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The Midnight Sky (2020)
The Midnight Sky (2020)
2020 | Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
4
6.6 (12 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Predictable and cliched
The Midnight Sky is a science fiction film directed by George Clooney, the latest in a long line of Netflix originals to hit our screens, based on the 2016 book ‘Good Morning, Midnight’ by Lily Brooks-Dalton. George Clooney plays Augustine, who encounters young girl Iris (the adorable Caoilinn Springall) after remaining on earth following a global apocalypse. Together they must travel across the Arctic to reach a weather station that will allow them to warn returning spaceship, the Aether, captained by Adewole (David Oyelowo) and crewed by Sully (Felicity Jones), Mitchell (Kyle Chandler), Sanchez (Demián Bichir) and Maya (Tiffany Boone).

The trailer for this had me concerned. It looked very similar to many other sci-fi/end of the world films (think Sunshine, Interstellar, even The Day After Tomorrow) and nothing about it looked particularly original. I had hoped that the trailer might be misleading, but I’m afraid to say that this is every bit as lacklustre and predictable as the trailer implied.

Visually this looks stunning, both the set design and the special effects have obviously had a decent amount of time and money invested in them. Alongside this, Alexandre Desplat’s score is beautifully ephemeral and haunting, and accompanies the story well, feeling very in keeping with both the Arctic and the space settings. And aside from a decent cast, I’m afraid these are the only good things I can say about this film. The main problem is the story itself, it’s entirely predictable and suffers from every space and sci-fi mishap you could ever think of, from unexplainable drifting off course to the destruction of important equipment (comms of course, would you expect any less?) due to an unpredicted meteor strike. And this cliched predictability just makes the story so dull and drawn out over its two hour runtime.

To be honest, the whole film itself and the actions of the characters just doesn’t make any sense. You have a pregnant astronaut, who has virtually no sexual chemistry with the man she’s having a baby with, and who’s allowed to go outside into space with little concern over her or her baby’s well-being. A scientist who falls into sub-zero Arctic water which appears to have little impact on his health. And a child walking around in a summer dress with bare legs in the Arctic climate. Admittedly this latter point is addressed towards the end of the film in a rather obvious and over used plot twist, which is still rather unsatisfying. There’s also the large number of unexplained plot points. I’m all for keeping the watcher guessing and hate films that feel the need to over explain every aspect of the plot, but The Midnight Sky takes the opposite approach and explains barely anything. If you go into this expecting to find out what caused the radiation apocalypse or what happened to the rest of earth’s population you’ll be sorely disappointed. It also makes references to a K-23 colony ship that the Aether hasn’t heard from, yet provides no explanation or background as to the outcome of said ship, and also gives us flashbacks to Augustine’s past yet with little reason other than to provide an “A-ha” moment for the aforementioned plot twist. And the decisions made by the astronauts on the Aether once they’ve found out about Earth’s fate are just laughably ridiculous especially considering the fate of the rest of the population.

Despite the promising cast and effects, The Midnight Sky is yet another disappointing Netflix original that is light years away from some of the more brilliant sci-fi stories that have come before it.
  
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Alice (12 KP) rated Revenger in Books

Jul 3, 2018  
Revenger
Revenger
Alastair Reynolds | 2016 | Fiction & Poetry
8
8.0 (1 Ratings)
Book Rating
What can I say about <i>Revenger</i>?

It was my first ever Space Opera and it has opened my eyes to a whole new genre.

It was my first ever Space Opera and it has primed my taste-buds for more.

It was my first ever Alastair Reynolds and now I want more.

Revenger itself was amazingly well written. As mentioned above this was my first book from Alastair Reynolds and it was just the kind of book I could get into again and again; the writing style flowed with a shocking ease and the plot line was very Firefly-esque with a hint more action and a smidge more ‘oh-shit’ factor.

Revenger follows the story of Adrana and Arafura Ness – two sisters from Mazarile whose sick father had made some very poor choices in business – as they embark on a journey into space to end all journeys.

It begins with Adrana convincing her younger sister Arafura to escape into Neural Alley for a reading by Madam Granity. There’s aliens, robots and weird looking men with bad attitudes and then there’s Captain Rackamore. Pol Rackamore is the captain of the Monetta’s Mourn – a sunjammer spaceship – and he’s in need of a new Boney on his ship as his current one is getting too old to ‘read the bones’ and I mean that in the literal sense of the word.

Adrana convinces Cap’n Rack to take both her and Arafura on board the Monetta in the position of new Bone Readers (with the aide of Cazaray the current Boney) and that is where the story really begins. We’re introduced to the rest of the crew and the Monetta sails off into the Empty in search of baubles. As they sail towards their first bauble Arafura becomes a lot closer to the rest of the crew while I feel that Adrana is doing her best to stay away from them all even though she’s front and center.

Story progresses and little hints are dropped about Bosa Sennen and Cap’n Rack’s long lost daughter. There’s several shocking deaths, a mad woman, a kidnapping or two and a young girl bent on revenge.

Around the mid way mark Arafura changes, subtly at first and then a lot more drastic and she becomes Just Fura. This is where the story becomes a lot darker and a lot less like Firefly and a lot more like the Firefly from hell; the second half of this book is based around Fura getting Revenger on Bosa Sennen for what she did and the things that Fura puts herself through to get where she needs to be? She started off as a little timid and shy but after the 50% mark she changed completely and became hard and unyielding.

You know how they say that the future is bright? That brightness is swallowed by the Empty and the future is dark and full of terrors (oh yeah I went there) there’s a doctor with a God complex, a father with a total lack of regard for his daughters, a totally bad ass soldier robot with logic barricades and all sorts of other people.

I think I loved the world building the most about Revenger it was such a smooth transition from place to place and from time to time that it was almost seamless; my second favourite thing was the characters – hands down they were some of the best characters I’ve ever read and I’d love to see if AR takes this book any further as it was seemingly left open for another book but we shall see.

