Reviving the Living Dead: Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without A Pulse

It’s a rare video game that will let you take control of a zombie.  Most of the time, players are limited to competitive shooters where it’s humans versus the undead (Go Team Zombie!) or in action games via a sort of temporary “extra life” as a shambling corpse(read: SO SLOW).  There have been a few games with undead protagonists like the mummy Chuck D. Head in DecapAttack or the ghoulish Polterguy in Haunting, but these examples are not really “zombie” games, strictly speaking.  You don’t exactly lead Polterguy to devour brains or guide Chuck to create a legion of creeping creatures.  That’s the sort of thing you leave to Stubbs the Zombie.

StubbstheZombieCover

Rebel Without a Pulse hit store shelves in 2005, during the appropriate month of October.  The titular Stubbs the Zombie was once Edward Stubblefield, a traveling salesman who met his untimely demise from a gunshot, courtesy of his gal Maggie’s father.  After collapsing in the woods in 1933, Stubbs is reanimated in 1959, at the grand opening of Punchbowl, Pennsylvania.  Angered at the venture capitalist who disturbed his eternal rest, Stubbs decides to hunt the wealthy playboy and cause quite a bit of carnage along the way.  What follows is a comedic and creepy quest through a sort of retro-future metropolis; the “city of tomorrow” that might have been seen in 1950s science fiction.

stubbsthezombieArm

Most of the game is spent trailing industrialist Andrew Monday through the city of Punchbowl.  As Stubbs, players can attack the citizens of Punchbowl, eating their brains and creating a group of zombie comrades that devour right alongside you.  Stubbs has some additional actions, most of which involve tearing off his own arm to beat enemies, activate switches, and take control of better-armed adversaries for some shooter options.  There were also plenty of vehicles to commandeer and drive recklessly through the perfectly polished pathways of Punchbowl.

stubbsthezombieprotip

For my college self, the gameplay and visuals in Stubbs the Zombie felt like second nature, since the game was developed using the Halo engine.  As an avid Halo 2 junkie, the co-op campaign and Xbox controls made the transition from space marine to dopey zombie salesman rather seamless.  My friends and I would switch off between stages, playing as a pair of zombies on a mission of revenge (and eating tasty, tasty brains).  As we shambled through Punchbowl, a fantastic soundtrack of 50s and 60s era hits covered by modern alternative rock artists kept us bouncing in our seats.  The whole game was a delightful tribute to the goofy-spooky horror movies of the past.

Just like the previous title in our zombie game round-up, Stubbs the Zombie is a tough title to track down.  Our zombie friend was briefly ported to the Xbox 360 as an “Xbox Original” download, but the game was removed from the Marketplace in 2012.  There are still original Xbox, PC, and Mac hard copies floating around the internet, but an appropriately retro system is required to play any of these versions.  Since the developer, Wideload Games, was purchased and closed by Disney Interactive, it is unlikely that Stubbs will rise again on any modern offerings.

Even for the heady price that most of the original Xbox copies are calling for, Stubbs the Zombie is worth checking out.  It is a hilarious and gory co-op romp through a quirky science fiction setting.  There is a lot of fun to be had and brains to be eaten, so shamble forth with a friend and help Stubbs find his fate!

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bloodborne- Witch of Hemwick

Of the many horror stories I ingested as a child, the ones that linger in my memory featured an unexpected turn of events.  Tales where the main character believes they understand the entire scope of a situation, only to discover the true nature of a threatening scenario is right behind them.

As I traversed the Hemwick Charnel Lane area of Bloodborne, I was regularly accosted by a unique enemy- old crones brandishing crude weaponry.  Appropriately called the Hemwick Grave Women, these hags were often found celebrating around the numerous decrepit tombstones of the Charnel Lane.  Whenever I would try to sneak by their gruesome revelry, these shrews would attack in a mob; lashing out with dagger, scythe, and even a bloodied sledgehammer.

Bloodborne™_20160906234349

These coordinated strikes implied that the Grave Women must have some sort of leader guiding their movements.  After seeing the mutilated faces and bestial proportions of this flock, I could only imagine how monstrous their shepherd must be.

At the top of a hill, I found the well-worn remains of an old farm manor that seemed to be a place of status within this massive graveyard.  I entered the building and descended into a large basement storeroom, where a lone creature stood on the opposite side.  This thing was nearly twice my height, with long skeletal limbs and skin that resembled aged leather. Thick matted hair grew from its head to cover most of its upper body, and two glowing eyes gazed out from this mess of decay.  As this beast brandished a sickle and lumbered towards me, I knew this must be the leader, the Witch of Hemwick.

The game identified her as such, displaying a health meter at the bottom of the screen with her title.  I took this as my opportunity to launch my first attack at the ancient witch; repeatedly striking her with my threaded cane.  Despite the fury of my blows, the witch made little attempt to defend herself.  This gaunt creature quickly fell to my assault, but this victory seemed hollow.  Then I noticed: throughout this short melee, the Witch’s health meter remained untouched.

