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The zombie drama “Cargo” has more in common with Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” than with “Night of the Living Dead.” Co-directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke (the latter of whom wrote the screenplay) sacrifice some tension with their more character-based approach, but the cumulative effect is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 15 May 2018 18:45:00 PDT )

For a game that’s based on the world of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, Conan Exiles has remarkably little to do with any part of that universe. It’s a big, open-world survival sim that sticks true to its initial hardcore vision to a fault. When you combine the steep learning curve of a deep but confusing crafting system with largely monotonous gameplay and a spectacularly awful UI, Conan Exiles feels like it does everything it can to push back on those curious enough to step into its admittedly intriguing but highly flawed world.

The game opens as you regain consciousness in the scorching desert, completely naked and vulnerable. As an exile, you are trapped in a doomed and cursed land with nothing but the faint memory of being cut down from your crucifix by Conan, the giant hunk of man-meat himself. From there, you’re free to wander off into the wild yonder. The exiled lands are massive, made up of different environmental biomes that can be explored freely from the outset. Spectacular-looking sandstorms can roll in out of nowhere, forcing you to seek shelter lest they consume you. You can climb anything from mountains and trees to walls and buildings, provided you have the stamina. This adds an extra dimension to exploration, with the added payoff of some lovely views of Conan's varied world.

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You start out small, picking up rocks and sticks and crafting simple tools. Almost everything you find can be broken down one way or another, and while it's neat to watch rocks chip apart and trees topple over as you hack into them, the humdrum motion of harvesting never feels rewarding. Eventually you’ll need to build shelter and a bed, which becomes your new spawn point. Given the game’s brutal permadeath mechanic, doing this sooner rather than later can save you some real heartache.

Shelter can mean anything from a small stone shack all the way to a giant castle, complete with reinforced walls, towers, and even a trebuchet. Building is block-based and relatively free form, allowing for hugely elaborate base designs that can be some fun to build, provided you take the time to gather the raw materials to build everything you need. That's all well and good, except for the part where you aren’t shown how to do any of it. It’s all up to you to simply figure out or dive head first into a wiki to have anything explained in detail.

If you aren’t motivated by curiosity, Conan Exiles' single-player mode will feel empty and largely aimless. It's more like a practice mode, with only a handful of NPC outposts and structures to find. When you do, most of them are hostile, and the few that aren’t only offer minimal interaction. Multiplayer changes this up for the better in a few ways, mainly through the addition of other human players.

More importantly, though, multiplayer gives you more purpose and clearer goals to achieve. This includes defending your base from other players as well as The Purge, an army of NPCs that might attack and destroy your base as you gain XP. You can also join Clans, which will allow you to build collectively, either on or near clanmates' already-laid foundations. For times when you do have to leave home behind, you can create Thralls--human NPCs with specialised abilities you can knockout, bind, and drag back to base to enslave--to help protect it, and they do a decent enough job.

Character progression in both single and multiplayer takes place in the Journey, a series of tasks grouped into chapters that, when completed, grant you attribute points to spend on any one of seven main ability slots. You also gain knowledge points to unlock new crafting recipes, of which there are a lot. The number of things you can craft is staggering; weapons, armor, survival items, and even religious altars to help to deify the gods of the world and earn their favour.

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Once you start crafting more complex items, you get better acquainted with one of the game's worst aspects: its UI. There’s nothing intuitive about it, and like the rest of the game, there’s very little explanation given as to how it works. On top of that, it's overly complicated, requiring you to place the resources along with any fuel required into the crafting bench first, select what you want to build from the menu, and then hit the play button to actually craft it. There’s also almost no difference between the console and PC UI, so it's an absolute nightmare to do any kind of inventory management with a controller. And like in most survival sims, it’s what you inevitably spend a significant amount time doing, making it a constant source of frustration.

When you get tired of chipping away at trees and rocks, which you will, you can chip away at creatures or other humans instead. There are all manner of things in the exiled lands for you to kill or be killed by, from animals and beasts to monstrous boss creatures like a giant black spider and a huge, spiked Dragon. But despite the sizeable enemy variety and the large array of weapons you can smith--from daggers to axes and giant mallets--combat is just plain bad. Both light and heavy attacks feel unwieldy thanks to sluggish animations, and weapon strikes lack any impact, resulting in dull and monotonous fights.

Conan Exiles is one of the most unsatisfying games I’ve ever played.

To top it off, Conan Exiles just feels really unpolished. The bodies of harvested enemies simply disappear into thin air, and large areas of the world can pop in and out of view at any time, clipping your character through the ground then respawning you somewhere else on the map. When the night starts to come, the moon’s light casts upwards from the ground, creating an bottomlit effect that looks atrocious. It’s also not in the most stable condition, with a number of crashes affecting gameplay randomly on both PC and Xbox.

Ultimately, Conan Exiles is one of the most unsatisfying games I’ve ever played. Its crafting and resource systems may be dense enough that the ultra-patient could find something to enjoy here, but anyone else would likely walk away with their hands thrown up in defeat. The mind-numbing tedium of harvesting resources, woefully boring combat, and a slew of bugs left me feeling completely underwhelmed and unimpressed when it was all said and done.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 24 May 2018 16:00:00 -0700)

As the leader of the California Senate, Kevin de León negotiated the fine points of a landmark effort on climate change. He helped balance the state budget. He wrote the California immigration law that’s drawn the ire of President Trump.

But Democratic voters who applaud those efforts don’t necessarily...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 24 May 2018 12:00:00 PDT )
The artist turns Plato's Cave into a South L.A. reverie, creating a splendid handmade grotto, which will subtly change over the next three months. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 24 May 2018 08:00:00 PDT )
Chef Virgilio Martinez shares kitchen tips for using potatoes, along with a recipe. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 24 May 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

Detroit: Become Human posits a well-worn future, when androids have become so lifelike and so deeply integrated into human society that surely it's only a matter of time and circumstance until they break through to the other side and achieve consciousness. There isn't much time spent examining how such a seemingly preventable event might be possible; Detroit is primarily focused on androids' experiences during the process of their awakening, and their shock when looking at humanity with eyes unclouded for the first time. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide how they react in the face of adversity.

It is a gameplay-light experience broken up into dozens of chapters with hundreds of decisions to make during cutscenes and explorative sequences. The only real challenge is to be fast, thorough, and perceptive enough to guide characters towards decisions that match your moral compass--or not, if you prefer your stories messy and chaotic. As a result of the myriad crossroads in Detroit, few players will experience events in the exact same way. Pivotal moments gone awry can lead some characters to premature deaths, but even small deviations can have a lasting impact on the state of the people, places and events you encounter throughout. Many of the decisions may seem mundane at first, but however benign a choice may seem, they add up, and gradually draw you into each character's individual experience.

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Detroit is purposefully designed in a disorderly fashion, leaving you with mini cliffhangers throughout the game as it cycles from one character's perspective to the next at the end of every 10- to 20-minute chapter. This may sound messy, but it actually works in its favor as the main characters Kara, Connor, and Markus each bring something different to the table. That variety ensures you're never bored and almost always surprised by what happens next.

