Shmee Destroys Great Britain In Forza Horizon 4!

If you read my Forza Horizon 3 review, you know that FH3 was/is one of my favorite games of all time, and guess what?  Forza Horizon 4 is more of what made Forza Horizon 3 great!  So, if you loved Forza Horizon 3, you will probably find a lot to love in Forza Horizon 4.  It is not a re-invention of the franchise, but no one wanted that anyway.

In Forza Horizon 4 you are no longer the ‘boss’ for the Horizon Festival, you are just another racer, so you are no longer trying to level up Forza event locations.  What are you trying to do is win all the races, so you can become a British Real Estate Tycoon.  Which is to say that without event locations, you need to buy houses for fast travel locations, and the houses you buy come with perks like more wheel spins, fancy clothes or extra cars, so you want those houses (and castles).

You also need those houses, story wise, to stay in because you now live in England through the changing seasons, and if you are going to live in the UK for foreseeable future, you will need a few places to lay your head and store your cars.  The seasons are fun: Things are frozen over and thick snow blocks your progress in the Winter, mud and rain ruin your traction in the Spring, conditions are perfect in the Summer, and you get Spring with leaves in the Fall.  It is always a challenge to retune your skills with each change of the season (seasons change every week).

The other big change is that Forza Horizon 4 is online by default now.  Instead of Drivatars racing around, they are real people, and they are also ghosts.  Spooky!  It makes sense, you don’t want people purposely being able to grief each other while going from place to place, I mean that is what the races are for.  It is fun to watch other people screwing around at least as much as I am.

Besides the Forza Event locations, the only thing Forza Horizon 4 lacks from 3 is the event Blueprint system.  You can’t plan out your own jumps or speed traps anymore.  All you can do is tweak existing races.  I am guessing this had to be done so the game could always be online, and I don’t really miss it that much.  Mostly because I am leveling up all the time, and I don’t just mean my overall level, but you level up in types of races, car collection, photo mode, skill points and just about everything else.  I am pretty sure the only way not to progress in FH4 is to just sit still, but even then, there must be some bar going up somewhere.

Mostly, FH4 is just more Forza Horizon, and I love it.  I love driving a Lamborghini off a cliff and in to a pond below, or racing a Willys Jeep across the country.  If I don’t want to do any of that, I can just mess about, and the game pats me on the head and tells me I am its favorite and hands me some points.  It is all so good.  Even if some may call Forza Horizon 4 an expansion for 3.  It is a vast expansion with a lot to do, and it expands on a wonderful game, wonderfully.  Buy Forza Horizon 4 (or get it with Game Pass) it is more fun than just about anything else out there.

Shmee Enjoys Getting Lost With Hilda!

Kids these days have no idea how lucky they are.  They have so much quality TV to watch at any given moment, and for all age groups.  They don’t need to pretend that the original runs of He-Man, Transformers and Voltron were good.  The remakes actually are good, and that is not fair.  I have seen more than my fair share of poorly animated nonsense/advertising.  If Hilda had been around during my childhood it would have been the best show on TV, and not just comparing it to other animated shows, I mean all TV.  Period.  Still, even with today’s grand glut of quality TV Hilda should be watched, and not just by kids seven and up.

The premise for Hilda is that all the Scandinavian myths and folklore are real, and that the modern world (not too modern, no cell phones) just accepts that magic, monsters and fantastic creatures exist.  Hilda has grown up in the woods outside the city of Trolberg, and she loves going on grand adventures all day long, but then after a series of unfortunate incidents she is forced to move to the big city.  While she no longer has free access to the woods, she finds there are still plenty of adventures to go on in the city, and more importantly, new friends to meet.

The show kind of works a little like Scooby-Doo: Hilda and her friends investigate some weird monster or strange occurrence and then figure out what is goin on, except that the monsters are real, and it is way better than Scooby-Doo could ever hope to be.  Sadly, Hilda lacks a cool van.

Everything about Hilda works.  It is incredibly charming, the characters are amazing and they have real motivations, the mythology the show follows is interesting and it is drawn and animated really well.  It looks like if Charles Schulz co-created a Miyazaki film, but in the best possible way.  The only knock against it is that it can be a little dark and scary, particularly in the later episodes.  My four year old had no problems with it, but I would say it earns all of its Y7 rating.  However, that really isn’t a problem, just something to be aware of.

If you have Netflix, you should at least give Hilda a try.  It is well worth your time, and I am super excited that it has already been given a green light for season 2.  With Voltron ending soon, Hilda is more than up to the task of insuring there is quality kids programing on the streaming service.  If you don’t have Netflix, maybe you should get it for a month.  It will be worth your $10.

Shmee Finds A Smallfoot!

