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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I swear to your God or whatever you believe in, I never expected one day I would read a Harry Potter book. My little brother (8 years younger) grew up with this, not me. I’ve never been a fan of young adult books, not even when I had that age.

So why read it now? Well, it happens that Aneesha is a huge fan of Harry Potter and I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Both sagas are seven books and she hasn’t read any Dark tower either, so we decided to start some kind of reading challenge. She would read The Dark Tower, I would read all the Potter books.

I recently finished The Sorcerer’s Stone and I thought it would be nice to share some thoughts on it. I hope she agrees to come here and review The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower first book) too. Quick preview: she hated it.

About J.K. Rowling’s writing

The book is obviously aiming for a child-to-teenage audience, but independently of this, it’s a well written and compelling book. It uses a language simple and direct, and the author narrates the story with a really good pace. The book gives you the feel that there are things happening all the time, specially after they reach Howarts. By the way,  I was surprised to see that almost half of the book is spent before that.

In general, I think J.K. Rowling’s work is really good, and I can easily see how she captivated a  whole generation of kids and teenagers.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Mary GrandPré / Art Insights Gallery / Via artinsights.com

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I have to admit that it’s been a bit difficult for me to detach the characters from the actors. At the time, I took my brother to see all the movies and whille reading Snape’s lines I was unable to forget the great Alan Rickman. I could almost hear his voice while reading.

Talking about the characters, I was quite surprised with Harry. The kid I had seen on the movies is quite different to the one pictured in the book, where I think he is a bit more asshole-ish. His relationship with Draco Malfoy is product of how both behave, and at no moment Harry is kind or nice (yeah, I know Draco is worse).

The rest of the characters are more or less as I  remembered. Hagrid is the not too bright but in some way adorable bearded giant. And Ron and Hermione are the perfect complements to the protagonist, with great chemistry between the three of them. The rest of the characters have a very brief appearance and I guess they will be developed further on the sequels.

Magic world, (almost) magic-less wizards

It surprised me how the book introduces a new magic or mythological element almost evrey chapter. It doesn’t create much new, but one chapter we are talking about trolls, the next will be reading about a dragon and after that we will be riding a centaur while we look for a unicorn. This brings a lot of variety to the whole and it keeps the reader wondering what will come next.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Mary GrandPré / Parker Jordan Fine Art / Via parkerjordanfineart.com

My main issue is that wizards are pretty unmagical. What I mean by this is that magic itself, the one we expect from the wizards,  is almost unseen through the story. And I feel there are moments when it gets a bit silly. I can understand that the kids just started to learn, but to see how the ‘bad guy’ (with the help of Voldemort himself) is unable to pass an oversize dog… I’m sorry but I don’t buy it. I understand that for the purpose of the story, it has to be this way, but I can’t understand how an expert wizard can’t overcome certain things.

Because of the movies, I know this type of situation is a constant on the series and it is by far what I like the least. I also found funny that at some point a character says that Harry is able to see things that other can’t, and that’s why he is so good at Quidditch, but he is the only one wearing glasses. I know is a silly thing, but it is there.

Quidditch & Voldemort

To end this little pseudo-review of mine, I just want to point out a couple of things. I don’t see the point of Quidditch. For me it feels like an unnecessary element on the book and it seems that it exists with the only purpose of show how ‘special’ Harry is.

And when it comes to talk about Voldemort, I’ll admit that I’m quite fascinated by the character. I hope in the rest of the books the author goes deeper into his past. His role in this novel is not too big, but enough to make him interesting and intriguing. And by the way, the final twist is very well written, and I doubt many people could predict it.

To summarize, I think Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a good book, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is not perfect, there are some minor things that I don’t like here and there, but I would recommend it.

Gears of War 4 Cover Art

Gaming Sessions: Gears of War 4

It’s become a tradition to play the first video game of the year with my brother. We started some time back, and now that we live in different countries it has even more meaning. We don’t get to spend much time together over the year, so it’s good to be able to share something that we both like. This time we’ve played Gears of War 4. It’s a game that perfectly fits the description of what we want to play: a not too long, co-op, action packed game. Actually, Gears of War is somehow becoming a synonymous of Christmas, as we’ve played all the games in the franchise this time of the year. I know, kind of weird.