Kara, a housekeeper android belonging to an abusive, drug-addled single father at the start, becomes a guardian on the run protecting Alice, the little girl she watches over. Kara is unfortunately naive, and as a result finds herself (and Alice) in trouble on a regular basis. The fact that danger for Kara also means danger for a young child significantly raises the stakes when push comes to shove. You strive to protect them from the worst examples of humanity gone astray, and though it's easy to identify the right choices to ensure their safety, getaways are rarely clean, and often messy.

By comparison, Connor's chapters are more personal and inquisitive. He assists a worn-out detective named Hank who loathes his presence due to a deep-seated prejudice, and the two must work together to solve a series of murders tied to rogue androids. Connor's partner isn't very likeable. He is gruff and rough around the edges, but he is nonetheless a good foil for you to play off of. Where Kara's owner is onenote and unbelievably harsh, Hank can be swayed to trust you over time and overcome his cynicism. It's not always easy to know what will convince him of your worth. Some answers may feel "right," but Hank knows better than to listen to someone who only tells him what he wants to hear.

Hank and Connor will regularly investigate crime scenes together where you're required to analyse your environment, gather clues, and recreate events by interpolating evidence. Not every crime scene tells a compelling story, but the process of investigation is consistently engaging. Conor's allegiance to humans (and his first hand experiences dealing with Hank's blunt hatred) gives you a chance to better understand both sides of Detroit's embroiled society. If there's one android in Detroit who deserves his own story to be blown up and given more screen time, it's Connor.

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The most pivotal character of the lot is Markus, and while he is involved with some of Detroit's most creative scenes, he is remarkably lacking in nuance. At the start, he has the most fortunate existence. His owner is a kind, elderly painter who encourages free thought and treats Markus as though he was his son. Meanwhile, the painter's actual son is a complete jerk who runs the risk of ruining his father's and Markus' well-being. This inevitably comes to pass, and it's from here that Detroit's big-picture plot kicks off: the fight for android equality.

The discussion is a valid one to have given the context at hand, but the way that the social disparity between humans and androids is conveyed in Detroit is such an on-the-nose series of references to the American Civil Rights Movement that it's hard not to to be taken aback. Androids are forced into the back of buses, segregated from some public areas and private establishments, and made to use the stairs instead of escalators… for some reason. When Markus rallies other rebellious androids and you get to pick their protest slogan, you are actually given the option to choose "we have a dream." These references are distracting, and at no point does it feel justified to lift from the history of actual people who've suffered--and continue to suffer--in the real world.

These moments are unforgettably lame, but it's a testament to the story's strengths elsewhere that they don't completely drag the experience down as a whole. Detroit excels at presenting dire situations. Danger seems to lurk around every corner, and because you are expected to react quickly under stress, you can't help but feel anxious when either Kara or Markus are at risk of being discovered by humans after going rogue. These moments can be quiet, slice-of-life scenes, but that would-be serenity only amplifies the tension; sometimes one misstep is all it takes to upend an otherwise peaceful chapter, and you don't want to feel responsible for triggering a chaotic turn of events. Generally, you still have a chance to fix a bad situation, but with so many potential ramifications in the air, Detroit always finds a way to leave a scar you won't soon forget.

Even if Detroit stumbles on a semi-regular basis, it is almost always captivating to behold.

For as powerful as those chapters can be, it's Detroit's most dreadful and horrific scenes that leave a lasting impression. Kara faces her fair share of terror, but Markus' transition to freedom is a hellish trip into the darkest corners of this fictional version of Detroit that's truly unforgettable. Detroit wouldn't be so effective at bringing you into this world if not for its overall stellar presentation. Some NPCs and secondary characters do stand out due to below-average production values, but it's only because most characters and scenes are so beautifully rendered. Even if Detroit stumbles on a semi-regular basis, it is almost always captivating to behold.

Writer and director David Cage is known for crafting these sorts of games (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls), but Detroit marks the first time you are presented with an explicit breakdown of the choices you made at the end each brief chapter--or during the chapter if you look in the pause menu. This is positioned as a feature, one that allows you to reflect on your actions and realize what you could have done differently, and if you so choose, to immediately go back and make different decisions. But in effect, this feedback methodology is ultimately detrimental, destroying your immersion by reminding you of the game you're playing, and reducing your influence to a point score that can be traded in for unlockable character models and documentaries. So far as I can tell, there's no narrative or meta significance to justify thrusting this information to the forefront before the game is finished. It's useful if you want to chase trophies or shy away from facing the consequences of your actions, but it sucks to be treated as if that's your default approach. There's no way to disable these flowcharts, and I really wish there was.

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These unavoidable flowcharts, like the blatant and cheap appropriation of American history, drag down Detroit's otherwise gripping tale. It has the makings of a truly memorable game, and in many ways, pieces of it will stick with me for a long time. It is too beautiful, too haunting, and too impressive to forget.

Despite being built for multiple playthroughs, it's difficult to imagine jumping back in to fix "mistakes" or exhaust every possible outcome for the sake of completionism. I played with my best intentions. Things didn't always go the way I wanted, but that was a burden I chose to bear, and the story benefitted from my commitment, flowcharts be damned. After completing the game, I tried to go back and fight my instincts to see what would happen if I chose a darker path. It never felt justified nor worthwhile. Detroit is well worth playing, but it struggles to strike the right balance between giving you freedom of choice and reminding you that it's all a game in the end. Cage and Quantic Dream are getting closer to nailing this style of game, but it's obvious that there's still room to grow.


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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 24 May 2018 05:00:00 -0700)

Kenta Maeda balled his right hand into a fist and hopped off the mound. A scream escaped his lungs after he executed his 97th pitch of the evening, a well-placed changeup that resulted in his 10th strikeout, ended the top of the sixth inning and erased a threat from the Rockies in a 3-0 Dodgers...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 23:05:00 PDT )

The Washington State Major League Baseball Public Facilities District has approved terms of a new 25-year lease with the Seattle Mariners for Safeco Field.

Combined with options for two three-year extensions as part of the agreement approved Wednesday, the new lease could keep the Mariners at the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 22:40:00 PDT )

This is why a team should never be declared dead in the first six or seven weeks of a season.

After an inactive winter by an overconfident front office that bordered on irresponsible, after losing Corey Seager for the season and Clayton Kershaw for about a month, and after dropping successive series...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 22:55:00 PDT )

Based on a hit comic book series from the late '90s, Battle Chasers: Nightwar successfully translates the look and feel of a comic into a turn-based RPG. The mesmerizing animated intro shows exactly what you're in for: a wild world where steampunk meets Dungeons & Dragons, rendered in beautiful, deep-shaded colors. It was a spell that was frequently broken when it first released. After months worth of patches, tweaks, and improvements on other platforms, however, it's a very different, and much stronger experience right out of the box on the Nintendo Switch.

