The Enduring Appeal of Freaks and Geeks.

There are many TV shows that were cancelled before their time. Some still have a strong cult following, like firefly whose fans still lay in hope that it will come back once again in any form. Others have largely been lost to the mists of time. 

Then, there’s Freaks and Geeks. The 1999 TV show, though short lived is very well loved by its fans. It was where Judd Apatow and Paul Feig first cut their teeth, in fact it was partially based on some of the experiences of Paul Feig during his time in high school. 

From the beginning it is made clear this is not your typical teen drama, following popular kids as they navigate the life of cheerleaders or American football players. This is about the outsiders, the titular freaks and geeks of the world the ones who don’t fit in, and for the most part don’t really care to. The feelings of outsiderness are felt by and identified with almost everyone at one point or another so it’s easy to find at least one character you identify with strongly.

The story follows two siblings, Sam (John Francis Daley)  and Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardillini) as they make their way through the pitfalls of high school, though their storylines tend to stay separate.

Lindsay is an intelligent, well mannered, well performing student and captain of the mathletes. After witnessing the death of her grandmother she begins to question the world around her and she’s not so sure she like what she sees. Lindsay begins hanging out with the ‘freaks’, the kids who mostly hang out, smoke pot and listen to Rush a lot.

james-franxThough the story for the most part is told through the eyes of middle class Lindsay, her co-horts are mostly from a working class background, and are often struggling with issues of poverty and unstable home lives. We first see a glimpse of this in the episode Kim Kelly is my Friend, when Kim (Busy Philipps) invites Lindsay to her house for dinner. Lindsay thinks this is an olive branch for Kim’s hostile behaviour up until now, but it turns out Kim needed someone as an alibi for her late night activities. It is clear that Lindsay was not prepared for the sight of a low income family when she is greeted with a sheet of plastic in place of a wall, fried chicken for dinner, a brother asleep on the couch in the middle of the day and a shouting match over the table.

In another episode we see that the school has given up on Daniel (James Franco), it is also revealed that he has to help in the care of his ailing father as well as trying to be an ordinary eighteen year old kid who wants to escape all the pressures that are put upon him by the adults that are around him. Not many teen dramas of the time would be willing to look at the issues why the ‘burnouts’ became that way, but Freaks and Geeks when there, it wanted to tell the stories of the downtrodden, the given up on and the forgotten about. It was about those society has shunned and would rather not be there.

freaksThis willingness to speak for the often unspoken for combines with it’s subtle and rather gentle humour from the characters. Ken (Seth Rogan) is a great source of humour with his sarcastic quips and total apathy for school and for life, and Nick (Jason Segel) who falls desperately, and a little naively falls in love with Lindsay. This subtle humour allows for other topics such as drugs to be discussed without it being preachy, glamourising or simply ridiculous, which we can see in the episode “Chokin’ and Tokin’” when Lindsay tries weed for the first time after becoming concerned for Nick when his habit starts taking over his life. It’s refreshing to see a portrayal of drugs that does not speak down to it’s audience, it does not sensationalise the level of addiction by showing Nick becoming homeless and destitute, instead it shows us how he just hangs out listening to music and giggles a lot. Though accurate I would not say that it was a positive view of drugs as Lindsay decides she doesn’t want to get high again, but only after trying it for herself and experiencing some of the negative side effects first hand.

mr-rossoAnother great source of humour is the brilliantly played school guidance councillor, Mr Rosso (Dave Gruber). An ageing hippy who likes to dole out life advice based on his own experience, much to the annoyance and disgust of the pupils. He perfectly portrays an adult trying desperately to relate to kids who are at least twenty years his junior, and failing miserably.

