Category: Reviews

Nonstiq: Movie Pass Review

Movie Pass. The now 600,000 member large subscription service that has everyone scratching their heads. Well I've been using it for about a month now and figured Nonstiq would be a good place to express the many opinions I have about it.

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Before you start, please be aware I’m not a journalist and most of my facts and data come from quick Google searches and some bits of info off Wikipedia. If you want to look further into the history and specifics of the Data surrounding Movie Pass, go ahead and do some Googling if you read or learn something here that you wanna check up on. 

What is Movie Pass?

Movie Pass is a Movie theater subscription service. You pay a fee every month, and in return you can see one film a day throughout the course of a month.

So how does a theater make money with this system? Well if you are a Movie pass subscriber you get a prepaid Debit Card in the Mail that is used to purchase your ticket. So you pay Movie Pass for their service, and they pay the theaters for your ticket. So not only are Movie Theaters not losing any money from a Movie Pass user, they are more than likely getting more people to buy tickets from people with this service.

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I’ll explain in more detail how this works a bit later, but first a brief history about the service and its current state:

As you may well be aware though, on August 16th 2017, Movie Pass dropped their monthly price to $9.95 a month. Sounds too good to be true right? Yes and No. 

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This fee used to be roughly $50 a month, but in certain areas the fee was $99 a month. With the average ticket price in the US being around $9 a ticket, Movie Pass worked by betting that most of their users couldn't go out and see more than $50 worth of movies every month. As you can imagine they made a fair amount of money this way despite only having around 20,00 subscribers.

Obviously your first thought is a should be, “If a ticket price is nearly the cost of my subscription to Movie Pass, once I see two movies Movie Pass is losing money from me that point forward.”

You’re entirely right, they do lose money far more often now with this subscription price, especially since they’ve gained over 500,000 subscribers since the price change. 

The next question is of course, how can Movie Pass afford to do this and is it sustainable? Well they didn’t do this price drop out of the blue. Just before their price drop, they were given $27 million dollars from Helios and Matheson as a price infusion to offset the cost of losing money with this cheaper subscription model. 

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Helios and Matheson Analytics are a large scale Data collecting company. Whom have clearly bet it all on the Data they will be collecting from Movie Pass users. And you definitely will want to read over what Data they will be collecting in the TOS. H&M have also thankfully been quite open about how they see the potential in what movies people see, who is seeing them, and when they see them. This Data, in their eyes, will be incredibly valuable to Movie Studios who will jump at the chance to finally have VERY accurate data about their film goers and what projects they should be focusing on. 

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Regardless of whether or not this company's big bet pays off in the long run, or if this service is destined to fail and run out of money, I think it’s still worth looking at how the system currently works and if it’s worth trying out.

So after you sign up for the service on their website, they send you a Debit card in the mail. So wait around for that, and once you have your card, it’s time to download the App. Once installed you can select your closet theater and scroll through the showings to find a film you want to see. Now you only get One ticket a day for one person, one showing, so make sure you are positive the movie you select is the one you want to see. Once you’ve chosen a film on the app, Movie Pass will send the price of a ticket for that showing to your Card, and you’ll have 30 minutes to go and actually buy the ticket.

And that's it! Once you do that you can’t use Movie Pass again until the next day. But after paying them $9.99, getting your card, installing the app, and using their card to buy a ticket, you still can do that 29 more days in a month! With no extra cost to you.

The service works really great, does exactly what it says it will do, and I haven’t had any issues yet with the app or the card.

So is Movie Pass something you should get?
Well it depends on a few things.

First and foremost you need to ask yourself if you are okay with letting Helios and Matheson both collect and sell your movie going history. If you’re not then obviously the service isn’t something your should be doing.

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For those of us that are, it is definitely worth making sure that you live by or near one of the supported theaters of the service. Movie Pass claim they work in 91% of theaters throughout the US, so check their website to make sure you don’t live in the 9%. You can also do this by installing the app before even subscribing and checking out theaters near you. 

Of course maybe if you do sign up for Movie Pass and you rarely go the theater, maybe having a movie pass will lead you to be willing to go to the theater more often to get the most out of your monthly fee. Which wil hopefully be good for more films like this year's Wind River or Ingrid Goes West.

You also should ask yourself if you are someone who would go to the Theater AT LEAST twice a month. Otherwise the service simply isn’t financially worth it. So if you only go to the movies for something Disney owns and don’t care about seeing films that don’t have action figures for them, it may not be for you. 

