn Entertainment would cook up, it's huge fun in its own right and successfully challenges Call of Duty to its throne.

Titanfall, despite being Call of Duty with mechs, is 40 tonnes of awesome and gets a 4/5, []

Denis Murphy

Titanfall at CeX

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ender's Game

Leading up to the release of Ender's Game there was quite a bit of negative buzz about it. It was mainly from three groups. There were people who thought Orson Scott Card's, the writer of the novel on which the film was based, homophobic beliefs should have prevented it ever being made. There were people who looked at the directors previous film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and thought Ender's Game would be an equally awful disaster, and finally, the hard-core fans of the book who feared the narrative would be too scaled down and gutted in film form.

Well first off, the idea that a book shouldn't be adapted to film simply because of an authors backwards thinking is just bullshit, as Ender's Game has nothing to do with his out-dated views. Secondly, Gavin Hood's previous films before Wolverine prove that, yes, he is indeed a pretty good director. And lastly, much like any book that is being adapted into a film, things will surely get cut out. It happens. But this is not to say Ender's Game is a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a solid action sci-fi backed up by something interesting ethical questions.

Taking place in the future, Ender's Game focuses on the story of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin, a young boy with the potential to save the human race. You see, five years prior to the start of the film an alien race known as the Formics attacked Earth and almost brought the human race to its knees. However their attack was halted by the actions of one brave commander, and now mankind must try and think of a way to best the Formics before a second attack. This comes in the form of recruiting children from a very young age, and training them to be flawless commanders with the help of various combat simulations. The film largely focuses on Ender's training, his relationships with other students and teachers in the battle school as well as some heavy questions about warfare.

If you're expecting a film wall-to-wall with massive, giant galactic battles and hordes of aliens laying waste to Earth... you'll be disappointed. Ender's Game is not that kind of film, but rather it's kind of like if Harry Potter, Starship Troopers and the first half of Full Metal Jacket had a baby, and that's a good thing! Instead of the typical Hollywood action sci-fi Ender's Game is a far more character driver film, and one that is perfected by its wonderful cast. From Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley to Asa Butterfield who plays Ender himself, Ender's Game, though not as cerebral as the book it was based upon, is a breath of fresh air in a world of the all too common “summer blockbuster”. The relationships that unfold and grow within the battle camp makes Ender's Game a very worthwhile watch, while the actual training scenes, especially that of the Battle Room which has the kids fight in zero-gravity, is both thrilling and visually outstanding. 

Blu-Ray Extras
As expected, the BluRay edition of Ender's Game contains some pretty great extras. They are as follows:

Commentary from director Gavin Hood:While director commentary as an extra is a given nowadays, Hood's insights into the film are interesting and eye opening, most of which focus on how his own military knowledge helped directing the training scenes.

Producer commentary:Commentary with producers Gigi Pritzker and Roberto Orci aka the guy who ruined Star Trek.

Ender's World:The Making of Ender’s Game: An 8-part documentary that follows Ender's Game from its origins as the Orson Scott Card novel, to the process of turning it into a film. This documentary covers a lot of ground from production design, actor interviews and the creation of the zero gravity scenes. 

Inside the Mind Game:This extra almost plays out like a music video, with music playing over scenes of the making of the games Ender plays, from storyboarding, motion capture to the final CGI result.

Deleted/Extended scenes:Overall these scenes are a great companion piece to the film, and include one scene that technically would have spoiled the ending during the film. So do yourself a favour, for whatever reason do not watch these scenes before the film itself.

Overall Ender's Game is far better than it could have been. It could have been a typical Hollywood action flick, which, as you might know, I do love! Instead we're treated to an excellent drama backed up by a cast that is pretty much flawless. Sure, it could have been better, but all things considered, this is probably the best we could have hoped for.

Ender's Game is a pleasant zero-gravity surprise and gets a 4/5, []

Denis Murphy

Ender's Game at CeX

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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Moto 360

When you think about it, wearable technology isn’t all that new of a concept; products such as Bluetooth headsets and fitness watches have existed for quite some time, but nobody really considered them to be something worth shouting about. Regardless, Samsung somehow managed to steal the show last year with their Galaxy Gear, overshadowing Sony’s Smartwatch and outshining even that of Google Glass, thus bringing the trend of wearable technology to a widely recognised stage. Following this, 2014 has brought us the very first technology show dedicated entirely to hi-tech accessories.

