Jotun: Valhalla Edition

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher:
Thunder Lotus Games
Music:
Max LL (Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis)
Platforms:
PC, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released:
September 29th 2015
Genre:
Action, Adventure

Narrative

The story follows Thora, a dead Viking woman who died by drowning on the freezing Nordic seas. Odin was disappointed in her inglorious death and she is granted a second chance to redeem herself. She must travel through the realms of the Gods and defeat a series of different Jotun who are giant, powerful, Norse elemental beings of nature and chaos. She must defeat these Jotun in order to impress Odin so she may enter Valhalla. Jotun starts in an incredible forest landscape where you are carefully guided to a mountainous peak where a gorgeous cinematic view of the world beneath Thora unfolds. Through Thora’s journey she must find runes that unleash the Jotun and fight for her right of passage to Valhalla. Through out her journey she battles massive bosses, showcasing extraordinary animations that as exquisitely hand drawn.

There are nine stunning levels to explore where you as the player are guided by beautiful Icelandic voice acted dialog that impart detailed lore of Viking mythology. This coupled with a phenomenal musical composition will have you totally engrossed with her fate. There is much to love and learn about this story which educates you on the historical relevance of Norse mythology and experiences that lead Thora through epic battles for honour and glory. There is a lot of environmental story telling where the camera pans out so you can see from a bird’s eye view the surrounding land and words of lore delivered to you by the protagonist herself.

Gameplay

Jotun is a single player game where you play as Thora. She carries a huge axe that is your primary weapon which you can swing repetitively at large groups of enemies or take a huge swing with a longer build up that deals greater amount of damage with a single blow. I did find that the movement felt a bit staggered and jarring, I couldn’t move smoothly in battle or dodge enemies I always felt there was a slight delay with each mechanic I played out. I found this especially frustrating during boss battles when I was grinding my way through the challenge. Throughout game play you gain extra abilities granted to you by the Gods that you can cycle through and select which ones to use for specific situations, some of these abilities heal you or create diversions allowing you to attack from behind.

At some points I found there to be an absence of enemies to engage with, sometimes being bored while traversing breathtaking landscapes, there was little to interact with while on my journey to each rune. In some cases, there was a lacking guidance about which areas are best to tackle first as there is no set order for each area and some of them can be much harder than others. In some instances, this can be good for the players that enjoy exploring and moving at their own pace however for me personally I do like a bit of hand holding and felt lost a times. In saying that the boss battles are outstanding both requiring patience and strategy to defeat which left victory feeling oh so sweet.

Music

The voice acting does a marvellous job of painting the harsh picture of the Viking world, setting wondrous atmospheric tension that transports you to the hostile and unforgiving universe of the Norse Gods. The music is cinematic and up roaring with intense orchestral builds that make you feel like you’re the centre piece of this legendary adventure. As you reach panicle moments of game play the music syncs perfectly which makes everything feel seamless and natural. All the sound effects are thick, chunky and appropriately wet when slicing giant vines which makes sense given that Thora is axe swinging Viking. This is an added extra for when you’re in a boss battle and the demonic like sounds of a Jotun come raging, then there’s the cranked-up bass for their attacks making every boss encounter feel tremendous.

The Experience

Jotun is a visually stunning game from the frozen waste lands to volcanic underground there is a unique design adding flavour with each endeavour. The music is epic, pairing nicely with the aesthetics of each realm and battle undertaken. I was truly mesmerised by this Viking world where the story transports you to a time when a bloody death was your path to eternal rest. The animations stole my heart and transfixed me, even when I had struggled to defeat a boss repeatedly, I still relished the moments I got to see them emerge from their place of slumber for the hundredth time. I highly recommend Jotun for those players that enjoy rich story and visual design these being my personal highlights. I was not disappointed playing my first Thunder Lotus game and it definitely won’t be my last.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on January 22nd 2020

Studio Ghibli comes to Netflix

Netflix Australia has picked up 21 Studio Ghibli films

From Princess Mononoke to My Neighbour Totoro starting in February through to April. Each film will be rolled out for Netflix subscribers in Europe, America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Until recently Studio Ghibli refused to have digital copies of its content however last month began selling downloadable copies. Warner Media announced that it had been granted US streaming rights for the launch of HBO Max later in the year. For now, Studio Ghibli films are exclusive to Netflix and Netflix is going to provide subtitles in 28 different languages as well as dubbed versions for 20. The first wave of releases drops on the 1st of February and includes: Castle in the Sky, My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday, Porco Rosso, Ocean Waves and Tales from Earthsea.

