24 December 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 7/10
Verdict: A truly great kids' movie! But remember, it is KIDS' MOVIE!

I've been a fan since... well, forever. Actually since 1989 or so when they were airing in my country. I loved the four reptiles from the very first episode and I couldn't wait for next Sunday and the newest episode. I was 9 years old back then and it was easy to impress me, but these guys were really special. And they still are, even though the newest cartoons that my son watches now (and loves!) are a bit different (I often watch them with him and I love every minute of it). Love, love, love. I used that word a lot in just a few sentences, but that is what this really is - I love these guys!

Over the past few months I've heard a lot of bad talk about this movie. Michael Bay this, Michael Bay that, he ruined everyone's favorite childhood heroes, blah blah blah. So I was quite reserved when I pressed PLAY on my remote. I really didn't expect much, but I just had to see Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael again. And I loved it! Again! I don't care what the critics are saying, I loved the movie! Yes, the story is shallow (it's a KIDS' movie), their origination story is laughable and 100% of action sequences are impossible (come on, mutant turtles and rats... why mention the impossible?), but I really enjoyed it. The spirit of the Ninja Turtles is perfectly captured, I enjoyed their conversations and the scene in the elevator is simply perfect. And THAT is what this really is about - fun and joy for the little guys. To "prove" my theory, I let my son watch the movie the day after (my son is nearly 6 years old) and he was delighted. Should I ask him about the shallow story or Megan's bad acting? As if he cares, he loved the turtles! The "test" was also performed on a 9 and 13 year old and they both had the same impression - they are impersonating the scenes from the movie for days. That was more than enough for me to give this one a green rating.

Seriously, people need to stop trying to... understand something that was not meant for them. I see that happening all the time and this movie is the perfect example of it. A person liked Ninja Turtles 25 years ago and now expects a movie aimed at him/her. That is impossible and people should accept it already. 

Megan Fox aka April O'Neil

Now, from an adult perspective. Megan Fox is a horrible actress, but I still want to see her in as many movies as possible. Come on, she needs practice, she needs more roles to get better! :) William Fichtner is a walking spoiler, but in a different way from Sean Bean. There's no way ANYONE believed him to be a good guy, he just cannot be one with that face. Even my son knew he was bad (he asked me if he was Shredder in the very first appearance he had on the screen) and, as I already said, he is not even 6 years old yet! And that name. Eric Sacks. SACKS. Why is that so bad? Pronounce it. Now pronounce it out loud at a Christmas dinner with your parents and grandparents. Then explain it's just a name. That's what I mean. Why would you name someone like that in a kids' movie? What's wrong with... Williams or Hudson or a generic German or Polish last name that is quite popular among the bad guys in Hollywood?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will not win an academy award, but it will put a smile on your little one's face. There's absolutely no reason for you not to enjoy it as well.

17 December 2014

The Banner Saga

Game score: 82%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

There really is something about those fan-funded games. They really seem to be having a... soul. They are never rushed, they are released when they are complete and ready and they often have an army of enthusiasts offering help, suggestions and ideas to the creators. The results are quite often surprising: the end product is a quality game that will offer you a lot of entertainment and, in this case, a replay value.

The Banner Saga is a turn-based role playing strategy game. If I could compare it to some other title, I'd say it reminds me a lot of an ancient game called The Oregon Trail (or another game inspired by it and reviewed right here - Organ Trail). The Banner Saga takes place in an imaginary world of humans and giants, made to look like a world of Vikings. There's two kinds of giants. The first are Varl, big-size, horned humoids who happen to be allied with humans The other giants are Dredge, an unnatural beings of darkness whose only purpose in life is to wage war with everyone else. The Dredge were thought to be extinct for a few hundred years but they've suddenly appeared out of nowhere and are wreaking havoc on the human and Varl lands. Chapter One of The Banner Saga starts with a big group of human and Varl refugees (on the west), seeking help and shelter. Chapter Two introduces us to another group (this one is on the east) who run into Dredge as well and start moving towards the east with the same goal as the first group. In both of them, you play the current leader (I say current, because it is possible to die and actually play someone else) during the story and all of your fighters during the combat scenes.


The game is based on decisions you make during your travels, as well as on the outcome of the battles during your trip. As you progress towards the goal, the group will encounter various people, landmarks, situations etc and in almost all of the instances you will be given two to four choices. Depending on what you chose to do, you might gain or lose an ally, get or lose supplies, raise or lower the morale (morale affects bonus actions in combat) etc. You get the idea. Some actions affect you more than the others and you might not even see the actual effect until later in the game (for example, you might be given an option to recruit someone who may save someone else's life later in the game).

Combat is turn based. You will get to pick your fighters and their order of movement/attack before the battle and then select their starting positions. Imagine XCOM in a Viking world and on a much smaller battlefield (more like a chess board). Combat is fun, especially after you get some experience for your fighters and upgrade their skills. You will mostly fight the Dredge, but sometimes you will be unable to avoid battles with human and Varl opponents as well. There are a lot of "classes" in the game and they all have different skills and that might take some time to get ahold of (especially since its hard to distinguish some of them: Warleader, Warmaster, Warhawk... confusing). Once you do that, it will be a whole lot easier and your tactics will improve. A lot.


The story part is the real gem here. It rally isn't easy to make a game where you really get to care about the characters (Telltale is quite good at that, just sayin') and that is where The Banner Saga shines the most. You WILL like the characters and you will be sorry when and if they die (think of Game of Thrones, for example). I don't want to spoil anything, I just wanted to mention it.

Now, my favorite part. Achievements. There are 39 of them and more than half will unlock as you progress with the story. Another 7 or 8 will require you to go through at least once more and that really is not a problem since you get to see a different story (with the same outcome, mind you). The last few might take a while - you will definitely need some experience to complete the game on hard and not lose a single battle. Overall, I'd say that achievement level in the game is average. They are far from impossible, but they are not guaranteed as in some other games.

Overall, this is one great experience. The game is far from perfect, but I guarantee you will love it. It's obvious that it was made with limited resources (there are no voiceovers for example) but it doesn't stop its charm. I do have a small objection on a combat system as it gets repetitive after a while, but it's not really that much of problem (thanks to RPG part of the game that gives experience and skill upgrades). The Banner Saga 2 has been confirmed recently and I am really looking forward to it.

