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NEWS (LAST 200)
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Olympus OM-D E-M10 III Review
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2.5 stars out of 5: Proustian mush
It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:25:37 GMT )
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:52:00 Z)
3.5 stars out of 5: Much Avenge About More Things
They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 01 May 2015 00:39:50 GMT )
1.5 stars out of 5: History written by the winners.
First-time director Russell Crowe has stepped in it, probably without meaning to. But it's happening all the same. His film, entirely devoted to an exploration of the aftermath of a key, nation-defining battle in Australian war history -- the...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:26:41 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: A little much.
The past few years have seen a marked rise in the number of Christian-themed films getting wide theatrical distribution, but to call it a "new wave" of faith-based cinema is probably inappropriate. That designation is usually reserved for a...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:27:52 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
0.5 stars out of 5: BOO-RING
It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 23 May 2015 09:29:13 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: You can fly. Eventually.
In your initial visit to Tomorrowland, you're not really there at all. That's what scientifically-named Casey Newton (The Longest Ride's Britt Robertson) discovers when she first goes there by touching a tiny, metal, "T"-emblazoned pin. She takes...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 22 May 2015 05:11:54 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )
5.0 stars out of 5: Death to the patriarchy.
"Who killed the world?" yells a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road. This outburst comes after an earlier moment where camera pauses on the question painted on a cave wall. And since it's one of only a couple dozen complete and comprehensible...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:05:45 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Songs about butts.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with a crazy, performance-based, wardrobe malfunction, one that, in the film's words, exposes the "down under" region of one of the a cappella Bellas. For this accidental offense they are mocked, chastised, and stripped of...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:04:29 GMT )
Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 19:36:33 -0700 )
Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena celebrates music at its most casual and community-focused, and has grown from a festival that once largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can draw artists with national appeal. Boasting 149 performances and pop-up stages on Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers, and headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 17:39:47 -0700 )
Live: Lil Kim driven to give till it hurts: The hip-hop diva's ambitious if erratic show was almost too much for the compact confines of Key Club. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:51:14 -0700 )
LMFAO's Redfoo and Sky Blu stay in character and play debauchery for laughs and fun at Staples Center as part of Sorry for Party Rocking Tour. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Wed, 06 Jun 2012 18:34:01 -0700 )
The Beach Boys reunited June 2, 2012, at the Hollywood Bowl for the band's first tour together in more than two decades. A review for the Los Angeles Times. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:21:26 -0700 )
If you closed your eyes during the sold-out Santigold concert at Club Nokia Friday night -- especially at any point in the first half -- it’d have been easy to feel like you were at one of the Hollywood Bowl’s annual flashback concerts featuring ‘80s British bands. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:49:57 -0700 )
On day two of UCLA's annual JazzReggae Festival, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Collie Buddz, Alison Hinds and others showcased the many sounds of the Caribbean, from soca and reggae to reggaeton and lovers rock. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts offers an overview of the day. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Tue, 29 May 2012 12:25:57 -0700 )
The New Zealand band the Clean has been around a long time but still packs energy, especially when it performs ‘Tally Ho.’ Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 31 May 2012 14:57:42 -0700 )
Van Halen returned to Los Angeles to perform to a hometown crowd at the Staples Center, where band members David Lee Roth, and Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen performed during their "Different Kind of Truth" reunion tour. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts says the performance was often lackluster. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 12:49:42 -0700 )
Power 106 FM kept its annual summer hip-hop show, Powerhouse, old school and relatively orthodox, with rappers Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Young Jeezy leading a show that was light on the dance-oriented pop hits that dominate the airwaves. The Times' August Brown reviews. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews (Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:40:41 -0700 )

In Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, the struggle of coming to terms with past trauma and guilt comes out in a number of surprising ways. Developer Ninja Theory channels its talents for narrative and presentation to tell a personal story that has more to say than it initially lets on, and will likely leave you wondering what's real, and what is a part of an elaborate hallucination.

In a far-off land covered in mist and fog, a traumatized celtic warrior named Senua embarks on a spiritual vision quest to suppress her inner demons, and come to grips with the death of her family. Plagued with severe psychosis, Senua's past trauma manifests itself through duelling inner voices and visual hallucinations that compromise her emotional and mental state. On this journey, she'll face abstract and reality-defying puzzles, and battle a seemingly endless horde of adversaries that aim to put a stop to her quest.

Pulling from Nordic and Celtic lore, the fiction of Hellblade evokes a dire and somewhat bleak atmosphere, making it seem like the world had already ended, leaving Senua with only the company of her memories. Hellblade is an introspective experience, albeit with several combat and interactive story beats scattered throughout. While the story and world are presented through cutscenes and stone glyphs depicting the history of the land, Hellblade also makes clever use of live-action cutscenes. These cinematic moments are blended into in-game graphics, giving each occurrence a somewhat surreal feeling, as if you're watching a live playback of an altered memory.

On her journey through the cursed lands, Senua will come into conflict with the Northmen, an army of berserkers that appear out of thin air. These moments are when the combat comes into play, and it offers some of the most intense and thrilling moments of the game. Despite her illness weighing on her, Senua is still quite adept at fighting and is able to take on a number of foes at once. With fast, heavy sword swings, as well as up-close hand-to-hand strikes, you can use some light combos to hack away at the Northmen, while using dodges and parrying their strikes to get the upper hand.

Though combat is one of the core pillars in Hellblade, the game doesn't concern itself with offering numerous weapons or complex skill-trees to work through. Aside from some new combat abilities unlocked at key story milestones, Senua's arsenal of skills and weapons is kept light till the end. The true challenge and satisfaction comes from mastering the base combat mechanics, which is responsive, and fluid--allowing you to bounce between multiple foes easily, with her inner voices warning you of incoming strikes based on the position they're coming from.

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When it comes to portraying mental illness, Hellblade takes a sympathetic approach and isn't at all interested in showing the differences between reality and imagination. It's all about Senua's perspective; with her visions and what's truly real being presented as one in the same. One of the more oppressive aspects of her psychosis are the inner-voices, who quarrel with one another while commenting on the wandering warrior's present state. Using binaural audio--which makes wearing headphones a must for the full effect--you'll get to experience a taste of what it's like to have several voices in your head.

In many ways, it feels like a subversive take on the common video game trope of the bodiless companion offering help via radio, making them a somewhat distressing presence you desperately wanted to keep at arm's length. The effectiveness of the inner voices in making you uncomfortable is a testament to the stellar presentation of the game, which uses some rather inventive tricks to play with perspective and audio-sensory manipulation. It does well to make you feel on edge and in a state of confusion, while simultaneously getting you to focus on the more tangible and true elements of her surroundings--even if they are still hallucinations.

