Dorothea Tanning Exhibition is a Surreal Delight

The Dorothea Tanning exhibition at the Tate Modern is an excellent one, containing over 100 pieces of work from her 70 year career. I wasn't aware of who Tanning was but the moody trailer sold me on her.

Tanning's art style reminded me of gothic horror and surrealist writings by the works of Fanu, Poe and Danielewski, whilst recalling the themes of David Lynch's filmic work, especially the themes from Twin Peaks. She discussed the dual world dreamlike theme, which played heavily in all her works, but said she didn't know what they meant, only that she painted what came to her. Going through the 5 rooms I was enraptured by her vision, however I especially love her early works, which were inspired by fairy tales and the works of illustrator Gustav Doré. Highlights include: A Little Night Music, Birthday and Self Portrait.

Count Lucanor- Video Games As Art

Count Lucanor is a strange little game. It is an indie title that owes a debt to Zelda, Clock Tower and a smidge of Silent Hill, being a top down light RPG game with creeping dread horror elements. The game is presented in an 8-bit art style but that doesn’t detract from the intriguing story and weird creatures that exist in this world. As a young boy called Hans, you have to explore a spooky castle to find the name of a kobold to gain access to the treasure of Count Lucanor, sounds simple and at 3-4 hours it is, but the journey is well worth having. Some of the images are disturbing, you have been warned.

Google Spotlight Stories Shutters

Google's Spotlight Stories is being shut down. The studio was tasked with bringing innovative storytelling to the masses through VR and in its 6 short years produced some stunning 360 animated short films. Some were visual masterpieces that truly showed the potential of the medium like ‘Back to the Moon,’ whilst others were audio visual synaesthesic delights like ‘Sonaria.’ The best of the bunch in my opinion were ‘Pearl’ and ‘Age of Sail,’ both heartfelt and immersive storytelling experiences.

Google Spotlight

I will be sad to see the studio go as it had so much potential but at least we have these amazing 13 short films to enjoy for free. Give them a try, you won't be disappointed.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt- Complete Show Review

After 51 episodes, spread over 4 seasons, shared over 4 years, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has come to an end. The Netflix exclusive comedy series had some serious pedigree, as well as show creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock we had an impressive writing team who had credits on Friends, SNL, 30 Rock amongst much more, so expectation were sky high. So how was it and is it worth a binge watch?


The story revolves around Kimmy Schmidt and four other women, who are kept in an underground bunker for 15 years by a charismatic doomsday cult leader. Finally freed by the feds the 'Indiana Mole Women' adapt to life in the real world. Kimmy, who was only 14 when she was kidnapped, decides to go to New York and make it there, all whilst trying to keep her past traumas a secret. Over the course of the seasons she meets the self-centred but effervescent wannabe-actor Titus Andromodon, and a tough as old boots, from the streets landlady, Lillian Kaushtupper. The series revolves around the relationships and social dynamics between this odd family, whilst centring on Kimmy adapting to the tough world whilst remaining true to herself.

This sounds really bleak, like something you'd see on Dispatches, Panorama or something similarly po-faced with a gritty grey filter on Channel 4, but it is in the fact one of the funniest, warmest shows ever written with some of the best one liners and characterisations you'll ever see.

I love the enthusiasm of the ensemble cast, Ellie Kempers portrayal of Kimmy, a woman suffering from PTSD, is wonderfully offbeat and nuanced, she has a lot of naivete but has a wide eyed optimism that only really exists in children, before the world crushes it. Titus Andromodon, played wonderfully by Tituss Burgess, could come off as a one note flamboyant gay stereotype but through flashbacks we see his journey and start to understand his selfish behaviour. We see him as a flawed but likeable character who develops empathy and grows through the seasons. Lillian Kaushtupper, the formidable landlady given such a strong personality and Bostonian accent, is played by Carol Kane. Her dalliance with murder, arson, drug running and the free love movement of the 70s gives her a unique perspective on what is happening in her neighbourhood. Divorcee Socialite Jacqueline White, played by Jane Krakowski, is given the biggest character arc. She turns from a money grabbing rich socialite to a Lacota Sioux woman who is proud of her heritage and builds up her own career as a talent agent. She has some of the best one liners in the show and her comedic timing is formidable.

