Playstation 4 Reviews N-R

NBA 2K14
Grade: B-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/2/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI'm glad 2K put some effort into their first PS4 game, even if the improvements are mainly cosmetic. After a lengthy installation process you're treated to a game that looks like a TNT television broadcast. The player models are amazing, with facial expressions that look convincing even up close. Players behave just like their real life counterparts, except they hustle a lot more on the court (zing!). NBA 2K14 contains all the subtle nuances of the real game. Players tip rebounds, lose their balance, dive out of bounds, draw technical fouls, help each other up, and sometimes even flop (and then complain about no foul). When you successfully orchestrate a fast-break culminating with a slam dunk, it's exhilarating! The game comes with a manual, and I will applaud 2K Sports for that. The control scheme (that spans six pages) is not for the faint of heart however. Steel Battalion (Xbox, 2002) wasn't this complicated! The right stick lets you perform some elaborate moves, but it's hard to grasp. After jump-shots, helpful grades are displayed for your timing and shot quality. One area that needs work is the passing. Passes tend to be weak and by the time the ball gets there the player is no longer in good position. The television style graphics are slick, with amazing arena exterior shots and even on-court interviews with Doris Burke. The killer soundtrack includes popular tracks like "Radioactive" (Imagine Dragons) and "Can't Hold Us" (Macklemore). The two-man commentary keeps on top of the action and sometimes even references the previous game! The only thing missing is Ernie Johnson, Sir Charles and company at the anchor desk during half-time. And oh yeah - they need to get some cheerleaders into this game. I did notice a few glitches, including players that occasionally freak out and audio that cuts off. The lack of a season mode is a shame, although the "My GM" mode can serve the same purpose if you can sift through all the junk (scouting, negotiating deals, etc). Unfortunately my season file mysteriously disappeared after a month (*sad face*). NBA 2K14 is a good-looking start for the Playstation 4, but I think we need to set our standards a little higher this generation. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K15
Grade: C
Publisher: 2K Sports (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/1/7
Rating: Everyone (mild lyrics)


screenshotI really wish 2K Sports would hire me on as a consultant. I could have easily pointed out a number of glaring flaws in NBA 2K15. The first time you turn it on you're forced to play a full game of the Spurs versus Heat with audio consisting solely of music. Was this part of the licensing deal with Beats? The new emphasis on music is annoying and frankly I resent having to dial down the music volume in the settings menu before every single game. Otherwise this is the most innovative NBA 2K game in some time. The franchise is long known for its sharp, television-style presentation, and this year ups the ante with pre-game intros by Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. The sport desk looks a little sparse but Shaq tends to say some funny things, so listen in. On the court the degree of detail is remarkable. The crowd waves "big head" signs and cheerleaders dance during timeouts. The cheerleaders look shapely but always wear the same outfits and perform the same dance. The two-man commentary is insightful and Doris Burke reports from the sidelines. And get this: you actually see Doris interviewing players and coaches! The players on court look true to life with appropriate facial expressions and tattoos. Anthony Davis' unibrow is bigger and more disturbing than ever. Player movement on the court is extremely fluid but as a consequence your actions feel delayed. It would be nice to block a shot due to good reflexes instead of anticipation. The control scheme includes a new "shot meter" that looks good on paper but proves to be pretty worthless. Several serious issues cropped up while playing local multiplayer. For some reason my friends and I could not switch players! Worse yet, it was really hard to identify selected players due to those transparent, indistinct markers. Finally, 2K still can't grasp the concept of a consistent user interface, making menu navigation a confusing mess. Sometimes you need to press X to advance, sometimes O, and sometimes square (or worst of all, the right stick). NBA 2K15 is incredible on a visual level, yet manages to falter in new and imaginative ways. The game serves its purpose but is less satisfying than it should have been. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K16
