“Hey, this game is pretty good.” Michael Barnes, from Barnestorming #25.
On the Table
Good superhero games are practically nonexistent, despite what the estranged Maka would tell us about Marvel Heroes. I’ve still not played Capes and Cowls, even though noted F:AT villain and beloved parade-rainer MJL1983 sent me a CD with the scans of the game on it. But Sentinels of the Multiverse almost gets it right, and without licensed characters to boot. It’s got a great look and feel, and the designers obviously put a lot of heart into not only the concept of the game but also the backstories of all the characters and the world they inhabit. It’s very well done.
The rules are sloppy, there are some goofs that are likely first-time publisher/designer fumbles, and it actually needs you to co-opt some heart counters from a FFG game. But it’s fun, the action is great, and it feels like a proper comic book game. Review is…surprise…at Gameshark.com.
I’ve also got a new article up at Worthpoint.com about 3M’s Bookshelf games. Hopefully antiques dealers won’t read it and get wise to the fact that an old copy of Acquire is worth more than five bucks.
I’ve been playing Blood Bowl Team Manager a lot. Both solo and with a friend that I used to play 40K with like 15 years ago that resurfaced out of nowhere. I love it. I’ll review it next week, but so far it’s the best game of the Fall. I almost think they should have just done an NFL game with the system- it’s a sports game first and foremost.
I’ve also got Cave Evil, Fleet Captains, and A Few Acres of Snow (which I _always_ call “For a Few Acres of Snow”) on the docket. Man, 2011 is like the best year for games in a long time. So much great stuff has come out.
On the Consoles
People used to always tell me “Barnes, you’ve got to play God Hand”. The 2006 Shinji Mikami game for PS2 is now out onPSN for ten bucks. I bought it, and I FUCKING LOVE IT. It’s a pretty crude, sloppy brawler…but it’s also FUCKING BRILLIANT. The combo system is probably the best ever because you can customize your attacks. There are a couple of factors to consider, including speed, range, damage, effects like juggling or knockback, and how it chains into another strike. Then there’s this INSANE roulette wheel combo where you have a timer that pops up and you’ve got a second or two to select a power move or- oops- “grovel”. Funny enough, it’s almost exactly the same system as in the old Data East Tag Team Wrestling. Incredible game. 10/10.
Reviews I’m working on right now are Sideway: New York on PSN and Ace Combat: Assault Horizon. The short versions are that Sideway is yet another quirky 2-D platformer, but this time with an urban/hip hop style. Not very good, overall, but it has that cool 2D characters in a 3D environment thing like Super Paper Mario. Ace Combat:AH is fun- the jets look better than ever, and they’ve taken more than a couple of pages from the Call of Duty playbook so it’s all modern, gritty, and not very Japanese at all.
I should finally have Forza 4 today. I want my damn tire gauge that’s supposed to come with the review copy.
On the Phone
Steambirds, a flash game, is on IOS now and it’s free albeit with dating site advertisements. It’s a neat turn-based dogfighting game. You have a sort of draggable movement ruler that gives you a certain turn radius and you automatically shoot at anything that gets in front of you. There’s a lot of powerups, extra planes, and whatnot. It’s pretty neat, it sort of reminds me of Wings of War and I wouldn’t be surprised if the designers had that in mind.
I also reviewed Dark Meadow over at NoHS. It’s OK. It’s kind of a spooky version of Infinity Blade.
On the Screen
I actually watched a current network show! American Horror Story. It’s…very unusual. It’s doomed to fail and I can’t see it lasting through the season, but it’s surprisingly dense and dark for TV. Particularly since the folks that created Glee did this.