We are living in the darkest timeline and things can seem impossibly bad but through perseverance, optimism and a little humanity we can achieve and live our best life;  this is what The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt shows us. Even though Kimmy is strange, damaged and flawed she's human; she keeps of trying and sees the best in all situations. Like Jessica Day from New Girl, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation or Eleanor Shelstrop from The Good Place, she's trying to develop and be a better person and that's all any one of us can hope to do.

Through this oddball cast, we've been given characters we can get behind, like the cast of Brooklyn 99, Community or even Bob's Burgers. The show isn't all just fluffy stuff, it covers the #MeToo movement, PTSD, social media and the issue with privacy and toxic masculinity. It promotes tolerance, equality and respect, all whilst delivering killer lines and an engaging story arc that keeps you invested.

If you are looking for a show with heart, characters you can root for, a stunning minute to joke ratio and a story arc that matters check out The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one of the smartest dumb shows available.

British Politics Described Through Video Game Titles

I recently did an article entitiled ‘My Life Described Through Video Game Titles’ and it was pretty well received so I’ve decided to turn my hand to British politics. It’s been a bit of a poo storm if you’ve been watching the news over the past couple of years and, like before, I came up with a whole list whilst going about my business. So without further ado, here’s ‘British Politics Described Through Video Game Titles’.

Fantasy Zone Master System

Brexit being sorted by 29th March 2019

Super Fantasy Zone

Britain being able to get a good deal out of Brexit.

Streets of Rage

People not being able to get bread or milk easily after Brexit.

Streets of Rage 2

People not being able to get avocados easily after Brexit.

Streets of Rage 3

People realising that the cost of goods has actually gone up and the NHS is not getting the promised £350 million a week.

Super Smash TV

Seeing the smug faces of Farage, Rees Mogg or Johnson on TV.

Hollow Knight

Farage, Rees Mogg and Johnson speaking for the ‘common man.’

Blur

Dominic Raab’s time as Brexit Secretary

Land of Illusion

Those Brexiteers who keep stating ‘Britain stood alone in WW2 and will do so again.’

(Ignoring the fact that it had the support of much of the commonwealth)

Snake

Gove backstabbing Johnson in the back when running for the Conservative Party leadership contest in 2016.

Moomin Valley Soundtrack

I am beyond excited or the new animated Moomin Valley series, which is due to air over Easter. I have a love for the Moomins as many of you may know. I've discussed the Moomins multiple times before, when talking about the 80s stop motion animation, the recent vinyl soundtrack release and the exhibition at the Southbank Centre. What many people may not know is that my love for the Moomins is all pretty recent. When the Japanese animated show came out in the early 90s I was already too old for the show and was busy being edgy with the X Men cartoon. No, my love for the Moomins came in the mid 2000s with the release of the comics. Tove Jansson's comics were published in the 1950s in the Evening Standard and it was here that the characters became popular, however the collected volumes weren't released until 2006. As a comic collector I noticed the first 4 volumes on sale and decided to buy the set and it was here that the whimsical stories with heart and street philosophy entered my life. I fell in love with these hippo-like creatures that spouted aphorisms and enjoyed the simple things in life.

The new series will have a star studded album and will be released on CD, streaming platforms and on vinyl. I look forward to buying a vinyl album but which one? Now that’s a tough choice!

