Look! It's Barnestorming #11!
On the Table.
So yeah, Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars didn’t quite make the cut. I haven’t savaged a game in a while and it sucks that the hammer has to drop on a game with such a fun theme and from a publisher just getting into the racket. But let’s be blunt about it- this game is just as cynical, poorly conceived, and kludgy as the worst mass-market licensed game is…it just has more rules. Oh, and two conflicting sets of them, including some “Richard Berg edition” ones that for whatever reason Toy Vault didn’t print. Berg struck out with this kind of broader-appeal game with Blackbeard before, but this game makes that trainwreck look like a freaking masterpiece.
The game is a raging, dull mess, and it’s one of the worst games I’ve played in a very long time. Sorry, making monster sounds and reminiscing about that weird cartoon sequence in Godzilla versus the Smog Monster (Hedorah) doesn’t cut it when the rules just completely suck and there’s nothing inspired or particularly fun about what’s going on. The game is a drag, and it’s poorly produced to boot. I’m sorry, but a $70 board game shouldn’t come with a small format, black and white rulebook that looks like it was printed on the office inkjet.
I doubt Richard Berg gives a flipping shit about Godzilla, and it really shows in the game. If it were about Mongols or the Punic Wars (and he had a developer or co-designer on board), then it might have been a good game. But what likely happened is that Toy Vault thought it would be a good idea to get a veteran, seasoned designer contracted to do the game…and got the wrong man for the job by a longshot.
Stick to Monsters Menace America and the Creature that Ate Sheboygan, or pick up Massive versus the Masses. All are better kaiju games with much more fun, spirit, and clarity. And it goes to show once again that “cool” plastic pieces and “awesome” genre settings don’t mean jack fucking shit without a solid, well-written game to back them up.
The full review is at Gameshark.com, as usual. I suspect it'll be my last review copy from Toy Vault.
I’ve also been playing Karnaxis. Ameritrash dogmatists will tell you that the game is “shit” because it doesn’t resemble a John Carpenter movie and there’s not a robot. That’s too bad, because it’s a sharp, effective business game with some interesting RPG elements, a shockingly volatile stock market and a “real life” theme full of narrative. It’s just not a narrative about elves and necromancers. It’s way better than you’d think given the ugly production, and it plays like a sort of “super” Careers or even Life. Lots of little details and tough choices. I’ll review it next week.
On the Consoles
I did a comparative review of Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon and Child of Eden over at Nohighscores.com. The sum? EDF:IA is freaking great. Stupid, shameless fun with tons and tons of weapons, mayhem, and robot spiders. Child of Eden is hippie garbage where you fly through various trance CD compilation covers circa 1997 while listening to that sort of music and there’s like, a spiritual meaning, man. It’s horrible, pretentious, and trite. I didn’t play with Kinect, but somehow I think having the game ask me to wave my arms and dance soulfully in front of the TV while playing a shallow, empty rail shooter might make me hate it even more. Space whales…seriously?
I finally got a chance to get back to Deadly Premonition so I’ve been playing that more lately…the game is just bonkers, but once you get past the “so bad it’s good” presumption, there’s actually some really brilliant stuff there. The writing is surprisingly good, particularly the characters, and the scenario is compelling. I just hit this puzzle last night that totally stumped me and in a way that a video game puzzle hasn’t in a very long time. It wasn’t some shitty “move the mirrors to guide the light” thing, it was a genuine A+B=D deduction puzzle.
It’s also unrelentingly hilarious, and intentionally so…but in a way that mixes David Lynch, surrealism, and Japanese video game weirdness. I can’t even describe some of the weirder, subtler moments. They just are.
There was one bit last night that had me rolling, where Agent York is describing some of his past cases to the other small-town cops. He’s going on about drinking urine from skulls and some guy that raped 800 people like it was nothing. Totally clueless and without tact. And the other cops have these bizarre expressions while eating hamburgers and the sherrif just says “Oh man”. There’s some brilliant stuff here, no doubt.
On the Phone
I haven’t played anything but the new Ascension app. It’s great. That game was meant to be an IOS title.
Oh hey, do you want a free download code for it? I’m running a little mini-contest at Nohighscores for one. You just have to answer a five question quiz about the writers there. It’s easy. We’re giving it away on Sunday. It’s a FIVE DOLLAR value.
