Hive: Nothing Buggy About This Game


There are some games like Chess, Draughts (Checkers), or Go that are incredibly simple and so easy to teach, but can take ages to master. These games usually have a set of really simple rules and a win condition, that is easily understood. Hive is one of those games.

Hive-Pieces-1

Hive is hexagonal chess with bugs, in the base game each player has 11 pieces which represent 5 different bug types, each of these bugs can move in a different way:

  • 1 Queen Bee: Can move exaclty once space.
  • 2 Spiders: Can move exactly 3 spaces.
  • 3 Soldier Ants: Can move around the outside of the hive as many squares as required.
  • 3 Grasshoppers: Can hop over the hive in any straight line
  • 2 Beetles: Can mount the hive and move exactly once space.

There are expansions that add a Mosquito, a Ladybird and a Pill-bug, the first two are included in the Pocket and Carbon edition out of the box.

Players take turns either placing a piece or moving a piece, with the ultimate goal of surrounding their opponent’s Queen Bee.

The only real rules are that you have to place your Queen within your first three turns, you can’t move any placed pieces until you have placed your queen, and you cannot break the hive.

That’s it! It’s that simple!

Of course within that is a world of strategy, do you place the queen early or late? Do you go on the full offensive and hope that you can capture your opponent’s queen before your opponent? or do you play defensively moving your queen out of the way? Can you trap your opponents crucial pieces to prevent them from using them?

The beauty of this game is the simplicity and variety of bugs, which allows for and astounding amount of variance in game-play styles. Although when playing with just one opponent I’ve found that the game can fall into a stagnant rhythm of playing the same moves or trying variations on the same strategy, which can get very frustrating, it’s astounding when playing with a new player how you get those “I never thought of doing that!” moments. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

hive-pocket

Hive probably isn’t as deep as Chess for example, but it’s a lot less intimidating, and for a new player it has the advantage that there aren’t books upon books written on how to play this game effectively, I’m sure there are winning strategies and patterns to be discovered but I think that the permutation space for hive might actually be large enough that it’ll take a while for them to be figured out.

687474703a2f2f63662e6765656b646f2d696d616765732e636f6d2f696d616765732f7069633832333238365f6d642e6a7067

Putting all that aside, hive is a joy to look at, the pieces are gorgeous. Whether you are playing the original game, the pocket edition, or the new “Carbon” edition, the hexagonal pieces are stunning, and feel really nice in your hand, like Dominoes or nice Mah Jong tiles.

Hive is also a great travel game for two people, it takes up very little space, and comes with a carry case/bag to keep all the tiles in (At least Carbon and Pocket do) and you can play it on any flat surface.

Hive is also available on iOS (£1.49) and Android (Free).

ios

 

 

Tanto Cuoro: Do-maid-ion First impressions

tanto

There are two types of board gamers, those for who the theme of a game is important and those for whom the theme of a game doesn’t matter a toss as long as the game has solid mechanics. (OK so putting everyone who participates in a hobby on a binary like that is ridiculous but I’m not exactly about to formulate an ontology of board gamers based on mechanics Vs. theme I’m just writing the opening paragraph to a shitty review, calm down…)

I bought Tanto Cuoro as a gift for a friend, partly because I’d read that it wasn’t terrible, and partly because she is obsessed with some really weird Japanese niche cultures. I wasn’t expecting the game to be that good, I didn’t even expect to play the game at all to be honest. But then I did…

Gameplay

At it’s heart Tanto Cuoro (Which is Italian for “A lot of heart” apparently) is a deck building game not dissimilar to Dominion, your goal is to assemble the a collection of maids to serve you and become the ultimate master of the house.

Each turn you get a hand of cards from you deck which contains a set of maids and or some “Love” cards which are the games currency, (Yes maids are paid in love not money, I’ll let you think of that what you will) and initially you are allowed to be “Served” by one maid per turn.

Being served by a maid means you play that maid and gain the benefits that maid provides usually this is one of:

  • Extra Love: Giving you more currency to buy maids.
  • Card Draw: Allowing you to draw more cards in the hope of getting more love to spend.
  • Extra Servings: Allowing you to play more maids
  • Extra Employment: Allowing you to hire more maids to your household.

