Disney is very, very big. Disney is da’are ghoc dala broac fuo’q “(The Dark Eye That Dwells In The Black Storm”). What they do best is to turn brands into stories, and their stewardship of Marvel is bringing three generations to the same table. I just grabbed the new Rebels pilot, but I haven’t watched it yet because I won’t be watching it correctly without my son at my foot and my daughter on my knee. Given how it went for so long, I thought Star Wars would be (and stay) a doddering “dad” thing, like Soundgarden or an enlarged prostate. The idea that this might be something we can all have together is still a little new.
It is the height of ridiculousness that I feel compelled to come down on one side or another of the “death threats” issue. Like Danny Glover, I am too old for this shit. One of the ways you know I am too old is that I make references Danny Glover. Here’s what’s going on: a distilled form of Abuse is being iterated on a profound and gruesome scale. Such people cannot be allowed to win. Ever.
You can’t threaten people with death, and I resent very strongly being made to type that out. Not only can you not do that because you can’t fucking do it, it has the power to obliterate everything else you say. In fact, it obliterates everything the people around you are trying to say. That’s what has happened now. I know that this situation is more complex than anyone is willing to enunciate. I know that “Gaming Journalism” is a contradiction in terms. But they’ve broken your banner, now, and you helped them do it. I grieve for the ones who tried to do it right. When your media doesn’t represent you, or actively attacks you as it has here, it’s not your media. You’ll have to make your own, and it’s not impossible. It’s more possible now than it has ever been in human history, and you’re reading an example of it at this moment. Go your own way.
I’ve enunciated a reasonable position though, right? That you can’t threaten people’s lives? Watch me get crucified for it; let my crossbeams be made from two sturdy hashtags.
Between Didney Infinty and Skylanders:Trap Team, I feel like I’m watching a friend who was once able to handle his high beginning to take a longer and longer time in the bathroom at parties. Inexplicably long. So long that you might begin to think that the bathroom was incidental to his purpose.
He’s not going to come in one of these days, and those days will become a week, and I’m going to push his front door open the rest of the way and find him buried in figurines like a consumer pharaoh.
We’re starting to get to it, now; the part where the games I want hold court. I laugh a little bit when I try to think about Gabriel playing the new Legend of Grimrock, which I understand is called Legend of Grimrock Roman Numeral Two. It’s possible he would enjoy it, sometimes his pain tolerance surprises even him, but it’s evoking an era when technical limitations of various kinds defined slash inspired interesting gameplay. Its staccato dungoneering is a paean to Gods he never knew.
I tried to get him into Endless Legend, and I think he actually wants to, but he has a (perhaps legitimate) fear that he can only fit one game of this 4X mold in his head at a time. Right now, he can go back to Civilization 5 anytime he wants to and wind up his mind toward that purpose. And I worked for years to get him on that shit, so I won’t mess with him too much. Maybe he’ll have better luck with Sid Meier’s Super Long Game Name.
If he’d already played Endless Space at length, as he should have, much of that machinery could be repurposed. That’s how it worked for me. If you are currently windmilling without purchase on the game as you fall into an infinite dark, let me say this: it has a baroque approach, but once you discover its basic contours it will be a home to you. It’s not like other games - except ES, as suggested - but it’s not trying to trick you. There’s some minor overlaps with Dungeon of the Endless, which is a prequel to Endless Legend that is, uh, set in another genre…? The developer is French.
Endless Legend was in Early Access long enough to become a Real Boy, and what a strapping lad he is. I find Endless Legend so exciting that I have closed it because I was too tantalized. It is a tantalantula; I literally leave the game to escape the stimulation. Take a look at these factions; they’re so… whole, that they remind me of the just-alien-enough cultures from Star Control. These dudes worship a big ladyface, and can only found one city. These fuckers are armored ghosts; they eat the game’s most prized resource. These masters of commerce can move their towns. There’s other stuff, too, but I don’t want to tell you all of it. The game is oblique to a lot of established thinking, and it’s got me trapped.
