Kick is a funny word if you say it enough.

I’ve been on a bit of a Kickstarter spree recently, largely due to getting my tax return this month. And since most of these get better the more people donate to them, I want to take a minute to point out each of them and talk about why they’re exciting to me.
 

Enemy


 
[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1209639165/enemy width=480]
 

This one actually just ended, so I’m a terrible promoter. I found out about it pretty late though, and luckily it did meet its goal. Still well worth checking out. I love turn-based tactical games like this, and when you add retro-gaming nostalgia and destructible physics-based environments, I’m paying attention. It’s definitely the smallest project I’ve backed, but the developer seems devoted, the game seems pretty far along, and the price was pretty reasonable, so I took a shot. Really looking forward to getting to play it.

 

Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey


 
[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/redthread/dreamfall-chapters-the-longest-journey width=480]
 

I never played the original Longest Journey, but I enjoyed the heck out of Dreamfall on the original Xbox. These are intelligently designed adventure games with really original, intricate and mature storytelling behind them, and I’m pleased as proverbial punch that the series is getting continued. As you can probably tell by the over million dollars raised for it so far, many others are as well. The Kickstarter has a little over a day left to go, and around $150,000 to go before reaching a stretch goal that adds back in a lot of content they had to cut from their plan for budget reasons. Hoping they meet that, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the final product regardless.

 

Delver’s Drop


 
[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pixelscopic/delvers-drop width=480]
 

This is a game I saw briefly at PAX Prime last year and resolved to keep an eye on, so I was on board early once they started their Kickstarter campaign. The art style is charming and the gameplay is a lot of fun for anyone that likes top-down dungeon crawlers like the classic Zelda games. I really like that they’ve got puzzles in the mix, so it’s not just combat and avoiding traps. What impressed me most though is how much more polished the Kickstarter footage looks compared to the build I saw last August, which already looked quite good. Excited to see what the finished game will be if this is how much they’ve accomplished on their own without funding.

 

Story War


 
[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cantripgames/story-war-the-storytelling-party-game width=480]
 

I am so super excited about this one. Cards Against Humanity has been a mainstay at parties I’ve been too recently, because that’s just my crowd. I love the social atmosphere and discussions that such games generate, and Story War takes that a step further by actually building the discussion over which card is best into the gameplay. Not to mention that it’s a game about telling a fun, creative story with comical fantasy motifs, which taken all together seems like a card game custom-designed for me. I actually put quite a bit of cash into my backing of this one, and I’m comfortable with my decision to invest in it because I know from what I’ve seen that I’m going to get a lot of enjoyment out of this game. In fact, I don’t want to wait for my physical set, and will be printing out the PDF version as soon as it becomes available!

 

Orc Wars


 
[kickstarter url=http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/arrowstorm/orc-wars-feature-film width=480]
 

Well, I mean, come on. This movie just looks like good fun.

 
-Tim

Summer Streaming Gems

Just a quick post today to share some interesting films I’ve seen lately that might not be on your radar. And wouldn’t you know it, they’re all available for streaming on Netflix.

 

Lo

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhFsK7e8wUo]

This film is weird and dark and weird and experimental and weird, but the experiment works. It accomplishes some very cool things within its limited setting, not the least of which was surprising me. That alone gets it a mention.

 

Bottle Shock

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5V-QsiPiN_k]

It’s got a fantastic cast and an intriguing premise, but this movie does suffer from a couple too many subplots, most especially the unnecessary love triangle. It’s really a symptom of focusing on too many characters, but they’re all quite well executed so it’s difficult to say which should be trimmed. Despite the bloated structure, this film made me laugh and made me want to know more about wine, both worthy feats.

 

Everything Must Go

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkW3R-Jjr-k]

Will Ferrell, why don’t you do more dramatic roles? You’re good in them. Stranger Than Fiction was a treasure, and this film was yet more proof that you can play more than just a buffoon. It’s slow and quiet and slightly depressing, but also very amusing and sympathetic. A movie about beginning some relationships and moving on from others.

 

Monsters

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_-gL3U1T5Y]

This film is just gorgeous. It’s got kind of an odd pace and not as much really happens in it as you might expect, but the visual style and sense of atmosphere are simply top-notch. If District 9 and Children of Men had a quiet, contemplative love child, this movie would be it. This is not a film about fighting aliens, but rather the character-focused drama of two people on a journey in a world that happens to be occupied by hostile creatures from another world. It’s a unique take on the genre and worth seeing.

 

When I finished my first draft of this post I realized I’d used the word “interesting” in all four descriptions and the opening. That just wouldn’t do, and I’m so glad I caught it. That’s all the films I have to recommend for now, but do let me know if you’ve seen any of these and liked or hated them, or if you have any other recommendations to share.

 

-Tim

Asynchronicity

Today we’re going to talk about asynchronous games, and why you should be playing one. With me.

I keep busy these days. I have a blog, a fantasy novel in progress, a full schedule of classes, a part-time job, a cat, an apartment, a social life, shows to watch, books to read, and a scattering of odd hobbies I’m trying to pick up on the side, covering everything from playing the guitar to making shadow puppets. I’m still very much a gamer, but my video game time tends to be sporadic and at odd hours. This is fine for single-player experiences, which have always been my bread and butter anyway. But it’s still nice to be able to play with other gaming friends. It’s a hobby that lends itself to being shared, and I don’t want to completely forgo that bonding element just because I don’t have time to level up a smuggler, practice my 2-gate Zealot rush or practice my twitch-headshot skills. Now I’m adding some social gaming back into my life by hosting retro gaming parties, but that’s a subject for another time. Right now, I want to talk about asynchronous games, and how they’re a great help to the modern, mature gamer-on-the-go.

