Five Films That Should Have Ruined A Franchise But Didn’t

5. Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift

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It’s hard to believe we are now on the cusp of being eight films into this behemoth of a franchise and, with films nine and ten reportedly already being outlined, it shows absolutely no signs of stopping. But it all could have been so different after the release of an utter skidmark of a third film. Somehow they managed to suck all of the stupid joy of meatheads barreling along in souped up cars and shoehorn some pathetic piss-baby story about a young man finding love and acceptance through streetcar racing. Some of the race scenes are undoubtedly thrilling, but the pace is jarring, the acting is so wooden you could probably chisel a good chest of drawers out of it, and by bringing back none of the actors from the previous films (expect Vin Diesel, who pops up in a rubbish cameo) it makes this film feel completely out of sync with the rest of the series. The team behind F&F have upped their game since, shrewdly nudging the films to be more action/heist based propositions and dropping in some heavyweight names (Kurt Russell, Jason Statham), meaning that the latest instalment has punched through that blessed $1 billion dollar mark.

 
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

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Oh Hugh, Hugh, Hugh, Hugh. Everyone loves Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine. Everyone. Even people who hate superhero/comic book films think he is a good Wolverine, and if they don’t then they are beyond help, but dearest Hugh tested all our goodwill with this horrendous instalment in the X-Men franchise. All the hallmarks of a dud were there from the start, an incomplete script at the start of filming (which only works for Ridley Scott and, for him, only about 35% of the time), bad scheduling and general production troubles; then butting of heads between director and the production company, piracy of a non-theatrical release version. All in all, it was an utter state.  Fox, however, did learn their lesson from this steaming mess, shelving plans for any further ‘Origin’ stories (Magneto was mooted but then cancelled) and started a sneaky rejigging of the franchise by using First Class and Days of Future Past to make Origins an unessential and grubby footmark. Wolverine finally did eventually get a half decent stand alone film, but Origins stands alone as a brilliant example of how not to do a comic book film.

 

3. Saw III

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*raises hand* I admit now that I am a big fan of the first Saw film and the second film was an entertaining, gory attempt to further the myth of Jigsaw. Saw III is where I draw the line; where I felt the novelty wear off and I was dulled to the tricksy traps and gratuitous gore. The introduction of Amanda (Shawnee Smith) showed us the thought process of the film’s producers. By introducing a disciple-esque character with an unwavering dedication to Jigsaw’s vision and someone who was quite happy to continue it on the producers set up the Jigsaw universe to survive without Jigsaw himself. It was all very cynical and all very rubbish, to be honest. Saw III itself was a muddled half job, exceedingly dull and convoluted beyond belief, and the franchise never recovered. Yeah, it made a huge chunk of cash over the course of its 7 (and possibly 8) films, but it never reached those dizzy heights of actually being good ever again.

 
2. Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4)

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More like Live Farce and Die Hard, amirite? Die Hard 4 (I can’t be arsed with its longer moniker) was something that should have been just talked about and not acted upon. It has left a smelly little stain on a once great trilogy and spawned another furiously bad fifth film which was somehow worse. And now someone has decided it would a great move to make a prequel to the entire franchise. What irks me the most about Die Hard 4 is that it diluted all the great elements of the previous three films (the snark, the writing, John McClane’s humanity) and created something so infuriatingly generic in its execution. Die Hard 4 has nothing to set it apart from any other crappy post 2000 action film, the writing is flat, the action sequences themselves are riddled and soiled by shitty CGI, and Willis looks bored (and that’s in the decent scenes). Die Hard with Vengeance is the last Die Hard film for me, and will stay that way for a long time yet.

1. Highlander 2: The Quickening

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Highlander is my catnip. Highlander 2: The Quickening is my Kryptonite. I become so weak with despair whenever it is mentioned that I crumple to floor before crawling away to the nearest darkened room to collect my thoughts. Every terrible thing you have heard about The Quickening is true. It is an utter shambles. It dismantles the good stuff from the first film and grinds it into a dust. The Quickening goes as far as to re-write and ruin the origins of the Immortals, turning it into nonsense that even James Joyce would be proud of. Sean Connery inexplicably reappears (for the money probably) even though that should be theoretically impossible. But this film basically says fuck to everything. The creators clearly felt guilty about releasing this lung spore of the devil onto the general public that they made a third film, and a fourth, and a fifth, and then a naff tv series. There’s also been a couple of animated series, a Japanese anime film (!), and various games and merchandise thrown in there for good measure. Do yourself a favour. Start with the first. End with the first.

