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Knock-Knock Review

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Knock-Knock is the latest game from Russian developer Ice Pick Lodge. That may mean nothing to you: it meant nothing to me when I first downloaded the game. Some of their previous titles did chime a little as names I’d heard now and again – Pathologic or The Void. However I soon came to understand that for those more familiar with this studio and its titles, the name presages a unique combination of inventive gameplay and jarring oddness.

Almost everything you need to know about Knock-Knock can be gleaned from one brief anecdote. About halfway through the game I spent one level wandering aimlessly around a darkened house, turning on lights and began to grow pretty bored. Then I opened a door, walked through and found myself in a dank corridor which I had to wander up and down through a series of more doors before discovering I was back at the start of the tedious level again. Infuriated, I wanted to stop. But I kept on playing.

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Calendar Man – Week of 10/21

Finley

This is our new dog Finley. He’s a nine week old Corgi mix. Mom is purebred Corgi, dad is a terrier of some sort. I wanted to name him Chuck Finley, the name of Bruce Campbell’s undercover persona on Burn Notice but the family wouldn’t go for it. Finley was a nice compromise as I can call him Chuck Finley and everyone else can call him Finn if they so desired. He is very tiny and very adorable and very scared of Ruby, his 68 lb sister who thinks that it is the best thing in the world that she has a playmate, even if said playmate is smaller than her admittedly huge, cinder block head.

On the gaming side, this week is superhero heavy which is just fine by me even if I won’t get to either of the week’s big new releases in some time. First up is LEGO: Marvel. I quite enjoyed LEGO Batman 2, but I”m not sure if I want to play another LEGO game at the moment. They all tend to blur into one another so it’s important that I keep them separated by a significant amount of time. On the other side of the superhero universe, Batman: Arkham Origins comes out on Friday. If Arkham Origins ends up being 75% of the game that Arkham Asylum or Arkham City is, I’ll be happy. Again, I can’t say I’ll play it immediately, but if it’s good, I’ll play it. I understand that they have to have continuity with the voices and all that, and Troy Baker does a really impressive Joker but I do wish they could have let him go in whatever direction he wanted. John DiMaggio’s take on the voice in Batman: Under the Red Hood was great precisely because it wasn’t a take I would have expected.

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Runewars Review

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Fantasy wargames have a sad history of being far too much wargame and not enough fantasy, tired repetitions of stacking limits and zones of control but with dragons in place of Panzers. Adventure board games, in a similar vein, have always struggled with the inherent problems of making a genre that celebrates individual achievement and massive power differentials into an interactive, strategic form. Runewars seems like Fantasy Flight’s attempt to solve both these problems at one stroke.

Players pick a side, build a board and launch into a fast-paced cycle of season-based turns in an attempt to conquer as many dragon runes as possible. There are various routes for doing so. The time honoured method of annexing territory from your neighbours is one, and that’s your fantasy wargame. Slipping hero figures silently through the massed hordes of your opponents to fulfil quests in different territories is another, and there is your adventure game. Finally there are various events and auctions that can occasionally be manipulated to gain a rune and that’s pure Fantasy Flight, an uneasy but often brilliant mish-mash of old-time game theme with modern-style mechanics.

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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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