If You’re Going To Kill Somebody, Kill Them! Don’t Stand Around Talking About It! – Van Helsing

26 10 2016

Van Helsing (Universal Pictures - 2004)

Are Heroes Overrated? You know, some evil thing is stalking the planet, only for the hero to come in and save the day, as they do. It is all rather common at the moment, and it appears that there are a lot of heroes out there that can do the same, so is it all a bit overrated? I mean, if there are many who can do it, why do we bother putting so much faith in one Super Hero when chances are there is someone else out there equally qualified to do the job of ‘saving the day’. Why do we need to worry if something evil comes along, when we all know too well right now that someone is likely to come along at some point to solve the problem. Maybe we should all just get on with our lives, in the fullest knowledge that there are heroes out there tackling things that go bump in the night, and in the meantime we can all sit down, flick on the TV and drink Hot Chocolate!

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Released in 2004 by Universal Pictures, Directed by Stephen Sommers and Produced by Bob Ducsay; Van Helsing is a Fantasy Action-Adventure film which intends to pay tribute to the Universal Horror/Monster films of the 30’s and 40’s released by Universal and based on the works by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Set in the horrifying (maybe not in real life, it may actually be really pleasant, who knows) area of Transylvania, the film follows the adventures of Monster Hunter Van Helsing; inspired by the character of the same name from Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. The film endeavors to include other monsters in it story too alongside Vampires including Frankenstein’s Monster and Werewolves.

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In 1887, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) has successfully created a monster with the help of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Dracula though wants to use the creature for his own evil plans and Kills Frankenstein. While his castle is raided by the local villagers, Frankenstein’s Monster takes his creators body to a nearby windmill which in turn is burned down by the villagers. In Paris one year later, the renowned monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is wanted by the police, but before he leaves he quickly dispatches the elusive Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane). He returns to the Vatican in Rome, where his superior; Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong) tasks him with yet another mission: to go to Transylvania, and kill Count Dracula. The mission being to help the last bloodline of the Valerious family, who may not enter Heaven until Dracula is killed. Jinette also suggests that Helsing may find out answers to his nightmares and forgotten past there too. Before setting off on his mission, Van Helsing gets weapons and gadgets from Friar Carl (David Wenham) who also accompanies Helsing to Transylvania. Meanwhile in Transylvania, Velkan (Will Kemp) and Anna (Kate Beckinsale) Valerious try to kill a rogue Werewolf, but Velkan is seemingly killed in the pursuit, leaving only Anna left.

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Van Helsing and Carl arrive in Transylvania, where they get less than a warm welcome from the townsfolk, especially the gravedigger Top Hat (Tom Fisher). Anna arrives and tries to get their weapons off them both, but then Dracula’s Brides Verona (Silvia Colloca), Marishka (Josie Maran) and Aleera (Elena Anaya) attack. After a quick attack Helsing manages to kill Marishka, which makes the other two flee. Back at his castle, Dracula orders his remaining brides and his little minion Dwergers with their supervisor Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) to prepare Castle Frankenstein for an experiment. Back at her home, Anna is knocked out by Helsing determined to protect her, only for her house to be broken into by Velkan now a Werewolf.  Anna and Helsing track him to Castle Frankenstein where they discover Dracula is trying to give life to his dead-born children using Velkan’s Werewolf DNA to power Frankenstein’s lab. The experiment fails however, and after a brief confrontation with Dracula; Helsing manages to escape from Dracula, rescuing Anna in the process. The two then stumble into an underground cave where they find Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley) who tells them that without him, Dracula cannot successfully give full life to his offspring. Believing the creature not to be evil, Helsing tries to get the creature to Rome with the help of Carl and Anna. During the night they are attacked by the Brides and Velkan, now fully consumed by the curse. Verona and Velkan are both killed but Helsing is bitten by Velkan, meaning soon he too will turn into a Werewolf. To make matters worse; Aleera kidnaps Anna and takes her to Budapest, and informs Helsing that Dracula will trade her for the Monster.