There are times where the voices become a boon to your survival--such as the rather tricky boss battles that force you change up your usual strategies--but the most useful instances come deeper in the game, when you're able to clear through more than 20 foes consecutively, a far cry from the struggles of fighting only two to three foes. Many of these battles serve as the capper for narrative arcs in the story, making it feel like a cathartic emotional purge where you vanquish a construct of Senua's past.

"It's all about Senua's perspective; with her visions and what's truly real being presented as one in the same."

While some characters from Senua's past treated her mental state as a danger, she's able to use it to her advantage to see the order in the chaos of her surroundings--finding patterns and solutions in ways that others wouldn't have the presence of mind to see. Despite how terrifying and draining her psychosis can be, Senua is able navigate the various trials thanks to her unusually heightened perception, which comes out in a number of unique puzzle solving moments.

For the most part, puzzles revolve around unlocking doors by finding glyphs hidden in plain sight or in alternate perspectives that require manipulating Senua's focus, illustrating her abstract attention to detail. While these puzzles can be clever, the same style occurs far too often, making some of the more drawn out sequences a chore. On the inverse, the moments where Senua is stripped of her senses and gear, forcing her to take a more subdued approach to avoid her enemies, felt far more engaging and interesting.

In one of the game's best moments, the shadows themselves serve to be a real danger as Senua rushes from one light source to another in a dark cavern, all the while memories of her torment and anguish come flooding in--obscuring your vision while she's making a dash to safety. These moments are a real highlight, channeling the same pulse-pounding sense of urgency found from set-piece moments in Resident Evil 4, making a seemingly simple objective into an unnerving experience--which in a way truly sums up what Hellblade is about. While these moments serve to be some of Hellblade's most profound and affecting moments, it uses them sparingly to help break-up general puzzle solving and obstacles, which feel somewhat bland by comparison.

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While Senua experiences many dangers, such as the horrific hallucinations of the dead, immolation by a mad fire god, and ravenous beasts that hide in the shadows--there is one threat that constantly looms over her that can result in dire consequences. Early on, Senua is infected with a corruption known as The Dark Rot, which continues to spread after she 'dies' or fails a set-piece event. She passes failure and death off as another hallucination, but with every failure the infection spreads, and after multiple deaths it reaches her head. The result of this is Senua succumbing to her illness, forcing you to restart from the beginning of her journey.

Despite the inclusion of a permadeath mechanic, Hellblade is still a largely fair game. Taking around eight hours to clear on the hardest difficulty, and experiencing only a handful of deaths--mostly on account of some overly vague and awkward objectives coming off as obtuse, breaking the flow of traversal--the game is largely balanced with its pacing and difficulty. It even goes as far as to offer an auto-scaling difficulty system that adjusts based on how you're playing. Interestingly, there's no tutorial whatsoever in Hellblade, prompting you to learn the system by doing and listening to prompts from your inner voices.

Over the course of its journey, Hellblade keeps its gameplay lean in order to not overstay its welcome. Despite the complexity of the narrative and its presentation, combat only happens when it needs to, and puzzle solving and set-piece moments often drive the story forward to reveal more about Senua's motivations. Which in turn reveals the struggles that torment her, preventing her from moving on.

Hellblade's most notable achievement is the handling of an incredibly sensitive subject matter within an engaging and well-crafted action/adventure game. At its heart, the story is about Senua's struggle to come to terms with her illness. In the process, she learns to find the strength within herself to endure, and to make peace with her past. And in a profound and physical way, we go through those same struggles with her, and come away with a better understanding of a piece of something that many people in the world struggle with.

Editor's note: We have updated this review to reflect our time with the Xbox One version of Hellblade. We tested the game on an Xbox One X. -- April 6, 2018

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 06 Apr 2018 10:12:00 -0700)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:00:00 Z)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:00:00 Z)

Dressed in an all-black nun’s habit on a hot afternoon, Allison Janney emerges from her impromptu dressing room — a black tent on the parking lot of CBS Television Studios — and heads towards a group of celebrities headed by James Corden, host of the network’s “The Late Late Show.”

“Oh, lord,”...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 23 Apr 2018 13:45:00 PDT )

The Alliance Alive wastes no time throwing you into a dark and oppressive world. As soon as you begin, you meet young Azura and her friend Galil. In their world, Daemons have sealed off continents from each other, forced humans to toil under Beastfolk masters, and covered up the sun for over a thousand years. Azura dreams of seeing a painting of a blue sky. It seems like a silly thing to obsess over, but anything that can bring even a twinge of happiness is something worth risking life and limb for.

This story is only the beginning, however, as you are funneled through a series of three intersecting perspectives: Azura and Galil, the Daemoness Vivian and her desire to observe humanity directly, and a human servant to Daemonic overlords named Gene. At about ten hours in, the three parties’ stories converge in a spectacular battle against a powerful foe, and the game transforms from a linear RPG into a more open-ended adventure to free humanity from its oppression and discover the truths of the world they live in.

Alliance Alive’s world captures your interest from the get-go and is uplifted by strong visual design that creates a series of distinct, detailed environments. The story moves along at a brisk pace, never lingering for too long on a singular location or plot point. Dialogue is also succinct and punchy, though some of the character development suffers a bit as a result--Daemon noble Vivian’s motives are flimsy compared to the machinations of the mysterious Gene and eccentric inventor Tiggy, while Azura and Galil’s rebel companions barely get any characterization at all. Overall, though, The Alliance Alive never feels likes it’s dragging its feet.

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The game's turn-based combat deviates from established RPG norms in a lot of interesting ways. First, characters do not level up; instead, they randomly gain stat boosts after battle. Secondly, most characters can equip any weapons and armor they want, but they need to use said weapons in combat in order to gain proficiency and skills (which, much like stat gains, are learned at seemingly random moments). Thirdly, combat formations are hugely important here: depending on their position and the role (offense, defense, or support) a character is assigned, the effectiveness of attacks and skills is altered--and skills have individual levels tied to the specific position a character is in.

These oddball elements, though perhaps strange at first, help make combat more engaging than just mashing through menus. However, the game does a poor job of explaining most of these systems, expecting you to either be familiar with the series that inspired them (Square-Enix’s SaGa games) or having played developer Cattle Call’s previous RPG with similar combat mechanics, The Legend of Legacy. There are a few NPCs in the starting village that will drop hints, but they’re easily missed and don’t go into a lot of detail. An easy-to-access guide from the camp menu would have been a huge help, but unfortunately, you’re just going to have to learn a lot of Alliance Alive’s quirks through experience.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of everything, you’ll eventually reach a point where the game’s progression shifts towards a more open-ended structure. Despite this change, however, the speedy pacing and the solid combat don’t suffer much--though you may encounter more instances where you need to run from a high-level enemy that’s kicking your tail. One of the most fun elements also opens up around this time: the ability to find helpful NPCs who can be recruited to the various guilds that dot the land.