 

Games With Friends

 

 
I’m not going to talk about Words with Friends, because the fact you’re reading this indicates that you have internet access, whether under a rock or otherwise, so you already know about Words with Friends. But did you know that Zynga also has a range of other asynchronous “with Friends” games? They aren’t playable on all of the platforms that Words is, but if you have an iOS device there are several options that aren’t Scrabble-inspired. I’m currently knee-deep in losing a game of Chess with Friends to my father back in Virginia, a time-honored tradition since I was young. I haven’t given the other games much of a look, but I’m not dis-interested. My tag is TimGarris on that service.

 

Hero Academy

 

 
Penny Arcade first brought this game to my attention, which I imagine is a common state of affairs. I’m glad they did, because this is a fantastic turn-based strategy game that’s great for pulling out for a quick minute or two between appointments. Or meals. Or stoplights. Or sentences. You each get a team of units with unique properties depending on which faction you choose to play as. The units are all fairly well balanced and have different abilities, and which ones you get are chosen randomly, like drawing cards from a deck. The small grid-based playing field keeps the action pretty constant and easy to digest, and after a few rounds you’ll likely be tempted to drop money on one of the expansion faction, like dark elves or dwarves. If you’re a gamer looking for something a little meatier than a board game, this is a great one to pick up. It’s available on both iOS and Steam with cross-platform play, so it’s super accessible, too. My name on there is Smikian, one of the permutations of my usual gamertag.

 

Frozen Synapse

 

I just started playing this recently, and it’s the game that made me want to talk about this subject in the first place. It’s desktop-only and a bit more involved than the other two, but still very much in the “play a quick turn whenever you can” setup. Basically you control little representations of soldiers on a simple 3D map, giving them instructions on where to move, where to aim and so on, then pit your strategy against your opponent’s, with both playing out simultaneously. If you ever played the original Rainbow Six back in the day and loved the planning phase, this is for you. It takes some thinking to get used to all of the tactical options and learn to think strategically and anticipate what the other side will do, but once you get it down it’s a really fun time. It also has the ability to replay turns, which can get addictive when you pull off something really cool. My name on there is Smakian, yet another gamertag variation.

Those are the asynchronous games I’m playing right now. Do you play any of them? Or have another that you want to recommend? Let me know!

As a sidenote, I just realized that two out of three of these games was developed in Texas, which reminds me how much I love the game development scene down here. Also did not notice before that the Hero Academy guys are also the Orcs Must Die guys. It’s not asynchronous and so not really within the purview of this post, but those games are also awesome and worth checking out.

-Tim

Some Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen

Was having a discussion with friends recently about who hadn’t seen what movies. The truth is that recommending movies to people is one of my few true joys in life. And while it’s much easier once I know someone, I can try here to throw out a few broad suggestions for you, the anonymous internet as a whole. Now recommending movies is a tricky business, as I recently found out after encouraging some friends to go see Joss Whedon’s excellent Cabin in the Woods. One enjoyed it, but I discovered that the other Really Does Not Like Horror Movies. You need to take people’s tastes into account. And when suggesting en masse like this, I also have to try and select movies that most people probably haven’t seen. It’s a difficult challenge, but I think I’m up for it. And if you’d like more personalized recommendations, let me know what you like. I watch a lot of movies; I can probably toss out something.

So anyway, here’s a list of movies to check out. I’ve posted trailers, but please note how often good movies have bad trailers. Also note that most of these are streamable online, either on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or Youtube. So check em’ out if they seem interesting!

1. Simone (Comedy/Drama)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9XZfPKl2_M]

This is the second film from Andrew Niccol, best known for the fantastic Gattaca. I actually wrote a paper about him awhile back for a film class; he’s done some really good stuff. Simone is probably his most obscure film, but well worth checking out. It’s the most light of his films, and a backhanded commentary on Hollywood, stars and fame.

2. Conversations with Other Women (Romance)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc8ZpdmwoGc]

The split-screen thing is interesting and used as more than a gimmick, but the real draw here is the fantastic set of performances by the lead actors. Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter have to carry over an hour of near-constant camera time, and they make it work.

3. Brick (Thriller)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cVzHeJ0Z3I]

Ever wanted to see a noir-style detective story done with teenagers? That’s basically what Brick is. It’s the first film from Rian Johnson, who went on to do the fantastic Brothers Bloom and is working on a new film called Looper that looks very intriguing. He is definitely one to watch.

4. Ink (Fantasy)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBGeErufQdY]

The sense of atmosphere in this film is really mesmerizing. In terms of visual aesthetic the closest comparison I can think of would be MirrorMask, but this movie is definitely much darker in tone.

5. Reign Over Me (Drama)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqNPW6iPlMU]

I’m really surprised that this one isn’t more well-known. Amazing performance by Adam Sandler, and Don Cheadle…well, what can you say about him? Just one of the most underrated actors working today. This also has one of the best uses of a video game that I’ve seen in a film.

-Tim