Games

#931: Our Arsenal

A prequel to #796:  Improvisation

RECORD STORE TALES #931: Our Arsenal

One of the greatest joys of youth was improvising.  What continues today with music and tech, started back then with toys.  We made our own games with what we had.  Bored with the toys already sitting in the basement, we simply invented new ones of our own.  Board games using army men as the pieces, or Star Wars playsets made of shoeboxes.  We did it out of boredom and necessity.  Kenner didn’t make a Cloud City playset, and even if they did it would be too large and expensive.  Instead we made one ourselves, complete with sliding carboard pocket doors.  It had multiple levels and was scaled to work with Kenner figures.

At the cottage, the need to improvise was multiplied.  We couldn’t count on TV for entertainment, with only two channels.  We could not bring all our toys and games with us to the lake.  Therefore we had to have fun with what we had.  For the first 10 years or so, the cottage was under constant construction.  Rooms were not finished all at once, but a little bit each year.  Same with exterior elements like porches and sheds.  That meant there was always scrap wood, nails and a hammer available.

I recently dug up some of our cottage improvisations.  They date back 35-40 years.  These haven’t seen the light of day in so long, that there was also an abandoned nest of some kind in the box.  Unsurprisingly, given my early penchant for being a Tony-Stark like arms dealer, all these home-made toys are built for war!

First up are my weapons.  My dad made me a bow and arrow when I was a kid.  The bow broke but he kept it along with one of my arrows.  I can see where I taped a little fin on the arrow.  The arrows were not sharpened; there were no tips.  It was just to see how far I could shoot them.  Not far!  You couldn’t really hurt anyone.

Also in the weapons locker was my old tomahawk.  I found the perfect stone and branch, lashed them together, and voila!  35 years later my tomahawk is still intact.  I can’t believe this stuff wasn’t burned up for firewood ages ago.

Next, and ripe for a tetanus infection, is our little flotilla of battleships.  We always had offcuts hanging around.  These look to be made of tongue-and-groove panelling.  Decent toy boats were always hard to find.  They were either super fragile, or leaked and sank.  Our boats always floated and were armed to the teeth.  Look at the all the guns!  Rotating turrets too.  My sister’s boats weren’t as sophisticated as mine.  She got into the boat making game too, adding her own graphics and designs.  We brought these boats down to the water and had some pretty fun adventures.  And nobody got hurt on the rusty nails.

Finally, we had some plastic beach cars and trucks that we always had a blast with in the sand.  We built roads and bridges.  I found plain old cars a little more boring than my sister did, so I took things into my own hands.  I got my favourite yellow pickup truck, and armor plated it.  My mom gave me hell for using too much tinfoil.  “Expensive!” she would always remind me.   But I had to take my time and get it right.  I had to do it twice.  The idea was to leave no Scotch tape visible on the outside.  At the end I had a shiny silver armored pickup truck.  And amazingly enough, some of that armor plate is still on the truck.   It was combat ready.  I always thought it would be cool if I could find a little helicopter to hang out in the truck bed, but I never did.

I found these old toys sitting in a cardboard box in the shed when I was looking for dry firewood.  Of course there was no way I could burn these up.  The battleship, which I have now dubbed Bismarck, might even float again one day.  They’ll never sink the Bismarck!

#919: Robert Grass

RECORD STORE TALES #919: Robert Grass

During the summer of 1988, we were lucky to have some cottage visits with the Szabo family.  They had been friends for years.  Robert Szabo is now a successful guitar player/singer/songwriter.  Back then he was a neighbour from school, but his younger siblings Steve and Michelle were also good friends.  They came to visit us at our cottage, and then we went to go and visit them at their place in Grand Bend.  A much busier beach town.

When they came to visit us, we treated them to a backyard barbecue and some fun and amusements.  Steven and Michelle came; Rob was busy elsewhere.  We busted out the games and, as usual, improvised.  We played a drawing game based on the TV show Win, Lose or Draw.  You had to draw sketches and people guessed the words you were trying to draw.  We used coloured markers and went to town on good ol’ lined paper.

