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CONTENT
FEATURED NEWS FEEDS


NEWS (LAST 200)
Dempsey scores first goal of season, Sou...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: 92...
North Korea sticks with new era pledge, ...
It is finally OK for Jets fans to dream ...
24/06/2018: Focus: Environment
Dempsey, Katai score in Fire-Sounders ti...
24/06/2018: News: UK ‘is hiding extent...
24/06/2018: Focus‘opera: OVERLEAF...
24/06/2018: News: Dry season
MLS Top Scorers
Police: Officers killed armed man in nor...
24/06/2018: Business: Nemat Shafik...
24/06/2018: News: Star British designer ...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: 24%...
Billy Bob Thornton wont share his politi...
24/06/2018: News: Retired
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi confr...
Pearces 9th-inning blast sends Jays past...
Kevin Knox’s goal for first Knicks sea...
Three kidnapped Turkish engineers releas...
Nick Kyrgios simulates a sex act with hi...
New Zealand PM reveals her babys name...
24/06/2018: News: 1962 First civil war...
Islanders can’t stop getting lucky at ...
River of protesters show up to support f...
24/06/2018: Travel: 2 StrEAT
24/06/2018: Business: Shriti Vadera...
24/06/2018: Business: Raghuram Rajan...
24/06/2018: Cash: Your problems
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Disney s...
24/06/2018: World: Flashback 2015
24/06/2018: Business: Andy Haldane...
24/06/2018: News: 1956 Independence...
24/06/2018: News: 2011 South Sudan forme...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: ‘...
24/06/2018: Travel: 3 Staff canteens on ...
24/06/2018: Travel: 1 Uhvat
24/06/2018: Business: Andrew Bailey...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Analysts...
24/06/2018: News: Fifa investigates Swis...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Watchdog...
24/06/2018: Business: Agustín Carstens...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Green go...
24/06/2018: Business: Ben Broadbent...
24/06/2018: World: Zimbabwe leader escap...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Nick Coh...
Bootylicious Gabi Grecko, 29, packs on P...
24/06/2018: Focus: People
24/06/2018: News: Millennials make it a ...
24/06/2018: Comment & Analysis: Accounta...
MLS Standings
Frustrated All Blacks, Wallaby coaches p...
9-MLB Results
24/06/2018: News: In genteel Southwold, ...
Blue Jays snap road losing streak, beat ...
Hoesen, Tarbell help Quakes to 1-1 tie w...
Woman who is recovering from binge eatin...
Moon returns from Russia visit
Jays Stroman shines in return from DL...
Key talks to open on boosting worlds che...
Draw with Quakes ends RSLs home win stre...
News24.com | How VBS Mutual Bank was plu...
Zsa Zsa, the English bulldog, wins World...
Scouts dump bucket of cold water on Nets...
Colombia and Poland’s need to survive ...
24/06/2018: Weather: Jet stream
Peru star Farfan in doubt for Australia ...
Three kidnapped Turkish engineers releas...
24/06/2018: Focus‘opera: IN COMMENT...
Rangers now pivot to players who will de...
24/06/2018: Travel: 4 Oblomov
Yamaha pioneer JVC amplifiers home stere...
Air Innovations Humidifier (Ridgewood) &...
NASCAR Camping World Truck-Villa Lightin...
Firefighters battling 75-acre blaze near...
Sony PS3 + Games (Flatiron) $250...
Worlds first robot burger restaurant set...
Vintage Emerson Portable TV/FM/AM/PSB (H...
Honeywell Lynx Touch L5100 with Power Su...
In Mexico the joy continues as national ...
Calissa Dellabarca earns another dominan...
Seattle Sounders 1, Chicago Fire 1 | 201...
Major League Baseball notebook: Kershaw ...
Polk Audio Floor Speakers - Pair (East V...
Frigidaire FFRA0511R1 5, 000 BTU 115V Wi...
Police operation in Canterbury targets o...
Brother Intellifax 2820 Laser Printer Fa...
SAVE: Nick Rimando goes to ground for th...
The forgotten Burmese heroes of World Wa...
CNNMoney Business Now
Samsung 32" TV for sale (Midtown West) &...
37 inch Television for Sale $80 (Riverda...
Infinity Primus Bookshelf speakers pair ...
MLB: Blue Jays put pitchers Aaron Sanche...
Sennheiser HH 10 Headphone Holder [new] ...
Direct Video mic go on camera phone Rod...
Dealing With an Aging Parents Alcohol Pr...
Real Salt Lake 1, San Jose Earthquakes 1...
SAVE: Stefan Frei makes a diving stop on...
SAVE: Richard Sanchez gets down to stop ...
Can you really catch germs from a toilet...
Correa's RBI single in 12th gives A...
Rays 4, Yankees 0: Yankees’ Strategy, ...
55 Samsung 4k TV (Midtown West) $...
Why Meghan Markle wears shoes that are t...
Millions gather as fireworks brighten St...
Queen invites Meghan Markle on second en...
50 inch Ultra HD 4K Smart TV (Upper East...
Therapure Air Purifier (Ridgewood) �...
NASCAR broadcaster Wendy Venturini suffe...
The Headline: RBNY continue to beat MLSs...
SHOT: Aleksandar Katai belts a shot into...
CROSSBAR: Aleksandar Katai rattles the w...
Condensed Match: COL vs. MIN | June 23, ...
Oregon State beats Mississippi State 5-2...
Mets place Jason Vargas on DL night befo...
Smith's stoppage-time goal helps Ra...
SHOT: Victor Rodriguez fires a shot just...
Correas RBI single in 12th gives Astros ...
The Latest: English bulldog Zsa Zsa wins...
His running game is unbelievable Steve H...
Sandra Clair: The childhood illness to p...
Big Read: Virginia Tech making the case ...
Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams Review:...
Far-right rally outnumbered by anti-raci...
Dempsey scores first goal of season, Sou...
Nikon D5000 kit(two lenses) + additional...
Crate Accoustics Guitar Combo AMP - CA12...
Electrohome Signature Vinyl Record Playe...
Mel Greig gives zero f**ks as she shares...
Rory McIlroys opening tee shot delayed b...
News24.com | Musos say Arthur must go...
Lorde donates $5K to Starship Childrens ...
Why Nationals have been such an attracti...
Kim Jong-un erases his father and grandf...
Killings by security forces rife in Vene...
AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EDT...
Man stabbed in the head with high heel d...
Millions gather as fireworks brighten St...
Kookaburras start Champions Trophy with ...
Hunter rescued seven hours after falling...
News24.com | How VBS was plundered...
Maroons legend Johnathan Thurston reveal...
MLB roundup: Kershaw struggles in return...
Mourners pay respects to former Labour M...
Oregon State tops Mississippi State to r...
Blac Chyna shows off her curves in strap...
Jason Vargas, struggling Mets pitcher, h...
Parkland shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz t...
Smith scores in 7th extra minute, Rapids...
Shorten launches Lambs Longman campaign...
Ex-Houston Texans Cheerleader Claims Coa...
Justin Haley races to first NASCAR Truck...
News24.com | Courts rule ANC
Police Used DNA, Ancestry Services to So...
Kerri-Anne Kennerley, 64, is a vision in...
Prince William makes historic visit to M...
News24.com | Stop talking down to us, ne...
April Love Geary flaunts post-baby body ...
Mozambiques gas-fuelled future threatene...
South Africas battle to resuscitate canc...
Trumps staff struggle to find dates in D...
15-year-old boy stabbed to death after b...
Young Trump staffers are struggling to d...
Senator Lucy Gichuhi advertised a house ...
War, wine and wonders: hopefuls vie for ...
NASCAR Camping World Truck-Villa Lightin...
Series gets the right result – Ireland...
Risdons big breakthrough could open the ...
U.S. government reunites 522 children re...
Portland girl, 15, uses sign language to...
Michael Kay makes fun of fundamentals...
Lupica: For years, Yankees-Red Sox rival...
Ashley Graham wows as she puts hourglass...
White woman gets death threats after cal...
Sharkie to romp Mayo by-election: poll...
Dowrich rescues West Indies
Nelson Giants go top of the National Bas...
A street in Porirua is sinking daily but...
Wayne Bennett fires warning to NRL over ...
Tiffany Trump gets ready for another nig...
Packed Melbourne shopping centre is shut...
Smiths stoppage-time goal helps Rapids s...
Athletics-Levy targets sub-13 club after...
Rapids edge Loons with goal deep in stop...
Oregon St. beats Miss. St. 5-2, plays Ar...
Michael Kay make fun of fundamentals...
Bulldogs Faitala-Mariner hurt in NZ loss...
Correas RBI single in 12th gives Astros ...
Pyongyang media call for S. Korea to scr...
WWE champs AJ Styles and Carmella warm u...
World Rugby lacking leadership: Hansen...
Bikini blogger Natasha Oakley flaunts am...
Owner of restaurant that booted out Sara...
Justin Haley races first NASCAR Truck vi...
Firefighters deliver pizza for driver af...
Defence Minister Ron Mark one step close...
The Latest: English bulldog Zsa Zsa wins...
Correas hit in 12th sends Astros past Ro...
Relief, anger follow lawmakers' vis...

