To the hockey world, Wayne Gretzky’s title is partner and vice chairman of the Oilers Entertainment Group. But to Edmonton center Mark Letestu, his title is Mister — as in Mr. Gretzky.
“It’s weird to call him Wayne,” Letestu said. “I grew up watching Wayne Gretzky.”
Gretzky is involved in the NHL...Read More
There was no splash factor this year, no attempt to become the story of the NFL draft.
The Rams, without a first-round pick, finally got their chance in the second round Friday — and then decided they could wait even longer, trading back in the round to acquire an extra pick.
They came away with...Read More
Richard Favela rested his hands over the wooden chip tray lining the craps table as the lights from above glinted off rings adorning his lithe, brown fingers.
Favela reached down for the dice and positioned them with great care. Turning them slowly. Methodically. Wholly unsatisfied until he had...Read More
Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Boston Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.
The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time...Read More
As his allotment of pitches approached expiration in a one-run game Thursday night in Anaheim, Angels starter Ricky Nolasco found himself in trouble. So he let his instincts take over his pitching.
In a 3-and-1 count against Oakland power hitter Khris Davis with two outs and the potential tying...Read More
Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal with 3:51 left to give the St. Louis Blues a 3-2 victory over the Nashville Predators in Game 2 on Friday night to tie the Western Conference semifinal series.
Jori Lehtera also scored for the Blues, and Jake Allen stopped 22 shots...Read More
Protests large and small swept across Brazil on Friday, leaving businesses closed, schools empty and an unpopular president facing ever louder calls to step down.
For the first time in more than 20 years, Brazilians held a general strike, with millions of workers walking off the job to protest...Read More
For the second time this month, an attempt by North Korea to test-launch a ballistic missile has failed, American military officials said.
The communist country's apparently unsuccessful launch, near the central Pukchang airfield, occurred about 6:30 a.m. local time Saturday, said Cmdr. Dave Benham,...Read More
Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith posted a 10-under-par 62 in Friday's four-ball format to move into the lead at the Zurich Classic, which is in its first year of a new team format.
Blixt and Smith have a two-day total of 15-under 129 to lead by one over Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay. The K.J Choi-Charlie...Read More
The New York Mets placed outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained left hamstring.
His absence is another blow to a team that has lost six straight, nine of 10 and fallen into last place in the NL East. He is hitting .270 with six homers and 10 RBIs.
“They didn't...Read More
The Galaxy have won five MLS Cups, played in 12 conference finals and made the postseason in each of the last seven seasons. So the team is no stranger to big games.
Yet, Saturday’s showdown between the 10th-place Galaxy and winless Philadelphia at StubHub Center looms as one of the more important...Read More
Set in late-’70s Boston, the ferocious, funny and relentless “Free Fire” places a group of shady characters in a deserted warehouse for the sale of a few cases of machine guns. A personal dispute between two of the least important people in the deal, guys just there to move boxes, quickly escalates...Read More
Riots or rebellion? Anarchy or insurrection? Unrest or uprising? Whatever words are used to categorize it, as the 25th anniversary approaches of the frenzy of violence that swept Los Angeles beginning April 29, 1992, attention is being paid. A lot of attention.
No fewer than five documentaries...Read More
If food is your passion, Jeremiah Tower is a name to conjure with. A venerated chef who writer and critic Ruth Reichl calls “a game changer who defined what a modern American restaurant could be,” he was a legend who vanished from the scene only to reappear years later to attempt one more act of...Read More
More than once in “Karl Marx City,” a shrewd personal inquiry into the mass psychology of fear and oppression, documentary filmmaker Petra Epperlein can be seen walking the streets of the former German Democratic Republic, carrying a large microphone. She is recording — as is her cinematographer,...Read More
“A Quiet Passion,” Terence Davies’ masterful new movie, plays out in the sunny gardens and lamp-lighted drawing rooms of 19th-century Amherst, Mass., where Emily Dickinson spent most of her 55 years patiently making her monumental contribution to American literature.
At first glance, the film,...Read More
"The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki" is a lovely piece of work, a sweet, warmly observed tale overlaid with just the right amount of Scandinavian melancholy, a combination that perfectly suits its quietly engaging protagonist.
