Tag Archive: video games


Review by C.J. Bunce

You are Star-Lord in the new Eidos-Montreal video game based on the infamous Marvel Comics band of misfits, the Guardians of the Galaxy.  The third person, action-adventure has players calling the shots as the team tries to save the universe again, but not before you cause a chain of events to make it all unravel.  Guardians of the Galaxy–the game–is space fantasy action with comedy notes, available now at Amazon for PS4, PS5, XBox, and more.  There’s even a purple llama.  And if you like the game, or you want to know what it’s like to be a voice actor for video games, don’t miss the behind-the-scenes guidebook, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Art of the Game, just out from Titan Books.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Not many books give you goosebumps as they take you back to a moment in time.  How do you create not only a new game, but a new industry?  Your next time travel adventure needs to be Arjan Terpstra and Tim Lapetino’s giant look back at not only Pac-Man but the rise of video games.  It’s Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon, simply an incredible, deep dive into the development of the video game and all its incarnations from its beginnings as Puck-Man, almost called Paku-emon (sound familiar?).  From development via pinball, coin-op, and theme park companies Namco, Bally, and Midway (and side-dances with Atari), fans of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia will see how a few key players in Japan created Pac-Man, and even more around the world expanded it into an icon–all out of 111 yellow flashes of light on a computer screen.  The giant book is full of vintage photographs, marketing materials, corporate and engineering design notes, and much more.  Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon might be the best video game history yet, and it’s now available here at Amazon.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

At one level you know exactly what to expect when you select a movie based on a video game.  Any film worth its production costs needs to bring general audiences into the world, the director and writers need to then build that world, establish heroes, fight battles, provide over-the-top action and effects, and the hero(es) must achieve some kind of goal.  The stakes are high, often the fate of the entire world.  And that rarely leaves room for character development.  Entries include Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Resident Evil, Warcraft, Monster Hunter, Prince of Persia, Rampage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a slew of Pokémon movies, and they go back decades to the original concept film Tron, which had a video game at its center that players didn’t get to play until after the movie.  Lesser rated entries include movies like Hitman, Max Payne, Doom, Street Fighter, and In the Name of the King.

This year’s big-budget release Mortal Kombat, both a remake and a reboot and adaptation of a series of martial arts fantasy games going back to 1992, leans heavily into Asian action movie culture.  It arrives in a growing marketplace for API and AAPI films, in a year including Raya and the Last Dragon, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins.  

So where does Mortal Kombat land in comparison?

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Video game dabblers and players turn into game company entrepreneurs in Netflix’s latest retro fix, High Score, a documentary in the vein of shows like VH1’s Behind the Music and The Toys That Made Us.  Pioneer designers and creators like Space Invaders creator Tomohiro Nishikado, Nintendo’s Hirokazu Tanaka, and Atari’s Nolan Bushnell piece together a brief history of video games with an emphasis on home play in this new six-episode, limited series now streaming on Netflix.  The series goes through the development and rise of games moving from upright consoles to the television set, with Mystery House, Space Invaders, Star Fox, Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Madden Football, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Doom rising to the top as the touchstones of this modern corner of history.

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Eight years ago this week, LucasArts revealed footage for a next-generation video game, Star Wars 1313.  It looked like it was going to be incredible (we previewed it here at borg).  It had cutting edge graphics, but it got cancelled as a result of Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars.  Flash forward to today, and after 17 other franchise game releases now the latest game preview for Star Wars is here: Star Wars: Squadrons.  It arrives with some nice visual effects and a mirroring of play options.  Players play one of five Rebel “New Republic” X-Wing pilots, including a Trandoshan alien (like the bounty hunter Bossk) or one of five members of an Imperial TIE-Fighter squadron.  Lucasfilm and EA/Electronic Arts have partnered to create this first-person space combat game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, and playable via virtual reality (VR) on PlayStation 4 and PC.  It is set after the events of Return of the Jedi.

