Magic: The Gathering – Explorers of Ixalan

The first question I had when I saw this box was “what the hell is this?”. Well, it’s a big box with 4 pre-built Magic: The Gathering (MTG) decks and a bunch of cardboard hexes. The game within is standard 2-4 player free-for-all MTG with the addition of a simple (but effective) exploration module. My second question was “who is this for?” and, it turns out, it’s been designed specifically for me. This box is aimed at anyone who knows how to play MTGand likes it–but doesn’t actually own any MTG cards. This is a small niche, to be sure, but it’s one that’s inhabited by most of my friends. We love Explorers of Ixalan, but it’s easy to understand why it has struggled to find an audience. Continue reading


Remember Me

Box Art

Nilin, the game’s protagonist.

I finished Remember Me a couple of weeks ago, but I started it in May. Part of the reason it took me so long is that the game didn’t pull me back in the early stages when I had Rocket League or Street Fighter available. It becomes more compulsive towards the end and ultimately I’m glad I finished it, but the game doesn’t make itself easy to like. It’s on the edge of excellence. Remember Me is a game that needs to be better at almost everything, few aspects worthy of praise without caveat. It’s an ambitious game full of great ideas and I admire much of what it accomplishes, but its execution is so lacking that it undermines itself constantly. Continue reading

Backlog 2015 #2: Batman: Arkham Origins: Blackgate: Deluxe Edition

Blackgate cover

I like to imagine that’s Batman looking at the people responsible for this nonsense.

I want to make this brief so I don’t waste too much more of my time on this game, but if you’re reading this I’m wasting your time with a messy article. Blame Batman. The most enjoyable moment I had was it enabling me to sincerely type B:AO:B:DE in a text to a friend. I was excited about this Metroidvania game due to a long time love of the Metroid series. Metroid + Batman; sign me up. But it’s a bad cover band. Continue reading

Backlog 2015 #1: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

CoverI’ve had a massive backlog of Gen 7 games since pretty much halfway through Gen 7. I’ve tried to get through them a few times and started a separate blog to try to track it. All of these attempts have failed. Now I’m trying again. This time, I have all of my Gen 7 consoles with me in London, but my PS4 (with my Great Love Battlefield) is back in Belfast and I’m not bringing it over until this backlog is cleared; I actually want to play these games. Last year I think I only managed Bayonetta (which I loved to a criminal degree) and FarCry 3 (which I despised; it was like listening to a 14yo lecture you about the nature of humanity after they’d seen Apocalypse Now for the first time). The first game of 2015 was Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

General Impressions

I really liked this game. Reductively, the game’s USP is its control scheme. You spend the entire game controlling the two eponymous brothers (or sons, I guess), one with each analogue stick, with the only action button being a context-sensitive “Interact” mapped to the corresponding shoulder. It works incredibly well, particularly keeping the interaction pared down to one button, allowing the player to focus on the meat of the puzzles rather than execution.. The older brother’s movement is mapped to the left stick, where movement is usually mapped in video games at large. The younger brother’s is mapped to the right stick and I tended to lose track of him. I think the designers were aware of this and used it to make the big brother seem more solid and leader-like. Brothers is fundamentally a puzzle-platformer where each new section has you manipulating the unique control scheme in an interesting way. The game is almost completely linear (not a bad thing) and I enjoyed all of my time with it. I was never bored; the game introduces many unique events that keep the gameplay fresh but they’re all based around the central idea of having two characters so I never found them token. Much of the platforming reminded me of Sands of Time; always a good thing. The game is paced such that the relaxed puzzle sections are infrequently punctuated by more thrilling, pressured sections and it’s judged perfectly to give those sections a welcome sense of tension. Continue reading

Anarchy Reigns (The Achievements note that the title makes no sense)

Manarchy-reigns-15437-1920x1200y friends and I bought Anarchy Reigns cheap recently for something different to play multiplayer. It’s certainly different. We haven’t really played much of it yet and all I do is complain about how much damage I’m taking when I play it (#maturity). It’s enjoyably baffling, obviously bonkers but pretty frustrating. In an attempt to get to grips with the controls and systems better I played through the campaign. Here’s what I thought.

Anarchy Reigns is a sequel/prequel/interquel to MadWorld on the Wii (I have it waiting to play so I haven’t looked up the connection) so for a lot of the story I couldn’t tell if I was missing information because I hadn’t played MadWorld or because it wasn’t given to me. But it’s a Platinum Games game (<3) so honestly it could be either. The storyline is some balls about two different characters that are trying to catch up to a third character for reasons that are never fully explained and with fantastically unearned high-emotion scenes. The whole tone of the campaign is like a 12yo who’s still young enough to play with action figures but whose older brother has shown him Robocop and Die Hard. And, as with so many Platinum Games, I can’t tell if they realise this or not. Continue reading

Atria (Short Story)

Two friends and I decided to do some short-form writing based on io9‘s Concept Art Writing Prompts. The furthest we got was 2/3 of us did it once. This is my entry based on the image below, titled “A Boy in the Hall of Hearts“. The piece is by concept artist Brun Croes, via Concept Art Brun Croes

The boy stood perplexed at the scene in front of him. Arranged in a regular grid were wooden pedestals, atop them bell jars containing what could only be hearts. (He’d studied organs in science class last term and the heart was his favourite because he liked the word “ventricle”). Stranger than the appearance of the suspended army was the sound. Each heart was still beating, but not in unison. A deep cascade of thuds expanded throughout the room, unceasing. There were so many hearts that the first had beat its second before the last had beat its first. It created a tension as the tumbling sound had the listener expecting a crash at the bottom of the fall. But the crash never came. He closed his eyes, screwed up his face and shook his head, attempting to lift the mesmeric effect of the rumble. He reached toward the nearest jar but stopped as he noticed the undisturbed dust covering the stately container. Below the glass he could see a small brass plaque, too dusty to read. He ran his finger across it, lifting a layer of dust and leaving a line of shining brass in its wake. He played with the dust between his fingers and felt its grainy texture resolve to nothing as it rejoined the air. The plaque read

Meredith Finchley
How he looked at Sarah in Ivory

Continue reading

A Secret (Short Story, I guess?)

One of my friends was taking a creative writing class as part of his Master’s and I’d been giving him feedback on some of it.  I’d felt guilty just criticising his work so one week I decided to write a piece to the same brief.  An attempt at empathy.  The brief was about “a scene between two characters, one of whom is finding it difficult not to reveal something to the other”.  This is what I came up with.

A Secret

“Thanks for doing this.  I know it was short notice.”

“It’s honestly not a problem.  I was actually going to call you anyway.  I needed to give you this.”

Patrick reached into the side pocket of his coat and attempted to remove the wrapped, Blu Ray copy of Die Hard from it.  He’d put it in with longest sides of the case parallel to the bottom of the pocket, since otherwise the wrapping protruded upwards.  The bright blue and yellow Batman motif on the paper didn’t look particularly inconspicuous against his black, woollen coat; the fact that he was still wearing it in a heated café looked even less so.  He’d blown the smooth reveal, since he was now fumbling, half-turned-round in his seat, trying to remove the gift by force.  He was conscious that in this particular position his gut appeared at its least attractive, but he’d anticipated this and was wearing a loose black t-shirt.  Patrick fleetingly compared himself to Sherlock Holmes but was shaken from the fantasy by the realisation that his hand might now have been stuck in the pocket along with his dignity.  Douglas watched the spectacle with impatience, but obvious affection. Continue reading