Set in 1962 and inspired by a crucial moment in the life of a...Read More
How has there never been a comprehensive documentary about John Coltrane before now? One of the giants of jazz, the saxophonist collaborated with the best in the business — including Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. From his solo LP debut in 1957 to his death 10 years later at...Read More
For Mario Kart fans, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe might look like more of the same with small Double Dash-inspired tweaks. But thanks to a series of updates both big and almost unseen, it's the version of Mario Kart to get. If you don't own a Wii U or skipped out on Mario Kart 8 the first time around--or even if you've played it before--Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is worth your time. It plays beautifully on Switch in both handheld and docked mode, and its core racing is as exciting as ever. And, most notably, it completely revamps the original's lackluster Battle Mode, rounding out an already great racing game.
In the original version of Mario Kart 8, the balloon-popping Battle Mode disappointingly repurposed tracks designed for regular racing instead of having arenas designed specifically for a completely different way of playing. All of those tracks have been replaced in Deluxe, and the Battle maps we get make all the difference. There are five new maps and three retro maps, and each has choke points great for face-offs built around central areas where you can mercilessly toss items at your friends. And unlike on regular racetracks, those items have a much greater chance of actually hitting someone instead of flying off to the side pointlessly. The Splatoon-inspired Urchin Underpass and the almost Overwatch-like Dragon Palace are standouts.
In order to fully take advantage of these new maps, Battle Mode introduces modes that weren't in the original. Balloon Battle is of course back with a few changes--it's point-based rather than last-man-standing, which keeps battles exciting right up until time is called, and it's nice to not get booted out of the fun when all your balloons are gone. There's also a completely new mode called Renegade Roundup that's very similar to cops-and-robbers tag, meaning it capitalizes on Mario Kart 8's strong racing for a different kind of battle.
Finally, there are three modes that return from previous Mario Kart games--Bob-omb Blast, Coin Runners, and Shine Thief--that all complement the maps, with my personal favorite being the explosive, competitive mayhem of Bob-omb Blast. You have to drive around collecting item boxes, throw the bombs you get at your opponents, and avoiding getting hit with bombs yourself, and it's very easy to get way too competitive amid a flurry of bombs dropping around you. Combined with the other modes, this is the varied, exciting Battle Mode that Mario Kart 8 should have had all along.
Regular racing is as strong as in the original and gets minimal updates in this version. All the tracks and characters from Wii U, including the DLC, have returned, and there are also a few new characters to choose from. Unfortunately, there are no new tracks, so if you've done your share of racing (and yelling at) your friends on the existing tracks, you'll pretty much know what to expect.
This is the varied, exciting Battle Mode that Mario Kart 8 should have had all along.
That said, the ability to carry two items at once is back from the Double Dash days, and that means slightly more items on the track to keep you on your toes. My mastery of the tracks from playing on Wii U was challenged a bit by a few more Blue Shells thrown my way. But your driving ability still matters more than in previous Mario Kart games, and racing in Deluxe is as enjoyable and rewarding for skilled players as it was originally. Precise drifting and a good handle on what kind of kart or bike configuration fits your style and the tracks you're on goes a long way.
Deluxe also adds some small quality-of-life updates that make for a more polished package. Load times are shorter on Switch than on Wii U, and the game takes advantage of the Joy-Cons' vibration capabilities--off-roading is bumpier and drifting boosts feel more satisfying thanks to a stronger sense of acceleration. Plus, you can change your kart configuration in multiplayer without having to leave the lobby first. (About time.)
Even if you didn't really care about Battle Mode, the smallest changes in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe refine an already great racing game. But the huge overhaul to the original's afterthought of a Battle Mode is a chaotic, varied opportunity to play very differently than in Grand Prix mode and well worth reinvesting yourself in Mario Kart 8 on Switch.
Dawn of War III is a game at odds with itself. Matches start with a lot of momentum and expand quickly before settling into a soft balance for long stretches. Careful control of elite warriors on the front line is essential, but so is constantly nurturing your base and marshalling upgrades for your armies. Despite that, Dawn of War III holds its own, offering delicious tooth-and-nail fights that will push both your technical skill and strategic aptitude to their limit.
Continuing the story of Gabriel Angelos, head of the storied bunch of Space Marines known as the Blood Ravens, Dawn of War III centers on the search for an artifact from the Eldar blood god Khaine. However, the campaign shifts between each of the game's three major factions--the Space Marines, the Eldar, and the Orks--to show each of their perspectives and explain why a magical MacGuffin is worth interplanetary war.
If you got through that paragraph fine and you know your tyranids from your chaos demons, you're good to go. Otherwise, like most games under the Warhammer umbrella, this isn't friendly to newcomers--and it matters this time around. Everything from tactical options to unit management leans at least partially on knowledge of the Warhammer universe. The tutorial will do a solid job of giving you the tools needed to get going, but background knowledge is all but essential.