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At a Grand Masquerade ball, Van Helsing rescues Anna from the clutches of Count Dracula, but watches on in horror as Igor manages to capture the Monster. With only a few hours left until Van Helsing transforms into the Werewolf, and Dracula manages to put his plan in motion, Carl reveals that Anna’s great ancestor was the father to Dracula. Dracula was murdered but in turn made a deal with the Devil. Not wanting that on his soul, Anna’s ancestor makes a pact with the church, for his entire family and bloodline to go to Heaven as long as Dracula is killed, but was unable to do so as he could not kill his own son. He did leave messages however as to how they may be able to accomplish it, and in turn are able to find the location to Dracula’s castle. All three go there, and find out that Dracula holds a cure for Werewolves, because the only thing that can kill him is a Werewolf. Anna and Carl head off to get the cure, running into and a foul of Igor in the process, while Helsing tries to save the Monster. Too late however, Dracula’s offspring are born. Aleera tries to kill Anna, but with help from the Monster and Carl, Anna is able to kill her and proceeds to get the cure to Helsing. Meanwhile, Helsing runs into Dracula, and at the stroke of midnight he turns into a Werewolf, strong willed enough to attack Dracula, eventually killing him. Anna arrives and is about to inject the cure, but Helsing attacks her. Just as Carl is about to kill Helsing, he notices that Anna managed to get the cure into Helsing, who takes the dead body of Anna in his arms, howling into the night as he slowly becomes human again. The following morning, The Monster is given its freedom and rows out to sea. Meanwhile Carl and Helsing hold a pyre funeral, but then Helsing sees Anna and her family’s spirits finally ascend into the clouds.

Now just to be clear in case anyone got confused by my introduction, this is not a Super Hero based movie. It does not feature anyone in brightly coloured flamboyant costumes nor does anybody wield any amazing super powers that they use on and off willy nilly. In all honesty this film actually has more in common with spy films along the lines of James Bond. Yes, it is at heart a fantasy adventure film with lots of interesting well designed monsters and creates some interesting ideas in its story, however I do get the feeling that more detail could have been provided. When watching this you will be forgiven for thinking it’s a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, lots of near swashbuckling adventure scenes like those of Indiana Jones (or at least I think so) while also containing a gadget based scene not too similar to Q Branch in the 90’s and 2000’s. Once you get past those near comparisons however you can finally get in-depth with this film. It’s adventure style works quite nicely and the action is well done, but what this film tires to do is create a fun fantasy film, incorporating creatures and stories of the kinds that modern Gothic fairy tales are known for, continuing to show a real sense of peril and danger, while also making it light-hearted enough to be enjoyed to the full, and not needing to hide behind your seat.

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When looking at the film’s plot, it is quite interesting to note that this film is near two hours long, but the lack of thorough detail makes you think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong; it is beautifully crafted and creates some ideas and goes on to generate incredible twists, it just doesn’t feel all that smooth, more blocky and jumpy, like as to say they could have included a bit more detail here and there. The ending is rather anti-climactic and it feels like it is trying too hard to move onto the next scene throughout. I just feel that in the end it could have revealed a lot more; it feels like there is some stuff that is mentioned, or answered little bit but not fully. This whole history between Dracula and Van Helsing especially, the idea that there was history between them, but as to exactly what that was goes relatively unanswered, more suggested. When walking away from this film you’ll begin to wonder if Helsing is the Arch Angel Gabriel and the one responsible for Dracula’s death in the first place, something sort of suggested but again; not really answered. It is something of a shame that there isn’t enough bite, there is a squeeze of teeth and the story does try to wrap up everything neatly but I think it just tried to do too much in the end, and couldn’t wrap it all up either; however the history of Dracula is still a pretty interesting scene.

Van Helsing is made up of a rather interesting selection of cast members, all who do their role well. Well when I say well, there are a few who just fall short of the mark. While you do have people in much smaller parts like the Gravedigger who is a rather nice addition to the cast, and whose appearance be it all a bit small, he is the kind of character you want to see more of; whereas the brides of Dracula are rather annoying. Not annoying because their villains, but annoying because they are annoying! While it is fair to say that the vampire voices are rather generic and possibly a bit camp, all three brides are just over the top. Their look in Vampire mode is definitely over the top and their human presence is far more interesting, but to me their look is too, sort of, Sultan. They look like extras picked from a movie version of Arabian Nights. What did it for me is that Marishka is the better performing of the three, but when you take in all their voices together, plus a brief moment of Marishka posing off in the village, they look and sound a lot like the actress Valeria Golino in Hotshots! Part Deux. It’s just off-putting and rather unnecessary, they don’t even make good villains. With those 3 are out of the way though, the rest of the cast are pretty good. Although I would say that I think Velkan is rather over used, not as much as the three brides, but is sort of toyed around with a bit too much to the point where it is not really necessary anymore. To begin with he is, and it is a great way to show how the Werewolf curse works for the sake of the story, I just think for someone who is meant to be a Werewolf, there is a lot of human scenes.

