The Day After I Turned 40

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I never know 100% what to write here. I go back and forth between writing about video games/board games and then about personal stuff. How many readers who read my stuff about video games want to know about our adoption journey? How many readers want to read about my thoughts on worship music?

Yesterday, I turned 40. I spent my day working. Came home after, ate dinner, went out for ice cream, and then I was on the phone for an hour and forty-five minutes with a family member. By the time I was done, I put Wyatt to bed (we went over his devotional, prayed, and he read for an hour) and soon went to bed myself.

Television makes a pretty big deal about your birthday. I mean, not your individual birthday but birthdays as a whole.

“Your birthday should be all about you.”

“Your birthday is your day, relax.”

I mean just the other night my wife and I were watching Season 3 of Virgin River. The first episode is all about main character Melinda “Mel” Monroe’s birthday. Through out the episode, her boyfriend, Jack Sheridan, is unsure what to do. So he schedules her a message, flies lunch (sushi) in via bush pilot, etc. Towards the end of the episode, Jack surprises Mel with tickets for a dinner cruise. She doesn’t want to go. What she has told Jack all along is that all she wants is a cupcake and a bath. So what does Jack give her? A cupcake, a bath, and Jack’s house catching fire? One could say that Mel got what she wanted and some smoke inhalation as a bonus. How sweet.

I am learning that being an adult, a now 40 year old adult, is about unexpected things that come up in life. Be it a phone call or your boyfriends house catching fire (and burning to the ground). Happy Birthday to me.

Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power Review

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For well over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has entertained millions around the globe. Allowing us to follow characters such as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America as they ultimately triumph over evil. That cinematic universe has expanded into television with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Loki (I won’t forget ABC Television’s Agent Carter either). All of which position Marvel as a household name and powerhouse brand. Now branding can be a tricky thing, especially when a product doesn’t live up to the gold standard the brand has set.

Tabitha, Wyatt, and I decided to give Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power a shot this past weekend. We borrowed the game from friends, after they couldn’t quite figure out what was going on with it. Having played Disney Villainous, we thought we were set to do battle against the Avengers, right? What could a few do-gooders do against the might of Thanos, Ultron, Killmonger, Hela, or Taskmaster?

First, we had to pick our villains:

  • Tabitha picked Hela.
  • Wyatt picked Ultron.
  • And I picked Taskmaster.

We each took turns playing our domain (our game boards); getting to know our individual characters, their cards, etc. If you haven’t played Disney Villainous, each turn consists of a player moving to one of four spaces (as shown below). In the “Reconfiguration Base” space, for instance, you can:

  • Play a Card
  • Draw 2 Power Tokens
  • Discard Cards
  • Vanquish an Opponent

Once you do the four things the space requires, your turn ends. If the space has a Fate Card icon on it, like the “Manufacturing Array”, you draw from the Fate Deck. This is where the similarities with Disney Villainous ends and Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power begins.

The Fate Deck

In Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power, all of the Fate Decks are shuffled together. (Note that in Disney Villainous, this shuffling is not a thing. You keep your individual Fate Deck that other players draw from/play against you.) So in our case, the 15 common Fate Cards were shuffled together with our characters individual Fate Decks. This makes for one large pile of cards that can impact your turn by:

  • Someone sending an Ally
  • Dropping a Hero on a player (who then has to deal with said hero)
  • Event Cards

Event Cards

When a player draws an Event Card, the game is impacted until that event is dealt with. For “Helicarrier Alert”, you can only draw up to 3 cards at the end of your turn until players have sent enough Allies to deal with the 6 points of damage.

For the Event Card “Stolen Antiquities”, this card only directly impacts Killmonger. However, all the the players are free to Relocate Allies until the card is vanquished.

