Jumping the Shark Podcast #188

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Brandon is spending the week visiting with Tom over at the Quarter to Three gaming podcast (go check it out!), but Bill and I are still here to bring you your weekly dose of JtS goodness. This week we clasp hands together and bravely venture into a spooky old house in Gone Home. Is this really the unexpectedly brilliant adventure game hit of the summer or is it being overrated based solely for being a novel premise? Only your crazy uncle the pharmacist knows for sure and he’s not talking. So join us for two in-depth discussion of the game; up first the spoiler free iteration and then we light the Spoiler Lamp and talk about every shady nook and cranny. After that we’re on to the new Robinson Crusoe board game and why Bill thinks it’s really rather brilliant if he does say so himself.

Spoiler Lamp Warning: Gone Home 15:00 – 32:10

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Calendar Man – Week of 9/2

diablo 3 ps3 shot one

It’s a short work week here in the states, something I used to my advantage to sit on my butt and play Saints Row IV and Diablo III. Not a bad way to spend Labor Day.

Speaking of Diablo III (PS3, 360), it’s out on consoles this week. Tom and I are playing it over at Quarter To Three so take a gander to find out what happens when a grizzled PC veteran and a plucky, young console upstart fight the demons of Hell together. If demons aren’t your thing, Total War: Rome 2 brings all of the fun that only men in skirts and sandals can bring. If platforming is your thing, Rayman Legends (Wii U, Vita, PS3, 360) drops today. I liked Origins enough, but the platforming got too complicated for me so I ended up not finishing it, as is my way with all platformers. If being scared is your thing, Outlast may have you covered. I say may because horror is like comedy. What scares one person does nothing for another. Finally, A Tale of Two Brothers hits PC and PS3, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate hits PS3 and 360 and Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse hits PC, PS3 and 360.

Continue Reading…

Occult Chronicles Review

Occult Chronicles Review

Cryptic Comet’s latest turn based video/boardgame hybrid, Occult Chronicles, is a game I should love. Basically it’s a mash up of Arkham Horror, Elder Sign, and “Roguelikes”.

But I can’t stand it.

Continue Reading…

Gone Home Review

gonehome_familyportrait

You arrive at the doorstep of a mansion. Your parents recently moved there with your kid sister but you are seeing it for the first time because you have just arrived from your backpack trip across Europe. It’s dark, stormy, and the place looks like it’s been ripped out of a King novel (one of the good ones). No one is home. The lights flicker. The TV is on but it’s just white noise. You enter the house looking for signs of your family.

It’s difficult to talk about Gone Home without venturing into spoiler territory. The game, if you insist on calling it that, is all about the story. There are no controls to speak of, no inventory to rifle through, no health meters, no reflexes are required, your amazing hand eye coordination is meaningless, and there is nary a weapon in sight.

Ah, so it’s an adventure game!

No, it isn’t.

There is no “adventure” here, either; at least not in the typical way we tend to view adventure games. There are no “puzzles” to solve, no riddles to think your way through and no dialogue options from which to choose. If you thought a game like The Waking Dead was devoid of actual game mechanics then Gone Home will feel like a school project.

But that’s part of what makes the “game” work. In Gone Home you are merely along for the ride; a passenger on a ghost train that only reveals itself as you muddle your way through a seemingly abandoned mansion one room at a time.

Is that enough? Is sitting down in front of your PC for two hours (literally) and piecing together an interesting story worth your $20? We like to debate the merits of “value” of a game when discussing its critique and while I still strongly believe that price has no place in the evaluation process of a game, (then again neither do stars, ratings, or any other ridiculous measuring stick) but in this specific case you need to at least know what you are getting into.

Gone Home is short – two hours short, but that’s somewhat irrelevant. More than that, the writers know you are playing a videogame where you are wandering alone inside in a spooky abandoned mansion that looks like it should be a terrifying place to wander around alone – it plays on that emotion at every possible turn. And this is where it’s difficult to really talk about Gone Home without giving anything away, and I do think you should play the game, which is really all a “used to be game critic” can offer, right? I’m glad I played it, but I’m not nearly as happy that I spent $20 to do so.

That said, the writers and designers of this game deserve great praise for their ability to tell an engaging story via spoken dialogue (journal entries), sound effects and music, Post-It notes, and by strategically placing mundane objects around the house that help you slowly piece together what happened to the family that lives there. It’s an amazing achievement that the writers can tell such an emotional story via post cards, letters, and travel brochures. As far as pure storytelling is concerned Gone Home is equal to and in most cases is far superior to anything you see in today’s so-called blockbuster videogames. Of course since the game is all about the narrative – it better be damn good or it simply won’t work.

But I can’t help but feel a little manipulated by Gone Home. Not because of its length or its lack of any real gameplay, but because it knows…the game knows I play videogames and it knows it IS a videogame and it takes that fact that uses it against me; when you strip that away you are left with a sad, emotional and ultimately wonderfully told story trapped inside a mediocre game.