The broad premise of the Battle Chasers comic is that a girl named Gully has taken a pair of magic gauntlets, along with a motley crew consisting of a sellsword, a wizard, and a kindly robot, on a journey to find her missing father. The Nightwar chapter, however, is a minor sidetrack from that journey. The crew gets shot down from their airship over a mysterious island with serious problems of its own. Supposedly, the island is home to a mother lode of mana, which has prompted something of a magic-based gold rush. Mercenaries, thieves, unsavory merchants and, most worrisome of all, the attention of an evil sorceress named Destra, are drawn to the island. The crew's plans to depart dissolve into a trek that goes deep into the island's darkest regions.

Battle Chasers endears you in the process of establishing its world, characters, and combat systems. Garrison, the mercenary, is exactly what you might expect from a square-jawed warrior with a tragic backstory: his terse personality keeps him at arm's length from his cohorts. On the flipside, the hulking mech, Calibretto, is a gentle soul who acts more as the defacto healer, and the beating heart of the story as it goes along. The cast at large brings infectious personality and energy to every scene, and all of this is underscored by a delightfully diverse soundtrack, flavoring typical medieval adventure anthems with everything from Chinese string instruments to bassy, trip-hop backbeats.

The game's overworld is dotted with opportunities to battle oozing slimes, vicious wolf men, and surly prospectors. Dilapidated little shanty towns pop up along the way, as well as occasional side quests, which usually impart a bit of lore before asking your band to thwart a high-ranking enemy in a dangerous place. The bread and butter of the game, however, is its major dungeons. Eight in total, the dungeons are procedurally generated. Despite the randomization, each room and its layout is impressively detailed, with smoothly integrated puzzles, that most of the time it's impossible to tell every dungeon wasn't meticulously laid out until you reset one, and re-enter to find an unrecognizable location.

From the outset, combat is fairly standard turn-based fare. Veterans of the game will find that the difficulty curve has been evened out in a way where early battles are still very doable, but don't go too easy on new players. The first few hours are full of hard hits and unexpected deaths for those who don't stay vigilant. Basic enemies hit for dozens of points in damage in a single wave, leaving debuff effects like Poison and Bleeding in their wake before you even really know what they do.

Thankfully, it's fairly easy to turn the tables. Every character has a special skill to affect enemies within dungeons--proactively stunning, ambushing, or igniting them--just before a fight kicks off. The principal gimmick during a fight is the Overcharge system. Basic attacks contribute to a special pool of red mana points that can be used to cast magic and tech attacks, rather than actual mana points. The new balance of progression makes it much easier to gain a foothold in the world, where no fight feels too unwieldy. For the fights that do, the removal of level restrictions on equipment also means that the right tool for the job is never too far out of reach. MP still remains in short supply as the game progresses, however. One should still be mindful about whether to build Overcharge or expend mana when using abilities. This gets increasingly tricky, but in a way that keeps you engaged in every battle, no matter how small.

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There were two major problems with Battle Chasers when it first released: A severely steep difficulty curve as the game progressed into its second and third acts, and frequent, aggravating load times going into both battles and new areas. The bad news is that the second issue remains. Even on the more powerful PS4, months of patches still leave a problem where even just getting into a fight in the overworld map can stop the game dead for 30 seconds to load a single, low-level enemy. At least that system gets 60fps fights as a consolation prize. The Switch gets no such benefit, with not just a lower resolution, but intermittent stutters in framerate the more active and flashy the attacks. On both systems, going from the overworld to a dungeon or vice versa can keep you trapped on a loading screen for close to a minute.

The good news is that everything else feels great. Changes to the game's XP and various store economies make it easier to keep your companions ahead of the curve through regular gameplay instead of through tedious grinding—though that's still an option if you want it to be, and the rewards are now much more worthy of the effort. The same considerations still have to be made with each new piece of gear. Armor typically raises a character's HP, stamina, and speed, but drastically lowers physical and magical defense--stats that matter against stronger enemies. The trick of it is finding items that counterbalance the loss, and the odds of that happening, as it stands, have been improved for the better.

Beyond the challenge of combat, Battle Chasers is sustained through the strength of its story, a rollicking tale that takes our heroes literally to hell and back. It's bolstered by some sharp dialogue, gorgeous artwork, and an ensemble that plays extremely well off of each other. Lots of work has gone into Nightwar since its first release, and the balancing improvements make it an easy game to recommend on all platforms.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 15 May 2018 12:00:00 -0700)

FAR: Lone Sails, the debut title of Swiss developer Okomotive, opens with your character--an unnamed, ambiguous figure in red--wordlessly paying their final respects at a grave behind their home. As you guide them from left to right, through their residence and out the front door, you leave it behind and set out on an unclear journey. The world is tinged grey, broken, abandoned. You quickly arrive at the vehicle that serves as your dwelling for the rest of the trek, a landbound ship that uses petrol, steam, wind, and its giant wheels and sails to propel itself forward. You henceforth pilot the ship in a straight line away from your home, unsure of the specifics of your destination or purpose--it seems like you're simply trying to go as far as possible.

Lone Sails is a 2D puzzle game in which there are no enemies, few challenges, and a purposefully vague narrative. These are all ideas we've seen attached to plenty of other indie platform-puzzle games, and in the opening few minutes described above it all feels very familiar. But it does not take long for Lone Sails to emerge with its own distinct voice and identity, and that's thanks to the ship you're piloting.

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You'll spend at least half your time running around inside your ship--presented from a bisected viewpoint whenever you enter it--pressing the big red buttons that operate its various functions. You'll need to make sure that you've got fuel in the tank before firing the engine, meaning you'll often have to stop and collect canisters of it from outside during your journey (at no point in my playthrough did I come even remotely close to running out). Steam will build up if the engine runs for long enough, and pressing the associated button releases a valve and gives you a brief speed boost. Aside from these functions, most parts of your ship don't require frequent attention. You have a hose for fires and a repair torch, but they're generally only needed during or following set-pieces; a brake that brings you to an immediate halt; and, following an early upgrade, a set of sails that you can coast with if the wind permits.

There are plenty of sections where the ship must be brought to a halt so that you can leave and fiddle around outside to clear a path or get yourself moving again. These are Lone Sail's puzzles, and they're generally quite gentle, usually not involving much more than figuring out the right order to hit a series of red buttons or attaching your ship's winch to something. But even if they're not challenging, these set-pieces are usually delightful, either in how much your meddling changes the environment around you, or how the world's vistas stretch out behind you, or because they end with your ship getting a neat upgrade. FAR: Lone Sails is consistently engaging, with a tactile pleasure to pulling boxes, pressing buttons, and jumping around as needed.

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But there are also long stretches where you'll likely find yourself doing nothing--the wind is carrying your ship, everything is organized below deck, and there's not much to do but sit on top and admire the view while listening to the soft orchestral soundtrack that kicks in during these quieter scenes. In these moments, as you take a moment to appreciate Lone Sail's beauty, the storytelling feels especially confident and focused. The world is beautiful, even though it's vaguely post-apocalyptic, with much of the landscape made up of a drained sea-bed and abandoned buildings. There are little hints at what may have happened to the world here and there, but ultimately the world outside of your ship doesn't matter so much until near the end of the journey, as the game's final act unfurls in a way that informs everything that came before it. Coming to appreciate the extended stretches of tranquility that Lone Sails often stretches out is one of its greatest pleasures.

