Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbols Adventure (PS4, PSV) – A Review


co20e3If you had asked me within the past decade, “Do you think the ‘Brick Breaker’ genre could make a comeback?”  I would have dismissively said, “No.” That being said, I definitely made an err in judgement. “Twin Breaker: A Sacred Symbol Adventure” by Lillymo Games is simultaneously a wonderful throwback to an era in video games long lost to the annals of time as well as clever modernization of the genre for a new era.

First let us rewind the clock a bit— Brick Breakers are at their core a sub-genre of the 1972, arcade (and early home consoles’) classic, “Pong.”  Four-years later, Nolan Bushnell and Steve Bristow, would refine the bat-and-ball premise with “Breakout,” which besides having a ball and paddle incorporated bricks to destroy in order to rack-up a high score.  Many years later a game aptly named, “Brick Breaker,” would truly cement the sub-class’s moniker, however, even with its eponymous name it is still deemed a ‘Breakout Clone.’

“Twin Breaker” takes the history and nostalgia of “Breakout” (and others—like 1986’s Arkanoid) and pays loving homage, while also adding in a lacquer of polish to an otherwise archaic mold.  “Twin Breaker” captures the chirpy, chiptunes that always accompanied older games, the (nearly) everlasting pixel art aesthetic, and the arcadey action of “Breakout.” It does so with ease, but if it were to merely clone an arcade title that has been duplicated so many times before, “Twin Breaker” would have been left wanting.  Instead, it brings the genre into a new decade by adding in modern sensibilities.  

Not only does “Twin Breaker” take a tried-and-true genre and bring it to 2020, but it does so with smashing success.

Colin Moriarty, (one of the developers of “Twin Breaker,” owner/founder of Colin’s Last Stand, and co-host to a plethora of podcasts including “Sacred Symbols”) wrote a fantastic, science-fiction narrative to pair with an already solid title.  It is exploratory in its palaver with the audience as it provides humor with more-serious underpinnings and motifs. Conveyed via splash screens and dialogue bubbles between Colin and Chris (the two protagonists of the game), it dissects a very real possibility of Earth’s place in the universe and how humanity’s interactions with one another could aid or hinder the celestial hierarchy without any of us truly knowing.  

Pretty weighty stuff, eh?  Don’t be too alarmed by the story.  It isn’t unnecessarily filled with jargon or high end philosophical stances; it merely expresses these issues as a framework, while the more tongue-in-cheek humor in the dialogue fleshes out the rest of the story.  That being said, if you wanted to dive headlong into the lore of this universe, there are codexes to unlock that further the player’s understanding of the world that they are experiencing. Playing a Brick Breaker that includes a narrative is rare and perhaps unheard of— The story and dialogue do not feel needlessly tacked onto an already decent ”Breakout” clone.  The story uplifts and fits snugly within the gameplay and vice-a-versa.

In addition to the inclusion of a narrative, “Twin Breaker” also works in innovative gameplay mechanics that keeps the pacing and moment-to-moment action thrilling and incredibly viable.  Every ten levels (in the 40 level campaign) features a unique boss battle, which work masterfully in the game’s pacing of difficulty. Halfway through “Twin Breaker,” two pairs of paddles are introduced, resulting in my favorite line of the game delivered by Colin’s “Sacred Symbol’s” podcast co-host, Chris, “This should make things a little easier.” (F.Y.I. It doesn’t).  However, this gameplay addition provides more difficulty and increases tension, which ultimately applies a nice little twist to the level designs that implement this feature. 

4-Paddles

In addition to the narrative, bosses, and refreshing nature of the game mechanics, this $9.99 digital package also includes several different gameplay modes which include: Marathon, Pong, Random, Shooter, Catcher, and Boss Rush modes.  You can check out how all of these modes function by watching our ASInquisitor Twitch stream VOD, which has been edited and uploaded to YouTube by clicking the link here: Let’s Play – Twin Breakers: A Sacred Symbols Adventure

“Twin Breaker” is a steal at $9.99 on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita (after all “Sacred Symbols” is in reference to Sony’s famous iconography emblazoned across their controllers), but that ten-dollar purchase will net you both copies because it is a cross-buy transaction.  Now onto the trophies: There are technically two separate trophy lists depending on which copy of the game you play, so even though each individual trophy is identical to its counterpart, you have the opportunity to achieve two platinum trophies. As a PS4 and Vita owner, I found this to be particularly enticing.  Personally, I find the trophy list to be fair, but still challenging. It will take you approximately three-hours to complete the campaign and perhaps 7-to-9 hours in total to achieve that coveted platinum trophy.