 

There can be only one.

Trainspotting: 20 Years On

On 23 February 1996 Trainspotting exploded onto our cinema screens, and arguably, they were never quite the same again.

I first saw Trainspotting on my 13th birthday (late night Channel 4 FTW!). I became obsessed with this film, I had the poster, the soundtrack, I watched it at least once a week for about a year, I pre-ordered the The Definitive Edition on DVD a good three years before I should have done (The Internet: helping youngster view inappropriate content since 1995) . A few years later I even bought the special edition VHS with a lighter and metal Rizzla holder.

However, due to growing older and discovering new interests It’s been a few years since I last watched it. So, as this year marks the film’s 20th birthday I thought I might revisit this classic British tale of drugs, sex, thievery and betrayal.

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Right from the opening scene the film still packs a punch. From the moment Iggy Pop starts declaring his Lust for Life I was hooked in all over again, as we see our band of plucky drug addicts running down the street, laughing and full of life, we know we’re in for a ride full of thrills and spills. With the main character, Renton’s (played brilliantly by a young Ewan Mcgregor) voice over enthusiastically telling us all “Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?”, showing how he decided to reject the conventions of a normal life. No wonder 13 year old me who always struggled to fit in loved this film, it’s about people that don’t fit in in society, and whats more, they actively reject it.

At the time of release the film received criticism from the press for ‘glamorizing’ the use of heroin and drugs. I really feel that nothing could be farther from the truth. Trainspotting is brutal in the realities of what can happen when you’re addicted to heroin. The filmmakers were bold enough to not talk down to it’s audience, to show them both sides of the story and let us make up our own minds about the subject.

Trainspotting needle

Yes, it shows the positives in a world that has mostly been shown as only negative, Renton tells us about the amazing high, a woman tells us after shooting up that it beats ‘any fucking cock in the world’. The set design is bright and colourful at times, the editing is fast paced and full of energy, the performances are three dimensional and well rounded. This positive light, sometimes venturing into the slightly surreal is what really sets Trainspotting apart from other films depiction of heroin addiction. Even now it feels like a breath of fresh air on this subject. Something showing drug addiction as something other than a desperate, low state of affairs was essential to it’s success.

On the other side of the same coin they were also bold enough to show  us some of the more disturbing aspects of drug addition.We see a woman lose her baby in the smack den, we see Renton going through hell during one of the most iconic scenes, where his parents lock him in his childhood bedroom to quit smack cold turkey. We feel that we are there with him, going through all the stages and all the hallucinations. There’s a character who started off choosing life, then choose heroin when his life starts going downhill (thanks, in large part to Renton stealing his home made sex tape), he gets AIDS from dirty needles and ends up dying alone, in the dirt, with no one to notice him missing. These might be something that other films with this much joviality in it might shy away from. Trainspotting went there through, it dared to show us a spectrum of the life of an addict. They’re not just poor miserable little people taking drugs to make their lives bearable. There’s more to it than that, and Trainspotting really opened the door on being able to show all aspects of smack and not just the doom and despair that is often portrayed in films on the subject. Perhaps it even helped to open the doors on discussions about drugs and their effects in the wider community. 

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This is before we can even touch on some of the other themes in the film, such as poverty, underage sex, relationships, and betrayal.

When watching the film I was shocked at how fresh and innovative it still felt. A lot of that has to do with the director Danny Boyle, he wanted it to be funny and for it to have moments of surrealism, this is not just a doom and gloom story, this is an adventure. Trainspotting was only his second feature film, and it’s down to him where the film gets it’s great energy, and manages to draw great performances from his actors. The scene where Renton takes an overdose and sinks into the carpet is still one of the best, like the scene where his parents lock him in his room it works to place us in his place, we all sink into the ground with him, his lowest point this far (literally and figuratively). We are always with the characters, they are not just there to be pitied or vilified, you identify with them, you go with them through the good and the bad.

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The use of Lou Reed’s Perfect Day during this scene is also a great example of the film’s great used of music and sound. The soundtrack helps to set the time period (approx mid/late 80s’ mid 90s according to Danny Boyle in one of the special features on the DVD), and the use of the opening sequence again later in the film, but with different music totally changes how you feel about it, it not longer feels full of exuberance and freedom, it becomes a dead end, they get arrested, Spud ends up going to prison and Renton fails at trying to wean himself away from heroin onto methadone.  The music really helps to make the film, it helps to set the changing of time without it being said explicitly by the cast. 

