Puzzle Games Saved my Basement

2013-07-17 14.18.49

That right there is a riser, a riser I built as part of finishing my basement. It is in my movie room so that those banished to the back row of seats can see over the heads of their betters, namely those important enough to be allowed to sit in the front row. It is roughly eight feet by eleven feet, a super fortified combination of plywood, two-by-sixes, two-by-fours, sweat, blood and gumption. It is very big. It is very heavy. It is not fun to move, something I can now attest to personally.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #184

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

First, apologies for the delay in posting. It’s been a full week. I blame Windows 8.1.

Right, anyway. Episode #184 brings us back-to-back weeks of the patented and trademarked Cackowski-Schnell and Brakke Hour of Power. This week Brandon discovers why he’s been playing Just Cause 2 all wrong and begins what will surely be a torrid love affair with Ni No Kuni who, herself, evidently has much wrath for a white witch of some kind. I dunno. Sounds kinda racist to me. (Was that too much? It felt like too much.) Meanwhile, I’m still ball’n in the land of NBA 2k13, but I do take a time out to ruin the lives of some incredibly brave, and not very bright, Kerbals as they try to get their fledgling space program off the ground. In the words of the all-powerful know-it-all, Yogurt, the kids’ll love this one.

Enjoy!

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Calendar Man – Week of 8/5

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Unlike the movie industry, which is ramping down their releases and dumping cast-off products into the month of August, Elysium being a notable exception, gaming is taking the opposite route as we march steadily towards the bountiful harvest of late-August/fall games. This week gives hack and slashers something to do in Dragon’s Crown (PS3 / Vita), provided you can get past character designs that make Rob Liefeld look like Leonardo Da Vinci. Pikmin 3 drops this week, an oasis of gaming in a desert of non-releases for the Wii U while the JRPG train continues on the PS3 with Tales of Xillia.

On the PC side, Divinity: Dragon Commander has dragons and jetpacks, a combination which should be airbrushed on vans the world over. Speaking of dragons, The Sims gets the Dragon Valley expansion, allowing you to release your inner Khaleesi. Guacamelee! also hits the PC if you’re into that sort of thing. Finally, Starbreeze, they of Payday, Escape from Butcher Bay and the original Darkness game release their new game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. You may remember this game from Microsoft’s E3 presentation in which they said they still totally care about the 360. Like, totally.

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Fable 2 and Gender Empathy – Part 2

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Editor’s Note: This is the follow-up to this piece regarding my time in Albion as a woman. This one gets more into the possibilities of video games as tools to give folks an idea of what it’s like to live as another gender. Unfortunately, it’s pretty blatantly cisgendered so I apologize for appearing ignorant or dismissive of  those whose gender identification doesn’t break down into ‘male’ or ‘female’. Had I to do it again I’d  be more inclusive. Alas, I’m not a big fan of rewriting history, so here it is. 

Right, so Tim the sex crazed husband is no more, sacrificed at the Shadow Temple in a quest for an achievement.  Shortly after dropping Timothy off in the underworld I met Jennifer the traveler.  Jennifer the lesbian traveler to be more specific.  I liked her, she liked me and despite her being from the upper class, which means she requires a nicer house, she conceded to marry me.

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Fable 2 and Gender Empathy – Part 1

fable 2 shot 1

Editor’s note: This content originally appeared on a site I used to write for but that site is no longer around. I was recently asked by a grad school student if she could use this post and the follow up post for a talk she’s presenting on virtual worlds and different perspectives. I’m reprinting the piece here so that she can use it. There’s some salty language here, so be warned. 

For some reason I usually play as women when playing RPGs.  Maybe it’s because I’m a man in real life, so playing as a woman represents a new experience.  Maybe it’s because if I’m going to be staring at someone’s ass for 40 hours, I’d prefer it to be a female one.  I truly have no idea.  I don’t always play as a woman.  In Fallout 3 I was a man.  In Knights of the Old Republic I was a man.  In Fable 2, I decided to be a woman, and it has been an eye opening experience.

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Cracked LCD- Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island in Review

 

crusoe 

When we talk about hybrids in terms of game design, what we tend to mean are American-style, narrative-focused and explicitly themed games that have accrued certain mechanical and design elements of the “Eurogames”  sensibility.  Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, designed by Polish designer Ignacy Trzewiczek and published in the US by Z-Man Games, approaches the concept of hybridization backwards. Despite how it may appear on the surface, this title is really a “hardcore”, complex Eurogame. Paradoxically, it is also one of the very best adventure games that I’ve ever played. Its idiosyncrasy means that the design references Agricola more than Talisman, its genius is that it manages to create a tremendously malleable, modular survival story rife with life-or-death decisions, branching narrative paths, and a more complete sense of setting than many other adventure games are able to manage with reams of flavor text or illustrations.

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The Shadowrun Brain Dump

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Based on the campaign length I’ve seen bandied about in reviews, I’m assuming I’m about halfway through Shadowrun Returns. It’s too short for a finished review and too long for an initial impressions post so instead I’m just going to dump all of this info here and let you sort through it. I’m sure there’s a Shadowrun term for it to make it sound all cool and cyber-brainy but I’m just going to stick with brain dump. Come to think of it, Shadowrun would probably call it that too.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #183

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s an Hour of Power kind of week on JtS #183. Brandon runs with the shadows for a bit (i.e – he bought Shadowrun Returns; come on, people!) and decides that he’d love it if he could just save the game in new and exciting places instead of just where Harebrained thinks he should. I concur. I break out my inner jock, putting myself into NBA 2k13′s MyCareer, and deciding that it’s really quite stupid and yet I can’t look away, or turn it off. There’s also some Just Cause 2 love from Brandon and I tell you why Newsroom’s second episode of its second season was amazingly good — even for people that didn’t like the first season, or Studio 60, or most other Sorkiny kinds of shows. Go ahead and call me wrong. I don’t mind breaking out the Ban Hammer.

Enjoy!

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Calendar Man – Week of 7/29

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Not a bad week if you’re into indie PC games, or remakes of 90′s first person shooters. If you’re into big name console releases, well, better luck next week, or maybe the week after that, possibly later.

If piloting a Mars rover is on your bucket list, perhaps Take On Mars can do the trick. Those of you looking to relive 90′s era RPG experiences can grab Realms of Arkania: Blade of Destiny. If reliving 90′s era FPS experiences is more your thing, Rise of the Triad has got you covered. If you like castles and, uh, balls, give CastleStorm a try. It’s available on Steam AS WE SPEAK. Finally, if infinite platforming is your thing, check out Cloudberry Kingdom.  I can’t handle one or two platforming levels much less an infinite number of them. That is way above my pay grade. What? I’m not getting paid for this? Son-of-a…

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Pandemic Review

pandemic box

Pandemic was the co-operative game that launched a thousand flabby imitators. The genre became fashionable and designers and publishers started churning out identikit games to satisfy the kind of uncritical, rabid demand that only glaze-eyed, obsessed nerds can muster. Most were awful, and the few co-op games that really satisfied did so by breaking the mold and doing something different. And in the morass, Pandemic went out of print and kind of sank out of sight.

But now its back in a spanking new edition. New art furnishes the board and cards, and the wooden disease cubes have been replaced by transparent plastic in suitably lurid colours. The gameplay, aside from a couple of new role cards, has hardly changed. And we’re here to see if we can remember just  why playing Pandemic made the co-operative model so appealing in the first place.

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