A new generation for Gears of War 4

Gears of War 4 jumps into the future around 30 years. The game puts us in control of a band of 3 formed by JD Fenix and his friends Kait and Del. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the characters on this entry are (way) more charismatic. It helps that the script is well written and the narrative is clear, two of the biggest issues I found on the original Gears Trilogy. JD plays well as the charming hero, something that his father Marcus didn’t have. It’s a character that feels way more human and less military machine. Del and Kait are good characters too. Kait will be at the center of most of the emotional moments on the game due to story events that I’m not gonna spoil here. Del plays as a comic relief in some moments, a bit typical, but plays his part well.

Gears of War 4 characters

It’s also a new generation game in the sense that they moved from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. Gears of War 3 was probably the most impressive visual feat on the 360. I don’t own an Xbox One, but Gears of War 4 is probably one of the most stunning games on One. Characters and environments have a huge level of detail and both lighting and effects are exceptional. In terms of visual design, we find a game that follows the evolution seen in Gears3. That means a better use of color and light that gives the game a fantastic look. It’s maybe not as stunning as Uncharted 4, but it is pretty close. Only facial animation is clearly better in U4 and even so, facial animations here are good.

… but same old Gears

If you are a Gears fan, you won’t be disappointed. Gears4 offers the same game play we’ve enjoyed all this years, with little improvements here and there. The main issue on the previous games was a lack of agility on the characters, and a feel that they are very heavy. It is annoying when you run and your character is unable to turn a corner. I understand that is part of the identity of the saga and they didn’t want to make a radical change, but they should consider doing some adjustments for the next game. In terms of shooting and moving in general I have no complains, it’s a really good game with a very polished control. My brother tends to disagree but… who cares? xD.

Gears of War 4 robots
The Swarm is not the only menace we’ll have to fight, The Coalition will also chase us

Talking about old Gears, some of the characters from the previous trilogy appear in the game as secondary characters. They are there for a reason and it’s good that they don’t become an obstacle to tell a new story. It works great as an homage and it’s really well done. Kudos to The Coalition for this.

New situations and menaces

There are a couple of innovations to the classic formula. Good additions that help to bring some variety to the game. The first and most notable is the storms. For whatever reason, the planet Sera suffers a series of catastrophic electric storms. The winds will affect the character movement and you’ll have to be careful if you want to use grenades. Also, there will be elements in the environment that are suitable of being used as weapons thanks to the wind. Occasionally, there will be areas where a couple of dozens of lightnings fall in the your area. You’ll have to run and avoid getting hit by them while you try to reach a safe place. It’s not a revolutionary addition, but everything helps to give variety to the campaign.

Gears of War 4 Electric Storms
The electric storms are some of the most impressive moments of the game

The menaces in Gears of War 4 are multiple. We will be fighting another species that JD & friends call The Swarm. Are they the Locust again? Well, maybe, but it is better if you find out yourself. The Swarm counts with a few different types of enemies and some of them introduce new combat mechanics. There are some huge dog-like enemies that jump around  the environment. We will have to avoid their attacks while we shoot to their belly if we want to actually hurt them. These fights are difficult the first couple of times but, at least for us, after a while we became really good at them. Another great addition are the Snatchers. This are huge ass (pardon my French) creatures that will throw acid at our heroes, jump around the environment (potentially crushing you) and will capture our characters and try to escape with their prey. This fights are difficult and very intense, some of my favorites on the game. The rest of additions are more normal and more grounded in the classic combat mechanics.

Gears of War 4 enemies
We will be fighting ‘cuties’ like this one

This time you won’t be part of the established human Coalition of Governments and you will have numerous fights with them. I believe that there was a bit of criticism to these parts, but in my opinion is a welcomed addition. In this sections we will be fighting robots and drones and we’ll have to use different strategies as the ones we use against The Swarm.

Best “tank level” ever?

It’s very common in shooters, specially if they have a military component, to have a one or two levels where you have to get hands on with a tank or similar vehicle. In Gears of War 4 we have one of these levels, but for once it’s a really well designed one. The game puts you in control of a huge robot and makes you go around fighting the biggest enemies of the game. The difference is that now we’ll be as big as they are. The robot is agile and you can do almost everything you do when controlling JD and his friends. This gives a really good dynamic to the level, and it doesn’t feel out of place. It was a very enjoyable moment on the game, and I hope in the future we see more of this.

My favorite Gears of War

I believe every Gears has improved its predecessor, at least when it comes to the single playe/co-op experience. The 2nd game improved the level design greatly and gave the game a bigger scale. And the 3rd game jumped again, including new characters, a better narrative and improving vastly it’s art design.

