On the Table
Super Motherload is almost there. It’s a simple, fun and appealing family game that just needs to get rowdy to put it in line with titles like Survive and Downfall of Pompeii. It has that unique concept, direct gameplay and a big fun factor. The deckbuilding is simple- it’s really more of a set collection thing- and plowing up the Martian turf to pick up rocks to buy new pilots is rewarding. But it has that passive-aggressive “I got it first” sense of competition that causes it to pull up short. All it would need were some kind of sabotage, random events or surprises of some kind and it could be on par. Nothing too fancy- wouldn’t want to muck it up with a bunch of stupid rules, 50 more tokens, three card decks and so forth. But it’s a good one as it stands- maybe for kids 8 and up on it, mine are a little too small for it.
I _finally_ have my hands on Super Fantasy. Played a solo game last night and it ROCKS. It’s easily the best dungeon crawl since Drizzt but man, is it 1995 in the production department. As in really crappy. That said, I flipped the box and saw “Made in Italy” instead of “Made in China” and suddenly I was OK with the not-FFG-quality. Really looking forward to digging into this one more both solo and with some friends…the AI rules are no-nonsense, the levelling mechanic is simple and the way it handles power recharges is genius. AND it has an amazing dice pool based system where you choose how many dice you want to roll out of six to do something with target numbers being either a defense rating or a six to complete a task like busting a barrel. And you might want to bank dice to roll for defense on the monster turn.
I’ve been playing Shadows of Malice, which is NOT a Kickstarter game- the guy that designed it did it the old fashioned way. It’s reeeeeeeally interesting. I don’t know for sure, but I kind of think this guy has very little experience in hobby games. Like, maybe he’s played Magic, D&D and Arkham Horror. There’s a naiveté to the game that I am in love with. It’s almost like playing some lost game from 1978…it’s clumsy and there are some almost baffling design choices like this bizarre “XD*” mechanic that is somehow really complicated to explain…but it’s really just a coin flip. And there are actual tokens for flipping in the game if you don’t want to do the die roll. But there’s something here, definitely…and there are at least two GENIUS ideas in it- a random monster generator and a banding mechanic that actually works and fosters genuine cooperation and collusion in the battles. More on this one later.
Still playing Rune Age, both solo and with a friend…gosh, I really like this game now. Maybe enough to keep it, even. Had an incredible Runewars scenario the other day with my pal, he was the ersatz Chaos faction and I was the humans. He just completely hammered me for the first 3/4ths of the game, using those abilities to wound units for bonuses. But he sort of lost the rhythm and wound up over-exhausting himself. So in the space of like three turns, I came back from a 12 point deficit and he paid the ultimate price for his foolishness.
On the Consoles
Codename Steam will be added to the pile tomorrow. I don’t like the steampunk business, but I do like Intelligent Systems, Nintendo, turn-based strategy, and the notion that the Cowardly Lion and Randolph Carter team up with Abe Lincoln and Tom Sawyer. Reviews are mixed, but it looks like one of those marginal cases that might turn out to be a favorite.
If you are a Kecha Wacha (kind of a giant baboon/elephant thing), beware. I will murder you and make pants from your ears. Seriously, I have mastered hunting those things in MH4U to a startling degree. The game is just incredible, but man, it really is work sometimes. Figure out what you need to do or what you need to make/upgrade something. Go to the storage chest and do some item combining to make traps, potions and so forth. Go eat something. Then get the quest. Go on the quest, stopping to fish or harvest some honey. Oh, there’s the monster- fight it for 15 minutes. Then you go back, sort through your findings, then to the smith to make some stuff, repeat. It is SUPER GRINDY but that’s part of what makes it so addicting.
And god damn it, when a THIRD monster shows up…
Haven’t even touched it. I’ve actually been pocketing the 3DSXL around lately.
On the Screen
Alright, so I am in a full-blown Japanimation rediscovery binge. I’ll call it “anime” if I must, only because it’s shorter. But it’s still Japanimation to me.
Fun story. Back when it was called Japanimation by everyone and there was almost nothing available here, a friend of mine at the time found this Kroger grocery store that had a video rental (remember those). For reasons unknown, they had like, all 20 VHS Japanimation titles that were available at the time (this was like 1990/1991). Old Streamline Pictures stuff, some of the really cruddy American dubs that were edited to pieces, all of those old Bubblegum Crisis VHS tapes that were like $90 to buy. Not only that, they also had these on a big display with a bunch of posters and photocopied pictures from Japanese fan magazines. So I guess somebody there was a fan. Anyway, that’s where I cut my Japanimation teeth beyond the stuff I watched when I was a kid (Gatchaman, Star Blazers, Robotech, Tranzor-Z/Mazinger, Speed Racer, etc.).
One of those early titles was Fist of the North Star…I’ve been watching the TV series and enjoying it, but I had not seen the film in literally 20 years. Good god, what a ridiculous piece of cinema. It is EXACTLY how I remember it, I was just busting out laughing remembering seeing this INSANE movie when I was 15, friends all gasping when the dude’s arms get ripped off and so forth. It actually holds up pretty well as a piece of gonzo filmmaking, and at the time I didn’t really catch how it had a lot of influence of Leone, if only by way of Mad Max. It’s actually pretty bad, overall- lots of dudes standing around talking about how they’re going to beat each other up, then a fight, and more standing around talking about who beat up who. It’s actually very much like Dragonball Z.
I also watched a more recent film, Redline…sort of a futuristic racing thing done by Madhouse. The first 15 minutes were awesome, very clearly Metal Hurlant influenced and with a really cool, heavy line style. But after that quarter of an hour, I started losing interest. I also watched Satoishi Kon’s Paprika, which was alright but not as good as some of his other stuff. Both films had that YOU ARE WATCHING ANIMATION sense of showboating that I find incredibly annoying. That works, like in Redline, for 15 minutes. But it doesn’t support a feature. The really great animation films do not go over the top to remind the viewer that WHAT YOU ARE SEEING IS ANIMATION.
I’m actually really liking Death Note, it’s a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. It sort of crosses between “wah, I’m an angry kid that hates everything” and a more focused (and dangerous) Travis Bickle sense of Machiavellian righteousness. But then there’s this whole investigation/police procedural angle happening. And a supernatural thing going on too. I thought this show was going to be dumb, but now I’m like 10 episodes in and will watch it again tonight.
Parasyte is pretty interesting too. It’s definitely body horror and it totally trucks in some Cronenbergian material. But it also goes haywire into some extreme, Resident Evil-style body dysmorphism (with a touch of The Thing) when these weird organisms eat their hosts’ brains and turn them into blobby monsters with split-apart faces. But then the main character is host to a parasite that screwed up and just made it into his arm, which leads to some Evil Dead-inspired hand angst. But with a hand that has eyes and teeth and talks.
All I want to listen to is Sparks. It has begun.