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E3 2012: Sony Finishes Strong

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E3 2012: Sony Finishes StrongSony is the second of the “Big Three” to have their press briefings at E3 2012. Much like Microsoft before them, it was a little light on surprises, but they did bring the heat with several extremely impressive demos.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Heavy Rain developer, Quantic Dream, kicks off the show with a CGI presentation of their new game. Jody Holmes (voiced and performance captured by Ellen Page) is a girl that has always sensed that there’s more to the world than what we can see. The presentation begins with a police officer trying to get through to a seemingly catatonic Jody. He explains to her that he found her at the scene of an accident. After several minutes of trying to convince her that in order for him to be of any help she needs to open up to him, she still doesn’t respond. After more pushing Jody seems to get a little frustrated and she (or some unseen other force) telepathically throws a mug of coffee against the wall. This, understandably, frightens the cop, who proceeds to get out of that room as quickly as he can. As he’s on the way out, an entire SWAT team busts in through the front door of the police station with the intent of capturing Jody. This doesn’t go well for anyone. What followed was a quick montage of action clips that showed a helicopter crashing to the ground and what appeared to be Jody showcasing the ability to inhabit the bodies of the police officers.

    While they didn’t go into what the actual gameplay would be like whatsoever, what they showed definitely left me intrigued to see more.

  • Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale
  • It’s very obvious where this game gets its inspiration from. Someone at Sony looked at Super Smash Brothers and said to himself, “We have some characters, let’s do one of those.” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all. The gameplay involved building up a super meter to unleash special moves to eliminate your opponents. The characters they announced were Kratos ( God of War), Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal), Fat Princess (Fat Princess) , Sly Cooper (Sly Cooper series), Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and the Big Daddy (Bioshock). They also announced a version for Playstation Vita as well as cross-compatibility between the two versions. It’s Super Smash Brothers with Playstation dudes.

  • Playstation Plus and Vita Talk
  • Next up were several rapid fire announcements about Playstation Plus and the Vita. They announced an expansion of the free titles available for the Plus service, including Infamous 2, Little Big Planet 2 and Saints Row 2. PS1 classics for Vita were up next, including Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy 7. Hulu Plus and Crackle are both coming to Vita, and Call of Duty: Black Ops: Declassified was announced as well. No details on that, however.

  • Assassin’s Creed 3: Liberation
  • Exclusive to Vita is a side story to Assassin’s Creed 3 proper featuring a lady assassin. Not much was shown, but it looks like Assassin’s Creed 3 on the Vita. It will link with the PS3 version of Assassin’s Creed 3 to unlock new content. They also announced a bundle with a crystal white wi-fi Vita and 4gb memory card. Releases October 30th, 2012.

  • Assassin’s Creed 3
  • A lot has already been said about this game, but Sony had a little surprise up its sleeve for the show. Sneaking and stabbing will not be the only way to wage war against the Templars during the American Revolution. Get behind the wheel of a warship and get yourself into some full-on battles on the high seas. Dynamically shifting weather makes sailing and shooting unpredictable. The waves crashing against the sides of the ships look absolutely incredible. If I wasn’t already excited about this game, this puts it way over the top. They announced exclusive DLC for Playstation 3.

  • FarCry 3
  • Four-player co-op was the name of the game during this presentation. Players were tasked with grabbing explosives to blow up a bridge. It wasn’t made clear whether this was an option available on the entire open world map, but they did say that there was an entire co-pp campaign to play through. Once again, exclusive DLC on the Playstation 3.

  • Wonderbook
  • Next up was an extremely bizarre presentation for a new augmented reality game/book that uses the Playstation Move and Playstation Eye to use augmented reality to bring things inside a storybook to life. The first book/game published for Wonderbook is “The Book of Spells”, which takes place in the Harry Potter universe and is written in part by J.K. Rowling. The bulk of the…gameplay (?) consisted of reading a storybook to discover spells and the motions you need to make to cast them. If you’re into Harry Potter, this looks like it’ll be right up your alley.

  • God of War: Ascension
  • Kratos is still pissed, or since this is a prequel, he’s just starting to get pissed I guess? Lots of God of War stuff happening here. Slashing and stabbing with the signature blades. Some quicktime event finishing moves sprinkled around for good measure. There was a very interesting moment when Kratos was standing on a wooden dock that seconds later was destroyed by a giant sea monster. After pausing for a second, Kratos was able to use a new ability to rebuild the world around him and create platforms to reach a higher area. He was also able to use this ability to suspend enemies in the air for a moment to open them up for combos. Looks like more God of War. If that’s your thing, then you’ll feel right at home.

