Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Half-hour Hitbox: November 2013

half-hour hitbox dd chimera3

And that was November, a month of new console generation releases, colder weather, eating everything not called turkey, and doorbusters, which is my new favorite word to hate. Seriously. Tara suggested that Black Friday sales should be called “I’m stupid!” so that when asked what people are there for, they can just say, “I’m stupid!” I kind of have to agree with her on this. We’re only a few years away from Black Week, seven days of stupidly saucy sales priced just low enough to get you into the stores and away from your loved ones. Me, I’m spending this day-after-Thanksgiving in my pajamas, writing about videogames and drinking coffee. Sure, I might go out later, but it’s probably only to Family Dollar for the sweetest deals this side of Pennsylvania. I don’t expect to be trampled.

But wait, that’s not what this post is supposed to be about. No, no. I’m here again to cover the handful of games I’ve played this month, but have not gotten a chance to really examine here on Grinding Down. There seems to be a lot more this month than previous Half-hour Hitboxes (Hitboxs?), and I don’t know why. I guess as the year winds down I am finding myself with more time to dabble. I have also continued to put in some solid hours with Primal, and I expect to beat it before 2013 comes to a close, praise the realm of Aetha.

Once more, to the list…

A World of Keflings


I was surprised at how much I liked A Kingdom of Keflings, which is a very relaxed town-building sim, with a focus on a soul-soothing soundtrack and straightforward missions, like build a house or a factory or put this Kefling in that thing you just built. So far, A World of Keflings seems to be all that over again, except now you can travel between various themed kingdoms for different missions–and that’s fine by me. I also like how you can begin building something, and your little Kefling worshipers will finish putting it together so long as you construct all the required pieces. You can also play with silly emotes.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen


Last month, the big epic free RPG for PlayStation Plus subscribers was Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, and this month, we got another doozy brimming with hours of content. Alas, I probably won’t see much of it. For some reason, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen doesn’t fit properly on my TV, and even stretching it out is an ordeal, with the end result being sub-par. This makes for tiny text, tiny monsters, tiny inventory screens, and so on. I played about an hour’s worth of content, did a few missions, and recruited some Pawns to aid me in my quest to…slay the dragon that ate my heart? Sure, I think that’s it. I do, however, appreciate that you can play as a woman, as well as one with a bigger build.

Might & Magic: Duel of Champions

m and m duels untitled_312

Honestly, I had no idea Might & Magic: Duel of Champions existed until it did, and I went straight to it from Penny Arcade‘s Twitter account the morning it was released on Steam, curious enough to give the newborn a shot. I mean, I no longer have a circle of friends to play Magic: The Gathering with, nor the money it takes to stay current and in the loop, so a free-to-play card game based heavily on the same CCG mechanics is right up my alley. Because I still desperately want to play, and this, from what I dabbled in, seems really good. I did all the training missions and the first real “hands off” mission, and I like the mechanics a lot, especially the ones that differ from the more traditional MTG stuff. However, sometimes the opponent’s turn goes too fast, and I have a hard time keeping up with all the action.

Kingdoms & Lords


Ahh. Yet another city-building game, but this time set in Medieval times. No, not the themed restaurant chain that I went to once as a wee lad, but rather the era. Oh, it’s also on my Windows 8 phone instead of something you’d get distracted by while perusing Facebook. Anyways, it has all the typical city-building and social elements that I experienced shortly in Little Big City and CityVille. Which is to say, there’s energy and only so much you can do in a single session. However, it holds a slight advantage over those previously mentioned titles because it has castles and soldiers and barbarians and so on. Plus, there’s Achievements to pop.

Star Wars: Tiny Death Star


This is both very addicting and simple. and over the last few weeks has become my go-to game for when I have five or ten minutes to kill. Basically, you’re helping the Empire build a Death Star, opening up apartments and shops and other nefarious levels for people to spend money at to raise some serious credits. You take these citizens to their required level via an elevator, and watch everything grow. I’m not sure if there is actually an end point, but right now I have 12 levels and 23 people housed and working, with more to come. The cutesy pixel graphics and sampled tunes really make Star Wars: Tiny Death Star a fun, light-hearted game, one that maybe shows that Disney won’t ruin the franchise. Regardless, I’ll continue to keep playing until the Death Star is fully operational.

