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Barnestorming #1: Letters from Whitechapel in Review, Goth, and Yo Gabba Gabba

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Barnestorming #1: Letters from Whitechapel in Review, Goth, and Yo Gabba Gabba
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There Will Be Games

I’ve decided to change the format of my weekly post since many members have trouble reading my reviews at Gameshark due to the evil corporations they work for blocking the site. I can’t post the content that Gameshark purchases from me here due to both legal and ethical reasons, but I can bring some of the things I’ve been discussing with members in the forums to the front page. Sharp eyes will notice that most of this material is pretty much what I used to post into the “What X are you Ying” thread- with our new focus on content, it makes more sense to bring some of that discussion forward. Plus, I really like Ken B.’s off-the-cuff, monologue-style format for his weekly post so I’m going to completely rip it off. Since he stole my “in Review” schtick, we’ll just call it an even trade and I’ll let the lawyers know we’ve settled. I don’t have a title yet. Suggestions welcome.

On the Table

This week's Cracked LCD is a review of Letters from Whitechapel.It’s OK. It looks awesome and appears to have a huge amount of atmosphere and theme but it’s really pretty dry and analytical. As a multiplayer game, I think it kind of sucks. But with two- one player as Jack and one controlling all of the inspectors- it’s actually pretty good. I don’t like the kinds of discussion or interaction the game creates between the cops. It’s not interesting at all, just a kind of “you go here, I go there” thing and lots of dickering around which numbers to call out. In short, don’t expect it to replace Fury of Dracula.

Other than copious amounts of Neuroshima Hex and going through some of John Clowdus’ other newer games that I’ve not covered (particularly Insyllium) and Omen, I’ve been playing a copy of El Caballero I got for a shocking low price off a BGG marketplace seller. I sold a copy a couple of years ago for $60, I bought this one for $22. It’s a weird game, kind of a cross between typical tile-laying and El Grande, but more abstract which makes it very odd and sometimes awkward. But it’s also kind of brilliant, and it can be incredibly nasty and brutal. I like that the Caballeros are on rotating cards, I think that’s a neat idea and the rule that wipes them out if they touch two land tiles leads to some pretty aggressive play. But it does feel strangely vague, kind of experimental and a little obtuse. But I really like it.

Still piecing together opinions on Dominant Species, which I think is really good but too long. Waiting on a Kaiju Wars review copy, and I’m super thrilled about Olympos. I think I might finally do the review of Puzzle Strike next week since Ken finally did his Yomi review.

I really, really, really want Battleship: Galaxies to hurry up and release.

Small World: Underground has me pretty excited too.


On the consoles

Portal 2 is definitely not my thing.

Outland came out on XBLA/PSN this week, and I’ve reviewed it. I think it’s freaking awesome and I think some of you video game regulars are really going to like it. It’s equal parts exploratory adventure platformer and Ikaruga. Yep, a bullet hell Metroidvania. It also looks amazing and has a cool co-op mode. For $10, you can’t go wrong unless you have terrible taste in video games.

I’ve been playing Section 8: Prejudice but I can’t decide if I like it or not. There are some really cool ideas like random in-game missions and tons of customization, but the gameplay feels really chaotic and it lacks impact other than the super-cool drop-from-orbit respawn. But that gets kind of old after the fiftieth time. The single player is pretty much a complete bust, don’t waste your time. I dunno, I’m really on the fence about it and I suppose after ten hours of play that says something about it right there.

I’m going back into Alpha Protocol while biding my time waiting for Brink. It’s such a bad game, but there are ideas that are so freaking great. The mission-based structure, gathering intelligence that affects things in the mission, real-time dialogue decisions…all brilliant stuff. But the mechanics are, and I hate to use this term, horribly broken. I shot this guy manning a mounted HMG directly the face with _25_ zoomed-in pistol rounds and he didn’t go below half health. He also didn’t react at all. Stealth doesn’t work, melee is of the “flail around” school of martial arts, and most of the gadgets are pretty much worthless. But I keep trying, there’s got to be a diamond in the rough here somewhere.

Brink is on the 10th- I’m more excited for it than L.A. Noire.

On the pinball front, the next Marvel table is Fantastic Four! Yes! Zen is also doing a Mars tournament, so I’m trying to crack the top 1,000 before freaking Space ghost gets in their and wins that Mars Attacks DCD.


On the phone

I just got an iPhone 4 so now I can play Infinity Blade, which I love. It’s like a weird cross between Punch-Out!!!, Demon’s Souls, and the movie Groundhog Day. It’s strangely satisfying, and I love that your equipment levels up. Expensive, but well worth it.

