Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    Amblin TV’s Rashomon Series Acquired by HBO Max

    Amblin TV’s Rashomon Series Acquired by HBO Max It’s been two years since word first broke that Amblin TV was developing a series adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s acclaimed drama Rashomon and now the studio has revealed it is partnering with HBO Max for the forthcoming project. RELATED: Amma Asante to Helm Series Adaptation of Smilla’s Sense of Snow “I am delighted to work with Amblin Partners and HBO Max to reimagine Rashomon for today’s audience,” Hisao Kurosawa, son of the iconic director, said in a statement. “I am excited to see my dad’s vision through this inspirational story kept alive and made accessible to a new generation.” The series, which is being penned by Oscar nominees Billy Ray (The Comey Rule) and Virgil Williams (Mudbound), will not be a direct adaptation of the 1950 classic but rather will retain its key plot device of a drama centering a grisly sexual assault and murder and unraveling the mystery through the characters’ competing narratives over the course of a ten-episode series set in the modern day. “Truth has become increasingly fractured in this age of cable news and social media’s “say it and it’s true” culture,” Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, Amblin Partners’ Co-Presidents, said in a statement. “Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece was not just a murder mystery; it was a revolution in storytelling, as cinema’s most impactful and influential early exploration of subjective points of view and flawed narration. Seventy years after the film’s release, the legacy of Rashomon is indisputable and its central themes more relevant than ever. Our series will honor the impact of the original work and explore the age-old concept of objective truth versus subjective perspective in our modern times.” Click here to purchase the Criterion Collection edition of Kurosawa’s classic! Frank and Falvey (The Americans, The Haunting of Hill House) are attached to executive produce the series alongside Mark Canton (Power) of Atmosphere Entertainment, Leigh Ann Burton of Opus7 Entertainment and David Hopwood (Den of Thieves), with SVP of Television Development Todd Cohen set to oversee the day-to-day development of the project. “It takes a lot of hard work to make the stars align and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to create an original take on Rashomon—a masterpiece from a true genius of cinema—for new audiences, with the full support and blessing of the Kurosawa family,” Canton said in a statement. “Not only that, but to be doing so in partnership with my friends and colleagues at Amblin Television, as well as the brilliantly talented Billy Ray and Virgil Williams, is truly the convergence of hard work and good fortune that every producer hopes for.” The original film, co-written by Kurosawa and Shinobu Hasimoto and directed by the former, revolves around the rape of a bride and the murder of her samurai husband and sees the story told from four different perspectives, that of a bandit, the bride, a woodcutter and the ghost of the samurai. It received rave reviews from critics worldwide except for those from its country of origin and is widely considered as the first to put Japanese filmmaking onto the world stage, winning several awards including an Academy Honorary Award at the 24th Academy Awards in 1952 and consistently appears on numerous lists for the best films of all time. RELATED: Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Reboot Series Ordered at HBO Max Kurosawa’s previous work has been adapted for international audiences before, with Seven Samurai becoming the 1960 western classic The Magnificent Seven and Yojimbo acting as both an inspiration and source material for numerous works, including the official remakes A Fistful of Dollars, which spawned its own trilogy starring Clint Eastwood (The Mule) in the lead role, and Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis (Death Wish), as well as influencing an episode of the acclaimed animated series Samurai Jack.

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