Cards Against Humanity

Some of you may have heard of this card game already, some of you may not. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me introduce you to the finest example of family entertainment currently available on the market.

Cards Against Humanity – “A Party Game for Horrible People” was created in 2010 by a bunch of Highland Park High School alumni who submitted the idea to Kickstarter. It was so ridiculously amazing that they exceeded their funding goal by almost 300% and the game is now available either to buy from Amazon here, or download for free here.

The rules are as follows:
One person in the group is randomly selected as the Card Czar who deals out 10 white answer cards to each person in the group. The Czar then picks one black question card and reads it out loud. The other players must choose the most fitting/politically incorrect answer available to them and submit it face down on the table. The Card Czar shuffles all of the answers and reads each card combination out loud before picking a winner and awarding them one ‘Awesome Point’.

I first stumbled across this game a few months ago when people were uploading photos of their cards on Twitter. I immediately had to get involved and so bought one for myself and one for Lisa’s boyfriend Dan for Christmas. Having just played the game for the first time, and almost giving myself a hernia from laughing so hard, I feel it would be a crime against humanity not to share the results with you (see what I did there?).

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Here is an example of one of our question cards and the three answers that we submitted. I think the one about the Asians won.

So to conclude, this is the best game in the entire world and an essential purchase for the whole family.  You will learn things about your parents that you probably didn’t need, or ever want, to know and the children will learn a plethora of new vocabulary words.  GET IT BOUGHT BALL-BAGS!!!

P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!!  Not really though!!  I hope all the shallow, materialistic, corporate ass-raping doesn’t cause irreversible bowel damage. xxx

Halo Reach – Bit Shit?

Back in 2002 I had my first encounter with Halo and I knew instantly that the extra-marital affair I had been having with my Xbox behind Nintendo’s back would not be short-lived.  I loved it a lot, right down to the grass – I sometimes still think about that grass, it was more realistic than real grass.  Anyway, the point is that this is not going to be a rant about disliking the entire franchise because of its masculine science-fiction storyline or gratuitous violence.  I find games such as ‘Kinectimals’ or ‘High School Princess – An Introduction to Statutory Rape’ far more offensive.  This is more of a superfluous, knee-deep piece of writing discussing, amongst other things, the parts of Halo Reach that I found a little bit annoying.

“Chase me, chase me!”

As with all of the Halo games, I played this offline and in co-op campaign mode with Billy. I don’t like playing Halo online because everyone else seems to be freakishly better than me at everything.  I tend to get nailed within about 10 seconds of appearing on the screen, usually by herds of angst-ridden teenagers with dehydration headaches from the sheer volume of semen they have excreted into their bedsheets during their short lives.  I much prefer to play in co-op mode because, well, Billy is way better at Halo than I am and, crucially, he’s on my side.  I find it a more enjoyable experience if he is involved, even if he is always Player 1 and therefore chooses the standard green-coloured Master Chief outfit, leaving me with the slightly gayer pink one.  Not very intimidating unless The Covenant think I’m going to bum them to death or force them to listen to Kylie on a loop until they voluntarily throw themselves in front of a turret.

Of course it is a good game, Bungie would be hard pushed to make it shit with the success of the previous instalments having done most of the work for them. The graphics are ridiculously impressive as always, the story line is decent – if a tiny bit boring at times – and the cut scenes aren’t too long.  The weapons, vehicles and enemies haven’t really changed which means that you can just pick up the controller and get on with it from the beginning.  There is no start-of-game fannying around trying to figure out what the hell is going on or what buttons to press.  This is handy if, like me, you’re about as patient as Christian Bale in a Marks & Spencer supermarket on Christmas eve.

Enough of the good points though, I much prefer to focus on the insignificant negative details and I’m going to start with the female character, Kat.  Why is she a Polish one-armed lesbian?  I’ve had a good think about this and I’m not really sure it’s essential to the plot.  I reckon some muff-diving, Eastern European and limb-challenged gamers wrote in complaining that the characters were not representative of their audience so they just kind of threw Kat in there to make it look like they give a shit about minorities.  Well, I’m not buying it Bungie – you forgot about ginger Asian burn-victims.  What a bunch of irresponsible bastards you are.

