Until Dawn Rush of Blood on Playstation VR

So much fun

Until Dawn Rush of Blood is so much fun to play. The concept of being essentially trapped in a roller coaster cart adds a new dimension to what is possible with a horror game. You have no option to just stand in a corner and catch your breath before moving on. You are either fighting for your life or being moved ever forward into the increasingly hellish world.

Remains true to the original

Until Dawn is a stand out game and still stands up to this day. It was nice to see that the look and feel of the original was maintained with Rush of Blood. Riding gently around Blackwood Mountain and the surrounding forest was just as atmospheric as I remembered.

With Rush of Blood

I actually felt the uphill pull

I was amazed when the cart I was in started up a steep climb, that I actually felt the pull back that you would normally expect from gravity. I know that it’s not gravity but instead probably just me tensing my own muscles in the same way. But it really is such a genuine feeling that the horror that I knew was coming had even more of a degree of terror to them. If going up a roller coaster climb felt real, what the hell will it be like when I was getting killed by hoards of killer mannequins and clowns.

I was soon to find out.

In summary

This is a completely different game to Until Dawn. Although the locations do take you through certain set pieces reminiscent of the original, the style of game play is far removed. Until Dawn Rush of Blood is an all-out arcade shooter. And a bloody fun one at that. But don’t be fooled by its premise – this game has moments of true terror. Even though there were moments when I could predict what a particular jump scare was going to be, it was no less effective.

Interview with Kylie Brown (Rachel Amber in Life is Strange Before the Storm)

The character of Rachel Amber has been brought to life, in ways we couldn’t even imagine, by the very talented Kylie Brown.

Rachel Amber was but a memory that we caught glimpses of through the eyes of Max’s best friend, Chloe, in Life Is Strange. But now that we have witnessed the events that brought Chloe and Rachel together in Life Is Strange Before the Storm, we can share in those memories together.

I have been lucky enough to be able to ask Kylie Brown some questions about herself, her life and her approach to her craft.

The Interview

Please tell us about yourself in as many or as little words as you like.
Lazily active and very passionate.
Who is your biggest influence in how you approach what you do today?
Jennifer Lawrence and Tom Hanks. I’ve always said that I want a career like Jennifer Lawrence where I go from being in movies that go to comic-con to movies that are Oscar nominated. And Tom Hanks where I can own any role that comes my way.
What inspires you?
I don’t think there’s any one thing that inspires me. There’s a lot of things that do. Like a simple walk around my home town, staring at the Hollywood sign, watching a movie in the theaters, my parents, my friends, watching BTS footage from a movie. Inspiration is everywhere for me.
What annoys you more than anything else in the world?
When people talk during a movie/tv show that I’m watching. I literally hate it …so much… so very much. Just don’t do it.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
I would definitely have to say Life is Strange: Before the Storm is my proudest moment in my career right now, it was so far from my normal acting jobs and I had such a blast filming it and watching it take off.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You’re on the right track kid, just keep going for your dreams, you’ll get there.
If you could ask any person – living or passed – any question, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I would ask Jennifer Lawrence, “What’s your favorite kind of pizza?”
Rachel Amber is someone we’ve known for a long time now. We’ve gotten to know her through word of mouth and other characters’ experiences but we’ve never met her. Is there a lot of pressure to portray this brand new person to fit with the Rachel Amber people already feel that they know?
Well yeah! There’s a ton of pressure! Rachel was portrayed as this woman who’s out of this world, and here I am…on earth. I mean really, even her NAME is kickass. Rachel Amber. Like, what?!? My biggest fear was not doing right by the fans, and all I can say now is that I am so honored the Life is Strange community has accepted and welcomed me as their Rachel.
What is your favourite Book?
1984 by George Orwell
What is your favourite Album?
Uhhhhh, the last FULL album I’ve ever listened to was from the Jonas Brothers….so I guess the Jonas Brothers Lines, Vines and Trying Times album? If musicals count as albums, then definitely Hamilton.
What is your favourite Film?
Depends on the genre really.

