A Mr Mid Announcement.

I have been writing as a pop culture blogger now for over a year and have enjoyed it immensely so it was only inevitable that I would eventually feel the need to branch out further. With that in mind I am moving into the realm of podcasting with Five By Five Reviews. 

Five By Five is a pop culture podcast predominantly covering film but also touching on Tv, Gaming, comics and all in between. Joining me on this venture is my good friend Chris Jones who is just as enthusiastic about discussing and debating films and will no doubt make each episode of Five By Five an interesting & engaging experience for our listeners.

There is a Facebook page which can be found at..

https://m.facebook.com/fivebyfivepod/

A Twitter feed at..

http://www.twitter.com/@fivebyfivepod

Via Talkshoe at..

http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/talkCast.jsp?masterId=144713&cmd=tc#.WYJDiIFl6nQ.facebook

You can contact us via our email address at..

Fivebyfivepod@yahoo.com

And lastly and most importantly, on iTunes..

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/five-by-five-reviews/id1267533963?mt=2

The opening gambit on Five By Five will be a series of podcasts on the Alien series, running from the Ridley Scott original up to Alien: Covenant over the course of the first 6 episodes, each being released bi-weekly on a Wednesday. Past the Alien series we have an exciting and varied lineup in store for you all that I think a lot of you will really dig.

So, give us a listen, drop us some feedback and maybe even a review if you are so inclined and most of all, Enjoy.

M

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Wales Comic-Con April 2017, Glyndŵr University, Wrexham: Day 2.

Day 2 of Wales Comic-Con has arrived and after the absolute result that was Day 1, it’s safe to say I’m hyped because today is photo-op day! Later today I’ll be grabbing a photo with Mick Foley & Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas and my wife has purchased a photo with T.J Thyne of Bones fame. A lot of good things were said by people yesterday who had photos with respect to the organisation when people came to collect their photos which bodes well for today. We make our way to Wrexham slightly later this morning because we got our wristbands yesterday so don’t have to queue for them today to get all that sorted which is nice. Since WCC became a 2 day event, Sunday has been the more chilled out day of the event for us, we beast the Q&A’s and run around like mad things trying to get to stuff on the Saturday and get our photo-op’s sorted on Sunday, it has worked well for us so far. Upon arrival on site were not far from hitting opening time so we head for the main hall.


It’s filling up nicely and people are milling around to grab early purchases and queue for autographs with guests. I can’t stress enough how improved the layout is in the main hall, I’m not really one for autographs, I prefer to go down the photo-op route so the layout in the main hall had always been a bit of a pet peeve of mine, I always found it a bit too confined when the queues started to grow. By moving some of the vendors outside to the marquee this year, traffic in the main hall has improved greatly. We move outside and head for a mooch around the marquee again. Just outside the marquee the owls are already attracting some attention as they do every year.


I LOVE the fact that there are more vendors this year, I love browsing stalls at cons and seeing what’s on offer. I was particularly taken this year by the retro gaming stall which had an excellent range of old school video games of varying degrees of Awesome and I managed to find a copy of one of my favourite Sega Megadrive games from my youth so I was most pleased.


So good that it had to been done twice, we pop to see Mick Foley & Amy Dumas Q&A again today. Just as fun and informative but in a much more intimate setting on the Nick Whitehead suite which I actually preferred to the main hall yesterday. I must also say in respect to Q&A’s I have attended this year, the timing has been pretty spot on. The WCC Q&A’s are notorious for starting late and/or overrunning, this year it feels a lot more streamlined and regimented for the talks I’ve attended, they’ve pretty much gone to time which again is testament to the organisation that has been carried out, it has been absolutely top drawer, could not fault it.


Next up it’s time for our first photo-op of the day with none other than Mick Foley. There was A LOT of complaints last WCC regarding the company that was in control of printing off people’s photos, to be fair it was pretty disastrous, the WCC team were let down badly and tempers became frayed amongst Con goers. Thankfully this year is the extreme of polar opposites and a superb effort from the photo team, within 10 minutes of the photo-ops going in not only did we have our photo taken with Mick but it was also ready and printed by the time we reached the counter to collect it. Last years photo-op waits seem like a bad dream, this is how you address a situation! Can not fault it, tick, gold star, smiley face, HAVE A NICE DAY!!! 


A brief stop for a much needed ice cream in the quite frankly glorious weather and it is time for our second photo-op, this time with Amy Dumas. 4 minutes, start to finish with photo in hand, absolutely impeccable.