Something was wrong.  Why did my attacks deal no damage to the Witch?  The room was now empty, but the sense of dread was stronger than ever.  The music in this area matched my emotions perfectly.  What started with soft and haunting strings had swelled into a menacing chorus of otherworldly chanting.  The once beguiling sound of a single violin became a threatening symphony of brass and percussion.  With the music reaching a violent crescendo, I knew something must be stalking me.  I frantically searched the room, but to no avail.  The room seemed devoid of such a predator.

It was only when I stopped to take a breath that I noticed her.  Lurking just behind me, close enough to reach out with her dagger caked in blood, stood the true Witch of Hemwick.  A ragged little crone, hunched over from a life of horrors, wearing a cloak with all manner of eyes sewn into the patchwork fabric.  It was she who had summoned the gaunt monster from before.  She would be the real threat on this day.

bloodbornetruewitchSo far, the Witch of Hemwick has been my favorite boss encounter, and perhaps my favorite moment, in Bloodborne.  It subverted my expectations, just like the preferred horror stories from my youth.  The music particularly contributed to the foreboding atmosphere of this encounter.  The team of composers for Bloodborne (Ryan Amon, Tsukasa Saitoh, Yuka Kitamura, Nobuyoshi Suzuki, Cris Velasco, and Michael Wandmacher) did an amazing job crafting a song that would match the emotional course of the player; from a lulled sense of security, to heightened foreboding, and finally, the feeling of being threatened by an unexpected otherworldly menace.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

GIMMGP Spooky Games Month VI: Big Bag of Treats

Good evening, faithful readers!  We are moments away from the midnight hour that rings in our favorite month of the year.  Over the last several autumns, Laura and I have filled the scary season of October with piles of posts on horror games and their ilk.  This year, we’ve got a grab bag full of tricks and treats for your reading pleasure!

Each week in October, a wide variety of spooky posts will shamble forth from GIMMGP Headquarters to your computers and mobile devices. Mondays will highlight new grisly game music articles, continuing the fiendish experiment from last year. Wednesdays will feature articles from the past; resurrected from the grave and updated for a proper haunting. And on the menu for Saturdays: fresh pairings of ghoulish games and batty brews, cross-posted from my new blog, Digital Draughts!

disneyskeletondance

As we prepare for the sixth spooky season here at GIMMGP, I am reminded of a tradition from my childhood.  Around this time of year, my family would watch a recorded copy of Disney’s DTV Monster Hits.  This little special combined haunting hit tracks with spooky vintage Disney animation.  Outside of the vignettes of Mickey Mouse hunting ghosts and various evil queens plotting destruction, I have vivid memories of skeletons dancing in the moonlight to rock music.

Despite their creepy cavorting, I found these bony brutes absolutely delightful.  In celebration of these musical monsters, I’ve crafted a list of my favorite video game skeletons for your enjoyment!

Yorick – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

sotnyorick

I can’t help but smirk at this poor soul’s predicament.  After fighting all sorts of threatening monsters on my way to vanquish Dracula, it caught me off guard to find a skeleton kicking his own skull along the ground.  Honestly, I wish I could help Yorick reattach his head, but any attempt I made resulted in the immediate destruction of his fragile skull.  Alas.

Papyrus – Undertale

papyrusinternet

As my favorite game of 2015, Undertale featured a wealth of lovable characters.  However, there was a certain skeleton that stood bony head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. Papyrus is such a lovable goof. Despite his attempts to be a ruthless member of the Royal Guard, Papyrus simply cannot bring himself to subdue and capture the main character. His dopey enthusiasm is infectious throughout Undertale, and his battle theme is super catchy to boot.  Also, Papyrus is the first skeleton to ever take me out on a date, which makes him an extra special boy.

The Sanbone Trio – Gitaroo Man

sanbonetrio

Speaking of catchy music, the somewhat obscure rhythm game Gitaroo Man features a fantastic group of skeletons known as the Sanbone Trio.  Armed with devilish maracas made from their own bones, this group of intergalactic warriors challenges the player to a Latin-flavored music battle (appropriately titled, Born to be Bone).  In spite of the challenge presented by these skeletal brothers, I managed to find my rhythm and take them down with relative ease (but not on Master Play, that’s just absurd).

Skeleton Biker – Castlevania 64

cv64skeletonbiker

Let’s be frank at the commencement: I did not enjoy Castlevania 64.  It paled in comparison to the two-dimensional versions of the beloved series; featuring poor camera work, frustrating platforming, and half-finished ideas.  However, this bemoaned sequel did feature skeletons riding motorcycles.  So I guess it did contribute a small piece of awesome to the Castlevania series as a whole.

Manuel Calavera – Grim Fandango

mannyinrepose

I have written plenty in the past about my love for Grim Fandango and its protagonist, Manny Calavera.  This down-on-his-luck grim reaper sits not only at the top of my favorite video game skeletons list, but also in my favorite game characters of all time.  His bone-dry wit, clever quips, and earnest demeanor make him such an engaging character.  If you haven’t enjoyed Grim Fandango Remastered yet, please take the time to do so.