Grade: C-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/2/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNBA 2K16 features a new career mode created by Spike Lee entitled "Livin' Da Dream". It kicks off with live video including Spike himself and it's disappointing to see it transition to computer-generated characters. Creating a player is your first order of business, and taking the defaults left me with the goofiest-looking redneck I've ever seen. It's hilarious watching him in cut-scenes joke around his stereotypical black family and friends. I guess Spike Lee was supposed to provide streetwise credibility, but I wish he could program because NBA 2K16 is bug central. Whenever I boot up the game it prompts me to edit my character (why?!) and then forgets any changes I make. Several times during career mode an alert appeared on the screen: "UPDATE REQUIRED! Return to main menu to apply update to dismiss this message." Wait what?! There's no such option on the main menu and updates are supposed to be applied automatically. Career takes you through high school and college, and between games you sit through inconsequential cut-scenes and endless "loading... saving... loading... " cycles. I tried to quit during a college game and was informed "quit is not available until a stoppage in play." Really? 2K doesn't have the technology to quit a game in progress?! Career mode is a total bust but the season mode is fun. When it comes to television-style presentation 2K Sports has the formula down. Flashy graphics and upbeat music get you pumped for each game, and while it's loading you're treated to a pre-game show with Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kenny Smith. The guys are informative but look like stiff wax figures. Can't we just watch the actual video of these guys instead? I mean, they had to act out the dialogue anyway, right? And the same goes for the cheerleaders! On the court the sweaty, tattoo-laden players look amazing and perform as they do in real life. The action is fluid and it's always satisfying to complete a transition with a breakaway jam. Defending is tough however and once the CPU shakes you he often has a clear path to the hoop. There are a lot of minor annoyances. The camera is pulled in too tight and you can barely make out the icons due to their tiny font. Player reactions are somewhat delayed so it's nearly impossible to get off a quick shot with a tick or two left on the clock. Once I got a shot clock violation after the shot clock had been turned off. Some irritations can be addressed via the settings menu, like the automatic time-outs (ugh) and ear-splitting referee whistles. Between periods you'll enjoy a player profile interview, and the half and postgame shows are impressive. NBA 2K16 has all the bells and whistles you could want, but I'm starting to wonder if 2K Sports understands the concept of quality control. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K17
Grade: C-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/3/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNBA 2K is in danger of becoming the Madden of basketball - if it's not already there. 2K17 has the realism down pat with all the polish of a television presentation. The problem is, it's a heck of a lot like last year and just as buggy. I like the simplified main menu which offers a refreshing change from the obnoxious "wall of tiles" favored by other sport game publishers (*cough*EA*cough). Each event is introduced by Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neil at the sports desk. I love these guys but their stiff character models are looking a little dated. David Aldridge handles the sideline reporting duties. I noticed a heck of a lot of ads throughout this game, but they're the ones you'd see at a real game (Kia, Gatorade, etc) so I guess it's okay. The action on the court looks fantastic and at a glance you'd think you were watching TV. 2K Sports included every subtle animation you could think of like dribbles getting away, roll-in inbound passes, and guys jawing with each other after a foul. The facial expressions look hilarious at times. On defense it's pretty easy to poke the ball away so you can be semi-aggressive. The controls are not for the squeamish, with the help menus listing hundreds of plays. Seasoned basketball fans will appreciate the subtle nuances but casual players will hate NBA 2K17. Beside its inherent complexity, the game has some serious deficiencies. It's hard to hit the lead man on breakaways, and even when you get the ball to him a defender magically seems to catch up. Likewise when you get the ball under the hoop your player suddenly becomes sluggish as he breaks into his offensive animation. One unwanted new feature is listening in on coaches yelling at their players during timeouts. They all have the same voice and sound like a bunch of whiney bastards. The automatic timeouts and intentional fouls really slow the pace shouldn't be on by default. And then there are the bugs. It was bad enough when I couldn't break out of a timeout, or when my player couldn't inbound the ball, but when the game crashed hard that was the last straw. Even the new "blacktop" court options disappoint. Instead of gritty urban locations you get a pristine blue court with stands of spectators obstructing the background. NBA 2K17 will suffice for basketball fans, but that's just because it's the only game in town. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NHL 15
