Oxenfree Review - A Supernatural Thriller to Remember


2015 was characterized by the gaming industry suddenly embracing independent games. More so than any prior-year. Undertale, Her Story, Axiom Verge and other gems were received by the mainstream, generating critical acclaim and big revenue. What makes these indies special is their uniqueness, heart, and the passion every single pixel displays. After multiple playthroughts, I believe Oxenfree deserves to be in that list.


So...what is Oxenfree all about? Well, it's an adventure game developed by Night School. In it, you play as Alex. A teenage girl, you bring your new step-brother Jonas to an overnight party with a group of mostly friendly folks. Said festivities take place on a decommissioned military island;as you can imagine, things quickly go horribly wrong.


I instantly knew I was in for an engaging experience as soon as I saw the graphics. They instantly captured me. Performance is flawless, with steady framerate and no stuttering. But the real stars are the beautifully drawn environments. Everything is extremely charming. Forests, caves, skies, fire and lighting. It's like a painting in motion. I typically don't stop to admire the view when playing smaller games, but my laptop currently has a carpet with a couple of screenshot pulled straight from Edward Island. When it comes to character models, I was slightly worried. The screenshot showed lifeless, bland bodies. Superficially, it holds true. However, said bodies are turned into so much more as a result of the fantastic plot and dialog.


Now, I didn't know what to expect from Oxenfree. Would it be an adventure game? A Horror festival? An Exploration journey? In the end, it's a combination of the three. Gameplay wise, I would describe it as a 2.5D walking simulator. The storyline constantly takes you from point A to B. As you move from location to location, a dialog tree enables you to learn more about your friends and the island. The choices never seem to have critical consequences (like we see in Telltale franchises), but ultimately lead to different endings. A cool portable radio mechanic allows you to discover collectibles and deal with the monsters that hide within the shadows. This genre truly lets game makers dive in the story, and Night School takes advantage of the format.


I sincerely enjoyed the characters in here. The clique of teenagers is full of stereotypes. The quiet, reserved girl. The goofy, nerdy friend. The mean, sexy drama queen. Nevertheless, everyone has deeper layers as you converse with them. Oxenfree handles with a very important theme: death. The devastation of losing a loved one, and the difficulty of letting go. Said topics are covered both explicitly and implicitly, in rather riveting fashion. Later on, we're introduced to a supernatural element. I'm not spoiling it, but it's treated with an amount of care that makes it feel grounded. Also, it produces a couple of heart-shattering jump scares.


Lastly, the use of sound is fantastic. When the game wants you to relax and calm down, you'll hear soft flutes and piano melodies. Nonetheless, if it's time to scream, these intense, aggressive songs full of synthesizers will begin playing, slowly building tension up. As a whole, the music perfectly matches the pace and actions taking place.


As far as negatives, I only have two minor issues. The first one is the final resolution. Again, no spoilers. Like previously mentioned, the game offers multiple ending. Some of them are good, and some of them not so much. However, before the credits roll, you get a final plot twist that drastically changes everything (no matter what ending you get). So to an extent, you lose interest in replaying the tale because you know how it all ends. I respect the developers for sticking to their vision, but I wish there was an alternative conclusion.

Still, there are many incentives to give Oxenfree a second (and perhaps third) run. Different choices, short length (4-5 hours), finding letters and pictures that further add depth, etc. That's where my second problem comes from. There is a lot of backtracking to do, and the lack of a run button is highly noticeable. You're forced to walk at all times, and the long strolls can occupationally feel like a chore.

Verdict: Oxenfree presents a captivating location, spine-chilling narrative, and one versatile set of characters. Luckily it all comes together to deliver one of the most unique gaming experiences I've had this year.

The Good
- Charming Visuals
- Fascinating Story
- Well-Crafted Characters
- Unique Mechanics
- Replayability

The Bad
- Unsatisfying Ending
- Lack of a Run Button


Read More »

PES 2018: The Good, The Bad, The Hopes


In the everlasting soccer video game war, I've always stood by FIFA's side. Going back to the turn of the twentieth-first century, I would exclusively go to EA when it came to my association football needs. More importantly, FIFA's competitor never appealed to me. Without ever playing one of their titles, my circle of friends would say the Pro Evolution Soccer games were too arcade-y or worthless because of their lack of licenses. Having said that, I eventually started to understand that the most important aspect in gaming is gameplay. All hell broke lose as soon as PES 2017 was released. Unanimously dubbed as the 'sports game of the year', they finally returned into the conversation. 12 months later, Konami is ready to steal the crown. Based on what I've played of PES 2018, I think they have a solid chance. Of course, the game is coming out in September 12, 2017 so there's still a lot to be announced but these are my first impressions:


