Percy Jackson Vs. “Percy Jackson”

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I had a dream about blogging the other night. A dream in which I compared and contrasted Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (Book 1) (Percy Jackson And The Olympians) versus Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.

I noted that there are some book series where the series author and the movie’s director work hand-in-hand. Listing examples such as:

  • Harry Potter
  • The Hunger Games

And then went on to describe how bad the Percy Jackson movie is versus the book.

The movie is basically the story of a wannabe Zac Efron, who turns out to be the son of a god, who goes on a quest to save the world. Beyond the Zac Efron part (in the Lightning Thief, Percy is 12 years old), this lines up with the book so far. But then the movie strips out everything that made the first book special. Down the toilet. Flush. It takes names (literally), skimps on essential story and characters, and rushes to the films conclusion. The film borrows key elements from the book without ever owning them. Don’t even get me started on Pierce Brosnan’s character. Ugh.

If you want to watch a movie that misconstrues characters, plot, and has a bunch of CG, then this is the movie for you.

As for me, sign me up for author Rick Riordan’s Disney+ series. Should be good.

Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power Review

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For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has entertained millions around the globe. Allowing us to follow characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America as they ultimately triumph over evil. That cinematic universe has expanded into television with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki (I won’t forget ABC Television’s Agent Carter either). All of which position Marvel as a household name and powerhouse brand. Now branding can be a tricky thing, especially when a product doesn’t live up to the gold standard the brand has set.

Tabitha, Wyatt, and I decided to give Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power a shot this past weekend. We borrowed the game from friends, after they couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with it. Having played Disney Villainous, we thought we were set to do battle against the Avengers, right? What could a few do-gooders do against the might of Thanos, Ultron, Killmonger, Hela, or Taskmaster?

First, we had to pick our villains:

  • Tabitha picked Hela.
  • Wyatt picked Ultron.
  • And I picked Taskmaster.

We each took turns playing our domain (our game boards); getting to know our individual characters, their cards, etc. If you haven’t played Disney Villainous, each turn consists of a player moving to one of four spaces (as shown below). In the “Reconfiguration Base” space, for instance, you can:

  • Play a Card
  • Draw 2 Power Tokens
  • Discard Cards
  • Vanquish an Opponent

Once you do the four things the space requires, your turn ends. If the space has a Fate Card icon on it, like the “Manufacturing Array”, you draw from the Fate Deck. This is where the similarities with Disney Villainous ends and Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power begins.

The Fate Deck

In Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, all of the Fate Decks are shuffled together. (Note that in Disney Villainous, this shuffling is not a thing. You keep your individual Fate Deck that other players draw from/play against you.) So in our case, the 15 common Fate Cards were shuffled together with our characters individual Fate Decks. This makes for one large pile of cards that can impact your turn by:

  • Someone sending an Ally
  • Dropping a Hero on a player (who then has to deal with said hero)
  • Event Cards

Event Cards

When a player draws an Event Card, the game is impacted until that event is dealt with. For “Helicarrier Alert”, you can only draw up to 3 cards at the end of your turn until players have sent enough Allies to deal with the 6 points of damage.

For the Event Card “Stolen Antiquities”, this card only directly impacts Killmonger. However, all the the players are free to Relocate Allies until the card is vanquished.

“Perfectly Balanced, as all this should be.” – Thanos

In the End

Perfection, balance if you will, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power fails to bring anything of value to the Villainous formula. The addition of having one large Fate Deck, in combination with Event Cards, does nothing to the game but bring misery. Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power takes an already complicated game and makes it even more complicated (and longer, time-wise). The game feels like it needed a few more months of plotting before execution. Because of this, I will be sticking with Disney Villainous.

However, Wyatt loved it! Did I mention he won? He told me that the characters actually make sense within the context of the game, unlike Disney Villainous.

Go figure.