 


Sam, Lindsay’s young brother, meanwhile gets things a little easier, his storylines are more the comedy relief, though his is not without his own trials and tribulations. At the bottom of the social pile he is a confirmed geek, with his small frame, clothes picked out by his mother and his Star Wars notebook paper (remember, this is set in 1980, before geeks were cool). Sam has to battle bullies, both literally and figuratively, has to learn to navigate the baffling world of girls, learning to make friends, and trying to make it with the cool kids. sam-and-the-gangHe has to help one of his best friends, Neil (Samm Levine) come to terms with the fact his father is having an affair, and deal with his other best friend almost dying after a bully puts peanuts on the sandwich of Bill (Martin Starr) who has a peanut allergy. All the geeks are lovable in their own way and I just want to hug all of them whenever they’re on screen. You’re with them every step of the way as they learn about the world and becoming teenagers.

Set in 1980, it was ahead of the nostalgia wave that was still only a ripple at the time. Though it might be a little less overt than some of its successors like Stranger Things, which specifically references the films of the time, F&G manages to subtly evoke the time period to before we had the internet and mobile phones, and the only way to play music was on a record player, making us yearn for a simpler time when things weren’t so complicated. Part of the authenticity is the fact all the cast are age appropriate, where many teen films and dramas would use much older actors Freak and Geeks wanted to make it feel more real, and it does, with the young cast giving great performances that feel real. It even helped to launch the careers of some of today’s biggest stars like Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel.  

Freaks and Geeks only lasted eighteen episodes, but it managed to cover a whole host of different issues affecting teenagers, no matter the era or the social standing, but especially those that have been thrust to the sidelines by those that are deemed more desirable in society. Why has Freaks and Geeks lasted so well for a show that didn’t even make it to the end of its first season, because it’s a voice for the broken, the forgotten, the free thinkers. It manages to capture both the simplicity and the complexity of high school and growing up in a way that no other show has managed to do. It manages all at once to be hilarious and tragic, insightful and kinda dumb.  

 The final episode sees Lindsay blow off the academic summit she had been invited to (something that could have helped her get into an Ivy league school and with future employment) and instead jump in the van with her new hippy friends to follow the Grateful Dead. We’ll never know if she really did spend her summer following the Grateful Dead or if she made it to the summit, but we can all enjoy her adventures of trying to make her way through high school in one piece.

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What the Hell is the Nintendo Switch?

You may or may not have seen that Nintendo dropped a trailer for their new console set for March 2017, the Nintendo Switch!

There have been credible rumours circulating for what feels like forever about what this console is but this is the first time Nintendo has officially confirmed it. Thankfully the trailer wasn’t just a teaser, it does answer a lot of questions but also raises some new ones. 

What We Know

True to all of the rumors, the Nintendo Switch is basically a halfway point between a handheld and a home console. It’s like the DS and the Wii rolled into one. You can seemingly play full versions of all the games on your tv or on the go with very little interruption. This means no more rushing to finish a mission before you leave the house. You can just take it with you as long as you’ve got a bag because this doesn’t look like it’ll fit in many pockets. 

There hasn’t been any official dimensions revealed by Nintendo at the time of writing but Ars Technica has been doing some snooping and have figured out some rough dimensions. It looks as though the screen with the two controller parts (or Joy-Cons) attached is about 10 inches x 4.2 inches. It’s similar in width to an iPad or Kindle Fire HD 10 on its side but a little bit thinner vertically. I’m not sure if I’d feel comfortable taking this out to play on the bus, maybe if I had two seats to myself. I was definitely expecting the handheld part to be closer to a 3DS XL but Nintendo have their reasons for these dimensions.

All of the processing power of the console is contained in the tablet portion. People have been assuming that the dock that connects to the TV may handle some of the processing power when the Switch is docked allowing for increased performance. However, the day after it was announced Nintendo spoke IGN and told them that “The main unit of the Nintendo Switch is the unit that has the LCD screen”. This is a little worrying to me but Nintendo hasn’t tried to be the most powerful console on the market since the N64, their signature visual style can go a long way on underpowered hardware. 

Nvidia announced that they will be partnering with Nintendo on the console and the Switch will contain a new custom version of their Tegra chip that they use in their Nvidia Shield tablets. While this hardware may not be as powerful as a PS4 it’s certainly leaps and bounds above any Nintendo handheld. 