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Groups like the Signimancy Guild, the Library Guild, and the Blacksmith Guild have set up towers across the world, and being in the towers’ sphere of influence yields benefits like enhanced combat stats and random start-of-round attacks and status ailments on enemies. They also aid the party by developing specialty weapons, armor, and spells. As you recruit more NPCs to these guilds, their capabilities also increase. You can engage with this element as little or as much as you want, but it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of The Alliance Alive. The feeling of building up support for your ragtag rebel crew is immensely satisfying--it’s just a shame it takes about a third of a game before it even opens up.

There’s a lot to love about The Alliance Alive: a well-paced story in an interesting world, a meaty mashup of unique combat elements, and a fantastic soundtrack that keeps you pumped and eager to explore. If you can put up with a bit of a learning curve, you’ll find a great portable adventure well worth dusting off your 3DS for.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 23 Apr 2018 12:00:00 -0700)
With the NFL draft less than a week away, reporters who cover their teams on a daily basis take a crack in predicting how the first round will unfold in The Times' annual beat writers' mock. Each reporter makes a pick and gives a rationale for that selection. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 23 Apr 2018 08:30:00 PDT )
La magia, música latina y diversión acentúan la segunda jornada del Festival de Libros del LA Times   Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 22 Apr 2018 20:51:00 PDT )

This year's MLB The Show pushes the franchise's visuals, mechanics, and authenticity to new heights. Marginal updates to the Franchise mode and some of the same quirks in Road to the Show persist, but overall this is a shining baseball game that's worthy of attention.

America's pastime is all about the details, and MLB The Show 18 proves to be an authentic sim thanks to small but impactful touches throughout. There are new crowd animations like the "Judge's Chambers" cheer at Yankee Stadium. Spectator logic is also updated so that fewer people show up for a Tuesday game or when one or both of the teams is out of the postseason hunt. One of the better and more notable aesthetic additions this year are situation-specific home run animations. If you hit a dinger in an important spot, the player will celebrate accordingly instead of just jogging around the bases like it was an inconsequential home run during a blowout.

Batting stances are also customizable now, giving you options to tweak things like the positioning of your hands and elbows. Want a little more bat-wiggle? You got it. It's fun to tweak a stance and find something that is aesthetically pleasing and uniquely yours, even if it doesn't have an impact on your overall attributes. What's more, the crowds for the most part are no longer just bland, boring background elements, and the stadiums are replicated with an incredible attention to detail. From top to bottom, MLB The Show is a gorgeous-looking baseball game.

All the core mechanics and fundamentals of baseball--hitting, fielding, catching, throwing, and pitching--give you the kind of control that you would expect from an advanced sports sim. Mechanically, Sony San Diego's commitment to refining and improving mechanics continues this year. In particular, hitting remains a challenging thrill. The hitting mechanics never feel unfair, as you only have yourself to blame if you're going for a power swing when you should be protecting the plate. It takes some work to get the hang of hitting--and you'll want to try the three available control options to find the one that works best for you. Connecting with a pitch and sending it ripping through the gap or over the fence--or even picking up a single in the clutch--remains one of the most enjoyable parts of the game.

In the field, particularly the outfield, players move like actual humans with inertia, so if you don't get a jump on a fly ball or take the wrong path when playing a ball off the wall, you might find yourself giving the baserunner extra time or even make a costly error. Like the hitting mechanics, this never feels unfair or overly difficult, thanks in part to controls that reward practice and responsiveness.

The commentary team this year adds MLB Network analyst and former player Mark DeRosa--and he is a very welcome addition. DeRosa takes the place of Harold Reynolds, who is out after just one year, and the broadcasts feel more informative and entertaining as a result. DeRosa does color alongside Dan Plesac, and they're joined by play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian. The three recorded lines in the same studio space this year, and this pays dividends; the back-and-forth conversations feel more natural and organic. Baseball commentary is never going to be exciting in a way that it is for other, faster sports, but these three do a good job. That being said, after only a few games, you'll begin to hear the same lines again and again.

The returning RPG-like Road to the Show mode builds on the narrative, documentary-style "Pave Your Path" from last year's game. You can import a character from MLB The Show 17 or start anew on a fresh journey from AA to the big leagues. Notably, you aren't a top prospect this time around, but rather a dark horse. You're not on scouts' radar to begin with, so it's imperative you perform well from the start if you want to get called up to the bigs--and it can be a struggle. You start by creating a character (you can customise loads of things, down to the number of pimples on your face or creases on your forehead). But new for MLB The Show 18 is that choosing an archetype for your character that has pros and cons. I went with "Good Hands," which meant my path was more focused on fielding and making contact at the plate with speed as my weakness. Once you get started, RTTS plays out in the familiar fashion: with scenes narrated by a Sam Elliott sound-a-like and narrative sequences that are quite cheesy and overly dramatic.

In previous years, you assigned training points to level up your character that you could purchase with real money through Stubs. But training points and Stubs are completely gone from RTTS (and so are microtransactions), and instead attribute points are automatically added--or subtracted--based on your performance during AA and AAA seasons. Make an error in the field or fail to make solid contact at the plate and your related skills will fall. You'll even have points subtracted if you swing at a pitch way outside of the zone. You do still have some amount of manual control of your character's progress, as "Focus Training" opportunities will pop up throughout the season to improve your skills of choice. MLB The Show 18's overall drive to be an authentic baseball sim extends to RTTS. It shouldn't be easy to go pro--and it isn't. It took me four seasons of AA and three of AAA before I eventually got the call.

At various stages you'll have sit-downs with your manager to talk about your progress. You can make light dialogue choices, and these serve to flesh out your character's personality. Generally speaking, you can choose to be brash or reserved. In one case, I was asked to switch from shortstop to left field. I was told it would be good for my professional development and to show I was a team player, but I refused--and was benched as a result. Actions have consequences (you might even get traded if you push back hard enough). If you want to make it to the big leagues, you have to believe in yourself and your abilities, but also to listen to advice and make reasoned choices about your future.

One change I appreciated is the inability to max out your character to level 99 in all areas. In the past, you could essentially create a super-player if you worked hard enough (or spent enough on microtransactions). But now you can't, and it feels more realistic as a result. Some players will never be big-hitters or the best fielders. Ultimately, it was rewarding to see my character grow and evolve, and by the end of my journey I felt satisfied to have brought my guy to the league. RTTS lacks the kind of overall polish and refinement of similar modes in other sports games such as The Journey (FIFA) and Longshot (Madden), but it is still an engaging, challenging, and ultimately rewarding experience when you get through it. Given how many different archetypes there are to choose from and positions to play, it's exciting to think about starting over again and again to see the story play out in different ways.