Iron Brigade

iron brigade hitbox

Tower defense, but with the focus more on action, on running and gunning, and you certainly play a bigger part than some dude who just places turrets down to do your dirty work. You sit in a Trench, which is like a mobile war machine that can shoot guns and build defenses. and a race of aliens called Tubes are trying to take you down. Naturally, as Iron Brigade comes from Double Fine, there’s an attention to style and goofiness here that is immensely enjoyable, like all the cosmetic gear you can equip your soldier with–hats, mostly. I’ve only done a couple of the early missions, but like it. Strangely, I find absorbing scrap to be therapeutic and rewarding, much like I had in Red Faction: Armageddon.

ibb and obb

ibb and obb - world 3-2

Earlier this year, everyone went ga-ga–and probably rightly so–over how the two boys in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons could be controlled by both analog sticks. However, if it is anything like ibb and obb, I’m out. Honestly, I barely made it through the first few levels, and they were more than frustrating. More so, I got frustrated at my brain, as I kept getting the characters mixed up, forgetting what stick controlled who, and so on. Which made for faulty platforming. This game seems better experienced with one player controlling one guy, and an other the other. I doubt I’ll play any more, unfortunately.

Mad Father

mad father Untitled

Um, I’m sorry. I really don’t know. I found a copy of Mad Father in my videogames folder on my laptop, so I guess I knowingly downloaded this at some point. Anyways, it’s a Japanese horror game that looks like an RPG from the SNES era, and I played a little bit before getting freaked out. There’s a lot of story up front with sepia-filtered flashbacks to boot, and no combat from what I experienced. You want to avoid these monsters. Also, a spoiler: the father is mad. And not in an angry kind of way.

Habla Kadabla


Just a short and easy point-and-click adventure game about a witch trying to recover her stolen enchanted cash register. I had some time to kill before heading out for the Thanksgiving festivities yesterday, and so I gave this a spin. The puzzles are quite easy, mostly inventory-based, though you do also have to make a potion, complete a jigsaw puzzle, and shoot some ducks. I like the art and humor of it all, but for someone that just got robbed, Habla Kadabla–that’s her name–really needs to stop smiling.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #45 – Habla Kadabla

2013 games completed habla kadabla copy

An enchanted cash
Register is stolen, but
Habla still smiles

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Everybody loves Raymus, not Reemus

ballads of reemus when bed bites final thoughts

In The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites, one simple bug job leads to many bugs and bigger problems, and Reemus and his companion Liam, a purple bear that plays the lute, are all to blame. Naturally, it’s now up to them to save the town and do mundane tasks for people to get key items that will help them move forward with their exterminating business, as well as put them in the limelight, the perfect spot for the stars of a ballad or two. Unfortunately, everybody in Fredricus loves Raymus, Reemus’s more successful brother, and so the unlikely duo have a lot to prove.

When the Bed Bites has a certain familiarity to it, and I think I’m just digging deep into my point-and-click gaming history and recalling the fond time I had solving puzzles in Blazing Dragons, though the humor found there was ten times more British. Still, both games are extremely colorful and filled with zany, wacky characters and fun, Xanth-like ideas, such as the noserpillar, ice cream cactus, and the condiments forest, which shows that the people behind it aren’t afraid to open up their imagination for all to see. It definitely made getting to a new scene all that more exciting because, truly, anything could show up.

The game is divided into a number of scenes–maybe eight to twelve in total, and if I was a better game journalist I’d work harder to confirm the actual number, but meh, it’s almost time to take a holiday break–and each is its own contained mini-adventure, which I appreciate greatly. You’ll find all the items and puzzles that need those items for solving in one scene only, so you don’t find yourself still holding an unusable flyswatter by the end of the game. These tiny story arcs play a continuous part of the whole story–which is Reemus and Liam trying to right their wrongs and get people to listen to their ballads–but make for convenient gaming, as I played When the Bed Bites in three separate sittings, never feeling exhausted or lost.