Revisiting an old favourite after a few years can sometimes leave you disappointed, after all as humans we are prone to change our tastes and wants from our art. Trainspotting did not disappoint. It was just as fresh and vibrant as it was on that first viewing 15 years ago. It might not have blown my mind as it did once, but it certainly captivated me for an hour and a half. Even twenty years on this is as relevant and as exciting as it ever was.

 

(technically this isn’t really a review, but I’m going to give it some stars anyway, just ’cause I want to)

 

★★★★★

 

Mortal Kombat XL Kombat Pack 2 Character Breakdown

  

The crew at NetherRealm Studios have just released the latest (and seemingly last) batch of downloadable characters for 2015’s Mortal Kombat X. They are also releasing a new disc version too which includes all post launch content released so far inventively named Mortal Kombat XL. The game now has an impressive roster of 35 characters each with 3 fighting variations to choose from, which is a lot of content. So here’s a quick rundown of the latest fighters to be added.


Alien

  

The Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise joins the MK crew to hug some faces. Alien is actually a pretty good fit for a fighting game since he specialises on fast up close combat and isn’t afraid to dismember a fool much like many of the MK cast. As with all the guest characters they give a bit of context as to why they show up in the world of Mortal Kombat. In Alien’s case some of Outworld’s denizens (possibly missing series veteran Baraka) uncovered the infamous alien egg that had lay dormant in a cave and well… you know the rest of this story. Like in the movies the alien takes on some characteristics of its host so in this case it gains retractable arm blades and a mouth full of sharp Tarkatan teeth.

As with all fighters in MKX, Alien has 3 fighting style variations. First up Acidic, which gives you access to some acid spewing moves which can inflict damage over time if your opponent gets hit. Tarkatan which gives you some of Baraka’s classic moves like his chop chop blades attack and some different combos using said blades. Finally you’ve got Konjurer which changes your appearance to look more like a Queen Alien and gives you the ability to spawn alien eggs which shoot out facehuggers to stun your poor foes. This last variation ended up being my favourite just because of the facehugger traps you can set.

They do a pretty good job fitting in as many movie references as they can, the Alien Queen shows up in one of the fatalities to skewer and rend your opponent in half. If you face off against Johnny Cage (MK’s resident movie star/martial artist) he says the famous “Game over man!” line before the fight begins. And now that Alien is in we can finally settle the age old battle of Alien vs Predator as they fight it out in Mortal Kombat.


Bo’ Rai Cho
  

Bo is the drunken martial arts master who trained some of Earthrealm’s greatest fighters like Liu Kang and Kung Lao. He’s mostly played as a joke character since he’s constantly drinking and he acts like he’s seen it all. He also has a penchant for puking and farting on his opponents. But if you dig a little deeper he’s actually a pretty cool character with a lot of quick strikes and tricky moves to keep your enemies off guard. 

In his Dragon Breath variation he can spit boozy fireballs at your opponents or set traps by lighting the floor on fire. Bartitsu gives him a wooden stick which gives him a little more range to his attacks and some extra special moves. his main variation seems to be the Drunken Master though. This allows you to drink from your special flask which improves most of your other moves, the catch is that if you don’t stop and top up your alcohol levels before 10 secs are up you’ll puke and be vulnerable to counter attacks. This variation was the most fun to mess around with but you can tell this character has a lot of depth if you have the skill to find it. He also has a pretty cool movie reference if you pit him against Predator, Bo’ Rai Cho channels Arnold and calls him “One ugly mother fucker” before the fight begins.


Leatherface 
  

The creepy hillbilly murderer from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies brings his chainsaw and a few of his dead skin masks into combat. Leatherface’s bit of story justification is that he’s sent by his brother to find the best kind of meat for one of his special chillis and he wanders through a portal into Outworld. Seeing all of the new types of creatures and demons he sets off to find the tastiest of all.

Obviously his moves centre around his Chainsaw so he has pretty good range, his attacks start slow so he’s risky but has good damage potential. The Killer variation allows him to use a berserker stance from which he can charge across the screen with his saw or launch some repeated strikes pretty quickly. Using Butcher gives you access his hammer which can stun the other fighter giving you plenty of time to set up your next combo. And in his Pretty Lady variation he gains the ability to throw his chainsaw which allows him to attack no matter where the opponent is. 