11 December 2014


Game score: 50%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link: 

Light is a... mini game with simple graphics, simple control and a nice soundtrack. You are an unknown person who has lost his memory and you are trying to escape an unknown compound while finding out what happened to you. Sounds like a story and it is. Actually, this whole game is all about the story, everything else comes in second.

The game is super minimalistic: you are a blue block, neutral people are white block and hostiles are red. The world is made of lines, blocks, security cameras and lines of sight. What you need to do in each level is complete a few tasks, read little chunks of a story that unfolds as you progress and finally find an exit at each level and progress on to the next.


To be honest, Light feels more like a demo of a bigger game or just a simple demo of a game engine. The controls are very simple (direction moves, attack, hack, use) and levels are very, very short. If you know your way around, you can complete most levels in under a minute and be done with the whole game in less than 20! On my first (and only) run, it took me 45 minutes to complete the whole game. I can't say I enjoyed it, I can't say I disliked it. It was just one of those games that you go through and forget about them after a good night sleep.

Oh yes, the game  has 13 achievements and you will get them all as you play the game. 12 are for completing levels and 1 for using a disguise 15 times. The disguise one is as simple as using a single item 15 times on the very first level. They are that easy.

Overall, the game is not worth its current price ($12/€12). I got it as a part of some bundle that had 10 games for $3 and that is probably fine. Probably.

08 December 2014

Stonehearst Asylum (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 6/10
Verdict: It's got a good idea, but it fails to surprise after all

Honestly, I never heard of this one being made at all. I decided to watch it just because I saw Kate Beckinsale was in it. Honest! Then I saw some other big European names (namely Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine, who seems to be everywhere lately) and decided to give it a shot. Here are my thoughts (short and mostly spoiler free).

Stonehearst Asylum is based on "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether", a short story written by the magnificent Edgar Allan Poe. The story and the movie share a lot, but they are not the same. If you are familiar with the story you might get the idea about the movie itself, and if you are not... Well, I won't spoil it for you.

It's 1899 and mental illness is being treated in monstrous ways. The movie begins with the scene at Oxford university where a local professor demonstrates madness on a sedated woman in front of senior students. It continues with a young doctor arriving at the Asylum a few days before the new year. He meets with the doctors and staff at the asylum and asks for permission to study the patients at their hospital. He also finds their methods a bit... unusual, but the real "threat" uncovers itself a little bit later.

I can't shake off the feeling that this movie is about 25-30 years too late. If it was made in the late 80's it would have been an instant classic (with a few modifications, of course), but it's just plain average in this era. The story IS good (it's made after a Poe's story after all), but it seems to me as if it was a bit rushed. There was no time to develop a connection with the main character(s) before the story unveiled itself and started a sprint towards the end. And that is kind of weird because the movie takes 110 minutes. As a result, you are left emotionless after the end credits, even though the producers had something else in mind. At least I hope they did - it would prove that they actually cared, but simply failed to create what they initially wanted to.

I would have given it 5 out of 10, but Kate is here so that's a plus one from me. And Kingsley had a brilliant performance, as always. Six it is.

06 December 2014

The Flash vs. Arrow


Warning: contains spoilers. Do not read if you haven't seen these two episodes

So the clash is over. The long announced two-evenings, double feature, dual heroes super clash is behind us. And how good was it? I'd say... it was okay. I didn't expect much since such episodes are often used to spice up bad stories (which reminds me of an old "saying" that worst songs always have the best music videos) and that was almost the case with these two. Almost, because The Flash episode was quite alright while Arrow kinda blew it. It's just my opinion and that's too bad because Captain Boomerang appeared in that episode...

So in the first one (Flash episode) we had Team Arrow arriving to Central City, looking for Boomerang. But instead they ended up assisting The Flash against an angry meta-human. The highlight was an actual clash between Barry and Oliver which could have had fatal consequences. Fortunately, the scientists from both teams saved the day and cured Barry from his anger. The angry guy (named Prism by Cisco) ended up in Star Labs' prison, even though we didn't even see how he was captured. And now even more people know who Arrow is. Funny, there's already like 15+ people who know about Oliver Queen's secret life.

The second evening, also known as "Arrow episode" finally featured the Boomerang (yet another actor from Spartacus, Nick Tarabay who played Ashur). However, The Flash's appearance felt somehow... forced. Yes, he was the one who caved Starling City at the end, but I just can't shake off the feeling that the whole episode was actually forced. The good thing is - Oliver got a new suit, and we got a hint of even more crossovers between our two favorite TV heroes in the future.

Overall, it was fun to see both of them in the same time, working together (and fighting each other!) but it was nothing special. I hope they will make better scripts for the future co-ops and make really epic episodes.

04 December 2014

26 November 2014

Superfrog HD

Game score: 55%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

Ask any true Amiga fan about Superfrog and they'll know it. It's a legend of its own, one of the most famous game of the classic computer system and one that was enjoyed the most. A true Amiga platformer, one of the games that marked its time. Team 17 recently decided to remake its own classic and the result is... Superfrog HD, almost exactly the same game but in high definition. The key word is almost.

Our hero is a frog. Actually, he's a prince that's been turned into a frog by an evil witch. As if that was not enough, the witch also took away his princess. One unlucky prince, eh? Fortunately, he found a magic potion that gave him super powers and now he's ready to rescue his beloved princess and lift the curse! Quite a story, isn't it? Actually, who cares. A good game does not necessarily need a good story to be fun. All it needs is a good gameplay. 

Unfortunately, Superfrog HD lacks that as well, for the most part. Unlike the original 1993 game, this one is way too easy and can be completed in less than two hours. Maybe even quicker if you know your way. Navigating the levels is not like in Mario games, it's not a typical left to right scroller. Superfrog can go up and down, left and right... You can move in any given direction and jump long distances (you are a frog after all), pick up power-ups that make the game even easier and advance through its 24 levels in a quick pace. The levels themselves are well designed and themed (a forest, a castle, a circus, ancient Egypt, ice caverns and an interstellar base) but they are just too easy. The controls are also a bit weird - even though you only have 4 direction keys, a jump and fire button, they somehow managed to screw up... I guess it's the reaction time. I swear I clicked JUMP on time, but Superfrog still walked into fire and died. Not once, not twice, but a hundred times. I tend to be really precise when it comes to platform games and this one fails at that.