Puzzles range from unbelievably easy to fairly difficult, though sometimes the fault was mine, and I just didn’t try clicking on every combination possible. In certain scenes, you can switch between Reemus and Liam to have each handle their own slice of puzzles before reuniting. Occasionally, I found it difficult to call out the interactive objects from the backgrounds, and I ended up stuck in the condiments forest for a good while until I realized that to get the metallic bark for cooking that sweet, savory bacon, you have to click near the bottom of it, as clicking towards the top only gets you an item description. Also, due to the developers doing a bang-up job of really hiding their hidden item: was unable to make the seagull’s headstone or finish the moth’s poster, both missing two pieces before I moved on. Thankfully, you can pause the game at any time and bring up a walkthrough from the options menu that doesn’t spoil story stuff, but guides you in the right direction for puzzle solutions to keep things moving. I will admit to using the walkthrough several times, though I kind of wish it didn’t open to a separate browser window and was contained within the game itself somewhere. Immersion must be kept.

Audio-wise, I found the game’s soundtrack to be pretty pleasing, save for one song near the end that was repetitive and slow to build, and even after it went somewhere, it was still the same notes over and over and over. It’s the kind of light, fantasy tunes you’d expect to hear at your local Renaissance fair. Liam and another bard early on sings some silly songs, and they are short and enjoyable. However, the voice acting throughout didn’t sit well with me on a constant rate. I found the leading man Reemus sounding a bit too Steve Blum, which did not match the art, and there are some Irish-sounding lovebirds that seem really out of place. And a lot of the female voices are overdramatic and absurd, almost as if men are trying to do a woman’s voice. Surprisingly, Liam the purple bear’s voice was perfectly acceptable and easy to listen to. Sound effects are minimal overall, though the squish sound for finding the hidden bug collectibles is pretty satisfying, even in a gross way.

For those that don’t like reading, you can watch me play some When the Bed Bites in this “Paul Plays…” vid, but be aware that you can’t really hear me too well when I foolishly attempt to talk over some of the game’s dialogue, which is very loud. Balance, balance, balance–it’s tough to get. Again, I’m still learning. But please take a look/listen nonetheless:

Everything old is new again in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds

TLOZ A Link Between Worlds early impressions

The first thing I did when I got my copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is make a silly Vine video. However, the second thing I did, once the game opened up enough to allow me the freedom to explore, was travel this way and that way and every way possible across the Hyrule map, seeing all my old stomping grounds. Because, in case it wasn’t clear from Grinding Down‘s never-changing header image, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is my absolute favorite game of all the times, of all time. It is only closely followed by Suikoden II. And I, more or less, know it by heart.

To be honest, when ALBW was first announced, I was put off. Very put off. How dare Nintendo create something that seems to exist solely to play with my childhood and early gaming experience nostalgia! HOW DARE THEY. And even as time went on, as previews and early impressions leaked out to the public and even final copy reviews, I refused to give in. No, I will not stand for this. I cannot. This game needed no direct sequel, and all they really had to do was put ALTTP on the 3DS eShop and watch the rupees flood in.

For one, I thought Nintendo’s newest take on Link and Zelda and the realm of Hyrule looked terrible, like some kind of knockoff, straight-to-DVD version called The Tale of Telba: Princess Panic that you’d find in the bargain bin and toss aside without a second glance. When you think about it, the newest game’s graphics are that way and not SNES era sprite-based because you are playing on the Nintendo 3DS, a system able to produce 3D effects sans glasses. However, by the time ALBW came out, Nintendo itself was over the gimmick–and rightly so–but it had been produced that way for a reason from the very start. Which is a shame. I’d rather have had what looked like ALTTP and no 3D than what we have now, even if it does look pretty nifty in a few cinematic spots.

I’ve only played about an hour or so of ALBW since Tara and I were playing catch-up with The Walking Dead, and it’s nice and bouncy and brimming with wonder, but I’m not sure if those warm, fuzzy feelings in my belly are because the game itself is fun or if it’s just reminding me very much of the same kind of fun I had in ALTTP. I guess that’s going to be the real question throughout is whether or not I enjoyed this very same dungeon more some twenty-two years ago or if the new twist on it is enough to warrant it some distinction.