The Good


  • Improved Presentation: To get things started, PES 2018 looks great! In a collaboration with FC Barcelona, the developers have scanned their full roster & stadium (Nou Camp) and the results definitely show. Before matches, we get an unprecedented look inside the stadium. While players from other teams also look surprisingly real (thanks to the Fox Engine), it's the Barca athletes that showcase it best. The attention to detail is shocking. From Messi's tattoos to Mascherano's scars, it's jaw-dropping. Alongside that, exchanges between boots and the ball are realistic, the net is beautiful, and the grass looks like its real life counterpart. Also, in-game presentation has also improved, with stats popping up mid-game (distance covered, passes completed, etc.)
  • Strategic Approach: If you ask the hardcore video game soccer fans, they will tell you that PES has had the greater gameplay for the past couple of years. First off, players actually have a specific feel. The stars of the sport move and operate differently; they'll always hold an advantage over weaker opposition. The same philosophy can be applied to the clubs, and that's where the strategy element kicks in. Your formation and strategies are crucial to your success. A late substitution could drastically change the outcome of the match. While teams such as Barca can build plays from the bottom line using the famous 'Tiki-taka', your best chance at coming out on top with Boca Juniors is to get the ball to Benedetto and let him do work. The clash of styles and tactics is fascinating, and it makes up for a thrilling experience.
  • Animations: Lastly, PES 2018 has a ton of new, gorgeous animations. They make everything from passes, shots, and crosses feel colorful and alive. Goalkeepers have also been improved. Nevertheless, my favorite ones are the animations that occur after exchanges between players. After a strong tackle, the victim will immediately begin to signal for a foul and card. On the other side, the culprits will attempt to justify themselves or tell the referee to keep his eyes open, as he missed a previous foul. Once again, gives authenticity to the entire experience and it brings it to life.


The Bad


  • Celebrations: So far, this is the only issue I've encountered. Visually, celebrations look stunning. But performance suffers when they occur. Framerate can take a drop, and the grass textures had some pop-in. This should be fixed by the time the final version comes out, but it's important to point out.


Hopes

  • License As Many Teams As Possible: Indeed, this is where PES suffers every year. Once released, a download can bring you the full squads. Nevertheless, many players don't want to take that extra step. Therefore, they don't give the game a chance. We already know teams like Barca, Inter, Liverpool, Boca Juniors and a couple other will be fully functional, but I hope they get access to many more squads. The more clubs, the bigger the interest will be.
  • Update Rosters: While PES 2016 was excellent, Konami failed to regularly update clubs with transfers, hair styles and such. Last year's game did a much better job updating users with free, new content. Hopefully, the trend will continue in this year's game. 
  • Improve Master League: Last year's game disappointed in its marquee Master League mode. Transfers were non-sensical, and the interface was pretty boring. I'm hoping for an update in this mode since I spend most of my time in it.


Read More »

Formex AS1100 Review - The Presidential Package


When it comes to expensive, top-quality watches, I'm blessed with a line of work that allows me to receive them in exchange for honest, unbiased reviews. Sadly, I've come to terms with the fact that most people are only able to purchase a handful of excellent watches throughout their lifetime. The watch selection can obviously be influenced by countless factors (style, performance, price) but I ultimately believe customers are attracted to companies that can offer the best overall experience, given that all the big players are creating equally impressive pieces. After receiving Formex's AS110 model 8040, I can already tell this will be my everyday watch for years to come, and it should be in contention to be your premier high-class watch.


Before we talk about the piece itself, I'd like to tell you about Formex. After all, buying watches should not be exclusively about looks. Finding a legitimate, trustworthy brand and becoming a loyal customer is an equally exciting and important aspect of the process. When I started communication with company CEO Raphael Granito and Markus Wälchli, they presented me with a unique proposition. They wanted to handle the purchase as if I was any other client, meaning that I went to their website and bought the watch (ultimately not' actually having to pay). Truth be told, I was impressed by their pro-customer policies. Since they pulled out of retail stores, they're able to offer low prices, alongside other welcomed additions (free shipping, fast delivery, taxes/duties included, three-year warranty). Lastly, I have to praise them for their free app that lets you try on the watches with your smartphone. The app uses augmented reality to project a watch on your wrist and gives you a feel of real-life size and look of their timepieces.



