Barnestorming #2: Dominant Species in Review plus a bombshell and a lot of missiles; also Captain Jack

Barnestorming #2: Dominant Species in Review plus a bombshell and a lot of missiles; also Captain Jack Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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hello-kitty-airplaneOh hi there, didn't see you come in. It's Barnestorming #2.

 

May as well kick it off with a bang. My wife and I are having a girl in August, so we’re going to have the complete set and that explains the mysterious Hello Kitty image that might have caused some confusion. Oddly, my completely non-nerd wife put Ripley on her list of potential names. I doubt “Ripley Vasquez” will make it past the joking stage, though.

On the Table

This week’s Cracked LCD is my review of Dominant Species. I like it a lot, but I’m afraid that its length is going to shut it down for my groups. It’s also a game that really needs players to be familiar with it in order for it to reach its full potential so having two or three newbies every time sort of diminishes its density. Great design work by Chad Jensen though, I’m really interested to see what he does next. I believe there’s a card game of it coming soon, I’m all in for it.

I played a round of Fire & Axe the other day, I forgot how much I really enjoy that game. It’s such a nice production too. I played it to see if I might want to sell it since it’s hitting $100+ on the aftermarket, but I wound up putting it right back on the shelf. Man, those Rune cards are fun.

Colby Dauch and the Plaid Hat crew were kind enough to send me the newest expansion decks for Summoner Wars a couple of weeks ago, the roguelike Cloaks and the lion-riding Jungle Elves. Two more great sets of cards for a great game. I really like the uniqueness of the new factions, and I hope this carries over to the upcoming box set.

I’m getting a review copy of Yggdrasil. The game looks awesome, I’m kind of surprised it’s flying in somewhat under the radar. I met a Great Pyrneese the other day named Baldr and the owner was shocked that I knew where she got it from. Look for a review in a couple of weeks.

 

On the consoles

I’m working on two reviews for Gameshark this week- Motorstorm: Apocalypse on PS3 and Bangai-O HD: Missile Fury. Motorstorm is OK, it’s great in the spectacle department, not so great in the racing one. It’s awfully simplistic, especially compared to Split/Second or NFS: Hot Pursuit. And it’s not like those games were incredibly complex or anything. Bangai-O is, of course, freaking awesome. At one point last night, I did a counterattack and there were over 1000 missiles on the screen at once. The game is completely, unrepentantly batshit crazy. And it does co-op!

I’m still playing lots of Mortal Kombat, my review went live at Gameshark. It’s awesome. If you gave up on the series after Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, it’s time to come back to it. It’s the best game in the series to date. The 500-level Challenge Tower is great. Each level is a different challenge with specific rules or a scenario. In one, Mileena is trying to give Scorpion a teddy bear she made for him. He doesn’t want it. Online multiplayer is the typical shark tank, I got into a match the other day with some guy that had “juggalo” as part of his user ID so I rage quit on him.

I’ve played the Red Faction: Armageddon demo. Rather than repeat myself, here’s what I said about it on NoHS. I thought it completely sucked, enough to move it from the preorder list and onto the Gamefly queue. It's a fairly standard third person shooter with some notes taken from Dead Space and Okami (come on, the Nanoforge is just a Syfyed Celestial Paintbrush). The monsters look awful, and I got sick of shooting at them so I decided just to run past all of them. They didn't seem to mind. The game did, at one point I guess I outran the script and there were no monsters until they started literally appearing out of nowhere.

Mason's voice grates on my nerves for some reason. But that's picking nits.

The weapons are pretty neat, I will give it that. Definitely going for something beyond the pistol/rifle/shotgun/rocket launcher paradigm. But Dead Space did that too.

I dunno, I'm thinking this might be a dud. Folks are going to expect RF:G2 and from what this demo shows, it ain't it. I remember playing the RF:G demo and I literally turned off the 360 and went out to buy the game right away. This is quite a contrast.

On the phone

Playing lots of Galaxy on Fire 2. It’s basically Elite or Freelancer, and it’s a surprisingly complete replication of that formula. Tons of ship upgrades, freelance missions, commerce, mining…lots more to do than I expected after the first game, which I played back in the pre-Smartphone era. Graphics and controls are best-in-class, although it’s weird that you can’t control throttle or perform any kind of evasive maneuvers. It’s ten bucks, which is too much particulary since the new expansion is five and that makes this a $15 package. But there’s definitely content there to support the price.

