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Review: Layton’s Mystery Journey by Sian Thomas

This review contains spoilers.

Trailer for Layton’s Mystery Journey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFz1tTNNRkM

As far as anyone was concerned this time in the last two years, the Professor Layton series was over. There were games and a movie and a book, and then it was finished. I remember how I felt the day some concept art snaked its way on to my timeline, and how incredulity and unimaginable excitement swelled in me: my absolute favourite series was still going. Some higher ups had decided not to leave us all the way that they had. How could I not be beside myself with utter glee? How could me, my friends who I met because of this series, how could we not let ourselves be absolutely encompassed by this incredibly lucky turn of events? We were so happy. I was so happy.
Layton’s Mystery Journey follows Katrielle Layton, Professor Layton’s daughter as she opens her own detective agency and solves a number of cases for London’s elite millionaires – the “Seven Dragons”. What I also thought was going to happen was throughout these cases, Katrielle would undergo the ongoing case of her father’s disappearance, since this is what I’d discovered was the #1 talking point whenever I looked into the game. “Professor Layton is missing! Will his daughter find him?” I thought she would.

As a series that existed differently to the previous Layton games, I obviously expected change. A new cast, new voices, new music, new scenery. I knew it was coming, so when it arrived there were no ill feelings between it and me. Much as how people say, “The movie would be good on it’s own” when the book was better but the movie was… okay… I can say that if this series didn’t have links to the older version, it would have been okay – it would have been good on it’s own. In some places it was even nice – to see things newly imagined. But my view was always going to be rose-tinted because of the old games, so I was helpless.

Some things were good. The music was good, but Layton music always has been (here’s a taste of this game’s music! : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4czbYlei3GY&list=PLVfglvX_VlEZniKUW5NEcdC_yaK6CipuV ). The puzzles were okay (since after all, it is a puzzle game), and I do appreciate that they existed as a tribute to the person who used to make the puzzles for these games, Akira Tago (1926-2016).

There was one character I did really love – Pipper Lowonida, the fictional Mayor of London (pictured on the right, below). She was the first character I saw! The concept art that found itself on my timeline was of her, and I always thought I’d like her. I was right! She’s the Mayor, but with a flare for festivals and parties, and with a happy and witty attitude. She was the best part of the game for me.

So, there was some good things. Not many, though, because now I have the chance to get into what really got under my skin.