REVIEWS & PREVIEWS (LAST 60)
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Review - The ...
Overly reverent bio-pic Gotti strands a ...
Justify receives warm welcome at Santa A...
Romantic comedy Set It Up is little more...
Golem Review: Hidden In Plain Sight...
Number of black players at World Cup is ...
Man dies trying to rescue 5-year-old boy...
No todos los mexicanos quieren gritar "P...
What’s Roseanne without Roseanne? Why ...
White House team visits Mideast to advan...
Deadly blast at Ethiopia rally a ‘well...
The week ahead in SoCal dance: Barak Bal...
Newest Clippers guards have hopes of bec...
Vampyr Review: The City That Never Sleep...
Buying Guide: The best cameras under $20...
Spanish drama Sundays Illness artfully n...
Lo-fi crime drama Counterfeiters stumble...
Mike Tyson fighting Steven Seagal is a m...
Lea Thompsons family comes out to play i...
Six men push their bodies to the limit i...
Yoku’s Island Express Review: A Breath...
Fiction: Bill Clinton and James Patterso...
Serviceable mystery Intersection follows...
Though well-acted, The Yellow Birds reli...
Civic leader John Mack, a prominent voic...
Leonard Bernstein at the Skirball: 10 ob...
What a datemare. This is a prank, right?...
Adrift in Los Angeles: Mark Haskell Smit...
What a showoff: Ghostly Brugmansia deliv...
One killed, three injured in San Bernard...
Children’s Books: Grandmas and Grandpa...
Inside the List: ‘Kitchen Confidential...
Nonfiction: How Hunting Became a Macho S...
Crime: Bears and Poets: Endangered Prey ...
Visual Verse: Terrance Hayes Spins Poems...
Paperback row: New in Paperback: ‘The ...
Otherworldly: Heart-Hammering Science Fi...
Nonfiction: Woodrow Wilson Achieved a Lo...
NBA draft 2018 live updates: Clippers la...
ABC greenlights Roseanne spinoff without...
NBA draft 2018 live updates: Ayton, Bagl...
Review: The Petzi Treat Cam
Domke F6 Little Bit Smaller shoulder bag...
Canon EOS M50 Review
Hex Raven DSLR Bag Review
Demi Lovatos surprise single Sober raise...
Californias campaign watchdog panel dead...
Robert Pattinson delights in the sly, ar...
Boundaries takes the road all too quirki...
House votes down first of two immigratio...
Jurassic World Evolution Review: Life Fi...
Lakers could look to improve their shoot...
Superfly is a flashy, violent and fitful...
Buying Guide: The best fixed prime lens ...
Dont stop with family separation. End th...
Buying Guide: The best pocketable enthus...
Buying Guide: The best cameras under $50...
Buying Guide: The best cameras for stude...
Buying Guide: The best cameras under $15...
Buying Guide: The best cameras for sport...


The long gestating and theatrically delayed “Gotti” is hardly the dud its inauspicious Cannes Film Festival premiere last month, its original direct-to-VOD release plan and its lack of advance critics’ screenings might lead one to believe. That said, it’s also not particularly strong.

Although...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:15:00 PDT )

A pair of overworked Manhattan executive assistants conspire to play Cupid for their respective abusive bosses in the Netflix original “Set it Up,” the sort of strained, protracted romantic-comedy that gives the genre a bad rap.

Logging late hours is business as usual for harried Harper (Zoey Deutch),...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 16:00:00 PDT )

Naomi Anderson of La Puente arrived at Santa Anita at 7 a.m. on Saturday to be first in line for jockey Mike Smith signing posters featuring Triple Crown winner Justify.

“It’s a big deal,” she said.

By 10:30 a.m., the line around the Kingsbury Fountain had grown to an estimated 3,000 and stretched...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 23 Jun 2018 15:35:00 PDT )

Golem often feels at odds with itself. This gorgeous puzzle-filled adventure successfully wraps you in a mystical world, where bright hues and cheerful melodies set the mood. But beneath this inviting exterior lie disjointed challenges that no amount of whimsy can sugarcoat. Even with smart mechanics that are introduced at a sensible pace, Golem's rhythm is regularly disturbed by jarring difficulty spikes and obtuse solutions.

A vague narrative tells of a lost civilization that once upon a time used magical stone creatures to build and maintain its structures. These beings, or golems, are practically extinct, save for one you're tasked to rebuild throughout ten puzzle-filled stages. Starting as a lifeless ball, the golem feels like a nuisance at first, which only serves to make its eventual evolution that much more gratifying.

As your golem is slowly pieced back together, new mechanics are introduced to allow for more complex puzzles. When it gains the ability to walk on its own, for example, you will have to accurately predict its movement while manipulating the environment to clear pathways at the right moments. Later, it evolves into a dog-like creature that you can command to move to specific locations, and will eventually grow strong enough to carry you across treacherous tracts of land that are otherwise impassable.

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Golem's ten stages act as large puzzle rooms, each with the objective of going from one end to the other. This traversal is restricted by your golem's growing moveset, which puts the onus on you to chart an appropriate course. This can be as simple as moving a rock pillar to close a gap, or as complex as activating a series of switches to resuscitate an old, aging turbine that in turn spins up other nearby mechanisms. Regardless of the conceit, the goal remains the same but with shifting responsibilities. Your golem will sometimes, for example, need to be precisely placed to apply pressure to a switch, giving you access to a new area via a now moving railcar. In turn you might need to ensure that your ally has a clear path to the next hurdle. If you've gone one step too far without a clear solution in sight, backtracking and starting from scratch may be your only option.

Herein lies one of Golem's most frustrating aspects. Puzzles ought to require intricate solutions that make you second guess your instincts, and the best of them give you that "aha" moment, when you recognize that the blueprint to success was evident from the start--you just hadn't yet learned how to see a certain number of steps ahead. Golem instead obscures your view of many puzzle elements, forcing you to succeed through trial and error as opposed to relying on foresight and analysis. Golem also regularly fails to make some unique interactive objects standout from the background, which forces you to tediously move your mouse around the screen to determine what is or isn't useful. Basic switches and levers, on the other hand, are clearly marked; an inconsistency that makes it hard to trust that the game is always playing fair.

Moving about a stage isn't a fast or free-flowing affair, but instead a point-and-click style dictation. This systematic process and your character's slow movement speed is mercifully compensated for with the inclusion of a fast-forward button, which you’ll use frequently. And just like the indiscernible key items throughout each stage, walkable pathways are often indistinguishable from off-limits areas. The inconsistency of Golem's visual language leads to tiring efforts of just clicking on possible destinations in the hopes of finding one that's actually accessible.

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Golem confuses size with ingenious puzzle design, which just dilutes the euphoria it aims to generate on completion. Yet it still conjures infrequent moments of bliss that re-establish a sense of wonder. Golem’s vast, mysterious world is ultimately inviting to poke and prod around in, even if its stringent mechanics don’t allow for looking further beyond the stage at hand. There’s an underlying drive to discover what this world is about, what secrets its lost inhabitants might have held, that prevent temptations to just leave it entirely. Golem’s puzzles might feel shallow, but its saving grace is the captivating setting it desperately latches them onto.

It's the fizzle at the end of the fuse that encompasses a disappointing journey into an otherwise visually captivating world. Golem attempts but fails to find harmony in bringing a vague tale together with any sort of emotional resonance. That might have been easier to forgive if the journey itself was exceptional. Instead Golem's inconsistent puzzles and jarring difficulty spikes will infuriate you more than they infatuate.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 06 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

2D anime fighters like the BlazBlue series are often intimidating for their elaborate movesets and demand for precise execution. However, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle breaks from tradition by simplifying its gameplay systems, and bringing in characters from three other franchises to join the fight. By no means does the simplification make Cross Tag shallow--the dynamic tag system and the clever ways you can mix mechanics are where Cross Tag shines. Factor in the charm of these distinct worlds and you'll have plenty of reasons to consider this fast, flashy, and endearing fighter.

Across four mainline games, BlazBlue developed a complex fighting system, while Persona 4 Arena and Arena Ultimax distilled the formula and captured the charisma of the eponymous RPG. Under Night In-Birth (from developer French-Bread in collaboration with Arc System Works) had its own twist on a deep, yet accessible fighting game. The RWBY animated series makes its fighting game debut, and the cast's talents and flair make the transition incredibly well. Cross Tag Battle unifies all four series as a five-button fighter with two main attack buttons, a universal overhead attack that can also function as an EX attack, a tag button, and the partner skill. While it may seem a bit too straightforward, even the most historically complex characters on the roster remain true to form where it counts. By distilling classic fighting mechanics, the focus is shifted from performing elaborate directional inputs to creating openings for sweet high-damage combos through easy-to-execute attacks.

You'll recognize familiar moves with similar properties from respective games, but the conditions for execution have changed. Basic attacks, smart combos, and even Supers (called Distortion Skills) are easy to pull off, though the number of techniques mapped to the limited controls can cause some inadvertent activations of very different moves--particularly throws and Distortion Skills. Auto-forward dash on most characters may also be jarring to fighting game veterans. But it doesn't take much effort to adjust to this game's quirks and pace.

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Partner skills will take time to grasp; every character has unique back, forward, and standing assist attacks where they fly in from off screen to lend a hand. Cross combos take the tag system one step further by letting your duo pile on damage simultaneously; pulling these off will make short work of opponents if you can expertly control your tandem. These are key to maximizing the effectiveness of combos, creating openings, or pulling yourself out of a rut. With this in mind, you're encouraged to either experiment using different duos or form your own collaborative attacks with the pair you love most. It's chaotic and tough to nail down in live matches, and it's where the depth of combat comes from.

