Archives for April 2015

Weekend Gaming: Ironclad Tactics, Batman: Arkham City

This weekend shall be one of transition, one of endings and beginnings.

Games of the video variety have been on the back burner these past two weeks. The bulk of my attention has gone into Stephen Hunt’s novel The Kingdom Beyond the Waves.

Kinda sorta pretty alright.

Kinda sorta pretty alright.

I’ve had a curious eye side-glancing at Hunt for a while. He is a step out of my comfort zone as he is wont to mingle Steampunk and Fantasy and SciFi (I guess I am a meat & potatoes, one-or-the-other type of reader), and Steampunk has never really struck a chord with me. But my instinct told me that this book was just the shake-up I needed, enough of a romp to pull me away from compulsively and vacantly scrolling through my Steam library looking for something to play (with one exception as shall be elaborated below).

Even now, some 2/3 into it I can declare that Kingdom hasn’t necessarily blown my skirt up but it has still engaged me enough to follow through to the conclusion. And conclude I shall this weekend. I’m doting as to whether or not I’ll pick up another book immediately after this or if I’ll keep my intellectual faculties in reserve for tackling Neal Stephenson’s newest tome Seveneves, which is primed to break the backs of readers worldwide on May 19th.

Hunt’s world hasn’t been the only presence of steampunk during my leisure hours. Indeed. By neither coincidence or design I initiated the single player campaign of Ironclad Tactics.

Ironclad: 1 Human: 0

Ironclad: 1
Human: 0

The game, true to its moniker, is a tactical deck-building game set in an alternate civil war America where clunky steam-machines are the artillery of the battlefield. The campaign follows a story as it moves from city to city on the map of war-torn America. Each location, be it Tallahassee or the Mojave, requires the player to construct a deck with units and parts to draw from in order to complete that objective – it’s almost puzzle-like. The game puts forth a lot of interesting mechanics and is as challenging as it is flawed as it is fun. I am three objectives away from completing the main campaign, of which I plan to accomplish this weekend.

With the book and the game nearing completion I now see my Steam library with fresh and eager eyes once again. The age of steam is propelling me forward! Propelling me… to Arkham City! Yes. This only seems like a natural progression and change of pace after reading a novel and completing a very tactical game. So, forget starting a new book for now; Sunday night I will throw all in and assume the role of the winged crusader, effortlessly zipping and zooming. And brawling – oh lordy lordy, yes, the brawling. I had a blast in Arkham Asylum, and I’m hearing that Arkham City improves on a lot of it. YISS!

What are you playing this weekend? (how about that Dota patch, eh?)

Weekend Gaming

Pillars Of Eternity Wallpaper High QualityBy the looks of the forecast, this weekend is going to be downright springlike, which means my gaming time may be limited, but after a winter of harsh cold and snow, I think it will be a welcome sight to get out of the house.

That won’t, of course, stop us from gaming this weekend. After a few less-than-stellar Dota 2 performances this week, I’m not sure how high my desire to get back into the game will be. So I think this weekend will be spent with some single player games, most likely Pillars of Eternity. I don’t think I’ve quite hit the five hour mark, but I’m getting close. So far I’ve enjoyed Pillars but with so many complex, contiguous systems, I do feel a bit overwhelmed. There are tactics to be deployed but I find myself more often than not just heading in to battle and focusing down each bad guy. It’s not a great system and I know it’s not sustainable. This weekend I hope to delve a little more into the tactics and actually make sense of what I’m trying to do.

Since my boys are knee-deep in Terraria, I may jump back into my Terraria world and mess around a bit, show them what I have and what I’ve been working on. I sent my gaming laptop back to Asus to get fixed and I’m anxious to get it back so we can play multiplayer Terraria. The boys love playing together on the Xbox 360 but I think playing together on the PC would be even better.

And of course if the invite comes to play some Dota 2, I’ll be playing some Dota 2. What are you playing this weekend?

Road Trip! Funspot Arcade

Since I was exiled to the chilly East Coast for work for the past couple of months, I decided I’d make use of my free time during the long, boring weekends to check out an item on my Buttonmashing Bucket List — the Funspot Family Entertainment Center, home of the “American Classic Arcade Museum” in New Hampshire. If you’ve seen The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (the documentary of Steve Weibe’s attempt to break the Donkey Kong world record), you’ve seen Funspot, as it’s the arcade where he makes his record breaking attempt.