Beyond a healthy addition to the already massive Warhammer canon, the campaign doesn't offer much. You have a straight push through 17 missions, and each of them serves as a really drawn-out tutorial, offering contrived scenarios for you to test out different strategies before playing against others online. That's fine on its own, but without interesting twists on the fundamentals of play, you're better off starting with multiplayer. There's only one mode, but it's packed with ideas.
Skirmishes can have between two and six human (or AI) players split into two teams. Each is charged with defending a power core. Both sides start with an array of basic defenses, including a pair of powerful automated turrets, to deter early intruders. From there, you'll plan out your base and capture strategic points around the map to pull in resources and keep tabs on the enemy.
That, in itself, could form the backbone of a game, but Dawn of War III also has an array of powerful hero units. Each is a pillar of the Warhammer story and comes with weapons and powers befitting their esteem. You'll be able to summon your first after the first few minutes of a match, after which they can press fronts, boost morale, or harass your foes. While most of these units can turn the tide on their own, they're akin to a queen in chess, in that if you do manage to lose one, it can be devastating.
That's fine on its own, but what it means, practically speaking, is that just as your base-building gets more complex and requires more care and attention, you're also tasked with tactically managing your Elite units. That makes for one steep learning curve, but for those that manage it, there's a lot of added depth.
Bases in Dawn of War aren't just where your core units get churned out. They're a vital part of resupplying and supporting your forward troops. Elites, tough as they are, also don't typically heal on their own, and marching your shiny Morkanaut all the way to the foe's headquarters--only to have to march home and then back just to freshen up--isn't wise. That creates an unusual attentiveness to the front lines that lends itself to white-knuckle play.
Awkward as it can be, there's magic to be found here. Pressing with the gargantuan Wraithknight Taldeer as a distraction right as you capture a resource node is exhilarating, and it’s made that much better when you can connect the Webway and warp in reinforcements from across the map.
These gains are always tenuous, though. Dawn of War strictly limits army sizes, and resource gathering slows exponentially the more troops you have. This means that even if you knock an opponent down, they'll build up resources quickly and come back swinging in short order. That magnifies the importance of the psychological play. Running with the previous example, while you'd have a strong forward position, that also stretches supply lines and leaves you open to a swift, brutal counterattack.
These quick reversals are brilliant and make for intense, memorable matches. While humans are more fun to spar with, the included AI isn't a slouch either. Computer players will try their own tricks, often hinting at larger armies than they have for intimidation, or launching sneak attacks to your core base.
Each of the three main factions also complement each other well in the classic rock-paper-scissors fashion. Space Marines are slow to build up momentum, but once they've hit the field, they're a force. Eldar are mobile and suited for hit-and-run attacks, and the Orks...well, they're weird. They’re exceptionally strong, but only when they declare a "WAAAAAAAGH!!!"--which, while terrifying, notifies everyone on the field, letting others adjust defenses accordingly.
Between matches, you can tune your army a bit, changing out different elite units as a kind of loadout. Plus, in a nod to Warhammer’s tabletop inspirations, you can customize the paint and color scheme for every unit in the game. Given the role of army customization in Warhammer proper, it's a shame you can't also swap out weapons and gear for your basic units and vehicles, for example. They're nice additions that mix things up a bit, but they're also a bit shallow.
A few other problems lurk here and there, particularly in the user interface. On multiple occasions, Elite units won’t deselect when clicking around the map. At times, dragging boxes around troops won’t highlight them at all. While small problems on the whole, they did cause their share of raised voices.
Dawn of War III doesn't quite keep up with its predecessors' pedigree of high production values. The game certainly sounds amazing, with crisp sound effects and an excellent soundtrack, but the same can't always be said of the visuals. Battles often look great zoomed out, but pulling in shows plenty of blemishes. The camera also doesn't do a great job of showing off the battlefield. Even at its most distant, very little of the map fits in the screen, meaning that you can expect to need to move around a lot during play.
An odd chimera of its forebears, there's a lot in this fast-paced RTS that’s a little bit off. Parts of the interface don't work sometimes, inter-match army management is half-baked, and the micromanagement needed to use the game's signature hero units effectively doesn't jibe with the extensive base-building you'll need to support them. But those problems fall away when you’re in the heat of battle. Dawn of War III builds and maintains an organic tension that yields huge pay-offs, and there’s nothing else quite like it.Read More
Walt Disney World in Florida appears poised to launch the highest-profile commercial deployment of driverless passenger vehicles to date, testing a fleet of driverless shuttles that could cart passengers through parking lots and around its theme parks.