Most of your advanced moves require you to expend meters that charge during the course of combat and it's critical that you keep an eye on them at all times. Meter management requires you to think about using up the skill gauge for distortion skills, laying down EX moves, or saving up for back-to-back supers with your tag partner. Cross combos and tag counters to get out of combos use up the two-bar cross gauge. And when you're down a fighter, the Resonance Blaze (the comeback mechanic) kicks you into overdrive for 15 seconds by regenerating health, adding chip damage, automatically filling the skill gauge, and strengthening Distortion Skills--be sure to use that time wisely.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch. Tactics Mode walks you through the basic terminology, mechanics, and their use-cases, and each character has a tailor-made tutorial that gives you the opportunity to perfect specific combos. On top of that, there's a slew of missions in Tactics Mode that pit you in difficult challenges to build awareness of the more specific situations you'll encounter in matches.

All the pieces of a fast, smooth, and endlessly fun fighting game exist within Cross Tag, but it truly shines by channelling and fusing the personality and charisma of each franchise. Whether it's the stylish super moves, battle cries, or fluid animations, this large cast is bursting with charm. While many of the assets have been repurposed from previous games, this is the first time we see members of RWBY in 2D with anime-inspired models. Under Night's cast also gets redrawn portraits to better fit the BlazBlue aesthetic. Despite their differences, the combination of worlds works so well that each fanbase will find something to love about seeing their favorite characters in unexpected scenarios.

Mixing up teams brings about collaborations I've always wanted to see. Sure, Hyde, Ragna, and Narukami may play like the standard sword-wielding boys from their respective worlds, but having either of them work together makes for a badass team. As a die-hard Persona fan, having the Investigation Team reunited at Yasogami High for a hectic brawl while bumping the Arena mix for Reach Out To The Truth warms my heart. Especially smaller moments, like the unique chatter and interactions between two characters before fights commence, makes this feel like more than a rehash of multiple assets or collection of characters thrown together all willy nilly. When I'm hopping from Under Night's Riverside stage in one fight to BlazBlue's Cathedral the next, using my favorite duo of Chie and Ruby while listening to Hyde's battle theme, Cross Tag Battle evokes and amplifies the fondness I have for this roster.

The crossing of worlds primarily plays out in the Episode Mode, where the four factions of fighters are forced to fight in a fake realm by a mysterious, omnipresent AI that creates arbitrary rules. By obtaining color-coded keystones, and eventually uniting to fight this AI, they'll be able to return home. The overarching plot sounds ridiculous, and it's borderline nonsensical. Each of the four campaigns play out as a visual novel with static character portraits and fully voiced dialogue; actual fights are embedded within each chapter to keep you an active participant. It's all quite trite, sometimes eye-rolling.

Cross Tag Battle has a lot to absorb, and it'll take time to get comfortable with the fighting system and unravel all its intricacies. Thankfully, the onboarding process is top-notch.

Some character appearances feel shoehorned for the sake of making an appearance, but despite its absurdity, moments of cross-franchise fan service stick the landing. Ruby's obsession with fancy weapons permeates her encounters with the likes Ragna and Hyde. References to Chie's obsession with steak, and Yukiko's inability to make curry call back to the moments I first met them in Persona 4; even Noel gets caught up in the mix as she's completely oblivious to how bad it'll taste. And as each episode concludes, I was rewarded with heartfelt scenes that reminded me of why I'm invested in these characters.

Story mode highlights something odd, though. DLC characters take part in the story as opponents despite not being available in the playable base roster. Their movesets, character models, theme songs, and voice lines are in the game, but they're gated as add-on content. Half of RWBY's cast is offered for free, but to see several Persona, BlazBlue, and Under Night folks so obviously withheld feels unfair.

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Taking the fight online is where you'll spend most of your time after getting your feet wet in single-player. Cross Tag online component consists of multiple lobbies for different skill levels where players walk around as chibi versions of their favorite character. Customizing your player card with character portraits and familiar catchphrases is another avenue to express your love. It's cute and lighthearted, magnified by the adorable batch of emotes that often take the edge off exhilarating fights. And thankfully, jumping into matches works seamlessly. After hundreds of rounds online, both in the casual lobby and ranked matchmaking, we can say that netcode is solid and that latency is a non-issue with a decent connection.

Players that want a more competitive environment should be happy to know that we had little trouble finding a fair fight in ranked matchmaking. In both victory and defeat, memorable moments abound. Although it can be frustrating, I'm always taking note of how high-level players get the better of me. I'll also never forget making a comeback from being down a teammate, activating resonance blaze and perfectly timing both Chie's power charge and God Hand super while my opponent was in mid-tag to take them both out in one hit.

Whether playing through the story mode alone or against hardened opponents online, Cross Tag Battle is an absolute joy with a surplus of possibilities within its wide roster and versatile fighting system. Even with all the ridiculousness of the overarching plot, I reveled in the charm of my favorite characters and embraced the many moments of fan service. It's a masterful unification of styles and mechanics from four different universes that compels you to dig deeper and dedicate the time to getting the most out of the beloved members of this cast.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 06 Jun 2018 10:00:00 -0700)

A young man died trying to rescue a 5-year-old boy who had fallen into the Kaweah River on Saturday in Sequoia National Park, authorities said.

The incident occurred about 7:15 a.m. near the park entrance, according to a statement from the National Park Service.

After entering the park about 6:45,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 23 Jun 2018 14:50:00 PDT )

Senegal’s Aliou Cisse is the only black coach at this year’s World Cup and he says more must be done to create opportunities for others to follow in his path.

”In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Cisse,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 23 Jun 2018 14:40:00 PDT )

President Trump’s two top Middle East advisors have quietly crisscrossed the region all week, stopping in five countries in an effort to drum up support for their still-secret proposal to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Details of the plan that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (sáb, 23 jun 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

Roseanne Barr, the actress and Twitter user, and Tom Werner, executive producer of "Roseanne," issued a brief joint statement Thursday, regarding the series that lately bore her name. Brought back this year after a two-decade hiatus and canceled again in May immediately following Barr’s racist...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (sáb, 23 jun 2018 03:00:00 PDT )

A deadly explosion struck a huge rally for Ethiopia's reformist new prime minister Saturday shortly after he spoke and was waving to the crowd that had turned out in numbers unseen in recent years in the East African nation.

Addressing the country minutes after he was hurried to safety, Prime Minister...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 23 Jun 2018 01:50:00 PDT )

Herencia Flamenca With featured dancers Yolanda Arroyo and Angel Muñoz, plus singers and musicians from Spain. Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal State L.A., 5151 State University Drive., L.A. Sun., 2:30 p.m. $30-$65. (323) 343-6600.

The Collective Memory Project Intimate community-created dance-theatre...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Sat, 23 Jun 2018 01:00:00 PDT )

Intuition tells Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson that they can grow into a prosperous duo for the Clippers.

They are two long and athletic guards who joined the Clippers during the NBA draft Thursday night, Robinson coming by way of the 13th selection and Gilgeous-Alexander via trade...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 17:40:00 PDT )

One of the dozens of black-clad servers hired for philanthropic socialite Anabel’s fancy dinner party looks disturbingly familiar to her, which is clearly the effect Chiara — the daughter Anabel abandoned over 30 years ago and hasn’t seen since — intended for this surprise reappearance.

In Ramon...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 13:30:00 PDT )

Making a late appearance in the Iraq War movie cycle, the impressively acted “The Yellow Birds” manages to leave an affecting mark even as it constantly struggles to find a distinctive voice of its own.

The melancholic mystery-drama, based on the poetic 2012 novel by Kevin Powers, is seen through...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 11:00:00 PDT )
The former president and the best-selling novelist have packed “The President Is Missing” with inside-the-Beltway intrigue and secret White House details. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 05 Jun 2018 12:59:39 GMT )

This minimalist approach to maximalist bodies offers an intimate look at six men whose lives are centered on their physical performance and appearance. “A Skin so Soft” is at once observational and poetic, using little dialogue and no music as the documentary shares their experiences.

In Denis...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 10:50:00 PDT )

In the first 15 minutes of writer-director Tan Bing’s action picture “China Salesman,” an international cast of actors — none looks at all comfortable speaking English — delivers some hilariously clumsy exposition about a contest to land a lucrative telecommunications contract in North Africa....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 10:15:00 PDT )

Angsty twentysomething rom-com “The Year of Spectacular Men” is a family affair for the Thompson-Deutch household, and a perhaps unintentionally meta one at that. Writer and star Madelyn Deutch plumbed the depths of her journals to pen the script and plays the floundering Izzy, looking for answers...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 11:55:00 PDT )

The modestly watchable, at times intriguing romantic mystery “Intersection” is never quite skillful or convincing enough to forget for even a moment how many far better haunted hunk-meets-femme fatale thrillers have come before it.

Directed by Tim French, from a trope-heavy, on-the-nose script...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:15:00 PDT )

Bryce Hirschberg writes, directs and stars in “Counterfeiters,” a DIY dude-brah SoCal noir, about a young man who dabbles in the copying cash game and finds himself in over his head.

Bridger (Hirschberg) has pure motivations but takes to a life of crime a little too easily. When his mother informs...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 14 Jun 2018 12:25:00 PDT )

Vampyr may seem an unlikely game from the studio that made the narrative-focused Life Is Strange, but being an action-RPG doesn't preclude it from being a great vehicle for storytelling. It's set in a harsh city in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, and much of the game involves potentially becoming the savior the world so desperately needs. If anything, Vampyr feels like the spiritual successor to the beloved cult hit Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, but with much of that game's vampire politics replaced by heartfelt interpersonal drama. It's a story strengthened through the power of choice, with the fate of thousands resting on your ability to sacrifice your needs for the greater good.

