Humble Bundle free games “Amnesia: The Dark Descent” + “Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs”

It’s been a bit quiet this month in blogging (mainly due to some time-consuming Borderlands play), so let’s slowly build up writing momentum with short gaming news, this time about Humble Bundle‘s giveaway of the two Amnesia games.

As the offer is only available until tomorrow, I’ll keep this short, especially since I already covered both titles in their respective reviews. Amnesia: The Dark Descent mixes Gothic horror with a fair bit of (backtracking) puzzle solving, taking up the hide-and-run-from-enemies mechanics of Frictional Games‘ previous Penumbra Collection. Playing with psychological horror that makes the protagonist hallucinate works pretty well and even if the story and characters aren’t perfect, it still remains a great addition to the survival horror genre.

Official website

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs is more of an exploration game that is lacking in scares and especially puzzles. While the writing is quite good, it’s also a bit pretentious at times, which might have to do with the involvement of The Chinese Room, a developer that has a penchant for art games. Playing more like a short story with an exceptional soundtrack, it still keeps that sense of Gothic horror and offers a few narrative surprises, but one shouldn’t expect the same thrills and chills as in the original.

Official website

As both games are available for free in a collection, there’s really no excuse to avoid them anymore, even if one only receives a Steam code.

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Overview of (blog) life in December 2017

Happy New Year, everyone! After a short break from writing and a bit of a seasonal vacation, it’s now time to have a look back at what blogging was like in December 2017.

The overview of (blog) life in November 2017 was shortly followed by the Netflix watchlist: November 2017, with new additions to the media collection in November 2017 also being covered in the first week of the month. So there was actually more happening than at the start of this month…

A few games were released, mainly indie titles with beautifully touching stories and even inventive gameplay:

Finding Paradise
Gorogoa
Seven: The Days Long Gone

GOG spread some retro and Star Wars love with new additions to its DRM-free library:

Epic Pinball: The Complete Collection
Jazz Jackrabbit & Jazz Jackrabbit 2: Complete Collection
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga + LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed I & II

The Polish company also gave away two games for free, while Humble Bundle also joined in:

GOG free game “Grim Fandango: Remastered” + new games on GOG Connect + Winter Sale with more free games
Humble Bundle free game + soundtrack “Layers of Fear”
GOG free game “Oxenfree”

Only two games were reviewed, and unfortunately these weren’t the best, again showing that not everything that’s retro is necessarily a classic that holds up well today:

Alien Breed
Alien Breed: Tower Assault

Finally, the Christmas spirit was kept alive with some movie reviews, but the new Star Wars movie wasn’t forgotten, either, although it was a difficult one to rate:

A Christmas Carol (2009)
Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas
The Polar Express
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

There were a few days without blogging content, mainly due to the festive season, and if you’ve noticed the look of my avatar, you might see that I spent some time in the Europa Park, a big theme park where I took many Christmas-y photos, but we’ll see if I can manage to cover it with all the other news and game reviews coming up.

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.

Posted in Blogging, Game news, Game reviews, Gaming, Movie reviews, Movies, TV | 1 Comment

Christmas movies: “A Christmas Carol” (2009)

After Robert Zemeckis offered child-friendly Christmas entertainment with The Polar Express, his animated version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is quite a different beast to watch on the second day of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol
(USA 2009, director: Robert Zemeckis)

Miser Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that show him the way of kindness and good spirit.

Dickens’ story has been brought to the big and small screen for countless times, because it’s simply a wonderful story that, despite its contemporary Victorian criticism on the poor houses, has lost none of its importance today. It’s the prototype of sentimental storytelling, especially in the case of Tiny Tim of the Cratchit family the father of which works under very bad conditions for Scrooge. Seeing him on crutches but still good-spirited and full of hope will either tear at people’s heart strings or make them roll their eyes how Dickens brings home his message of social injustice. Even if the novel is remembered for all the happiness and good feelings of Christmas, it remains a dark story about ignorance and egoism which have to be fought. So it’s only understandable to mix jolly with dark scenes, which hasn’t been done better than in Zemeckis’ version.

Unlike The Polar Express which used the same animation technology, the characters look perfect, which might have to do with Dickens’ exaggerated descriptions of them that were put in the drawings accompanying his writings. But they still look human enough without distracting from the experience, and of course one can see and hear all the actors like Gary Oldman or Jim Carrey in each expression of the multiple characters they play (and they do it perfectly). There isn’t much else to say about the animation except that it’s flawless. Of course the question one asks when discussing a movie that adapts a book is how faithful it is, and one can easily say that this is one of the best adaptations until the last ghost shows up. Seeing Marley’s ghost (the deceased business partner of Scrooge) is already a frightening sight to behold, but when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears, the movie quickly falls into the horror genre, which isn’t such a bad thing, as the ghost remains one of the most frightening visions for Scrooge, but Zemeckis exaggerates with his special effects and includes a nonsensical sequence when Scrooge is miniaturized and is chased by a big black carriage. Seeing the distorted faces of all sorts of characters speaking Scrooge’s egoistic lines might also be a tack too much, but it somehow fits the psychological horror and the miser’s inner struggle to become compassionate again.