This Gears of War 4 takes another step forward with the best narrative in the series, better characters and script. It does all this without forgetting about the game play, where The Coalition included a bunch of little changes and new elements that improve the series’ formula. Overall it’s an excellent action game and a great debut for a new studio like The Coalition.

Intervals The Shape of Colour

The Turntable Series: Intervals – The Shape of Colour

There was a lot of movement and changes for Intervals in the period that goes from 2013 to the publication of The Shape of Colour in late 2015. They went from instrumental music to non-instrumental with the addition of Mike Semesky. They launched a great album in 2014, A Voice Within, that with the addition of voice surely brought them closer to the public. That was followed by Mike leaving at the end of 2014. With the band being voiceless again, a conflict rose between the remaining members: do we keep it instrumental or not?

The end result was that drummer Anup Sastry and guitarist Lukas Guyader left the band, leaving Intervals as a one man show with Aaron Marshall in the middle. The Shape of Colour is the first album by this new Intervals, and excellent record, with great songs and a lot of personality.

Metal at its core but different

Intervals is part of this new wave of metal & rock musicians that appreciates and understands a bigger and broader amount of music. They don’t stick to their genres, and that pays of in many ways when they compose themselves. We’ve seen it in the past with bands like Animals as Leaders, The Dillinger Escape Plan or Between the Buried and Me. They’re a bands that break barriers and bring something actually new to the table.

Intervals The Shape of Colour
The colorful cover of Intervals – The Shape of Colour

In this album, that can be seen in many places. The use of guitar effects is pretty significant. Even though there is a fair amount of guitar distortion, it is subtle and lighter than the usual in the genre. The use of clean guitars is also not very common, but it can be heard in tracks like ‘Sweet Tooth’. There are other aspects that show the abundance of influences. Some percussion rhythms here and there. Guitar riffs that are closer to rock. They even included a sax in the track ‘Fable’.

Guitar as an instrument to express emotion

Being an  (metal) instrumental album, there is a lot of guitars in here. But we find a very expressive guitar, with lots of solos and complex riffs. But this complexity is well understood, not a guitarist trying to show off his/her skills. The album is full of great melodies that are very expressive and beautiful. I might be crazy, but for me this album transpires happiness and joy for the music itself. Tracks like Fable, Sweet Tooth or Meridian have a halo of optimism that feels really good in a genre that has a tendency to follow darker paths.

Listen to Intervals – The Shape of Colour

As you might be guessing already, Fable and Sweet Tooth are my favorite tracks on the album. But to be honest, there’s not a bad song in The Shape of Colour. Enjoy!

Batman The Telltale Series

Gaming Sessions: Batman The Telltale Series

I still remember renting Batman Returns for my Mega Drive at the video club next to my grandparents house. Since those early ninety’s days, we have had a fair amount of Batman games. And in late years we’ve seen the character rise to video game stardom thanks to the Arkham series. Being a big fan of the character, I got really excited when Telltale announced they were working in Batman The Telltale Series.

Telltale has had a lot of success in recent years with their approach to adventure games. Their titles are little more than narrative experiences where the player uses the game pad every now and then. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s important to clarify that in a game like this you don’t do much.

A Telltale series at its core

What does it mean to be a Telltale Series? Basically that the game is divided in episodes, in this case five, that are launched over time. It also means that you can expect certain style of gameplay and narrative.

Batman telltale game conversation system
The conversation system gives you some time to chose between four different options

Telltale games are heavy on dialog. Most of the scenes require the player to interact with other characters, selecting your answer from four different options. Those answer affect the relationship that you have with those characters and they can change future events. That’s on the surface, as most of the important events are predefined and will always be the same.

An interesting ‘touch’ on this game is that due to the dual nature of the character, you will be able to choose if you want to face certain situations as Batman or as Bruce Wayne. It happens just a couple of times but it’s a nice touch. And talking about Wayne, the fact that we control him directly for a big part of the game feels refreshing. It’s something that sets this game apart from other Batman games.

Batman Telltale game fight system
The action scenes are QTE. We need to press the right button at the right time

Besides all the talking, there are a bunch of action scenes (fights, chases, etc.) that are solved by quick time events. Those are sequences where the game displays a button and you have to press it in time. We’ve seen it a million times. The problem here is that the game engine has an awful performance and it hurts the pace and dynamism of this scenes. It’s a shame, because it takes all the excitement away.

