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Calendar Man – Week of 10/14

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This week marks the next salvo in the ongoing war between Activision’s toys and portal series Skylanders and Disney’s toys and portal series Disney Infinity. Skylanders SWAP Force features all new “normal” (non swappable) characters as well as a number of characters that let children dismember robots and squid pirates and then mash them back together in some sort of grotesque Frankenstinian parable of man’s audacity at playing God. It also features jumping. Disney’s response to this bold move is to sit back and wait, knowing full well that the day the release the first set of Star Wars toys, retail outlets the world over will be rent asunder. I do not have Skylanders SWAP Force, nor am I feeling the urge to fill my house with more figures, but once the PS4 drops, I’m pretty sure I”ll heed the call of plastic. When it comes to toys I have long since learned not to make predictions about me not buying things.

Valhalla Knights 3 drops for the Vita this week if you want a “gritty” RPG that lets you befriend female shopkeepers. I know that when I think gritty, I think of friendly shopkeepers. In the “games I never see anyone buy yet they keep making them” file we have a new Wipeout game as well as a new Cabela’s game.

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Circus Train Review

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Roll up! Roll up for the greatest show on earth! Who doesn’t love a circus? Well, now you get the chance to run your own in Circus Train. Not in the modern day, of course, with its annoying animal welfare laws and societal distaste for freak-show exhibits, but in depression-era America.

This is the second edition of this game. Both it and the original were published by the delightfully cheapskate yet innovative Victory Point Games. Except you wouldn’t know it if this was your first VPG title. In place of the flimsy counters and paper map of the original you’ve now got a mounted jigsaw board and chunky counters. They’re laser cut, so be prepared to wipe a lot of soot off your fingers for the first few games, but they’re worth it for the bargain basement price.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/7

Beyond Two Souls mocap

This week brings a big, heaping pile of EMOTIONS to your local game emporium with the release of David Cage’s new game, BEYOND: Two Souls.  I have no idea if it’s going to be any good, but I have it heading to me as we speak. I enjoyed Heavy Rain quite a bit even if it was a game that didn’t hold up when you peeked behind the curtain. The bigger release though comes on Saturday when Pokémon X and Pokémon Y come out. I didn’t play much of Pokemon Black 2 but I’m hella excited for X and Y. Experience share, y’all. Experience share.

In other JRPG news, Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness releases for the PS3. Disgaea is yet another game franchise that I just can’t get a handle on. It’s a wee bit too complicated for me. If dancing is more your thing, Just Dance 2014 releases this week for current gen platforms with a release for next gen systems coming later. I’ve always found that the Just Dance games were great for having fun but not so great for learning how to dance or having the game recognize what you were doing as dancing in any way, shape or form. If you haven’t played Super Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 6, Devil May Cry 4, Dead Rising 2 or Megaman 10, the Capcom Essentials (PS3, 360) release has got you covered. Not a bad deal for all of those games.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/30

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As summer tunes into fall, one’s thoughts turn to…basketball? Is that true? I have no idea when basketball season starts so I don’t know if NBA 2K14′s (360, PC, PS3) release this week coincides with anything. I also don’t care enough to look it up so there’s that. Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl is a remake of the first Etrian Odyssey only this time with an easier mode, which will certainly help those lulled into a false sense of security by Etrian Odyssey IV. It remains to be scene if the changes made to the series along the way will be missed by those jumping from IV to Millennium Girl. I’d pick it up but with Pokemon X/Y right around the corner, it seems like a silly financial decision. Also new for the 3DS this week is Rune Factory 4 which combines farming and monster taming because who doesn’t equate taming monsters with farming?

In other release news, rain hits the PS3 while Agarest: Generations of War and Haunted Memories hits the PC and the physical version of the Wii U Wind Waker is released.

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JtS/Brakketology Taking the Week Off

 

Sad Kitten

Unfortunately, no new JtS this week, as we all had commitments that kept us from getting together to do the show. Brandon and Bill will be back with a show next week. My status will depend on the how the rest of the big move goes. Since those acursed boxes won’t pack themselves, Brakketology is also taking the week off… pray for me.

Android: Netrunner – Creation and Control Review

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Android: Netrunner is a Living Card Game and that means lots of little expansion packs. Quite an alarming number of little expansion packs if you’re a relatively casual player of the game like I am. But this latest pack isn’t little: it’s big. It comes in a proper box and contains 165 cards: 3 copies each of 55 different ones. As a casual player I approve mightily.

