January 2019 Free Time

Would you believe that I spent a large portion of my time on honeymoon, lying lazily on the couch, watching rubbish on TV? With the new wife obviously. If you said yes, then you know me well. The time off work and with my partner was fantastic. Was I productive? Ha, of course not! But you’re not here for productivity so let’s chat about the time I wiled away.

Games

dead-cells logo

Why won’t you let me win, Dead Cells?! Have I not been patient with you and dedicated enough time to you? I have a huge backlog of games to get through and yet there you sit on my PS4 dashboard. Taunting me with the potential of THAT run. The one where I beat the final boss for the 2nd time over my 60+ attempts. After all my 59+ loses, I still adore the gameplay of Dead Cells. Simplistic gameplay with oodles of complexity. What keeps me coming back after each failure is the way I fail in Dead Cells. When I lose, I don’t think the game is being unfair. I die because I get too bold, I play bad or the run just doesn’t come together. That’s what makes a great rogue-lite. When you lose and you can accept the loss. Because you know that you can do it and you will do it on another run. The next run? Only one way to find out! *Goes and plays Dead Cells again*

red-dead-redemption-2

Red Dead Redemption 2 continues to drift in and out of my sessions. It still hasn’t hooked me and I’m at the Epilogue now. So, I think I’m far past the part where I *get it* or it *just clicks* like friends have told me. Not to say I’m not enjoying my time with it to an extent. I think the story and characters are engrossing. It’s just the gameplay in-between which holds it back for me. I’m looking forward to finishing it, purely from a narrative experience but I can’t say I’m racing to play it.

resident-evil-2-remake-claire-740x382

What a fantastic demo that Resident Evil 2 had! The concept of a timed demo seems unfair but it does a brilliant job of giving you that little fix that makes you crave more. Big fan of seeing more demos like it. I hadn’t even planned on buying it and yet my order is arriving tomorrow. I’ve played most of the main Resident Evil series, including 2 but I wasn’t that fussed about replaying it. The overhaul though is extraordinary. Zombies are scary again! Get the champagne out! I only experienced shooting mechanics for a dozen or so minutes but I really enjoyed how it felt. The fact that the aim takes a bit of time to finesse itself so you get an accurate shot is a huge deal to me. No more quick shots RE4 style. Precision is key. Zombies also take a lot to kill which I can fully get behind. And when there bodies hit the floor, I really struggle to tell if they’re dead or not. So much so, that I employed the Zombieland double tap method. In a game with limited ammo, I can see me firing an extra bullet into the deceased deceased as a bad habit. But, we shall see when I start my playthrough. I’m sure you’ll hear my thoughts on the game in the short future.

Films

starship-troopers1

Starship Troopers really holds up! I watched this film when I was 7 or 8 and saw it mainly as a Sci-Fi/Action film. Guns, aliens, yelling and brief nudity were all bonuses to any film for a young lad. My wife was genuinely scared of this film as a child and when we were flicking through the channels on honeymoon (we don’t have a TV license so Sky was a luxury for us) she spotted the film and put it on to show me how gruesome and scary it was. I quickly explained I knew most of the classic quotes of by heart from frequent watching as a child. But when we settled to watch it, it became clear how great the film is. I don’t think the film was big budget but the aliens and special effects look pretty great considering its age. Not only that but the satirical aspect of it was completely lost on me as a child. Seeing all its intentions with an adult mind really made me appreciate the film on another level. And it’s just a great alien killing romp with some pure cheese lines that steal my heart with each watch. If I’m ever in charge of a battalion, ‘Come on you apes, you wanna live forever?’ will be my battle cry. No one alive could resist following me into battle after that rousing line! Highly Recommend

bad times

An interesting film that fizzled out towards the end and slacked in the middle for me was Bad Times At The El Royale. A really intriguing beginning, fantastically shot with a terrific soundtrack and a cast of actors that always stood out to me. The first hour I was fully on board with the mystery and style but it just couldn’t the premise for its almost 2 1/2 long runtime. With its initial setup I was expecting more of a mystery with twists and turns but the film quickly resolved its questions without much fanfare. It made me wonder throughout most of the film if I missed something or when the next big twist was coming. That was possibly my own downfall but it did seem like there should have been more going on than what was handed up, especially with the disjointed first act. But as I said, expecting more mystery is a personal fault in my viewing experience and perhaps not the films fault. I do think the middle drags and I found the end to be a bit bland but strong performances and music kept me interested in this film. I’m glad I watched it and I would suggest watching the film but I don’t think I’ll ever watch this again. Happy I watched it but it’s not very memorable. Light Recommend