The world’s greatest detective (or so they say)

The biggest addition to the core Telltale formula are the crime scene investigations. In those scenes you have to identify different elements and find clues. Once you have everything on the scene you just have to put things together (you literally link them) and then Batman will deduct what happened. The idea is good, but the execution is mediocre. These sections are too limited and don’t present any challenge.

Batman telltale game scene investigation
You have to find clues and link them so Batman can deduce what happened

We’ve never seen this Gotham before

There’s no other element in this game as disruptive as it’s take on Gotham and it’s gallery of characters. The game has a bunch of surprises, with unexpected turns and cliffhangers that are very well written. I have to say, there are some things that were so unexpected for me, that it took me a couple of episodes to accept them. When you are used to certain myths, it’s not easy to accept when they’re deconstructed.

The story revolves heavily around the Wayne family and the past and the present of Gotham. I don’t want to spoil much about the game, but you can expect a few of the classic characters in the series to appear during the series. Harvey Dent (still sane), Lt. Gordon, Alfred and Catwoman have all a strong presence in the game. The Telltale team has created a new Villain for the occasion, so you won’t be facing any of the classic Batman villains. You might see some of them, but they don’t have an important role in this first season.

Batman The Telltale Series

To be honest, I was expecting more from this game. It’s very entertaining and well written, but technical issues and gameplay limitations are obvious. It’s a good Batman story, and I like that it writes it’s own myth, giving a twist to places and characters well known in the pop culture. If you’re a Batman fan, I strongly recommend you give it a chance. Worst case scenario, you’ll feel like you’ve watched an entertaining superhero TV show.

Sonic Generations

Gaming Sessions: Sonic Generations

I grew up being a Sega kid. And in the 90’s that also meant a Sonic kid. I didn’t just play his games, I used to draw the character all the time. It was a special time for a special company. Sega took a great number of wrong decisions, some of them against the interest of their own clients. At the same time, they were constantly launching great games. There was no genre they couldn’t master. They gave us Sega Rally, Panzer Dragoon, Daytona USA, Virtua Fighter, Phantasy Star, Streets of Rage, Shinobi, After Burner… the list is immense and full of classics. And now, a bunch of years later, I have to wonder what is left of that company. I’ve finished a few minutes ago Sonic Generations and I’m still not sure if I should feel sad or insulted. There is none of that aforementioned brilliance on this game. Worse than that, I don’t even recognize the character I grew up with.

Two Sonics in Sonic Generations

Sonic Generations was supposed to be a celebration of the character. A game where past and present come together to give us a look at two very different versions of the character. To do so, they decided to combine 3D stages with “modern Sonic” and 2D stages with “classic Sonic”.

Sonic 3D or modern
The game has good visuals, but that doesn’t compensate for all the issues it has

Well, the 3D stages are as disastrous as they have always been. Meaning the character advances very (VERY) fast through the levels, making it almost uncontrollable. The character moves so fast, and the physics are so badly designed, that it is an absolute achievement to run through a line of rings getting them all. Sure, there are good moments to enjoy here, and there are a couple of levels with a good design. But the character is so uncontrollable, that the good parts get hidden in a mist of frustration, stupid deaths, bad camera positioning, etc.

Thank God the classic Sonic is back, right? Right!?

No he is not. This classic Sonic doesn’t move and feel like the one we had 20 years ago. Sure, physics are a bit better than on the 3D parts, but still it doesn’t feel right. On top of that, we have a poorly designed camera, that tends to get too close to the action, not letting you see what you have ahead. Again, we find some good levels, but some of the 3D worlds don’t work too well on a 2D environment. That’s obvious when you play both the 2D level and the 3D level one after the other.

Sonic 2D, Chemical Plant
At least they have recovered one of my favorite levels, Chemical Plant. The music is still awesome

The disaster mascot

I usually try to be positive about games. I like to enjoy them and see the good elements on them, even if overall they’re not great. Sonic Generations has made this very difficult. I’ve enjoyed some of the levels (or parts of them), some of the songs are great and the game is visually good. But when there are so many gameplay issues it is difficult to be positive.

For me, the worst part is that from time to time, the game gives you a good level or section, really well designed and enjoyable. It lets you see what the game could be. But the truth is that for any of those good sections, you have to play five that are decent at best, when their not plainly bad or frustrating.

