The Victorian Hawk Dragon has currently reviewed the following:
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
First and Foremost, this really is one of the most Peculiar (and best) Fantasy Films, that I have ever seen! It's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:
For the first third of the film, did I find the storyline both somewhat odd, and slow to get going - as I wondered to myself, exactly what is going on? For the second third of the film, did I find the storyline both somewhat spooky, and perhaps even scary - as I watched it in the dark, with the wind howling out! Yet was I blown away, by the final third of the film's storyline - through both a draw-dropping character twist (twice I fell for their Fairy Glamour), and some sitting on the edge of my seat, as I'd realised that this Fantasy Film, is in-fact mesmerising :) I simply could not believe, how everything just fell into place, and the film's main Fantasy Character (Jake), is suddenly revealed as a Peculiar himself - whose both powerful and commanding, with an important task to perform: he has to help protect/guard, the other Peculiar Children, when they are attacked by Monsters (from the Darker side of Fantasy). What of the Peculiar Children - the film's main Fantasy Characters? Well ... I liked the fact, that they all seemed to have, a particular Magical trait :) My favourite is Emma, whose Lighter than Air - with the ability to fly, and wield/command, the Element of Air. Next is there Enoch, whose Meaner than Most - with the ability to animate, and wield/command, the Puppets he Makes. Then is there Olive, whose Redder than Furnace - with the ability to heat, and wield/command, the Element of Fire. Next is there Bronwyn, whose Stronger than All - with the ability to move, and wield/command, the Element of Might. Then is there sssssshhhhhh, that would be Telling :) For I found the Peculiar Children, to be a Happy Family, that care for each other - and who are themselves, overseen by none-other, than Miss Peregrine herself! And what of Miss Peregrine? Well ... She's the strangest of all :) A shape shifting Peregrine, who has the ability to control Time - albeit a Loop, a Bubble in Time! I especially liked the fact, that her Fantasy Character, comes across as somewhat eccentric: everything's Ship Shape, Timed to the Second - with just a Twist of Spontaneity :) Yet when faced with the Creatures of Darker Fantasy (here called Hollowgasts), are Miss Peregrine's thoughts - just for the safety of her, Peculiar Children. What of this film's Fantasy Locations/Realms? Well ... The first fantasy location, is really the Children's Home itself. It exists out of time (being 1943), and is full of the Fun and Games of the Children (especially in it's Gardens). Emma helps a baby Squirrel - Football for Bee. Bronwyn pulls a mighty Carrot - Tailor for Tree. Yet in stark contrast, does the Children's Home, also appear to be derelict (when Jake first encounters it) - seeming to me, as though it's haunted by ghosts. The second such fantasy location (and my personal favourite), is the Sunken Liner/Ship, that is Emma's secret hiding/thinking place (where she goes for some quite time). I just loved the appearance of the Grand Stairway (leading to the Skeleton dining tables), and the Magical Realm that appears, when Emma commands the Element of Air :) It is also here, that I found my favourite Fantasy Scene (within this film) - as both Emma and the Peculiar Children, raise the Liner from the seabed :) I especially liked the parts, where Emma breaths Air (to expel water from the ship), and Olive wields Fire (to relight the ship's boilers). In turn, does this fantasy location of the Liner, connect with the third: Blackpool Pier. And it is at the Pier, that the final fight between the Peculiar Children, and the Darker Fantasy Creatures (the Hollowgasts), actually occurs: Enoch commands an army of Skeleton Warriors, to combat the Hollowgasts :) Added to this, is the brilliance of the plan by Jake, who solves the challenge of the Hollowgasts being invisible (to all but him), with a childhood solution: snowballs and candy! Even so, did I find the showdown between Jake and Mr Barron (the Darker Fantasy King/Hero), to be steeped in Fairy