Turbo Kid

Netflix has a lot of hidden gems if you have the time and the boredom levels to go looking for them, and among these gems is Turbo Kid, an odd mash of 80’s nostalgia, coming-of-age tropes, post-apocalyptic humor… and also Michael Ironside. With an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 60% on Metacritic, Turbo Kid is far from a perfect movie, but it is fun and memorable, and free -assuming you are stealing your Netflix account from a friend, which we know about 45% of you are doing. We don’t want to put too fine of a point on this, so let’s just say that this movie is weird… but weird in a good way. It also has points where it makes surprisingly relevant and meta-commentary on our culture and our entertainment industry.

The Distant Distant Future
Set in the way far-off future of 1997, the story revolves around “The Kid.” An orphan whose parents were killed and now lives alone in a very post-apocalyptic Canada. It’s like Mad Max with trees instead of desert, and bicycles instead of flame-spewing-hot-rod-monster-trucks. The Kid is fascinated with a comic book called Turbo Rider, who may or may not have been an actual person that actually fought robots before the world ended. The wasteland is ruled by two different factions, the free city ruled by Fredrick the Arm-Wrestling New Zealand Cowboy and Zeus, your typical apocalyptic warlord who controls the water and an army of over-the-top henchmen with ridiculously impractical weapons. Everything changes for the The Kid when he meets Apple, a strange girl who he initially distrusts but comes to etc, etc, etc… We won’t spoil any of the movie, but you can already see where all of this is going.

The plot progression is not surprising, but it’s not necessarily the story that is the most interesting part of Turbo Kid. It’s the movie’s imaginative setting, quirky characters, and absurd humor that really helps propel this Sundance Indie film into something altogether different. There are more than a few clever nods and winks to 80’s culture and video games. More than anything, it is a movie that delivers action and heart, and yet does not to take itself too seriously. The cliches are plentiful and to many that would seem like a bad thing, but Turbo Kid does its best to steer into them while acknowledging their purpose in the greater theme of the movie.

Rated PG for Over the Top Violence
Turbo Kid is not so much a modern movie about a devastated world, as it is a 1980’s movie about a devastated world. Even the cause of the devastation is stated as: acid rain, which isn’t something you hear a lot about anymore. This movie may have been released in 2015, but it goes to painstaking lengths to feel like something you would find on an old VHS at the back of a Blockbuster in 1986. It’s plot does not try to be clever or do anything new, and instead follows the very typical formula you would expect from an adolescent-action-fantasy movie from that era. However, Turbo Kid is different in the fact that it uses more buckets of practical-effects-blood and guts than the first Friday the 13th film. It can be a bit startling, since it contrasts harshly with the movie’s light 80’s nostalgia feel, but that might be the point.

It is at least a shallow commentary on the acceptability of violence in movies marketed toward kids. Everything else about this movie seems to imply that it would have been rated PG, had it been released in theaters during the Regen era, except for the gore. It is unnecessary, extreme, and treated completely casually by the characters in the movie. Sawed off torsos and geysers of blood are seen as normal in the world of Turbo Kid, and that is equal parts disturbing and morbidly hilarious. We could also bring up that life in any post-apocalypse would probably desensitize the denizens of that world, but we won’t. We could also mention that the colorful outlook of Apple and The Kid are a depressing dichotomy to the bleakness of the world they inhabit, but we won’t. We could also say that Turbo Kid is a comment on nostalgia-media in general, and is therefore an overly sentimentalized metaphor for how we -as adults- look back on our childhood, which was surrounded by dangers, disasters, and external threats we were only barely able to comprehend… but we won’t do that either.

Unfortunately, as much as we admire what the movie does and the commentary it attempts to make we hesitate to draw any real deeper meaning from it, without stretching the bounds of credulity. Still, it is fun, sweet, and worth a watch. Are you going to walk away from Turbo Kid with some new or great understanding about yourself and the life around you? No, but you will walk away smiling.

Some may see this film as just another attempt to cash in on the nostalgia-media that has grown so rampant over the past decade, but we actually see it as a entertaining niche movie with a genuine love for a time when life was simpler and maybe when action-adventure-fantasy movies were a little more desensitized to what they promoted to children. Turbo Kid has won multiple awards, including a 2016 Saturn Award for Best International Film, and it is well-deserving of the accolades.

So, if you have a couple hours to kill, switch on Netflix, or just go to their website, and stream it now. You won’t be sorry.

image courtesy: http://dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/post-apocalyptic-week-sequel-turbo-kid-2015/

It’s that time of the year. A time when we start to hear Jingle Bells in the air, when our dreams turn toward family and friends, and when John McClane once again has to retake Nakatomi Plaza. That’s right it is the holiday season and the malls are packed with people getting in their last minute shopping. Yet, here at The NYRD we believe in shopping smarter, shopping like a NYRD. That is why we believe in the power of the Internet. So below we have assembled some of the finest places to pick up all your gear, games, and knerd-knacks for this holiday season.

Lightsaber Candlestick
First and foremost on the list is Think Geek. It is premier geek shopping site on the web. It’s like a Wal-Mart for all things nerdy… except cleaner. Whether you are buying for a Techno-Geek, a Sci-Fi-Freak, or even that weird kids that sits in the corner and eats glue there will be something here for you. Make sure to check their Sales section as they are always offering sales and promotions on even some of their top-brand merchandise. Other notable sections include the Home and Office, Geek Kids, Caffeine & Edibles, and… really everything. One of it’s few drawbacks is the high price tag you find on many of the items, but -fear not- there are deals to be had as well. Either way, we promise you can’t go wrong shopping at this site.