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MLB The Show 18's Franchise mode, which lets you run as team as its GM and control all organisational decisions over a 162-game season, doesn't add much to the well-established formula from previous years, and in fact it removes something--online play. One of the only notable new additions is the ability to play through a Franchise season in Retro mode, which is the 8-bit mini-game mode that was added last year. Beyond streamlined and more aesthetically pleasing menus, one of the only other other new feature is "phases," which is a system that allows you to track specific points in a season like Draft Day, Spring Training, All-Star Race, and the Postseason. It's a nice addition that gives you yet another way to manage your team and follow their progress on a more granular level. Overall, MLB The Show 18's franchise mode remains a deep experience that gives aspiring managers a lot to work with and enjoy, even if they can't take things online.

The card-collecting Diamond Dynasty mode adds new reasons to keep you coming back. There are more legendary players this year such as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Nolan Ryan, and Chipper Jones, among others. Elsewhere, Diamond Dynasty has more missions you can complete to earn extra items, while the head-to-head online mode is a fun way to test your squad. Diamond Dynasty doesn't add much new or particularly interesting, but it remains a unique thrill to put together a fantasy team with players from past and present on the same roster. Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr. were never even alive at the same time, but in MLB The Show 18 they can be teammates, and the sheer number of dream combinations provides a reason to keep playing and keep collecting.

Sony's flagship baseball franchise has never been better. With its best-in-class controls and visuals, and impeccable attention to detail for the small stuff, MLB The Show 18 is worth catching for any baseball fan.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 27 Mar 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

Sea of Thieves conveys nature's beauty and wrath with aplomb, and sailing across the open ocean in a creaky vessel can make you fall in love with its impressive presentation. This romantic connection can be felt most when sailing alone, but Sea of Thieves is primarily designed to be played with a trusty crew. Doing so allows you to revel in buffoonery and appreciate the value of teamwork, delivering an entirely different perspective on what it means to be a pirate.

These awesome moments make the initial hours of the game feel like you're embarking on a special journey, but this love affair is quickly tested both by the game itself and other players, some of whom on PC are already employing hacks to put your interactions on uneven footing. Sea of Thieves is just that: a game that belongs to conniving robbers, who see fit to disrupt well-meaning players despite gaining no prize other than gold for purchasing cosmetic items. This is to be expected to a degree, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't moments when I screwed over someone else for the sheer delight of asserting power and punishing another player's naivety.

Even so, sabotaging others didn't make me happy for long, and certainly didn't provide me with anything meaningful enough to warrant developing my underhanded side. To that end, playing as a trusting do-gooder is often more fulfilling, though the aforementioned aggressors and a surprising lack of depth to missions curtailed this approach, too. After 30 hours, I'm left wondering when I'll jump back into the game again. A part of me feels like I've seen it all; another part of me knows I'm using that as an excuse to take a break from grinding through another shallow quest in search of gold.

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The ostensibly ultimate goal is to become a legendary pirate captain, a prestige that comes with a supposedly notorious-looking ship meant to instill awe. To reach that level of notoriety, you have to increase your reputation with the game's three factions, each to the maximum level, by completing a series of quests. These include defeating reanimated skeletons of fallen pirate captains, digging up buried treasure, and capturing very specifically colored pigs and chickens. If hunting small animals sounds boring, you're right on the money; the fact that it's a dominant activity in the game is mildly baffling. The other two pursuits have their charms at first, but once you realize that the basic requirements of each faction's quests are forever the same, monotony quickly sets in. Given that, maybe it's not surprising that people opt to rob others of their treasures as a means to impress factions.

Again, the only reward for earning reputation--even for sticking it out and becoming a legendary pirate--is looking fancy. New guns are always only as good as the ones you started out with, and expensive attire is designed to impress, not to protect you from harm any better than a basic set of rags. This might be enough for some people to stick it out through the repetitive quests and often frustrating engagements with other players, but I can't imagine why a dash of color here and a new collar there would inspire the ardent perseverance required.

All that said, I can still appreciate the dynamics of working with a friendly crew, and if I ever return to Sea of Thieves in the near future it will be to recapture those special moments. There's almost no better way to kill time during a voyage than to act like an idiot on deck. Chugging grog to the point of vomiting is a regular occurance, as is catching it in a bucket to toss on a crewmate, clouding their vision with bile and booze. The drunker you get, the less stable you are, and the higher the chance that you'll accidentally stumble overboard, much to the delight of everyone.

Coordinating with a team of three other sailors to properly stock your vessel and manage its equipment is the most immediate venue for skill development. The only time you're truly tested is when engaging in battle against another ship, where you're required to manage the speed and orientation of your boat, load and fire cannons on deck, and patch up holes from enemy fire before your ship fills with water and sinks. It's great when you can fend off an attacker, but conversely demoralizing when stripped of your riches. Just because you sign up for that risk when you dedicate yourself to the game doesn't mean losing all your treasure is any less of a hit to your enthusiasm when another crew takes over your ship.

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Sea of Thieves offers other notable surprises, such as the appearance of a cloud-skull in the sky with glowing eyes, signaling a "raid" consisting of waves of enemies nearby. You can tackle these well enough with a four-person crew, but you are free to team up with others as well; just be prepared for them to turn on you when it comes time to collect the bounty of treasure.

You may also run into the infamous, massive Kraken mid-voyage, a moment that is exciting the first time around, but subsequently one worth avoiding. The Kraken's gigantic octopus arms writhe out of stained black water--really, a trick to prevent you seeing that the kraken is just a group of disconnected arms without a body in the middle. Its arms can either grab your ship or pluck sailors from the deck, and you've got a limited amount of time to pummel it with cannon fire to free would-be victims. In the end, all you can do is damage it enough so that it slinks away--a deflating discovery that makes you think twice about future engagements, especially given that there's no tangible reward for your victory.

There may come a time when Sea of Thieves is able to entice me back, and I imagine that will be with a mix of new mission types and hopefully the promise of rewards that allow for new types of interactions, if not improve my character's capabilities. For now, it's a somewhat hollow game that can be fun for a handful of hours when played with friends, and something worth trying out if you happen to be an Xbox Game Pass subscriber. Even though it's hard to wholeheartedly recommend, I like enough of what I see to hold out hope that things will eventually improve as the game continues to be patched and updated with new content.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 27 Mar 2018 08:00:00 -0700)

In the season finale for The Enemy Within, an exhausted, bloody, and beaten Joker asks Batman a question: "Did you ever think of me as your friend?" It's a spark of vulnerability in a character that is typically sowing discontent and wreaking havoc. Unlike many of the other decision-making points, there's no timer pressuring you to respond, and in that moment I reflected on the choices I had made up until then. I asked myself whether I feigned friendship with him in the pursuit of justice, or if it was genuine.

Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within convincingly presented me with the idea that I could find salvation for the Joker. That I could use the Dark Knight's unwavering sense of justice as a guiding hand, hopefully to shape him into something other than the maniacal Clown Prince of Crime. I was wrong, and I failed.