Smallfoot is only the fifth movie from the Warner Animation Group (WAG), which is known for the LEGO movies, but it has dipped its toe in to more traditional movies with Storks.  Which was oddly a Sony Animated film financed and distributed by Warner Brothers.  This strange relationship must have worked well because Smallfoot was created much the same way, with Sony doing the animating, and Warner doing everything else.  As with Storks, the end result is a fine family movie that will keep kids entertained and adults mostly engaged.

Smallfoot is about a group of yetis that live high in the mountains.  They have a complex society with a bunch of strange rules written on stones.  Those rules will get challenged when Migo (Channing Tatum) finds a smallfoot (James Corden), AKA a human, which the stones say doesn’t exist.

The plot is straightforward: This smallfoot challenges the status quo, and the elder wants none of that.  Also the message is basic:  Choose knowledge over ignorance, and embrace the outside world over isolation, but straightforward and basic are good for a family movie.  The kids will be able to keep up with what is going on.

The movie has a good collection of actors who can all sing and read lines well, but there aren’t any real standouts.  Just a bunch of professionals doing their jobs, and that is more than enough for this movie.

Smallfoot is not a classic, and it is not going to be a family favorite, but if it is on Netflix or your kids are dying to go to the theater and you haven’t seen it yet, you could do worse.  It will at least let you change it up so that your kids aren’t watching the same thing over and over.  It is nice to see Warner Brothers getting back in to animation.  They have been out of the game for far too long.  However, while Storks and Smallfoot were good, it would be nice to see them do something more ambitious with their next non-LEGO flick.

Lucky Tells Shmee A Super Tale!

Did you know Microsoft has an exclusive platformer?  And it is not Blinx or Voodoo Vince?  It is Super Lucky’s Tale, and it is a sequel to an Oculus Rift title, so I am sure there was a ton of demand for it.  Well all joking aside, it is a pretty decent game.  It is not a classic, but it scratches that Mario 64 itch.  You explore cute worlds, find coins and collect random things.

You play as the titular fox Lucky who gets trapped in a magical book with a lot of ‘evil’ cats, and you need to kick them out.  To do so you need to collect clovers and be able to play a platformer.  The more collectables you find per level, the more clovers you get.

As far as the game goes, it is a basic 3D platformer.  It is a little slower though, so think more Mario and less Sonic.  However, there are lot of different types of levels: standard exploration, endless runner, super monkey ball tilting levels, and other random puzzles.  Not to mention the boss levels, so there is plenty of variety.

Super Lucky’s Tale is not going to set the world on fire, but it is fun, and if you have younger kids, I am sure they will love it, or even if you are old like me, collecting things is a good time.  While I don’t think this game sold as well as Microsoft wanted, I hope they stick with it because they lack a solid platformer in their portfolio.  Super Lucky’s Tale was a good first try, and I think they should give it another one.

Shmee Takes A Ride On The Orient Express!

Murder on the Orient Express is a movie that thinks it is better than it is.  It thinks it is stylish and sophisticated, but in reality it is just a pretty façade with not a lot going on behind the scenes.  That is not to say the 2017 remake of the classic film based on the classic book is bad, it just doesn’t do anything interesting or new to justify its existence.  It just tells the story again in a very straightforward manner.

What is that story?  Well I am glad you asked, Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is on the titular Orient Express when a man is murdered under strange circumstances.  Everyone has a motive, so everyone is a suspect.  It is a good thing that Poirot is the world’s greatest mustache detective.

There is not a lot else I can say without spoiling the movie, but that is one of the main problems:  Besides the book there has been a movie, two TV specials, an anime and even a manga that have told the story of a Murder on the Orient Express.  We all know the story, and if you don’t, you are not the target market for this film.  This new one doesn’t change up the story at all.  It is simple retelling.  A very good looking retelling.  Sure they keep remaking Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers over and over again, but action and heroism are universal, and you can show them in new ways.  A who-done-it that is faithful to the book stops being captivating because we know who-did-it, and how Poirot solves it.

Luckily the cast saves this film from being unwatchable.  They are all great.  Even Johnny Depp tones down his weirdo of the week impulses, and any time you can add Michelle Pfeiffer to your cast you should.  Though I am not entirely sure that Kenneth Branagh pulls off his French accent.  It sounds okay most of the time, but it can get a little iffy.  I am sure there are four Frenchmen that saw this film that are supper offended.

If you somehow have never seen or read Murder on the Orient Express, this is not a bad version, but if you have, there is no real good reason to.  The best one I can think of is to support Michelle Pfeiffer, and even then I am guessing they credit all the eyes this movie gets to Sir Kenneth Branagh.  The other reason is that it is full of beautiful people in great clothes in front of some okay green screens.  Which is a 100% valid.  I am just not sure that is enough for most people.