This is something I realised a few weeks ago. I found myself less excited for Layton’s Mystery Journey as some of the other people I new. I thought maybe I had exerted it all too early, I thought the funny little online puzzle game (http://www.layton.jp/mystery-journey/laytonworld/uk.html) had depleted it (since I never finished it, and fell out with it just after it began). But, nope! It was something else entirely. I found myself reflecting on the prequel and sequel trilogies of the original Layton series, I found myself thinking quietly on how I loved their plots and characters until I stumbled on a big flaw. Lately with media I have been more than a little picky. Representation and mature story handling has become incredibly important to me, and I realised that the Layton series actually wasn’t ticking any of my important check boxes. Representation in terms of race? It wasn’t happening. Representation in terms of sexuality? Also wasn’t happening. In the original series there was one character who didn’t appear white – and he turned out to be a bad guy (bad move! Especially when this was the only non-white character of an entire series consisting of 7 games and one movie). This carried through into Layton’s Mystery Journey, unfortunately. There was one character who appeared non-white, yet his name was “Shadee” (it’s exactly what you’re thinking), and he was the main culprit of a case that our main characters were pursuing. They were pursuing him harshly, treating him badly, and didn’t apologise when they realised he wasn’t the culprit. (Bad move! It’s 2017 for goodness sake, show some compassion).
There’s also no representation when it came to sexuality. Heteronormative things came through easily in the past series (marriage, nuclear families, a young girl who gives a young boy a kiss and everyone in the vicinity giving each other those knowing looks even though the two kids in question were 11 at best), and this new game (the sidekick character, Ernest Greeves, is blatantly infatuated with the main character Katrielle. She doesn’t notice, and when she doesn’t another character is compelled to say things like “throw him a bone”, “give him a chance”. The problem I have with this is: Girls should not be prompted/feel obliged to appease a man just because the man in question has feelings for them. They shouldn’t have their independence and potential character growth thwarted just because a man has shown up and shown interest). Nothing about characters who weren’t straight, even though it is 2017. It’s disappointing, realising a series you love will not break the safe and traditional mould.
The last point? Every single plot of every single Layton game – and the movie – exists because of women’s suffering. This is a trope I do not at all like: “Woman gets hurt to unlock a man’s story”. So over the ten years that Professor Layton content has been being produced, it’s been the same story: a woman is hurt, somehow. A man’s story comes into existence because of this. So that’s all 6 original games, the crossover game, the movie, and this game! That’s bad. 9 times, a company can’t break from this storytelling? For ten years a company will keep themselves glued to this harmful storytelling? As the times change and representation and better treatment of female characters is needed and they do nothing? Yeah, I’m not exactly happy.
For this game, and for a long time, I really did not think they were going to fall into this trope. But they did, and it was right at the very end of the game. Turns out the bad guy was only propelled forward into taking the actions he did because his mother died. For this game I thought that, what with a new female protagonist, Level5 (the company behind the series) would be shepherded into treating their female characters better, but no. They don’t. They even forgive the antagonist, and move on like nothing ever happened. A white male character isn’t held accountable for his actions, but an NPC who appears black is lambasted endlessly through the case and treated poorly even if they did nothing wrong? I’m disappointed, massively so.
Continuing from that, here’s another of my big issues for the game: it is, as far as I’ve seen, hinged on the premise of “Professor Layton is missing – will his daughter, Katrielle find him?” And here let’s get into some big things that really made my blood boil: They barely mentioned this in-game. They barely talk about how the professor is missing, and when they do, it is off-handed mentions, vague information, and a flippant way of injecting it into the game as if no one really cares that this is the “overall plot” people were expecting. So, no, if you’re wondering, they don’t find the Professor. They don’t even look for him. There aren’t even hints throughout the 12 cases of this game that they plan on searching for him. Which is, let’s face it, a disappointment. I don’t know why advertising seemed to encircle this and then they go ahead and barely use it. I can understand that it’s likely to set up for a second game (which I don’t think I’ll be buying after my revelations and experiences with this game), but really what it felt like was laziness. A lack of a want to finish a story they led people to believe would be solved for the sake of making more money on the next instalment. Worse, they hinge a cutscene at the very end of the game in the post-credits, where it’s revealed that the main character, Katrielle, may not even be Layton’s daughter. She says she has solved the riddle Professor Layton left her (“If you’re not my daughter, then who are you?”). Some people took this as a good cliffhanger, but I took this as a slap in the face and the regrettable loss of £33.

I didn’t like it. Others may, and that’s fine, but Professor Layton content is no longer my cup of tea. I didn’t enjoy it and eventually trudging through playing it started to feel like a chore. Obviously I’m sad, I waited so long for this and was so excited and now I’m shrugging off a franchise I’ve loved for ten years. Hopefully this is better for me. With the fall of this, I just hope I can find better content I can throw myself into as deeply as I did this. Overall, I’m massively disappointed. One star.

Review, Flossy and Boo’s Curious Cabaret, Chapter Arts Centre, by Hannah Goslin

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4 Stars4 / 5

Bright pink and green wigs, ukuleles and a whole heap of fun. Coming to Chapter Arts Centre to see these two curious sisters in creativey was excitingly anticipated by me. I have heard so many wonderful things but never had the chance to grab a chance to see them.

Flossy and Boo as would seem by any images you see of them are eccentric, comedic and warm and friendly. Being welcomed one by one by each of them to the performance, it felt more of a personal gathering than of watching a performance piece.

Flossy and Boo had planned items but also random segments chosen by the audience in the form of picking items from a hat. This was full of anticipation to see the reaction of the performers and what material they brought into the mix.  To be able to chop and change and bring a new show each time is a triumph and very clear of some talented theatre practitioners.

