Five Halloween costumes for couples

So, obviously I’ve been sorely lacking in blog posts lately, please do forgive the gap but I’m going through a bit of a ‘writing different stuff / lacking decent ideas’ phase.

Upfront honesty: I’ve never been the biggest fan of this whole Americanisation of a good old pagan holiday. I probably haven’t actually cared about Halloween since my last disappointing neighbourhood trick or treat run as a child. But steadily over the years, seeing the excitement of grown-ass men and women getting dressed up as their favourite spooky characters for a night on the town has finally got me convinced that this year it might be worth a go.

Since I did a marry  I’ve been trying to think of the best way that me and my lady together could pull off a great Halloween couples’ costume idea. So here are five, completely off the top of my head and 80% not actual couples, but still great double acts all the same.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.

If you’re both sticklers for colour-coordination then this first choice should see you right. Celebrate one of the best video games of all time by dressing up as Italian plumbers – but not any old Italian plumbers, obviously. Also obviously, you will need at least one fake moustache.

Buffy & Angel

Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel

Looking to hit the town as a fictional power couple? Add some bite to the traditional night out by setting yourself up as the Slayer and her favourite squeeze. And for extra geek cred, bring along a ‘Smile Time’ puppet version of Angel! Alternatively, blond dudes may prefer to go for Spike – dodgy Cockney accent optional.

Mr Robot and Elliot

Mr Robot Christian Slater

I got the flash of inspiration for both this post and the Halloween costume for me and my wife when I bought a black hoody the other day. Mr Robot has been unmissable Thursday night viewing during this second season, and I think it would make a very good conversation piece – especially if either of you fancied talking to yourself during the course of the night without fear of social awkwardness.

Bill & Ted

Bill and Ted costumes

Inspired by watching Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earlier tonight, I do think this would make a great Halloween costume for couple – if not one of the most difficult to nail down. Where exactly does one get their hands on a red and orange jacket with a yellow smiley face on the back, anyway?


It’s a pretty striking idea for a couples’ costume at Halloween, but even better in a social emergency. If you’ve always wanted to gather up eight mates and go to a party as the members of Slipknot, but two of you arrived as the Clown, it’s easily fixed – just tell everyone you’re Clowncore instead.

Are you thinking of teaming up for a super-effective Halloween couples’ costume? Let me know in the comments!

Creating for its own sake

I don’t really know where to start.

I’ll start with what someone else said while he was trying to come to terms with a big decision. (We’ll miss you, Murf:)

“I do not want to feel like every single activity or experience I do needs to be carefully screened in case I can extract a blog post out of it.”

Life vs stuff

Whenever I get deep enough into a new game (No Man’s Sky), or halfway through the book I’m reading (Fight Club 2), my mental focus shifts itself from consuming what it is I’m actually experiencing into how I’d explain those feelings in a blog post.

being creative

Basically before I’ve finished seeing, reading or hearing something, I’m already reviewing it in my head in case I can drag a good 500 words out of the experience. And because of this (albeit small) mental shift, I feel like maybe I’m missing out on enjoying something for its own sake.

When I first started playing and absolutely loving No Man’s Sky, I knew it would inspire me to write a post I could be proud of – but that’s still somewhat missing the point. If you’re playing the game yourself, or are still trying to decide whether or not it’s worth a purchase, you’ll already have that information in hand. Not saying my views will sway you either way – it’s possible they actually could because everyone sees things differently – but that would not be my chief aim.

But because Alpha Signal Five has become less about the life experiences, and more about the stuff experiences, I’ve always got an eye on the next published post rather than the next finished book or completed game. I never really noticed it until just recently and, truthfully, it slightly diminishes the return I get from consuming stuff in the first place. It isn’t my intention to tell anyone anything, more just to put the words out there for my own benefit.