The game defects don’t end here, as the game is quite short, bosses are not great and the cinematics are poorly encoded, getting pixelated at moments.

I’m glad to say I didn’t pay much for the game, as I would be furious if I had payed the full price for Sonic Generations. I recommend you to look for something better in the genre, I have no doubt that there are other games out there that are worth your money and time way more than this one.

 

P.s. I can’t believe the game has a 77 in metacritic. And an 84 in user score :S

Chloe looks at the Indian jungle

Gaming sessions: Uncharted The Lost Legacy

I’m a  big fan of Uncharted. Actually, I’m a big fan of Naughty Dog. This guys are masters of their craft. They launched their new game, Uncharted The Lost Legacy, last August, and for the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing it. Now that I’ve finished it, I can say that anyone that ever enjoyed an Uncharted game is going to have a great time.

The origin of The Lost Legacy

There were some reasons to not be sure about this. The Lost Legacy is a bit of a weird case inside the story of ND and the Uncharted series. The project was born as a DLC, an expansion to the original Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End,  one of my favorite games of last year. As they kept working on the project, the game grew in size to the point of becoming a standalone release.

All this is important to understand some of the characteristics of the game. To start, its duration. I’ve needed 9:29 hours to finish the game. Pretty good compared to the original trilogy, but far behind Uncharted 4. Another thing is the absolute absence of new mechanics or situations. The game continues the gameplay seen in U4, with no differences at all. This is not bad, as the series has mastered the action-adventure movie-like genre.

Chloe and Nadine

The biggest difference with other games in the series is that this time we forget about Nathan Drake. He is completely absent from the game (except for a couple of comments about him). The main character here is Chloe Frazer, character introduced in Uncharted 2. In this game, she is as charismatic as Drake can be and, as the story develops, we learn more about her, her past and her motivations. It’s a breath of fresh air for the series, and I  wouldn’t mind if they keep her as the protagonist for the next couple of games (if they do any).

Uncharted The Lost Legacy - Chloe with and artifact
Chloe Frazer replaces Drake as the main character

This time, the partner role falls into Nadine’s Ross hands, one of the antagonists of U4. The personal situation of Nadine gets her to collaborate with Chloe, something that in other time would have been unlikely. The chemistry between both characters is pretty good, and the relationship of this new duo is well developed during the game. Nadine is a character with a lot of anger after what happened in the previous game, and is great to see her change as the relationship between them evolves.

Uncharted The Lost Legacy

The game is set in India, with Chloe and Nadine searching for an old relic called the Tusk of Ganesha. This will  lead us to explore the jungles of India while we fight the rebels of Asav. This guy is fighting against the government, trying to start a revolution and transforming an unknown region of India (they are never specific about where is set) into a war zone. For a reason (that I’m not going to spoil), he is also searching for the Tusk, and it will cross in the path of our characters a few times.

Uncharted The Lost Legacy - Nadine Ross and Chloe Frazer
Nadine and Chloe are an unlikely alliance that gets stronger as the game progresses

The game does an effort on explaining aspects of the Indian culture that are relevant to the story of the game. It explains relationships of some of the gods and some of their legends. I’ve checked with my “expert” in Indian affairs and it seems to be pretty accurate.

Nothing new but…

As I mentioned before, the gameplay is basically the same we saw in Uncharted 4. The rope and the “climbing knife” are back. The platform sections and puzzles make good use of this abilities, what brings variety to those parts. Again, we can use stealth or direct action to fight against our enemies. All of those elements are present and work as well as they did before.

Uncharted The Lost Legacy - Impressive environments
The game has some really impressive environments

Naughty Dog keeps experimenting with semi open-world levels inside of linear games, and this time they have done a really good job. Chapter 5 is a big area where we can move freely and do a bunch of activities. The area is  full of little puzzles, fights and platform areas and we can do them in the order we want. We saw this in the Madagascar section of the previous game, but this time there are some improvements. As we navigate the area we will start finding some discs that are not simple collectibles. They are part of a big optional mission that can take around 1:30 hours to complete. This mission will require us to fight, solve puzzles, etc. and it has a big reward at the end. It gives the player a reason to find the discs, it feels organic, and it works really well. I want to see ND working with this concept in the future.