I picked up the new Skylanders: Trap Team last week because I have kids and so I can say I’m getting it for them. We played a bit of the last one Swap Force but it didn’t really stick. I have to say so far at least Trap Team is a lot more fun. The main hook this time is that you can capture monsters from the game inside these little traps. The act of capturing a monster is really well executed. The new portal has a slot for the trap and a built in speaker. When you capture one of the guys the sound from the television fades out as the sound from the portal comes in. Then a little light in the portal starts flashing along with the chatter from your newly captured monster. It’s super well done and I tried to grab a video of it here with my son Noah.
For me I just appreciate how clever it is but I’m pretty sure Noah thinks there are little monsters in these traps now. Each monster has an elemental type just like Skylanders and so you need a trap of that type to capture them. The box that the game comes in doubles as a sort of “pokedex” with a label for each collectable monster as well as a slot to fit in a trap. You can sort of see in in the video above. Once you’ve captured these monsters you can “tag” them in and play as them for a limited amount of time. Like any Skylanders game there is also gated content that will require you to have captured a particular enemy. Speaking of gated content you’ll need to collect special Trapmaster Skylanders this time to break open special elemental zones and hidden areas.
When I first looked at the display board I started to do some quick math. The traps sell in a pack of three for about fifteen bucks and I was imagining having to buy a trap for each of the monsters in the game. I quickly determined that was fucking crazy. Thankfully you can use one trap to capture multiple monsters though. If a trap already has a monster in it and you grab a new one, the previous inhabitant is kicked out to your “vault”. So technically you really only need one trap for each elemental type and then a special trap to grab Chaos at the end I guess. This is not completely bat shit insane but their little display board definitely wants you to get a trap for each monster. I imagine there is a person out there whose personal need to complete things will require them to fill out that display with dozens of traps. I have to admit there is a part of me that respects the hell out of that person.
My other son Gabe and I have been having a great time with it. We streamed about an hour of us playing on Friday and you can watch the entire thing here on my Twitch channel. I’m in there answering questions about the game a bit but mostly it’s just us playing a couple levels and capturing some monsters until I finally make him go to bed. There is a special Gamer-Dad dilemma in making your co-op partner go to bed because it’s way past his bedtime and he has a soccer game in the morning.
It’s hard not to compare Skylanders to Disney Infinity. I have to say I like that Disney Infinity offers split screen play. This allows me to actually play the game while my easily distracted four year old just wanders around the levels. In his mind we are playing together and we sort of are but we’re both getting what want out of it. In Skylanders you are tethered to your partner so I spend a lot of time saying “please come up here Noah.” or “You need to move towards Daddy”. It’s obviously not a big deal with the ten year old but I appreciate that Infinity works the other way. In general I think Skylanders is fun and they’ve done a lot to make the fighting more interesting but the progression and combat don’t compare to the new Marvel Infinity characters.
With that said I think I prefer the custom linear narrative in Skylanders to the open world mission grabbing gameplay in Disney Infinity. The levels in Trap Team are beautiful and the storyline is fun and full of jokes that hit for kids and grownups. If you’re looking to play with much younger kids I’d say go with Disney Infinity. If you’re kids are a bit older I think you can have a ton of fun with Skylanders. The reality is they are both really good which just sucks for parent’s wallets. As if that wasn’t bad enough the Nintendo Amiibo figures are available for pre-order now. I sent Kara an email with a link to the figures on Amazon and she just responded with:
“Ah crap! There goes all of our money. “
There are a little over two weeks left until the deadline for our Halloween Costume Contest. This year it’s open to all of Penny Arcade, be it Gabe and Tycho themselves, or perhaps Gabbie and Tyche, maybe Div, a fierce Annarchy, or a fabulous Jim Darkmagic; their old roommate Jim, Hanna, Kevin the food court gangsta - the world is your oyster. Or comic. Or however that goes. Winners will score some awesome Penny Arcade gear and all of the costumes will be posted in an album on the site for everyone to admire!
Deadline: Tuesday, October 28th
Submit to: [email protected] with the subject line “Penny Arcade Halloween Contest 2014”
As always, if you have questions tweet me - @calamityjamie. Good luck!