*sigh* I just don’t think my dad will understand.

The dialogue is also a bit cringey.  I know that we have come to expect cheesy one-liners when playing these types of games but it doesn’t get any easier for me to listen to.  One particular line that ruined my day was this attempt at stopping two guys from arguing:

“Lock it down, both of ya!”.

Lock it down?  Who even says that?  Why not just say “Can you two stop arguing please?” or “Shut the fuck up”? They did slightly redeem themselves later on in the game by using the term “slag heap” but it is an American game so it was probably more of a mining term than a reference to heaving mounds of sexually promiscuous women.  Whatever though, I’ll take it.

The biggest problem I had with Halo Reach is not entirely the fault of the game but a total pain in the arse nonetheless.  Having avoided the Internet like the plague for fear of stumbling upon any spoilers, Billy and I began The Pillar of Autumn completely unaware that it was the final level.  Instantly upon completing it, Billy went for a shit and I went to source a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch that I had forgotten about at the bottom of one of my handbags.  We missed the credits and returned to the living room to see ‘Lone Wolf’ which, to us, was the next level but in reality was a bonus level that is specifically designed to be unbeatable.  I think we tried to complete it for over an hour before we eventually caved and had to google it.  We still didn’t get it.  Wait, that was the final level?  The final level is unbeatable?  It’s a bonus level?  There were credits?  What the fuck?  This transformed what was supposed to be an epic, original and emotional conclusion into a seriously deflating, confusing and utter shit ending.

Although this was highly disappointing for me, I do see where they were coming from and I think more developers should take these sort of risks.  This ending was clearly aimed at the social outcasts who wear Master Chief pyjamas, use Cortana as wank-fodder and know the storyline inside out, and that is how it should be.  I wasn’t die-hard enough to deserve a satisfying conclusion – I sometimes feel guilty for killing Grunts when they run around all cute with their arms flapping in the air.  On reflection, I probably shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near Halo.

So, if you love Halo more than your own family, it gets: 

If you’re a relatively normal member of society with a healthy appreciation of Halo as a form of gaming entertainment, it gets: 

iPad Apps – Get in About Them

At the time of writing there were 34,936 apps for the iPad.  I have used about 30 of these.  If you are looking for an informative, exhaustive review of the apps currently available for the iPad, this is going to be the biggest disappointment since Raoul Moat’s killing “spree”.  If however you are looking for an uninformative, limited review of my own personal favourite apps…………you’re a fucking weirdo, get off my lawn.

Let’s begin!

VLC – If you don’t have this app, this is what will happen to you:

Whilst trying to transfer a very, very legal download of South Park series 13 onto your iPad, iTunes will basically tell you to go and fist yourself.  You will try for days to bypass iTunes and its all encompassing power to destroy your life.  You will fail.  After admitting defeat you will spend three more days converting your files to a format deemed acceptable by iTunes by means of a ‘free’ software package.  Finally, and with a huge sigh of relief, you will click ‘transfer’.  You will receive the following message: “Thank you for choosing our software to convert your video files.  In order to transfer the files onto your device you will need to upgrade to our full version which will cost £1,000,000.  It’s okay though, we use Paypal so it will be convenient and hassle free!”.  Hours later you will be spotted skipping naked down the high street wearing a sock puppet on one hand and flinging shit at passing old ladies with the other, occasionally stopping to eat your own hair whilst poking yourself in the eye with your toe.

For the love of God, get this app.  No one likes sock puppets.

TV CATCHUP – This app basically turns the iPad into a TV by means of witchcraft.  Very handy if you like a moan at your boyfriend for watching Babestation when Snog, Marry, Avoid is on.  It shows most of the decent channels including Dave (most important) but the picture quality can be pretty poor at times and because it is shown live, you can’t rewind anything if you’ve missed the beginning.  All in all though the good out-weighs the bad and anything that can magically turn something into a TV gets 5 stars from me.  Now if they could only apply this TV magic to the back of my head, Billy would die a happy man.