All you need to do to complete the level is to reach the exit. However, it is much more fun to explore and try to collect as many bonus points (fruit, coins and treasures) as possible while searching for many secret passageways that lead to even more bonus points. Enemies that can hurt you vary from slow moving worms that you can either stomp or shoot to a bit more challenging full size monsters that can only be shot or jumped over. The power ups that can be used are limited to only 2 things: wings that can make you fall slower and... something that looks like small frog head that you can fire for a short distance and eliminate critters.

A good thing is that you can actually unlock the original levels as you play. You will certainly appreciate those because they are a lot harder to complete and offer much more challenge. They are not hard to unlock, all you need is to win on a slot machine mini game that appears after each completed level. The original levels are taken directly from the 1993 version and even though they look and feel the same as the HD levels, they are harder since they use a lot more critters that can damage you and position spikes at strategic points so you have to be a lot more careful with your jumping and walking.

Steam version has 12 achievements to collect and that's quite a bonus in my opinion. They will make you explore the levels more thoroughly and see the whole game. Alas, they are also not so hard to get and only 2 of them will actually make you replay the levels you have already completed before.

To sum it up: Superfrog HD has everything the original had, but it lacks... magic!

11 November 2014

Interstellar (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 9/10
Verdict: An epic tale of survival, an instant classic. You cannot afford not to watch this movie


A spoiler-free look at the latest blockbuster.

Do you remember my Gravity review? In it, I said I couldn't understand all the hype that surrounded the film - it's not that it isn't any good, it's just not as good as you might expect it to be. That's not the case with Interstellar - I went to the cinema with sky high expectations and got out very satisfied! It's a well written, well performed and simply beautiful film that deals with some things that... you may want to read about first, in case you aren't familiar with them; namely physics in general, wormholes, black holes, theory of relativity and gravity itself. Did I scare you away? :)

Interstellar tells a story of survival. In the near future, Earth is turning into a desert and all the remaining resources are focused on making food for the survivors. All the resources, including humans. There are no armies, no media, education is minimal and everyone is... trying to farm. But the crops are dying as well and there's less and less of oxygen. And no plan for survival, none at all. Matthew McConaughey plays Coop, an ex-pilot, an engineer and a farmer (what else) who's doing his best to survive with his two children and a father in law. As you can imagine (and since this is not a story of farming in the desert), humans never give up and will try to survive in the universe, so... Well, no spoilers.

Although it's almost 3 hours long, I wanted more of Interstellar by the time the credits started rolling. Talk about relativity, eh? It's fun, it's dramatic, you never knew what may be coming next. I am not an expert on physics (although I am rather well educated in the field) but I couldn't see any major errors with what was presented. I am trying to say that Interstellar is not a fantasy, as I am sure some people would like to describe it as. Most of the phenomenons present in the film are theoretical at this time, but are very accurate with what we currently know about them. And that is awesome! Presenting all this "nerd stuff" to the general public in a form of a blockbuster... well done Mr. Nolan! Of course, some things have to be a bit... adjusted for the purpose of the movie, but hey - it's ok, it's allowed in the film making. Right?

The cast is perfect, with the already mentioned Matthew McConaughey in the main role. Anne Hathaway plays Brand, a female scientist and a daughter of Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine. Matt Damon is Dr. Mann, while John Lithgow plays Coop's father in law. Coop's daughter Murph is played by three different actresses.

The only problem I can think of is... well, to fully understand it, Interstellar should be seen more than once. Definitely more than once. But can you afford to watch a 3 hour long movie twice? Or three times? I'd say it depends on if it deserves to be seen and this one does.

Originally, I wanted to make this review a one-liner, but I got carried away. Still, here's that one line: GO WATCH THIS MOVIE!

10 November 2014

The Babadook (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 7/10
Verdict: It's got a great story, but is not scary at all

Again, I am aware of the fact: it's really hard to make a good horror movie in the 21st century. It's almost impossible to scare the people nowadays, almost as hard as making them laugh so I really appreciate all who dare to try. So I do my best to watch as many horrors as I can, as a token of appreciation for... trying. I've heard of The Babadook from a trailer I saw on TV, which is a bit weird because I don't remember the last time I saw a horror movie trailer on TV. And I don't really watch nor like trailers in general since they never show the real thing. Then I found out it was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, so I really had to see this one.

So... The Babadook. Mister Babadook. The story is actually really good (if you can connect all the dots and realize what it is really about, which I am not going to say here) and it's a shame the movie itself fails to show its full potential. Even the acting is great, the characters are well portrayed and you can understand them pretty well almost right from the start. It's a story of a single mother and her 6 year old son who has big problems socializing with the world in general. He is obsessed with monsters and sees them everywhere, having a hard time fitting into school and making friends. Because of his constant fear, he is often awake at night and wakes up early in the morning, giving his mother a really hard time because she is constantly tired and lacking sleep. One day he brings a "children's" book called Mister Babadook for her to read for him and the book turns out to be... well, anything but children's. Soon, all he could talk about was Mr. Babadook which makes her try to destroy the book. Try.

Again, the story is REALLY good, but the movie's obvious lack of funds and a definite lack of imagination when it comes to scaring people (after all, this IS a horror movie and as such it MUST have scary scenes) makes it so much less enjoyable than it should be. Another problem with it is a somewhat slow start - it takes almost an hour for anything even remotely scary to happen. But if you don't mind the mild horror elements in it and if you like a good story that makes you think - you will like The Babadook. It seems as if the makers of this motion picture could not decide whether to make it a thriller or a horror, so they ended up somewhere in the middle. And that's the worst thing they could do.