I thought I’d try one of the FPS games so I went with Gameloft’s Nova 2. It’s quite good, definitely a big fat Halo ripoff. The other FPS games I had played before on the iPhone weren’t all that great, but this one feels really good. They nailed the controls by using the gyroscope- you can control the view with your right thumb and then actually move the phone to fine tune it. Smart stuff. Game looks dynamite too.

I finally got into Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery more. I’ll have more to say about it later. Definitely artsy fartsy, I love the art style but the coy Internet age writing leaves me cold. Puzzles are irritatingly obtuse. It’s interesting, that’s for sure.

On the Screen

Hobo With a Shotgun was on HDNet Movies last night “before you can see it in the theaters”. Since River hardly cares to sit through a feature film in a theater and I doubt my wife would ever watch a film called Hobo with a Shotgun, I watched it. I didn’t expect much out of it, figuring it would be another terrible phony exploitation movie made by people that don’t really understand exploitation movies. It’s another feature-length extrapolation of one of the trailers from Grindhouse. Fortunately, it’s better than Machete.

Rutger Hauer plays the titular Hobo. He lives in a shithole town run by a bad game named The Drake and he tries to buy a fifty dollar

lawnmower from a pawn shop. Witnessing crime and corruption, he winds up buying a fifty dollar shotgun instead. What follows is a ridiculous rampage of vigilante hobo justice. And then there’s these black-armored demons in a black school bus that show up wielding harpoon guns. They speak as if through a broken vocoder, which is actually pretty awesome. They’re called The Plague.

What I like about the movie, which is VERY much like a USA “Up All Night” movie circa 1989 complete with throbbing synth-rock soundtrack, is that everything in the movie goes up to eleven. There is nothing subtle about the movie, everything in it including almost every line said in it is so completely and ludicrously over the top. For example, once the hobo cheeses off The Drake, his sons burn a bus full of school children with a flamethrower and blame it on homeless people. So the entire town goes on a hobo-killing spree that culminates in all these guys in motorcycle helmets cheering over a mass grave of hobos. While fireworks go off behind them. This is not a movie that knows what “understated” means.

There are some choice lines in it, many of which are so outrageously offensive that I can’t repeat them in mixed company. One about breaking out teeth and using them to make a chainsaw was pretty good. The hobo gives a touching monologue in which he compares himself to a bear.

It has a student film look, but it’s actually shot in Technicolor with a ton of of manipulation. So some of it has that Suspiria-like coloration that is also, par for course, way over the top. Buckets of comic Peter Jackson-esque gore round out the package.

It’s trash, no doubt. But at least it’s unapologetic garbage made with a sense of fun. Hauer is oddly good in it, offering a level of commitment to the role I didn’t expect. Definitely worth seeing for free, don’t pay for it though.

What is worth paying to see, however, is Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell. I had not seen this one. Let me just tell you this- it ends with a massive battle featuring ronin and ninjas on skis and the baby cart turned into a sled. It’s amazing.

Information is starting to surface about Tarantino’s next one, Django Unchained. It has nothing to do with the Italian Django pictures and it’s supposedly more of a “Southern” than a “Western”. But it’s about an escaped slave that turns into a bounty hunter after being trained by Christoph Walz (!) and gets revenge. Ticket: sold. Especially after Inglourious Basterds.

On the Turntable

Billy Joel and Elton John. Yes, 1970s piano rock. No, nothing they recorded in the 1980s or beyond and the sappier ballads can go. A couple of weeks ago at Swamp Castle we were playing Rock Band and I realized that some of those old Billy Joel songs were awesome for mainstream adult contemporary songs- particularly “My Life”- the theme song from “Bosom Buddies” and “You May Be Right”. As for Elton John, it’s easy to forget how bad ass some of his early material was- “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” is just an amazing song. I guess I'm getting old enough to like Billy Joel.

There was talk this week in the forums about shoegazer bands, which prompted me to pull out the old Lush records…also, Ladytron’s “Light and Magic” and “The Witching Hour” which have some very shoegazy elements. Fun fact- I got “Cracked LCD” from a Ladytron song.

That’s it for this week. Next week it looks like we’ll do the 80s edition of Barnes’ Best.

Barnestorming #2: Dominant Species in Review plus a bombshell and a lot of missiles; also Captain Jack There Will Be Games
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