Just one more photo-op left of this WCC with T.J Thyne. This was a very popular photo-op with a large queue but even still, just under 15 minutes and we have our photo.


And with that another WCC is over for us. This event has been fantastic from start to finish, everything has been so well organised and structured. It’s pretty obvious to tell that the WCC team take past event criticisms seriously and adapt and improve where they can, but to do so in almost every respect deserves a massive round of applause. The issues with photo-ops last year are completely resolved with the sessions running insanely smooth. The Q&A’s we saw all pretty much ran on time which has almost never happened at past events I have attended which was also a lovely surprise. The improved layout of the main signing hall has been a massive improvement for navigating around, much more space and a more structured approach to the queues for the more popular signings and also the addition of more vendors in the outside marquee, I really hope they keep to as it is something WCC has needed for a long time so to see it addressed this year has been awesome. Next time I attend a WCC I will be a parent with child in tow and if the organisation is anything like it has been this weekend, it’ll be a slightly less daunting prospect.

Wales Comic-Con April 2017, Glyndŵr University, Wrexham: Day 1.

It’s that time of year again, where eager Sci-fi, Fantasy, Anime & Pop Culture fans descend on Glyndwr University in Wrexham for 2 days of signings, Photo-Ops, Q&A sessions and much more. Year on year, since I started attending Wales Comic-Con back in 2012, it has gone from strength to strength, drawing in bigger crowds and more impressive guests with each successive event and this springs event is certainly no different. I am attending the event for both days with my wife and we have a number of photo-ops booked with some of the guests, I am particularly stoked this weekend to be meeting WWE legends Mick Foley & Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas and my wife was more than a little excited with the announcement of Bones actor T.J Thyne, who she has purchased a photo-op with.

As with each event, we have purchased Early Bird tickets which gives the holder a 1 hour head start over general entry to ensure a minimal amount of waiting to get into the event. We arrive on campus a little after 09:00, it is pleasantly sunny and the crowds are starting to assemble. Already there is a diverse array of cosplayers on site putting increasingly impressive levels of effort into their costumes, I’ve already seen a V, a Loki, Black Widow, a few Assassins Creed Cosplays, a Bray Wyatt and a male Harley Quinn. Yup, it’s Comic-Con baby!


After less than a 10 minute wait from doors opening, we have our wristbands and are in, heading straight to the main hall for a browse. The first thing that strikes me this year is the layout, it is vastly improved. Some of the vendors have been moved around allowing much more space around the perimeter for the crowd to move around and also allowing much better queueing for autographs with guests, it is still massively busy, it still bottlenecks but that is just to be expected, I can’t see any other way of improving more than they have, even going so far as to utilise the halls tannoy and numbered tickets to alleviate larger queues for certain more popular guests so hats off to the team, organisation in the hall seems a lot better. I have noticed both through overhearing conversations and reading posts on a Comic-Con group I am a member of that some people in attendance are not happy about certain guests adjusting their autograph fees and placing the blame at a “greedy” Wales Comic-Con, I find these posts most disheartening as I know full well that the team at WCC have no part to play in this and to hear them trashed by a minority (who don’t seem to understand how cons work incidentally) for something quite trivial that is out of their hands is disappointing. The Con team should hold their heads high right now because I’m personally finding it hard to fault the positive changes they have made to increase the publics enjoyment of the event.


Next we move on to the marquee which now exclusively houses vendor stalls and there is a great array, from retro video games, art prints, comic books, pop vinyls and action figures. My one bugbear with Wales Comic-Con in the past had been lack of stalls which is certainly something that they have addressed this year. After some browsing and purchases we make a quick detour to the gaming arena.


The gaming arena is layed out with retro consoles lining one wall, PC’s lining the other with a stage for the gaming competitions they hold during the day. We couldn’t resist plonking ourselves down for a bit to have a blast on Mario Kart which is a welcome nostalgic diversion. After being beaten by my wife in a best of 3 it is on to the first Q&A of the day, the wrestling panel.


Mick Foley & Amy Dumas take to the stage to much applause and whooping and get straight in to it. After the obligatory introductions both ask the crowd to take as many photos they like at the beginning but then request that phones and cameras are pocketed for the rest of the panel which I actually really appreciated as it can be quite tiresome watching a panel through someone’s phone screen out of your periphery when you are trying to concentrate on the stage. Both are natural storytellers and between questions from the audience will segue with interesting little asides that have the assembled crowd hanging off every word. Warm & engaging, this was a good start to the Q&A sessions.