The book gave off a distinctly pirate feeling but with the space element it felt more like Firefly than it did Pirates of the Caribbean which as a fan of both was saying something. Pirates sailing the high skies rather than the high seas! Some of the characters left much to be desired – Bosa, Adrana and Dr Moonface I’m looking at y’all – but the likes of Rack, Prozor and Paladin more than made up for them.

The dialogue was great and the story wasn’t overly scientific which sometimes can be an issue for me, I like my books to be a little less science fact and a bit more science fiction but with Revenger, I felt like AR was giving us regular folk an explanation without going overboard on the description.
  
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
2018 | Action, Sci-Fi
The viewer is thrust headfirst into the action where the pace rarely lets up for 2+ hours. (0 more)
No Jeremy Renner! (0 more)
To Infinity....and Beyond!
Contains spoilers, click to show
Perhaps it's the eternal child in me, the three year old boy who developed a passion for superheroes after first seeing the 1966 Batman movie in the cinema (re-run of course, this was the 70's!), but this is without doubt the best film I have ever seen! Running at around 2 hours and 20 minutes in length (that's prior to the end credits mind you!) this movie brings together plot strands and characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's 10 year tapestry in what I will only describe as an epic thrill-ride.

I'm sure if you're reading this you know the plot. Thanos - the granite jawed world killer from the planet Titan, is rounding up the 6 all powerful infinity stones with which he plans to restore the balance of the universe through essentially wiping out 50% of everything. All that stands in his way are The Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Spiderman, Black Panther, and probably a few I've forgotten to mention! And that's pretty much the story.

We pick things up directly from the mid credits scene of Thor: Ragnarok where the refugee Asgardians, Bruce Banner, and Loki encountered a spaceship of epic proportions. We all knew it at the time... Thanos! Within the first five minutes or so we already have our first casualties at the hands of the purple behemoth which sets the tone for what follows. In possession of two of the stones Thanos dispatches his 'children' - the Black Order, to Earth to retrieve the Mind and Time stones whilst he tracks down the remaining ones. At quite a quick pace our heroes are introduced into the chaos and by employing this structure the writers ably break down the ensemble into smaller manageable groups. Stark, Peter Parker, and Doctor Strange are hurled into the vastness of Space where they encounter Peter Quill and some of his merry misfits, Thor and some of the other Guardians go off in search off forging a weapon to defeat Thanos, and Rogers, Romanoff, Wilson, Rhodes and Maximoff take Vision to Wakanda in order to try and separate the Mind Stone from him with the aid of T'Challa, Shuri and Okaye. Gamora finds herself the prisoner of her adoptive father - a storyline that gives both Brolin and Saldana a chance to really show their worth. Those are effectively the four story strands at play and each is a joy in its own right.

Each character stays true to form with Hemsworth taking the character along he rediscovered in 'Ragnarok' - albeit with some added darkness from the movie's opening moments. Chris Pratt is sheer joy as Quill/Starlord and his interplay with Stark and Hemsworth is a joy to behold. Tom Holland gets one of the best lines when responding to a question from Quill regarding a certain Kevin Bacon movie! Top marks also go to the man who launched this universe a decade ago as Iron Man - yes, Robert Downey Jr knocks it out of the park as a Tony Stark far removed from that we encountered back in the first movie of the MCU. His performance at the climax is simply first rate.

With such a large cast there are characters who don't get as much to do as others although everyone get's a 'moment or two' amongst proceedings. Those that particularly stand out, however, are Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man (reiterating my earlier comments), Chris Hemsworth as Thor (likewise), Zoe Saldana as Gamora (ditto), Chris Pratt as Starlord/Peter Quill (and again), Paul Bettany as Vision and Elisabeth Olsen as Wanda/Scarlet Witch. Surprisingly, Chris Evans doesn't seem to get much to do other than play an active role in a number of excellent battle sequences, although his introduction into the movie along with Black Widow and Falcon as they turn up in Scotland to save the day for Vision and Wanda Maximoff from the Black Order was a personal fist thumping the air moment!

There's simply so much to talk about and I'll stop myself there. If, like myself, you just can't avoid spoilers then chances are you know what happens in this movie by now...including that ending!!

Thanos is the perfect villain, fantastically realised, and given real motivation for his actions - the guy thinks he's showing mercy to the universe! I wouldn't agree that this is his movie as the film-makers have repeatedly stated however he is the central cog that keeps things turning.~Josh Brolin does an exceptional job in bringing Thanos to life. Given the feedback and reaction to Steppenwolf in the DCEU there could have been obvious concerns around another CGI villain. Fear not, the technology is exceptional and Brolin's features are evident 100% making Thanos a living creation.

Alan Silvestri's score is the perfect fit and really compliments the action unfolding on the screen. During the aforementioned fist in the air moment as Steve Rogers, Black Widow, and Falcon make their first appearance to take on the Black Order, Silvestri's 'Avengers' theme kicks in creating pure movie magic.

Simply put, this movie is pure perfection.
  
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Literally.Laura (1763 KP) rated the Xbox One version of No Man's Sky in Video Games