ALBW opens innocently enough: Gulley, the blacksmith’s son, wakes Link up because he has a job to do, which is deliver a finished sword to the Captain at Hyrule Castle. Why Gulley himself couldn’t do this is beyond me. However, Link eventually finds the Captain stuck inside the Sanctuary by a mysterious man called Yuga–hey, that’s A GUY backwards–who turned the Sanctuary’s minister Seres into a painting before running off. Princess Zelda informs Link that he has to obtain the three Pendants of Power to gain the Master Sword, which can defeat Yuga, and yadda yadda yadda. You kinda know the drill by now. Oh, and thanks to some strange, purple rabbit squatting in your house, Link now also has the power to turn into a painting and move along walls and into cracks.

While I still stand by my negative reaction to how the game looks, thankfully it plays like a dream. Moving around with the circle pad instead of the d-pad makes for speedy trekking, and slashing at grass, firing arrows into trees, and bothering chickens is just as enjoyable as it once was. Navigating Hyrule is a joy thanks to the timeless, slightly remixed tunes, as well as the ability for fast travel via a witch’s broomstick. You can also now acquire all of the items before tackling a dungeon by renting them from that previously mentioned purple rabbit. This allows you to take on the dungeons in your order of choice, which sounds really awesome. Alas, so far, I’ve only done the first mandatory one at the Eastern Palace so I can’t speak to exactly how effective this works. There’s definitely a lot of new stuff here to do–that chicken-avoiding mini-game in Kakariko Village is silly fun–and collect, and a lot of other parts have been streamlined for playing portably, which is always appreciated.

I’ll definitely be eating up more ALBW over the upcoming holiday break, but don’t also be surprised to hear that I went through the trouble of dusting off and hooking up my SNES to play the realest, most amazing Hyrule adventure that Link ever played part in. You know that which I speak of. It’s the one that begins with, “Help me… Please help me… I am a prisoner in the dungeon
of the castle. My name is Zelda.”

400 Years rewards patient players only

400 years review post

400 Years, which is all about waiting, is a game totally designed for me. You have to be patient, and when you get stuck and think that more patience can’t possibly be the answer, it totally is. It moves as slow as a stone effigy with legs, but it moves with purpose, and you can always speed everything else up by advancing time and changing the seasons. Or you can just stand around and bask in the comfortable, autumn weather, listening to Kevin MacLeod’s stunningly gorgeous and hypnotic soundtrack, becoming stone-still yourself. All in all, it’s a fantastic little piece of puzzle-based experimentation, and I encourage everyone reading to give it a try.

The plot is very straightforward: a great calamity is approaching, and you’re the only one who can stop it. Who exactly are you? Well, you’re a sentient stone idol who can do little more than walk left or right, climb trees, and, magically, advance time by a full season, seeing autumn, winter, spring, and summer zip by in an otherworldly blur. In short, you have 400 years to spend until this disaster strikes down, and time’s a-ticking, so you better get a-saving. Just kiddin’. There’s really no rush. I was able to complete 400 Years with about two hundred to spare, and I’m sure you can save the people, the place, and the planet even quicker than that so long as you know what you’re doing.

Of all the games I’ve played this year, 400 Years has been the most relaxing and possibly enjoyable for that very fact. Well, wait. Animal Crossing: New Leaf is pretty stress-free, actually. Anyways, I was not stressed about losing health or missing a collectible or not finding the one specific pixel to click on to advance the plot–there was just time, and a lot of it. Your goal is to, more or less, constantly move to the right until you find the place where the calamity will occur, and then you have to stop it the only way you know how. The puzzles along the way are easy enough to figure out, and waiting is 75% of the solution. Let me tell you, it’s a real joy to ponder the solution for how you get a tree to grow and then see it happen right before your eyes. If anything, I’d have liked more puzzles peppered throughout or places to explore along the way–perhaps you come across a hill of lifeless stone effigies–but the slow pace of the game makes for a solid adventure nonetheless. Personally, I found the ending a bit abrupt and wanted more, but the journey there was really precious, a piece of gaming memory that will–if you’ll allow me just this once–stand the test of time.