Express yourself

For me, writing is a way to express myself because it’s too difficult to do out loud. When I used to do stand-up, I found writing the material was so much more satisfying than actually being onstage delivering it. More often than not I’d mess up a set-up or punchline because it looked much better on paper.

As long as I continue to have something to say, it makes things easier. But it feels less and less worthwhile to post reviews on what I play or read or watch. That’s nothing to do with the sheer amount of material online doing the exact same thing – I never minded that there’s a hundred thousand other bloggers pressing Publish on their NMS reviews right this second – but just of how little relief I’ve recently started to feel for pressing Publish myself. It used to be a means to an end; a way to wrap up all the feelings and thoughts I had about something, post it online and be done with it.

Because I want to be more creative, though, maybe that’s not the way to go about it. Maybe all those thoughts and feelings need to stay a bit more loose and flowing in my head, so I can try and fashion something out of them for my own more creative purposes.

Example: I’ve been trying to write a script about video gamers for a few months now. I’ve been watching as many documentaries and reading as many books on the subject as I can – from death by addiction to eSports players – in an attempt to shape something together. If I were just to review those programmes and books, then I’d feel like I was done with them when publishing each post, and I don’t want to be done with them.

“God, Kermode, your hands are MASSIVE”

Nor did I ever want to be a reviewer; I just wanted to see new things and use this site to squee about the best ones. But looking back it’s as clear as day, right down to the final paragraph where I’ll invariably sum up by saying whether or not I recommend it.

Outside of telling my friends “aww mate, you NEED to watch that” (Mr Robot), I don’t want to place myself anywhere near a spot which may or may not go towards making up your mind whether or not to do or buy something. It isn’t me.

I just need an outlet. I’ll always need an outlet. I’ve even started making music on my laptop. But I don’t know if that’s the right one either. So I suppose I’ll just keep trying to find the right one. I need to read and write for their own sake, and adjust my own expectations of creating.

Forgive the jumble. I kinda needed to get that off my chest.

Pokemon Go, by a filthy casual

No intro necessary – you know all about Pokemon Go by this point.

Pokemon Go review

But if there’s one thing I can say about Pokemon Go, it’s that the sheer dedication displayed by some of my fellow local players is both tremendously encouraging and horribly frustrating.

Encouraging because, wow, absolutely everybody is playing it; from the surly teenagers outside my nearest supermarket to the surly adults standing in the town centre between two lures.

Frustrating because, as a thirty-something with grown-up responsibilities and…well, things I’d actually rather be doing than playing Pokemon Go, it occurs to me that I’ll never get anywhere close to achieving anything in-game.

(I held a gym overnight last week, not long enough to gain any XP but still long enough to feel somewhat accomplished. Oh, and this gym was in Mexico – I was on my honeymoon; my wife was only annoyed that she got booted from it sooner than me.)

In-game annoyances

I won’t even bother to get into an overview of the game, mostly because if you’re reading this you’ve either got no wish to know, or you’ve just closed the app down yourself when you came home for the day. Suffice it to say, for me there’s still a few niggling issues to be worked out. I cannot reasonably allow it to murder my phone battery as much as it does, and my GPS is quite patchy – though I realise these are both potentially caused by my smartphone as much as the app itself.

No, the real annoyances come in the game. The memes have done the rounds, but the best jokes are funny because they’re true – I’m sick of the fucking sight of Pidgey. Even when I drop a bloody lure, they’re there in their droves.

Pokemon Go Pidgey

Seriously. I despise it. It can’t be healthy how much I wish harm upon it every time the useless fucker pops up on my screen, and how it manages to escape the trap so much considering how bloody many of them there are. Surely rarer Pokemon than this shouldn’t be easier to catch?

Another issue I have – definitely mine and not the game’s – is that I feel like an absolute hypocrite every time I take my phone out and don’t watch where I’m walking, because I FUCKING HATE those people. At least now there’s a good cause for it, but I have never understood the need to do that before. It’s just an awful habit.

