Very seldom does a game catch my attention like Cuphead did when it graced our live-streams back at E3 IN 2015. Cuphead, a colourful homage to 1930s cartoons, stood out among grittier titles like Gears of War and Dark Souls. I wouldn’t normally jump at the chance to play a “run and gun” style game (I’m still traumatised from getting the high score in Bully’s side-scroller Nut Shots) but I was totally drawn in by the 30 second clip. The fact that the release date ended up being my birthday further cemented my choice to buy it on day one.
Cuphead has been compared to notoriously butt-kicking Dark Souls due to its difficulty. Other than the obvious glaring differences you could make an argument for it. If you die during a level, you have to restart the section, enemies and all, just like Dark Souls. You also die very frequently. Before you scream “UNETHICAL GAMES JOURNALISM” I did make it through the tutorial (I have video proof). However, that doesn’t mean that I have not died a million times (I have video proof). The beauty of Cuphead is that dying is how you learn. Again, just like Dark Souls.
After the whole Dan Takahashi drama people have become snobby about the game and its difficulty, claiming it as some litmus test for a true gamer. Cuphead does not care if you are an experienced gamer or not. When you face one of the many bosses or run and gun levels for the first time you will not know your arse from your elbow. You won’t know if a certain enemy can be shot and killed, you won’t know if it’s better to hold off on shooting and concentrate on dodging, you won’t know if the platform you’re about to jump on will burst into flames. The list of obstacles is endless. Adding to this is the option to buy guns and special powers from coins collected in the world. Changing these around can really help with your game-plan. Still though, you won’t know if it will help until you try, and fail, and try again.
Cuphead gives you the option of local co-op which is a thing I sorely miss in today’s online obsessed world. Luckily for me, I have an on demand player 2 in the form of my little brother (like I was for my older sister). When I found myself at the mercy of a giant carrot, I turned off the game, nipped into town, came home and gifted a second controller to him. It took us a little while to get used to the addition of a player two but soon we had defeated the carrot and also cackling blimp lady Hilda Berg who he had been having trouble with when playing solo.
Each boss we have encountered has been designed so well that we look forward to seeing their multiple transformations throughout fights. Often my brother and I are shouting “WHAT?” at each other in awe and confusion. I think the greatest feat of Cuphead so far has been how captivating it is. No matter how many times we have failed we have never once felt anger or frustration. We have found ourselves almost instantly pressing retry every time and we go back in, guns blazing, probably a little wiser than the last attempt but probably not wise enough just yet.
Watch my true first few minutes with Cuphead below if you dare. I hope the Xbox One police don’t come after me for this abysmal display.
Right now Cuphead is €19.99 and is available on Xbox One and PC.
Despite only being born in 1992, I have very fond memories of playing the first few Tekken releases with my older sister and my cousin. The main draw for us was unlocking the insane ending stories that the Tekken developers always cooked up. I have stayed loyal to Tekken ever since then (there’s some Soul Calibur thrown in there over the years too). Tekken for me peaked at the third installment. However, I do remember being in awe of the graphics in Tekken 4 once it had arrived on PlayStation 2 and I definitely enjoyed Tekken 5 and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. It was only with Tekken 6 that I found my interest in the series waning a bit as the traditional modes began to change format. I know that at some point things have to switch up a bit but the new additions just did not sit well with me.
Having some hope left, I was excited for the latest Tekken release and I bought it on day one. The problem came when I had seen so much hype for Injustice 2…which I also bought. I don’t think I touched Tekken for a good month and a half after that. Does that mean that Tekken 7 is bad? Not necessarily. You just have to be in a very particular head-space to enjoy it.
First of all there is no Anna Williams in Tekken 7 which is a crime. Second of all…Tekken 7 is for you if you are a gamer that loves to grind. Tekken, with the progression of online gaming and the allure of eSports has become serious business. Gone are the days when I would bash buttons next to my sister on a Mortal Kombat arcade machine in a local fast food restaurant. I was actually extremely nervous before I entered the world of Tekken online (who knows why my body decided to do that). I saw multiple players with one hundred wins on their belts. I was like “cool” then got demolished. I did win once when I found someone as hopeless as myself. It was great when I lost after that and my win counter went down to zero. I then realised that what I saw were one hundred win streaks. I honestly wonder if these people have full time jobs because how does that happen? Special shoutout to the player who decided I was so useless they just left their character lying on the ground for a bit. That was rude.