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/2/6
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)

screenshotAs the first hockey title for the PS4, NHL 15 is undeniably good-looking. The television-style presentation boasts NBC Sports graphics along with that rousing, familiar music. A quick video clip of the home team's town is shown - a nice touch that's long overdue. Using real commentator video to introduce each game seems impressive until you remember that was actually a feature dating back to 1990's hockey games. The players look real and the arenas absolutely sparkle. Individualized fans don funny hats like an octopus or Stanley Cup. I even saw one holding a sign up to a player in the penalty box. Other than those minor flourishes NHL 15 is pretty much by the book. The overhead angle is default, but there's something to be said for the side/broadcast view which offers a wider angle and looks more like a televised game. The body checks come off a little soft, but there are some cool finesse plays including backhanded goals. It can be hard to tell if you have the puck, and it's not readily apparent when a goal is scored due to delayed commentator reaction and lack of goal lights. Controversial calls are sent "upstairs" for review, but this feature is implemented in a clumsy, confusing manner - not unlike Madden. The spirited commentator is always talking about teams "recoiling", whatever that means. The default dual-thumbstick controls feel natural if you're heading "up" the screen, but awkward when headed downward (in two-player mode) or sideways (broadcast view). Simplified NHL 94 controls are available, but I couldn't get off a quick shot using those. NHL 15 is at its best when playing a friend head-to-head, where expletives fly and trash talk reigns supreme. The menu system could be better organized and more responsive. Where is the [expletive] season mode? The GM mode is the closest thing, but I hate having to deal with superfluous garbage like salary caps (ugh), scouting assignments (gah), and endless load screens (zzz...). NHL 15 leverages the visual pizzazz of a next-gen title but can't shake the mediocrity of the last-gen games. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

NHL 16
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/1/31
Rating: Everyone


screenshotIt's becoming clear why EA doesn't include old 16-bit hockey games as bonus modes in their new NHL titles. They don't want those classic games to upstage the new one, which is exactly what would happen. That said, NHL 16 looks pretty sweet. Actual video clips effectively convey the cities and venues, although they could look more "wintry". It's nice to see commentators introduce each game but they aren't very insightful. The rinks look photo-realistic thanks to a keen attention to detail like scraped glass and boards that look thoroughly worn. I just wish modern sports games had some sense of fun. Where are the Green Men of Vancouver? NHL 16 offers a wide selection of modes, including a season mode that was missing from last year. On the rink player markers float above the players, and it seems easier to thread the needle in front of the goal because the goalie doesn't automatically gobble everything up. I'm not a huge fan of EA's dual-stick control scheme. Squeezing the trigger causes a pass arrow to appear, but the puck often goes in an unwanted direction. The CPU doesn't have this problem, whipping the puck around between players with pinpoint accuracy as you flail around helplessly on defense. Poke checks are effective for knocking the puck loose, but the body checks have minimal impact - even in arcade mode. On offense slap shots are scorching but follow-up shots tend to be weak and ineffective. The CPU is way too hard on the default pro level, and sometimes I think the game was programmed to allow more goals in the waning seconds. Difficult and complex, NHL 16 is a no-nonsense hockey title aimed mainly at hardcore fans. The ghost of NHL '94 (Genesis, 1993) continues to haunt the franchise. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Need For Speed Rivals
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/3/2
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)

