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King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember Review

King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember is a reboot and return to the point and click adventure games of old, with a twist, lush upgraded graphics and beautiful landscapes are now part of the package. This is the first episode of five and it sure delivers with puns galore and a lively world filled to bursting with creative characters. Young Graham is a brilliantly goofy protagonist with plenty of puns to spare and the older wiser King Graham is quite similar. Having the more experienced, well-travelled Graham retelling his story to his granddaughter is an excellent device that gives the world a real and built up feel, plus it adds more humour. Christopher Lloyd does a great job as old King Graham. The voice work overall is quite fantastic with impressive performances from Tom Kenny, Wallace Shawn, Josh Keaton and Zelda Williams.

Our adventure takes place in Daventry with Graham having journeyed far for the competition to crown a new ruler. He must pass difficult challenges (that involve puzzles in classic King’s Quest style) and defeat strong challengers to prove his worthiness.  This game is about Graham making choices in his story, the lessons he’s passing down to his granddaughter through his successes and mistakes. There are consequences for your actions and these carry over episodes changing how things play out. One of the biggest strengths of this game is its heart. You can tell that the developers care about this game and its past. They show great respect for the previous games with subtle references to the history of King’s Quest. The characters shine because of this, they feel real and you care about them. You can also tell that Christopher Lloyd enjoys voicing older Graham, as his performance is heartfelt and genuine.

Minor annoyances include not being to skip through some dialogue options and a few irritating quick time events, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. There are quite a few The Princess Bride references and they respect the source material with nods to the previous games. There are numerous choices that impact the story and change it slightly. For example you can choose a hard loaf of bread, a shield, or a tabletop to replace a wheel on a wagon. The prologue of the game is linear but after about an hour the game opens up into a rather big sandbox with plenty of ground to cover. Each and every character is a delight and they shine through great performances from their voice actors.

This is a lovingly crafted game and it delivers on all fronts with fantastic humour, intriguing and colourful characters, and a brilliant first chapter of an episodic game. King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember delivers on its premise, I’ve already played the next four and I cannot wait to review those. I rate this 8/10

Among Thieves Review

This is Douglas Hulick’s debut novel and its a great beginning filled with intriguing twists, engaging characters, and a story that moves a mile a minute. This is a fantastic first person perspective novel and the protagonist Drothe, our thief and saviour walks a fine line. The book opens with a torture scene and if you can’t handle descriptions of brutal torture, worry not, this is the only bit of torture in the book. He gleans one name from this tortured man and that’s when he becomes embroiled in a criminal conspiracy that sets the stage for the story.

This story takes place in the city of Ildrecca, our protagonist and anti-hero Drothe is a criminal. A nose, specifically a Wide Nose, an information broker. he works for one of the cruellest crime bosses in Ildrecca, Nicco an Upright Man as they are called in thieves’ cant. Drothe also has side jobs wherein he locates rare magical and restricted artefacts.

One of the standout areas in this book are the characters, it feels like each and every one of them has history with the intriguing lives they’ve led. Drothe and Degan, thief and swordsman, friend and partner in crime. They watch each other’s backs, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. Degan prevents Drothe from being stabbed while on the job and gets paid to do it. Drothe is smart and capable but he’s no fighter, he’s an adequate fencer, but most of the time he has to rely on his wits and other talents to survive. Fortunately he has Degan around to help when cleverness fails and he’s over matched by another swordsman. Drothe as a nose reports on some of the shiftiest thieves and criminals in Ildreccas underworld. This makes him quite unpopular with certain folk because sometimes he has to break a few fingers to get information.

I would liken Hulick’s style to Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie, fast paced, great characters who operate in darkness and shades of grey. There’s lots of action and deals and betrayals, nothing is sacred in a thief’s world, even those you profess loyalty to.

Thieves’ cant is peppered throughout the novel and it adds to the atmosphere, some of it realistically historical and other parts that are adapted. It makes the world feel solid and real. There are names for all kinds of Kin. Arms, Latchkeys, Oaks, Long Noses, Wide Noses. Ildrecca is filled with life and Hulick has made it an intriguing place to begin his story.