The closest you get to the older “ending movie” structure in 7 is a single fight as each character which ends with a short clip of them talking to their defeated opponent in the context of that particular fight. Still, I miss the hijinks between Law and Paul. The confined story in Tekken 7 is quite challenging as each fight seems to have something extra you have to keep on top of, e.g. dodging a soldier shooting at you at certain intervals, quick time events or even multiple enemies. It is a very sneaky way of getting you to grips with the mechanics of the game without you having to slog through a tutorial. They also added in something called “Story Assist” which you access by holding down RB on Xbox One to bring up a list of hotkeys for combos that would otherwise take multiple button presses. It is a great help in the story mode but I always find my hand cramping very quickly despite doing apparently less work. I think the biggest help I ever had was playing as Lars who had his own gun, but then I had no need to go hand to hand with anyone.
Tekken 7 customisation leaves a lot to be desired. Which is odd considering the focus on online gameplay. You get some items specific to each character and then really random bits like tank tops and deer masks for everyone. Some of these have to be paid for with in game money. However, more things can be unlocked through Treasure Mode and Arcade Mode which again, you will have to grind for. I know many people aren’t that interested in playing dress up so it really is not a deal breaker. Still, it would be nice to have the same level of freedom that Soul Calibur customisation has allowed in some of its installments. Saying that, if you’re looking for a really cute health bar and player card panel, Tekken 7 has you covered. My personal favourite is the neon pumpkin one. Very seasonal.
Injustice 2 definitely has a wider appeal. It has enough to keep both beginners and veterans entertained even before they become their best Injustice selves.
The very few times I chanced my arm and went online were very pleasant experiences. One person who demolished me for ages before I eventually beat them messaged me to say they had fun! Of course I’m nowhere near as good as a lot of online players but the nature of Injustice is that things can turn around at any second. This is due to the two health bars you have, the second never draining until the first is completely gone. So if you use a strong move while your opponent is still on their first bar, you won’t be able to affect their second. In turn your meter you built up for special moves will be depleted and your opponent can use what they have in theirs in a “clash” which you would definitely lose and they would gain health back. Even the best players have to be careful of this!
The story of Injustice basically revolves around Superman being a dick and Batman being a good Batdad to everyone except his own son. It’s great. You get no choice as to who you play as throughout however some sections allow you to choose between two fighters. If the completionist in you gets itchy about this, you can return to chapters to complete them as the second character. If you want to view the alternate ending to your initial choice, you will have to complete 75 out of the 76 available fights. If my counting is correct, around 31 of those involve single fighters so there is not awful lot of grinding to do on top of one playthrough. I found this a good way to decide who I liked playing as without any experience other than the tutorial. Turns out I’m a dab hand at Harley Quinn and Black Canary.
Customisation is very fun. You can earn what are called “Mother Boxes” which you get in various ways and open them to get gear. You can take part in timed Multiverse events (which I love) and earn items that way too. Each item carries with it a level and stats that affect a fighter’s strength, ability, defense and health. Of course, the character has to be the correct level to equip a piece. If there is a better bit of gear that you find ugly you can use some of the resources you earn to put the stats on something you prefer. The Multiverse events come in a variety of difficulties and may have certain stage elements (random earthquakes etc.) and customisation offers you a chance to change up your tactics through costume if you’re finding a particular event tricky.
There is a lot more to Injustice than Tekken which has upped the playabilty for me personally. Tekken is what it is and I am just a filthy casual. Until I muster up the courage to delve back into the Tekken mess I will be happy deciding if Catwoman looks better in purple or black and punching Green Lantern in the face (he’s very annoying).
This is the last week I had planned to document my self prescribed fitness journey and I am keeping to that. At the end of these five weeks I definitely feel a change for the better. I am excited to continue on and am already eyeing up Darebee‘s “post apocalyptic fitness quest” as it only seems fitting to pair with Zombies, Run!