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In the end, events played out as they always do: A cackling clown and a man dressed as a bat standing on different sides of the law. This is a disappointing bait and switch, but only because I let myself think things could be different--I saw hope where there was none. The fact that I bought into the idea speaks to the strength of the writing and performances throughout the series. Despite this letdown, Episode 5 remains a compelling end to a story in which Batman becomes a participant in the creation his greatest adversary.

While that's not a unique concept, 'Same Stitch' takes the idea that Joker exists because of Batman and explores it more directly. Where comics allow subtlety and subtext to suggest the symbiotic nature between the two characters, Telltale's take is more overt, and makes a stronger, clearer statement because of it: Maybe Batman is the reason villains exist in Gotham, and maybe his crusade is doing as much harm as it is good.

In possession of a deadly virus and being hunted by an out-of-control Amanda Waller, John Doe comes out of hiding as a vigilante calling himself Joker. That's the person I shaped though my actions as Batman. Wherever possible, I put my faith in him, trusted him to do the right thing, and gave him the benefit of the doubt, hoping it would have a positive impact. In response Doe modeled himself after Batman, complete with Jokerangs, a grapnel gun with chattering teeth, and the overwhelming compulsion to see justice served.

But, despite my intentions, I had unwittingly placed Joker on the path to realising his villainous destiny, albeit with a short detour through vigilantism. The episode begins with Batman trying to recover the deadly virus in Doe's possession and stop him from doing harm. Amanda Waller, meanwhile, wants to capture Doe and Batman, and resorts to using villains to get the job done, putting together a Suicide Squad of sorts.

Events quickly spiral out of control. Having been blamed for killing The Riddler, Joker becomes focused on proving that Waller is the real villain in Gotham. His morality becomes black and white, and Telltale does a great job of forcing Batman to admit there are shades of grey. As Waller argues her case, it's hard not agree with her that Batman has taken similar measures in his crusade. This showing of sympathy, and Batman's insistence that she face trial instead of suffering a more immediate fate frustrates Joker, making him lash out.

[Joker's] morality becomes black and white, and Telltale does a great job of forcing Batman to admit there are shades of grey

Batman's rigid code of conduct and unwavering morality erodes Joker's sense of what it means to be a hero and conflicts with his need for reparations. The result is is a mentally unstable figure that acts on violent impulses and lives by a twisted sense of self-serving principles. Instead of dropping John Doe into a vat of green chemicals to create Joker, Episode 5 presents your influence as Batman to be one of the reasons Joker is born.

Same Stitch manages to be introspective and thoughtful, while also providing plenty of levity. Joker's stint as Batman's sidekick is incredibly memorable, thanks to excellent voice acting and more than a few funny lines. Joker behaves as you'd imagine any Batman fanboy would if given the opportunity to go on a mission with the Dark Knight, revelling in going back to back with his idol, running through the ridiculous superhero names he considered before arriving at Joker, joyfully riding in the Batmobile, and taking pleasure in being mended by Alfred. Sadly, the fun and games are short-lived, as before long he's on the warpath.

Episode 5 also gives Alfred a more prominent and meaningful role. Having been there for every step of Bruce's journey, from orphaned child to vigilante superhero, he's begins to realise that perhaps he's also been a negative influence, enabling Bruce's destructive lifestyle and failing in his job as a surrogate father. Telltale takes some bold steps to change the dynamic between the two characters, and it will be interesting to see how this carries over into future seasons, if they happen.

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Overall, Episode 5 of Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within provides plenty of thrills and is a satisfying conclusion to the story. Although there are a few set-piece fights that are dynamic to watch, much of the actual gameplay remains focused on walking around environments and interacting with points of interest. It's a shame that the series as a whole didn't offer more opportunities to solve puzzles, as it did in the earlier in the series, but given the satisfying story payoff that's easy to forgive.

Over the course of five episodes, the Batman: The Enemy Within has delicately developed John Doe and pulled strings to position Batman as a key player in his transition into Joker. While Telltale's first Batman season stuck a bit too close to established mythos and delivered an underwhelming ending, the second is a memorable Joker origin story that Bat-fans should make a point of playing.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 26 Mar 2018 07:00:00 -0700)

Penny-Punching Princess opens by declaring that, in the age of capitalism, money is where real power comes from. This is a game about a princess who needs to accumulate wealth to get revenge on the Dragaloan Family, who sent her father into poverty and death with their harsh interest rates. It's an intriguing, startling note for a cutesy beat-em-up game to open on. This isn't a 'message' game--don't go in expecting a searing critique of capitalism, as it's largely played for laughs--but this framing device immediately makes it clear that this brawler is going to be different. It might not be in the top-tier of its genre, but at the very least Penny-Punching Princess is unique.

The game is an isometric beat-em-up, in which fighting is your main form of interaction with the world. There are no puzzles to solve, and the level design is extremely simple, to the point of being universally uninteresting, designed just to funnel you between fights--the extent of permissive exploration is simply a matter of going left when your compass is telling you to go right. When a fight starts, the Princess (or Isabella, a zombified second playable character that you unlock a few hours in) can perform quick punches, use a stronger charge attack, or roll to safety. It's not the deepest system, and your defensive options are limited.

Most fights involve a few waves of enemies, usually of increasing danger, and generally, there will be traps, like buzzsaws, giant rolling balls, and fields of poison, to avoid too. The Princess and Isabella play very differently, although most players will likely attach themselves to a favourite rather than swapping between them--I stopped using the Princess almost entirely after unlocking Isabella. Unfortunately, there's not much variety in the game beyond this choice between the two. The arenas you fight in throw more and more traps at you as the difficulty ramps up towards the end of a chapter, but no specific encounter every really stands out.

When you beat enemies to a certain point, the word 'break' appears over them, and if you rotate the right stick, coins will spill out of them. Coins are important during a fight, as they can be used to bribe both enemies and traps. Enemies vary in price depending on their power, but if you bribe an enemy not only will it disappear from the battlefield, but you'll be able to summon it to fight for you. You can bribe traps too, meaning that they'll stop hurting you and can be turned onto enemies. Traps are more cost-effective--they're cheaper and tend to do a lot of damage--but using them properly also means that you need to lure your enemies into range. Leading a powerful enemy right into a trap and doing massive damage is extremely satisfying, even if most of the game's boss fights come down to you leading a huge enemy from trap to trap. During hectic battles, it's hard to know exactly what you're about to bribe--the Princess can be more exact, but in the heat of the moment you're more likely to just nab whatever is directly in front of you--which can get frustrating.

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Every enemy and object you bribe gets added to your collection, which can be cashed in to build new armour and Zenigami Statues (which are effectively the currency used for stat upgrades). A piece of armour, for instance, might require you to have previously bribed five of a specific minor enemy, two of a stronger, more expensive enemy, and two buzzsaw traps. Each piece carries a price like this, and if you're missing something the level select screen handily highlights four enemies and traps you'll encounter in each individual level. Upgrading your armour is essential--occasionally you'll hit enormous difficulty spikes and realise that you're under-equipped, at which point you'll typically need to jump back into earlier levels and grind to collect specific bribe targets (and search for treasure chests, many of which contain additional Zenigami statues).