According to sources with direct knowledge...Read More
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff says North Korea has test-fired a missile from the western part of its country. There were no other immediate details Saturday morning, including what type of missile was used.
North Korea routinely test-fires a variety of ballistic missiles, despite United Nations...Read More
American Airlines on Thursday did something that’s good for its workforce and good for its passengers: it announced healthy pay increases for its pilots and flight attendants, two years ahead of the expiration of their union contracts.
In response, Wall Street absolutely slaughtered American’s...Read More
European Union leaders are poised to support allowing Northern Ireland, if it unites with Ireland, to automatically become part of the multi-nation bloc after Britain’s departure via Brexit.
Leaders of 27 EU nations attending a Saturday summit in Brussels plan to confirm their positions favoring...Read More
Bud Norris, the Angels’ nonroster invitee turned unexpected closer, has leased a home in Corona del Mar for $12,500 a month.
The two-story house, which combines elements of Craftsman and traditional style, sits on a tight lot about a block from the beach.
Built in 2006, the home has about 2,000...Read More
Once in a while, a renowned series from the past makes a welcome return after years in hiding. In their day, Syberia 1 and 2 were regarded as distinguished point-and-click adventure games that captured both mysticism and mystery, but 13 years later, most of that has been lost in Syberia 3. Although the threads that weave this series together return, its delivery is wholly underwhelming. Dialogue feels disconnected and the important moments lack impact, resulting in a story-centric game that rings hollow.
You play as series protagonist Kate Walker, an adventurous ex-lawyer from New York who ended up in Eastern Europe after helping one Hans Voralberg fulfill his dream: to ride the once-mythical mammoths on the island of Syberia. She leaves the island and is found by the Youkol tribe nearly frozen to death, and this is where Syberia 3 begins. Having been saved by the Youkol, Kate is compelled to help them overcome the roadblocks along their sacred migration across the Eurasian landmass. Many pieces of the previous game remain--the robotic Automatons built by the Voralberg family, Kate's vehement departure from home, and the aforementioned Youkol, a spiritual indigenous Asian tribe.
Set in fictional locations across Russia and the Eurasian landmass, Syberia 3 illustrates a quaint port village named Valsembor that's sprinkled with light snow. The charming town has a cozy tavern where the locals gather, and it feels like a place I'd want to spend a late afternoon. The game also takes you through the abandoned and rusted theme park in Baranour, where you can see remnants of a place that once fostered fun and imagination. It was tragically destroyed by nuclear fallout, and radiation still blocks off parts of the park, but once you get the power back on, a flicker of hope seeps through as your Youkol companions enjoy the salvaged rides for a brief moment.
As Kate, you complete objectives that consist of locating an item needed to solve a puzzle or speaking to someone who has information that's needed to move on. Syberia 3 moves away from the point-and-click controls of the past, and you're now in direct control of her. There aren't any fail-states or action sequences that ratchet up tension; that's fine, but the solutions to your goals are only mildly interesting obstacles that never really tap into or build upon your knowledge. Many of these moments rely on arbitrarily placed objects that either require a sharp eye or just blind luck to find. One genuinely clever puzzle forces you to finagle with the accelerometer of a broken-down roller coaster and figure out how to get the car to stop at a the entrance of a secret passageway. The necessary information can be derived from a paper clue nearby, but you need two metal poles to do the job. However, one is haphazardly placed under a bench within the expansive amusement park. So, even the better gameplay moments of the game are held back by curious design decisions.
Another scene requires you to find flares to fend off an attacker at sea, but the flares are placed under a bench in your ship that’s only visible if you enter the room from a specific angle. You may come across this item within minutes, or just as likely scramble for much longer. Regardless, player skill or cunning is not in the solution's equation. Important items are sometimes indistinguishable in the environment, a problem compounded by the game's semi-fixed camera angles and sluggish movement. Simple actions, such as changing direction and getting Kate into position, can be downright frustrating.
When you’re not pitted with obtuse puzzles, you're speaking with other characters who can assist you along the journey. You're given Telltale-style speech options to either alter Kate's conversational tone or dig up more backstory, but these often result in a slightly altered scene afterward or further down the road. You also have the ability to hear her thoughts during heated conversations, but it's simply meaningless exposition that tries to justify any of the presented options. There's always only one specific solution to objectives, devoid of any player agency.