Power Up Pins – Hero
Next is a lesser known site, Fangamer. It does not have the same extensive selection as Think Geek, but if you are a gamer, or if you know a gamer, or if you want to pretend to be a gamer, there are some pretty cool stuff to be found here. They mostly specialize in t-shirts, pins, and poster, but don’t let that fool you. All their creations are visually stimulating, and there are a few really cool goodies hidden among their smaller sections that will make any gamer jump up and down like a child on Christmas morning. The only drawback of shopping here is a smaller selection than other sites, but what you find tends to be quality.

Transformer USB Drive
This one is not so much a shopping site as it is a collection of really cool things that can be bought across the Internet. If you are a nerd and have a few extra hundred-thousand to spend then this is the place for you -especially if you are looking for anything from a Tron cycle to full Mass Effect armor to a working mechwarrior. However, don’t let the higher end items fool you. Be sure to check out the Under $20 section for some more moderately priced items. Everything here tends to range from whimsical to nerdy to downright weird, but it is certainly a site that lives up to its name. The only drawback here is that you may find yourself lost among multiple outside sites.

Funny Side Up Cat Mold
Have you ever felt like maybe adulthood wasn’t for you? Well you’re in luck this holiday season because you can visit Perpetual Kid. It is a website dedicated to adults shopping like children. You can purchase adult coloring books, fun things for your pets, your kitchen, your office, and a lot more. Check out the Stocking Stuffers section to find great and inexpensive items for your family grab bag or even that questionably sane coworker you never seem to know what to buy for. This site is full of great and cheap items. This site’ the biggest drawback is its rampant use of fart and poop jokes.

Shirts range from
$15.00 to $25.00

C’mon, you didn’t think we would actually give you a shopping list and not take the chance to plug our own wears? What do we look like, honest people? So, in all fairness, there is no lack of places on the Internet to buy creative and geeky t-shirts, Snorgtees.com, tshirthell.com, threadless.com, etc, but for our money we prefer The NYRD Shop. It is a great place to find unique and creative shirts for gamers, geeks, and people who like off-beat yet quirky humor. The site offers a smaller selection than others, but each item is quality and crafted with love… and manufacturing machines.

Kingdom Builder

Do you love boardgames? We’re not talking about your standard Clue/Monopoly/Candyland, here. No we’re talking obscure, challenging, interesting, and possibly European boardgames. Well if you do, than Boardgame Geek has you covered. The biggest drawback of this site is noticeable immediately. It does not have a clean sleek interface like some sites. Instead, it can be a little unwieldy to navigate, but once you master it you can find literally any type of game you are craving. Like This is Why I am Broke, it is a third party site and will link you to places where you can purchase the items. However, Boardgame Geek also gives recommendations for the hottest and most current boardgames out there, so you know you can find that right game for that special dungeon master in your life.

Panda Trooper
Do you like art? Do you like being a geek? Well, than let’s talk abut Society 6. When doing your holiday shopping this site is worth vising. With many similarities to DeviantArt.com, Society 6 is a fully functioning, art purchasing, ass-kicking, place to buy original artwork by artists from all over the Internet. Prices range by size and style, but you can get more than just prints. Almost any art you find can be put on everything from tote bags to coffee mugs to iPhone cases. The biggest drawback is that the site can be a bit pricey, depending on the artist, but there is a lot of cool and cheap things to be found if you take the time to search a little. So, if you have an art-geek, or just a geek-geek in your family this is definitely worth a pop over.

In conclusion, Santa Claus is a nerd. We mean, think about it. He is overweight, kind of scraggly in the facial hair department, and even wears glasses. He has an addiction to junk food, and a borderline obsession with toys. Also, he only works one day out of the year. So you have to ask yourself, “What does ol’ St. Nick do the rest of the time?” We can’t know for sure, but if you are ever on World of Warcraft and meet a Level 90 Orc warlock in red armor, by the name of Kringle Khan, you better watch out, and you better not cry, because Kringle Khan will burn you down… So, Happy Holidays everyone, and happy shopping from all of us here at The NYRD.

Young Justice

We’re going to level with you, on this one. DC Comics hasn’t exactly been hitting home runs the past few years. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Too Long of a Movie Title sucked worse than that time the Batmobile lost its wheel and the Joker escaped because of it. The New 52 comic reboot went so poorly that DC rebooted it again this past year, and quietly whispered a “we screwed up,” so low only Kryptonians could hear it. Even Suicide Squad, their best and halfway decent movie only gave the world a pointless plot and proof that Jared Leto has a blurred sense of reality and propriety. That is why this past week when it was rumored that Netflix was in talks to create a third season of Young Justice, the beleaguered DC fans of the world rejoiced. Unfortunately, that promptly turned out to be a falsehood taken out of context, and that may be the cruelest trick DC has played on us yet.