I found Leatherface a bit one note overall, a lot of his attacks look the same because he really loves that chainsaw and he doesn’t have a lot of personality because he’s a mute psycho killer. It’s all shouting and chainsaw noises which for me got old pretty fast.


Triborg
  

This character is MKXL’s way of adding 4 fighters in one. Introduced in 1995’s MK3 the robot ninjas Cyrax, Sektor and Smoke became instant fan favourites even if they were technically rip offs of predator (down to the dread locks and everything). They have also included MK9’s Cyber 

Sub-Zero as a secret 4th variation which you access by double tapping up on the D-pad then pressing Triangle when you’re selecting your variation. Their story is that the government was conducting experiments and trying to use the cyborgs as a force for good but it went wrong and now there are 3 cyborg killers on the loose who think humans are the inferior species.

Any long term MK fans should be familiar with these guys, each variation has similar normal moves but totally different special moves. Cyrax has bombs he can throw out, a jumping throw to catch people out of the air, a buzz saw attack and his signature energy net to trap people for a free hit. Sektor has missiles… tonnes of missiles, a flamethrower and his teleport uppercut which is extremely satisfying to land. Smoke has his harpoon to reel in opponents and lots of teleport shenanigans. Cyber Sub-Zero shares a lot of special moves with his human counterpart but also has a quick diving kick and drones he can summon to power up combos and specials.

I’m having the most fun with Triborg so far, each variation does feel like different character but I always did have a soft spot for the Cyborgs so maybe I’m biased. Overall I’m extremely satisfied with this latest group of characters and can’t wait to have some friends over so we can finally settle some horror movie grudge matches. Whoever wins… We lose.
  

The Naff Nic Season: The Wicker Man (2006)

(112 Minutes, Rated 12A)

What can I say about 2006 version of The Wicker Man that hasn’t already been said? It’s already been mauled by critics and skewered like a shish kebab by various other articles; the general public even agree that it is an absolute stinker of a film hence its appearance at number 2 on the Naff Nic Bottom Five. I, myself, have seen this film on a couple of occasions since its release and, if my memory serves me correctly, I was a slightly inebriated in both instances. You should all thank me then that for the purposes of this challenge I have watched The Wicker Man stone cold sober. I even managed not to drink after the conclusion of the film, not just because I didn’t have any in the house, but mainly because I was concerned I would have drunken nightmares about BEES (oh god, not the bees!).

 

The basic premise of The Wicker Man is very similar to the original with a few subtle changes. While Edward Woodward’s Sgt Howie was a devoutly religious copper sent to Summerisle to investigate a missing child, Nicolas Cage’s Edward Malus is a copper on the trail of a child after his ex wife has informed him and said child turns out to be his daughter (oh I  love a shitty pointless modern twist). Now here is where I feel the remake made its first major misstep. The importance of Sgt Howie’s religious beliefs in the original Wicker Man is absolutely paramount to the horror that unfolds as we watch the residents of Summerisle challenge and strip away everything that he holds dear to him; his beliefs, his then previously unquestioned dedication to the Christian God, his life, until he is nothing but a pawn in their game of sacrifice. The remake, for some reason, completely misses the point of this and goes down some strange Salem witch shit route and Sister Summersisle (they somehow got Ellen Burstyn involved in this) spouts some spiel about their little Pagan commune being mainly female due to their own version of twisted Darwinism. It’s not frightening, nor does it really make an sense.

And we continue down this nonsensical route for the next hour and forty minutes or a bit less if you got really bored of watching this shoddy, apparent ‘horror’ film and turned the television off.

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However, if we rewind a little bit, take a deep breath, and start again, watching this time through a comedic lens, we will actually find slivers of enjoyment in this massive overcooked cake of dump.

Some of the dialogue is utterly astonishing in its absurdity and I’m pretty sure some of it could be used as a backing loop in a Lemon Jelly song. We all know the howling bees line, the ‘HOW DID IT GET BURNED!’ scene has made it into countless memes and cut into various youtube videos (Nic Cage’s very own screaming goat moment), and ‘KILLING ME WON’T BRING BACK YOUR GODDAMN HONEY!’ deserves an award for its bizarreness. However, the line that got me the most was in the scene in which Malus spots two men carrying a bag dripping blood, his detective radar beeps and he floors them with his aggressive interrogation which amounts to him saying ‘What’s in the bag? A shark or something?’ The delivery is Derek Zoolander-esque, deadly serious with no hint of how ludicrous his sounds, and it makes you wonder if Nicolas Cage was off his tits when he read this script.