Almost every Triple A game set to release this year has been delayed

Doom Eternal has been delayed to the same date as Animal Crossing: New Horizons on March 20th and Resident Evil 3 Remake will be released in April. Final Fantasy VII Remake has been pushed from March to April, Square Enix have also delayed Marvel’s Avengers from May to September. The most heartbreaking of all Cyberpunk 2077 originally planned for April has now been pushed to September as well as Iron Man VR was set to release in February and is now moved into May. With many studios feeling the pressure to deliver there is speculation around the level of crunch these developers are going through to meet such strenuous back to back deadlines. Hopefully we don’t experience to many more delays and that developers are taking care of themselves as well as getting to play the most polished versions of these games later in the year.

The 2020 Global Game Jam

Which starts on the 31st of January and will run until the 2nd of February. The Global Game Jam is the world’s largest game jam event which takes place around the world at different physical locations. This is an opportunity for game developers and alike to be creative, share experiences and express themselves in a multitude of ways using the interactive medium of video games. The event runs for 48 hours and encourages all kinds of people with different backgrounds to get involved. In 2019 there was over 860 locations in 113 countries creating over 9,000 games. Australia has many different locations where you can participate such as Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston, Northbridge WA and Canberra. If you’d like to check out a location that suits you best, click on the link for more details here.

They Breathe

Developer: The Working Parts
Publisher: The Working Parts
Music: The Working Parts
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Android, iOS
Released: 2014
Genre: Horror, Adventure

Narrative

The game starts off with you being . a lonely frog floating on a little piece of driftwood. The water is full of branches and debris almost as if the aftermath of a tsunami or natural disaster. As you do what frogs do, jump in the water and swim around. Using small air bubbles that float up to get oxygen, allowing you to swim around for an indefinite amount of time. Out of nowhere you hear sounds coming from the depths  calling you… 

This is where your story beings, as you dive further and further down; you start to encounter other frogs who are barely breathing but also something more devious. A weird and scary jelly moose(A mix between a jellyfish and a moose). You push on down trying to save your frog friends while also trying to survive the vicious attacks from  the jelly moose. All while trying to figure out,  “why are my frog buddies coming up from below?”

Gameplay

They Breath focuses heavily on its  narrative. The whole point of the game is to push on and try to figure out why things are like they are. It puts you in to a 2D perspective and slowly pans the camera down section after section as you venture. . In each section you are met by a threat, jelly moose, having to save a frog buddy or both at the same time. But it also tells the story of what happened through its background image, hand feeding the story as you go.

The game title: They Breath tells us the gist of the game right away. Oxygen is a big part of this experience. mall little air bubbles pop up from the bottom of your 2D screen throughout the experience. There isn’t an abundance of them, every  bubble you consume is one less for your frog buddies who need it to survive as well. However the jelly moose need them too and will try to get them. The game quickly turns into a melee of trying to survive by avoiding drowning, while also forcing you to make the choice should I try to save my buddies? 

Music

The music score for they breath is fantastic, offering up an eerie vibe as you dive into the darkness. This is not however the part that impressed me the most while playing this experience. What impressed me was the games excellent use of sound effects. Being drawn in by the sounds coming from the depths, being able to tell right away that it is something dark and mysterious that you need to find. Getting flash hints every now and then just makes you want to continue even though the atmosphere grows darker, damper and scarier. 

I was especially taken aback by the sound of the jelly moose drowning as they did not get the oxygen they needed. The effects made me feel bad for them although I knew I had to survive. To me it is one of the things that makes the mechanic of the air bubbles feel the way they do. . Because every time you hear a jelly moose go from drowning too quiet you realize that oxygen is a rare and precious thing.

The Experience

Overall the game brings a terrifying, mysterious but also satisfying experience. The game tells its story and narrative in a short and sweet way (taking only 20 minutes to complete) and never leaves anything untold.  The game play fits the story perfectly and truly makes you feel like the things you are doing makes  sense. Although not out right forcing you to make decisions it definitely asks you to make them. Without spoiling too much, in the end the choices you made directly or indirectly  made play a part in how things turn out. The game’s atmosphere was captivating thanks to both beautiful music score and horrifyingly great SFX. Building a sense of awe and wonder while also keeping the horror around something that most people have experienced at one point or another, the dark depths of water.

