Saturday, 20 July 2019

Alita: Battle Angel ★★★☆☆


Alita: Battle Angel, the latest film from Robert Rodriguez, is based on the original manga Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro in the ‘90s and is a sci-fi and action mash-up which will appeal to cyberpunk fans. Set in a futuristic reality after an epic war that destroyed all but one of the precious sky cities, Zalem, society is now heavily split into two peoples – the elite, that live upon Zalem enjoying life, and the ones that got left behind in Iron City, desperately trying to make it up there whilst living (quite literally) on the scraps thrown away by the superior city.


Whilst searching for spare parts, Dr Dyson Ido (Christoph WChay Clarkaltz) comes across the live remains of a cyborg, which he takes back and restores. He names her Alita (Rosa Salazar) as she has no recollection of her past life, however, she cannot stop thinking about who she might have been, especially with bad-boy-but-also-good-boy Hugo’s (Keean Johnson) intrigue and Ido’s overprotective nature playing a part. Her quest for identity comes at a price though, and she soon finds herself tangled up in far bigger things.

The premise of ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ is not outstanding but it’s intriguing enough to draw one in. Unfortunately, the storytelling cannot be described as the highlight of the film – it’s tangible enough in the first half, albeit cliché, but once you get to the second half it’s hard not to notice that it’s really all just a set-up for the sequel, as a nicely wrapped-up ending just isn’t possible in two hours. This is something I’ve seen with quite a few manga-based films set in wildly different realities such as this, as there’s just so much for the audience to take in and learn and one standalone film won’t cut it. 

Despite the storyline not being as exciting as one had hoped the characters, whilst generic and again clichéd at points (in particular the evil ones) are interesting enough to follow, and Alita, in particular, is fascinating – she’s CGI, but given the warmth and emotion of a real human being which is not always seen in CGI-heavy films. It’s hard not to root for her, especially after one scene where one particularly arrogant bad guy gets proven to be an idiot (something I will always enjoy watching). 

Whilst the other characters are likeable and have plausible backstories, it really was Alita herself that had me gripped. Waltz does a very good job as Ido, as expected, and Hugo was a relatable character but highly predictable and his involvement with Alita made it all feel very YA (I’m also convinced he’s the younger version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The film didn’t quite seem to know who it was targeting, switching very quickly between lovestruck teenagers defying the rules and brutal cyborg battles with more than one head separating from its body.


That’s the thing that I really enjoyed about ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ though. The action is excellently done, with breath-taking CGI battles that really showcase the talent of the team behind it. Some shots were absolutely memorable – Alita swirling her way through a dozen spiked metal tentacles mid-air is one that won’t leave my mind anytime soon. It’s little touches as well, like a three-armed man at the start playing a 12-string guitar, where the use of CGI really enhances the world and creates a believable and mesmerising visual experience.

The storytelling certainly isn’t the selling point of ‘Alita: Battle Angel’, but I’m hoping that the sequel will be the remedy to that. The action and worldbuilding is a real feat though, so if those are your priorities then this one is still worth watching.

★★★☆☆
Hannah Read

Alita: Battle Angel at CeX


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Friday, 19 July 2019

CeX Brighton has REOPENED!


Brighton, your newly refitted CeX at 144 Western Road has REOPENED and it’s packed to the rafters with games & gadgets! Feel free to swing by, say "hey!" and see the new upgrades to your favourite tech shop. Whether you’re buying or selling get the best prices at our newly made-over store, or online at webuy.com

For more info and opening times, visit HERE!





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CeX Northampton has REOPENED!


Northampton, your newly refitted CeX at 14 - 16 The Drapery has REOPENED and it’s packed to the rafters with games & gadgets! Feel free to swing by, say "hey!" and see the new upgrades to your favourite tech shop. Whether you’re buying or selling get the best prices at our newly made-over store, or online at webuy.com

For more info and opening times, visit HERE!




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A Plague Tale: Innocence ★★★★★


A Plague Tale: Innocence, developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive, is a dark and sinister story-driven adventure game set during the Black Plague in France in 1348. You are tasked with trying to survive in an unforgiving world where you not only have to confront and deal with the knowledge that more than half the population are dying in the streets, but also combat the Inquisition at the height of the Hundred Years War.


