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Grand Theft Ukulele

gta v michael

No, I did not steal my ukulele, as the title of this post may imply. I bought my uke fair and square from the magical leprechaun that lives in the hollowed out oak tree on the edge of my property. I got a great price, but unfortunately all I can play is Danny Boy and if I go thirty minutes without playing, I bray like a donkey.

What I’m finding out as I navigate the twisted paths of musical incompetence, is that there’s a lot to learn when picking up an instrument, and if one isn’t careful, one can get lost in the weeds, spending more time deciding what to work on than actually working on it. Don’t get me started on watching YouTube videos. Man, it’s great that there are so many resources available for free lessons, but when you’re in the middle of watching your tenth video on chunking, you realize that at some point, you have to just start chunking yourself.

Thank heavens I have all of this open world gaming experience to fall back on.

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Android: Netrunner Wave 1 Data Packs Review


About the only major issue there was with FFGs reboot of Netrunner in the Living Card Game format was that the starter box encouraged deckbuilding but didn’t give you the tools to do it. Whether it was the somewhat mean choice to only supply one or two copies of powerful cards when the maximum was three, or the limited pool of cross-faction cards, it didn’t quite make the grade when it came to constructing your own decks.

But Living Card Games of course get boosters from time to time. Now the first ones are available for Netrunner labelled, rather curiously, as Trace Amount and What Lies Ahead. The names may appear rather meaningless. But I’m glad to say that between them they pretty much perfect Netrunner as a system.

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Cracked LCD- City of Remnants in Review


The new Plaid Hat Games title is City of Remnants, designed by Colby Dauch (Summoner Wars) and Isaac Vega (the upcoming Bioshock Infinite board game). I’ll cut right to it, this game is bad ass. Especially if you’re looking for a game that somehow magically combines a plot development/harvesting mechanic with a light dudes-on-a-map conflict game featuring massive die rolls and plenty of battle incentives across tight quarters. Call it Aggro-cola if you must, but this is an easier and far bloodier design. Oh, and to top off this delightful layer cake of a design, there’s also simple deckbuilding element with multi-function cards that have different values for each player.  There are a couple of unclear rules mostly owing more to its dynamism than a substandard rulebook, but on balance City of Remnants is poised to be one of the top games of the year. Continue Reading…

Aliens: Colonial Marines- Yes, It’s That Bad

 Aliens Colonial Marines


A copy of Gearbox’s (?) Aliens: Colonial Marines arrived at stately Barnes Manor yesterday.  I just had to load it up and give it the same chance I give every other game, despite the fact that it’s received absolutely scathing reviews from every publication except a 9.0 from an EGM reviewer that apparently either has no taste or really is one of those infamous, paid-off journalists. Before we get rolling, let me go ahead and state quite clearly that I am an Aliens fan. When I was four, I had the legendary Kenner Alien toy. When I was 11 years old, I saw Aliens in the theater and as soon as I got home I took my list of favorite movies off the door of my room, crossed off Big Trouble in Little China, and wrote “Aliens” in the #1 spot. So let’s head off those “well, he must not be a fan of the property” claims at the pass. Continue Reading…

On Tenors and Necromorphs


My time with Sly 4 lasted about as long as my time with my soprano ukulele, about a week. Sly 4 is a very good looking game and it has all of the things you would expect to see in a Sly Cooper game, had you played Sly 2 and/or Sly 3. Unfortunately, what it doesn’t have is any sense of forward momentum. This is a very well done game that does absolutely nothing to move the franchise forward. I’m not of the mind that every game has to redefine the genre or their respective series, but when I play the newest entry in a series, I can’t feel like I could have saved my time and money and just replayed an earlier game. Unfortunately for Sly 4, that’s exactly how I felt and once I hit a boss battle that was irritating me, I ditched it.

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So Sick of Your Excuses


It’s not uncommon for folks in the video games industry to say incredibly stupid things- the kinds of things that point out how clueless, in denial, and utterly corporate the business has become. Two recent items caught my eye and ire. One is a statement made by a Capcom executive during a 3Q shareholder call. The question was point blank- why did Resident Evil 6 miss its sale mark of 6 million copies sold, landing somewhere around 4.8 million? The response was typical corporate bullshit, saying absolutely nothing in a way that sounds important. There’s talk about analyzing causes, validation that 4.8 million sales indicates a popular title, and a bunch of unmitigated corporate  bullshit about how marketing and “internal operating frameworks” need to be examined to determine shortcomings (you can make your own “jackin’ off” gesture at home). The other is a comment made by Puzzle Clubhouse CEO Jesse Schell  (who?)  at last week’s DICE conference about how releasing a demo harms game sales, potentially halving them. He went on to explain that the best way to sell games is to release a trailer and provide the consumer with no possible way to try it before you buy it. Love you too, buddy. Continue Reading…

A Story about Stories

LA Noire cars

Over a year ago there was a small explosion of outrage in the twittersphere regarding a piece in Edge magazine claiming that games can’t tell stories. It’s old, you’ve probably seen it before but then again the same is true of most of my inspiration for these articles. I was exercised enough about it at the time to want to write about it but I had no suitable mouthpiece. Now that I have, it would seem remiss if I failed to get my thoughts down while still vaguely relevant.

At the time most of the commentary regarding the article focused on the fact that it was clearly nonsense. Philosopher and designer Chris Bateman made a point of collecting gaming anecdotes from people in order to refute it. I mean, seriously, who hasn’t been awed, shocked or enthused at one time or another by the plot of a game? Whether it’s the huge twist in Knights of the Old Republic or the big reveal in Halo we’ve all encountered points in a game with enough intensity to wedge themselves permanently into our memories. So what’s an experienced and respected games journalist doing posting such twaddle?

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Cracked LCD- Manhattan Project in Review


Minion Games’ Manhattan Project, designed by Brandon Tibbets, is a great-looking $40 title blessed with much better-than-usual visual style that works to sell its general theme of nuclear bomb-building. The mechanics are rather staid but inoffensive Eurogame fare, focusing on passive-aggressive worker placement and resource conversion processes. However, the game has the balls to let players go aggressive-aggressive and send in bombers to cripple the economic engines of others or deploy spies to hijack personal property. Make no mistake- although Manhattan Project is a very good and sometimes exceptional example of the post-Princes of Florence Eurogame style it’s also a game that doesn’t write player interaction out of the equation. Continue Reading…

Ukulele Hero


On Friday night I finished Assassin’s Creed III, hands down, the worst of the non-handheld Assassin’s Creed games and an absolute bucket of horse piss of a game, series pedigree notwithstanding. On Saturday I bought a ukulele. The two events are not unrelated but not in a “AC III was so bad that it drove me to renounce earthly possessions and go live in a hut” kind of way, more in a rethinking the hobby kind of way.

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Infiltration Review

infilatration box

Gaming is littered with quirky little titles that play bait and switch with gamers, masquerading as a style of game they don’t actually provide. It’s not a problem, as long as the game is fun. Indeed it adds to the novelty and charm of the title for the open minded. Dungeonquest, for example, looks like a role-play mimic but is in fact a push-your-luck title and a wonderfully brutal one at that.

Infiltration is equally deceptive. At first glance you would expect this to be a fairly straightforward cyberpunk adventure, where the players take the place of criminals attempting to loot a research facility for information before the police arrive based on a partly-random timer. Collect the most data, and get out before time is up, and you win.

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