Allow me to narrow my focus to smart watches; I realise I may not represent a majority opinion here, but this is a trend I’ve never really taken seriously. Most of these devices seem to focus more on the wow factor rather than becoming an asset to everyday life; after checking out the upcoming releases though, there is one little gem that caught my eye. I won’t be surprised if you haven’t yet heard, but I’m talking about the Moto 360 – a smart watch to end all smart watches (despite being a product of the ever-unpopular Motorola).

Despite how little has been revealed, I honestly believe the Moto 360 far succeeds the market as it currently stands. One of major flaws in previous smart watches is their bulky, little-boy’s-first-spy-toy-like appearance; a watch is a timeless (no pun intended) accessory, worn mostly for fashion, so why would I want to sacrifice style for irrelevant functionality? Answer: I most certainly wouldn’t, and that’s what struck me about the Moto 360.

Motorola took a step back and placed a strong focus on design, managing to develop a sleek, stylish and downright sexy watch that most people would likely purchase simply to tell the time. Due to this fact, it is no longer an accessory you wear specifically to work in harmony with your phone, but something you would wear anyway which happens to have those additional features. The simple shift in emphasis is a real game-changer for me; if this is the calibre of future smart watch designs, I might just catch onto the craze, especially after the announcement of Android Wear.

Google have stepped up and attempted to blast my criticism of “irrelevance” right out of the water with their latest operating system. This new and improved OS will concentrate more on notifications, speedy responses and useful information, rather than being little more than an extension of your smartphone. Also, with the incorporation of Google Now technology, Android Wear will likely run far smoother and could genuinely be more efficient than reaching for your phone.

Needless to say, I eagerly await further updates on both Android Wear and the apple of my eye, Moto 360. You all ought to keep an eye out too.


The Moto 360 at CeX

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Monday, 24 March 2014

South Park: The Stick of Truth

When South Park exploded onto our screens 17 years ago, it was only expected that a number of games would follow. The unfortunate thing fact is that most of them were pretty damn awful.  The problem lies with the fact that they were either 3D and thus totally unlike the TV series, or that they weren’t written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Parks creators, writers and, of course, leading voice talent. But in walks Obsidian Entertainment, developer of classics such as Neverwinter Nights, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords and Fallout: New Vegas, with the promise of a completely authentic South Park experience. Did they deliver that? Well, lets just say that South Park: The Stick of Truth isn’t just a great game, but also the best South Park episode in years.

The Stick of Truth doesn’t place you in the role of one of the characters from the series, but rather a completely new kid who has moved into the sleepy town in Colorado. But before your adventure begins you’ll need to create your character, and though the character creation mode isn’t massive, there’s enough choices on offer here to make a somewhat perfect South Park version of yourself. Once this is done and the game kicks off, your parents, busy with moving in their stuff into the new house, tell you to go out and make some friends.

It doesn’t take long before you come across Butters, who brings you to Cartman at Kupa Keep; a human stronghold he has built behind his house. Cartman and his followers are role-playing in a fantasy war against Elves, led by Stan and Kyle. He wants you to join the cause, and after accepting you get to choose your class. They are four classes on offer; Fighter, Mage, Thief and Jew (yes, seriously!). Each class is pretty unique, and depending on which one you choose, your role within your team will change significantly.

Once out in town the genius of The Stick of Truth shines. It looks and feels exactly like the series, but unlike many previous South Park titles, here you are given an open-world - yes, every inch of South Park! From the woods that house the evil, murderous Woodland Critters to Liane Cartman’s bedroom that hides a shocking number of dildos, you can go pretty much anywhere and just explore. Though not necessarily important to the story, getting lost in The Stick of Truth is incredibly awesome and fun. Stumbling into the cinema you’ll hear the fake Rob Schneider trailers (“Da Derp De Derp Da Teetley Derpee Derpee Dumb”), trying to enter a certain house will reveal and random guy hilariously masturbating while going far, far north will land you in, yes you guess it, Canada!