Their ability to change the scenario at last minute, combat sound issues and prop interruption was done seamlessly, with us enjoying how ‘natural’ they were with us. We were never quite sure if they were being their characters or their usual persona- which of course is brilliant to be able to achieve.

Flossy and Boo’s Curious Cabaret is side splittingly hilarious, extremely intelligent and masterful in its execution. Heading to Edinburgh, I urge you to see them. They’re ones not to miss!

Review Film and Comic Con, Cardiff by James Briggs

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Every year the Cardiff International Arena changes from a concert venue to a top convention hall crammed with swarms of TV and Film fans attending the Film and Comic Con, Cardiff. Converging on the centre of Cardiff is an assorted crew of Sherlock’s with Deerstalkers, Marvel and DC superheroes, Disney princesses, Imperial Storm troopers following Darth Vader and assorted geeks decked out in shirts of their favourite shows. There was even an appearance from the Mystery Incorporated gang and their Mystery Machine featuring Scooby Doo.

Cc3S4fcWAAIsPL1.jpg-largeWhen visiting Comic Con you come to realise that Cosplaying has become a central part in the overall experience. The near-compulsory cosplay code can mostly mean that if you choose not to dress up you can stand out more than someone wearing the costumes. Many celebrities often use this to their advantage by dressing up in a costume of their choice and walking the floors of the Comic Con without being noticed.

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Angela Landsbury portrays Jessica Fletcher in MURDER SHE WROTE: SOUTH BY SOUTWEST.

From panels on Doctor Who and Cosplay showcases, to Thunderbird action figures, the comic con welcomes with open arms that which the rest of the world might think a little bizarre. The hall is crammed packed with stall after stall of different shops selling all sorts of collectables. A personal favourite of mine was the autograph section that sold the autographs of every actor or actress you could think of. Everywhere you looked on the autograph stalls there were famous names with Daniel Craig, Ian Mckellen and Benedict Cumberbatch to name but a few. I decided to opt for Angela Lansbury and Jim Dale. Two very big idols of mine.

IMG_0320It never ceases to amaze me with the lengths some people go to create amazingly accurate costumes from famous films, games and television shows. I knew that it was important to participate in this also so my brother and I decided to go as different incarnations of Doctor Who from the hit BBC series. I was dressed as Peter Capaldi with the striking red lined coat and done up shirt button and my brother dressed as his favourite Doctor David Tennant with a Fez added for good measure. One of the star guests at the Comic Con was Jemma Redgrave or as Doctor Who fans may know her Kate Lethbridge Stewart. As her fans gathered to have their photo taken there was an obvious sense of community about the event with many people talking to each other and having photos of their own taken. I even met a fellow incarnation dressed as Matt Smith’s Doctor.

James and Jemma Redgrave

With something for every fan of Film, TV, Gaming and Comic’s there is no reason why you would not want to go and in the words of Shrek “Let your freak flag fly” with pride! Although a word of warning you will most definitely be left with a feeling of wanting to have more money to buy all of the things you see.

The next Comic Con Cardiff will be held on the 29th – 30th of October 2016. Get your tickets now to avoid disappointment. They are available at: http://filmandcomicconcardiff.com/

Review Cardiff Film and Comic Con by James Briggs

James at comic con

Young Critic James Briggs

Cardiff Film and Comic Convention

The Cardiff Film and Comic Convention is one of the biggest fan events of the year in the UK. Held at Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena, the weekend long event features the opportunity to meet some of the most well-known stars from the world of film, television, sports, comics and much more.

As the doors open and the mad dash to enter starts you find yourself feeling like a child again with a feeling of awe with the vast space filled with all of its amazing geekiness. You will always find the guests are located at the back of the venue past the merchandise stands and talk areas which greet you on the way in.

The feeling of awe is continued when it comes to meeting the celebrity guest that are attending the comic convention. One of the most exciting parts of a convention on offer are the photo shoots, this year there were many different celebrities but most popular were Carl Weathers of ‘Rocky’ Fame and Dave Prowse who shot to fame by playing the infamous dark lord himself ‘Darth Vader’ in the hit movie franchise ‘Star Wars’.