Love is spent in the Town where you can either employ maids or purchase events, the maids you buy are added to your discard pile and are shuffled into your deck when it runs out, you can also buy private maids which don’t go into your deck but give you an ongoing effect which is usually helpful.

1393810972986

Events are basically a way to screw the other player over by making their maids ill which negates their bonuses, or giving them bad habits which loses you victory points.

You can also promote maids to “chamber maids”, which takes them out of your deck permanently and may give you bonuses at the end of the game.

Once two of the piles of maids is depleted the game is over and each player tallies up the the maids in their house hold and whomever has the most victory points wins.

Opinion

I wasn’t expecting to like this game, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it would be a terrible game… I just didn’t think it would be for me. I actually really enjoyed playing it though. Behind the cute anime maids in skimpy maid outfits, are some pretty solid mechanics, the art is also very well done if you are into the theme then that is a bonus, but building a household of maids and then trying to figure out how to chain them to get the most victory points is actually quite fun.

I’ve not played Dominion in 5 years, so the rules for that are a little rusty in my head, but I think this might oddly have a little more depth than the games of Dominion I played, which I found surprising.

If you like deck building games and either the theme appeals to you, or you are willing to ignore it then this game is well worth a look. Also if you don’t want to invest in the physical game there is a version available for iOS and while it’s not free it’s pretty cheap (£2.49 last time I checked) it also benefits from having a tutorial built in to it and varying levels of AI.

screen480x480

My crowning achievement was chaining a set of maids to add love and servings to my pool such that I managed to accrue 18 love allowing me to employ two copies of “Marianne Soleil” who is worth 6 victory points.

 

Pebble Time Steel One Month On

TimeSteel

I don’t think you can write a review of a device like a smart watch or smart phone until you’ve had a little time to use it. So although I got my Pebble Time over a month I’ve not wanted to write a review of it until I’ve had a chance to put it through it’s paces.

Design

I personally don’t like the look of the regular pebble, it looks too plasticky, so I was disappointed when the Pebble Time was announced that there wasn’t a Pebble Steel analogue, of course it didn’t take long for Pebble to announce the Pebble Time Steel.

The watch may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally I like it, it looks like a watch, and for the most part it doesn’t have the “Oooh is that a smartwatch” aesthetic that the Apple Watch and the regular Pebble have.

Straps

As a Kickstarter backer I got the leather and the stainless steel strap, I’ve tried both and although the leather strap is really comfortable, I didn’t find the steel strap to be very comfortable, it’s possible that I removed one too many links when I was resizing the strap, but it just didn’t feel as nice.

That brings me to my first qualm about the stainless steel strap, although it’s easy enough to get the leather strap off I found it quite difficult to get the stainless steel strap onto and off the watch. Also although the number of links on the steel strap was rather generous, you needed a tiny screwdriver to remove the links to shorten the strap, and it would have been nice to have a small screwdriver in the packaging.

Buttons

The buttons on the watch have a nice feel to them, although I get the feeling that the watch was designed with only right handed people in mind. Although I am right handed I’ve always worn my watch on my right hand rather than my left hand, and the buttons didn’t feel like they were in the right place to use on one’s right hand.

I’ve taken to wearing the watch on my left hand, which is going against 35 years of habit, and for the most part it’s been okay.

There are a total of four buttons on the Time Steel, one on the left which functions as a back button in most cases and three on the right which normally function as up, down, and select buttons. It’s a paradigm that works quite well and it’s relatively intuitive.

Screen

The big new feature of the Time series is the colour e-ink screen, this is the first consumer device I’ve seen with a colour e-ink screen and to be honest I’m quite impressed. The refresh rate is good enough for animation, and the display is probably on par with a GameBoy Advance. You can play games on this, and the refresh is not noticeable, I don’t know how many colours the screen supports, or what the refresh rate is but for a wee screen on my wrist it’s more that good enough.

UI

This is is my first smart watch, so I had not idea what to expect from the UI, I new that pebble had added something called Timeline to the OS but I had no idea how to access it. I found navigating the UI to be relatively straightforward though, it helps that the afore mentioned buttons almost always do the same thing, the once caveat to this being one app where going back required a long press on the back button rather than just a press, so I didn’t think to use the button for anything other than back.

The menu is just a list of options and apps, which you install from the phone app, and selecting an app and using it is fairly straightforward.