Next up we have Matt Ryan & Emmett Scanlan and the Constantine panel. This was a sweet panel that shows even past 1 season of a cancelled show there is still a lot of love for Constantine and a lot of excitement regarding Justice League: Dark and the touted animated series. Matt & Emmett gamely answer all questions set their way with grace, humour and genuine likability.


The Buffy Q&A is next with Nicolas Brendon & Emma Caulfield. This was a very well attended Q&A in part due to the shows recent 20th anniversary celebrations, I have also found however in recent cons that this panel has been taking over as one of the most popular of the day and that is certainly the case today with a packed out hall. It is a very funny and engaging Q&A with a real sense of chemistry between Nic and Emma. Nic really has no filter though it has to be said, if it pops in his head, he’s probably going to say it leading to a mixture of genuine laughs and uncomfortable ‘did he just say that?!’ guilty laughter, it certainly makes for an interesting panel that’s for sure.


GOT up next and a nice cross section of past cast members. The GOT panel is always a crowd pleaser because obviously people are still massively invested in the show, particularly as it enters it final 2 seasons and that is reflected in the questions, always trying to wrangle another angle or theory out of cast members who gamely give their 2 cents worth. Ian McElhinney, I now suspect, played up to the anger at his character dying before he did in the books, it always tickles me and my wife every time he attends. Always engaging, always entertaining.


Time for the last Q&A of the day, the Bones panel with T.J Thyne. The small Nick Whitehead suite is rammed, there is literally no more seating space and people are standing at the back so they could get in, never underestimate the popularity of Bones. Quite often in these types of situations you wonder, even though this is engaging and informative, just how much has the panellist gone into auto-pilot when answering people’s questions? You doubt the sincerity when they say ‘Good question’, this is not one of those times. T.J was warm, good humoured and incredibly humble that so many people had turned up to see him, you got the impression that he sincerely cared about what people were asking him and that was refreshing, it made for a wonderful end to our first day.


The first day at WCC 2017 has been a joy from start to finish. In and wristbanded in record time, a much better layout in the main hall, from word of mouth I have been hearing that the photo-op’s have been running a lot smoother this year also which caused much consternation last year. Its good to see that many of the issues that some people have had with the WCC in the past have been addressed so well and that the team have pulled it out the bag again with their now trademark professionalism, grace under pressure and passion for what they do. Bring on day 2!

The Butterfly Effect: An Until Dawn review.


Developed by: Supermassive Games.

Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment.

Format: PS4 Exclusive.

Yes, I am totally aware that this is quite an old game to review but I think it’s justified, I feel that Until Dawn was massively overlooked upon it release and this is my own small step to readdress the balance as it were.

Until Dawn concerns a group of teenage friends who reconvene at their friend Josh’s cabin in the mountains at his request on the anniversary of the disappearance of his two sisters a year earlier. The group start to reconnect and mend broken bonds of friendship but are they alone?

Until Dawn had a turbulent production, originally intended for release as a Psmove game on PS3, it was pulled and reworked for the PS4. The intervening years of production certainly did the trick as it is a fantastic game. Primarily an action/adventure game at heart, a system of cause & effect called ‘The Butterfly Effect’ is employed to make the game stand out from the crowd and it works brilliantly, any choice you make in game can have positive or negative effect on how your play through progresses. It is a similar idea to that utilised in the equally brilliant Life Is Strange, the idea of consequence in your actions hangs heavy over the game making the player question each decision they make to ensure that the characters survive the night.

It’s also nice that Until Dawn utilises some recognisable acting talent in Heroes Hayden Panettiere, constantly supurb acting stalwart Peter Stormare and a pre-Mr Robot Rami Malek, all delivering strong performances. The animation for the actors on the whole is very good but can be a little awkward at times. Considering Supermassive had to essentially rebuild Until Dawn from the ground up, they did an exemplary job, it’s all too common these days for broken or unfinished games to make their way onto the shelves, Supermassive have done themselves proud with their efforts.