The track list is below:

  1. ‘I’M FAR AWAY’ (THEME SONG) BY

  2. ‘STARLIGHT’ PERFORMED BY ALMA

  3. ‘SUMMER DAY’ PERFORMED BY TOM ODELL

  4. ‘BACK TO THE CAVE’ PERFORMED BY COLONEL SUNS

  5. ‘LOVE ME WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART’ PERFORMED BY DELILAH MONTAGU

  6. ‘HOME AGAIN’ PERFORMED BY FIRST AID KIT

  7. ‘THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE FOREST’ PERFORMED BY EMILIANA TORRINI AND THE COLORIST ORCHESTRA

  8. ‘HOME’ PERFORMED BY JOSEF SALVAT

  9. ‘ALL SMALL BEASTS SHOULD HAVE BOWS IN THEIR TAILS’ PERFORMED BY ELLINOORA

  10. ‘FREE SPIRIT’ PERFORMED BY JOSEF SALVAT

  11. ‘COUNTRY AIR’ PERFORMED BY SOAK

  12. ‘BY YOUR SIDE’ PERFORMED BY MELLAH

  13. ‘IN BLUE’ PERFORMED BY DECLAN MCKENNA

  14. ‘NORTHERN LIGHTS PERFORMED BY

  15. ‘READY NOW’ PERFORMED BY DODIE

  16. ‘THE AUTHOR’ PERFORMED BY ROOSBERG

Bizenghast- Complete Series Comic Review

Bizenghast is a gothic manga-influenced comic series written and illustrated by M. Alice LeGrow, who won the chance to pitch the concept after placing in Tokyopop's Rising Stars of Manga competition. The 8 part graphic novel series was published from 2004 to 2012, the final part being released after a lengthy 2 year gap due to complications with the publisher.

I got on the ground floor with the graphic novel in 2004 and got the first 7 as they were released but the final one took me many years to pick up. Due to its small print run and Tokyopop’s financial complications as it wound down its business, the comparative rarity meant that the book was changing hands at ridiculous prices. I remember seeing it for £79 on Amazon second hand and it was a similar situation in other market places. However, I finally managed to get part 8 for a reasonable price (£17) recently and so used this opportunity to revisit the whole series again. So, was it worth the 15 year wait to get closure?

It took me many years but I managed to finish the whole series and complete my collection.

The story is intriguing and typical teen gothic horror fare but with a lolita fashion flourish:
In the mysterious town of Bizenghast a young orphaned teenage girl named Dinah lives with her aunt after the death of her parents. After trespassing in an ancient mausoleum, Dinah is tasked, alongside her friend Vincent, to return each night and free the ghosts within the building. After 10 ghosts are freed Dinah is assisted by tower guardians, Edaniel and Edrear. As the series moves on Dinah realises that there may be more to Bizenghast and its history than meets the eye, and its all tied to the curious Addie Clark and a strange incident that occurred many years ago.

Over the course of the series, there is the typical monster of the week format but the larger narrative arc in novel 3 changes the story and the feel of the story becomes much darker, violent and bloody. The death if a prominent character changes the mood of the series considerably and it becomes a study of death and the effects it can have on the living, covering the 5 stages of grief.

The series is a horror tale told well, with nightmarish creatures that terrify and haunt your dreams softened with beautifully intricate gothic lolita designs. The artwork lurches from stunning to workaday, sometimes feeling distinctly amateurish but the whole Burton-esque vibe is there. The story unfolds well and while in some places it can drag, as a whole it comes together in a suitable spectacular if sombre ending.
The long wait wasn't worth it in my opinion but enjoyed as is, Bizenghast is a solid story told well but with a few pieces of clunky dialogue and pacing issues. It is well worth a read though.

Alita: Battle Angel- Film Review

29 years after the source material first came out, Alita: Battle Angel has finally hit the theatres. I’ve been a HUGE fan of the series since its release in 1990 and over time have waited with bated breath for James Cameron, Mr Terminator/ Aliens/ Titanic/ Avatar to release the film he had optioned for sooo very long. With the success of Avatar, Cameron became too busy and passed the task onto Robert Rodriguez, a great/ good director with a variable success rate. I was concerned when the film was pushed back from its December release date and the trailers, while exciting, had me concerned. The online backlash *sigh* against the size of Alita’s eyes had me concerned that people were sharpening their knives for the film… so with some trepidation I kept away from all review, reports and social media on the film to see it fresh and uninfluenced, and I’m glad I did.