Cartridges are back! We see a quick shot in the trailer of someone inserting a little SD card looking game into the tablet. A move away from discs is quite exciting. Solid state storage is much more reliable and loads quicker than most disc based methods. Larger sized SD cards are becoming more affordable so you can easily match the storage capacity of the Blu-ray Discs PS4 and Xbox use. 

What We Don’t Know

Does the 3DS have any place in this Nintendo Switch future? I hope Nintendo just goes all in with the Switch. I want all of their awesome portable games like Pokémon, Animal Crossing, Monster Hunter, Dragon Quest and many more all available in glorious HD and ready to play anywhere. Sadly I could also totally see them running the 3DS along side the Switch because they’ve never been afraid of a little brand confusion. 

Nintendo have recently confirmed that the Switch won’t be able to play any physical versions of Wii U or 3DS games so they haven’t ruled out some kind of backwards compatibility in a digital sense. Speaking of digital, I really hope they don’t expect us to buy all of their Virtual Console games again. I think I’ve hit my limit for how many times I’ll re-buy Super Mario 64, Xbox One is an shining example of backwards compatibility done right and I hope Nintendo have taken notice.  

It will be interesting to see what kind of price this comes in at. At the time of writing Nintendo’s competitors Microsoft and Sony are selling their consoles at £250.00 – £300.00 depending on hard drive size and model. I’d expect the Switch to be in a similar price range, Nvidia Shield tablets are around £200.00 by themselves so with the controllers and the Nintendo Seal of Approval that seems reasonable. 

Hopefully some of these questions will be answered in the not too distant future. Gone are the dark days of the Wii U and motion control, it’s finally an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan again. The Nintendo Switch seems like the right step for them in this current console climate. Instead of trying to compete with Microsoft and Sony on power they are offering something that neither of them can provide at the moment. One thing I know for sure is that I’ll be there day one. 

John Wick (2014) Review

For some reason whenever I hear the name Keanu Reeves I don’t immediately think “action hero”. After pondering this I’ve realised that’s my own problem, perhaps I watched the Bill & Ted movies too much as a child because all I think of whenever he’s mentioned is this…

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Woah

However, after watching John Wick I am totally a believer in Keanu as an action star and if they do ever make a third Bill & Ted movie I’ll probably be a bit on edge expecting Mr. Logan to snap and go on a killing spree at any moment.

This review will contain some early plot spoilers for John Wick

One Man and His Dog

In the opening of the movie you’re treated to a montage of Mr Wick enjoying his life with what you assume is his wife. Unfortunately it’s not long before this goes sour, she ends up in hospital with an unknown illness and before we know it we’re at her rainy funeral. Upon getting home John receives an unexpected delivery at his house. The cutest puppy in all of existence!!!

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Daawwwwwwwwww

Turns out she was expecting her untimely death and set up this surprise pupper to be delivered after her funeral. It’s cool for plot purposes but this is not a thing normal people do.

Woof Woof Bang Bang

After some cute bonding scenes between him and the pup he realises he needs to get some doggy chow. While he’s out his cool car gets the attention of some unsavoury Russian mob types (led by Reek from Game of Thrones) who want to buy it but he not so politely declines. This leads to them following him and invading his home late at night so they can beat him up and steal his car keys. During this ruckus the bad guys commit one of the greatest atrocities in film history and kill the dog! Now with this being a revenge story they had to kill someone to get the film going. Usually it’s the main characters partner, mentor or good friend. They really ratcheted it up a notch with this puppy though, after seeing this any person with an ounce of humanity will want to go after these bad guys with the fury of a thousand suns.

Reek then goes back to his mob boss father to brag about his successful night of horror but once daddy realises who they’ve stolen from he gives him a very satisfying (for the audience) gut punch. Turns out John Wick is one of the greatest hitman in the entire world, a one man army that gained the nickname Baba Yaga (The Boogeyman). Reek’s disappointed father isn’t very confident in his son’s chances but does agree to at least try to protect him. While these scenes are going on we’re treated to a furious John Wick smashing up his garage floor to reveal his secret stash of high-powered weaponry and gold coins that he presumably thought he’d never need again.

