On the Table
Another Asmodee week, and there’s more on the way- review copies of Deus and the Claustrophobia expansion are on the way.
But this week, it’s Lords of Xidit. Definitely a New Euro, it takes the core “gather up dudes to meet critera” concept (Dudes in a Criteria?) of Lords of Waterdeep, but adds a PU&D element to it. With programmed, simultaneous action selection. It’s really neat. Very easy to play, quick-moving, and with a great scoring scheme- you get assessed on three metrics in a random order at the end of the game, come in last in any and you’re ELIMINATED. The game looks awesome, lots of great (but not overdone) plastics, very colorful. It’s a remake of Himalaya, a game I never played but now don’t feel like I’ve missed out.
Really good one. Review here.
Playing quite a bit of Galaxy Defenders. It’s kind of a mess in some ways (visually, it’s terrible) and it has a couple of things I really don’t like, but it is very much an evolution of the D&D Adventure System. The benefit is that it has more variety and flavor in how the AI triages movement. I really like how it has the “area” concept from D&DAS and uses that to measure everything except individual player moves. Lots of fun gear, great dice system…overall it’s a good one but I’m afraid its days are numbered with Imperial Assault on the horizon. But this may be the better game system- slimmer and shorter.
Kreta may be the first real disappointment of the Eurogames Reclamation Project. It’s fine. It’s easy to play. There’s a couple of neat things about it and I like that feta cheese is a resource. But in a world where Web of Power/China exists, this kind of light area control game needs to be superlative. It just kind of isn’t. It reminds me of games like Rattus, very light/card driven games where the scoring/tabulation feels like most of the game. I’ll give it another shot but my gang wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.
For about five minutes I had D&D Attack Wing in a shopping cart. Then I just said “no”. I’d rather just buy Camel Up.
On the Consoles
Like the first game, Bayonetta 2 is a masterpiece. The only negative about the game is that it doesn’t have that sense of WTF surprise that the first did. In the second game, you expect to fight a giant two-headed dragon with a giant upside down, marble baby head in its chest. You expect this game to go balls to the wall on every boss fight. It isn’t as stunning to see the game pull out all of the stops and reach its ecstatic heights of excess.
But with that said, I did not expect the Afterburner tribute.
I finished it and I feel like I’ve still got a lot more game to play. I haven’t even unlocked the Star Fox costume yet and I’ve got to do the Jeanne playthrough.
There have been some really awesome battles. I love that the bosses from the first game show up again. I love the big mech level. There’s a little more story and it borders on completely incomprehensible, but if you haven’t played the first you can expect it to completely cross over that border and become almost gibberish.
Some of the battles in this game are almost psychedelic…everything turned up to 11 all the time. Really should have been a 3D game. But that might have melted faces.
As for certain Canadian F:ATties who I will not name that decry these games as “button mashy”…it’s actually one of the most technical action games there is. It’s skill-based and rewards NOT just mashing buttons. Learn the move lists, the timings, proper evasion and different weapons in combination with each other and you can make a play for those Pure Platinum trophies. Yes, you can button mash through some or even most of the game. But you won’t do so WELL. And these are games about playing WELL.
GOTY 2014 beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the best game products on the market today- and it includes the first game too.
Bullet Hell frenzy continues. Found out that Castle of Shikigami was on IOS in a Japanese version, so I grabbed it. Such a weird one. But it has scraping/grazing, which I really like. I also picked up Danmaku Unlimited 2, which is really good and has some deeper mechanics. It has bonuses tied to how close you are to enemies when you exploded them, encouraging you to play WAY up the screen, and the scraping/grazing. The only thing I don’t like is that it has that generic “neon indie” look I don’t like. Another game from the same developer, Storm Strikers, is like that too. That one is incredibly difficult, even on easy. Pretty good.
The new Warhammer: Space Wolf thing is a huge disappointment. It looks great at first- sort of similar to Card Hunter, a card-driven tactical dungeon crawl with some deckbuilding elements. And a touch of XCOM. But then there are all of these currencies, paywalls, booster packs, pay to level up crap, combining cards to make better cards (which requires some kind of crafting materials that you- that’s right- have to buy). The whole litany of Free to Play bullshit is on display. It seems like there is a good design there, but the freemium model makes me completely disinterested in it. Deleted.
On the Comics Rack
I’m reading Jodorowsky’s Metabarons again because…
On the Screen
Jodorowsky’s Dune was on the Starz HD on demand service. I watched it. I really don’t even know what to say.
I’m completely blown away not necessarily by all of the pictures, storyboards, Foss/Giger/Moebius paintings, concepts, etc.- I’ve seen most of that stuff before. What blew me away was Jodorowsky himself. You might think from watching El Topo or Holy Mountain that the man is either a) a pretentious, arrogant “artiste”, b) some kind of lofty, soft-headed new age guru type or c) a certifiable lunatic. He’s none of the above. He’s very affable, extremely down-to-earth and very “spiritually intellectual”. Hearing him talk about conceiving Dune as a project that would change human consciousness instead of just being a “cool SF movie” really points out what is so terminally wrong with so much genre work in film, TV, movies and so forth.