Dry Bowser – New Super Mario Bros.

drybowser

I would be remiss if I didn’t include one of Laura’s preferred skeletal characters on this list.  As Dry Bowser is truly Laura’s favorite video game skeleton, I will let her words speak for this adorable monster:

I inadvertently picked Dry Bowser the first time we played the DLC for Mario Kart 8. What started out as an accident turned out to be a beautiful moment of serendipity. Do you know the feeling of finding a character in a game that truly understands you? Sure, he isn’t particularly fast, but this goes deeper than that. We are soul mates. The way he bullies the other players on the track. The way he breathes fire when excited or angry. How ridiculous he looks riding tiny motorcycles. Truly, we were made for each other.

With October imminent, I ask you faithful readers: who are your favorite video game skeletons? Let us know in the comments!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Inevitable Spinoff Blog Incoming! Digital Draughts is Live

Earlier this year, we debuted a new column here at Games I Made My Girlfriend Play called Digital Draughts.  As the resident beer geek of GIMMGP, Chip was eager for the chance to combine two of his passions into a single series: craft beer and video games (together at last!).  With the success of these articles, we have decided to dedicate a new blog for Chip’s video game and beer pairings!

Written on a semi-monthly basis, Digital Draughts highlights the pairing of specific brews with certain titles. Typically, the beers and games will be novel experiences, with certain exceptions made for time-tested combinations.  Some of these pairs will be a match made in heaven, while others may be the couple from hell.

20160902_130002

Along with regular pairings and reviews, Digital Draughts will feature other tidbits on beer and video games for your reading pleasure.  To kick off this momentous occasion, the latest article features a field trip to the fantastic Adroit Theory Brewing Company; where esoteric and barrel aged beers thrive!

So please be sure to follow Chip’s new blog (which features Laura’s fantastic photography) and share the good news with your friends as well: Digital Draughts is live!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: Uncharted 4 with Heavy Seas’ Plank IV

Historically, the best series come in sets of three.  For films; Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Die Hard are typically enjoyed during the first three movies.  Many television shows start to lose interest after a third season.  Even a vertical tasting of wine usually includes bottles from three particular vintages for comparison.  Let’s face it: humans seem to appreciate collections in triplicate (especially writers when trying to make a point).

When it comes to video games, the Rule of Threes starts to get a bit muddy.  Beloved gaming heroes like Mario and Link have long since surpassed their third game, yet they continued to be adored by the gaming public. Meanwhile, some characters languish well beyond their glorious trifecta of earlier titles; overstaying their welcome and becoming a joke among the community.

When Laura and I played Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception nearly five years ago, the series seemed to have met its logical, albeit unsatisfying, conclusion.  At the time, we didn’t even entertain the idea of a fourth Uncharted title coming to pass, as there was no obvious plot carrot dangled before us.  As luck (and the appearance of a new Sony console) would have it, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was released earlier this year.  Naturally, this was one of the games that cemented our decision to purchase a PlayStation 4.

Eager to see how the fourth game in a previous series of three would fair, Laura and I started the game on its day of release; making sure to have an appropriately themed brew to accompany this adventure.

Uncharted4PlankIV-9

For the last several years, Heavy Seas Beer (brewed by the Clipper City Brewing Company) has experimented with the unique influence of wood aging on beer.  Dubbed the Uncharted Waters series, this line of beers features different styles aged in specific barrels or wood.  Some examples include Blackbeard’s Breakfast (an imperial coffee porter aged in bourbon barrels) and Red Sky at Morning (a Belgian-style saison aged in Chardonnay barrels).  These beers are typically offered as limited releases over the course of the year.

Appropriately named, Plank IV is the fourth in a series of beers aged on woods that have rarely been used to produce unique beers.  Released in 2011, Plank I was an English ale aged on kilned poplar wood planks. Plank II in 2012 was a German Doppelbock aged on a combination of poplar and eucalyptus wood. Plank III in 2014 was a Belgian Tripel aged on Jamaican allspice wood.  For the fourth in this series, Heavy Seas took a Belgian Quad and aged it on four different woods: planks of kilned poplar, kilned cherry, Jamaican allspice, and Cuban cedar.

Uncharted4PlankIV-1

The result is a very complex and rich beer that pours with a cola brown color and cherry red hues.  Plank IV has a strong odor of dates, cinnamon, and maple syrup, with a smoky hint from the wood aging.  The taste matches the nose; starting with a tart raisin flavor that leads to a rich allspice body.  There is a lingering smoked finish, that gives way to a vanilla bean aftertaste.

As implied from its origin, Plank IV tastes like a beer with a unique history.  This is no mere Belgian Quad.  There are unique notes of smoked wood and aged spices mixed with the expected dried fruit and dark sugar flavors.  This beer is an ideal match for the swashbuckling narrative and complex backstory of Nathan Drake’s latest, and presumably final, adventure.

Uncharted4BoxArt

Of all the game series Laura and I have enjoyed together, Uncharted is the only one that has been a mutual experience from the start. Sure, there are plenty of games that I have shared with Laura (and vice versa), or titles that we individually played while occupying a shared space. But every moment of play in the world of Uncharted has been as a team.