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Killing is his business…

After this point the movie never really slows down. John goes on a monumental killing spree at all of the Russian mob’s places of business trying to flush out Reek and his idiot friends. The action has a really good flow to it. Wick moves smoothly from one henchman to the next either filling them with bullets or doling out a fatal beating. He doesn’t pause to say one liners or anything stupid like that, he just keeps on killing.

Unfortunately I did feel like this action style got a bit stale after the first few scenes. I guess I prefer when there’s a bit more variety in my action movies. I would have liked it if they’d taken some inspiration from movies like The Raid where there’s seemingly endless variety in the ways the bad guys are dealt with.

One thing that really impressed my about the action scenes is that they always synced up with the movie’s musical score. It really helped give the action a rhythm and it just feels good to watch. They also filmed the action in a way that you can always tell what’s happening. There are so many modern action films where the camera is zoomed in too far and you can’t tell what’s going on (I’m looking at you Dark Knight trilogy). Whether this is to hide sloppy fight choreography or intentional I’m not sure but there’s none of that in John Wick, it’s a pleasure to watch.

 

Show, Don’t Tell

One surprising thing for me was that they actually set up a pretty interesting universe in between the brutal action. There are times when you’re given glimpses of John’s hitman world. he stays at a hotel that serves as his base of operations in the city but it’s also a place where no hitman-y business is to be conducted. There’s even a fancy jazz bar on the premises where everyone knows John’s name. Everything is paid for with these big pirate style gold doubloon coins and you get a sense that all the characters have a crazy history together but they leave most of that an intriguing mystery.

I was really impressed with this movie overall, it’s definitely not the best pure action film I’ve ever seen (That’s still The Raid) but John Wick is very well-rounded. All of its pieces come together well and there are no wasted scenes or dull parts. I’m really excited to see where they go in the future and their newly announced sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 is high on my list of 2017 movies already.

★★★★☆

The Accidental Dictionary – Paul Anthony Jones (book review)

As a former English language student, I’ve developed a love for words and their origins. At university I decided to study both English language and literature and while I adored reading Austen and Shakespeare, I would look forward to my lectures on language where I would find out the history of English language and how it’s used today. 
I soon began to find that other than my language text books, there were limited books on language that were actually readable and enjoyable so when Paul Anthony Jones started releasing books, I became obsessed. 
I started off with The British Isles: A Trivia Gazetter, a reference book which gives the origins of the names of towns and cities all over Britain, of course I skipped to find all the places I’d ever been first but afterwards I sat down and read it properly. I loved it and I loved every book that followed so when I got the chance to get my hands on an ARC of The Accidental Dictionary, I jumped at the chance.
The Accidental Dictionary is list of words that once meant something completely different (‘alcohol’ once meant ‘eye shadow’ and ‘foyer’ once meant ‘green room’ and so on.)
Now as I say, I love words and I’m always on the hunt for a book that will educate me while entertain me at the same time and I have to say this is the perfect combination. The information in the book is accurate and interesting while it has a casual tone throughout meaning it doesn’t read like a school book. Small jokes are placed within the chapters and this helped the flow of the book; although the book is informative, it meant that I didn’t have to take it too seriously. I also like that the chapters aren’t long and too informative, they get the point across without becoming a bore. I was able to read two or three chapters (one chapter = one word origin) at a time and put the book down for a while, I never once dreaded picking it up again as it was an easy read and never felt like a chore to read so at night before I would fall asleep, I was sure to pick Jones’ book and read a little more. 
There’s not a lot that I can really say about a dictionary, it has words and it explains what they mean (or in this case what they used to mean) but I can say that if you like this sort of thing then it’s certainly worth picking up and reading, it’s a fun read which will teach you a lot while making you feel like a clever person who reads the dictionary. Like me, you’ll probably end up at work the next day explaining to people how the word ‘nice’ meant ‘ignorant’. 