Oct 25, 2018  
No Man&#039;s Sky
No Man's Sky
2016 | Action/Adventure
The game stated off simple enough, you find yourself crash landed on some foreign planet. The planet that I had the misfortune of landing on (not sure if it’s the same for every person) was an ungodly hot hell-hole filled with rabid, attacking plants and sparse resources. My initial introduction to the game seemed to be a little lackluster. I felt like I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do, as well as I wasn’t sure how any of the controls worked. After some time, I started to get the hang of how to move around and how to interact with the environment. Figuring out how to using the “mining pistol” to harvest resources was quite the revelation. After some time I came across my crash-landed spaceship. It was not in working order whatsoever. The game wanted me to fix said ship using a variety of different resources and pieces of technology to be crafted. I found the interfaces to accomplish this goal were a little vague and complicated. Unable to find the needed resources nearby, I set off on a little adventure. One glaring feature I noticed in the game was there was a resource drain on your “shielding” from environmental effects. My 60-degree Celsius planet played havoc upon this shielding, which required me to continually recharge it. I was not a fan of this. It seemed too often that my shields would be next to zero soon after I charged them. I imagine the searing heat might have had something to do with that, perhaps if I had landed on a tropical beach planet that wouldn’t have been much of an issue. Anyways, I meander along looking for my needed resources. True to my wonderful luck so far, I lose track of where home base was. Completely off track. I wander and wander in the hopes that I can find my way back. Through this struggle, I realize that I have the ability to harness my inner Neanderthal and am able to punch the local flora to death. This saved me considerable energy charges for my mining pistol. I forgot to mention everything I use has a drain, from the mining pistol, to my health, to the shielding from the environment. So continually you must fill these items up with different elemental resources you harvest from the planet (carbon, oxygen, etc etc). Beating all the plants and rocks to death proved useful, I was able to collect a large number of resources to help myself survive having no shelter whatsoever. Through my travels I encounter my first visit from the local fauna. They appeared to be goat-like creatures that dug their way out of the ground and wandered about. I was able to feed them carbon-based foods, to which they all started to crowd around me and beg for more. Luckily my jet pack allowed me to make a quick escape. After what seemed like an eternity of moving in the same direction (hoping the world was small enough to make this work), I fell into a hole. Inside the hole was a large cavern which I was eager to explore. There were many different resources that I had not come across yet, and thankfully there weren’t any angry plants or goats there to attack me. I travelled all the way to the end of the cave, hoping to find a civilization or something interesting. As I neared the end I was greeted by a giant wall of rock with nothing to offer, so I angrily turned back around and flew out of the cave. Crossing a few more mountain tops, finally I saw something of interest! There were four mechanical looking storage containers with some lights surrounding them. I took it upon myself to investigate. There didn’t seem to be any signs of life around the containers, so I figured there could only be one solution. I started to punch the containers down to collect whatever they were hiding. After the first container went down, alarms started to go off and the game told me I alerted “sentinels”. Not knowing what this meant, I saw a dog-looking robot approach and subsequently started lasering me to death. Apparently, those containers weren’t meant for sharing. Anyways, I ran off barely escaping with my life. In hindsight I wonder if death would have been an easier way to return to my poor, broken ship. I finally figured out how to seek out distress signals (which my ship had one), so my screen was marked with a true destination. Shortly after learning of this, the world decided to start up a fire storm which made the temperature jump up to 100-degrees Celsius. Needless to say, I was completely prepared and didn’t almost die on the way over to the distress signal. After finally finding my way to salvation I realized that the distress signal I followed wasn’t actually my ship, but some random, broken down building. I am a poor navigator.

Overall, I would rate this game a 7/10 so far. There are many features that I have not obtained access to yet, I imagine with upgrades and new resources my sad, sad, plight would be a little easier to manage. The visuals are beautiful, and from what I’ve read so far, there are many different worlds you can visit. Would not recommend the one I landed on.
  
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Gareth von Kallenbach (861 KP) rated the PC version of Borderlands 3 in Video Games

Sep 25, 2019  
Borderlands 3
Borderlands 3
Action/Adventure
Gamers exchange the world over can rejoice as the long-awaited new chapter in the Borderlands saga has arrived with Borderlands 3. The game takes place after the events of Borderlands 2 and the Telltale series of games which cast players as one of four new Vault Hunters who seek to find one of the Great Vaults which have been the main objective of the prior games in the series.
The four new characters break down as follows…
Amara the Siren, FL4K the Tracker, Moze the Gunner and Zane the Operative.

Characters have unique abilities which can be adjusted as the game unfolds as players will gain skill points to allocate to various abilities as they level up throughout the game. Each character has a special ability that is deployable after a certain amount of time and really can turn the tide of battle. Moze for example can deploy a mechanized unit known as an “Iron Bear” which is capable of unleashing a devastating arsenal of bullets, rockets, flames, and increased protection which makes it ideal when taking on some of the bosses in the game.
One of the new features in the game aside from being able to have better ability to mantel or destroy cover objects is a greater range of destructible containers which helps turn the tide against the relentless and overwhelming numbers that players can face.

Well I played a significant chunk of the game on my own; the game does allow up to four players to play with one another and this came in very handy during a couple of battles Where I simply did not have enough firepower to complete it on my own.
There were some frustrations with the matchmaking system which did not allow me to select games to join and I was basically dropped in blind to games near my character level. This caused me to have to repeat a mission multiple times and then endure having to re-do the mission I needed help with three times due to various glitches and crashes.

Further complicating matters was that in joining a game blind, that now became the jumping off point for continuing my game. It took a little bit of searching to find one roughly where I had left off; so I could continue on.
The key for me turned out to be asking for assistance from players on my friends list as well is those who were listed on my recent contact sessions.
The game tasks players to go up against Twins who have started a Cult as they attempt to unlock the Great Vault and use the power to control the galaxy and kill all those who oppose them.

As anybody who is played any games in the series knows; there are all manner of enemies and creatures for players to battle as well as vehicles and NPC characters to help out and move the story along.

This time out players have a spaceship called Sanctuary which allows players to venture away from Pandora and experience several other planets in the Borderlands Universe. Each planet has its own unique look and bio system ranging from a Louisiana style swamp location to high-tech cities as an example.

The graphics in the game are absolutely stunning in the amount of detail is simply breathtaking to behold. The level of detail in something as simple as a mansion is worthy of just walking around having a look were it not for the numerous things trying to take you out. The game has incredible amounts of loot that players can accumulate which can be used for various upgrades. 2K and Gearbox promote that there are over 1 billion weapons available in the game which leads to some really difficult choices as to which ones players keep, discard, or placed into storage.

While one may offer a bigger punch; it may be slow to reload, have limited ammunition, and increased accuracy. There is definitely a lot of experimentation that goes on and the same is true for the skills tree which even after completing the game is still fairly open which will entice me to go back and complete side quests while I wait for the DLC and maximizes the potential of my character.