As you can see, I am not even decided if I like The Babadook or not. And it seems like I am repeating myself. Well, watch it yourself and decide for yourself :)

04 November 2014


I will write just about season 4 of this show, as it is more of a new show. The first 3 seasons were covering something completely different and it was definitely concluded in the last season's final episode. There's no more Brody, it no longer takes place in USA and Carrie has completely taken over the main role. She's in Pakistan, she's station chief and she's doing what's she does best!

You could call this a reboot, it's that different. There's a lot of familiar characters (Mandy Patikin as Saul Berenson, Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn and my new favorite Nazanin Boniadi as Fara Sherazi) so there's little need for introduction. Carrie seems very strong now, she's put her past behind her and she's either completely cured of her condition(s) or she's handling them really well, but it's definitely out of focus as well.

So... dealing with Pakistan. The CIA operation in Pakistan is handling terrorist network with drone attacks and espionage. Things go bad after one particular drone attack that kills a lot of civilians at a wedding. As things unfold, Carrie and her operatives uncover a big conspiracy, but are unable to get the details. I am writing this after episode 6 and the big things seems to be getting even bigger and CIA is constantly a few steps behind the conspirators. Season 4 seemed really slow at start, there was more focus on Quinn's ghosts of the past and his dealings with his own conscience than the real action, but it's heating up nicely in the last 2 episodes. This is a spoiler-free review, so no details about anything in here.

This review is meant to be sure, so lets sum it up. This is a NEW Homeland. It might take you some time to accept it, but when you do - you will like it. It's a serious and dramatic TV show and as such, it's not suitable for everyone. I just hope Nazanin Boniadi gets more screen time :)

27 October 2014

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth

Game score: 75%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam link:

It was 1992 and I was 12 years old. My country was in a bloody war and I lived in a besieged city. We lacked food and water while electricity was on and off all the time, completely random. I was fortunate enough to be living near a strategic point that had a priority for electricity, powered by a huge cable that went right under my first neighbor's windows. We used simple tools to hook up our own cable to it, providing electric power for our two apartments on the first floor of our building. That way we had power whenever there was any in the city, but we never knew when that might happen. Sometimes the lights would turn on at midnight or even at 02:00 and all I could think of (after turning off the lights of course, it was dangerous!) was playing games on my Commodore 64 and a "brand new" 386SX PC with amazing VGA graphics with incredible 256 colors. My mother was vacuuming the dust and washing clothes in the washing machine; dad was mostly sleeping as he really didn't care much. Ah the memories...

I used to play various games on that PC, ranging from simple Ski or Die or Xenon 2 to more complex Centurion: Defender of Rome or Simcity. Oh I was a happy kid, playing my little games, having fun without thinking much about what to do next. And then one day I laid my hands on a game that attracted me with the name of its creator: Sid Meier's Civilization. Now I knew that name, I played some of his games before (Pirates!, Railroad Tycoon) and loved them. A lot. So I gave this game a chance, it was worth "investigating". And that was it. I got hooked and I still am. 23 years later I still play Civilization (its sequels actually) and I probably always will. I never thought about it before yesterday, but I estimate more than 10.000 hours spent on Civilization. I am serious, Civ and its sequels have taken more than a year of my life so far and I honestly don't see the end to it.

Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth is the latest installment in the series. It's made with the Civ V engine and resembles it a lot, so you will be quite familiar with Beyond Earth if you played Civilization V. Maybe even too familiar, but more about that later. It's set up in the near future and kind of shows what happens after the events in Civ V when civilizations launch space ships to colonize other planets. You could say it's a sequel to 1999's Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, but with a modern engine and more features.

Now I am going to assume that you are reading this because you are familiar with Civilization (especially Civ V) so I will skip explaining how it works. It's just too complex if you are new to this and it would require several tomes to do that. Anyway, lets see what's different in Beyond Earth. First of all - the factions, or sponsors as they're called in the game. There aren't any classical ones so you will have to pick one of only 8 available, conveniently made as representatives of Earth's continents or several familiar nations such as American Reclamation Corporation, Polystralia or Slavic Federation. Each has a specific advantage over the others, but nothing really grand. Each faction can further be customized by minor starting advantages (bonuses to production, bonus starting units etc).

And then you start. Pick a spot to build your capital and start working on tiles around it, building farms for food, generators for power (power is the new gold), mines for production, roads to connect the cities... Sounds familiar? This aspect is exactly the same as in Civ V, the only difference is the surface of the planet which looks like it was ripped from Blizzard's Starcraft. Even the alien life forms (the new Barbarians) look like Zerg and are equally deadly.

Science and inventions are a bit confusing. It was a whole lot easier in Civ V because you knew what Navigation or Industrialization are or what they might give you once you research them. In Beyond Earth, you need to research Photosystems or Biosphere in order to build... Orbital Fabricator or Bioglass Furnace. Um... Say what? I guess it will take a while to remember what's what and how to get it. It's also quite hard to distinguish regular buildings from wonders, since there are no Great Libraries nor Eiffel Towers in space. Also, tech tree is no longer a tree - it's a tech web. You start in the middle of it and research technologies in any direction you want. I don't really like it, it's hard to find what you really want/need to research. It's probably a problem only in the first few games, but it's still a problem.

A great new addition are quests! Or at least it seems like it at the first glance. However, after you complete a few of them you realize that most of them are one or two step tasks which could have been awesome if someone really tried to make them awesome. Some are really fun, like "kill the Siege Worm and get a science boost" or "explore a crash site", but they soon become simple decisions on what your newly constructed buildings will do (for example, +1 production or 10% faster construction of military units).

One really big disappointment is diplomacy. It's exactly the same as in Civilization V. The community has been asking for more options and more depth ever since it was first seen, but we still can't do much about it. Very, very disappointing.

But! Espionage! It's the best espionage system in any Civ game so far. Once you establish the spy network, you can give your spies various missions inside other player's cities varying from simple nesting or power theft, all the way to more serious and hard ones such as... triggering a Siege Worm attack on the city! I wish to see such system in the next Civilization as well, it's way better than it ever was.

So how do you win the game? Aside from the standard conquest ending (capturing all of the enemy capitals), there's 4 more ways to win. Contact victory asks you to build a huge Beacon wonder, activate it and wait for sentient aliens to contact you. This one requires serious technological advancement and a lot of power (gold). The other three victory options are Transcendence, Promised Land, and Emancipation. They correlate to three available affinities and tasks given by reaching level 13 in either one of them.