Until Dawn is a game worthy of your time, particularly if you are a fan of horror movies. Much of story and scares owe to classic horror movies, they are in Until Dawn’s DNA and utilised to near perfection. So enjoyable is the game and it’s story that you will feasibly play through on more than one occasion to fully explore the possibilities this game has to offer with its challenge of getting all 8 main characters to the end alive. Now that this game has been out for so considerable time you can pick up a copy pretty cheap, the perfect time to take a trip to Blackwood Mountain and experience the horrors that reside there for yourself.

Double Back: A Life Is Strange review.


Developed by: Dontnod Entertainment.

Published by: Square Enix.

Formats: Xbox One, PS4, PC.

The current trend of episodic gaming is a booming success, with the like of Telltale’s output and Edios recent success turning the Hitman franchise into an episodic format, it is a model that allows the developers more time to tweak and refine their game to give the punters their monies worth. One of the most impressive episodic games I have played in the last 12 month has to be the fantastic Life Is Strange.

Max Caulfield is your typical outcast teen in Pacific mid-western America, She’s more than a little nerdy, loves indie rock and an avid photography student. One day Max is party to a shooting at her high school and in that horrific moment becomes aware that she has the ability to control time, she rewinds the incident and saves a girls life but what future ramifications can this one act of disobedience of the natural order of things hold for the residents of Arcadia Bay?

Life Is Short has a fairly standard but no less intuitive action/adventure game format at its heart with the added mechanic of time travel. At the click of a trigger button, any choice you make that can affect the games outcome can be rewound and approached differently, but not always for the better in the long term, this game plays heavily with the concept of causality and in particular, chaos theory. Any action, not matter how small or seemingly insignificant can have lasting and catastrophic effects.

This game is beautifully designed and it’s core mechanics work perfectly. The voice acting can be a little cagey at times but on the whole it is pretty solid. One of the stand out features of Life Is Strange is it’s lovingly crafted score and carefully curated soundtrack by frontman of French indie rockers Syd Matters, Jonathon Morali. Morali has assembled a great collection of artists, from his own band to José González to Bright Eyes, it is a wonderful collection of indie folk and indie rock that suit the mood of the game perfectly and feel as essential as any character.

If you are a fan of the episodic output of the Telltale games series and their approach to game design, you will feel quite at home with Life Is Strange. It is an engaging and well written mystery that will keep you engrossed & engaged to the end.

You can’t take the sky from me: A first impression of No Man’s Sky.

Only Announced at E3 in 2013, it seems we had been waiting an eon for No Man’s Sky to arrive. Each passing year heaping more expectation on to the shoulders of developers Hello Games to deliver something truly special.

Within the first dozen hours or so with the game it become clear that that is most certainly the case. The scope is really quite staggering. You start on a planet next to your damaged ship and are basically told ‘fix it’, no hand holding, very few pointers, it lets you discover how to play the game. It all become very intuitive very quickly. Scan for resources, Mine those resources, craft those resource into parts for your ship, exosuit and multi-tool. It took me a good few hours to even get that done because there is just so much to explore, and this is just the one planet I started out on out of an entire universe. That part didn’t really dawn on me until I finished repairs on my ship and headed off into the black, or in this case yellow. When you break the planets atmosphere and are confronted with the vastness of what you have to explore, it really does become quite mind blowing.

It’s not a particularly unique premise for a game and is more than a little reminiscent of the Elite series on PC but with a suped up engine behind it, not that that is a bad thing, not at all as is appears. No Man’s Sky does indeed play like the old Elite games of yore but with a simplified, more arcade like control system. This allows you to seamlessly beat an hasty retreat on foot to your ship whilst being pursued by whatever form of nasty has taken offence to you and leap into the cockpit of your ship and be jetting out into the stratosphere within seconds, providing your jump thrusts don’t need refilling which happens to me A LOT. It makes for some very quick paced and dynamic encounters. It would have been a mistake I think to implement a big beardy control system like that of Elite into a console game like No Man’s Sky and risk alienating a portion of its proposed audience by bamboozling them with a full cockpit to control in every tiny detail. They have kept the premise and execution of the game and its mechanics nice and simple, anyone can pick up a controller and dive into No Man’s Sky and not feel overwhelmed by things being over complicated, you’ll feel overwhelmed enough by the enormity of what’s in front of you let alone a complex control system.