It took me two days to discover that clicking up or down opened my “Timeline” though, I probably could have read a manual, or watched a video on using the pebble, but I didn’t so I didn’t know this.

Functionality

The core functionality of the Pebble Time is as a watch, and as a notification system for your phone, it does both of these tasks quite well. This is not a fitness watch, although there are some apps that have some fitness functionality, it’s not what the watch is designed to do.

That said, how useful that watch is depends on your phone, basic functionality like showing you notifications and your timeline works fine regardless of whether you have and iPhone or an Android phone, however, I found that the ways to respond to a notification on Android were much richer than on iPhone, where you could just dismiss the notification.

I was actually quite impressed with the fact that I could dictate a text message to my phone in response to one I had just received, and confirm the message on my watch before sending it. You can’t do this on an iOS device, I dont’ blame Pebble, I blame Apple for not opening up the API for this though…

One thing that the Pebble Time does, that I doubt either Android Wear or Apple Watch can do though is the ability to pair the watch with two devices, with two different operating systems at the same time. The use case for this is probably quite narrow, but if you have an Android phone for work and an iPhone as your personal device then it can be a godsend.

When I tried it I managed to pair an LG Leon and an iPhone 5S to my Pebble Time, and the Leon used regular Bluetooth while the iPhone used low energy Bluetooth. I did have to manage the watch from the Leon, as for some reason I couldn’t manage it from the iPhone, but that wasn’t the end of the world.

Battery

The battery life on the Pebble time is nothing short of amazing, although I never got the reported 10 days, I usually got at least 5 days use out of the watch, and I lived safe in the knowledge that ever if I woke up to a 10% battery warning that I could probably get most of a day, if not a whole days, usage out of the watch. Compare this to my other half who have to charge her Apple Watch every night and for some people that is enough to justify the Pebble.

There was one day where I left an app (Pixel Miner if you must know) open and it drained the battery in a day and a half. That being said, when the battery died I discovered that the Pebble Time goes into a super low power setting that just tells you the time, this lasted for a day and half so if your smart watch runs out of juice you can still use it as a watch for quite some time before you have to find a charge cable.

Apps and Watch Faces

The Pebble Time has the advantage that it’s backwards compatible with all the old Pebble watch faces and apps, so it already has a vast library thats waiting to be used, a lot of which is in black and white though so you don’t get to make as much use of the lovely screen, although there is a growing number of really nice apps, some of them have more polish than others.

There also doesn’t seem to be as much of a drive for corporations to publish apps for the Pebble, it’s mainly Silicon Valley companies where an engineer has blatantly thrown together the app in his spare time. For exaple I have apps for Swam and Yelp but not for British Airways which would be useful.

The selection of watch faces is vast, many of them actually require explanation on how to read them though…

I currently have Nyan Can on my wrist, and it animates when the light comes on, although I can’t change the date format from US format which is annoying.

nyan

There are also a number of games available if playing games on your wrist is a thing you want to do, including a version of Flappy Bird which is actually not terrible, and a fake Pokemon game.

It’s also really easy to write your own watch faces, within 20 to 30 minutes of loading up the developer kit I had written my own watch face that told the time and a little message which is quite cool:

CNfs80AWsAAktg7

Overall Opinion

Overall I’m quite happy with the Pebble Time Steel, it lacks in some of the features that the Apple watch has, so I can’t send my heart beat or drawings of penises to my friends who also happen to have the same watch (Apparently this is what people with Apple watches do…) but it tells me the time, and allows me to keep my phone in my pocket and just check my wrist for notifications. Also the battery lasts for ages, so I don’t need to worry about it running out of juice at the end of the day.

While a smart watch is never a must have device, it is a nice to have, and I’ve found that for the most part the watch has helped to curb my bad habit of receiving a notification on my phone and accidentally opening Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any of the other millions of distractions on my phone. I can glance at my watch, decide whether or not I need to do anything and just go on with whatever I was doing which is really liberating.

I think I’d like the watch more if I had and used an Android phone more often, because the options for interaction with your phone on iOS seem hamstrung, which is a real shame.

If you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comment, I’m willing to try messing about with the watch to answer most questions.

Bravely Default: Review

I’ve been playing Bravely Default for almost 30 hours now and although I’m nowhere near the end I thought I’d write up a quick review of the game.