You can watch me play some 400 Years in my newest “Paul Plays…” video:

2013 Game Review Haiku, #44 – Ballads of Reemus: When the Beds Bite

2013 games completed ballads of reemus 1

One large housefly brings
Puzzle probs to Fredricus
A ballad of bugs

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Life in Phantasy Star II is peaceful until Biomonsters show up

phantasy star II early thoughts copy

How I came about playing Phantasy Star II recently probably says too much about my personality, but I’m going to explain my reasoning nonetheless. Because it is not often that I dip back into the Mega Drive/Genesis era of the early 1990s to play a 16-bit Japanese role-playing game that just about tells you nothing as you go from futuristic building to building, fight to fight. See, some time ago, somebody asked Giant Bomb‘s Jeff Gerstmann what his favorite JRPG was, and his response was a flat, non-emphasized Phantasy Star II. I’m forever always interested in people’s answers to this question and–despite that JRPGs are such a niche, often dismissed genre–preferences can surprisingly run the gamut.

First I had to see if I had a copy of Phantasy Star II somewhere in my collection. The name certainly sounded familiar, but maybe only because I’ve been hearing a lot of grumbling online about how Phantasy Star Online II–totally a different game–is probably not ever coming to U.S. shores. Evidently, Jeff’s favorite JRPG is available on a number of platforms, but it turns out it’s included in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, a gathering of Genesis titles for the Xbox 360/PS3 that I played through some years back, eventually unlocking all the Achievements, too. At that time, I was embarrassingly more crazy about Achievements than I am now, and I only played the games included in the collection that were tied to a ping-able digital award, and Phantasy Star II was not part of that big bunch. Either way, it was fun to discover that I already had a copy ready to go, ready to be experienced blindly.

I have no idea what happened in the first Phantasy Star and if II is an actual narrative sequel or more like the Final Fantasy franchise where every story is separate and unique. Anyways, it begins with a nightmare. The embodiment of evil called Dark Force has returned to the peaceful Algo Star System. Mother Brain, a computer system built to control and maintain order, has began to malfunction, and the main character, a blue-haired boy named Rolf, has to figure out why.

And that’s all I know so far because I’ve basically spent my first two to three hours in Phantasy Star II grinding for essential experience points and Meseta, walking back and forth between the town of Paseo and the wild grasslands just outside its walls. Rolf’s commander has ordered him to visit the Biosystems Lab where Biomonsters are created and bring back a recorder, and I’ll get there soon enough, but it seems impossible to survive the trip unless Rolf–and his purple-haired, pointy-eared friend Nei–are both around level 5 or 6. Something I wasn’t prepared for when going into this JRPG was just how little it told you: I’ve had to learn the combat, what the items do, how the menus work, who can equip what weapon and armor, and so on all by my lonesome. It’s all about self-discovery, but for those struggling, there’s also this fantastic website: A great example of this is that Nei has a technique called RES, which I stupidly assumed had something to do with raising a character’s resistance, but it actually restores health, a spell I should have been using from the first step into the wild.

I walked away early on in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light because I found the hands-free combat frustrating, and I’m unfortunately seeing similar trends in Phantasy Star II‘s battle system. Combat is continuous, meaning you press a button to have your party members begin attacking/defending, and they’ll keep doing that until they defeat the enemies or you step in to change something up. If you want to change any character’s actions for the next round, all you have to do is press a button before the current round ends. Right now, Rolf is my main attacker, and Nei handles healing and being a tank, taking a lot of damage. Thanks to writing this post and doing some light research across the Interwebz, now I know that Nei can attack too if you equip her with Steel Bars. Will do that pronto, for sure.

So far, the music is devilishly catchy, worming its way into my brain and looping for hours. The two tracks I’m loving and hearing the most are, naturally, Paseo’s town theme and the jams for exploring the overworld map. The bass is bouncy warm, and the cheery town tune is so dang cheery that I don’t ever want to go into a shop and have it stop playing. First-world problems, I know. However, I’m not actually sold on the battle music, and considering you are not actively involved for most of the battles and are just sitting there listening, that’s a bummer. And according to Wikipedia, everyone’s favorite website to trust, snare drums are much louder in the Japanese version of the game.