DISCOVER – This is a Wikipedia app presented in the form of a magazine.  It has a photo of the day, an article of the day and all the encyclopaedia articles you could ever want.  It’s also in HD which makes me feel warm inside.  There isn’t much use for it on a daily basis but I think it would be good to have on a train or the Megabus.  Although, I wouldn’t recommend waving an iPad around on a Megabus, that would be like waving around a quarterpounder with cheese in a Malawian orphanage.

 iPERIOD - This is an app that keeps track of your periods.  I have found to my surprise that this app is more popular with men.  One of my guy friends whipped it out the other day when trying to organise a golfing trip with his brother saying “Well, the wife will be shedding the tears of a disappointed uterus next weekend so it would be nice to get out of the house for a couple of days”.

GAMES – As you can probably guess there are no real epics for the iPad so don’t expect to devote more than a couple of hours of your life in order to complete a game.  There are still a few that are worth a look though, my three favourites are:

SPARKLE HD:  One of those blow-up-a-chain-of-coloured-balls type games favoured the world over by lonely housewives with bingo addictions.  This one is actually very good, the music sounds like it’s from Beetlejuice and the HD graphics are immense.

HARBOUR MASTER HD:  Pretty simple but highly addictive.  You have to move boats about so they don’t crash into each other.  I wish I had more to add but that is literally it.

VIRTUAL VILLAGERS 3:  I am fully aware that this is a shitty sim game but there is something kind of 90’s about it that makes me happy.  You land on a deserted island and have to make sure your villagers survive by building stuff, finding food, making babies, etc.  Completely pointless, but there was a time when all computer games were pointless and, well, sometimes I just miss those days.

While I am on the subject of games, I’m not really a fan of Angry Birds.  Am I the only person in the universe who feels this way?…………….Besides you, Tumbleweed.

PHOTO SLIDESHOW - Not technically an app, just something the iPad can do.  You can use your iPad as a kind of picture frame that changes photo every few seconds via an unfolding origami-type display.  It’s pretty cool to watch and a nice idea I suppose but I can’t help wonder when we are expected to use it.  Can you imagine taking it into your office and setting it up next to your monitor, leaving it to show random photos of your family on their last skiing trip?  Seriously, imagine how much of a dick you would look.  I tried it out in the privacy of my own home and it didn’t really work out.  These are the first four photos that came up:  A photo of a naked doll that I found on the side of a mountain in Skye that looked like a dead baby, a picture of my dog trying to hump another dog’s face, a picture of Hitler with a speech bubble saying “I blame the parents” and a photo of a dead bird in a ziplock bag stuck to a wall by a magnet.  If I worked in an office I would be eating my lunch alone.

So there you go, a few of the apps that have earned a place on my homescreen.  I could honestly keep going, I have another ten apps that I use but for those of you who don’t have an iPad this blog entry is hardly a page-turner so I will spare you the torture of reading about amazing things that you will never have.  I feel like the parent of a high-achieving child; so much to say but no one really gives a fuck.  I think I’m going to start going to coffee mornings with other iPad owners.  Call me.

The Joys of Co-operative Gaming

The title of this post is somewhat misleading as it implies that co-op gaming with my boyfriend Billy is a predominantly joyful experience. In reality it consists of me trying to play Xbox with one hand, the other one clenched in a fist and lodged between my teeth in order to prevent myself from punching him in the fucking face. For example, our games always begin with Billy ‘testing his equipment’.  This involves him shooting me in the face, I then mistakenly think I’m being attacked by an enemy and shit myself.  Hilarious.  Despite all this, we like to play co-op games quite a lot as it prevents arguments over who’s turn it is to play. It doesn’t, however, prevent arguments over literally everything else: weapons, money, armour, who’s driving the warthog, etc.