The grind is rarely too severe if you're being mindful and upgrading as you go, but the difficulty spikes can hit hard. It's frustrating when you reach the end of a level only to find that the final boss is far too powerful for you to take on, and the checkpointing, which can be somewhat capricious, means that you'll often have to redo easier fights just to reach the more difficult ones again. My frustration only occasionally boiled over to the point where I had to step away for a moment, but there was also rarely a real sense of reward for having beaten a difficult level, because you know the next level is just going to involve doing the same thing again.

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All of this is presented without too much flourish. The sprite-based character designs are occasionally charming (Sebastian, a stag-beetle who acts as the princess' butler and appears in pre-and-post-level interstitials, is pretty funny), and the weird script plays up the game's irreverence to good effect, but it's difficult to really get invested in Penny-Punching Princess' cycle of punching and spending. While the game is moderately entertaining and has its moments it just doesn't offer lasting satisfaction. Penny-Punching Princess doesn't set its sights particularly high, and while it feels like it's achieving what it intended, it's hard not to wish there was a little more to it.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 13 Apr 2018 07:00:00 -0700)

The God of War series has, until now, stuck very close to the standards set in the original 2005 game. More than a decade (and many games) later, it makes sense that Sony would want to mix things up for the aged hack-and-slash series. Like so many popular franchises that have reinvented themselves in recent years, the new God of War dips into the well of open-world RPG tropes. It also shifts its focus to Norse mythology, casting off the iconic Greek gods and legends that provided the basis for every previous game.

These major shifts don't signal the end of God of War as we know it, rather they allow the series' DNA to express itself in new ways. There are many reasons why the structural transformations are a good thing, but it's what's become of Kratos, the hulking death machine, that leaves a lasting impression. A furious, bloodthirsty icon has transformed into a sensitive father figure. Part of him retains the old violent tendencies that made him a star long ago. However, with his young son Atreus to protect and guide, we also see Kratos take a deep breath and bury his savage instincts in order to set a positive example.

Watching Kratos take care in nurturing his child's sensibilities does feel a bit jarring at the start, but thanks to the natural writing, fitting voice actors, and flawless animation, it's easy to get sucked into the duo's journey and buy into their mutual growth. Though he is a teacher, Kratos carries a mountain of grief and self pity that only the innocence of his son can help him overcome. And Atreus experiences his own ups and downs that might have set him down a very different path if not for Kratos' guiding hand.

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Atreus was raised in isolation from the dangers of the wild world around him, and rightfully fails to grasp his place in it when confronted with the realities of a land protected by and under siege from gods. It's the death of his mother prior to the start of the game that thrusts Atreus and Kratos outward; her dying wish was to have her ashes spread atop the highest peak in the land. As if wild predators and ghastly fiends weren't obstacles enough, representatives from the pantheon of Norse mythology arise in an attempt to disrupt their mission, establishing the amplified stakes and the clash of impressive forces that you expect from God of War.

And like its predecessors, God of War is a technical and artistic showcase. It is without a doubt one of the best-looking console games ever released, with every breathtaking environment and mythical character exhibiting impressive attention to detail and beautifying flourishes aplenty. The vision behind all of this is evident in Kratos' meticulously grizzled physique and weathered equipment, in the atmospheric effects that transform believably rustic environments into the stuff of dreams, and in the overall design and structure of the world itself.

The majority of the journey is set in the realm of Midgard. At its heart lies a wide lake that you can explore by canoe, with a coastline dotted by optional puzzles, formidable opponents, and entrances to the map's primary regions. Your mission will carry you through to most of these places, and along the way you'll likely take note of inaccessible pathways and glimpses of sealed treasures. There's always ample room to explore off the main path and good reasons to give into curiosity regardless, but these teases in particular spur you to re-examine previously visited areas as your capabilities expand.

With the boy fighting by your side, firing arrows or choking unsuspecting enemies, you will team up against corrupted cave trolls, face towering beasts, and fight hundreds of intelligent supernatural warriors during your travels. Kratos prefers to use an axe these days, which functions very differently than the chained Blades of Chaos he's known for. This comes with the very satisfying and cool ability to magically summon your weapon to your hand (like Thor and his hammer), a move that never gets old.

And really, neither does combat in general. The new over-the-shoulder camera brings you directly into the fray, and consequently limits your view. You can't see enemies from all angles at once and must be on guard at all times. By default the game provides proximity icons to alert you of incoming attacks, but it's worth tinkering with the UI for a more immersive experience as you get the hang of how fights flow.

It's rare that you can actually spam combos without putting yourself at risk, and this emphasis on mindfulness solidifies God of War's graduation from the traditional hack-and-slash doldrums. The realities of fighting with an axe also makes skirting away from harm an exacting process. But when variables align and you get to lay into an enemy, Kratos' dexterous axe handling allow him to hit hard, and give you the opportunity to flex his might with a bit of style.

The basic set of close-range combos and weapon behaviors can be expanded by pouring experience points into a skill tree and by activating magical rune abilities that bind to your two attack inputs. There are a lot of options to consider and tactics to learn, including skill trees for fighting empty-handed. There's a wonderful rhythm to be found when switching from axe to fists, and then into Kratos' satisfyingly brutal execution moves, all the while ducking and rolling out of harm's way.

God of War's combat is already great at the start, but it gets better as it steadily introduces one new layer after another. You can absolutely stumble into incredibly punishing enemies that are made easier with adept timing and mastery of every available skill, but you can also succeed at any level so long as you've mastered the art of parrying and dodging incoming attacks.

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Atreus can't be configured to the same extent that Kratos can, but there are still a lot of ways to tailor his capabilities to your liking. The arrows he fires can be laced with different types of magic, with multiple elemental and functionality upgrades, and he eventually gains the ability to summon spectral animals that can harm and distract enemies, or collect items. Thanks to the smart button layout, it's actually very easy to both attack and defend as Kratos while also commanding Atreus. God of War gives you plenty to do in any given moment and makes you feel like an experienced warrior in the process.

The armor that Kratos and Atreus wear can influence a range of character stats, elemental affinities, and may include slots for enchantments that grant further bonuses. Armor can be purchased or crafted using the few resources scattered about the world, and can be upgraded by the game's two blacksmiths: two dwarven brothers constantly at odds with each other. There's Brok, the foul-mouthed blue dwarf, and Sindri, a far more gentle yet tragically germophobic fellow--a gag that is usually funny, though occasionally pushed a bit too hard.