When we last left our hero Nathan Drake, his adventuring career seemed to have come to an end. The third game showcased that if left unchecked, Nathan’s pride would lead him to ruin. Thanks to the advice of his mentor (and a few too-close calls), Drake reconciled with his wife, Elena, and started a semi-lucrative career in salvage.

Uncharted 4 opens three years later, with a glimpse into the Nathan’s current life. His days are spent rescuing cargo from damaged freight ships, while his nights are filled with domestic bliss; playing video games with Elena to decide who cleans the dishes. All things considered, Nate should be happy with his new situation. But there is a part of him that misses the old thrill of adventure, made evident by a clever combat tutorial in the form of a toy shooting gallery that Nathan has set up in his attic.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160624214414

So it comes as no surprise that Nate eagerly agrees to join his thought-to-be-dead brother on a massive treasure hunt involving mercenaries, criminals, and pirates.

For the most part, the core gameplay in Uncharted 4 is mostly unchanged from previous entries in the series, which is just how we like it. Nathan Drake still spends most of his time traversing exotic locales and ancient ruins via jumping, climbing, and (in our case) repeatedly falling to his doom. Developer Naughty Dog has introduced some new tools, such as the climber’s spike and grappling hook. These items add new verbs to Nathan’s movement repertoire, which enhance the tradition of fun movement puzzles and enjoyable action sequences.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160716003321

Alternatively, manual vehicle sequences are an unwanted and cumbersome addition to Nate’s means of travel. Poor handling and strange inertia make every moment spent driving an automobile very frustrating, which is compounded by certain terrain that is designed to be hazardous. When your car already handles like a drunk walrus, the inclusion of muddy hills only makes things worse. Fortunately, Nate doesn’t have to take the driver’s seat in every vehicle, and the moments spent shooting from the passenger side are genuinely fun.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160714232404

There is a shift in the combat to a stronger focus on stealth gameplay, which fits into the greater narrative of Drake and Company being severely underpowered when compared to the Shoreline private military company (the main baddies of Uncharted 4). While this makes for some very satisfying takedowns, it further emphasizes a problem I had with the previous Uncharted titles: combat arenas. Most of the enemy encounters bring the narrative to a screeching halt, tasking players with clearing every potential threat from an area instead of trying to avoid them altogether. I understand that in certain situations, it makes sense for Drake to take out all enemies to make progress, but repeating this action in nearly every combat scenario makes the game drag at certain points.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160602163659

Minor combat grievances and major vehicle complaints aside, Uncharted 4 is an excellent game. The increased power of the PlayStation 4 has provided Naughty Dog with the tools to make a beautiful and impressive world. The transition between each gameplay moment and cutscene is seamless, making for a more cohesive narrative than many of its video game peers.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160714235841

Without getting too deep into Spoiler Territory™, what beings as a narrative about a treasure hunter coming out of retirement transforms into a very heartfelt and engaging story about family; both biological and marital. Initially, Drake uses his brother’s resurfacing as an opportunity to have one more big adventure like those from his past. In order to do so, he lies to his wife about his plans, thinking that he is protecting her by keeping her separate from this part of his life. What Nathan discovers is that at its core, marriage is a partnership. Elena is the best teammate for which Nate could have asked, and her involvement would only strengthen his chances at finding a lost pirate treasure to save his brother.  She literally and figuratively saves Nathan on this quest, which gives him the final push to figure out what truly matters in his life.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End™_20160716011836

Like many other fourth titles after a trilogy, I expected Uncharted 4 to feel like a tacked-on expansion to the series.  I figured there would be some marginal improvements to the visuals and gameplay, along with a story that feels like so many other action movies and video games.  However, Uncharted 4 exceeded all of my initial expectations, and turned out to be my favorite in the series.

The upgraded visuals have set a new standard for video games, while the mechanics are polished to near-perfection.  The story is earnest in a way that avoids being on the nose; with complex characters and relationships that seem wonderfully out of place in an action-adventure game.  Both the treasure hunting setting and the engaging narrative are a perfect complement to the rich flavor and wood-aged notes of Plank IV.  I would definitely recommend this pirate-themed combination.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: Firewatch with New Belgium Brewing Company’s Ranger IPA

Summer is the time for adventures.  As the chilly April showers wane and the May flowers burst into blossom, June is an ideal month to write a new and exciting chapter in the story of our lives.  For many of us, the warmer months don’t provide the same amount of boundless time as the summer vacations of our youth.  In spite of this, we will carve out weeks from our busy lives to make a pilgrimage into unknown territory both near and far.

While the spike in temperature and daylight hours fills my heart with longing for fresh wilderness, a similar wanderlust grows in my gaming appetite.  I seek out unique and compelling narratives that stray from the well-worn path of annual releases.  Historically, the results of such journeys are rather divisive.  I could discover a delightful game that provides an interesting twist on traditional mechanics, or I could find a disappointing title that fails to deliver both in gameplay and plot.

FirewatchandRanger

Despite the known risk of a wasted summer day, I decided to invest in just such a story-driven indie game that takes place in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989.  And as with any journey into the unknown, I made sure to bring supplies from a tried-and-true brewery.

