Monday, January 26, 2015

Board Game Review: The X-Files

In The X-Files, a board game by IDWGames and Kevin Wilson, one to four players take the role of FBI agents Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Walter Skinner, and Alex Krycek moving across the continental United States solving X-Files cases as they appear, in order to collect enough evidence to unravel the shadow government agency known as the Syndicate. One player takes the role of the Cigarette Smoking Man, who is working against the other players to cover up evidence and delay them long enough to eventually win through attrition and shut down the X-Files department for good. 

On agents' turns, they perform some combination of moving from region to region across the board, trading cards with fellow agents in the same region, collecting influence (which serve basically as action points), and playing cards from their hand -- usually to "investigate" an active X-File case in their region. Each X-File requires a certain amount of "progress" to solve; if an agent plays a card that says "investigate 3," they place three "progress tokens" on the case, and continue playing cards (one at a time, in turn order) until the number of progress tokens matches or exceeds the required amount on the card. For each solved X-File, agents collect a certain amount of "evidence tokens" from a bag, which are used as currency to buy one of nine puzzle pieces that the agents have to acquire and assemble to win the game.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Deadly Premonition is Mind-Blowingly Awesome

You may have heard of Deadly Premonition, the open-world horror/thriller game from 2010 that proudly claims (on the back of the Director's Cut box, no less) to be "the most critically polarizing game of recent times." With a $20 price tag and review scores ranging from 2/10 on IGN to 10/10 on Destructoid, Deadly Premonition quickly earned a reputation for being "so bad it's good." Like a good "B movie," this was a game whose primary entertainment value seemed to derive from laughing at its failures and its generally awkward incompetence.

There's certainly plenty of reason to dislike Deadly Premonition. The graphics look 10 years out of date, the controls are clunky, the animations are ridiculous, the sound mixing is poorly balanced, the lip syncing is awful, and the music selection is often totally inappropriate. As a result of the clunky controls and the large open-world, the bulk of the actual gameplay feels pretty uncomfortable, and even a little boring, particularly in the beginning when you have very little reason to care about what's going on. Hidden beneath all of these superficial problems, however, is a comically bizarre, oddly fascinating, and uniquely surreal experience.