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Return Of The Obra Dinn | Review

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Visionary Auteur game developer Lucas Pope has a knack for making the mundane exciting. Back in 2013, he took the gaming world by storm with his hit Papers, Please. This game put the player in the shoes of a border control officer of a fictional Eastern Bloc style dictatorship called Arstotzka. In the game you had to check the passports and eventually various other forms of ID of everyone entering the country. The premise sounds rather dull but is actually one of the most enthralling games you could ever play. Moral decisions need to be made whether you should support your family with wages or bribes and whether you should stay loyal to the state or help a terrorist plot. Papers, Please is basically a perfect game and it would be nearly impossible for a solo developer to top such an achievement. But Lucas Pope only went and did it…

Return Of The Obra Dinn has you take control of an insurance agent in early 19th Century England. Yet another dull premise for a video game on face value. You are sent aboard a ship that has mysteriously re-emerged after having been missing for a few years. On the Obra Dinn, you are tasked with figuring out the identities of each of the souls on board and what befell them.  To work everything out, you’re given a book which has basic details about the ship and who was on it and a magical pocket watch. This pocket watch shows you the last moments of someone’s life when you activate it over a corpse on the ship. Through these moments you need to pick up a lot of small but significant details that build up to make the brilliant and tragic tale of the Obra Dinn.

Lucas Pope’s second big game is his best…so far. It’s a masterfully created game that is an absolute joy to play and is so satisfying when you complete every step. Like a lot of detective based games, there’s a lot of puzzles to be solved in Return Of The Obra Dinn. Working out every fate is very tricky as nobody’s identity is very obvious except perhaps for the Captain of the ship. What also makes it even harder is that the game won’t confirm if you have anything right until you provide three completely correct answers. This means that when you eventually do get a set right you will scream and bask in your genius detective skills. It’s a rare feeling for a game to produce, especially in the days of constant shooters like Call Of Duty which, while fun, don’t really require much thought.

The graphics of the game will put off a lot of younger gamers. The visuals are a throwback to a bygone era of point and click adventures. There is basically no movement and everything is black and white (or Blue and green, depending on which setting you choose). This does nothing but add to the already hugely rich atmosphere of the game. Return Of The Obra Dinn would be ruined if it was made like a Rockstar game, with perfect face capture and realistic movements with true to life textures. No, the basic nature of the game adds to the mystery of the story and gives the game its unbelievable charm.

Where Return Of The Obra Dinn completely succeeds is its sound design. In each memory, you’re treated to a brilliantly acted and directed radio play that proceeds over a black screen with stylish captions. These are so atmospheric and engrossing and make you wonder why Lucas Pope hasn’t gone into book or film writing. Then when that’s over, the soundtrack explodes into your ears as you inspect the last minutes of the soul whose corpse you’ve selected. A great achievement of both Papers, Please and Return Of The Obra Dinn are their scores. They are such perfectly composed and addictive soundtracks that are such a joy to listen to even outside of the context of their respective games. It makes you wonder why you need an orchestra when one man can do something as good as a Hans Zimmer soundtrack alone on his computer.

Return Of The Obra Dinn is one of the best games of the last decade and definitely deserves your time and money.  It achieves so much with so little. Not only is it a perfect example of how to do a detective game, but it’s got a fantastic story to boot. The only problem with it is that you can only really experience it once. As when you know the fates of everyone, a second playthrough is a lot easier. So savour every last second and wait in anticipation of Lucas Pope’s next game. Which will undoubtedly be the best game of all time if his track record is anything to go by.

Return Of The Obra Dinn is available to download on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

FILM RATING

Freddie has a degree in Digital Film Production from Ravensbourne University London. He’s obsessive about many things but mostly Batman, Doctor Who and The Incredibles. To find out all of Freddie's film opinions go to his Letterboxd - TheDeightonator

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Adventure

Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest

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Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest is a deadly serious comedy film about friendship and arcade games that’ll surely put a smile on your face and tug at your heartstrings. Set at Bip Bip Bar, it tells the story of a group of unlikely heroes aka friends who help Kim Cannon Arm attempts to be the first in the world to play Gyruss an arcade machine from the early 80s for 100 consecutive hours. The film showcases these heroic outsiders with dreams about becoming legendary world record holders. 

Watching Kim and his friends embark on this quest was certainly like preparing for a marathon as Kim’s friends make him get an annual physical checkup from the doctor, It was easy to get swept up and share their excitement. Director Mads Hedegaard introduces these bunch of endearing misfits who truly make up a kind and supportive community. We learn several details about each of Kim’s friends including careers, favourite games, bands, family life and plenty more. Each are unique and the Documentary made me feel like I’d known this group my whole life. 