Of the numerous craft breweries that cover the rolling hills of these United States, the New Belgium Brewing Company stands out as one of my favorites.  I tried their flagship beer Fat Tire many years ago while traveling with my girlfriend-now-wife.  At the time, the delicious amber ale was not being distributed in our home state, so we relied on our various roaming friends to deliver rations of Fat Tire whenever they would visit.

Since those halcyon days, New Belgium has made their way into our neck of the woods, and we couldn’t be more pleased.  They regularly release delicious seasonal experiments such as the Heavy Melon Lime Ale and the Pumpkick Spiced Ale (brewed with pumpkin and cranberry).  Their variety packs often include a tasty limited re-brew of a discontinued beer from their 25 year history.  And their year-round beers include some of my top brews of all time, including the 1554 Black Lager and the Shift Pale Lager.

RangerPour

Counted among New Belgium’s year-round beers is the Ranger IPA.  This India pale ale serves as a tribute to the brewery’s Beer Rangers; their brand and brew ambassadors who, “span all states from the Pacific to the Atlantic.”  This beer is made with three different hop varieties (Cascade, Chinook, and Simcoe) which impart distinct flavors during the brewing process (citrus, floral, and fruity, respectively).  Ranger is also dry-hopped with Cascade, which means even more hop aroma and oils are imparted in the final product.

The result is a beer that pours with a brilliant golden color, orange sunset hues, and a powerful resinous hop aroma.  There is a strong odor of pine on the nose, with hints of grapefruit in the background.  Despite the intense hop scent, Ranger starts with the smooth taste of toasted bread.  This malty flavor quickly gives way to the expected pine-hop crispness and finishes with a mild citrus flavor, leaving a lingering sweetness of oranges.

I will admit, I am not a Die-Hard Hop Head™.  I have to be in a particular mood for a hoppy punch to the face.  That being said, the malt profile of Ranger IPA serves to balance the bold hop character, resulting in a sessionable beer that makes an ideal companion for a virtual trek through the woods.

FirewatchScreen1

The wilderness of national parks can represent many things.  For those who visit, the various flora and fauna could mean an opportunity to experience a world outside of the suburbs and cities.  Land that is mostly untouched by man’s progress with a hint of danger and the unknown.  For those who tend to these parks, the forests and streams are a responsibility.  It is a ranger’s job to protect these lands from visitors who would do harm, whether through ignorance, maliciousness, or just plain laziness.  They are educators and caretakers, stewards and evangelists.

The protagonist of Firewatch comes to the Shoshone National Forest as both visitor and ranger, but this protected land represents something else to him: an escape.  From developer Campo Santo’s website:

“The year is 1989. You are a man named Henry who has retreated from your messy life to work as a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness. Perched atop a mountain, it’s your job to find smoke and keep the wilderness safe.

An especially hot, dry summer has everyone on edge. Your supervisor, a woman named Delilah, is available to you at all times over a small, handheld radio—and is your only contact with the world you’ve left behind.

But when something strange draws you out of your lookout tower and into the world below, you’ll explore a wild and unknown environment, facing questions and making interpersonal choices that can build or destroy the only meaningful relationship you have.”

Firewatch3

While Firewatch opens with a very raw and emotional glimpse into the complexities of Henry’s life, the bulk of the game is spent exploring the gorgeous vistas of the Shoshone National Forest.  As a novice fire lookout, Henry (and the player, by extension) will get a lay of the land rather organically through the functions of the job.  With each day of the game’s plot, Henry is tasked by Delilah to investigate any abandoned campfires or law-breaking visitors to keep the park safe.  There is no mini-map or overbearing quest marker to lead the player to each major destination or plot point.  Just like Henry, I had to rely on the in-game map and compass to find my way.

There were times when this method of exploration proved frustrating.  My progress from the watch tower to certain areas became a stuttering mess as I checked the map dozens of times to orient Henry in the correct direction.  But on a whole, this minimalist approach to navigation contributed to the game narrative.  I spent so much time exploring this beautiful game that the occasional logistic confusion didn’t sour the experience.

Firewatch4

Since so much of this game’s appeal lies in how its story unfolds, I am going to avoid a deep dive into this powerful narrative.  Suffice to say, Firewatch kept me engaged from start to finish.  The real strength of the narrative comes from the conversations between the main characters, Henry and Delilah.  Thanks to the voice actors’ heartfelt performances, I was thoroughly invested in the interpersonal drama as it unfolded across a simple handheld radio.  Additionally, most of these conversations take place without interrupting gameplay, which keeps the story moving at a constant pace.

Now that I have completed this digital walk through the woods, I can confirm that Firewatch was exactly the sort of adventure I needed.  The gorgeous visuals and engaging narrative provided a unique experience.  The story doesn’t drag or overstay its welcome, which makes a perfect compliment to a sessionable beer like Ranger IPA. I would recommend this combination, especially to those of us who are looking for a worthwhile experience off the beaten path.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Exciting Things Are Happening

There are several new developments going on around GIMMGP Headquarters, fair readers. Some fresh content on older blogs, a beautiful new art project, a tactical rebranding, and the debut of an Instagram account.  Let’s get to it!