Time to talk about the watch itself.

SPECS

- Dimensions: 46.5mm diameter x 14mm height x 53.5mm lug to lug
- Movement: ETA 7750
- Weight: 134g
- Accuracy (Lepsi Watch Scope: 2.0 s/d)
- Water resistance: 100m / 10ATM
- Special features: Stainless steel case brushed/polished with silvery tachymeter dial and sapphire-crystal glass, patented case suspension system
- Lug width: 22mm
- Price: $1335 with leather, $1465 with titanium/steel bracelet

Completely Swiss Made and featuring their patented case suspension system, it features the indisputable ETA 7750 movement for a very affordable price. The Formex AS1100 Chronograph ( and all current Formex models) is a large watch. But written specs are deceiving. 46mm in a square style case can be intimidating for someone who typically wears 42-44mm watches. That said, its largeness is only felt in width. In length, its 53mm make is surprisingly wearable. Even for those who could not wear this piece every day, I'm letting you know it's absolutely doable for those special occasions.


The case is constructed of steel and titanium, and is actually a multi-piece case, as it houses a patented suspension system, a shock absorber of sorts. It's impossible to review this shock system without purposefully attempting to damage the watch (which I obviously didn't do). All I can say is that after almost two months of regular use, the chronograph is still in pristine state. Additionally, I truly dig the case's piston/screw system. It makes the watch feel like a personal Swiss safe sitting on your wrist.


The Silver dile is clean, crisp, and neat. It beautifully matches up with the case's steel/titanium. Nothing annoys me more than a cluttered dile, but luckily Formex did a great job here. The subdials are laid out in the traditional ETA 7750 way – 12, 6 and 9. These are all on a lower level with a polished finish to them, which reflects the light well – but not in a glaring way. The one thing that disappointed me was the was the lack of lume compound. It always shined when I was in a dark room, but it didn't shine as much as I would have liked.


The Formex AS1100 Chronograph uses an ETA 7750 automatic movement, which utilizes a chronograph and a day/date readout. A tried and true movement, and totally fits within the pricing of this model. Its power reserve is listed at 42 hours and of course, when you give the watch a shake, it produces that amazing vibration from the rotor. Formex also made sure to work on the caseback, giving it an exhibition window to show off the movement and sapphire crystal.

To be completely honest, there’s nothing too crazy to say about the titanium/steel strap. It's good looking and comfortable.


When it comes to negatives (aside from the lume compound), the only thing that I could see turning off people is the brand's lack of power or popularity. That said, I truly like the policies and marketing strategies that the company is applying, and it wouldn't surprise me whatsoever to see the Formex brand gain a ton of traction in the upcoming years.

Overall: Formex's AS1110 is probably the best watch I've had the pleasure of reviewing when you consider price, style, specs, and customer experience. There's never been a time to hop on the train. I feel like I own the room when I'm wearing the watch, and I'm certain you'll feel the same way.

The Good
- Beautiful Style
- Great Price
- Top Notch Components
- Fantastic Purchase Experience

The Bad
- Not Enough Lume Compound
- Lack of Brand Recognition (for now)


Read More »

Peter Manning Lambskin Leather Jacket Review


Have you ever tried on a leather jacket that fit perfectly, right off the rack? Me neither, until I got my hands on the Peter Manning Lambskin Leather Jacket.

Shorter men have a hard time finding leather jackets that fit properly. The biggest problem is that the sleeves are usually too long.

This is especially true if you're a heavier or stockier guy who needs to size up in order to find a jacket that fits across the shoulders and chest.

If you're 5'5″ wearing a size L or XL, the sleeves will be way too long.

Short and skinny men don't have it any easier. Even an XS is often too baggy and long for our modest frames.

Because it's so hard to find a leather jacket that fits well, many short men simply don't wear them.

And that sucks, because a nice leather jacket can be an important wardrobe staple (not to mention one of your most loved and worn pieces of outerwear).

That's why I was thrilled when Peter Manning – a clothing brand for not-so-tall men – created a leather jacket specifically for men 5'8″ and under.