As enjoyable as those two can be, it's Mimir that ultimately steals the show. The horned, one-eyed sage accompanies you and Atreus for the majority of the game, serving as your guide to Midgard, and an inside source into the ins and outs of Norse politics. Mimir and the blacksmiths have strong individual personalities, as with every other character you meet during the course of the game. We're keeping other identities vague in general to avoid spoilers, but regardless of who you bump into, God of War's cast is strong, convincing, and oddly enchanting. But the real accomplishment is how, even though there are just a handful of characters to interact with, their big personalities color your adventure with tantalizing anecdotes that draw you into the world and imbue the land with a tangible sense of history.

If there's any piece of the overarching mission that feels like a letdown, it's the final battle against the primary antagonist. He's great from a narrative standpoint, unraveling in a manner that changes your perspective, but it's the fight itself that leaves you wanting. There are plenty of big boss battles and tests of skill throughout the course of the game, yet this fight doesn't reach the same heights, and feels like it was played a little safe. It could be an effect of configuring Kratos and Atreus just so, or it may just be too easy to begin with. Thankfully, that's not all the game has up its sleeve.

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Two optional areas in particular seem designed with the endgame in mind. The first, Muspelheim, offers a series of battles in arenas surrounded by lava flows and scorched earth. Some trials are merely fights against strong enemies, while others require you to defeat waves in quick succession--if even one enemy remains alive, it only takes a few seconds for others to resurrect automatically. The other realm, Niflheim, is randomly generated every time you visit, but it's always filled with poisonous gas. The goal there is to survive for as long as possible while racking up kills and collecting treasure, and escape before the poison takes hold. Both locations offer tense and rewarding pursuits that are only accessible if you play at your best.

And odds are that you'll be so hooked by the story's pacing and procession of events that there will be plenty of other side activities left in Midgard after the credits roll. God of War isn't set in a massive open world, but it is stuffed with secrets and quests. Where most games with long and diverse quest opportunities tend to run a bit stale by the end, God of War has the opposite effect. It's far longer than it needs to be, though you hope you never run out of things to do.

In many ways God of War is what the series has always been. It's a spectacular action game with epic set pieces, big-budget production values, and hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress. What may surprise you is how mature its storytelling has become. Like Kratos, God of War recalls the past while acknowledging the need to improve. Everything new it does is for the better, and everything it holds onto benefits as a result. Kratos is no longer a predictable brute. God of War is no longer an old-fashioned action series. With this reboot, it confidently walks a new path that will hopefully lead to more exciting adventures to come.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 17 Apr 2018 08:00:00 -0700)

Not that you would anyway, but it doesn't pay to think too hard about "Rampage." Sure, it could be improved (shorter would have helped), but it gets the job done in a more or less acceptable way. Not the highest praise, but things could have been worse.

After all, if you're looking for a movie...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 12 Apr 2018 13:20:00 PDT )

The world knew them as once-in-a-generation rivals, tennis titans who went at each other hammer and tongs. The sledgehammer versus the stiletto, Ice Borg versus Superbrat, "as different," one observer says, "as two people could be."

But it is the intriguing notion of the involving, in-depth "Borg...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 12 Apr 2018 06:05:00 PDT )

Time is not often a resource that you need to think about when going on an adventure. Zelda patiently waits in Hyrule Castle while Link finishes up shrines in Breath of the Wild, the religious zealots in Far Cry 5 let you fish in peace, and even the merry band of travelling friends in Final Fantasy XV find downtime during crisis. Minit doesn’t subscribe to such design, and instead puts emphasis on the need to hurry. Its strict 60-second time limit is an ever-present threat as you dig up the world’s secrets around you, dispel a cruel curse, and attempt to bring peace to the land.

Minit begins with your unnamed hero happening upon a cursed sword, plunging you into a cycle of infinite minute-long sessions that always end with your death. Each time you respawn, the counter restarts, and you’re transported back to your last resting place. New resting places can be unlocked by walking into them throughout the map, but simply finding them in time is a task. You’ll need to uncover routes with your sword, chopping down shrubs to find new pathways to new areas on the edges of your 4:3 screen. Building a mental map of the world around you is paramount next to your ability to both avoid threats and find the shortest path to an objective, and it can feel like a punishing exercise at first.

But it doesn’t take long for Minit to find a rhythm that’s intoxicating. Each new character you meet bears a personality that can be equally inviting or aggressive, some wanting to help you along your journey and others just wanting to be left alone. Shopkeepers offer bite-sized quests for you to try and complete in the limited time you have, tempting you with rewards on completion. Clearing out an area of crabs or gathering a certain number of hidden coins can reward you with seemingly non-descript items like gardening gloves and watering cans. But these tools open the rest of Minit’s world to you, letting you move large blocks obscuring paths or chopping down trees that would otherwise act as a dead-end.

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Just like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (which also worked around the idea of limited time runs), certain objects and effects you've made on Minit’s world persist between run-throughs. For example, obtaining an item will store it permanently in your inventory or make it available to pick up at your last resting place. While some objects will return to their default position and block paths you may have already traversed, more story-centric events will remain in the state you left them in. A wandering spirit in the endless desert will stay dead after you’ve defeated it, and the lost guests of a strange hotel won’t wander off again after you’ve found them. These act as milestones to your progress through Minit, always giving you something on the horizon to chase down.

Chasing these leads requires both experimentation and exploration. Very often you’ll come across a perplexing area with new objects that seem static and immune to any of your efforts. Sometimes all an area’s mysteries seem obvious in hindsight, and yet Minit’s minimalistic yet emotive art does well to hide secrets in plain sight. It was nearly an hour into my first run until I realized I should be looking for coins in pots scattered around the world, or that my attacks on nearby characters could trigger new dialogue options. Poking and prodding Minit’s world is intrinsic to your progress, and it’s easy to find yourself lost in loops of deaths simply trying to figure out the next step forward. These instances might be frustrating, but they never go unrewarded. Minit is bursting at the seams with secrecy and mystery, so much so that it’s hard to soak in all at once. A generous New Game+ mode ups the ante with a shorter lifespan and new challenges but entices you to dive back in as soon as the credits roll to lap up any remaining secrets.

Movement and some incredibly simplistic combat are your only other concerns, both of which see slight enhancements near the end of the two-or-so-hour adventure. Minit is clearly designed to be easy to pick up and play, allowing its world and riddles to provide the challenge. It’s easy to avoid combat entirely unless specified by a task, for example. Movement, in turn, is more focused on puzzle-solving than dexterity and skill. A maze in a mysterious tomb in the desert requires you to run faster than you might envision possible, while another experiments with your perception of how you’re able to move boxes around a series of conveyor belts to disrupt a production line. Minit never feels unforgiving, instead giving you reason to give pause and think about how you’re moving around its world.

