Barnestorming- Pocket Battles in Review, Mario Kart 8, Battleheart: Legacy, Alan Parsons Project

Barnestorming- Pocket Battles in Review, Mario Kart 8, Battleheart: Legacy, Alan Parsons Project Hot

Michael Barnes     
 
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Is that a Civil War in your pocket or...

On the Table

I finally got to play a Pocket Battles game, of course I got interested in them around the time they vanished from distribution and retail. But they’re back, and Z-Man sent me a copy of the new one, Union vs. Confederacy. I really like these little games and I really like how they fit in with what I hope is an emerging trend toward “microgames”. I have enough $80 boxes, thanks. I’m more interested right now in a $10-$15 game that outperforms an $80 one (like Star Realms, for example). If there’s one good thing that Kickstarter has done it’s that it seems to be driving publishers to look at alternatives like these. Of course, these games originally came out years ago, so they were kind of ahead of the trend. So was Small Box Games. Anyway, Pocket Battles review here.

The Eurogames Reclamation Project, first phase, continues. I think after I round up Alhambra (the big box), Wildlife Adventure, Manila, Thebes, Through the Desert and maybe a couple of others I’ll give it a rest. Last week brought in China, Elfenland and Modern Art.

BUT HARK, what package on yonder porch hath landed? Our very own Space Ghost has contributed to the Eurogames Reclamation Project, completely of his own volition! He sent over a copy of Mississippi Queen- a game I’ve never actually played but always wanted to. A Goldseiber classic and SDJ winner, thanks so much for that, Doug! Definitely on the list. And for the record, there is going to be a LONG series of Eurogame reviews and reminisces coming soon when we head into Phase 2. I’m still in the playing/rediscovery process here and thankfully my gang has been receptive to playing old stuff despite a couple of furrowed eyebrows. But I realized that a lot of these games came and went before I actually started writing so I’ve never really written a review of some of these 1990s games. And I’ll also be hitting some of the more recent games in this vein as well.

Now, somebody please send me a copy of the Black Rose expansion, thanks in advance.

God damn, China is great. I liked Web of Power, but China refines it just a touch. 45 minutes and it can be _brutal_ with three players. Lots of tough choices, invasions and upsets. I really don’t like the China artwork (possibly the dullest looking game ever), but it doesn’t matter. Got it cheap too, $15. Seems like Uberplay made a lot of ‘em.

Elfenland kind of flopped with my gang…which is funny, because it also did back in 1998 with my group back then. I’m not sure if I like it or hate it. There’s something about it that I _love_ but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It’s so old fashioned, it was really coming out right at that transition period where the classic German family games were being subsumed by the more “gamer’s games” kind of stuff.

The Mage Wars gang sent over Forged in Fire, and it looks like- you guessed it- yet another solid add-on with TONS more cards to play with. This time, it’s a Tome expansion so it’s alternate versions of existing casters. It looks great. Maybe next time they will send someone to play the game with me.

On the Consoles

Playing a terrifying amount of Mario Kart 8…no, I’m not “fire hopping”, I can’t even really figure out how to do it. This is definitely the best Mario Kart to date, the annoyances from MKWii are gone (no blue shell every 90 seconds for example) and it’s a cleaner, more challenging race than the DS versions. The antigravity stuff is kind of underplayed, but it’s fun and it doesn’t upend the fine balance, great control or pace of the races.

The playback thing is surprisingly fun, and I generally hate playback features. When I play with River and Scarlett (she can barely steer, but always wants to be Peach anyway) we always have to watch the playback. Sometimes it’s pretty hilarious.

All the whining about the Wii U not having games is at this point irrelevant. If no other games came out for it, it would still have a small but LASTING roster of games that I’ll still be interested in playing for years to come. I was thinking about it last night, we will likely still be playing this same copy of Mario Kart five years from now, when River is 9 and Scarlett is 7. I don’t think you could say that for AAA garbage like Watch_Dogs.