You are always alone, and because of that, your attachment to the ship grows deeper. After a while, exiting the ship for any period starts to feel dangerous despite the lack of enemies. When bad weather conditions kick in at various points, leaving the ship feels akin to having to get out from under your blanket on a cold night. The ship feels alive and reactive, thanks in large part to great visual and sound design. Watching the turbines whir and embers shoot out from the back when you release steam, or even just sitting on top of the ship as it blasts along a flat with its sails out, is a bonding experience.

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This is a polished game, with only a few minor issues that I encountered. Every now and then an object in the foreground would obstruct my view of some parts of the ship, but the ship's layout is easy enough to remember that this was only a minor roadblock. Twice I had to reload my most recent checkpoint because I got stuck--once it was my own fault, the other time I was trapped by a rare invisible wall designed to keep me from going a certain way. But the checkpointing is generous enough that I didn't lose more than two minutes of progress, and I generally felt totally in control of my ship. It's also quite easy overall, and up until a surprising death towards the end of it all, I didn't even know you could die.

Lone Sails is a transfixing, lovely experience, one that takes recurring indie game tropes and does something unique and fun with them. It's short enough that you could play through it in a single two or three-hour session, but it will likely stick with you for a long time. I can see myself going back in a few months just to revisit the ship, like checking in on an old friend.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 15 May 2018 07:00:00 -0700)

Imagine the bleakness of the man versus giant creatures gameplay of Shadow of the Colossus as a definitively Nordic tale, and you have a general idea of what Jotun is. Sprinkle in a little bit of Dark Souls’ difficulty and a malevolent sense of challenge, and you’re closer to hitting the bullseye. Now imagine all of that hand-drawn in a style somewhere between Dragon’s Lair and Princess Mononoke, and you’ve got Jotun.

Boiling the game down to its disparate parts does the game a mild disservice, though. In execution, Jotun is a perfect storybook, a game that seems ripped from the imagination of a Viking child being told tales of warriors of old facing down their gods. It’s a wonderfully wild, vibrant bedtime story told with fire and verve, even when the game is at its most stark and lonely.

Jotun tells the tale of Thora, a Viking shield maiden who falls from her boat during a voyage and drowns. Because passage to Valhalla is only granted to those who fall in battle, Thora is given the chance to earn her way into the golden halls by finding and killing the Jotun, the Titans of Norse mythology. Along the way, the gods assist her, granting her new power when she finds their shrines and pays her respects. Otherwise, all she has is an iron axe and an iron will. We learn between stages where Thora’s determination comes from in a fantastic, steely narration performed in Icelandic. Each new piece of her story would be worth it on its own, revealing years of underestimation, neglect, and later, a sibling jealousy that turns tragic. Even if the gameplay wasn’t as good as it was, being able to help Thora achieve glory would be more than worth the effort.

Behold, the tree of life.
Behold, the tree of life.

Gameplay is 16-bit levels of simple, and yes, that is a compliment. You have a light attack with Thora’s axe, a hard-hitting heavy attack with a major delay, and a dodge. Thora can find massive shrines to the Gods in each stage, and by praying there, she earns new magical powers specific to each one--Thor allows her to use Mjolnir for a short time, Frigg allows her to heal at will, Loki creates a decoy that eventually explodes after a time--but all six of the powers have limited uses, and none are what you would call a guaranteed solution to any sticky situation. Primarily, timing, cunning, and luck will get Thora to Valhalla.

For most of the game, that cunning involves mastery of the environment. Jotun’s six stages, which can be tackled in any order, are impeccably designed. They are deceptively linear, laid out in such a way that gives the impression of vast, stunning tableaus in places dwarfed in size by your typical Diablo III dungeon. The illusion works. Grand, breathtaking vistas are the norm in Jotun, and they often serve as a wicked distraction from the dangers mere inches away. They’re also often rather desolate places, dark locales that no mortal has tread upon in ages. The game isn’t swarming with enemies, except for one particular stage that sends a veritable legion of dwarves your way. This bolsters the comparisons to Shadow of the Colossus, where the loneliness of what Thora has to do makes the sheer distance between each new obstacle feel like a greater journey. The real problem with that desolation is that more than a few times, you’ll need to backtrack through some of these areas to find much needed power ups, or because you’ve missed a crucial switch in order to get to said power ups, or because you’ve ended up in an area and the game’s obtuse pause screen map didn’t help you.

And this is why pruning your garden once a week is just so important.
And this is why pruning your garden once a week is just so important.

The main events of the game, however, are the Jotun themselves as bosses. The Jotun are simply awe-inspiring enemy design, taking the rather threadbare descriptions from Norse lore, and extrapolating them to the nth degree, with each one several times Thora’s size onscreen.

The best is still the first: A nature giant that feels like Ursula from The Little Mermaid made entirely out of living trees and vines. Still, each of the bosses are just wonderfully realized, and you get maybe a good minute to marvel at them before the pain starts. A terrifying shield-swinging giant can summon a legion of dwarves out of the ground to rush at Thora with a scream. Halfway through the frost giant’s fight, the playing field turns into a sheet of slippery ice; when it’s down to a quarter bar of life, a white-out blizzard starts. A blacksmith giant has you fighting in a neverending firestorm. What the Jotun typically lack in speed, they make up for in power, where being in the wrong place at the wrong time during a fight will mean your end in two hits. The Jotuns’ patterns and weak points aren’t hard to suss out whatsoever, it’s simply a matter of using your limited arsenal to deal with them, and often with the horde of peripheral obstacles/enemies each Jotun will throw at you during, and quite often it will still not be enough. The game gives Thora infinite tries, and will start her right at the boss with each of her powers replenished each time she dies. Persistence and learning from the numerous failures will lead to success, but the game will not coddle, and every victory will be well-earned beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The PS4 and Xbox One ports of Jotun are very much on par with the PC version. The only major difference is the addition of Valhalla Mode, a boss rush that opens up after you beat the campaign. Aside from expanded health bars, an extra element of danger has been added to each boss battle taken from the campaign, forcing you to alter your attack strategy. The first stage's plant boss now has poisonous spores surrounding her weak points, making it a game of hit and run rather than patient strikes. Alternately, a sword-wielding forge boss has a much shorter window in which to strike. Valhalla Mode is a small addition, but a welcome one.

One solemn face and 200 angry dwarves.
One solemn face and 200 angry dwarves.

The Switch version of the game stands tall next to its more powerful console brothers, with not a single frame out of place, and no slowdown, even in the game's busiest and most expansive areas. In handheld mode, the moments where the camera zooms out to give players a full view of their surroundings, or to behold the game's numerous, massive bosses can sometimes make poor Thora a tiny red needle in a haystack. These moments are scarce, though, and it's a small price to pay for the game's epic scope.

The Switch port does, however, have one problem that's much less tolerable: A much longer load time stretching between 15-30 seconds when entering a new area or respawning after a death. The initial load for a stage is acceptable, and transitions to new areas within a stage are much quicker, but for a game whose greatest challenges come from trial-and-error bosses that can sometimes kill with a single hit, the wait time to have another crack and be maddening. It's a single flaw, but it's a crucial one that can add insult to game's legion of fatal injuries.

