Tuesday, June 18, 2019

New Board Games Released in June 2019

Whether you’re looking for a quick party game, a legacy campaign to play with a dedicated group, or a strategy game that plays within an hour, there’s a good chance you’ll find something for you in 2019.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell: A Board Game of English Magic




Fantasy fans may want to keep an eye on this upcoming board game adaptation, which puts players in the role of novice magicians looking to improve their craft in the world of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.

In this game of magical forces in 19th Century Europe, each player is a character from the novel traveling from city to city as they gather power to take on the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair.

Not much is known about this game, but from what we know so far it sounds like it will be a race to become the player strong enough to take down the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. Hopefully it includes enough of the book to please fans while entertaining newcomers as well.

Machi Koro Legacy



The next game getting the Legacy treatment from Rob Daviau is Machi Koro, which Daviau is designing with J. R. Honeycutt and the original game’s designer, Masao Suganuma.

If you enjoyed the original game, there’s a good chance you’ll like this one. Though it also sounds like this would make a great first Machi Koro experience if you have a dedicated group willing to play through the whole campaign.

Alubari: A Nice Cup of Tea



Tony Boydell, known for Snowdonia and Guilds of London, explores 19th Century Darjeeling in a game of trains, tea, and trade.

Each player is managing their own tea empire as they create a network of rails, hire workers, and harvest tea to create a thriving network. By placing workers (which can be motivated with a bit of Chai), players strive to create the best tea network and score points based on how much they contributed to the building of the Darjeeling and Himalayan railways and how splendiferous their tea gardens are.


Wizard Words



Jeff Lai’s Wizard Words is a simple and fast-paced cooperative word game with a twist: you’re all wizards dealing with hexes as you give one-word clues.

In order to climb the wizard ranks, players will give each other one-word hints while recalling past hints and navigating challenging hexes.

This little word game plays in just six minutes—a great sweet spot for a quick time-filler at game night.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Videogame Review: Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled =- June 2019

***WARNING:  Some of the videogames I feature are rated T (teen) and M (mature).  I celebrate the technology and the skillset -- seriously -- of these games.   I respect that every family makes their own decisions for what games are played in their house.***

Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled feels as good today as the original did 20 years ago.

There was a danger Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled would show its 1999 progenitor up to be a dated game best left in the past. Instead, developer Beenox has proved how impressive and durable Naughty Dog's original work was while also tweaking it in the right ways. The original game's list of 18 tracks has been expanded upon with 13 more from its sequel, Crash Nitro Kart, and these provide an extended list of topographically and visually distinct circuits, from underwater tunnels to ice caves to desert pyramids. Those visuals have of course also been given a facelift, and while no track looks bad, some look especially stunning. Coco Park has gorgeous pink flowers strewn across the road, for example, while Tiger Temple looks like it was taken directly from Uncharted 4 and Electron Avenue feels like racing through Blade Runner's vision of Los Angeles.




The handling takes a bit of getting used to, mind you. For anyone who's played any amount of Mario Kart, for example, over the past few years, Crash Team Racing's power slides will feel decidedly alien, at times too sensitive and at others not sensitive enough--and this leads to quite a few missed crates or headlong collisions with stationary objects. However, once you reacquaint yourself with the mechanic--which requires you to hold one bumper down to drift and press the other bumper with the correct timing to gain a boost--it reveals itself to be of greater depth than comparable turning methods in other kart racers. You can chain these boosts for even faster acceleration (but at the risk of spinning out), so while it's harder to get to grips with, Crash Team Racing's power sliding nets bigger rewards for those willing to dance with the drifting devil.

Nitro-Fueled's array of power-ups are the other obstacles in your path to the finish line. They are derivative of Mario Kart's selection--Crash's green beakers are Mario's bananas, Crash's Aku Aku and Uka Uka are Mario's Super Star, and so on--but, again, Crash Team Racing provides an interesting twist. Collecting Wumpa Fruit both speeds you up and turbocharges your power-ups. Green beakers transform into the more deadly red beakers, TNTs--which can be shaken off--become the instantly detonating Nitros, and so on. When the power-ups, boost pads, and handling combine, Nitro-Fueled boasts an exhilarating sense of speed.



These power-ups do, however, occasionally become frustrating during CTR's Adventure mode, which tasks you with coming first in every single race across the original game's tracklist, in addition to some optional challenges like beating certain times or collecting a certain number of crystals. Winning on every track is certainly manageable, barring a couple of trickier races, until you reach the boss fights, which feel a little unfair as bosses are quicker than any playable character and boast unlimited power-ups. Over time, after yet another run ruined by yet another bomb, it's enough to make you want to turn off Adventure--though perhaps just until you're back to craving that triumphant adrenaline rush the boss battles admittedly conjure.

In a welcome attempt to modernize the mode, Beenox has added a Nitro-Fueled variant of Adventure. This allows you to switch characters between races and adjust the difficulty, which goes a long way to resolving the campaign's more irritating moments. If you prefer the more punishing, "authentic" method of progressing, you can do that too. Mercifully, the game autosaves after every race, though those giant green screens are still around if you fancy saving there for old time’s sake. (Incidentally, this is an attitude Beenox has applied to the game's soundtrack, which allows you to switch between the revamped version and the original PlayStation audio--a nice touch.) Nitro-Fueled mode solves many of Adventure's problems and so allows the campaign's challenges, relics, and crystals to supply lone players an incentive to keep coming back.



