Stuart’s Top 100 Games of the Last Generation Part Five: #75 – #71

November 25, 2013

#75 – Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit (Xbox 360, 2010)nfshp

The racing game genre, I think, has suffered in this generation.

If you want to play a four player racing game on the Xbox 360 there really are very few options.

And racing games to me are mostly ones that you’d want to play competitively with friends.

So going back to the previous generation, one of my favourite games was Rallisport Challenge. And though there are games that capture its spirit that will appear further down this list, none had multiplayer for more than two players.

One game that managed to be fun as a single player affair though was Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit. Channeling the Burnout spirit more than a Rallisport game, it was fun, challenging and it looked great too.HFGM

#74 – Hasbro Family Game Night (Xbox 360, 2009)

This is one that doesn’t need much in the way of a description.

Essentially it’s a selection of Hasbro board games like Risk, Boggle, Uno and Connect Four.

Not exactly deep, but a fun game to play with your mates when you’ve got a bit of time to kill.

Sadly in the UK we didn’t get Scrabble though.

That sucked…

#73 – The Stanley Parable (PC, 2013)

I was going to include Candy Crush Saga in this list as #73, but I don’t think it counts as a game of this generation since it’s a Facebook game.

Then I realised I’d forgotten about The Stanley Parable, and that does count, so it gets in instead.SPar

I wrote my review of The Stanley Parable only a few weeks ago, and you can read it here.

What I said was that it wasn’t worth £10 because of the lack of play-time and it wasn’t deserving of the 5 Star reviews it was getting.

However, it’s still a fun, unique and enjoyable game while it lasts and is a worthy candidate for the list.

#72 – Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox 360, 2013)GTAV

I appreciate that GTAV is a big game.

And for a while I enjoyed the single player game, but I did get a bit sick of it towards the end.

There’s no doubt that its style over substance, and is a triumph of marketing over quality, as I mentioned here

But – unlike the incredibly dull GTA4 – it’s still good enough to merit inclusion.

#71 – Flatout: Ultimate Carnage (Xbox 360 – 2007)flatout

Flatout: Ultimate Carnage is by no means the best game in the world.

But it’s like I’ve said before, even in this very article; this generation’s lack of quality offline multiplayer games is staggering.

Burnout never made the transition properly to the current gen, and so its main selling point – Multiplayer Crash Mini Games – was lost. Only Flatout: Ultimate Carnage even made the slightest bit of effort to fill the gap.

Indeed, with its turn-about gameplay style, Flatout is a rare example of a game you can enjoy with a whole party of friends.

It came out in 2007 and though it’s not the greatest of games, I’d still happily play it today.

But that’s more of a sign of a lack of alternatives than anything else I fear.

And One That Doesn’t Make It – Forza Motorsportforza-3-xbox-360-box-art

I have a driver’s license. If I want a realistic driving experience, I’ll pick up keys and go out in the car.

Forza Motorsport is no more fun than that.

For car enthusiasts it might well be an enjoyable experience; I mean, I doubt those who are not keen on the beautiful game would appreciate Football Manager.

So maybe its just not for me. I thought it was garbage.

Indeed, it’s a very rare example of a game I traded in. The guy in Gamestation – yes, once upon a time I did go to high street game shops – gave me this baffled look as to why I’d return this supposedly amazing game within a week.

I was happy to take the hit on the trade-in.

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Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review (or “If You’re Going To Do Nostalgia, Go All In”)

November 22, 2013

It’s Doctor Who Anniversary Week which means there’s plenty of Who related stuff on TV, Radio and in the press.

Other than the main event, the Day of the Doctor, what I’ve been looking forward to is An Adventure in Space and Time, the biopic of the origins of the show and William Hartnell’s tenure as the lead character.

The show has been broadcast, the reviews are in, and on the whole the thoughts are that it was a resounding success. One particular Superfan – you know who I’m on about, I’m sure – declared that it was the best piece of drama in television history, no less. Naturally, this is not a man who engages in hyperbole; oh no.

But what did I think about it?

Read on…

Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Thoughts

While the majority of reviews have given it five stars – indeed I haven’t seen any lower than that – I wouldn’t give it quite as much credit.

Yes, it was very enjoyable, and as a piece of TV drama – which I suppose it the point of it rather than a documentary – it hit the spot.