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If you’re tiring of the sounds of real life and you’re looking for an escape while you go about your day–whether they call you essential or not, whether you’re sheltering at home, or whether you’re marching for your rights–grab your go-to music source and check out some of these soundtracks from your favorite video games.  The latest is Death Stranding: Songs from the Video Game, consisting primarily of songs from the post-rock/electronica of Ryan Karazija aka Low Roar, following up on the instrumental musical score from composer Ludvig Forssell.

Several other soundtracks are topping the Amazon sales charts right now, and may be your next go-to vice for your own personal soundtrack.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Sometimes the implementation of an idea goes well beyond the idea itself.  That’s what I found with the new Dynamite Comics series, Obey Me.  The catchy title and great covers drew me to this first, and I’m a sucker for a story that stars a hound dog.  I’m also a fan of the movie Crossroads, a 1986 film written by John Fusco that features an old man who sold his soul to the devil.  A kid comes along (played by Ralph Macchio) who bargains for his life, and the result is a true American classic, steeped in mythology and blues.  In Obey Me, a young woman bounty hunter is tasked with hunting down a mob boss who has broken his contract with the devil.  She is joined by a talking hellhound–a familiar of sorts–and must go through several bodyguards to get to her target.  Along the way through some mouthy dialogue and murderous camaraderie, the pair–the woman is Vanessa and the dog is Monty–create a goofy brand of chemistry.  The plot sounds a little strange, but the first issue arriving in comic book stores tomorrow provides a heckuva fun story.

Obey Me blends two of my all-time favorite off-the-wall comic book series:  It has the irreverent humor and unusual talking characters of Felipe Melo, Juan Cavia, and Santiago Villa’s The Adventures of Dog Mendonça & Pizzaboy, and the equally strange, irreverent, and unusual series God the Dyslexic Dog from Brian and Phil Phillipson and legendary artist (and this year a Will Eisner Hall of Fame nominee) Alex Niño.  Plus there’s the Talking Dog.  Obey Me writer Mario Mentasti provides a familiar foundation, but look forward to some amped-up action and dialogue that will be loads of fun for mature readers.  Artist Ben Herrera and colorist Emmanuel Ordaz Torres find the perfect balance of comic book situations and blood, fire, and damnation.  Best of all, the team of Vanessa and Monty is all badass, making the book a must for your comic store pull list.

 

I was surprised this story is a tie-in to a PC and console game called Obey Me from Error 404 Game Studios.  It’s better than your average video game tie-in comic.  The game is a one- or two-person “top-down 3D action brawler” coming to Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC later this year.  Here is a preview of Issue #0 of Obey Me, courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment, and the trailer for the video game:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

As part of the release of the new single-player action-adventure game Shadow of the Tomb Raider, two new companion books are coming your way, Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Path of the Apocalypse and Shadow of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book The game, available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, continues the adventures of Lara Croft following the conclusion of the story launched in the 2015 game Rise of the Tomb Raider Players accompany Lara on her harrowing journey to become the survivor we know as the Tomb Raider.  The Official Art Book features exclusive concept art and developer interviews detailing the conclusion of Lara Croft’s origin story.

Path of the Apocalypse is the official tie-in novel to the game, written by S.D. Perry.  As we catch up with Lara, she has taken the Key of Chak Chel, setting off an apocalyptic flood–the Cleansing–foreshadowed by the ancient Maya (but she only did it because the agents of the secretive organization called Trinity were going to get to it first!).  She uncovers several clues that may help her prevent the next three foretold apocalyptic events from happening, but it seems like she may be the character in the ancient stories herself, acting to fulfill their prophecy.  Her first adventure is escaping the remnants of a flooded village.  Next, she and her companion Jonah must hire a plane that can sneak them under Trinity’s wide net of operatives, to re-trace the very steps of Trinity inside a system of deep caves, a path to the hidden Peruvian city where the silver Box of Ix Chel is hidden.  Halfway through her survival story inside these caves, readers might wish they had started to draw out their own map of the caves, lay out some kind of bread crumbs to find their way to the surface.  Lara continues deeper into the cave as Trinity operatives kidnap her friend and a pilot.  Do they wait for her to emerge from the cave’s entrance or take their weapons into the cave and pursue her?  And what are these toothy animals appearing in the dark corners of the cave?  With the fate of the world at stake, Lara is in no position to just give up.

