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To the editor: What a stupid decision by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to approve construction of the 19,000-home Centennial development in the far northwest corner of Los Angeles County. What was the board’s majority thinking?

Approving 19,000 new homes 70 miles from downtown L.A. is a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:00:00 PST )

Swearing disloyalty to President Trump has debuted as a dramatic set piece for 2019. Ideally, this disloyalty-swearing aria is performed in Milanese street style: Armani sunglasses and a dashing mid-weight boule-shaped burnt orange coat from Max Mara.

On Tuesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:10:00 PST )

After years of work and some ludicrous missteps, California’s annual report card on schools is finally up and measuring educational performance. It’s improved from its early iterations, and there’s a fair amount to like about it. But the new system is still lacking in many areas; the state shouldn’t...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:05:00 PST )

To the editor: As a British nurse living and working in California, I’ve got one thing to say on the subject of Brexit: Keep your opinions to yourself, Los Angeles Times!

How dare your editorial board suggest that a second referendum be held? How would you like it if Republicans decided they didn’t...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:00:00 PST )

Having been married to a teacher for the last 11-plus years, I must admit that I anticipated the backlash when deciding this week to publish a letter to the editor that noted the months of summer vacation in a school year and said teacher salaries should be set accordingly. This is an argument...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:00:00 PST )

After months of matching the Trump administration’s trade-war maneuvering in tit-for-tat fashion, the Chinese government has started making what appear to be peace offerings.

On Dec. 1 the two sides announced a tariff cease-fire, with the U.S. suspending a planned 150% increase in duties for 90...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Сб, 15 дек 2018 03:10:00 PST )

Los Angeles’ Abner Mares will pursue a world title in a fourth weight class Feb. 9 when he meets World Boxing Assn. super-featherweight champion Gervonta Davis at the newly named Pechanga Arena in San Diego.

The former San Diego Sports Arena that was once the home of the Clippers and Muhammad Ali’s...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 21:45:00 PST )

Kyrie Irving scored 24 points in three quarters and the Boston Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks 129-108 on Friday night for their eighth straight victory.

Irving also had five assists, five rebounds and four steals. He scored 12 points in the first quarter and helped Boston race to a 23-5 lead. The...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 20:00:00 PST )

The Charges overcame a 16-point halftime deficit at Pittsburgh and a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit at Kansas City.

In between, they ground out a five-point victory at StubHub Center over the Cincinnati Bengals on a day when the offense managed only j two touchdowns and a lesser team could have...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 18:25:00 PST )

John Hall, a sportswriter whose columns and stories appeared for more than four decades in L.A. newspapers, died Monday. He was 90.

Hall died at a hospice facility near his home in San Clemente, according to his wife, Toni. He was in good health until recently, and she said the cause of death was...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:45:00 PST )

Holidays in the Movies A young boy (Peter Billingsley) has a big ask for Santa in the nostalgic 1983 holiday comedy “A Christmas Story,” based on the writings of humorist Jean Shepherd. With Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin. Billy Wilder Theater, UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 17:00:00 PST )

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. continued to commit pipeline safety violations in the years after a gas explosion that killed eight people in the Bay Area suburb of San Bruno, regulators said Friday as they launched a new investigation into California’s largest utility.

The fresh accusations add to...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 16:40:00 PST )

It doesn’t normally happen like this, the best players on a team so intertwined with the city in which they play. But in a league in which stars hunt for the best situations and most compatible rosters, the special relationship between Memphis and the two best Grizzlies happened organically, the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:15:00 PST )

Taking nods from a number of design elements endemic to traditional trading card games and combining those with the flexibility and ease of digitized play fields, Artifact brings a uniquely compelling twist to the TCG formula. The bulk of this comes from Valve’s tentpole franchise of late: Dota 2. Artifact remixes many of the core ideas, focusing on the essentials of MOBAs to bring new layers of tactical complexity to great effect. Establishing a broad number of possibilities allows for near-limitless experimentation and development of new and complex styles of play.

Those unfamiliar with the free-to-play behemoth, Dota 2, and its competitors (League of Legends, Heroes of the Storm, etc.) won’t need much additional context, but a grasp of the basics can go a long way. As with standard MOBAs, you’ll have three lanes that you share with your competitor. Monsters, heroes, creeps, and items all get funneled into one of these passages and are pit against one another. Each of you will vie for control of all three in succession, starting from left to right, marshaling what forces and powers you can to overpower your opponent and topple the tower sitting at the end.

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In essence, the lanes act like as distinct play areas, though you do share a hand across them. Besides that, though what happens in one lane stays there. To win, you’ll either need to claim two of the three lanes, or manage to bring down your foe’s “ancient,” which appears only after you’ve taken a lane.

These basics are sticky to explain, but mercifully, pretty easy to grasp once you see them in action. Artifact offloads a good chunk of its calculations to computers, allowing it to be a lot more complex than a traditional card game. By taking some of that extra grunt work off of you, it broadens the possibility space beyond anything comparable. Because any number of monsters or heroes can be in each lane, it's possible that you’ll end up with 10 combat rounds or more across three lanes in a turn. That sounds like a lot, but Artifact offers up battle previews, detailing what will happen if you don’t respond. Likewise, the playable cards in your hand will glow a gentle blue, so you can save time and consider the ramifications of the play instead of burning your thoughts attempting to figure out what you even can play on top of what effect it would have.

Play proceeds in a series of rounds, where you’ll pass over each lane and resolve whatever relevant cards in sequence. Between each, though, you’ll have a chance to buy items and equipment to help in the next go around. Each creep you take down yields one gold, whereas an enemy hero yields five. Neither are necessary objectives in themselves, but creeps and heroes guard the towers, so most of the time you’ll need to be chipping away at them anyway, and the extra payout is a useful bonus that will--on occasion--affect which lane you choose to press through and when.

In truth, there’s a litany of micro-decisions like those that Artifact relies on to build itself into a fully fledged and shockingly nuanced trading card game. The fineries of play will take quite some time to master, and not because they are obtuse or particularly convoluted, but because of the tension between where, how, and when you choose to play. It can be to your advantage, for instance, to make one big push through a single lane if you don’t believe you can spread your forces effectively enough to nab two. But, even then, you’ll still need a capable defense to prevent your towers from being overrun.

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All of this is covered in the tutorial, but developing a genuine sense of the game takes quite a while, simply due to the nature of its play. Normally this would be a positive trait, and the fact that learning nuances over time is encouraged is a helps create a satisfying, growth-oriented style of play. But that clashes a bit with Artifact’s pricing structure.

Buying the game gets you a starting deck as well as several booster packs to round out your starting set. But from there, you’ll either need to trade and sell cards on the real-currency marketplace to fill out your decks, or compete incredibly well to win them. Competing would be fine, too, but the number of matches you need to win and the rewards you get from there are scant enough that most new players will need to put in some extra cash.

The fineries of play will take quite some time to master, and not because they are obtuse or particularly convoluted, but because of the tension between where, how, and when you choose to play.

This has been helped somewhat by the post-launch addition of a free draft mode (previously it had been behind a paywall). Here you can play all you want and experiment with whatever cards come up in the draft. Players looking to build their actual decks, though, may be disappointed. I say may because the market’s prices are extremely variable, shifting quickly as the market gets more and more rare cards and the metagame evolves. It isn’t clear, however, at this stage, what developer Valve will be doing in terms of restricting card rarity to keep prices stable down the line--or if there are any such plans at all. It may be that in two weeks’ time, competitive decks are dramatically cheaper to field. As it is, Artifact is dramatically cheaper than high-end Magic or Hearthstone, but it may feel less welcoming to passive fans who want to avoid any significant financial investment.

In aggregate, though, Artifact works far more often than it doesn’t. While the volatility of the market is one thing, play on its own is more challenging and engaging than many of its contemporaries. Play moves remarkably fast, too, shuffling between the lanes and then back to the start sometimes in under a minute. It’s a lot to keep track of, but it’s put together well enough and propped up by enough card playability hints and subtle calculations that it rarely ceases to delight.

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Production and animation help a good chunk with that, too. Play will frequently shift between the board as a whole and the specific play space on which you’re focusing. Between lanes, though, you’ll have a fluttering imp that manages your deck, carrying it seamlessly to the different play areas between rounds. They don’t affect play, only adding to the aesthetic presentation of the game and the visual language of how your deck and hand move across the board to each miniature arena, but they’re a nice touch. Similarly, the crack of a spell or the soft trickle of the stream that runs the length of the board are engrossing touches that bind the field together and give the game an added visual flair.

All-told, Artifact is a capable reimagining of modern trading card games. It plays quite a bit differently than just about any of its contemporaries--digital or not--and while the marketplace is volatile to say the least, there’s little evidence that the pricing is straight-up predatory. Just note, however, that the game is not free-to-play and be prepared to spend some additional bit of money coming in. It would be nice to see some more extensive options for those wanting to play by themselves or in non-competitive settings, but beyond that, Artifact is a great showing.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 06 Dec 2018 10:25:00 -0800)
'Spitak'

With a theatrical release timed to coincide with the anniversary of the devastating 1988 Armenian Earthquake, Alexander Kott’s “Spitak” is a spare, haunting, character-driven drama set in the immediate aftermath of the temblor that left more than 25,000 dead.

Hurrying back to Spitak, where...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 6 Dec 2018 11:45:00 PST )

Cut from the same crowd-coddling cloth as “The Full Monty,” Oliver Parker’s “Swimming with Men” is a lazily formulaic male-bonding comedy about a group of British blokes-turned-synchronized swimmers that feels like it has arrived about 20 years past its prime.