On the Screen
I noticed Shinya Tsukamoto’s latest picture, Tetsuo: The Bullet Man on Netflix last night so I had to watch it. One of the more monumental experiences of my film-watching life was seeing Tetsuo: The Iron Man on Halloween at the Georgia State University theater sometime in 1990 or 1991. It blew me away, and I was all up into industrial music _and_ Eraserhead at the time so it fit into my wheelhouse like a Herman Miller dining room set. I’ve always tried to watch Tsukamoto’s follow-ups to Iron Man, but I’ve always been very disappointed. The second Tetsuo film, Body Hammer, had an awesome Belgian EBM title or possibly a great name for a Nitzer Ebb song but it wasn’t really all that good and it lacked the scratchy, cheap, and raw feeling of the first.
Bullet Man actually gets back to some of what made Iron Man great, although the bizarre sexual overtones and the stop motion animation are nowhere to be seen. And sadly, despite an exclusive Nine Inch Nails instrumental track, original metal-banger Chu Ishikawa isn’t on the soundtrack although it’s still got that great Test Dept./SPK/Neubauten sound. It brings back that late 80s, early 90s industrial video tone and parts of it look like something you’d see looped behind a Skinny Puppy live performance, which is exactly what I wanted out of the film. The crazy transformation effects are all practical- puppeteering, makeup, and prosthetics- which is really awesome when the main character starts to undergo his bizarre transformation into a living mass of iron and guns.
The story is disjointed, awkward, and not helped by the fact that it’s mostly in English so everyone sounds dubbed in post-production. It does manage to tie together the first two Testsuo pictures with this bizarre biomechanical medical backstory involving androids, medical experiments the US Government, corporations, and so forth…make no mistake, it’s old school pre-internet Cyberpunk all the way, and for that I kind of loved it. But it’s still very “garage” and limited in scope, so a lot of the detail is in kludgy dialogue and off-screen suggestion.
But man, oh man. When the guy starts to turn it takes off. It’s like Seth Brundle’s transformation in The Fly but even more extreme, and it has that same veneer of tenderness and tragedy since it’s all set in motion by the death of a child and discovery of familial secrets. When the guy gets angry, he literally starts sprouting guns and black, oily metal all over the place, blowing dudes away left and right until he eventually evolves into a kind of human wave motion gun. It looks awesome and although there’s not a repeat of the drill-cock from the first film.
So yeah, I think I liked it a lot if only because it really is a throwback to the kinds of cult films I cut my teeth on. It’s definitely more Cronenberg than Lynch though, in contrast to the first film. The shot on DV look actually worked really well and there’s some surprisingly nice color work, with sickly, pale tones reflecting a general atmosphere of malaise.
If you were considering having your eyes shit into by the new Transformers movie…watch this movie about a human transformer instead.
On the Turntable
A couple of weeks ago here on F:AT I proudly proclaimed that all of my CDs were being stored in bins out in the yard. Well, it rained heavily and those bins got flooded. So about half of my gigantic CD collection got trashed- at least the booklets and tray cards, so I’m not really all that heartbroken since I’m now moving everything into archival binders and reclaiming who knows how many feet of space in our house.
But while tossing the wet, mouldering paper and cracked jewel cases, I came across the ol’ Pulp CDs, which I don’t think I’ve fully listened to since the early 2000s. Chiefly “His & Hers” and “A Different Class”, with a side of “This is Hardcore” and a collection of all of their pre-big time singles.
I thought maybe Pulp would sound dated like some of the bigger Britpop acts do these days, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t find myself completely falling in love with those two records all over again with their Bowie meets Roxy Music meets trash disco tales of middle-class scandal and bedroom drama. I realized once again that Jarvis Cocker is the fucking man, an incredible lyricist and songwriter on par with Morrissey.
It’s not the done thing, but I actually like “His & Hers” better than “A Different Class”. It’s more synth-sleazy and glammy, and it’s got three completely unstoppable cuts on it- “Lipgloss”, “Babies”, and “She’s a Lady”. That being said, “Common People” and “Disco 2000” off the other record are two of the greatest singles written in the 1990s.
That’s all, bye.