Most of the actors were very well cast, with the star of the show in my opinion being Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert.

Indeed, Raine’s portrayal of Lambert was the main strength of the show. Well…that and the nostalgic reconstruction of the sets and costumes.

And despite being around 90 minutes long, I felt it flew by. So I was happy with it mainly.

But I didn’t think it was as good as it could have been, and here’s why…

If You’re Going To Do Nostalgia, Do It Right

I suspect that I might get some flak in my direction for being as nit-picking as I’m going to be, but to me, if you’re going to do nostalgia, do it right.

As much as I'd love to let the error of having a 1965 Doctor Who annual on display during the filming of the Reign of Terror slide, I just can't.

As much as I’d love to let the error of having a 1965 Doctor Who annual on display during the filming of the Reign of Terror slide, I just can’t.

In many ways, An Adventure in Space and Time got it right. It was cool seeing actors dressed as Menoptera or original Cybermen, just like it was good to see some actors cast because of their resemblance to the people they were playing.

But I don’t think you could expect anything less when it’s been so lovingly brought together by a Doctor Who fan like Mark Gatiss.

The thing is though, you would expect Gatiss to get some basic parts right.

For example, you might say I’m being hyper-critical for pointing it out, but having David Bradley hold up the 1965 Doctor Who annual, complete with a picture of a Menoptera on the front, whilst filming the Reign of Terror is just sloppy as far as I’m concerned.

Similarly, why have Verity Lambert leave during the filming of the Web Planet when the truth was she left after Mission to the Unknown. Was it just to get the Menoptera costumes in? Surely it would have been more fun to try to recreate the costumes of the Delegates from MTTU?

If this was any other TV show, I wouldn’t notice, and I have no doubt that the average viewer neither noticed nor cared. But again, we’re talking about Doctor Who, one of the most written about shows of all time with some of the most passionate fans. You just know that people will notice, so why go out of your way to make things incorrect? I just don’t get it.

It’s actually making me feel autistic, because I know that it’s a small thing, but it just seems so willfully wrong. Mark Gatiss will have seen these issues himself after all.

Anyway, on a similar note, one thing that bugged me was David Bradley’s performance. Again, don’t get me wrong, he was mostly brilliant, and looked and acted like William Hartnell to a scary degree, but then on the other hand, he got things carelessly incorrect.

I’m not an actor, but if I was and I was doing an impression of William Hartnell, I’d look at the tapes and I’d make sure I got stuff spot on. So take his attempt at the “One day, I shall come back” speech. How difficult would it be to mimic the way Hartnell spoke those lines? They are, after all, some of the most iconic lines in Doctor Who history and were actually repeated at the end of the show. Yet Bradley almost seems to go out of his way to say the lines with different tones and inflections. I mean, why go to all the trouble of having William Russell and Jacqueline Hill standing there in their exact outfits and having everything dressed up the way it was and ruin it by having Bradley say the critical lines in a totally different way?!

None of the other issues, like dropping in lines about “This old body of mine…” and “I don’t want to go” bother me at all, despite some people getting up in arms about them. But that to me shows the double standards at work here. Why add stuff in specifically to get a cheap pop from the viewers and then do other stuff so clearly wrong? Very frustrating.

Anyway, beyond that, it was good, but those parts brought the whole thing down for me.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Random Observations

  • In terms of the main cast, the one major letdown was the guy playing William Russell. He was nothing like him, neither in looks nor acting style. When you compare him to the way the girl playing Carole Ann Ford went out of her way to sound like her, even though she came across a little bit over the top at times, he was desperately poor.
  • And indeed, the use of Russell and Hill in general were poor. You wouldn’t think they were important players in Doctor Who’s formative years at all based on this.
  • I did like that they tirelessly recreated the problems with the Pilot episode, like the TARDIS doors opening and shutting and the issues with the Doctor being too gruff.
  • But again, with one hand they give and with the other they take away. I seriously doubt the Doctor was originally conceived as being 600 years old, especially when the Pilot had then written as being from a specific point in Earth’s future.
  • Here’s something else that confused me…they went to the trouble to recreate the last scene of The Firemaker, but then had a discussion about potential future stories. Now, I could be wrong here, but surely The Dead Planet was written and all set to go by the time The Firemaker was filmed? The episodes directly link to each other.
  • Poor old Ray Cusick; overlooked again.
  • I liked the appearance of Matt Smith towards the end; I actually think that added to the show a lot.
  • Only when reading the cast list did I notice Mark Eden played the BBC Controller. That was a nice touch.
  • I’m aware Carole Ann Ford is in this, but I’ll have to watch it again to spot her.
  • While I applaud the casting department for finding someone who looked a lot like Maureen O’Brien, even though she only appeared for around 10 seconds, I suspect their enthusiasm for finding look-alikes had long since gone by the time they cast some random bloke as Michael Craze.
  • It would have been nice for the show to have included Hartnell’s return in the Three Doctors, although dramatically it probably had no merit.
  • Wouldn’t “An Adventure in Time and Space” have been a better title?