Series

killingeve

I finally started Killing Eve. Watched all 8 episodes in one night so that shows you how good I think it is. Basic premise is Eve, a government investigator gets brought in to investigate a murder of a political figure. That’s the first episode and from there it escalates into a game of cat and mouse. The 2 leads are very well acted and the main villain really captures your attention. Fantastic performances all round and what I love about the show is even though it’s a dark series about murder and assassinations, it has a healthy dose of humour and dark humour. Which as a fan of early Dexter, I’m all about! Another praise I have to give this show is that it knows not to drag its feet. 8 episodes long and the plot moves at a good pace. Too many shows have a loose middle now from overextending their plot into more episodes but a lean experience is always more memorable than a drawn out one. Quality over quantity and Killing Eve is a prime example of this. Highly Recommend

Random Recommendation

invincable

For this month I wish to recommend the graphic novel Invincible by the creator of The Walking Dead. This is his attempt at the superhero genre and I think he does an admirable job of creating an entire superhero universe and hero. Mark Grayson is Invincible, a superhero that is essentially Superman but in his Smallville era except it didn’t take 10 seasons for Mark Grayson to learn how to fly. Invincible can fly, is quick, durable and super strength. He wins no prizes for originality but that isn’t what the series is about. Robert Kirkman has taken the highs of comic books and its tropes and recreated them in his vision. For instance, there is a Justice League equivalent where the Aquaman version is literally a walking fish man who is the butt of jokes. Just like how Aquaman was a joke character in general media like Robot Chicken. What I really enjoy about Invincible is how the characters evolve. Heroes have problems and downfalls, they aren’t always on top form like Batman and Superman. Heroes mess up and suffer consequences or change mindsets in a gradual manner. There is a lot of personality and progression with the characters and some of the storylines are great arcs. As I said, a lot of this stuff is borrowed from other comics but after 60+ years of comics it’s hard not to do that. But as I said, Kirkman generally puts his own twist on the tried arcs and brings a new flare to the basics. If like me, you enjoy general comic book films and like comic book characters and like to dip into the comics now and then, I highly recommend Invincible. Part of the reason I only read contained stories in comics like Planet Hulk/World War Hulk is because you can jump into those things with basic knowledge of the characters and the world and just figure the rest out as you go. But if I grabbed a random Spider-Man comic I would be completely lost with what is going on. Invincible has an easy starting point and an end, and at 144 issues, it’s not a huge commitment.

Anyway, that’s me for this month. Hope you had a good month and thank you for reading. Take it easy.

December 2018 Free Time

Wow, I’m late with this! I’m getting married tomorrow and writing has taken a backseat. To be more accurate, it’s several rows of seats back. When I started writing this post the sentence was originally: ‘I’m getting married next week’.  But, I’m here now to let you know how my lazy bum whittled away my spare time besides Christmas, work and seemingly endless wedding discussions and meetups. I’m sure you’re all dying to know. Expect this to be a shorter post as like I said, pre-wedding shenanigans have taken most of my time this month and I can’t spend too long on this otherwise my partner will kill me.

Games

super-smash-1153641I promised myself I wouldn’t buy Super Smash Bros Ultimate and a week after its release I crumbled. See, this is why I don’t do drugs or try anything with major addictive qualities, I have no will power. Except for video games. Games are my vice and I was handed a controller when I was 2 years old so I can’t be held accountable for that. I crave games and I craved Smash Bros so I bent the knee to my desires. And, I’m glad I did. Ultimate is a return to form in my opinion, after the disappointing Wii U game. If you’ve played Smash Bros, then you know what Ultimate is. It’s Smash Bros but overflowing with content, characters and modes. I recently completed the World of Light mode which I found very engrossing and fun. I even 100% that and fully enjoyed doing so. It plays well, it sounds amazing and it’s just good old Smash fun. I will say it is the perfect Switch game too. I’m a person who plays docked mode most of the time but the majority of my time with Ultimate has been lying on the couch, Youtube on in the background and the Switch in my greasy mitts. It’s perfect if you want to multitask with your limited time as you don’t need to fully commit your concentration to enjoy it. Gangplank Galleon Remix is awesome as well. I keep listening to this song over and over again. The best song in the game!