  • Action (which is my favorite genre): any marvel movie that just came out
  • Drama: Silver Linings Playbook
  • Comedy: Baywatch
  • War (or historical): Saving Private Ryan
What is your favourite TV Show?
Will & Grace (I’m currently watching it as I write this) and Game of Thrones
Do you have a favourite film/tv/musical soundtrack?
I LOVE movie scores and I can’t pick a favorite. But probably Jurassic Park.
Is there anything that you are binge listening to / watching at the moment?
HAMILTON and I just finished binge watching a new comedy on Netflix called The Good Place
You’re walking somewhere and your mp3 player / phone has only a little battery left; You’ve only got time for one more song. What song do you play?
Hakuna Matata from the Lion King so that way if it dies in the middle off the song, I’ll still be singing it at the top of my lungs giving everyone a show.
What was the first poster you ever had on your wall?
Oh wow, I don’t know. I first moved into my house when I was two and my room was decorated like a princess room. Pink walls, princess bedding and princess posters. So I’m guessing the first poster to be on my walls was a princess one that had a princess saying on it.
Could you tell us two truths and a lie?
  1. I’ve known my best friend since kindergarten and we’re still best friends.
  2. I broke my leg three times in two years due to soccer, snowboarding, and climbing on my roof.
  3. I grew up with three boys across the street from me and we would play army and have airsoft wars and one day I got shot right next to my tear duct and was forced to wear goggles every time after that.

*Answers at the bottom of the page.

Do you have any announcements or causes you’d like to raise an awareness of?
I’m a huge advocate for anti-bullying. I was a safe school ambassador at my high school where we would step in and speak up if we saw bullying going on and it saddened me to see how much was going on. And it saddens me even more seeing how much bullying is going on in this world right now, I always thought it stopped when we graduated high school. Bullying is so pointless to me, we are all human beings, we all have stories that no one is aware of, we all have pain that no one understands. No matter what you are feeling, it is valid, no matter what you are going through, I’m here for you. I don’t care if you are halfway across the world, you matter and you are cared for. And if you see someone getting bullied, please speak up. Stand up for your peer. Let them know they are not alone. If we all do that, this world will be a happier place.

*Answers to the two truths and a lie question

Question Truth or Lie?
1 Truth
2 Lie (I’ve never broken anything but my toe one time)
3 Truth

Life is Strange: Before the storm episode 3 (Hell is Empty)

It doesn’t seem like too long ago since Life is Strange Before the Storm was first announced. Now here I am writing up my thoughts on it’s heart-felt, bittersweet conclusion.

In this final episode we follow Chloe as she works to uncover the truth, and whereabouts, of Rachel Amber’s birth mother. As she does so, she manages to uncover some dark truths about certain characters. As we’ve learnt from previous events in this game, most things can’t simply come down to just good or bad; right or wrong. It tends to be dependant on a given character’s perspective.

I’m a little sad that this game has come to its end. However, we do still have the bonus episode with Max and Chloe to look forward to early in the new year.

Everyone has good and bad

Life Is Strange Before the Storm is a game that is great at showing how all people have both good and bad sides. All the characters here are as fully fleshed out as we have come to expect in Arcadia Bay. We’ve seen Chloe do bad things and let people get hurt – but for her love of Rachel. We’ve seen David and his militarist approach to parenting – but then in episode 3 we actually see him soften somewhat to meet Chloe on a middle ground.

But the characters I found perhaps most interesting in forms of their actions and moral compasses, are Rachel’s (birth) mother and father.

Rachel’s father goes through many different guises through Chloe’s eyes as the more she uncovers, the more she learns of his actions and motives – motives that are perhaps ill-advised at times. Meanwhile her Mother, who is initially painted as the bad guy, gets a chance to speak for herself later on. She is a woman who has made mistakes, sure, but who is now willing to give up everything for what she feels is right.

You will have a hard choice to make at the end of this episode, which will hinge on whether you want to do what’s right, or what’s good.

The world of Life Is Strange is well known now for its ability to show us fully fleshed-out characters. People who at first appear one way, but later – after the peeling back of layers – show us that there is so much more beneath. In good ways and bad. Before the Storm has continued this tradition with flying colours.