For a game that relies so heavily on character interaction and dialogue to tell its story, Syberia 3 falls well short of making good on its approach. A large majority of dialogue sequences feature close-up views of the characters, which makes the overtly out-of-sync lip movement far too jarring to ignore. More often than not, the poor voice acting detracts from the characters’ presence and authenticity. Lines are delivered in the most inconsequential tones and out-of-context manner, reaching territory that'd have Siri or Alexa seem organic. For example, one supporting character speaks in run-on sentences, not even pausing to take a breath or express emotion for her ailing grandfather. That elderly man sounds as if he's voiced by someone 50 years younger. Meanwhile, Kate's original voice actress makes a return, but rarely do her lines ever match the gravity of the events that surround her. There isn't a natural pace to the speech, and many of the phrases and words sound like they’ve been lost in translation, sometimes bordering on nonsensical. Kate is constantly referred to as the American interfering with the issues at hand, but no one--other than the Youkol--seems to have any accents to match the game's setting. This relentless dissonance in tone and delivery permeates the entire game.
A returning companion and the captain of the Krystal ship are a few faint highlights, characters with more complex backstories and important roles. However, Syberia 3's antagonists are as cliche and faceless as they come. An evil doctor (who is constantly and nauseatingly called by her full name) and an eye-patched military commander make for the most hamfisted and cheesy villainous duo in recent memory. Without any semblance of purpose or motivation, they want the Youkol to modernize and integrate with modern society.
Rather than playing a vital complementary role in the Youkol’s journey, Kate is essentially their lone savior. Without her direct help, the Youkol tend to helplessly flounder about and sit idly by while she solves all their problems. The problem with this doesn't rest solely on some fictional Western savior complex, but also in the fact that the Youkol people never really develop as characters or become a bigger part of their own story. A late-game reveal adds a layer of depth to Youkol history, but it's first introduced in a throwaway line. The meat of this lore is relegated to a book in your inventory, which gives the time and place of your actions relevance. It's a significant tragedy that contextualizes a political struggle, but again, it's held back by clumsy presentation.
Amidst the grating dialogue and off-putting character animations is an atmosphere worthy of a better game and better-delivered story. Renowned composer Inon Zur (whose background includes the 3D Fallout games, Dragon Age series, and even Syberia 2) delivers incredibly rich and memorable music. The beating percussion uplifts a sharp orchestra that exudes infectious melodies and harmonies, driving home the feeling of charting unknown territory in remote parts of Eastern Europe. I even found myself unconsciously humming these songs outside of the game. The great music coincides with a cold and grim, yet captivating atmosphere, creating a world that should be lived in.
And that's the overall feeling with Syberia 3. Slivers of enjoyment and potential are found within a disconnected and underwhelming journey. The characters, their interactions, the way they speak, and the reason they even exist all mash into a puzzle-adventure game devoid of significance or impact. The Syberia series deserved a better return, otherwise, it should've been left in the past.Read More
From its opening moments, Little Nightmares' haunting aesthetic pulls you into its world of existential conundrums. It enthralls you with its eerie atmosphere and makes your heart pound with tense cat-and-mouse style chases. But the curtains close on this psychological puzzle-platformer far too soon, and for better or worse, it leaves you craving more.
Little Nightmares uses its time efficiently to deliver a poignant look at the consequences of sacrificing innocence and its ensuing madness. You follow the journey of Six, a nine-year-old girl trapped in The Maw--an underwater resort filled with monstrous, disfigured inhabitants that tower over her. The background details are never explicitly explained, but it's clear from the beginning that you must escape.
That vagueness continues throughout the game's short runtime, inspiring you to keep pushing forward in search of answers, as you observe vague narrative details in the places you visit. How did Six get trapped in the Maw? What is the Maw's purpose? And who is Six, exactly? These questions persist until the game's thought-provoking conclusion, and they're likely to remain with you after the fact. This lasting ambiguity drives an enticing narrative that keeps you engaged even if the answers it provides aren't entirely clear.
The answers you do discover can be found in the unsettling macabre imagery you encounter. There are many stories to decipher and interpret from the derelict, poorly lit rooms and corridors of the Maw--in fact, it's only a few minutes in that you find the hung corpse of a large man swaying back and forth from the noose that took him. Such sights are commonplace, each effectively reminding you in various disturbing ways of the world's cold, morbid state. The varied environments that serve as the backdrop of your adventure also keep you uneasy; your relative sense of scale is ever-changing, and the frequent, shifting Dutch angles that frame your viewpoint distort your perception of the world. The sound design is just as stirring as the visuals, from the creaking floorboards to the dissonant ambience that fill the vacant underground chambers you visit. The game's presentation engenders a deep sense of foreboding that makes each moment you spend in it all the more chilling.