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I personally love this service so far, and while I’m concerned that their risky model will end up being too big a risk down the road, for now I am happy to take advantage of being able to see every movie that even slightly peaks my interest. And it's that influx of extra cash from Movie Pass users like me that will hopefully will show the Movie Studios how valuable this Data truly is. Maybe even help them create better films for us to see in the future. Only time will tell, but if you are thinking of diving into this unknown territory with me, I think it’s worth it for now.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Beautiful Desperation – A Review From Scroo

A long time ago, years now in fact I played Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and I found it pretty engaging and also quite beautiful. Ninja Theory, the company behind Enslaved and other games like Devil May Cry and Heavenly Sword have produced Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. I recently finished Hellblade and it made quite an impact on me so I'm here as always to tell you about it in a long winded and probably grammatically incorrect manner. Stick with me to find out my thoughts. Read more

Review: Sonic Mania

In 1994, after years of jealously playing Sega Genesis games at other people's houses (Sonic the Hedgehog, in particular), I finally decided to plunk down the allowance I'd managed to save up and buy the system for myself. I only took two games home with me that day and they were both Sonic titles, Sonic Spinball (a pack-in game that was included with the system) and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Despite the fact that Sonic 2 had already been available for two years by that point, I hadn't actually had the opportunity to play it yet, myself.

When I got home and popped it into my shiny new Genesis, I was mesmerized. Seeing that beautiful Emerald Hill Zone level was just like the first time I had seen the Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1, a few years earlier. Both times, I was blown away. The first Sonic game had turned the gaming world completely upside down, and the second, not only managed to recapture that same magic, but improve on it enough to stand on its own. But while the other great Sonic games from those Genesis days (Sonic 3, Sonic CD, and Sonic & Knuckles) were all more or less equally good, none of those games could really manage to pull off quite that same awe-inspiring first impression.

In the time since those 2-D glory days, many other Sonic games have come to many other consoles. Many have come in 3-D, some in 2, and some have even featured a mix of both; and while certain titles may have been arguably better than others, not one of them has even come close to reaching the lofty heights of the originals. None of them, that is, until now...

Read more

Flaunt It Review: Fake That Boogie, Dance On, Dance On!

The 1980’s.

No other decade since the 50’s had been so steeped in Futurism.

In the 50’s, that nod toward futurism was all about flying cars and robots.  Things that would make life easier.  In the fifties, too, this futurism was all about cleanliness.  The future portrayed in the fifties generally had a lot of clean, sleek lines.  From the Hanna-Barbera domes the Jetsons lived in to the vast robots that occupied more space than a mere human, the future seemed to be bright and generally on the side of the people.

Then, the American Dream was shattered and the nightmare we woke up in was a little bit different.  A little bit darker.

But not everything about 80’s futurism was entirely dark.  Sure, there were much harsher lines, now.  And a much darker tone in terms of corporations ruling everything and yes, there was a lot of fear that the arms race between America and Russia would turn game-ending for everyone, but where the 80’s were grittier, they still had a lot of colour and spark.

And this is about where I introduce Sigue Sigue Sputnik. Read more

The Surge: Itch Scratching For Souls players – A Review From Scroo

So back in May this year I started paying attention to a pretty intriguing new title that was commonly billed as a Cyberpunk Dark Souls. I looked at web sites, I watched trailers and kept an eye on forums and soon beyond a shadow of a doubt I knew that The Surge was for me. Read more

Steep – A Past Due Review

Well this review comes in later than most, even if it is past due. My last Past Due Review was actually a year ago when I reviewed SUPERHOT. Then I decided to basically not play any games that came out in 2016 and instead opted to do nearly a years research of games from 2011 for the conceptual gaming awards I did for said games.  But now it’s 2017 and we got front loaded with a lot of great games to choose from, all of which aren’t short by any means. So what does this Ubisoft shade throwing gaming blogger decide to do as a first big purchase of a title? Well buy an extreme sports game that came out last year in December of course.

Makes about as much sense as the daily news cycle I know. But regardless, I had heard great things about the game from the Gamers With Jobs Podcast that I frequent. Their description of the game was unlike any impression the few trailers I had both seen, and made fun of, at a short glance. 