You play as Amicia de Rune, who is looking after her sickly brother Hugo and trying to survive in France. The Inquisition are after Hugo for reasons unbeknown to you, so it will take all your wits to survive and keep the enemy away from both of you. The story is an interesting one full of twists and turns, and you’ll meet many a curious character along the way which helps to keep the experience fresh. It’s a thrilling and heart-wrenching personal tale of two siblings trying to survive despite all the odds stacked against them.

‘A Plague Tale: Innocence’ is such a refreshing surprise in a world of what feels like it consists solely of 30-40 hour open-world games and first-person shooters. (no disrespect to either genre, but there are rather a lot of them).  The game will take you just over 10 hours to complete and is more akin to a game like the ‘Uncharted’ series which sadly just aren’t being developed much anymore.  The gaming community always will want more and more content in-game, especially if it can be updated online, so a developer and publisher releasing this sort of game gives me hope that there is still a place for it in the modern gaming world.

At its heart, the game is focused around stealth as you play a character with limited combat abilities. There’s a lot of hiding under tables and sneaking around the streets of archaic France to avoid encounters with not just humans but also the real fatal enemy in the game...Rats! We’re not talking a few rats, either – there are millions of them spreading disease across the country, swarming around in vast numbers (hundreds, sometimes thousands) ready to kill you straight away and send you all the way back to your last checkpoint. I’m usually a fan of our furry tailed friends but I’ve never felt quite so much disdain towards them since playing ‘A Plague Tale: Innocence’.

The best way to combat the rats is with light, from whatever source that may be, as they will generally scurry away once they see it. This can be used to your advantage when fighting the Inquisition too, as a well-placed rock to an enemy holding a lantern, for example, will set the rats upon them in a truly grotesque manner, which I must admit is quite entertaining to initiate.

The game is absolutely stunning graphically.  It is sometimes quite sad seeing the world filled with dead bodies piled up in the streets but it is impactful because it looks almost real, and in a way gives a quite strong idea of what living in such a time must have been like. The serene beauty of the French landscape can be observed in quieter moments that really lend to the style of the game.

I wouldn’t say that the game is particularly re-playable after your first play-through as it’s so story-driven unless you’re going for the full set of achievements or trophies. However, it’s priced at around £40 currently, which is less than many of the AAA games currently on the market.


As a full product, I can only say that ‘A Plague Tale: Innocence’ is a must-buy. These sorts of games are few and far between nowadays and I do hope that the game sells well, even with it being quite short compared to games out recently such as ‘Rage 2’. “Quality over quantity” is definitely appropriate here, and even though you won’t be playing it for very long, you’ll enjoy every minute of it. 

★★★★★
Hannah Read

A Plague Tale: Innocence at CeX


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Thursday, 18 July 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters ★☆☆☆☆


I believe that when you can't see the pain and anxiety forced upon you but everyone else can, you're in an abusive relationship. If you can see it but no one else can, you're in a cult. Out now is the incredibly disappointing sequel to the awful Godzilla that everyone seems to love and I can't see why. Starring Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Millie Bobby Brown, among others Godzilla: King of the Monsters is technically a movie.


Emma Russell is a Paleobiologist which is, just stupid. Her entire career is about finding the in-stasis monsters from the Godzilla universe and poking them with a sonar vibrator that stimulates the giant beast into a zen-like state for a small period of time. For some reason, they think this is a success. It was permanently asleep, and now they have a giant pet they have to keep an eye on. A puppy will eat your slippers when it's grumpy, Ghidorah will eat your university campus. 

Emma, unable to predict what's going to happen, brings her young daughter Madison, within an inch of death which gets them both kidnapped by some bad guys called BLAND, BEIGE, AND STUPID INC... or something. On the other side of the coin and world, Madison's father is dying to kill every one of the monsters. Unless it doesn't serve the plot, then he suddenly acts like he can read their minds and loves them all. The personification of Godzilla and all the other Zillas is cringeworthy and dumb! Every. Single. Time. 

The amount of time people put each other in extreme danger in this film for absolutely no reason is astonishing. Obviously, I'm not gonna nitpick my way through the script for bad dialogue in a monster movie, but if I was going to nitpick my way through the script for bad dialogue in a monster movie, it would look a little something like this: 

Man: We can't go in there, we are going to die!
Woman: Well what should we do?
Man 2: I'll go in.
Woman: Ok.