As well as having photographs taken with celebrity stars you are also able to have a picture in different settings (with the help of course of a green screen). This year I had a picture in the Jurassic Park setting where I was being chased by a deadly dinosaur.

When receiving autographs from the guests, Showmasters also supply photos of the guests showing them in the various television series and films they have appeared in. The public can also take along their own items such as movie props, books, posters and DVD’s to be signed. Showmasters are very accommodating to ensure each and every person at that convention has the best time they possibly can.

Another feature that the Comic Convention offers that draws in many different people is the panels they hold with special guest stars. One of the panels I attended on the day was that of the Doctor Who panel, the special guest stars were Angela Bruce who really got the audience going and had fantastic comic timing, Wendy Padbury and Annette Badland. The three were a great group and really made the audience feel that they were their friends and we had all just dropped in for a chat and a cup of tea.

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Dr Who star Angela Bruce

As well as seeing the guest stars and stalls people were also able to take a look at the ‘KITT’ car from the well renowned television series ‘Knight Rider’ that was on display at the entrance to the convention, many people gathered in order to take pictures of this, one of the most famous movie cars.

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Knight Riders car KITT

A special mention must be given to all the cosplayers that attended the two days of the convention. Many of the costumes were amazing and the cosplayers are more than happy to pose for photos with you. I happened to come across a very realistic Darth Vader and a gang of fellow Stormtroopers who happily went around threatening fans with lightsabres providing great photo opportunities for all fans.

One final mention must be to the city of Cardiff itself as the people there are always so welcoming to cosplayers and celebrity guests during the Cardiff Film and Comic Convention weekend and also enjoy seeing the movie characters gracing the streets of the city. We look forward to the next Cardiff Film and Comic Convention which will be on 5th and 6th of March 2016.

http://www.showmastersevents.com

 

Review Eye Spy 2, playARK and yello brick by Kaitlin Wray

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Eye Spy 2 was an interactive immersive experience letting people become secret agents for the day. Once we got to our first meeting point we were put into groups of six and these people would be our fellow agents to help us unlock the truth and try to save the world.

The main thing about this experience is that every person would have a different individual experience. This all depended on the type of person they are and who they were joined with. For me I had a really lovely group and we all got on well. However it was evident that we had a few overly competitive members as I spent a lot of the time trying to catch up with finding out the clues and evidence and then before I knew it I was on to the next location.

Apart from this, the story was well thought out and there were some really interesting plot lines and ideas that created dramatic suspense at certain sections. The actors involved were exceptionally good as they made us believe we were in a real crime scenario and they depended on us to help them. They gave us just the right amount of clues, but let us figure out most of it for ourselves.

However I believe this experience should have been staggered in terms of each group playing as we kept bumping into each other and other groups gave some of the clues away. It took away the essence of being a real secret agent.

Overall I really enjoyed the experience as it was well written and well planned out, it was an enjoyable day and if you like a challenge or enjoy solving puzzles and deciphering clues this is a well worth experience for you!

‘In this game there is an extra enemy..Dragons!’ Review of CastleMiner Z by Young Critic Kieran Field

In this game there is an extra enemy… Dragons !’  Review of CastleMiner Z by Young Critic Kieran Field

 Digital DNA Games

 Xbox 360

CastleMiner Z (2)

 CastleMiner Z is an Xbox 360 game, created by DigitalDNA Games.  You can buy the game on the Xbox store for 80 Microsoft points.  The game is for 1-12 players online and it can be as long as you make it.  You can also set

yourself challenges. If you had the time, you could build a city across the whole map if you wanted (not advised).  The online game is good because the host is able to kick or ban the other players if he wishes. Unfortunately there is no way you can go split screen on CastleMiner Z; this is quite disappointing considering the game is a good one too.

The sound effects of the game seem real enough especially with the sound effects of the dragons. This game is good because you do not need any help with an instructions manual.  In fact, the game is so easy you will have the controls learnt within 5 minutes of playing the game.