I’m definitely going to keep playing Phantasy Star II because I don’t think I’m still seeing it. Whatever it is. I mean, in truth, I’ve barely started this sci-fi journey to save a realm from monster invasion. I just hope I neither find myself overleveling the characters or stuck grinding to make it safely ten steps across the map. I guess once more people join my party and I can better equip everyone, progress will be much smoother, but until then I have to take things slow because I have no clue what anything is, money is tight, the threats are real, and without coddling learning is a poky process.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #43 – 400 Years

2013 games completed 400 years

A calamity
Is coming, have to stop it
E to plant chestnut

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

Might & Magic: Duel of Champions battles for my attention


Readers of this blog should know that I love just about any and every CCG I can get my hands on, whether or not I actually have someone to play against. Part of it is the collecting aspect, the fantasy that if I get this card or that card or three of that card then I can really build something special and unique to my playing style. It’s all about dreams, and this definitely started with Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and Lord of the Rings, which I played with a small circle of flesh-and-blood friends. I also have some other card games in stuffed away in a box in my studio space that I’ve never played with anyone, such as The Simpsons TCG, Gloom, and Wyvern; I just have ’em to have ’em.

However, over the years, my gaming circle has diminished, though there are the occasional spouts of Munchkin and Lords of Waterdeep with friends, which are board games with some card-based elements, but not enough to get my palms sweating. Alas, I’m pretty much alone nowadays in my affection for CCGs and TCGs, and since I have no one else to share that love with, I must resist and sit on my hands. Even when it comes to digital card games. Sorry, Cardhunter. Bummer, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. Too bad, SolForge. My apologies–argggh, fuck it.

I can’t hold out forever.

I guess there was a beta for Might & Magic: Duel of Champions a couple months ago, but I only ever first heard of the game when it released–for free–on Steam recently. You can mostly thank Penny Arcade for tweeting about it, but I decided enough was enough, clicked “play,” and waited for the game to finish up its installation thing, which did not take very long. However, before I could partake in any collectible carding, I first had to create a Uplay account, much to my disliking–a minor annoyance at best. But then it’s right into the action of this fantasy-themed strategic online CCG where you choose a hero, build an army of creatures, cast spells and fortunes, and defeat your opponent as swiftly as possible. Basically, Magic: The Gathering, but a teensy bit different in a few areas, just enough so that Wizards of the Coast does not come armed with lawyers and paperwork and turn one Lightning Bolts.

Duel of Champions opens with a faction selection: Haven (protection and healing), Inferno (attack damage), or Necropolis (infecting and stealing life). Depending which one you align with, you’ll see a different story and deck of cards to muck around with. I went with Haven as it reminded me the most of white weenie MTG decks, where it is all about small creatures and protecting yourself with spells. The campaign starts with a lengthy, but vital tutorial that teaches you all the basics before padding off main story missions. Each encounter has some–well, to me–throwaway dialogue at the beginning that ties into the plot, and you battle with cards to earn XP, gold, and seals. To win, you have to damage your opponent’s hero until he or she has no more health.

In order to play cards, you not only have to use stored resources (like mana, but not), but also a combination of three different tracked elements: Might, Magic, and Destiny. Each turn, the player can increase one of these stats or their hero can use a special ability to do something else. I think the Haven hero lets you draw an extra card? Sorry, I don’t remember. Also, each player has eight event cards on the side, which are shuffled together and brought out in twos. These rotate around with each use and can only be activated once a turn if you can pay for the cost, with effects that generally target all players, negative and positive. They remind me of portals/dungeons from Munchkin and planes in MTG, in that they often are the vital game-changers in any round.

After all that, there are three main types of main cards found in every hero’s deck: creatures, spells, and fortunes. Data printed on creature cards correspond to an attack score, a retaliation score (damage dealt back to an attacking creature), and its overall health points. Health does not regenerate at the end of the turn like in MTG, meaning you have to be always aware of who is hurt the most. Spell, so far, are rather straightforward, such as raising the strength of a creature or healing its wounds. Fortune cards are like mini-event card that seem to only effect you and play around with the rules of the game.

And so it goes: you play cards, perform your actions, attack, and prepare, and then the other player goes. An opponent’s turn can sometimes go by in a blink of an eye, so you have to be paying attention, but truthfully…it’s a bit lifeless against artificial intelligence, but it’s all I have currently. Not terrible, mind you; just void of something. I suspect once I’m further along I can do a little online multiplayer and see what that’s like, but for a free card game riffing on what MTG created, it’s pretty good and has enough tweaks to make it a wee bit more interesting than a blatant clone. I certainly am playing it more than I did that other Might & Magic title. And if you read through all this with wild, excited eyes and totally grokked all that I wrote, please come over and play card games with me on the weekend. I have plenty to try. Any time is fine.

