Barnestorming- Seekers of a Hidden Light in Review, Evolution in Review, Splatoon

Barnestorming- Seekers of a Hidden Light in Review, Evolution in Review, Splatoon Hot

Michael Barnes     
4127   0

Here's a DOUBLE FEATURE since last week's wouldn't post.



On the Table

I was going to review Temple of Elemental Evil this week, but instead it’s going to be Seekers of a Hidden Light. This is the expansion to Shadows of Malice, one of 2015’s best games to date.  And lo, this expansion is a must have. At least if you’ve played the base game enough to be comfortable with adding in a simple yet impactful questing mechanic. It’s cool, almost understated and yes it could have been in the box on day one. But it actually shouldn’t have been, and I think the right choice was for Mr. Felli to separate this part of the rules. I love that it adds no new treasures, monsters, avatar masteries, fate cards or potions. There’s already enough in the base game. Instead it gives you something completely new but also completely congruous with the system. Review at No High Scores.


Back during the Ameritrash Wars at BGG, one of the more fun exchanges I had was with one Dominic Crapuchettes over something to do with Twilight Imperium. He’s a good guy and he had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. He had, at the time, just published Wits and Wagers so he sent me a copy with a hand-written UFO expansion. This time out, he sent me a copy of the 2nd edition of his new game Evolution with some very nice swag (T-shirts!) and his bold-faced bribery paid off because I’ve given Evolution the No High Scores High Score award. Mostly because it’s actually a really, really good card game that completely matches up with what I expect from a THEMATIC game. Because this game is very THEMATIC. It completely sells its theme of evolution by creating, essentially, a unique biosphere each game in which species must adapt to current conditions, food availability, other species’  impact on the environment and also other players’ personalities and strategies.


It’s a terrifyingly smart design that packs a wallop- but with minimal rules. It’s hardly a “micro-game”, it’s very much a full bodied, medium weight card game. The depth is surprising, the gameplay always compelling. It’s become one of the better card games I’ve played in recent years and I’m really interested in seeing what goes on with the Flight expansion. Review at No High Scores.


Next week is going to be Temple of Elemental Evil. The short version is that it’s great but also disappointing.


Review pile is building…Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy expansions…Lift-Off, which looks like a fun and slightly advanced Survive! Style design…The new Tigris and Euphrates…


On the Consoles


Splatoon is magical. As in, Nintendo EAD at the top of their game magical. It’s a brilliant, bold and utterly innovative FPS that is a riot of colorful, family-friendly fun. The setting is bizarre in that classic video games way you remember games from the 80s and 90s, the gameplay is unique (and non-violent) and the single player is almost as good as the multiplayer. You’re a squid kid (“Inkling”) and you get duded up in “fresh” clothes and gear to do battle with either these tentacle aliens or in the MP arenas. You carry a weapon that slathers everything in neon ink- paint rollers, super soakers, a replica NES Zapper, etc.


There is no chat, thank god, so that the game doesn’t turn into an open sewer. The social interaction that is there is mostly by way of MiiVerse posts. When you log on, you’re in a plaza where you can see other players’ Inklings in all of their finery. People draw all kinds of sometimes laugh-out-loud funny stuff and you can even see some stuff drawn by little kids. I actually take the time to go look at this stuff and see what everyone is wearing. You can order clothes from this suspicious, drug-dealer like Sea Urchin in an alley or buy at the retail shops.


It’s all very strange, but it works perfectly. It feels like you are playing a game from another planet, maybe where kids still grow up on Double Dare instead of GTA5.


But it does have some of the usual Nintendo frustrations, rough points where they just kind of don’t get it…like how you can’t just select maps, they’re on a random rotation of two every four hours. And then you have to watch this cutscene where the two “hosts”, these adorable squid girls, tell you what’s next. Which is kind of cool…but you should be able to skip it. Let alone to just play the levels you want.


The single player is VERY inspired by Super Mario Galaxy. So that is definitely a complement. It may also be inspired by Super Mario Sunshine, which  is a complement if your name is Black Barney.


Brilliant game, up there with Bloodborne for GOTY.


Back into Diablo III, I didn’t finish the Act V content last go-around so I’m that, Crusadering it up at level 65. Game is so freaking good, I forgot how great it is.