Doctor Who – An Adventure in Space and Time Review: Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that there’s plenty to like about An Adventure in Space and Time. I enjoyed it a lot, and like I said earlier, the time just flew by.

But I just can’t get past the way they’ve been so meticulous in some respects and so willfully sloppy in others. The people in charge will have known the issues fine, and they’ll also have known that plenty of people out there would have spotted them too.

So that puts a dampener on it for me.

Only a little bit though.


Stuart’s Top 100 Games of the Last Generation Part Four: #80 – #76

November 19, 2013

#80 – Shadow Complex (Xbox Live Arcade, 2009)1-shadow-complex-01

Billed as “2.5d”, Shadow Complex was a side-scrolling adventure platformer/shooter that came out as part of Xbox Live’s incredibly strong “Summer of Arcade” back in 2009.

Think of a game of the ilk of Super Metroid or Castlevania, but with a more modern story. That’s Shadow Complex.

With an interesting narrative, a reasonable challenge and fluid gameplay, it was as if you were getting a full price game for a superb bargain at the time.

#79 – Peggle (Xbox Live Arcade, 2009)peggle

Yet another Live Arcade hit, Peggle – from Plants vs Zombies creator PopCap – felt a bit like Bust-a-Move in reverse.

The idea was simple; you had to shoot a ball at one hundred randomly positioned pegs in the hope of hitting the orange ones.

As the game developed, hitting the orange pegs rather than the blue ones became more of a challenge and an exercise in physics. I suppose that’s why it’s considered a puzzle game.

No doubt you can get Peggle on the cheap these days, and it’s also available through Steam.

#78 – The Walking Dead (Xbox Live Arcade, 2012)WalkDead

Running completely separate from the TV show, the Walking Dead was an adventure game told over five episodes, with its own narrative.

You can read my in-depth thoughts on it here but to sum it up, I would say that it was well told and highly involving, but more of an interactive story than a game.

As enjoyable as it was, I felt that the idea that you could change the destiny of the story wasn’t really true.

Had a fun time playing it though!

#77 – Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction (Playstation 3, 2007)toolsofdestruction

Sadly there are far less 3D platform games on this list that there should be.

A major part of the previous couple of gaming generations, the 3D platformer is almost extinct now, with developers mostly preferring to go back to the more linear 2D style.

One rare example of a game that does make the list is Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, one of the early PS3 games.

It looked good, it was fun to play and it had plenty of life in it, but it just didn’t have the character that you used to get from the Rare or Nintendo efforts from the N64 era. It’s a bit like going to a theme park like Busch Gardens. The fundamentals are there, but the lack of charm is its undoing.

#76 – Boom Blox (Nintendo Wii, 2008)BoomBlox

Remember when the Wii was the must have living room accessory? Well Boom Blox was one of the reasons for that.

Ok as a single player but great fun when playing with friends, this was a bit like Jenga. You used the Wii-mote to launch something at a tower to knock the highest scoring block away, but you also had to be wary of simply setting the block up for your friends to capitalise on.

It looked a bit crap, and would probably seem out of date now, but it was fun at the time and made use of the Wii’s motion controls well.

And One That Doesn’t Make The List: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (Xbox Live Arcade, 2013)Call-of-Juarez-Gunslinger-logo

One game I tried to get involved in earlier this year was Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, a first person shooter told from the perspective of a bloke who claimed to have met all the major players in the Wild West.

But the reason a game like this doesn’t make the list is because it just felt light, derivative and on the whole just an unimaginative bore to play through.