I’ve been playing Mission: Europa a lot. I actually reviewed it at NoHS. It’s kind of like a cross between a scaled-down Bethesda RPG and a Voivod record cover. And that adds up to awesome.

Joan of Arc and Tikal are downloaded, but I’ve yet to really dig into either. My #1 played board game app other than Neuroshima Hex remains Medici. It’s such a great game in that format.

Hunters is pretty awesome- kind of a Space Hulk/X-Com style game that appears to have a ton of content and this interesting daily mission structure. Haven’t dug into it yet, but I think it’ll be a slow burner.

Thought I’d check out Gameloft’s WoW clone, Order and Chaos. I guess it’s OK, but yeah, it’s pretty much like WoW but without the massive attention to lore. Kind of dry. Someone tried to start a conversation with me and I nearly flipped out.


On the Screen

After playing Mousquitaries du Roy, I really wanted to watch the 1974 Richard Lester Three Musketeers picture, the one with Michael “let’s make love” York as D’artagnan and Christopher Lee as a smashing Rocheforte. Oh, and Heston as Richelieu. I’mma say that again. Heston as Richelieu. It wasn’t on Netflix and I didn’t feel like sourcing a used copy. But then, last week, it showed up in the new releases at Netflix as if by command. Now, I tend to watch movies a couple of times back to back when I’m interested in them, so I’ve watched this like five times in the past week.

It’s hardly great, full of shlocky humour and some very 1970s production values. But I really like it. It has at some of the vibrant energy that Lester gave to A Hard Day’s Night, Unsurprisingly, the film was originally slated to be a Beatles vehicle, leading to all kinds of speculation over which Beatle would play which Musketeer. Buckles are swashed, double entendres are wheeled out by the cartload (some really awkward ones too, like this uncomfortable conversation between York and Raquel Welch about leg-washing), and it comes across pretty successfully as a fun, irreverent adventure picture. There’s a sequel that was filmed at the same time, but I haven’t seen it in years.

Anyone seen Miike’s new one, 13 Assassins? It looks awesome and it’s getting rave reviews.


On the Turntable

I wasn’t really all that impressed with Cold Cave’s earlier material. I had read a review somewhere I think of “Painted Nails” that said they were like a noisy, nasty New Order which sounded good to me. The band is fronted by an ex-hardcore vocalist (Some Girls, American Nightmare) and Dominick Fernow of noise act Prurient and proprietor of Hospital Records out of NYC are involved. Hospital mostly does really harsh, lo-fi Black Metal, so this whole new wave thing is kind of a shocker. I just caught back up with  the band on their new LP, "Cherish the Light Years".

It’s totally New Order influenced right down to getting really close to Bernard Sumner’s distinctive guitar style. But it’s also less polished and more gothy. Unlike a lot of synthpop revivalists that have gone the scruffy indie route, these guys are all about the melodramatic teenage darkness thing, wearing all black and spouting histrionic vocals like the world depends on them. It’s got that darkly heroic bedroom (or arena) rocking gusto that the indie kids apparently forgot about. They’re not sensitive twee-poppers with keyboards pining for phony, inexperienced 80s nostalgia. It’s closer to something like The Neon Judgment. Choice cuts are “Underworld U.S.A.”, “Icons of Summer”, and “The Great Pan is Dead”. 

I loved the record, so I went back and picked up their previous one, “Love Comes Close”. It’s pretty great too although the title track is almost a half-cover of “Temptation”, which is one of the greatest songs ever written. If you’re going to crib notes, crib from the best. Recommended for any post-punk or synthpop fans, or anyone who’s ever sat in the dark listening to “Black Celebration” with candles lit. Not that I’ve ever done that or anything.

My boy is getting into music and dancing, and as any cool parents know the kiddie music scene is a total disaster. I just discovered Yo Gabba Gabba, the kid’s show created by members of the Aquabats and now their two albums are the records I put on for River. It’s actually really good, fun music for kids that isn’t stupid or brainlessly silly. It’s also modern, and doesn’t sound like something written by a turtlenecked folkie from 1972 and it’s not all that gentle, sensitive put-your-kid-to-bed old timey crap like The Wiggles.It helps that real bands with good taste are involved, and that they're not afraid to do punk, new wave, electronic, hip hop, indie, and funk into the music. I put the show on for him today and I’ll be damned, The Faint performed a song about going to school. I’ve actually been listening to their records when River’s not in the car because it’s solid pop music. I love this song called “All Our Friends are Different”. Definitely the best kid’s show since Pee Wee’s Playhouse. But Pee Wee didn’t rock like Yo Gabba Gabba.

That's all I've got this week. If you hate the new format, let me know.

There Will Be Games
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

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