In light of Little Nightmares' presentation, the juxtaposition between its cartoonish qualities and the dark mood that permeates its world is striking and distinctive. Its childlike perspective counterbalances its horror. This is reflected in the puerile ways you navigate and interact with the world: you pull up chairs to reach doorknobs, throw a cymbal-banging monkey toy at a button to trigger an elevator, and hug small critters wearing cone-shaped hats to prove your good intentions. This juvenile style of exploration and contact imbues the game with an underlying innocence. As a result, you always feel like there's a sliver of hope, even if it seems like it's continually in jeopardy against the grisly realities you must face.
You're not alone in this world surrounded by iniquity; there are several deformed creatures that stand in your path towards freedom. Those that inhabit the Maw fuel some of the game's most harrowing moments. The blind underground caretaker known as the "Janitor" has long, slender arms that heavily juxtapose his thick frame, while the chef twins are hulking, grotesque creatures that wear the skins of other people's faces as masks. To evade their clutches, you must sneak past them and solve basic puzzles under their noses, like finding a crank to open up a nearby hatch. You also navigate the occasional platforming section during the inevitable moment they spot you and give chase. The moments you spend hiding or running for your life are some of the most thrilling and tense that Little Nightmares has to offer. The suspense is further heightened by how small in size you are compared to them; it feels like the odds are always stacked against you. As a result, every successful escape seems like a fluke, which makes each encounter feel just as riveting as the last. That isn't to say you won't fail a fair number of times. Luckily, the game's run-ins with trial-and-error never overtly punish you, and it usually only takes a couple attempts to overcome even its most challenging sequences.
The adrenaline-fueled chases you have with the game's gruesome enemies are exhilarating, but the moments in between spent platforming and solving puzzles are often too brief and straightforward. Most times you're simply climbing up containers to reach a vent or acquiring a key to open up a path ahead. These rudimentary tasks, while utilized well during chase sequences to create tension and panic, aren't memorable on their own and serve as little more than busywork. Their facile nature keep things moving, aiding in the tight pacing of the adventure. But they're not as fleshed out as they could be, making your efforts to push forward in these sections feel superficial and hurried, especially when compared to your daring escapes from the Maw's inhabitants.
It's likely you'll finish Little Nightmares in one or two sittings; its brief length may diminish the spark of its highs, making you wish there was more to prolong the the time it takes to overcome its tense set pieces. But regardless of how you view the time you spend with the game, its strange and distorted world is enough to pull you back in for a second playthrough. The journey to reach its provocative conclusion is filled with unnerving questions and imagery that take hold of your morbid curiosities and pull you deep into introspection. While its puzzles are at times too straightforward, Little Nightmares is a chilling odyssey well worth taking.
On the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King riots, Los Angeles is glowing with racial amity — and festering with economic disparity. We all are getting along just fine, it seems, and by the way, many of us are very poor, even though we work as hard as we can.
That’s the takeaway from a remarkable...Read More
The Republican Party is devoted to tax reform, by which it really means tax cuts, but underneath this apparent laser-like focus lie conflicting schools of thought. The one embraced by President Trump is the Candy Land School.
The Candy Land School argues that tax cuts are always good, and that...Read More
When babies are born, they draw their first breaths. Those gulps of oxygen trigger the lungs to stop developing.
When babies are born prematurely, the same thing happens. But a preemie's lungs are critically underdeveloped. Scientific advancements have made it possible for babies born as early...Read More
In a Trump administration beset by lost opportunities, muddled strategies and frequent missteps in its first 100 days, one area stands out for its disciplined approach and early successes: the multi-front assault on environmental regulations.
Unlike the Obamacare repeal debacle or immigration actions...Read More
Their names will not strike fear into opposing batters. Their numbers are underwhelming. There is not an ace in the bunch, probably not a real No. 2.
Yet after a rough stretch, the Angels’ rotation is performing well, performing better than all but the most blinded of red-clad fans could expect.... Read More
Arkansas wrapped up an aggressive execution schedule Thursday, putting to death its fourth inmate in eight days.