Elephant In The Room

I’m going to get this off my chest right from the start, Bravely Default might not carry the Final Fantasy name, but this game is more Final Fantasy than the last two major releases in the series put together. Bravely Default is old school Final Fantasy made with modern game design principles. This has more in common with Final Fantasy I through VI than Final Fantasy XII and any of Fabula Nova Crystallis FFXIII series does.

Four heroes of light reviving the four elemental crystals, you don’t get more final fantasy than that.

Combat

The combat in bravely default is fairly similar to Final Fantasy per Active Time Battle was introduced in Final Fantasy IV, you give each character commands in turn then hit go and they proceed in order of speed. This does feel like a bit of a step backwards, in that the order the characters will execute your commands isn’t immediately obvious (Unless I’m missing something) and it makes it a little difficult to chain their moves. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve had a character use a potion on the wrong character because I got the order of the Phoenix Down and the potion wrong, or at least I would have lost track had I been keeping track.

The combat system does add a novel Brave/Default element, actions take up Brave Points or BP, and you can use the “Brave” command to actually tell a character to use up to 4 BP in a round, allowing them to go into negative BP meaning they will skip turns till they hit a positive amount of BP again. This allows you to quickly pull off a series of moves, such as: a revive followed by a heal, using an ether followed by a spell, or just cast a spell up to 4 times. You can alternatively opt to “Default” which stores up the BP so you can use it in a future and turn and makes the character guard. It’s a fairly elegant system, and it adds a level of strategy as to whether you attack full pelt at the risk of not being able to do anything while the enemy gets 3-4 free turns, or guard to store up the points to attack later.

A Cast of Hundreds

Okay maybe not hundreds, there are four player main characters and there are I assume 23 “boss” characters which you have to defeat in order to get their jobs. The player character are well fleshed out and for the most part likeable despite or because of their flaws.

Tiz: Tiz has literally had the his world turned upside down, his entire village is destroyed in a cataclysm in the opening cut scene of the game. He is ever the optimist and resolves to rebuild it no matter the cost.

Agnes: The slightly naive “Air Vestal” is a priestess who has spent her entire life in a what amounts to a nunnery worshipping and maintaining the Air crystal.

Ringabel: The amnesiac womaniser with a book full of prophetic notes. Ringabel will hit on anything that moves.

Edea: Edea is the turn coat daughter of the leader of the big bad evil empire, she reminds me in a way of Celes from Final Fantasy VI in that respect. She’s compassionate and has a strong sense of right and wrong.

Bravely Brutal

The story is really dark at points, it starts with a entire village being wiped off the map and an entire order of priests dying to protect one person, and it goes on from there. Lots of people die and not in nice ways.

Some of the bad guys you meet are plain evil, and although I’ve yet to meet anyone to rival Kefka, some of them are quite sadistic and I’ve got a way to go yet. The so far the story has covered extorting people for the benefit of industry, government corruption, child labour, the use of chemical weaponry, it’s almost as if Square took a list of stuff that is wrong with the world and decided to use it as a check list.

Jobs Done Right

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with job systems in Final Fantasy games, I like the versatility of allowing my characters to change jobs, but I hate that fact that when a character first switches to a new job that character is crippled for at least half an hour of gameplay while you level up the new job, and that some characters become one trick ponies when you give them a job with an essential skill but only that essential skill.

Bravely Default solves this by allowing you to select one ability from another job the character has levelled up and have that as a secondary ability. The secondary ability is not as effective as it would be if it was your primary ability but it’s still useful and it means that when you convert your level 9 black mage to another class they can actually do something while you level the new class.

You also gain support abilities by levelling up jobs, that you can apply to a character regardless of what job they currently have, this is insanely useful for the “abate” abilities, which allow you to confer a level of resistance to certain elemental attacks, it also makes your characters much more versatile.

There are 24 jobs available, some you get through the main quest and others through side quests, some are useful others seemingly useless unless you want one of their skills. This allows for an amazing level of customization for your characters, as you can equip 576 different primary/secondary job combinations, as well as the choice of a slew of special abilities across the jobs you’ve levelled up.