For those not in the know Battle Angel Alita is an ongoing manga comic book series that is a masterful piece of sci-fi. The story tells the dark tale of Alita, a young cyborg girl who is discovered broken but with her brain intact by Dr Daisuke Ido. Ido is delighted with his find and takes Alita to his home and repairs her. Over time there develops a father-daughter bond but Alita has amnesia and is unhappy as she wants to find out more about her mysterious past. Over time she learns that she knows the powerful 'Panzer Kurst' fighting technique and enters the Motorball Tournament, a Running Man/ Rollerball style gauntlet filled with cyborgs and other hideous mechanical marvels.

Over the course of the first 4 graphic novels Alita enters and becomes the champion of Motorball. The other 5 graphic novels see Alita try to live a ‘normal’ civilian life but life has other plans and there are plots to overthrow the floating city and bring equity to the Scrapyard… all pretty heady stuff!

Trying to fit over 1000 pages of comics into 2 hours would not be possible or advisable and so the film covers the first 3 graphic novels. The first 5 minutes of the movie whizz along at a cracking pace and the whole film moves from set-piece to set-piece effortlessly.

The first two series of Alita… clocking in at over 2000 pages easily!

The first two series of Alita… clocking in at over 2000 pages easily!

My heart soared with joy at seeing the scenes I'd imagined in my head for many years play out so spectacularly on the big screen. The scrapyard was bathed in a dirty golden glow as Ido finds Alita's broken body, her head and chest intact. The world of the scrapyard and the mysterious floating city of Zalem is beautifully realised, being one of the best cityscapes since Valarian, Blade Runner 2049 or Ghost in the Shell. The enlarges eyes of Alita drew initial criticism but within the first minute or so they just... blend in. When you have people with cyborg bodies roaming around slightly enlarges eyes on a robot girl seem less jarring, there isn't the uncanny valley that I and many others were worried about.

The fact that the United Republics of Mars - Earth conflict from much of Last Order and Mars Chronicle (the second and third Alita series) is mentioned is a nice inclusion for longtime fans as that’s a pretty deep cut, however it is covered well, as is the Panzer Kunst and Berserker Body. Without heavy exposition the concepts and background are explained, this is good work indeed, especially from a writing team not known for good scripting.

The love story doesn't always work as Rosa Salazar (Alita) is a much stronger actor that Keean Johnson (love interest, Hugo) in this film but the film works for me, not as an apologist for bad manga and anime conversions but generally as a bold sci-fi film. It is the best manga conversion so far and granted the bar was low but as a long time Alita fan (29 years) I was extremely happy with the end result.

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 3- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 2- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 1- Comic Review

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: And So It Ends

LINK- The Moomins 80's Soundtrack Vinyl Review

LINK- Inspector Gadget Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- Ulysses 31 Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- The Mysterious Cities of Gold Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- Sonic Mania Video Game Vinyl Soundtrack

LINK- Thomas Was Alone Video Game Vinyl Soundtrack Review

LINK- Akira Soundtrack Vinyl Review

Hilda- Comic Series Review

The Hilda graphic novel books by Luke Pearson are stories about a young blue-haired girl named Hilda. She lives in the mountains, surrounded by fantastical mythical creatures, with her mother and Twigg, her pet deerfox. Hilda is an adventurer and explorer who wants to understand her world and over the course of 5 books (so far as of early 2019) has lots of fun and exciting adventures. With each event Hilda learns something, often something profound for someone so small like what it is to be lonely, how easy it is to be unkind to animals, why rituals are important to many and how we can make the world a better place by working together.

There are 5 Hilda books so far.

In the first book, Hilda and the Troll, we find out about Hilda's world. Her passion for exploring, understanding the world and art lead to a grand adventure in which she realises that her prejudices led her to treat a creature in an unethical way. She learns from her mistake and grows as a person and that is what these stories are about... having flaws, learning from mistakes and growing to be a better person.

In Hilda and the Midnight Giant, the second book, Hilda helps a lost mountain giant find his friend after many millenia alone. Hilda meets the hidden smallfolk on her way and discovers that the invisible hidden folk have been disturbed by the presence of her and her mother in the mountains. The ending for this book is particularly profound and beautiful and is all about the effect we have on the world without even realising. Heady stuff indeed for a 'kids' comic. The weirdness and slight tinge of unease reminds me of Over The Garden Wall or even Frankenweenie.