Also playing a bunch of F-Zero…the original SNES game (which is just as good today as it was almost 25 years ago) and GP Legend, one of the GBA titles. It’s really good too, it adds a dopey storyline and some variety in the races…not much, but some.


There just aren’t any racing games quite like F-Zero…despite Nintendo’s efforts to sort of shoehorn in some F-Zero in MK8, it still just doesn’t have that Mode 7 feeling, those >90 degree corners and so forth. Love this series, hope they get back to it some day.






I actually played a card game OTHER THAN Hearthstone…it’s this new one called Earthcore that’s gotten good reviews. It’s actually quite interesting, offering a very different approach that kind of reminds me a little of Blue Moon. There are three slots on each side. Each turn you play a card into a slot and if one of the cards you have on your side has an ability, you can use one. It works on an elemental  RPS system (fire beats earth beats water beats fire), so whoever has the “trump” element wins that sector. If both sides have the same, it’s deadlocked. But here’s where it gets interesting. The cards you play don’t have attack/body or anything like that. They have a Risk value. The higher Risk value cards tend to have more powerful abilities. And if you lose a fight with a card, the damage you take is equivalent to the Risk on YOUR card. So that’s a cool concept.


It’s fairly high quality and one thing it has over Hearthstone is that there are quite a lot of ways to play it- multiple ladders, a full campaign, etc. I don’t know if I’ll get invested in it like I am with Hearthstone and probably won’t spend a dime on it (I really don’t like how it does Legendaries at all), but it might be a fun alternative when there’s no quests or I’m on the tilt.


On the Comics Rack


Re-reading Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. God, I love it.  Might try to read High Society again next.  In the mood for something long-term.




On the Screen


Now that we are living AFR (After Fury Road), I thought I would rewatch the original Mad Max pictures. Not that I don’t have them practically committed to memory, but a refresher was in order. You know what’s really amazing? Watching these 30+ year old movies, I’m seeing stuff that I saw just last week in a new movie.  The style between all four films is so consistent, so much rhymes between each movie but without directly referencing or calling back to the past iterations.


Mad Max remains a great revenge picture, even though the full-on Millerpocalypse wasn’t really a part of the film. Yet so many elements that you see in the next three films are there- like having the main bad guy riding around like some kind of Feudal lord. Tremendous, low-budget action with one foot in the grindhouse and one foot in the arthouse.


Road Warrior, what more needs to be said. One of the Great Films. Opens with one of the best-filmed action sequences of all time.  I saw it in the theater when I was six, and it’s really amazing how so much of that film stuck with me…little details like how the Gyro Captain pulls out that big stupid wooden spoon when the dog is eating- I love that part, it’s such a classic cartoon moment. But I remember being six and thinking about sticking that spoon in the can and what it would be like to eat dog food off it. Something in this viewing that resonated a little differently, another subtle detail, was Humungus’s nasty cranium. There really has never been much “mutant” stuff in Mad Max (that was all added by folks later), but there’s a little suggestion that something is drastically, physically wrong with him. And in Fury Road, we see that idea brought to fruition.


Thunderdome is still great, haters go away. I love the Peter Pan references. Tina Turner is AMAZING (“ I SAY THAT THIS MAN HAS BROKENTHELAW.” Master’s tragedy.  The “Gulag”. The lost children relating their oral history of the apocalypse. Iron Bar. The awesome chase at the end. Here again, certain textures, themes and ideas resonant in Fury Road, making all of these films in a way feel like iterations of a primary concept.


My wife has been binge-watching Mad Men so I’ve seen a chunk of that lately. I really like the workplace stuff, all of the material about the ad agency. Love the clothes, love the style. I kind of hate everything else. Once they’re out of the office, the show sucks and feels like watching boring soap opera crap for adults. As Josh Look would say, it would probably be more interesting if it were on a spaceship.




On Spotify


Dictators, Tuff Darts, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Dead Boys, New York Dolls, D-Generation, Heartbreakers, Television…obviously in a New York state of mind.


I bought the Dictators first record many years ago and thought it was just silly rock and roll…I didn’t really see why they were kind of venerated as a punk rock “best kept secret”. Well, many years on, they are still just silly rock and roll but now I get it. Coming out in 1975, it isn’t hard to see where this record in some ways prefigures the Ramones- simple, 1960s pop-influenced rock music obsessed with things like b-movies, girls, cars and hamburgers.  I’ve been listening to everything up through Blood Brothers and just totally digging it, great proto-punk stuff and it is kind of a shame in retrospect that they tend to be a band that is talked about more than listened to.