PokemonPower1.1Longtime readers of GIMMGP may recall the creation of a Tumblr blog back in 2012 called Please Take One.  This site serves as a digital archive for Chip’s collection of rare and odd video game brochures.  After an extended hiatus, Please Take One is back to regular updates, and with Pokemon content, no less!  For the next several months on Please Take One, you will see multiple posts from the six “issue” run of Pokemon Power!  These mini-magazines were included as inserts in Nintendo Power back in 1998.  Pokemon Power features excerpts from the Official Pokemon Strategy Guide, fan art, a comic adaptation of the anime, and other neat goodies.  Be sure to follow Please Take One for all sorts of rare and nostalgic gaming brochures!

Meanwhile, over on Laura’s professional website, a new art project has appeared!  Titled the, “Tarot Deco Project,” this new series will feature gorgeous and gilded versions of the classic cards.  Laura plans to produce a piece for every card in the traditional tarot, starting with the Major Arcana.  Be sure to keep an eye on her website for regular updates, and check out her Instagram account for insight into the creative process for each piece!

GIMMGPUnibroue

Finally, things are chugging along for Chip’s video game and beer pairings.  The next several combinations are planned and in the works, with many tasty brews being paired to games both relatively new and delightfully old.  He has also launched an Instagram account to share images of beers and games outside of the full length pairing posts.  With so much going on, this project has been rebranded Digital Draughts, to celebrate the delicious taste of a draught beer combined with the joy of our preferred digital pastime.  Please be sure to keep your eyes and palates here for future Digital Draughts posts, and follow the related Instagram account for all of the pours and plays between the main posts.

As always, thank you to all of our followers and regular readers over the last five years.  We look forward to sharing all sorts of creative collaborations and gaming goodness with you!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft with Brewery Ommegang’s Gnomegang

There was a time during my childhood that one night out of every week was deemed, “Poker Night.”  My father would invite his friends over for an evening of high-class booze, middle-tier snacks, and low-stakes poker.  It was a means to unwind, forget about work, and catch up with your buddies in a comfortable environment.

Now as an adult, I regularly try to emulate this tradition in my own home (albeit with much nerdier tabletop games).  But the world has changed drastically in the decades since my youth.  The idea of a “regular 9-to-5” has been replaced with shifting schedules and off-hour projects.  Many of us deal with hour-long commutes between our homes and jobs, thanks to the high cost of living around major city centers.  Plus, with the increased availability and quality of online gaming, many of my peers are turning to digital versions of classic games to engage with their friends.

GnomegangHearthstone

So as my own gaming gatherings are becoming more irregular, I thought I would (finally) take my friends’ advice and try out their preferred virtual tavern game.  And what better drink to have at a fantasy-themed bar than a Belgian-style blonde ale with “gnome” in its name?

Gnomegang was originally brewed in 2010 as a collaboration between the fantastic Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York and the rather magical Brasserie d’Achouffe in Belgium.  The story goes that an ingenious gnome revealed himself to humans in Belgium in 1982 and helped Brasserie d’Achouffe brew its first beer.  Many years later, one such gnome visited Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown and the resulting beverage was the aptly named Gnomegang.

Gnomegang

No matter what the real story behind this whimsical brew may be, what makes Gnomegang stand out is the use of a yeast strain directly from Brasserie d’Achouffe.  This special ingredient imparts a very fruity and spicy character to this rich blonde ale. Gnomegang pours with a cloudy golden color, a yellow-orange hue, and a fluffy white head.  The beer has a strong, sweet odor of clove and banana, with a hint of wintergreen hiding among the fruit and spice.  The first taste on the palate is of lemon candy, that gives way to a rich and sweet body, similar to overripe fruit.  The beer finishes smooth, with the lingering sweetness of yellow cake, whipped cream, and a hint of clove.

Gnomegang is a delicious addition to Brewery Ommegang’s catalog of Belgian-style beers. The strong fruit and spice flavors from the Chouffe yeast mingle with the creamy mouthfeel of this drink.  Fans of European-style wheat beers and sweeter blonde ales will be right at home with Gnomegang, although one should take care to avoid quaffing this beverage.  The high alcohol content of 10% ABV is well-hidden by the rich sweetness and hearty spice taste.  Without even paying attention, a novice could slug back one-too-many Gnomegangs while playing cards at the virtual table, leaving themselves wide open to attack in Hearthstone.

HearthstoneAle

Since its release in 2014, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft has been ever-so-stealthily making its way onto my friends’ handheld devices.  It started with a small comment from my long-time friend, Jeremy, who had downloaded the game onto his smart phone as a means to enjoy a collectible card game with his far-away friends.  “You should totally download it,” read his text.  “We can finally play cards again!”  This was certainly a true statement: Hearthstone provided the means to play a fantasy-based card game with my best friend who was several hours away.  Despite this convenience, I was satisfied to wait and play tabletop games with my friends during my next visit to my parents’ homestead.

The next suggestion came from my local buddy, Rob.  He lauded the metagame of deck-building and talked about how his own community of players found it easier to play Hearthstone over their phones, rather than try to schedule a night of in-person gaming. He explained that the variety of cards and strategies available were top notch, allowing players to craft complex strategies and play styles according to their own gaming proclivities.  I was certainly impressed by the various expansions and play types, but I stayed the course of my tabletop roots and avoided Hearthstone once more.