Battling in The Stick of Truth is very important too. It’s turn-based, and in many ways takes its cues from the classic JRPGs of yesteryear. Though the skill is usually focused on simply pressing a button at the right time during any given attack, or merely tapping the analog sticks right and left, it’s a whole lot of fun and makes for some pretty interesting battles. There’s a load of armour, weapons and accessories to choose from too, and as you advance your character and team members can be upgraded in a number of ways. It keeps gameplay feeling fresh, unique and varied.

Though the game does have a major story arc binding it together about you taking back the stolen “stick of truth”, most of your time in The Stick of Truth will be spent doing the many side-quests on offer here. Whether it’s simply finding a character to recruit, beating up hobos in a bid to clean up the town or even placing sensors around South Park in order to find ManBearBig, The Stick of Truth is packed wall to wall with quests. Of course, this goes for collectables too, as in The Stick of Truth you’ll also need to add everyone in the town of Facebook as well as find 30 “Chinpokomon” throughout the town. These extras are great for those of you who crave achievements!

The humour in The Stick of Truth is fantastic, and it makes for the best South Park material in years. Personally, some of the smaller moments throughout the game were the best, and this usually came in the form of finding junk loot; the items that serve no purpose other than being funny. From items such as an Antonio Banderas sex doll, the Okama Gamesphere right down to Phil Collins’ Oscar, these useless items ended up making The Stick of Truth possibly the funniest game I have ever played. 

If you’re a fan of South Park this game is a must, it’s a simple as that. If you’re not, well, there’s no converting you. But what I will say is that not only is South Park one of the best games of the year so far, but it’s also an absolute triumph in authenticity. It’s fucking fantastic. Play it. Now.

South Park: The Stick of Truth protects its balls and nabs a 5/5, [★★★★★]

Denis Murphy

South Park: Stick of Truth at CeX

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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Kill Your Darlings

Have you ever wanted to know what happened during Allen Ginsberg’s college years? Have you ever wanted to see how the relationship between him, Lucien Carr, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs blossomed? Have you ever wanted to see Daniel Radcliffe masturbating furiously in front of a typewriter or being sodomised semi-lovingly by a strange man? Of course you have and despite the knife wound to the childhood of Harry Potters fans, you would and should enjoy Kill Your Darlings. If you love beat poetry, the film “On the Road” or even just good cinema you should watch this film. Essentially just a story about a few friends trying to make a difference in the world, this just happens to be a few friends who did make a difference to the world.

Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe), years before he wrote ‘Howl’, has just been accepted into University and though he doesn’t want to leave his sick mother, his father (David Cross) encourages him to go and to learn. In a role that has strange echoes of my own life, he arrives all optimistic and ready to learn and with a love for school until he meets a young Aryan chap named Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien is a bit of a knob and you’d definitely hate him if he was in your school, but he has a similar outlook on life to Ginsberg, which is a hatred of what is normal, and the hatred of rules, for rules sake.

 I’ve always shared their thoughts on this but also have my own rules that I can’t comfortably break. Creative writing, and art can never truly be taught in my opinion rather encouraged, so what these guys did was very important, very needed. Though they at the time reeked of rebellion, it was rebellion for a reason, a need to express themselves, not a self-absorbed rebellion based in a proud lack of empathy. Too many people nowadays will find themselves claiming they do what they want and that they don’t care how it affects others, like it’s something to be proud of. They completely misunderstand the nature of rebellion which is to make the world realise it’s stupid and become a better place. These guys rebelled against literary and creative repression, Miley Cyrus is rebelling against what people thought she was so that she can make more money, or spend a longer time in the limelight, this is all about her and nothing to do with art.

This film is a tribute to the genius that was these men. It needs to be seen and they need to be held in the esteem today that they were held in before. It is a fabulous film and it if nothing else it reminds us that there was a time when people gave a shit about poetry and literature and it was the adults, the boring people, that liked the emotionless nonsense ‘pop’ society. It was young who realised that that was not the way it was meant to be, that lives were to be lived and recorded with beautiful words.

So go watch this film and remember these people helped create the world you live in, and shaped it so the entertainment you can enjoy would be allowed to be made.