The books look like the cartoon series from Netflix from book 4 onwards.

The books look like the cartoon series from Netflix from book 4 onwards.

After the events of book 2, Hilda and her mother leave their cabin and move to the city of Trollberg. Hilda then adapts to life in an urban setting, meeting new people and the complexities that brings. She begins to understand the beauty that can exist in the city and develops friendships through the Sparrow Scouts group she joins and it is here that the main thrust of the graphic novels is pushed forward with each novel being an amazing and whimsical adventure. There are elves, stone giants, a Thunderbird and even a hell hound thrown in the mix... it all ends up making sense as the world is a tapestry of stories and characters, all building towards a cohesive whole. The final book released in mid 2018, Hilda and the Stone Forest, ends on a real cliffhanger and fans of the series have been waiting many years for the continuation. The next book, Hilda and the Mountain King, is slated for release in late 2019 and I can't wait.

The 5 books are amazing and show Pearson’s evolution over the 5 years since the creation of the character. The first 3 books have wonderful if stylishly sketchy art but from book 4 onwards it is more cartoon like and more akin to the wonderful Netflix show. The colour palette is beautiful at conveying the mood and the panel organisation more fluent as the book series progresses.

The first 3 Hilda books have a sketchy art style… it’s beautifully stylised!

By book 4 the art style is more akin to a cartoon.

I must also mention how inclusive the series is, with a multicultural cast represented especially in Trollberg, the main town. The fact that Hilda herself is a girl is also a plus as it is rare for many comics to have positive young female role models. My 4 year old daughter looks up to Hilda but she is represented well and isn't perfect, being cheeky and selfish as kids (and adults) are wont to be. Hilda is a brilliant series and should be treasured by fans of the comic medium.

LINK- Comics in the Classroom

LINK- What Comics Have Taught Me

Vintage Arcade Finds In The Wild

Arcades have changed a lot over time and even though they are not as prevalent as they once were, there are many arcades that still exist and many have cool old games. Here I'm sharing a few machines that I’ve found on my journeys. It's interesting where some of these machines end up!

This Sega Weighing Machine is a Teignmouth Pier, I tried it but it didn't work… either that or my big behind broke the machine!

I love the woodgrain on this Super Nudge Gambler machine.

I found this beauty at the Teignmouth Pier… it doesn’t work though!

I went to a campsite in Devon and found this in the rec room... four classic games in one wonderful machine.

A staple of cinema complexes in the early to mid-90’s

I wonder how many hands have been on this piece of sweet kit.

I’m off the charts baby…. at least that’s what my wife tells me ;)

My Life Described Through Video Game Titles

I like to play video game and on occasion I think about aspects of my life and put them to video game titles. It’s like opening a box of Pringles, once you pop you can’t stop and over the course of a few hours I can often come up with loads. Often they hit me at the weirdest times; going for a walk with the kids, cooking roast dinner, on the toilet…

Anyways, have a look at what I’ve come up with and think of your own too!

(Please note that these are all said tongue firmly in cheek and no offence is meant.)

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 17.52.58.png

Living in Barking

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 17.51.47.png

Getting home at night from Barking Station

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 18.08.13.png

Saying goodbye to my asian family

(as opposed to spending hours on the doorstep)

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.46.36.png

Leaving secondary school at the same time as the other local secondary

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 18.10.32.png

Parents bring up prospective arranged marriage to some random Auntie’s niece

Getting married

Getting married

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 18.05.36.png

Telling the wife that she needs to calm down during an argument

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 17.48.35.png

Having kids

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.49.05.png

Retiring early and having a good pension as a teacher in Britain

Being a millennial and trying to get on the property ladder

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.52.51.png

Being a millennial and trying to get on the property ladder during Brexit

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 20.55.11.png

Passing my driving test after 60+ lessons and driving a 2008 Honda Jazz (in 2019)