Mining (2)

On CastleMiner Z, you can change the difficulty to no mobs, easy or normal. No mobs explains itself: there is nothing trying to attack you. On easy, dragons cannot destroy the structures you make and mobs do less damage to you. On normal, the damage is higher and dragons can destroy the structures that you build.

There are four modes that a player can get. A player can have survival mode, which is what you start off with anyway. On survival, you can keep on going even if you die (you respawn back to the start). The other mode you start off with is endurance.  On endurance, it is the same as with survival, but if you die your world totally restarts unless you are online with other people then you just respawn back at the start. The other mode you can have is creative. Creative is unlocked if you purchase CastleMiner. You would have to put the redeem code in on CastleMiner Z; on creative it is the same as survival but you can make as much of anything as you want as long as you have the resources. The last and final mode is dragon endurance this mode you can unlock by killing the undead dragon in endurance mode. Dragon endurance is good in this you have to survive wave after wave of dragons which I think is pretty cool.

Although CastleMiner Z is a game similar to Minecraft (it is a block game like Minecraft) but you can have guns instead and the graphics of the game are slightly better.  In this game there is an extra enemy… dragons.

Dragons (2)

The dragons in CastleMiner Z vary.  The first dragon you are bound to come across is the fire dragon, which is big and red. It will start attacking you at around about 100 metres in distance.  Tip: To kill this dragon I would try to make an assault rifle.  To do this you will need 5 iron and 4 wood.  To get 5 iron you need to mine 10 iron ore and 5 coal (you should also try and make more ammo.)

The next dragon you should come across is the forest dragon; this dragon is green and black and you can kill this dragon using an assault rifle with ease but I would try and upgrade your guns with each dragon you kill. The forest dragon is stronger than the fire dragon so you will have to try harder to kill it.  You should find this dragon at about 500-800metres in distance.

After the forest dragon, you come across the sand dragon and this is a big stage up from the forest dragon because it is much stronger and a lot harder to kill. The dragon is a yellow colour and you should come across this dragon when you come into the desert.  The desert is at about 1000metres in distance.

The ice biome is likely to be the next dragon you come across. To get to the ice biome you will have to cross over very large mountains. These mountains are dangerous by themselves but to make it harder you will have different varieties of zombies chasing you, wanting to kill you. The ice dragon is stronger than the sand dragon because instead of fire balls it will try killing you with ice balls which are a light blue.

The last dragon is a nightmare to kill because it is so strong and you see it at about 4000metres in. It is called the undead dragon.  It is grey and it is very mean. The dragon is even more dangerous because the sky goes pitch black so the dragon is very difficult to find when it attacks you, you’d better hide yourself.

When you kill a dragon, they will drop items which you can collect.  What the dragon drops can range from wood all the way to bloodstone. The rare item which only dragons drop is explosive dragon powder and this allows you to make grenades, rocket launches, anti-dragon guided missile launchers,c4 and tnt.

Another danger in the game is Hell.  Hell is found deep under the ground and mostly made up of lava and bloodstone. In hell you have both the zombies and skeletons trying to kill you. There is one monster that reigns over hell and this is the devil. The devil is taller and stronger than any of your enemies that are unable to fly. He is red and he has horns. He will charge at you and you will have around about 2 seconds before he starts hitting you.

There are alien crash sites throughout the map of the game, in the alien crash sites there is space rock which can only be mined by a bloodstone pickaxe. There is also space goo which is green and it glows this also can only be mined with a bloodstone pickaxe. Obviously on an alien crash site there would be aliens which are strong and yet again also want to attack you. The aliens are dark blue and silver the nearest crash site is about 700 metres in.

There are parts of the game, such as when you fight the last dragon, that are seriously dark and you cannot see, but that’s why you are able to make torches. Torches can be used to light up a good area of space.

The safest place in the game is ore land, as I have called it, which is where all the ores, even the rare one diamond, can be found on the surface.  Ore land is very far out; it will be found when you are on your way to the 4000 metres if that is what you’re aiming for.