Jotun is a short game, and good players can probably plow through it in about 3 or 4 hours, but even with the ending behind me, I find myself dying to witness some images again and wanting to try different strategies. I want to hear Thora tell her tale again. Any good bedtime story that makes you want to hear it again right after it’s over is one for the ages.

Editor's note: Portions of this article were featured in our PC, PS4, and Xbox One Jotun review.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 27 Apr 2018 08:00:00 -0700)

Jared Kushner has received his full security clearance after more than a year of delay and controversy, removing a hurdle to his continued service as a key advisor to President Trump, his father-in-law.

Kushner lost his access to top-secret intelligence in February, an embarassing setback for a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 12:25:00 PDT )

Leo Santa Cruz is enthused about his June 9 featherweight title rematch against Abner Mares at Staples Center and the potential to unify belts in the deep division.

But at 29, with a third child due in August and his father-trainer emerging from a life-threatening cancer scare, Santa Cruz is more...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 12:45:00 PDT )

To the editor: The response by USC faculty and staff to the revelation that gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall practiced on campus for 26 years despite multiple complaints of inappropriate conduct with patients has been heartening yet indicative of the vast divide between them and the university administration.

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 11:35:00 PDT )

Compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, the human brain is way out of whack.

Our brains are roughly six times larger than what you would expect for a placental mammal of our stature, scientists say.

And no other animal has a brain as large as ours relative to body size.

So why did humans evolve...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 10:00:00 PDT )

Thousands of people in Karachi attended the funeral Wednesday for a 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student who was killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high school.

Sabika Sheikh was among 10 students and staff killed Friday at Santa Fe High School near Houston.

She was her family's oldest child...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 09:40:00 PDT )

NFL owners reached a consensus Wednesday on a policy regarding the national anthem, addressing the most controversial and divisive issues in recent memory.

Under the new policy, players who do not choose to stand for the anthem before games will have the option of staying in the locker room. But...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 08:55:00 PDT )

For many mornings, five-time Tony-winning choreographer and director Susan Stroman would turn on her phone to find a musical message from legendary composer John Kander, her friend and frequent collaborator.

The content of the messages from Kander, of Kander & Ebb fame: waltzes.

“They were called...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 08:50:00 PDT )

In most district attorney elections, the campaign playbook is clear: Win over the local cops and talk tough on crime.

But in California this year, the strategy is being turned on its head.

Wealthy donors are spending millions of dollars to back would-be prosecutors who want to reduce incarceration,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 23 May 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

The Chargers did what they could to show their appreciation to tight end Antonio Gates, one of the best players in the team’s history, as they made plans to move on.

Tuesday, those plans might have changed.

Gates’ replacement, third-year tight end Hunter Henry, suffered a season-ending knee injury...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 19:10:00 PDT )

A prototypical leadoff hitter Max Muncy is not. At a stout 5 feet 10 and 215 pounds, he is more rectangular than sleek, more slugger than speedster.

Before Tuesday, Muncy had an average of one home run every 14.2 at-bats, which ranked sixth in the National League among players with at least 75...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 18:50:00 PDT )

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is closer than ever to playing for the Stanley Cup, and he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity.

“I’ve never been in this position before,” he said Tuesday, looking ahead to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 18:50:00 PDT )

The Angels received more bad injury news when reliever Blake Wood was diagnosed with a damaged ulnar collateral ligament.

Out for the past month with what the team called an elbow impingement, Wood will seek a second opinion. He’s expected to miss significant time.

“It’s a shame,” manager Mike...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 17:40:00 PDT )
The great Irish writer William Trevor captured turning points in individual lives with powerful slyness. “Last Stories” is his final gift to us. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Mon, 14 May 2018 09:00:07 GMT )

A Facebook friend recently posted the intriguing question, “What movie do you wish you could live inside?” I now have my answer: “The Gardener,” Sébastien Chabot’s captivating documentary about one of the world’s most beautiful and ambitious private gardens, the 20-acre Les Quatre-Vents in rural...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Mon, 14 May 2018 13:40:00 PDT )

“Welcome to the Men’s Group” has perhaps the most full-frontal male nudity ever in a mainstream movie. If that sounds at all cool, think again: It’s just one of many irritating, self-indulgent, faux-provocative bits in actor-director-co-writer (with Scott Ben-Yashar) Joseph Culp’s interminable...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Mon, 14 May 2018 12:35:00 PDT )

Enjoying Battletech takes time and patience. Born from the decades-old tabletop game of the same name (which also gave birth to the Mechwarrior series of games), the Harebrained Schemes version of Battletech places the universe into the genre most suitable to its origin: turn-based tactical strategy. It's a successful endeavor in that playing Battletech very much feels like playing a complex board game, both for better and worse. There are deep systems to be found in its meaningful mech customization, detailed combat scenarios, and enjoyable fantasy of running an interplanetary mercenary outfit. But reaching the point of thoroughly enjoying Battletech requires the willingness to weather its steep learning curve and laborious pace, which can sometimes veer into excruciating territory.

Individual missions in Battletech are protracted, plodding conflicts, averaging around 45 minutes in length. You command a group of four battlemechs, each piloted by unique and specialized pilots, with the goal of either blowing something up or keeping something safe against outnumbering forces composed of hostile mechs and vehicles of warfare. The enormous mechs of this universe are the lumbering, industrial behemoth kind, bulky tanks with legs characterized by ugly chassis and weapons overtly fused to their limbs. They are graceless, unwieldy machines, and Battletech doesn't hesitate in belaboring their nature as they slowly trudge through the game's vast, sprawling maps like pieces on a military sand table.

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Observing a unit's actions play out can be a quite a process. You'll watch them steadily stomp to a point on the topological grid-based terrain, leisurely rotate their torsos to their designated angle, wait for their weapons to spin up, watch the weapons fire, and wait again for a few moments as the damage report comes in to assess the aftermath. Mech animation speed aside, there are often pauses during this string of actions that feel unnecessarily egregious, and given the number of turns that need to be played out, long missions have the capacity to feel never-ending. There are more exasperating examples, too--during escort missions you'll find yourself watching up to four autonomous convoy vehicles taking turns to crawl through the map, slowly and one at a time, and the display is nothing short of agonizing. At the time of writing, there is a debug mode you can use to help artificially alter speed, but these are not officially endorsed options. By default, Battletech debilitating pace, combined with the game's lacking tutorials, firm difficulty, complicated UI, and persistent technical stammers mean the experience of Battletech's early hours can be tough to brave.