The game is exceptionally long which is not a bad thing save for a couple of times when I thought the game was wrapping up only to be signed more back-and-forth or other missions to advance the story. This is not a bad thing as the universe is incredibly immersive but I found myself eager to see what the outcome of the story was rather than what seem like a series of missions designed to extend gameplay.
That being said; Borderlands 3 was hands-down the best gaming experience I have had this year and is an early contender for game of the year award despite the glitches and matchmaking frustrations that hampered some of my enjoyment of the game.

Start to finish I was absolutely captivated by the game and I’m eager to go back in and experience more of this incredible universe as I look forward to the free and paid updates that are coming soon which will hopefully keep me satisfied until the next chapter in the series is released which hopefully will not be as long a wait.
4.5 stars out
  
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
2016 | Sci-Fi
Why Will Smith is a wise, wise man.
I’m catching up on a few of the big films I missed during 2016. But Roland Emmerich has a lot to answer for with this one. Twenty years after Independence Day smashed the summer box office of 1996, the aliens are back: bigger and badder than ever. Steven Hiller (Will Smith) is no longer on the scene but, to give Emmerich a little credit, he has gathered an impressive array of the original stars to return led by Hiller’s wife Jasmine (Vivica Fox), President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), Dr Okun (Brent Spiner), David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and his dad (Judd Hirsch). The great Robert Loggia even turns up, who played the original General Grey, looking like he is about to expire (which unfortunately he did late last year, and the film is in memorial to him). All of them have weathered over the years apart from Judd Hirsch who must have a picture in his attic.

Playing the new generation (Hiller’s young son Dylan and the president’s daughter Patricia) are Jessie Usher and the comely Maika Monroe respectively, the latter having the pout of a young Jessica Alba and showing promise. Rounding off the young ‘uns, and playing an enormously irritating hunk/hero and his sidekick buddy are Jake (Liam Hemsworth – yes, younger brother of Chris) and Floyd (Nicolas Wright). And with the obvious needs of summer blockbusters to appeal to the ravenous Chinese market there is also Shanghai-born Angelababy as a young hotshot pilot and Chin Han as her uncle, moonbase commander Commander Jiang.

It’s hard to know where to start with criticism of this film. It’s like you’ve caught someone desecrating the grave of a dearly departed relative. The plot is ludicrous…. Uh oh…here comes another One Mann’s Movies Showcase Theatre….
The scene: onboard the alien craft high above central Asia
DRONE K’FAALL: “The use of the anti-gravity weapon worked a treat your Majesty. We have ripped up Shanghai and dumped in from a great height on London! Take that Queenie! All hail our weapons superiority! I take it we should just ‘rinse and repeat’ around the world to wipe them all out? ”
QUEEN ALIEN BEE: “No K’Fall. Let’s land in the Atlantic and then go fight them one-on-one with our little ships in the desert near Area 51.”
DRONE K’FALL: “B-b-b-but your Majesty, with our gravity weapon we could eliminate all threat, drill out the earth’s core and find what we came here for in perfect safety!”.
QUEEN ALIEN BEE: “No… that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do…”
I thought the Oscar for the dumbest aliens of the year was a shoe-in for the ones who chose a similar tactic in “The 5th Wave” – but no… we have another contender for the crown. This ridiculous London-based CGI sequence – a virtual re-shoot of the ridiculous CGI sequence in Emmerich’s “2012” where John Cusack is fleeing by plane a collapsing Los Angeles – is mitigated only by Goldblum’s witty comment about them “Always going for the landmarks” – the best line in the film.

Elsewhere, the story and screenplay – by an army of writers (never a good sign) – is risible and an insult to intelligence, alien or otherwise. The ludicrous plot points go on and on…
Why on earth is the single landed alien craft from 1996 owned by an African warlord? If mankind have ‘benefited’ so much from the alien technology that must surely have been through the UN-dismantling of that ship?
There seems to be no logical connection between the “visions” (stolen from “Close Encounters”) and the alien craft. The visions might have well have been of the alien’s last shopping list (“six cans of Kraag beans; one bottle of Vollufi ale; … “);
The alien craft is big enough to span the WHOLE Atlantic when it lands, but – who would believe it? – comes to a stop with its edge in Washington JUST ENOUGH to dip the White House flag to a jaunty angle. #cringe;
The alien ship – apparently open to the elements – allows our heroic hunks to wander around without spacesuits;

Breathless… or not. Jessie T Usher and Liam Hemsworth (foreground) not dying of asphyxiation or cold.
At one point it looked like our curvaceous heroine was going to defeat the alien queen in good ol’ Wild West fashion armed only with a handgun (but no, my head could come out of my hands again);
And don’t even get me started on the opening “excitement” about propping up a collapsing supergun on the moon with a spaceship. Gerry Anderson would be spinning in his grave.
The dialogue is little better. The original “Independence Day” was probably most famous for two scenes: the impressive destruction of the White House and Bill Paxton’s ludicrously corny “We will not go quietly into the night” speech. Here trying to go one better we have not just one version of this but two with William Fichner’s General Adams chipping one in from the rough before Paxton delivers an impromptu hanger speech that is toe-curlingly excruciating.

Much of the acting is of the “I really don’t want to be here but it’s good for the pension” variety with Paxton and Goldblum going through the motions and Charlotte Gainsborough being horribly miscast as a French anthropologist running around the world on the trail of Pokemon Go characters… or symbols… or something. Only Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch really get into their stride with likeably over-the-top performances.

Goldblum and Charlotte Gainsborough. A less likely historic romantic attachment its difficult to imagine.

If this was a standalone story it might scrape a double-Fad… but as it so horrendously sullies a classic movie experience it incurs my cinematic wrath. It might have made Roland Emmer-richer (sic)…. but my recommendation would be to get a big bag of popcorn, the original 1996 movie on DVD and enjoy. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
  
Space Plague
Space Plague
2021 | Abstract Strategy, Science Fiction, Space
When is the word “plague” ever a good thing? We as a people have endured several plagues and none of them could be considered super great. However, what if the term plague was merely that of endearment? What if, in a fantasy sci-fi world, a plague was merely a settler of new worlds? Now you can play as a plague and be inspired by the game’s tagline: “We are many, yet we are one. We are the plague.”