Sure it's paraphrased and edited for spoilers, and it's a monster movie so I get it, it's about Monsters fighting. Is it though? Is it really about that? Here's the biggest issue I have with Godzilla: King of the monsters. The amount of time dedicated to people wanking on about whatever nonsense they can think of like someone was handed a finished game of Words With Friends and mistook it for the script is so much more than the time dedicated to the titular character. The amount of Monster Fights in this movie about Monsters Fighting is next to 0. These motherfuckers need to watch some anime.


We can care about the humans and the monsters by inverting the screen time allotted to both. Or if you make the script anything other than absolute dog shit, maybe we'll care about the people. I know that it's difficult to write a script that's why I angrily rant about movies here instead, but even I know that you can't just jump from one emotion to the next at increasing levels of intensity without any stimulus unless every cast member is Nicholas Cage. Avoid this nonsense. (I was gonna say Monster Failure, but it doesn't even deserve a pun that bad) 

★☆☆☆☆
David Roberts



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Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Dark Phoenix ★★☆☆☆


Not only is X-Men: Dark Phoenix the second time 1980’s Dark Phoenix saga has been adapted for film, it also marks the second time Simon Kinberg has tackled the story, both after 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. And after the mixed reaction that The Last Stand received, you’d have thought he’d have learned some lessons.


Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. X-Men: Dark Phoenix, a direct sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse, largely follows the story of Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), who, after absorbing a mysterious cosmic force in order to save the rest of her team, finds her telekinetic and telepathic powers supercharged. Soon, however, she begins to lose control and starts lashing out, before running away. Meanwhile, a band of shape-shifting aliens, intent on harnessing the energy Jean Grey absorbed for Evil Purposes™ , arrive on Earth after having followed it there. As Professor X (James McAvoy) and the rest of his X-Men try to track Jean Grey down - clashing amongst themselves in the process - Vuk (Jessica Chastain) and her team of D’Bari are doing the same; one to help her gain control of her newly-found powers, and the other to gain control of them completely.

For all its faults (of which there are many - but I’ll get to that later), Dark Phoenix plays with some pretty interesting concepts; Kinberg takes some of his characters in a bit of a different direction than has been previously portrayed. Gone is Professor X, the eternal optimist and do-gooder; in his place is a character who seems to view the X-Men as his own personal vanity project who has been convinced by the fame bestowed upon him; a character who appears on magazine covers nationwide, and who has the President on speed-dial. Given the significance of having a rogue mutant and known X-Man running rampant causing destruction in her wake, it’s pretty interesting seeing how this iteration of the character reacts to the situation, and where his priorities lie.

That is, however, largely it for the film’s pros. On the flip side, where do I start? Almost every actor is criminally underutilised, and none so more than Jessica Chastain. Vuk and the rest of the D’Bari are laughably paper-thin; they want the Powerful Object in order for them to do The Bad Thing and Seek Their Vengeance and that is it. Realistically, whilst their presence pays a nice homage to the original comic saga, they don’t really add much to the film, and frankly, I’d prefer Kinberg to have focussed more on Jean Grey and how the X-Men cope with her downfall. Without this, the stakes are never really sufficiently raised for us to care enough about the final X-Men-on-X-Men-on-alien skirmish.


Ultimately, Dark Phoenix is a...fine film, I guess? It’s nothing special. Not necessarily the worst X-Men movie, definitely, but leagues away from being the best. Whilst they weren’t the first to, Marvel and the MCU have been raising the benchmark since 2008’s Iron Man, showing that big-budget superhero movies are capable of having a strong emotional core without sacrificing the visual spectacle (and, indeed, vice versa). Unfortunately, while they certainly started off admirably, the X-Men movies haven’t really stepped up to the mark in recent years...so Dark Phoenix ends up being quite a sad send-off for a pretty culturally significant film franchise.

★★☆☆☆
Phil Taberner



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Sunday, 14 July 2019

Castlevania Collection ★★★★☆


Castlevania is celebrating its thirty-third anniversary this year, and as part of the Konami fiftieth anniversary rollout, we have been blessed with the Castlevania Anniversary collection on PS4 and Switch. Made up of eight games of varying quality, Castlevania Anniversary is a must-have for nostalgic fans and a great introduction for people like me that have intended to play one of the games for the past thirty-three years and got distracted by puberty and Sonic 2.


I love Metroidvania games and have been playing through the Metroid games as a historical exercise lately, the early games of which are hard as balls! Castlevania started off as an absolute masterpiece that is incredibly challenging but not as Nintendo Hard as Metroid. This makes the Castlevania collection stand up as a perfectly playable game in modern era Earth.