Day 1 – Ass Effect
It being a lazy kind of Sunday, the first day this week comprised of a workout from Darebee. I did a little search for a full body program and came across Andromeda. It seemed only fitting to do it as the demise of the game had been announced the day before. Some parts were more challenging than others, especially the squat hold side bends. Mass Effect Andromeda itself definitely wasn’t as painful as doing 20 of them in a row, trust me. I was quite confused with the toe taps as I found them a bit too easy. I watched the Darbee supplement video and was still unsure as to where I might have been going wrong. Maybe I am just slowly turning into a woman of steel (hilarious).
I came home starved from work and devoured a mint chocolate Fulfil bar and half a turkey sandwich before I went out. Bad idea. I was going fine, doing my usual thing and then I got hit with the double zombie chase again. The only difference this time being that I didn’t completely give up. I still got caught by the zombies for not being quick enough. After this I could feel the sandwich sitting in my stomach which made me feel quite ill. It was not fun. I soldiered on and thankfully the chases all occurred in the first half of my outing so I had time to recover myself. I can feel myself getting less motivated to go outside for runs as my work day is so long. I have entered the Halloween virtual race though so hopefully it’s a momentary lapse. Saying that, I did admire my own persistence in the face of nausea.
I love Tomb Raider so when I found a Croft inspired work out I was 100% ready. After all, if I wouldn’t have the ability to survive what Lara has survived and still climb like a mountain goat then what is point of life? I felt very brave on this day (clearly) so I added a 6kg dumbbell in each hand for the lunges and lost count a few times on things so I definitely did more that I had to. It got rough but like Lara, I got through it. The hardest part were the plank jump-ins, it was work in itself trying to keep my leggings on. I was glad to go to bed after seven sets.
I didn’t have as much freedom with my days this week as one will be spent packing and another will begin on a plane. I also used a day to attend Odeon’s Screen Unseen for the first time (worth it). So Wednesday was my last opportunity to shove some exercise in. As I had to stay later in work this day I was going to be in no position to go home, eat dinner, go out for a run and still be able to get to bed at my usual hour. I had a light-bulb moment and searched up Darebee to see if there was some sneaky office workout I could complete as I would be alone for the evening. Luckily there were a few to choose from. I opted for the Chair Abs workout and completed 5 sets. It was a lot harder than it looked (especially on a very mobile office chair) and I did not want to obtain B.O. for the commute home. I dabbed some Soap and Glory anti-bacterial gel under my pits just in case. I know I’m gross.
Today marks the third time I have received an order from Merchoid, which I came across when looking for good quality merch that wouldn’t hit me with horrific customs fees. My first delve into the online store was a Fallout 4: Vault 111 hoodie which I took a chance on when failing to find one with 101 emblazoned on the back. I was extremely impressed with the quality of it and vowed to order from Merchoid once more. The second order came in the form of a Gotham City Police Department T-Shirt for a gift (apparently no longer on site). Again, I was impressed and soon I was itching to treat myself.
I was casually browsing one day and came across a pre-order for an X-Men hoodie that I could not resist (I’m a sucker for nostalgia). I thought it over a little and placed my order on July 30th for an estimated release of September. I didn’t have to wait that long however as it arrived on the 21st of August.
Inside the parcel the hoodie came in Bioworld packaging. I scanned their site really quickly and had to pull myself away, I mean look at this. Also big thanks to Kristina, I’m sure packing orders is her favourite part of the day.
Unlike the Fallout 4 hoodie I had bought, the site has zero information about the material of this hoodie so I presumed it would be the same or similar (50% cotton 50% polyester). However it is much lighter as it is 100% polyester which on the label means no irons or tumble dryers or washing machines should go near it. It’s a much sportier jacket due to this and I can see myself using it for when I go for a run. The material is slightly shiny also which has caused the old “is this black or navy” conundrum. On the site it appeared black but when I got it I held it up to some of my black clothes for a considerable amount of time to determine that it is very dark navy. This may pose some problems for me as I never buy navy for fear of mixing it with black.
So far Merchoid have not disappointed me in the quality of stock that they carry and thankfully I have not had a package go AWOL on me. I’m already being very bold and eyeing up their Christmas jumper selection.
I had to stay in work later on multiple days so it was challenging to fit some exercise in this week. I also had a trip to the cinema and the theatre come up. Still, despite feeling like my eyes were going to fall out of my head due to tiredness, I managed to squeeze in three sessions of exercise. You’ll also be glad to hear that there was no sesh this week so I was neither injuring myself or ruining my hydration levels.