  • The Last of Us
  • Sony saved the best for last. Naughty Dog, of Uncharted fame, is behind this shocking and brutal look at the post-apocalypse. The demo started with a man and a young girl in an abandoned coffee shop looking for supplies. After moving on from there, they enter an abandoned hotel that’s occupied with hostiles. Moving silently, the man is able to take down one enemy before all hell broke loose. Ammunition seems extremely limited so you need to make every shot count. You’re able to switch seamlessly between a gun and melee. And believe me, the melee attacks are absolutely brutal. At one point the man’s pistol runs dry; this prompts his enemies to become more aggressive. After dispatching the initial wave of enemies, the man and girl have a moment to rest before more come.

    This is the point where they showed off the very cool menu interface. Rather than just being able to pop in and out of a menu at any moment, you actually have to physically take your backpack off and choose things inside it. After grabbing a Molotov cocktail out of the backpack, the man uses it to dispatch the remaining enemies. The demo ends with the girl saving the man from the last attacker, and after a short scuffle the man ends up with the upper hand and the bad guy ends up with a shotgun blast to the face. Absolutely incredible. This is “game of the show” type stuff.

    While it was kind of an underwhelming show overall, Sony ended up on an extremely strong note. Two down, one to go. What you got, Nintendo?

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    Last Meeple Standing

    H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game, Overview and Review – Last Meeple Standing

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    Yeah, I know. I’ve said it before, and I will scream it to the heavens again: There is an abysmal glut of Lovecraft Mythos games out there (and still streaming into the market). For a while there, it was vampire games (wanna take a sparkly guess why?). Then, it was zombie games (only Robert Kirkman knows why). Now it is Lovecraft games, and it is a LOT of them. Shambling, fish-headed masses of them, weighing down the game shop shelves like heavily laden buckets of freshly shorn tentacles (calm down, hentai fans). It’s true, and a lot of them seem to be sad doppelgangers of other games, just skinned with a rotting coat of Elder God goo.

    Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

    For that reason, it is nice to run across a Lovecraft-themed game that is GOOD. H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game is one of those… it’s good, but it’s not great (for ONE painful reason). But, for our nefarious purposes today, that’s good enough. The stars are PARTIALLY in alignment. There is one little detail to get out of the way before we wade into the spawn-infested miasma of this game: it is the hellish offspring of an earlier, more complex game called (you guessed it) H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival the board game. Much has been said about the relationship between these two games and many comparisons have been made, but since I neither own the board game nor have I played it, let’s leave it to fester in cold, barren space all by its lonesome for now. I’m sure its time will come…when the stars are right (rolling his eyes).

    COMPONENTS:
    It is RARE (like fresh Deep One filets) that the components of a game are as nice as the gameplay, but there are two elements of Kingsport Festival: TCG that really make it shine. The first is the titular cards that make up the bulk of the game. The artwork on the tarot-sized cards depicting the various gods, lesser gods, demons, and evil corgis (I kid) from the Mythos is dark and shows off the creatures to good/evil effect. I have to admit that these are some of my favorite depictions of the creatures from Lovecraft’s mind I’ve seen. They really look threatening here. The portraits on the cards presenting the investigators/evil cultists look dignified, a little creepy, and mysterious, as is only right for nogoodniks taking on Cthulhu’s worst. The graphic design is really classy with easily interpreted iconography and border artwork. Equal care has been taken with the backs of the cards, which have appropriately aged and Victorian elements. The only parts to this game are the cards and the dice. Wait, this is a card game, right?

    Well, yes and no.

    Although cards make up the lion’s share of the game, there is a heavy dice aspect as well, and these are some NICE dice. I’m a SUCKER for custom dice, and Kingsport Festival: TCG comes loaded with them. There are three types of dice: a white d10 with a clock icon on one face, brain-pink (a nice touch) d12 dice representing the player’s sanity with a Sanity icon on one face, and grey Domain d6 dice with three types of domain faces: purple Evil, black Death, and red Destruction. All of the dice are high-quality and engraved, not printed, with easily recognizable faces for ease of play and match up nicely with the icons on the game’s cards. Squee! Wonderfully evil custom dice!

    SETUP:
    Set up is pretty basic. All of the cards depicting the horrid gods are displayed in order of their power in six rows within reach of all of the players. The total number of copies of each type of god card is dictated by how many people are playing, so the number varies. Each player gets one of the brain-ilicious d12s with which to track their sanity and sets it to 10. All players white timer die, with the high roller taking the role of the starting player. Then each player sets their Sanity die to 10 (yes, the value can be increased up to 12 through game effects. That player takes the white d10 and sets it to the clock face. Players can pick an investigator card, but I suggest dealing them out at random to each player to liven things up (before they get driven insane, of course).