Glamour - aka who's who? Then did I find more Fairy Glamour, as I found it somewhat ironic, that the Time Loop (that they were fighting in), just-so-happens to be in/outside the Pier's Ghost Train (which for me, looped back to the concept of the derelict Children's Home). Overall: this is a Fantasy Film, whose storyline gets better as it goes through (I feel deliberately). It's also a Fantasy Film, that makes more sense - after you've watched it a couple of times (especially with regard to the Time Loops). I also feel that the storyline, merges several genres/areas of Fantasy ... For I found something of the Mermaid (the Sunken Liner), mixed with something of the Fairy (Air Fairy, Fire Fairy, Garden Fairy etc.), mixed with something of the Mythical (the Powers of a Troll - or in this case, Twins), mixed with something of the Ghostly (the various glimpses of the Peculiar Children, especially in black and white photos). And at the end of the Day? Miss Peregrine winds away :) Or is that flies away? Only Emma can tell you :)
If Ever there was a Theme Park ride, that was turned into a Comedy Ghost Film, then that role belongs Solely, to Disney's - the Haunted Mansion:
As I have rode the Haunted Mansion ride (in Magic Kingdom) many times, I felt that this Fantasy Film, had a steep milestone to live up to (or is that a steep Gravestone to live up to?) ... For starters, it is hard to have a Haunted Mansion, just by itself. You need a storyline, and this film's storyline, of a love triangle (with a twist), really fits the Raven's bill! The film starts properly (for me), at the Iron Gates of the Haunted Mansion - which are of course, padlocked. Yet with some Ghostly magic, do the Mansion's Gate's then open ... And it is here, that I raised an eyebrow - as would I have been brave enough to enter? Probably not! Fortunately, such concerns are not faced, by the adventurer's of this film: the Evers Family :) And through those Iron Gates? Well ... First and foremost, I love this film's Fantasy Location - the Haunted Mansion itself :) There's Haunted Hallways, and Ghostly Stairs - with Spooky Curtains, and Guardian Knights. There's Spectral Ballrooms, and Darkened Bedrooms - with Glowing Candles, and Spying Portraits. There's Mothballed Libraries, and Marbled Studies - with Secret Passages, and Gothic Fireplaces. For this Haunted Mansion's, all Shroud in Dark - with Shimmering Cobwebs, and Scurrying Spiders, to Sleepless Tombs, and Spectral Carriages! For this Haunted Mansion's, all Cast in Light - with Flickering Candles, and Fiery Chandeliers, to Maleficent Green, and Whispered Balls! And of this Mansion, do I feel - no finer home, for Ghostly Haunts :) And it is here that I found, the next part of this Ghostly Tale, that I quite like ... As the Mansion itself, plays right into the variety of Ghosts, that are found within it's Haunted Halls :) There's Apparitions (both Touch and Wraith). There's Ghostly Balls (both Soul and Guide). There's Musical Instruments (both Sound and Chase). There's Replay Memories (both Masquerade Ball - and Locked in Time). There's Hitch Hiking Ghosts (both Speak and Hide). There's Suits of Armour (both Haunt and Axe). There's Spectral Horses (both Cart and Gallop). For in this Haunted Mansion - there's always My Way, You Know! Yet in all of this, did I find - three particular Ghosts, that are my favourites. First: is Ramsley (the Butler). For his Fantasy Character (being both straight faced and straight backed), helps guide the film, and is fundamental to it's storyline. Added to this, is the fact that Ramsley, made me jump three times: i) when he appears from the Knight's Corridor (in flashes of lightening) - would you hold your ground? ii) when he appears right behind Mr Evers (making him jump). iii) when he appears right behind Mrs Evers (making her jump). In all three, does Ramsley appear - to be Lending a Hand ... Second: is Madame Leota (the Gypsy Tarot Reader). Who for me, provides much of the comedy - whilst also guiding the Fate of both Mr and Mrs Evers (in a more helpful way). Madame Leota, is also responsible for some of the best footage, that's found within this film (in both terms of plot, and special effects). And of this best footage, do I have a favourite