Day 1 – No Butts About It
My knee was still very much oozing from week 3’s fall at this stage so I went to Darebee to find something appropriate to do. Since I did an arm workout the day before, I figured I’d look at my lower half. This brought me to Killer Butt, a workout that focuses on your glutes. I was most scared about the single leg deadlifts because they looked extremely difficult. Shockingly enough I was well able to do them without falling over (there were only a few wobbles). I even did ten on each leg as opposed to the prescribed five. My butt didn’t thank me for it but I felt like a superhero.
I looked to Darebee again on this day because the heavens absolutely lashed out of it. I came home like a drowned rat and was in no mood to go outside for a run. To make up for this I went in search of a full body workout and ended up with The Princess. It promised me “successive exercises that pile up the load with a combination of combat moves and concentric muscle movements.” It definitely delivered. Fair warning: clamshells are deceptively difficult.
I donated to the website for the first time on this day. It really is a great resource and the team do it all ad free and are non-profit!
Track also “designed for the kind of Princess who prefers a sword to a mirror and is better at serving up a knuckle sandwich than embroidery” – Sleigh Bells – Riot Rhythm
Day 3 – Nuclear Apocalypse Meet Zombie Apocalypse
I had to force myself to go out on this day. After being up since 6am I didn’t get to my doorstep until half 7 in the evening with a very empty belly and heavy eyelids. I grabbed something quick to eat and went out with Zombies, Run! I had the genius idea of going the opposite direction this time in order to keep things interesting. I made one wrong turn though and had to double back on a very busy road. To think I got lost on a route familiar to me because I went the opposite way is hilarious. I did an episode for 50 minutes with zombie chases turned up the eight per hour with an 18% increase needed to evade them. I put on music from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas for this run. Jingle Jangle Jingle was the first track to greet me and I was living my very best life.
The middle week of my self-prescribed fitness regime has been quite the adventure.
Day 1 – Godkiller, More Like Kill Me
I was so happy when I saw Darebee put up a Wonder Woman inspired workout. The Buttercup workout I used my first week was challenging but manageable so I presumed it would be about the same. I was very wrong. Buttercup is described as “a workout that despite its relatively light load still manages to be tough” and Godkiller? Judge for yourself below.
It was very tough but they weren’t lying when they said I would feel like I could go toe to toe with Zeus himself. Well, after I spent a good ten minutes sprawled across my bed I did.
If I were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse on this day I would not have lasted very long. I booted up my Zombies, Run! app and began my journey. When I got a fair bit away from my house my nose started to run and it was all I could focus on. So much so that I nearly got killed by a car coming out of a driveway. Any other day I would have tissues stashed somewhere. I did consider just wiping it in my t-shirt for a millisecond before I thought better of it. It was also really warm on that day and my poor Irish body nearly went into shock.
Feeling brave I had upped my frequency of zombie chases by one. This made it eight zombie chases per hour while I was doing fifty minutes. Grand, I thought, make it a tiny bit more challenging. I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve what happened to me on this day. I finished a chase only to have another begin straight after it. It was hell. I had my speed for chases at 18% more than my previous pace so I think the app must have added 18% onto the 18% I had just done. Needless to say I didn’t evade the second hoard of zombies and got caught for the first time. I only lost a pack of virtual bandages but I don’t think I will ever relax after completing a zombie chase ever again.
I was so #shook that later on I ended up being passed out by a man, only to have to pass him out in a chase. Then when adjusting my headphones I pulled them out of my phone so I stopped the whole thing for fear of a repeat of multiple chases. He then passed me out again and must have been very confused.
Day 3 was a struggle, it was the first day I wasn’t really in the mood for anything. I did my fifty minutes of Zombies, Run! anyway and just went with it. Obviously I still had the fear in me after my double chase incident so that energised me a bit. I put the chase frequency down by one again but the app still gave me eight chases. I found myself running slower in the chases on this day but it probably worked out better as I was running for a longer period. Speaking of periods, on returning home I realised that mine had arrived. Mystery of my apathy solved. Do you think they go on tampon/pad runs in the Walking Dead?