Most of the games in the collection are an absolute must play, especially Kid Dracula which until this collection had never been released in the west. The Gameboy games have none of the charm of the 8-bit and 16-bit equivalents and aren't worth playing at all. You'd be better off smashing away at your DualShock 4 with the tv off. 

The original, Simon's Quest and Super Castlevania are masterpieces, each of which makes other really hard games that come to mind that I am sick of comparing things to, look like Pokémon go. The formula was so well developed back in the 80s that it has inspired countless video games since, and though the highlight for Castlevania was the PS1 game Symphony of The Night (which is irritatingly absent), there's a lot to be got from this collection.


Kid Dracula, as the name implies is a much more child-friendly game, and while not easy, is much more straightforward and joyful, and betrays its Japanese roots much more with the animation. For the low low price of whatever it costs, you can expect to get your money's worth in a few hours, and with multiple characters in the 16-bit era, you'll not be left wanting. The only reason you'll want to play the Gameboy games is to get the trophy for Castlevania collection (playing all games once). 

I can't believe I took so long to get into these nonlinear platformers, but the only thing shy of having played them as they were released is to play them in this collection. With save states and a marvellous collection of tv filters for your preferred level of immersion, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a must-have. 

★★★★☆
David Roberts

Castlevania at CeX


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Saturday, 13 July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home ★★★★☆


As I get closer to the wrong side of 30, I’ve come to understand that Spider-Man is likely to be a constant in my life, regenerating like a young Doctor Who. It started with Tobey Maguire in Sam Raimi’s original trilogy, which had its moments. After an ill-fated third firm, Andrew Garfield had a crack with a reboot that spawned two more movies in 2012 and 2014. The latest to don the suit is Tom Holland, who originally signed for a trilogy in 2017.


Far From Home was placed in a difficult position, being the first major release after a film which took Avatar’s spot as the *highest grossing movie of all time. (*With the help of a rerelease to give it a final push over the line.) Holland’s Spiderman has been reverse-snapped back out of the hoover bag following the events of Endgame, but everyone else that returned is five years older. Phase Three of Marvel’s saga has finished with the majority of the original Avengers out of commission in some shape or form, and the world is slowly beginning to move on without their old heroes.

It’s time for a new generation to step to the plate, and Tony Stark chose Spiderman to fill his cold, iron boots. For now, his former protege looks to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for guidance, as his school trip to Europe is spent begrudgingly helping the debuting Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). The new hero appears from the multiverse with grave news for the Avenger. 

Once again, Jacob Batalon is there to provide moral support as Ned, and a significant portion of the film is spent on Parker’s relationship with MJ (Zendaya). It’s a love story at heart, punctuated by lots of action and endless jokes. Spiderman is understandably wary following his revival, and he’s desperate to cling to his past dealing with smaller stakes, but Fury is determined to make him step up, and he has a farewell present from Stark to consider.

The lighter tone is noticeable compared to the bitterness of Endgame, although it references the former constantly. The two-hour runtime causes it to drag in places, as we’re taken around some of the biggest cities that Europe has to offer. From Paris to London, Peter’s class and their teachers (Martin Starr and J.B. Smoove) get dragged around the world, and the story often plays second fiddle to the backdrop. It’s not hard to keep up with a few obvious twists, and while it was never going to match the universe-ending stakes of its predecessor, Far From Home still falters around the hour mark. It picks up towards the end, and it has a great stinger, but it does feel a bit bloated overall.


Despite my soft spot for Maquire’s dorky interpretation, it’s clear that Holland was a great pick to push the franchise forward. He’s awkward, and he offers a different dynamic to the self-assured heroes we’re used to. Given how things are going, I’ll probably get to see at least a few more Peter Parker’s in my lifetime. This trilogy could be the best of the three so far, as long as Spiderman finally gets out of the shadow of the man he can’t stop mentioning. It’s not unmissable, but there’s enough of that patented Marvel charm to make it all worthwhile.


★★★★☆
James Millin-Ashmore



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Friday, 12 July 2019

Manifest: S01 ★★★☆☆


With a massive ensemble cast, a vaguely religious theme, and a story surrounding a mysterious commercial plane, NBC’s Manifest can’t help but draw comparisons to Lost. The story follows the passengers and crew of Montego Air Flight 828, reappearing five years after the flight first set off with no warning. 