Gone in a Kid Flash
For those of you unaware of the existence of this amazing gift that is Young Justice, let us be the first to tell you about. If there is one thing DC has always done better than Marvel it is animated cartoons. From the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series to the Justice League DCAU to their cartoon movies, DC has always shined when it came to animation projects. It is probably the one battleground they have yet to yield to Marvel and their lackluster Disney-esque cartoon shows. DC animation has never been shy about bringing in comic story lines, making epic story arcs, delving into characters’ darker motivations, and doing it all with visual flair. However, all of that pales in comparison to Young Justice. If you like superheroes, this is a cartoon that is so good we don’t even recommend that you finish reading this article. You should just call out sick from work, run to your Netflix, and binge the first two seasons right now… Go…

For everyone else still here, Young Justice, took established characters and made them fresh. It even did the impossible and made sidekicks fun again in a mature and well-written manner. The premise of the show is that Robin, Aqualad, Speedy, and Kid Flash start a young Justice League -hence the name- and as they go forward their roster expands and contracts as they confront hardship and triumph. This includes the expectations of their mentors, and all the complicated emotions that come with them. Young Justice has the wherewithal and the impressive ability to create a universe that feels true to DC comics, but is also compelling enough to be believable. These traits are what made it so beloved by fans. Unfortunately, studio executives thought they were the wrong kind of fans… Prepare to get mad.

Young Justice was cancelled at the height of its popularity for several reasons, but mostly because, “girls liked the show.” According to the executives at Warner Bros., serious superhero cartoons were not what they wanted. They wanted wacky and weird superhero shows like Teen Titans Go, shows that better resembled Adventure Time or Regular Show. Their belief was that boys only wanted action and fart jokes, but what put the real nail in the coffin was the explosion of avid girl fans that fell in love with the show. Young women and entire families were suddenly sitting down to watch. It makes sense, considering that Young Justice gave examples of a lot of powerful, confident, and complex female heroines dealing with issues that many girls can relate to: family, relationships, body issues, etc. Unfortunately, for Warner Bros. they were an undesirable demographic, believing that girls would not buy actions figures or other merchandise. So after two seasons, Young Justice was cancelled, even though it was succeeding in the ratings.

Robin from the Rich
As much as we enjoy the humor of shows like Adventure Time, we would also argue that it is not the irrelevancy of that cartoon’s jokes which make make it a success. We also believe that there is room on a child’s cartoon pallet for ridiculous fun and serious action. Kids cannot live on fart jokes alone. Unfortunately, this whole thing only goes to show the true purpose of cartoons in the entertainment industry, to sell toys. Apparently, it does not matter if a show has a great plot, a bevy of amazing characters, or enough heart to make a linebacker cry. It all comes down to merchandising, and that is pretty damn depressing… Also, it explains Michael Bay.

Young Justice was full of bold ideas and incredibly creative characters. It may have been too serious for Cartoon Network and the WB, but its first two seasons have now found a home on Netflix. The online streaming service has been doing a lot to create interesting and worthwhile kids programming. Over the summer they released Voltron: Legendary Defender -and we recommend that you check that out too. A show like Young Justice would fit right in on Netflix and it would be a huge boon to the streaming service, and -quite frankly- to the struggling DC Entertainment company that has not been having a good year.

All we’re saying is that you should definitely watch this cartoon. Maybe if enough people were to stream it that might convince Netflix that it was worth the investment of a third season. Either way, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

No Man's Sky

We want to start out by saying that this is not a review for No Man’s Sky, the hotly anticipated game by Hello Studios. If anything, this is just us thinking aloud about what this game is and what it means for gaming going forward. The game we released for Playstation 4 on Tuesday and is being launched on PC through Steam today, and there are plenty of reviews already out there. We have poured over all those reviews from both professional and amateur game reviewers and one theme has emerged among them, most people still don’t know what to make of No Man’s Sky.

An Atlas to a Larger Universe
Here is what we know so far with reading reviews and playing through the beginning of the game. First, No Man’s Sky, is -at its core- a game of discovery, but it is also a survival game. Gathering resources to fuel and repair your ship, to power up your exosuit, and even to upgrade and arm yourself are essential gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, this means that -especially at the beginning- you are going to be spending a lot of time gathering resources just to stay ahead of dying. Thankfully, this is not a hard thing to do and all indications seems to point to the fact that once you upgrade your tools and exosuit a little the task will become easier to accomplish. However, we doubt it will disappear entirely, but that may not be a bad thing.

Being forced to mine also means being forced to explore and if there is one thing that No Man’s Sky gets high marks for it is the sheer scale and wonder of the galaxy it inhabits. While searching for minerals or just trying to survive you can find yourself coming across the most amazing sights. This includes animals of all shape, sizes, and temperaments; plants as big as houses; subterranean caves of fire or ice; or almost anything you can imagine. The galaxy of No Man’s Sky is generated completely by complex mathematical algorithms, and has literally quintillions of worlds to see. That means that whenever you step on a planet or see an alien creature -or run for your life from an alien creature- you are almost certainly the first person ever to do those things. You might be the first person to feed a pink giraffe, or the first person to set foot on a world with floating forests.

Exploration might be the stated goal of the game, but real truth is that there is no goal of this game. You can choose to be guided by an artificial intelligence named Atlas, but even this computer’s instructions are only limited to the most basic of hints. For the most part, players must figure the game out on their own, and that is good. Too often modern games hold our hands and tell us where we need to go and what we need to collect or destroy. No Man’s Sky seems to religiously avoid any hint of having linear goals or quests. This will turn some people off, because it means you may never find that sense of satisfaction you might get from completing a game or beating a final boss. However, there is also a marvelous sense of freedom that comes with literally being your own person. It is just you, your ship, and the ‘black.’ This will probably be the most divisive aspect of the game, but it is also its core principal.