Meet Eric (Rob Brydon), a dour, self-pitying...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Wed, 5 Dec 2018 17:45:00 PST )

The Big Bash League, or BBL, is cricket's answer to the ever-increasing pace of modern life; a 20-over-a-side slogfest where smashing the ball out of the park to the sound of fireworks and loud rock music takes the place of five-day-long tests of endurance and patience. Big Bash Boom takes this concept and smashes it into the arcade game-o-sphere by introducing nice-looking power-ups, unlockable customizations, and a streamlined approach to gameplay that speeds up the action, while leaning into a goofiness that cricket games rarely embrace. But with a litany of technical problems and no meaningful tutorial to help you work out the basics, Big Bash Boom feels like it needs more time in the practice nets.

Big Bash cricket is all about smashing the heck out of every ball and scoring as many runs as possible, and Big Bash Boom does a superb job of recreating the buzzing atmosphere you'll find at the ground during a BBL match, complete with wild crowds, fireworks displays, and unintentionally terrifying-looking mascots. You can pick any of the eight licensed teams from either the BBL or Women's BBL, taking them to glory in a casual match, full tournament, or online head-to-head.

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When jumping straight into a casual match, you can customize match options, team lineups, and ball type, which includes a few fun varieties--pie, anyone? You're led out onto the pitch and greeted by real-world commentator Pete Lazer, though his occasionally charming reads come off as a series of one-liners instead of actual commentary, and they begin to grate after some repeats.

Out on the field is where Big Bash Boom shows off its main differences to past cricket games, including Ashes Cricket, which was by the same developer as Big Bash Boom. The action has been streamlined to cut out a lot of the dead air time that you tend to get at a cricket match, which gives the game its arcade feel. You're never asked to pick bowlers or select lineups. You can if you wish, but the game will otherwise make these calls to ensure a faster flow. The players all have NBA Jam-style big heads, which shows off the player likenesses in a way that's easy to appreciate. Faces are detailed, if a little robotic and expressionless, but the overall look works in context, especially combined with the great use of special effects to mark big shots.

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Batting and bowling feel more pick-up-and-play than in any other cricket game; however, the lack of a meaningful tutorial means things that should be obvious knowledge, like what the changing cursor colour on the pitch means, remain a mystery until you just happen to work it out through the natural course of playing. But that aside, it's simple enough to get into a match and start slogging balls left and right, with timing and shot selection all coming into play. Time it perfectly, and you'll probably make it sail over the ropes, but get it wrong and you might pop the ball up for an easy catch or swing and miss entirely. Bowling is a touch more complicated, involving selecting a bowl type to start the run in and then keeping the cursor on the pitch in place while timing your release. It often feels like you're up against it as a bowler; there's little you can do to avoid being belted around the park apart from bowling the occasional short ball, and you're limited to performing only one of those per over. Getting belted around every ball takes some getting used to, but thankfully if you'd rather spare yourself the embarrassment, you can always simulate the innings.

The inclusion of power-ups for batters and bowlers help pump up the excitement of a match, and you can activate these after filling a special meter by hitting runs and boundaries as a batter, or dot balls and wickets as a bowler. Each exhibits some excellent-looking animations and special effects, and you'll get some extra power for the next few balls. Bowlers can bowl twice as fast, fielders are able to run at double their speed, and batters can force slower throws from the outfield or hit twice as hard, sending loose balls into the stratosphere. It's immensely satisfying.

Everything you do in a match will earn you coins that you can put towards buying new in-match celebrations, which you're prompted to perform after hitting a big six or taking a wicket. While it's somewhat satisfying to rub it in your opponent's face, the lack of gameplay benefits makes showboating feel a little arbitrary. You can also purchase cosmetic customizations like new hats and helmets, but that's as far as personalization goes; disappointingly, there's no player or team editor.

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Beyond the excellent special moves and vibrant aesthetic, the rest of the game struggles to hide its seams, most notably when it comes to animations. Fielders will move about awkwardly when chasing the ball before settling and sending in the return throw, while batters often warp into place before setting off for a run. There are also some more obtrusive bugs that, when they hit, can change the outcome of a match. A few times I was called out for a catch on one side of the field when the camera made it look like the ball had gone in the opposite direction. I've also had catches made in the outfield seem as though they don't count, with my player harmlessly throwing the ball back to the keeper as though nothing happened--something that can be immensely frustrating.

Big Bash Boom's potential is clear. Despite its singular focus making it feel a little barebones when compared to other cricket titles, the shift towards arcade gameplay feels perfectly suited to the relatively flamboyant presentation of the BBL. But it's washed with bugs that affect the core of the experience, and those technical issues make it difficult to warm up to.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 03 Dec 2018 20:00:00 -0800)

A good rhythm game knows how to get you moving to the beat, but very rarely does it require your full physical exertion in the way that Beat Saber does. On one hand, Beat Saber is a delicately designed rhythm game that uses simple mechanics in increasingly complex combinations. On the other, it's a full-body workout--one that demands you get up and move to the many beats of its drum- and bass-heavy songs. It's a wonderful use of both virtual reality and motion control, with only a few campaign issues and a slightly disappointing lack of content holding it back.

Beat Saber is easy to pick up and understand immediately. You're equipped with two sabers (lightsabers in all but name), color-coded in red and blue. Each song plays out as a track of similarly color-coded blocks, each of which have arrow indicators signifying in which direction they need to be cut. You slice and dice your way through multiple songs, many of which mix up both speedy repetitive patterns with long avenues of tricky swiping angles that test your reflexes; there are also small hazards like explosive bombs and glowing red walls that you'll need to physically avoid. With difficulties ranging from the slow and simple Easy to the frankly ridiculous Expert, there's a gentle curve that lets you engage with Beat Saber on your own terms--from a light, manageable workout to a true test of your mobility and reaction times.

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PSVR support and the mandatory use of the Move controllers are what give Beat Saber its sense of motion. Beat Saber's blocks fly at you from the same starting point but can have wildly different trajectories that force you to stretch out to cut them. These can come whizzing past exclusively on your left-hand side before quickly transferring over to the right and flipping the pattern or alternate between low diagonal positions to a flurry of blocks flying overhead. The way Beat Saber continually uses rotations and last-minute position swaps gives its simple two-color system a lot of depth, which often requires deft motion tracking. The limitations of the PS4 camera have made this facet of PSVR tricky in the past, but Beat Saber features precise tracking, allowing for a high level of breadth to movement without impacting the feel of playing.

Beat Saber's songs do a good job of differentiating themselves from each other. "$100 Bills"” for example, is a satisfying exercise in pattern recognition that rides along a punchy bass track, while "Be There for You" shifts between slow and melodic verses into an adrenaline pumping chorus that uses devious pattern swaps to keep you on your toes. There's a lot of standard electro and alluring drum and bass, but Beat Saber does dabble in genres that you wouldn't immediately expect from its neon-brushed presentation and effects-heavy levels that elicit the feeling of attending an intense music festival. Coming across a new type of melody is refreshing after hours of dealing with similarly intense beats per minute, even if there aren't that many songs in total.

The PS4 version has five exclusive songs, each of which have tracks that fit their corresponding songs well and highlight their unique rhythms with clever block positioning. But on console, you lose the ability to download custom songs. Users on PC have been able to create songs using unofficial tools, greatly expanding Beat Saber's limited song library. There's more officially supported songs coming as paid DLC, but the selection is a little slim currently.

Modifiers alleviate the repetitive nature of the limited library to an extent. You can play songs with altered tracks that only allow you to use one saber or have directional arrows disappear as they get close to you. Only a handful of modifiers are available for each song, with an entirely new subset used in the game's campaign mode (which is exclusive to PS4 for the time being). These include challenges that ask you to not only complete a song but also move your arms to hit a collective distance travelled or achieve a high combo. Each of these pushes you to get better at songs you've likely already played, helping you inch closer to a perfect run in a natural way.

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Some challenges are frustratingly counterintuitive, though. Certain modifiers will inexplicably limit the amount of movement you're allowed to make, which detracts from the energy that makes Beat Saber so exhilarating. Other modifiers that force you to keep below a certain combo or make a certain number of mistakes before the end of a stage feel obtrusive to your progress. They require you to actively play worse, manually breaking out of great streaks or purposefully making wrong moves in order to progress.

The campaign gives you branching paths to follow on your way to its conclusion, so some of these frustrating challenges can be avoided. But you'll have to engage with each of them at least once, and they are disorientating speed bumps in an otherwise exciting journey. But Beat Saber's campaign is an otherwise well-paced training ground for your growing abilities. Its difficulty ramps up fairly--you can't change it like you can in other modes--consistently challenging you while also gently nudging you out of your comfort zone so that you can improve.

Beat Saber is an exhilarating rush and an exhausting game to play in the best way. It has great music that is more varied than you might expect, complemented by smartly designed levels that marry their complex patterns perfectly to the beat. It's difficult to get bored of Beat Saber, especially thanks to its extensive campaign that pushes you to get better with each step up in difficulty. But that same campaign is also uneven at times with confusingly counterintuitive challenges, which might frustrate you to the point of taking a break. And when you do, you'll realize that Beat Saber is also currently thin on content, with only a handful of songs and no means to upload customs ones. Yet despite those flaws it remains consistently satisfying to play, and is certainly one of the best PSVR games you can buy right now.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 26 Nov 2018 15:35:00 -0800)

One of the most important pieces of the Persona series, and a major reason why we remember each game so fondly, is the music. Each mainline game and spin-off has its own memorable songs that encapsulate its defining moments. And with Persona 5: Dancing In Starlight, the evocative soundtrack that wonderfully captured the journey of Persona 5 is brought to the forefront for a fun, exhilarating rhythm game with its charming personalities taking center stage.

Here, the rhythm gameplay system used in Persona 4: Dancing All Night makes a comeback. As songs play, you're tasked with hitting the corresponding notes that align with the six button inputs that border the screen. Notes come from the center and move outward to the corresponding input, with unison notes, double notes, holds, and DJ scratches (using the analog stick or L1/R1) keeping you on your toes. It's a system that's beginner friendly with lower difficulties and assist modifiers, but wildly challenging on the highest difficulty. There's an incredible satisfaction to nailing perfect combos as note patterns flow seamlessly with the tracklist. The audible claps, tambourine shakes, and scratches that come from these notes mesh impeccably with beat of the song. It's not far off to say that you feel the rhythm when note patterns start to come naturally as you grow familiar with each track.