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The film does struggle with some moments of casting I feel, especially when you consider having Alun Armstrong in a part and only have him on-screen for about five minutes. The same could be said for Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Hyde, a very interesting character that you just want to see more of, but is more used as an introduction. It’s just a shame that not one, but two high-caliber and very experienced actors, are not used in a much longer or greater position; I mean I could understand more if you had lesser known or relatively newer actors in those parts, but why the other way around. Just want to point out though that both Stephen Fisher and Samuel West do good jobs, if very minor ones for the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Victor Frankenstein respectively.

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As for the films main sightings after the above, they all do really good jobs in the roles they have been asked to do. Igor for instance does well of being conveyed as the foolish and simple Igor, who at times shows some level of his own will and even levels of grumpiness toward Dracula. It is meant to be a more comedic role, but as the film progresses you can see more of his strengths, and even who he really is as he begins to talk more sadistically and even gets into a fight, and that voice is pretty chilling too. Frankenstein’s Monster similarly has a wonderful voice; more operatic which makes me think of Dynamo in The Running Man (but thankfully not all the time). The monster is very much like the creature he is based on, at least in the popular media light fashion, although is seen to be more physically active, and a real fighter. But deep down he is not muscle; but a man wanting his right to be alive in a world that will not accept him. A lot of work has been put into his back story, and he shares some brilliant quotes with the rest of the film’s cast, especially the line: “I Want to Live!” He is a great addition to the cast, and a very entertaining one, maybe a little over dramatic in places but a real good entertaining character while also not being in any way, shape or form; the comic relief. That is more handed down to Igor and Carl equally. Carl is something of an assistant as well as a librarian, not much of a fighter, but more like Willow in Buffy. He is a researcher, someone who shows the important side and value of good research. He is something of a minor fool, who sounds like someone trying to responsibly not get into trouble, but does. In the end though, he shows his true strength, and even a little attitude, as without him they would never have been able to defeat Dracula, as in the end it came down to reasoning and understanding as well as a touch of philosophy too.

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The film’s main trio are made up of some really fine acting talent. For many years now, I have said that Richard Roxburgh’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is my favourite, and still do. Here we get a rather more different performance with him as Dracula. Yes the voice could be considered Generic, but I would not say the passion was. The way he can just say the right things in the right fashion of voice is amazing. Sometimes he could be sorrowful and sad, others he can be mysterious and cold, and others he can be grand and excited. He too has some really good quotes from talking about his lack of heart, to his lack of ring in the final fight with Helsing. Richard Roxburgh delivers in what is a rather fine and fun role, making sure that Dracula lives up to the vampire we all know and love (I know) while also making sure that we know he is the villain and why he should always be the villain; a very enjoyable character, possibly also my favourite depiction of Dracula. Kate Beckinsale meanwhile plays not a damsel in distress, but a brave and confident vampire hunter. She does possibly overplay the accent a little too heavy, but for everything else that she does, she too, like Roxburgh is rather enjoyable. Be it living up to the Indiana Jones like performance, to the voice of reason unlocking the true person of Van Helsing, to of course being the ruthless lady of vengeance. It is hard to really see her in a role like this; however I cannot see anyone doing a better job than she does. She is very Countess of Monte Cristo like in how she performs and how she talks, but in that essence she is rather cool and fun to watch. It’s hard to really pin her down as to whom she is and what she does and what makes her so good. It’s another one of those je ne sais qua moments, where she is/doing something really quirky and cool, but you don’t know what?