As your own person you can choose to continue exploring or even try your hand at space piracy, but be warned there are consequences. Combat in the game is possible and even sometimes necessary, but thanks to automated sentinels and over-aggressive space police choosing the route of violence has serious consequences. Being a pirate means garnering a vast amount of resources quickly, but it also means having to fight your way past an ever increasing number of galactic police that make the cops in GTA seem tame. It is the kind of thing that would be easier if you had a partner, but that actually leads us to the biggest oversight of No Man’s Sky.

Alone in the Void
There is no multiplayer, and that needs to be stated clearly and unequivocally. You will never be able to find your friends or meet up with another human in the game, and in our opinion, that is the biggest missed opportunity of this franchise. No Man’s Sky could have been like DayZ, but in space. We’re not sure how that would work with the procedural generation of the galaxy, or the astronomical mathematical impossibilities it might take for two players to actually find each other among quintillions of planets and stars, but just knowing that it would be possible would have been a great addition. Multiplayer has been one of the biggest mysteries of this game. Even we were fooled initially by the early reports of what No Man’s Sky would and wouldn’t be. Perhaps, Hello Games never saw this as a multiplayer endeavor, but a game about surviving alone in space. Unfortunately, we believe it may take away some of the replay value for some people. When that initial awe of exploration wears off, what are the vast majority of people going to do?

We are going to use DayZ as a comparison. Similar to its younger space-based brother it is a survival game. There are no goals but to collect items and loot corpses to give yourself a better chance at surviving another day in a zombie-based world. However, the survival and even the zombies do not give the game its main appeal. It is the interactions between players, the weird and crazy things that happen when people are allowed to roam free with no clear objectives. People form survival groups, become fire-extinguisher wielding superheroes, play in a Hunger Games like contest, and generally just get to experience the mean, generous, sadistic, crazy, caring, insane world of a game driven by the players. Now can you imagine all that, but in in an infinite galaxy of worlds and stars? How long would it take before a group of players become a galactic empire, or started a Federation? How long would it take for people to form a Firefly-esque crew of smugglers and outlaws, or an Enterprise-esque crew of explorers? Maybe that would take away the initial lonely space survival feel that Hello Games was looking to achieve, but it is an appealing idea.

To Infinity and Beyond
So what does the future hold for No Man’s Sky? Hello Games has already stated that they will be continuing to support the game with new patches and features going forward. They talked about things like player-owned freighters and even space stations. Maybe they might even choose to add in multiplayer one day, but that is pure speculation on our part. After all, the game is selling like hotcakes -which makes us wonder how well hotcakes actually sell these days- and with today’s release of the PC version there seems to be no indication of it slowing down. It will be interesting to see what the game looks like in a month or six. Will people still be enthralled by its endless wonder or will they have moved back to Call of Duty?

As much as it feel sanctimonious to suggest this, maybe No Man’s Sky is not quite the game we have been waiting for all our lives. Do not get us wrong. We love it and we will be playing for a long time to come, but it is not quite there, at least not yet. More and more online games are trending toward the idea of directionless-player-driven content, and maybe this game is just another large step in the direction we want to go. All it means is that we have not yet reached the Ready Player One aspect of gaming, where players can travel, explore, conquer, and completely shape the game they inhabit. It may take 20 years but we believe that is coming.

So maybe it is unfair to judge No Man’s Sky based upon our astronomical expectations, because let’s face it, if this game had only half the hype that surrounded this past week’s launch then by any metric it would have been a mind blowing success. Over the past few years the game became a magnet for everyone’s unrealistic presumptions, and yet even with all the inflated hype it still manages deliver a beautiful and immersive experience. Perhaps that is why most people and most reviewers -including us- still don’t know how to classify this game. Is it a space-sim, a survival game, some sort of genteel zoological study? Then again, maybe going forward those types of labels are going to be less and less applicable. With the increase of computing power and more open and infinite world simulations, we might find it harder and harder each year to be able to label exactly what games are and what they aren’t.

End Transmission
As for the freshman game by Hello Studios, most of us still aren’t even sure what or if this game will evolve into something completely different later on down the line. The developers have been very tight-lipped about the surprises, Easter eggs, and other content that players are going to find and discover as they progress. Maybe there is still amazing things to uncover that we cannot even fathom yet. What we do know is that No Man’s Sky is about exploring, but real exploring. Truly surviving in space would be a tedious and sometimes incredibly dangerous endeavor and this game does not shy away from those aspects. Yet, even those annoyances are overshadowed by the sense of scale in No Man’s Sky. It is truly mind-blowing.

Living on Earth we might have the academic or existential understanding that we are small specks floating on a small speck in one corner of a small galaxy in a near-infinite universe of stars and planets. However, when you are playing No Man’s Sky that understanding is not just academic, it is driven home with almost every action you take. You could walk for hours on a planet and not even experience a fraction of all it has to offer, and yet you can get into your ship and rocket into space watching as that singular and unique world becomes nothing more than a mote of dust below you, as if it never mattered at all. If there is one thing we can say that this game succeeds wildly at, it is making us feel very very very tiny.