A perfect combo and dance routine in the song
A perfect combo and dance routine in the song "Price" for Makoto Niijima.
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The style and swagger of the Phantom Thieves bursts at the seams in Dancing In Starlight; it's seen in a wink, nod, or smile as they move in ways that fit their personalities. They'll be getting down in familiar locations like Mementos, Shibuya Crossing, and Shujin Academy. Even deep within hostile palaces, they express themselves by going all out on the dance floor with an impressive fluidity. Tandem dances in Fever Time and group dances are choreographed with a natural imperfection, supported by the eclectic soundtrack.

The style and swagger of the Phantom Thieves bursts at the seams in Dancing In Starlight; it's seen in a wink, nod, or smile as they move in ways that fit their personalities.

The theme song "Groovy" is so beautifully drawn and animated that the unapologetic confidence of the Phantom Thieves comes through vividly--it's an inspiring microcosm of the original game's attitude. A number of hard-hitting songs like "Rivers In The Desert", "Blooming Villain", and "Yaldabaoth" are featured here alongside the more calming tones of "Life Goes On" and "Tokyo Daylight". And, of course, the best palace theme "Price" features Makoto throwing it down in front of Kaneshiro's bank in the Metaverse sky. The masterful fusion of jazz, pop, metal, and rock make for a great playlist that feels like a trip through the struggles and triumphs of Persona 5 all over again. There some decent remixes, like the house-style version of "Whims Of Fate", but many are a little underwhelming, such as the "Beneath The Mask" remix that doesn't quite make the same impact for a rhythm game. That's not to say they're bad songs, but with the bar set so high, you wish they had a bit more punch for the gameplay to thrive on.

There are also a few shortcomings in Dancing In Starlight when it comes to presentation. "Life Will Change", an empowering song with infectious conviction is paired to a fairly cheesy music video. But what's much worse is that the female cast members (who are also high school students) get oversexualized in the Last Surprise music video, which is some sort of bizarre burlesque show that's out of touch and wholly unnecessary.

Dancing In Starlight doesn't feature a traditional story mode, unlike its predecessor Persona 4: Dancing All Night. However, there are Social Events, which are scenes of dialogue where characters banter--these play out similar to a visual novel-style of Confidants in the original game. The overarching premise is that you and your crew are stuck in a dream state dictated by Caroline and Justine of the Velvet Room, and they're enforcing the one rule of Club Velvet: dance. Admittedly, it sounds silly, but it works to pave the way for some joyous moments in Social Events. You shouldn't expect much when it comes to further character development, although they embrace their newfound passion for dance. Conversations and references play off of what you already know about the cast; Ann's striving to be the next top model, Yusuke's enraptured by his artistic side, and Ryuji's as brash as ever. While these don't play into the high stakes and striking themes of the RPG, it's great to be with these characters again and watch the silly banter unfold, especially since the original English and Japanese voice casts return.

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You're also incentivized to play in different ways since each character has specific conditions for unlocking their Social Events, like passing several songs using modifiers or customizing characters during your time playing. Viewing scenes grants you these cosmetics, too, so the game naturally guides you to seeing most of its features. And the conclusion to Social Events rewards you with room visits; even if its just the attic of the Leblanc coffee shop or a crew member's room, working towards them is worthwhile as you get to see familiar places in first-person and take a closer look at a world you thought you already knew.

The masterful fusion of jazz, pop, metal, and rock make for a great playlist that feels like a trip through the struggles and triumphs of Persona 5 all over again.

It might take some adjusting to the overall premise, but it's fitting to see this cast getting footloose across Tokyo and the Metaverse. Dancing In Starlight shines the spotlight on the original RPG's rich, wide-ranging soundtrack and highlights some of the best work from series composer Shoji Meguro. Although many of Persona 5's tracks struck a chord because of their evocative attachments to the events of that game, these songs come back around to remind you just how special that journey was. And the fact that these amazing tracks are tied to a great rhythm gameplay system make this game a fantastic new way to enjoy Persona 5's tremendous music and revisit the Phantom Thieves.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 27 Nov 2018 06:30:00 -0800)

"Wherever you are, we'll meet again," artist Yumi Kawamura sings at the closing of the theme song "Our Moment." It's a track that beautifully captures both the joy of seeing old friends again and bittersweet memories left by Persona 3. It's a sentiment that rings throughout Persona 3: Dancing In Moonlight, a wonderful rhythm game that celebrates the great RPG by reuniting its charming cast of characters and putting its incredible, unique soundtrack in the spotlight.

The rhythm gameplay system first established in Persona 4: Dancing All Night returns; six button inputs border the screen and notes flow from the center out to the corresponding input. Double notes, holds, and DJ scratches (with the flick of the analog stick or with L1/R1) keep note patterns varied, and makes things delightfully hectic on the highest difficulty. There are plenty of beginner-friendly options as well with four difficulty settings and several modifiers for assistance. It's a fun rhythm system that's supported by note patterns that flow seamlessly with the fantastic tracklist--there's an undeniable satisfaction to nailing perfect combos as the audible claps, tambourines, and scratches sync with the beat of the song.

Yukari's on her way to a perfect combo and dance routine in front of the Paulownia Mall fountain.
Yukari's on her way to a perfect combo and dance routine in front of the Paulownia Mall fountain.
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I'll be the first to admit that there's a thematic dissonance between dancing in flashy outfits and Persona 3's darker tone, which might be off-putting for some die-hard fans of that game. Still, it's an absolute delight to be with the SEES crew again, reincarnated in 3D models in the same vein as Persona 5's art style. It's a reimagining of Yukari's cheerful demeanor, Mitsuru's stern attitude, and Junpei's goofiness. Everyone goes all out and dances with impressive fluidity, especially with how partner/group dances are choreographed with natural imperfections. I do wish we had the fearless squad member Shinji from the start, but he's available in a DLC track. And sadly, the ferocious, adorable Shiba Inu Koromaru and the Persona 3 Portable female protagonist are missing. Regardless, there's an overwhelming sense of joy in seeing these characters together again. And the fact that old locations are renovated with modern visuals makes them feel new--the Iwatodai Dorms, Port Island Station, Paulownia Mall, Gekkoukan High School, Tartarus, it's all here.

The remixes and remasters evoke not just a sense of nostalgia, but have a striking quality that breathes new life into the series.

Most of all, Dancing In Moonlight stands out with a tracklist that spans the course of Persona 3's history, which includes songs from Persona 3 FES, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and Persona 3 Portable. It gives a musical variety that's attached to so many great memories but that's also exciting to play. The remixes and remasters evoke not just a sense of nostalgia, but have a striking quality that breathes new life into the series. "Heartful Cry" has an unrelenting melodic-punk twist, and "Memories Of You" gets an electro-pop remix that remains heartfelt. "When The Moon Reaches For The Stars" and "Light the Fire Up In the Night" are have their full-length versions that slap harder than ever. The ending montage for "Brand New Days" and video for "Burn My Dread: Last Battle"--two songs on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum--capture their vibes perfectly. Even the Persona Super Live 2017 performance of the Persona Q boss theme "Laser Beam" made it into the tracklist. It may not be playable, but the song that fills the background during conversations, which samples the melody of "Our Moment" and the backing vocals of "Want To Be Close", is a soothing track that beautifully blends the old and new. Dancing In Moonlight carries the lasting impact of Persona 3's soundtrack.

Unlike Persona 4: Dancing All Night, there is no traditional story mode; outside of dancing, there are Social Events. The overarching premise is that SEES gets stuck in a dream state where Elizabeth from the Velvet Room asks the crew to dance their hearts out. It's silly, but it's enough to provide the context necessary for Social Events; a series of jovial scenes where characters simply banter. There isn't much in terms of new character development, though they do have a newfound determination to dance. Social Events play off of what you already know about the cast; Akihiko is still obsessed with getting stronger and counting calories, Aigis is still working her way around typical human mannerisms, and Fuuka continues to embrace her supportive role. It's wonderful to hang out with them again and watch conversations play out, especially since most of the original voice cast has returned--you also have the option for the original Japanese voice acting.

Still, it's an absolute delight to be with the SEES crew again, reincarnated in 3D models in the same vein as Persona 5's art style. It's a reimagining of Yukari's cheerful demeanor, Mitsuru's stern attitude, and Junpei's goofiness.

Unlocking outfits and accessories for your squad is also tied to viewing Social Events, so if you're into customizing their getups, it's further incentive to hang out. Outfits range from modest to utterly ridiculous; the Gekkoukan tracksuit and casual winter clothes look great, but putting Junpei into a snowman costume and Ken in a reindeer suit is hilarious. Social Events also provide motivation for playing in different ways since each character has specific conditions for unlocking their scenes, like passing songs using certain modifiers or wearing several outfits or accessories. It's well worth it, especially for the room visits. Even if it's just the team's dorm rooms, visiting these places in first-person brings to life characters you've known for years.

Compliments from Mitsuru are hard to come by, great work Fuuka.
Compliments from Mitsuru are hard to come by, great work Fuuka.
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Persona 3: Dancing In Moonlight puts the spotlight on one of the strongest parts of the entire series: the music. Its fusion of pop, rock, hip-hop, electronica showcases some of the incredible work of series composer Shoji Meguro and company. Dancing In Moonlight is particularly special because of the strong remixes and remasters of familiar songs, recreations of places we've been, and reimagination of characters we've long known. You may find the overall premise a little strange, but if you let loose--just as the SEES crew has done--you'll find a brilliant rhythm game weaved into an amazing, evocative soundtrack.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 27 Nov 2018 06:30:00 -0800)

Mutant Year Zero took me by surprise. When you tap the space bar to switch from the real-time exploration mode to the turn-based tactical mode, it's not considered activating combat. You're not entering into battle. The word “Fight!” doesn't leap out of the centre of the screen. Instead, the space bar is labeled “Ambush” and, while pressing it does indeed initiate a turn-based XCOM-style encounter, the semantics make all the difference.