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It’s almost unbelievable how much character Minit packs into its monochromatic world, too. Despite adapting the style of old Game Boy titles, Minit’s range of animations and neat pixel-based touches root it firmly in modern design. Little dust trails that kick off your boots in a sprint and the blinding flashes of white and black streaks when you find a new item offer contrasting senses of style; Minit is delicate when it needs to be and bombastic elsewhere, but it uses all these elements to deliver important feedback to you. It’s perhaps why it’s hard to get entirely lost at any point, because there’s always a cleverly placed marker sitting in plain sight just edging you towards the next solution. Design like that is hard to come by, so it’s refreshing to see Minit pull it off so effortlessly.

Minit’s soundtrack is also rousingly enthralling, instilling each of its distinct regions with a sense of place and sound. There’s catchy chiptunes for a seaside town that makes up most of the game’s opening and appropriate silence in the ominous, depressing tunnels of a dangerous mine. Sound effects are used sparingly but to equal effect. The chimes build with a delightful track when you acquire a new item and come crashing down with a thud every time you miss an objective with a second to spare. It’s delightful, and just wraps the entire presentation of Minit up with a neat little bow.

Minit’s lives might only last 60 seconds, but its extremely well-thought-out world design and engrossing loop of progress make it a curse-filled adventure that is worth dying the world over for. Its throwback to classic visuals aren’t done for aesthetic alone, as none of its gameplay systems scream antiquity. It’s a slickly presented adventure that continually manages to surprise you with every new area you uncover or item you procure, pushing you to pick away at its seams to uncover every drop of what it has to offer. With a delightful ending and more promised after its first run of credits, Minit is far more than just a collection of seconds.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 03 Apr 2018 06:00:00 -0700)

Comcast, AT&T, Verizon and other big internet service providers must be wondering if they didn’t outsmart themselves by lobbying the federal government to kill network neutrality rules.

President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission chairman, Ajit Pai, served as the executioner last December....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Fri, 20 Apr 2018 06:50:00 PDT )
It's finally here: British brand Hunter and Target have unveiled an outdoor gear collaboration that features clothing, shoes and more. And we couldn't help but think: There's plenty here for the gardener (and maybe inspiration for Mother's Day or Father's Day gifts). Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

CB1 Gallery, which began life in a storefront space at the downtown L.A. intersection of 5th and Spring streets in 2010 and now inhabits a more polished Arts District space on Santa Fe Avenue, will shut its doors next month.

“Unfortunately, expanding into the current space along with the slow sales...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT )
If you run, row, do Pilates or yoga, swing a kettle bell, want to fix your sloping posture or and recover quicker from your workouts, we found 10 standout products from the show that can help: Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

There's an unkind stereotype out there that Angelenos are loathe to crack open a book. If that's true, how do you explain the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books?

Last year, 150,000 people flocked to the city's biggest celebration of reading and storytelling. This year, the 23rd Festival of Books...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

Yes, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is first and foremost about the music (it’s right there in the name after all), but it also provides an unparalleled opportunity, both on stage and off, for fashion brands to cut through the clutter.

Here are the acts — and the brands — that made...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

Responding to a rash of mishaps involving animals on planes, Alaska Airlines plans to impose new requirements for passengers flying with emotional support animals.

Starting May 1, the Seattle-based carrier will require passengers who want to travel with emotional support animals to provide proof...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

Amid legal maneuvering in the Russia investigation, some of former FBI Director James B. Comey’s memos surface.

TOP STORIES

The Comey Memos

Fifteen pages of fired FBI Director James B. Comey’s memos about his interactions with President Trump have come to light after House Republicans demanded...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

Here’s a look at what roughly half a million dollars buys right now in the Ventura County cities of Santa Paula and Oxnard, and the neighborhood of Riverview.

SANTA PAULA: Built in 1951, this gated home has an open floor plan with hardwood floors, French doors and a remodeled kitchen.

Address:...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

You can fly round trip from LAX to Mahé Island, Seychelles, for $1,243, including all taxes and fees, on Etihad Airways.

The travel period is short: It is for trips Nov. 1-20.

You may be able to find a lower fare on Ethiopian Airlines, but that trip requires two connections.

Beside the date restrictions,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:00:00 PDT )
The L.A.-based green-beauty entrepreneur has traveled the world as she expands her beauty brand. For Earth Day, she will release limited-edition handwoven travel bags dyed with natural indigo made by Thailand's Karen hill tribes and filled with her skin-care products. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews ( Fri, 20 Apr 2018 05:00:00 PDT )

The Kings were swept out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by a team that didn’t exist a year ago. The Ducks were swept by a team they had passed in the Pacific Division standings during a late-season surge that fizzled when the playoffs began.

We’ve gone from a glorious Ice Age in Southern California...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:25:00 PDT )

“The Judge" is not the eagerly anticipated documentary on Supreme Court luminary Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That film, "RBG," is coming soon, but in the interim viewers would be wise to take in this story of another woman jurist who is just about as impressive.

That would be Kholoud Al-Faqih, who is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:35:00 PDT )

The Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to approve a permit that allows SpaceX to build and operate a facility at the Port of L.A. to develop its BFR rocket and spaceship system.

The formal approval came days after L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that SpaceX...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:00:00 PDT )
From experiment in the desert to massive brand and pop culture phenomenon, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival has undergone serious changes since its 1999 debut. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:55:00 PDT )

The title of the gripping, inspiring documentary “The Heart of Nuba” describes Catholic missionary Tom Catena, an American doctor running the Mother of Mercy Hospital in southern Sudan’s remote Nuba Mountains. Since 2011, the oil-rich, rebel-held region has been targeted for aerial bombings by...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 19 Apr 2018 12:00:00 PDT )

Six-time All-Star Jose Bautista agreed Wednesday to a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves.

Bautista, 37, would receive a $1-million, one-year deal if added to the 40-man major league roster. He will report to the Braves’ extended spring-training complex in Florida to work himself into...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (星期三, 18 四月 2018 20:55:00 PDT )

The Rams’ game this season against the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City will be played Nov. 19 and will be broadcast by ESPN on “Monday Night Football,” the Rams announced Wednesday night.

The full NFL schedule, including dates, kickoff times and broadcast information, will be released Thursday...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (星期三, 18 四月 2018 20:45:00 PDT )

There are no rotating heads or spewing green goop on display, but “Exorcist” director William Friedkin’s documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth,” serves as a curious companion piece to his 1973 horror classic and has its own chilling, if limited, charms.

“At the time I made ‘The Exorcist,’ I...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Wed, 18 Apr 2018 18:05:00 PDT )

There are moments in “The Rider,” Chloé Zhao’s achingly beautiful heartland elegy, when we see Brady Jandreau, a Lakota cowboy in his early 20s, simply doing what he was born to do. (Quite literally: Jandreau was just 15 days old when he sat on his first horse.) Tenderly and patiently, the camera...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 10 Apr 2018 09:40:00 PDT )


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