In terms of character, Billy will always pick the warrior. He likes to grab a shotgun and go wading in about enemies firing willy-nilly until they are all dead. I am always either a sniper or a Mage, capable of eye-wateringly accurate annihilation (as long as it is really, really far away, eye-wateringly accurate annihilation). This set-up all started with Balder’s Gate when Billy suggested I just “stand over there and help………….yeah further ………… further ……………. a bit further ……… that’s good, stay there”. When I pointed out that I was now in a different village and couldn’t actually see anything he responded with a distracted “Wow, yeah that’s great. Good for you!” and a couple of affectionate pats on the head.

There are times however, when I will be on a bridge/cliff in full view of Billy and his relentless heroism, watching him get a boner over a boss that he has just killed ‘on his own’. In reality I had my sniper at the ready and had launched at least five head shots and countless on-target grenades. I would even go so far as to say that I pretty much killed the boss ‘on my own’. When I try to share this information he usually responds with a distracted “Wow, yeah that’s great. Good for you!” and a couple of affectionate pats on the head.

The problem with being a distance fighter is that once everything that can be killed is dead, it takes a while for me to catch up to Billy. By the time I do he has managed to open every single chest, loot every body in sight and has hit the shops in order to sell all his new found merchandise, leaving me with no rewards. Once in a while he will miss a chest and I get hardcore over-excited. I take my time, open my inventory and have a little think about things. If my inventory is full then it becomes even more of a challenge because I have to drop my least profitable weapons to ensure that my backpack is full to its most valuable capacity. Once I have decided what to do, I come out of my inventory and…………….wait a fucking minute, the guns have gone……….the chest is fucking empty! I slowly turn my character around and there he is, nose to nose, saying something along the lines of “What? Well, you gotta learn Jillian, you snooze you lose” before shooting me in the face and skipping away in a fit of hysterical laughter.  This is pretty much my breaking point and I get my game rage on, refusing to un-pause the game until he gives me something to sell or use.  Usually a shitty revolver.  Who even uses revolvers?  The shopkeepers don’t even want them!

So you see, although co-operative gaming is an integral part of our relationship, it generally consists of me trying to think of ways to bring him down.  And I will.  I will destroy him.  I will destroy him and his weapon thieving, head patting, smug skipping, face shooting, violence inducing ways. Right after I help him with the Nightfall level of Halo Reach.  He’s stuck and he needs a sniper…………and I secretly love the banter.  Go team!

My First Nintendo

The year was 1988. The place was Aberdeen. The time was……….CHRISTMAS TIME!

I was 8 years old and after being woken up at 5.30am by my 5 year old sister blasting unsettling religious hymns into my room from her pink plastic Fisher Price radio, I headed downstairs.  Obviously I made her go into the living room first as I was scared that Santa would still be in there having failed to find a way to get out of the house via our 80’s ventless gas fireplace.

My parents didn’t have much money at the time but it’s funny how when you’re 8 you don’t really give a shit.  I wanted presents, and lots of them.  My mum used to (and still does) put our presents in a black bin liner or ‘Santa’s Sack’ as she liked to call it. Even 8 year olds know that if Santa was going to use bin liners, he would probably use the white ones – much more festive.  Anyway, that particular year there was a larger box which did not fit into the bin liner and it turned out to be my first ever games console: the Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES if you wanted to keep your friends). I will admit that I already had a Commodore 64 at the time, but that was hardly a console. I remember playing Platoon and Lemmings on it and genuinely enjoying myself but the joystick didn’t really work for me. Mine actually didn’t work.

The NES changed my life. I stopped getting dressed on Saturdays for one thing, and for another, people in the neighbourhood suddenly wanted to come round my house. I never let them in though, not because I felt hurt that they were only using me for my Nintendo but because the more that other people were playing, the less I was playing.  So my trusted friend Dave and I would sit on the living room floor all afternoon playing Mario and talking about which one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was our favourite (mine was Raphael).