To top off what was a messy week of exercise, I tripped walking home after a couple of social drinks and I tore up my knee pretty badly. I wouldn’t mind but I genuinely wasn’t in any state that would warrant falling flat on my face (maybe I’m lying to myself). So to give my poor knee a break I chose an arms and back workout from Darebee. I completed it using 6kg hex dumbbells. I was very impressed with myself for completing it as it was quite tough.
This week I ended up doing three days instead of last week’s four. All entirely my fault of course. An impromptu sesh on Saturday meant that Sunday was off limits for exercise. Also my phone had a mid-week dip in the toilet so my priorities were slightly skewed (it’s fine btw). I did manage to up my activity on the days I did exercise so all was not completely lost.
Day 1 – Doubling Back
After my issues with timing the previous week, I decided to up the zombie chase frequency in the Zombies, Run! app and also moved my workout to 45 minutes from 30. I was now on season 1, episode 3 and had been looking forward going out all day. The change of timing worked out well for the most part. However, I had to run past my house and double back because I gave myself too much time and not enough area to cover. It was awkward but only a minor annoyance. I pulled up my leggings at the start of the run and ended up pulling my underwear with them. Now that was the worst thing about the run for a good 10 minutes.
Track that made me want to punch 100 zombies straight in the gut – Muse – Psycho
Day 2 – Cyclists, Great!
On day 2 I was rearing to go. I had begun building up my base in the Zombies, Run! app and was hungry for more virtual resources. I was so ready for this day that I upped my time to 50 minutes and set my speed for chases to 18% more than my normal pace. I would say that day 2 of this week had to be the most nerve wracking. I was very conscious of the probability of zombies. I was so engrossed in this that I spent much of my run thinking of tactics to lessen my chances of coming across a horde around a pedestrian crossing. I felt like a real runner in a zombie apocalypse.
The worst moment involved a mother cycling with her two daughters slowly. My path was eventually going to run out and I had to cross. The mother was cycling on the cycle path which would have been fine if her daughters weren’t spread across the narrow pedestrian path. Luckily for me they turned the corner. Unluckily for me though, a chase soon started and I was met with two slow walkers (real people) and a stretch of road with a very dangerous crossing at the end. I absolutely legged it only to have the chase stop right at the crossing. I changed my route on this day and finally didn’t under or over estimate the distance.
For the last day I went with the abs programme I wrote out for myself. I extended my planking sets to 45 seconds from 30 and added weight to my Russian twists. I had zero motivation and found it boring but got through it. I might look at it again for the next three weeks to change it up a little more.
Back when I was fresh out of university (also annoyingly unemployed) my first proper fitness journey began. I joined a local gym. I had guidance from a warrior of a woman who gave me programmes that guaranteed I wouldn’t slack off. It helped immensely that every two weeks she would weigh and measure me and go into detail about what was happening to my body. I never started with the intention of being skinnier so my tailored workouts had the desired result of converting some fat to muscle while keeping me pretty much the same weight. I was in there four times a week while I also attended a level 5 FETAC business course in order to up my job prospects. I felt like I had a tiny bit of the Wonder Woman fantasy in my grasp.
After a year and a bit things started to fall apart. My trainer began to cancel appointments sporadically. Adding onto this, I managed to bag myself a job in retail. Although thankful for the job, my motivation suffered. I was never off the same days in a week and working shifts of 12 hours around Christmas really took it out of me. I tried to go in the evenings but found them far too busy and the atmosphere far too territorial. The nail on the coffin really was when my trainer left. After a while I bit the bullet and asked somebody else to help me but it just wasn’t the same. They didn’t go into half as much detail or put in as much effort as the other trainer. I had it far too good before!
Cut to now and I am long out of the gym scene. I am also (thankfully) a couple of months out of that awful retail job. Unfortunately I have swapped standing for 8 or 12 hours of the day doing physical work for sitting working and commuting for 11 hours. So, I decided a few weeks ago that something had to be done, even if it would only help me to readjust my energy levels. I took the knowledge I picked up while training and made up my own personal 5 week programme.
Like, do you even lift bro if you don’t announce it to the internet?
