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Android Games 36

Two games I received from a Humble Bundle this time – the first is Galaxy Trucker which is a board game where you compete with other players to make money trucking things around the galaxy. The game is in two phases – first you compete with other players to construct a truck from a communal pile of random parts, then you use the truck you created on a route to earn money. The route has random mishaps and events that affect your ship and your cashflow depending on how you’ve constructed your truck. The concept is neat and I only have a few games under my belt so I don’t fully understand the mechanics yet, however I think there is a potential for fun here. One criticism is that the second phase (using your ship) seems pretty short given that you spent so much effort constructing your truck – it takes 10 mins to construct your ship, and 5 minutes for it to travel your route. Although, the AI I’ve been playing against is pretty forgiving in letting you spend your time to build an optimal truck. Another aspect of the game I like is that there is a single player campaign mode, so you can advance at your own leisure. I’m not sure it’s worth $6, but I paid $5 and received a number of other board games as well in my bundle.

Hero Generations is a game that also has an interesting mechanic. You get a hero, but it is expected that your hero will die (probably from old age). Instead, a main and necessary goal is to find a mate, and then your child will continue the game. It’s like an evolutionary process where each generation is supposed to get stronger until at the end…well I don’t know because I never played it that far. While the concept is interesting, it requires a lot of comprehension of the mechanics (there are a lot of things that can be upgraded over generations) and planning to be successful. It’s just too complex to play for 5 minutes so I got rid of it.

The Trail

I’ve been playing a game called The Trail that is a lot like Oregon Trail. You play a settler (no family here) and you set off along a trail to eventually settle in Eden Falls. The trail itself is actually rather short, and you reach Eden Falls fairly quickly (no fording required, and no dysentery); in fact the game ends up being more of a collecting & crafting game rather than settling, but I don’t mind – it’s the crafting and levelling that I enjoy (I learn that these are called “incremental game”s). When you arrive at Eden Falls, you get a house which you can also improve via collecting and crafting. There is also a social aspect as you work together with the other inhabitants of your farm towards communal (and competitive) goals.

What actually attracted my attention to this game was that it is by Peter Molyneux, the creator of Fable. It is not as flexible a world as Fable, but there are some nicely designed aspects (who knows if there was direct Molyneux influence though). One feature that I think is great is the trading that you can do at trail camps. It’s useful because it provides an avenue for you to get rid of all the supplies and items that you’ve accumulated. It’s social because you are trading with other players at your camp, and finally it’s a game because there is a finite time limit for trading, and you compete to get the highest trading score to win an additional prize. This is just one aspect of the game that just works and is win-win-win.

Another part of the game that I like is trying to re-arrange everything in your backpack. The backpack is a limiting mechanism so you can’t carry everything at once, but instead of using slots like a normal game would, you actually have to try and arrange things in your backpack so they will fit. Often times you end up with an overflowing backpack while you try and balance that last item that you picked up on the very top!

As I played the game more, I realize that a lot of the social interaction (along the trail and in the camps) is done by NPCs and not genuine. It’s not completely NPCs, but most of it is. Once I saw through that illusion, I was a bit disappointed; although I understand why they chose that route for performance and design reasons. It’s not a game that I have to play everyday, but it’s good if you have an extended stretch of time.

Android Games 35

While perusing the store, I noticed Postknight. TBH, what attracted to me to this game was that it was “Unreleased”. What does that mean? I still don’t know but the game is decent enough that I play it every once in awhile. You basically do bite-sized auto-runner type quests to gain XP and items. You can trade items for better gear or use them to gain favor with the ladies (i.e., dating in Harvest Moon style). I just play it for the RPG elements because the dating aspect requires you to play too often. It’s a quick enough time killer and you can slowly improve your character so that’s why it’s staying on my phone.

There are a lot of DC and Marvel games around, but I downloaded Justice League Action Run because the art is reminiscent of the animated series. I actually think this game might be for younger kids based on the art and the simplicity. It’s an infinite runner with a couple of modes – collect items, break targets, fight the boss, etc; but the draw is the theme and the art. Unfortunately, the game seems to be recently released, and not polished yet. The interface and gameplay is laggy on my phone, and there are only 5 heroes to choose from! Hopefully it will get better in time, but by then, I think I will have moved on to something else.

Thoughts on Music Videos

I’ve only seen the music video for Ed Sheeran’s Shape Of You once, but it left an impression and I think about it on occasion.

I think the story in the video is well done. Usually MVs just have a random guy and girl in some sort of relationship, and this video portrays something similar, but there was also a lot of depth. In the video, the relationship is between a male and female boxer, so there is a parallel between the “shape” of your partner and how the two are both active. It’s not all thematic though as there are times where the video gets purely literal and follows the lyrics (it actually shows doing having AYCE and “getting in a cab” as Sheeran sings it).

The ending was a bit weird though, and required a think. Ed Sheeran’s character trains to be a boxer and shows up at his match. But he ends up fighting a … sumo wrestler? Not surprisingly, he loses because that’s not what he’s ready for. So why was there this plot twist? Well I figured that the video is a metaphor for 2 people planning and tackling a challenge, but when they encounter it, the challenge is completely different than what they expected. The story has a happy ending when Sheeran’s partner comes in and ninja kicks the sumo wrestler, presumably overcoming the metaphoric challenge and confirming the power of Two!

I also think about the video to Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself on occasion, although this isn’t because the video is deep – it’s because I like the artistic dancing.

