Early Man (2018)

I remember reading a video game magazine back in the 90’s and they were comparing two games. Both of them involved Russian writing in buildings, one of them (probably Goldeneye) used grammatically correct Russian that translated well, whereas the other one (Probably Mission Impossible) just used random Russian-looking letters and hoped nobody would notice. They’re kind of right, most people would not notice, but the fact they used that as an excuse to not try saddens me. I prefer the first example, for all they knew, 99% of people wouldn’t notice, but that 1% would, and they did it for them. The thing is, even if that 1% did notice, most of them wouldn’t care anyway, they’d just be like “ah well” and move on. I love when companies do things like that though, when they actually put effort into their work. It’s why I love Aardman. Every single frame is full of joy and wonder. Visual jokes are almost hidden in the background. You have to pay attention to almost everything in every scene, constantly paying attention so you don’t miss a joke or shout out. It’s not the kind of thing you do for money, it’s the kind of thing you do just for the hell of it. They’ve done it throughout their career, most obviously in the Wallace And Gromit series where it usually takes at least five viewings to spot all the jokes.

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This bit did make me cry

So we’ve established I found this film funny, what else? The plot was……erm, well it’s suitable for a kids film. It does have tremendous plot/joke integration though. There are jokes in this which will only work in this film, if you change the story or the setting, they would fail quicker than Milli Vanilli after the MTV performance (very niche reference I know, but f*ck it, I’m making it). But you don’t really watch this for the plot, if you are then it’s definitely the wrong film for you. The vocal performances are pretty good but nothing you’ll be too impressed by. The accents of a lot of the characters seem like something that comes from a vaguely racist 70’s British sitcom (i.e. any 70’s British sitcom), Timothy Spall is the best of the bunch though. One thing did surprise me; they had Maisie Williams doing a French accent. She’s huge at the moment so why not cast her as someone else and have her do her natural voice? Then you can, I don’t know, get an actual French person do to the French accent. This is just more confusing by the fact that involved in the distribution of the film was StudioCanal, a French company. Isn’t it in their interests to promote French actors? I don’t think people were seeing this because Maisie Williams, so adjusting her vocal role wouldn’t have negatively affected the film that much. Side note; judging by the trailers you can expect me to talk about this kind of thing more when Red Sparrow comes out.

Finally, the look of this film. As I implied earlier, this film looks absolutely superb. You could take almost any scene from this and use it as a potential poster. It doesn’t look quite as great as Coco, but it does look slightly crisper. It looks more real (that is one of the advantages of the animation technique they use, it may not flow as well but there’s no distinction between background and foreground so everything looks important).

So should you see this? I wouldn’t say you need to own this on DVD or anything, but if it gets put on iPlayer or netflix then you need to watch it immediately, so basically it’s like Cool Runnings, only with less John Candy.

Why we love….Super Mario World

I’ll admit straight up that this isn’t going to be entirely objective. A lot of my love for this is personal. This is the Mario game I grew up with, the one where I learnt the basics and mastered the complex parts, the one which (and this isn’t an exaggeration) defined gaming for me. Every platform game I played after this was compared to it, and let’s be honest, very few even come close (off the top of my head: Space Station Silicon Valley, Donkey Kong Country, other Mario games). That kind of sucks actually that the first game I played couldn’t be matched, it would be like if the first punk album you heard was London Calling. Ideally your first game should be like your favourite film as a child, objectively kind of bad but you have nostalgic love for it (For me, Short Circuit, which watched as an adult is so mildly racist).

