Tom Chick

Offworld Trading Company gets totes adorbs

, | News

Just because you’re a Serious Thinking Man Strategy Game About Supply and Demand doesn’t mean you can’t goof around. For all its hardcore cred, Offworld Trading Company has no compunction about using cute cartoony artwork for the factions in its superlative dynamic campaign mode (seriously, if you’re afraid of Offworld Trading Company because you took a creative writing class instead of Econ 101 in college, just click on Single Player Campaign already). But now it’s taking some of that charm and whimsy planetside, front and center, smack dab in the middle of the gameplay. Today’s Conspicuous Consumption DLC — I guess the name Mars Party Pack was already taken — lets you swap in new versions of some of the buildings.

Hacker Array: Enjoy a “Las Vegas” feel with a roulette wheel or embrace the retro style with an old radio tower.
Offworld Market: Send your goods offworld in a giant popsicle or a sleek retro rocket.
Optimization Center: Burst some bubbles with a bubble machine or conduct some electricity with a massive Tesla coil.
Patent Lab: Research patents inside a giant Rubik’s cube or a sci-fi robot head.
Pleasure Dome: Dance off inside a fun time disco ball or skip the dancing in a neon diner.

Sure, it’s $3 DLC. But you know you’ve spent more than that on League of Legends skins.

Forrest MacNeil’s Review. Is it any good?

, | TV reviews

I can go on at length about the difference between reviewers and critics. Seriously, don’t get me started. Suffice to say, one of them makes a worthwhile contribution. The other is just kind of there to little effect, hardly more than another number stirred into an aggregate. I know which one I hope to be, but I also have enough healthy self-doubt to suspect which one I usually am.

So Review is particularly relevant to me as a mean-spirited jeer at the futility of evaluating experiences in isolation instead of actually experiencing them in context. This Comedy Central series just wrapped a third and supposedly final season earlier this year. But is it any good?

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Best thing you’ll see all week: Happy Hunting

, | Movie reviews

Let’s talk people lost in a desert, literally and metaphorically. In recent movies, there’s Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, in which the lovely Suki Waterhouse is exiled into a morally parched wasteland to learn hard lessons about revenge, cannibalism, and family values. It’s a deliriously messy swirl of post-apocalyptic aesthetics with a fantastic female lead. Waterhouse holds her own against Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey, and even Keanu Reeves struggling with some of the worst dialogue since Point Break. Mad Maxine. There’s also Grave Encounters director Colin Minihan’s It Stains the Sands Red, one of those rare horror movies more concerned with character development than horror. It’s a wickedly clever variation on the buddy road trip, with zombie mythology standing in for a woman’s bad choices constantly two steps behind her. Brittany Allen’s comedic but poignant performance drives the movie across the desert through sheer force of will, with a little help from vodka and cocaine.

These are both uneven movies, definitely worth watching, but neither comes together as well as Happy Hunting.
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Eight-Minute Empire wants you to buy four-dollar maps

, | Game reviews

Given that there are so many good boardgame ports available, it’s a pretty lousy time to sell a lousy boardgame port. It doesn’t help when the boardgame being ported is nothing to write home about. It certainly doesn’t help when it wants you to buy pointlessly expensive maps, not to mention actual gameplay mechanics. This sure is demanding for such an inconsequential game. It barely even qualifies as beer n’ pretzels. How about suds n’ crumbs?

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The best thing I’ll see all week: Let Me Make You a Martyr

, | Movie reviews

You can tell right away from the title that Let Me Make You a Martyr is trying something, well…different. Think of the title as the movie warning you beforehand. Hey, it says, this might not be for you. It’s probably right. It’s probably not for you. It’s alternatively pretentious, awkward, and indulgent. I mean, come on, who names their movie Let Me Make You a Martyr? But I loved it.
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The most videogame thing you’ll see all week: Open Grave

, | Movie reviews

It is a dark and stormy night. You wake up among a pile of bodies in the bottom of an open pit. You have no memory of who you are or how you got here.

CHECK INVENTORY

You have a ring of keys. You have a Zippo lighter.

SEARCH BODIES

You find a gun. It’s loaded. A woman throws a rope down to you.

CLIMB ROPE

The woman is gone. There is a house in the distance with the lights on. You hear people talking inside.

GO TO HOUSE

You are at the house. The front door is unlocked.

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Welcome to Lovecraft Country, where cosmic horror is a white people problem

, | Book reviews

In Lovecraft Country, being called a nigger, refused service at a restaurant, harassed by the police, or treated with contempt by an elite coven of warlocks is just another day. This cast of black characters living in Chicago in 1954 is accustomed to America. They have learned to navigate it. Literally. One of the main characters publishes a travel guide called The Safe Negro Travel Guide. It steers black people around — or, if necessary, through — the more virulent racism in America, especially where Jim Crow laws are still in effect. Which restaurants will serve black customers? Which highways should you not be on after dark? Which garages can you call if your car breaks down?

So the characters in Lovecraft Country don’t seem terribly surprised by the idea that maybe the universe is a vast and ancient expanse of indifference at best, outright hostility at worst. Why would someone go insane from learning what minorities know every day? If you look into the abyss long enough, you still have to ride in the back of the bus on your way to work. Continue reading →