February 2017

Nothing much happened in February except that it became…Spring? Well that is strange. About halfway through the month, the weather got warm – several days in the teens, all the snow melted, and then it stayed that way until the end of the month. Will it last into March or will we see a return of winter? Who knows! Except maybe the groundhog who predicted that Spring would come early this year.

This month we also organized and signed up for what the kids have to do for March break and the summer. Summer seems really far away, but at least it is all done.

I played a lot of Hearthstone this month because they had a week and a half where you could complete quests while playing against a “friend”. I ended up playing a lot against my alt account and earned a lot of gold. That was very helpful because the next expansion was just announced and I don’t have nearly enough of the cards from the current expansion yet!

Rocky Mountain Express

We became members of the Ontario Science Centre almost two years ago, but it is coming to a time where the membership is about to run out (the kids are sick of this place and they changed the plans to our detriment). One of the benefits of our current plan is that we can get free OMNIMAX tickets each visit – something which we’ve only used once! We decided to use this feature once more before it goes away and chose to watch Rocky Mountain Express.

I picked this one because the kids love trains and hopefully it would keep their interest – but that really only worked for about 20 minutes. The film is about connecting the Trans Canadian Railway from BC to the interior and like most IMAX films, it is a documentary. This documentary is quite poor as there is no storytelling that keeps the viewer engaged – the narration simply relays a bunch of facts about the history of what was done. It is like listening to Wikipedia. In fact, I was curious about many things during the film, but the documentary stayed far away from the interesting topics, like what convinced the GM to go through Roger’s Pass, or how the trains worked or how railroad building happened.

The narration served to show videos of a restored train in action, as it took the Trans Canadian Railway; and that is basically the point of watching an IMAX film. You can see and hear the train in high definition. Some of the shots were way to close, showing you the guts of the machine, but without the context of what it does. There were also many old photos which helped to relay history, but was otherwise a waste of IMAX.

I’m actually disappointed in the visuals, because there was severe distortion. I left wondering whether the film was shot for a normal screen but then shown on an omnimax curved screen. I wasn’t sitting in the absolute centre of the theatre, but it was still very bad.

I wouldn’t recommend this film, at least on the OMNIMAX screen. The film left me wanting my money back, but since I didn’t have to pay for it, then I was just disappointed. One out of five stars.

Familyhood

Familyhood is a Korean film about an aging, (approaching middle age), but still relevant, actress who fakes a pregnancy in order to find meaning in life. Naturally, being pregnant increases her stature but also, she is found out and her bubble burst. The tragic, fallen hero must then deal with the consequences and redeem herself.

It’s kind of a cliche, and actually given the hype of K-Dramas, a pretty disappointing movie. Perhaps I’m not the target audience for this film. The parts I enjoyed about this movie are the ones that show or satirize the management/agency nature of being a Korean celebrity. Aside from that, there isn’t much redeeming about the movie, and it is a sorry state of the film releases on my flights in January that I had to watch this movie instead of a better one.

Familyhood gets a 2 out of 5 stars from me.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I watched this oldie (from 1982) because I’ve been playing a Star Trek game and one of my Legendary characters is “Wrathful Khan”. I actually had also read the synopsis a few months ago too, and I think at some point I saw this movie on TV. Yet somehow I was still surprised at the plot and it wasn’t the movie I was expecting – for some reason I expected the Augments to take over a Klingon Bird of Prey.

In any case, I enjoy Star Trek but didn’t enjoy Wrath of Khan that much. The plot was fine but I think the pacing is too old fashioned – too many grandiose shots of the ship and people walking around the hallways. I don’t have an affinity to the Original Series so perhaps the nostalgia of finally seeing the ship again after the series was off the air for many years is lost on me. I also think that the villain Khan just wasn’t that imposing, scary or believable. He was actually a bit cartoon-y because he was so vengeful.

Overall, I would rate this movie 2 out of 5 stars. I would have preferred to watch an episode or two of The Next Generation or one of their movies instead.

Morgan

Morgan is the story of a bioengineered being which has had an “incident” which causes the parent company to send out a risk management consultant to assess the situation and the program. However, it turns out that the team, which has worked in seclusion for many years to birth and develop the being as their own child, has grown emotional attached to it.

You can see where this is heading as the team fights to show how Morgan is special; but this is a rated R thriller so the story ends up having a lot of unexpected action following the initial drama-esque start. I wasn’t expecting it and it turned out to be much better than I thought it would be (given that I originally picked it because it had a short, 90 minute, running time).

After watching the movie, the themes remind me a lot of Bladerunner (and that’s always a good thing). It turned out to be the most enjoyable movie of the last several I’ve seen. I give Morgan a 4 out of 5.

January 2017

I started January with a lot of travelling. First, I went to Las Vegas to attend CES for the first time! That was exciting, but I only ended up breezing through the trade floor once, and didn’t attend any of the talks at all – it was all work meetings! Plus I was originally planning to go for 4 days to have time for the conference and maybe go to some buffets or shows, but I had to readjust my travel schedule and was only there for 1 night…because…

My trip to Korea that was original scheduled for last December was rescheduled for the week immediately after CES. So I cut short my stay, returned home for the weekend, and flew out again on Monday for the week. This was my first time in Korea in the winter, and it’s pretty boring. I had some time on my last day to go around but it started snowing a little, my running shoes were slippery, and I didn’t want the trip to the airport to be stuck in traffic; so I didn’t do much.

After that, January passed by quickly and was pretty calm. The weather warmed up significantly in January – no real snowfall and temperatures above freezing most days. There was more rain than snow in the month.