Mafia 3 (PS4, 2016)

Here’s a video review I produced last year.

It was a format I was toying around with a lot in 2016, and hope to revisit in the future. I enjoy editing but it is a tiring process, especially on a budget — you might be able to tell this isn’t made with elite level tech or software.

Regardless, I like how it came out and hope to get back to video reviews soon.

A Normal Lost Phone (Mobile, 2017)

Buy this game here. I got this game for 0.10c on sale, its regular retail price is $2.99

There’s an interesting niche-within-a-niche developing in indie games, as a number of titles experiment with giving players fake operating systems to poke around in, in lieu of more typical adventure game settings.

‘Her Story’ is an acclaimed example, giving players a faux-Windows 95 desktop to dig around in, in an attempt to piece together a tale of mystery using disjointed interview clips.

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‘A Normal Lost Phone’ is, as you’d expect, a ‘phone simulator’ that lets you snoop around a facsimile of an Android device that belonged to a stranger.

As these things always do, it starts off innocently enough; the phone belongs to a frustrated teenager, who texts their pals and grumbles about the whiney drama that teenagers typically grumble about.

Diving deeper, usually by finding passwords to various locked apps, unveils a more complex story, with some genuinely interesting twists. The game builds drama by telling you one thing occurred, as protagonist Sam recalls it to his close friends, but slowly plants seeds of doubt regarding how much he trusts them, and how honest he’s really being.

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With a lovely twee soundtrack of indie tunes, the game’s tone is similar to that of Life is Strange or 13 Reasons Why, which have set the standard for teen drama in the last three years. As with those works though, expect some mild clunkiness with A Normal Lost Phone’s attempts at recreating teen patter.

With password deciphering being the only real puzzle element, the story here is thankfully interesting enough to justify the price of entry. The game is only about 60 minutes long depending on whether or not certain passwords stump you, or how much of the flavour text you want to take in. The runtime works though, offering players a simple yet satisfying hour of point-and-clicking, with some food for thought to boot.

Walter vs. Ilja Dragunov (wXw, 16 Carat Gold 2017, Night 3)

Watch this match here (sub required, €9.99 monthly)

The buzz for this match after 16 Carat was huge. It got ‘must watch’ recommendations from folks who I trust like Alan4L, Allan Blackstock, and other reliable people who are not called A(l)lan.

Naturally there is a ‘live bump’ when it comes to wrestling – an added glow to a match that you only experience when in attendance. Sometimes an okay match is amazing live. Other times an amazing match is slightly more amazing. Luckily, this was the latter.

I was brand new to wXw before I watched this year’s 16 Carat, but the presenation of Walter was masterful — I’m actually fascinated to watch his back catalog of matches there. I know he’s been in wXw for years, so whether or not he’s been this well presented for his whole career intrigues me. He was the big, terrifying monster who looked impossible to hurt and effortlessly violent. Watching the whole tournament helps, but this is also conveyed when watching the match as a standalone. Dragunov is harder to describe; an entirely unique babyface. He’s like what Dean Ambrose espires to be in terms of bizarre charisma, with elements of the Ultimate Warrior to boot. But more importantly, there’s something about him that’s entirely his own that I can’t quite compare to any one who came before him, and that’s special.

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The match was largely Walter brutalizing Dragunov, who wouldn’t stay down, although Ilja did get some good flurries of offence to show he could hang. There was extended sequences of chopping which resulted in Dragunov’s chest turning a hideous shade of purple, and it looked as though it was peeling.

It was a classic match structure, carried by the charisma and presence of both men. It was a tournament final that actually lived up to the three shows that came before it, and that’s rare these days. The tournament as a whole is worth checking out, but if you’re limited on time, night three is a great introuction to wXw with a perfect main event to ensure you’ll come back for more.

Rick and Morty (Season 3, Episode 1)

After 18 months in stasis, the much-anticipated return of Rick and Morty came via their website. On April 1st. Seriously.

If it were any other show, I’d have said this was a cute idea. But given the supremely cynical nature of Rick and Morty, part of me thinks this was done purely so they could trick a handful of people into not watching. Maybe I’ve over-thought this, but if ever there was a team of people to have that mindset – this is the show they’d produce.

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Following season two’s cliff-hanger, which left the show’s rabid fanbase frothing at the gums for nearly two years, Rick is once again battling an army of space aliens trying to use his genius for their gain. Deep diving into his mind, we’re teased with origin stories, true motivations and even revisit some of the previous timelines Rick and Morty have fumbled their way through in previous seasons. Whereas this show typically romps from week to week with a different villain, setting or gimmick, season three comes out swinging with callbacks and meta-commentary on the show’s existing meta-commentary. In some ways, it’s the perfect Rick and Morty episode, with sharp-wit and genuinely surprising twists coupled with common-as-dirt toilet humour.

If not for the heavy reliance on callbacks to earlier seasons, this would be the ideal episode to introduce new viewers to the show – it’s laughs-per-second ratio is through the roof, and the episode’s conclusion is so dark, without feeling ‘try-hard,’ that it encapsulates everything that fans love.

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Now we wait for the rest of season three, due out this Summer. And more importantly, we wait for the sauce.

For those of you who have yet to join the nihilistic fun of Rick and Morty — season one and two, 20 short episodes in total, are now on Netflix (UK and Ireland).

Disc Jam (PS4, 2017)

I got this game for free via PlayStation Plus. Its regular retail price is €14.99.

Earlier this year, Disc Jam seemed to pop up overnight. By the time I heard of the public beta on PS4, the full release was just around the corner.

I don’t closely follow any of the communities dedicated to Windjammers, the early 90s faux-sports game for NeoGeo that has a cult following and inspired many homages, including Disc Jam, so I wasn’t sure just how long this tribute act had been bubbling under the surface.

From playing it, it isn’t really evident that this is the full release; it currently feels like an ‘early access’ experience players can buy into now, in the hopes the developers will follow through in the months to come.

Disc Jam is collection of well crafted, nuanced mechanics that have the potential to form a die-hard community of competitive players, but its cold and robotic presentation is a turnoff.

The game successfully modernizes the core Windjammers premise, a futuristic fusion of ultimate frisbee and tennis, with a new isometric perspective and most of the original game’s mechanics intact. What it fails to recreate, or rather doesn’t even try to recreate, is its bombastic, quintessentially 90s aesthetic. You don’t need to have owned a NeoGeo to appreciate the sights and sounds of Windjammers; its colour pallet and soundtrack would inspire nostalgia in anyone who enjoyed video games in the 16-bit era.

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The original Windjammers, with it’s over-the-top sense of style, is coming to PS4 in the near future.

Disc Jam lacks soul. It didn’t need to shamelessly ape Windjammers aesthetic, but it needed something. Something other than two vanilla character models throwing a disc back and forth on an empty tennis court with no audience, and generic stock music in the background. Upon release, the game’s main menu sported a ‘thank you’ message from the small development team promising more modes, skins and content-a-plenty in the coming months. I hope they deliver, because the rock solid, easy-to-learn/hard-to-master mechanics of the gameplay deserve better. The game has an Overwatch-esque loot system, where success in matches earns you a random skin or victory pose – but the time investment is so high, and the skins so drab and uninteresting, that it’s hard to care.

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With no single player options as of this writing, it’s hard to recommend Disc Jam, even at its modest price. It feels like a game that graduated from beta to ‘full release’ without actually changing anything — it passed the neccesary quality assurance tests and was suddenly on sale. Should a fresh coat of paint and bevvy of new modes roll out in the coming months, this could be one to revisit in late 2017.