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[Editor’s note: Every two weeks, we’ll pick a classic game to play and discuss. Then the choice of the next game will be made by a randomly selected participant from the current discussion. It’s like a book club, but with videogames. We’d love to have you join us. Register for the forums and hop into the discussion! This week’s choice, by MrPinguin, is Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri.]

When the Classic Game Club started, this title wasn’t on my short list. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested in seeing it come up, but it happens to be one of those oh-so-famous classic games that I’d never played. So I was inclined to leave this choice to someone more familiar with the game. But the recent release of a supposed spiritual successor, Civilization: Beyond Earth, seems to make this a perfect time to revisit the original.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri and its expansion, Alien Crossfire, were both released in 1999. Like many of our Classic Game Club selections, it appears that it won critical acclaim but may have suffered from lackluster sales. I’m not even sure if I was aware of it in 1999, which I suspect I was busy with Ultima Online and Starcraft, but I’ve always been surprised that I missed it since I was a huge fan of Civilization II.

Thus far I’ve only played about 60 minutes of the vanilla version of Alpha Centauri, which was just long enough to read through the tutorial popups, scout out some nearby fungus, discover a forerunner-alien ‘borehole’, experience an earthquake that raised a mountain below my first expansion city, and lose a ‘colony pod’ to roving worms. My initial foray into the game was impressively varied, and I can already see how much Alpha Centauri diverges from its Civilization II roots with the sci-fi setting, integrated narrative, and an emphasis on terraforming a hostile planet. I’m still not sure how well it holds up, and I can’t offer much advice on how new players should begin, but I’m hoping others with more experience can fill us all in.

You can listen to an interview with designer Brian Reynolds on Three Moves Ahead here. You can read Tom Chick’s ode to Sister Marian here.

Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is currently on sale at Good Old Games. It’s a 500MB download.

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When the game starts, create a ranger character — it’s the most versatile class. Then proceed to the general store to stock up on supplies. Get plenty of healing potions and as many +1 arrows as you can carry.

It’s okay that you’re doing this.

In stage one of the pirate dungeon, the skeletons have a standard attack pattern. If you memorize it, you can time your attacks so that you hit them when they’re most vulnerable. You’ve already applied to a job today, so this is totally, totally, fine. Really. Once you reach level 2, it’s important to add points to agility because that’s going to make your attacks hit more often.

Only buy equipment from Nylar the Elf — he has the lowest prices. Look, you have to allow yourself to relax and have fun once in a while.

After the jump, it’s fine to read gaming websites too. Continue reading →


Chris: For the last month we’ve covered almost every horror movie genre, from creature features to werewolves to zombies and back again. The one that we’ve left out–until today–is still one of my favorites: the portmanteau (or anthology, if you like.) Making interconnected short story horror films has been part of the genre for as long as I can remember. Any horror fan of a certain age had their childhood terrorized by the Trilogy of Terror and poor Karen Black and that evil Zuni doll. I’m just as fond of Creepshow, which seemed to be on a constant loop on cable back in my teenage years. For today’s final entry in our survey of the golden age of horror films, we’re finally doing one of these movies, an underrated and gloriously enjoyable entry from 2007. (Yes we moved it out of order to save it just for today. What harm is there in messing up the order of things?)

After the jump, be careful, there are rules Continue reading →


Chris:The Banshee Chapter is about mind-control, MKULTRA-like drug experiments. It’s a movie about numbers radio stations. It’s has Lovecraftian overtones. There’s found footage and briefly a documentary style narrative. It presents conspiracy theories and secret histories from crackpots, and then says they might not be so crazy after all. This is a big, wonderful shaggy mutt of a movie. It makes mistakes here and there that require a sympathetic viewer, but when it works–which is most of the time–it is enormously satisfying.

After the jump, when you’re innocent, you can get away with anything Continue reading →


Bill: Adam Wingard, Ti West, and Eli Roth are just a few of the names that are often lumped together and pointed to as the new wave of horror directors on review sites, and quite often in tones that infer they’re more savior than simple auteur. And to be honest, I somewhat agree with those who say such things. This fresh crop of directors have helped to usher in a new era in horror films. An era in which formulaic studio endeavors are losing box office receipts to smaller films with much better writing. A trend I hope continues to grow.

If I had to choose one of them as the standout for me, it would probably be Wingard. He doesn’t create anything revolutionary or genre defining, but he does create interesting characters which he then puts into situations that benefit from the amount of thought that goes into them. You’re Next is a perfect example of that skill. It’s not particularly original, nor is it particularly inventive with its mayhem (although there is a fantastic blender death). It is full of sly humor and populated with characters we don’t eventually come to view as just nameless victims.

After the Jump: piano wire: the chainsaw of the 21st Century Continue reading →


Chris: Often in the last month, we’ve thrown out the term “slow burn” to describe a movie that works deliberately towards its scariest moments. It’s an effective technique, and one that informs some of the best pictures we’ve watched over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, often the slow burn ends up being a slow flash in the pan, or worse, a slow fizzle. All the work building to a great scare happens and then either we jump and move on and a movie’s given us all it’s got, or the scare doesn’t particularly pay off, and all that work goes for naught. The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is more like a slow forest fire. It sets things up slowly and beautifully, with a craftsman’s precision. Then it pays off those bets, delivering scare after scare throughout a tremendous final section of the film.

