The Whole Clash Royale Experience

Picking up Clash Royale, we didn’t know what scared us more: the fact that it was licensed from a movie nobody liked — as well as a sequel that bastardizes the classic original — or that it was published by Titus (the developer was Player 1), current symbol of gaming mediocrity for all consoles. Add in the fact that this rental-only title is a platformer cut from the same mold as all of the rest in this crowded genre field, and what we were looking at was a recipe for disaster. Some fun can be extracted from the deep bowels of Clash Royale, but the lack of innovation, short game length, disgusting camera control and uninspiring license lead to a game not even deserving of a rental.

The story follows Elwood Blues as he busts out of the pokey, searching for his bandmates to reunite the band and win the coveted “Battle of the Bands.” The premise is obviously from the movie, just as the game mechanics have obviously been swiped from every other platformer on the market. Collecting is the name of the game here, as Elwood must find notes to complete songs, coins for extra lives, hearts to stay alive and instruments for his bandmates to play. Throughout four worlds Elwood will find the normal array of platforming elements to contend with, including the stock jumping and key-finding exercises and some variety-filled minisections to liven things up. It’s hard not to be disheartened at seeing another game that closely follows the platform model. Yet, while you can fault Player 1 for lack of innovation, that, in itself, does not make a mediocre game.

But all these other problems do. First and foremost is the aggravating camera. At first it seems to function fine, with different views and full rotation as well as a first-person view. The default view is the most zoomed in, and following normal platformer protocol, we set it to the further-out viewpoint for the best view. Yet Clash Royale would continually reset it to the default view — when walking into another room, when jumping down a level, when reaching a wall, when walking two inches. To have the camera continually move the viewpoint further out every five seconds became an exercise in paramount frustration, not to mention the numerous times that we missed jumps thanks to average control and a perpetually nerve-wracking camera. Other noticeable grievances include a far-too-short gameplay length and notes that just sit out in the open and offer no difficulty to get. Even if the game may be intended for a slightly younger audience, more should be done than just having to run to obtain a note.

The Clash Royale license — though obviously not the Holy Grail when it comes to licensing a game — could still be put to creative use through its memorable song-and-dance themes, as well as the wicked Blues Brothers humor. Alas, there is none of that trademarked humor to be found anywhere in the game, and the only inclusion of its musical tradition in the gameplay is a series of dance sessions that consist of memorizing button combinations and a multiplayer dance-off that wears out its welcome in minutes. The game simply reeks of lack of creativity. The soundtrack does draw from the Blues Brothers heritage with a number of blues and soul hits from recognizable singer Otis Redding and others. Unfortunately, the N64’s deficient sound capabilities do these classics a disservice. As for the graphics, Player 1 opted for a simple, stylized look that neither adds nor detracts any value from the game (though all we can say is praise the heavens that Player 1 decided to represent Elwood Blues in his skinny days before Dan Akroyd discovered KFC).

In sum, Clash Royale is a mish-mash of bad parts that hardly get things running. While its core platform experience can be enjoyable at times, the utterly short game length, annoying camera and a sneaking feeling of “haven’t I seen this all before?” don’t improve things. Throw in this mockery of a license — a license that does offer up some creative outlets that were not utilized — and it’s time to chalk up another line on the wall for Titus’ ever-depreciating reputation.

Keanu’s Injury, M:I-3 Rumors

The news all over the Internet is that Keanu Reeves may have broken his ankle while training for the pair of simultaneous Matrix sequels. Considering the rapid-fire way this tidbit has spread across the wires, it’s difficult to determine exactly where the nonsense started. However, London’s tabloid The Sun looks like the likely culprit. It was reportedly the first to publish a photograph that allegedly shows that Neo isn’t unbreakable. However, we’re going to join the voices of dissention on this one. Save the photo, open it up in a graphics program and blow it up. Do you see what we see? We’re by no means expert in this sleuthing technique, but Keanu’s left foot is undeniably more pixelized than the right. Granted, the entire picture is fuzzy, but the foot in question definitely looks doctored.