We here at the The NYRD are all huge nerds, in case you could not tell for some reason. So any franchise that combines our love of history and our love video games is a winner in our D&D rulebook. The Assassin’s Creed games have always been a fun mix of action and mythology, as well as -you know- assassination. Their newest platform game, Assassin’s Creed: India, follows in the tradition of its older and more graphically developed brothers. The second title in the Assassin’s Creed Chronicles series, this new game takes place in 1841 during the First Anglo-Sikh War between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company.

On a very personal note, we have been thrilled with the Chronicles series. As much as we enjoy the ongoing modern warfare between the Assassins and the Templars, and the legacy of Desmond Miles, it is great to step out of that every now and then and just enjoy the story of historical assassins, especially ones that are so ethnically diverse from previous mainstream games. It is especially thrilling to have a chance to explore new non-European/American-centric timeframes in history. The people at Ubisoft really know how to bring their attention to historical detail to all these new places and locales, and the Chronicles series certainly does a good job of filling in the time between their major flagship releases.

Visually, it is also worth mentions that this newest game is very stunning. Colorful and well designed it really does invoke a very Indian aesthetic that makes the game markedly unique in a library of other Assassin’s Creed titles.  We especially applaud the little touches of detail. The architecture, the clothing, and even the fact that localized voices can also be heard speaking Punjabi.

Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed India is not a perfect game. It is a 2.5 D platform stealth game, so we can forgive some of the clunkiness, but when it comes to combat the game is almost painful. Thankfully, being a stealth game combat is not a main focus, but there are areas where you need to engage in it to overcome the mission or complete the different challenges set out for you. This is a particularly disappointing aspect, as Assassin’s Creed games have always had a fairly decent combat system. Thankfully the stealth and the tools at your disposal help make up for this flaw, at least in part.

As a platform game it is a fun, and with simplified controls it is also fairly easy to pick up, even for the casual gamer. However if you are looking for a pure stealth-based game then Assassin’s Creed India will, unfortunately, fall short of your expectations there as well. There are plenty of better sneaking games on the market, but none of them are Assassins’ Creed. Ultimately, that will probably be the game’s biggest selling point. As anyone who already enjoys the Assassin’s Creed franchise will be the ones who will take the time and the energy to enjoy this newest mini-installment. After all, we have come to accept at least some clunkiness in our Assassin’s Creed games, whether it be frustration while free running or randomly failing to make a leap of faith, even though you are on the goddamn right spot, damnit. “Jump into the hay! It’s right there… Now he’s dead, again.” Loyal fans are able to forgive more when it comes to these games, except for maybe Assassin’s Creed Unity. That game had more bugs than our first downtown office space.

Even worse, if you choose to play the game via PC, then you will quickly find that it does not support a PC controller, which is extremely odd, considering its predecessor, Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China, already did. It shouldn’t have been that hard to do, either, considering China and India basically have the same controls.

However, seeing as Ubisoft has announced that there will be no mainstream fully rendered immersive Assassin’s Creed title for 2016, fans of the franchise will have to content themselves with India, not that that is a bad thing. It may not be a flagship title, but it certainly has its charms. Another added benefit is that you will not have to spend half of your new year collecting Animus Fragments, which is both tedious and frustratingly unavoidable.

As we said above, Assassin’s Creed India is by no means a perfect game. It is not even a perfect Assassin’s Creed game, but it is also enjoyable in its own way and decent buy on Steam. Anyone who is a fan of the franchise, and especially if you were a fan of ACC: China you will enjoy this game. It is not the best stealth game, nor the best combat game you will find on the market, but it has enough lore, puzzles, and storyline to keep you coming back to play. However, for anyone trying to get into the Assassin’s Creed franchise we would personally recommend you start with Assassin’s Creed II. It is only $10.00 more on Steam and a much better game.

This newest 2.5D platform game is not enough to give you a truly full and favorable impression of the franchise, but once you have played as Edzio or Connor, come back and revisit Assassin’s Creed: India. It’s worth the wait… for a Steam sale.

Image courtesy: http://assassinscreed.ubi.com/en-us/games/chronicles/trilogy.aspx

Do you have a hankering for domination? Is one world not enough? Do you fear incursions by hostile alien forces? Do you enjoy building your own star-ships or doomsday super-lasers? Then you might want to see a therapist because you may have had a psychotic break after that 12 hour Firefly marathon. However, if you are not currently being treated for wearing a tinfoil hat maybe you are just the right type of person who might be thinking of checking out StarDrive 2, a turn-based strategy game currently for sale on Steam.

This successor to the original StarDrive is all about using your economy, military, diplomacy, intelligence, or science to try and dominate the galaxy at large. Being a turn-based strategy game, we already know that StarDrive 2 will not be for everybody. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of micro-managing to really get the full enjoyment out of the game and that’s not everyone’s bag, but that’s cool. Some people play video games turn off their brain, however, we here at The NYRD -well except for Todd- are avid fans of clunky customization TBS games, and if there is one you can say about StarDrive 2, it can be clunky.