Ugh, this is turning into a huge text already, I need to sum it up quicker. Lets see... There are no luxury resources any more. Culture points are spent on virtues that focus on might, prosperity, knowledge or industry. Ideologies are replaced by affinity: you decide whether you want to preserve humanity and reject any new world or embrace it and "live with the nature". The third option is kind of the best of the both worlds. These three are not mutually exclusive, but you will most probably focus on just one of them in each game you play. They influence the buildings and units you can build, as well as upgrades for the shared units.

I could go on and on and on about a game as big as this one, but lets get to the point. Civilization: Beyond Earth is a great game but... But it feels more like a Civilization V mod rather than a completely new game. That's the best way to describe it. I honestly expect a big patch in the near future since AI is kind of stupid - I beat the game three times so far and I had 5 wars during that time. Every single time it was AI that started it and it was AI that ended it... by giving away their cities for free and getting their armies crushed like bugs. Honestly, I had more trouble with alien bugs than with enemy soldiers. I guess the game was a bit rushed so yeah, expect some fixes. 

21 October 2014

Fallout 1, Fallout 2 (1997, 1998)

Game score: 95%
Platform: Steam, PC
Steam links: (Fallout 1) (Fallout 2)

War. War never changes.

The Romans waged war to gather slaves and wealth. Spain built an empire from its lust for gold and territory. Hitler shaped a battered Germany into an economic superpower.

But war never changes.

In the 21st century, war was still waged over the resources that could be acquired. Only this time, the spoils of war were also its weapons: Petroleum and Uranium. For these resources, China would invade Alaska, the US would annex Canada, and the European Commonwealth would dissolve into quarreling, bickering nation-states, bent on controlling the last remaining resources on Earth.

In 2077, the storm of world war had come again. In two brief hours, most of the planet was reduced to cinders. And from the ashes of nuclear devastation, a new civilization would struggle to arise.

A few were able to reach the relative safety of the large underground Vaults. Your family was part of that group that entered Vault Thirteen. Imprisoned safely behind the large Vault door, under a mountain of stone, a generation has lived without knowledge of the outside world. 

Life in the Vault is about to change. 


It's been a while since I reviewed any game, eh? No wonder, I was just too busy replaying the first 2 Fallout games. For 5th or 6th time, I am not sure. Why am I reviewing these two together and why now, almost 20 years since they were published? It's simple - they're super awesome, they are pretty much alike and sometimes hard to distinguish and they recently had a nice little update on Steam, making them a bit easier to play on modern computers without the need to use unofficial patches. Rejoice the (kind of) high resolution and steam cloud support! And I will do my best to keep this short, I don't want to scare you away with too much text.

Seriously, these two games deserve to be on everyone's top 10 games list of all times, especially for the role playing gamers. They kind of marked a new era of RPGs, since RPGs were a dying breed in the first half of 1990s. I remember that era very well and it's not that there were no RPGs around to play, it's just that there were no really good ones, especially if you didn't own a console such as Super Nintendo (and those were a special kind of RPGs, not for everyone's liking). So Fallout came out as a savior and started a fantastic era of wonderful games that still warm every true gamer's heart (I have to mention Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale). The first Fallout game is considered to be a sequel to 1988 game called Wasteland, but it couldn't be official due to copyright. 

As you got it from the intro text, Fallout takes place in a post apocalyptic world. Your people have been sealed off in an underground vault and were unable to communicate with anyone else for decades. 84 years later, you have been picked by the Vault Overseer to save your people - a water purification chip malfunctioned and you need to find a replacement. It shouldn't be hard since there are many vaults nearby and someone should have an extra chip. Of course, things don't go as easy as expected.

Fallout 2 happens 80 years later. Your character from the first game set off a series of events that lead to... well, a lot of things. Among them was a creation of a settlement in which your new character starts his adventure to find a G.E.C.K., a device that can create fertile land out of wasteland and help your village survive and prosper. As expected, things go bad very soon.

Both games look and feel exactly the same, so there's no need to separate the technical review of either of them. They're isometric, real-time games with turn-based combat (based around action points) with all the typical RPG elements such as experience, levels, skills etc. The real super feature of Fallout games are perks! Fallout is the one that introduced such concept into video games, a concept that was later used by many. Anyway, perks are special power-ups that you can pick for your character every three levels. These power ups range from abilities such as radiation or poison resistance, bonuses to movement or fire rate, awareness of enemy's hit points etc. Perks are so much fun, they will really make you want to level up so fast just to see what you may be able to pick up next (everyone always went up for sniper that allowed you to score critical hits with almost every shot!).

Fallout games are known for their MANY easter eggs

It is possible to complete both games without seeing more than 20% of the actual world and quests in it. And not just that, depending on your intelligence, charisma or luck, encounters with people and settlements will be very different: different dialogue options, different possibilities for upgrades etc. This gives Fallout games a LOT of replayability, even though the main quests always remain the same. Also, your actions really change the world and you will be given a recap when you complete the main quest. You get to decide if you want to be a good or a bad guy, almost all the "good" quests have an evil alternative.

What else to mention and still keep it short... These games feature quite a LOT of weapons (pistols, semi machine guns, shotguns, rifles, sniper rifles, laser and plasma weapons, Gauss guns, knives, various advanced melee weapons...), hundreds and hundreds of useful and useless items, NPCs that can join and die for you. You can even join a mafia family and become a made man. Or become a boxing champion. Or even a porn star! Speaking of that, be aware that Fallout is 18+ game due to adult content (swearing, gore, drugs). In Fallout 2 you can even get a car to move around faster (really helps a lot), as well as provide a storage for all the items you would otherwise sell or drop.

It's been 17 years since Fallout was released and the game didn't grow old. The only problem, although a rather big one, is the presence of many bugs. Some were fixed during all those years, but I guess that some were too complex to be removed and they still remain. Unofficial patches released on the net can fix most, but not all. So I suggest you save a lot and often, using more than 2 save slots. This saved me quite a lot of times after I encountered a bug that would make me go crazy.