Best avoided.


Stuart’s Top 100 Games of the Last Generation Part Three: #85 – #81

November 18, 2013

#85 – Viva Pinata (Xbox 360 2006 – 2008)Viva_Piñata_cover

Although Rare would perhaps have been better served focusing their energies on more projects like their groundbreaking n64 stuff, Viva Pinata was a delightful game, and reasonably innovative too.

Full of colour and character, this game – in which you are a sort of animal farmer/gardener out for profit – was the sort that would capture you for a few days at a time and you’d be all the happier for it.

If it had a problem, for me it was the inability to start from scratch without deleting your entire Viva Pinata content file in the 360’s hard drive.

#84 – Mortal Kombat (Xbox 360, 2011)Mortal_Kombat_boxart

If there’s one thing I’m not keen on, it’s an overly complicated fighting game. What’s the point of a game where you have to press Up, Up, Down, Down,Three Quarter Circle, A, A, X and LT just to do a throw?

To me, that’s not welcoming to new players, especially when their mates are already experts at it.

Well Mortal Kombat was at least slightly more user-friendly in that good moves could be done with the minimum of fuss.

Indeed, what I love about this game is that I can win against all my mates just by spamming Raiden’s Torpedo. Cheap? Absolutely, but watching their frustration (and knowing that if they were just disciplined enough to block it they’d easily defeat me) is always a laugh.480px-Fifa_street_2012

#83 – FIFA Street (Xbox 360, 2012)

Take the FIFA engine and tweak it so it’s all about showboating and “Street” football.

What you get is the sort of game that you can easily play with your non-FIFA playing friends.

No doubt it has a bit of a limited shelf-life, but it was fun while it lasted.427px-Hotline_Miami_cover

I’m still looking for a FIFA game to include proper indoor football though.

#82 – Hotline Miami (PC, 2012)

An old school, top down action game that looked like it came from the 1980s.

There are only a few hours of gameplay in it, but while you play, you’re hooked.

And as I said in my review (which you an read here) you end up paying less than £1 for every hour of entertainment you get from it.

Lovely.

#81 – ‘Splosion Man (Xbox Live Arcade, 2009)Splosion_Man

A humourous, fun and challenging platform game, ‘Splosion Man is yet another triumph from Xbox Live Arcade.

I thoroughly enjoyed my playthrough of this, which is more than can be said for…

One That Doesn’t Make It – Ms ‘Splosion Man

The sequel to #81 was one of the most frustratingly irritating games I’ve ever played.

Basically it took everything that was fun about the original and soured it.

The challenge became an incredibly frustrating exercise in muscle memory, the humour disappeared up its own arse (I felt as though some of it was like a private joke that only members of the Development Team would understand) and any sense of enjoyability vacated the premises.


Television: Forbrydelsen (The Killing) Review (or “Requires Commitment But Is Worth Your While”)

November 16, 2013

It was with some degree of skepticism back in July that I started watching Forbrydelsen – or as it’s known in this country The Killing – on NetFlix.

To me, watching subtitled drama seemed like a bit of a chore. Would I not just be reading the TV show? Would I get involved in it as much as I would an English language show? Why not just watch the US version?

The thing is though, so many people recommended it, and they did so with gusto. What they said was that the US version was boring and the original Danish version, with the complex and deep character of Sarah Lund (played by Sofie Gråbøl) was the one to watch.

So I gave it a go.

And though it took me a long, long time to finish it, I’m glad that I did.

Forbrydelsen (The Killing) Review: What’s This About?

There are 40 one hour-long episodes of the Killing spread over 3 seasons. poster_A1

The first – a twenty part season – is about the murder of the teenager, Nanna Birk Larsen.

The second focuses on the serial killing of a Danish military team who were witness to a war crime during a tour of Afghanistan.

The third centres around the kidnapping of the daughter of Copenhagen’s most prominent businessman.

Each of the seasons heavily ties each investigation to conspiracy and underhandedness in local or national government.

Thoughts – Slow Burning Television

On the whole, The Killing is an absorbing example of TV drama.

But in the case of all three seasons – and especially the first – they are slow burning and take a little while to really get into.