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Hugh Jackman is of course playing the titular character of Van Helsing. Here he plays the Vampire Hunter of course who at least to begin with is rather cold and callous, more being a simple Monster Killer than anything else. He is a man with a history, and much like Wolverine (weirdly) is a man whose history is currently not well known (and as explained in the plot section above is still rather unknown to the audience). As the film progresses however he begins to learn more about compassion, first showing it to the Monster, and then learning it through desire for Anna, who helps him see more. In her part, she is more of a secondary object, but he too begins to learn and realize more and begins to see her in a different light (although I feel that him immediately coming onto her by the end is a bit clichéd and could have been developed more). This new character though is definitely different to the one who first appeared in the streets of Paris, although his search for his missing past definitely takes something of a back seat and it seems as in the end he does not really care. One thing remains though throughout is how cool a character he is. This ranges from the way he acts to how he talks, but one thing that certainly helps is this Undertaker like look: The Hat, Jacket and standing in the shadows with a pistol.

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Van Helsing, much like many other fantasy films comes with a whole castle full of visual special effects, some of which are absolutely gut wrenching. The effects on the whole are done quite well and are mostly visible in monster designs. The Dead Born vampire spawn are really icky and creepy while also hanging around in those pulsating pods which are near stomach wrenching. Mr. Hyde is a nice little effect although be it not a long one, as too is Dracula’s Mirror Scene and the Transylvanian Horses scene. Dracula’s monster form I would say is ok, but all of these effects really tremble under the majesty of what has to be the most impressive Werewolf in movie history, that of Van Helsing’s transformation. The transformation is quite creepy, especially where the skin appears to fall off (similar to another icky effect early on with Dracula’s healing burned face), and to begin with he looks more like a gorilla than a wolf, but then when his snout takes form, and as you see him standing over Dracula, it is such an impressive sight (I keep wondering why on earth Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban couldn’t create one just as awesome), and the fight between the two I feel is not as long as it could be, and nearly wastes this amazing Werewolf. If I was a Werewolf, I would want to look like the one at the end of Van Helsing, who wouldn’t? For me that is the whole highlight of this film.

Which is more than can be said for the soundtrack! The soundtrack composed by Alan Silvestri does actually sound rather pleasant and for the genres that this film is trying to convey is a suitable fit. It’s just it’s rather overused. Not as much as The Last of the Mohicans (which I am certain only has one piece of music in it); but still quite a lot. It does have some nice pieces of music, the End Credits is good, some of the battle scenes, the funeral, the Masquerade ball, and the adventure style theme tune used prolifically throughout are all pretty cool; however, there are two pieces of music which sound near exactly the same (unless they are just one piece) which is used nearly every minute during the last great battle, and it is so noticeable (like Last of the Mohicans) as it is used prolifically in scenes that suggest Indiana Jones like action: Like swinging on a rope for instance. It’s not exactly annoying, just irritating, because the music on show is pretty good but nearly let down by one (or two) piece used too much.

On the whole though, I think this is a really cool film, maybe not the best or the greatest of Fantasy Adventure films, but overall I think it’s a really cool, fun film. It has an interesting story, a cast made up of categorically worthy actors but not overplaying their roles; keeping their roles fun and interesting, some cool special effects helping to create some certainly breath-taking Monsters and one of those soundtracks that is now rather recognisable for certain pieces used elsewhere. Yes, it does have its issues: Some cast members are near gratuitous, the plot is a bit sketchy with bits not even answered and there are a lot of uncivilized bits as scenes and effects go. Though for everything that does not work, there is more than one that does altogether creating an entertaining yet very cool and sincerely engrossing film.

GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Arms Dealer

21 10 2016

Arms Dealer

Tutorials are a major importance to Video Games, without them, chances are we would have no idea how to play the game. It would be complete guess-work as we play the first level over and over again hoping for a hint as to what we are supposed to be doing. Thankfully, that’s why we have Tutorials. Tutorials though don’t have necessarily spoon feed you with information, they could either present just the core details to you or let you work it out from there, or they could be simple prompts at the side of the screen, and rely on you to implement them and discover them yourself. Tutorials themselves could even be a part of the game, and when effective enough could become one of the most memorable parts of the game; a good example would be Age of Empires II for instance. Recently I have been playing another game that too has a memorable tutorial, but all for the wrong reasons.