The other thing that I love about no man’s sky is there is no right or wrong way to play it. Want to fly to different planets obliterating everything in sight? Good luck to you, you can certainly try. Fancy the pirates life? You can carve your way through the universe robbing all you come in contact with, just don’t expect it to be an easy journey. Want to take the route I did of operating as a trader? Mining minerals to sell and upgrade my ship to make my journey to the galactic centre a little simpler, of course you can’t account for other NPC’s deciding you and your cargo are fair game and are then presented with the fight or fly choice. All of these avenues are open to you, There are so many ways to approach how you play, but in the end everyone has the same goal, reach the centre of the Galaxy.

This is a truly beautiful game, diverse planets, plant and animal life all wonderfully realised. The style of this game is very much influenced by the covers of science fiction novels of the 1970’s and 80’s, all abstract alien vistas and vibrant colours. I suppose it’s kind of difficult to appraise the layout of the game universe that is procedurally generated. What I can comment on is what I have encountered on my own journey. The planets I have discovered seem to have different forms of life and topography, I can’t really say hand on heart I’ve visited two I’ve found the same. The same can be said for the different star systems I have visited, huge planets, dead moons, space stations & cruisers, I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and sky’s of different, vibrant hues (I may have made one of those up). No Man’s Sky is doing what it says on the tin. 

It isn’t faultless, since launch there have been issues technically, crashes and the like, but with a game as involved as this, I think that is to be expected really. PS4 issues pale in significance to our master race overlords who seem to have a lot of issues with with the PC version of the game, I’m not concerned with that though, this is first impressions on the PS4 version and on the whole, it plays just dandy.

You can mine each planets resources as you see fit for trade or to craft for supplies, the mineral deposits of planets can be refined into fuel for your ships warp engines to get you further toward your goal, of course that’s once you actually get a warp engine. The game is very well paced to keep setting you goals to chip away at to reach a target to progress further with enough to see and do to keep you interested.

It does remain to be seen whether No Man’s Sky will keep me hooked for the long haul or not. It is definitely a game that is going to receive a steady stream of abuse from some corners of the gaming community, it’s prospect is kind of marmite, you are going to love it or hate it, no half measures. At the time of writing this I am utterly immersed in the shear size and variety this universe has to offer and I can’t see me wanting to leave it anytime soon, the mystery of what is at its centre is far too tempting right now for me to want to give up anytime soon.

All things will come to light: An Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture review.


Every once in a while a game comes along that transcends what is expected of it. Something special, something that can in it’s own right be considered by some to be art. ‘Everybody’s gone to the rapture’ is one of those games.

Developed by The Chinese Room, the indie developer behind the PC hit ‘Dear Esther’, in association with Sony who secured the game as an exclusive for the PS4. It is a story set some time in the 1980’s in the fictional Shropshire village of Yaughton, a village that has been completely deserted, save the character you control. There has been some kind of event, something has happened that has made the entire population of the village disappear. All you have to go on are eerie radio transmissions that appear to be Yaughton’s residents holding conversations and ethereal balls of light that pass around this idealic locale seemingly taking on the forms of people when focused on revealing more of what happened in this sleepy hamlet. The game revolves around 5 distinct areas and in each area you piece together the story of a character and what happened to them. It isn’t a very long game, I think my first play through clocked in at about 6 hours but it is about the right length so as to not overstay it’s welcome. I can say that it is 6 hours well spent. 

This game completely nails its setting. I am a Shropshire lad, born and bred, the design of the village of Yaughton and its surrounding area could easily be a village in Shropshire. It helps that The Chinese Room have obviously done their research, with mention of Shropshire landmarks such as the Stipperstones featured in some of the meticulous background detail, not to mention the fact that the game is astoundingly beautiful. Bare in mind this game is developed by an independent studio, they have created visuals to stand up there with the big boys. The sense of time and place really is startlingly realised and coupled with one of the most beautiful game scores I have ever heard by Jessica Curry, who also won a Gaming BAFTA for her work, you can’t help but be drawn in to this world.

It isn’t however, a game for everyone. I can’t imagine there would be much interest from the COD and FIFA crowd, this isn’t a game you play as such but more one that you experience. It may be described by some as a ‘Walking simulator’ a term I detest as there is so much depth to this game and it’s world, to trivialise it is to do it a massive disservice. Yes, It requires no real skill but more a sense of exploration that is rewarded with more of the brilliantly written back story being given to you, in many way it is quite cinematic.
I would recommend this game to people who fancy a good story and setting over thrills & spills every once in a while, or just to people who may want to try something a little different. It is cliched, but this is a game once experienced, is never forgotten.

Everybody’s gone to the rapture is available now through PlayStation network.