Road to Eden is all about using stealth to thoroughly scout dangers ahead, then applying that knowledge to maneuver your squad into position for the perfect ambush. Do your research and plan well, and you can take out your target without them (or their cohorts) even realizing what has happened. Proceed without caution and you'll soon be bleeding out, your impatience severely punished. Approached properly, Mutant Year Zero isn't a difficult game; it’s a tight, cohesive tactical masterclass that rewards the diligent player.

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Road to Eden depicts a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia where resources are scarce and knowledge of what the world used to be is even harder to come by. Stalkers are sent from the Ark, one of the few remaining hubs of human civilization, into the Zone to scavenge for scrap and fend off the bandits, ghouls, feral dogs and worse that now occupy the ruined towns and suburbs. Everyone, even those safe in the Ark, has been touched by mutation. But Dux and Bormin, the two starting playable stalkers, are different; they're mutated animals, a duck and a boar, respectively.

At first glance, there's a lot you can do to customize each stalker and gear them up to specialize in certain fields, letting you mix and match your active squad based on the task at hand. The limited number of weapons and sheer expense of upgrades means you're forced to make tough choices. Should you spend literally all your weapon parts on the close-quarters effectiveness of Bormin's scattergun, or are you better served improving the ranged potency of Dux's crossbow? You can only afford one right now and, since there's no capacity for grinding, it may be some time before you can afford the other.

Sometimes the decisions are easier. Up against robots? You'll want at least one stalker, probably two, with an effective EMP attack. Up against dogs? You'll want at least one stalker, probably two, with crowd control abilities to prevent their melee rush. If you've done your scouting properly, you'll know what's coming and know which stalkers to swap in and out before you tap that spacebar. But don't tap that spacebar just yet. You're not quite ready.

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The Zone is divided into a couple dozen maps networked across southwest Sweden. They're not especially large--bigger than an XCOM map, but hardly sprawling--and typically centered on an identifiable feature: a scrapyard, a school, a subway station, a fast food restaurant, and so on. When you first enter an area you're in exploration mode and free to walk around in real time. When you spot an enemy you can enter stealth mode by switching off your flashlight, thus slightly reducing your visibility but also greatly reducing the distance at which the enemy will spot you. You're still moving around in real time, just slower and more discreetly.

The tension is ratcheted up during this pre-combat exploration phase, as you're tip-toeing into hostile territory, identifying how many enemies await you, what types they are, what levels they are, whether they're patrolling, where those patrol routes take them, where their vision cones intersect, and so on. You've noticed one enemy's patrol route takes him away from the others. You hit F to split up your party and guide them individually into position. Bormin has his back to a tree, Dux is on the roof of a nearby building, and Selma is crouched behind a rock at the end of the unsuspecting enemy's patrol route. He's there now. Time to hit the spacebar.

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It's all about the ambush. It's about analyzing each scenario in the exploration phase and identifying which enemies you can eliminate, one by one, without alerting others. But pulling off a series of clean hits isn't always possible. Inevitably something will go wrong--you'll miss that 75% chance shot you were counting on or fail to do quite enough damage before the enemy gets its turn and calls out for reinforcements--and suddenly the whole area is on alert and you're scrambling to improvise a new plan. In these moments of high chaos, when the rug is pulled out from under you, this is where the game really shines.

The tactical combat engine borrows a lot from Firaxis' revival of XCOM and offers as much depth alongside a presentation that ensures all critical information is clearly communicated at all times. And you need to be well-informed, because most of the time--outside of the odd simple skirmish that introduces a new element--there's an awful lot to think about. Enemy variety is key; there are basic brutes who charge you in melee, snipers who hunker down on overwatch, shamen who can call in reinforcements, and medbots who can revive enemies, pyros who flush you out with molotovs, and that's just the early stages. Later, there are high-HP tanks who can ram your cover, priests who can buff fellow enemies or deliver chain lightning attacks, giant dogs who can knock you over and maul you for multiple turns, while others possess mind control powers and more. Tackling groups of enemies drawn from several of these types can be hugely challenging, even when you've culled their numbers with some decisive early stealth takedowns.

The stakes are high, especially on the harder difficulty settings. Your stalkers' health will be measured in single and low-double digits for much of the game, meaning it only takes a couple of direct hits to put them down. Similarly, your weapons can only fire once, twice, or if you're lucky, three times before you need to use up valuable action points to reload. These limited resources echo the post-apocalyptic themes of scarcity and survival while also raising moment-to-moment tactical considerations in combat.

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Juggling all the demands of combat, from patiently surveying the field beforehand through to learning how to best counter each enemy type and improvising a new strategy when it all goes horribly wrong, make for an immensely satisfying tactical experience. But as enjoyable as the predefined encounters on offer over the course of Road to Eden's mostly linear story are, it's still a linear story. On a new playthrough, that same map will still feature the same enemies standing in the same spots or running the same patrol routes. Outside of testing yourself against the hardest difficulty and a permadeath mode (assuming you don't opt for these first time through) there's not a lot of replay value to be found.

It's a shame, because the combat engine is so robust I would love to continue pitting myself against some sort of randomly generated map long after completing the main story. Mutant Year Zero's clever focus on stealth and pre-combat preparation reward your diligence, its turn-based combat encounters are complex, and they help bolster its all-encompassing post-apocalyptic atmosphere. It is a superb tactical combat campaign that you shouldn't let sneak past.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 05 Dec 2018 19:00:00 -0800)

Faraday Future continues its downward spiral. A federal judge Thursday temporarily froze founder Jia Yueting’s 33% stake in the Gardena-based electric car startup. The judge also put a protective order on Jia’s trio of high-end homes in Rancho Palos Verdes.

It’s the latest twist in the sad saga...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 14:00:00 PST )

Film director and producer Jonathan Heap is gearing up for a closing act in the Hollywood Hills, listing his home of more than two decades for sale at $2.995 million.

Set on a half-acre of grounds, the Midcentury-vibe two-story makes the most of its location in the Hills with walls of windows that...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:55:00 PST )

This week, LA Times music reporters Gerrick Kennedy (@GerrickKennedy), Mikael Wood (@mikaelwood), and Randy Lewis (@RandyLewis2) join Mark Olsen (@IndieFocus) to discuss the intermingling of music and film. First, the group focuses on capturing live performance on film, as seen in the new “Springsteen...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:55:00 PST )

The primary factor in the Lakers’ loss to the Houston Rockets was what happened at the free-throw line. James Harden is a transcendent talent, and his keen ability to draw fouls on opponents is certainly part of that.

It doesn’t help that opponents get so frustrated by the volume of free throws...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:55:00 PST )

A 23-year-old Army mechanic convicted of ambushing and executing a couple and their friend while they slept inside a Fullerton home in 2016 was sentenced Friday to life in state prison without the possibility of parole.

An Orange County Superior Court jury last month found Joshua Acosta guilty...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 11:55:00 PST )

Ontario police are searching for a man caught on camera assaulting a restaurant customer and shouting a racial slur at him, officials said.

Sgt. Bill Russell with the Ontario Police Department said the assault Wednesday at Waba Grill off Mountain Avenue is a misdemeanor, but investigators want...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 10:55:00 PST )

A few flickers of hope, only to be blown out by the massive issues that have raged out of control.

Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets could have been a microcosm of the Kings’ season. They were good at times, but not good enough. Close, but not close enough. Overall, they were simply...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 08:00:00 PST )

Tijuana’s World Boxing Organization super-welterweight champion Jaime Munguia is finalizing a deal to fight Japan’s Takeshi Inoue Jan. 26 at Houston’s Toyota Center, two officials told the Los Angeles Times on Friday.

The 22-year-old Munguia (31-0, 26 knockouts) will headline the bout on the new...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 08:45:00 PST )

CBS Corp. has divvied up $20 million among 18 groups that advocate for workplace safety and the elimination of sexual harassment — fulfilling a promise the company made in September when it severed ties with its longtime chief executive, Leslie Moonves.

The broadcasting company is using money from...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 08:50:00 PST )

Armand Pigeon doesn’t really take free kicks for the Edison High boys’ soccer team. That’s not his role.

But with the team’s designated free-kick taker out sick on Thursday night, the junior said he felt the need to line up for one right before the first half expired.

Coach Charlie Breneman is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Thu, 13 Dec 2018 23:50:00 PST )

“Tidelands,” a supernatural seaside crime thriller that gets underway Friday, has the distinction of being the first original production by Australian Netflix, and that is the most distinctive about it.

Still, notwithstanding that it begins with an epigram from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ("My soul...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 14 Dec 2018 00:05:00 PST )

Signed, sealed, delivered.

Thursday night’s victory over Kansas City was a signature win by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who had waited so long for redemption in this frigid house of horrors.

The epic comeback by the Chargers was a total team win, of course, with receiver Mike Williams having...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 22:55:00 PST )

Neither the team he plays for now nor the team he left behind has a winning record, but Trevor Ariza’s departure left a mark on the Houston Rockets.

They miss the boost he provided as a reserve, but they also miss his character.