Vampyr takes place in England, 1918, at the height of the Spanish flu pandemic. You play as Dr. Jonathan Reid, a renowned doctor just back from the frontlines of World War I. Not even minutes off the boat, he's violently welcomed back to his homeland by a vampire and subsequently shoveled into a mass grave. When Reid reawakens, confused and stark-raving mad with bloodlust, he attacks the first person he comes across. Before he's able to process his profound grief and confusion, a guild of vampire hunters chases him off into the night.

How deep you're able to dive into Vampyr's narrative rabbit holes depends on your dialogue choices, and whole subplots can be blocked off permanently by not correctly identifying what a patient needs or wants to hear.

Thanks to the help of a sympathetic stranger, your time scared and alone is graciously brief. It's not long before you're employed for the night shift at a hospital, and it's there that you also gain the support of Lady Ashbury, another vampire hiding in plain sight. Once acclimated, Reid aims to come to grips with his afterlife, maybe find a cure for his vampirism, and get some much needed answers as to why he was turned to begin with.

The larger story beats delve deep into the lurid lore you might expect from a turn-of-the-century vampire tale, but it's not until much later that it becomes the crux of the story. For the majority of the game, Vampyr goes all in on the idea of Reid as an altruistic doctor, a man tirelessly dedicated to the wellbeing of his patients and travelling around town seeing to their various needs. Much of the game involves chatting with fellow hospital employees, patients, and citizens about town, finding out how they're coping with the epidemic, and building a case file to get to the heart of whatever ails them. Sometimes, their problems can be fixed by simply lending a sympathetic ear. Some troubles can be fixed by concocting a bit of medicine in your lab. But the most engaging quests are resolved by getting down and dirty in an infected area of town, spearheading investigations no living person ever could. How deep you're able to dive into Vampyr's narrative rabbit holes depends on your dialogue choices, and whole subplots can be blocked off permanently by not correctly identifying what a patient needs or wants to hear.

Vampyr leans hard into the RPG side of the action-RPG spectrum, and though there's often a campy texture to the storytelling, it's very easy to get attached to its motley crew of characters. A factory worker waits on surgery to fix a near-gangrenous arm because his two attending doctors can't agree on an approach to treatment. A nurse and an ambulance driver rely on Reid to keep their interracial relationship secret. A man becomes an alcoholic due to his survivor's guilt over an anarchistic plot gone wrong. A non-ordained preacher goes around the city burning the sick alive, believing God told him to cleanse the flu pandemic with fire. Everyone you can converse with has a tale to tell, and the vast majority of them are worth the time it takes to hear them out.

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It's impossible to avoid the fact that Reid needs to feast on blood in order to survive, but his thirst manifests in more subtle, diabolical ways than just a steadily declining hunger stat. Every little thing Reid does for the citizens of London adds to a pool of overall health for each of the game's four main districts, all of which contribute to the wellness of London as a whole. While that pool is useful for keeping an eye on the citizenry, it also just so happens you can explore that menu to get details on each of the citizens you've met. You can learn how nourishing their blood will be should you decide to feed on them--i.e. how much XP you'd get from taking their life--and refamiliarize yourself with their backstory. The stories of the city change depending on who, if anyone, you prey upon, and in much subtler ways than you might expect.

One of the best choices I made was to feed on a gruff man who Reid discovered was secretly a mass murderer. After his death, the man's mother, while certainly grieving her son, copes by deciding to take in the awkward orphan living nearby and giving him the love she foolishly gave to protect her own flesh and blood. Reid can certainly drive relationships into chaos in much the same way, but the fact that there's enough information to be had through your interactions to guide those decisions with is both impressive and empowering.

Walking the streets of London between residential districts, Reid is a persistent target for vampire hunters, brutal sub-human mutants called Skals, massive beasts, and highly skilled vampire elites. Encountering any of them means it's time to take a more hands-on and proactive approach. Using a combination of bludgeons, sharp implements, firearms, and terrifying vampire magic, you're quite capable of fighting your many enemies off, but these late-night battles are still difficult. Physical attacks and dodges drain a stamina meter that, if not carefully managed, leaves you utterly defenseless while it recharges. Your vampire powers are impressive and can devastate enemies, but they cost fresh blood to execute. While you can bite your enemies in combat to recover some, not only is stunning enemies to get the bite tricky--you either land enough hits in quick succession or parry an attack, which has a frustratingly small window of opportunity--the powers tend to use more blood than a single bite can replenish.

There are games that have tied survival and power to moral choice, but very few have managed to tie the lure of evil so perfectly--or seductively--to the core gameplay.

Mild combat frustrations are further amplified by performance issues. Playing on a PS4 Pro, Vampyr succumbs to frame rate drops and surprisingly frequent loading screens. You begrudgingly learn to live with these hiccups, but the most preposterous load times--stretching well over a minute--haunt you after death. In a game where enemies can one-hit kill you, and where bosses require a bit of trial and error to overcome, such long pauses aren't easily overlooked.

One of the best ways to avoid death is to trade in XP earned for ability and stat upgrades. You can increase bite damage and improve the amount of blood you draw with each attack, but the most interesting improvements come in the form of advanced vampiric powers. Some are simple, such as sharpening your claws mid-combo to increase your damage output, but you can also learn advanced spells, such as one that boils all the blood in your victim's body before causing them to explode. You can become an unstoppable force in London, but it all costs XP. And while you can gain XP from handing out meds or killing enemies, the payouts are a pittance compared to the thousands of points earned from killing just one of the proper citizens of London.

If you desire, you can work to improve the vitality (and XP potential) of everyone in town, only to drink your way through an entire district of healthy people in one night, personal connections be damned. This will make Reid nigh-invincible for hours to come, but conversely cause the district to descend into utter chaos as friends, family, and colleagues go missing, leaving those who remain in despair. Alternatively, you can play the game as a much more civilized sort of vampire, getting by only on the blood of rats and those who attack you first. Theoretically, it's even possible to play the game without killing a single soul, save the few mandatory boss fights. However, walking the path of the righteous man is the game at its hardest, especially as enemies jump up in level.

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Ultimately, I opted for a balanced, Hannibal Lecter-like path: kindness and erudite mystery, coinciding with a predilection to savagely prey on the free-range scum of society--the occasional mass murderer here, a crime boss there, etc. It felt good, righteous, even, for a while. And somewhere around the time I reached level 20, I was still getting ambushed and demolished in two hits by a guy wielding a torch and cheap sword. The problem could be easily remedied by sacrificing yet another juicy, XP-heavy victim, but that could potentially put the surrounding community at risk of devastation. There are games that have tied survival and power to moral choice, but very few have managed to tie the lure of evil so perfectly--or seductively--to the core gameplay.

The narrative does take a mild decline as time goes on. The late-game answers to Dr. Reid's questions feel more focused on the game's fantastical threads than they do on Reid himself--though it cleverly delves into semi-obscure British/Celtic legend and very real macabre British history for inspiration. More and more as the game goes on, Reid's dialogue choices don't end up corresponding to the intended tone. And a few of the really huge choices to be made are no-win situations none of the characters deserve.

And yet, the credits roll on Vampyr with the realization of how seldom we see an open-world RPG experience like this, where being a citizen with a responsibility to a place and its people feels personal, even if that investment lies in who looks delicious tonight. Vampyr is certainly shaggy and rough in the technical department, but its narrative successes still make for an impactful and worthwhile experience.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 04 Jun 2018 15:17:00 -0700)

Metroid-style platformers have become more common recently, which makes standing out from the pack a daunting task for new games in that style. Yoku’s Island Express overcomes this hurdle by creatively combining both Metroid-style exploration and pinball mechanics into one unique product. This combination sounds unusual at first, but the final result is a charming, delightful, and wonderfully satisfying hybrid.

You play as Yoku, a cute little beetle who has a ball attached to his hip with a string, and it's his first day as postmaster on Mokumana Island. The story is cute and straightforward, and there’s a large amount of backstory sprinkled throughout the game, but it doesn’t take long for the rest of Yoku’s Island Express’ beautiful game design to quickly take the spotlight.

The world of Mokumana Island is gorgeous, and the delightful painterly art style realizes each of the game's different stages with vibrancy--lush jungles and dark labyrinths blend in seamlessly with stunning snow-covered mountains and underground caves, and the background scenery is just as beautifully detailed as the foreground. Every environment is perfectly accompanied by sound design which gives everything a cheery and quirky atmosphere, and the charming background music keeps things light and breezy throughout. The roster of supporting characters is also a delight to meet. Ranging from animals and plants to imaginary creatures, the large cast of NPCs are all amusing in their own ways. Some give you side quests, some give you exposition regarding the main story or island lore, and some are simply there for a quick quip or two.

Yoku can only move left and right, and can't jump. However, flippers and platforms can be found all over Mokumana Island, which can be operated by using just two buttons, much like in pinball. These devices are all used to fling Yoku and his ball (which doubles as a pinball) in helpful directions to help you find and explore new paths of game’s cleverly branching world.

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If Yoku is the pinball, then Mokumana Island is a giant pinball table. One minute you could be strolling through the jungle, the next you might find yourself seamlessly dropped into a literal pinball puzzle carved out of the environment. Familiar pinball mechanics, like lanes and bumpers, are all there and completing these challenges will reward you with fruit (the game’s currency) and unlock additional paths around the island. Though the puzzles require precise timing demands, and there are many moments when your skills and reactions feel tested, no puzzle feels impossible. Most can be completed in only a handful of minutes, but there's a lot of variety to the boards which help keep the game incredibly engaging.