Bravely Difficult

This game is not easy, but if you find it too easy you can change the difficulty level mid game, I’ve not really played around with this apart from changing the encounter rate, but that in it’s self is a god send. Sick of getting attacked every footstep by irritating enemies? Set the encounter rate to 0 and no more random encounters. Grinding for XP or Job points? Up the encounter rate to double it’s normal value. These effects normally require a special item in Final Fantasy games, but here they are just settings in the config.

You can also opt to not receive experience points, job points or money from battles to make the game a little harder.

If You Build It They Will Come

The game starts off with the town one of the characters lives in being wiped off the face of the planet by a cataclysm, you are the sole survivor of your village and you get to rebuild it through the game. Final Fantasy games usually have this kind of side quest/mini game, but rebuilding Norende is quite a good touch, you upgrade shops which in turn allow you to buy better items, the shops will also periodically give you gifts of the items they sell which is always nice.

Your city is rebuilt by an ever expanding populace which you get by Street Passing other players who are also playing bravely default, or by checking the internet once a day to get up to 4 extra people.

Social Features

Bravely Default makes use of the 3DS’ Street Pass system to populate the town of Norende, every time you Street Pass another player who’s played Bravely default you get an extra citizen in Norende, which in turn means you can rebuild the town faster.

The town is also menaced by Nemesis, which are big bad boss type monsters that are sent over from other players, which you can in turn send on or fight. I’ve been swamped with level 99 monsters for a while which is a bit irritating, but they get replaced over time as you street pass other people, and they have a chance to drop items which pump your characters’ stats, which is nice, as well as offering a generous amount of XP and Job points.

You can also link your friends characters to your own characters in something that is called AB Link, which as far as I can tell allows you to use skills that your characters don’t have, but that your friend’s version of that character does.

Lastly you can summon a friends character into battle to aid you, this is really good if you are in a pinch and your friends are higher level than you, but a bit useless otherwise, I’ve seen characters do anywhere from 3 damage to 9,999 by doing this. The other player does get to pick what moves they send you though which is nice.

Side Quests

So far each chapter I’ve played has had two side quests which you can optionally play through to gain extra jobs. Though the side quests are optional they are tied into the story and are the kind of quest in another game would have actually been part of the main story. One of them had me deposing the monarch of a nation!

The side quest locations are highlighted on the map so you don’t have to worry about missing them, although sometimes it is a case of being at the right place at the right time, for example: I’ve already run into two which are only available at night.

Graphics

I don’t normally care too much about graphics, especially not in a handheld game, so long as it’s not butt ugly I tend not to mind, that aside, the graphics in Bravely Default are nothing short of stunning. Everything is rendered in 3D and the way the camera pans in and out on the field or in cities is amazing. I’ve noticed the odd glitch or JPEG artefacts in the FMV, but for a hand held console this is more than acceptable.

Unaceptable!

There is very little I didn’t like about the game, I personally found the English voice acting a tad annoying, but I’ve switched it over to Japanese and that is much better. I’m quite happy reading subtitles, so I’m happy.

Worth it?

So far this is one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in a long time, I’m really hoping it holds up. I heartily recommend this game to anyone with a 3DS.

I leave you with this:

Sword Art Online – Season 1: Anime Review

The year is 2022 and a new virtual reality MMO has just been released called Sword Art Online, Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya is an introverted teenager who uses online games as a way of escaping from the real world. Only 10,000 copies of SOA and the accompanying “NERV” gear are sold, this includes the original 1000 beta testers of which Kirito was one.

Fiction set in an MMO isn’t exactly anything new, Piers Anthony did it with Killobyte in 1993, the .hack series of manga, anime and games (Which had you playing a single player game in which you were a person playing an MMO) did it extensively too, and there is even another current series called Log Horizon which plays with similar themes (I’ve not watched it but it’s on my to do list).

What sets Sword Art Online apart is that everyone is trapped in the game, all 10,000 players can’t log out, and if they die in game they die in real life.

It’s pretty dark, and a lot of the people playing the game unsurprisingly go a little nuts at the start. Although as time goes on they settle into the fact that this virtual world is their real world for now. A core group of skilled players fight on the front line trying to clear the 100th level of “The Tower” which upon completion will release all the players from the game. Other players set up shops, or just go fishing. The show explores what it might be like to live in an entirely virtual world and it does it fairly well.