On the negative side of things, I would highlight that the physical combat needs to be improved, specially if they keep using it in boss fights. Also there is a continuous sense of Déjà vu over the game. Is not an awful lot of times, but is still there. Also, I feel that the script falls too many times into topics of this type of story. It happened in the previous games, but this time bothered me more for some reason.

A great game

I can’t do anything but to recommend Uncharted The Lost Legacy. It’s not a perfect game, but it is a really good one. It stands on the shoulders of its prequel, but it does it by delivering almost 10 hours of fun and entertainment with outstanding graphics, art direction and acting.

Also it’s important to mention that it was released  with a lower price than usual, 30 euros – 159 AED.

The Third Birthday for PSP

Gaming sessions: The 3rd Birthday

I finished playing The 3rd Birthday a few weeks ago. The game, is an action-RPG launched for the PSP in 2011, and a must if you have the console.

Saving New York

In The Third Birthday, we control Aya Brea, an agent of the CTI that fights the Twisted, an alien race that has invaded New York. To fight against them, Aya will use her hability to “overdrive”. This ability allows her to control other people, no matter if it is in the present or the past. I’m not gonna go deeper in the story and the world of the game, because is better to discover it. And that is if you’re able to understand anything that goes on. The game has one of the worst narratives I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a very strange and confusing game. To make it even worse, the game displays a gallery of characters that are walking cliches, and their dialogs are pretty embarrasing.

The 3rd Birthday - Aya fighting one of the bosses
There are a few bosses during the game, all of them pretty spectacular

Shooting everything that moves

Thankfully, the game displays an extremely solid gameplay, dynamic and really fun. The game presents  you a succession of very linear levels where you clean areas of enemies in order to move forward. The shootings make use of an automatic cover system, with destroyable covers. All enemies have different attack patterns, and they will make you learn how they act to be able to kill them. Some of them force you to constantly move, while others will require you to use the covers. This gives the game a lot of dynamism, that is enhanced by a responsive and agile control of the protagonist.

The 3rd Birthday - Overdriving on enemies
Use the overdrive technique on your enemies to hurt them and obtain DNA fragments

The overdrive ability makes a big impact on the game. While fighting the Twisted, you can change the character that you’re controlling with just pressing a Triangle. If you release the button you will “posses” the closest ally. If you keep it pressed, you’ll be able to change which ally want to control, cycling through them with the right and left arrow. This, that could be a little more than a gimmick, is really well implemented and it helps to give depth to the gunplay. Even more than that, it adds an strategic touch to the fight.

The RPG touch

The 3rd Birthday is the last entry on the Parasite Eve franchise. This series combine action and RPG, while using horror themes. As you see, The Third Birthday doesn’t have “Parasite Eve” on the title. That is due to the massive changes that this entry represents inside the franchise.

Here, the RPG touch is almost gone completely. On a gameplay level, The Third Birthday is an action game. It has the looks, the mechanics and the feel of one. But there are some elements that approaches the experience to an RPG. To start, Aya can level up. There’s also an equip that can be bought and improved with the credits that you gain fighting.

The 3rd Birthday - The DNA board
On the DNA board you can combine the DNA fragments to boost your powers

There’s also the DNA system. When an enemy is weakened, you can overdrive on them. When doing this, you will hurt the enemy greatly, and you’ll get a DNA block as a reward. Later you can combine the DNA blocks and apply them to Aya. This system allows you to improve you’re character as you would do in any RPG.

The 3rd Birthday

As I said, this is an excellent when it comes to  the gameplay. The game also features stunning graphics on the veteran handheld, with good textures and modelling and good effects. This comes along with a soundtrack that is good but not great.

Overall, I think this is one of the best action games you can play on PSP. The story is not gonna blow your mind, but the rest of the game is really, really good. On top of that, the game lasts  for around 11 hours, but it is designed to be replayed, adding new armors, weapons and DNA fragments, what can increase the life of the game considerably.

Ian and Sarah Hanging

The Lost World is the best Jurassic Park

I’m a huge fan of Jurassic Park. So much that I can say the dialogs while watching the movie in Spanish and English. After the success of the original movie, we have had 3 sequels, and there is a fourth on the way. The Lost World was overlooked when it came out, and it’s usually to hear that  “but Alan Grant is not there!”. And my answer is: who cares?

Before I get to the fight between JP and TLW, I’m gonna take out of the way JP3 and Jurassic World.