So much more than a prequel

Life Is Strange Before The Storm is just as good, sometimes even better in my opinion, than its predecessor. The focus in on Chloe and Rachel’s blossoming relationship has been an absolute joy to watch. I think now, after seeing their meeting and subsequent story together, that playing through the original game will be a fresh experience. Rachel is no longer just a face on a missing persons poster. Rachel is a complex young woman whose very presence seemed to bring out the best in people – not least of all Chloe Price.

What impressed me also about the developer’s approach to this story, is that it is not just a prequel that is heading towards what we know comes later. These three episodes are completely self-contained and serve their own narrative, which is done extremely well. I love how there is still enough time between the end of this game and the beginning of the original. Maybe we will see some more stories in the near future?

P.S. Stick around till after the credits

Make sure you stick around till the end of the credits on this one. Where in previous episodes there would have been the next trailer, we are instead shown something entirely different. Something that still makes my skin crawl now, just thinking about it.

Damn you Deck Nine!

Blue Lips [Lady Wood Phase 2] by Tove Lo

A continuation of Lady Wood

Lady Wood was one of my favourite albums from last year and still gets regular plays in my headphones. I was excited to say the least when I heard about Tove Lo’s follow-up Blue Lips [Lady Wood Phase 2].

This album felt more akin to the sweaty underground night clubs I imagine with her music. The kind of clubs where people are pressed tightly together; almost tasting each other’s sweat. The previous album had these moments but Blue Lips felt like these aesthetics were brought more into the foreground. The album’s intro and following lead single, ‘Disco Tits’, gave me the impression that a more deep bass / drum-driven collection of songs were contained.

There was a song from Tove Lo’s short film Fairy Dust, specifically the closing scene… that closing scene, that I didn’t recognise at the time. So I loved it when that very song, ‘bitches’,  came punching through my headphones to close off this album’s first half.

It’s not all boom boom boom

Although I like a good punchy beat-driven album now and again, I was relieved when I heard ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’, the album’s fifth track. It’s proof that she knows, as she sings on Disco Tits, how to dial it back. ‘Don’t ask don’t tell’ is more focused on her beautiful vocals and the direct message of acceptance she’s delivering to her other half in the song.

And baby, don’t ask, then don’t tell
Already know you’re fucked up
And it’s cool with me
My past and don’t ask and don’t tell
No need to share too much
Come on, let it be, ah (and baby)
dont ask dont tell – Tove Lo

This feeling is continued later in the album with the reminiscent ‘9th of October’, which actually started life as a poem that Tove wrote on her Birthday. This, along with the album’s closing track, ‘hey you got drugs?’, are two of my favourite songs from the album.

NSFW (not safe for work)

As I’ve come to expect from Tove Lo’s work, there is a high degree of sexual content in these songs. She’s definitely an artist who goes to places that other artists I listen to don’t. She’s not afraid of exposing herself, both physically and mentally, for her art and I respect that. I say that, not as a pervy guy just looking for filth, but as someone in admiration for her honesty and close to the bone approach to music.

Singers often sing about sadness; happiness; fear; love. But very rarely do they venture into the realms of the sexual. This too is an important part of what it means to be human, so why shouldn’t artists explore these issues too? Tove Lo seems to make up for the more reserved artists by spending a good portion of her album there.

In Summary

As great an album as I have come to expect from Tove, following her Lady Wood. Blue Lips is the continuation of her exploration and revelations in her relationships and the emotions they bring. Although I didn’t find this album as accessible initially, I still love to listen to it when the mood hits me right. And don’t take me to mean less accessible as a bad thing – it’s not. I just find Lady Wood a lot easier to listen to at any time, whereas Blue lips has its time and place for me.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Blood Ties on PSVR

Rise of the Tomb Raider Blood Ties came with the base game as part of the Tomb Raider 20 year celebration. I have previous written about my love for Rise of the Tomb Raider. However, I was not prepared for just how amazing the Blood Ties DLC would be in PlayStation VR.

The same blood ties story

Blood Ties on PlayStation VR is the same story as the normal version. The only difference is that you get to see through the eyes of Lara Croft in the fully immersive environment of Croft Manor. And wow – what a difference it makes. I loved the DLC as it was – I had bought it originally on Steam and played it straight through. But my first job with any new console is always to buy a Tomb Raider game. So with my PlayStation 4 Pro, I bought Rise of the Tomb Raider 20th year celebration.