This actor is white, the character…not so much

So yeah, this was the first Mario game I loved, yet was the third Mario game I ever played (after two Game Boy games, Super Mario Land, and the obviously titled sequel Super Mario Land 2). Yet it was only about five years ago that I completed it. The difficulty level of this game is just right, there’s no “and this is where it starts to get really hard” level. It’s a slide from “if you die on this level, how?” to “you only lost twenty lives this level, nicely done” that is so gradual you don’t really notice it until you go back to the earlier levels and realise you can probably do them with your eyes shut. Not that you should keep your eyes shut, as that means missing on the visuals. Now I’m not going to lie and say “the graphics for this still hold up to modern games”, as that’s a lie. But that says more about modern graphics than the graphics of the game itself. I think 2D platform graphics peaked at this, there was no “well it looks okay, except for….”, everything looks lush and gorgeous. The clouds look so fluffy they’re practically candy floss.

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Disappointingly this game isn’t edible.

But now it’s time for the ultimate question; is this game “good for its time” or just “good”. There are many games I loved growing up that have not aged well. Primarily it is 3D games, as graphics were so blocky then and are so smooth now that it can be hard to believe what was considered life-like. Games like Tomb Raider for example, once held up as graphical perfection, looks plain ugly now. It’s not just graphics, gameplay has moved on leaps and bounds, mostly in sports games and FPS. I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a Fifa game from before 1998, here’s my advice; don’t. As a genre it’s moved on so much that it’s impossible to play older ones without thinking “this is missing something”. Same with FPS, because so many of the things it innovated are now commonplace, even Goldeneye is kind of terrible by today’s standards.

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This game, though? It never feels lacking. There’s no moments where you find yourself attempting to do something from a later game on reflex. Want to know how well this game still holds up? Look at the reviews on gamefaqs.com. The lowest one is 2.5/5. That’s the lowest. Nobody on the internet actively hates this game, and that’s the internet, they hate everything. Even the low review seems to be done mainly so he can have the lowest score on it. There are reviews from this year which declare it near perfection. There are people still playing it today. This game came out almost 25 YEARS AGO in Europe, and there are people still playing it. That to me is the mark of a good game. It’s not about sales, it’s about retention, about being so good that people don’t want to get rid of it. Back In Black is one of the best-selling albums of all time yet I have never seen it in a second-hand shop or a boot fair, because almost everyone who owns it loves it and wants to keep it. Almost everything is iconic, the music, the look, the level design, oh my god the level design. You know how when you’re playing old Tony Hawk’s games (never THPS5, nobody plays that), and almost everything in the game is laid out to perform perfect lines? That’s what this game is like. Everything’s laid out so you can get through it with the right rhythm etc. There’s also the sense of exploration. You can just go through the game as it looks and complete it. But you can also explore the levels, take different routes, and you’re rewarded for that.

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At one point reward by this little guy. Who is awesome.

I suppose the true brilliance of this game is when you beat it you don’t want to move through to another game, you want to play it again. It really kicked off the “100% completist” attitude to console gaming which Rare later perfected (or exploited, depending on your attitude). When you spoke about it, it wasn’t just “have you beaten the boss?” it was “did you find this level?”. I didn’t know until two years ago there’s a secret level in the second world which is basically the platform equivalent of a motorway service station, with weapons and extra life in there. Now that’s it about Super Mario World, let’s hope Odyssey can match it. Join us next week when we’ll be (hopefully) talking about Airplane. If you have any thoughts on that, this, or anything else, let us know on the facebook or in the comments section below. Until then, if you need awesome looking shirts, cushions, or bags, check out Let Lou’s here and check out what they’ve got, some amazing designs available.

The 5 Best Film-Based Video Games

Happy Friday The 13th everyone! Now like all of you I’ll be celebrating this most holy of days by killing horny teenagers near a lake somewhere (lake, puddle, it’s all the same). But other people celebrate it differently. Since the days of Jesus fighting a Pterodactyl in the Roman Colosseum, some people have watched some of the Friday The 13th films on this day. So it makes logical sense that I should take advantage, celebrate this by blogging about it. But I’ve never seen any of the films so instead I’m going to talk about video game adaptations of films, because there was once a video game adaptation of the film, and do I need another reason?