Mokumana Island is surprisingly large, and filled with secrets and collectible items. A sprawling story quest and numerous side quests constantly push you in different directions, and there’s a lot of traveling and pinballing to be done. It’s also easy to get sidetracked from your tasks in favor of searching for the game's many secrets hiding within the beautiful island stages.

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Exploring becomes even more exciting as Yoku learns new, goofy abilities, which are used to overcome hurdles in a lighthearted fashion, like removing boulders using an exploding slug vacuum cleaner. These fun and practical abilities add extra layers of cheery personality to an already joyful game, and as common in the genre, they make you feel excited to backtrack and unlock previously inaccessible paths.

Traveling back and forth from one end of Mokumana Island to the other can sometimes become tedious, however. A fast-travel system isn’t unlocked until later in the game, but even that is quite limited in regards to where you can and can’t travel. Some areas require you to complete a pinball puzzle in order to get from point A to B, which makes retreading quite repetitive and occasionally frustrating, particularly when the pinball puzzle is a complex one.

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Yoku’s Island Express takes two unlikely genres and combines them into one playful, natural experience. The game’s audio and visual design is simply joyous and the large game world seamlessly combines its pinball puzzles with some brilliant level designs. While traversing the large map does get frustrating at times, Yoku’s Island Express’ main quest never drags, and with its slate of fun abilities, quirky supporting characters and a generous amount of optional content, Yoku’s Island Express is a unique journey that’s refreshing and just straight up fun.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 05 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

The Leonard Bernstein Office says that more than 2,300 events have been planned worldwide to celebrate the centennial of the composer and conductor — the vast majority of them only touching on some aspect of this protean figure, whose reputation seems to grow with each passing year.

Here in Los...

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

42I am more than well past my marriage expiration date in most societies’ opinions, and absolutely my own, which is Indian. I’ve tried all forms of dating — speed dating, websites that cater to Indian Americans, apps, and I’ve met whomever my parents, friends and parents’ friends suggested I meet...

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

Civic leader John Mack, one of the most powerful voices on Los Angeles police reform, has died. He was 81.

Mack, former president of the Los Angeles Urban League who served on the city’s Police Commission from 2005 to 2013, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Thursday night, according to family...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:40:00 PDT )

“Blown,” the new, funny and sometimes raunchy novel from L.A. writer Mark Haskell Smith, begins on a ship adrift with one dying passenger and $12 million in cash. To talk about it, I asked Smith — who is a friend and game for just about anything — to join me at the only floating restaurant in the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

Every garden needs a showoff — a plant so ostentatious that it demands to be stared at and discussed. Such a diva can be found in Brugmansia, commonly called angel’s trumpet.

Native to South America, the tree-like shrub is known for its nearly foot-long bell-shaped flowers that blossom year-round....

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

Police are searching for a gunman who opened fire in a San Bernardino strip mall Thursday night, killing one man and injuring three other people, authorities said.

Around 10:50 p.m., a crowd gathered as a security guard and a man got into an argument in the parking lot of a strip mall on the corner...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 06:50:00 PDT )
The National Book Award-winning poet creates a graphic “verse” in response to the sociopolitical conundrums he tackles in his new book. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:01 GMT )
The deep woods and the drawing rooms of London are crime scenes in Marilyn Stasio’s column. Also two villages, one in France and the other in England. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:07 GMT )
“The Fair Chase,” Philip Dray’s illuminating history, recounts the evolution of American hunting from frontier vocation to competitive pastime. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:08 GMT )
Demand for Anthony Bourdain’s memoir has soared since his death. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:11 GMT )
They may be action-packed page turners — but these books also ask readers to consider very real social issues. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:13 GMT )
Patricia O’Toole’s “The Moralist” is the latest biography of Wilson, who has inspired fierce arguments ever since his death in 1924. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:19 GMT )
Affecting stories by the Fan Brothers, Dan Santat and Minh Le, and more celebrate the bonds between grandparents and grandkids. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Fri, 22 Jun 2018 09:00:21 GMT )
NBA draft 2018 live coverage: Pick-by-pick updates. Stay tuned here when the draft is expected to star at 4:30 Pacific time. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:00:00 PDT )

ABC is moving forward with a spinoff of “Roseanne”

The network announced Thursday that it has given a straight-to-series order to “The Conners,” the working title for the show, which would premiere this fall. The season would consist of 10 episodes and is set to air Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

A breakdown...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 17:30:00 PDT )
NBA draft 2018 live coverage: Pick-by-pick updates. Stay tuned here when the draft is expected to star at 4:30 Pacific time. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 17:50:00 PDT )

With a crisis over family separations still simmering on the southwest border, the House on Thursday voted down a conservative immigration bill that would have provided nearly $25 billion for a border wall, made steep cuts to legal immigration programs, and provided temporary legal status for young...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 11:20:00 PDT )

There’s something more than a little redundant about the therapy session that kicks off “Boundaries,” considering the movie itself is little more than a clumsy feature-length therapy session. The client is Laura (Vera Farmiga), a single mom who has gone through life accumulating all manner of stray...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 12:10:00 PDT )

“Damsel” opens against a vast expanse of orange dust and red rock, somewhere in the unsettled American West of the 19th century. The vistas are majestic enough for framing (and cinematographer Adam Stone does the honors nicely), the atmosphere hushed to an almost otherworldly degree. Before long,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 12:10:00 PDT )

Whether you're reminded of vicious raptors hunting terrified children, placid Brachiosaurus strolling verdant hills, or a scientist reaching elbow-deep into a mound of Triceratops dung, the words "Jurassic Park" can evoke some pretty powerful memories. Jurassic World Evolution reinforces these associations with its take on dino-park management, and all the good and bad that comes with such a brazen endeavor. It can be a bit clumsy at times, but Evolution ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground between establishing deep mechanics and maintaining accessibility for the average dino enthusiast.

Your venture kicks off with a warning from Dr. Ian Malcolm--voiced by Jeff Goldblum himself--who ruminates about the inevitability of disaster before dropping you straight onto the first of the game's five main islands. To successfully run your new park, you need to maintain a variety of dinosaur species and build facilities to protect and entertain paying customers. Do well enough and you unlock additional islands for your expanding park, each with a new curveball to keep you on your toes, be it aggressive weather systems, unique financial constraints, or limited construction options.

After learning the basics of construction and dinosaur creation, you're introduced to the three divisions that make up your park's staff: science, entertainment, and security. Each division will offer contracts that, when completed, give you cash and raise your reputation with that division. This unlocks further items and buildings for research, as well as that division's story mission. While contracts are a good source of money in the early game, they come with an odd complication: completing contracts for one division lowers your reputation with the other two. This creates a nonsensical balancing act that, whilst not difficult to overcome in the long run, feels arbitrary in context.

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Building a good dinosaur park isn't as simple as putting down some fences, incubating dino eggs, and sitting back to watch them majestically take their first steps into the world. You'll need to manage everything from dig sites and DNA extraction to general park maintenance via your rangers--who will fill feeders, fix fences, and keep everything in working order. In an awesome twist, you can manually control the rangers' Jeeps or helicopters from a close third-person perspective, leading to some surprisingly beautiful and memorable moments as you mingle with the great beasts inhabiting your park.

If you've played any kind of park management sim before, you'll feel right at home with how everything works thanks to streamlined controls and an elegant UI. Console players can similarly rejoice as controller configurations are surprisingly intuitive, making navigating everything a breeze.

With the exception of cash, all your research and item progression is shared across each of the islands, and you can freely move between them at will once they're unlocked. If you've got something you want to research but you're struggling with funds in your current park, switch back to your previous one and spend their money on it instead. Although it would be a time saver to simply let you funnel cash from one park to another, going back to old parks never feels you're like taking a step backwards. Research progression is skewed so that you'll unlock the next park before you've unlocked all the research items in your current one, so you'll always feel like you're achieving something worthwhile, even if that means re-visiting old areas.

Interestingly, unlike most other park management sims, you can't speed up the flow of time while waiting for tasks to complete, but it's not as detrimental as it sounds. It's rare that there isn't something in the park needing attention, and more often than not you'll be thankful for the time.

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Each of the dinosaurs in your menagerie have particular needs--some are placid, solitary creatures who are super chill, while others are quick to go on high alert. Put a herbivore in a pen full of meat-eaters and it will (understandably) panic. Put two aggressive meat-eaters next to each other and they'll probably fight to the death, unless you can get your rangers in there to tranquilize and then separate them both before any real harm is done. Learning the differences between each species is an important part of keeping your park operating smoothly. But even when things are going well, calamity never feels that far away.

From rampaging dinosaurs and tropical cyclones to internal sabotage, there's always something ready to trash your hard work. While dealing with these hazards can be exciting in your early hours, the fifth time your Ankylosauruses make a break for it because they don't like being around other dinosaurs can get tiresome. Attacks on park goers can initially be costly; later on, when you've got money to burn, a few lawsuits digging into your bottom line doesn't matter much. But while the lack of surprises and stakes after 20 or so hours is a bummer, it's never enough to take away from the joy of watching your creations live out their lives in structures you've meticulously designed and maintained.

Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right.

When your coffers fill up, you can really cut loose with how you build up your parks across each island. A maxed-out park is a sight to behold as thousands of guests wander the attractions. Hotels let you increase your parks' capacity to house more people, while shops and arcades will keep them entertained for when they aren't gathering in one of the many viewing platforms that line the fences keeping your dinosaurs in. When it's all working, it's like watching the components of a well-oiled machine tick over. Though it's similarly fun, albeit sadistic, to watch a full park of guests scramble for the emergency shelter when you trigger the alarms.