Reviewed by William Haumann @William_Haumann on January 15th 2020

Halo: Reach Master Chief Collection

Developer: Bungie & 343 Industries
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Music: Martin O’Donnell & Michael Salvatori
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Released:  Original release on September 14, 2010 re-released on December 3, 2019
Genre: FPS (First Person Shooter)
Game Modes: Single Player, Co-op & VS, Casual & Hard
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1064220/Halo_Reach/

Narrative

Set in the year 2552 humanity has gone to war with the alien Covenant. The Covenant are the main antagonist throughout the Halo universe and in some cases have even been an ally to Master Chief however they are your greatest threat again in Halo: Reach. You play as the character called Nobel Six who joins as a member of an elite Spartan squad. As this happens the human planet known as Reach falls after coming under attack from the Covenant.

You start the game with seeing planet Reach destroyed, whilst having flashes to a time before the devastation from the Covenant invasion. You are then introduced to your new Spartan squad called Nobel Team, and you as the main protagonist are called Nobel Six or just ‘Six’ in some cases throughout the game. The main objective throughout Halo: Reach is to rid the planet of the Covenant invasion and restore the human colonies. Sacrifices are made and there are many emotional moments that affect Nobel Team that help inspire you as Nobel Six to vanquish the alien armies from Reach. Without giving away too much you must play in order to know the rest.

Halo: Reach is a direct sequel to Halo: Combat Evolved. Taking influence from the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach where humans under the command of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) who have been battling the forces of the Covenant for a long time. The planet Reach has fallen and lost almost all of the human inhabited colonies. Reach is a very Earth like human civilisation including it’s natural landscapes, environment and it’s ecosystems are strong enough to support life aside from just flora and fauna.

Gameplay

You play from a first person perceptive throughout the campaign only during certain moments throughout such as; using a stationary machine gun or driving a vehicle will you shift into third perspective. The vehicles such as Ghosts, Wraiths and of course the Warthog are the same as Halo: Combat Evolved. You can play the main campaign solo or cooperatively which is always a nice feature that is throughout the Halo franchise.

Some new things to the Halo universe is spaceship dog fighting. There are moments where you pilot a craft that defends a UNSC mother-ship from Covenant crafts on the attack. This mechanic is new and refreshing it adds that extra layer of diversifying the game’s experience. There are also power ups that are new such as; Jet packs, Sprint, Camouflage, Holograms, Drop Shield, and Armour Lock. All these abilities are optional secondary abilities that you can collect as drops throughout each level and swap out for a different one depending on your play style. There is also the old weapons from Halo: Combat Evolved however they have a fresh feel and as well as some new ones that can be useful in certain terrain or for specific fights.

You can also now customise your Spartan with this cool new feature, something you might notice early on is that other members of the Nobel Team have cool new Spartan looks. You as the player also have that opportunity to make yourself look the way you want, but first you have to unlock each piece of your new look by completely challenges or reaching achievements.

Most of the game play feels very similar to Halo: Combat Evolved which isn’t a negative thing, you play in a team unit with Nobel Team, as opposed to the lone wolf lifestyle that players are used to with Master Chief. There are moments where you do go solo for various reasons such as if you decide to skip ahead of the team or if the narrative leads you in that direction.

The Experience

During combat I always feel like a badass, I’m not the best aim in FPS games, in saying that whenever I play a Halo game I always feel that I kick some serious butt, that same feeling applies to Halo: Reach. The new secondary abilities are a nice mix up from the tradition mechanics of Halo and I really enjoyed trying out different things, such as the jet pack and the drop shield really came in handy when I was up against a large swarm of Covenant.

The dog fighting for me was a really big highlight. I loved the feeling of flying through space and shooting down the enemy, whilst also pulling cool aerial stunts to dodge projectiles. The developers did a wonderful job creating a some what ‘Star Wars’ feel with the space battles and that sensation of zooming through space. That coupled with a great narrative meant that I felt really determined to defend against the Covenant and bring it home for humanity.

Story wise it is very compelling there are some real gut wrenching moments that add such great tension and the delivery was fantastic I was never disappointed by cut scenes they were super action packed, which provoked some really big “OOH RAA!” moments.

I highly recommend playing Halo: Reach especially now with it’s really slick 4K graphics and the ability to revert back to it’s original design is fantastic, it was very nostalgic to be able to play things at different qualities, it truly gave a nice perspective on how far the Halo franchise has come since my teenage years.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on January 8th 2020
Images: https://halo.bungie.net   https://halo.fandom.com