Archive for the Reviews Category

Mini-Reviews: Soilwork / October Tide – Unimpressed…

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on April 17, 2013 by slateman

OT-TunnelI really wanted to like both of these albums but I just can’t get into them. Moving backwards in time, the newest October Tide was highly anticipated as I’m a huge fan of the original records as well as the newest incarnation of the band. Those first two albums were awesome, filling the gap left by Katatonia’s departure from doom metal. The rebirth was heavy as shit and catchy. This new one is…well, it’s heavy. Track 2 has a super catchy portion in the middle. I generally can’t recall anything else from any other track. It’s true and unfortunate. It’s so mediocre I don’t know what else to write. Is it bad? No. It’s…just…boring.

The Living InfiniteOh Soilwork. This isn’t too different from October Tide, really. We’ll just substitute those albums in the middle (anything after Predator’s) for OT’s absence. Then, we had The Panic Broadcast which I thought was incredible. Their new, double-disc effort sounds awesome. It is HEAVY, the mix, the drums, guitars, vocals all sound great. The problem is that I can’t listen to it. Some songs are good. The first track starts out great. However, it all falls into the formulaic problem that plagued everything after A Predator’s Portrait. I remember that album coming out and knowing right then and there that the band was done. You could tell the next album would be all about the hook. The catchy riff that led to the obligatory clean vocal chorus. Here we are again, and some of these chorus parts are unlistenable. They’re cheesy. I can’t do it.

As for the double disc portion, that I can handle. I realize that lots of times a double album means filler. It might not be the case here, but I have a hard time getting through even a few songs. It would be great to enjoy this record, but it suffers from what plagued all those ‘middle’ albums. The planned riff-chorus formula. Meh.

Mini-Review: Darkstalkers: Resurrection – Missing Something

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Reviews with tags , on March 19, 2013 by slateman

VAMPIRE RESURRECTION POSTCARDI spent an awful lot of time a few months back working on an exhaustive Vampire Savior FAQ and I now will have to update it with Darkstalkers/Vampire Resurrection information. After a little while of testing things out, I have to say…it’s OK. My main concern was the port of Darkstalkers 3 – a game that never truly existed. Sadly, they didn’t take the ‘best of’ idea and include Vampire Savior 2 and Vampire Hunter 2 tweaks. This game appears to play just like the arcade version of VS without the Dark Force changes or the additional three characters. Why this is eludes me. The gameplay is spot-on, of course and all the usual perks are included. You gain points for completing challenges. You use this currency for the Vault – artwork and movies. Fortunately there is some new artwork included here not present in every other version. Unfortunately there is no sound test; this is a pity considering how the soundtracks to these two games may very well be the best Capcom has ever produced. The Japanese game was released in disc format and the first copies came with a bonus soundtrack CD. Sure I already have the soundtrack for VS but it’s just that good! AND, the game definitely features at least one new track – again, a sound test would have rocked.

And then I start doing tutorials/challenges. Now, can someone tell me why back in 1997 Arika was able to do the trial thing right and why now, 16 years later, we’re left with this? First off, there are only five for each character for each game. That still is a lot of challenges, I suppose. Street Fighter EX+A had…was it 15? 20? 25? And, since I’m not a fantastic player, I can’t perform half of them. Morrigan has the same trial for both VH and VS (screw this American naming convention). The same trial? Well, I can’t manage to chain a c.Short->c.Fierce->Darkness Illusion…so that means there are 2 of Morrigan’s 10 challenges. Great.

Now, the entire presentation is amazing. The HD makeover looks phenomenal (the game still looks like it always did) and when you switch from VH to VS, you remain in the last menu. I.e. if you’re about to start a ranked match and you change games, the menu places you in the ranked match area again. Small things like that are great. There’s also an info box giving you details about all the fighters. Developers, if you’re going to do this, please have at least 100 different quotes. I played for 10 minutes and felt like it was repeating already.

VR Soundtrack

Online play was superb, zero problems and GGPO has treated me well with all recent fighters. I suck, so it’s no fun at all getting trounced by Gallon (Talbain) constantly. But, that’s my problem.