A Parisian Affair – Guy de Maupassant (Book Review)

A while ago I decided I was going to try and read more classics, the thing I completely forgot? I hate reading classics. This isn’t to say that I hate classics, I actually rate Pride and Prejudice and Tess of D’Uberilles as two of my favourite books but generally I find it hard to read classics. As someone who generally reads a lot of young adult, it’s pretty hard making the move over to classics. The writing is different, the setting is different and on whole the books are hard to get into because although classics are generally set in a world that I’m familiar with, the way of living is completely different.cover-jpg-rendition-460-707

That said, I’m still trying and I thought I would ease myself into some classics, I bought a tonne of the Penguin Little Black Books in the hope that they would give me an insight to a lot of authors writing style then I could pick some that I enjoyed the most and continue with those. I also picked up A Parisian Affair… I thought short stories were the perfect way to get into classics (let’s just forget that I didn’t even finish James Joyce’s first short story in The Dubliners)

A Parisian Affair is a collection of short stories written by Guy de Maupassant and translated by Sian Miles. Set in Normandy and the French Riviera, the thirty four short stories follow a number of characters with one thing in common; they’re rich. The stories follow high society women, wealthy men who like to play around and prostitutes, among many more.

Naturally this book jumped out at me, not only because by the blurb it sounded ahead of it’s time but also because it was set in Paris and even if I hated the book I could just read all about Paris and remember how much I love it there.

I’ll be honest, the first story, Boule de Suif, was a bit of a bore to me, although I liked the main female character, I just found it hard to get into and the first story alone took me a week to read. Naturally, I started to worry that this was going to be one of those books that takes forever to finish. I’m not someone who can leave a book, I have to finish and I worried that my reluctance to leave a book would mean that at the end of the year, I had only read half of my target book goal.

Luckily I was wrong, after finishing Boule de Suif, I found myself reading the next short stories right away and I found that I loved the head strong women of France along with the love struck men and lovers. I started to see Paris in the book; I saw the romantic city where love and romance can be found on every street corner. I felt like I was back in my favourite city, feeling all the emotions of Maupassant’s characters and walking their footsteps. It has to be said that once I got into the writing style, I felt like I was in the book; Maupassant has an amazing way of making you feel like you are one of his characters (well I did).

My two favourite stories by far were Mother Sauvage and The Jewels. Mother Sauvage tells the story of a woman whose son goes to war and never returns; while they are away she hosts some soldiers from the opposite army. The end result is twisted but hilarious, there was a moment when I wondered if it was ok that I should be laughing at this story but in the end I decided to go with it.

The Jewels tells of a man who falls deeply in love with a woman he meets and then goes on to marry, the only problem is that he doesn’t share her passions so is relieved when she befriends someone who will accompany her on outings to places like the theatre where he would prefer not to go. In his wife’s death he is devastated and can’t seem to find it in himself to go out and earn so had to look around for something to sell in order to live. Again, I loved the ending, I don’t want to give away what happens (it’ll only take you nine pages of the Penguin Pocket Classics to read and find out for yourself) but I found myself glued to the pages wanting to find out more.

If you’re interested in reading more classics, then I would certainly recommend A Parisian Affair, it may not be the most well-known or the most highbrow but it is good fun and easy to read.

Matilda Book Review

front-pgeWhen I was a kid I loved reading, I would read all the time. I loved the places and times that they could transport me, an escape from the real world I found myself in. I loved escaping to Faraway Trees, meeting magical insects that lived in a peach, and being scared by saying cheese.

Though I would read anything, by anyone, there was one author that could always be relied upon to bring a smile on my face and really make the real world disappear. Roald Dahl. With his eccentric characters and exquisite turn of phrase Roald Dahl has become a firm favourite with children and their parents for decades.

Since his first book was published in 1943 Mr Dahl has made young children gasp with terror, cheer for their favourite characters and most of all giggle uproariously from the rather gruesome jokes and made up words.

Which brings me to the book I decided to review, Matilda. I first read this when I was nine years old, I didn’t have many friends and I didn’t have much of a home life, either. Matilda, with it’s themes of bullying and loneliness spoke to me immediately. First published in 1988, the year of my birth and only two years before the death of Dahl Matilda has become a much beloved character, with a well loved film released in 1966.

This year is the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, and with all the events celebrating this milestone I thought I would revisit an old favourite for the first time in nearly twenty years.