After the jump, the soul lives on, long after death Continue reading →


Rob: What the hell is going on? That question ran through my mind countless times while watching Resolution, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s 2012 experiment in indie meta-horror. What the hell is going on? It’s not necessarily a bad question to be asking as an audience member trying to piece things together and make sense of what’s going on. It’s fun being in the dark, especially when you’re sharing that experience with the main characters who also don’t understand the strange events happening all around. But how long can you sustain that? There’s a limit to patience and a thin line between intrigue and frustration. For better or worse, Resolution constantly had me walking that line, bouncing back and forth between intrigue and frustration. It never quite answered that question in a satisfying way. What the hell is going on?

After the jump, no, seriously. What the hell is going on? Continue reading →


Chris: Berberian Sound Studio is an inverted horror movie. For the past month, we’ve seen again and again how the creative side–the cast and crew–affects a movie. Now we turn things inside out. Can the creative process of making a movie affect those who are working on it? Berberian Sound Studio says it definitely can, especially if the film is sufficiently filled with graphic images and depraved ideas. We’re shown a nebbish-like post production sound-mixing expert commissioned to work on such a film, and we watch it wreak havoc on his gentle sensibilities and mental health.

After the jump, I’d rather not get technical Continue reading →


Chris: Here’s a movie with some terrific ideas on how to create some wonderfully effective scares. It also has a decent (if derivative) broad outline of what should be a very solid horror movie plot. Early on, this feels like it will be a very good film. People go missing, lights flicker ominously, a suburban bungalow filled with religious iconography is filmed with a creepy, stalking eye.

Then things go off the rails, and not in a scary way.

After the jump, the monster in the closet is the director Continue reading →


Chris: The great triumph of this bravura bit of filmmaking from American horror auteur Ti West isn’t that he almost effortlessly creates a perfect facsimile of an early 1980s horror movie. Rather, it’s that by 20 minutes in we forget we’re watching a period piece and instead are completely invested in Samantha and the weird babysitting job she takes. What’s up with the creepy couple? Why are they offering so much money? What the heck is going on with the unseen “mother”? We’re so into the movie that we’ve forgotten that we’re not watching some great lost cable TV movie from back in the day.

After the jump, this one…she’s perfect. Continue reading →


Chris: One of my favorite little throwaway scenes in Cabin in the Woods is one where a disembodied zombie appendage distracts a hired gunman long enough to allow our protagonists to render him senseless. No, that’s not the part I’m talking about, not yet. We then get this bit of inspired, silly dialogue: “Good work, zombie arm,” but that’s not the bit either, though also awesome. The part I’m talking about happens as our characters leave the incapacitated gunman. We see the disembodied arm and hand make its way onto the guy’s face, presumably to tear him apart as best it can…as zombie arms will do. It’s one of so many similarly clever and fun moments that exist at the periphery of this film that endear it to me so much.

After the jump, am I on speakerphone? Continue reading →


Bill: I can’t possibly discuss the Australian film Triangle without bringing up Timecrimes, a Spanish sci fi/thriller made two years earlier in 2007. And that’s not only because of the similarity of their stories, but also because Timecrimes is a much better film overall. Triangle starts strong, sets up an interesting story, then falls down and spends the last hour of its run time trying to figure out what kind of film it wants to be. Timecrimes, on the other hand, knows what it is, knows what it needs to do, and does it with an eye towards detail that Triangle is frequently missing.

After the Jump: Carnival (Cruise) of Souls Continue reading →


Chris: If we know our horror movies, then it should be pretty easy to avoid ever living in a haunted house. For instance, we know that a haunted house needs an old, drafty abandoned place. We know they require some horribly tragic event in their past to bring back the spirits of dead human beings. Finally, we know that if things with the ghosts get too unbearable, you can just leave the house. No problems, right?

After the jump, what happens when the rules change? Continue reading →


Grandy: Monster Movies have a rich history, being one of the major sub-genres of horror movies. It was monster movies that best captured my attention as a kid, and I’m glad we made sure to include at least one in the list that didn’t involve vampires or zombies (both subjects worth covering and covered, with excellent examples). Monster movies very frequently veer off into the weird, and they pluck at our imaginations in their own interesting ways (the evolution of this sort of thing would be Pacific Rim: a movie about giant monsters, giant robots, pro wrestling, and dragon slaying all rolled into one). From Godzilla to the xenomorph in Alien to the living nightmare that was John Carpenter’s version of The Thing, monster movies have embraced all shapes and sizes in their quest to scare and terrify us over the years, shapes and sizes great and small.

After the Jump, two guys, a girl, and a gas station in the middle of nowhere Continue reading →


Chris: Being the new kid in the neighborhood is tough. Will there be many kids in your neighborhood? Will they play the same games as you? How long will it take before you fit in? Just before Halloween in the late 1970s when I was 12, my own family moved into a new subdivision across town. New school, new friends, new everything. I vividly remember my first afternoon there, meeting the neighbor kids over a game of kickball. It was the kind of halting and stumbling interaction you might expect, stressful for all parties.

After the jump, and all of that without the complication of being undead Continue reading →