There’s a spot for the Playstation Store – so I don’t know what they’re planning on trying to sell us. $15 for this package is indeed good, but I’d be pissed if they asked me to shell out more for anything. Unless it’s the soundtrack – it’s just that good. Then again, I now have this game for the PS1, PS2, PS3, SS, PSP and arcade ROMS – just missing the DC game. I’m not paying anything more for Vampire/Darkstalkers until part four comes out. :)

Mini-Review: [Rec] – Outstanding

Posted in Blog, Movies, Reviews on March 19, 2013 by slateman

rec-movie-poster-2007-1020420587Dread. To put it simply…dread. The horror genre is one I grew up with and have never quite outgrown. As a father now, though, my fascination is mixed with dread as parents have a new priority in life. I’ve seen [Rec] twice. I never watched the American recreation…but the original film is the perfect thriller. This wasn’t the first found-footage film, and it may not be the best. However it instills dread in me every time I watch it. But when the bloody woman attacks in the apartment….when the fireman falls from upstairs…when things go to hell at the end…I’m filled with dread. It’s just a movie, of course, but it feels real. The first-person account of whatever is going on feels real. Like Cloverfield, you have no real idea as to what is going on, much like it would be in real life. All of the calm dialogue is utterly shattered when things start going wrong. The horrible sounds, the utter panic, the non-stop dread…And the entire time I am scared to death at what’s around the corner, where the people are and what is going to happen next. And don’t even get me started on the end. I know what’s going to happen and it still freaks me the fuck out. Oh, and then the lights go out.

[Rec 2] was good and had some very cool ideas but as usual, the original is the best. Outrageous fear. I hate this movie but I love it more.

Mini-Review: Tomb Raider – Oh Yes!

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Reviews with tags on March 17, 2013 by slateman

tombraiderIt isn’t 1996 any longer. While there have been many Tomb Raider games since then, none have lived up to the standard set by the first two games. And with Uncharted coming to take the torch, how precisely can a reboot live up with the legacy of both UC and TR? By doing precisely what they’ve done in this game.

And Uncharted IS important because it took a formula and perfected it. Its second entry is probably my favorite game of this generation. Its third iteration, however, didn’t live up to the standard set by the first two games. Sound familiar? (Plus, we’ve talked about thistwice!) As Lara Croft scrambled to safety in the 2013 reboot, I was a character who was real. No more one-liners after murdering two dozen swarming enemies. It’s not that Nathan Drake is unlikeable; it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that by the third time, it was all expected. We knew we’d be dangling by one arm at least six times. Every action sequence felt familiar the intensity was thereby reduced. When Lara first killed a person, it was a big deal. The intense moments in Tomb Raider were intense! The entire journey was a remarkable one; even if it felt like UC a few times (which itself felt like TR a few times).


Lara was a mess. She was hurt. Her pain felt real. The visuals in the game were positively incredible, the sound outstanding. The gameplay was impeccable and FUN. The weapons were powerful. Their customizable evolution was perfectly executed. I felt a draw to the history, the lore. The locales were lush and vast. I listened to the audio logs. The collectibles fit within the world created. I went back to collect GPS caches, using my new-found abilities to unlock new paths. More than once during my adventure I stated, “This represents everything I love about videogames!”

This review is pretty simple. The game absolutely rules and is one of my favorites in a long time. In retrospect, I’m stuck trying to find a weakness. Perhaps more diverse enemies would be nice. I guess the biggest problem is how to deal with a sequel but who cares about that now? Tomb Raider has somehow returned to form, copying and trumping a game that copied and trumped it in the first place. This is just about perfect; it cannot be praised highly enough.

Mini-Review: Ys Zanmai OST

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Music, Reviews, Ys on February 22, 2013 by slateman

Ys ZanmaiI’m still a sucker for a good Ys OST and after all these years, I’ve gone back to sort out my collection of soundtracks. I’m looking at 35 complete ones right now which accounts for nearly 4Gb of music. And while I’ve heard countless renditions of A Premonition – Styx-, sometimes ~Styx~, others =Styx=, I always have heart to listen to one more. And how does this one stand up to the original Ys III? To Ys: The Oath In Felghana? Quite remarkably, actually.