Can’t wait for Smash.

On IOS

Battleheart Legacy is awesome. Awesome, as in the best IOS RPG  I’ve played. It is, in some ways, the portable Diablo I’ve been wanting. It’s obviously smaller in scale and more contained, but there are definitely some elements there. The “buy any skill you want” thing is great, the battles are fun (and challenging) and the light questing is just right for the format. It looks great, controls great and has zero IAPs. Well worth five bucks. I think I’ve put like 5 hours into it, which is a lot for a mobile game. And I’m nowhere close to done with it.

I really wish that there would be an update to Fairy Tale. If the developers would clean up a couple of things like those annoying transition screens, it would be one of my favorite IOS card games.

On the Screen

A hodge-podge of watchin’ this week. Some original Trek- mostly first season stuff- Charlie X, The Man-Trap (love that one), Enemy Within…I’ve never actually watched The Cage so I’ll check that out this week.  A couple of Gargoyles episodes.  All three Indiana Jones pictures. Lilo & Stitch, which I did not realize had all of this sci-fi stuff in it.

Tried to watch The Lone Ranger. Literally five times. Every time I start it, I think “well, maybe this will actually be pretty good”. But then 20-30 minutes in, it never fails. I’m on the phone playing a game or checking mail, fiddling around with a board game, folding clothes or doing something else because I’ve totally lost interest.

The problem is that the whole film- at least from what I’ve seen- feels so awkward, confused and without a strong sense of direction. I would have thought that Verbinski, coming from Pirates and also Rango, would turn in a good Western adventure but I get a sense that he (and the screenwriters) had absolutely zero interest or investment in the The Lone Ranger, Tonto or anything to do with them.  The whole train robbery scene toward the beginning was more or less just an excuse to shoehorn in a cavalcade of Wild Bunch references- and nothing to do with the Lone Ranger.

But you know, come to find out, I really have zero interest or investment in the Lone Ranger myself. It’s almost like they tried to make a modern Howdy Doody movie or something, who cares except for aging baby boomers. My mom liked it. But my Mom is 68 and she liked the Lone Ranger when she was a kid.

On Spotify

OK, really weird one here. The kids were watching those Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs films (which I didn’t  like very much at all) but there was this scene where the scientist was presenting his food-from-water technology at like this World’s Fair-like expo. This song is played over it that sounds so ridiculously “THIS IS THE FUTURE” or “THIS IS SCIENCE” that I cracked up. It was of course a really familiar song, and I remembered hearing it also in sports highlight reels or something- not like I ever really watch sports highlight reels. I couldn’t think of what it was, and a little Googlely goo later I figured out that it was “Sirius” by the Alan Parsons Project. “Which I think was some kind of hovercraft”, as Homer Simpson said once.

So I actually listened to some Alan Parsons Project this week. The funny thing is, I also didn’t know that “Eye in the Sky” was one of their singles but that was one of those “mom’s car” classics from when I was 7-8 years old. The even funnier thing is that listening to these records (including that Edgar Allan Poe thing they did) is that some of it REALLY sounds like Daft Punk. Some of the electric piano and soft rock stylings sound very much like some of the stuff on “Random Access Memories”.

I dunno, I didn’t hate it…there’s some really nice stuff…but listening to it felt so…lame. And this is coming from someone that likes a ton of “lame” music.

This led into another weird, disconnected foray. I was thinking about those radio songs from when I was a kid and another was “Southern Nights”, that old Glen Campbell pop-country chestnut. Dug around, and found out that it was actually an Alain Touissant song. Which is REALLY freaking strange. It’s like this psychedelic R&B cut with really swampy, kind of creepy production. Not at all like the brassy hit single.

Then I headed toward ELO for reasons unknown. What is going on, I don’t know. Nothing a little Black Sabbath can’t cure, I’m sure.

Barnestorming- Pocket Battles in Review, Mario Kart 8, Battleheart: Legacy, Alan Parsons Project There Will Be Games
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