We were having a great time but after a few rounds, people were guessing too easily.  I decided to throw a curve ball and pick something to draw that would be harder to guess.  A musical artist but an obvious one that people associated with me.  I chose “Robert Plant”, because I thought it was a recognizable enough name, but not an obvious pick.  Young kids in 1988 were not all familiar with Robert Plant, but some of us were.

Two words.  First word!

I drew Steven and Michelle’s family, with Robert as the tallest.  They successfully guessed “Robert” as the first word.  I hoped this wasn’t too easy.

Second word.  I grabbed a green marker and started drawing plants.  They were having trouble guessing the second word.  Shrubs, weeds, and….

“ROBERT GRASS!” yelled my sister Kathryn, seemingly in victory.

I laughed.  “Who the hell is Robert Grass?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” she answered.

A logical answer I suppose since I did draw some grass with my plants.  After much laughter and giggling, they eventually got the correct guy, Robert Plant, which made a lot more sense than Robert Grass.  And within a year or so, my sister even owned Now and Zen on cassette!  That more than made up for her wrong guess.

 

GAME REVIEW: Exploding Kittens (2015)

This week, Ontario heads into “Phase 2” of re-opening.  With gatherings of up to 10 people permitted, it’s about time to release this review I’ve been sitting on for three months!

EXPLODING KITTENS (2015 card game)

Quick and simple card games are great for work lunch hours.  Here’s one that you can play a round of in 10 to 20 minutes.  Although the game states it’s for 2 to 5 players, it works best with 4 to 5.

Exploding Kittens is very simple.  There is a deck of cards with different kinds of kittens on them.  You don’t want the exploding kind.  If you draw an exploding kitten, the only way to survive is with a defuser card.  Once you run out of those, you better watch out.

There are all sorts of cards to help you stay alive.  The “See the Future” card will allow you to view the next three cards in the deck.  If you don’t like what’s next for you to draw, you could play a “Shuffle”,  “Skip” or “Attack” card, forcing somebody else to pick it up.  If you don’t want to be forced, you can play a “Nope” card to cancel it.  But it’s just as easy for somebody else to “Nope” your “Nope” card!  We had a chain of four “Nopes” in a row.

The simplicity of the game is what makes it enjoyable, although the amusing cat artwork on the cards is also worthwhile.  There are certain cat cards that you can collect to put together combo moves.  Stealing cards from an opponent can be a killer move (literally!) if you can get their defusers.

For added fun (and players) you can pick up an expansion pack with even more kittens, though we have a blast with just the basic game.

4/5 stars

Part 243: Return to Niagara Falls

Since I abandoned chronological order shortly after Part 10, everything’s been scattershot since.  This story takes place a month before the events in Part 102: Dumped in Barrie.  It features she who dumped me in Barrie, as well as friends from Part 64: Niagara Falls, and the title character from Part 155: Sarge.  Got all that?

RECORD STORE TALES Part 243:  Return to Niagara Falls

A cold Saturday morning, JJJulie and I headed down to St. Catharines, Ontario.  The purpose of our visit was to hang out with our Record Store friends in The Legendary Klopeks, and Sarge, who had flown in from Bournemouth, England!  Sarge was an imposing figure, with steampunk top hat and platform boots.  We’d been communicating online for a while and we were all looking forward to his visit.  He ended up helping the Klopeks book some gigs overseas later.

Lemon Kurri Klopek, you may remember, co-owned one of our stores.  JJJulie and I rendezvoused with him at his store, where I spent some money.  (Astute readers will realize that for me to buy a CD from Lemon Kurri, a franchisee, was against the rules!  We had some pretty stupid rules.)

The lot of us grabbed some fancy dinner together, a motley crew of tattoos, piercings, leather, and rock and roll.  Although we spent a lot of money and were nothing but polite, our appearances were apparently too much for the upscale restaurant folk.  We were given our bills and pointedly not asked if we wanted to order from the dessert menu.