Kill Your Darlings gets a 4/5, []

Dave Roberts

Kill Your Darlings CeX

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Saturday, 22 March 2014


Relatively unknown director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies) teams up with globally known Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine) and Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) and averagely known Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), for a dark, twist-filled thriller that breaks the stagnation of a genre becoming more repetitive with every release.

A well-organised straight-thinking man by the name of Keller Dover (Jackman) becomes desperate when his daughter goes missing along with the neighbours (coincidence, he doesn’t think so), leading him to become only more unstable when the police, led by Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki (we just can’t seem to escape that name in modern cinema), releases the suspect (Dano) that Dover is certain took his daughter. This allows Jackman to tap into an anger we see in his portrayal of Wolverine; the performance is desperate, barbaric and superb. Gyllenhaal also shines opposite him attempting to hide his own anger and desperation. Reminiscent of his role in Zodiac, it’s easy to see why he enjoys this character so much. While both are magnificent on their own, it’s when the pair clash that the film reaches its peak.

Intense fights, sometimes physical, sometimes verbal, explode as the tension reaches unbearable amounts. It’s this storytelling that I enjoyed so much. To build tension for as long as possible and unleash it with a fury unseen for a long time, and I wouldn’t want any other actors to portray that. Dano playing the released suspect is as fantastic as ever. Personally, his performance in LMS is one of the most under-rated of all time, perhaps because he has very few lines, but he really shows his talent here. Bringing the creepiness and sinisterness to a movie so brutal is no mean feat, but he does it brilliantly. Acting-wise, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.

The story however, isn’t as great. Of course it’s original, tense and has more twists than your typical M. Night Shymalan movie, but something’s missing, or rather there’s too much. To some extent, this movie is too tense, too twist-filled. Of course, we love to be biting our nails and shouting at the TV with pride when we think we’ve solved it, but this movie makes us do that every five minutes, leaving very little time to just sit back and appreciate. That being said, the story is gripping and we do stick around till the end. Prisoners is a refreshing thriller that doesn’t conform just for the sake of conformity. At this point, I’d make a pun about how it takes no prisoners… but I think they’d throw me in jail for it.

Brilliant acting coupled with a story that keeps us entertained, but sometimes lets itself down by doing too much 4/5, []

Jonny Naylor

Prisoners at CeX

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Friday, 21 March 2014

Blue Jasmine

Have you seen Blue Jasmine? I was watching “Play it Again, Sam” the other day, one of Woody Allen’s early works, back when he was in everything. It was based on a play he’d written and it was definitely the start of his blossoming reputation for being able to understand and write fictitious relationships in a remarkably realistic way. Since then he has become no less disillusioned and most of his films are bookended with everyone being upset, depressed and alone, and just like “Play it Again, Sam”, so does Blue Jasmine, which stars the award winningly great Cate Blanchett.

Now the other day I got paid, and for some reason a mistake was made and I got taxed roughly around three times more than I usually do. As you can imagine this made me quite frustrated and irritable for a while. Blanchett’s character, Jasmine, has had a similar experience thrust upon her when the millions of dollars that she used to have access too are ripped away from her, leaving her with absolutely nothing. And he son won’t talk to her. And her husband committed suicide, in prison. After being arrested for fraud.

The film starts with her rambling endlessly to a poor woman on the plane and it is revealed that the conversation started because Jasmine was talking away to herself. Sort of like that weird woman that comes into your work that smells of wee and always has plastic bags with her. Without fail at least one of these people will be an autistic genius who is in fact rich but has fled society – not Jasmine though.

So Jasmine decides to go and stay with her sister Ginger who unfortunately lost a lot of money and a husband to the illegal jiggery pokery of Jasmine’s ex husband – who is fabulously played by Alec Baldwin by the way. Ginger has a boyfriend, a cheap grunt level Sopranos kinda character, who Jasmine disapproves of, and she has no fear in letting him know. Ginger decides she needs to work and after an awkward blind date with a man who I assume owns a strip club and/or is a rapist (the character, not the actor) she ends up with a job as a secretary for a dentist. A dentist who later, turns out to be a bit of a rapist.