Fallout created quite a lot of followers and the sequels helped a lot. Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are great games, but they lack the spirit of the first 2 games (yeah, I am a sentimental fool). I am trying to explain the fascination with these first 2 games... I guess it's their greatness in the time when they were released. Not many games were as complex and provided so much and still had very good graphics. If you didn't get to play them in 1997/1998 you would never understand, simple as that.

Have fun, Vault Dweller!

13 October 2014

Commodore 64: a visual Commpendium by Bitmap Books

Oh boy... Before I say anything else, I must admit that there is no way I could be objective enough when it comes to ANYTHING about Commodore 64. It was my first computer, a machine that most probably made me who I am today, a lifelong companion and a true friend! It was 1987 when I first laid my hands on one of those and it was definitely a love at first sight. I was a seven years old kid who lived in a socialist country where not many people had computers at home. My cousin had one and it was probably accidentally in the room when I walked in. Who in the world would let a little cousin near such a treasure, eh? Well, it was there, I was there and my cousin was always good to me so... Jack the Nipper II: In Coconut Capers was officially the first game I've ever played in my life. That was it - a new gamer was born! I was fascinated by the game and what that marvelous machine could do. There was so much...

But I digress. This should be about the book, not my first gaming experiences. Commodore 64: a visual Commpendium by Sam Dyer is a KickStarter funded book about the amazing art of C64 games through years, or as the book itself claims:

"The book has been created to celebrate the visual side of Commodore 64. It features the stunning pixel art created painstakingly by hand (way before the days of Photoshop!), beautiful photography that captures the iconic product design and a selection of Zzap!64 cover artworks by artist Oliver Frey."

Again, I am definitely not objective enough, so that's why I let my wife take a look at the book. And she loved it! She didn't understand much of the art in it ("why are these images so blocky?") but she loved the quality of the book itself. The cover, the paper... absolutely fantastic! The guys over at Bitmap Books (I say guys, but it's just one person as far as I know) did a wonderful job with design and the book itself is simply beautiful! As for the content... do I even have to say it? If you ever owned the magnificent Commodore 64, you know the games that ran on it. Sam Dyer sorted them chronologically and started with Jupiter Lander, followed by Beach Head, Blue Max and so on. It would be impossible to mention ALL the games that made C64 such a legend, but the collection present in the Commpendium is more than enough. Besides, it's the art that was in focus and not all amazing games also featured the amazing art.

Lode Runner, Bruce Lee, Pitstop II, Elite, Mercenary, Karateka, Ghosts 'n Goblins, The Last Ninja, Maniac Mansion, Defender of the Crown... are just some of the games mentioned in the book. As you can see from the images above, there's a small text and some info about each game. The texts are written by guest contributors, artists and programmers that made the games themselves.

I spent 3 hours last night, just shuffling through pages, looking at the images and reliving some of the old memories. Mind you, I still own a Commodore 64 and I am one of those freaks who still use it and yet - this book still got me daydreaming. I just can't make up my mind right now - should I use an emulator and speed things up a bit or turn on my old buddy again and replay some of the games mentioned in the book?

The book has 232 pages and is printed lithographically to the highest possible print standards. It's dimensions are 230 mm x 170 mm and comes with a spot varnished cover and a loose dust jacket.

If you need more info just visit these sites: 

Another thing. And this is very fresh. Sam Dyer started a Commodore Amiga: A Visual Commpendium Kickstarter campaign TODAY! If you are interested in funding it, just click on the link and read what's offered.

09 October 2014

The Strain, Season 1 Finale!

This show is weird, seriously. It goes up and down more than Nintendo's Mario in his most famous games. It started out great with a very captivating pilot, then it annoyed me (us) with boring and quite shallow episodes that made little or no sense (I already described that in my review of The Strain), and yet it still had some truly masterful episodes just to keep us from abandoning it forever. This finale... unsatisfying. And I am being really polite here.


Alright, we all expected the gang to charge onto The Master again and they did. They found his lair (again) and attacked it, but they also found out that he's stronger than they expected. The sun does hurt him, but obviously not enough. We also found out that Setrakian is a showman, it took him an hour to swing his sword and... try to hit The Master. That gave the creature more than enough time to escape again. Why... Why do they torment us with such scenes over and over again? If they wanted him to escape, why did they have to make it so... naive? And the head-on attack on the vampire lair that was defended by the Master's top minions such as Eichorst and Bolivar was a complete success with no casualties among the good guys? Aw, come on! Oh yeah, they also brought Zach with them. Yeah, a 12 year old kid is just what you need when you attack 100+ vampires that can kill you with a simple scratch.

On a bright side, we saw some more of the vampire hit squad and found a little bit more about them. It's still not quite clear why they are fighting The Master, but we're getting there. And they are about to recruit Gus to fight as their avatar. Fun!

Overall, this show obviously has a lot of potential, but I expect the producers to show us viewers a bit more respect. There have been sooooooooooooo many completely illogical decisions and behavior by both the main characters and the people of New York in general. I still believe they can fix that and live up to the show's full potential. We'll have to wait and see what season 2 has to offer in 10 months or so.

05 October 2014

Star Wars: Rebels


Finally! The first child of the newly wed LucasFilm and Disney! And it's a promising one, right from the start! Too many exclamation marks? You bet! Aren't you excited about the latest in Star Wars franchise? I sure am!

I'll be short - the pilot starts with a double episode called "Spark of Rebellion". We get to meet Ezra (who looks like Aladdin's twin from the galaxy far, far away) and watch as his encounter with a pack of thieves, who seem to like to steal from Storm troopers, turns into a long term relationship. What really amazed me is how quickly I learned a lot about all the major characters in just 43 minutes. A lot of shows fail to do that over the entire season and this one made it in just one episode. True, Star Wars was always famous for its fast pace and Rebels is no exception. The action seems to never end as our heroes get from one dangerous situation to another in a matter of no more than 2 minutes. And you really get to like the characters right from the start.

I was curious about what the characters would look like, now that Disney is in charge of the Star Wars franchise. Turned out alright, even though it's obvious it's Disney people behind the animation. Yes, they do have those big eyes and specific face expressions, but who cares? The story seems good, the characters seem amazing and the animation itself is fantastic. So if anyone was worried about Disney ruining Star Wars - relax, they did more than good.