Like I said above, I started watching it at the start of July I only managed to finish it at the start of the week. Is that a problem? No. But when you consider that while laid low with the flu for the rest of the week, I managed to get through around 22 episodes of the comparatively frivolous US drama, Revenge, it does make me think.

And it’s not even that I watched them all in a nice even spread. With each season, I ended up finishing them by watching the last four or five episodes in a day.

So I think it’s fair to say that it’s a show that takes a while to really get moving.

But then that’s not to say that the early episodes are dull, because they aren’t.

Indeed, if I was to praise Forbrydelsen for anything it would be the cliffhangers.

Now for those of you who don’t read my Doctor Who reviews, I consider a cliffhanger to be a difficult art to master. Using Doctor Who as an example, it’s all too often the case that an episode will end with The Doctor or one of his companions facing their demise. But as the viewer, you know fine that they’ll escape unharmed.

To me, a good cliffhanger is not one that relies upon shock value, but instead progresses the storyline. That’s what The Killing does.

And it all builds towards an exciting and reasonable conclusion.

The Difficulties of Watching Subtitled Television

While The Killing being in Danish doesn’t ruin the show, it does provide a certain obstacle to enjoying it as much as you would if it was in English.

Obviously, like I said above, you have to read the episode as much as watch it.

Now on the one hand, that’s fine. I found that I followed it with ease and very quickly forgot that I was reading it. Indeed, in one episode of Season Two, the characters started speaking English in a scene and it took me a while to notice.

Brix!!!!

Brix!!!!

But on the other, it became more difficult to appreciate the performances of the actors. I thought about writing the same as every other reviewer and discuss how Sofie Gråbøl or Morten Suurballe put in powerful performances, but I’ve got to be honest with you and say that if I did that, I’d be writing it for the sake of it. I’m sure they were great, but when I can’t understand what they are saying and can’t really tell if their delivery is fine then it’s not something I can say for sure.

What I would say though is that they certainly looked as though they were acting well.

The other problem – and this might go some way to explaining why it took me so long to get through it – was that to watch an hour of subtitled TV requires absolute attention. You can’t take your eyes away from the screen for a moment, otherwise you’ll miss the dialogue. It’s only when you are faced with this that you realise how much you let your attention wander – whether it’s checking your phone, looking away to eat food or taking a moment to say something to those around you – when watching shows in English. And watching it while tired is also an absolute no-no.

Maybe then its testament to just how absorbing The Killing is that I stuck with it and binge-watched the last few episodes of each season.

My Issues With Season Three

Of the three seasons, the final one was the weakest in my opinion.

Why? Because it seemed to tread over old ground too much. To avoid spoilers, I’ve written the next line in white text so you have to highlight it to read it…

The notion of political corruption and covering stuff up for the greater good of the government had already been done, arguably twice before, and it felt a bit tired to do it again.

But it certainly had an interesting conclusion.

Again, I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but the finish to the show – one which leaves only a little wriggle room for it ever to return – is bound to be one that will be subject to much debate among fans of the season for years to come.

Did I like it? Yes, I suppose I did, but it probably wasn’t what I was hoping for.

Random Observations

  • If I’m going to be hyper-critical, it seems a bit odd that the entire Danish political scene changes in each of the three seasons.
  • Even though I can’t tell if he’s played by a good actor, and even though I can’t understand a word he says, Lennart Brix enters the Stuart Reviews Stuff Cool TV Character Hall of Fame. The man is so laid back he’s almost horizontal.
  • Best of the three seasons is the first without question. And I loved the reveal of who the murderer was. The bit where it dawns upon you who is to blame is one of those sit-up-and-take-notice, “Holy Shit” moments. Superb.
  • Nicholas Bro, who plays Thomas Buch in Season Two, is disgustingly fat. How he can’t look at himself in the mirror and realise he needs to stop eating pies is beyond me. He’ll be dead before he’s 60 if he doesn’t lose some of that blubber.
  • I wasn’t too keen on the character of Juncker in Season Three. I just didn’t see the point in him, really. And he came across as a bit of an arse.
  • But then the standards by which we consider people to be arses in The Killing is way off. There’s no doubt the biggest arse of the lot is Sarah Lund. The thing is though, it’s written so that we forgive her her flaws. She’s our arse, goddamnit.

Forbrydelsen (The Killing) Review: Final Thoughts

So to sum it up, I enjoyed it a lot, in spite of its slow burning nature and subtitled handicap.