Like all the expansion before it, the focus is squarely on one faction each for the corporation and runner players, in this case Haas-Bioroid and the Shapers respectively. That’s a bit more odd considering you get a lot more cards in this deck but there you go. The Shapers probably needed it as, despite their name, they’re probably the most shapeless, ill-defined faction so far. And I like Haas because I’m a former genetic engineer myself. So, again, I approve mightily.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/23

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GTA V left a pretty big hole in the release calendar, unless you like soccer and Scribblenauts, so there’s not a whole heck of a lot coming out this week. Those interested in picking up the HD remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker need only pick up a fancy Wii U bundle to do so. If you already have a Wii U, you can either download it already or wait until October to buy a physical copy.

If you like soccer, football, whatever, this is your week. You get to choose between PES 14 (PS3, 360) and FIFA 14 (360, PC, PS3). Decisions, decisions. For those who love superheroes and adjectives, Scribblenauts Unmasked (3DS, Wii U) gives you the opportunity to make your very own mopey Batman, zombie Superman or puce Green Lantern. I have no idea if any of those things are possible so don’t get mad at me if you can’t although “mopey Batman” is redundant.  In remake news, Shadow Warrior gets a release if you’ve been itching to return to that particular IP. Kalypso lets you rise as a Venetian in Rise of Venice, Garry has an incident in Day One: Garry’s Incident and aliens rage in Alien Rage.

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Hell’s Gate Review

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If you’re in the habit of picking through lists of board and video games about World War 2, you’ll see a lot of names you recognise from deeply-buried folk memories and history classes. Normandy and the Bulge, El Alamein and Monte Cassino, Stalingrad and Kursk. But there’s one battle which seems to attract considerably more interest from game designers than it does the general public: the Korsun Pocket. And that’s what Hell’s Gate is all about.

It has an interesting pedigree, this game. Originally designed by an university lecturer as a means of demonstrating the dynamics of encirclement operations in-class, it found its way into the academic literature and from there to Victory Point Games who’ve produced this lovely print. The soot-besmirched counters that result from their laser cutting process might bother some people, but there’s no doubting the durability of the thick card or the evocatively polar board art. You can almost hear the icy winds sweeping across the steppe as you play.

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/16

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This will be a good week if you’re looking forward to playing GTA V (PS3, 360) as it drops on Tuesday but it will be a bad week if you’re into intelligent discussion about GTA V as I’m sure it will be near impossible to find, drowned out in a sea of complaints that scores are too high, scores are too low, this person got paid, it’s not on PC and so on and so forth. I like Rockstar games, warts and all, so I’m happy to get back into the swing of things, even if not being able to rocket through the streets and leap tall buildings will make getting around more difficult and less fun.

In other news, Nintendo continues to show a complete and utter lack of respect of the Tuesday release date by dropping The Wonderful 101 on Sunday. MechWarrior Online goes “live” on Tuesday despite having been around for a year so strap in and unleash all your hellfire missiles in celebration. Infinity Blade III also releases this week but after having played the first two, I think I’ve swiped and dodged as many enemies as I can. The Infinity Blade games are very good looking but the repetitive nature just doesn’t do it for me. I wish they hadn’t canceled the ARPG they were building as that would have held my interest. I’m sure they’ll do just fine without my purchase.

Last week I forgot to mention that Card Hunter released. That was my bad. You should play it. It’s rad.

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Dear Esther: Down in the Deep

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Last week I found myself in a twitter conversation about Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs which lead on to the previous game from its developers, Dear Esther. I offered two statements about Dear Esther, first that it was full of faux-intellectualism and second that it wasn’t particularly “deep”, both of which my conversant challenged. I couldn’t really answer properly in 140 character bites, but I think there are some interesting enough questions around this to merit wider discussion.

First, let’s talk about Dear Esther. If you haven’t played it, it’s a first-person experience in which you wander around a small island, triggering a selection of different voice snippets that hang together into a maddeningly incomplete narrative. There’s no enemies, no puzzles and you’re largely on rails, although there are occasional opportunities for exploration. So that narrative, which draws from a very large selection of passages and is different on each play through, makes up much the game’s value.

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