Space Plague is a new game from first time designers who hail from the country of Colombia. In it players assume the command of a race of aliens attempting to colonize a newfound planet before the other races assume majority. Each race is essentially the same, and have similar tactics, but may use these tactics differently from other races. The player who amasses the most plagues from their race by the time the game ends will be crowned champion, and settler of the new world.

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this review. These are preview copy components, and I do not know for sure if the final components will be any different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, as there are just too many. You are invited to download the rulebook, back the game through the Kickstarter campaign, or through any retailers stocking it after fulfillment. -T


To setup, follow the instructions, as there are many steps for setup. Once complete, the game should look similar to the photo below. You will see in this photo the main board at the top, the circular world core board (in black and red), and individual board setups for three players. Of course, for this review I will be playing the purple faction: The Flat-Earthers (not that I agree with the actual group of Flat-Earthers). Each player receives the same components, just in their player color. This includes six action cards to serve as the opening hand.
Each round follows four phases: Planetary Deck, Play Action Cards, Planetary Event, and March. On the main board a Planetary Event Card is flipped at the start of each round. This will inform the players which terrain type will generate energy this turn, as well as give a glimpse into the future event that will occur once the card travels to the activation zone on the board. Once players have placed energy shards onto the requisite terrain tiles they must each choose one card to be played this turn from their hand. As each player has the same six beginning Action Cards turns may seem similar. These action cards include Producing Plague (placing a plague disc on the space furthest from the end of the terrain tile line, on top of the picture of the player’s spaceship), Producing a Captain (a stronger version of the normal plague disc), Fast Movement (allows plague discs to move twice toward the core or two discs to move one space each), Slow But Steady (allows one plague disc to move forward one space OR allows the player to place a shield disc on top of a plague to protect it from harm), and Evolving OR Getting Lucky (which allows the player to purchase an Evolution Card from the Market or to roll the energy die and place energy shards on the resulting terrain type). More action cards can be purchased at the Market and used on future turns in order to buff certain actions, abduct opponent plagues, or even create new types of plagues with special abilities.

Once all players have played and resolved their action card for the round the Planetary Event phase begins. If an event card has moved its way to the activation zone of the main board its event text is resolved now. These events signify death of plague discs if they reside on specific terrain types, allow for purchasing cards at the Market or else destroying the plague furthest toward the core, or other various and nefarious events.

When the event has been resolved the active player token is passed to the next player and the March phase ensues. Players will move each of their plague discs one space toward the core to make room for more incoming plagues and captains.


Once the final event card has made its way through each of the main board slots and past the activation zone the game will end. Players will count their plague discs that made it onto the core of the planet and the player with the most discs will win! The rules also include several tie-breakers, ending with a shared victory and a snarky, “tough toothpaste,” style of comment.
Components. Again, this is a prototype copy of the game, and components are not at all final. However, component quality aside, this game looks amazing on the table and hints at some really excellent plans for the final aesthetic. The character art and art on the cards is cartoony, but not in a bad way, and the other art in the graphic design is just stellar (checks around the room for the hook). The game feels “spacey” and “alieny” but also hip and lighthearted. I like it. I like it a lot. My hope for the final product is that the rulebook gets much more detailed, as I had to ask several questions to the designer that just were not clear or present in the rules. I am also hoping that the cards themselves will see quite a bit of beefiness added to them, as this prototype copy shipped with mega-thin cards that are delicate to handle. For a prototype, the components are good and show me what could be upon a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The gameplay is definitely something I want to discuss. I was blown away by how much fun I had playing this game! I cannot count how many times I vocalized how impressed I was with the design and how much fun I was having. I love the mechanic of giving all players the same components but allowing them to choose how to use them best for their strategies. Sometimes I felt that I need to flood my track with plagues and get them moving, while other times I wanted to just upgrade my race by using the evolution cards from the market. Those evolution cards are so interesting to use because they can change the course of the game, especially if specific cards come out near the beginning of the game.

Players can choose which world they wish to conquer at the start of each game (five were included with this copy), and each world possesses different strategies of play. That said, Space Plague definitely scores points for replayability from us.

While it was difficult to get into at first (remember all the rules questions I had), once I was able to truly learn the game it became so enjoyable, and everyone I have played with has thoroughly enjoyed it. If this is the style of game we can expect to come out of Colombia and Bamboo Studios in particular, I am very excited for the future and for the board game community as a whole. This one is a gem and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are looking for something a little kooky but with great art and super fun play, then it’s a no-brainer. Space Plague is a must-play at the very least.
  
Xenohunters
Xenohunters
2021 | Horror, Science Fiction
What do you find absolutely terrifying? A great many things are on my list, and one of them happens to be the main theme for Xenohunters – heroes attempting to blow up a space station that has been overrun by hostile alien threats, but said aliens are adept at sneaking and can rise up just before you and deliver a deadly blow. I know I can’t be the only one shuddering at THAT thought. So when my friends over at Half-Monster Games contacted me about previewing their new game I knew I was in for one crazy ride.

In Xenohunters one player will act as the main alien force while the other players will divvy up the four hunter characters to oppose. The alien wins when the human threat is eliminated and the humans win once the alien threat is eliminated or once the space station has been blown up with a bomb and at least one human survivor leaving on the spaceship. Tensions run high and every being is on high alert. So let’s get into this! Pre-disclaimer: as this game has many delicate rules I will be giving a high-level overview of gameplay and more opinion on my plays at the end.

DISCLAIMER: We were provided a prototype copy of this game for the purposes of this review. These are preview copy components, and I do not know for sure if the final components will be any different from these shown. Also, it is not my intention to detail every rule in the game, as there are just too many. You are invited to download the rulebook, back the game through the Kickstarter campaign, or through any retailers stocking it after fulfillment. -T


To setup consult the rules until the table looks similar to what is shown below. Beware: this game does take up quite a bit of table real estate to plan accordingly and use “the big table.”
Xenohunters is played in rounds until one side has achieved their win condition, as explained above. The aliens, or “Xenos,” will take their turns first, and then the human squad is able to take theirs. Xenohunters offers a loose turn structure in that each character is allowed two or three actions to take, but the actions and the characters on each side may take turns and actions however they wish in any order they wish. So the Xenos could move Alien 1 (not the name given in the game), then activate something with Alien 2, and then two more actions with Alien 1 before Alien 2 completes their turn. And same goes for the human squad.