Cracked LCD- Trains in Review

 

trains

Hisashi Hayashi’s Trains, just released in the US by AEG, is a very good game that unfortunately has an indelible issue of identity. You simply can’t discuss this title, which is effectively a deckbuilder that drives rail game inspired board play, without Dominion. Even if I did not mention it, every single aspect of this game’s fundamental design would still say it out loud.  Trains is probably even closer to the cornerstone Dominion design than Ascension, Thunderstone, or any of the other deckbuilders we’ve seen over the past few years. But then again, continually referencing Dominion, even if the design’s goal is to “fix” an aspect of that game like its notorious lack of meaningful theme, is the pandemic problem with the entire genre. It all goes back to Dominion, and the big question mark hovering over all of these designs is to what degree any of them could actually be considered “great” or “significant” when ultimately all are iterative designs typically with a couple of modifications or twists to distinguish them from their forbears. Continue Reading…

Jumping the Shark Podcast #187

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The terrible trio is back for episode #187. This week Bill and his once sweet and innocent daughter spend 400 Days walking with the dead and comes out of the experience forever changed. (No, seriously, he’s getting her into Left 4 Dead now too. This is a Pandora’s Box that can never be closed.) Meanwhile in Brandon’s world, The Saints have come marching in, for the fourth time no less. They just won’t stop marching. Find out just why Brandon thinks Saints Row IV is every bit worth it’s $60 price tag. And me? After 39 years on this planet, I have finally embraced the one true faith. Sure, I created it in Civilization 5, but the Church of Pi is not to be denied and I have spread it to the farthest reaches of my digital world. Plus, there are food and happiness bonuses and how can you argue with that? This much, plus some Breaking Bad, and even more this week on Jumping the Shark!

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Calendar Man – Week of 8/26

lost planet 3 shot 1

If it’s the last week of August, it must be time for Madden (360, PS3). Actually, I have no idea when Madden usually releases, I just needed something to open this week’s new releases. Having gave up on Madden years ago, this is a non-event for me but it means that football season is soon upon us so that makes me happy. In other “sequels I don’t have an interest in” news, Final Fantasy XIV Online (PC, PS3) releases as does Lost Planet 3 (360, PS3). Rounding out the releases we have SUDA51′s latest in Killer is Dead (PS3, 360), a new TMNT game for the 360 and Painkiller: Hell and Damnation for the 360. There’s also Shelter, for those looking to spend less time killing and more time saving badgers. Yeah, badgers.

Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game in Review

pathfinder

My first game of Paizo’s new Pathfinder Adventure Card Game didn’t impress me much. Designed by veteran game maker Mike Selinker, the game is a co-op adventure that at first blush feels like another Talisman-descended flip a card, roll a die at it exercises. The key differentiator seemed to be the character cards packed with as many stats and powers as you’d use in the pen-and-paper RPG on which the game is based. It felt simplistic, too easy, and nowhere near as detailed or complex as the Lord of the Rings LCG or Mage Knight. I had one of those “this can’t be all there is to it” feelings about it as my two characters, a Dwarven scout and a human wizard, tracked down and made quick work of a villain and his bandit henchmen stirring up trouble in the town of Sandpoint. Continue Reading…

1775: Rebellion – A Video Documentary

I’m a big fan of Academy Games’ Birth of America series. 1812: The Invasion of Canada started the series off last year and now 1775: Rebellion has finally been released.

The PLAN was to debut this new video series near the 4th of July — an American revolution themed game, etc. The problems were:

  • I needed to learn the software to the point that I could make one of these nifty videos.
  • Editing a video like this takes an incredible amount of time — at least for me.  
  • It’s been a busy summer of basketball camps, looking into post-bachelor college options, job changes, etc..

So the video was put on hold but now it’s ready and I hope you like it. I’d like to do more of these, time permitting. They’re fun to do and I have discovered that I like doing the video editing work.

A HUGE thanks to Todd for doing the narration. Without it the video just doesn’t work.

Jumping the Shark Podcast #186

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Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With Bill off at GenCon, the Hour of Power returns this week (like it’s ever gone away) as Brandon and I get down and get funky with our bad ass selves. I talk in detail about my new job. It’s drab. It’s dull. And it involves saying, “Papers, Please” over and over and over again. Yet it’s oddly addictive and rewarding. Weird. Brandon is in his Sony Vita happy place with some more Ni No Kuni and a potpourri of time with some other titles (that I honestly can’t remember – sorry). Then there’s some discussion about the continuation of the Microsoft 180 and how I –surprise, surprise– called it from the very beginning. It’s my annual chance to be right about something and I don’t want it going by unnoticed, dammit!

Enjoy!

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