5. Goldeneye

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Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. This is the first game everybody talks about when they talk of truly great video games. There’s not a word missing there, that should be “video games based on films”, that’s how good this game is. At the time I’d never watched a James Bond film, and even now I’ve seen one I still think he’s a prick, he’s a sociopathic monster who probably has so many STD’s that he should pretty much change his name to Mydia, Chlamydia. But despite that, I still love this game. It has not aged well however, but that’s mainly because of the lot of the things we found innovative in the game are now standard. Before this game it was normal for weapons and ammo etc just to be laying around, this made ammo collecting logical: you could only pick up what had been dropped by people you killed. Yes, there were a few bits of ammo laying around, but your main source of it was the people you killed. Then there’s the multiplayer. There are two types of people who played video games in the 90’s. Those who spent hours shooting their friends in the head in multiplayer and obeying the “no oddjobs” rule, and liars! Dirty stinking liars!

4. Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

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This game comes from a different time, whereas modern games help the player, sometimes with tutorials, sometimes with guidance during the game, and sometimes with just skipping parts of it if you find it too difficult. Gaming is now focused on enjoyment, making the player have fun (with a few notable exceptions). It wasn’t always the case, however. Some video games used to make you wonder what you had done to piss off the creators. The biggest genre for this were text adventure games. Games which by their nature were quite annoying: you could spend hours trying to talk to a character before you work out the exact phrasing needed (for example: “Talk to person” wouldn’t be accepted, but “converse with person” would). This game is fiendishly difficult, but also very funny. It will make you laugh, scream in anguish, and then hate yourself, a bit like having sex with a clown. I’m not exaggerating by the way, the game is available here if you don’t believe me.

3. Aladdin

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Oh, should have mentioned, I am not doing these in any particular order, otherwise there’s no way this would be higher than Goldeneye. But it is very very good. A 2D side scrolling platformer that stands out on a console which it seemed like almost every other game was a platform game. I don’t think people can appreciate how hard it must have been for a platform game to stand out in the early 90’s. You were competing against Mario and Sonic at their peaks. The Mario games had some of the best level design in video game history, easing you into an unforgiving game with innovative gameplay that filled you with wonder, whilst Sonic went “vroom” and moved quickly. So for a game to stand out it must be truly great, and this is. I would talk about why, but I already did it here so anything I’d say would just be repeating myself. So because anything I say would be repeating myself, and I don’t like repeating myself I won’t say anything more, because I don’t like repeating myself.

2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

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Because rarely has a video game of a film been so faithful in tone to the film. Anybody who has played video game versions of films and television shows know that the games can play fast and loose with the themes of the film. For example: there’s a Doctor Who game where you play as the famous pacifist, and go around shooting and killing everyone. In Scarface, crime totally pays, and the Fight Club game has Fred Durst. This game doesn’t suffer from that. It’s a throwback game based on a film which loves 80’s video games. It’s not just the film it uses for inspiration, the graphic novel has a scene where two characters get beaten at the same time and an achievement pops up, if you recreate this in the game, the same achievement pops up. It’s little touches like that which are missing from a lot of games.

 

1. Alien Isolation.

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This game is terrifying, it makes the Alien scary again, which it should be. It should be a fearful beast, it shouldn’t be something you can handle with a few shots from a pistol. This game makes you fear it, and that’s wonderful. You know how highly regarded this game is? It put faith back into the franchise after Colonial Marines, a game so bad someone attempted to sue the makers, and won. Whereas that game had you running around shooting aliens by the hundreds (and just made them into another enemy), this game only has the one alien, and you can’t kill it, all you can do is hide and survive. This is the survival horror game the latest generation has been waiting for. I am in no way saying that the genre is not good anymore, just that it’s mainly indie developers doing it now, you don’t have many major releases anymore (I mean, P.T got cancelled for f*cks sake), most of the franchises people used to turn to for the genre have now changed into more action games, so it’s good to see a game where you’re completely helpless, a game where (contrary to video game logic) exploration and discovery will probably kill you.

 

So yeah, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it, and Fuck You Konami