The story line has you exploring the manor in order to find her father’s will. Her uncle, Atlas, claims ownership over the manor and so Ms Croft must uncover the will in order to save it. The insights into Lara’s past are interesting as you explore the various areas of the manor. I particularly found the mention of locking the butler, Winston, in the fridge particularly funny. This was a reference to the popular past time for many players of both Tomb Raider 2 and 3.

Also worth mentioning is the gramophone that you can turn on in the library. This will then trigger the playing of the popular Venice theme from Tomb Raider 2. Written by the hugely talented Nathan McCree.

You can taste the rain

Standing in the main foyer of Croft Manor is still one of my favourite things to do on PlayStation VR. Looking around at the beautiful architecture then up to the hole in the vaulted ceiling, I could almost taste the rain coming in. Just standing atop of the bookcases, looking down at the library, just fills me with awe at what the game developers have achieved with this DLC.

The story will take you to all the corners of the manor. Each and every nook and cranny pulled me in for closer inspection. The most atmospheric area for me was the cellar. Not only was the use of the PlayStation controller to control the flashlight highly effective, but I could feel Lara’s trepidation exploring these lower regions of the manor. If I didn’t already know what happens in this DLC, I’d have been scared walking around down there.

Levels of comfort

Like with many of the PlayStation VR releases, there are different levels of comfort available when playing through Blood Ties. The big one is the two options of movement. You can either use the teleport function, which is enabled by default, or use the free roaming option.

Teleport

Using the teleport option allows you to use the controller to gesture on screen where you want Lara to jump to. She doesn’t physically jump there, but there is a smooth use of a fade between the start and end point. If you are worried about motion sickness then this is the best option for you.

Free roaming

Free roaming is just as it sounds – free walking about the manor in the first-person perspective. This is so awesome to experience, however, I did begin to get motion sickness when I would turn one way whilst glancing around another. It was a similar feeling to when I would read a book in a moving car when I was a child. It is definitely worth trying out this option for a short time though – or longer if you can handle it.

In Summary

Rise of the Tomb Raider Blood Ties is absolutely effing incredible in PlayStation VR. In fact, it was incredible anyway – the VR aspect just enhances it to the nth degree. There really is no feeling like being Lara Croft for a while, wandering around the derelict halls uncovering her family story.

I am really looking forward to the next Tomb Raider game that was just announced. I am praying that the developers come up with even more exciting and awe-inspiring ways of incorporating the PlayStation VR experience into Lara’s world in her next adventure.

Charlie Boy (Hammer House of Horror episode 6)

What is Charlie Boy about?

Close up of Charlie Boy
Close up of Charlie Boy

Charlie boy is about a couple, Graham and Sarah, who come into possession of an African idol after Graham’s uncle dies. (Sarah gives the idol the name Charlie Boy). Unbeknown to the couple, the idol is cursed and is in fact a voodoo statue.

After a disagreement with his brother, Graham – sitting at home nursing a drink – takes out his anger on the Statue. He does this as he is looking at a photograph of five close friends, himself and his brother included. The rest of the episode is then about the systematic killing (or accidental deaths) of all who appear in said photograph in the order they appear.

The episode had some juicy deaths in its 51 minutes including a man getting thrown off a horse and on to some plough spikes. Others I can’t reveal for fear of spoiling aspects of it for you, should you choose to watch it. This story is one of the grimmest to watch overall – nobody really has a good time in this one. That being said I do enjoy a good downer of a story – there’s no light without shade.

A weaker example of the series

Charlie Boy had some potential to be a great episode but unfortunately fell a bit short for me. One big thing that let it down was the soundtrack. At times the music felt like it belonged somewhere between Confessions of a Window Cleaner and Foxy Brown. It’s a shame because the idea itself was a sound one that fits with the rest of the series well. It just seemed to be poorly executed by people who had no real vision of what Hammer Horror is.

Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy
Graham and Sarah examine Charlie Boy

In Summary

This is one episode of The Hammer House of Horror that I think you could comfortably miss. It does have some redeeming qualities, such as a higher death count to previous episodes. So it isn’t all doom and gloom. But yer, not the best one.