“Perfectly Balanced, as all this should be.” – Thanos

In the End

Perfection, balance if you will, Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power fails to bring anything of value to the Villainous formula. The addition of having one large Fate Deck, in combination with Event Cards, does nothing to the game but bring misery. Marvel Villainous: Infinite Power takes an already complicated game and makes it even more complicated (and longer, time-wise). The game feels like it needed a few more months of plotting before execution. Because of this, I will be sticking with Disney Villainous.

However, Wyatt loved it! Did I mention he won? He told me that the characters actually make sense within the context of the game, unlike Disney Villainous.

Go figure.

My Vampire – Musings from having my blood drawn

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When you go to get your blood drawn, the last thing you want is someone with shaky hands.

Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Today, I went to the doctor’s office for my quarterly diabetes appointment. My appointment went well. All good there.

After checking out of my doctor’s office, I proceeded down the hall to go get some blood work done. I noticed that no one was in the waiting area outside the lab. Yes, I thought, I’m going to get in and out today.

Soon I heard my name called. “That’s me”, I said smiling (with my mask on).

Walking back to where blood is drawn, I asked, “How are you today?” It was then that I noticed that my blood technician, my vampire, was a tad upset. Uh oh.

“Which arm is your good arm?”

I thought about that for a moment.

“No one has ever asked me that before. Definitely my left arm.”

“Okay.”

“Sometimes, I’m hard to draw blood from. If you have to, you can pull from my hand.”

She looked over my hand before deciding on a point in my arm. Her hands were shaking.

One. Two. Three. She plunged her needle into my arm. Not finding the vein, she slowly moved the needle around exploring further. Which then caused me to move (it hurt). She muttered something and then another something. Hurriedly told me to hold a cotton ball against my arm while she surveyed my hand. She plunged her needle, again, this time into my hand. Success!

“I’m just so frustrated. We’ve been dealing with a lot here.”

I looked at her, “I’m sorry.”

“Honey, you don’t have say I’m sorry.”

“I’m just saying that it sucks that it has been hard.”

Her body language changed, perhaps softened.

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“Have a good day!”

Review – Biomutant

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I have tried to put my finger on the reason developer Experiment 101‘s Biomutant does not gel with me. I know that it has nothing to do with Biomutant feeling like a AAA game made by a small design team on a limited budget. If anything, Returnal, developed by Housemarque, shares this indie game turned AAA game feel. Indie game developers being given a AAA game budget is a fantastic development. The size of the studio does not limit perfect execution on a core gameplay concept. The problem is when the story, which ties everything together, needs more time in the editing oven.

Into the Fire

Anytime Biomutant pauses the gameplay to further the story, told through static cutscene, I found myself wanting to skip it. Sure, there is the Narrator, who does a good job reading what text he is given. But even he cannot save what amounts to two 3D models standing next to each other, doing nothing, while he narrates. I cannot think of another game I’ve played, in many years, that has chosen to convey story in this manner. While I commend developer Experiment 101 for their cleverness in using a narrator, I wish they had chosen a different way to share their story with us.

On that note, I find the humor to be off… way off. At first I thought that it was a dark humor sort of thing. The more I played Biomutant though, the more I realized that the humor needed more time to bake. With a bit more time in the editing oven, I think Experiment 101 could have had a solid winner here. Alas, the way the story is presented with its humor, I 100% don’t get it. It’s not only odd but off-putting.

What I Loved

  • The handcrafted feel of Biomutant‘s open-world.
  • The way Björn Palmberg’s score blends so seamlessly with this post-apocalyptic Kung-Fu RPG.
  • The responsiveness/quickness of the characters movements.
  • The way the character runs.

What I Disliked

  • The way that combat is executed. I hate having to memorize combos. Square + Circle + Circle + L2.
  • Anytime there is a cutscene. Ugh.

In the End

There is a market for Biomutant. You might be the perfect candidate for it! I’m just not it. I need a compelling story to go with my Kung Fu. I need a reason to play.

Title: Biomutant
Developer: Experiment 101
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $59.99

Review by Bryan Hall

*Biomutant was reviewed using a code provided by EvolvePR.