HearthstoneWhispers

What finally broke my resolve was the same thing that originally drew me to Magic: The Gathering- totally awesome horror lore.  The latest expansion of Hearthstone hit the market earlier this year, and it was a loving tribute to the stories of H.P. Lovecraft.  With the release of Whispers of the Old Gods, there was no hope left for me.  The chasm of collectible card gaming and horror flavor yawned before me, and I fell headfirst into its maw (read: I downloaded Hearthstone onto my iPad).

At first, I was rather impressed by Hearthstone.  The game provides a great single-player training ground for newcomers to learn the rules and experience the thrill of victory. The artwork on the cards is gorgeous, and the user interface is very well-designed.  The little animations on the playing grounds keep things interesting, while the action of tearing open a new pack of digital cards is very satisfying.  Plus, there are all sorts of little nods to the history of the Warcraft series, with my favorite being the exclamation of, “Job’s Done!” anytime I finished a turn.  However, after playing through the initial single-player offerings and trying my hand at battling online, my enthusiasm for the game started to wane.

HearthstoneScreenshot

At first, I thought it might be the lack to physical cards that contributed to my lack of interest.  Or it could be the fact that I wasn’t invested enough in the game to pay for additional single-player content.  But I think the real reason why I was not enthralled by Hearthstone is because despite its best efforts, this game does not emulate the joy of getting a gaggle of friends together to play cards.  I certainly appreciate the tavern-influenced interface of the game.  The soundtrack to Hearthstone features some of the best game music I have heard in years (no surprise, since it comes from LucasArts veteran Peter McConnell).  Even with these fun flourishes, I simply prefer gathering a group of friends around a large table, pouring a few rounds of beer, and playing cards until the wee hours of the morning.

So while I certainly recommend the combination of Gnomegang and Hearthstone, this duo isn’t for me.  I fully admit that the rich fruit and spice flavors of Brewery Ommegang’s beer is an ideal companion to the tavern games atmosphere of Hearthstone.  I would just prefer to enjoy this Belgian-style blonde ale in the direct company of friends, holding a hand of cards, and planning my next epic play.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Charity Marathon Incoming! UPickVG 5, June 3rd – 5th 2016

The time has come, my friends.  Our beloved streaming crew has returned.  The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity will be broadcast live on the interwebs June 3rd-5th, 2016!

upickbanner

 

During the 48-hour-long continuous livestream, we’ll play the video games you pick to raise money for charity:water, to bring clean water access to people who need it in the developing world.

Starting the evening of June 3rd and going for the following 48 straight hours, we’ll play the games you choose when making a donation to our charity fundraiser. We’ll switch games each hour (on the hour), as determined by a spin on the Wheel of Destiny – a magical rotating device with all of the top games that have received donations.

UPickWheel

We opened up the floor for our viewers to suggest the games they want to see us play. From a vast number of submissions and a few extra ideas added in by our Official Gamesmuns, Chip & Grant, we narrowed the list down for your viewing pleasure, which can be found here!

Any of these games can be donated for right now if you want to see them in UPickVG 5! Donations to our charity:water campaign will give points to your selected game, which will put it on the Wheel of Destiny, to possibly come up during the marathon. The only way a game will be played is if it gets donations, so get donating for the games you want to see!

Every hour, we’ll spin the Wheel of Destiny to see which of the top-ranked games (in terms of those points!) we play for the next hour. When the Wheel lands on a game, it loses all of its current points and goes back to the bottom of the list. (So if you want to see it again, you’ll have to donate again!)

Stack that Wheel up with the games of your choice! Any donations made before 7:50pm EST June 3rd (the first Wheel spin) will count for that first Wheel spin, and the points will carry over into the following hours (other than the game that is landed on, of course).

But what should you be doing between now and then?

We’ve got some ideas!

  1. Check out the Player Shift Schedule here!
  2. Sign up for the UpickVG Newsletter, which will remind you of upcoming UPickVG events and special opportunities (like requesting games, voting for games, game-y things)
  3. Tell everyone you know about UPickVG and how awesome it’s going to be. Use the graphic up top, and share this post with the sharing buttons down below.
  4. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. We regularly post cool video game stuff and updates about UPickVG 5.
  5. Visit our Watch Now page every Sunday at 4pm EDT (8pm UTC) – we do live rehearsal broadcasts every week! Tune in, heckle us in the chat, and get hyped for the big marathon on June 3rd!
Tagged , , , , , , ,

Digital Draughts: The Ignition Factor with Jailbreak Brewing Company’s Welcome to Scoville Jalapeno IPA

As an adult with some modicum of disposable income, I have started to seek out games that I may have missed as a child.  Most of these titles are oddities from the 16- and 32-bit eras, when print magazines would preview too many games for me to directly experience. In a similar fashion, I have started to seek out brews that I may have missed in the last few years.  Most of these beers are eccentric concoctions from well-loved breweries that I passed over for more conventional offerings.