If there's one word that could easily describe Jurassic World Evolution, it's "faithful." Taking control of a ranger behind the wheel of a Jeep in the rain and sidling up to a pack of socializing Stegosaurus is as epic as it sounds and is a definite highlight, as is releasing a newly recovered species into your park. Despite the campaign stumbling over itself and losing focus towards the end, Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 21 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)

Kyle Kuzma watched last year’s NBA draft at a modest house party in Michigan. With the eyes of Los Angeles diverted elsewhere, he learned he’d be a Laker in a crowded living room filled with family and friends.

While everyone focused on Lonzo Ball and the Lakers’ front office heralding him as the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 18:45:00 PDT )

“I know it’s a rotten game, but it’s the only one the Man left us to play.”

With those words, spoken by one weary drug dealer to another, the 1972 film “Super Fly” offered up a soulful lament to go with its moody style, fabulous clothes and immortal Curtis Mayfield soundtrack. Directed by Gordon...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Tue, 12 Jun 2018 12:55:00 PDT )

The Trump administration, shamed by the national outcry over separating children from their asylum-seeking parents at the border, has capitulated. The president Wednesday signed an executive order to end that brutal practice — and instead could imprison children alongside their parents indefinitely.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 15:30:00 PDT )

What Shohei Ohtani did for the Angels before injuring his elbow on June 6, and what minor leaguers Brendan McKay and Hunter Greene are doing after being selected with the first two picks of the 2017 draft, has opened Jared Walsh’s eyes to a possibility that did not exist before.

Walsh, 24, is a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 09:55:00 PDT )

Dean Butterworth, the drummer for Good Charlotte since 2005, has a buyer on the hook for his Woodland Hills home, listed for sale at $949,900.

Classic charm is mixed with contemporary design in the 1991 multiple-story house. The 2,136 square feet of white and bright interiors include a wide double...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 08:00:00 PDT )

It’s been a long and winding road working on “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” for stars Jeremy Irons, Lesley Manville and Jessica Regan.

The three have been starring in the production, which follows a family over the course of one day as repressed pain, drug addiction and disappointment unravels,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 07:50:00 PDT )

La noticia de la muerte de XXXTentacion que atravesó el lunes las redes sociales no llegó sola, una prueba visual y sombría la acompañaba: imágenes sin vida del rapero de 20 años detrás del volante de un BMW negro en una calle soleada en el condado de Broward, Florida.

Las imágenes, y el fácil...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:17:00 PDT )

Authorities are investigating the death of a man who was shot and killed in a Home Depot parking lot in Torrance late Tuesday night, police said.

Officers responded to a call of shots fired at 11:38 p.m. in the parking lot on Crenshaw Boulevard, and found a man with gunshot wounds, said Torrance...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:35:00 PDT )

Every spring and fall, as major cruise lines reposition their vessels from the Caribbean and elsewhere to Alaska for the summer, residents of the West Coast and beyond get the chance to sample short cruises at bargain prices.

Pacific Coast cruises generally take place in April, May, September and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:30:00 PDT )

Sample Vermont’s craft beer culture on a six-day trip that will take bicyclists on winding roads from Middlebury to Stowe through the Champlain Valley and the Green Mountains.

Participants will also hike the Stowe Pinnacle Trail to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and sample artisanal beer...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 05:50:00 PDT )

“American Crime Story,” one of the anthology series from Ryan Murphy’s oeuvre, had a splashy launch in 2016 with its focus on the highly visible O.J. Simpson murder trial — its review of charged, prescient themes like systemic racism, sexism and media culture translated into ratings success and...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

While the cancellation of the FYF Fest may have served as a canary in a coal mine moment for the concert industry, festivals with a niche may prove to be the way forward.

Consider Goldenvoice’s Arroyo Seco Weekend, a family-friendly selection of food, drink and music that doesn’t try to offer a...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

He has sung repeatedly on national TV and now visitors to Las Vegas are requesting Carnell Johnson when they arrive at The Venetian.

Johnson, a Vegas native, swapped the gondolier’s costume from his day job for a Vegas Golden Knights jersey as he belted out the National Anthem in all 11 of the...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

How do you pull off the biggest heist of the summer — and do it in style? That’s no problem if you’re criminal mastermind Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the estranged sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney) from Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” trilogy.

“Ocean’s 8,” the Gary Ross-directed summer spin-off,...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 06:00:00 PDT )

When the credits rolled on Mario Tennis Aces' Adventure Mode, I vowed to never again laugh at a tennis player having an ugly meltdown on the court. I had felt the volcanic surge of adrenaline that comes when a rally has gone too long. I knew the sense of high alert while trying to suss out which corner of the court an opponent is going to attack next. I have spliced and invented new curse words to mutter when a ball goes out of bounds. Off-beat stages and creative use of characters from the Marioverse ensure that you'll never lose sight of simply having fun, but don't let the adorable exterior trick you; Aces takes its unorthodox tennis very seriously.

Mario Tennis' renewed vigor is driven by a suite of new mechanics that force you to make pivotal risk-reward decisions. Special shots are now tied to a meter that fills a little with every shot fired back at your opponent, more so if you're able to charge your swing ahead of time. Once the Energy Meter is at least a third full, a ball landing on your side of the court will be forecast by a glowing star. Initiating a special swing while standing on a star activates a first-person view that lets you aim a powerful Zone Shot.

When the Energy Meter is completely full, you can unleash your character's Special Shot. While Specials don't unleash the cavalcade of effects they did in Wii U's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, they do fire a lightning-fast ball that requires exacting maneuvers to return without incurring any harm to your racket--destroy your collection of rackets during a match, and you lose.

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Holding the R button slows down time at the cost of meter, allowing you to stroll over and hit hard-to-reach shots or gain a slight advantage when returning racket-breaking shots. Alternatively, a Trick Shot can be activated by tilting the right stick, which causes you to leap across the court at the last second . You can get away with basic shots during simple face-offs, but in advanced matches the exchange of powered-up strikes feels like a breathless symphony that requires you to be at the top of your game and on top of your options.

Even veterans of the series have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but Aces' Adventure Mode does a good job of both entertaining you and teaching you how and when to use your new tools. The story itself is ridiculous, but ridiculous in that very specific, quirky way Nintendo has been getting away with for decades. During the Mushroom Kingdom's annual tennis tournament, an evil tennis racket--yes, really--named Lucien takes possession of Luigi and flies off to find five Power Stones that will help him take over the world.

Instead of settling for a revolving door of opponents along the way, you're challenged to utilize Ace's new mechanics in a range of unusual scenarios. An average stage might simply challenge you to keep a rally going for a certain length of time, but bosses and puzzle stages require a greater level of ingenuity. You have to figure out how to disable protective barriers, earning enough energy to perform a Zone Shot, and aim at the right part of the court to inflict damage. Bosses also initiate hurdling challenges mid-match that reward precise use of your leaping Trick Shot. Adventure Mode mixes up your objectives from one stage to the next to ensure you're never simply going through the motions to progress.

Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior.

Aces is more difficult and devious than you might expect, especially in the latter half of Adventure Mode. Though not required, grinding through matches can improve your chances on the court. Win or lose, you earn experience points for every match played, allowing you to improve Mario's speed, power, and agility over time. But no matter how much XP you earn, the only way to make it to the end of Aces' campaign is to master its unique tennis mechanics. Those who persevere will find themselves better equipped and prepared to face anything the other modes have to offer than ever before.

Outside of Adventure Mode, you'll find a rather plain assortment of activities: a bracket-based tournament mode, exhibition matches against the computer or another friend, online modes, and the ability to play doubles matches, which can turn into downright anarchy before you know it. Online matches will be the true test of Aces' depth, but pre-launch servers being what they are, we still need to spend time playing once the game releases to form a solid opinion of its netcode and the competitive scene.

Perhaps the one major and surprising misstep is Swing Mode, where players can swing Joy-Cons like proper tennis rackets, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. At first it seems odd that this control scheme is isolated to a specific mode, but within a minute or two, it's obvious why: playing with Joy-Cons feels too imprecise, and even just executing a simple backhand was a twitchy comedy of errors. It's too bad that the motion controls seem to fall apart so easily, but considering that, it's probably best the option is siloed away.

It's not like Aces needs a gimmick like motion controls to win you over, anyway. The Tetris Effect is in full swing here; days after the credits rolled, I still crave the satisfying thwack from a Power Shot, mentally replay matches and imagine how I might do things differently given a bit more focus and know-how. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior. Fingers crossed that the online support stands up to the rest of the game after launch.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 20 Jun 2018 05:00:00 -0700)

Canada's Senate gave final passage Tuesday to the federal government's bill to legalize cannabis, though Canadians will have to wait at least a couple of months to legally buy marijuana as their country becomes the second in the world to make pot legal nationwide.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 20:15:00 PDT )

As XXXTentacion lay slumped over in his car -- mortally wounded by an unidentified gunman after an apparent robbery Monday in South Florida -- witnesses had their cellphones aimed at his lifeless body, one person getting inches away and zooming in.

The footage was disseminated in real-time on Twitter...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:50:00 PDT )

On a day normally set aside for the best hockey players in the world, much of the attention went to teenagers from western Canada wearing green and yellow junior hockey jerseys.