Never listened to Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, Handsome Dick Manitoba’s post-Dictators band…but will remedy that soon.


Listening to the Dead Boys has put in mind of revisiting the Lords of the New Church catalog as well.


Barnestorming- Seekers of a Hidden Light in Review, Evolution in Review, Splatoon There Will Be Games
Log in to comment
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 12:25 by hotseatgames #203392
hotseatgames's Avatar
I'm sure I'll get Splatoon at some point. I feel like I should wait for Nintendo to make it a more complete package, once their free DLC is added and they patch it a few times.

If it had 4 player split it probably would already be on my shelf.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 13:13 by Michael Barnes #203396
Michael Barnes's Avatar
They already added a new level, ranked mode and the NES Zapper. And there's apparently more coming soon. I think there's easily $60 worth of game there already, I'm not even close to finishing single player and I'm only at level 9- haven't gotten into the Ranked games, which apparently are MUCH more tactical and focused on roles/weapons use.

I managed to get one of the Amiibo three packs so I have the challenge levels from those to go through as well. For about 30 minutes last Friday, I was an Amiibo tycoon. I happened to be in Target Friday morning and they had just put out the exclusive Jigglypuffs and the Splatoon stuff. I missed the wave 4 stock, which was apparently all bought by one person, so I didn't get the stupidly expensive on eBay Lucina. But I did number of Jigglypuffs. . I had a couple of the Splatoon three-packs. I scapled, I ain't ashamed...I flipped them all within MINUTES of posting them on eBay, $20 profit per. Right into the family vacation pot.

Don't wait too long...the Japanese are pretty much all already at level 20! Apparently it's selling really well there, doubled Wii U sales. Great news.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 13:21 by Shellhead #203398
Shellhead's Avatar
New York City had a great music scene in the mid-'70s. Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, the Ramones, Afrika Bambaataa. And disco, I suppose. And the city itself had this intense image of civilization on the brink. Times Square was unbelievably squalid, and there were gangs, freaks, punks, uncloseted homosexuals. Think Taxi Driver and The Warriors mashed together, with daily mayhem and the city going bankrupt and then sanitation workers going on strike, leaving piles of garbage everywhere.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 13:38 by Black Barney #203401
Black Barney's Avatar
I loved Sunshine!
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 16:55 by Grudunza #203411
Grudunza's Avatar
Ah, I think you hit on why I haven't been eager to watch Mad Men after more or less enjoying the first few episodes; I loved everything involving the ad creation and the office dynamics, but didn't care too much for the characters beyond that.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 17:32 by Michael Barnes #203415
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Yeah, there's a lot of really compelling stuff about what they do, how they work and how all of that reflects the culture of the time. Very fascinating material, especially since the show goes through the late 50s and through the 60s. All of the graphic design, copywriting, negotiation...good stuff!

But then it starts to get into the soapy adult sex drama junk...and all this stuff with Don's ex-wife, boring as hell...their outside lives have ZERO interest for me. Which is kind of strange, because I really don't care for office drama junk either. But because of those cultural elements, that part is interesting to me.

I still think Jon Hamm would have been a great Batman/Bruce Wayne.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 19:07 by mikecl #203417
mikecl's Avatar
Their boring outside lives are an important part of the whole mosaic this show weaves. The more episodes you watch, the more you'll see that. Don is a product of his times personally as well as professionally (and it goes well beyond the drinking and the whoring). The show is a brilliant rendition of its period. It's a little Seinfeldesque in the sense it seems to be a show about nothing or very little. There's never anything too dramatic going on (with some exceptions like an office suicide) but when you finish watching an episode, it leaves you with some human bit that makes you think, geez that was brilliant. It takes a few shows before the tapestry it weaves starts working on you, but this show is far more than the sum of its parts. If you give it time, you'll find it's Breaking Bad good.
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 20:42 by Gary Sax #203419
Gary Sax's Avatar
Evolution really looks fantastic!
Posted: 04 Jun 2015 21:41 by Shellhead #203421
Shellhead's Avatar
The first season of Mad Men was enough for me. I agree that the ad-related work was interesting, but the non-office stuff was excessively soapy.

