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Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (Video Game)

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Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened reviewReviewed by Mr. Dark

Developed by Frogwares

Published by Focus Home Interactive

Platform: PC


I know what you’re thinking. Dark has lost it, he’s confused. What the hell does Sherlock Frickin’ Holmes have to do with horror? Why would I want to play as a prissy English bastard and his tubby comic relief sidekick, traipsing around the garden of some 19th century aristocrat who was found dead in a locked room?

I have one word for you that’ll explain everything: CTHULHU.

That’s right, this one is far removed from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s body of work, and is lodged directly in the pantheon of our beloved H.P. Lovecraft.

The setup here is simple, yet holds immeasurable promise: what if Holmes, the world’s greatest detective, ran across a Cthulhu cult many years prior to the good detective LeGrasse and his adventures detailed in Lovecraft’s most famous tale? That’s what happens here in The Awakened, and the tale is as good as the game, I’m thrilled to say.

Set years after Holmes’ supposed death, we find the master of observation bored and restless at 221B Baker St., lacking a challenge worthy of his mind. A simple and pedestrian case pops up when a local aristocrat finds his manservant missing. The manservant, a Pacific Islander immigrant who had not been in his employ for very long, is more than missing as you discover early in the game. He’s been taken, and there is some very interesting evidence at the scene in the form of some disturbing art scratched into the floor of his quarters and a mixture of exotic opiates seemingly designed to bring about hallucinations.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened reviewWhat starts so simply as a manhunt for a kidnapper takes a very dark turn with a shocking discovery at the docks on the Thames of a secret temple with horrific iconography, unknown texts, and a piece of an idol of a tentacled god … found at the feet of the remnants of a human sacrifice. The horribly mutilated corpse is the beginning of the horror, but not the end by any means.

What follows is a rousing adventure that takes us from the Thames to the continent, then eventually to America and the swamps of Louisiana. Holmes and Watson are eventually immersed deep within the realm of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, forced to reconcile Holmes’ firm grounding in reason with things that are far beyond the human mind’s ability to comprehend.

The writing here is top notch, as is the voice work. Even minor characters are well written and acted, keeping the player immersed in the story.

The technology involved in the game is also fairly revolutionary. Yes, this is an adventure game, with an inventory, conversation trees, and key hunts. However, it’s far from the standard point-and-click affair. The game uses a fairly advanced 3D engine, including Havok physics. While it includes standard logic puzzles and pixel hunts, it also uses physics-based puzzles as well as some real-time challenges similar to what one might see in an FPS; Sneaking around an asylum avoiding guards who are moving around on their own schedule, for example.

These features place the game at the top of the adventure crop, and well beyond the usual output of European adventure game studios. On a decent system, the engine is gorgeous, and the immersion that results is far superior to the traditional pre-rendered environs of a standard adventure title.

The only flaws in the title are those all-too-common in adventure titles. Some puzzles require bizarre leaps of logic to complete, you often wind up revisiting old locations looking for the one event required to move the game forward, etc. None of these are enough of an issue to avoid a recommendation, but they should be kept in mind by the prospective buyer. Have a walkthrough handy, several of which are out on the Net for the Googler to find.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened reviewThe star here, however, is the story. The game will please fans of Holmes as much as it will those who have no idea about the detective but adore the Cthulhu mythos. Several clever nods to the history of Holmes show up in the game, and for mystery fans in general. At one point, a cute cameo by another great detective of literature and his “little gray cells” pops up, for example.

When it comes to the Lovecraft side of the tale, the writers took a genius path here. You see, you never hear the name Cthulhu clearly. After all, if Holmes had come across that blatant of a reference to the Old One, wouldn’t he have continued tracking down the cult long before LeGrasse got to it? His exposure is limited, and we, as the player, are the only ones who completely understand what they are dealing with. By the end of the day, the human side of the horror is revealed, but we’re left with a resolution that both satisfies and leaves enough unanswered that this foray in re-writing the mythos doesn’t derail either the detective’s history or that of Lovecraft and his Elder Gods.

Most importantly this, amazingly enough, is a budget title here in the US, making it a very small investment even for those who don’t normally have an interest in adventure titles. For any fan of Lovecraft, I can definitely recommend the title as, if nothing else, an interactive new entry in the Cthulhu mythos.

4 out of 5

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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