I know it's too early to say, but I have a really good feeling about Star Wars Rebels. Then again, it's an old franchise and we're all quite familiar with it, so what could go wrong?

29 September 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 8/10
Verdict: Very entertaining, excellent action movie. Good job Mr. Liman!

I will keep it spoiler-free, no worries. And I am guessing you are already familiar with the main thing about this movie.

In short: Europe (so far it's only Europe) has been invaded by aliens and humans have been on retreat ever since. But some new fighting technologies are helping us fight back and there's an offensive planned to invade France from England (somehow this sounds very familiar, doesn't it?). Major Cage (Tom Cruise) is a media officer who somehow ends up on the battlefield. Since he is not really trained for combat he ends up dead pretty soon... only to end up reliving the past 24 hours all over again. And now, every time he dies he resets to the same point in time but keeps all his memories from what's about to come. Why? Well, that's for you to watch and see.

This "time rewind" is almost exactly the same as in the legendary Groundhog Day, but unlike Bill Murray's character, Tom Cruise MUST DIE to reset the time. That's the only difference that I could think of, the rest is exactly the same. I am not complaining here, oh no. It's just the opposite, I am glad they used that same idea in something completely different.

I really enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow and I didn't get bored at all. The action starts really quick and it doesn't end almost at all until the very end. The repeated scenes are handled really good and you will not be annoyed with them. I think this particular "problem" had to be handled carefully and it was tuned to perfection. Sure, some things are repeating and Major Cage is aware of them all, but they don't happen more than twice and they're quickly fast forwarded. Brilliant!

So I will not bore you with any more details, it's enough to know that this movie is well worth your time. It was the fastest 110 minutes I've spent in years and I promise you will have the same. Enjoy!

26 September 2014


Honestly - it's waaaaay too early to say how good it is, we've seen only the pilot episode. But if it is any indication of what it might be - it's looking good. They did a great job capturing the "spirit" of Gotham: it's dark, but in an illuminated way. It really feels like Gotham from comics and so do the characters we got to meet in the pilot. I won't tell you any names, I don't want to spoil it for you.

I will be doing a "real" review after a few episodes or after the finale, but I just couldn't resist making this small post, just to say that I liked the first episode. Good job so far, Fox. Don't screw it up.

23 September 2014

Silicon Valley

HBO did it again. They created a show that covers a very specific subject, but you really don't have to understand any of it to enjoy the humor it provides. I hope it's true because I do understand all of it so I cannot be objective enough :D

Richard Hendriks works for Hooli, one of many Silicon Valley's tech companies with motivational videos and logos, weird meeting rituals and all that crap that these nerds do (I am a different kind of nerd, seriously!) and he develops an app that... well, it's useless but it's compression algorithm is absolutely stunning. He soon gets an offer to sell it for 1, 4 and finally 10 million dollars, but instead decides to sell 5% of his share to a rival billionaire who promised to help him build and raise his own company. He hires his roommates to work with him and now they're off to do something they have no idea how it's done - a company.

The characters are awesome! Richard is shy and panicky guy, very unsure of what he is doing and questions his decision not to take 10 million bucks. Gilfoyle is a sarcastic satanist, a java master programmer who hopes to "wake up one day to find out he died and went to hell". As Dinesh explains "it's ok, he's satanist so it's good for him. So, Dinesh is a Pakistani American (he's legal!), yet another programmer in the group. Jared is new in the gang, he joins up from Hooli after seeing what Richard made and wants to help. And finally Elrich, everyone's (probably) favorite asshole who actually isn't. He owns 10% of whatever Richard makes because he provided him with a place to live in Silicon Valley. He simply takes percentages instead of rent money. Smart, eh? 

That's the five guys from the image above. The others are two eccentric billionaires Peter Gregory and Gavin Belson, Gavin's assistant Monica and Big Head, Richard's best childhood friend who was kicked out because he was useless and is now working for Hooli. Working. Actually, he does nothing (because he IS useless) and was hired out of revenge or whatever.

Season one ended in june 2014, but I just recently saw it. It has eight episodes only (30 minutes each) and it's been renewed for season two due to great reviews it was getting. Let me be one of those who are going to recommend this brilliant sitcom to you as well. You will love it, even if you have no idea what it is about even after watching 4+ episodes. It's just... a lot of fun! Another thing - it IS a sitcom, but it does not have that audience laugh in the background. Awesome!

22 September 2014

Godzilla (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 4/10
Verdict: Advertised as a clash between Walter White and the biggest lizard ever. But it's actually about a lizard love couple trying to rule the world...

Well, it's not that I always wanted to see Heisenberg fighting Godzilla, but that's kind of what they told us this is about. Or no, it was the trailers that kept showing Bryan Cranston in just about all of them, all the time. In reality, Bryan dies after 30 minutes and his movie son takes over. And the world is not endangered by Godzilla, but two unknown huge... somethings codenamed MUTO (
Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism). They feed on radiation and like to cuddle in nuclear plants. Lovely creatures. Honest Trailer counted the amount of time that Bryan and Godzilla were on screen. It totaled to 11 minutes and 16 seconds out of 122 minutes.

I learned not to believe blockbuster trailers long ago, but who can resist watching those movies at the end? Sure, you end up watching these movies with low expectations, but somehow they still manage to disappoint us. I am not saying that Godzilla is absolutely awful, but it's quite below average. The story has a lot of holes, the main characters are behaving unnaturally (seriously, if my family was living in a city that is about to be crushed by not one but two and possible even three huge monsters, I would at least try and get them out of there or tell them to get the hell out of there) and more than 80% of it happens at night and/or in foggy weather. I don't like to talk about special effects so much (I consider them a distraction from bad stories... see my point here? :)) so I will just say that they are good, but as stated before - most of them show things (monsters) in darkness or fog.

Sadly, it's just another summer blockbuster that will be quickly forgotten.