There is also some beautiful physical comedy on show. The scene where Cage punches a grown woman in the face while he is dressed as a bear will definitely go down in the top 5 funny things someone has done in a animal costume (Ace Ventura still takes the top spot with his emergence from a rhino anus).

My complaint about Cage’s acting in Left Behind can go out the window where The Wicker Man is concerned. A lot of the joy in watching The Wicker Man comes from watching the man himself. He spends most of the film borderline hysterical, screaming at women and bees, while he is being mugged off and undermined by the inhabitants of the island. Nuance does not exist here. This is the googly eyed realm of yelling shit lines, and I cannot deny that it is bloody entertaining to watch Cage stomp around, pointing his gun and screeching at people to get off bikes. The bee scene is particularly iconic and Cage gives it his all, probably popping some blood vessels in the process. Yes, this film is pure garbage but Cage brings the fireworks and stops this film from being truly unmemorable.

The other characters are so underdrawn that they were probably sketched out on rice paper and then threw in the bin yet somehow they got some pretty decent acting talent involved (LeeLee Sobieski, Frances Conroy, Molly Parker). But they are little more than tiny moons orbiting around planet Cage.

What galls me the most is the fact that director/screenwriter Neil LaBute can direct and write a decent black comedy. Nurse Betty was a fantastic, sharp piece of work, and Fat Pig was a biting takedown of our obsession with weight. If he had gone the same way with The Wicker Man then we could have had a half decent film on our hands but instead he went down the pure ‘horror’ route, using dull and basic ‘twists’ (the missing child being the daughter) without imbuing them with any sense of meaning as to how this affects proceedings, and hysterical set pieces which are meant to scare us but do little but make us roll our eyes or just make us laugh.

The Wicker Man is a film that should be watched drunk. It is the only way to get a vague sense of enjoyment without the fury of what could have been if someone had just been wise enough to say ‘no, wait, this is actually shit’, or ‘hey Neil, shall we just make this a comedy instead?’ Watching it sober has not improved my life in any way so i’ll be sure to have a bottle of Bailey’s nearby the next time I’m so bored that I’m tempted to watch this again for the fourth time.
IMDB rating: 3.6

My rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ (as a horror)

My rating: ★★☆☆☆ (as a comedy)

Disclaimer – Renée Knight (Review)

It’s going to be hard to write about Disclaimer without giving anything away, the whole book is full of twists and surprises and almost every chapter shocked me.download (2)

There are two main protagonists to the story, first we meet Catherine who at first glance lives the dream, she is well known in the film industry for making documentaries, she has a husband who she loves and a grown up son who leads an independent life away from home. Next we meet Stephen, a retired teacher who has lost his wife and seems to live a solitary existence.

At first, it’s not clear how the two are linked but Catherine soon finds a book on her nightstand which, as an avid reader, she picks up to read only to find that she is the main character within the book and she realises it holds a secret to her past that if her family found out about, it could destroy them. Shortly afterwards it is revealed that Stephen is the author of the book and knows a part of Catherine’s past that no one else has ever heard.

When I started reading Disclaimer, I found it a little slow to begin with. Catherine’s chapters are in third person while Stephen’s are written in first person and I found it somewhat hard to grasp what was happening due to the chapters constantly switching between the two plots. As soon as I started to understand what was going on with both characters I was gripped. I read this on my Kindle and when I got to 30% I honestly didn’t know how there was still 70% left because I felt the story had almost been told that there was nothing more to happen. Another 5% in and I realised there was so much more to this book and I wanted to know everything.

As soon as things started to progress, I found I had more and more unanswered questions, I would find myself staying awake longer than I had meant to so I could read ‘just one more chapter’ in the hope that it would answer at least one of my questions, what I generally found however is that the one didn’t answer any of my questions, instead it usually presented me with new questions.

Of course the questions weren’t fully answered until the end, about 70% in and we start to learn the truth, questions started getting answered and I finished the last 30% in one sitting because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep without having found out the end of the story.