There is a lot going on and a lot to oversee, which as we said, is a plus or minus based upon your gaming desires. However, it also seems as if StarDrive 2 sometimes has an unfinished quality. The galactic map is beautiful, if not a little annoying to navigate, especially when your empire really begins to expand. Even the star-ship battles, despite the fact that they take place on a 2D plain -we guess someone hasn’t seen Wrath of Khan– are still very fun and engaging. The land battles however are pretty straightforward and their graphics are far below those of the rest of the game. Also load times seem longer than they should be, and the game has a tendency to lag, especially in ground combat. When you are given a mission the text display is often painstakingly slow, but for some of the instances you can at least click to get the full paragraph without having to watch as each word gets spelled out in front of you. However, the studio, Zero Sum Games, has been working hard to fix all those bugs and we applaud their efforts. More importantly, for all the flaws there are a lot of upsides.

What we enjoyed the most was that StarDrive 2 is almost as customizable as you want. You can rearrange the traits of starting races, you can rename planets and ships, and you can even redesign the specifications of those ships. This allows any-would-Admiral-Ackbar to create new roles and strategies, based upon how you build your fighters, corvettes, battleships, etc. Our biggest complaint is the fact that you cannot rename any of the star systems, which is a minor flaw, but when you are making the galactic civilization equivalent of the Seven Kingdoms, it would really help to keep you in the moment if you could be allowed to rename an entire star system to “Dorn,” or “The North,” but we are digressing… Seriously though, All we’re saying is that Emperor Robert Baratheon ruling from the planet of King’s Landing, should be situated in the star system of The Crownlands, not Sol… Okay, we’re done.

Another thing we enjoyed about playing this game was some of the tongue-in-cheek jokes that you find along the way. Admittedly, the stupid robot anchorman for the Galactic News Network got old fast as it kept popping up to interrupt our game-play. However, the parody references to Star Trek, Futurama, Mad Max, Rambo, and others of our favorite properties did not go unmissed or unappreciated. Even better, each anomaly, hired hero, or random event comes with a story line you can choose to pursue. Doing so not only gives the universe a real personality, but often results in some sort of scientific, economical, or military boon to your civilization. Unfortunately, those events do not randomize from game to game, so once you complete them once, you always know what to expect.

Lastly, the AI of other galactic civilizations is a mixed bag. Each civilization has its own personality and interacts with you in different ways by using different strategies, however they are not really that different. Besides a few minor things, each AI player still follows the same path of making demands, and -no matter how unreasonable those demands are- if you do not meet them, they hate you almost immediately. Even the friendlier races follow this same basic principal so most of galactic diplomacy comes to debating which unreasonable demands you can accept and which you can ignore to hold off an opposing player long enough for you to build up your space fleet and preemptively strike at their bases before they do the same to yours. During replays this can make the game follow similar rhythms, regardless of your race or build strategy, and ultimately it feels limiting to the replay value of the game.

Overall, we would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys and is well versed in turn-based strategy gaming. For casual gamers this may not be for you, especially at a price tag of $30.00. Our advice is to wait for the next Steam sale before you pick it up. It will give the developers more time to iron out some of the glitches and you can save a few bucks in the process… or BC’s as they say in the universe of StarDrive. Regardless, remember to hold onto your tinfoils hats, because we promise its going to be a crazy drive.

Image courtesy: http://stardrivegame.com/

The hour has grown late. The world has darkened and the old mansion, your ancestral home, is filled with terrors beyond any half-dreamt nightmare of the human mind. There is no turning back, there is no do-overs, save points, or retries. There is only a team of heroes and the encroaching darkness of insanity.

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG Indie game available on Steam.

With a Lovecraftian flair, this video game is more than just a dungeon crawler. Set in a land of nineteenth century horror, you must recruit unique teams of heroes, each with their own skill sets, strengths, and flaws. Each dungeon will put your team in not just physical harm but psychological danger as well. If one of your hero’s health becomes too low they will only die, but if their stress is raised too high, they run the risk of becoming damaged in other ways.

There are no save points. The game autosaves your progress, which means each action you take is permanent. If a hero dies, he or she stays dead and you will have to recruit another and train them from the bottom up. Besides leveling heroes and completing objectives you are also expected to level up your town, which will give your heroes a variety of new options including new items, armor, skills, and much needed rest to reduce their understandable levels of affliction.

In a gaming world where death no longer seems permanent and failure is hardly ever an option, it is both refreshing and terrifying to play a game where each step could be your last, and tragedy will eventually strike. That team of heroes you raised to level 4, with all the perfect skills and gear, they will stumble into encounters where something goes horribly wrong and some, if not all, may die. You will have to retreat and regroup, if you can.

With more and more modern games returning to the retro aesthetic of death and failure, like Dark Souls  and Bloodbourne, it is reassuring to see this trend continue in the Indie game community. Darkest Dungeon will keep you on the edge of your seat, praying that each hit by your eldritch foes does not drop your glass cannon to death’s door, or stun your healer. You will curse, you will weep, and you will love every minute of it.

Even though the game is not yet finished the developers, Red Hook, have already crammed it with thousands of man hours of work and care, with promises of much more great things to come. Unique hero classes, dozens of monsters, hundreds of unique items, and an aesthetic quality that will grab you right away. Each corner of the game is packed with the delicate touches that you would expect from developers who continue to show a true love for their game and gaming in general.

Can you keep your heroes together as you face unimaginable horrors, stress, disease, famines, and the ever-encroaching darkness? Step into the Darkest Dungeon and find out.