I highly recommend “Twin Breaker,” especially if you grew-up with arcades and classic home consoles.  It scratches a particular itch that not a lot of other games can reach. In our first ever review score for ASInquisitor, my lovely “Rage Quit” podcast co-host, Ariel, and I give it 4.5 ‘Polar Bear Paws’ out of 5. 

“Twin Breaker” gleefully harkens back to a golden era of arcades and Ataris with just the right amount of modernity.

Book review: “The Martian” by Andy Weir (2012/2014)


The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am a vivacious reader, but very rarely am I truly surprised by a book. I spend most of my time reading books to edit for others, ARCs and galleys to review, or graphic novels and comic books for pleasure and review. Like all writers and readers, I have my tastes. Science fiction, fantasy, and action-adventure are some of my favorite genres, but because I critically analyze these genres, and I read an immense of content, I don’t often stumble upon a novel that captivates my attention by providing a high-quality read with the excitement of a new creativity. “The Martian” by Andy Weird delivers. It is riveting and fresh. It is reminiscent of highbrow science fiction films, but layered with nuance that only a novel can achieve.

I received “The Martian” as a galley via Crown Publishing Group—which is an imprint of Random House—and I chose “The Martian” based solely on its synopsis:

“Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?”

It plucked at my sensibilities in an abstract and I immediately requested it. It arrived a scant week later. I was graced with an ornate hardcover, a beautiful smell, and a gorgeous slipcover with an astronaut caught in Martian sandstorm. The colors are vibrant— Orange and red with a hint of a white spacesuit caught in the throws of survival.

In a word: Exquisite

“The Martian” follows NASA astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and a mechanical engineer, on the third manned mission to Mars, Ares 3. The novel begins with a bang. Readers are not privy to the mission setup, crew members, landing, and the circumstances to Watney’s predicament. Without ruining the suspense and discovery, Watney is presumed dead and left on Mars (when in fact he is not) and is forced to survive on Mars without any means of communication till interplanetary comms can be reestablished or the next Ares mission arrives…four-years in the future.

The rest of the novel focuses primarily on Watney and his survival. Through the use of his mechanical and botany background, Watney comes up with some pretty ingenious ways to prolong his rations, Oxygen, water, and transportation. The narrative is primarily composed of Watney leaving logs for himself (or as a testament to his journey and untimely death), so the technical side to his endeavors are filtered through his warm and charming personality, which lightens what could be an overly scientific text— Changing a potential negative into a strong positive. Weir deftly avoids a common issue among science fiction writers with clever character development and use of perception.

The rest of the novel proceeds like Alfonso Curacao’s Gravity. It is deeply individualistic, but symbolic. The writing isn’t stretched by only focusing on a single character, because as the novel goes on it begins to layer in Watney’s support team on Earth. It provides a wonderful message of hope due to the global cooperation that is required to bring home an astronaut stranded on another world. “The Martian” doesn’t pull any punches or use its arsenal before the tale is done, either. It continuously builds upon the tension set by Watney’s survival till its climax. Its ending is extremely satisfying— One of the best that I’ve read in years.

After reading Andy Weir’s “The Martian” I was awed by the level of detail, character development, and sheer quality of the narrative. It is one of the best science fiction written and should be considered along the likes of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. If you get a chance try and read “The Martian” before the Ridley Scott-Matt Damon film adaptation, which is set to release in November of 2015— It is sure to be hit.

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Book review: “Xom-B” by Jeremy Robinson (2014)


XOM-BXOM-B by Jeremy Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Xom-B” is one of Jeremy Robinson’s best novels to date. It takes a simplified approach to science fiction by being relatively plain spoken but incredibly deep by diving into the ramification and potential of humanity. It isn’t simplified in the derogatory sense, but much the opposite. It uses a specific style to accentuate the plot and subsequently, hard-hitting questions. It poses a myriad of inquiries that invoke his audiences into pondering their own existence and what it means to truly be a human.

