Not as good as City of Remnants...
On the Table
Nate scooped me on Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia and said a lot of the same things I say in my review over at NHS, but let’s make it official.
It’s one of those good games that stops short of inspiring lasting, pervasive enthusiasm. There’s a couple of bothersome bits including, for me at least, the license. I think it’s a good-looking product and fans of Bioshock Infinite will definitely get their money’s worth, but it’s also a pretty cumbersome design that may put off those not expecting something more complex than Axis and Allies. Along with City of Remnants, it does cement Issac Vega’s name in my mind as a designer to watch and it’s certainly not an embarrassment to the prestige the Plaid Hat brand now carries. But it just didn’t register completely with me.
Brett Murrell was kind enough to send me the full Duel of Ages II line (along with the Master Set and the collector’s edition material) and I’ve gotten a couple of games in. It’s the real deal. If it had been released in 1982, we would likely have forgotten about Titan by now. There’s a lot of influences you can point to, including that game but also Gunslinger, Wiz-War, Talisman, and Cosmic Encounter. It’s vast and ridiculous. In my last game, my team included a gun nut survivalist that randomly drew a hunting rifle, a Bazooka, a satchel charge, a grenade launcher, and a chicken. The “Laugh” sign was definitely lit. And Clara Barton, who went on to become a contestant on an intergalactic dating show. She won. But later on, she was harried by Genghis Khan, who was hiding in a stand of trees outside my base and she went down, doing time in the enemy prison. Then a baseball player turned a wolf lose on Genghis, who flubbed his opfire shots on it. The wolf ate him.
I didn’t like the original game, but this one is smoother playing and refined. You have to roll with some of its quirks, but the trade off is that you really don’t own any other game quite like this.
I got that Romance of the Nine Empires thing Ken was talking about, I really don’t get the joke.
On the Consoles
Card Hunter, you must play this game. Seriously. It is absolutely great. I’ll review it officially in the next couple of weeks, but get in on it now. It’s free. And it’s not the kind of free that means stupid timers, buying banana dollars with real money, or anything like that. There are a couple of low paywalls, but they’re all to get to do optional things. I went in for the $25 “intro” pack or whatever because I wanted to be able to buy additional multiplayer teams- and also because I wanted to support this developer (Blue Manchu).
It is 100% a board game and a really well designed one at that. I would buy a print version of the game in a heartbeat, although it would undoubtedly be limited in its variety and there are actually some mechanics that would be a little fiddly in real life (like “discard your oldest card”). The campaign is really fun, the MP is outstanding and very challenging. Building characters with equipment, each piece of which gives you a “pod” of cards a la Star Wars LCG, allows for a lot of deckbuilding versatility. The art style is awesome, the old time D&D jokes are actually really funny. And there’s a kind of meta-story about the GM and his brother that’s well done.
I think I’m done with Kingdom Hearts…I got to Tarzan and my enthusiasm just waned, even for the Disney stuff.
On the Comics Rack
Almost done with the “Demon in a Bottle” run, last issue. I’ve been really kind of surprised at how subtly the alcoholism angle has been handled. For the eight or so issues leading up to the actual “Demon in a Bottle” issue, you see Tony maybe drinking a little bit too much and doing some rash things (like firing Jarvis), but it’s a creeping sense that something is going wrong than rather than an “OMG, superhero is a drunk” thing.” I can imagine reading it back when it was current and in serial issues and thinking “huh, he’s drinking again?” before hitting that great cover for #129 where he’s got the five o’clock shadow, staring into the mirror with the Iron Man helmet on the table and a bottle of liquor. Almost like realizing that someone close to you has a problem.
So I’ve really liked it, there was some fun superheroic stuff in it too like the big battle on Justin Hammer’s floating compound with all the goofy villians he’s been bankrolling. The whole thing with the accidental death of the ambassador was intriguing and a compelling tight spot for the character. Even the romantic subplot was decent. Overall, definitely a good book from the period and you can really see how it would influence other superhero writers in the coming years.
I love reading Marvel books from 1979-1980 or so…the ads just kill me because I remember every single one of them from when I was little. The Hostess fruit pie ones with Hulk and Spider-Man, the Hubba Bubba “gumfighting” one, Olympic “prizes or cash” offers, the Chiquita banana walkie-talkies, Shogun Warriors, Robert Bell’s Thor-look-a-like, Helen of Toy…
On the Screen
I caught up with a couple of last year’s Oscar bait pictures, Life of Pi and Argo.
Life of Pi was OK, I guess. I dunno. It was really pretty and it had a lot of messages that are very important to me. But it kind of felt like something they would have shown us in elementary school sometime around 1984, albeit with better visuals. Come to think of it, I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or a good thing. But I didn’t come out of it amazed or particularly inspired, maybe because some of what the film is trying to communicate are already values and ideas that are close to my heart.
Argo was also OK, I guess. Good performances, solid direction, nice period detail. But the drama wasn’t very gripping, I guess because the outcome is predetermined. There never really felt like there was much risk. I think that’s where some of the liberties taken with the facts came from, trying to interject some more tense, thrilling scenarios like the business in the marketplace. That scene also kind of had that Midnight Express “foreign people are weird and threatning” vibe, which was sort of odd to see in a current AAA Hollywood film. Disappointing that the Jack Kirby connection wasn’t really played up, but so it goes. I realized after I finished with it that it was the first time I have ever seen a Ben Affleck film in its entirety.
A couple of months back I commented in this space on Factory Floor, a UK three piece that out of nowhere has been doing old fashioned Chris and Cosey style proto-techno, almost with a second-stringer Wax Trax feel. They just put out a full-length on DFA and it’s really damn good if you like this kind of thing- lots of repetition, mysterious vocals, subtle changes, sunglasses-after-dark tone. Definitely not for everybody, but I like what these folks are doing. It’s the kind of music you imagine hearing at a NYC club circa 1985 or 1986.
Michael is a weekly columnist for Fortress: Ameritrash and one of our co-founders. He is a columnist for Gameshark and NoHighScores. He has two small dogs named Pixie and Posie that will bite your face off.
Click here for more articles by Michael Barnes.