“I think everybody misses a guy like Trevor in their locker room,”...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 21:30:00 PST )

Lockheed Martin has agreed to expand its cleanup efforts of contaminated groundwater in the San Fernando Basin as part of a settlement agreement reached with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Under the agreement, Lockheed Martin will treat and transfer 1.5 billion gallons of drinking...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 21:50:00 PST )

The idea of what the Super Smash Bros. games are, and what they can be, has been different things during the series' 20-year history. What began as an accessible multiplayer game also became a highly competitive one-on-one game. But it's also been noted for having a comprehensive single-player adventure, as well as becoming a sort of virtual museum catalog, exhibiting knowledge and audiovisual artifacts from the histories of its increasingly diverse crossover cast. Ultimate embraces all these aspects, and each has been notably refined, added to, and improved for the better. Everyone, and basically everything, from previous games is here--all existing characters, nearly all existing stages, along with the flexibility to play and enjoy those things in different ways. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a comprehensive, considered, and charming package that builds on an already strong and enduring fighting system.

If you've ever spent time with a Smash game, then you likely have a good idea of how Ultimate works. Competing players deal damage to their opponents in order to more easily knock them off the stage. The controls remain relatively approachable for a competitive combat game; three different buttons in tandem with basic directional movements are all you need to access a character's variety of attacks and special abilities. There are a large variety of items and power-ups to mix things up (if you want to) and interesting, dynamic stages to fight on (also if you want to). You can find complexities past this, of course--once you quickly experience the breadth of a character's skillset, it allows you to begin thinking about the nuances of a fight (again, if you want to). Thinking about optimal positioning, figuring out what attacks can easily combo off of another, working out what the best move for each situation is, and playing mind games with your human opponents can quickly become considerations, and the allure of Smash as a fighting game is how easy it is to reach that stage.

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Complexity also comes with the wide variety of techniques afforded by Ultimate's staggeringly large roster of over 70 characters. Smash's continuing accessibility is a fortunate trait in this regard, because once you understand the basic idea of how to control a character, many of the barriers to trying out a completely new one are gone. Every fighter who has appeared in the previous four Smash games is here, along with some brand-new ones, and the presence of so many diverse and unorthodox styles to both wield and compete against is just as attractive as the presence of the characters themselves. In fact, it's still astounding that a game featuring characters from Mario Bros, Sonic The Hedgehog, Pac-Man, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter all interacting with each other actually exists.

On a more technical level, Ultimate makes a number of under-the-hood alterations that, at this early stage, seem like positive changes that make Smash feel noticeably faster and more exciting to both watch and play. Characters take more damage in one-on-one fights; continuous dodging is punished with increased vulnerability; fighters can perform any ground-based attack, including smash moves, immediately out of a running state; and short-hop aerial attacks (previously a moderately demanding technique) can be easily performed by pressing two buttons simultaneously. Refinements like these might go unnoticed by most, but they help define Ultimate's core gameplay as a tangible evolution of the series' core mechanics.

A number of Ultimate's more superficial changes also help Smash's general quality-of-life experience, too. Some make it a more readable game--additions to the UI communicate previously hidden elements like meter charges and Villager's captured items, a simple radar helps keep track of characters off-screen, and a slow motion, zoom-in visual effect when critical hits connect make these moments more exciting to watch. Other changes help streamline the core multiplayer experience and add compelling options. Match rules can now be pre-defined with a swath of modifiers and saved for quick selection later. Stage selection occurs before character selection, so you can make more informed decisions on which fighter to use.

On top of a built-in tournament bracket mode, Ultimate also features a number of additional Smash styles. Super Sudden Death returns, as does Custom Smash, which allows you to create matches with wacky modifiers. Squad Strike is a personal favorite, which allows you to play 3v3 or 5v5 tag-team battles (think King of Fighters), and Smashdown is a great, engaging mode that makes the most of the game's large roster by disqualifying characters that have already been used as a series of matches continues, challenging your ability to do well with characters who you might not be familiar with.

The most significant addition to Ultimate, however, lies in its single-player content. Ultimate once again features a Classic Mode where each individual fighter has their own unique ladder of opponents to defeat, but the bigger deal is World of Light, Ultimate's surprisingly substantial RPG-style campaign. It's a convoluted setup--beginning as Kirby, you go on a long journey throughout a huge world map to rescue Smash's other fighters (who have incidentally been cloned in large numbers) from the big bad's control. Along the way, you'll do battles with Spirits, characters hailing from other video games that, while not directly engaging in combat, have taken control of clones, altered them in their images, and unleashed them on you.

Though there is some light puzzling, the world is naturally filled with hundreds upon hundreds of fights--there are over 1200 Spirit characters, and the vast majority have their own unique battle stages that use the game's match variables to represent their essence. The Goomba Spirit, for example, will put you up against an army of tiny Donkey Kongs. Meanwhile, the Excitebike Spirit might throw three Warios at you who only use their Side+B motorbike attacks.

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It may seem like a tenuous idea at first, but these fights are incredibly entertaining. It's hard not to appreciate the creativity of using Smash's assets to represent a thousand different characters. Zero Suit Samus might stand in for a battle with The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater by donning a silver-palette costume and fighting you in a flower-filled Final Destination, but she also stands in for the spirit of Alexandra Roivas from Eternal Darkness by using a black-palette costume and fighting you in the haunted Luigi's Mansion stage, with a modifier that makes the screen occasionally flip upside down (Eternal Darkness was a GameCube horror game whose signature feature were "Sanity Effects", which skewed the game in spooky ways to represent the character's loosening grip on reality). If I knew the character, I often found myself thinking about how clever their Spirit battle was.

Defeating a Spirit will add it to your collection, and Spirits also act as World of Light's RPG system. There are two types of Spirit: Primary and Support. Primary Spirits have their own power number and can be leveled up through various means to help make your actual fighter stronger. Primary Spirits also have one of four associated classes, which determine combat effectiveness in a rock-scissors-paper-style system. These are both major considerations to take into account before a battle, and making sure you're not going into a fight at a massive disadvantage adds a nice dimension to the amusing unpredictability of this mode. What you also need to take into account are the modifiers that might be enabled on each stage, which is where Support Spirits come in. They can be attached to Primary Spirits in a limited quantity and can mitigate the effect of things like poisonous floors, pitch-black stages, or reversed controls, or they can simply buff certain attacks.

There are a few Spirit fights that can be frustrating, however. Stages that are a 1v4 pile-on are downright annoying, despite how well-equipped you might be, as are stages where you compete against powerful assist trophies. On the flip side, once you find yourself towards the end of the campaign, there are certain loadouts that can trivialize most stages, earning you victory in less than a second. Regardless, there's a compulsive quality to collecting Spirits, and not just because they might make you stronger. It's exciting to see which obscure character you run into next, feel validated for recognizing them, and see how the game interprets them in a Spirit battle. There's also just a superficial joy to collecting, say, the complete Elite Beat Agents cast (Osu! Takatae! Ouendan characters are here too), even though these trophies lack the frills of previous Smash games.

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Some hubs in the World of Light map are also themed around certain games and bundle related Spirits together to great effect--Dracula's Castle from Castlevania, which changes the map into a 2D side-scroller, and the globe from Street Fighter II, complete with the iconic airplane noises, are personal standouts. Despite the dramatic overtones of World of Spirit's setup, the homages you find within it feel like a nice commemoration of the games and characters without feeling like a pandering nostalgia play. One of the most rewarding homages of all, however, lies in Ultimate's huge library of video game music. Over 800 tracks, which include originals as well as fantastic new arrangements, can all be set as stage soundtracks as well enjoyed through the game's music player.

There is one significant struggle that Ultimate comes up against, however, which lies in the nature of the console itself. Playing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in the Switch's handheld mode is simply not a great experience. In situations where there are more than two characters on screen, the view of the action often becomes too wide, making the fighters too small to see properly, and it can be difficult to tell what you or your opponent is doing. The game's penchant for flashy special effects and busy, colorful stages doesn't help things at all, and unless you're playing a one-on-one match, you'll likely suffer some blameless losses. This is a situational disadvantage and may not affect all players, but it puts a damper on the idea of Smash on the go.

The need to unlock characters also has the potential to be an initial annoyance, especially if your goal is to jump straight into multiplayer and start learning one of the six brand-new characters. In my time with the game, I split my attention between playing World of Light (where rescuing characters unlocks them everywhere) and multiplayer matches, where the constant drip-feed of "New Challenger" unlock opportunities (which you can easily retry if you fail) came regularly. I naturally earned the entire roster in roughly 10 hours of playtime, but your mileage may vary.

Your mileage may also vary in Ultimate's online mode, where the experience of competing against others was inconsistent during the 200+ matches we played. Ultimate matches you with players from your region, but continues to use peer-to-peer style connectivity, which means the quality of the experience relies primarily on the strength of each player's internet connection. A bad connection from any player can result in a noticeable input delay, stuttering, and even freezing as the game tries to deal with latency issues. Things have the greatest potential to go bad during four-player matches, where there's a greater chance of finding a weak link.

There's some blame to be put on the console itself--the Switch only has the capabilities for wifi networking. You can invest in an optional USB LAN adapter to make sure your own connection is stable, but because of the peer-to-peer nature, I found that the experience was just as inconsistent. You can get lucky--I would regularly enjoy sessions filled with smooth matches--but regardless, laggy matches aren't exactly a rare occurrence. It's also worth noting that you're required to have a paid subscription to Nintendo's Switch Online service to be able to play online at all, so the sub-optimal performance of the mode is disappointing.

Network performance aside, Ultimate's online mode does have an interesting way to cater to the large variety of ways to play Smash Bros. You can create public or private arenas for friends and strangers, which serve as personal rooms to dictate specific rulesets, but the primary mode is Quick Play, where you're matched against people of a similar skill level to you. Quick Play features an option where you can set your preferred ruleset--things like the number of players, item availability, win conditions--and it will try to match you up with someone with similar preferences. However, Ultimate also prioritizes getting you into a match in under a minute, which is great, but sometimes means that you might find yourself playing a completely different style of match.