They were suspected to have perished in a crash, which leads to the question; what the hell happened? Were they snapped by Thanos, or have they been co-opted into some madcap government experiment? Are they stuck in another universe, or could it be purgatory? Anything but the last one is fine by me, but it looks like we’ll have to wait a while to get anything remotely close to a satisfactory answer.


Many of those who were left behind have moved on with their lives, leading to problems for the passengers who were flying from Jamaica to New York. Can they reconnect with family after mysteriously disappearing for five-and-a-half-years, and what can you do if your spouse leaves you for your best friend in the meantime? The narrative flips between various members of the 200 strong cast, but the overarching mystery is likely to be the aspect that will keep you hooked. Melissa Roxburgh and Josh Dallas receive top billing, although the first episodes skip to different passengers and interested parties regularly. Saanvi Bahl (Parveen Kaur) was working on a pediatric cancer treatment that has been since been released, while Daryl Edwards is NSA director Robert Vance, trying to figure out just what is really going on. 

It’s a bit schlocky in places, with thick dialogue that isn’t exactly subtle. Given the scale of the story, these are teething problems that could be necessary as pieces are set into place. Creator Jeff Rake has planned for six seasons, and he’s opted for a slow-burning approach to storytelling. With 16 episodes to get through, it can be a slog considering the incremental gains, and there’s always a chance that it could be cancelled before the mystery is explained entirely. NBC has confirmed a second season is in the works along with two others, so you’ll get some answers if you’re willing to stick it out. In an unexpected turn, the passengers begin to hear voices, and it feels like dialogue issues could be due to heavy foreshadowing and necessary character placement to get it all to work. It’s still early days, and they now have the security of over 30 additional episodes to push the story forward.


Manifest is slowly picking up steam, and it’s a ratings hit in the US. While all of the questions raised will inevitably need to be answered at some point, that’s a problem that can be pushed off until sometime in the future. It’s nowhere near as gripping as the beginning of Lost, although it could potentially have a better ending. If I could time skip five years I could tell you if it’s worth watching, but I’d be more interested in finding out how and why I was suddenly in 2024.


★★★☆☆
James Millin-Ashmore



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Saturday, 6 July 2019

The Secret Life of Pets 2 ★★☆☆☆


The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a decent kids film, and I’ve seen my fair share over the past couple of years. I’ve arguably seen a few too many, and I made the mistake of rewatching Up a day before watching Pets 2. The balloon-fueled drama filled my mind for long intervals during the latter, and it made it hard to judge the more recent animation by any fair metric. In comparison, Pets 2 is a hastily cobbled sequel that doesn’t match up by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not completely dire.


The original Secret Life of Pets was a massive commercial success back in 2016, earning $875.5 million from a budget of $75 million. It’s no wonder Illumination decided to make a sequel, even if they didn’t really have a compelling story to tell. Your children will be happy to hear that *Max and Duke (Eric Stonestreet) are back for the second instalment, which now has a trio of stories. 

The main arc sees the cowardly pooch in the lead role struggling with overprotectiveness as toddler Liam begins to grow up. Side plots involve Gidget (Jenny Slate), who is busy trying to rescue Max’s favourite toy from a crazy cat lady’s house, and Kevin Hart’s rabbit superhero Snowball who decides to rescue an abused white tiger. He’s assisted by Daisy (Tiffany Haddish), and Harrison Ford joins the cast as surly sheepdog Rooster. The A, B and C plots eventually intertwine with fairly amusing consequences.

*Louis C.K no longer reprises the role of Max, given the multiple sexual harassment allegations he faced in 2017. Instead, Patton Oswalt takes up the mantle.

Most of the runtime is dedicated to showing Max attempting to get used to the child that his owners have thrust into his life. He soon becomes too anxious and is forced to wear the “cone of shame” as he struggles to adjust. It’s easy to empathise with his inability to deal with upheaval, but it isn’t really explored deeply. (Which is fair enough, given the target audience is younger children.) Each branch of the story is watchable, although it does start to lack direction by the midway point. You’ll watch a series of events happen in each of the plots, and there are a fair amount of laughs in between. Action sequences see monkeys and cannons in a circus-themed battle towards the end, but it does feel a little lopsided considering the talents of the cast.


It’s not a low-budget animation by any means, but it doesn’t compare to a typical Pixar offering in terms of humour, emotion, storytelling or visual quality.