The nine surviving members of the Humboldt Broncos gathered Tuesday for the first time since the April 6 bus accident...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 17:30:00 PDT )

A controversial $2.2-billion plan to replace the overcrowded, crumbling Men’s Central Jail downtown cleared its last procedural hurdle Tuesday, when the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project’s budget and certified its environmental impact report.

The Consolidated Correctional...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 16:45:00 PDT )

The Incredibles are back, and all is right with the world.

Well, maybe not all. Superheros are still illegal, just as they've been for a decade and a half, and evildoers like the Underminer ("I am always beneath you but nothing is beneath me!") are still eager to empty the bank vaults of Municiberg...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Mon, 11 Jun 2018 09:00:00 PDT )

The broad premise of The Forest is far from unique. A plane crash lands on a seemingly deserted island, and you, a lone survivor, have to figure out a way to survive. It doesn't take long, however, until blood curdling screeches fill the night and glowing eyes appear in the distance. Once it sets in that your new home isn't as empty as it first appeared, The Forest evolves into a uniquely harrowing adventure that you won't soon forget.

Cannibals inhabit the grassy fields and pristine lakes around you, watching your every move; they are the source of The Forest's ever-present tension. You might expect monsters like this to attack on sight, but their behavior is erratic. Sometimes they'll charge forward to unsettle you during daylight but stop just outside striking distance to simply stare in silence. Other times they might feign a retreat before leaping into nearby trees to quickly get behind you. The Forest's enemies aren't easy to predict, which makes each encounter thrilling.

The breadth of enemy types is impressive too, and they can get surprisingly weird. As you explore the island more and dive into terrifying, pitch-black caverns, enemies transform into terrifying body-horror figures--amalgamations of appendages that bellow deep, disturbing howls. They're frightening to behold and even scarier to fight.

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The Forest does a good job of trickling out these surprises while you're already struggling to manage vital meters and resources. It's also imperative that you keep a close eye on the quality of the resources you find. Not every berry bush contains a bounty that won't poison you, and not all water is safe to drink. Meat you gather from hunted animals will rot if not cooked quickly. None of the resulting illnesses are serious enough to dissuade you from eating questionable food if you have no other choice, but needing to think about what you eat adds an additional layer to the minute-to-minute hunter-gatherer gameplay.

Chopping down trees for logs or scouting a route to clean water is paramount in your first few days on the island, and once you establish yourself, this goal shifts to fortifying your position with a base, and perhaps complex spike traps and tree swings. The sheer number of structures you're able to build is impressive, and thankfully The Forest doesn't gate your ingenuity with illusive blueprints. You're given a notebook filled with outlines at the start.

Building has a tangible effect on the island in several ways. Resources like small game and shrubs will respawn over time, but larger trees will remain felled for the entirety of your stay. You might turn a dense forest into an open field of stumps not long after you start, which gives enemies a clearer line of sight into your doings. The more you impose yourself on the island, the more aggressive your aggressors become. Patrols will grow and the more monstrous creatures will emerge from their caves for an all-out assault. The Forest doesn't force you to play in any specific way though, so a more reserved nomadic approach is sometimes safer and more viable. But the sheer delight at seeing an enemy trigger a well-placed trap during a raid is priceless, and well worth the risk of angering the locals.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner.

Crafting smaller items plays a big part when it comes to personal safety, too. Your inventory screen allows you to combine items you've collected to create new tools; from something as simple as combining a few sticks and stones to make an axe, to creating high-powered explosives using a combination of wristwatches, electrical boards, and spare change. The number of items you can both collect and craft is vast, but the inventory page eventually becomes cumbersome and overwhelming to navigate. And with only four customizable hotkeys, you don't have easy access to everything you want in a pinch.

Although it's constantly testing your perseverance and wants you to feel stretched thin, The Forest never feels overbearing. You'll always be able to depend on your crafted weapons as they aren't hampered by durability. Your pocket lighter will always help you see in the dark, never running out of vital fluid. This reliability frees you from the burden of worrying about the lifespan of any potential upgrades you can make to items too.

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Exploration in survival games is usually tied only to your immediate well-being, but The Forest features a narrative that's slowly uncovered by exploration and incidental environmental storytelling. Abandoned camps are a great hunting ground for modern resources and offer hints at past and present events. Putrid remains of long-dead victims aren't an uncommon sight, but you'll also come across small photographs, videotapes and magazines that flesh out a conspiracy with the island at the center.

Uncovering The Forest doesn't have to be a lonely experience, and it offers co-operative play for up to eight people. The time spent getting a fortified settlement up and running is drastically reduced, but remains just as compelling. Co-operative play does, however, deflate the the feeling of being exposed. Larger groups of enemies become easier to deal with, and the fear of diving into caves alone is undercut by both voice chat and the fact that enemies don't scale accordingly. The Forest might be silly fun with friends, but it's at its best when playing alone.

There's a lot to think about when it comes to surviving in The Forest, but the balance between each of its interlocking parts keeps the game moving at a riveting pace. For every danger the island offers, there's a smart solution around the corner. Combined with unpredictable enemies and captivating horror set-pieces, The Forest strikes a compelling balance between survival and horror that you won't soon forget.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 02 Jun 2018 10:00:00 -0700)

Dillon the Armadillo is every stoic hero of the Old West... but as an anthropomorphic armadillo. He doesn't say much because he really doesn't need to. His prowess with weapons and dedication to defending good folks just trying to make their way is essentially his whole character. And while, until now, he's been known for his forays within small downloadable games, Dead-Heat Breakers represents a big next step for the franchise.

Most of the game makes the transition well, in part because the premise is played in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Dillon's a no-nonsense guy, and seeing him surrounded by a colorful cast of goofy sapient animals works pretty well. But, after a time there's definitely the feeling that too little game is spread out over too much time. Dead-Heat Breakers grinds to a crawl at times, and while it's far from insurmountable, it's hard to shake the feeling that in this case less would have been more.

While Dillon may be the game's namesake and main action hero, he's not the actual protagonist. When you start up the game, you'll have a Mii of your choice polymorphed into an Amiimal. And it's this "person" that the story centers around. In short, you've narrowly survived an attack on your home town, and you've gone to get help from the infamous "Red Flash," Dillon. On your way, your big rig is attacked by some industrial monstrosities and Dillon and his sidekick/mechanic Russ happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Most of the proceedings are played for comedy, poking at the classic tropes of the western, while mixing a good bit of modern absurdity. Not too long after that encounter, for instance, Russ determines that the team needs a massive gun. And they aren't kidding. He maps it all out in his head and sets to work getting the materials to build a weapon that would put World War II-era train-mounted cannons to shame.

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This pair of scenes (the battle between your would-be attackers and Dillon, as well as the process for gathering materials after the fact) make up the two primary phases of play. They loosely correspond to the day and night and will follow that pattern throughout. In the prep part (daytime), you'll wander around town doing odd jobs for the people and participating in mini-games to gather up the required gear for your nightly missions. This works well for pacing at first, but you'll start to feel the drag as the cycles wear on.

Daytime will put you through a few different main activities, including time-trial races and bouts against the series' most iconic foe--the stone-headed, space-faring Groks. Here you can earn money which you can then toss to Wendon for supplies, which go to Russ for assembly into the Breaker (i.e. that giant gun). These are meant to help give you some practice for the more rough-and-tumble nighttime bouts but are too dissimilar to serve as a proper warm-up, and not unique enough to feel like a good break from the main action.

When that time does come, though, you and the Amiimals of your friends and other Miis on your system will assemble into a group, ready to tackle the big bad of the night. This is where the series' touted tower defense-action fusion comes in. Here, like in the opening segment, you'll command the Red Flash and have the option of hiring on the different Amiimals to play defense. Each carries a different weapon with their own attack styles and strengths. Ostensibly the daytime's mini-games are there to help acclimate you to these differences, but in practice, over the game's 15 missions, you'll know who does what pretty quickly and can make your own appropriate choices.

Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers is best enjoyed in spurts. Powering through the game quickly reveals its many weaknesses (the toll on your hands, and the repetitiveness of the combat and day-night cycle being chief among them), but no part of the adventure is bad, really; it simply wears thin.

Once you've made your choices, you're off to the fight. Your job as Dillon is to keep the pressure off the Amiimals. Using a powerful accelerator as well as Dillon's natural claws and thick hide, you can slam and slash your foes while zooming about the map. On the bottom screen, you'll be able to see a breakdown of the map, the attack range of your team, and which places need your help.

Recruiting more teammates helps take the pressure off you but depletes your coffers and therefore cuts your strategic options for later down quite a bit. Therein lies the big question for how to allocate resources.

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Dillon himself can be great fun to play, but the controls are perplexing. Most everything is handled with the joystick and the A button; attacks are somewhat contextual but rely on holding the button down, releasing before pressing, and holding or tapping quickly to different moves. This isn't ideal as it can be occasionally easy to accidentally dash instead of landing an attack, and the constant strain on your thumb during combat sections would have been reduced if you simply used another button or trigger when your attack was ready.

Many of these sequences devolve into high-speed chases where you'll have to clear out every foe during their final assault. There's an excellent bit of white-knuckled tension as you rush from enemy to enemy, spinning up, bashing them, and slashing to bits. Combined with some smart visuals and a great system for snapping you to baddies so you don't inadvertently overshoot them makes these segments a great bit of intense fun--even if they leave your thumbs sore.

Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers is best enjoyed in spurts. Powering through the game quickly reveals its many weaknesses (the toll on your hands, and the repetitiveness of the combat and day-night cycle being chief among them), but no part of the adventure is bad, really; it simply wears thin. It's a competent, fun little outing that's almost perfectly suited for kids who need something silly and ridiculous that won't require too much thought or technical mastery.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 02 Jun 2018 12:00:00 -0700)

Dulcet tones and somber notes played in time represent the curious duality of Moonlight. It is, at once, a heroic adventure and the name of the subdued storefront that you alone run. Centered in the heart of a once-bustling town, all the greats, the audacious plunderers of dungeons that were sealed long ago, have died out. The markets and the merchants of your hamlet have all but vanished alongside them. Always looking to the horizon, you see what could be--in both yourself and the town--and set out to claim your glory and bring riches back from the depths of dangerous dungeons.

On first pass, that's a tall ask, and one that doesn't necessarily fit together the way you might think. This isn't quite the same as saving a town the way you might in a classical Zelda game --though references to those nascent adventures abound. Instead, your eye is on unearthing the depths of five dungeons that lie just north of town. Each is like a world unto itself, and getting into and out of these spaces is often a feat--made that much more treacherous by the monsters that inhabit them. Still, the depths hold untold riches, artifacts, and supplies that were once essential for trade.

The balance that Moonlighter strikes then, is tasking you with battling beasts and carefully collecting trophies and supplies based on the needs of the people in your town. Instead of gathering loot and hauling it back to a shopkeep as one does in just about every similar adventure, you're on both ends of the equation and the way that your two pursuits play into one another essentially is the game.

You'll need to mindful of supply and demand and as well as good tips and gear for adventuring. Dodging monsters to jab their weak spot, before hopping away and nabbing their leavings is a regular cycle. But that, in itself, hides a lot of the nuance on offer. Prying the core of a mechanized stone golem and bringing it back to town will fetch a tidy price--but only a few times. People don't know how to use them, per se, nor do they really need that particular item. It's neat (and rare), but that's all, really.

Add to it the fact that few have seen such trinkets since heroes swarmed through these dungeons, and that immediately complicates the equation. You don't know what the value of it really is, because you're the shopkeep. It's worth what others will pay. So it falls to you to make educated guesses, learn from your customers reactions and hope that your initial prices aren't so low that you're getting ripped off or so high that customers balk and walk off.

Those same assessments follow with every item you plunder, meaning that you're always working the numbers, figuring out what you can carry up, and how it's going to affect your bottom line. This also keeps you from always gathering up the most valuable items. If you only grab the best loot, you'll quickly flood the market and bottom out your sales, and the same goes in reverse for the most basic stuff. Wood and vines can be valuable (though rarely). And all that calculus compounds when you begin examining the supplies you'll need for your own gear. Potions and new equipment don’t make themselves. Indeed, when you start, none of those types of facilities are even available in town.

This ties a lot of the game's progression directly into your choices, and gives you a powerful through line and a sense of thematic goals that tie into your physical journey. That feeling is fantastic, and grows every time you think back to the sparse hamlet you began with, and track just how far your adventure and the arc of the town itself join and progress together.

Saccharine melodies that playfully evoke the 16-bit era help sell the narrative as well. Few openers are as immediately alluring as Moonlighter’s theme. Melancholic notes blends with the sweet sounds of your hamlet, filling you with a sense of loss--for what your town once was. Because of the aesthetics, many of those feelings also get blended with kernels of nostalgia, particularly for those fond of the Super Nintendo era.

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Bright colors, and a sharp aesthetic are backed with crisp animations that not only sell the world, but help it breathe. Fireflies drift about town, settling near trees, illuminating the wooden giants. Down in the dungeons, spiders and moths flitter to and fro, while your battles with golems and monsters play out.

Now at this point you may have noticed that there not much has been said about the combat. And sadly, that's because it's the weaker half of this outing. There are five distinct dungeons, each with their own environments, foes, and array of tricks and traps to throw your way. But across them all, you use the same core movement--and it consists of two types of moves and a dodge. If you've got finesse, you can string some actions together, though. You can attack with one weapon, dodge, quickly switch, and then resume the onslaught. Or switch between a sword and shield for defense (where the secondary "move" would be a block), and a more offensive weapon. But that's generally the sum total of your combat choices. Combat, then, is thin and there's only so much that can be done with massively varied environments and a limited pool of combat techniques.

None of this to say that battles in Moonlighter are bad. Far from it. What it manages with those limited sets is quite impressive, and there will be plenty of moments when you dodge over bottomless pits that line a snaking path to approach an enemy from a novel angle. But they aren't common enough or varied enough to really get the full potential of what's here.

In some ways, the same could be said of the keeping the shop running at peak efficiency, but there's enough interplay with managing your limited baggage space and just enough anchored in supply-and-demand systems that it comes together nicely. It's a shame, then that Moonlighter's also a bit on the short end, as some of these ideas would do well with simply more--but then the combat would like thin out even more. Still, what's here is refreshing, and the balance struck between crawling through dungeons and working with the economics of the town are a good combo while it lasts.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Mon, 11 Jun 2018 13:00:00 -0700)

The discovery of a panga-style boat that may have been used to smuggle immigrants onto an Orange County beach triggered the temporary lockdown of an elementary school as authorities searched the area for the vessel’s occupants Tuesday morning.

The boat came ashore on Moro Beach, in Crystal Cove...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 10:45:00 PDT )

Through the first round of group play, Russia’s World Cup has been a decidedly European affair. Africa, not so much.

So when Poland and Senegal, the last two countries to open their World Cup, took the field Tuesday in Moscow, European teams were 8-1-4 while Africa was still looking for its first...

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

The international track federation said Tuesday it will defend a new rule that seeks to bar female athletes who have naturally high testosterone levels.

This week, South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya turned to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to challenge the standard, which is...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:40:00 PDT )

With its warm, rustic setting, and an instantly endearing protagonist, the first Unravel had the outward appearance of a happily nostalgic adventure. That initial fuzzy feeling, however, gave way to a series of frustrating puzzles and a story that took some unexpectedly dark turns. In the game's final hours, the poor little hero Yarny was left all alone in a hostile world. What a relief it is to see him in a better place in Unravel Two, the sequel that's notably comforting thanks to the introduction of a second yarnling. Once they meet, Yarny and his new friend immediately hit it off and set out on a new adventure.

Similar to the original game, Unravel Two has ethereal slice-of-life scenes that play out in the background of each stage. This time, the literal background story involves two youths making the drastic decision to run away from their hyper-religious families. Yarny and his new partner make their own journey through the small town they live in, inadvertently helping the kids along the way with each new platforming challenge they surmount. Despite trips to more urban settings, the design philosophy and earthy aesthetic that made the first game such a visual treat haven't been abandoned. Aside from some mild industrial chaos--traipsing around construction sites, messing with the ventilation systems in a factory, and the like--much of what you experience is delightfully serene.

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Once again, we witness the world from Yarny's tiny perspective. You run through misty city streets at night under haloed streetlights. You push toy trucks around backyards on sunny days before riding off into the blue yonder on the back of a swan. You jump across rooftops at midnight, a skeleton city of antennas and vents where only the pigeons are awake. One of the most beautiful areas of the game has Yarny making his way along a stream of rushing water in a creek, letting the tide build up the momentum you need to get a full head of speed up for a jump. There's still such a sense of awe to how tangible and real Yarny's world is, but it never feels like a place where Yarny is in peril. Though it takes place in more challenging environments, it's a world where what little danger there is feels magical, and Yarny has never been able to move through it in as invigorating a way as he can with a partner in Unravel Two.

The swing mechanic--where Yarny can latch yarn onto a grapple point and either rappel up and down or swing to launch himself onto a higher point--has returned, but with a newfound kineticism. Many stages push you to swing across multiple wide chasms and tight gaps in quick succession, and soaring and flipping through these trials is always a thrill.

There will come times when you have to stop and figure out a way past complicated obstacles, and this is where Unravel Two's co-op nature shines. Obviously, the ideal way to manage two characters is to have a friend sitting next to you on the couch, controlling Yarny's new ally while you plot solutions. But even a single player can make use of both characters, switching back and forth between the two onscreen with the push of a button. When playing solo, the character you leave behind will continue to hold onto whatever they were holding, meaning you can always place your partner wherever you need them. You can even carry your partner through danger by absorbing them into your own yarn body--mildly disturbing but helpful nonetheless.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding.

With the two Yarnys tethered together, most puzzles are resolved by forming makeshift pulleys that allow you to create opportunities the environment wouldn't normally afford a single Yarny. Puzzles are typically open-ended and can be solved in a handful of ways. The only real barrier, besides pure logic, can be the game's control scheme. The same button used to jump is used to extend the tether between the two Yarnys, and it's fairly easy to accidentally send your partner plummeting to their doom. Unravel Two is undoubtedly a more welcoming and accessible game than its predecessor, but there are still demanding trials for those who want them, especially with around two dozen extra-challenging stages that are available.

With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding. Sure, a forest fire breaks out in one of the latter stages, but even then, the race to keep ahead of the blaze is fun and frantic instead of stressful. In almost every moment you're given ample time and space to breathe and take in the stunning photorealistic world from the viewpoint of the tiniest creatures. It's a game with boisterous birds, chases through meadows, and most importantly a cheerful partnership with a companion who's always got your back. With only six chapters that run roughly 30 minutes apiece, Unravel Two doesn't last long, but it's a game where the time you have is meaningful, memorable, and downright pleasant from beginning to end.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 19 Jun 2018 09:00:00 -0700)


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