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In my experience, I found that there were enough people who wanted to play with my ruleset (one-on-one, three stock, six minutes, no items, Omega stages only) and I would find myself in these kinds of matches, or at least a very close approximation, the majority of the time. Getting thrown into the occasional four-player free-for-all felt like a nice, refreshing change of pace to me, but depending on how flexible you are as a player, this can be a turn-off. But like so much of Ultimate, its multitude of options and styles of play doesn't necessarily mean that all of them will suit every player.

An inconsistent online mode and situational downers don't stop Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from shining as a flexible multiplayer game that can be as freewheeling or as firm as you want it to be. Its entertaining single-player content helps keep the game rich with interesting things to do, as well as bolstering its spirit of loving homage to the games that have graced Nintendo consoles. Ultimate's diverse content is compelling, its strong mechanics are refined, and the encompassing collection is simply superb.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 06 Dec 2018 05:00:00 -0800)

As a 7-year-old suburban New Jersey white boy, Dwayne Booth wanted to be famed black activist Angela Davis. That pretty much says it all about the person who would become the wildly iconoclastic cartoonist known as Mr. Fish. His story is told with enjoyable insight and candor in the documentary...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 4 Dec 2018 18:25:00 PST )

At the beginning of versatile Scottish actress Karen Gillan’s debut feature as a writer-director, “The Party’s Just Beginning,” we might be forgiven for looking upon Liusaidh (Gillan) as just another callously hedonistic, snarky 20-something.

In the opening scenes, she uses her karaoke time to...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 4 Dec 2018 15:35:00 PST )

“Write When You Get Work” doesn’t work. Not as a romance, not as a Robin Hood-tinged caper flick, not as a social commentary on racial inequity or classism, and not as a male-buddy picture — all elements director Stacy Cochran attempts to wedge into her often muddled, under-focused script.

Ruth...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 4 Dec 2018 15:50:00 PST )

Editor's note: We've now tested Nidhogg 2's Nintendo Switch port, and we're pleased to report it runs as smoothly as it does on other platforms. Plus, local multiplayer with a single Joy-Con each is, well, a joy. Unfortunately, a lack of online players mean you're often left waiting to join an online match, and the matches you do get into are often subject to poor connectivity. Regardless, Nidhogg 2 remains an accomplished local multiplayer game that is thankfully now available on the best console for local multiplayer. -- Oscar Dayus, November 26 2018

The beauty of Nidhogg was in its simplicity. Its minimalist style and two-button gameplay fed into what was a wonderfully streamlined and focused experience. With Nidhogg 2, developer Messhof has attempted to expand the multiplayer fencing game with more maps, different weapon types, and a busier art style, with mixed results. Some of the changes--particularly the weapon selection and grotesque aesthetic--prove to be distractions from what is otherwise an excellent party game.

Nidhogg 2's concept, as with the first game, is to stab your opponent and race past their decaying corpse onto the next screen. Your enemy will respawn on the new screen within a couple of seconds to once again impede you from reaching your goal--a giant hungry worm. You can jab your sword at any of three heights--head, torso, or... below the torso--or throw it for a long-ranged attack. Of course, flinging your sword leaves you vulnerable, as does attacking at the wrong height, which creates openings for your opponent to counter.

This was the meta-game driving the original Nidhogg's competitive gameplay--except now there's more pieces to the puzzle. The sequel introduces three new weapons: a thicker broadsword, which can be swung from either top or bottom to bat your opponent's weapon away but leaves you vulnerable in the middle; a dagger, which has a much shorter reach but allows you to stab more quickly; and the long-range bow. Arrows can only be fired in the middle or bottom and can be hit back in your direction, but they're by far the longest ranged weapons in the game that don't leave you defenceless afterward.

The expanded arsenal is of course designed to add depth, and it does: wielding a dagger for a few seconds can be a refreshing change after three years spent playing Nidhogg with just the same old rapier. But the game's fast-paced nature and its lack of warning as to which weapon you'll spawn with next means that you're often left frustrated that your attempted swipe of a sword failed because you happened to reappear holding a bow instead. You can change the order of weapons you'll spawn with in Tournament Mode, but even there the speed at which matches unfold makes adapting in the split-second respawn window a struggle. In addition, those customization options are not included in Quick Play, Arcade, and online multiplayer--a minor but strange decision given some may wish to turn the new weapons off entirely.

The introduction of weapon variety also impacts balancing. The uniformity of map design and character types creates a level playing field, but this serves to further emphasize each weapon's weaknesses. The dagger in particular feels very underpowered--it's tricky to use its speedier stab when your opponent has a much longer sword keeping you at bay. Similarly, arrows take too long to fire, meaning a quick opponent can easily gain the upper hand. Even if they don't, arrows are pretty easy to dodge, and you'll be too busy hammering the Square / X button out of frustration to take advantage.

The pulsating electronic soundtrack helps each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

Messhof has taken a similar "bigger means better" approach when it comes to Nidhogg 2's art style. The minimalism seen in the original is gone in favour of a style that, while still retro, is noticeably noisier. At times, the lighting is lovely, and the greater color range allows for much more varied locales than the original's monochrome level design. But the style also makes it harder to immediately see what's happening on-screen, and this lack of clarity is representative of the sequel overall. Possibly the only area in which the increased amount of content has benefitted Nidhogg is in those added maps. The original arenas have been rebuilt, and they're accompanied by a number of all-new locations. They contain a number of environmental hazards such as pits, moving ice, and long grass--as well as a pulsating electronic soundtrack--helping each stage feel as enjoyable, as varied, and as weird as the last.

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Despite all the distractions, however, Nidhogg 2 can be brilliant. The original's tense, frantic, hilarious nature has not been diminished, and local matches offer some of the best same-room multiplayer around. I think my ear is still ringing from a friend shouting so loudly (repeatedly) after he beat me (also repeatedly). Nidhogg 2 becomes a sport: even onlookers get swept up in the tug of war the game evolves into, and you'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign. It effortlessly creates moments of nail-biting tension and in the very next room uproarious hilarity: in the moment, simply batting an arrow back at an opponent can seem like the most daring maneuver ever attempted, while falling into a pit immediately after a momentus kill can paralyze a room with laughter.

You'll cheer or cry more in each swing of momentum than most video games manage to muster in a whole campaign.

Each strike is lethal, and every inch of ground gained over your opponent feels like a huge step toward victory. The controls have remained as natural as they were in the first game, allowing you to plan and execute strategies with ease, making it perfect for group sessions even if some haven't played before. And when you figure out your opponent's strategy, exploit it, and just before they respawn you reach the finish line to win a tournament, it's exhilarating. I just hope my ear stops ringing soon.

Nidhogg 2, then, adds a lot without really adding much at all. The new weapons and busy aesthetic can frustrate, making the overall package feel less refined, but the core gameplay still shines through. Despite its problems, Nidhogg 2 is spectacular, engrossing, funny, tragic, and dramatic in equal measure, and it will no doubt become another party game staple. Nidhogg 2 sacrifices simplicity for more options, and it doesn't prove to be a good trade. But when the underlying action is this good, I'll put up with the odd unwelcome dagger.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:17:00 -0800)

What's another oppressive dictatorship to series protagonist Rico Rodriguez? Not much. He does encounter a new kind of enemy in Just Cause 4, however: extreme weather. It's the common thread that runs through both the story and new mechanics and tops off the explosive spectacle the series is known for. And alongside new gadgets to send objects (and people) flying across the world, Just Cause has become a physics playground. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough opportunities to put these features to good use; underwhelming mission structure and a world slim on enticing activities makes Just Cause 4 a short-lived blast with untapped potential.

The best and most prevalent piece of Just Cause games is at the forefront once again. An exceptional traversal system lets you propel Rico across the beautiful landscapes of Solis and effortlessly soar through the skies. With the combo of a grappling hook, parachute, and wingsuit, Rico can basically go wherever, whenever (and often more efficiently) without a vehicle. Like past games, you build momentum and essentially catapult yourself using the combination of these tools and hardly ever have to touch the ground. It's tough to overstate how satisfying it is to escape enemy hordes and hook onto the underside of a helicopter to hijack it and tear them all down, or slingshot yourself out of harm's way toward the next target you'll blow to bits.

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Rico isn't only built to move fast, however: if you aren't causing explosions on a regular basis, you might be doing something wrong. Fuel tanks, red barrels, and vehicles are unusually explosive, and set the stage for over-the-top action. Since the grappling hook can also be used to tether objects together, you have lots of opportunities to get creative outside of exhausting your arsenal of firearms--some of which have their own wacky practical applications, like the wind cannon or lightning gun. Some weapons just wreak havoc such as the railgun or burst-fire rocket launcher, and even modest small arms like the SMG have impactful alternate fire modes. This may be the expectation for Just Cause, but it still pulls you in for a wild ride.

It's tough to overstate how satisfying it is to escape enemy hordes and hook onto the underside of a helicopter to hijack it and tear them all down, or slingshot yourself out of harm's way toward the next target you'll blow to bits.

Its identity as a destructive playground is further emphasized by grappling hook mods, three of which you customize: air lifter, retractor, and boosters. All three devices coincide with the new physics engine. Air lifters (essentially mini hot air balloons) let you launch things into the sky, and they can be further customized in terms of velocity, behavior, and altitude. Retractors pull targets together violently, and boosters work like jet engines that'll send objects into a speeding frenzy, whether it be an attack helicopter or a poor enemy soldier. Multiple permutations of these contraptions are made possible, since their effects can be stacked into a single tether and three loadout settings let you switch between loadouts on the fly. These gadgets are unlocked through side activities, and you're given plenty of avenues to make them work as you desire, which leads to the most disappointing part. Just Cause 4 gives you so many shiny new toys to play with but seldom a reason to use them.