    GAMEPLAY:
    Gameplay is equally simple, yet strangely engaging. The first player takes the white timer d10, passes it to the next player to their left, who turns it to the number 1, effectively creating a timer that will count up from 1 to 10, ending the game. That player becomes the starting player. Once the white die is passed, the passing player increases their Sanity by one, as will be the mechanic throughout the rest of the game.

    At the start of a game, the players will have no cards in their hands. They acquire them throughout the game, but we’ll talk about a general turn. The starting player rolls one of the domain dice and notes the resultant face. If they have cards to play, now is when they would play them. The card effects are varied. They might instruct the player to roll more dice, add specified domains to their pool of domains, change rolled die faces, etc. There are many possibilities. After the player has played all the cards they wish to and resolved the card effects, the player may spend the resources/domains gained through the dice they’ve rolled and the cards they have played to buy ONE god from the displayed cards and add it to their hand. It should be noted that players are limited to one and only one copy of each available god.

    Once the player has completed their turn, they check to see if the round indicator on the white d10 matches one of the Raid rounds shown on the investigator card at the very bottom. If the numbers match, the player must compare the Gun icons on his cards to the strength of the raid indicated on his character card. If the Cultist’s strength is greater, he gains the difference in Sanity points. If the Cultist’s strength matches the Raid strength, they neither gain nor lose Sanity. If the Cultist’s strength is less than the Raid strength, they lose the difference in Sanity points. After this, the next player to the left will take their turn.

    WINNING:
    The game ends at the end of the ninth round, unless a Cultist is able to invoke the Elder God Azathoth, which results in dogs and cats sleeping together (no, not really). The cultists look at all of their god cards and add up the Elder God symbols at the bottom of each card. The Cultist with the most Elder God symbols/points at the end of the game WINS!

    FINAL THOUGHTS:
    So, there you have it: an epic battle between creepy Cultists and ghoulish Gods in one rather small box. I’ll get to the point. I really like H.P. Lovecraft’s Kingsport Festival: The Card Game. I happen to be fond of little filler games like this. The box lists the playtime for this game as 30 min, but once the players know the rules, you can cut playtime down to 20 min, easy. It lists the age limit at 13+, which I think is absurd. There is nothing in the theme or artwork that would preclude players 10 and up from playing, other than rule complexity. Between the awesome art, the devilish dice, and the rad rules (ugh…), there is not much to dislike about this game… other than the hellish rules. You may be asking what I mean. The rules seem easy. They ARE. It’s the rulebook that is a pain in the neck. For some reason, the graphic designer (I’m looking at you, Savini -no, not Tom-) decided to print all of the rule examples in the book in a nearly unreadable “old-timey” font that is TINY. I think they thought they were adding flavor. If so, that flavor is YUCKY. When learning a new game, you want crystal-clear rules, not something you have to squint and struggle over, like this sad, arcane tome. The same hellish font appears on the cards in places, as well, making me one unhappy game collector. You may look past it, but I had a hard time doing so. Other than that, though, the game is great fun, a nice way to fill in time between bigger games, and beautiful to look at. You make your own judgement.

    PRODUCT DETAILS:
    Designer: Gianluca Santopietro
    Artist: Maichol Quinto and Demis Savini
    Publisher: Passport Games/ Giochi Uniti
    Published: 2016
    Players/Playtime/Age Rating: 3 -5 players/30 min/13+ (seriously?)

    RATING:
    3/5


    Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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    Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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    Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

    Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

    The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

    Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

    The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

    While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

    All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

    • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
    3.5

    Summary

    Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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    New Stills Pulled From Desolation

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    On tap for you cats right now we have a new round of images from IFC Midnight’s release of Sam Patton’s Desolation, which is coming to select theaters, VOD, and Digital platforms in the U.S.  on December 15, 2017. Dig it!

    Jaimi Paige, Alyshia Ochse, Claude Duhamel, and Toby Nichols star.

    Synopsis:
    After the death of her husband, Abby (Jaimi Page); her son, Sam (Toby Nichols); and her best friend, Jen (Alyshia Ochse), venture into the forests of upstate NY on a camping trip, only to find themselves in danger from a mysterious hiker (Claude Duhamel) with malicious intentions. As the trio attempt to navigate the vast wilderness in search of safety, they find themselves the hunted prey in a deranged killer’s terrifying game; and the only way to survive is to kill – or be killed.

    Desolation

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