But it's worth it. Growing acclimated to Battletech's attrition-focused warfare and making enough of your own critical mistakes to get a handle on its systems feels liberating, when it eventually happens. Being able to parse initially obtuse information allows you to internalize and appreciate the suite of mechanical nuances and helps you recognize the game's detailed and hard-nosed approach to strategy. Like any great tactical game, each decision requires multi-faceted risk analysis for the best possible outcome. But the joy of good choices in Battletech doesn't come from bombastic maneuvers where your team precisely eliminates a whole enemy squad without a scratch, as it might in XCOM or Into the Breach--that's an impossible scenario here. Being truly successful in Battletech relies on being prepared to get into scrappy, aggressive fighting, and coming to terms with what an acceptable loss might be to you at the time, whether that's an objective, a limb, or the lives of multiple pilots.

With only four mechs to eliminate a larger number of adversaries in a turn-based ruleset, with no allowances for mid-combat repair, learning how to maneuver your mechs in order to endure a reasonable amount of damage becomes one of the most gripping aspects of decision making--how far do you push yourself to take on enormous odds? On the battlefield, this might mean something as simple as studying the impressively varied terrain in each map and finding the most advantageous spot to hunker down, or using buildings, forests, and mountains as cover during an advance. But on a more advanced and necessarily specific level, it might mean rotating your mech to present a fully-armored side to an attacking foe and obscure a side already damaged. Taking additional damage to a body part stripped of armor can result in structural damage or loss of limb, requiring replacement and repairs at significant cost, on top of running an increased risk of having your mech pilot permanently killed.

Similar considerations are always on your mind when you're on the offensive. You might decide to temporarily switch off some of your weapons when attacking to avoid overheating your mech, which can cause immediate, all-over internal damage. One of your mechs might be out of ammo but has the option of using its jets to leap off a mountain and crash onto an enemy below to knock it down--but can you afford the risk of breaking both your legs and being floored yourself?

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With a complete understanding of how each unit can affect another at different locations, with various skills, weapons, and modifiers at play, your perception of unfolding battles becomes one of utter fascination at the minor details and outcomes of each strike. Seeing the battlefield in a different way in order to devise your own alternative approaches and formulating creative backup plans are things that begin to occupy your thoughts, instead of the tempo. Conflicts are still lengthy, and some drawn-out maneuvers still feel unnecessary, but with the time devoted to each turn, you start to use it to observe and internalize what exactly is happening and why. Pivotal turning points in a battle can be narrowed down to the exact action, which can become tactical learnings for future use. There are still a few random elements that can occur, attributed to the probabilities that drive attack calculations--lucky headshots that instantly injure your pilot regardless of armor durability are the prime unfair example--but regardless, the increased focus and time spent on each distinct action means that the anxious feelings that come with even the most trivial of anticipated hits and misses are amplified tenfold.

Battletech also gives you an interesting ability used to preserve your squad--when a mission becomes overwhelming and dead pilots are almost certain, you can choose to immediately withdraw from a mission, at the cost of sullying your reputation with the factions that hired you and surrendering your paycheck. The latter is an especially vital consideration, because money quickly becomes a huge concern in Battletech's campaign and begins to affect all your decisions, both on and off the battlefield.

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The dynamic between the tactical battles and logistical management means almost every decision you make feels like it has rippling, tangible consequences elsewhere. The campaign sees your custom character rise to the leadership of a mercenary company which has accrued an enormous debt, with monthly repayments to meet every month. Naturally, everything costs money, from post-mission repairs, mech upkeep, pilot salaries, ship upgrades and even travel costs--this is a game about business management as much as it is about commanding a squad. Accepting missions allows you to negotiate a contract to determine what your fee should be in relation to your post-battle salvage rights (valuable for maintaining and upgrading your mech configurations as well as unlocking new models) and faction reputation, which opens up more lucrative opportunities. Request too little money on a mission you take carelessly, and the cost of mission-ready repairs afterward might send you into bankruptcy. Without enough salvage and spare cash to play around with, you're impeded in your ability to play with one of the most vital and enjoyable parts of Battletech: building and customizing individual mechs to improve the combat capabilities of your squad.

There are close to 40 different models of stock mechs, varying in tonnage and intended purposes. But the joy of spending time in the mech bay is experimenting with different configurations using the parts you have on hand. Every alteration you make on a mech is at the sacrifice of something else--you can carry more weapons and ammo at the expense of dropping things like heatsinks and additional armor plating, for example. Taking the time to fine-tune that balance and seeing your decisions translate into a more efficient unit on the battlefield feels exceptionally worthwhile.

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The lore and epic narratives of the Battletech universe are as important as the mechs themselves, and this game puts a heavy emphasis on them. The main plot begins with the coup of the head of a parliamentary monarchy--your custom character's childhood friend--and continues as you regroup years later to rally forces and take back the throne. The recorded details of the fictional history and politics between factions are unsurprisingly scrupulous--glossary tooltips for universe-specific concepts litter the game's text. But there are enough broad strokes and familiar feudal parallels to enjoy it at face value, and the comprehensive presentation--well-written and diverse characters, beautiful 2D cutscenes, inspired soundtrack, crunchy sound design and convincing radio chatter--do more than enough to completely sell this brand of mecha fantasy.

Battletech is a game that selfishly takes its time to be meticulous in every respect, and pushing through the density and idiosyncrasies of its many, slow-moving parts can be tough. But if you have the will to decipher it, albeit, at a deliberate and punishingly plodding pace, you can find yourself completely engrossed in its kinetic clashes. Battletech's intricate components ultimately foster a fascinating wealth of nuanced systems that build a uniquely strenuous, detailed, and thoroughly rewarding tactical strategy game.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Fri, 04 May 2018 17:30:00 -0700)

Out of the numerous games to spring up under the Bit.Trip umbrella, it's not exactly a surprise that the most accessible of the bunch, Bit.Trip Runner, would be the one to transcend its retro-styled roots. In bringing the Runner games' mechanics to a fancier playground on the Switch, developer Choice Provisions has made its most ambitious game yet--but in doing so, may have revealed the limits to how far it can push the concept. It's also the most difficult, and if you haven't already invested in a good sturdy case for the Switch that might stand up to having the system thrown at terminal velocity out of a living room window, now would be a good time.

On paper, the gameplay is as deceptively simple as it's always been. Your character runs forward automatically, and it's up to you to jump, duck, slide, and kick down obstacles until you reach the finish line. The secret sauce of the Runner series is that every action and every item in a stage is plotted to work with its music, a whole game trekking along to simple melodies. Stages can be unpredictable, but if you have any sense of rhythm whatsoever, losing yourself to the music can get you through the tougher moments.

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None of Runner 3’s tunes are terribly catchy, and quite frankly, it makes me wistful for the innovative chiptunes that accompanied the original Bit.Trip Runner. Most of the tracks settle for rudimentary and quirky when they could’ve absolutely gone big and eclectic. The furthest Runner 3 branches out in that regard is in the Danny Elfman-like haunted house tunes that accompany much of the second area of the game. At most, the music does the bare minimum: providing a beat for you to follow.

Most people will be able to blast through the first few stages easily, but Runner 3 ramps up the difficulty early on. Around the halfway point of the first area, stages start changing perspectives to an angle, but the shifts in viewpoint can make some of the jumps trickier than they need to be and obscure some obstacles. At its most aggravating, it's difficult to suss out where it's safe to land or what the timing needs to be to kick something out of your way. There are also moments where the game is too complex for its own good; for example, a machine that builds platforms as you run along, making anticipation impossible except through sheer trial and error--which can feel immensely cheap, especially as you get closer to the finish line.