This is one of the best first person debuts I’ve read and the author makes his cast of characters shine. The pacing is a little fast and I think the world would benefit from some brief pauses to take in the scenery and explore more of Ildrecca, but otherwise I don’t have many complaints about this one. Hulick has created a wonderfully dark world and I cannot wait to see what he does with Drothe next.

I rate this novel 8/10

Words are Powerful

Everyone reads, words appear on your books, televisions, ipads, kindles, computers. Words are everywhere and that’s a good thing. Words are important and they have power, the power to heal, to help, to hurt. Words evoke startling images of emotion through varying ways of communication. We use words in every walk of life thus they are of immense importance. Words influence the way we think and feel on important subjects. The things that come out of that hole in your face (yes your mouth) can sometimes determine where your life takes you and what path you walk.

Words are powerful. Words can change people’s opinions, feelings, and hearts. A single word said at the right time can change everything. The thoughts you express through your words shape your life, this is usually done unconsciously, as few realise this and take the time to pay attention to the words they say while thinking. Words originate as thoughts and through that they have an impact on our attitudes and relationships and even our mindsets.

Once in a while you come across amazing examples of writing. Writing that shocks you. Have you ever put down a novel stunned by how much it affected you and made you feel? How you are an utter wreck after experiencing that story? Have you ever lost yourself in a fantastic fantasy world? This is the magic of creativity and fiction and the written word, it captivates the imagination, holds it hostage and takes you to a whole new place. It makes you feel, it makes you care about these fictional characters that exist in their own little worlds. Those unique bizarre characters that draw you in with their personalities and charm you into reading about them and the lives they lead. Words are everywhere, take the time to notice them and be careful when you use them. Words have power.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass Review

This novel written by Jim Butcher is what I’ve come to expect from his writing, well developed and quirky characters, great action and fantastic world building. Now he’s thrown his hat into the steampunk realm and he pulls it off. This is more in line with his Codex Alera series as it is written in third person with multiple characters having chapters to themselves. The Aeronaut’s Windlass follows several protagonists as they attempt to foil the encroaching darkness.

This world called Cinder exists high in the sky, humanity lives in indestructible spires with the use of crystals to power the majority of their technology. The world below seems monstrous and inhabited by many dangerous creatures, it is shrouded in heavy mist and humans have ceased to live on the surface of the world because of this. Humans cannot exist on the surface and the planet itself seems hostile. Jim drops little hints about the world’s current state and I’m curious to see what comes of this.

The main cast include Captain Grimm, Gwen Lancaster, Bridget, Benedict, Feris, Folly and Rowl. Captain Francis Grimm is an intelligent no nonsense man who leads his men with experience and pure will. His ship the Predator is his pride and joy and he cares for every member of his crew.

Gwendolyn is a young noble from the Lancaster family, she oozes determination and stubbornness, willing to blow a hole in her family home to get her way to joining the Spirearches guard. She is similar to Grimm’s personality just not as far along the road as him.

Rowl is a cat, and he would doubtlessly say he needs no introduction but I’ll do it anyway. Rowl is the prince of the Nine Paws, kit to the leader and arrogant and proud as you might expect. Rowl considers Bridget his human, his friend and personal attendant. Rowl brings most of the humour to this novel by being a cat and acting like one.

Bridget is incredibly strong from years of physical labour. She seems naive and gentle but she knows her duty and is fluent in cat translating for Rowl and operating as his mouthpiece.

Benedict Sorellen-Lancaster is Gwen’s cousin and a warrior born. He is a soldier in the Spirearches guard. The warrior born seem to be gene spliced, half human, half cat gifted with immense strength and durability.

Folly and Ferus are etherealists, the magic users of this world, each of them seems to be broken in a different way. They take in the energy all around (ether) and have the ability to channel it in various ways. Ferus is Folly’s master and teacher.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass is a fantastic novel and another great addition from Jim Butcher. This isn’t a steampunk novel per se, it has a dose of sci fi and all round thrill ride. But I would struggle categorise this as steampunk, as most of the technology runs on crystals/electricity. The pacing of the book grasps onto you and doesn’t let go. I can’t wait to see what he does with this series and where the characters go.