Jodorowsky’s Dune was, for him, a massive spiritual and transcendent undertaking. He wanted to recruit “spiritual warriors” to make the film- which is why he refused to work with Douglas Trumbull. He chastised Pink Floyd for eating Big Macs instead of paying attention to what he felt was his life’s grand work, a sacred film that would impact the human psyche. His approach was almost like Andy Warhol’s factory, setting up a shop with the right people to make art happen. Sacred art. Filmmakers just do not think like that. They aren’t supposed to.
But he was NOT interested in just making a Dune adaptation. He very clearly states in the film that he was “raping” Herbert (“in a loving way”) to make HIS version of Dune. This is likely to offend literalists who want every literary adaptation to be a 1:1 transposition of the novel to the screen. But from what is shown in the film and what we know about Jodorowsky’s Dune…it likely would have been something bigger, more profound and more insane than anything Herbert could have conceived. It was to be an interpretation.
Opening shot- long take, travel through the entire universe. Camera passes a pirate vessel attacking a spice freighter, blue mélange spilling out into space. Paul Atreides conceived by a drop of blood. The planet Arrakis becomes a messiah for the entire galaxy. Magma and Pink Floyd on the soundtrack. Mick Jagger and David Carradine. Salvador Dali as the Padishah Emperor, being paid effectively $100,000 a minute because he would only do it if he could declare himself the highest paid actor in the business- and Jodorowsky agreed to limit him to 3-4 minutes of screen time, the remainder to be performed by a puppet decoy to ward off assassins.
The truth of it is that there was no way the film was ever going to be made for several reasons. They shopped it around to every studio with this massive book filled with the entire film in Moebius storyboards and all of the magnificent work that Foss and Giger put into it. No studio executive in 1975 would have EVER greenlit this film, at least not if they wanted to remain employed. It was druggy, sexual, and religious. Quite possibly impossible to film at the time, regardless of the subject matter and imagery.
But it is fun to think “what if”- it would have come before Star Wars. It might have hit at a certain cultural flashpoint. Or it could have been a tremendous disaster. The funny thing is- and this is brought up in the documentary- that an awful lot of ideas and concepts from that big Dune book wound up in a lot of other movies, including Star Wars.
I’mma get a little flakey here for some of you, but bear with me. I think that Jodorowsky’s Dune was one of those really rare moments where an artist latches on to something really deep-seated in the collective psyche and pulls out things- ideas- that for whatever cosmic reason HAVE to exist in our world, even if only as dreams or visions. I think that his ambition was not just to make a big, expensive science fiction film, but to tap into this universal current by using Dune almost as a divining tool.
I think for a second “man, why can’t someone just take that book and make this now”. But then I realize that it can’t be- it is truly an occult film, not a cult film. Its secrets are all locked away in this massive tome, with an AMAZING Chris Foss spaceship on the cover, that Jodorowsky still has. He sat down with Nicholas Windig Refn and went through the entire book with him, effectively showing him the movie. Refn says “it is awesome”. We are left to wonder.
But a lot of the Dune work- so much was done that it was literally about to shoot, all that needed to happen was to get money lined up, complete casting, hire crew and so on- wound up in Jodorowsky’s comics. Some of it is in The Incal. And really, a lot of it is in Metabarons. So we get a sort of consolation prize in those comics, “some” of Jodorowsky’s Dune but never the whole thing as he conceived in the 1970s. But others have and will catch pieces of it here and there, digging them out of the Aether.
Mostly The Pop Group. There’s a new comp out with some odds and ends on it, live stuff/Peel session type material.
The Pop Group are a great example of how Spotify and the internet have really changed how I listen to music. Back in the 1990s, I spent a STUPID amount of time and money looking for ANYTHING by The Pop Group. I couldn’t even find a copy of “Y”, their most widely circulated and most well-known album. I think I paid like $75 for a 12” of “She is Beyond Good and Evil” around 1998 or so. There was a CD reissue that I could never get a hold of because it was Japanese and it was impossible to order anywhere for under $100. In a sense, it was kind of cool that I had to search this band out, find their records and work to hear them. But it also really kind of sucked.
Now, I can listen to pretty much all of their records at any time. I’m deeply thankful, as a fan of music, for that. Sure, it’s not the same as finding that record in a crate at a record show, looking at the ephemera and all that…but the music is what really matters and now I can appreciate it more than I ever would have been able to back then.
The Pop Group, I wouldn’t really recommend to most of our constituents here at F:AT. It’s jagged, angular and really kind of unpleasant post-punk funk. It isn’t hard to see the influence of James Brown and other classic soul, but it’s filtered through agit-prop politics, abrasive vocals, noise and violence. It’s not party music, you can’t dance to it. But it has a bleakness and an intensity that is almost overwhelming. Great stuff, and very influential to everyone from the Minutemen to PiL to Fugazi to later punk/funk hybrids.