Sunday 28 January 2024

The Diplomat and Berlin

First season TV shows that feel like other TV shows.

The Diplomat (Season 1)

On the verge of an international crisis Kate Wyler (played by Keri Russell) is assigned as US ambassador to the UK and manage the politics going on there. A sharp script and good acting makes this very entertaining, and it has a bit of the Madam Secretary feeling to it - except for the big difference where here our protagonist is not in a happy marriage and a bit unhinged thanks to the gifts/curses her husband (excellently played by Rufus Sewell) gives her. A season two for this one has been confirmed, and we're definitely going to be watching it!

Berlin (Season 1)

This currently one season prequel to Money Heist sees fan favorite Berlin (Pedro Alonso) assemble his own heist team to rob an auction house in Paris, and while the heist part is really nifty the crew are a bunch of real amateurs! You thought the Money Heist crew was bad? Wait till you see what shenanigans this lot gets up to. Even Berlin himself isn't immune to holding the idiot stick, but if you liked Money Heist - odds are you'll probably enjoy this. Of course the opposite is true as well.

Thursday 18 January 2024

Fast X and Rebel Moon

Movies of action!

Fast X

The Fast and Furious franchise has had a lot of the strangest stuff happen in it, and I'm actually happy to report that because they slightly toned down the craziness in this one it actually makes for a more cohesive revenge plot enacted by the son of a previous villain (wonderfully played by Jason Momoa) who is out to make Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) suffer. Nice action pieces and good fighting sections make this an enjoyable watch, and more so if you liked the previous movies.

Rebel Moon

On a planet at the edge of the space imperium is a little village that is threatened by a large antagonistic group to provide supplies in a number of months when they plan to return. Knowing that even if they do so will mean the end of their town, they instead decide to recruit a bunch of defenders to make a stand and... wait, isn't this the plot to Seven Samurai? Well yes! Despite the start concealing it very well it definitely goes down the Seven Samurai route but with a slight variation towards the end. Interesting CGI but some of the characters feel very shoehorned in, and while this movie certainly is shorter than the original Seven Samurai it is only part one of... who knows how many.

Sunday 14 January 2024

Dusk and DNF Duel

Two old-school but fun games!


This Quake style FPS starts off with you in a room with a number of chainsaw wielding cultists and only gets crazier from there. While the graphics are indeed dated, the game play feels pretty smooth with the maps being well varied and nicely designed while populated by a large list of enemy types, including bosses. I also appreciate the ability of dual wielding weapons should you find duplicate versions of them and the finale was quite a nice surprise. Very old school but I quite enjoyed it.

DNF Duel

This button mashing one on one fighting game is an offshoot of Dungeon and Fighter (which I've not tried) and plays much like the well known Street Fighter or Samurai Showdown series with over twelve smooth moving characters to pick from each with their own fighting combos and little story lines (most are pretty similar to each other though). The art and action is pretty good but if you aren't a Dungeon and Fighter fan I'm not sure why you'd pay for this one. Definitely try nab it for free though!

Saturday 13 January 2024


In this two player competitive game, there are a number of pits filled with an equal amount of stones and a larger pit on each end which serves as each players "store". On your turn you simply pick any pit on your side and take all the stones within in your hand then move counter-clockwise dropping a stone in each pit you move past, putting one in your store and skipping your opponents store should you reach it.

If you happen to end on an empty pit on your side of the board that has stones on the opponents side, you take everything an place it in your store, if you end in your store you get to go again and should you run out of stones on any one side then the side that still has any stones takes everything. In the end, whoever has the most stones wins. It's a pretty simple game to setup, teach and play and is ok it terms of enjoyment.

It certainly is more fair than the Philippine version of Sungka which plays similarly except it has more holes, more stones (or shells) and you basically can just keep going until you end in an empty pit on the opponents side which gives the first player a huge advantage. At least in Mancala the second player has a chance to fight back, but there is still an advantage of going first.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Cat Quest, Escape Academy and Ghostrunner

Three games with different problems.

Cat Quest

In this cute fantasy click fest game you play as a cat-venturer who must venture out into the world to find his sister. Featuring a pretty big map and easy controls its pretty easy to get going, hopping from quest to quest - dungeon to dungeon while taking catnaps in between to recover your health and save the game. That is until you get to the parts where you can't advance until you GRIND. Yep, high level critters act as a sort of fence which can almost one hit KO you until you level up (a lot) almost forcing you to see that all those "optional" dungeons and tasks may not be so optional after all. Sorry Cat Quest, if only you kept things as mellow as the start but no - you had to take the path of the shit games and introduce grinding. Not recommended.