Resident Evil Kitchen Demo on PSVR

The Resident Evil Kitchen Demo is a little taster that Capcom put out around the release of Resident Evil 7. It shows off, in its short five minutes of game play, the pure horror potential for Playstation VR, and indeed VR in general.

What happens in the Resident Evil Kitchen Demo?

You spend the entirety of the demo strapped to an old wooden chair in a completely run-down kitchen. The Kitchen gave me similar vibes to the Peacock house from the infamous X-Files episode, ‘Home’. Just sitting there in the chair, both my real-life chair and the in-game chair, looking down at my bound-hands, I was already bricking it.

It felt very much like the start of the original saw film too, in that I had essentially woken up with no recollection of how I got there.

Once you figure out how to wake your friend up off the floor, he slowly gets up and tries to untie you. This is where my first palpable fears manifested. Behind him, moving in the shadows of the corridor, I could see a figure. A figure that no sooner had I said aloud ‘behind you!’, was already upon him.

Looking directly into the face of the hideous visage of a woman, who looked somewhat decayed and possessed, was a feeling like no other. In VR you can look around her head at the mangled locks of hair; the saliva in her teeth; the killing gleam in her eyes, staring directly into yours.

This is what horror really is

Horror games are always fun to me in retrospect. At the time of playing I experience what the game developers must strive for – prolonged anxiety and a fear to move onward through the game. But there really is no feeling like that of the release of tension after a well-timed, tasteful jump scare. And I have the feeling Resident Evil 7 will have those in spades.

Seeing the twisted and zombie-looking woman up close in my face actually got me turning my head away. I knew, somewhere in my mind, that this was just a game. But that held truth was buried beneath the many layers of fear from this demo. The level of immersion here is unreal and this has somehow awoken a level of computer game experience that I never even knew existed.

On to the full game

As soon as I finished the Kitchen Demo I was online shopping for the full game. I kick myself now for not picking it up in the PlayStation Store sale a few months back. As I type this sentence I am awaiting a confirmation email to come through for me to collect the game.

I have no idea how I’m going to survive this game. Outlast feels like a walk in the park now, compared to this. (It’s not – Outlast is still very scary, but Resident Evil 7 just has a whole new dimension – literally and figuratively).

p.s. I have since bought the game and have played the first hour. It has not disappointed me and I can not wait to write up my thoughts on it in full.

The House That Bled to Death (Hammer House of Horror episode 5)

The House That Bled to Death kicks off strong and stays strong throughout its 50 minutes. It keeps a sustained anxiousness until it’s very final scenes.

What is ‘The house that bled to death about?

The House That Bled To Death opening
The House That Bled To Death opening

The darkest and coldest opening of the series so far. An elderly couple are together in the kitchen about to have a cup of warm milk before bed. The husband heats the milk and slips a dark powder into one of the cups. As he sits there and lets his wife drink the tainted milk, not a word is exchanged. We have no idea as to why he is murdering his wife and in the world of Hammer House of Horror it doesn’t really matter.

Fast forward some time ahead and we are with this episode’s family, the Peters family. They are buying the very same house where the murder occurred, unknowing to them, from one of the creepiest estate agents in a TV series ever. As soon as they begin moving in, strange things start happening – doors jamming, strange visions and the most gruesome death of an animal I’ve seen in the series thus far.

As they try to bare the strange goings on in the house, tensions are increased both within the family and with the neighbours and friends. The poltergeist-like happenings culminate with the most shocking child’s Birthday party I’ve ever seen. But just when you think it’s all over, we see one of the most interesting – in my opinion – closing scenes of an episode of Hammer House of Horror I’ve watched.

I wonder about the child actors

Every time I see these sorts of series or films I can’t help but wonder how the children are affected. I mean, obviously if there’s a dead body the child wouldn’t necessarily need to physically see it. Through the magic of editing this effect can be produced. But when you have a scene such as this episode’s Birthday party, where the children are directly affected, this must be an awkward conversation with the young actors’ parents.