Was the end predictable? Yes and no, I went through one hundred different theories in my head while I was reading so one of them was bound to be the right conclusion. When I got the answers I found that it was what I was expecting yet somehow it didn’t find it any less shocking, if anything I was gripped by the revelations. I can’t say much more about the outcome because even the smallest detail will spoil the book but I can say that it was well done and I was heartbroken by the ending (if you have read it, I was mostly upset by Stephen’s conclusion.) It wasn’t on par with Gone Girl for me, with that I honestly could never have predicted the middle; I wasn’t expecting it and was completely shocked. Disclaimer did shock me to an extent but it was the aftermath of the truth that really hit me.

The way the two narratives came together and slowly started to unravel a story, was beautiful to me. Although at times the story was complex, I found the book in whole really easy to read and would certainly describe it as a page turner. On top of the two main narratives, at times we got to hear from lesser talked about characters which added excellent insight and new perspectives.

If you’re looking for a book that has an interesting plot but is still easy to read then I’d highly recommend Disclaimer.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Card Game: Gloom

2-4 players. Ages 13+. Approx 60 mins.

Gloom, the fun filled family game of disaster, distress and er, death. I know, this doesn’t seem too family friendly, but this game is great and can be enjoyed by kids of all ages (OK maybe not the really, really young). When I first opened the box and read the rules I could only think it’s a little like Happy Families: The Addams Family version. In this game you’ll be subjecting your chosen family to a barrage of vicious, strange, unfortunate and really rather amusing events.

gloom in the box

So, the eternal question! What’s in the box? Thankfully, Brad Pitt can sleep soundly as there are no severed heads, at least I haven’t come across one yet. What you do get is massive stack of wonderfully macabre, plastic playing cards (16 family cards, the rest are modifiers, events and untimely death cards… Yep, I wasn’t joking about the death part) and a set of instructions. Rather like Adventure Time Love Letter that I reviewed last week, this is a small, simple yet complex game. 

Game play begins with everyone picking a family that they’re going to subject to various misfortunes and also grabbing 5 cards from the draw pile to form a hand of cards. In a nice themed touch whoever has had the worst day gets to start (I love a themed ‘who goes first’ rule), they then choose two cards to play or discard, and then draw back up to five. You place your modifier, untimely death or event cards on top of any family member (even your opponents families if you want to), as these are opaque in the middle you can see who it is and what their current score is. The score is your family member’s self worth and can be found in the circles down the side, which differ from card to card, and can be cancelled out by new cards laid on top. There is no limit to how many cards can be laid on top, however if you play an Untimely Death card, you must turn over the bottom, family card (the one with the picture on it) so you know they have died and they can no longer have cards placed on top. Once all the members of one family have sadly passed onto the next world the game ends, you tot up your self worth and whoever has the lowest wins the game! Hooray! Or should that just be an unenthusiastic yay?

GloomHand

One thing to note at this point, the game play is simple, and can be picked up easily, however it did take us a few rounds to really get to grips with it and to clarify a few things in the rules. So the rule leaflet could do with a little make over just to make it a little more clear and concise.

OK, so I really enjoyed this game. If you’re the sort of person who has a dark sense of humour, finds the macabre fascinating, or if you just like interesting mechanics in card games you’re going to enjoy this. There are two main things that makes this game stand out from others out there as something a bit different. First is it’s basic game play of having those plastic cards that you can see through, they stack and layer up you only ever score what you can see, so you can cover up one score with another, which can be brilliant if you have a card that will give someone a +10 self worth and you put it on your friends card with a -25 on it. As you’re layering more cards on your characters the second great thing comes more into play: the theme. It is like playing something that could be Addams Family themed, every card is unique, the family members all have names and a brief description and background. The rest of the cards are unique and have titles like was Pierced by Porcupines (-15), was Pestered by Poltergeists (-20) and Was Delighted By Ducklings (+10), The rules encourage you to come up with a story for how that character befell into that state or event, which can result in some weird, wonderful and down right bizarre story lines, in that respect it can feel a little like Frenzy (an RPG where you get to create and star in your own Coen Brothers movie). Even if you don’t go too far down the story telling avenue the cards are funny all on their own, and there are positive ones, which you can place on your opponents families and mess up all their plans. There’s something so satisfying about being able to annoy your friends in a good game. It is these reasons why I really liked Gloom. It’s just a relaxing, funny game. Great for having a few drinks with friends and just having a laugh at all the horrible things you’re subjecting your poor family members to throughout the game. 

gloom in play

The box states that it can take up to an hour. It took us a little less than that, but we weren’t concentrating on the story telling aspect too much, but if you did want to, an hour sounds about right. Maybe even more if you really went to town on the story telling aspect. This relatively long play time (for a small box card game) can make it a bit prohibitive, you’re not going to want to take this out with you, like to the pub say, or out on a picnic like can with other cards in the small box category.