Funspot Arcade

When I first arrived, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was big and I knew I would find more than arcade games (the place has to make money, so I knew there would be skee ball and the ticket machines) but what I found was pretty much like any other arcade I’ve been to. It was dark, loud, had the presence of a slightly off-putting smell and arcade games. Tons of aracde games.Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Off Road

I thought it would feel like stepping into the way-back machine, a trip to memory lane but the arcades I went to (and worked at) were never this big and never had this many classic games. I decided that I had to play some of the games I remember from my childhood/teen-age years and also some of the classics.

Hands-down, my favorite upright arcade game of all-time is Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road. I pop in a token and hearing the familiar rev of the video game engine, the honk of the upgrades and seeing the cheesy bikini glad girls takes me back to 1990. Unfortunately, nostalgia does funny things, like make you forget how punishing and unforgiving the controls are or how often the stupid nitro button sticks or doesn’t respond at all and above everything else — how terribly floaty the physics are in this game. Frustration could have set in quickly, and if this game was released in 2015 it would be eviscerated.

OffroadBut that funny nostalgia still prevails and I have a blast. I remember every track, every configuration, every shortcut and I still try to ruin the silver truck’s (that’d be the CPU-controlled Stewarts truck) race when I find myself in last place with no hope of surviving. Nitro-ing into his front-end will never get old.

I played Offroad first and probably dumped more tokens in it than any other game. After maxing out all the upgrades on my truck, I decided to move on and explore other areas of the arcade.

The majority of the games in the “Arcade Museum” are pre-1988, which meant a few of my favorites weren’t found in the main drag. I went with express purpose of playing some of my favorites along with some classics. I headed downstairs from the Arcade Museum area, in search of a few modern games and found exactly what I was looking for, all lined up in a row:


This basically encapsulates my formative arcade game playing years — NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat I and II (and III, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time playing III as I did I and II). I written about it before, but Mortal Kombat II was both my jam and my introduction to the nascent internet. I was attending classes at Cleveland State University at the time and had access to Usenet groups, including the group which had daily updates to the fatalities and rumors of babalities, nudalities and something called a “friendship”. I would show up every afternoon with freshly printed out move lists that we would all pore over. When I read about the secret way to get to fight Smoke on the Portal level, I waited patiently as others played over and over again, waiting for the “Toasty” to pop up. I reached over and hit the start button and everyone in the room had their minds BLOWN.

Jax and Scorpion were my dudes, so I spent some time reliving the glory days of MKII and then threw a few tokens in NBA Jam. Hearing “IS IT THE SHOES” as my guy cannon ball dunks from the free-throw line, spitting fire, was a great moment.

I headed back upstairs to play some of the classics. Unfortunately, the lighting there was not conducive to taking pictures so I didn’t get many up there. Because I really didn’t play these games as obssessively as I did newer games, I don’t have the same memories of loving Donkey Kong or Centipede or Robotron 2084. But because I was at Mecca, I had to play some of them. Spy Hunter was a favorite so I sat down to play a few minutes of that but Holy Lord that game is hard. I have these beautiful memories of jamming through levels of Spy Hunter like it was my job and 20 years later it felt like I was driving a red wagon, out of control, down a giant hill. It was not fun.

Ditto can be said about Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Junior and Zaxxon. These games did not age well. I tip my hat to guy’s like Weibe that have taken the time to master these games. It was painful.


So painful that when I saw this Pong machine, I couldn’t do it. This is history and I couldn’t bring myself to relive the pain. We lived with games that had this brutal difficulty and we liked it! What was wrong with us?

So toSmash TV end the trip on a high note, I emptied out the rest of my tokens into the Smash TV machine. It was mindless fun and was just as ridiculously hard as I remembered it. I would like to meet the guys who could get through the first level of Smash on one credit. I maintain it can’t be done, but I’m sure it has. One day I’ll have to do a deep dive into Smash TV YouTube runs to see if I’m right.

The trip down memory lane was great and the chance to visit an American Treasure. Not sure if you’ll ever find yourself near Lake Winnipesaukee, but if you do, you owe it to yourself to visit The Funspot.