Much of the game revolves around movement within the space station, either visible or hidden. Players are able to use abilities, gain special cards, hatch alien eggs, move through the vents, block doorways, and bomb individual rooms on the path to victory. Once a human player is attacked and killed, they immediately switch sides and can be respawned as a Hybrid Spawn that belongs to the Xeno team. The remaining human players are now at a disadvantage toward satisfying their victory condition and have another alien hunting them down.


Play continues in this loose turn fashion until one side can claim victory and the game ends.
Components. Again, this is a rough prototype printed and assembled in house at Half-Monster Games, so it is possible that many of the components will look very different when finalized. That said, I truly enjoy the art style featured on many components, and though the game tone is very dark and brooding (not typically my style), the majority of component choices are well done and well suited for this style. I wish I could see a finalized version to truly comment on, but from what I was provided I believe the game will look amazing once complete.

Gameplay. This is where I wanted to spend most of my preview. This game reminds me of a cross between Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space, the wildly-popular (right? I don’t play it so I don’t really know) Among Us digital game, and most tabletop RPGs on the market. I make these comps because in the former, all movement is hidden until something bad happens. Here in Xenohunters movement is hybrid hidden and visible, but players should try to remain hidden as much as possible. The first game played did not value hidden movement as much and the Xenos won rather quickly by just barreling through the space station and unleashing hellish damage on the humans. In Among Us only the Impostor can travel through vents (right?) and here in Xenohunters only the aliens are able to use the vents initally; the humans will need a special item card in order to use the vents, and even then it is only one time.

Once a player meets on the same space as another player from the opposing team combat can begin. I comped RPGs as well, and combat in Xenohunters utilizes an Aim value that is like an AC of an opponent in that the die roll will need to meet or exceed the Aim value for the attacker or else no damage is dealt. Each Xeno and human has their own stats for Aim, Health, Carry, and Speed, which are all self-explanatory. Humans can use an action to Rummage at certain map locations in order to gain cards that are beneficial in combat, movement, additional actions, and even the coveted Bomb and Detonator cards. In this fashion I see influences from RPGs in Xenohunters.

So what do I think about the game? Well, I have never been great at hidden movement games, and while this one is not solely reliant on that one mechanic I am still bad at it. This does not at all diminish my enjoyment of the game, and I do quite like it. Xenohunters uses mechanics from other great games and employs them pretty well. Yes, the rules are always being improved, even from this point (I am using Rules v.0.9.6), but once this is complete I feel it will be an excellent game to have in one’s collection. I personally have zero games utilizing hidden movement mechanics, so this will certainly fill a niche in my collection that I have neglected.

I love the theme and premise of the game, and it seems ripe for expansions. I can see many new human characters that can be added, more maps and scenarios, and even more big bads being thrown in to increase the difficulty. I have no idea if these are planned at all, but Xenohunters is laying the groundwork for a bevvy of expansions that can be added. The artwork is great (though not final on all pieces), and I know Half-Monster Games is going to give it special treatment to make it really pop.

I am very much looking forward to monitoring the Kickstarter campaign for this one as I think it is an excellent concept and brings horror to the table without being overly graphic and gory. I will not be playing this with my son any time soon (he is four), but when he is old enough I will definitely be introducing him to Xenohunters. While I am not great at this game, I very much look forward to playing lots more and practicing my strategies so I can one day challenge Jack (the designer) at a convention… whenever those happen again.
  
Space Kraken
Space Kraken
2021 | Adventure, Book, Dice Game, Exploration, Horror
The overall story is not unfamiliar. Scientists create a genetically-modified creature to help solve a global problem, creature is somehow mutated through radioactive exposure, creature poses a threat to mankind, mankind must eliminate the creature. Now take that monster to space and BAM – we’ve got the origins on Space Kraken. Humanity has been forced to space in search of a new inhabitable planet. But alien races await you in the vast unknown, and the Space Kraken is always lurking…

Disclaimer: We were provided with a demo version of Space Kraken. The gameplay is that of the full version, just with a shorter storyline and fewer variations. What you see pictured below may not be identical to what will be received in the finalized version. Also, the game can be played solo or with multiple players – this preview will be covering the solo-only mode of play. I do not intend to cover the entire rulebook, but rather provide an overview of the mechanics and gameplay. -L

Space Kraken is a sci-fi dungeon crawler encompassed in a spiral-bound book. The only additional components you need are 2d6, 1d20, and a pencil with a decent eraser. To start a new game, you will first get set up for the campaign. There are 6 Flights (game modes) to choose from and you select one with which to play. Different Flights affect the start of game conditions, which will affect the overall gameplay. For example, one Flight might offer bonuses to your ability scores, while another could give you stronger weapons right from the start. Once you’ve selected your Flight, you will then set up your Story Lines. These will help dictate the story of your overall campaign, and will be influenced by your strategies and decisions along the way. From crucial plot points to opportunities for ‘side quests,’ the Story Lines work to drive the narrative. The next step is to create your crew. You choose 3 heroes to start with, and will ‘build’ them by giving them attributes, equipment, and skills. The specific parameters are detailed in the rules. After the crew is created, the game is officially ready to begin!

A game of Space Kraken is played over a series of turns, broken down into 5 phases. The first phase of a turn is to Activate Story Lines. These are tracked across a series of 4 tables of coordinates. Find the coordinate on the appropriate table for your Story Line, and proceed as necessary. Some coordinates link to Events that require you to make decisions, roll dice, execute commands, while other coordinates will just link to a new coordinate to be used next turn. Once you have Activated and resolved all your Story Lines for the turn, the game moves to the Ship Construction phase. At the start of the game, you will most likely skip this phase, but as the game progresses and you earn funds, you will be able to upgrade and modify your spaceship during this part of the turn.