They sent me one in brown (size 1) to try on, and it's quickly become my go-to lightweight jacket – perfect for the fall season.

With leather jackets, you typically get what you pay for. Like any high-quality leather jacket, this one is an investment piece.

Here are the specs:

High-quality New Zealand lambskin
Knit bomber style collar
Quilted chambray lining
Double button cuffs
Two exterior zip pockets
Two interior pockets (one zip, one button)
Available in brown or black
The leather feels soft like it's already broken in. It's substantial but not too bulky – just the right amount of “heft” to it.

I got a the brown version, and it's a dark brown without too much red in it. It's a very versatile color, although black might be a better choice for you, depending on what colors you like to wear.

But the fit is really what makes this jacket special and sets it apart from any other leather jacket you can buy.

The length of the jacket is perfect. The sleeves don't need to be shortened. Plus, all of the little details, from the size of the cuffs to the height of the collar, are scaled down to flatter the shorter build.

Verdict: Peter Manning has hit home run with this leather jacket.


Read More »

Stealth Bomber Ebike Review


The Stealth Bomber is the highest end, most powerful electric bike in the Stealth lineup. And it’s quite possibly the most powerful and rugged commercially available ebike anywhere. Weighing in at 116lbs it’s not the easiest thing to transport (and that includes pedalling if you run the battery all the way down). It offers so much torque in fact that hill climbing, burnouts and even wheelies are possible with little effort. Now I should say, this statement depends somewhat on your weight but for those under 200lbs it’s not an issue. With impressive front and rear suspension and braking systems that can be upgraded, an enormous 1.5 kilowatt-hour battery pack and 4 hour fast charge system that can run on 110 or 240 volts, this thing is in a class of its own.


I love that Stealth offers a lifetime warranty on their frames and rear suspension. The battery only gets a year (along with the other components) but that’s not bad considering the abuse these things are sure to encounter off road. The LCD computer on this bike is from Cycle Analyst and offers more advanced information about battery condition (specifically, battery performance and capacity) than most ebike computers. It is also backlit for night riding and Stealth offers some optional headlights for the bike that work really well (shown on the bike in the video review). Cycle Analyst computers are not cheap, and that adds to the overall price of this bike, but they are high quality and they offer readouts on everything from volts at rest or when riding, current flow into and out of the battery and relative to time, speed in m/hr or k/hr, energy limit in amps or volts to control speed and power (hence the USA mode or Competition mode).

Driving this monster is a 4,500 watt rear hub motor (that’s more than 10x what normal electric bikes use). Because it’s gearless, the motor is actually able to regenerate electricity when set to regen-mode which also acts as a soft brake, slowing the bike down and minimizing wear on the disc brakes. Note that the brakes themselves do not include a regeneration switch, instead, there’s a red button positioned near the left handlebar. It’s a neat system that stays out of the way, is easy to use and works quite well given the overall weight and force of the bike. The motor itself runs pretty quietly considering the size (decibels at 50 miles per hour is 65dB), provides a ton of torque and accelerates fairly smoothly using the twist throttle. Compared with the lower-end Fighter electric bike from Stealth, the bomber is touchier and provides more torque. The built-in Cycle Analyst computer monitors the system and is designed to keep the motor from overheating.


The battery powering all of this performance is a 1.5 kilowatt-hour Lithium Iron Phosphate pack. This technology offers less energy density than some other Lithium-ion chemistries (meaning it’s heavier for the same amount of juice) but is known for being very stable and long-lasting. Considering the high charge and discharge rate and potential vibration and impacts one might endure off-road or in competition, this is a great thing. It means longer life and fewer chances of a fire between your legs. Capacity and chemistry aside, the battery is removable (if you’ve got a hex wrench handy) and is actually pretty easy to take out. It’s not something you’d want to do regularly however and I love that the bike has a keyed on-switch, making it harder to steal or vandalize. It’s more like a motorcycle than a bike in this sense.

The Bomber is an impressive machine that demands respect. While it’s not as powerful as many gasoline-powered cycles, it’s a lot quieter, can be pedalled (and thus ridden through parks, on sidewalks and hiking trails) and offers amazing torque. Consider the last bits of the video review, we were riding on sidewalks and through a park and nobody was really alarmed. Sure, we were pushing the limits, but we weren’t making a lot of noise. It’s awesome that there’s a company out there building custom ebikes that really push the envelope and garner attention. These bikes are high quality, customizable and well supported (having been selling bikes since 2008). While they aren’t for everyone and they are clearly focused on performance vs. commuting they certainly deliver… for a price.

