Calendar Man – Week of 1/14

The relative dearth of new releases continues this week with DmC leading a very small pack of new games. DmC (PS3, 360) is the reboot of Devil May Cry, a franchise in which I have no skin, so go ahead Capcom, darken his hair and do whatever you want to the guy. Means nothing to me. I downloaded the demo, so we’ll see how that goes. Borderlands 2 gets Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, a piece of content I won’t play due to the level cap still being at 50, and Crusader Kings II gets The Republic expansion pack. Old school dungeon crawler Wizardry goes online  and the PSP continues to get some love with Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.

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The Tyranny of Challenge

Like most middle-aged gamers, I cut my teeth in the noisy, garish world of coin-op arcades. When each play costs anew, game designers and manufacturers had a vested interest in making them tough. Not too tough to put off potential gamers, but enough to require repeated coins pumped through the slot.

It was a delicate balancing act but we lapped it up, living for those sweaty moments of exquisite agony where new and unexpected situations taxed your muscle memory and you twitched instinctively over the joystick. Trying desperately to keep that personalised bunch of mindless pixels on the screen burning brightly for one second longer, fired with the knowledge that pocket change isn’t that easy to come by when you’re a teenager.

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Cracked LCD- Star Wars LCG in Review



Fantasy Flight Games struck Star Wars paydirt in 2011 with X-Wing, and right there at the end of the year the company released its second Lucasfilm-blessed product, a Star Wars-themed Living Card Game. Announced some time ago, it had a somewhat troubled development with the original design hewing by most accounts fairly close to Nate French’s co-op concept for 2010’s Lord of the Rings card game. With Eric Lang billed as the designer, the title is now a rather traditional two player, competitive card game. Fortunately for Star Wars fans and the rehabbed CCG set,  it’s a really good one that follows X-Wing’s lead in sticking close to classic source material (with just a smattering of Expanded Universe material). Continue Reading…

Rethinking Mass Murder

The above panel is from issue #25 of Grant Morrison’s phenomenal run on DC Comics’ Animal Man. The pale guy is actually the author speaking directly to the character he’s written for two years at the point and the statement he is making is specifically about comic books and the state of the medium circa 1990. It’s a reflection on how grim, dark, gritty, and graphically violent comics had become in a rush toward feigned maturity and mainstream acceptance. It’s a statement about how the gee-whiz wonder and optimism of the Golden and Silver Age had been washed away by writers and artists over-eager to Frank Miller everything up, to darken the vibrant palette of comics to reflect the real world. I read this issue over the holidays, not long before the Connecticut school shooting.

Of course, neither that tragedy nor Animal Man have anything to do with violence in the real world, regardless of the pundits and opportunists that would have us believe that media is a causative factor in increasing the number of murders or violent crimes that we see on the news. People make choices, people have problems. Consumer media doesn’t make those or create those. Ironically, even the bloodiest, most brutal video games are less socially harmful than any given car commercial that promotes an illusion of American affluence or a reality show that celebrates crude, unbecoming behavior.

Between reading Morrison’s rather profound, simple statement against the darkening tone of the comics medium and thinking about twenty- twenty- children shot to death, I’ve been thinking heavily on violent video games content and in a way that I never really have before. Maybe it’s something to do with getting older, maybe it’s something to do with being a parent. Writing as someone who has never had an issue with violence in video games, movies, or any other kind of entertainment, I’m rather shocked to find that for the first time in my life I’m really kind of sick of being entertained by mass murder. Continue Reading…

NFS:MW – The Nuts and Bolts of It

Now that I’ve thrown off the shackles of disappointment and have started looking at Need for Speed: Most Wanted Not the 2005 Version, The 2012 Version They Named the Same to Be Difficult as it’s own game, I’m having a much better time with it. There’s something to be said for accepting the things you can’t change and just moving on with one’s life. There’s also something to be said for not griping over video games, but if we said that too much, I’d have very few ideas for written pieces.

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Jumping the Shark Podcast #157

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Image: Filomena Scalise /

The gang is all-in for Jumping the Shark #157 and our official JtS ringing in of the new year. This week I don the Mark of the Ninja and talk about how great I think the game is, but also why it’s not as innovative as a lot of folks seem to think. Bill reveals the complicated and technical process of shipping a Kickstarted boardgame. I’ll tease you in on this one by noting it involves trucks and postage. And Brandon? Brandon puts on the old robes for Assassin’s Creed 3 and wonders why he spends more time fulfilling menial tasks around the homestead than he does identifying perpetrators of evil and then jabbing them with poky things.

Start your 2013 off in style… and then, when you’ve finished with that, download the show and enjoy that too!

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Calendar Man – Week of 1/7

Welcome to 2013′s first Calendar Man! Woo! I wish I had better games to offer in this first column but all years can’t start with Darksiders. Oh sure, Anarchy Reigns (PS3, 360) comes out this week, but I played this game at E3 like nine years ago and it was not to my liking. Perhaps you’ll find it enjoyable. Who knows. In other news, Earth Defense Force gets a Vita release, which makes me regret my recent decision to sell my Vita just a teensy bit. Then again, if I really want to kill bugs, I can just stomp around in the back yard. Finally, Dance Magic drops on PSN this week, no doubt justifying your decision to buy a Move like no other game before it.

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NFS:MW, You Are No Burnout and That’s OK (I Guess)

Need for Speed: Most Wanted, A Criterion Game, a game which has the dubious honor of owning the longest, non-American McGee involved title, is no Burnout. Granted, it’s not supposed to be, despite having been made by Burnout’s creators, but that didn’t stop me from being disappointed upon firing it up.

I mean, I knew it wasn’t going to be Burnout. Criterion themselves said that they want to make another Burnout, an unnecessary endeavor if the game they had just made was Burnout, but I really, really wanted it to be Burnout. Some people play racing games. I play Burnout. I’ve tried Forza and Gran Turismo and I suck at both of them. Even Split/Second was too much for me, but Burnout has always given me enough to do before the inevitable wall of difficulty made further progress impossible.

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Barnes’ Best 2012, Console Edition

Reflecting back on the year in video games is pretty grim. There was plenty of mediocre junk and really just a couple of really significant titles. The industry kept truckin’ on toward its self-circumscribed oblivion, writ in DLC, preorder bonuses, shoehorned multiplayer, sixty dollar price points, and endless iteration. Vaporware was popularized by Kickstarter, and indie games apparently brought innovation to the medium by whimsically mimicking twenty and thirty year old design concepts and game styles. Then there was that long, dreary summer where almost nothing of note was released. And then there was Lollipop Chainsaw. Come, Armageddon, come. Continue Reading…

Cracked LCD- Barnes’ Best 2012, Analog Edition

Quite frankly, I thought 2012 was a pretty shitty year for board games. Not just because I didn’t play them nearly as much as I have in recent years due to being in double baby jail with a one year old and a two year old, but also because the really outstanding games were few and far between. There was a whole lot of mediocrity, and then the Kickstarter thing made it possible for any yahoo to sell underdeveloped, unfinished beta prototypes to suckers. There weren’t really even all that many games in 2012 that I felt were compelling enough to try outside of the reprint cavalcade, which caught up this year with Crude, Wiz-War, Merchant of Venus, and Netrunner. I didn’t play Risk: Legacy, the new Descent, Mice & Mystics, or tons of expansions for pretty good games that came out this year. I couldn’t possibly care less about Zombicide, Seasons, or most of the new deckbuilders. Regardless, here are your Barnes’ Best board game picks for 2012. Continue Reading…