Escape Academy

Do you like puzzles? Do you like escape rooms? Obviously I don't but this game does offer those two things with a pretty good 3D interface AND a hint system that can even get dumbos like me through the challenges. That said I'm grateful that it starts out super simple, so much so that I could do the first three or so puzzles on my own but as expected, I quickly ran into problems I couldn't handle - but that doesn't make it a bad game. I'm just a bad player. :P In fact, in terms of puzzle type games this is one of the better ones I've tried recently so - recommended!


It is the future and you are a katana wielding cyborg ninja who must constantly do parkour because one slip or one bullet is the end of you. Yes, this first person game is all about being annoyed apparently. At least, that's the feeling I had most of the time as it is basically a game of memory where you need to do sequences in order to pass to the next checkpoint. Fail and you get to try again. And again. And again. It's not even the bad guys that are the problem, it's just the stupidly long parkour segments where you must be looking at the correct thing when you jump or you die. Awesome graphics. Stupid game. Not recommended.

Monday 8 January 2024

Cursed to Golf and Human Resource Machine

A pair of funny little games.

Cursed to Golf

In this side scrolling, click timing type game you play a spirit who must play golf forever unless you can defeat the 18 holes of purgatory to return to life! Yes it is as silly as it sounds but the cute graphics and upbeat sound track will hook you in for longer than you plan to play it. A bit more instruction at the start on how to change clubs would be nice though (left-shift on keyboard), and also remember you can decide if you are swinging left or right as sometimes you want to intentionally go away from the hole to hit statues that give you more shots. Run out of shots? Then it is game over and you are cursed to golf once more.

Human Resource Machine

This small puzzle game actually teaches basic programming, as it is how you get your mail room worker to move things from the inbox to the outbox (and loop). The difficulty comes with the variety of sorting that happens as you advance in level - maybe you want only 0s, or items in a particular order, or the sum of items. Pretty cool but can fry your brain on higher levels. Well, maybe just mine since I'm not great at puzzle games either. :P

Sunday 7 January 2024

Squid Game: The Challenge (Season 1)

As Netflix actually owns all things Squid Game (that was news to me), they made a real life version of the competition using most of the games from the first season of the show, without the fatal consequences - which was actually first done by Mr. Beast if you can believe it.

The first season spans 10 episodes and as expected you get to know very few of the contestants because there's a lot of them and they get culled pretty quickly. I honestly had doubts about watching it at all until Juris suggested he liked it - and there are few things Juris likes, so I gave it a go... and it is very entertaining! Whoever edits it did a fantastic job. Recommended, and it looks like it's already been renewed for season two.

For those wondering if you need to watch the original Korean series first, maybe. You don't need to but it's a very good show anyway. Just be aware that the contestants have seen it, so they have some expectations and knowledge of what games to expect during this show.

Saturday 6 January 2024

Carnival of Monsters

In this two to five player competitive card drafting board game, players are trying to earn the most points by displaying an assortment of creatures over the span of four seasons (rounds). Each season has it's own bonus - maybe this time Cave monsters or Ocean monsters get bonuses, but other than that the seasons all play exactly the same: everyone gets eight cards, picks one to play or keep and passes the rest on clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the round number.

Event cards can just be played outright, just like land cards most of the time (yep, some magic the gathering feeling going on here). Monster cards need enough of the correct land type to play them, and staff require enough gold to play them. If you aren't immediately playing your selected card (or your card is a hidden objective that gives you more points at the end) you can store it for the cost of 1 crown. Stored cards can be played in the future whenever you feel like, provided you can cover the cost.

If you can't you can always take a loan which gives you 3 crowns for -5 VP at the end. There's a tiny more to it than that but basically have the highest victory points at the end and you win! It's a fun game with great art that flows pretty smoothly once you get going. Only the dealing of 8 cards to each player at the start of each season is a bit tedious but otherwise an enjoyable and solid game. Recommended!

Friday 5 January 2024

Snakebird Complete

Do you remember the old snake game? The one where you are constantly moving, eating things, getting longer and trying not to run into obstacles like your own body? This is a much updated version of that which does away with the constantly moving bit and change the perspective from top view to a platformer to form the basis of an interesting and challenging puzzle game.