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Arms Dealer (produced by Case in Point Studios, LLC) is a game about buying, selling, trading and shipping weapons around the world to some less than reputable characters. As a new person to the gig, you have some money to which you can begin to build your empire, but to start with you need to buy some guns, make friends and maybe build some form of transport. You start in a country, and from there can buy weapons, while also buying intel on countries to get the prices up and down during buying and selling as well as get involved with auctions. As the game progresses you will need to watch your back as agencies from around the world are looking to bring you down, so while you are earning cash and reputation, you will also be building up your prison sentence should you get caught. Well that’s the theory of how the game works or should work, just depends how much you age by the time you get past the tutorial.

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The game comes with a nice clever interface. It provides you with a map similar to DEFCON and Pandemic 2 to which you can plan where you want to go, buy weapons from, and who to sell them too. The game also comes with an intuitive scheme of windows, much like your desktop; which you can move around willy nilly to your heart’s content to get the best input system possible for you to play the game. It’s sort of like that snap feature on Windows 7 (just without the ridiculous advert). The game controls and input are pretty basic as the only real control you will need comes from your mouse. You just simply click what you want to click, while moving the in game windows around to suit your comfortably.

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The in game map and windows are nicely made, and the images of weapons and vehicles are nicely detailed, and the in game text is nice and easy to read. It’s just everything else is pretty terrible. Some of the in game buttons don’t look like buttons, so you don’t know how to press them, or if you can press them. Some of them are actually pretty small and hard to click on and some of the text is not exactly helpful as you are trying to find an action and you don’t know where it is or how to find it either.

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The real issue with this game for me though is the flipping tutorial. Now most in game tutorials will try to restrict the amount of writing it puts on-screen, other than of course direct and intuitive information, the information you need and want, in order for you to play the game. Sometimes a tutorial will even have some form, of spoken dialogue, so you don’t cause yourself any un-required eye strain. Here though the dialogue boxes have no spoken word, and contain nothing but tiny text, in a small window, and guess what, there is a lot of it. Some spoken word would be a great deal of help here just so you can get a touch more detail, without hurting your eyes. But that is not the worst of it. Due to the amount of windows and text boxes you will be opening during the game, there is a lot of reading involved, and unnecessary moving of windows because the tutorial window demands the centre screen, and so always moves itself back into place, which is not helpful. Worse is still to come, as the text is not descriptive enough and asks you to press buttons you can’t find but according to the tutorial…..’EXIST!’ So you start looking around for the button it tells you to press, but you just can’t find it. And then the windows start to throw a sissy fit, as if you accidentally close a window (but more likely do it on purpose just to get it out of the way), it sort of reverts back to an original state, forcing you to start all over again (not to mention; the lag).

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The windows feature is a nice add-on, it’s a general shame that it just does not work properly. How are you supposed to see this wonderfully detailed map when sooner or later the whole screen is just going to be filled up with in-game windows! How a game like this, which in fairness should strive, like all games, not to create a nuisance is supposed to work is beyond me. Why can’t the windows work like the windows of an installation screen? Instead of you opening up windows to complete an over the top action, why can’t the screen change automatically, by pressing a continue button or something. When you purchase an item off Amazon, you don’t need to open several windows to complete the action, because the window changes automatically to the next step. It’s simple, very simple, so why does this game then thrive to do the exact opposite and be a nuisance.

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I have to mark this game down sadly, which is a shame because overall I really wanted it to be good. I held high expectations and hope that this would be a fun game. I like economic/trading games like this, because generally they are games which don’t require you to complete in one sitting. It’s not Call of Duty; it’s a nice small game which could either be played in short bursts or long periods. It’s like Evil Genius: you don’t have to play it for a long time if you don’t want to, you could play a quick snippet, and play more when you wanted too. The game has some nice points, a wonderfully detailed map, and some nice pictures of guns (which if that is all you want, then great, perfect game for you), but if you want more than that; I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. I hope this game can be salvaged, because I feel that it is a wasted opportunity full of potential. I think that this game could have been really good; a proper enjoyable little gem with plenty of hours of game-play; But right now; I feel like I wish had not wasted my money on it, even if it was a cheap purchase!

