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