Posts Tagged ‘review’

Wreck it review

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013



Wreck it Ralph may be the best movie I’ve seen this year. It is only March, but damn that was fun. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for retro. It’s certainly true that my favorite Community episode was the “video game” one. Probably my favorite thing in the movie… Well out is super subtle, but once you notice it you can’t not see it. The little people in Ralph’s game all movie with jerky 8 bit styling, that is, if you’ve played any really old games, you know the sprites only have a few frames of animation, and even upscaled to high resolution they retain the low frame rate.

Another thing i really liked was the Sgt. Calhoun’s cursing. It sounded so eloquent and dirty all at the same time. “All right, ladies! The kitten-whispers and tickle fights stop NOW!” Contrast that with Felix’s super cute, super polite style of talking. Even when he was obviously trying to curse, it sounded like the cutest thing ever.

If you haven’t seen this yet, by all means do so. A lot of fun, and a well spent hour an a half. I’ll let you know when I see something that is better.



Wednesday, March 13th, 2013



Terry Pratchett may have Alzheimer’s, but thankfully that’s not stopping him from writing excellent books. In fact, if anything the quality keeps going up.  The Long Earth was one of the best books I’d read in a while, and Dodger doesn’t disappoint. The setting is London, approximately during the Victorian era, though there is a certain fantastical element to it, and some liberties are taken with historical accuracy. Really though it all works. The main character, whom the book is named after, is a Tosher. That is basically, someone who searches for lost coins, and other valuables in the sewers.

Dodger aids in the rescue of a young lady whose name we never learn (spoilers), encounters several famous personages such as (more spoilers) Dickens, Sweeney Todd, and more. There is a little bit of Pratchett’s well known humor, but not as much as I might have liked, and that is probably the only complaint I can levy against the book. Well, I suppose the brevity could be cause for complaint as well… but really the book ended right when it needed to. And with a nice lead-in to possible future sequels.

If you like Terry Pratchett, it’s probably already on your list. If you like historical fiction, and don’t mind a book that isn’t perfectly historically accurate this also would be a good bet.

Puzzle Strike

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

puzzle strikePuzzle Strike: Bag of chips is a deck building game. Except instead of cards, you use “poker” chips. The nice thing about this is that you don’t really have to shuffle, instead you just toss them all into the bag and shake. This game simulates a puzzle game (that doesn’t actually exist) that simulates a fighting game (that also doesn’t exist.) If you’ve played Super Puzzle Fighter you know what’s what. If not, imagine a mix of bejeweled and tetris as a multiplayer game. You can combine gems, and then crash them to send them over to other players.

At it’s heart though, this is still a deck building game. You buy chips, they can give you various actions, or let you trash chips from your “deck”, or you can buy better money. There’s a few dozen different possible piles of chips, so every game is different.
One key thing that is unique about this game is that each player’s starting deck is dependent on what “character” they pick to play. So each starting deck is 3 unique chips, a crash gem (used to send crap to other players) and 6 $1 gems.

Once you know what you’re doing, the game is pretty quick. The only complaints I have are that it can only support 4 players at a time. Of course with an extra dice bag, we could probably do a bigger game. The other complaint is that it can be confusing to keep your hand/in play/discard separate from your gem piles. Apparently the 3rd edition of this game does resolve that issue, but I picked up the first edition at a con for half off, so can’t really complain. In fact, what I may do, given time is make a bunch of them, one for each character, maybe even put a little “Agrajag’s playstyle is:” blurb on each of them to help new players pick.

X-Wing Miniatures

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013



So I’m basically in love with the X-Wing Minis game. I really wish I’d gotten it earlier, on the other hand, there is now more variety in ships than I can actually afford. Even if you’re not big on Miniatures gaming, this might still have some appeal. A turn basically consists of 3 parts. First you decide how each of your ships is going to move. You do this via a special wheel that you secretly set for each of your ships. This has things on it like Hard Turn 1 left, or Soft Right 3, or 4 Straight, etc. Different ships have different movement options, and some moves are harder or easier than others. Once everyone has set their moves, every ship moves, and then can take an action (like Lock On, or Barrel Roll, and more, again they vary by ship). Once that’s done every ship fires. Then you do it again, until all ships on a side are blown up, or the mission (there are several missions) is accomplished.

I’m already thinking about making a B5 Mod for this game, and possibly BSG. Space Dog-fighting is one of my favorites, so to see something super quick and easy is really nice. That said, this does also kind of make me want to pull out all of my old Silent Death stuff and try and get that going again.

Un Lun Dun

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013


So it seems like only last week I was ranting about how pretentious and unaccessible Mieville is. I recant nothing, but at least with Un Lun Dun, it’s ostensibly a children’s book, so you’ll probably only have trouble reading the book if you’re a kid. I’ve also ranted in the past about authors who neologise (I can’t believe Chrome doesn’t think that’s a word.) without a real need. Enders is probably the worst offender in this case, making up shit left and right when we already had perfectly good words for it. On the other hand, you have all kinds of invented words in Un Lun Dun, and it all ties together with the fiction and makes sense. And there are tons of words, from the dozen different smog denizens, to Unbrellas (broken umbrellas), to the Wordhoard (Mieville’s take on Orpheous’s library), and more. So much more. Yet somehow he manages to pull it off, and every neologism fits into the story.