Fans of the first should be happy enough to see their favourites return, and most children will be satisfied by the time the credits are rolling. So will most adults, but probably for different reasons. It’s worth mentioning that for such a short film (86 minutes), I lost count of how many times I glanced at my phone to see how long was left to go. It’s still half decent overall, but Pets 2 doesn’t really improve on the original in any meaningful way.

★★☆☆☆
James Millin-Ashmore



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Friday, 5 July 2019

Batman VS TMNT ★★★★☆


After the terrifying graphics and shoddy delivery of Michael Bay’s ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ in 2014, I’ve not ventured much further into the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ franchise. I’ll admit, I had to pause for a moment when I saw ‘Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’. I’d completely forgotten that there was a whole comic miniseries dedicated to this concept, and seeing it again made me realise just how bizarre the mash-up sounds. DC’s serious and brooding Batman mixed with Nickelodeon’s hyped up and pizza-loving turtle brothers… Could this really work?


Set in Gotham, Batman (Troy Baker, who also voices The Joker), Robin (Ben Giroux), and Batgirl (Rachel Bloom) are investigating a series of high-tech thefts from various research centres in the area. The evidence suggests ninjas, however, Batman and team aren’t exactly sure who they are. Leonardo (Eric Bauza), Donatello (Baron Vaughn), Raphael (Darren Criss), and Michelangelo (Kyle Mooney) are hot on the scene having arrived from New York City, and they conclude that this mysterious bat-cloaked figure has something to do with the thefts. After a couple of misunderstandings, the brothers and the Bat realise they’re both on the same side, and team up to stop the thefts from threatening the very existence of Gotham.

I actually can’t believe how well this animation has worked out – it could have fallen completely flat, but director Jake Castorena and writers Marly Halpern-Graser, James Tynion IV have done a seriously good job here. The turtle brothers are brought to life in the film, their personalities shining through the script. This doesn’t take away from the Batman feel of it though, with that side of things equally strong. The two teams having to pair up is quite interesting and, although this type of plot (two completely different styles working together) has been done thousands of time before, it actually feels fresh.

One thing I really appreciated was the commentary from the turtles as they travel around Gotham. Their constant observations reinforce exactly what the audience is thinking – Gotham is a seriously weird place. The way they bounce off the Gotham residents leads to character development on both sides, and there’s so many memorable one-liners that inject lots more humour than you might expect, plus of course lots of slapstick from Michelangelo which I thought wouldn’t work but really did.

The other thing that really stands out is the fighting, with excellent choreography that demonstrates different fighting styles on both sides. It really brings the animation to life, from the scene where Batman and the turtles fight to a gripping battle between Batman and one of the main antagonists towards the end of the story. I found that it was much more well-choreographed than other animations in the DC universe, and because of the turtle brothers’ martial fighting style, more attention is paid to this than usual. Sometimes I find the fighting scenes to be a little lacklustre and dull compared to the more story-progressive parts, but this was certainly not the case this time around.


‘Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ was an animation that I didn’t have massively high hopes for and if I’m honest, was a little bit worried about. Thankfully it far surpassed my expectations, delivering a seriously fun and refreshing crossover that managed to make a fairly average plot into a story I’d happily recommend to fans of either universe.

★★★★☆
Hannah Read



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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

The Sinking City ★★☆☆☆


Out now, ‘The Sinking City’ is an open-world action-adventure horror game played in the third person. The game is created by Frogwares, who are probably most known for their work on their ‘Sherlock Holmes’ series of games. They are an indie studio and mainly develop what you would call AA games, which typically have a much smaller budget than most large developers.


‘The Sinking City’ is their first real foray into the horror genre - not just any horror, but the wonderful Lovecraftian style.  I was quite hesitant at first when I began playing as I was sorely disappointed ‘Call Of Cthulu’, another Lovecraftian horror that was out last year. Upon beginning the game the style and detail in the world is immediately apparent, and if the developer has done one thing right it’s that the game is gorgeous and really evokes Lovecraft.

Of course, like many games in this style, you play as a detective trying to solve mysteries and you are always treading the line between sanity and insanity in your own mind whilst suffering from terrible visions. If I’m honest it felt a little bit like deja vu as this is a theme and story that has been tried many times before, not just within gaming but other forms of media as well. Luckily, the characters of the game and the twisting story was compelling enough that it was able to pull ahead of the crowd and feel a bit more unique than it could have done.