Right from the first sentence it was immediately like a big warm hug welcoming me back to a story and characters that I love so much.

I really think of this book having two halves, the first half revolves around Matilda and her parents. Matilda’s parents are really vile, her father is a dodgy used car salesman and her mother seems to do nothing but play bingo and think she’s pretty. They both seem to hate their own daughter and resent her. The thing is, Matilda has an extraordinary talent, she is incredibly smart. By the age of three she is able to read everything in the house and even takes herself to the library to read as many books as she possibly can.

parentsMatilda uses her smarts to get back at her parents when they are unduly mean to her, she makes her parents and brother think the house is haunted by stuffing a talking bird up the chimney (in its cage, and it was returned to it’s owner, don’t worry no birds were harmed in the writing of this book), she bleaches her dad’s hair and she glues her dad’s hat to his head. This part of the book is a great source of some of that trademark Roald Dahl scrunginess, it’s all about the the kid getting one over on the adults. As kids we all feel that life could be unfair and we all wanted to get our own back on our parents, and Matilda actually does it, and she does it well. And with the reactions of her truly horrible father it provides some great belly laughs.  

miss-honeyLike other children, however, when she turns five she must attend school. This is where the second half kicks in, Matilda Vs The Trunchbull. On her first day at school Matilda make friends for the first time in her life, and she meets Miss Honey, only the second adult in her life to treat her with respect and to recognise her amazing gift. Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of the school, is just as bad as her parents and tries her best to bring Matilda down and disbelieve her intelligence. The Trunchbull is nothing short of a bully, she holds boys up by their ears, and throws girls by their pigtails as though the she were competing in the hammer throw at the Olympics.

It’s during one of the Trunchbull’s lessons that Matilda learns she has an even more amazing talent than her smarts, she can move things with nothing but her eyes and the power of her mind. She is, essentially, magic. Matilda then devises a plan to bring down the Trunchbull and restore order at the school.

trunchbullMatilda is a beautiful story, and brought back many happy memories of reading it the first time round, Dahl has such a great imagination or small acts of striking out on your own. A common theme with Dahl is kids sticking it to those adults who seems to hate kids. This questioning of authority, that helped to inspire me to think for myself and realise that not all adults are right and should be respected. Even as an adult this rejection of authority really strikes a chord. 

matilda-bookThe illustrations from Quentin Blake are as always a welcome addition and helps to add to the story and fires the imagination.

The structure, I felt was a little episodic, and sometimes it felt like a collection of connected short stories, and I felt that the ending was a little rushed, but honestly, I didn’t really care, the characters and the story and the writing all made up for this in spades. I encourage you to also celebrate the centenary (or, just, you know for fun) to pick up Matilda, or any Roald Dahl book and give it another go, I can guarantee that you won’t be disappointed like that time you decided to re-watch The Super Mario Brother Super Show.

 

The Top 5 Halloween Video Games

Ah, October is finally here. Tis the season of spookery where we can indulge in all manner of occult entertainment. Video Games have a unique quality of being able to immerse you in another world and this can be really effective in a scary setting. These games I’ve picked aren’t necessarily the scariest but I do think they embody the Halloween vibe and they’ll definitely get you in the October mood.

 

5. Luigi’s Mansion 2: Dark Moon (2013)

Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS

luigis-mansion

Mario’s not the only one who can tackle ghosts, ever since his first solo game in 2001 Luigi has been linked to the spirit world. While Mario would take on ghosts with a thundering “Yahoooo!” Luigi is more likely to run from spooks and possible cry hysterically.

luigi

This is part of what makes the game so interesting. At times you feel like you’re forcing Luigi through this haunted house filled with ghouls of all shapes and sizes. He shivers and jumps whenever anything goes bump around him, the character animation is so expressive. Your task is to suck up all the ghosts using Luigi’s ghost vacuum the Poltergust 5000. Sometimes you’ll have to solve puzzles to reveal the ghosts or just check every draw until one pops out (much to his chagrin). Luigi’s Mansion is the video game equivalent of a fairground haunted house… Dare you enter?