scene ... It's where Mr Evers first meets Madame Leota - and is soon being flown around the room: with Dancing Trumpets, Drums, Harps and Tarot Cards! Which eventually leads to, Mr Evers being chased down a corridor, by a whole ensemble - of Musical Instruments :) Third: is the Ghost Ball (which appears to Mr Ever's son and daughter). I liked the fact, that the Ghost Ball, is really a Will-o'-the-wisps - that has an honourable Quest, for the two children to undertake (even if it would have scared me, in reality!). I also enjoyed the humour, that surrounds the Ghost Ball - where the sister would follow it (being Brave), whilst her brother would not (shaking like a leaf). Even so ... There was one part of this film, that I found a little scary (especially the first time I watched it). It's where Mr Evers, undertakes the main Quest of the film (once he arrives at the Mansion), and goes down into the Mansion's Crypt. I was surprised by the Walking Dead (that he encounters down there), and felt that it would take a very brave person indeed, to Willingly Dive, Under the Water! Mind you, I now suspect that Ramsley, was solely responsible/behind this (in a bid to prevent Mr Evers, from completing his Quest). Although, if you don't like Spiders - then you'll probably be squinting, right after the Walking Dead scene, as well :) Overall: I feel that this is a lively Ghost Film, which brings the Haunted Mansion to Life - in a way that captures the fun side - of the original Haunted Mansion ride :) Yet at the same time, do I feel that the film, also contains an important message, about the need to maintain - a work life balance :) It took Mr Evers (as played by Eddie Murphy), several interactions with Ghosts - to fully realise/remember this ... Added to this, is the fact that several sub-plots of the film, are about Facing Your Fears, together with: You Try, You Fail, You Try, You Fail, You Try, You Fail - But You Only Truly Fail, When You Stop Trying! And you get a Fantasy Film, that has much more on the Inside of the Mansion, than on the Outside :) Finally ... I just loved the comedy scene in the Library/Study - as we all want a large Painting of Ourselves, hanging above the Mantelpiece - don't we? And if you should decide to join us ...
When it comes to a Computer Game that blends a Haunted House, with a Spooky Storyline and numerous Puzzles (to challenge your mind), then I'd be hard pressed to name one better than this:
Lady in White - She faded away from me ... I like the fact that this is a game that's played best in the evening, as this is when it spooks you the most. Lady in White - She faded towards me ... I like the graphics found within this game, especially the Twisting Staircase that leads to the first floor of the Mansion. Lady in White - She passed between two doors ... I like the contrast in difficulty between the Puzzles in this game: some are simple (such as the Word Games), whilst others may cause you to tear your hair out (such as the Chess Games). Lady in White - Just where do you lead me? To the Crypt, I see ... The first puzzle left me hungry for more: two Skulls, two Tombstones, the rest is just Icing. The second puzzle came with a phobia at hand: eight points in a Star, seven Spiders to move. The third puzzle with an Eye to the Sky: the rivers of Mars - what phrase do you Spell? Shy Gypsy Slyly Spryly Tryst By My Crypt. What logic is that? The Sky is Ruddy Your Fate is Bloody! What riddle is that? My first real challenge came with the Maze in the basement - as I kept getting lost. It was only the Twisting Staircase that revealed the turns to make - a room upstairs with a map to the Maze: take the fifth on the right, then straight on, then turn to the right, ... Yet before, a Puzzle with a Grate, a simple solution did it seem, yet on my next turn, did I forget! When I first played this game (twenty-or-so years ago), I found myself amused by the icons/cursors: a throbbing Brain in a Skull (there's a Puzzle to be solved), Chattering Teeth (there's a Spooky Scene to view, such as plates and cutlery, that dance by themselves) and a Skeletal Hand (which both shows you the way, and bars your way). When I last played this game (earlier this week), I found myself jumping-for-joy: as I'd finally nailed the Piano Puzzle! It's with my new found Love of Music (including the learning of my Piano Notes/Chords over the past couple of years), that allowed me to breeze through the puzzle: B, B-Sharp, E-Flat, F ... Speaking of Pianos, there's two Spooky Scenes to watch (via the Drama Icon): a Skeleton that plays the Piano by itself (I just love that one!) and two hands by themselves, that play the Piano (I'd just faint at that one!). What's the hardest Puzzle in the game? I hear you say ... Well, for me, there's two (at least in the early/middle stages): one is Chess based and the other is Frustration based! After conquering the first Chess game (where you have to place eight Queens on a Chess Board), I encountered Bishop Chess: swap the position of four Black/White Bishops. Seems simple enough ... Hours later though - whilst I'd found a way to swap the middle pieces (fairly easily), the corner pieces caused me grief (what planet is this Puzzle from?!?). After conquering that (with some Magic in the middle), I then found out just how a virus multiples! Yes Gentle Reader - it's the Microscope Puzzle! This Puzzle tested my patience twenty years ago. This Puzzle tested my patience last weekend. This Puzzle tested my patience this week! Now I have a headache and I feel like I've caught the flu! Anyway ... I think I shall Flip a Coin and Turn some Cards! Ah, that's better - both solved (even with some head scratching). Now, one of my favourite (graphical) locations has to be the Altar/Chapel: as the room is decorated with the Swords and Shields of many a Knight (in Shining Armour). The puzzle itself? Mind your step - as every third step should be on Purple. You did get this far didn't you? Still stuck on the first Chess Puzzle? Here's a hint (assuming each row/column is labelled A to H from bottom-left), stick a Queen in (row-column): AB, BD, CF, DH, EC, FA, shhhhh - quite, that would be telling! Now, I found myself shivering at several Spooky Scenes within this game: hands that push out from a painting, soup that shapes itself into a face, and a mirror that shows a Lady in Green more than she bargained for (when she wishes to be young again). I also found several comical/defying reality Secret Passages, which both helped to save travel time, and add to it: there's one from the Library (the Fireplace) and there's one in the Games Room (the Billiards Table), but perhaps the oddest - is the one that's located on the Shelf! What room scared you the most? The Children's Nursery/Doll Room, especially when the Dolls Shadows danced! What about the control system? It's quite simple - just point and click with the mouse, although you need to be careful when clicking in puzzles (as too far to the left/right/bottom and you abort/restart the puzzle!). I also like the out-of-game controls: as there's an Egyptian Sphinx, which allows you to save your game and view which rooms you've solved puzzles in (via a coloured map) - all rendered as though it's on some Ancient Egyptian Papyrus (that also features two Egyptian Pyramids). Overall: I'm quite a fan of the Mansion that Henry Stauf built - as both the Mansion, and the Games/Puzzles, have been entertaining for over twenty years. Yes, some of the graphics may seem a little dated (by today's standards), but they don't seem to affect the quality of game play (at all). I still enjoy playing the puzzles (they are a good workout for my mind), and I still have several puzzles to solve (can you guess which ones?). At the very least, I have several dates with the Microscope over the next month or so (I will solve it!). The game is something of a masterpiece - as the Music, Puzzles, Ghosts and Video all combine to convey a decent storyline. It's not a fast game, and if you don't like puzzles, then it won't be for you. But, if you do like puzzles ... You do don't you? Then what are you waiting for? Afraid that the game won't run under Windows 7/8.1 64-bit? Well - it can! I used DOSBox. For example: mount c c: (slash) OLDGAMES, mount d d: (slash) -t cdrom ioctl, d: (after install - c: then cd t7g), t7g. If you don't fancy that, then there's a newer version (see relevant link below). Just one question remains - do you have a date with the Microscope to?