True, the final season felt a bit like treading over old ground, but it was still enjoyable.

To get into The Killing – in my opinion at least – requires a fair commitment. You have to give it all your attention and you have to push through the early episodes of each season to let the story form.

But if you do, you’ll enjoy it.

 

 

 


Stuart’s Top 100 Games of the Last Generation Part Two: #90 – #86

November 14, 2013

Damn the flu jab! I’ve been laid low with a cold for a week now.

Anyway, back to the rundown of the top games of the last generation, and I’m making a few changes.

Gone is the Lasting Appeal section, as I fear this would become very repetitive. Also, just so I can do them in smaller chunks whenever I have a spare minute, I’ll do five at a time.

#90 – LA Noire (Xbox 360 – 2011)

On paper, LA Noire looked like it would be a terrific game.LA-Noire-Box-Art

Rockstar’s previous release was the critically acclaimed Red Dead Redemption, and considering the quality of that game, the bar had been set high.

Unfortunately, it failed to be the classic game that it could have been. Oh sure, it looked good – with facial realisation so close to life that when I saw the lead actor in Mad Men for the first time it took me aback a bit – and it had a whole lot of atmosphere about it, but in terms of gameplay, it dragged.

Some aspects – like the seemingly random interrogation techniques – were hit & miss, while the protagonist’s rise to homicide detective half way through, only to be busted down to vice and arson, seemed like arse-about-face storytelling.

Fun, but it could have been so much better.

#89 – Pro Evolution Soccer Series (Xbox 360 – 2005+)

When this generation of gaming began, PES was king.Pro_Evolution_Soccer_2008

Nobody took FIFA seriously as a realistic football game, and though PES had its long-term faults (lack of licensing, fictional players, certain gameplay niggles) it was still superior to EA’s output.

But then things began to change.

EA got their act together and improved , while PES stood still.

Now why anyone would give PES a go when it’s so clearly in second place – in spite of their PR team saying “It’s back to its best” every year – is a mystery. When you have a choice of playing a game with proper players and better gameplay, just where exactly is the appeal of playing a worse game as West Midlands Village away at the Trad Brick Stadium?

Unless you’re a blind loyalist, the answer is “There is none”

But for a few years at the start of the generation, it was the best football game and deserves its place on the list.252px-Left4Dead_Windows_cover

#88 – Left 4 Dead Series (Xbox 360 – 2008/9)

 

Got three friends online and fancy a bit of mindless Zombie slaying?

Then the Left 4 Dead is the game for you.

Making good use of Xbox Live’s party chat feature, L4D is a game that encourages teamwork rather than the sort of spamming and selfishness you’d associate with most First Person Shooters.

Another good game with atmosphere, its main problem for me is that it’s actually quite difficult, and can be pretty frustrating if you almost get to the end of a level and then die!

#87 – Mirror’s Edge (Xbox 360, 2008)Mirror's_Edge

I enjoyed playing through Mirror’s Edge.

It was innovative for the time and was told from an interesting first person perspective.

Not only did it look great, but it was also a lot of fun.

So why is it only at #87? Because it was too bloody short.

Definitely a game to rent rather than buy (and thankfully that’s what I did), there was no way Mirror’s Edge justified its initial RRP.

#86 – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas (Xbox 360, 2006)Tom_Clancy_Rainbow_Six_Vegas_Game_Cover

It would probably feel a bit primitive now, but for the time, Rainbow Six Vegas was an enjoyable FPS game set in an environment that was pleasingly different to the norm (and by norm I mean war-torn Europe, Africa or the Middle East).

IIRC though, the continuous need to instruct your partner to move to different places walked the knife-edge between innovative and irritating.

Either way, it was a fun game to play back in the day.

One That Doesn’t Make It To The List- QIX++

On the original Gameboy, QIX was one of the finest games available.Qix++_Coverart

Indeed, I could happily pick it up and play it today.

The Xbox Live Arcade version was a disgrace.

Shallower than a puddle on a hot day, you could easily finish this off in about 15 minutes. Had the reviews come out before I paid £10 for this travesty, I’d have known that.

Chalk one up to nostalgia over reasoning.