Mission structure is uninspired, as you are continually asked to escort NPCs, defend a specific object for a set duration, activate (or destroy) inconspicuous generators, or hit a number of console panels to activate some sort of process. The worst offender has to be the timed missions that ask you to sink bomb-rigged vehicles into the ocean; they're tedious and prone to mishaps at no fault of your own. These are tied to Region Strikes, which are required to unlock territories on the map and progress to main story missions. While blasting through waves of enemies and their military-grade vehicles offers some great moments, you're often asking yourself: okay, what else? Shielded heavies, snipers perched from a mile away, and flocks of attack helicopters can become enjoyably overwhelming, since you have to rapidly make use of your diverse toolset. But several missions are designed in such a way that's oddly restricting, limiting the game's strongest assets. Enemies simply swarm and act as basic obstacles rather than clever challenges, and that leaves you with objectives that rarely bring out the best in the mechanics and systems of Just Cause 4.

At a time when open-world games sometimes overstay their welcome, Just Cause 4 is at the other end of the spectrum, where you wish there was more to experience because it has so much going for it.

There are a few stellar moments in the main story missions that make proper use of the extreme weather system that is the core of Just Cause 4's premise. Specifically, the conclusion to a stormchaser-themed questline funnels you through a number of battles while a tornado rips through your surroundings. Your ability to parachute and glide are drastically affected by the wind velocity and turbulence, which throws some welcome unpredictability into the mix. One particular sequence is also indicative of what the grappling hook mods are capable of; destroying massive wind cannons that impede progress with boosters wasn't only the most efficient method, but watching these heaps of steel frantically spin out of control was a sight to behold. The last stand in this mission, a sequence of rooftop firefights amid the harsh weather, brings the many great pieces of the game together.

The same can't be said about the other extreme weather conditions, however. Sandstorms challenge you with violent winds and obscured vision, and thunderstorms bring torrential rain and lightning strikes that make for a visual treat. But they're not game-changing in the way tornadoes are since they have a minimal effect on gameplay. Even then, the questlines tied to these weather conditions and their respective biomes are over before you get to fully experience their unique qualities.

All the while, a vaguely coherent story about family and a rebellion against an evil regime serves as the platform for Rico's wild ride. Stories in Just Cause haven't been more than excuses for environmental destruction and a way to make you feel comically powerful, and the same holds true here, though you may find the ties to previous entries somewhat endearing. The harsh forecasts are justified by villain Oscar Espinoza's high-tech devices that control the weather and oppress the people of the fictional South American country Solis. Rico remains the plausible one-man army who has the capabilities of a superhero with the air of a grounded, unassuming protagonist. If there's anything that Just Cause does well story-wise, it's convincing you to accept the absurdity of it all.

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Throughout the game, you'll be building a revolution across Solis, bolstering what's called the Army of Chaos. It's a fundamental piece to progression and the key to taking down Espinoza and toppling The Black Hand private military again. The Army of Chaos serves as a tool to controlling territories across the map since you need to accumulate squad reinforcements to overtake regions, which also gates your ability to take on story missions. Cause destruction and raise your chaos level, and get squads to progress. It boils down to a numbers game, and once you understand the structure of this system, you can easily snowball squad numbers and control all of Solis without having to grind your chaos level. Side activities from three minor characters litter the map as well; Sargento has you teaming with NPCs to destroy enemy infrastructure, Garland makes you do stunts, and Javi provides a bit more context to Solis by asking to do a few easy puzzles. It's more things to do, and they unlock the aforementioned grappling hook mods, but they're simple in nature and aren't enough to compensate for the shortcomings of other missions.

Just Cause 4 has incredible moments where beauty and destruction cross with Rico's ability to zip around the world at a moment's notice. It's gratifying and easy to grasp, especially when you're able to string a series of wingsuit fly-bys, vehicles hijackings, and fiery explosions all in the name of revolution, but those moments are either short-lived or tied to rudimentary missions. You're given an awesome toolset that paves the way for creativity in a world with too few problems to solve. At a time when open-world games sometimes overstay their welcome, Just Cause 4 is at the other end of the spectrum, where you wish there was more to experience because it has so much going for it.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 04 Dec 2018 18:51:00 -0800)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Sun, 25 Nov 2018 14:00:00 Z)

A private performance by pop superstar Beyonce at a $1,000-a-night lakeside resort. Two former secretaries of State grooving awkwardly on the dance floor. A guest list that looked like India’s version of an Oscars red carpet.

This isn’t just a big fat Indian wedding; it’s the biggest, fattest wedding...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:05:00 PST )

As a kindergartener growing up in Philadelphia, Jessica Taft Langdon had zeroed in on footwear, and it wasn’t in a playing-dress-up-in-mom’s-pumps kind of way. When her parents talked to her after a school field trip to the zoo, she said, “I told them that it was great to go to the zoo because...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 09:00:00 PST )

The dumplings arrive underneath wisps of scallion and cucumber, their opaque skins crimped like carnation flowers and tinted butterfly pea blue. Called chor muang, this style of dumpling has historically been made for Thai royalty, but here they are on a menu in Mexico City, at the Thai restaurant...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 09:00:00 PST )

Scan the dining room at Langer’s Deli in Westlake during lunchtime, and you’ll find a #19 sandwich on just about every table in the restaurant. Al Langer, current owner Norm Langer’s father, created the sandwich after opening the deli in the 1940s. Its components make for a flavor combination that’s...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:00:00 PST )

Facebook is continuing its push for more original video.

The social media company announced Thursday that it has renewed four of its shows for second seasons: “Sorry for Your Loss,” “Five Points,” “Sacred Lies” and “Huda Boss.”

“Sorry for Your Loss” is a drama series that stars Elizabeth Olsen...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:00:00 PST )

The quintessential Los Angeles surfer already has a pretty cool look. Think bronzed skin, sun-bleached hair, breezy beachwear. However, local surfer Anna Ehrgott thought there was one thing missing: a stylish way for her to carry her board.

Unimpressed with plain polyester surfboard socks (the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:00:00 PST )

Chargers (10-3) at Kansas City (11-2)

When Chargers have the ball

During the season opener — a 38-28 Kansas City victory — Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler combined to carry 20 times for 103 yards and catch 14 passes for 189 yards. Because of injuries, the Chargers won’t have Ekeler this time and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 08:00:00 PST )

When Jordan Peele hired Spike Lee and me for this project, the only note he gave us was “make it funny.” We knew exactly what Jordan meant. He wasn’t speaking about broad comedy or jokes; he was instructing us to reveal the irrationality of racism. The more you expose the normality of hate, how...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 07:55:00 PST )

“I couldn’t feel the toes on my left foot, and my face was covered in ice, but I was having the time of my life,” Scott Fritz writes.

Inspired by Jack London’s book “Call of the Wild,” Fritz decided to take a dog-sledding adventure in the Swedish Lapland. It was sometimes grueling, but it opened...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 07:00:00 PST )

Laudomia Pucci had to stop and think for a minute when Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus’ fashion director, asked her to create a resort capsule collection exclusively for his store’s customers.

“In the back of my mind there were prints I was dying to see,” said Pucci, vice chairman and image director...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 07:00:00 PST )

Painting Gris as a beautiful adventure is almost too obvious. Even amid the crumbling ruins that hint at better days, every element of this platformer emphasizes its undeniable loveliness. From the wide-angle shots and the ethereal music to the delicate way in which you glide gracefully to a far-off platform, Gris is enrapturing in ways that make it hard to walk away from. Though it takes a mere four hours to reach the ending credits, the time spent with Gris is so captivating that it would have felt greedy to stay with it any longer.

In Gris, a young woman finds herself alone in a desolate world. Ruined buildings and broken pillars dominate the landscape, remnants from a lost civilization. Without saying a word, the woman exudes loneliness, moving forward only to fulfill the aching sense of longing that is now her only companion. The feeling of loss is palpable. You wander through a palace that could tumble with one strong gust of wind. Cracked statues lay before you, all of women. Some stand in poses of power, others of thoughtfulness, but all are only relics of what used to be. Savor the sight because the statues, the buildings, the pillars could all be turned to dust when you return.

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Your goal is to obtain fragments of light that complete constellations, allowing you to reach other areas. But the dreamy flow through locations is so subtle that it rarely feels as if you’re completing specific tasks. Rather, you guide the young woman down slopes, across balconies, and through ruins because the call to see what wonders await is impossible to resist. For much of the game, I felt lost as I glided across the serene landscapes, unaware of where I was going but curious to see what lay just outside of my vision. Being lost in Gris is different from other games, though. Whenever I wondered if I was going in the right direction, I wandered into a new location just as beautiful as where I had been, and I set off to wherever it felt like I was being led.

As I drifted through Gris’ world, I collected the odd light fragment, but it never felt like the point of my movement--I just wanted to see where the path led me, and I solved puzzles to reach the fragments along the way. These puzzles are not mind-teasers that demand careful concentration or daring trial-and-error obstacles. Rather, you need only figure out how your given abilities work in a specific area to continue onward undeterred. In the beginning, for instance, I had to learn that I could walk up staircases I thought were only in the background. A little puzzle, yes, but one that brings joy when you realize how simple and delightful the solution is.

Later sections have blocks that appear when a light shines upon them or a wintery wind that casts statues of ice in your image, but none of the puzzles are presented in such a way as to stymie a player. Gris is a game in which its lack of challenge is a positive quality because any frustrating section would have derailed the feeling of peace and serenity that it builds so wondrously as you progress. There’s no combat or death to break you from this trance, just pure pleasure throughout. I wanted to explore this world, to see breathtaking sights and soak in the melancholic score, and Gris welcomed this feeling instead of hiding its charms behind tests of skill.

Despite the ease of the puzzles, there are genuine surprises in how you navigate the world. I gasped when I realized a rippling block wasn’t as solid as I had assumed and there’s a perspective-flipping section that made me laugh with joy. The magic of Gris is that it encompasses the varied move set you’d expect in a more demanding platformer, without expecting impressive feats of dexterity to progress. Instead, it introduces all those navigational twists to draw you ever deeper into this fascinating world. Because of its many surprises, it’s the rare game where I wish I could have my memory erased, to play it once more from the beginning, because few games contain surprises that were so affected.