screenshotOn paper this is pretty much the game of my dreams. Rivals offers high-speed arcade thrills, gorgeous scenery, variable weather, and even the ability to toggle between the roles of racer and cop! Fictional Redview County offers all the natural beauty of California including snowy mountains, dusty deserts, rural farmland, and scenic coastlines. Shortcuts abound along with opportunities to catch considerable air. The game progresses via a series of missions with multiple objectives like beating a time trial, winning a race, or using "pursuit tech" on other racers. Rivals is loaded with good ideas. There's a cool "pursuit meter" that shrinks as you lose the cops, and it's pretty sweet how you can drive through gas stations at full speed to magically repair your vehicle. I love how you can hear police talking over their radios about how you're endangering the public and how roadblocks are being set up. The races and high-speed pursuits are exciting, but the controls could be tighter. There's a pronounced lag that lends to oversteering, and worse - head-on collisions! Fortunately the game places you right back on track after a wreck - no matter how devastating it was. This eases the difficulty but makes winning a race (or evading pursuit) less satisfying. The missions are relatively short, but the racing really takes a back seat to the pursuit. Sometimes you just want to race but you're too busy trying to shake the cops. When playing the side of the law, other cops lend support but tend to get in the way. A map and GPS lets you plot a course to any destination, but I'd like to see more visible indicators on the actual road. In terms of graphics, Rivals is attractive but not spectacular. Compared to Need For Speed: Most Wanted (Xbox 360, 2005), there isn't much more detail, although the framerate and use of color is much improved. Rivals looks most impressive during a snowstorm or thunderstorm, but these moments are fleeting. You can begin each mission at selectable locations, but I always winded up on the same roads. Some missions have a "grinding" feel to them. The save system is confusing; you never know if your progress has been recorded. In one instance the game went completely belly-up and kicked me back to the PS4 dashboard! Despite making a nice first impression, the more I played this game the more disinterested I became. Need For Speed Rivals feels like less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
Grade: D
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/4/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis latest Pac-Man iteration crosses the line of "extreme" and teeters on the brink of "uncontrollable mess". As someone who cut his teeth of the original Pac-Man (arcade, 1981) Championship Edition 2 (CE2) feels alien to me. It retains the classic sights and sounds but its spastic gameplay left me in a daze. CE2 runs at turbo speed but tosses out far too many well-established rules. You can now bump into ghosts without dying! That's right - ghosts don't become hostile unless you bump into them a few times. Getting the best score in five minutes is your goal. Clearing the maze is no longer your primary objective. Eating dots fills a meter which causes fruit or a power-pill to appear. Eating a piece of fruit inexplicably whisks you off to a new maze. Mazes are peppered with hollow green "sleeping ghosts", and by passing close to them they awake to form "ghost trains". After eating a power pill you can consume the whole string of ghosts for big points and flashy effects. Instead of being completely filled with dots, the mazes have contrived dot trails which offer the optimal path for scoring points while avoiding collisions. Trying to following these paths is not easy because Pac-Man runs like Usain Bolt and the controls are touchy. Whether using the digital pad or analog stick you're constantly missing turns or getting caught on corners. Using a joystick helps. While pursuing the spastic ghosts it felt like it was pure luck whenever I caught one. Other new features include portals that hop you around the screen and a jump button that instantly returns you to your starting position (that's called "cheating" where I come from). The main "score attack mode" features dozens of game variations each with slightly tweaked rules and its own high score. But since you're rarely playing the same variation twice, playing for score doesn't hold much appeal. All these variations seem the same; I wish they just had decided on one instead. The flashy effects and pumping electronic music have a mesmerizing effect, but Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 never comes close to the playability or addictiveness of the original. Note: As a bonus the disc also contains arcade-perfect versions of Galaga, Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Pinball Arcade, The
Grade: B+
Publisher: Farsight Studios (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/2/13
Rating: Everyone 10+ (Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes)