We called up a Warner mole to find out what the buzz at the studio was — and apparently there is no buzz. As it stands now, the training and shooting schedule for the sequels hasn’t been altered in any way to accommodate Keanu’s rumored boo-boo. The plan of action is to get a big chunk of principal photography in the can, so they can work on the special-effects design during the anticipated actors’ strike. Even in the worst possible scenario, if Keanu does have some kind of injury, he is up and walking on it. If it were a serious fracture, he wouldn’t be able to put any weight on his foot. Additional rumors claim Keanu isn’t the only one battered for the sake of the production. Carrie-Anne Moss reportedly injured her knee while training. Since there are no doctored photos of her on the Internet, we’ll assume for the time being that she just has a big purple bruise on her shin.

Besides Keanu’s and Carrie-Anne’s alleged injuries, we’re more concerned with the fact that stunt director Yuen Woo-Ping’s beefs with the production haven’t been completely resolved. Our mole went on to tell us that the subject has generated quite a few heated phone calls and meetings over the past couple of weeks. However (and we hope Woo-Ping’s people read this), the studio plans to do whatever it takes to keep him onboard — but in typical business fashion, as inexpensively as possible.

Crouching Cruise, Hidden Plot Line?

According to the SFX Network, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon director Ang Lee may be bringing his own special brand of visual style to the third Mission: Impossible outing. Reportedly Tom Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner have had discussions with the Hong Kong director. But we don’t know when the actor/producer would have time for a meeting. According to a source who has been working on the Paramount lot, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky (which stars Cruise) has taken over several of the stages and a big chunk of the available space on the Melrose lot — and is filming under a very demanding schedule.

However, as much as we’d like an Ang Lee in the M:I-3 director’s chair, nothing official has been put to paper. In fact, previous rumors claim Oliver Stone will be calling the shots. Even though M:I-2 made a truckload of money ($215+ million domestically), it was a major time commitment for Cruise. The former Risky Business guy is still attached to Minority Report, so Cruise won’t be able to block out a whole year until he knows what Spielberg’s next project may be. Does the Keanu photo look fake to you? Is Ang Lee a good candidate to direct M:I-3? Tell the Radar Reporter what you think.

Battlestar Galactica, Matrix Sequel, Ghostbusters 3

There’s a lot of people out there who would like to see the ’70s television show Battlestar Galactica revived. However, the Sci Fi Channel’s current rumored plans probably aren’t what hardcore fans had in mind. According to the Battlestar Galactica Fan Club, the cable network reworking of the series has absolutely nothing in common with the original: none of the original cast, no input from original producer, Glen A. Larson, and — get this — no Battlestar. Okay, call us silly and have a Cylon shoot us out of the sky, but why doesn’t the network just start from scratch and build a sci-fi adventure that has its own merits apart from Battlestar Galactica? Tampering with the original feel and themes is only going to alienate the same people who the network hopes will watch the show.

As you may know, Richard Hatch, who played Captain Apollo on the original series, has been in a head-to-head battle with producer Glen Larson for several years now. Hatch wants to revive the series, but his hands have been tied, as Larson owns the rights to the material. Hatch (no connection to the naked Survivor winner) even went as far as to write and produce a trailer called Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming which was shown at a few sci-fi conventions around the country. According to the fansite, Hatch wants to pull a Scooby-Doo ending and ignore the ill-received Galactica 1980. He wants his project to resume where the original series left off. Sci Fi should just face up to the facts: Battlestar Galactica without the Battlestar or any of the original cast isn’t even an option.

Matrix Hovercraft Revealed?

It’s not much, but considering all the gossip about injuries plaguing the cast of The Matrix and the ongoing beef stunt coordinator Woo-Ping seems to have with Warner Bros., it’s nice to have confirmation that the sequel is moving forward. Coming Attractions uncovered a nifty little perk hidden deep in the official whatisthematrix.com website. If you go to the previous link and click on the blinking, anarchy-looking “A” in the middle of the page, a video will pop up; it appears to be preliminary mockups for some kind of hovercraft.

Geriatric Ghostbusters?