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GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Infested Planet

20 10 2016

Infested Planet (Rocket Bear Games - 2014)

If Alien movies have taught us anything, it’s that guns do not work against Aliens! That statement has been proved over and over again from films such as Aliens (where an elite team of Marines were wiped out in near seconds), Starship Troopers (where legions of soldiers were killed in less than an hour) and Independence Day (where the human race was nearly wiped out in 3 days). So, with this knowledge in hand we know for sure that if Aliens invade Earth, we should not use guns in any shape or form as they simply do not work; it seems however that some people have to learn the hard way.

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Infested Planet (produced by Rocket Bear Games) is a game about a squad of soldiers invading a planet infested with an alien species, and whose job it is to try and wipe them out. Each level begins with your elite team of soldiers landing in an area, with a small base set up. From here it is your duty to guide them through a maze of tunnels in the hope of destroying all enemy bases to win the level. As soon as you land however, the Aliens are on top of you and you will need to plan wisely and prioritize where you can as the aliens descend in swarms around your base.

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Each level is set in a nicely rendered 2D plan view map, and there are no tricky images to understand as everything is nice and clear. The games visuals remind me of one of those planet invasion flash games. You know the ones that feel more like a maths exam, where there is a planet with a value of 10, and so you need to send an army with a value of 11 to conquer it. Well, the maps look like that, with nice near circular bases for both you and the aliens, and as the swarms of alien monsters begin to descend on your bases and men, they even begin to look like those sorts of games. The aliens and soldiers feature a wonderful colour palette, with your soldiers changing colour as they upgrade and even the aliens get a nice patchwork of colouring too.

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The main way you play is by guiding your soldiers around the map, attacking bases and taking them over, bit by bit extending your reach. You will be offered times to upgrade while in the battlefield, upgrading your soldiers to different classes, while also being offered opportunities to drop supplies in and even call in helicopter strikes. It’s kind of similar to opportunities offered in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (which I have still yet to play). These upgrades however do not make the game any easier as the aliens can mutate as their bases get destroyed, and just because you have claimed a base does not make it safe, as the aliens can and will attack them, destroying them and converting the land back to their side. They will even take control of you gun turrets given half the chance.

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The AI in this game is brilliant. The aliens attack in well-designed swarms, and don’t just rely on being small, because as the game progresses, and bases mutate, other larger and more fearsome species come out to play. It’s actually kind of fun, yet stimulating-ly terrifying as you see these swarms just appear and attack out of nowhere. Yes, you can put up defenses, but spots can be over run and you can’t help but look back at your bases, just to check if they are safe for the time being. Meanwhile, you have to keep a sharp eye on your team as they come under attack, and have to defend themselves not just from aliens, but the alien’s own defensive capabilities also.

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What this game provides at its core details plus in game specialties is really nice, and it’s good to see a game that even when it does provide you with upgrades, it does not necessarily mean that it gets any easier. It does not necessarily have a learning curve, more a steady playing field, and one that requires you to strategize rather than burst in all guns blaring. The game though for all its wonderful inclusions does have some short comings. There is an in game shop system which allows you to purchase new items and upgrades from cash you receive from winning (and even surrendering) a level. When you go into the shop though hoping to get much-needed upgrades, you discover that most of them (although at a fair price) are temporary and are only really available for no more than the next three levels. That is pretty annoying especially as some of them can be pretty expensive. You would think that something that cost that much, you would get keep wouldn’t you? The story does not really seem to be needed either. The game’s plot is provided in a similar form to an old shoot-em up game, where there is a lot of written text, no voice over dialogue and when it actually comes to a level, you don’t really know why they gave you any plot. But then things get weird as the game provides you with random missions and the story just appears to well: disappear…altogether. But the crazy thing is, is that you don’t really care about the plot, as there is so much fun in its gameplay you just want to get past the written word and just start shooting aliens. It’s a bit wasted if I’m to be honest.

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Altogether I think this is a fun game. Yes its shop is convoluted and un-usable and its story is pretty much not wanted and at least a bit wasted; but everything else that this game provides is on the surface near perfect. It’s not overly long, you can play it in long and short bursts, it’s relatively easy to pick up and play, and its design is really nice and colourful (compared to say a mysteriously abandoned ship in space lacking a carpet). Overall I would say this is just a nice little game if you fancy a break from a heavy laden triple A game or if you just have a little time to play something diverse, in-depth, but also very light.