So when a free weekend offered me a chance to try it out, I did so. It was the third Ubisoft game I had played in a free weekend. Much like Rainbow Six Siege and Wildlands, my low expectations where more than exceeded. Unlike with Siege or Ghost Recon, both of which I have not purchased, I did not hesitate for a minute to purchase Steep after nearly two hours of time spent in its world. Why? Well that was a question I couldn’t answer myself, until I decided I needed to write about the game. Don't worry I'll tell you why, but first things first:

Video Transcript:

Steep is a game about exploring a mountain. Simple as that. The way in which you choose to explore the mountain is up to you. Whether that be alone, with friends, by ski, board, or sky. Being so focused on exploring, there is no need to be getting your adrenaline pumping the way the trailers and promo material would have you believe. Though that extreme stuff is there for those who want it, the mountain you travel upon doesn’t have a timer or a score you need to reach. It is just there for you to find new areas and paths for you to enjoy.

I'll discuss that more later. First, we need to give this game the proper Past Due Review treatment. Examine all of its facets and discuss the quality of the game's Modeling, Lighting, Level Design, and more. All in great detail. I'll start where I always do, with Animation quality.

Animations

As much shit as I love to give Ubisoft, their games have had a history of amazing Animations. It's never mattered what studio worked on the game. And Steep is no exception. Especially considering how all the character models have realistic proportions, its uncanny how natural the animations still feel. Many people would think that having a more stylized character to work with would make the job of the animator harder. In reality the more stylized a character, the more stylized their motions can be. So when those characters move in an exaggerated way we don’t question it. But we watch real people all the time, we know how they move and are more critical of their movements. Combine that challenge with having the strange ways our bodies behave while wearing constrictive boots or are mounted to a board, the animators had a really big hill to climb here to get these right. But every walk cycle, Idle Animation, Back flip, Front flip, and Fist pump show an incredibly competent understanding of motion. There aren't that many great key poses that stick out, but that is clearly intentional. The focus here is making those key poses blend more seamlessly with the overall movement. Being able to make these models move in such a way without tumbling down the uncanny valley truly is a remarkable achievement.

Speaking of those character models.

Character Modeling

The character models aren’t offensive in anyway, but they aren't particularly special either. They are however a great vehicle for the many customization options made available. All these clothes and accessories are where the texture artists really get to show off their chops. The gear is also modeled quite well despite many of the accessories clipping through clothes quite often. But as far as the actual character models go, there really only appears to be different body meshes; one male and one female. The only difference between the six riders you can play as are the head models. But again, the customization options made available here all look great on the trail and are a much bigger focus than the body or facial rig.

Lighting

I have a hard time determining what the best aspect of this game’s art assets are. The two I can never pick a winner between are Audio and Lighting. Usually lighting on a scale this large would tank performance or look cheapened by localized lighting being prioritized over distance shadows and the like. But here, the alps look nearly photo-realistic no matter what time of day you choose to ski under. The way light glistens off the snow ties in nicely with the way the powder looks when under shadow or the baking sun. 

Environmental Modeling

The development team may have picked a daunting task for their modelers as their first game. But seeing as how the Alps can be spotted from their offices, they ended up being the best team for the job. It turns out that when you visit the alps nearly every weekend to go skiing with your office buddies, you get a good idea on how to model a mountain or two. But don’t think they fell into the “realism over fun” trap. The developers themselves even stated how they did not prioritize having a map accurate representation of the topography of the Alps, and instead focused on designing a beautiful world that was fun to explore.

Particle Effects

Snow has never before looked this great in a game. The way it perfectly parts to every subtle touch and creates snowballs that pile up while you carve power, is superb. The biggest negative I can say about the game’s particle effects are that many of these effects, powder on the ground excluded, are a little commonplace. But I understand the need to sacrifice some effect quality in order to achieve better performance. If I have to trade better weather effects for the best damn snow I've ever traversed outside of a real world scenario, then I can’t complain.

Audio Effects/Score

Audiophiles, this game was made for you. I honestly feel like the audio engineers must have shoveled snow into a truck, drove it back to a giant audio recording studio, brought in some gear, and went to town. Every foot step is met with the pure sound of snow being slowly compressed under the weight. Boards and skis slide over powder as it escapes the pressure by flowing out of the higher side. Never have I heard such natural sounds captured so, well, naturally. And it doesn’t end at the gear or equipment’s rustling and impactful noises, the calls from the wild sound just as impressive. [wolf sound] You are only doing yourself a disservice if you don’t play this game a pair of high fidelity headphones. The sound of powder being broken up in my path may be one of the most trance inducing things I've heard in years. You can't help just feeling an overwhelming sense of peace and relaxation. 