Jurassic Park 3 is easy to discard. It’s simply a bad movie and the worst on the series. The return of Alan Grant is insufficient. The characters are insufferable, the plot is bland, and it has the worst kid on the series by far (and that’s saying a lot…). It’s just bad.

On the other hand, Jurassic World is a good sequel/reboot in this era of empty blockbusters. It’s entertaining, it has some spectacular scenes, and it pays great homage to the original movie. But it’s not enough and, though I like it, it doesn’t do anything special.

The Lost World is the best

Now, when it comes to the original vs. The Lost World, there are some things where I think the second movie works better, and therefore makes it a better movie:

  • The main character: when I was a kid, I was very disappointed when I saw that Alan Grant wasn’t on JP2. But now I can see that the character doesn’t quite work as ‘the hero’. I feel that the character is a bit too scientific, he is the common man turned to hero, but for some reason it doesn’t work. Probably is not charismatic enough. On the other hand, I think that the Ian Malcom of The Lost World works much better. He is charismatic, dynamic and it deals better with being the ‘hero by necessity’.
  • The main them: yeah, I know. I love the Jurassic Park theme too. But to be honest, in the context of the movie doesn’t quite work. It has a sense of wonder and grandiosity that works well when it comes to discovering the park. But when it comes to the movie itself, the action, the adventure, I think it feels out of place. The main theme for The Lost World it screams adventure since the first moment it sounds. I think is a way better companion for the images that we see.

  • The supporting cast: A little bit like with Alan Grant, the supporting cast is in general a bit weak compared to The Lost World. I don’t think is the actors, as they are good, but the characters are a bit less interesting. The characters of Muldoon and Arnold are not bad, Nedry and Gennaro are quite unbearable, and Hammond is there as the smiley grandpa with the dark side. Ellie is well portrayed by Laura Dern, but the character is just ok. On TLW we have Sarah Harding, Eddie, Roland and Nick are the main supporting cast. All of them work better in the context of the movie, and there are no moments where you think “hopefully a dinosaur will it that guy”. That happens with Dieter though.
  • The kids: For some reason, this saga has the need of putting some random kids in the middle of the story. And all of them, with no exception, are very annoying. Tim and Lex, from Jurassic Park are probably the more charismatic on the series, but they still get in the middle to often. The character of Kelly is annoying like the rest, but it has one good thing. Except for a couple of (embarrasing) scenes, she barely appears on the movie.
The Lost World - T-rex attack
T-rex attack in the worst possible moment
  • The feel of adventure: I think this is the most important factor. Jurassic Park has the need of taking some time to present the idea, the dinosaurs, etc. It takes a long time to create that sense of adventure, and when it finally happens it is reduced to a couple of scenes due to 3 or 4 parallel plot lines. The Lost World is a way more direct movie. The pace is really good and the story moves forward with ease. After the first 10 to15 minutes, the viewer knows what kind of movie is watching.
  • The Lost World has a T-rex creating mayhem in San Diego: No need to explain.

Those are my reasons to think The Lost World is the best on the series. Which one do you like more?

Biffy Clyro

The turntable series: Puzzles, Highways and more

I have barely written about one of my favorite things in the world. Music is a huge part of my life, and I’m always hungry for new bands and albums. Here are some of the records I’ve been listening lately:

Puzzle – Biffy Clyro

I’ve rediscovered this album while driving. Hadn’t paid too much attention to the band for years, but this record from 2007 is an excellent demonstration of what this trio can do. Their sound is what you could expect from a modern rock band, with influences that go from pop to metal. But the proggy touches are what make of this album something different.

Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters

I know Nirvana fans won’t like this, but for me Foo Fighters is Dave Grohl’s good band. Sure, Nirvana has some excellent and iconic songs, but there’s not a single album of their discography that I think is worth listening in full. On the other hand, Foo Fighters has several of those, demonstrating a laudable capacity to always delivery high quality music. Sonic Highways is, as the previous Wasting Light, and excellent album.

Nightbringers – The Black Dahlia Murder

Released last 6th of October, Nightbringers is a reminder of how good TBDM are. Probably the best and most consistent melodic (or so they say) death metal band. Sure, they have their formula, but they always deliver. This album had me since minute one, and I think is the first time in my life a pre-order a music album. From the first song to the last, Nightbringers is an extremely direct and powerful record. Half an hour of music (or noise if you wanna think that way) that it’s worth every dime I paid for it.