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GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Big Pharma

19 10 2016

big-pharma (twice circled - 2015)

You know when you played Theme Hospital (assuming you did, because, you know; why wouldn’t you?), did you ever think to yourself: “I could be doing so much more here, why don’t I leave the life of being a Hospital CEO and go into Pharmaceutical Production?” Well chances are that you thought no such thing as for one; Theme Hospital was a game, not real life or an RPG, and for two; you were really quite content with the game you were playing at the time. If it were the case though that one day while playing Theme Hospital and you actually thought the above statement, well now you can – not in Theme Hospital, but in a game that focuses on the production of Medicine based products.

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Big Pharma (produced by Twice Circled) is a game where you the player are managing director of a pharmaceutical company. You start your company off with a small brightly coloured interior warehouse and a few inventions and ingredients at your disposal to which you can use to create cures for illnesses. All you need to do is put these assets into production and sell sell sell.

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Game play is very simple; in your empty warehouse you need to use one of the holes in the wall to import an ingredient, and then use machines at your disposal to meet certain requirements before either finishing off the ingredient mixture or upgrading it to be a cure for something else. Once that is done, you need to turn the current ingredient into a manufactured cure by putting it through a pill maker, and then transport it to another hole in the wall to name it and sell it. Later options at your disposal include creaming the drugs instead of selling them as pills, and even packing them. The game though is not as easy as it sounds as machines, conveyor belts and equipment take up space (turning it into a mini puzzle game in the process) and you have a limited area, plus in some cases are required to create a catalyst in order for some cures to be upgraded. The game though is not all about Medication Manufacturing, as it’s also a part business and research sim. You will be required to hire explorers and researchers to discover new ingredients and new machinery, while at the same time use their down time to provide you with upgrade points. At the same time however, you need to be concerning yourself with making money too, as production costs can be quite astronomical, and your company is in competition with others.

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Big Pharma is a nicely animated little game. The game graphics are nicely detailed, but not too detailed so can work on most machines without a fuss. The Animation though is superb. It can be quite mesmerizing watching the ingredients progress along the conveyor belts, changing form and colour as machines work on them, and watching the machines work is a nice little added extra, and comes with a form of animation very similar I find to that of Theme Hospital. Watching the water boil in the Dissolver, or seeing ingredients pulped in the Agglomerator, working their way down the production line and being made into either pills or as a cream. It’s really fun to watch and nice little bits like that really help this game to provide a detailed experience.

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The game; all be it relatively fun and still pretty unique, does have its short comings. For one, I like the idea of creating a production line, but the production line does seem to be rather slow, I did not know that Conveyor belts started and stopped every second, I thought they just kept going? It can take a while for the process to complete and when you need money fast, but the conveyors only move at one speed (which is sort of move and stop, move and stop), or the other cases where you are trying to reach a deadline in the game’s objectives mode, it can be very annoying. You can of course speed things up with the mystical speed change options in the bottom left of the screen, but you may as well just keep it up at full speed in that case just to speed up the game and make the conveyors more realistic. The objectives are not bad and it is pretty fun going through each one, just to give you something to do in the game, but with your mind on reaching a certain objective, you may as well ignore everything else in the game, and concentrate on what you need to do rather than what else you could be doing. Then once you have done enough and or have reached your goal, you do have the option of getting a better score than the basic score which is a nice added add-on, but by this point you may as well just speed up the game in places or end the level just to be done with it and do something else.

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Most of the cures you make can be upgraded relatively quickly on, but they require the use of machines you have not unlocked yet, in which case I found myself spending time and money in researching the things I needed each time before sending anything in production, just to be able to give the game the best I could. The other thing though is the Catalysts. The game comes with a very comprehensive tutorial mode which is very descriptive and also very fun, but each time I tried to do a catalyst in the real game, I would not achieve it. Making catalysts is supposed to be hard, but when you are doing everything right, the catalyst still does not make itself, and it can be very annoying, especially as sometimes you need that upgraded cure to move on.

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Big Pharma is one of these Production line games that have begun to make a real appearance in the industry along with other games like Factorio. Making a production line is a good fun idea and when combined with making product to sell turns the game not just into a factory based game but also a resources and economic game, where you need to concentrate on not just making a good product but also turning a profit. I like that idea, and when combined with the games look, idea and animation, it makes a good fit that is at least to begin with a fun game to play. But as the game progresses and its short comings come to light, it becomes a game that I was once excited to play but now don’t really see a future for. Maybe I like my games with a little more realism in its depictions of production, but for its slow speed, but also relatively pointless extras during its objective based gameplay, I feel that this game was once fun, but then just ended.