A big part of that sense of peace comes from the game's score. Not its fun pop-song filled soundtrack, but its original score. Composed by the Zikali Collective, a music production group who dedicate themselves to making images speak, the Score of Steep is as great at being grand as it is at being understated. I'm seriously considering taking this music with me the next time I get to actually go skiing in real life.

There isn't a nice enough art asset in the world that could save a game if it didn't play well. So let's jump into the meat of what makes Steep, Steep.

Game Play Mechanics

I really wasn’t expecting any kind of depth from this game. In all honestly I mocked the first trailer when it appeared at last year's E3. I had just presumed it was Ubisoft making yet another horrible decision among a series of bad ones. But Steep does manage fairly well at managing five different modes of travel through its world. Because as I said, this is a game about exploration. So let’s talk about all the tools Steep gives you to do just that.

 

Before I do though, I feel a desperate need to take the time to say how god damn refreshing it is too play a game that lets you have access to all of these mechanics the instant you load the game for the first time. Unlike many other titles from the publisher, there is no experience or tutorial gate locking these options away from you. Just pick one and learn.

Snowboarding/Skiing:

Obviously the focus of the game was put into these two modes, and while their controls are very alike, there are some subtle differences. So first let's talk about the similarities. First off the game is much more like Skate than Amped or SSX. What I mean by that is there a bigger focus on control over the board or skis, and less focus on the character on top of the board. The left analog stick will control the front of the board, while the right stick controls the rear. So you need to be able move both in the correct direction relative to what you’re trying to do. Your right trigger primes your character to jump when held, and jumps when released. Obviously this brings the character into a state where tricks and flips can be attempted and the sticks and triggers change slightly to reflect this. The important thing to do though is make sure you manage both ends of that board at the start and end of a jump, or succumb to one of the most common activities you’ll encounter in Steep, falling. Don’t feel overwhelmed by those controls though, they truly are easy to learn and hard to master.

 

My first thoughts about this system were that clearly this would lead to horrible camera angles since you never get to control it while on the board. But surprisingly after nearly 20 hours of play I have never run into a single camera issue in any of the game's modes.

Wing-Suit:

For those of you who do want to get your adrenaline pumping, this is what where you’ll find the best methods for doing so. Not much complexity to the controls in this mode, just the use of the left stick to control direction and speed, with the right stick for quick dodging left or right. It’s where you choose to start gliding that makes this mode, and the level design stand out. The wing-suit is also great for traveling quickly from one point to another, and as long as you don't need to go uphill, it will work wonders for you. But of course it's more than tempting to find a rocky cliff or tree crowded area to traverse through. And it’s in those area’s you will find yourself trying hard to beat the game's challenges or just challenge yourself.

Paragliding

Speaking of going uphill, this is the mode that was made for that. In addition to being the most relaxing and easiest mode of travel, paragliding is the only one that can use winds from the mountain to gain height and reach places you may not be able to otherwise. It’s major downfall is that it is hard to be accurate about where you want to go or land. But nothing else really comes close to being able to float high above the gorgeous landscapes of the world below.

Walking/Running:

This fifth method of travel tends to have much less use than the previous four, and is certainly the slowest. But if you ever get stuck in a weird spot, or need to reach the top of a hill that’s too close for paragliding, walking does the trick. Hell, maybe you had enough extreme spots for the day, but you still want to hang out around the world. Well, taking a run across the top of Mount Blanc may just do the trick. It’s really more a convenience factor that this mode is even included for those rare moments where walking is needed. And again, it makes the animation quality of this mode all the more impressive since they are so rarely seen.

These modes can be accessed at anytime with the press of a button, no messy menus or convoluted control schemes. Which makes it easier to just explore the world, earn experience, and complete challenges. All of these systems present a fairly comprehensive place for you to explore the world in, unlock new aesthetic gear from challenges, and discover where your favorite mountain pass is.