Outside of Adventure, there are of course the standard single races or cups, as well as an extensive Battle mode. Within this are varied game types such as Capture the Flag and a battle royale-style Last Kart Driving. These are fun, but the relative lack of players (a maximum of eight, including AI in local play) limits the chaos somewhat, so matches can sometimes feel a little lifeless. Following a day one patch, online races can readily be found and run smoother than before, however some lobbies still suffer from half a second of lag--you'll sometimes find yourself blowing up just a split second before your bomb nemesis rolls into view.

As well as Adventure mode, character customization has also been modernized. As in the 1999 game, you can choose characters depending on your preference for higher top speed, quicker acceleration, or better handling. However, you can now also change your kart and character's appearance, with a selection of skins, badges, paint jobs, outfits, and whole new karts and characters to choose from. These are unlocked through normal play, but can also be purchased with in-game currency via the store. While they are, mechanically speaking, meaningless, they add a nice bit of flavor--and some of the outfits are pretty cool. My favorites are Robo-Cortex and the adorable Fisherman Polar. Look at him! Look at him!

Simply put: This is a remaster done right. Nitro-Fueled maintains the spirit and rock-solid foundations of a childhood favorite while building on it and modernizing it where necessary--even if the handling might take a bit of getting used to. Adventure mode's classic variant feels a little tough, but your first race on Roo's Tubes or Sewer Speedway will bring a nostalgic grin to your face regardless. When the nostalgia fades, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled remains fun and engaging enough to keep you racing on with a smile on your face for much longer yet. It's good to have Crash back.

SOURCE: https://www.gamespot.com/reviews/crash-team-racing-nitro-fueled-review-back-with-a-/1900-6417174/

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Netflix in June: Great Family Movies, Shows to Stream

Best Family Movies on Netflix

As you scroll through Netflix's Children and Family section, and become suspicious of the sea of bright colors and flashing lights, you're probably starting to wonder how many of these flicks are actually good. If already know the difference between a film that will (hopefully) inspire their young mind and one that simply numbs it, you've come to the right place. We've found the best family movies on Netflix, to help you schedule some quality TV time with your relatives, with many of them good enough for both of you to find something to enjoy. Oh, and mark June 26 on your calendar, as that's when Netflix will start streaming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.


Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) 

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is back in the armor that brought him to this Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this sequel's even more fun than its predecessor. Rated PG-13, it's got that mild super-hero violence that's probably acceptable to most kids in their pre-teen and teenage years, but the film's rooted in another hilarious performance from Rudd, who takes on some surprising characters during the film. Also, this chapter of the MCU series has a lot more fun with the shrinking and super-sizing tricks that Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) brings to the film. 


Incredibles 2 (2018) 

The Incredibles was such an instant classic that many were worried that even an OK sequel would tarnish its legacy. Fortunately, this sequel packs enough pizzazz and heart to sit side-by-side with its predecessor. Vibrating with a wonderful jazzy soundtrack and inventive visuals, The Incredibles 2 is a joy to watch. Story-wise, everybody's favorite super-powered family is back, and dealing with the immediate aftermath of the original film: a society that wants to ban their abilities. Scenes featuring Bob (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) dealing with the uber-powered Jack Jack steal the show, and function as fantastic centerpieces. And until Disney Plus takes it away 2020, Incredibles 2 is definitely one of the best family movies on Netflix. 


Peter Rabbit (2018) 

This refreshing adaptation of Beatrix Potter's novels revive Peter Rabbit for the younger set, by injecting the character with a bit of mischief. Yes, while that decision upset those tied to Potter's original work, the film doesn't come across as mean or insincere.  A couple of warnings, though: a human character dies relatively early, so this might not be a perfect movie for the super-young set. Also a minor ruckus was raised over a scene where a child allergic to blueberries was pelted by blueberries, which forced him to use his Epipen.

Mary and The Witch's Flower (2018) 

If you're looking for a new twist on solid tropes, check out this film from Academy Award nominee Hiromasa Yonebayashi, whose credits include Studio Ghibli masterpieces Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and Ponyo. This animated film centers around a young girl named Mary who finds herself surrounded by the utterly fantastic: a magic flower that grants magical powers, a broomstick that she flies above the clouds, and the magic university of Endor College (no, there aren't any Ewoks). Features voice acting by Kate Winslet and Jim Broadbent.




A Wrinkle in Time (2018) 

Ava Duvernay's adaptation of the Madeleine L'Engle classic may have rubbed some critics the wrong way, but most agree that this is a great flick for kids. As long as you watch the film with a child-like sense of awe and wonder, so you can enjoy the movie's gorgeous special effects and not blanche at its wholesome demeanor. Its focus, a depressed 13-year-old named Meg — whose misery is linked to her dad's mysterious disappearance — who goes on a mystical journal that will answer her biggest questions.

White Fang (2018) 

Inspired by Jack London's novel, White Fang will capture the imaginations of those who love pets and nature. Tracing the story of a wolfdog's life, as he moves between three masters, this wonderful animated movie comes to us from France, where it was originally titled Croc-Blanc. Voice acting work comes from beloved names such as Parks and Recreation stars Rashida Jones and Nick Offerman, as well as Paul Giamatti.