This week I get to hang out with one of my favorite Canadians. We talk about the comparative merits of a monarchy and a Trump election, how to win big money in Winnipeg, potentially illegal immigration, not playing MMOs, and videogame dancing. But most importantly, we talk about a game well before it’s time that far too few people remember.
My takeaway from Stranger Things, which nearly sprains its back bending over backwards to homage the 80s, is that it had enough character, content, and dark charm for a cool 90-minute movie. Unfortunately, it’s an eight-hour series. So the creative team of Matt and Ross Duffer dilutes their cool movie with six plus hours of filler. Isn’t it just like TV to assume more is more?
But consider what the Duffer Brothers, as they call themselves, can do when they don’t have to stretch a script into a season. Consider the aptly named Hidden. If I hadn’t been rooting around to see where the Duffer Brothers came from, I never would have found this. So one of my favorite things about Stranger Things is that it lead me to this movie they wrote and directed.
Hidden is their only feature, and it’s unfortunately going to invite comparison to 10 Cloverfield Lane, which it preceded by six months. Both movies are about the dynamics of people in a bunker when the world above them may or may not have ended. But Hidden isn’t a pressure cooker story about a damsel in distress locked up with a psychopath. It’s a story about a family, told with three very capable actors. Alexander Skarsgaard as fun dad, Andrea Riseborough as no-nonsense mom, and an expressive and capable child actor named Emily Alyn Lind as the daughter they have to protect and sustain. The Road, minus the road.
Since it’s set in a zombie apocalypse, it has to turn into a siege at some point. But how it handles this is what makes the movie special, and here’s where you discover the Duffer Brothers can do more than fondly homage King, Spielberg, and Carpenter. Hidden shows how much heart and creativity they have, and it only takes ninety minutes to reveal.
Hidden is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it on Amazon.com.
What happens when one person on a podcast likes Cthulhu Realms and the other person on a podcast doesn’t like Cthulhu Realms? Which one of them will prevail? World traveler, bane of iPads everywhere, and kangaroo expert Skip Franklin tries to convince me Cthulhu Realms isn’t just a cheap reskinning of Star Realms. Whether he succeeds or not, I’d like to point out only one of us has been kicked out a bar in Grand Rapids.
So, yeah, there’s a finally a space battle in Star Wars Battlefront. The Death Star DLC adds this:
A new three-phased mode in which Rebels attempt to destroy an Imperial Star Destroyer in order to clear space for a GR-75 and its brave Rebel boarding party. Then, these Rebels participating in an assault on the Death Star in hopes of rescuing R2-D2 before, finally, attempting to destroy the Death Star itself with the help of Luke Skywalker.
Admit it, you had to look up GR-75. You know you did. And I bet you were all, like, “oh, that’s what that thing is called?”
But before you can blow up a Death Star, you have to shoot a lot of stormtroopers. And if you’re like me, it can be confusing distinguishing the stormtroopers from the rebels in the heat of an FPS. If I had a nickel every time I died because I thought some stormtrooper not wearing his helmet was actually a rebel, I would be able to buy the season’s pass for all the DLC.
But no more! In the update accompanying the DLC, stormtrooper helmets are mandatory. They can’t run around bare-headed trying to confuse guys like me. The rationale for this change? According to the patch notes:
With the arrival of the Imperial Officers, the certification for Stormtroopers to remove their helmets in combat has been withdrawn.
Of course, there are also safety concerns. If helmets were optional in Star Wars, this scene would have played out very differently.
For about five minutes, 31 might have you believing it won’t be awful. Richard Brake, an actor with a great face, walks up to the camera. He looks straight at you and delivers a “hey, I’m totally a psycho killer!” monologue. He’s wearing ragged clown make-up. It’s shot as if director Rob Zombie has been watching Fellini. It’s even black-and-white. But then the rest of the movie happens.
Some travelling people get kidnapped and forced to play a game called 31. The game consists of them wandering around in a poorly lit basement. They’re supposed to survive for 12 hours while killers in clown make-up supposedly hunt them. It’s like The Purge, but without the budget to shoot outdoors. The killers have names like Sickhead, Psychohead, Doomhead, and Sexhead. I didn’t make any of those up. Rob Zombie did. One of them is a midget with a knife. Do you know how risible it is to have full-sized people armed with baseball bats fleeing in terror from a midget with a knife? Because Rob Zombie doesn’t.
The cast includes no one with the necessary sense of humor or appreciation for absurdity to deliver Rob Zombie dialogue (i.e. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, William Forsythe, and Ken Forree, all of whom elevated Devil’s Rejects from trash to camp). However, it’s really cool to see Meg Foster perfectly willing to wear her years in an industry that all but forces women of a certain age into plastic surgery, botox, and soft lighting. She deserves far better than this artless attempt at horror.
Of course, this being a Rob Zombie movie, his wife Sheri Moon Zombie is given a prominent role that she handles as unconvincingly as ever. When she emerges from the movie’s chintzy hell, she screams. It’s pretty half-hearted. It’s got slightly more feeling than opening your mouth and saying “aah” for the doctor. Slightly. In fact, it might have been a yawn. Then the movie loses interest in itself and just ends. That’s the point when I realized that the definition of insanity is someone who keeps watching Rob Zombie movies and thinking they won’t be awful.