This is the Mad Men show that I would rather watch:

Posted: 04 Jun 2015 22:12 by mikecl #203422
mikecl's Avatar
Shellhead wrote:
The first season of Mad Men was enough for me. I agree that the ad-related work was interesting, but the non-office stuff was excessively soapy.

This is the Mad Men show that I would rather watch:

I'm an ass man myself.
Posted: 05 Jun 2015 00:04 by Not Sure #203424
Not Sure's Avatar
Mad Men is just "bad things happen to bad people".

The twist is, everyone is a bad person. Eventually. All of them.

Handsome Dick Manitoba has a regular DJ slot on Sirius XM (except that he's out on the road with the Dictators right now). He has good taste.

Also, I'm still down with Thunderdome. A lot of the weird-world character shit that we're crazy for in Fury Road was straight out of that third movie. It really played up the supporting characters better than either of the first two.

"Ain't we a pair, raggedy man?"
Posted: 05 Jun 2015 08:19 by mikecl #203433
mikecl's Avatar
Not Sure wrote:
Mad Men is just "bad things happen to bad people".

The twist is, everyone is a bad person. Eventually. All of them.

You could say the same thing about most of Shakespeare.
Posted: 05 Jun 2015 13:06 by Black Barney #203442
Black Barney's Avatar
In this thread, Mad Men, an American period drama shown on cable network AMC, was compared to one Bill Shakespeare.
Posted: 07 Jun 2015 23:39 by mikecl #203479
mikecl's Avatar
Black Barney wrote:
In this thread, Mad Men, an American period drama shown on cable network AMC, was compared to one Bill Shakespeare.

Every thread should have an Emcee or better yet, a referee ... in this cawnah ... weighing in at 125 words ... although, Mad Men was not compared to Shakespeare so much as the pitfalls of plot simplifications were exposed.

But hey ... what's life without a little showmanship and pizzazz, not to mention razzmatazz .
Posted: 08 Jun 2015 08:17 by SuperflyTNT #203493
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
Temple of Elemetal Evil bombed at Origins. There were PILES at every vendor - Coolstuff had it for 45$ and was trying to dump them for 40$ by Sunday. I put a blue circular sticker on one of the boxes the on early Saturday to see if it would be sold...nope. Nobody bought it. I didn't buy it either because I wasn't sure that Wizards would send me a review copy, but apparently not.

So, no TEE for mee.
Posted: 08 Jun 2015 09:38 by Michael Barnes #203498
Michael Barnes's Avatar
I don't think it has anything to do with the quality of the product (which is really very high) or with D&DAS...I think it has more to do with the fact that the market is completely saturated with these kinds of games right now, especially the big $300 Kickstarter ones with 800 finely sculpted miniatures and whatnot. Back in 2010, 2011, 2012...that wasn't so much the case.

There is exponentially more redundancy, sameness and repetition in the games business today than their was when the whole Ameritrash thing was railing against those qualities in Eurogames. The kinds of mechanics are more repetitive than auctions ever were. "Thematic" games are more beat into the ground than oregano trading or whatever ever was.
Posted: 08 Jun 2015 14:59 by mikecl #203514
mikecl's Avatar
I bought TOEE after trading away Ravenloft years ago when it fell flat for me. This game is better, but not by a lot. Still you get your money's worth. The minis are well done and there's enough little decision points to say there's a game in the box, just not a terribly sophisticated, or for that matter, really challenging one.
Posted: 08 Jun 2015 16:48 by SuperflyTNT #203518
SuperflyTNT's Avatar
I look at it like this: It's an established system made by one of the biggest names out there, with huge marketing. Yet, despite all of these things in their favor and almost nothing interesting launching at Origins, they couldn't even give it away. 40$ for Temple of Elemental Evil? I mean, shit, that's cheaper than online.

Shit, I love the games and I probably won't buy it, despite it being my go-to for that kind of game.

Nope, this thing may tank harder than anyone would've expected it to, which is sad, because it means they won't make any more.
Posted: 08 Jun 2015 20:54 by wadenels #203522
wadenels's Avatar
It's also the 4th game in the system, so it's a bit of a known quantity. That's good, in some ways, but it doesn't jive with the current Kickstarter/preorder gamble that seems to be driving the most excitement recently. The Hotness is real.