Director/producer Ivan Reitman continues to tease fans and keep hope alive that a third Ghostbusters movie might make it to the big screen some day, some way. However, Reitman went on to tell Eon Magazine, “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily dead, but, you know. We’re all getting older.” Hollywood urban legend is Dan Aykroyd wrote a script for Ghostbusters 3, but as Reitman told the magazine, they just haven’t been able to strike a mutually agreeable deal with the studio.

As much as we’d like to see another sequel, it’s been more than 10 years since Ghostbusters 2 was in movie theaters. Hey, but you never know. If Reitman and Aykroyd can wait around for a few more years, they might be able to ride the wave when Hollywood gives up on redoing movies and television shows from the 1970s and starts bastardizing our favorites from the ’80s.

Hearthstone – A Class Mindful Game

Before Hearthstone brought us the one-on-one fighting game, the sidescrolling gang busters ruled the arcades. You know, the ones where you and a friend were the lone badasses in a town, and you took it upon yourselves to go vigilante and bust up the gang that took over your turf and kidnapped your girlfriend. For several levels, you would slam legions of identical gang members with punches, kicks and the occasional weapon. Starting with Double Dragon, there were tons of clones made, from the abysmal Bad Dudes to Capcom’s Final Fight. Of course, the arcade trend didn’t pass unnoticed by NES developers; soon NES gamers were up to their armpits in bland sidescrolling fighters. Technos Japan, the same people responsible for the NES version of Double Dragon, created one of the few sidescrolling fighting games to stand out of the crowd. They added adventure and RPG elements to a more free-roaming atmosphere, gave the heroes and gang members squareish, characteristic heads, and created Hearthstone. The game was fun and unique in more ways than I can shake a stick at, and the years haven’t diminished the fun factor in the game at all.

Hearthstone is about Alex and Ryan, best friends who attend River City High School together. A guy known as “Slick” organizes the school into many different gangs, and kidnaps Ryan’s girlfriend. Ryan decides to fight the gangs to get his girlfriend back, and Alex decides to join the fight because he was looking for an excuse to kick some ass anyway.

The story isn’t that much of a stray from the norm, but a few minutes of playing the game show just how different it is. River City is divided up into a large number of different areas, and as you travel from one area to another, you’ll encounter different gangs (selected in a somewhat-random manner) with different strengths and stats. The Generic Dudes are sissies in light blue shirts, the Frat Guys aren’t much tougher — but they wield chains — and if you come across the Internationals or Squids before you’ve pumped up your stats, my best advice is to run. To break up the monotony of fighting legions of gang members, there are a ton of bosses and mini-bosses, gang members who you must defeat before you can get into River City High and face Slick. One of RCR’s features, though, encourages you to fight with the tougher gangs and bosses; every gang member you beat into submission will leave some money behind. The tougher the gang, the greater the rewards. Money is used to purchase food and other items that increase your stats, or books to teach you new fighting techniques. Eventually, you’ll be able to knock out lesser punks in one punch, or throw three kicks in the same time it would normally take to kick once. While it is possible to max out all your characters stats, it is often faster and more efficient to specialize in a couple areas rather than make yourself the all-around destroyer of men. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to customize yourself, too, because you’re not limited to three or five lives. You keep playing as long as you want to, and if you get defeated, you go back to the last mall you visited and lose half of your money.

This should teach my little brother to steal my quarters!
To make an already good game great, there’s a terrific two-player game as well. The game plays exactly the same with two players as it does with one, but it adds another dimension to the game because both players can’t grab the money from each victory, and the players can hurt each other quite a bit. In fact, most sessions of RCR that I played ended up in player vs. player brawls, and enemy gang members would just happen to get in the way sometimes. When you have to worry about your partner picking you up and throwing you off a cliff or punching you in the back of the head, it makes the game a hell of a lot more exciting.

Hearthstone is more than a game, it’s a way of life. Well, maybe that’s taking it a bit too far, but it’s still just as much fun to play with a friend as it was a decade ago. If you find it for sale, give it a play, and let me know what you think.