I rate this book 8.5/10

 

Howl’s Moving Castle Review

This is my favourite Studio Ghibli film, it has a warm place in my heart and I always remember it fondly. Howl’s Moving Castle is a gorgeously animated fantasy film suitable for children and adults alike, with breathtaking visuals and intriguing characters. This film is based on the British fantasy novel written by Dianna Wynn Jones.

The film begins in a European-esque town focusing on its protagonist Sophie voiced by (Emily Mortimer) which is appropriate, Sophie is 18 and works hard in her father’s hat shop. After an incredible encounter with the charming wizard Howl, a cruel witch known as The Witch of the Waste curses Sophie and she is transformed into an old woman voiced by Jean Simmons. She spends the remainder of the film in this form, her journey made harder by the fact she now has creaky bones and aches to follow her. Eventually she finds her way to a peculiar castle with the help of a living scarecrow. It’s the eponymous Howl’s Moving Castle of the title said to be home to a mysterious and powerful wizard.

The titular castle wheezes and puffs as it moves along on mechanical spidery legs. The castle literally breathes magic and inside more wonders are found. In this vast creaking building the door serves as a portal into different cities and realms. It’s in this strange wonderful place that Sophie meets Howl, a charming handsome petulant young wizard with a helping of vanity. She cleverly negotiates to be the cleaner and her life in the castle begins. She is introduced to Howl’s incredibly young apprentice Markl and Calcifer a powerful fire demon bound to the castle that powers the entire thing and enables it to move. Sophie begins her new life by tidying up the incredibly cluttered with an iron will. Seriously you would need a flamethrower to get rid of all the spider webs inside this weird home.

The master of the castle proves to be a complex rather strange man who comes and goes at odd times, taxing his magic and exhausting himself. Howl is an exceedingly vain man who believes himself to be the most handsome man, demonstrated after an incident in which Sophie accidentally causes his hair to be dyed orange and he sinks into despair. But Sophie does more than simply clean up, she helps them through hard times and shows them the way forward.

Similar to most of Miyazaki’s movies, the visuals set the scenes and tell what kind of story this is. The animation and visuals are fantastic, with a more vibrant colour palette than in most of Miyazaki’s films with green grassy knolls and kingfisher blue skies filled with pillowy clouds. The castle of the title is lovingly hand drawn and wondrous, this is old fashioned, you won’t find any digital effects in this movie, every single environment and character is beautifully hand drawn.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a magical heartfelt film that makes you feel. It doesn’t have the subtlety of some of Miyazaki’s other films but it soars in all the other categories. A strong female protagonist, a host likeable characters, intriguing villains. This arduous journey of self-discovery and truth is quite entertaining and strange. The overall story is good and the characters develop quite well and change in intriguing ways throughout the film. The voice cast do a great job with the stand outs being Christian Bale as Howl and Billy Crystal as Calcifer.

I rate this 8.5/10

Dark Souls 3 Review

The fire still burns strong in Dark Souls 3 even if the flame is fading. This game from Japanese developers FromSoftware is the last of the Soul games and it delivers appropriately. The bleak oppressing atmosphere of the Souls games has always been one of the big drawing points for me. The way the world feels and the hopelessness and the plight of the undead and all who inhabit this forlorn world. The little scraps of lore left behind are there if you delve deep enough into the history of Lothric and its lords. If you enjoy ferreting out information and gleaning its every meaning. Continuing in Dark Souls tradition exploration is incredibly important and you genuinely want to explore these beautiful environments and settings. You travel across a wide variety of locations, toxic swamps, cursed libraries, and diabolical dungeons, all to fulfil your solemn duty.

As an unkindled your quest is to return the lords of cinder to their thrones and link the fire to the first flame. Firelink Shrine operates as the hub with various NPC’S selling items and Andre the blacksmith is always there to reinforce and repair your trusty weapons. With the added addition of weapon arts that change up gameplay. Each individual weapon has a specific art. Take the uchigatana for example, you sheathe this katana and quick draw in an iaido like technique. Or the bandit’s knife which allows you to quickstep around opponents with its weapon art. Boss soul weapons have different more powerful arts as well. This adds more depth to the already deep combat of Dark Souls 3. To utilise these new weapon arts you must use focus point otherwise known as FP. Each and every weapon in Dark Souls 3 can be used in a multitude of ways.