Level Design/ World Design

Speaking of the Mountain, these developers really went all out on making sure the four main methods of travel are applicable to anywhere you could find yourself. The level design team also went to great lengths to ensure that fun paths won out over authentic embodimentism. The level design in Steep, while based off of the Alps the team lives by, is by no means an accurate recreation of the mountain region. Instead the developers made the right call by insuring this game had well crafted areas you can navigate in interesting ways. So many games these days, including many Ubisoft titles, forgo the game being designed well in favor of accurate depictions of the real world. But in my mind I would definitely prefer fun mechanics over a true representation of the Alps or Mount Denali.

Story

Yeah I bet you must be as surprised I was to learn this game had anything resembling a story, let alone something as existential and reflective as the narratives within Steep. Along with challenges and locations, you unlock Mountain Stories while playing Steep. This is where the comparisons to games like Journey or Abzu come into play. The mountain stories are usually specific stories or tales from the spirit of the mountain, often told from the perspective of a specific mountain summit.

These are told to you with excellent narration as you Ski, Board, Glide, or Even Walk along to a point or points of interest in the area. Sometimes you are to follow or accompany an apparition who either represents the mountain or someone who once rode the path long ago.

 All of these stories are both great stand alone 10 to 15 minute adventures, as well as unique pieces of history that help build out a greater familiarity with the terrain than you would find in any other sports game. The stories are so plentiful and so artfully done that they alone are honestly worth the price of admission.

Leveling and Upgrade Systems

Traveling around the world, unlocking new drop zones, and doing tricks to earn points all give you experience. Completing the various challenges around the mountain also earn you experience. When you level up you gain access to higher drop zones and more challenges. So even if you never want to do a single challenge you can still gain experience to reach new zones more easily. Doing certain types of activities, be them in challenges or not, also help build up your career profile. Based on how you play Steep, your profile will grow to represent what kind of player you are. There’s not any benefit to playing one style over another, but you at least get see what kind of play-style you gravitate too.

Map and Menu Layouts

Like a lot of games designed for controllers, the way you navigate the menu and map is abysmal without a mouse. I can not overstate the importance of having a mouse nearby to switch to if you get this on PC, and I feel so bad for you console guys. Thankfully the game seamlessly switches between a controller or a mouse just by using one or the other, even through a Steam Link so you can still play on the couch.

That huge detail aside though, the menus are generally well laid out. With only a few strange hiccups in the workflow from menu to menu. Unfortunately one of these hiccups is in the way you manage your cosmetic gear and riders who wear them. You would think that since your reward for getting silver and gold medals tends to be this equipment that it would be imperative to make sure accessing and equipping these rewards be fast and simple. Nope. Instead it's quite backwards for something that you’ll want to access quite often.

 

Working your way around the map also requires a mouse to not feel like you’re poking at holes in the dark. And even with a mouse it certainly isn’t the most intuitive system for looking at the world or fast traveling. You will get used to it fast enough, but just because you become familiar with the way something works doesn’t mean it couldn’t function better.  

Conclusion

Despite having a few major issues in the map and menu systems, Steep truly is a gem of a game that deserves to be remembered. As I said earlier, even if this game was nothing but Mountain Stories I would be giving this a glowing recommendation. Add in the incredibly thoughtful Level Design, varied game modes, and the countless challenges you end up with a game that really does have something for everybody. Or if you’re like me you’ll end up learning to love just about everything you can do in its own right. I had picked this up to find out what could be so abstract and thought provoking in a game about extreme sports, and ended up also loving the extreme sports. Some days I just want to find a sunny slope and cruise down it at my own speed, and other days I want to try to dive through as many cliffs as I can in a wing-suit. In a world where we hardly ever see skiing and snowboarding games nowadays, it’s refreshing to see one that really carves out a name for itself, while still delivering on what fans of this nearly ancient genre would enjoy. I bought this game after only trying it for 2 hours on a free weekend. And it was for one simple reason, the game is honest. Yeah it didn't have honest trailers, but the game itself never tricks you, it doesn't pretend to have a soul, it doesn't gaod you into playing the game with false rewards or carrot chasing mechanics. Steep is what it is, and it shows you that. Faults and shortcomings included. That kind of honesty has been missing from games for quite some time now.

Obviously this game needs more love than it’s getting. Ubisoft doesn’t take a lot of risks with their AAA titles, and Steep's low sales is the reason why. But it really is of no fault of the game or its developers. I like to reward good work and unique ideas, so of course I love Steep. Play it, try it if you can. I'll see you on the mountain.