We fit in much better later on at a bar in St. Catharines, where Sarge presided regaling us with stories about Lemmy from Motorhead and others.  I normally don’t like bars, but everybody seemed to know everybody there.  Sarge then presented me a Motorhead tour shirt, a gift I still have (although packed away in a box).  We had a pretty solid time, and the place was mostly empty so my crowd phobia didn’t really kick in.

SAM_0489

The Rockmobile

The following day, Sunday, we took a trip across the border to do some shopping. We all piled into Lemon Kurri Klopek’s Rockmobile.  There was some kind of outlet mall in Niagara Falls, USA that was supposed to be pretty cool.  JJJulie wanted to buy shoes (whoop-de-do!) but I was told there were a couple good toy stores there.

At K.B. Toys I found the Star Wars Game of Life for $9.99, which I still have.  That was a score.  I kept it sealed.  At that price I should have bought a second one and sold it or given it away as a gift.  But that wasn’t the only mistake I made on that trip.  A further stop at a US record store turned up a find that I didn’t know existed.

I’m admittedly not a fan of the Alice Cooper Brutal Planet period. I am however a completist, so I was still interested when I saw a Brutally Live CD/DVD combo pack.  We had the DVD in Canada, but not the CD, and CD is still my primary format.  It was $25, and I decided to pass on it simply because I knew I wasn’t going to play it that often.

Maintaining a balance between “I won’t play it that often” and “I still want it for the collection” is tricky sometimes, and erring on the side of budget, I decided to pass on the Brutally Live set for the moment.  As soon as I got back home and checked online, I regretted that decision.  I couldn’t get it from any Canadian sellers and buying from an American one was going to cost me at least $35.  (Happy ending:  About five years down the road, it was released in Canada at a budget price!  I have it now.)

My Star Wars Game of Life was a good score.  On eBay, there’s one (not sealed like mine) going for $25.99 (buy it now).  There are none on eBay that are unopened at the time of this writing.  I think I’ll hang onto mine and wait for the release of Episode VII to sell!

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Queensryche’s Promised Land (CD-ROM)

QUEENSRYCHE’S Promised Land (CD-ROM for Windows, Windows 95, or Mac) (1996)

Promised Land is my favourite ‘Ryche album, so when this came out I had to have it.  Somewhat a companion piece to the album, it is also a game on its own.  There are two discs:  One, a virtual tour of the cottage where the band recorded the album, and Two, the Promised Land video game.

The object of the game:  Explore five different fantasy lands (one “world” for each member) that “reflect the thoughts, dreams, nightmares, humor and values of the members of Queensryche.”  There are puzzles in these areas and a lot of places where you just get lost, but there’s also cameos by the band members and snippets of original music.  The goal of the game is to find all five pieces of the Queensryche totem.  They’re hidden, one per world, and if you get them all you unlock a Queensryche song called “Two Mile High”.  This song, a brief acoustic number with an electric DeGarmo solo, was recorded specifically and exclusively for this game.  Unfortunately you won’t unlock it in any worthwhile format, you’ll sit and watch a Quicktime video instead.

screen shot 2

The other part of the Promised Land package is a lot cooler.  On the disc labelled Big Log, you can explore the cabin studio where Queensryche recorded the album.  You can move from room to room and click objects to unlock videos.

Unfortunately, with Geoff Tate out of the picture, it seems unlikely that a DVD release of these video segments would be high on the priority list for the band.

Anyway, it seems kind of pointless to give a rating to a game like this since it’s unlikely you’re currently rushing out to buy a 1996 PC video game.  If I had to put myself back in the day and how I felt when I got it, I’d rate it like this:

  • Game – 1/5
  • Big Log disc – 4/5
  • “Two Mile High” song – 3/5 

Screenshots from AdventureGamers.com.

Check out the unintentionally funny game trailer below:


More Queensryche:

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part I

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part II

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part III

Mike Ladano: Exclusive EDDIE JACKSON interview, part IV