Sophies Birthday Present
Sophies Birthday Present

Nonetheless the child actors do a really good job in this episode. Their terror is almost palpable – which is worrying on a couple of levels. Sometimes I find the younger actors more convincing than their superiors. This could simply be down to the fact that children, in their very nature, are innocent. So the horrors that befall them are that much more horrific.

In Summary

Definitely one of the strongest and most memorable episodes of the Hammer House of Horror TV series. The House That Bled To Death has everything you could want from a hammer horror series.

The feeling of claustrophobia is maintained throughout most of the episode from being limited to the interior of their house. The house too is not a house that would necessarily stand out. You would see many houses like it passing through most built up city suburbs. This in itself is scary. The fact that it isn’t some huge eerie castle or dark, set-back mansion. This is a regular house, for regular families, who have to endure some far-from-regular things.

Made in the Manor by Kano

When it comes to UK rap music, few are revered in quite the same way as Kano is. Present in the Grime scene from the early days, he has had five studio albums to date. Made in the Manor is his latest and stands up, hands down, as one of the best rap albums I’ve heard.

This is definitely an album that has grown on me over time. The opening songs grabbed me instantly but the later, more introspective, songs took a bit longer to get their hooks in me. But now that they have, they get better and better with every listen.

Welcome to the jungle

The opening of ‘Hail’ – the album’s first song – is sharp, loud and aggressive. This whole song is unrelenting throughout and Kano’s delivery is right up in your face forcing you to stand up and listen. The chainsaw melody that carries us along is later joined by the best sample i’ve heard for a long time. The sample is of Tempz, from his track ‘Next Hype’:

(CLEAR!) All of your CD rack
Won’t get none of your CD’s back
— Next Hype, Tempz.

Some manner of respite comes with the next song, ‘T-shirt Weather in the Manor’, which brings with it a calm piano melody and light drumming. Kano’s vocals are no less commanding on this song with the lighter accompaniment.

‘New Banger’ and ‘Three Wheel Ups’ bring that in-your-face energy back in spades with some great featured rappers. Giggs and Wiley both feature on ‘Three Wheel Ups’ and do an excellent job of supporting Kano. Even D Double E can be heard in parts doing his signature “ooooh”.

Kano and Giggs in the Three Wheel Ups video
Kano and Giggs in the Three Wheel Ups video

‘This is England’ was the song that made me first sit up and take a closer look at this album. The various layers and production on this song made me realise that this album was something special. Like Charlie Sloth said in Kano’s 1 extra, this feels like a seminal record.

All in the family

There were two songs that stood out to me for just how personal and confessional they sounded. ‘Little Sis’ and ‘Strangers’ feel like personal monologues directed to a sister and brother respectively. Although these songs initially didn’t grab me as his big tunes did, I have since come to enjoy them both in a whole different way.

Kano
Kano – full name Kane Robinson

When I first got into Kano all I wanted to hear were his big tunes – they are so addictive. But now that I’m in the habit of listening to Made In The Manor front to back, these more personal songs fit perfectly with the overall flow.

From the family you’re born with to the one you choose : all of the guest features on this album feel like they are done from a place of love. What I mean is, I imagine many rappers feature on other artists’ tracks for the chance of exposure. I could be wrong about that but it does make sense. On Made in the Manor, however, each feature feels like it is Kano and his close friends, who are just making great music together.

Summary

Whether you think you are a fan of rap or not, I urge you to listen to Made In The Manor regardless. There is so much variety in this album that I truly believe there is something for everyone. He delivers the fast-paced heavy hitters with a great level of confidence and Authority. And he delivers the more introspective songs with an honest sincerity.

Don’t be a statistic blaming ghetto physics for holding you back.
— a great line from the song ‘Seashells in the East’

Along with others like JME, Akala, and Devlin, Kano is up there as one of my favourite rappers. Like those others, Kano’s sense of humour comes through in both his lyrics and his unique delivery.

He never rests on his laurels either. He could have easily delivered an hour of quick-witted, fast bars throughout and fans would have been very happy. But with Made in the Manor he has pushed himself further, whilst looking deeper within. As a result, Kano has come out the other end with a true masterpiece of an album. Not just in rap, but in all music.