Here's a DOUBLE FEATURE since last week's wouldn't post.
On the Table
I was going to review Temple of Elemental Evil this week, but instead it’s going to be Seekers of a Hidden Light. This is the expansion to Shadows of Malice, one of 2015’s best games to date. And lo, this expansion is a must have. At least if you’ve played the base game enough to be comfortable with adding in a simple yet impactful questing mechanic. It’s cool, almost understated and yes it could have been in the box on day one. But it actually shouldn’t have been, and I think the right choice was for Mr. Felli to separate this part of the rules. I love that it adds no new treasures, monsters, avatar masteries, fate cards or potions. There’s already enough in the base game. Instead it gives you something completely new but also completely congruous with the system. Review at No High Scores.
Back during the Ameritrash Wars at BGG, one of the more fun exchanges I had was with one Dominic Crapuchettes over something to do with Twilight Imperium. He’s a good guy and he had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. He had, at the time, just published Wits and Wagers so he sent me a copy with a hand-written UFO expansion. This time out, he sent me a copy of the 2nd edition of his new game Evolution with some very nice swag (T-shirts!) and his bold-faced bribery paid off because I’ve given Evolution the No High Scores High Score award. Mostly because it’s actually a really, really good card game that completely matches up with what I expect from a THEMATIC game. Because this game is very THEMATIC. It completely sells its theme of evolution by creating, essentially, a unique biosphere each game in which species must adapt to current conditions, food availability, other species’ impact on the environment and also other players’ personalities and strategies.
It’s a terrifyingly smart design that packs a wallop- but with minimal rules. It’s hardly a “micro-game”, it’s very much a full bodied, medium weight card game. The depth is surprising, the gameplay always compelling. It’s become one of the better card games I’ve played in recent years and I’m really interested in seeing what goes on with the Flight expansion. Review at No High Scores.
Next week is going to be Temple of Elemental Evil. The short version is that it’s great but also disappointing.
Review pile is building…Spartacus and Sons of Anarchy expansions…Lift-Off, which looks like a fun and slightly advanced Survive! Style design…The new Tigris and Euphrates…
On the Consoles
Splatoon is magical. As in, Nintendo EAD at the top of their game magical. It’s a brilliant, bold and utterly innovative FPS that is a riot of colorful, family-friendly fun. The setting is bizarre in that classic video games way you remember games from the 80s and 90s, the gameplay is unique (and non-violent) and the single player is almost as good as the multiplayer. You’re a squid kid (“Inkling”) and you get duded up in “fresh” clothes and gear to do battle with either these tentacle aliens or in the MP arenas. You carry a weapon that slathers everything in neon ink- paint rollers, super soakers, a replica NES Zapper, etc.
There is no chat, thank god, so that the game doesn’t turn into an open sewer. The social interaction that is there is mostly by way of MiiVerse posts. When you log on, you’re in a plaza where you can see other players’ Inklings in all of their finery. People draw all kinds of sometimes laugh-out-loud funny stuff and you can even see some stuff drawn by little kids. I actually take the time to go look at this stuff and see what everyone is wearing. You can order clothes from this suspicious, drug-dealer like Sea Urchin in an alley or buy at the retail shops.
It’s all very strange, but it works perfectly. It feels like you are playing a game from another planet, maybe where kids still grow up on Double Dare instead of GTA5.
But it does have some of the usual Nintendo frustrations, rough points where they just kind of don’t get it…like how you can’t just select maps, they’re on a random rotation of two every four hours. And then you have to watch this cutscene where the two “hosts”, these adorable squid girls, tell you what’s next. Which is kind of cool…but you should be able to skip it. Let alone to just play the levels you want.
The single player is VERY inspired by Super Mario Galaxy. So that is definitely a complement. It may also be inspired by Super Mario Sunshine, which is a complement if your name is Black Barney.
Brilliant game, up there with Bloodborne for GOTY.
Back into Diablo III, I didn’t finish the Act V content last go-around so I’m that, Crusadering it up at level 65. Game is so freaking good, I forgot how great it is.
Also playing a bunch of F-Zero…the original SNES game (which is just as good today as it was almost 25 years ago) and GP Legend, one of the GBA titles. It’s really good too, it adds a dopey storyline and some variety in the races…not much, but some.