All in all, this is certainly no children’s movie, but one if not THE best adaptation of Dicken’s work. Some might argue that the 1984 version and all kinds of older adaptations are more enjoyable, but except for the Muppets version and of course Scrooged I always found them rather boring, playing it safe with their family-friendly attitude and less special-effects heavy presentation. Let’s be honest, the costumes as well as the acting haven’t aged well, so I’d choose Robert Zemeckis’ darker re-imagination of the source material any day.

Score: 9/10

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If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
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Christmas movies: “The Polar Express”

It’s the first day of Christmas, and the spirit of the season is still kept alive in the animated movie The Polar Express.

The Polar Express
(USA 2004, director: Robert Zemeckis)

A young boy who has lost hope in the magic of Christmas is taken on a nightly train ride to the North Pole together with other children on Christmas Eve.

Christmas movies are usually sentimental affairs, which can work if one is in the mood for them or they don’t and one prays that they’re soon over. The Polar Express is one such movie that can be a lot to swallow with all sorts of know-it-all phrases uttered by the train conductor or Santa both voiced by Tom Hanks. The young boy isn’t the most likable character, but he’s obviously used for prototypical non-believer who has to be converted, with other characters like a girl who wants to help everyone and a boy who usually wants to keep to himself also being perfect stereotypes used in children’s books to teach the young ones how brave one can be and that friends are easily won, even on just one train ride. It’s all extremely one-dimensional and as one doesn’t learn much more about the characters, it’s difficult to feel much for them, especially with Zemeckis’ CGI technique making their faces look surreal and even a bit scary. Speaking of scary, seeing unwanted toys in a dark part of the train or meeting a trainspotter ghost on top of it still that it’s not all bright happiness and jolly goodness all around.

However, despite the narrative problems and the whole moral teaching aspect, taking this journey is worth it just for the special effects and wonderful Christmas scenery alone. Going through all the snow at high speed with some spectacular if rather over-the-top action sequences that involve derailing and skiing on top of the train keeps the adrenaline pumping. Finally arriving at the North Pole is also a sight to behold, evoking the fairytale-like feeling one usually associates with the season, including a grand procession of elves to welcome the man bearded man with the bag in an unequivocal religious praying fashion, although the latter is obviously a bit problematic. There might be too many rollercoaster-like scenes and the singing is so sweet and exaggerated that it hurts, but The Polar Express still remains a guilty pleasure due to a fantastic soundtrack, the aforementioned snowy landscapes and everything one imagined the North Pole would be like as a child, complete with a train journey when hot chocolate is served for everyone in their pyjamas. The idea of hearing a bell ring that represents the belief in Christmas whereas it remains silent for others who don’t believe anymore is also a bittersweet reminder that maybe it’s not too bad to indulge in these types of movies and be a child again.

Score: 7/10

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If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
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Christmas movies: “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas”

Christmas Eve is almost here, so let’s have some family-friendly animation fun with Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas!

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas
(USA 2011, director: Karen Disher)

Ground sloth Sid accidentally destroys mammoth Manny’s heirloom rock and wants to clear his name from the naughty list meeting Santa with his friends.

For a short running time of less than 30 minutes, this installment in the Ice Age series can’t be compared to the full-length features, but as these didn’t always have the greatest of storylines, it’s no bad thing to be shorter. Everything one likes about the animated movies is present and correct here, with squirrel Scrat running after the ever-elusive nut and being punished in the most horrible ways few child-friendly movies are brave enough to show, sabre-tooth tiger Diego making his sarcastic remarks aimed at clumsy Sid’s behavior only adults will probably understand. Of course there’s the typical slapstick humor with the possums Crash and Eddie beating each other up, and main protagonists Manny and Ellie arguing in the best possible parents scenario, always being protective of their Ellie who remains maybe the least interesting character of the pack.

Being a Christmas movie, Santa and his reindeer are obviously featured, and with lots of Christmas songs that are actually made fun of when the protagonists don’t know what some lines mean, this is light entertainment at its best for the festive season. The animation is great as expected despite only being produced for TV and home entertainment, but this doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great ideas, like the way how hedgehogs are used as Christmas tree decorations. It’s maybe not a classic that will be remembered for years to come, but it offers a lot of laughter and is especially fun with in-your-face-snowballs-and-snowflakes 3D effects. I actually prefer watching this than the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas! animated movie which might have some really nice rhymes, but the Who’s high-pitched singing parts together with all that banging of drums and what not were death to my ears, so that Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas has become my personal favorite to watch during the season.

Score: 8/10

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If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the Amazon link and buying the product also helps ;).

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