Is it our characteristics? Our equal propensity for love and hate? Can we be something greater than we are now? All of these questions are touched upon inside the pages of “Xom-B”— Some more thoroughly than others but always touched upon. The depth at which Robinson explores these lofty topics seems to depend upon the narrative structure, or probably more intimately so…his own thoughts upon the questions themselves.

“Xom-B” begins by focusing on the near feature. Humans have advanced far enough where we have created life-like servants that provide us our every need, however, this leads to a grave injustice. Essentially, humans have created a new sect of society to subjugate and exploit. Decent people treat the artificial servants as one of their own, but there are just as many who do not. Some are sexually exploited, verbally and physically abused, while others are required to serve without question no matter the task. A tangible, ethical debate and rallying cry arises in the form of organized, peaceful protests from the aforementioned servants; the humans balk, and war ensues.

The plot then flashes forward to follow the most recent life of the new world order, Freeman; Freeman is fresh-faced, young, inquisitive, and intelligent. He questions authority and he seeks answers— The very mentality that could topple a fledgling empire and spark a new one…a better one. Audiences follow Freeman as he meets and allies himself with a wide cast of characters with their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Robinson does a masterful job developing his characters. Each main character presented is given a proper backstory and motivation for their actions. The characters that strive to change (or at the least have the propensity to change) end up doing so with all pains present and included. The growth is logical and straightforward. This aids in the narrative and then culminates into near-perfect synergy…something much more than itself. The plot could be considered hard sci-fi, but because of how it is written it focuses so much more on character growth than the overall setting, atmosphere, and futuristic aspects of the framework. This results in a reminiscence of Arthur C. Clarke’s “Against the Fall of Night,” especially in its careful crafting to draw the reader’s focus to the overarching theme rather than the minutia. It may be classified science fiction in the strictest sense, but it poses big questions by following the journey of an individual trying to simultaneously escape, embrace, and find humanity.

An author’s style is an important facet to their career and writings, and some authors are fairly rigid in their methodology. Some stay well within their wheelhouse and constantly improve that particular style as they write throughout the years, others (like Jeremy Robinson) vary their style. They challenge themselves by matching a diverse cast of styles to the content, and in the case of “Xom-B” it pays off wonderfully. That being said, some longtime readers of Robinson may be put off because they prefer a singular style, while Robinson is delivering a different flavor. It would be hard to argue the validity of that point because in all honesty every reader reads differently.

“Xom-B” is a fantastic work of fiction. “Xom-B” is character driven, it provides insight and asks important questions in terms of what is means to be human, and it does so brilliantly in a straightforward plot that includes a great twist and conclusion. I highly recommend any reader who enjoys a quick-paced novel, science fiction, and/or the writings of Jeremy Robinson. He out does himself with “Xom-B” and I personally look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

View all my reviews

Gary Oldman’s reaction to Conan O’Brien’s scene in “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda”


Following up on my post of the SyFy channel’s “Sharktopus” sequel, “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda,” Idiosyncratic Wit has obtained an ‘exclusive’ clip featuring Gary Oldman watching Conan O’Brien’s scene in the ‘soon to-be classic,’ “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda.”

Merely, click the link or image below to catch the video on the official Team Coco website, sit back, and enjoy the awesomeness!

 

Gary Oldman Reacts To Conan In “Sharktopus Vs. Pteracuda”

Conan O'Brien Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

A SyFy Original, “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda.”


I am sucker for really, really bad movies, especially the ones that premier on the SyFy channel.  I desperately remember trying to find the sit down room to watch “Frankenfish,” “Bats: Human Harvest,” and “Carny.”  However, that being said, I somehow missed 2013’s “Sharknado”… 😦

But, have no fear!  The much anticipated follow-up to 2010’s “Sharktopus,” “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda,” will be arriving on the SyFy channel this August and will surely raise the bar for awesome-ness.

Check out this killer promo for “Sharktopus vs Pteracuda” and the accompanying trailer below:

Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda

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