She is also taking a class in computers, so that she can take a course online for some middle class bullshit, and she doesn’t even realise she’d spend all her time on twitter and Facebook like the rest of us (4 hours it’s taken me to write this). Anyway, a woman in her class invites her to a party, a party full of rich lovely men. She also brings Ginger along who ends up having a dangerous liaison with Louis C.K who is very believable as a guy who got rich by selling sound equipment. Something about him just made me feel good. This affair causes frustrations between her and her boyfriend, as you’d expect.

This is all intersected with flashbacks gradually unveiling how and why everything has turned to shit and it’s more than fantastic. Blanchett has nailed the crazy nervous breakdown monologue, and Woody Allen, despite throwing together a film that is essentially thematically identical to everything he’s done, created something beautiful in that “beauty in decay” kind of way.

I’m gonna smack a 4/5 on it [], not getting a 5/5 just because it just feels likes any other Woody Allen film, but it is absolutely worth watching. If you don’t watch it a Native American ghost tribe will haunt your house.

Dave Roberts

Blue Jasmine at CeX

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CeX Cambridge, open now!

Aww yea CeX fans, today is a fantastic day. Allow us to introduce our brand spanking new CeX Cambridge store. Nice!

Come on down to sell and exchange your unwanted phones, games, computers and gadgets, and pick up something new and shiny or just to chat with us about all the techy things you love.

Check us out for all your buy, sell, exchange and geeky needs. Find us at:

9 Fitzroy Street

Find your nearest CeX at

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

When the original Lords of Shadow was released, there was some trepidation regarding it being a fresh reboot of the Castlevania series. For a franchise that has spawned over 30 games and is so multi-layered with different story lines, characters and an ever growing mythology, hardcore fans were understandably sceptical. Despite this Lords of Shadow ended up being pretty great, and though it didn't receive the critical acclaim of some of the better Castlevania games, it reassured fans that this new series was at least trying its best. Now comes its direct sequel from developer MercuryRising in the form of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, but amid talk of development woes that effectively led to various employees leaving, is Lord of Shadows 2 any good?

Once again you play as Gabriel Belmont, though now he is simply known as Dracula. After the conclusion of the first game, Dracula has been hiding in the dark recesses of an abandoned cathedral. However, he is located by founding member of the Brotherhood of Light, Zobek, who seeks Dracula's help in order to prevent Satan from returning into the realm of man. With the promise of giving Dracula an eternal rest, something that he has been seeking for quite awhile, Dracula makes an uneasy alliance with Zobek. With the initial job of getting back all of your vampire powers, and then go on to prevent the fall of man at the hands of Satan himself.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is a third-person action adventure with a heavy focus on real-time battles. Though the game does give you a chance to relax and explore its creepy atmosphere, most of your time will be spent hacking your way through an army of hellish creatures. Juggling between three main weapons at hand; a whip, void sword and the chaos claws. Lords of Shadow 2's combat is very much like the first game but, though each weapon can be mastered, the game often turns into an exercise in button mashing, meaning even an un-mastered weapon will easily kill a strong foe. This basically takes the sense of achievement out of successfully winning battles... which should kind of be the point, right?

The most jarring aspect of Lords of Shadow 2 is its setting. Because of where the post-credits scene from Lords of Shadows left him off, Dracula finds himself in a modern city. The city itself, which is open-world and expands in size throughout the course of the game, is kind of interesting, and because it all takes place during one night, its perpetual darkness brings back memories of Arkham City. Despite its European-esque architecture, which partially satisfies the classic Castlevania craving, the game only truly feels at home when in Dracula's Castle. Compared to this, the city just feels boring, stale and, well, not very Castlevania-like.

However, the worst offender here is the fact that the developers have shoehorned in a few stealth segments. Yep, stealth segments in a bloody Castlevania title! Needless to say they are dreadful and come across like the developers saw how popular Assassin’s Creed was and said, “Yeah, we'll have some of that. Yoink!” This on top of the easy combat, rather dull setting and storyline that takes a page from the book of Kingdom Hearts, you know, the page titled “CONTRIVED AS FUCK”, it all ends up dragging down Lords of Shadow 2 quite a bit at times.

