Hooray for dinosaurs!
On the Table
Triassic Terror is fun- it’s a sort of old fashioned area control game with some nasty dinosaur violence and some awesome gumball machine dino figures. It plays two to six comfortably and it’s not ludicrously expensive. But I would still have trouble explaining to you why you should play it over something like El Grande or Chaos in the Old World. So it’s one of those titles, where it’s a good, solid game with some differentiators, but more selective game players such as myself might pass on it in favor of one of the top games in the genre. Review is at NHS.
Tasty Minstrel sent over a copy of Kings of Air and Steam and I played around with it last night…I despise Steampunk, but the game seems pretty good even though there is a HUGE thematic blunder in it. It’s really an Age of Steam/Railways of the World style train game where you pick up goods and deliver them over links to cities that want the goods. But the catch is the factories aren’t on the rail lines, so you have to send a zeppelin to go get the stuff and bring them to your depots and then run your train into the city. Why the hell wouldn’t they just pick up the goods and drop them off with the blimp? OH…because in the rules it says that the airships are “forbidden” to land in the cities. Ok…then why not build the rail lines to the factories and skip the blimp business altogether? It dosen’t make sense, but I guess it has to be there for the concept of having two transportation methods working together. I did like it, but the whole time this was on my mind.
Found a copy of Legends of Andor for under $30, so I should have that soon. Hope to play Serpents and the Wolf this weekend. And more Tamanny Hall.
On the Consoles
OK, so I gave State of Decay another chance after reading Chick’s review, which sort of suggested that it was the exact opposite of The Last of Us in that YOU do the storytelling through gameplay, not watching cut scenes. He emphasized very much that it is a VIDEO GAME. So I played the demo again, and wound up buying it. The game is frequently brilliant- I think it is the best zombie game I’ve ever played, and it may actually be the best open world one I’ve ever played. Mainly because there is ZERO bullshit. No checkpoint races, bowling minigames, or any of that garbage. The smaller budget and tighter focus mean that all of the activities have weight, meaning, and CONSEQUENCE. If you don’t go answer one of your people’s radio for help, they might DIE. Forever. You might be out on a scavenging run to find a source for food and you think “I’ll just go see what’s in that gun shop”…and the next thing you know you’re overwhelmed by zombies, exhausted, and fighting for your life because you might DIE. There are infested houses marked on your map, and when you walk by them, you look over and it’s EERIE because you know it’s dangerous and you might DIE. Drive like a jackass, and you lose peoples’ trust. Flip your car because you’re driving like a jackass, and you might wind up alerting a horde that descends on you and yep- you might DIE.
There’s this whole concept of community building and sharing supplies. Night time is really freaking scary because you can’t see shit other than your crap flashlight and the glowing eyes of the zombies. You might help some folks board up their house or build on to your compound once you start getting more people to stay. But then they get scared or upset and you’ve got to switch over to your counselor character to comfort them.
No doubt, the game is JANKY as hell. I haven’t seen clipping this bad in a decade. Bugs abound, controls are hardly polished, and half of the games mechanics aren’t explained ANYWHERE. But the ambition of this game is striking, even if it does appear to be just another zombie game. I’ve put in about 10 hours with it and I think it’s one of the top games of the year so far. FAR, FAR better than The Last of Us.
Also, Hotline Miami on PSN. Phenomenal, transgressive, upsetting game.
I love the sealed play on Magic 2014. It really does kind of capture that sense of playing Magic early on when you just have a small set of cards and you’re trying to do the best you can with it. I haven’t really tried the other modes, but so far it seems like it’s an improvement over the past two editions in general. Except that I wish you could speed it up. Playing a game involves far too much staring at cards floating around the table.
Rivals for Catan is pretty good…I’ll cover it and Agricola next week.