Astro Bot- Video Games As Art

I’ve been a big advocate for VR and especially PSVR. We have used many games and experiences in lessons and it always goes down well but for your average person, VR isn’t a thing that’s going to stick… it’s like 3D telly… something that comes out cyclically but never sticks. However, sometimes a proof of concept comes out and shows people how amazing a new piece of kit can be and this is exactly what Astro Bot is. Much like how Mario 64 showed how 3D worlds could be realised, Astro Bot shows how VR can be used effectively to create an amazing game that couldn’t exist in any other way. The screenshots I’ve taken on my playthrough don’t do it justice, you really have to play it to understand how much of a game changer it is.

Shikhondo- Video Games As Art

I’ve always liked shoot ‘em ups… no, not first person gun games (although some are alright) but space ship shooting aliens. They've always held a special place in my heart as once the enemy patterns are learnt and memorised you can look like a boss completing a game. I have a vivid memory of playing Rtype at Heathrow airport and getting to level 3, that huge base ship.
Unfortunately over the last few years bullet hell games have taken over, I like them as I feel zen-like when I play them but they are not the same as traditional shoot 'em ups. Bullet hell games, especially the ones that have made their way West in the last few years on console including Deathsmile and Akai Katana have a place but they do feel stagnant compared to Dodonpachi and Ikaruga, the true exciting innovators of bullet hell. But generally bullet hell games have a different feel and mechanics and so it is with Shikhondo. The game looks pretty but is a bit of a soulless affair. Enjoy the images and grab the game when it’s on sale.

Lost In Harmony- Video Games As Art

We live in an interesting time in video gaming. We have the big hitters providing us with the spectacle and set-pieces but there are smaller developers who are trying unusual or experimental things. One of the latter is Lost in Harmony by Digixart, an endless runner and rhythm game but not…

Lost in Harmony is the story of a young boy name Kaito and his best friend, Aya, who is being treated for cancer. After texting Kaito falls off to sleep and the game comes into play in which you control the two skateboarding towards the screen in a variety of gradually more outlandish backgrounds, reflecting the fact that Aya may not make it.

The game is fine, nothing much to write about, but the music is sublime in places. Wyclef Jean produces a track ‘Lost in Time’ and it is a joy. Check out the game but definitely listen to the track!

Being An Elder Statesman of Gaming

Recently, I turned 38 and it dawned on me… I’m approaching 40 and what used to be called ‘middle-aged.’ Now amongst my father’s generation middle-aged meant they’d take up a hobby, usually golfing, tinkering with old cars or going through some form of a mid-life crisis but for me I’m not sure what it will entail.

As many people of my generation approach 40 we are less likely to own our own homes and so we have this weird stage of ‘man-baby’ males who are not on the properly ladder or even settled on what they want to do in life. I’m lucky as I’m a teacher and happy to be so (most of the time), married with a wife and two kids and I’m kinda on the property ladder. What middle-aged means to me is not new hobbies but an old one, the constant I’ve had since I was about 5 years old… gaming. I play a couple of hours of games most days and it shows no sign of abating. Even when people said that having children would put a dent in my gaming it really didn’t and hasn’t. Now I know this doesn’t reflect well on my parenting skills but I only play games when my wife and children are in bed and never during their waking day so it’s all good and healthy.

I have been reflecting though; will I be playing games when I’m proper old and crinkly? Will I plug in the Nintendo Holocube, Xbox Infinity, PlayStation 69 or Spectrum Revival II in my mancave and play some Final Fantasy 42, Zelda: The Kazoo of Space Time or Half Life 3. I don’t know but I hope so. However, I could become more reflective and look back and finally play the games of my formative years, Dizzy, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or Mario Bros. 3. It’s what the older generation do isn’t it? Look back with nostalgia on past glories and milestones.

Whatever the case, I’m sure I’ll be a gamer until my (probably arthritic) body gives out or my spirit is crushed through the constant talk of Brexit… whichever comes first!