During my tests of the bike, riding off road and through some neighbourhood streets, the long travel full suspension felt really great. The simplicity of operation combined with a few advanced features on the LCD computer (ability to switch from USA mode to Performance mode for more power) made me feel in control. The tests were fun and considering we simply rode from the shop to the trails it was also very easy but keep in mind the weight and that that means for transporting a Stealth Bomber of your own. You might need to buy a special motorcycle rack for your car… and a hitch if you don’t have one! If you love the idea of an electric motocross bike that you can pedal and mod, this is an awesome choice.


Read More »

MVMT Watches Black/Black Watch Review


Indie market. Started by young entrepreneurs and watch enthusiasts, MVMT Watches has one mission: to cut out brand inflation and retail markup of popular name brands. Like many people, the founders of MVMT Watches were tired of paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for name brand watches, knowing they only cost a fraction of the price to make. Spending the past year working with leaders in the industry, MVMT Watches has come up with an affordable, stylish looking watch collection that appeals to the taste buds of many watch enthusiasts.


The concept is simple: Quality timepieces that flow seamlessly into your lifestyle and workday without breaking your wallet. From surf to skate, and even to that three o’clock business meeting, MVMT Watches has your wrist covered. Let’s take a more detailed look into the Black/Black timepiece.The first impression is equally satisfying., your MVMT watch is going to arrive in a neoprene case with a pretty rugged zipper closure; The case reminds me of a more rugged Beats headphone case, just in a smaller size. The case is simple, easy, and does its job of protecting your watch during the shipment process.


The watch case of the MVMT Black/Black is constructed out of solid plated stainless steel and measures a width of 45mm. The case carries an LTL with of 50mm and measures in at 10mm in thickness. The case back is constructed of stainless steel, silver in color, and displays the MVMT Watches logo in the dead centre of the case back. The case has a sturdy feel and a nice weight to it.

With a water resistance level of 3ATM, 30 meters, the watch will withstand the everyday exposure of water, but you should be cautious of swimming or exposing the water to an excessive amount of water. A hardened mineral crystal is used, providing the watch with a decent amount of protection from your daily grind of life.


Powering the MVMT Black/Black is the Japanese Miyota quartz, 3-hand movement with a date window. Miyota is well known in the industry for having great accuracy and durability and will provide you with the well-needed heartbeat for your watch.

The dial of the Black/Black is simple and clean. Gunmetal markers are used as well as gunmetal minute and hour hands. Sporting the red MVMT logo at the 12 o’clock and a red seconds hand, the red contrast gives the needed kick of style to complete the dial just right. The date window is located just inside of the 3 o’clock marker and is well visible with a white background. There is no lume on the watch, so visibility at night is going to be very limited unless you have some sort of light source around.


The bracelet of the Black/Black is constructed out of 3-link stainless steel. The width of the bracelet measures in at 24mm and has a height of 3mm. The bracelet is equipped with a fold over clasp with a push button. With only one micro-adjustment hole, the bracelet is limited if micro adjustments are needed for your wrist. Positioned in the centre of the clasp is the MVMT Watches logo.

In my opinion, the bracelet is the improvement area for MVMT Watches with the Black/Black. While the bracelet is cosmetically pleasing, the quality of the bracelet is on the lower end. Being a black bracelet, durability is a must, as we all know it will show scratches faster than the traditional stainless steel. I would like to have seen a PVD coating on this bracelet, but for the price point, one could not expect to have this feature. Another issue noted with the bracelet is inner portions of the links. Depending on the position of the bracelet, more if you’re looking for it, you can see areas where the powder coating was not applied. Not a huge deal as you cannot see it while wearing the watch, but just one of those things that went overlooked when pairing this watch and bracelet.

Overall: MVMT Watches has a good thing going for them. The Black/Black model has a really nice look to it and will appeal to many that are looking for a simple and clean design. As stated above, the only flaw that I find with this watch is the bracelet. I would like to see, in time, an improvement in the quality of the bracelet, providing more protection to the everyday wear and tear of the watch.



Price tag: CA$140.00

Link

Read More »