That problem is made worse by the sheer length of each level. Although there are fewer stages in Runner 3, they go on longer than ever--a perfect run with no deaths can sometimes stretch on for four or five minutes. There are still checkpoints at the midpoint of each stage (and as before, if you like living dangerously, skipping the checkpoint gives you a ton of points), but each stage is so densely packed with obstacles this time around that those two minutes to get to safety can feel like an eternity. On top of that, the difficulty is wildly inconsistent; you might get stuck on an early stage that throws bizarre off-kilter obstacle patterns at you, and the next two stages could be walks in the park.

Compared to the relative austerity of the previous titles, Runner 3's environments go full-tilt wacky, overloaded with comical flourishes. The very first stage has you running through a breakfast island, a place where the palm trees are slices of cantaloupe and grapefruit, the rivers flow with milk and cereal, and the high roads are paved with waffles and toast. Later, another stage in Foodland sends you running through a giant refrigerator, bouncing off Jell-O cubes and jogging past some of the most outlandish and gross fake food products imaginable (personal favorites: Fish Errors, Beefmilk, and Cup O' Lumps in Milk Brine). Runner 3's levels are so immensely packed full of random amusements that you're equally likely to fail because you were busy staring at some visual gag happening off in the distance.

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For those who do want more of a challenge, there are Hard variations of each stage, and ironically, there's a more gradual climb in difficulty with these than in the normal stages. In addition, the branching Hard routes tend to be where most of the game's collectibles are hiding, giving even more incentive for multiple playthroughs of an area. Said collectibles unlock a sizable amount of content, from the truly infuriating Impossible stages to new runners--with recurring characters from previous games rubbing shoulders with Shovel Knight and, for some reason, Eddie Riggs from Brutal Legend--to Retro stages which are built on a Hanna-Barbera aesthetic.

The greatest compliment to be paid to a game like Runner 3 is that after feeling the urge to toss a controller, it's hard to think of anything else except trying again. Runner 3’s greatest strength is in rewarding that perseverance. Getting through each stage means more jokes to see, more characters to play around with, and more secret stages to explore. Runner 3, over time, reveals itself to be a veritable buffet of weird and whimsical environments, and thrilling, precision-based gameplay, but make no mistake: you will have to work for your meal.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 11:40:00 -0700)

Rams quarterback Jared Goff has made quick work of selling his home in Oak Park, an area near Agoura Hills.

The 23-year-old’s renovated single-story home came up for sale in April and had multiple offers after just three days on the market. Sale of the 1989-built house closed on Monday for $1.775...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 10:00:00 PDT )

From a new sweets shop in Little Ethiopia to a Malibu rosé festival, here’s what’s happening in the Los Angeles food and drink world:

Hold the campfire

First there were cupcakes, then Cronuts — and now, maybe, s’mores. Owner Annalisa Mastroianni Johnson plans to open Gotta Have S’more, a shop touting...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 09:00:00 PDT )

Chalk up another victory for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. The “Shape of Water” director has sold his estate in Agoura Hills for $2.1 million shortly after listing it, records show.

The cul-de-sac home features cinematic views from multiple living spaces, including a two-story...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 06:55:00 PDT )

One of the mysteries of personal finance has been the disconnect between the income inequality afflicting the working public and the claims by fiscal conservatives that most people’s retirement lifestyles will be perfectly comfortable.

A recent post on the Squared Away blog of Boston College’s...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 22 May 2018 06:50:00 PDT )

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials are reviewing an encounter between a Border Patrol agent and two women who were speaking Spanish at a gas station in northern Montana, the agency said Monday.

Allegations have been made before of law-enforcement officers in Montana racially profiling...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 17:55:00 PDT )

Irvine charter jet operator JetSuite will add hybrid electric planes to its fleet starting in 2022. It is the first substantial commercial order of an aircraft technology that could cut fuel costs and emissions, and make flights quieter.

The planes, which will seat up to 12 passengers, are being...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 15:50:00 PDT )

Perfection is not attainable in this earthly realm, but Audra McDonald came as close as humanly possible in her Los Angeles Opera concert Sunday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

The six-time Tony winner, one of the marvels of the theatrical world, is on tour promoting her new live solo album,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 14:55:00 PDT )

Charles Asubonten, whose background and experience came into question months after he was hired as the chief financial officer of CalPERS, is no longer with the giant pension fund, the organization acknowledged Monday.

The circumstances of Asubonten’s departure from the CalPERS executive ranks...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 14:50:00 PDT )

The NFL’s annual May meetings are typically a chance to clean up any unresolved issues from the more substantial gathering of team owners two months earlier. But this year, there are several significant topics on the table, among them sports gambling, the sale of the Carolina Panthers, the potential...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (må, 21 maj 2018 13:30:00 PDT )

Throughout the Chargers’ offseason, general manager Tom Telesco has given coach Anthony Lynn tiny pieces to add to the puzzle that wasn’t quite complete in the team’s first season in Los Angeles.

►Got him a new center — a big, nasty veteran who is hoping to put injury problems behind him while...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (må, 21 maj 2018 13:35:00 PDT )

In Beverly Hills Flats, a Midcentury estate designed by noted Los Angeles architect Daniel L. Dworsky has sold for $12.25 million in an off-market deal.

Dworsky, the man behind UCLA’s Drake Stadium and the Federal Reserve Bank in Los Angeles, built the one-story dwelling in 1961.

Past a landscaped...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 12:50:00 PDT )

A variety of new Pokemon will soon begin appearing in Pokemon Go. Developer Niantic announced that Alolan forms of classic Gen 1 monsters are on the way to the popular mobile game, and they'll begin popping up around the world just in time for summer.

"Whether your forecast calls for rain or shine, we're celebrating all around the world by introducing some special Pokemon from the tropical Alola region to Pokemon Go," Niantic said on the official Pokemon Go website. "Get ready for some of the Pokemon originally discovered in the Kanto region to appear in their Alolan forms!"

Niantic hasn't announced when players can expect the Alolan forms to debut in Pokemon Go, but the developer says they'll begin appearing in the game "in the coming weeks." Along with the announcement, the developer shared a new promotional image featuring silhouettes of the Alolan Pokemon, which you can take a look at below.

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Alolan forms were first introduced in the series' seventh generation installments, Pokemon Sun and Moon. They are region-specific variants of certain Kanto Pokemon, which sport a much different appearance and elemental type when encountered in the tropical Alola region. 18 Gen 1 Pokemon have Alolan forms; you can see the full list of them, along with their new types, below.