screenshotI love pinball (I own two tables) but the machines are big, loud, and expensive. Pinball Arcade gives you 22 tables on a single disc. That's about $50,000 worth of games for forty bucks! The shiny, photo-realistic tables are downright mesmerizing with their beautiful art work, flashing lights, elevated lanes, and animated gadgets. Pinball is a vertically-oriented game, so a wide screen isn't the ideal viewing angle. Pinball Arcade tries to make the best of a bad situation by using a low camera set near the flippers. Yes, it's hard to discern targets on the far end of the table, but the camera will travel up the table if the ball lingers near the top. The digital display (score) is usually positioned in unused space on the left. The audio consists of catchy music, voices, and distinctive sound effects. Unfortunately these are not crystal clear and it can be hard to make out some of the voice samples. The controls are responsive enough, but feel a little "heavy" during multi-ball rounds when things get really frantic. The physics is dead on and the balls even reflect their surroundings. The game selection includes Medieval Mayhem, Black Knight, Star Trek (Next Generation), Cirqus Voltaire, Bride of Pinbot, Taxi, Tales of Arabian Nights, Harley Davidson, Attack From Mars, The Black Hole, and No Good Gofers. Several oldies from the 1970's are represented like Gorgon, Genie, and Big Shot. Horror-themed tables include Elvira, Scared Stiff, Twilight Zone, Monster Bash, and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Tables with a creepy carnival vibe include Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Funhouse, and Theater of Magic. So much ingenuity and creativity went into these intricately-crafted tables. The hologram in Creature from the Black Lagoon looks amazing, and The Black Hole features a trippy "reverse-gravity" sub-table. I only wish there was a way to peruse these tables freely. High scores are saved locally with initials (thank God you don't need to be on-line). Quick games plus high scores equal unlimited replay value. My friends consider this their favorite PS4 game by far. The locked "seasons" on the main menu reflect future DLC releases, but considering the amount of content on this disc, it's hard to hold that against it. Pinball Arcade is pretty awesome, and it's nice to see a low profile title like this available on disc. Now the only question is, how are you going to spend that extra 50 grand that's burning a hole in your pocket? © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

RBI Baseball 2016
Grade: B-
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/8/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAfter suffering through the excessive bloat of MLB The Show 16 (Sony, 2016), this budget title is a breath of fresh air. I can actually tolerate playing a full nine inning game, as it takes less than a half hour. RBI Baseball 2016 the spiritual successor to the 16-bit RBI Baseball games of the 1990's, and it looks the part. Don't expect cutting edge graphics here - or players in the dugout for that matter! No, this is an arcade-style game where all the players look pretty much the same. Sometimes when you switch pitchers the only thing that changes on the screen is the name! In fairness, Oriole reliever Darren O'Day does retain his sidearm delivery, so there is some attention to detail. Actually the stadiums look surprisingly good, especially at night with the lights casting a misty glow. The game's no-hassle main menu includes season, versus, and online modes. What makes RBI Baseball appealing is its breakneck pace. You can fire one pitch right after the next, never having to wait for on-screen prompts or the catcher to return the ball. Even most foul balls are quickly abbreviated with all players magically reset. The simple controls barely use half the buttons, and they feel good. Like any respectable old-school baseball title you can slide your pitcher side-to-side on the mound and likewise the batter slides around the batter's box. While pitching you can effectively "steer" your pitch on its way to the plate. When the ball is hit you get a nice high-angle view of the field. Flagging down pop flies is challenging but satisfying. RBI Baseball 2016 was originally only available online, and frankly it still has that "download-only smell". It's kind of hard to put the ball in play because the pitches come in so fast! If they were trying to simulate the difficulty of hitting a big league pitch, they nailed it. I noticed minor glitches here and there - sometimes to hilarious effect. This makes the lack of an instant replay all the more regrettable. I like how balls tend to curl down the line, but do they always need to curl? Between half innings the game pauses for an annoying few seconds as you stare at some kind of plaid pattern. What is it doing? RBI Baseball 2016 could use some fine tuning but if you're willing to trade realism for fun, this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Grade: C+
Publisher: Capcom (2017)
Reviewed: 2017/5/7