Photo Credit: http://www.darkestdungeon.com/media/

The Big Bounce is a theory in cosmology that one day the force of dark energy will weaken, the universe will collapse in on itself, and then a new universe will be born from another Big Bang. Then depending on what scientists you talk to, the history of the universe might repeat itself, over and over again, a recurring and inevitable cycle, always involving a Big Bang Theory, which is depressing, because that is a terrible show.

Much like the actual Big Bang, the show is full of so much promise and yet it is also a time where the normal laws of the universe tend to break down. For instance, what modern and successful sitcom still uses a laugh track? It worked for the Fonz and Raymond and even Jerry, but by most standards of modern humor and TV culture it’s outdated. Then again, that is fitting if you consider most of the show’s humor and its views on its supposed audience.

Hey Look… Nerds!
If you associate yourself as a modern nerd or geek, chances are you have been asked the question, “Do you watch The Big Bang Theory?” it is a question most usually followed by the statement, “You would love that show.” The truth is: no, you really would not. The Big Bang Theory is not a show about nerds for nerds. It is a minstrel show about nerds for older people who do not really understand why their son still reads comics, or why he spends so much time playing those video games. The distinction is small, but noticeable and a little insulting.

To begin, we need to start by examining where the show’s core humor comes from, and the answer to that is from the characters themselves. Sheldon is socially awkward, obnoxious, and a complete know it all. Raj has a crippling ability to speak with women. Howard lives at home with his mother in his childhood room, and Leonard who often plays the straight-man is terrible at relationships. Each represents a glaring and early 90’s style nerd stereotype. It would not be unreasonable to have Steve Urkel or Screech come walking through the door, as they seem to inhabit that same ham-fisted world.

A lot of the humor comes from making fun of the main characters for what they love. Penny, who is the somewhat vapid, underemployed, and the non-nerdy next door neighbor, is often associated as the audience’s “in.” When the boys try getting tickets to Comic Con, it’s Penny who asks for clarification for the audience, and then spends five minutes making fun of them for going to SDCC all while the laugh track rolls in the background. In another episode, when the girls of the show go to a comic store to try and find a comic they may like to read, the show treats all the other men in the store like scared rabbits running from a pack of bears, because women in a comic book store, that’s unheard of, and the laugh track rolls.

Dungeons and Dragged Out Jokes
The best example comes from when the boys play Dungeons and Dragons while their significant others are off to Vegas for the weekend. In, what is supposed to be a comical juxtaposition, the girls talk about their free-wheeling “normal” weekend in Sin City, the boys talk about playing D&D. The premise is to compare the joys of rolling a twenty-sided die with your friends to sitting by the pool in Vegas. The laugh track rolls significantly more while the boys talk D&D because we are meant to accept that what the girls are doing is fun and regular, while the boys activity is weird and crazy, because who would want to spend a perfectly good weekend playing an imaginative and exciting game with their best friends?

This is even highlighted more if you compare the way The Big Bang Theory handles the playing of Dungeons and Dragons compared to that of a show like Community. In the two Community episodes that have dealt with D&D, the game itself is not considered the source of humor, instead it is the weird and crazy antics that their characters get into while playing the game. Even the usually “too cool” Jeff Winger is sucked into playing and the audience accepts the premise of D&D as something close to ordinary. Those two episodes are even more amazing because the audience forgets that they are basically spending twenty-five minutes looking at the same people in the same couple of rooms. Instead, it is the story they tell that winds up taking over the action of the show.

Big Bang is not a show for nerds and geeks. It treats that demographic the same way they have been treated since Potsie became the butt of every joke on Happy Days. Is every nerd socially savvy, no, but neither are they all socially awkward. Not everyone who reads comics lives with their parents. Not everyone who is a fan of Star Wars has a problem talking with women.

The real truth is that the show represents outdated stereotypes that are actually insulting and detrimental to real nerds and geeks. Games like D&D and Settlers of Catan are not subjects for ridicule and laugh tracks. San Diego Comic Con is one of the largest events of the year, attended by major celebrities, studios, entertainment giants, and plenty of people who do not need to use asthma inhalers when they see boobs. Lastly, women can be just as big of geeks as men. They are not out of place in comic book shops or at conventions, nor are they something that would send most nerds into nervous fits. Nerd culture is not a singular gender-based culture, and of all the stereotypes that The Big Bang Theory perpetrates, that is perhaps one of the most dangerous.

The Big Bang Theory should be retitled to the The Big Bounce Theory because like the Big Bounce it is nothing we haven’t seen before. This show is an empty promise of the same kind of canned-laughter-stereotyping of the geek community, played out over and over again. It is simply a repackaged sitcom that revels in the alienation of geeks, while still trying to market to them in the worst type of nerdploitation out there. It is a show that hopes to capitalize on the rise of nerd culture while tirelessly sticking to the tried and true sitcom method of anyone who is different is funny and worthy of ridicule. Even the majority of the cast seems as if they have been recycled from former sitcoms, such as Roseanne.

We have seen it all before. Even discounting the inclusion of some real-life awesome nerds, like Whil Wheton, Simon Helberg, and real-life neuro-blossomist, Mayam Bialik, the show is irredeemable. Unfortunately, it seems that we will just have to wait till entropy sets in and the show can no longer sustain its own energy and ends in state of Heat Death, where everything simmers down to a baseline temperature and where nothing works anymore, including the laugh track.