The track hearkens back to a different time, as do all the tracks. And while there are 2-3 iffy ones (I can usually skip Feena and in this case Casnan, The Frontier Town), others are incredibly strong. The metal rendition of Last Decisive Battle sits among my favorite Ys tracks and the calm power of The Depth Napishtim gives this a well-rounded polish. This entire soundtrack is great and I love the new twists on a mix of old classics. From The Dawn Of Ys to Crimson Wings, for any Ys music fan, I highly recommend this one. It shines through 4Gb of similar tracks and stands shoulder-to-shoulder to my favorites from yesterdecade, a word I just made up, but sounded cool in my head. This OST rocks.

Mini-Review: Ratchet & Clank HD

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Games, Reviews with tags , , on January 25, 2013 by slateman

logo-r&cI played through the first three Ratchet & Clank games back in 2002-2004 and loved every minute of them. I am fairly certain I went back to the second and beat it again at a later date. I own the two R&C Future titles as well, though a friend has lost A Crack In Time. :( Anyhow, I love the series and this week’s PSN update was just too good to be true. The first R&C HD remake was 75% off for PS+ subscribers? $3.75 for the game? Couldn’t turn that down and I’ve been enjoying my purchase the past few days.

I’m still recovering from this surgery and I haven’t done much of anything so it’s been nice to get some game time in. (I’ve also been playing Darksiders as it’s free for PS+ subs, how awesome is this service?!) Anyways, it’s been great fun going back to the series’ roots. You can see how certain things were tweaked later, and for the better. Not having more slots for quick select makes things slightly annoying but man, this game is still pretty solid a decade later! The gameplay is still superb and so many little details were innovative and fresh for 2002 (getting rid of the standard ‘lives’ is one of my favorite changes to gaming around that time.) I’m at the very end now and looking through the trophies, I doubt I’m going to rush forth and try to get the platinum. However, it’s spectacular and if by any chance Going Commando or Up Your Arsenal are on sale too, I’m going to have to plunk down a few more bucks. TOTALLY loving PS+ right now.

Is Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa The Best Album In A Decade?

Posted in Best / Worst, Blog, Music, Reviews on January 16, 2013 by slateman

Moonsorrow-2011-333x500That’s not a dramatic header there. I’m serious. The more I listen; the better it gets. Moonsorrow’s masterpiece is a perfect album. OK, the three 90-second interludes are useless, but they bridge the awesomeness in a
necessary way. The four remaining 13-minute-average epics are possible the best four songs in years. The
complete tale from beginning to end is a vast journey, perfectly completing a cycle of metallic excellence.

It’s funny. Barring the hypnotic acoustic intro of Huuto, I can’t hum to you any one specific riff, memorable interlude or catchy progression. The songs go one for so long; what makes them so good?

Moonsorrow’s powerful blend of keyboards, sheer heaviness and crushing vocals lead from one tune to the next, not faltering, not offering a throwaway segment. As a musical fanatic, I memorize band member names, song titles, years, everything but lyrics. On Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa I know none of it. Even as a linguist who revels in etymology, language change and meaning – I don’t care. I just want to turn this up and play it again.

This album is just about everything I love about metal. I almost have nothing to write about it – but yet it’s the greatest shit in the world. It very well could be the best album of this millennium.

Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

Posted in Books, Movies, Reflection, Reviews, Tolkien, Video with tags on December 28, 2012 by slateman

poster-gandalfIn the 1990s I started reading Tolkien. In the 2000s, we were given the spectacular film conversions of The Lord Of The Rings. In the 2010s, we have another epic journey to embark upon.

I was so excited about this movie. In fact, no movie since Return Of The King had me so compelled to plunk down my cash and spend hours in a theater. Of course, in the ’90s I was young and now I’m riddled with responsibility. I think that’s what makes this more profound for me. Tolkien’s masterpieces follow us through our own epic journeys.