Review – Biomutant

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I have tried to put my finger on the reason developer Experiment 101‘s Biomutant does not gel with me. I know that it has nothing to do with Biomutant feeling like a AAA game made by a small design team on a limited budget. If anything, Returnal, developed by Housemarque, shares this indie game turned AAA game feel. Indie game developers being given a AAA game budget is a fantastic development. The size of the studio does not limit perfect execution on a core gameplay concept. The problem is when the story, which ties everything together, needs more time in the editing oven.

Into the Fire

Anytime Biomutant pauses the gameplay to further the story, told through static cutscene, I found myself wanting to skip it. Sure, there is the Narrator, who does a good job reading what text he is given. But even he cannot save what amounts to two 3D models standing next to each other, doing nothing, while he narrates. I cannot think of another game I’ve played, in many years, that has chosen to convey story in this manner. While I commend developer Experiment 101 for their cleverness in using a narrator, I wish they had chosen a different way to share their story with us.

On that note, I find the humor to be off… way off. At first I thought that it was a dark humor sort of thing. The more I played Biomutant though, the more I realized that the humor needed more time to bake. With a bit more time in the editing oven, I think Experiment 101 could have had a solid winner here. Alas, the way the story is presented with its humor, I 100% don’t get it. It’s not only odd but off-putting.

What I Loved

  • The handcrafted feel of Biomutant‘s open-world.
  • The way Björn Palmberg’s score blends so seamlessly with this post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu RPG.
  • The responsiveness/quickness of the characters movements.
  • The way the character runs.

What I Disliked

  • The way that combat is executed. I hate having to memorize combos. Square + Circle + Circle + L2.
  • Anytime there is a cutscene. Ugh.

In the End

There is a market for Biomutant. You might be the perfect candidate for it! I’m just not it. I need a compelling story to go with my Kung Fu. I need a reason to play.

Title: Biomutant
Developer: Experiment 101
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $59.99

Review by Bryan Hall

*Biomutant was reviewed using a code provided by EvolvePR.

South of the Circle

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Memory is a tricky thing.

South of the Circle begins with a plane crash. But the plane crash isn’t what the story is about… or is it?

As the plane flies into nuclear dawn and credits roll, I find myself thinking, “Why?” South of the Circle’s ending shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. The decision had already been made. I think I blame the faulty memory of the protagonist. Wishing for what might have been… could have been… and in the end, nothing. Blah.

Review: Mutazione

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I have trouble writing about games I actually like. My excuse–yes, it is an excuse–is not wanting to spoil the experience by too much thought. Mutazione is one of those games for me, a game where I’m like, “Yeah, that was good.”

Mutazione‘s Steam page describes developers Die Gute Fabrik’s game as:

A mutant soap opera where small-town gossip meets the supernatural. Explore the Mutazione community as Kai as she cares for her ailing grandfather. Discover magical gardens, new friends & old secrets. They can survive an apocalyptic meteor strike, but can they survive their small-town drama?

Mutazione is a chill adventure whose story ruminates on loss, love, and finding a way forward from past tragedy.

I enjoyed running around the island, listening to the subtle wind chimed soundtrack.

I loved seeing Kai’s relationship with her grandfather blossom over time.

Sure there are some soap opera-like elements that I did not like, or at least, I did not feel rang true for me. But beyond those drama bits, the story’s supernatural and mysterious threads propelled me forward–much like Oxenfree did… but this is totally different than Oxenfree–.

Mutazione captures those slow summer days. Days spent with family, friends, and magical gardens? More so days spent:

  • Collecting seeds / gardening
  • Enjoying conversations, with friends, that last late into the night

Mutazione is a game about healing; a game about moving on from the past. Moving forward with new hopes, dreams, and most importantly, new friends.

5/5 – I loved my experience with Mutazione via Apple Arcade.

Title: Mutazione
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Linux, macOS
Reviewed On: iPad / Apple Arcade
MSRP: $19.99

Review by Bryan Hall

The Concert
Up in the trees.
Mutazione - Boat Trip
Floating
Mutazione - Meteor
Secrets
Mutazione - Saying Goodbye