The character progression is for the most part pretty good, the main two characters, Kirito and Asuna are quite strong, Asuna is even a “Strong Independent Woman“, although at times Kirito suffers from what I call Kakoii syndrome (Kakoii means cool in Japanese) where every female character he encounters falls madly in love with him.

That covers the first part of the show… This show could have, and possibly should have, ended on episode 14.

MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW

Everything was tied up, the will they wont they sub plot resolved, the game is completed and the players are freed, except some aren’t and Kirito has to venture into another MMO called ALfheim Online to rescue Asuna from a rather convoluted conspiracy.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what actually happens because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who plans on watching it, but the show goes from being dark to being creepy. And Asuna who was a strong female lead turns into a plot device and a bit of a wet blanket. That to be honest is the saddest thing about the 2nd season, Asuna goes from being a really good and empowered female character to the stereotypical “Princess in the Castle”.

Also while the first half of the season had the odd gratuitous tits/ass shot, the second half is rife with fan service the low point of which is a shower scene with convenient obscuring steam which is just unnecessary (The shower scene is unnecessary not the steam, the steam is very necessary) especially when you consider the character and their age, I know Japan seems to be desensitized to this kind of thing but there is a line…

The second half of the season is watchable,  but it’s like watching another lower quality anime from the first half, arguably I’d probably enjoy playing the ALfheim Online more thatn Sword Art Online, because it’s more detailed and you can fly! but that wasn’t what this anime was about, it wasn’t about playing an MMO it was about being stuck in an MMO in which your life was on the line. I went through a brief phase of playing World of Warcraft, and I’m fairly sure I spent more time running towards my corpse as a ghost to reincarnate than I spent fighting monsters. To think that the first time I died would actually have killed me is terrifying.

All in all Sword Art Online is a pretty good anime series, the first half of the season is amazing the 2nd half is okay. There is a second season in production, and the manga apparently covers another two MMOs, I will probably watch it in the hopes that it goes back to being as good as the first half of season one, but I’m not entirely sure how they can do that.

You can watch Sword Art Online on CrunchyRoll or buy it on Amazon

Final Fantasy ATB: Possibly the Worst Game Ever Created

20140116-180848.jpg
If I pitched this game to you right I could see you thinking this was a game with tons of potential.
Play through a streamlined Final Fantasy game on you iPhone!
Fast paced combat featuring up to 40 characters at a time!
Unlock your favourite characters from the Final Fantasy universe!
It sounds good doesn’t it? Well it’s not… This game is a steaming pile of horse manure dressed up as a game, and the costume department is t even that good.
Final Fantasy ATB consists of battle after battle with enemies from various FF games, and you do, technically, get to control up to 40 characters… Only by control I mean furiously rub the screen with no semblance of thought or strategy.
You control an increasing number and variety of FF archetypes and presumably when you unlock them named characters from the FF universe. Tap a character to attack, and the. The character has to wait a little while to attack again. Any character who gets hit is immediately eliminated.
You might start by tapping, you’ll soon discover that you can just as easily just run your finger over the screen to achieve the same if not a more effective result. Your characters will one by one die and you’ll have wait for them to to revive which happens at a rate of one every 3 minutes.
That’s it. That is the gameplay. You essentially masturbate your phone to kill enemies.
Oh and you can spend money to get more characters. It’s like Squeenix didn’t even bother trying, they aren’t phoning in this performance, they are are making a collect call to their canvass and asking them to phone it in for them.
Do you want a particular character? Too bad the character you get when you spend money is RANDOMIZED! It’s like those gumball capsule toy vending machines.
This is extortion plain and simple, there is no game here just some animated pixel art and a means for FF fans to give Squeenjx money for nothing.
The worrying thing is that this game has over 100 five star reviews on the iTunes App Store.

Everything Wrong With ‘Paranormal Activity’ In 7 Minutes Or Less

I’m not going to lie I thought Paranormal Activity was a terrible film when I initially saw it, and this has been the source of countless arguments, but this video by CinemaSins helps summarize what I hated about the movie.

From completely unlikeable characters, to the complete lack of any rationality in anyone’s actions it’s just a rubbish movie.

Game Review: Cards Against Humanity

cards-against-humanity

I don’t think I’ve laughed as much as I did while playing “Cards Against Humanity” in a very long time, I laughed so hard I gave myself the hiccups.