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotThe first hour of Resident Evil 7 is extraordinary. Searching for your long lost girlfriend in a remote Louisiana bayou, you find yourself trapped in a derelict house where you are held prisoner and brutally tortured by a demented family. Upon escaping, you find yourself hunted by individual family members. Sound like fun? More like disturbing. Using a new first-person perspective the game puts you right smack in your own personal nightmare. The game is clearly influenced by a laundry list of horror flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blair Witch Project, and Evil Dead 2. The fact that everything looks so realistic really immerses you in a world of decay and squalor, with all sorts of makeshift rooms and passageways. It's like being in a virtual haunted house, with lighting so effective even your shadow will make you jump. The surround sound audio effects are equally unsettling, and they scared the hell out of my cat Willow. RE7 oozes with atmosphere, particularly in the dark, marshy outdoor areas. One drawback to its cinematic approach is that the action feels contrived. It's a pretty helpless feeling as you're being swarmed by insects and stalked by family members impervious to your attacks. They usually come barging in when you least expect it, much like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (PS1, 1999). It was almost a relief when I encountered a slime monster I could actually kill. The game gradually reverts to the standard Resident Evil conventions, reprising well-worn cliches like turning cranks, locating a lost fuse for a generator, and collecting keys of various shapes. I like how pressing the touch pad brings up the map. When you feel stuck you're probably just one item away from unlocking a new area. The game falters badly in terms of its inventory system, which somehow manages to be inferior to the one in the original Resident Evil (PS1, 1996)! The items are so tiny you can't make them out, and the interface for manipulating them is clumsy and confusing. During one boss encounter I couldn't grab a chainsaw because my inventory was full (a common occurrence). Why can't I drop my shotgun? Why can't I combine my bullets with the handgun? The action doesn't pause while accessing your inventory, so I was getting slaughtered while frantically struggling to make room. Likewise the antiquated save system encourages you to constantly backtrack to the nearest tape recorder. You'd expect fast loading from a game with a mandatory install, yet this has got the longest load times I've ever experienced in my entire life! Resident Evil 7 is not for the faint of heart. It may be the scariest Resident Evil, but it's also the most painful. Bump up the grade by a letter around Halloween. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Rocket League
Grade: A

screenshotDon't be fooled by its budget price; Rocket League is one of the best video games of this generation. From the title I expected some kind of stunt racer, but this is a smash-up-derby soccer game! You drive vehicles around an enclosed arena while trying to knock a giant ball into your opponent's goal. I've seen the concept attempted before as mini-games in racing titles, but Rocket League executes the formula to perfection. This arcade-style extravaganza supports up to four players via local split-screen! That's a rarity in this modern age where most games are designed to be played solely online. And the action is so smooth! Naturally, you can also play online where you'll find a very active community. Rocket League's action is fast and chaotic but there's plenty of room for technique. Much like indoor soccer you'll want to work the boards and try to center shots for teammates. You can ride up walls, boost, jump, and flip into the air. When you get good at "heading" you can deflect the ball in mid-air. The five-minute matches are so exciting I find myself contorting my body to finesse the ball into the goal. The sense of speed is fantastic and the fact that I didn't feel the need to tweak the default camera is a testament to the game's quality. The arenas feature some interesting scenery including industrial, aquarium, and metropolis themes. An addictive season mode lets you customize the action to your heart's content. In addition to "soccar" there's a "snow day" hockey mode with iced-over arenas including one with a Christmas theme! Playing with a puck is a little easier because it doesn't bounce around as much. I'll pass on the basketball variations however which are just entirely too hard. I find it odd how there's no music during competition, especially since the electronic dance music that plays over the menus is so good! My other qualm is the coarse difficulty scale; three difficulties are not enough. But these are minor quibbles considering how inherently fun Rocket League is. And how many other PS4 games can you just toss into your console when your buddies come over and have a great time? © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Game Zone, YouTube, MobyGames.com, US Gamer, Operation Sports, Video Chums