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Gris is joyful and sad, a beautiful ruin, contradictions that make these experiences so exciting. The surprises that lay hidden are not plot twists or unlockable goodies but rather moments when the mechanics perfectly complement the aesthetics. Every element is used to engage your sense of awe. Gris is beautiful, yes, but it uses that beauty like a surgical knife. As you climb to the top of a pyramid, with the sun growing ever brighter and the stars beckoning, it knows to pull back the camera, to show how small you stand against the majesty of the universe.

Don’t dismiss Gris as a game so caught up in its artistic splendor that it forgets what medium it's a part of, though. Strip away the resplendent visual design and enchanting score and Gris would still be enticing because of its sense of movement. The young woman moves with graceful purpose. She’s light on her feet but sure-headed, giving her a weightiness that makes it feel like you’re trying to break free of gravity but can never quite do so. There were sections when I would purposely repeat a series of jumps because it felt so good to skirt against the dreamy sky. New powers are unlocked as you get deeper into the adventure, and all of them add another layer of interactivity that not only expands your horizons but feels good to enact.

Gris understands intrinsically how magical video games can be and continually pushes your imagination until you’re almost bursting with joy. The ways in which it reinvents itself as you gain powers and dive ever deeper into this world is truly special, and just as it knows exactly when to pull back the camera or introduce a new song, it’s keenly aware of when it's time to say goodbye. Like a comet streaking across the sky, Gris is full of wonder and beauty and leaves you with a warm glow in your heart.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 13 Dec 2018 06:00:00 -0800)

Ryan Kadro will leave his post as executive producer of “CBS This Morning” when his contract expires at the end of this year, according to two people familiar with the plan.

Kadro has led the program, co-anchored by Norah O’Donnell, Gayle King, John Dickerson and Bianna Golodryga, since 2016 and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 20:05:00 PST )

The Los Angeles Times’ former publisher and editor, Davan Maharaj, reportedly received a $2.5-million settlement following his exit from Tribune Publishing Co. after revealing to a mediator he had recorded anti-Semitic comments allegedly made by the company’s largest shareholder, Michael Ferro.

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 18:00:00 PST )

About 800 hotels workers demonstrated Wednesday in front of five high-end hotels in Los Angeles and Orange counties in what union leaders say is a preview of upcoming strikes if contract agreements are not reached.

The workers from Unite Here Local 11 marched, banged drums and chanted throughout...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:55:00 PST )

Oakland is suing the NFL over the relocation of the Raiders, and that raises serious doubts about where the team will play next season while its Las Vegas stadium is being built.

“All options are on the table,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said Wednesday at the league’s annual December meetings.

Well,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:50:00 PST )

Scott Boras climbed atop a platform before a ceiling-scraping imitation fir bedecked with silver, gold and emerald ornaments as dozens of reporters swelled around him. On the penultimate day of the winter meetings, Boras came bearing corrections, metaphors and reassurances about the strength of...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 16:45:00 PST )

In Kosovar filmmaker Blerta Zeqiri’s debut feature “The Marriage,” bride and groom are both trying to tamp down certain emotions before their upcoming wedding. Anita (Adriana Matoshi), one of the many Kosovans with missing loved ones from the war, would like to suspend feelings of loss and concentrate...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 4 Dec 2018 14:50:00 PST )

When mom (Juliette Lewis) goes to jail for killing their abusive dad, introverted, undereducated son Harley (Alex Pettyfer) proves wholly unequipped to take care of his three younger sisters — obnoxious, promiscuous teenager Amber (Nicola Peltz), embittered middle daughter Misty (Chiara Aurelia)...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 4 Dec 2018 13:55:00 PST )

After nearly an hour of deliberation among council members, staff and the public Tuesday night, the Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved an ordinance allowing but strictly regulating sidewalk vendors.

The action followed a recent change in state law that goes into effect Jan. 1.

In the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:45:00 PST )

Nearly 800 hotels workers demonstrated Wednesday in front of four high-end hotels in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and Anaheim, in what union leaders say is a preview of upcoming strikes if contract agreements are not reached.

The workers from Unite Here Local 11 marched, banged drums and chanted...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 14:55:00 PST )

When Los Angeles laid out plans to beef up its system for giving public money to city candidates, groups like the California Clean Money Campaign applauded the move.

Doing so, they said, would help level the playing field for grass-roots candidates.

But as the city continued to hammer out more...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 12:50:00 PST )

Beach patrols will increase following a late-night discussion about public safety at the Laguna Beach City Council meeting Tuesday.

The council voted unanimously to fund a stronger police presence at Main Beach and Heisler Park. There also will be a new lifeguard tower at the south end of Main...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 12:45:00 PST )

Turkey will launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in northern Syria “within a matter of days,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday, threatening to upend an uneasy detente.

That could put it on a collision course with Washington, which backs the Kurds with thousands...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 12:45:00 PST )

With contenders such as “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Atlanta” receiving ensemble cast nominations and a nominations announcement delivered by Awkwafina and Laverne Cox, the Screen Actors Guild Awards looked to sidestep the criticism that has been levied around Hollywood of late surrounding a lack of...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 09:40:00 PST )

A 23-year-old man was arrested this week after authorities say he shot and killed his neighbor’s Chihuahua with an assault rifle after the animal urinated on his lawn and car.

Tulare County Sheriff’s Office deputies began investigating the incident Monday when the dog’s owner came into the office...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 08:25:00 PST )

Your ticket to the Disgusting Food Museum is a barf bag, like you’d see tucked into the back of an airplane seat. That should tell you much of what you need to know about this museum, a contrivance of Swedish psychologist Samuel West, who brought us the moderately amusing Museum of Failure in 2017...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 08:25:00 PST )

An innovative animated take on the “Spider-Man” superhero franchise is expected to top the North American box office this weekend, proving that the Marvel comic book character still has legs after multiple big-screen reboots, reimaginings and retoolings.

Sony Pictures Animation’s “Spider-Man: Into...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:00:00 PST )

Christmas came early this week for design devotees and architectural aficionados waiting to see who would be named to Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100 for 2019, a list recognizing 100 top talents worldwide in the field of design, deemed the “best of the best” by the editorial staff at the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:00:00 PST )

A strange confrontation in the Oval Office. The threat of a shutdown. Is this a preview of next year’s divided government?

TOP STORIES

The Donald, Chuck and Nancy Show

For more than 15 minutes with the cameras rolling, President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:00:00 PST )

The Los Angeles Times will produce a prime-time news magazine television series for Charter Communications’ recently launched Spectrum News 1 channel, the companies said Tuesday.

The one-hour show, “L.A. Times Today,” will air Monday through Thursday starting in February and will take an in-depth...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 05:00:00 PST )

The film "22 July" revisits the summer day in 2011 when neo-Nazi Anders Breivik detonated a car bomb in Oslo, then gained access to a youth camp on the Norwegian island of Utøya and methodically shot 69 young people to death. "The film is obviously disturbing in the first 30 minutes or so," says...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 12 Dec 2018 04:55:00 PST )

Toronto had made so many shots in Tuesday’s third quarter that by the time Delon Wright missed a three-pointer from the wing, the crowd at Staples Center let out a sigh of relief.

The shot hit the front of the rim and caromed nearly to midcourt where two Clippers, Patrick Beverley and Tyrone Wallace,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 22:55:00 PST )

Los Angeles officials on Tuesday raised speed limits on more than 100 miles of streets, saying the increases are the best way to quickly resolve a years-long problem that has prevented police officers from ticketing speeding drivers across the city.

Despite concerns from neighborhood groups, the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 15:20:00 PST )
The Nigerian writer Chigozie Obioma recalls how his father’s gift for storytelling led his son to discover the worlds between covers. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Mon, 03 Dec 2018 19:00:04 GMT )

An Oxnard woman was convicted Monday of second-degree murder after prosecutors say she tried to cover up the death of her 3-year-old daughter, whom she was abusing.

Jurors also found Mayra Alejandra Chavez, 27, guilty of felony torture and assault leading to the death of Kimberly Lopez in June...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:25:00 PST )

French prosecutors are investigating the shooting that killed two at a Christmas market in Strasbourg on Monday as a potential terrorist attack.

The Paris prosecutor, who is in charge of anti-terrorism inquiries in France, is heading to Strasbourg, according to a statement from his office. The...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 14:00:00 PST )

CBS Corp. finally held its annual meeting with shareholders — a ritual that had been twice postponed this year because of corporate turmoil. But during Tuesday’s 25-minute gathering there was no hint of the drama surrounding the company, nor any mention of the man who led it for 12 years: former...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:50:00 PST )

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the Centennial project at Tejon Ranch, clearing the way for a hotly debated master-planned community in a private wilderness area at the county’s edge.

“This is not just another sprawl project,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:40:00 PST )

For the first time in nearly 20 years, a Los Angeles County law enforcement officer has been charged with killing an unarmed civilian while on duty.

Luke Liu is accused of shooting Francisco Garcia at a Norwalk gas station on Feb. 24, 2016, according to a complaint filed by the Los Angeles County...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 13:35:00 PST )

A house that tacos built is back on the menu.

The longtime Rancho Santa Fe home of late Taco Bell founder Glen Bell has returned to market at $5.995 million, down about $1.5 million from when it first listed for sale in 2015.

The palm-studded estate encompasses 6.75 acres of grounds and includese...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:55:00 PST )

A letter discovered in a building at Cal State Northridge that threatens a mass shooting has prompted school officials to provide off-campus alternatives for final exams on Wednesday.

A student found the note, written in red ink on lined notebook paper, late Monday folded up on the floor of a classroom...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 11 Dec 2018 11:50:00 PST )


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