I paid $37.92 to attend and filled out my nametag as Tony, Alignment: Chaotic Neutral. For the price of admission, I got a t-shirt, a pair of socks festooned with the @ sign, two similarly themed lapel pins, and the opportunity to see [Michael] Toy, [Glenn] Wichman, and [Ken] Arnold reunite onstage for the first time in 30 years.
Toy, Wichman, and Arnold are Michael Toy, Glen Wichman, and Ken Arnold, the folks who created Rogue back in 1980. Which, for all intents and purposes, was still part of the 70s. But unlike that other game made in the 70s, Pong, their game is still relevant. How many games on Steam have the “ponglike” tag? Carnevale also reports on the advantage of being on UNIX, the problem with talking about permadeath, pudding farming abuses, and why ADOM fans can be really scary.
Ubisoft’s driving MMO The Crew (aka, Tom Chick’s 2014 GOTY) is available for free. There’s just one catch, and it’s the same catch for any game by Ubisoft: you have to install UPlay. As part of some sort of insane “here, have a bunch of free games that don’t suck!” initiative at Ubisoft, they’re giving away a different game every month for seven months. And not giving away as in making them free for that month only. These are yours even past that month. And you don’t have to keep paying for a subscription service to keep your game. It’s yours for free and forever. So long as you have Uplay installed.
I suspect part of the thinking behind giving away The Crew is that Ubisoft hopes to sell you a copy of the Wild Run DLC, which isn’t included in the free giveaway. And I hate to tell you this, but it’s good DLC. It adds a few new types of gameplay and a whole new track of advancement and competition.
However, this free deal only applies to the PC version. Which looks great, especially when you’re accustomed to the console version. I had played — even recently since it’s a game with those kinds of long legs — the Playstation 4 version. But I made the mistake of installing the PC version to “have a real quick look”. And, oops, here I am playing an MMO, realizing all over again that it’s not a grind when it’s a game this good.
I hate hidden movement games. Me and a friend stranded on a desert island with nothing but a copy of Scotland Yard? My worst nightmare. Plaid Hat’s Specter Ops sprinkles a bit more gameplay and a splash of theme into its Scotland Yardness, but hidden movement is hidden movement. You’re still playing a fluid (i.e. drawn-out) version of Battleship. B4? Miss. C4? Miss. B3? Hit! You caught my specter op! Not even Fury of Dracula, spattered with its ropey entrails of viscous gameplay substitute — it’s offal, really — can obscure the fact that it’s just Scotland Yard stretched into an insufferable too-many-hour guessing game, pencil and paper not included.
So it came as a bit of shock when I realized Star Wars: Rebellion, a game I really like, is also a hidden movement game.
After the jump, movement: hidden and loving it Continue reading →
Morgan is why I don’t watch trailers or even read cast lists if I can help it. All I knew going in was that Morgan was some kind of thriller directed by Ridley Scott’s son. The title is written in a vaguely sci-fi font. The poster has someone in a hoodie just standing there. Is that Morgan? He’s gotta be a hacker, wearing a hoodie like that, right? Is Morgan a good guy? Does he have superpowers? Is Morgan even a dude or a chick?
The price I pay for this sort of ignorance is occasionally stumbling into junk like Bad Moms, Don’t Breathe, and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. But the reward is an occasional gem like Morgan, a broadly derivative thriller and a cavalcade of wonderful actors. A cast like this probably happens when you’re Ridley Scott’s son. From beginning to end, Morgan is all, “And guess who else is in this!” Then it opens a door. “Ta-daa!” It’s like a 90-minute advent calendar for people who enjoy watching good actors. So I’m not going to tell you who’s in this. In case you don’t know the cast yet, I don’t want to spoil the fun.
The script is nothing if not familiar, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with formula. Formula is formula because it works. So Morgan merrily draws from slasher movies, rogue AI yarns, Frankenstein stories, little girl assassin tropes, and even a touch of CITOKSA when Kate Mara falls into a lake during a fight scene and her smart pants suit gets titillatingly clingy. But director Luke Scott keeps things moving so you’re not dwelling on the obvious similarities to better movies. Okay, here are the characters. Now here is a terrible thing that could happen. Now here is the terrible thing happening. Now here is the ensuing chaos. Now here is the resolution, with the twist that you could see coming a mile away, so it’s not so much a twist as an acknowledgement that, hey, you sure did figure it out. Snappy, satisfying, stylish, and littered with capable celebrities. It turns out Luke Scott is more Tony than Ridley.
Itinerant Brit Alex Chapman talks about an early rogue-like, a flight simulator, and the unfortunately named Faery Tale Adventure as the games of choice growing up with an Amiga in the house. We also clash so dramatically over his dietary advice that I barely manage to stop myself before comparing him to anti-vaxxers.
Frost is an indie deck-building game with superlative atmosphere, clever gameplay, and some unfortunate interface issues (see the video above). It’s also got excellent post-release support, as you can see in the latest update, which adds new cards, characters, and scenarios, as well as a new mechanic for temperature. What does temperature do?
It affects the size of your hand
After a couple of quick playthroughs, I haven’t seen its effect yet, so I presume I haven’t unlocked any temperature cards (a lot of Frost’s content is locked behind how much you’ve played). But I can plainly see a slider in the upper left hand corner showing how warm I am alongside a count of how many cards I can hold. The colder you are, the fewer cards you get to play. In other words, as we all know, being cold shrinks appendages.