If you loved the first one you may want to give it a go, but a full retail price may be too much to be honest. It does have some great moments during the game, but they're few and far between.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 sucks the enjoyment out of the series and gets a 2/5, []

Denis Murphy

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 at CeX

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Thor: The Dark World

When “Phase One” of Marvel's plan to bring a whole slew of superheroes to the big screen started with Iron Man in 2008, a film that is almost top of its genre, what followed were more big screen adaptations of other Marvel heroes. From Captain America, The Incredible Hulk to Thor, Marvel took their time and eventually built up to the mesmerizing climax that was The Avengers; a film that brought together all the major heroes in one action packed showcase of epicness. But in the wake of The Avengers, “Phase Two” has begun, and it has been kicked off with Thor: The Dark World.

Thor: The Dark World is very much a film that takes place in a post-Avengers world; Loki is a prisoner of Asgard due to the havoc he unleashed on the humans through his deadly Chitauri army, while the peoples of Earth suddenly realise that they are not alone any more. However, the real meat of The Dark World recalls another troubled time, far back beyond the incident that rocked New York City in The Avengers. The incident that ultimately kicks off The Dark World is an ancient rivalry between Bor, grandfather of Thor, and Malekith, a Dark Elf of Svartalfheim. Malekith sought a weapon known as the Aether, a weapon so powerful that he intended to destroy the universe with it. Though his efforts were halted by Bor, Malekith awakens once more to obtain the Aether and fulfil his wish of the complete annihilation of the known universe. However, there's a certain Norse God that isn't going to make it easy for him.

Though the first Thor film was fantastic, The Dark World betters it in almost every way. The first improvement is the extra level of world building achieved here, particularly in the realm of Asgard. From the hulking CGI troll-like creatures that go up against Thor, the Dark Evles themselves who are helmed by Malekith, played wonderfully by Christopher Eccelston, to the various locations in Asgard, The Dark World expands the Marvel universe into new and interesting territory. This extra layer of atmosphere is superb as lets be honest; the best parts of the first film all took place in Asgard, right?

Overall the performances are perfectly suitable for a Marvel film, even though Thor very rarely changes his expression (you know the Thor look, that look on his face as if he's just sucked on a lemon), but it's acceptable because all he really needs to do is kick ass. And he does kick ass, quite a bit actually. The action in The Dark World is top notch, and though it doesn't reach the electrifying heights of The Avengers, it still delivers the goods, and ends with a one-on-one fight that will be hard to top. Despite his constant angry looking mug, Chris Hemsworth is noticeably more comfortable in the role of Thor. After proving his casting for the role twice before, in The Dark World he comes across more confident, and at times the perfect embodiment of what a live-action Thor should be, a presence that's a mixture of muscle, gravitas and wit. Of course, once again this is only helped along by his superb rivalry with his Frost Giant brother Loki, who despite being a prisoner early into the film becomes one of its key players later on.

Blu-Ray extras: Bundled along with Thor: The Dark World, the excellent Blu-Ray edition contains some extra goodies that help improve the appreciation for the film itself. Apart from the film the Blu-Ray also contains the following:

Commentary: Though commentary by a director of a film is a given, the real joy here is the fact that Tom Hiddleston aka Loki takes part too. His insights are genuinely interesting as he also comes across as a gushing Marvel nerd.

Marvel One Shot “Hail to the King”: This short film focuses on Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley) from Iron Man 3, and his life in prison after impersonating The Mandarin. The less said about it the better, as there are a few surprises that I'd hate to ruin. Needless to say, it's a genuinely hilarious insight into the life of Trevor, a character who was almost the best aspect of Iron Man 3.

A Brothers Journey - Thor & Loki: This 30 minute documentary takes the viewer through production of Thor: The Dark World, including various interviews with the cast and crew. It's a typical addition to any self respecting Blu-Ray, but nonetheless interesting.

Misc: Though small additions, other extras include extended scenes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and a look at the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Overall Thor: The Dark World is a superb start to Phase Two of Marvel's master plan. It takes chances, builds up the beautiful world of Asgard quite nicely and its mid-credits scene hints at where The Avengers: The Age of Ultron will take us. Exciting stuff!