Day 1 – Ab-ocalypse:
The first day consisted of an ab programme that mimicked one I had previously. The layout of the workout it quite simple, 10 different exercises at 20 reps each. Then you repeat that four times to make that a grand total of only 800 reps. I will admit that two of the exercises I chose were two types of planks, so I’m not quite doing 800. I got all of my exercise choices from the extremely informativeThe Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises (Easons €27.99)which also comes in a Men’s Health format. I had my Excel spreadsheet printed out on the wall, ready for sweaty old me to tick off as I finished a set. For my first day back, I definitely set myself a challenge. I was lucky though, the ab cramps didn’t set in until two whole days later.
I’m no runner but for some reason I paid for the yearly subscription of Zombies, Run! (€27.49)on iOS (the base app is free). It was a very humid day so my aversion to running did not fare well. It was more of a “Zombies, walk really fast until you might do a little running.” Saying that, I had a great time with it. I began with the episode section of the app and found myself completely immersed in the story being relayed to me through my earphones. Hearing that I was picking up items every so often was also very effective in motivating me to carry on. I figured I might be sticking to the intervals of running for the foreseeable future so made the decision to turn on the zombie chases on my next venture. I set the mission for 30 minutes but had not ended up back home at the end so there was a few tweaks I had to make for the next run.
I still hadn’t figured stuff out on my second outing with Zombies, Run!. I set up zombie chases but didn’t pay enough attention to the automatic frequency setting of 3 per hour which of course is terrible for a half hour episode. That meant I spent even more time walking just in case I would have to run away from a horde. It was quite comical really. I went from saving my energy to desperately trying to run sections with pedestrian crossings in case I got devoured while waiting for the lights to change. If anyone around knew what was going on in my head they would judge, harshly. It was an epic outing however, as I got caught in a torrential rain shower. There was no danger of zombies, but I did have to leap over drain covers so I wouldn’t slip and break my neck in real life. I have to give it to the zombie horde though, they showed up just as I stopped my session on the app.
For the final day of my programme I looked to one of my favourite websites, Darebee. It is a treasure trove of workouts, meal plans, exercise RPGs (yes you read that) and daily challenges. Best of all, most workouts are equipment free and inspired by everyone’s favourite figures in pop culture. You want to train like Goku? You can train like Goku. With much consideration I went for one of my favourites, Buttercup from the Powerpuff Girls. I really went for it and did the 7 sets which Darebee mark as the hardest difficulty for that workout. I can tell you, 350 knee strikes is no joke.
I picked up Valiant Hearts: The Great War back when it was available for free on Xbox Gold back in 2015. It is now 2017 and I have finally made it onto its penultimate chapter. This is definitely not a reflection on the quality of the game. I have just not put much time into sitting down and playing it. After all, it had to take a back seat when games like Fallout 4 or the Witcher 3 commanded my attention. This is purely down to the spare time I have had to play games in the past few years.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is, as signified by its title, a game full of heart. Set during World War I, it focuses on four characters each with different roles. You get to play as a French man (Emile), an American soldier (Freddie), a German man (Karl) and a nurse from Belgium (Anna). Throughout you get to explore the world as each person but also get the opportunity to complete sections with multiple characters. A big plus to all of this is that a dog named Walt also accompanies you on some of your journey. Everyone loves a canine companion.
Inspired by real life World War I letters, Valiant Hearts gives a history lesson in an interactive and engaging way. As you progress in the game you are rewarded with short bits of information about many aspects of WWI. Of course you can always skip reading these but it really would to a disservice to the game. By providing real life context to its setting, Valiant Hearts packs a truly emotional punch.
It is typical of most shorter games, in that it has a strong puzzle element. This is kept fresh as each character has unique abilities on top of the basic pull lever, climb, etc. For example, Emile has a shovel for digging, Freddie can cut barbed wire and Walt is able to climb into small spaces and fetch items. Many sections require you to use all three characters with Walt being the vehicle in which you switch between the human characters.
Sometimes you can figure things out at your leisure but there are also sections in which quick thinking is needed. Often when you are on the battlefield you have to run to avoid missiles and bombs while also clearing a path. The nurse Anna also has a unique segment in which you have to heal the injured through a series of quick time event sections.
Overall, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a superbly engaging game. It keeps you on your toes and also provides you with easy to follow historical facts. As you get to explore the relationships between the characters, it is hard not to feel for their situations. Despite the atrocities of WWI, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is great reminder of how resilient, brave and hopeful the human race can be.