Geek Chic

You hear about people wearing their heart on their sleeve, I wear my love of computer games on my t-shirts. Whilst teaching in Cambodia I got some t-shirts screen printed of the games I really like. Here are a few of the tops I got made.

Shadow of the Colossus

Metroid

Toon Link: Windwaker

Samus Aran from Metroid

Samus Aran from Metroid

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus

I got this Limbo inspired bag made in Cambodia... it lasted 5 years but finally has given up the ghost.

A close up of the boy figure on the bag.

SOMA- Video Games As Art

SOMA is a horror game by Frictional, the studio that brought us Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Penumbra, both staples of annoying YouTube screaming teen vids. However, rather than just offering jump scares, SOMA is a deep game about personal identity. “Soma” is Greek for “body”, and over the course of the game you consider what it means to be ‘human.’

The world of SOMA is beautifully realised and well worth a look. It reminded me of a more industrial Rapture, and that’s no bad thing.

What's the Deal With Achievements and Trophies?

I’ve been a gamer ever since I was about knee-high to a grasshopper. I remember our local video shop in East Ham, England renting out VHS tapes when one day it got in arcades. The flashing lights of the Space Invaders sit down cabinet and the marquee and cabinet art of Pac-Man are ingrained in my mind; I was mesmerised by this new world and have been ever since. What appealed to me, beyond the art and flashing lights, was the promise of mastery. The first few 10p coins would go in and I’d die quickly, get myself stuck in a corner or get blasted in a blink of an eye. However, with practise and perseverance I’d get better and make progress. I played for fun, knowing that there were no rewards or trophies but just for the sheer joy of it.

Nowadays, whilst progressing through a game I’m bombarded with ‘Achievements’ that mean very little. Fine, some show progress through a game and that in itself is a reward but the lack of purpose of trophies seems like a missed opportunity. It seems to me like there was something grander planned but then it devolved into a simple trophy progress bar instead, a tick list of busywork.

I loved Assassins Creed II but the feather collecting was a pain in the ass!

The pointlessness of trophies has turned me off to ‘Achievements’ and it’s vacuousness. Most egregious for me was the feather collecting in Assassins Creed II, and I loved that game.

I know that game designers build these in to prolong play of their game, but at a time when streaming services, movies, music, books etc are available to us and we are living through a real golden age of television I find some ‘Achievements’ aggravating and time consuming. I'm a bit of a completist and once I start a game it is very rare for me to not finish it but I’ve never ‘Platinum-ed’ (100%) a game since the trophy system came into place and have no interest to as often it means little more than collecting random doodads. I know some games gate content until certain trophies are achieved but this is rare in most titles.

What if with certain trophies you got digital rewards, such as OSTs, avatars, themes and maybe discounts? I’m not some old man shouting at the moon but do feel that the games industry is missing a trick here. So, what do you think? Let me know!

Trine 2- Video Games As Art

Trine 2 is a sidescrolling game of action, puzzles and platforming. You play as one of the three heroes (a Knight, Magician and Thief) and make your way through fantastical worlds to restore peace to the land. What makes the game a joy to play is the ability to change characters on the fly; each of the characters possesses their own unique abilities and strengths, which you must use to overcome obstacles and progress through the lands.

The game looks gorgeous and the lighting is stunning, almost painterly in its airbrushed glory. Considering it is a 2012 game the art style still really holds up.

Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle Vol. 5- Comic Review

With volume 5 we are given more insight into Baron Muster, a true comic book villain; all twirling moustache and cackling but in the very best sense. The previous volume had us judge him as a power crazy monster, however a flashback to his youth shows his motivation and brings a bit of humanity into the proceedings. His descent into madness and mania is operatic and tragic but is interspersed with the darkest of humour that Kishiro does so well. He goes full Cronenberg and the body horror is truly grotesque.

We get a little more information on Alita’s origins but yet again, they remain shrouded in mystery as her ‘birth’ is anything but normal. I won’t spoil it here but it Kishiro sure knows how to keep people on tenter hooks.

Vol. 5 goes into deep Martian lore.

Vol. 5 goes into deep Martian lore.