Your snakebirds are very cute with their funny facial expressions and they are pretty sturdy in that as long as one part of them is touching ground they won't fall. Yet I can guarantee that you will fall off ledges or tie yourself into knots at some point but not to worry, there's a handy undo button (1 step back) or reset button readily available at all times while you try get all the fruit and make your snakebird (or in some cases snakebirds) way to the exit portal.

So yes, it's a silly little game but much better (and harder) than I thought it would be.

Thursday 4 January 2024

Mists Over Carcassonne

In this tile laying game, one to five players take turns laying tiles down to create a nice landscape - and after putting a tile can choose to place one of their meeples on a terrain feature like a road or city on what they just put down. Later when the road or city is completed they score points based on the length of the path or size of the metropolis.

What makes this different from regular Carcassonne is that it is entirely cooperative and players must reach particular point values before their tile sets run out. Also tiles have ghosts coming from the mist which spawn ghost-meeples on the board and if you run out of them and need to place more, you all lose. Of course, you can complete a mist area to eliminate all ghosts within, or when scoring forgo getting points to eliminate up to three ghosts in one space.

There are a few levels of complexity here too, where later on you get graveyards that also get a ghost whenever another ghost is spawned and you need to shut them down by encircling them and "burying" a meeple there, or on harder modes tiles are "cursed" and placed face down blocking progress to anywhere. It's a pretty easy game to setup, teach and play but winning heavily depends on how the tiles come out - even more so than say, the Night Cage, because its much harder to mitigate a bad draw here.

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Art of Rally and Melvor Idle

Two games that aren't for me.

Art of Rally

Regular readers know I'm not one for racing games to begin with, and while this blocky styled, pastel colored racer has some nice scenery (I'm not a fan of the block people though) it does suffer an interesting problem, which is you never have opponent cars on the track with you. While I guess that keeps it true to simply fighting the clock, it does seem a bit more boring than other racing games I've tried, even if I was just as bad at those!

Melvor Idle

This entire game reminds me of those old frame based websites where you have a left hand frame that holds your stats and main navigation to do stuff like lumber or smithing, which then opens up a page on the right that simply presents your options as large tiles. Click on start chopping trees and it just loops, giving you x resource every x elapsed time. Click something else and you stop chopping trees and doing that other thing... and that's it. That's the whole game. No sound or music and very little in the way of graphics. Not sure who the intended audience was for this one but I'm certainly not numbered among them!

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Just One and Magic Maze

Party games with limited communication!

Just One

In this three to seven player game (though you can easily add more), one player is the "guesser" and after giving a number from 1 to 5 then leaves the room while the remaining people take one of the many cards from the box which has five words and the guesser has to say the one next to the number he chose.

Now, everyone has to write down a one word clue to help him out, and the clue can't be the same word in a different language or have the answer in it (eg. if the word is King you can't use Kingdom). You can use onomatopoeia (words that sounds like something, like "Oink") but can't invent a word that just changes a letter from the target word. The tricky part is once everyone has a word, they first show it to each other and any duplicates eliminate each other on the spot.

Once there are no more duplicate words, the guesser comes back in and hopefully gets the word right! A very easy game to get people involved with a low barrier for entry, and requires zero table space. Big thumbs up for this one - recommended!

Magic Maze

In this chaotic and funny one to eight cooperative tile laying game, there are four different colored pawns trying to steal items from a fantasy mall. From the starting tile you must explore to find each of the items and each of the exits because you are always on a sand timer clock!

Of course this is not so easy because each edge is color coded and can only be explored by the pawn of that color,  all the pawns must be standing on their chosen item before any can escape, pawns can't move through each other, and players usually only have one move they can do... like... move North. That means any time any pawn needs to go that way, you need to be in charge of doing it.

The biggest challenge is that no one is meant to speak, grunt, or point! All you can do is stare intensely or use a "do something" pawn which looks like a 3D exclamation mark that you can put in front of someone. Rules also get added as you play through the 17 scenarios like having to pass your move to the player to the right and each colored pawn getting a specific ability. Easy to setup and again quite fun but as this one needs table space and isn't as welcoming as the above to non-gamers I'd have to recommend Just One over this if you are after a pure party game.