This would make a great game in any games cupboard. Especially if you’re a lover of story telling, and interesting card mechanics. The long play time can have some drawbacks for a small box game, but for others it could be a massive positive. Another slight drawback is the box, it could do with a slight re-design as it can can get a little tattered around the edges quickly when you’re taking the cards in and out, but so long as you take care of it, it shouldn’t rip. The rule leaflet definitely needs looking into a bit further, as I felt that it could be a bit clearer, I had to check and re-check through it a few times to clarify certain bits and pieces, but once you get there the rules are simple enough to remember and to teach to new players.

gloom expansions

There’s enough cards to give it a great amount of re-play-ability and even if you get bored of those cards there are at least 3 expansions with more macabre cards and events to bestow upon your family. There are even different versions like the Cthulhu and Fairy Tales addition. So, if you want to get your macabre story telling jive on, I suggest you bring a little Gloom into your life. 

★★★★☆

 

The Witness Review – PS4 

The Witness is an extremely special game and the experience really benefits from you going in with as little knowledge as possible. The pleasure in playing this game comes from solving puzzles by yourself and having those “eureka” moments where everything slots into place. My review will end with a 5/5 score so if you were on the fence about buying this or waiting to buy it at a later date my advice would be to stop reading and experience it for yourself.
 Witness me

In it’s simplest form The Witness is a puzzle game. You control an unseen character as he or she wanders around a mysterious island solving puzzles to unlock the secrets this island holds. Right away you notice that this game doesn’t give you any written hints on what to do. All of the information is communicated visually which I think increases the level of intrigue you have during the early stages.

The line puzzles start out fairly simple but pretty soon they slowly start adding in more complex elements. In the starting puzzles you simply have to find the right path through the line maze but then you’ll start seeing different symbols on the puzzles that you have to figure out yourself. Some of these are pretty simple, like black and white squares that need to be separated on your path to completing the maze. Then you’ll come across a puzzle with what looks like a Tetris block on it which is not so simple to figure out. These Tetris puzzles took me about 8 hours of searching to finally “get it” and even then I still had some learning to do. There are also some puzzles that factor in the environment such as having to take into account shadows cast on the board or having to trace round a rock formation you can see behind the puzzle board. 

A walk on the weird side 

Luckily if you get stuck on a series of puzzles (which will probably happen) you’re free to wander the whole island to look for some other puzzles you can complete. The island is split up into roughly 12 areas, each with their own puzzle theme so sometimes wandering off to try another area can help you figure out previous puzzles because you never know what you’ll find. There are tonnes of secrets and subtle hints hidden all around the island, it’s a captivating place to explore with some of the most beautiful art design I’ve ever seen in a game. 
 This game really makes you feel like you’re straddling the line between genius and madness. There were points in the game where I had to actually sketch out the solutions to a puzzle on paper. I felt like an idiot while I was doing it but when it actually worked I was filled with a sense of accomplishment that I don’t think I’ve ever felt while playing a video game before. 
   
   

I also have countless bad photos of the TV on my phone to help me out with the perspective based puzzles:

 For me this is where I got the most enjoyment out of The Witness. This is definitely a game that is meant to be enjoyed at your own pace. There were many times I would be beating my head against 1 puzzle only to miraculously solve it in a few tries when I loaded up the game the next day. 

The mountain top
 Your main goal in the witness is to solve all of the puzzles in at least 7 of the game’s 11 areas. Each area you complete activates a laser beam that points to the final area atop a huge mountain in the middle of the island. Supposedly there are around 600 puzzles altogether, I only had to beat around 300 to actually get to the ending. But you’re not going to get any kind of closure or explanation of what the hell this island is from beating the game. There isn’t an overt story to be found but I didn’t feel like I needed that. The journey through this amazing game was enough to to leave me completely satisfied when I was done with the game. 

★★★★★