In my experience the Dark Souls community is one of the most honourable ones out there. Even when another player invades your world with the sole purpose of killing you they’ll give you a fair chance with honour rules, on one occasion someone invaded me and I made a friend and he just followed my progress throughout a section of the game. You meet plenty of intriguing characters along your journey, various new characters and some old faces return. The voice acting is brilliant as always and all the characters are imbued with personality that makes them all the more likeable. These characters drop subtle hints about the world and genuinely convey the atmosphere of Dark souls 3. In my first play through I missed some encounters and failed a few NPC quest lines resulting in these characters deaths. As always it’s a mystery to discover these quests as you play through the game and figure how to save these characters, if indeed they can be saved.

The intense boss battles have always been a huge focus in these games and they certainly bring the pain this time, with vastly differing bosses that challenge you to think outside the box and be better. Each boss is memorable and unique, each one has two stages. When you take their health bars down to half that’s when they up the intensity. This instalment provides some clever and downright frightening battles. The Crystal Sage that assaults you with a variety of confusing spells, The Dancer of Boreal Valley who moves with sinuous grace and often disguised speed. With my personal favourite being the Princes because of the soundtrack that plays and a certain twist.

There are occasional frame rate drops that mar the experience a little bit but the positives more than make up for it. The great atmosphere, brilliant soundtrack, beautiful environments and intense boss battles bring a lot to the game. It has a great amount of replay-ability, you can continue the journey a second time with different character builds wherein bosses and enemies do even more damage. Dark Souls 3 is a great send off and a fierce punishing game just like its predecessors.

I rate this game 8.5/10

Crimson Peak Review

Now I should start by saying that Crimson Peak is not strictly a horror film, it’s Gothic romance with elements of horror. So if you go in expecting a straight horror film with all manner of blood, jump scares and gore. Prepare to be surprised.

Director Guillermo Del Toro creates an intricate world with Crimson Peak, overpowering viewers with fine details and rich symbolism. I enjoyed the slow build of this film as it raises the anticipation and tension tremendously, imbuing the film with a sense of desperation and fear. The pace becomes frantic towards the finish ending in a crescendo. The mystery of this film is engaging and thought provoking. I don’t want to go into spoiler territory so I’ll leave it at that.

The protagonist Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowka) saw the ghost of her deceased mother as a young child. Fast forward to her life as a young woman, she prefers the company of books to men as a budding author. (I know a few women like this) She’s focused on finishing her latest novel (a ghost story) but this changes as the mysterious brother and sister Sir Thomas and Lady Lucille Sharp played by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain arrive in town. Thomas begins pursuing Edith and she falls for his charm. The local optometrist Alan Mcmichael (Charlie Hunnam) is also quite taken with Edith but he lets her go to Thomas with some major misgivings. After a death in Edith’s family. Edith and Thomas marry and he whisks her away to live in his family estate Allerdale Hall in England, along with his sister.

This is when the film truly begins in earnest, Allerdale Hall is a gutted, ruin of a mansion. The set design is brilliant, the hall is beautiful and grotesque demonstrating both sides of its true nature. Red clay oozes through floorboards and snow and leaves and other elements drift in through the broken deteriorated roof making this a bizarre and beautiful set. The mansion moans and creaks with every footstep and the red clay is always present creating a creepy environment of decadence and decay.

The atmosphere of this film positively bursts with sexual energy and dark forbidden secrets. The film definitely earns its hard R, some of you won’t be able to look Loki in the eye anymore or maybe you will. I think that viewers used to the modern fast paced horror thrillers might not enjoy this film as much as those who enjoy slow tension building movies. This film is unique and different and I love that about it, but it isn’t for everyone.

Crimson Peak is an intriguing film with outstanding production, set and sound design and memorable performances from its characters. The story is well told even if it is somewhat predictable and retreads familiar territory. The suspense is masterful leading to a excellent viewing experience, Crimson Peak is a hauntingly beautiful Gothic romance.

I rate this film 8/10

The Beautiful Stupidity of the English Language

Many people seem to take the English language for granted. English is riddled with inconsistencies and paradoxes and this makes it easy to mock, which can be quite entertaining.