  • Rattata (Dark/Normal)
  • Raticate (Dark/Normal)
  • Raichu (Electric/Psychic)
  • Sandshrew (Ice/Steel)
  • Sandslash (Ice/Steel)
  • Vulpix (Ice)
  • Ninetales (Ice/Fairy)
  • Diglett (Ground/Steel)
  • Dugtrio (Ground/Steel)
  • Meowth (Dark)
  • Persian (Dark)
  • Geodude (Rock/Electric)
  • Graveler (Rock/Electric)
  • Golem (Rock/Electric)
  • Grimer (Poison/Dark)
  • Muk (Poison/Dark)
  • Exeggutor (Grass/Dragon)
  • Marowak (Fire/Ghost)

Up until now, Pokemon Go has only featured monsters taken from the first three generations of the series, meaning that some Gen 7 Pokemon will be arriving before Gen 4 monsters have even been introduced in the game. Niantic hasn't said if any of the new Pokemon from Sun and Moon will likewise begin appearing in Go soon.

On top of the upcoming Alolan forms, Pokemon Go players around the world have a number of real-world events to look forward to this summer as part of Niantic's Summer Tour 2018. That begins next month with a Safari Zone event in Germany, with the second annual Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago following in July. Niantic will also host a special Safari Zone event in Yokosuka later this summer.

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Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 13:15:00 -0700)

How to judge Kelly Clarkson’s first time hosting an awards show?

Consider that the singer brought a touch of suspense — and a deep well of feeling — to an annual production whose predictable data-based prizes include one for the year’s top-selling album.

Welcoming viewers to Sunday’s Billboard...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 11:55:00 PDT )

On a recent Monday morning in a Williamsburg studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., the camera had been turned on photographer Alexi Lubomirski, and he wasn’t crazy about the prospect.

This business of being the subject is not something he is accustomed to. Even though his portfolio spans fashion and the famous,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 11:55:00 PDT )

What inspires a play?

For “Ripe Frenzy,” a new drama about a school shooting, the genesis included:

The quintessentially American play “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder;

The manifestoes and other documentation that mass shooters have left behind;

The memoir “A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold, mother...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 07:00:00 PDT )

PGA golfer Henrik Stenson has sold his Orlando, Fla., home for $1.05 million.

Set within the gates of Lake Nona Golf & Country Club and built in 2007, the contemporary Mediterranean features oak floors, crown molding and a surround-sound system throughout the 3,384 square feet of living space.

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

John Cage said it best. Of Virgil Thomson’s opera “The Mother of Us All,” Cage wrote, “everything Americans feel about life and death, male and female, poverty and riches, war and peace, blacks and whites, activity and loitering, is shown to be real and true.”

Those feelings remained real and true...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

From “The Handmaid’s Tale” to “The Seagull” to “The Lottery” — Elisabeth Moss is on a roll with powerful fiction being brought to screens. But there’s a twist — soon we’ll see her playing writer Shirley Jackson.

Deadline reports that Moss, the Emmy Award-winning star of the Hulu series "The Handmaid'sTale,"...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Mon, 21 May 2018 06:00:00 PDT )
SERIES

The Voice Each of the final four vocalists performs a cover and an original song, then sings a duet with his or her coach in Part 1 of the singing competition’s two-night season finale. 8 p.m. NBC

Supergirl A fugitive (guest star Nesta Cooper) from Coville’s cult could hold the key to solving...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 20 May 2018 20:00:00 PDT )

Stephen Curry got his groove back to score 35 points with five 3-pointers, shooting over James Harden and driving past the Houston star as the Golden State Warriors made a second-half statement to beat the Rockets 126-85 on Sunday night for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Kevin Durant...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 20 May 2018 19:55:00 PDT )

Aaron Wise cruised to his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, shattering the AT&T Byron Nelson record at 23 under on a new course in a race to finish before nightfall after a four-hour rain delay.

The 21-year-old rookie shot a 6-under 65 to beat Marc Leishman by three strokes as both became the first...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 20 May 2018 18:35:00 PDT )

Dark Horse has announced a hardcover companion book for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The collector's volume is pretty massive, boasting 424 pages in all. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild--Creating a Champion will cost $40 when it releases on November 20, 2018.

The announcement details just how much space in the book is devoted to its various artifacts. It boasts 296 pages of design artwork and commentary alone, along with another 55 of Hyrule history leading up to the events in Breath of the Wild, and nearly 50 of sketches and illustrations from Takumi Wada. It also includes interviews with the team including Hidemaro Fujibayashi, Satoru Takizawa, Takumi Wada, and Eiji Aonuma. All the material will be from Breath of the Wild and its two DLC packs.

Dark Horse published the Hyrule Historia in the US in 2013, which was notable particularly for outlining the Zelda timeline. That followed by the Art and Artifacts art book last year, and the upcoming Zelda Encyclopedia. Creating a Champion is similarly a localization of the Breath of the Wild Master Works volume, which was published in Japan by Nintendo.

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Source: GameSpot Gaming Reviews (Sun, 20 May 2018 19:14:00 -0700)

The Trump administration carefully stepped back Sunday from a looming trade war with China, saying that it would refrain for now from applying major tariffs on Chinese goods in the wake of Beijing’s promise to ramp up purchases of American products to reduce the trade deficit.

“We’re putting the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sun, 20 May 2018 16:40:00 PDT )
A selection of books published this week; plus, a peek at what our colleagues around the newsroom are reading. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 15 May 2018 09:00:10 GMT )
5.0 stars out of 5: Death to the patriarchy.
"Who killed the world?" yells a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road. This outburst comes after an earlier moment where camera pauses on the question painted on a cave wall. And since it's one of only a couple dozen complete and comprehensible...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:05:45 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: A little much.
The past few years have seen a marked rise in the number of Christian-themed films getting wide theatrical distribution, but to call it a "new wave" of faith-based cinema is probably inappropriate. That designation is usually reserved for a...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:27:52 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Proustian mush
It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:25:37 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: You can fly. Eventually.
In your initial visit to Tomorrowland, you're not really there at all. That's what scientifically-named Casey Newton (The Longest Ride's Britt Robertson) discovers when she first goes there by touching a tiny, metal, "T"-emblazoned pin. She takes...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 22 May 2015 05:11:54 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Songs about butts.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with a crazy, performance-based, wardrobe malfunction, one that, in the film's words, exposes the "down under" region of one of the a cappella Bellas. For this accidental offense they are mocked, chastised, and stripped of...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:04:29 GMT )
1.5 stars out of 5: History written by the winners.
First-time director Russell Crowe has stepped in it, probably without meaning to. But it's happening all the same. His film, entirely devoted to an exploration of the aftermath of a key, nation-defining battle in Australian war history -- the...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:26:41 GMT )
3.5 stars out of 5: Much Avenge About More Things
They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 01 May 2015 00:39:50 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )
0.5 stars out of 5: BOO-RING
It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 23 May 2015 09:29:13 GMT )
Power 106 FM kept its annual summer hip-hop show, Powerhouse, old school and relatively orthodox, with rappers Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Young Jeezy leading a show that was light on the dance-oriented pop hits that dominate the airwaves. The Times' August Brown reviews. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews (Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:40:41 -0700 )
Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 19:36:33 -0700 )
Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena celebrates music at its most casual and community-focused, and has grown from a festival that once largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can draw artists with national appeal. Boasting 149 performances and pop-up stages on Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers, and headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 17:39:47 -0700 )


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