On the Comics Rack
At Andy’s suggestion, I decided to read Alan Moore’s run on Supreme this week. I had never read it, assuming that even Alan Moore could not salvage Rob Liefeld bullshit. In fact, I always wondered why Moore would work with such a talentless douchebag unless it was the ol’ “dumptruck full of money” argument. It turns out that Moore agreed to do the book provided that he could jettison all of the material from the previous books. And then he turned the whole thing into both a kind of apology for participating in making comics darker, grittier, and negative in the 1980s and a sprawling satire/parody/homage/tribute to DC’s Silver Age and in particular Superman.
What’s really interesting to me in terms of the art is that it’s FUCKING HORRIBLE when it’s depicting Supreme/Ethan Crane in the current time, typical Rob Liefeld-influenced anatomy disaster shit with a dreadful, shiny color palette and squinchy faces. But then, Supreme remembers events from his life as Silver Age comics drawn by Rick Veitch, and the art suddenly becomes AMAZING! I can’t help but think that Moore intended for this effect because the shift between tired-ass, ugly “Awesome Comics” art and these spot-on visual tributes is so extreme.
Some of it is hilarious- villains like Jack-a-Dandy and the Green Arrow stand-in “The Fisherman”. Some of it is head-spinning, 1990s Alan Moore reality bending stuff. Some of it is literally 1:1 transpositions of Superman stories, characters, and ideas. There’s a comic book writer, who I think is supposed to be Grant Morisson, that becomes an ever-expanding fractal. Tons of meta-jokes, references, and winking nods to comic book conventions and Silver Age zaniness.
There are parts of the run that are just amazing, like an issue where these obvious stand-ins of the Crypt Keeper, Old Witch, and the Vault Keeper show the JLA-surrogates what life will be like- in terms of COMIC BOOKS- in the years after the 1950s. The 1970s segment is brilliant, as these Golden Age heroes are shown things like racism and drug addiction. One of them says “I catch bank robbers, I don’t deal with social issues!” Seeing how comics- their real lives- become demoralizes them, and they’re _beaten_.
It’s a really compelling run, I think it may be the last really great thing Moore did in retrospect.
On the Screen
I found a bootleg CDR set of Thundarr the Barbarian at the Book Nook, I couldn’t resist it for $4.99 especially since the official Warner Bros. release is just a press-on-demand CDR set anyway. I had not watched these since I was little, when I was five I had no idea how Jack Kirby the show was- he did some of the character designs, and Alex Toth did the rest very inspired by Kirby. And the whole thing reeks of Kamandi the Last Boy.
I think it may have been the first post-apocalypse thing I ever saw.
Thundarr himself is awesome, I love how he doesn’t understand things like “Trains” and “movie posters” and Ariel has to always take a second to explain. I love that he hates magic and has this sort of arrogant, condescending demeanor about wizards.
Show is a real hoot. Oddly, River has zero interest in watching it. I bought the D&D cartoons off of Half.com yesterday, I want to see if he gets into those.
We may actually go to the movies this weekend to see Monsters University.
Still loving These New Puritans, I wish Spotify would get their new record. Touches all of the usual post-punk bases (The Fall, PiL, Gang of Four, Joy Division) but there’s hints of chamber music, military music, dancehall, and other elements. Great stuff.
I thought I’d take a listen to Kanye West’s new record “Yeezus” since critics are flipping out over it and Daft Punk is on it. It’s an interesting record, I really like the bare production and there’s some awesome arrangements on it. It’s hardly as aggressive or dark as Death Grips, but I guess for the most mainstream rapper in existence right now it’s pretty raw.
The problem is the lyrics. Kanye is a fucking AWFUL rapper. I do not give a fucking shit who he is fucking, what consumer products he owns, or whether or not he gets his croissants. I don’t mind the outrageous ego, I actually think that’s kind of fun. I like some of the more pointed social messages like those in “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead”, but most of his lyrics are just stupidly vulgar, crude, and not particularly interesting at all.
So instead, I’m just going to go back and listen to the Eric B. and Rakim records.