Kenneth Williams, 38, received a lethal injection Thursday night at the Cummins Unit prison at Varner for the death of a former deputy warden killed after Williams escaped from prison...Read More
Remakes are a tricky business, especially for a game like Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap. Originally released on the Sega Master System in the console's waning days, the game didn't get a lot of attention in North America in the 80s, but it won over the hearts of many in Europe, where the Master System was far more popular. The problem is, how do you reintroduce a game that's a beloved classic to some but virtually unknown elsewhere to a modern, global audience? By keeping the gameplay close to the source material while giving the game an audiovisual overhaul. The result is a classic game that feels fresher than ever before.
The Dragon's Trap is an early example of what's now commonly called a "Metroidvania." This style of action game presents a free-roaming map that you're able to explore more of as you obtain new items and abilities. Most of your abilities in The Dragon's Trap come from the animal forms you can take after beating the dragon bosses. You start off as a lizardman who has limited defense and movement capabilities but wields a ranged fire projectile. As you assume other forms, your abilities will expand greatly: a mouseman with small stature and the ability to scale certain walls, a piranhaman who can swim through water freely, a lionman with a fierce offensive sword swing, and a flight-capable hawkman who can soar the skies but rapidly loses health in water. Each of these forms offers a play style that's both unique and easy to grasp--you won't have to struggle to re-learn controls for each transformation.
The world of The Dragon's Trap is fairly small compared to most modern games of this nature--there's no in-game map, but you probably won't need one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially since this game doesn't have true "save points." If you die or continue a saved game, you'll always begin in the hub town. It's a nod to the game's old-school, password-save roots (you can even use old passwords, if you like), and while it can be a bit annoying to redo entire dungeons if you're KO'd partway through, it also emphasizes the importance of skillful play and proper preparation.
What does "proper preparation" entail? Upgrading your weapons and armor, stocking up on limited-use magic spells that aid you in beating some of the game's more obnoxious enemies, and keeping a few health-restoring potions on hand that'll save your scaly/furry/feathered behind.
A bit of exploration and creative thinking will pay off immensely in the form of loot-filled treasure rooms, permanent health boosts, and secret shops selling high-powered gear. Few things are more satisfying in The Dragon's Trap than pressing up in a suspicious-looking enclave to find a wondrous hidden door to a treasure chamber with copious goodies for the taking. Developer Dot Emu has even gone the extra mile and included new, extra-challenging secret areas made exclusively for this version of the game.
Despite the world map's small size, each area manages to remain distinct and interesting--and this is augmented by the remake's charmingly upgraded presentation.
Despite the world map's small size, each area manages to remain distinct and interesting--and this is augmented by the remake's charmingly upgraded presentation. Between the stunningly drawn backgrounds, exceptionally well-animated characters, and little visual flourishes that make every set of screens unique, The Dragon's Trap is a visual delight. What's even more amazing is that the core gameplay hasn't been compromised at all from the original to accommodate the new visuals--it's still the same in terms of controls, physics, and overall exploration progression. In fact, you can switch from new- to old-school visuals and sound on the fly with simple button presses.
Despite its modernized 2D graphics, The Dragon's Trap does show its age in a few places. Sometimes the means of progression isn't always obvious, leaving you feeling stuck. This version of the game adds a fortune-teller who sometimes drops vague hints, which helps somewhat, but it's still a bit annoying to wander around aimlessly trying to find something to help you progress. (At least the old FAQs for the game are still useful.)
A few of the mechanics also take some getting used to, such as the odd stun state that can happen when you're trapped by an enemy or rapid-fire projectiles and debilitated for seconds at a time. The boss fights also feel very underwhelming--the enemy dragons fall into simple patterns that are easy to learn after a bit of observation, and they don't change them up even at low health. But since they can tank a lot of damage, these encounters turn into tests of patience and endurance rather than skill.
As things stand, however, Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap shines as one of the best retro remakes yet. It knows not to tamper too much with the enjoyable, exploration-driven gameplay that made the original so good, instead focusing on updating the presentation to reintroduce the game to a new generation of players. While it's a bit on the short side--you can probably beat it over the course of a lazy Saturday--its small world is packed with personality. Whether you've played the original or are completely new to the weird, wacky world of Wonder Boy, The Dragon's Trap is an adventure well worth embarking on.