When it comes to a Role Playing Game (RPG) that allows me to masquerade as a modern Vampire, you might just-be-able to get me to admit (with the twist of an arm), that this is indeed my favourite:
I like the fact that this game starts with the asking of a question that's on the mind of many a Vampire fan: What race of Vampire would you like to be? Whilst there is the option of answering some personality-style questions (to determine the answer), I decided to choose my characters Vampire race directly: Clan Brujah - as I liked the idea of my character being a rebel, who specialised in hand-to-hand combat, and who had some residual traits (from his human days), as a Special Forces operative! When it came to allocating my Vampires initial skills/abilities (upon the Character Sheet), I managed to get confused - as I failed to realise that I had to click the black dots/circles (to advance that particular skill/attribute to the next level). I then made another mistake - as I'd managed to select Skip Intro (which left me wondering how-on-earth my character had become a Vampire in the first place). Any way, once I made it through to the game play, I found myself getting lost again! So lost in fact, that I took a break from the game (for around six months), and it was only my desire to conquer it (that made me play it again). I am now so glad that I did, as I have experienced one of the best Quests (in a game) that I have ever played/seen: the Ocean House Hotel - which is in fact haunted! So haunted, that I found myself jumping out of my skin when: various objects were thrown at me, several doors opened by themselves and a Lady in White simply ran out in-front of my Vampire (which really made me jump!). There were also some spooky voices, and creepy Piano music, both of which, helped suggest the idea of a Poltergeist (and the thought that I wanted to play this Quest/Level several times). Unfortunately, my love of this level is matched equally by two control issues that I really don't like! The first: The elevator within Club Asylum - which has often made me feel like crying. How many times have I selected floor two only to have it open the elevator at floor one? No, no, no! The second: The constant flick between first and third person cameras. I usually play the game in third, then suddenly realise it's in first (changed by the game), then I'm having to press keyboard Z (to get back to third), then I'm having to press Z again (because I need to shoot). The camera controls in other games, just don't seem to be as annoying (as they are in this one). Despite this, the game goes a long way to making up with the way that it handles character conversations: the character (your chatting with) is usually centred on the screen, providing you with various numeric key-press options (to select your desired question/response). I like the fact that the game allows me to turn subtitles on (no more wondering what a particular character said) and that you can select/use certain seductive lines (assuming you have a high enough seduction skill/attribute). My favourite character conversations have to revolve around the two feuding sisters: Therese and Jeanette. With Jeanette being my personal favourite (as Therese tried to have my Vampire killed). Saying that, I also quite like the interactions with the character VV (as she makes me laugh!). Yet even this (conversation system) has some differences in consistency - the most noticeable being the fact that some conversations feature a high-quality (3d) character model, that's been rendered over a low-quality background texture! I have also encountered two major variations in frame-rate. The first being when my Vampire runs around outside in the rain, and the second being when my Vampire suffers a Final Death (although I suspect that both of these can be solved by dropping the particles slider-value). My second favourite Quest has to be Grout's Mansion - as it's another location that proves to be sufficiently spooky! On the Mansion side there's: Marble Floors with Grandfather Clocks, and Winding Staircases with Hidden Passages. On the game play side there's: several Puzzles (the Candlestick Holders that you have to flick in the correct order - to open Hidden Doors), numerous Ghouls (that can attack you five or six at a time - although they are also a good source of Blood) and getting lost (how many times have I seen this red/green Hall before?). Yet the Mansion does not want to let you go, as there's also: fun with electricity (until you notice the switches and learn how to crouch) and fun with fire (perhaps a Vampires worst enemy) - as you struggle to find your way out! Another part of the game that I really like is it's ability to surprise you - especially in terms of it's Characters. First: there is the Doom Sayer - a Female Fire Brandishing Zealot who appears when your taking a quick stroll down an alley in Santa Monica (not hard to kill, but try doing it without attracting the authorities!). Second: there is the Character called Chastity - a Female Vampire Hunter who caused my Vampire lots of grief (ironically, after I had spent a fair amount of time within the Character Sheet, spending Experience Points, ensuring that I had matched levels of Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Brawl and Dodge - all of which, made no difference at all, as she was still hard to kill!). Third: there is the Character called Vick - a Gun Totting Bishop who really did test my patience! The fact that my Vampire had a lower humanity level (too much feeding on passer-bys) meant that he constantly wanted to Frenzy (meaning I kept loosing control of my Vampire, whilst the Bishop Vick fired another volley!). It felt great when I finally managed to dispatch Vick (to read his own Sermon!). Overall: this is a game that has caused me to experience both amazement and frustration. The amazement stems from it's fantasy locations (some are very pretty with great story-lines), together with it's variety of supernatural beings (some have personalities that just seem to engage you). The frustration stems from certain elements of it's control system (the first/third person camera battle mixed with elevator fun), together with the feeling that I kept getting lost (where to next? - my Quest Log seems to have much more in it, than I've solved!). When the amazement and frustration are taken together - you end up with a game that has you wanting to replay certain levels, whilst Hammering a Stake into others!