As a word of warning, there are a few spoilers coming up, but I won’t spoil anything super important, so I encourage you to keep reading anyways. So pretty early on the main character gets memory wiped, and her “trusty sidekick” has to step in and take over. The prophecy was wrong, things don’t work out “as written”, and there’s no guarantee of a happy ending. In fact, shortly before this happened I was kind of disappointed because of the reveal that there was a chosen one, and a prophecy, and let’s be honest, that’s a trope that’s been investigated almost to death. In main stream fiction, I can’t think of the last time that trope was subverted. In fact, the only thing I can really think of is my friend Aaron’s D&D campaign where the party wasn’t the heroes, rather we were a group of adventures who went out to try and save the world after the “big damn heroes” messed up the prophecy and the end of the world started proper. The occasional bit in Un Lon Don where the prophecy comes up again, and is wrong, or slightly off was quite entertaining.

All told this was a quite fun romp into the “Alternate world right next door” fantasy. If you liked Narnia or The Golden Compass, you should probably add this too your to-do list.

This is New York on Drugs

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013


I want to like Don Delillo. I want to like China Meiville. I some times have a hard time doing so. People are probably going to give me crap for this, but I feel like both writers can be pretentious for sake of being pretentious. Maybe my brain has been “normalized” by watching so much trashy Hollywood pap that I can’t maintain enough brainpower to properly appreciate the fictions they create. Maybe I was too busy playing games on my smart phone or taking over the universe on my computer to properly appreciate the nuanced human emotion and random sex happening throughout the movie. Or maybe everyone who likes them so much is trying to compensate for the fact that they didn’t really understand by proclaiming how awesome they are. I mean, if can’t understand it, it must be because it’s good and I’m dumb, not because it’s bad.

So, having watched the whole movie, and theoretically paid attention to most of it  (spoilers incoming)… I still am not sure what exactly the point was. Young, Wealthy, Sexy, Vampire spends all day driving across town to get a haircut. People come to entreat him, suffer verbal abuse from him, and/or have sex with him. There are riots, a funeral, live TV stabbings and general chaos throughout the day long trip. Lots of verbal sparring that probably seemed much more clever than it was. Or maybe it was clever, and the disaffected attitude everyone was copping turned me off.

I thought maybe, maybe,  things were going to get interesting when the riot happened… but no. He kills his bodyguard for no good, or discernible reason. He has a drawn out conversation with Paul Giamatti, which probably would have been the best part of the movie if it had even pretended to make sense. Basically this whole movie feels like a double fantasy… but not the good kind, no the kind where the fantasy is that the author is the main character (EG Mary Sueism) who is a wealthy wealthy person who is having a fantasy themselves about how awesome reality is for them, even when they’re desperately trying to destroy their own reality.

Basically I am disappoint. Maybe I’m a philistine, but I think I enjoyed Expendables 2 more, poor acting, bad acting and terrible acting, as well as the cheesy and poorly delivered one liners … I think it was still more fun than this one.

Mary Todd, Vampire Murderator

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013


I was told that this movie was going to be bad. As in really bad. As in barely worth watching bad. In a way I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t actually terrible. In fact, while I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say it was a great movie, it was almost actually good. Yes, the basic premise (Spoilers are in the title so no whining) that the POTUS was secretly a Slayer is kind of ludicrous, but it IS in the title so it’s not like you’re coming into this expecting a documentary. Or if you are, you are very gullible and have some exceedingly devious friends.

Is the acting great? No. Of course not. This isn’t that kind of movie. It’s an action flick, with a shoddy premise. I do think it is a nice take on the Classic + Monsters mashup genre. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t watch the movie version of Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters. The fight scenes are pretty good. There are some nice nods towards actual history in addition to all of the intentional anachronisms. The stampede fight was actually pretty fantastic in both senses of the word. The train fight was silly and epic all at once.

So basically, don’t go into this with any expectations for quality. It’s about as intellectually stimulating as a Superhero movie. However it’s fun and certainly worth watching, especially at the price of free.

Total Recall

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Total Recall (1990) Thailand

Note, this is a review of the 2012 reboot, not the Thailand release of the original. The picture is just there to confuse you.

Alternate Ending that we can all enjoy:

Dougie Houser and his wife and his girlfriend all get on VTOL craft before the “fall ship” falls and fly away and have an awesome threesome… that may just be a standard option at Rekall though.

So all told, there is a lot of dumb in this movie. Then again, the original was only way better (but also had it’s own share of dumb). I’ll admit, this has WAY better graphics, and some nice twists and turns. It’s certainly fun, you just have to turn your brain off before you even start. Basically, yeah, watch it, but don’t expect everything to be awesome forever, unless you only care about CGI, keen action scenes and triple breasted whores.

