Developed by Grimwood Team
Available on PC through Steam
Suitable for ages 14+
If you’re under the age of 30 and a self-described nerd, chances are you have taken part in a debate on whether or not video games are “art.” It’s one of those pointless, inapplicable debates, decided in the court of public opinion and without any lasting consequence. Anyone that takes it really seriously is just wanking about, as it’s been generally decided that yes, games can be art. Now it’s just up to the bespectacled meganerds to hash out the details for all eternity. Before you think I’m being needlessly harsh and overly critical, I actually taught a class on the topic for a few years. While I’ve written several dozen papers about the merits of various styles, titles, and modes of expression, I do realize that ultimately it doesn’t really matter.
Not to say that gaming shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are some beautiful games out there that can move hearts and change minds with the best sculptures, paintings, and films. What is a waste of time is valuing a game just because it attempts to be art. Enter stage right, World of One.
I think we need a term for games that are banking on their indie art cred to move copies and hoover up positive reviews from wannabe critics. In the german tradition of just smashing clauses together to make something new, I’m going to coin the term “feelscore.” A feelscore game is one where actual gameplay is secondary, glaring design flaws are expected to be overlooked, and game breaking bugs come stock standard. But for some reason we are supposed to forget all this, because the game has an edgy subject matter and quirky art style. Sorry, am I showing my hand too early, World of One?
I suppose I should actually tell you what World of One is before I start taking shots at it from my ivory tower. World of One is an atmospheric hardcore puzzle-platformer brawler with planet-based physics and a grim papercraft artstyle. In a nutshell, it’s Super Mario Galaxy mixed with Dark Souls and Limbo all smeared in blood.
How could an indie game that’s only $7 deliver on all of these promises in equal measures? Well of course it doesn’t. The physics are inconsistent, combat terrible, and puzzles confusing. Even the blood gets a bit silly when it is decorating the same patch of land for the billionth time. Which it will be, because World of One is very very hard.
Now take note that I said hard, not challenging. I’ve had considerable debate with people over the difference between “hard” and “challenging,” and boy oh boy if I don’t have another bullet in the chamber for that argument. Games like Dark Souls and Counter-Strike are challenging, where the onus of failure is entirely up to you for just not being good enough. Games like World of One are hard because they are broken. From the intolerable combat to the game breaking bugs, I struggled to get through World of One for all the wrong reasons.
I’ll just go through my issues in the order I already arbitrarily brought them up. The physics in this game are unforgivably shoddy. On face value it makes sense: you are on a circular world, so you jump on a little curve. Smaller planets and competing gravitational pulls will lead to longer jumps. It works in an incredibly fluid game like Super Mario Galaxy, but in World of One it just feels like I’m trying to nudge a medicine ball around with an oar. I got killed several times because—while I could properly factor in the rotation of the planet, the hang time of the bounce, and my own personal momentum—I couldn’t account for just how long it would take for my command to move left to actually compel the character to move left. And let’s not even get into the three times I had to restart a level because I got locked into a fall animation on a ledge like Wile E. Coyote in his own personal purgatory.
The combat is ass. It’s a whole portion of ass slapped between two loaves of ass slathered in ass and served up with a side of ass. You have two attacks: a light attack that you will never use, and a heavy attack that stunlocks almost everything. Sounds easy enough, but that’s when the shit actually works. So many times my attacks would go sailing through the enemy because the tip of my shovel didn’t connect with the few pixels that made up their actual hitbox. You die in one hit, so any kind of fuckup makes you go back to the last checkpoint. The checkpoints are in their own separate category of ass, and when I died because the lords of hitboxes weren’t properly satisfied with my morning sacrifice it’s just constant servings of crap being forced down my throat.
The puzzles are the game’s high point. Most of the time. Overall, I was pleased with how simple and intuitive most of it was. There isn’t much in the way of hand holding, so you feel genuinely clever when you figure out some of the harder ones. There’s one puzzle in particular that requires you to die, and it made me giddy in that oldschool way where games weren’t afraid to make you think way outside of the box.
That being said, there is outside of the box, and then there is taking the box, mailing it to Spain, changing your address, and filing a restraining order against the box. There are two puzzles in particular that I am thinking of. One involved guessing a number, which was solved with the most obtuse clue imaginable. It was nowhere near the puzzle, and had absolutely no indication it was related. I actually had to message the devs and ask for a solution. Another time, the solution to the puzzle for some reason spawned outside of my visible range. I’ve seen previous versions of the game in videos, and apparently the hint at some point was moved. This must have been a mistake, as I cannot possibly imagine why they would put the hint you need behind the door that the puzzle opens. Either it’s terrible design or completely broken.
But we’re all supposed to forget this, right? World of One is ART after all. There are plenty of games I love that make up for severe mechanical shortcomings with storytelling. Hell, I just gave Get Even a 4.5/5! I know that the decent visuals and edgy vibe are going to make this game call out to the souls of some particularly hxc teenagers, but World of One is not art.
From the get-go, it’s clear that the actual world of World of One is a metaphor. You play as some dude with a haircut straight from a Tim Burton inspired anime fan film, who’s traveling between these perilous planets in pursuit of a mysterious shade. Symbolic journeys through the soul are pretty standard for feelscore games, and a lot of them do it well. The problem is that World of One just has nothing to say. If you’re going to do an introspective look into tragedy and the nature of guilt, you have to have a plot twist that people can relate to. I won’t spoil anything, but the big reveal at the end feels like it was ripped from a high school edgelord’s blog.
The best thing about World of One is that it’s $7. They have mostly fixed the bugs at this point (I’m reviewing it so late because there was one glitch that prevented me from finishing), so if you’re really bored and set your expectations low enough you can easily get your money’s worth. It’s bad, but it isn’t cancerous. And it certainly isn’t a soulless cash grab. It’s obvious that Grimwood Team wants to make something good. They just didn’t. Better luck next time.
Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own
Directed by Adam Green
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.
Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.
Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.
Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.
In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.
Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.
Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.
Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.
Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.
While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.
Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.
The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.
But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.
So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.
Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.
Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
- Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
- Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
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