The third phase of a turn is to Perform Your Own Action. You can choose to either: Initiate Space Flight, Land at an Already-Discovered Location, or Activate a Story Line Again. Initiating space flight gives you the opportunity to explore different regions of space, discover/explore new locations, and sometimes even engage in space combat. You could choose to land at an already-discovered location, which allows you to visit many of the ‘dungeons’. Or you can activate a story line again, which lets you advance one of your story lines forward. After you perform your own action, phase 4 begins – Quick Visit a Shop, Ammo Dealer, or Quest Master. This one is pretty self-explanatory. You can trade or purchase goods from locations you have visited, or you could visit the Quest Master for ‘side quests.’ And then finally the last turn phase is Quest Timer. Any quests you have that were not advanced in this turn get a mark for Lost Time – after 5 marks they are erased! So prioritize wisely when it comes to your quest completion. A new turn now begins, following the same phase structure as detailed above. The game continues until either you have defeated the Space Kraken, or your entire crew and/or ship has perished.
At first glance, Space Kraken is kind of daunting and intimidating. There’s a bit of a learning curve as you figure out this gameplay system before you can really dive in to play. That being said, once you understand how the different aspects work – Space Flight, Combat, Story Lines, Dungeon Exploration, etc. – it will all click together. This isn’t a game you just pick up and decide to play on a whim, it’s one that takes focus and dedication to complete a play-through. Just something to keep in mind! As with most campaign-style games, the question of replayability is always in the forefront, and I think that Space Kraken really handles it very well. The Story Lines alone offer a range of variability that ensures no two games will be the same. How you build your crew and ship could influence decisions made with regards to Story Lines, which in turn leads you down a unique path with a plethora of opportunities. The mechanic for generating new locations to explore (the dungeon crawling element) also provides a variety of places to explore, alien races to interact with, and physical elements like atmosphere. The chances for generating the exact same location more than once are pretty slim, I would say. All of these elements just add to the replayability of Space Kraken and keep it fresh and unique for each play-through.

Guiding the overall gameplay are your dice. Some Story Lines offer 2 solutions, and you will roll the dice to see with which one you end up. To generate a new location, you roll the dice a number of times, looking at the corresponding tables in order to build the map for your current foray into space. Obviously, combat, either in ships or on the ground, will use dice to help dictate the flow of battle and the outcomes of said fights. That is how you can get so much replayability from this game – dice rolling. The range of Story Lines and locations coupled with dice rolls really create a one-of-a-kind gameplay experience, no matter how many times you play through. You’ll never play the same game twice….well, unless your dice results are the exact same for every roll as they were the previous game.


Let’s touch on components for a minute. As stated above, this is only a demo version of the game. That being said, the game is encompassed in a spiral-bound book, and that is what the complete game will be like too. The only things you need to play besides the book are a couple of d6, a d20, and a pencil! I think it’s neat that so much gameplay can be packed into a single book. Between sessions if you’re not able to leave the book on your table, simply mark your page, fold everything back into the book, and you’re good to go! What do I mean by fold everything back into the book? Several of the pages in this game have fold-outs of additional materials to be pulled out when necessary. I really like that if you don’t currently need a page, it doesn’t need to be showing. It helps keep the game a little more focused, visually, in my opinion. My only complaint is that a couple of times, a fold-out section may overlap another fold-out section, meaning that you have to end up flipping pages anyway. A small price to pay for an all-in-one game book! My other qualm is that as you play, you will write in the book. After you complete a play-through, you can go back and play again – just erase everything and start over. My concern is that with repeated erasing on the pages, the quality will wear down and could be unusable after a certain number of plays. Maybe that’s not a problem for other gamers, but that is something that jumped into my head when playing this.
Overall thoughts? Space Kraken is pretty cool. There is a bit of a learning curve as you delve into the new system, but once you’ve got the general mechanics/gameplay down, the rest is pretty straight-forward. The fact that the entire game is encompassed in one book is a neat element too. It allows you to ‘save’ your progress and come back to it without the hassle of setting up a million components. Having only played the solo version of the game, I’m curious to see how the multiplayer side works, so that may just be my next play-through! If you’re in the market for a campaign-style game, without requiring tons of table space and eons of time to play through, consider checking out Space Kraken. It successfully funded on Kickstarter and the late pledges are now open!
  
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
2019 | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Another film ruined by Endgame's splendour
Contains spoilers, click to show
The Rise of Skywalker