The New Frontier season of Telltale's The Walking Dead is wrapping up the way that it began, with more Garcia family strife than zombie action in the penultimate episode. Thicker Than Water plays up the soap-opera dynamics that have long been as big a part of the franchise as the brain-munching gore, making for a more satisfying episode than its snoozy predecessor. Fireworks explode in the relationship between leading man Javier Garcia and his brother David, who finally figures out that his estranged wife Kate might just have feelings for her brother-in-law. Tensions bring Richmond to the edge of a full-blown revolt. And a cliffhanger conclusion sets everything up for an intense finale when the last episode of the season arrives later this spring.
Still, A New Frontier continues to play out in a more formulaic fashion than other seasons of Telltale's take on The Walking Dead. Thicker Than Water follows the same path of the preceding episodes, opening up with a blast from the past featuring yet another vignette starring the dysfunctional Garcia family. This time, the introductory flashback relives an afternoon with Javy and David at an amusement park's batting cages. It's hard to say what this scene is even supposed to accomplish: While past flashbacks took us to key moments like the Garcias experiencing the onset of the zombie apocalypse, this one tells us yet again that Javy and David hate each other and that David isn't getting along with his wife. We get some new information here about David planning to re-enlist with the army and leave Kate and the kids, but other than that, this kind of second-verse, same-as-the-first moment seems unnecessary.
The overall plot is also fairly predictable, but at least A New Frontier's narrative is finally chugging forward again after Episode Three put on the brakes. Here, secrets burst out of the closet at a steady pace, unraveling the uneasy alliances that have been central to the season. The episode features some real "duh” moments, but the dialogue and voice acting are handled so well that you can't help but go along for the ride. And as usual with Telltale games, the episode includes some key moments where your choices can make the story go in various directions and leave different corpses on the floor. But here, it seems only right that Javy winds up with Kate, which makes the story feel a touch predetermined.
Action is also once again in short supply. Although Thicker Than Water offers some intriguing conversational choices, their impact is somewhat muted through most of the game--reactions are mostly limited to "so-and-so will remember that” alerts. Selections only become truly meaningful toward the conclusion, when you're presented with life-or-death scenarios that up the stakes. One moment, you're talking to Clementine about the challenges of puberty. The next, you're deciding who lives and who dies during a makeshift execution. It all sounds somewhat ludicrous spelled out like that, but these varying situations seem like a realistic look at how much everything would change--from mundane moments with maxi pads to insane situations where you're asked to decide who gets shot in the head--after the collapse of civilization.
Yet even without much action, you're on the edge of your seat through the entire second half of the episode. Things go from bad to worse in Richmond really fast. Establishing a mood of utter dread--even when things seem to be going well--is one of the things that Telltale always does extremely well, and this dramatic touch is on display through the final showdown with Joan's Richmond junta. A feeling of despair is also present courtesy of an incredibly bleak scene with Dr. Lingard that contrasts perfectly with Clementine's desire to keep fighting for life in this apocalyptic wasteland.
Some interaction opportunities aren't fully taken advantage of, though. When Javy and David are taking their cuts at the batting cages, there's no way to actually hit a ball. All you can do is select whether to swing and miss to make David feel better or crush the ball and mock him for not being much of an athlete. And later on, when Javy has to hotwire a truck, all you do is push buttons to strip and connect the wires. Stripped of any real challenge, this is a forgettable "click-click-vroom” sequence with no dramatic tension.
Walkers barely make an appearance here. They're an ominous presence throughout the episode, as a horde has surrounded Richmond and made it impossible for anyone to leave the walled settlement. But aside from a brief combat sequence and zombie hands reaching eerily through a broken wooden fence, the undead are mostly missing in action.
Thicker Than Water continues to move things toward what will inevitably be a bloody conclusion in the next episode. This New Frontier season has been a little on the formulaic, predictable side and somewhat lacking when it comes to interactivity and zombie-biting action. In some ways, the episodic structure of this season has proven to be something of a drawback, as the slower sections would likely not have seemed so pronounced as part of a single eight- or nine-hour game. But the superb quality of the scripting and acting continues to deliver the dread and despair that have become Walking Dead staples, making it hard to wait and see what happens to Javy and friends in the next episode.Read More
Hundreds got their fill of some of the best local food and drink during the 16th annual Taste of Downtown Glendale on Wednesday.
Nearly 40 restaurants along and around Brand Boulevard, between Colorado Street and Lexington Drive, offered some of their best dishes and drinks to guests. Participating...Read More
The convoluted, often ridiculously forced “Grey Lady” aims for the gravity of such other Bay State-set mystery-thrillers as “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone,” but barely scratches the surface of those far more elevated films.
It also seems like awfully curious, undistinguished material for veteran...Read More