Do you have any music recommendations for me? I have my preferred genres but I’m always open to give an opportunity to any music 🙂
Snake Eater

Snakes and Nails

Like every quarter, I’m doing a little review of the games I’ve played on the previous 3 months. This time, with holidays and all I haven’t played so much, but I still have a few new notches in my gamer’s belt:

Assassin´s Creed Bloodlines (PSP)

Let’s see… I got the game just because it came on a bundle with my PSP. What to do? I liked the color. Anyway, this year I started the Assassin’s Creed saga, so I had to give a chance to this game that serves as a bridge between AC and AC2. The game tries to adapt the mechanics of the bigger entries on the series to a handheld type of game. And it does it pretty well, but the limitations of the hardware, plus the limitations of the original game mechanics is a bad combination.

Assassin's Creed Bloodlines
The game looks pretty good for the PSP

In the game you control Altair through a bunch of pretty linear missions. The developer reduced the size of the levels, making the game more dynamic, but the mechanics are still the same. The combat system is pretty bad and the pickpoketing missions are a pain. Thankfully, the game is not too long and lets you advance at a good pace. It’s not awful, but I can’t recommend something as average as this.

Metal Gear Solid 3 HD (PS3)

Finally. Even playing it 13 years after the original release, it’s easy too see how MGS3 was a revolutionary game. The introduction of food, hunting and the surgery/medicine system changes the game completely regarding the previous entries on the series. We’re talking about elements that have been introduced in multiple other games after MGS3, and I believe that even a genre like the survival games, owes a lot to Snake Eater. The game is an absolute masterpiece, though it has some things I didn’t like (there’s no perfect game). An essential game, a classic, and vital to understand videogame evolution.

Quake (PC)

Last year I started a trip through id Software history, and Quake is the third game of theirs that I played. Quake keeps alive the company’s fast paced gunplay, while going deeper into the horror-like theme already seen in Doom. The game is still really good, but I see it as a step back in level design if we compare it with the wonders of Doom II. I’d like to mention two things. First, the Trent Reznor soundtrack is really creepy, and together with the sound design helps to create an uncomfortable feel in the player. Second, today it would be unthinkable to have a game so incoherent on a visual level. Having that in mind, the game is worth a play, and I think it will keep any FPS fan entertained for the 6h or so that it lasts.

Quake
I played on a resolution of 320×200, 90’s style

As a side note, recently a found this article about the impact of Quake in the games industry. Very interesting read.

The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings (Xbox360)

Last year, Aneesha got me The Witcher 3 for my (then) new PS4. After playing for a few hours I decided to take a step back and play the 2nd game in the series first, as the story seemed to be tightly connected. Despite missing some of the improvements made on the 3rd game, The Witcher 2 has marveled me in many ways. The game world is fascinating. The complexity of their characters and plot, surprising. I really liked to play something that feels mature and complex. Though it only happens a few times, the game let’s you make decisions during the game that will alter your relationship with other characters and even change the story of the game.

The Witcher 2
The Witcher 2

The combat system is probably the weakest part of the game, specially compared with the much improved system on the 3rd one. It took me some time to get used to it, but it truly pays off if you fight with patience and being strategic. And the camera sometimes doesn’t give the best angles, specially in combats in reduced spaces. The game has a high level of complexity, but doesn’t force you to use everything. For example, you don’t need to do dig deep into alchemy or make use of the secondary weapons if you don’t want to. That gives for a personalized experience of the game, and leave a lot of freedom in the player.

In summary, great game, probably the best western action-RPG I’ve ever played. At least until i dive deep into The Witcher 3.

Thomas Was Alone (PSVita)

I started Thomas Was Alone long time back, but for some reason I didn’t connect with it. A year or so later, I gave it another chance. This times things were substantially different. The game is no prodigy on any aspect. And I think the quality of the game was magnified at the time of the launch. But it’s undeniable that the level design is really good, with some excellent levels on it. The game is a succession of puzzles with a bit of platforming, where you control several characters (color blocks) with different abilities. It’s through the combination of these abilities how you solve the puzzles. The addition of the narrator is interesting, and it gives a lot of personality to the game. But that’s it, it’s not revolutionary on any level and it’s far from achieving excellence. The duration of the game is well measured, avoiding an excess of repetition of the game mechanics.

That’s been all for this Q3. Now I’m about to embark myself into the highest adventure Link has gone through. And all thanks to Aneesha that got me my new (and amazing) Nintendo Switch 😀