SPLASH DAMAGE: Videogaming in “Undeclared”


Unlike my videogaming habit, I try to stick to watching a single TV show at a time. This allows me to stay immersed and connected with the characters and storylines and not have to juggle a billion different happenings in my limited headspace; of course, due to the wealth of shows out there and number of places you can watch stuff for free or relatively cheap, I’m juggling three to four shows at the moment, namely Downton Abbey, The Walking Dead, Top of the Lake, and, lastly, Undeclared. Actually, I’m only one episode away from finishing Top of the Lake, which is a hauntingly beautiful and sad show filmed and set in New Zealand, and Tara and I only catch up with The Walking Dead every week and Downton Abbey every few weeks. So really, for me, it’s just been Undeclared over the last few days because I wanted something light and breezy after finishing up Breaking Bad recently–hey, check out my newest comic if you’re a Heisenberg fan–and that third season of Louie did not cut it.

Undeclared comes from cult favorite Judd Apatow and closely follows up on Freaks and Geeks, a show I very much adored. But instead of high school and hour-long episodes, we’re now in college with a potpourri of freshmen and 30-minute long episodes. A lot of the same themes are present here, such as taking responsibility and accepting who you are, but they are buried pretty deep beneath general goofiness, zany character motivations, and bombastic plots. At one point Adam Sandler playing Adam Sandler shows up. It’s not amazing, but it’s okay and bite-size, and I’m enjoying seeing many actors in their prime that I follow now, such as Lizzy Caplan, Seth Rogen, and Amy Poehler. Will Ferrell also appears in episode 7, “Addicts”, and his performance and script and the way he acts when it comes to videogames only confirms for me that Elf was and will always be his best, as well as that most people in TV have no idea how to portray entertainment gaming or those that like it.

In “Addicts”, Ferrell plays a townie called Dave who, for a small fee, will write papers on any subject for struggling–or lazy–college students. This works out well the first time, getting our leading lad a high mark, but the next set of papers turn out simply terrible, and it’s then that we realize that Dave is supremely messed up, on drugs, and unable to distinguish reality from videogames. See, Dave just got a PlayStation 2, and you can clearly see him enjoying Kessen, a real-time tactics simulator set in feudal Japan. As he plays, he is literally mashing on every button and moving the controller in his hands as if it covered in butter and he can barely hold on. When confronted about how bad the papers were, Dave says it’s because he was “this close to getting to level 24.”

As far as I can tell, in Kessen, there are no levels, not at least in the traditional sense. The game is broken up into different events, such as the Skirmish at Kuzegawa or Escape from Minakuchi, each with their own objectives, and I don’t think if you even added up everything in the game you’d come up with 24 somethings to do. Though I could be wrong. Still, it comes across as Dave just shouting gibberish, a phrase better associated with something like Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog–though not perfectly. If Dave was really into the game, as they show he is, he could’ve been more specific, like saying the name of the final war encounter. Later, he also refers to it as “that ninja game” when he is out of his mind on speed and trying combat the trio of college freshmen in his own house. It’s over-the-top and embarrassing, and only reinforces negative stereotypes of what a gamer looks like (well, in 2001)–college dropout, skeezy, on drugs, hyperactive, and unable to keep a grip.

If you’ll remember, I also ran into some problems with how games like Crash Bandicoot were handled in Felicity, and many of the same stereotypical dramatizations happened there as well. I wonder if Judd Apatow and J.J. Abrams shared emails with one another.

Anyways, you can watch clips of Dave being a loosely wired videogame freak from the show here, but the action really starts around the 4:00 mark:

SPLASH DAMAGE is a non-scheduled feature on Grinding Down that examines the way videogames are handled in different types of media, such as comics, movies, and TV shows. Basically, whenever I see them being grossly misrepresented, I’ll write about it. Expect a lot of grumbling over people thrashing around like wild beasts when holding a controller and shouting out strange things that many non-gamers might assume a gamer would say. Also: obvious links to drug addiction tendencies. Seriously, we can do much better than this.