For example the word ‘good’ has numerous uses. If I said that I shot an elderly woman from a mile away. I should call that person a good shot but that doesn’t make them a ‘good’ person. Also how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are complete opposites? Another example, have you ever noticed how slowly someone sinks in quicksand? These are some common examples of paradoxes in the English language.

Often when I hear people talking using terms such as ‘OMG’ and ‘BRB’ I have the sudden urge to exsibiliate. If you don’t know what that means, look it up, it’s a brilliant word. It’s not just in Australia that English is misused in an entertaining fashion. In Ireland the word ‘deadly’ is a slang term, it means good. Imagine the confusion when Irish people come to Australia. The potential for disaster is alarming. You see that snake there, it’s deadly. That hippopotamus over there, incredibly deadly. And the unsuspecting Irishman or woman would probably attempt to pet both of these ‘dangerous killing machines.’

This is simple truth. If you have never experienced the remarkable thrill of arguing over whether used or utilised is superior, than you cannot trammel the degree of awesomeness involved. Mostly because you don’t know what the word ‘trammel’ means. Nowadays people don’t understand some of the most interesting words and have no intention to learn them. Remarkable words like obstreperous and superfluous and even pyorrhoea are now endangered and could possibly be torn from the dictionary and forgotten by all. While scoundrels are now using idiotic words like ‘jeggings’ and ‘totes’ and repeating them often enough that they put them into the dictionary.

English is the most widely spoken language, used in some way by at least one in seven human beings around the globe. English has acquired the largest vocabulary of all the worlds’ languages, but you have to face the facts, English is a crazy language and I love that about it. In what other dialect is this possible?  We call it newsprint when it contains no printing and when we put print on it, we call it a newspaper.

Language is like the air we breathe. It’s invisible, inescapable, indispensable, and we take it for granted. But, when we step back and take the time to listen to the sounds that escape from the holes in people’s faces and to explore the paradoxes and whims of English we discover that homework can be done in school, hot dogs can be cold and most importantly brothers can become brethren so why can’t mothers become methren?  Sometimes you have to wonder at the beautiful stupidity in the English language, but it does make life interesting.

Furi Review

This video game kicked my ass and I loved it. This isn’t an easy game by any means, but it is a rewarding one. It punishes you for every little mistake and challenges you to be better. You take on the role of a nameless warrior who has recently been freed from a dreadful prison by a character called The Voice. Kill your jailers and escape the prison, that is your only objective.

In essence Furi is a boss rush game. One boss followed by another with walking throughout environments to the next one. Each boss is unique and have their own intriguing back stories and challenge the player in different ways. Take The Edge for example. This boss is eerily similar to the player. A samurai who has trained every day and night to defeat you in case of escape. He deals a lot of damage with each swing of his sword so parrying/dodging is imperative. All the bosses have three to eight phases with one health bar that keeps refilling until you’ve beaten all of them. while the player only has one health bar and three lives to win. But if you get the next phase of you regain one life. So the odds are already against you.

The gameplay is frantic, fluid, fast paced and it emphasises skill. Combat is simple and smooth with two offensive and defensive moves for the player. You can melee with your katana or shoot bosses from a distance with the laser blaster. Your defensive abilities include parrying and dodging. The dodge gives you a frame of invulnerability and with each successful parry you gain a bit of health back. If you time the parry perfectly it opens up the bosses for a special attack. It’s complicated when you’re attempting to use all of these abilities in tandem while fighting for your life. Most of the bosses take a few attempts depending on your skill level. But every boss is different and intriguing. All of the designs are unique and the art style makes them look incredibly cool. Which isn’t surprising considering the creator of Afro Samurai Takashi Okazaki was involved in character design.

Furi has a brilliant soundtrack to go along with intense boss fights, a myriad of electronic beats that get you ready for the clashes. After each battle there are calmer songs during the narrative walking in between sections. The voice acting is quite good as well with all the characters putting in solid performances and delivering their lines believably and with gusto.

In conclusion Furi is a great game full of impressive boss battles that offers a surprisingly rewarding story and a booming electronic soundtrack to get the blood boiling. The only thing that detracts from the experience is that it has a few frame rate issues on the PlayStation 4. Indie developers The Game Bakers have done well. It’s a punishingly tough game but if you enjoy a challenge then you’ll love this game, I know I did. It’s infuriatingly good.

I rate this game 8/10

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