 

4. Costume Quest (2010)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iOS

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Costume Quest is an underrated gem, it’s also one of the only games I can think of that’s entirely set on Halloween night. You and your friends are out trick or treating when all of a sudden these goblin guys come out and steal everyone’s candy! Even more unfortunate for your character your little brother/sister (depending on your gender choice) is kidnapped because they were dressed as a giant candy corn. So you’re forced on a quest to rescue your missing sibling before your parents find out. On your way you’ll have to fight your way through various goblin enemies but the great thing is that when you enter into battle all the kids transform into an exaggerated form of whatever costume you have on.

You start off in a cardboard box robot outfit but when you’re in battle you’re an anime style mech that shoots missiles, wear the Statue of Liberty costume and you can heal everyone with a blast from her torch and my personal favourite is the french fries costume which turns you into a Tim Burton-esque spider with fries for legs that can stun enemies with a shower of grease and salt.

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This game is just a fun time all round. It’s not especially hard so anyone could enjoy it and there are lots of goofy moments hidden around the areas so it really rewards exploration. It’s not a long game either and can probably be picked up cheap these days. It’s the definition of short and sweet… you know? like candy?…I’ll see myself out.

 

3. Mortal Kombat X (2015)

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

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The Mortal Kombat series has always taken heavy influence from horror and action movies. In this latest instalment they ratcheted up the movie references and started adding some classic horror characters into their roster. By the time all of MKX’s DLC had been released you can play as Jason, Leatherface, Predator and the Alien Xenomorph.

mortal-kombat

People have been debating for decades about “who would win in a fight…” regarding all of these characters and in MKX is the first time we got to test some of those theories. What makes it even better is that they’ve all been lovingly crafted to include lots of movie references in their abilities and moves. You also can’t forget about the Mortal Kombat cast of characters which includes many weird, wonderful and monstrous people. Put all this together and you’ve one hell of a hyper violent monster mash on your hands and on a dark Halloween night, what more could you ask for?

 

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

Platform(s): Xbox 360/One, PS3, PS1, PSP

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night practically oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. The opening sees you reenact the ending of the first NES game, facing off against Dracula himself within minutes of starting up. It’s a scripted fight that you can’t lose but it really feels good to blow up Dracula with a rocking guitar soundtrack as your backing.

After this flashback you’re given control of Alucard (the son of Dracula) after he senses a disturbance at the castle. There you’ll have to fight your way through all manner of creatures including wolves, zombies, skeletons, living suits of armor, bats, venomous plants, floating acid skulls, medusa heads, hunchbacks, creepy Lovecraftian horrors and even Death himself shows up. Drac’s castle has everything you need to throw the best Halloween party in the world.

This game is like a good horror movie. It has amazing visuals but some admittedly cheesy dialogue throughout (the intro conversation with Dracula being a highlight) but Castlevania’s hallways full of macabre hell spawn are definitely worth a visit for any intrepid vampire killers.

cvania

 

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC

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I don’t often see Batman come up when people discuss their Halloween viewing but he totally should be. The Bat’s rogues gallery is the stuff of Halloween nightmares. A killer clown, a human scarecrow, a crocodile man hybrid, a mad hatter, a roided pro wrestler and this game is all set in the insane asylum that they all call home.

Batman: Arkham Asylum is an excellent game whether you’re a Batman fan or not. It can also be devilishly creepy when it wants to. You spend the entire game exploring the asylum after all the inmates have escaped. In between fighting thugs you spend most of your time investigating the tragic histories of famous batman villains. You never know what unsettling situation is round the corner but the game really knocks it up a notch when you meet The Scarecrow.

After taking a dose of his fear toxin Bats starts to hallucinate in some pretty creative and sometimes 4th wall breaking ways. Rooms start to repeat, Batman’s forced to relive the death of his parents and at one point the game resets and the intro sequence starts again making you think the game may be broken.

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You’ll never forget your first trip to Arkham Asylum, it’s masterfully crafted fun house of terror and what I think is the best game to get you in a creepy Halloween mood.