Thor: The Dark World brings the hammer down on the critics and gets a 4/5, []

Denis Murphy

Thor: The Dark World at CeX

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Tuesday, 18 March 2014


16 years ago Thief: The Dark Project was released on PC to critical acclaim, and was later followed up by two worthy sequels; The Metal Age and Deadly Shadows. However, since Deadly Shadows was released, and its developer Ion Storm went belly up in 2005, the series has been crying out for a sequel. But who best to do it? After all, Thief was quite a praised and celebrated franchise, and whoever took over development would need to have a track record of quality behind them. In steps Eidos Montreal, who previously brought us Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that successfully resurrected another classic franchise. While they did a fantastic job with Human Revolution, is Thief a worthy successor to what came before it? Simply put, not really, but pulling off a successful sequel to Thief wouldn't have pleased many gamers anyway.

Developed by Eidos Montreal for the Xbox One, PS4, PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, comes Thief, the forth entry into the series of the same name. In many ways it's more of a complete reboot than a sequel though. That means the series leaves behind some of the great visionaries and world builders from the original trilogy, such as Randy Smith, Warren Spector, Terri Brosius and Stephen Russell, original voice for Garrett. While I'll always welcome change, it seems the series was in better hands a decade ago. You play as master thief Garrett in a world that is a mishmash of Steampunk, Gothic and Victorian era influences. Upon returning to his home, a place simply known as The City, Garret finds that it is now ruled by The Baron; a tyrant who is living a life of luxury while his people are ravaged by the plague. With a class war beginning to erupt, Garrett decides to make the best out of it, and do what he was born to do - steal.

Thief is a first person stealth game that occasionally incorporates some third person action set pieces. As Garrett the player will need to sneak their way through environments, stealing objects that can be in turn sold, all the while steering clear of guards. The games opening few areas are presented in a very mini-sandbox kind of way, and give the player a fantastic sense of freedom. This freedom also extends to finding loot, which can be huge fun. Once inside a house or building, you'll find yourself almost rubbing shoulders with oblivious soldiers, and it's in these epically tense moments in which Thief can sometimes shine. Whether it's sneaking at ground level and using water arrows to extinguish lanterns to carve out a path for yourself, or taking to the rooftops for a bird-eye view of your surroundings, the key here is choice. That said, while movement and climbing should be pretty fluid here, there are times where certain objects just can't be interacted with. For instance, I was stopped by two guards, and because Garrett can't really take a beating, I had to flee. Nearby I saw a wooden box against a wall. My plan was simple; jump up on the box, and either scale the wall or simply shoot fire arrows down at my pursuers. However, as soon as I sprinted towards the box, which was a type of box I climbed time and time again, nothing happened. I was just standing there waiting for Garrett to do something! Then I died. Trust me, after seeing the loading screens for the 10th time in a row because of a failed climbing/interaction system, you'll be sick of even trying.

But if that wasn't enough of a problem, once you dig deep into the game the stealth mechanic isn't exactly that difficult. While past Thief games demanded that you literally crept through a level at a snails pace, in this game guards won't really hear you unless you're jumping up in down in front of their faces. Furthermore, the “focus” upgrade system, which allows the player to unlock special abilities, is not just a completely boring and tired addition, but ends up breaking any sense of immersion the game started out with. From slowing down time to highlighting objects and loot, the upgrades take away any sense of challenge in Thief. And this is before mentioning the almost Uncharted-esque third person sequences requiring you, quite literally, to only hold forward on the analog stick. These scenes tug you out of the experience and are generally dreadful.

But don't get me wrong; there is fun to be had. If you haven't played any previous Thief games, and perhaps look for a less challenging gaming experience, you may enjoy it. But what remains here is a game that looks absolutely beautiful and contains some rather incredible visuals, but is doing it's best not to be a true stealth game. While I believe Eidos Montreal did the Deus Ex series justice with Human Revolution, this is not the case with Thief. Perhaps they thought a hardcore stealth experience wouldn't appeal to a mass market? Hard to say really, but rather than Thief 4 this seems more like Dishonored-lite.

Thief is clumsy in the dark and gets a 2/5, []

Denis Murphy

Thief at CeX

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