Duck Hunt.  Now that was a game.  A shit game by today’s standards, but at the time an almost mind-blowing technological advancement. We used to call it ‘Fuck Cunt’ which back then was pretty funny but now that I’m in my 30’s I can safely say that it was hilarious. I also have a very vivid memory of playing Zelda for the first time.  The cartridge was gold plastic but it may as well have been real gold because I wouldn’t let anyone touch it.  Ever.  To this day beating that game remains one of the top 3 proudest gaming moments of my life.

As colossal as all these games were, there really was only one winner when it came to the NES and that, my friends, was Mario.  I’m convinced that this beautiful little moustachioed man is to blame for my inexplicable desire to stand next to fat men with facial hair in pubs.  I was completely addicted to the first one despite the fact that it gave me my first proper game rage (which was always my sister’s fault, even though she never played the thing), I even liked Super Mario Brothers 2 just because it looked like it had been guest programmed by Howard Marx.  The third one is probably my favourite though, crossing an Italian plumber with a really violent woodland creature then gifting it the power of flight is all I wanted as an 11 year old.

Other than providing me with hours of entertainment, Mario also achieved something that is considered essential when you are a child with a penchant for gaming:  he got my mum hooked.  If you’re a pre-teen wanting your next gaming fix, there is always going to be one thing in your way:  Money.  You’re never going to have the cash to buy the latest console on your own, but if one of your parents wanted it……..

At the age of 11 we moved to Tunisia, aka the Gamers Wasteland.  You could literally hear the crickets.  I loved Tunisia but having become bored of my NES, I only had a Gameboy and French re-runs of ‘Saved By the Bell’ to keep me entertained and, well, they were both pretty gash.  In 1992 I had read in a letter from my old gaming partner Dave that a new Nintendo was coming out, the SNES.  I knew there was no point getting excited.  Tunis had only just started stocking the Commodore 64 and, despite being mostly made out of goat’s shit and sawdust, even it was hard to come by.  I decided to forget about it and returned to playing Kid Icarus on the now blatantly sub-standard Gameboy.  That was until one night, two weeks before Christmas in 1992, when my dad and sister were fast asleep in their beds and my mum and I were watching ‘Sauvés par le Gong’ in the living room.  My mum suddenly started having a really unconvincing coughing fit on the couch but when I asked her what was wrong she just laughed nervously. She did this about three times and I was starting to panic when she finally blurted out “Okay, don’t tell your dad I told you but we managed to get someone to fly in a SNES for your Christmas.  I’ve been playing Mario for a week but I’m stuck on this bit.  Do you want to play?”.  I swear to God, I have yet to experience that level of happiness again.  For the next two weeks my mum and I waited until my dad and sister went to bed and stayed up playing Mario for hours.  It nearly killed me to erase the memory on Christmas Eve and my acting skills were pushed to the limit on Christmas Day, but it was totally worth it.

In 1994 I moved to a boarding school in Malta where a school ban on consoles kicked off a 5 year gaming dry spell.  I was okay about this because I was discovering alcohol and boys and, especially when combined, it turned out they were slightly more fun than computer games.  Thanks to my parents again though, I did get the N64 which I got to play when I came home for the holidays.

Upon my return to the UK in 1999, I was horrified to discover that my beloved Nintendo was facing a crisis of epic proportions.  A crisis that I blame on the fucking Playstation.  I will agree that the Gamecube was a piece of shit but I will forever unreasonably blame the Playstation for stealing all the Nintendo customers in my absence.  If I had been there, none of this would have happened.  I decided to start a war on the Playstation………………..by buying an Xbox.  I know, but Nintendo was really, really shit in 2001 and Jet Set Radio was fucking amazing!!!!!!!!

So, now that I am settling into what some would argue is the beginning of middle age, I have rediscovered myself as a gamer. I am going to leave the Wii to the newer generation of gaming children and hope that they will get as much out of it as I did the NES back in 1988.  Nowadays my platforms of choice are my xbox and PC – through which I have developed a deep seated addiction to medieval fantasy RPGs and coop-mode Borderlands – but I really hope that one day I can ruin my own kid’s Christmas in order to help me complete a game on their brand new Nintendo :)