We have been procrastinating on writing this article, but for once, it’s not entirely our fault. Blizzard Entertainment, the company that brought us such titles as the World of Where the Hell Did the Past Two Years of My Life Go, and Deckard Cain’s Bogus Journey, has been pushing its newest addiction, Hearthstone, and we finally decided to check out what all the excitement was about.

A New World of Warcraft
Hearthstone is not your typical Blizzard title. It’s not about finding loot, leveling up skills, or even sending roided up Marines to their death against hordes of angry Zerglings. No, on its face, Hearthstone is just a simple and easy card game, but much like the trash in the Death Star’s trash compactor room, there is something much more surprising hidden deep inside.

Hearthstone is Blizzard’s attempt to break into the casual gaming market, or the world of Freemium gaming, if you will. It’s the realm of gaming mostly reserved for birds with anger issues, social networking farmers, and some game where you pulverize pieces of candy and then pay real money. However, unlike those other games it is done with a flair that is unique to the company who created such classics as Battle Chess II: Chinese Chess.

In four simple words: this game is addicting. It’s so deceptively simple that you find yourself getting hooked in relatively no time. Built on the world of World of Warcraft, it is fun and colorful, and requires no special knowledge of WoW to play. There is a twist, because unlike card games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, or that other game that wants to be Pokemon, Hearthstone offers nine different types of decks with nine different types of characters, with more to come.

The Rules and Rage Quits
Currently, you can choose from being a Hunter, Priest, Warlock, Shaman, Druid, Mage, Warrior, Rogue, or Paladin. Each character has cards unique to his or her own deck as well a special power they can use once a turn. For instance, the Paladin can summon a 1/1 soldier, but the Mage can hurl a one point damage fireball to any enemy or player they wish. These special cards and abilities are further enhanced by the presence of a pool of general cards which a player can choose from. It’s hard not compare a game such as this to Magic: The Gathering, as both games use a pool of mana to play cards, but unlike MTG a player’s mana pool in Hearthstone naturally increases by one point every level until reaching a maximum of ten. Additionally, with the exclusions of interrupts, instants, or other “play at any time” cards, Blizzard has created an equally infuriating and enjoyable experience by streamlining the game down to its simplest form.

Now, that is not say that there is not a lot of strategy and complexity involved. Each character lends itself better to a different play style. A Warrior will tend to be more aggressive, with many cards that utilize charge and weaponry, while a Priest may emphasize a deck geared more toward controlling the board and his opponent. Yet, even with that said there are a myriad of possibilities, tactics, and combos that can be made just by rearranging a few cards in your deck. Do you want a rush Druid or a direct damage Warlock? It may not always work, but the game will not stop you from trying, and better yet if you pull it off you’re going to surprise the seven hells out of your opponents, and really isn’t that what’s it all about? Creatively beating some poor sap into submission with a combo of cards he or she never saw coming?

Ultimately, there is no other point of the game except to beat whatever poor schmuck you get randomly paired against. It’s not like Diablo III where there are side quests or monsters to slay, with the occasional interaction with other players. No, Hearthstone is more akin to the PvP arena in WoW, and we all know how calming of an experience that can be. It’s competition at its most basic level, which is where the major problem comes in.

You see, as fun as the game gets it won’t be long before you find yourself wanting to put your fist through the drywall because some jerk on the verge of death pulled out an amazing epic card that saved his half-charred butt at the last second. Of course, sometimes you will be that jerk and then you may find yourself putting your fist through the dry wall in exhilaration. On a side note, we just realized how many holes there are in our office drywall.

+3 Addiction
Hearthstone is a lot like gambling in that you quickly find yourself getting swept up in the highs and lows of a deceptively simple game. The analogy is only enhanced by the fact that you also win coins for completing quests or winning  games. You can then use that gold to buy new cards or to pay entry into the arena, where you are literally competing for more gold.

Hearthstone_on_iPadWe’re not saying this bad, but we are saying it is genius on the part of Blizzard. It is also the reason why we had to ban Hearthstone from everyone’s computers at work, because it gets hard to resist playing “just one more match.” With games that last less than fifteen minutes, they don’t feel like they are eating up a person’s day, but after four or five games an hour has passed, your dinner is burning in the oven, your loved ones aren’t talking to you anymore, and you haven’t showered for days. Unlike WoW, where, when you log onto the game, you have the expectation of wasting several hours, Hearthstone’s format and quick succession of games can eat away your day before you realize it. This is a testament to the power of Blizzard, and a trouble for the rest of us that are trying to get work done. Even worse, Hearthstone is now on tablets and phones, just to make sure that there is no place let to hide.

Overall, it’s hard for us to find anything particularly bad to say about this game, other than its addicting properties. Perhaps, some of the epic cards are a bit overpowered to the point where they can destroy even the most creative and effective strategies of an opponent, but that is kind of the point of epic cards. If you are looking for a fun casual game to fill time in your life, download Angry Birds, but if you are looking for an epic card game that allows you to harness a world of endless card combinations, creative strategies, and lets you compete against other players then Hearthstone is for you. It is a game that has something for video and tabletop gamers alike, and best of all you don’t even have to expend brain power to keep track of hit points and mana costs.

Download it for free and say goodbye to the next few weeks of your life. Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to get back to… something else we were doing.

Top photo credit: http://blizzard.gamespress.com/Hearthstone
Body photo credit: http://blizzard.gamespress.com/Hearthstone