14 September 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 5/10
Verdict: Sometimes funny, but quite... shallow and quite disappointing

I like what Seth MacFarlane is doing with Family Guy, I adore that show! But when it comes to movies, he seems to... just can't make it right. I remember when Ted was announced. I really wanted to like that one and I did my best not to have too high expectations so I could enjoy Seth's politically incorrect humor in something completely new. But I ended up being bored. Yeah, I laughed a few times, I just can't resist Seth's jokes, but overall it was just below average. I know, making a good comedy in this millennium is an impossible job and I really don't envy those who try, but it should be better than Ted was. Unfortunately, A Million Ways to Die in the West isn't any better.

A girl leaves a guy and now he wants her back. Being someone who just doesn't belong on the frontier doesn't help, so winning her back will take something special. And something special is another girl, a girl who makes his ex-girlfriend totally forgettable. Once he realizes that... things get messy since she's married to one of the most wanted criminals on the wild west.

It is obvious that the actual story is absolutely unimportant and the main focus is on characters and their humor. A lot of it is quite good, I laughed often and enjoyed most of it, but there was a bit too much of toilet humor even for my taste. And believe me, I have a rather high tolerance for just about anything. Another good thing are many cameos (one of them is an instant classic!), but I'll let you see them for yourself.

Acting is fine. Seth was ok, but his face simply does not fit the time and place. I am going to guess it was intentional, to make Albert (Seth's character) seem completely unfit for the frontier. Charlize is awesome, she doesn't even have to act! Giovanni Ribisi, Liam Neeson and especially Sarah Silverman did a good job. Neil Patrick Harris was Barney once again and that was definitely intentional. Even his "challenge accepted" was there!

I know some people who were delighted with Ted and I guess those same people will love A Million Ways to Die in the West. I am not one of those people. For me, this was just one of those movies I will forget rather quickly. But then again there's that wonderful cameo that I will remember for a long time... Tease :)

10 September 2014

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 8/10
Verdict: If only all Star Trek movies were as good as this one... The best one in series!

The sixth time's the charm! There have been a few OK Star Trek movies so far, but this one is a real gem! It has everything we loved about this show and they had to wait for Gene Roddenberry to die to do it? Planetary explosions, Klingons, assassinations, conspiracies and space combat. What more would you ask for?

Klingon race is facing extinction as their home planet Qo'noS is about to lose its ozone layer. The reason for that is destruction of planet's moon Praxis caused by overmining. Being the galaxy's good guys, the United Federation of Planets proposes peace with the Klingon empire in order to help them survive. USS Enterprise, Captain Kirk and his crew are asked to escort Klingon Chancellor Gorkon to Earth so he could attend the peace conference. Kirk opposes but is forced to accept the order and soon finds out that he is not the only one who really does not want peace with Klingons...

I really liked The Undiscovered Country and its story, especially when its compared to the other Star Trek movies. It's far from boring and it even has some mystery in it, as Spock tries to uncover the conspiracy that threatens to start a full scale war between the Federation and Klingon Empire. Oh, we even get to meet Worf's grandfather (also played by Michael Dorn) during the trial on Qo'noS.

Keeping it short. This is definitely one of the best Star Trek "episodes" in its long history.

05 September 2014

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

If you don't want to read it all:
Score: 2/10
Verdict: Skip this one if you can. Seriously, it will give you a headache

Oh God... Where do I begin? Let me just say that I fell asleep TWICE while watching The Final Frontier. You see, I watch movies (and TV shows) at night, usually after 10 PM, after my children are asleep. I really don't like to be interrupted while watching and late night is just perfect. Sometimes I stay awake up until well after midnight and I don't even feel sleepy. But if something is just plain boring, I simply end up waking up next to a turned on TV screen with a blue background.

The Final Frontier.

I know that most Star Trek are just not good enough for most non-fans, but this one is just plain terrible. The whole story and execution, the idea and the conclusion... Everything is just wrong. You have to watch this movie only if you are on a Star Trek marathon as I am, otherwise it's a complete waste of time.

What is it about? A rebel Vulcan (you know, one of those that don't embrace logic but prefer emotions instead) in search of God. He captures a settlement in the neutral zone in order to lure a ship so he could capture it and go into the middle of the universe and meet God. (In Forrest Gump voice): "That's all I have to say about that".

And I am really sorry to say that about a Star Trek movie.

P.S. To clear it up: after falling asleep for the first time, I actually went to bed and continued watching The Final Frontier tomorrow morning. I only had 40 minutes left, but even then I fell asleep again, with about 10 minutes left. I watched the remaining 10 minutes after slapping myself to stay awake. So it took me two nights to see the whole thing.

03 September 2014

Android: How to turn off annoying reminders from games and apps?

Do you ever get annoyed by those Android applications that keep reminding you?

"The Smurfs from your village miss you, come back and save us from Gargamel!"
- I actually had this one from a game called Smurf Village

"You have been absent from the game for too long, did you forget about us?"
- Random Android game


I've been asked about this "problem" a lot in the past (mostly by the people at work), but I didn't know how to "fix" it so I just ignored them. "It's just a minor reminder, why all the fuss about it?" Well, that was until I had a sleepless night because of one such "minor reminder". The thing is - it's my wife who wakes me up every morning at 06:30. She does not use a sound alarm on her Android phone, but a simple vibration and the screen that lights up when alarm starts. She wakes up, turns off the alarm, wakes me up and that's it. Why do we do that? Because we have a baby sleeping in our room and he, just as all the babies seem to be doing, reacts to just about any sound or light that goes on for more than 5 seconds. ANY SOUND OR LIGHT. And if one of those reminders on her phone occurs, it turns on a flashing blue light that actually wakes the baby up. That happened a few nights ago and we had a rather sleepless night after that... Fun times.

So, if you want to turn off those things, for whatever reason, here's how to do it (screenshots are from my heavily modified Samsung Galaxy S3, so actual screens on your phone may look different):

Find SETTINGS on your application list

Go to Applications manager (or Apps, or Applications;
depends on your phone brand and/or Android version)

Select the application you no longer want to remind you of anything


Enjoy! Notifications for that applications will no longer annoy you. Unfortunately, I haven't found a way to do this for all apps, so you have to do it one by one. It shouldn't be much of a problem, there aren't all that many apps that do this anyway and the most famous one is probably Facebook app.