This is how I came to try an India Pale Ale brewed with jalapeno and cilantro alongside a Super Nintendo game about firefighting.

ScovilleIgnitionFactor

Officially opening their doors in 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Company is a relative newcomer on the craft beer scene.  Named after the owners’ escape from the “imprisonment” of dreary desk jobs, Jailbreak makes a point to use regional and fresh ingredients in their brewing process.  While some of their beers focus on more traditional styles, such as the Infinite Amber Ale and the Big Punisher Double IPA (both delicious), many of their brews are interesting intersections of beer and food.  For example, Jailbreak’s seasonal releases include a chocolate-coconut porter and a key lime pale ale (appropriately named Desserted and B.Limey).

ScovilleUpClose

In addition to these rather rich irregularities, Jailbreak offers a beer with savory ingredients on their year-round list.  Welcome to Scoville is an IPA that is brewed with garden fresh jalapeno peppers and cilantro.  Just like its container, this beer is a vibrant yellow-orange color with a goldenrod hues.  The nose is strong pepper spice with some herbal notes, reminiscent of a hot salsa with extra cilantro.

With such a powerful aroma, I was expecting an acidic scorcher with a bold citrus-hop finish.  Instead, I was surprised to find a floral hop start that gives way to a mild chili body.  It finishes very smooth, with no real bite to speak of and the lingering flavor of Mexican food.  Unlike other beers brewed with peppers that lean into the heat of their ingredients, Welcome to Scoville focuses more on the cilantro in its mix to provide a herbal brew that tastes like a meal.

While some folks may enjoy this rather foody beer, I did not care for Welcome to Scoville. The cilantro overpowers every sip with a herbal dryness that competes with the hops, which are underwhelming from the start.  Any potential heat from the jalapeno is also muted, which makes the finish more earthy vegetable than intense spice.  These characteristics make Welcome to Scoville stand out from other pepper-infused brews, but it ultimately fell flat for me.  How appropriate that The Ignition Factor would also leave me cold.

IgnitionFactorTitleLarge

The 1990s were a time of rampant experimentation in video game development.  Both publishers and designers were eager to try out all sorts of unique gameplay and themes on the consoles of the day.  For example, the same issue of Nintendo Power (in this case, #70 from March 1995) provided maps/strategies for an excellent robot action-platformer, secret codes for a claymation fighting title, and coverage of a licensed basketball game featuring the Looney Toons.

Nestled in the same issue was a brief preview for The Ignition Factor, a game where players take control of a firefighter in various rescue situations.  This two-page spread featured just enough information to intrigue my younger self, but not enough coverage to move this game onto my “Must-Have” list (alongside Chrono Trigger and Donkey Kong Country 2).  To make matters worse, The Ignition Factor never showed up in my local rental store, so this title fell by the wayside until September 2015, when it magically appeared on the Wii-U Virtual Console.

Upon launching The Ignition Factor from my Wii-U Menu, I was treated to a title screen truly meant for 1994.  The game’s stone logo sat on a pitch black void, literally crackling with electricity in anticipation of a new player.  With a hit of the Start/+ button, the rocky letters exploded into a screen covered in debris and flames.  The drama of the ’90s was in full swing and I was ready to play this forgotten Super Nintendo classic.

IgnitionFactorItems

Unfortunately, The Ignition Factor proved to be a lackluster game.  Mired with finicky controls and unintuitive navigation, trying to save people trapped in a fire was a frustrating exercise.  Each stage opened with such potential- I could choose which tools my digital firefighter would carry to assist his heroic journey.  However, carrying more than three items would weigh my avatar down and slow his progress to a sluggish crawl.  As the levels became more complex and demanded a greater variety of tools, I was stuck navigating back-and-forth to a minimal amount of NPCs spread across sprawling maps to swap items as needed.

IgnitionFactorOnFire

This sort of purposeful strategic gameplay would not have been so bothersome if the actual firefighting was inherently fun.  The default fire extinguisher carried by the main character fired in a strange arc that meant the fires directly in front of him would not be quelled.  To make progress in any direction, I needed some space to maneuver and extinguish these respawning flames.  Couple this with a painfully long animation of catching fire whenever a flame is touched, and it makes for a less-than-engaging time.  Even worse, the spouts of fire would only be visible when the firefighter moves into a new room.  Mashing the fire extinguisher button became mandatory when traveling through doors, lest your plucky firefighter be caught aflame and launched backwards.  As a result, I came to rely quite heavily on save states to navigate this maddening experience.

While many people may attribute these frustrating elements to the limited design rules of 1994, it is worth noting that other oddball games succeeded at interesting top-down gameplay during this time.  Zombies Ate My Neighbors provided unique theming and fun mechanics with appropriate challenge, and it hit store shelves an entire year before The Ignition Factor.

IgnitionFactorMannequins

In the end, both of these experiences left me disappointed.  I had hoped that The Ignition Factor and Welcome to Scoville were unique gems that I had somehow overlooked.  As it turns out, this frustrating game and overly herbal beer were just oddly shaped rocks that I happened to walk by on the road.  I would not recommend this combination.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,