There just aren’t any racing games quite like F-Zero…despite Nintendo’s efforts to sort of shoehorn in some F-Zero in MK8, it still just doesn’t have that Mode 7 feeling, those >90 degree corners and so forth. Love this series, hope they get back to it some day.
I actually played a card game OTHER THAN Hearthstone…it’s this new one called Earthcore that’s gotten good reviews. It’s actually quite interesting, offering a very different approach that kind of reminds me a little of Blue Moon. There are three slots on each side. Each turn you play a card into a slot and if one of the cards you have on your side has an ability, you can use one. It works on an elemental RPS system (fire beats earth beats water beats fire), so whoever has the “trump” element wins that sector. If both sides have the same, it’s deadlocked. But here’s where it gets interesting. The cards you play don’t have attack/body or anything like that. They have a Risk value. The higher Risk value cards tend to have more powerful abilities. And if you lose a fight with a card, the damage you take is equivalent to the Risk on YOUR card. So that’s a cool concept.
It’s fairly high quality and one thing it has over Hearthstone is that there are quite a lot of ways to play it- multiple ladders, a full campaign, etc. I don’t know if I’ll get invested in it like I am with Hearthstone and probably won’t spend a dime on it (I really don’t like how it does Legendaries at all), but it might be a fun alternative when there’s no quests or I’m on the tilt.
On the Comics Rack
Re-reading Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. God, I love it. Might try to read High Society again next. In the mood for something long-term.
On the Screen
Now that we are living AFR (After Fury Road), I thought I would rewatch the original Mad Max pictures. Not that I don’t have them practically committed to memory, but a refresher was in order. You know what’s really amazing? Watching these 30+ year old movies, I’m seeing stuff that I saw just last week in a new movie. The style between all four films is so consistent, so much rhymes between each movie but without directly referencing or calling back to the past iterations.
Mad Max remains a great revenge picture, even though the full-on Millerpocalypse wasn’t really a part of the film. Yet so many elements that you see in the next three films are there- like having the main bad guy riding around like some kind of Feudal lord. Tremendous, low-budget action with one foot in the grindhouse and one foot in the arthouse.
Road Warrior, what more needs to be said. One of the Great Films. Opens with one of the best-filmed action sequences of all time. I saw it in the theater when I was six, and it’s really amazing how so much of that film stuck with me…little details like how the Gyro Captain pulls out that big stupid wooden spoon when the dog is eating- I love that part, it’s such a classic cartoon moment. But I remember being six and thinking about sticking that spoon in the can and what it would be like to eat dog food off it. Something in this viewing that resonated a little differently, another subtle detail, was Humungus’s nasty cranium. There really has never been much “mutant” stuff in Mad Max (that was all added by folks later), but there’s a little suggestion that something is drastically, physically wrong with him. And in Fury Road, we see that idea brought to fruition.
Thunderdome is still great, haters go away. I love the Peter Pan references. Tina Turner is AMAZING (“ I SAY THAT THIS MAN HAS BROKENTHELAW.” Master’s tragedy. The “Gulag”. The lost children relating their oral history of the apocalypse. Iron Bar. The awesome chase at the end. Here again, certain textures, themes and ideas resonant in Fury Road, making all of these films in a way feel like iterations of a primary concept.
My wife has been binge-watching Mad Men so I’ve seen a chunk of that lately. I really like the workplace stuff, all of the material about the ad agency. Love the clothes, love the style. I kind of hate everything else. Once they’re out of the office, the show sucks and feels like watching boring soap opera crap for adults. As Josh Look would say, it would probably be more interesting if it were on a spaceship.
Dictators, Tuff Darts, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Dead Boys, New York Dolls, D-Generation, Heartbreakers, Television…obviously in a New York state of mind.
I bought the Dictators first record many years ago and thought it was just silly rock and roll…I didn’t really see why they were kind of venerated as a punk rock “best kept secret”. Well, many years on, they are still just silly rock and roll but now I get it. Coming out in 1975, it isn’t hard to see where this record in some ways prefigures the Ramones- simple, 1960s pop-influenced rock music obsessed with things like b-movies, girls, cars and hamburgers. I’ve been listening to everything up through Blood Brothers and just totally digging it, great proto-punk stuff and it is kind of a shame in retrospect that they tend to be a band that is talked about more than listened to.
Never listened to Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom, Handsome Dick Manitoba’s post-Dictators band…but will remedy that soon.
Listening to the Dead Boys has put in mind of revisiting the Lords of the New Church catalog as well.