So watching this movie has made one thing clear, I need to create a Total Recall RPG. I’m already churning ideas over in my head but here’s the basics… I’ll use the basic Apocalypse World system, except each player will get 2-5 characters at the start and they’ll each secretly pick which is their “star” character. Individual characters will have various stats highlighted, and various moves available. XP is awarded as normal for doing “highlighted moves” but XP can be spent 1 for 1 to increase rolls. Missed a roll by 1, spend an XP. At the end of every scene the Story Moderator will grant 1 XP to someone for whatever reason they feel like.

Scenes will be framed, and time will be skipped, and ideally everyone will be kept on their toes. A meta-narrative will be developed based on the conjoined impetus of the players, but nothing definite will be defined before-hand. A single player will be the actual “main character” but who that is will be determined by the Story Moderator based on the story creation of the players. Bonus XP can be awarded for keeping things in theme.

Basically this will either end up being awesome or a travesty.


Tuesday, February 5th, 2013


eclipse player board

It appears that Eclipse is a 4X board game that can be played in a reasonable amount of time? Who would have thought. It says 30 minutes per player on the tin, and assuming everyone knows how to play that seems easily achievable (if not better).

The technology “tree” is fairly nice, feels weighty and meaningful, but is still pretty simple. Of course I’m going to talk about the Techtree first, did you think I’d been replaced? Anyway, the “available tech” is limited. There are ~4 copies of each tech in the bag, and you pull out a few each turn (6 per turn + initial seed in a three player game). In a 5-6 player game some folks just aren’t going to get tech, but even in the three player game we played some of the tech didn’t come out in time. Every tech has 2 prices, Normal and Minimum. So something simple might cost 2/2 something more difficult might be 8/4. There are three general types of tech, and as you buy more of one, you get a discount on future ones, down to the minimum price.

There are three resources in the game, Money, Material and Science. Science gets you tech. Material builds you stuff, and you have to pay money each turn to keep your empire running. You can take as many actions as you want each turn, but each one uses one of your influence discs (two if you’re colonizing a new zone). The more discs you use, the higher your upkeep (in money) each turn. There are three kinds of planet in the game (four if you count wild) and each time you settle one your production of the appropriate type of resource increases. The board is hex based, and modular. Exploration can lead to possible fights with ancient races, and various bonuses.

bead case

Diplomacy basically lets you send a population cube to an opponent you are adjacent to (and they send one to you) make both of your races more productive, and giving a victory point. Winning wars lets you pull a number of victory tokens from the bag, but you only get to keep one of them. And even then you only have 4-5 spots which double as spots for diplomats. You can of course return the lowest victory token to the bag when you get a better one, but ending diplomacy isn’t so simple. And if you end it with a sneak attack you take the traitor token (worth -2 victory points) from whomever may have it.

The game looks way more complex then it is… there are lots of parts and initial setup takes extra long if you don’t know exactly what you are doing, but with a bit of proper pre-sorting it should be manageable. I’m going to use a bead box like the one pictured to the left (it was like $3-5 at Michaels) to hold everything, which should make setup a lot simpler.

I can’t wait to play this again!

I’m skeptical of the quality of this movie

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

red lights cover

Let me get it out of the way, if you don’t like spoilers don’t read this review. Just be prepared to rage-quit in the last 5 minutes of the movie. However this is a movie about psychic powers so you should already know how the movie ends right?

Well, the ending really really bothers me. Not because I don’t believe in that kind of thing. While I don’t, I do love a good fantasy. So here’s how the movie runs down: Sigourney Weaver is a professional skeptic. Her son is on life support, and has been for a decade or more. She won’t let him die because she doesn’t believe in the afterlife. Cillian Murphy is her plucky side-kick. Together they solve crimes, and defeat evil psychics and charlatans. Robert De Niro is the biggest baddest psychic, who retired years ago. Turns out De Niro is a fraud, and rather than being a physicist Murphy really is a psychic and uses his psychic powers to make De Niro look like the fraud he is. He then claims that he did it for her (Weaver) but regrets that it’s too late for her to know, and intimates she should have pulled the plug on her son.

Do you see the logical disconnect here? All I ask from my fantasy, and I don’t think it’s much, is a little internal consistency. This makes me rage.   So we find out in the end that Paranormal stuff IS real after all… there’s an afterlife, ghosts and all that junk… but because Weaver died before it was discovered she won’t be able to go to heaven and be reunited with her son… because why? Murphy should have been happy. Weaver’s going to find out she was wrong and get reunited with her kid in the afterlife. Doesn’t get much better than that!

So here’s the thing about the afterlife, there are really only a couple of options.

1) When you die, you’re dead, that’s it there’s nothing else.

2) When you die you go on existing.

Now if reality is 1, it doesn’t matter what you believe … you won’t get any sort of gratification for being right, or punishment for being wrong… you won’t be.

However if option 2 is reality, then if you’re an atheist (read skeptic) you’re probably pleasantly surprised to find there is an afterlife after all.

Unless we’re talking Job: A Comedy of Justice, what happens to you when you die isn’t actually based on what you believe though…