Cards Against Humanity is a fairly simple game, each player is dealt a hand of 10 “White” cards with a random phrases on them like (The expansions give you blank cards to fill in with your own in jokes):

  • “Being a Dinosaur”
  • “Goblins”
  • “Stephen Hawking talking dirty”

Players then take turns drawing a “Black” card which has a phrase with one or more blanks in it such as:

  • But before I kill you Mr. Bond I must show you ___________________
  • In M. Night Shyamalaman’s new movie, Bruce Willis discovers that _______________ had really been ______________ all along.
  • Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s_________________

The other players have to play in one or more white cards which are shuffled and then read out. There is a mild element of strategy to this, because the player who played the black card picks the winner, you have to pick not the funniest card but the one that you think will appeal the most to that player’s sense of humour.

Whoever’s card is picked wins that round, everyone draws a replacement card and the next player draws a black card for everyone else to play.

That’s it… There are house rules, some of which are genius, but that is pretty much the game in it’s entirety. It’s a really good way to get to know people and some of the bizarre/sick combinations that people come up with are hilarious.

I liked this game so much that having played it I ordered it off Amazon the next day, I can’t wait to play it again…

  

Film Review: From Up On Poppy Hill

“I was expecting more talking cats” was what one of the people I went to see From Up On Poppy Hill came out of the film saying. Studio Ghibli have become famous in the west for surreal fantasy Anime like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. What a lot of westerners don’t seem to know is that they are also famous for making emotionally charged films that are set in the real world.

There are no talking cats in this film, no sentient fires, no giant forest spirits just people. And that’s not a bad thing.

From Up On Poppy Hill is based on a Japanese serialized comic by Chizuru Takahashi  and is the story of a high school kid in 1960’s Japan, the Olympics are just around the corner and the school club house is being threatened with demolition. Also she’s fallen for a boy with whom circumstances arise that make her feelings a little awkward.

It’s a whimsical tale, heart warming at parts and laugh out loud fun at others, the incidental characters make this film as much as the leads, I think I could watch an entire movie starring the head of the philosophy club, or the bespectacled artist sister of the main character.

If you come into this film expecting talking cats, you are going to be disappointed, the only magic in this film is in the interaction between the characters. If you come into the film expecting character growth, good story telling and an insight into what it was like to be a kid in 1960’s Japan, then I don’t think you will be walking away from it in the slightest bit disappointed.

Garbage: “Not Your Kind of People” Initial Impressions

I’m going to say this now before anyone points this out, I am conscious that this post is going to reek of “it’s not as good as it used to be” and “anything new is rubbish”, I’m not a music blogger, I don’t want to be a music blogger, in fact I’m probably rubbish at blogging about music in general but this is something that I wanted to blog about and if you don’t want to read it well… Just don’t.

I bought the new Garbage album today, I’d listened to a couple of the tracks on YouTube and my impression was they sounded okay, but there was something wrong with them that I couldn’t put my finger on. I’ve now listened to the whole album twice in the background while working and I think I’ve realized what the problem is.

I don’t think I could have listened to any of the previous Garbage albums for the first time in the background. Shirley Manson’s voice exudes so much power and (for want of a better word) sex that you are drawn into it, or at least it did…

There are hints of that power in some of the songs, “Battle in Me” for example has it’s moments and, but it never quite reaches the intensity of their previous albums. “Man on a Wire” Is, I think, one of the closest songs to their old levels of intensity but it’s still only a 10 when to be honest I expect Garbage to have turned it up to 11. This album is Garbage by numbers it’s unmistakably Garbage (the band obviously not refuse) and it’s not half bad, but it’s what to me makes Garbage not just another band and that makes me sad.

Note as I’ve been listening to it in the background I’ve not been listening to lyrics, which I probably should have, Garbage normally have quite evocative lyrics, but to me Garbage are about the music and Shirley Manson’s voice. Mostly Shirley Manson’s voice actually, and what’s wrong with this album is Shirley seems to be phoning in her voice, it’s beautiful but like I said before it’s jut missing that extra level of sex.

I have no doubt that this album will grow on me, but it should’t have to… At this point I should probably make some kind of joke about this album being “Not My Kind of Garbage” but to be honest I can’t be bothered. I’m not angry, I’m just a little disappointed.