Some endings are welcomed whilst others are heart-breaking and sudden, then there is this movie that closes a curtain that’s older than my very bones. In the time from 1977 there has been highs, lows and Jar Jar Binks a plenty and lots and lots of toys, lunchboxes and soap sets in all shapes of droids. The film itself opens and quickly reintroduces all the main characters and sets up the plot lines for each person and they embark on a path that is destined for them all to meet later. Kylo Ren is on a solo Gooniesesque mission to retrieve something darker than One Eyed Willies rich stuff with the aid of a Toblerone shaped virtual map. Helmetless and emotionless he encounters the Emperor you in fact is not dead but just chilling out with many engineers, Sith corpses and a big evil throne that he may use to do dark side Sudoku. Kylo Ren must kill Rey and then he and Palpatine might both crack a smile and take turns on the evil throne as all powerful rulers.
Is it a bird? Is it plane? Well its half bird in name alone it’s the Millennium Falcon doing what it does best and being chased and escaping for the numerous time but this time they are light speed jumping even though they are told not to, naughty naughty. Po and Finn get some gossip and head to the planet the Rebels are all hiding on to share their news. Enter the heroine its Rey in a new outfit and floating up high but failing to entice the Jedi spirits to appear but why would they this early on in a film. The hero’s all use the gossip from the Empire spy and Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO depart in the Millennium Falcon. Space trip!!!
They head for a Space desert that is like Mardi Gras with sand, it’s so lucky that these sandy terrains are common in space like they are common on Earth as Star Wars loves these arid landscapes. They get into a scrape as they always seem to do but with Stormtroopers being inept and despite being airborne, they now fail on both land and air to do anything other than being a source for explosions. C3-PO finally gets the chance to be of actual use but in his golden and splendid way he is unable to translate a Sith message orally and it remains unheard and unseen in his memory banks. Kylo Ren mentally Skype calls Rey and she forgets to turn off her location settings and he turns up. In the ensuing melee Rey turns up the bad ass levels and destroys an Empire ship containing the Wookie we all fell in love with Chewbacca. In a big fiery furball of fire he is gone, Rey is beside herself with regret and they all escape on board Not the Millennium Falcon. Another planet another mission to add to the collection sees the group hoping to find a brain surgeon to extract the Sith message from C3-PO. On planet Jim Henson we see a large collection of weird and wonderful puppets and cosplay experts. The downside of the brain surgery is it will format C3-PO to the factory settings so he can learn to be annoying to everyone all over again. A little shaved Mogwai turns out to be the master surgeon and he completes the job easily enough and they retrieve the message, but the worst fears are realised as C3-PO remembers no one.
From the furry flames Chewbacca, we find out is not dead but merely being pampered in the Empires many hair and nail bars. Sensing this fashion disaster waiting to happen Rey organises a rescue mission and they break into the Star Destroyer with relative ease until Poe, Finn are caught and assigned to death. Rey is on her own mission and breaks into Kylo Ren’s bachelor pad and has a look around and gets the Sith dagger and another Skype call from Kylo Ren is taken where he tells her some missing parts of her childhood and about her true lineage as a pesky Palpatine. The age-old Star Wars family is not who you think it is trope is wheeled out once more. Learning from her previous failures of her location services she refuses to tell Kylo but when the melted helmet of the original absent father Darth Vader falls at Kylo’s feet he knows she is in his room. Enraged in case he left any interspace porn lying around his room he quickly makes a run for his awesome ship.

With certain execution facing Poe, Finn and the now unlucky Chewie and the blasters set to wipe them out General Hux turns Rouge One and saves the heroes at the last second. With his turncoat and spy status ensured he shows his true childish colours and he wants Kylo Ren to lose because he has longer and hair on the darker side of black (maybe). Before allowing them to escape he asked for a blaster wound to give his story of them overpowering the guards some weight, surely a fool proof plan with your boss being able to mind read. He takes a blaster to the knee before hobbling to explain himself before being shot as the traitorous Rebel scum he is. If only he had lived long enough, he may have seen his wish come true. They well-travelled hero’s travel to space Astoria for another Goonies part of the quest where they see the remnants of the second Death Star and use the dagger doubloon to perfectly line up where the way finder is located. A big source of luck as the waves that engulf the planet and are crashing all around the wreck of the Deathstar have avoided any damage over the years. It’s deemed impossible to traverse the giant waves until morning but when Rey sees her opportunity she sails over the waves with relative ease while the rest of the heroes are chatting to a local about zero hour Strom trooper contracts and a lack of a good sickness benefit policy. As Rey makes it to the wreckage, she is met with Kylo Ren and they have a lightsaber battle after he smashes the way finder and asks her to join him in getting rid of Papa Palpatine and being the Sith power couple. Kylo seems to be building up the anger in Rey and trying to temp her to give in to her rage. Some great action shots and some force leaps make this a memorable fight scene until Leia ‘force times’ Kylo distracting him enough for Rey to become the victor. This is the last stand for Leia as she gives up the ghost and therefore becomes one of those ghost Jedi figures. With a sudden change of heart and with the wound barely open Rey uses her force healing abilities to fill Kylo’s hole right up before stealing his ship and leaving him stranded on Goonieland. With all this free time Kylo throws away his lightsaber and becomes Ben Solo once more and squeezes in a catch up with his old dad Han in dreamworld or memoryland.
Rey is now on a mission to destroy the Sith and the Emperor on the hidden planet now she has the map but only after setting Kylo’s sweet spaceship on fire and then realising her error. This impulsive nature may be leading to the dark side!! She heads to Exegol the Sith planet just as Palpatine is setting his sights on getting on with ending the Rebellion once and for all. If a job is worth doing its worth doing it yourself and orders the destruction of planet by a weapon that’s on each Star Destroyer. When Rey catches up with the Emperor, he is happy to see her and he invites her to strike him down, probably to become more powerful than we can imagine. Rey leaves a trail of cosmic breadcrumbs and she is followed by the resistance and they have a plan to take on the Final Order by destroying a central communication tower, so again a rather simple way to stop some heavy duty weaponry; the old classics are the best!!! It becomes a bit Star Wars of the Rings with space horses appearing and galloping to the rescue, not since the ill-fated days of the Phantom Menace has wildlife shocked me in such a manner. Back to the will she, won’t she, Rey and the Emperor are still wanting different things and Palpatine has invited the ghosts of Sith past to witness his greatest triumph. Rey has a choice of lightsaber’s due to Leia giving her an extra, maybe there was a reason for this!! Oh, wait Ben Solo has arrived lightsaberless what a stroke of luck!! Palpatine has had enough and he decides to drain both the Jedi’s of their life force and levels ups and gets back to rage mode and gets his lightning on. He dispatches Ben and then takes out the full resistance fleet with an impressive lightning show. Rey in her weakened state finally perfects the connection with the Jedi spirits that she failed at early in the film. Armed with the x-factor of crossed lightsabers she pushes the Emperor back and turns his own electricity and his face is melted off Raiders of the Lost Ark style. Ben then comes back into the mix and repays the force healing from earlier and gives Rey the gift of life followed by a kiss. This is a kiss of death literally and he fades away into nothingness. In scenes not seen since the Avengers help arrives when all hope is gone, and the fight is won by the good guys again.

I felt that this film was too fast paced and had too many storylines that were quickly explored and this was at a detriment to what could have been. Maybe on repeat viewing there will be the chance to slow down and explore the potential of the film. Some scenes were for the older generation and some were for the newbies to the galaxy far, far away and this again was at a cost to the whole experience. This all being said the watch was enjoyable and had its genuine emotional moments and humour was used to break the tension at times with C3-PO having a few choice lines for once.