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GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – Governor of Poker 2

18 10 2016

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If you like board and card games as much as me, you may have a huge stack of games. Lots of games you enjoy, some probably more than others, and maybe some you have yet to play, but the one thing that is probably more true than most is that, you probably don’t get to play many of them all that often. There maybe a few for instance that you have not played in a while. This is definitely true of me; some of the time I play more of than others, while games like Munchkin for example I don’t get to play as often as I would prefer, because sometimes they are hard to bring to the table. Some of the time when you play games, it’s best to play ones other people have experience of just so everyone can have a good time, and don’t need to learn a lot of new details. This can be true of other games too, and in my experience I can go long periods of time not playing a basic card game like Poker.

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I was introduced to Poker over a decade ago, but it can be hard to get a game of it in. I can watch it on TV, like I used to during the good old days of the William Hill Poker Grand Prix, but there is nothing like actually playing it, which is why it’s a good thing that there are many video games out there that allow me the opportunity to play a game of poker in the meantime, whenever I want to, and in my experience, there is none finer than Governor of Poker.

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I originally used to play this games predecessor on Kongregate, but then it was more of a demo, never got to play the original in its full form, however when I noticed this sequel on Steam; I near leapt at the opportunity. In Governor of Poker 2 (by Youda Games), much like the original, you are a wannabe poker champion living in Texas, and you spend your days go from town to town, competing in games, acquiring enough to take over the entire town, before moving onto the next. Purchasing buildings provides you with an income, while competing in tournaments and cash games provides you with an opportunity to acquire more money much more quickly while also building up your reputation. As you progress, you will encounter star NPC players, taking them on in the hope of becoming the number one poker man in the whole of Texas.

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The games main piece though comes to its Poker games, which thanks to the Wild West theme, mean that you and everyone else are represented at the table via hats and hands. This part of the game really does come down to the core gameplay of most Poker games, and there can be tells, there can be bluffing, while all the time still creating tension and panic as you watch the chips build up, change colour or reduce in quick fashion. From there on it comes down to how good of a poker player you are, and how far you are willing to go to get the table win.

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The game is nicely designed, even if the designs themselves have not changed much since its predecessor. The animation is nicely implemented, from walking, to cut scenes, to even the flicking of chips at the poker table. The only issue I really have with the design side is that the maps are rather static. The only person moving around is you, while everyone else stands mega still not moving before or after you enter a saloon; it does not carry much in the way of life. The game’s soundtrack is nicely designed as it comes more down to a couple of pieces of music, but leaves everything else to the stiffening sound a bliss of silence, with a little bit of noise coming from other characters and of course the dealer. While the original definitely still carries the best theme tune, the game’s soundtrack is at it’s best when there is virtually no sound at all. The gameplay is nicely mixed up, and the differences between games, hats, and even the allowance to buy houses and make an income is rather good, I just don’t think there is really any need for a story in this game, it does not adapt or change over time, it just sort of pops up when you reach a goal, even if reaching that goal requires you to play for several hours before you reach the next one. The only thing you really feel, is the disappointment and crunch as you begin to lose money and property, and wonder how you are going to get back onto your feet. There is a lot to like, and a lot to enjoy, but there is a lot of crowding and a lot of wasted bonuses which just don’t work or appeal, it brings a down note to what is actually a pretty competent and thoroughly enjoyable game.

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Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this game; I just think it provides you with things you don’t need or even want. At heart, its basic charm is how this game succeeds, it’s not because you want to free poker from the corrupt hands of those who would rather not play it, but because you want an environment that allows you to play Poker, as close to real as possible. At the tables, you get a real sense of dread, passion and emotion as you win or lose, and as you strive to believe that you can win, and know when it’s time to push or pull back. Everything is there, the poker side works, and the other gameplay pieces included continue to enhance your experience. That’s all this game in the end needs to provide, it does not need a story, just a sense that you are awesome at poker……….at least when you are.

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GENEPOOL








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