What I like a lot about the show is that it’s definitely more in line with the kinds of horror that were more common in the 1960s and early 1970s- very understated, with the focus being on very human psychological frailty and fracture. Except when it goes over the top, which it frequently does, and then it’s all strobe effects and choppy editing. But when it works, it has a slow-burn creep-out vibe similar to Polanski’s The Tenant. Jessica Lange’s character is straight out of a Polanski or maybe even a Lynch picture. Other pointed references seem to be Don’t Look Now, Burnt Offerings, Amityville Horror, and of course, The Shining.
What I don’t like is that it’s fairly disjointed, and there’s tons of edgy for edgy’s sake stuff in it. Such language, heavens. And two- count ‘em- masturbation scenes. Back to back. There’s definitely a sense of trying to hard to be transgressive.
I’ll be interested to see how this can be a series at all in terms of story, even if it tanks within six episodes which is what I expect to happen.
On the Doctor Who front, I’ve slowed down consumption somewhat. I can’t handle three episodes a night at this point. But I did watch the Sontaran Strategy two-parter last night that was fun. Now I see what you guys were saying about Donna- I get the point of her character now, and it has been interesting to watch her change as she’s exposed to more of the Doctor’s world. It’s interesting how _humbled_ she’s become, a very compelling character arc.
“Midnight” was a good one too, very Playhouse 90 and actually pretty scary. When Who does horror, it’s almost always a class act.
Warning- this section contains material of a diabolical nature. In order to avoid offending the deeply religious, I have to warn you that deviltry abounds. So Tom Vasel and JonJacob, you might want to drop out here.
Black Sabbath are a rip off.
Wait, hear me out. I love them too, don’t get mad. But here’s the deal. I was looking for a record by this pretty obscure thrash act called Coven. They did this _amazing_ song called McDonaldland Massacre circa 1987 or 1988. It’s very crossover, similar to the stuff DRI and other hardcore bands playing with metal were doing at the time. Spotify didn’t have it, but instead I found another band called Coven, out of Chicago. The album is called “Witchcraft Reaps Souls and Destroys Minds”. It’s from 1968.
I had read about this record many years ago in a book that cited it as the first “Satanic” rock record, with overt lyrics about the occult, devil worship, magic, and witchcraft. I made a mental note to look for it in the used record bins but the one time I found a copy it was like $200. I filed it away, and then thanks to the magic of Spotify…I finally got to hear it.
It’s basically Jefferson Airplane goes to hell. Psychedelic, San Francisco-style rock typical of the era. The singer is Jinx Dawson, and she’s actually really damn good in that throaty, Grace Slick kind of way. The songs are, in fact, all about the devil, witches, worshipping the devil, and being a witch. So it’s awesome in a Halloweeny kind of way, and I think calling this the first goth rock record is totally appropriate and justified.
Where it gets more interesting is that it also contains what is purported to be the first recording of a so-called Black Mass, and in fact it appears that their version of it predates the hokey thing that LaVey came up with in the late 1960s. It’s about 12 minutes long, and it’s full of spooky Latin and hilarious phrases like “kiss the goat!”. It’s apparently a mish-mash of stuff cribbed from a couple of sources including Dennis Wheatley novels. I’m not a devil worshipper, so I find this stuff fascinating and funny at the same time. Coven are apparently also credited with creating the ubiquitious devil-horn salute (not Dio, contrary to what he stated), for being the first to use the upside down crosses, and there definitely isn’t a rockrecord I know of before it where “hail Satan” is said.
But now, where it REALLY gets interesting is that the first track is titled “Black Sabbath” and the bass player’s name is…wait for it…Oz Osborne. You can’t tell me all of that is a coincidence, especially when the Coven record predates Black Sabbath...I bet somehow Ozzy and Tony got a hold of this record in '68-'69 when they were whipping up their band...
Anyway, diabolical accusations aside…Jinx Dawson went on to record the theme song from Billy Jack (“One Tin Soldier”), Coven did a couple of other records, and now she’s running a MySpace page where she’s dubbed herself the First Queen of Goth or something like that.
Thus ends your satanic music history lesson for this edition of Barnestorming.