tetris effect

Tetris Effect has recently tantalised my mind in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I had heard great things praising its visuals and sound design but I didn’t quite understand it until I bought it. Accompany this game with some headphones and a dimly lit room and you’re in for an experience. The game is essentially Tetris and so if you’ve played Tetris before you know what you’re in for. What makes it stand out though is the surrounding aspects. Tetris Effect has a bunch of levels and each one has a theme or idea it is aiming to achieve. The more lines you clear the more the level evolves and changes before your eyes. When you flip Tetris blocks lights and sounds will happen and the controller will vibrate. It creates this cohesive feeling that I’m really struggling to explain. Great writing, I know but it really is something that plays so much better than what you watch of it. I’m having a blast with it and I’ve never really been a huge lover of Tetris. It’s a classic game, don’t get me wrong but I would always drift away from it after a couple of hours. Tetris Effect keeps drawing me back in even when I’ve seen all the levels it has to offer. The levels pull me back in, I want to experience what I first felt when I played each one. A unique experience meshed with a classic game that I fully recommend trying.

ac odyssey

The Assassin’s Creed series had worn out its welcome for me. I had played 2 and Brotherhood and thoroughly enjoyed Ezio’s journey but when it came to Revelations I couldn’t finish it. It felt so samey. 3 came along and I gave it a go for about 20 minutes and then never returned to the series. Even Black Flag I skipped which is heresy according to some people. When Origins came out people praised its change in design and so I thought I’d give the series another go at some point. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was my re-entry point to the series and so far, I’m eh about it. It’s a fine game but I don’t see much to it. Currently I’ve put in about 15 hours so I feel I’ve experienced most of what is on offer. I’m not going to write it off just yet as it’s still keeping me entertained for the most part. But it’s that reliable entertained. It’s a game that I put on when I’m tired from work and don’t want anything too taxing or a game that I’m heavily invested in. It’s like a McDonald’s meal. Does the job and it satisfies that itch when we crave something like that. Side note, the voice acting is awful in this game. Characters feel like they don’t know the scene they’re in and so either read their lines monotone or in the completely wrong tone. It’s laughably bad and irritating all in one.

red-dead-redemption-2

Red Dead Redemption 2 is a difficult game for me. Aspects of the game I really enjoy and others infuriate me. Recently, I’ve come back to it after taking a month away from it because of my frustrations. I hoped I could come back to it with a new mindset and so far I am enjoying more than I was at the tail end of my playthrough a month ago but some feelings still remain unchanged. I’m going to keep playing it and I’ll either do a review or a write up on why I feel the way I do about RDR2. There’s a lot I want to discuss about it right now and only time will tell if I feel the same way when I complete it.

Films

halloween 2018

Halloween is an interesting concept, as the events of the film completely erase the original films sequels. It’s a neat idea to return the story back to a basic form as the Halloween franchise has had many sequels with varying peaks and lows in its lore. That brings me to Halloween (2018). Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for it. I found it very forgettable and not scary. Which, for a horror doesn’t bode well. The dialogue was very spotty at times for me with some cringe inducing lines and overall just weak characters. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t care for it at all. Not Recommended

kubo-and-the-two-strings-

3rd time watching Kubo And The Two Strings. Still love this film. If you’re a fan of the visual style of Coraline, then I highly suggest this. It looks amazing and tells a mature tale that is ideal for both, adults and children. Can’t praise the animation and the work Laika put into this project enough. Absolutely Recommend

Random Recommendation

reynolds-always-sunny

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is still one of the ongoing greatest shows. The series follows the exploits of the gang as they try to cheat, lie and steal their way through life, and trust me, there is no truce within the gang regarding that lifestyle. A large portion of why I love this show is because this group of friends are as quick to work on a crazy scheme together, as they are quick to stab each other in the back for minor gain. What I really love about the show is how the characters evolve over the seasons. And with 13 seasons, there is a lot of progression to be seen. From Charlie’s illiteracy to Dennis’s God complex. And sure, like similar shows the characters at times become caricatures of themselves similar to how Homer Simpson became insanely stupid in comparison to his earlier seasons. But, Sunny acknowledges this and its episode repetition as a character trait of the gang and so when doing that, there is some humour to be had. I can’t imagine going 13 seasons without some repetition and so it’s good to see a show adapt that fault into its episodes. All said though, if you want a funny and crass show about a bunch of selfish losers then you can’t do much better than It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and I’ll be posting more regular content soon. Take it easy.