The real issue with ‘The Sinking City’ is that the actual mechanics of playing the game feels very… off.  The combat feels like an afterthought, perhaps something that was tacked on – as if the developer needed the player to be doing something in-between cutscenes and dialogue. Frogwares created such a stunning and detailed world in the fictional city of Oakmont, but what you actually end up doing in the city feels lacklustre. This is worsened still by the fact that the protagonist is supposed to have a long military history, so frankly I expected him to have better combat skills than the ones displayed.

Even as you gain skills throughout the game you never really feel powerful in any way.  Thankfully the difficulty setting of normal, which most players will play the game on, is quite easy and the A.I didn't give too much of a problem on there, but it’s not too good for those who want both a challenge and the feeling that they’re really doing well.  There was also a lack of enemy types and boss characters throughout, which I felt was actually quite odd considering the genre.


It really does feel like the developer would have been better suited to creating more of an interactive story type game instead of an action open world. I’m not suggesting that aspirations aren’t a good thing when developing a game, but perhaps this also would have suited their budget better.

Ultimately, the story and characters of ‘The Sinking City’ are the one shining light in an otherwise underwhelming experience. The game is being sold at a price expected for AAA games and feels a bit too much for me. If it was priced at around £30 then I think this would be well worth the asking price, but I can’t recommend the game for anything more than that. Wait until it’s on sale, or buy second-hand instead.

★★☆☆☆
Hannah Read



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Tuesday, 2 July 2019

June Xbox Video Round UP


Have you watched our June Xbox review yet?


Halfway through the year and Lewis has some new picks for you! This June brought us:

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night / The Sinking City / Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

Which was your favourite game this June?

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Monday, 1 July 2019

Judgement ★★★☆☆


‘Judgment’ is the latest game published by SEGA and is a semi-open world action-adventure game set in the same universe as the ‘Yakuza’ franchise. The ‘Yakuza’ franchise has a cult following (and rightly so) and is lauded for its story and strange activities that you can do in the world. This isn’t the first time a spin-off has been made from ‘Yakuza’ as there games such as ‘Yakuza: Dead Souls’ and of course ‘Fist of the North Star’. Although they were all serviceable for what they were, the spin-offs never reached the same level of acclaim as the mainline games.


‘Judgment’ may be set in the same world as ‘Yakuza’ but it is vastly different story-wise.  Instead of playing as Kiryu (a retired Yakuza trying to get away from the crime world) you play as an ex-lawyer turned detective who is trying to solve a case of serial killings. As a detective, you’ll find that you will be doing very similar things that you would be in ‘Yakuza’.  There are many cutscenes, as to be expected, and the game looks stunning when compared to ‘Yakuza 6’.  In between this, you will spend 50% of your time fighting and 50% exploring and doing detective work.

If you have played a ‘Yakuza’ game before and loved the fighting then you will no doubt enjoy this one. In a similar vein, you fight with the several styles that are available and will be hitting many enemies in the face with bikes or other various items – something I must admit I don’t really get bored of! 

In a way, this is slightly off-putting at first because ‘Judgment’ isn’t the bombastic and sometimes crazy game that ‘Yakuza’ is.  The story is very intimate and there are fewer explosive events leading into each other.  Mixing what is a serious story with the over the top combat of ‘Yakuza’ is somewhat jarring.

That being said the fighting is so much fun that you can end up getting lost in it, desperate to look for fights and increase your skill as you explore Kamurocho. And of course, away from the main story, there are some hilarious and intriguing side missions to complete that I won’t spoil here. It’s not as bizarre as ‘Yakuza’, as I’ve mentioned, but there are certainly some interesting aspects to it.


The other half of the game is more detective-style, with many parts focused around accusing others and making objectives in a courtroom-style situation and unfortunately, the mini-games and actions that you do aren’t nearly fleshed out enough for them to matter.  None of the things you do really add to the overall experience in any positive way and end up feeling like an add-on to a ‘Yakuza’ game to make itself seem unique. I also felt that it was all a bit too familiar – like with the ‘Yakuza’ series, ‘Judgment’ is set entirely in Kamurocho and I think being able to visit some other locations would have helped to spice it up a bit and keep it fresh.

The game itself is very fun to play, especially when you are doing what the ‘Yakuza’ developers do best (fighting), but unfortunately, the game does fall flat in several areas and I found this to impact how I enjoyed the game. If you are a fan of the ‘Yakuza’ series though there is definitely lots to love here and I could see this game developing its own kind of cult following – just perhaps not quite as big as its older brother.

★★★☆☆
Hannah Read



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