The latest game I covered on Shut Up & Sit Down is the second in the Band of Brothers series, Ghost Panzer. I passed on the first one because it sounded more than slightly unlikely: you don't get historically realistic tactics by making a game simpler. That's totally not going to work, except here, where it works beautifully. The only problem is that it's almost too accurate, forcing you to re-use the same strategic approach over and over again. But there's still plenty of tactics to puzzle over, and I was impressed enough by the game to pick up its predecessor, Screaming Eagles. Top work by the designer, Jim Krohn.
Played Kahuna for a pocketgamer review and given that I don't much care for either abstracts nor the era to which it belongs, was surprised to find I really liked it. The app has some very rough edges, such as lacking either a save or a hotseat facility, but I had lots of fun playing solitaire.
I also interviewed David Dunham, creator of King of Dragon Pass and the incredible Shenandoah strategy games. That made me want to play King of Dragaon Pass again. It's full of imponderables and unknowns, which is kind of hard to deal with if you're a board gamer, used to near-perfect information. But the narrative it spills out is so compelling and bizarre that you've just got to learn to go with the flow and see where it takes you.
I don't hear anyone talk about Adventure Time around these parts, but I imagine there are a few fans and you'll probably have heard about a new iOS game based on the franchise. It's pretty fun at first but watch out - while a paid app, it's structured to push IAP at you very hard indeed.The most egregious example is a slowly refilling energy meter: grinding is one thing, but when you have to pay again just because you want to keep on playing a game you already paid for I feel some sort of line has been crossed.
Interestingly I took the space strategy game Shifts for another spin and was shocked to find that had reverted to fremium too, with ads now popping up all over a game that I had - again - already paid for. It's getting a little scary that as consumers expect rock-bottom prices on the app store, these sorts of shitty contiunal-pay models are becoming the only thing that generates enough revenue to keep developers afloat.
I'm kind of leery about talking over what I've been playing on PC and Consoles of late, because I've started posting short rundowns over at NoHighScores and I don't want to turn this into another section of click through links. Go look there if you want to hear about that: I'm sure you know the address by now.
So instead I'll just flag up a of game I've been playing that I haven't got around to talking about yet: Teleglitch. I thought it was superb at first, a dizzying combination of brutal twin-stick shooter with a roguelike vibe and open-world style item crafting and exploration. And I still think it's very good it just ... takes a bit too long to die. For a game with such an unforgiving difficulty curve, taking 30 minutes to get through one of its ten levels means the devotion of significant chunks of time to progression once you get used to running the first couple. So learning the ropes on the deeper levels means a lot of repetition. Kind of a shame as it'd be a game of considerable genius otherwise.
Having avoided popular horror for a long time becuase I'd assumed it was a snakepit of talentless splatter-fests, I'm now rather enjoying working my way through some of the better Stephen King books. Latest was Salem's Lot which I enjoyed, kind of in spite of itself. The pacing is a little uneven and even a maestro like King struggles a bit to inject something fresh into the tired old traditional vampire genre, but he's got such an eye for detail and character and the nasty little hidden hooks that needle you just outside your imagnation that I couldn't help but to keep turning the pages.
What's that? Matt read a comic book? That's right. For the first time in about twenty years I cracked the spine on a physical comic book, after asking y'all for recommendations on graphic novels best read in real paper format. Sadly I didn't do my homework: I went for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's Black Dossier, in spite of knowing very little about the series as a whole, not realising it was more supposed to be a supporting sourcebook than an actual story. Unsurprisingly, I found it a little confusing, although I loved the colossal, exuberant literary theivery and genre-blending. But even if I had known what I was getting into I think that splitting up comic panels with so much plain text was a mistake: rather than telling mututally supportive narrative strands, it just felt really stop-start and piecemeal.
Films & TV
Liked World War Z more than I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting much. Delivered precisely nothing new to the various genres is pays homage to, but was taut and competently delivered nevertheless.
The big surprise in my recent film viewings was The Place Beyond the Pines, a movie I only ended up watching because I liked the cinematography on the trailer. I knew very little about it, but it felt like a big, powerful film about feuding and violence and the way tensions simmer down the generations. For all the plot revolved around something of a deus ex machina moment, the characters felt incredibly disturbingly, depressingly real, a vital snapshot of small town life making the sorts of decisions and having the sorts of conversations that take place in suburban homes the world over. Impressive.
Feels like a long time since I'd seen a really good sitcom and then two come along at once. House of Fools and Inside Number 9, both currently showing on BBC 2 weekknights. No idea if you can get them in the US, but do so if you can.
For no particular reason, the last few weeks has seen me going on a bit of a Smiths spree. There's not much to say about the Smiths that hasn't been said already, but I'm convinced much of their brilliance doesn't come from Morrissey's lyrics alone but the juxtaposition of his ditties of misery with Jonny Marr's jaunty, jangling guitar lines. At least I tell myself that, because Morrissey's public persona appears to be such an utter knob that I don't like to give him too much of the credit.
But here's one curious thing I've never quite worked out. I was a teenager when The Smiths were at the height of their powers, and heavily into the whole doom and gloom angle of 80's gothic rock so you'd have thought I would have been an absolute sucker for The Smiths. Many of my friends were. But I hated their music: it was too much like jangle-pop at a time I liked my music hard and heavy. Same goes for The Cure. However The Smiths have grown into one of my favourite bands with the passing of the years, but I still don't have any time for The Cure, even though I once served their lead singer in a garage. And he had his hair back-combed and his makeup on, even on an everyday trip out for petrol. Respect for that, even if his music sucks.