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Movies: Gravity Review (or “A Work Of Art”)

November 9, 2013

Three visits to the cinema in just over a week? That’s as many trips as I took in a lean five month spell between June and October.

But it seems to me that good films – proper films – are held back until the summer is over. These are the good times for the fan of the more “distinguished” movie presentation.

Anyway, the latest film I’ve seen is one that has been getting a huge amount of praise in the USA and one that has finally made its way across the pond, Gravity.

Gravity Review: What’s It About?

An accident during a space walk leaves Sandra Bullock and George Clooney stranded in the void and struggling to find a way back to safety.

Gravity Review: Who’s In It?

Erm…Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. And that’s really it. There are voices of people from NASA but beyond that there’s really nobody else.Gravity_Poster

Gravity Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Very. 97% on Rotten Tomotoes, 95% on Metacritic and 8.5 on imdb from over 125,000 votes.

The critics love it as well, with the minimum rankings being 4 stars.

Gravity Review: (Spoiler Free) Thoughts – A Rare Breed.

There are different types of film and the ones I’ve seen over the past week highlight that.

Thor: Dark World is a big-budget but light Superhero movie; the “Blockbuster”. It has a thin plot, merely reasonable acting, practically no drama and a helluva lot of special effects.

Captain Phillips on the other hand is more of a story. Comparatively little has been spent on special effects, there’s no CGI, but the drama, plot and acting are high.

Gravity meanwhile is the rarest of breeds in that it combines the best aspects of both. Not only does it look amazing – and when I say that, I mean that; it looks a-maz-ing – but it also scores highly for me in terms of the drama and plotting.

Both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are very good in their roles, and they have to be. Two-handers are a difficult thing to get right without seeming dull, but in this case they manage it with aplomb. Similarly, there are parts of the movie where isolation means that there is only one character on screen for long periods and they work too. The actors must take credit for keeping things interesting.

The Look

But the real star is the director, co-writer and producer, Alfonso Cuarón.

His vision for this film is – and I say this knowing that there’s a toe-curling pun here, even though it’s unintentional – is out of this world.

In an age where special effects make anything seem possible, this still managed to be breathtaking. For all intents and purposes, this looks like it has been filmed out in space. Indeed, if you’d shown this to someone 20 years ago, they’d just have assumed it was. Everything looks bang on.

The best bit for me though is the way Cuarón manages to seamlessly change perspective. Without any obvious cuts or transitions, the camera angle moves from a general perspective to seeing things through Sandra Bulllock’s eyes and then back again. It heightens the drama, it makes you feel like you are there with them and it amplifies the viewing experience.

What’s more, this is definitely a film you should see in 3D. You know that I’m highly critical of 3D films, but this is one where you’d be missing out if you don’t. In many ways, this is like a work of art, and it’s best shown in the form of a teardrop that weightlessly floats away from Bullock and towards us. Within that teardrop, you see the reflection of Sandra Bullock encapsulated within.

Absolutely stunning.

This Isn’t A Science Fiction Movie

I think some people – people like my mum for example – will see the poster for a film called Gravity set in space and think it’s “A Star Wars” or something like that.

They shouldn’t.

While Gravity is set in space, it’s not science fiction. It’s a highly tense, claustrophobic drama with well-rounded, realistic characters, but it just so happens to be set in space.

There’s a distinction to be made.

Any Issues?

As much as possible I’ve kept this spoiler free because I don’t want to ruin anything for you.

So I’ll write this bit in white and if you’ve seen it, you can highlight it…

There was a part where I thought they might ruin it when Clooney’s character returned and I thought there was no way that Bullock would have survived that prolonged exposure to the vacuum of space, but thankfully, that turned out to be a hallucination.

Apart from that, I have no issues at all, and even that isn’t really an issue anyway.

Gravity Review: Should You Go To See Gravity?

Without a shadow of a doubt, Gravity is one film that everyone should go to see.

It’s a highly tense and emotional drama, but like I said earlier, it’s also a work of art and a joy to behold.

I’ve spoken time and time again about how Side Effects  has been the film to beat for me this year, and I even felt that Captain Phillips has perhaps done it.

But this leaves them trailing.

With two talented actors and a visionary director, and with an appropriate running time that will mean that nobody will get bored, this truly is a breathtaking cinematic experience.

Go and see it.

In 3D.

Today.