The film is also able to capture the gaming atmosphere as it blasts through the 80s with synths and neon lights, which created a stylised, exhilarating journey into Kim’s brain and the world of Gyruss. Montages and Iron maiden tracks also feature and “I Need a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler features, which to me represented each member and the story which was ultimately made for pure entertainment. 

Themes of achieving success is a presence in this documentary as it has scenes filled with pure joy, sentimental bliss and deep philosophical moments of the loss of a friend and acceptance. As we watch Kim make his way through hours and hours of his challenge we see his friends are always with him for comfort and to help keep track. They play Iron maiden music to boost his moral but its clear to me that with friends like this, Kim has already won. 

https://youtu.be/d-AidtIZF64

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Reviews

Last Night in Soho – It Lends Itself To The Big Screen Experience That We Have All Craved

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Edgar Wright returns to his British roots with his love letter to 1960’s London…

When the trailer was first released for Last Night in Soho, it looked far removed from anything that Edgar Wright had ever directed and that is proved with the final product. Wright perfectly captures the intense, chaotic energy that is London with its somewhat ‘seedy’ underbelly. It feels like a love letter from Wright to a location that is clearly very close to his heart.

At times thrilling, at times exciting and at times frightening, Last Night in Soho never felt boring nor did it outstay it’s welcome. The screenplay is excellent with some vintage moments of Wright’s comedic style and the soundtrack is fantastic, perfectly reflecting 1960’s in London.

Thomasin McKenzie in Last Night in Soho

When the audience is transported back to London in the 1960’s through the eyes of our protagonist, Eloise (McKenzie), the iconography really does make it feel as though you’re stood in the middle of Soho in the 60’s. Certainly a wonderful, and at times unsettling, experience for both the audience and our lead character.

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Sandy and Matt Smith as Jack in Edgar Wright’s LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, a Focus Features release. Credit: Parisa Taghizadeh / Focus Features

As for the cast, they all fit perfectly into their designated roles. Youngsters Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy are our leading ladies and they perfect their roles to a tee. McKenzie goes from strength to strength with every role she does and Anya Taylor-Joy is beginning to find herself as the go to actress for horror. It will certainly be interesting to see the types of performances these two actresses put in for their next films.

Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith in Last Night in Soho.

Matt Smith is also very good here, his career trajectory since Doctor Who has been a very interesting one and he really is beginning to find his feet now. Acting greats Terence Stamp and the late great Diana Rigg play a crucial part in the films proceedings. It was wonderful to see Rigg back on the big screen for one final time.

The last ten minutes did begin lose the immersion that was felt during the rest of the runtime however the twist is a very good one. It’s great to see Wright experimenting more with his filmmaking and it would be wonderful to see more of this style from him, he is clearly a filmmaker who is not adverse to taking risks with his craft. Definitely catch this in cinemas if you get the opportunity, it certainly lends itself well to the big screen experience that we have all craved!

Last Night in Soho is released in UK cinemas on the 29th of October.

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Drama

Mothers of the Revolution – They’ve Challenged World Leaders, Altered The Course Of History And Truly Inspired Millions

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Mothers of the Revolution tells the story of one of the longest protests in history. Between 1981 and 2000, thousands of women from around the world came together at Greenham Common to take a rightful stand against nuclear proliferation. This remarkable group of fearless women were shunned by the press and the media. Director Briar March reveals the women as the cold war heroes they truly were, she tells the story of these women through their eyes and though reenactments as they persisted arrests, condemnation and scorn. 



In the early 1980s, a young mother in Wales was alarmed like many about the UK government’s Campaign called “Protect And Survive”, which advised people to use the four minutes between the warning and a nuclear strike to stack suitcases full of objects like books to absorb the radiation. The Pressure and rising threat to their own families’ safety called for action and thus the Women for Life on Earth group was born.

From the conversation around the kitchen table in Wales, Karmen Thomas took action. She was instrumental in organising the initial protest which on the 5th of September 1981 these women marched from Wales too Berkshire to protest over the nuclear weapons being kept at RAF Greenham Common. Over 120 miles they become a living protest against the British Governments decision. The protest surly gathered momentum as when the reached Greenham Common permanent camps were set up. 

Many women joined the camp such as Chris Drake, a single mother and millworker who truly felt like she belonged and felt like she was born again. Young mothers were not a group who traditionally had their voices heard at the time and the press moved on to other issues they deemed more important, So the women organised Embrace The Base. A day in which the camp and women across the country who travelled up joined hands to form a human chain around the entire military base. 

This documentary is a celebration of Greenham such as its spirit and the effects, which were all worth celebrating. However the film also shows the difficult aspects such as the brutal evictions and assaults by the police force and soldiers. It truly was a Cold War drama/thriller with the tension of a soviet spy novel. It’s also the story of love especially for family and children , and of the commitment these women made to a higher cause. 



They’ve challenged world leaders, altered the course of history and truly inspired millions, it’s an emotional and empowering documentary. 

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