How the Battletoads Defined Rare and the Industry

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“Rare’s future was set by what the Battletoads did. They paved the way for the infamously crude Conker’s Bad Fur Day’s obsession with fecal humor. Blood sprays and sexual jokes defined Rare’s résumé by late 1994’s Killer Instinct. Saturated color schemes seemed laid out for Rare’s upcoming litany of Nintendo 64 3D classics, like Banjo Kazooie and Jet Force Gemini, or better still their oddball Xbox 360 animal corralling simulation, Viva Pinata. The Battletoads’ legacy was crucial.”

Read my full look back at Battletoads on Playboy

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Streets of Rage 2’s Conservative Side

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“There are no politics to Streets of Rage 2. A syndicate wants this city for, well, reasons. It’s not even clear why. In Final Fight, Metro City mayor Mike Haggar is one of the playable characters who takes to the streets to clean them up, punching the trope of the “do-nothing” politician square in its jaw; then again, maybe that is Streets of Rage 2’s point: the heroes ignore the system of on-the-books police work to defeat corruption from the ground up. That corruption was likely brought about in the first place by inept leadership—how else does a city succumb to this scenario twice (and a third time by Streets of Rage 3)?

So let the citizens do the work. Remove the government influence. In that way, Streets of Rage 2 is deeply conservative, or rather as conservative as something this crudely violent and goofy can be. The foursome are not pandering to a droll anti-capitalist narrative, and Streets of Rage 2 is thus unprecedented. Few other games are optimistic to this degree. Further still, nothing in the genre has matched its style, look, ideas, or bravery yet. How unique a classic this is.”

Read my full look at Streets of Rage 2 on Playboy

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Until Dawn (PS4) Review

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“At worst, Until Dawn does not know what it wants. There’s the main killer, the flamethrower madman, ghostly activities, pasty clawed creatures, and a twist equivalent to an implausible Scooby-Doo episode. To bunch the sub-genres as a catch-all, Until Dawn will push an uncalled for, once dormant mental health trope. Chapters rummage through the remains of a crumbling 50’s era psychiatric hospital, turning a character into a rambling, googly-eyed nut tripping on supposed after-effects of PTSD. It would be out of place as a straight-jacketed caricature in the 1940s let alone 2015.”

Read my full review of Until Dawn at GameSkinny

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Toy Soldiers: War Chest Review

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“Under new publisher UbiSoft, War Chest has bloated itself into a gross anti-consumer platform which, in its own way, does capture the essence of being a child. With War Chest’s cover art plastering images of He-Man and G.I. Joe, playing as those characters requires a separate DLC purchase. They’re $5. Each. While their worlds/levels are playable and their theme songs blare, controlling those ’80s era legacies is considered a post-purchase, paid privilege. Toy Soldiers teaches war games as much as it does how corporations design their toy sales and marketing to exploit demographics.”

Read my full review of Toy Soldiers: War Chest at GameSkinny

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Rare Replay Review

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“Characters such as theirs were few. They had charm, they had an animated fervor, and certainly they had personality. Even when pixel counts didn’t allow for any of it, Rare’s gift of ingenuity made it work. Their romps on the ZX Spectrum defined not only Rare, but much of European game design. Stubby, bouncy, and often laborious platform and isometric games were key exports…

Europe was swamped with them, always pinched by the restraints of home computers of the early ’80s. Japanese designers focused on precision. European designs were about the identity, precision be damned.”

Read my full review of Rare Replay at GameSkinny

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Home Blu-ray Review

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“Home breaches a race barrier which has impacted mainstream animation with few exceptions, say Disney’s Princess & the Frog. Importantly, Home treats the scenario without drawing attention to it. Demographics are not split, nor does Home feel inaccessible to anyone. Its culture is safely middle class. Of course, kids won’t notice because kids won’t care – unless they’ve been told to.”

Read my full Blu-ray review of Home at DoBlu

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Barely Lethal Blu-ray Review

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“Barely Lethal does nothing with its premise. It neither rips the foundation of the teen comedy to pieces nor establishes a base to break from a male-dominated action scene. Scenes are shot as if for a Nickelodeon special. The falsely feminine, dreamy haze is obnoxious rather than suitable. Maybe a female director would have shifted the tone. As it sits, Kyle Newman, who lensed the successful geek road trip Fanboys in 2009, seems caught in the same world. Barely Lethal is written so the geek inevitably gets the girl.”

Read my full Barely Lethal Blu-ray review at DoBlu

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