Perhaps this is all too dramatic, but as the New Line logo came and went, Howard Shore’s familiar tunes entered my ears and I returned to Middle Earth, it was so reassuring to see certain images on the screen precisely as I have seen them in my head for 15 years. It was all too amazing to see Erebor’s hoards of gold torn directly from the images my imagination conjured up.

While very few of the Dwarves really did the same for me, I loved their diversity (something hardly addressed in the book) and it was wonderful seeing Thorin change his opinion of Bilbo. Spanning three movies, I expected it to be slow. Martin Freeman’s portrayal of Bilbo was spot-on IMO, blundering yet innately brave, he was amazing. The scene with Gollum was another essentially identical to what I’d envisioned. I felt sadness for Smeagol, his pain and suffering. The meeting of Elrond, Gandalf, Galadriel and Saruman was total fiction, but for those of us who cared, it carried such weight. Thousands of years of knowledge, wisdom, power (and rings! All three elven rings, to be precise) all together in one meeting! And such a meeting in Rivendell for that matter! Again, it warmed my heart to return to this imaginary place. That may make no sense at all, but it was a remarkable feeling.

Dol Guldur, Radagast, Hobbiton, it was all great. I thought the Goblin King was too cheesy; I don’t understand the need to make him so goofy.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is no LotR. That’s quite fine by me. It is not without flaws but in so many ways it was exactly what I wanted…and needed. The Misty Mountains song was amazing and I’m posting Neil Finn’s version of Song of the Lonely Mountain below because it was so phenomenal.

I can’t wait to see it again…to see The Desolation Of Smaug in a year…to feel the sadness to leave Middle Earth like I did at the Grey Havens back in 2003. To say this is all more than just a movie, more than a book, more than just a passing interest would be to lie. And it’s all just begun. :D

Mini-Review: Looper – Fucking Awesome

Posted in Blog, Movies, Reviews on December 26, 2012 by slateman

LooperI imagine Bruce Willis can choose whichever movie he wants to do now. He’s established, likely rich, and…The Man (see the upcoming A Good Day To Die Hard). Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the other hand is a young, relatively un-established actor. That’s not to put him down, but he’s no Bruce Willis. In any event, when a script like this (or also in the case of Gordon-Levitt, Inception), how can someone not go for it? This movie was friggin’ incredible. I loved, loved, loved it. Any movie that leads me to the last 10 minutes with absolutely no clue how it might end = GOLD. Time-travel movies are just fodder for brain activity.

And when it comes to time-travel movies, this very well could be the best one ever. It wasn’t riddled with ‘what if’ situations, but it really made me think and in the end, I sat there, jaw agape (love when that I need to use that phrase). This movie rocked and may be the best movie I’ve seen all year (The Hobbit is still on the horizon.) I would list this up there with Inception as one of the coolest, yet most thought-provoking film in recent memory. A+++!

Merry Christmas!

Mini-Review: Borderlands 2 – Yes!

Posted in Blog, Borderlands, Games, Reviews, The Walking Dead on December 25, 2012 by slateman

Borderlands 2 review screenshot07A few weeks back I was chugging along in Borderlands 2 when I figured I’d call it quits for the night. My buddy, Mat wasn’t around to play online so I said, “What the hell,” and hopped online, something I hadn’t done in BL2 yet. Turns out, I joined a game that was precisely where I was and we blitzed through the remainder of the game in a four-player carnage-fest. It was insanity. It was awesome. Our connection was spectacular, the enemies and loot were superb and it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, BL2 had a better story, a few new tweaks and shiny new guns but it wasn’t that different from BL. This may affect the Game of the Year rankings – as The Walking Dead was nothing like anything I’d ever played before. However, BL2 was brilliantly executed and left me with a TON left to do. Two DLCs, two more to come, a second playthrough and a bunch of golden keys to use (L00t!)

I can’t say enough about this game, really. It has everything I wanted in a game and I’m still playing it (three months after its release). Definitely one of the year’s best and certainly one of the best of this generation IMO, trumping BL with certainty. Love it!!!