Beginning with artwork from the 2013 Tomb Raider game and including great images from Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Official Art Book chronicles the video game production process, from concept to final design.  Art director Martin Dubeau, character artist Michael Verhaaf, and concept artists Maxim Verehin and Yun Ling, and hundreds of others served as digital costume designers, prop creators, and environment location scouts–just as if they were making a full-scale, live-action motion picture–incorporating their historical research on ancient Latin American cultures.  The game goes deeper into the history than the novel, introducing ancient peoples and the artifacts of their world.  These were all designed by Dubeau’s team and are incorporated in full-color layouts in The Official Art Book.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ahoy there, matey.  Gaming developer Rare and distributor Microsoft have said they expect their new shared world action-adventure game Sea of Thieves to be a major success for Xbox One and Windows PC, with a Rare company executive stating he expects the game to become a franchise as popular as Halo, Gears of War, and Minecraft.  As part of its efforts to bring in players, Rare has partnered with Titan Books to publish a tie-in to the game, Tales from the Sea of Thieves.  Sea of Thieves the game is a first-person pirate adventure allowing players to sail a legendary world alone or with a crew of up to four players.  Released in March, the game’s greatest appeal so far for fans has been its great visuals, opting for a cartoon-like palette versus a photo-real world, and its cooperative gameplay.

Written by Paul Davies, Tales from the Sea of Thieves is a fictional journal written loosely in the style of seafaring lore like you’d find in A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates, Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly novels, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, more recently William Goldings’ To the Ends of the Earth, and countless other historical accounts.  Its design becomes a real-world take-home prop from the game, a mock “battered and beaten” textured hardcover that looks and feels like a 19th century book that will go well with your tricorn, Jolly Roger, parrot, compass, and telescope.  The contents are in-universe, providing the accounts of pirate crew experienced years before the events of the game, introducing the types of adventures players can encounter in the game.

The tales are light fare, suitable for any age.  They don’t go so far as the darker side of the high seas as you would find in Lovecraft, but the voices are similarly evocative of his style.  The artwork is stylized from the game and fun, full color with the icons and emblems you’d expect from pirate lore.  Even the page edges are untrimmed as with journals and books of years past.

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Guest review by Alec Jessen

The newest addition to Nintendo’s Kirby game franchise, Kirby: Star Allies, is now available for Nintendo Switch (known in Japan as Kirby of the Stars: Star Allies).  The release of the new game is centered around an interesting new mechanic that has not been seen before with previous games in the Kirby series: a multiplayer/cooperative story and gameplay.  This fun, new mechanic is an interesting addition to Kirby games, giving fans a chance to experience adventures not only with Kirby, but also with friends from either the real world or via the AI/CPU.  As with past games in the series, players help the young, pink, spherical hero Kirby as he fights to save his home.  In the new version of the game all of the characters are still as cute and lovable as ever.

It’s a great way to play as a team.  Kirby: Star Allies features Kirby having a new ability–the ability to make friends.  This allows players to turn most of Kirby’s enemies into allies, which can then be either controlled by the computer or by friends in a local co-op of up to four players.  The ability is not only so that Kirby can have a few buddies to travel along with.  The abilities of his new friends are a necessity for Kirby to progress on his journey.  For example, the fiery abilities of the character Burning Leo are needed to ignite bombs that open up new paths, and only the electricity of Plugg can activate certain doors.  And the combined power of Kirby and his newly converted allies allows them to complete tasks using abilities such as the Friend Bridge, where Kirby and his friends form a bridge for certain characters to travel across. The teamwork in Kirby: Star Allies is both fun and heartwarming, especially playing in the company of friends.

It’s Kirby in a great new high-definition version.  One of the most interesting elements of Kirby: Star Allies is the use of the beautiful, vibrant Nintendo Switch graphics, while still being a side-scroller video game.  Its use of graphics along with the aspect of a side-scroller is a refreshing, near-3D experience.  The designers created a great combination, keeping the classic feel of past Kirby games, while also giving it a modern, unique update–It’s a great blend of new and old.

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