The Power Of Game Hype In The Workplace

Just over a year ago, I moved from my city of birth to my current home. I’m about 4 hours away from the place that helped to shape me into who I am. I spent over a 1/4 of a century in that city and nearly a decade in my job there. Personally, I believe myself to be quite introverted and hitting a reset button on friends and colleagues isn’t an easy task for me. I don’t make friends quick or work chums as easy as I would like.

Part of this is my own personal preference and my own fault. I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work. But if I know the person I’m working with, I’m more than happy to talk. Unfortunately my current workplace is more, older generation staffed. Very few new staff get brought on and so not only is the majority of the workforce 2 or 3 decades older than me, but those cliques are already established. Then you have the fact that I live in the UK and I don’t have watch football. Nor do I watch soaps. I know, shoot me now! Not much of a Brit and definitely not hip with 90% of my co-workers. I could watch football, I could make the effort for the sake of conversation…..but I don’t want to. I find it boring and I can’t fake an interest in it. If you’ve heard Moss from the IT Crowd talk about the ludicrous display, then you have an idea of my footie patter.

So imagine my intrigue when I heard mention of mouse and keyboard play. 2 staff who were hired a few months ago were chatting about upgrading a computer when I was asked by a manager to help their station. I had talked to these newcomers before and got along with them fine but outside of casual work banter we never touched on anything more personal. The conversation quickly changed after that mention but it stuck with me as a future topic. I know a lot of people play games so I shouldn’t be surprised that they were gamers, but finding someone in my workplace to talk to about games is different. Like finding a diamond in the rough.

So last week, was the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2. To be exact, it was out on the Friday which was the next day. I just so happened start my job with those 2 staff members. I needed to talk to someone about Redemption 2 as I had been keeping my excitement at bay since its announcement but now with the game so close, I was overflowing with giddiness. So I asked (fake name time!) Mr Black if he was getting Redemption 2. ‘No but Amanda Hugginkiss is. She’s going at to the shops at midnight to collect it.’. What followed next was hours of chatting about games. All 3 of us sharing our history with gaming. Talking about our excitement over Redemption 2 and the possibility of being *sick*  for work, starting consoles, favourite games, hours spent on Call of Duty 4, Runescape memories and loads more. The time flew by and since then we’ve been talking about our own progress on Redemption 2 and how we’re playing Arthur Morgan. Not only that, they’ve told me of other people in work who game and so I know now who I can geek out with.

I had a range of friends and co-workers where I previously lived and we were all big gamers. When I moved, my connection to them dropped. I still talk to a lot of them but it’s not the same as seeing them constantly. But that is life. Co-workers leave and friendships dissipate sometimes. I’m aware of that. However, that excitement over a new game or film, I haven’t felt that in a long while. Not since moving. I was excited for Redemption 2 but no where near the level I was for previous games. And I realise now that that was because of my environment. There is something infectious about hype among colleagues and work mates. When you have a bunch of people who are counting down the days left to the next Battlefield or a new trailer for a game getting shown around the break room. When it’s home time before you even realise and the only realisation you have is that you just spent 6 hours talking about E3. I missed that. I didn’t realise how much I actually missed it until I experienced it again after so long.

It’s amazing what talking to the right people about the right topic yields. I had known both of those 2 for a good few months. Not extensively but on good terms. Within a day, my knowledge of them easily eclipsed my previous knowledge of them. I now have someone I can easily talk about something I love with. And even though that still only equates to about 1% of the workplace I know to be gamers, it still feels good to have someone who enjoys what I enjoy. There are people I can talk to comfortably and that alone makes my job so much more enjoyable. It’s still work at the end of the day but now I have people to talk to whilst we share that misery. Yay!