If I was going to give this game a rating I would give it a high rating of 4 out of 5 because it is a great fun game. I think that this game is suitable for any age. As long as they are able to use the console, this game is suitable for the whole family.  You might be the type of person that finds block games fun; if you are then you could play on this game for hours. This game can be fun for most people if they set themselves goals. If you are like me then when you achieve your goal it’s great and you are happy with yourself. I recommend you to buy this game because I’m sure that you will enjoy it very much.

 

 

 

Young Critics Review – The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning: Stunning Storytelling

 
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Talk about different!The experience starts as soon as you walk through the front doors of Cardiff High School; huddling in the stairwell before a girl with a walkie talkie directs you upstairs in small groups, to experience the journey to the auditorium – a well designed walk, where you are subjected to primarily unnerving sounds of war and army barracks, which contrasts dramatically with the adorned High School walls, proclaiming netball fixtures and displaying the colourful works of the current students.
General Admission took on a new meaning too, with the audience collecting their chairs from uniform clad soldiers, and choosing a ‘square’ to place it in allowing, to an extent, voyeurism to occur on the audience’s own terms.The set, designed by Chloe Lamford, was minimal. The perimeter of the stage was marked with four 12ft lighting rigs holding computer monitors at every angle that showed P.O.V. footage of a helicopter based sniper. The bleak images of the war torn town, coupled with the loud, intrusive hum of the craft, shouts from the combatants and the occasional ring of an evacuation alarm, set my nerves slightly on edge as I watched the rest of the audience take their seats and choose their viewing spots. This was the first hint of the multiplatform format engineered by Tom Beardshaw, in conjunction with Tim Price (Writer) and John E McGrath (Artistic Director).

The opening was a highly charged list of all the statements you can imagine might have been made about Bradley Manning since the Wikileaks “scandal” began – soldiers discussing the whistleblowing actions of a fellow soldier became a squabble between teenagers, trying to make their opinions heard. What followed was a dynamic, engaging, thought provoking performance that immersed me fully into the story of Bradley Manning, from his High School days in South Wales to his incarceration. Every moment appeared planned down to the second. Every movement, sound (Mike Beer), look, lighting sequence (Natasha Chivers), prop, word had specific meaning and intent. This was an intricately devised piece that made every second worthwhile. I could not pull my eyes from the action!

The six players were present within the auditorium at all times, using the shadows as ‘off stage’. More often than not the entire company was on stage, taking on multiple roles, showing real diversification. They slipped easily in and out of American accents, and all had a turn at ‘being’ Bradley Manning, giving the sense that Bradley Manning has become an idea – something we all have an opinion about; something we all share in one way or another. The ‘flashbacks’ to the High School History classroom gave the characters the opportunity to fully explore themes of martyrdom, of men being punished for their thoughts, whilst focussing on Welsh battles and uprisings. The stark contrast between the innocence of High School and the harsh horrors of life in the U.S. Army also helped evoke a true empathy for the main character, and an understanding of what may have influenced his life to land him in the situation he is still in now.

The performance was fluid, switching seamlessly between scenes, the monitors notifying the audience of when and where the story had moved to at each moment (Baghdad, New York, Haverfordwest) – though if you missed it, the costumes, lighting, set changes and accents all worked as indicators, without being too ‘obvious’.

The entire cast was superb, and extremely convincing in every role they took on. I thoroughly enjoyed each individual performance, and found Bradley’s story particularly compelling because of the different angles given to it by the multiple players. Matthew Aubrey and Harry Ferrier shared the majority of the part, and each contributed to the feeling I now have – that I in part know and understand Bradley’s problems. For me, this is stage play at its best.
Alongside the thought provoking issues and the electric dialogue, there were some very humorous moments, and one unexpected dance sequence that could have seemed absurd but, in fact, gelled perfectly with the plot point, emphasising the idea that, in the 21st Century, you can become a Superstar with one click of the mouse.

In order to interact with The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning in all its multiplatform glory, and just because it was that good that I already want to see it again, I’ll be watching the live streaming of the show on nationaltheatrewales.org/bradleymanning/ before the run ends on 21st April. I would highly recommend you do the same.