I’ve got to say though, once you can get past these things, the concept itself is absolutely amazing. Catching Pokemon out in the real world? Seeing so many great stories online of making new friends and – in some cases – even taking those scary steps outside to play? It’s a beautiful thing, and while the world continues to fall apart around us with Brexit this and bombing that, having this one beautiful thing in our lives right now is actually pretty great.

But seriously though, fuck Pidgey.






TNA Final Deletion – the hot take

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by guest writer Anton Krasauskas, who has little to no prior knowledge of TNA Wrestling – but then, who does?

TNA’s ‘Final Deletion’ is a lost collaboration between the creative minds behind Sunset Beach. It was directed by Ridley Scott and contains the last known work by legendary animator Ray Harryhausen. Unfortunately, all the footage that was shot was eaten by Ridley Scott, one sunny afternoon in January of 2016.

Fortunately one master copy survived. It was being sent to a processing laboratory in California to be printed. Unfortunately the laboratory was attacked by the Kraken from Clash of the Titans due to a dispute over royalties between the Kraken and Harryhausen. Harryhausen was killed during the altercation and never recovered.

Having already spent the entire budget, lost their one-man special effects team and being unable to remember the phone number for Ridley Scott, the remaining crew of six was out of options. So they did what they could and and broke into a house to film what they could remember of the script.

The actor who originally played Matt Hardy died on the Titanic, and so the crew taped six cats to a bear and taught it to speak in a Mexican accent. One of the cats died during filming, but no-one seemed to notice.

TNA Wrestling Final Deletion

Michael Sheen, the actor who played Maxel, was very happy to come back for reshoots, but insisted that everyone on set pretend it was his 1st birthday. The lit candle on the cake shocked one of the cats playing Matt Hardy into delivering its lines early. So the crew just started shooting and went with it, leaving the entire scene in the finished production.With the deadline for release fast approaching, the team felt it necessary to keep a raw “rough and ready” approach to the project, which can be seen in the final edit.

Senor Benjamin owned the building that the crew had broken into to shoot the film. Over the course of the morning he constantly asked the crew why they were in his house and who they were. One of the cats playing Matt Hardy took an instant dislike to the man and poisoned him. The final time we see Senor Benjamin, we are actually looking at the body of a man who had been dead for almost fifteen hours.

Jeff Hardy, still coming to terms with the death of his brother on the 14th April 1912, agreed to reshoot the film in his honour.

In the original script there had been a tense and acrobatic showdown between the brothers, both armed with bazookas and flamethrowers. The script called for them to fight across the skyline of downtown Manhattan, ending with a showdown in Times Square where they would cause millions of dollars worth of property damage and commit several counts of public disorder and indecent exposure. But on such a tight schedule they had to improvise with some fireworks that they found in a shed, a nearby tree and a dilapidated boat. The dilapidated boat section was completely ad libbed on the spot and the new director, a local horse, decided to keep the scene in the final cut, signalling its approval by stamping its foot three times and biting a small child on the face.

During the scene where the brothers fight by the water there was intended to be a battle involving a giant octopus and the legendary Leviathan, in which the brothers would become embroiled, eventually leading to the deaths of the octopus, the Leviathan and Matt Hardy. However, if you look closely at the scene you might see a masked figure leap out of the water and attempt to choke Matt Hardy with a flag. This man was not affiliated with the project in any way whatsoever, and Psychic Detectives later confirmed that there had been sightings of “Mictlantecuhtli”, the Aztec god of Death. During the struggle, the cat-swathed bear threw off its attacker and, in an unreleased scene, mauled the death god, swiping its face clear away from its head. The cat who had done away with Senor Benjamin hatched a plan to hide the body in the costume of the death god, mercilessly slaughtering two birds with one stone.

In the final scene there was intended to be a pitched battle between the two brothers that would descend into a vicious brawl. But instead of the planned and choreographed fight, the bear decided to snatch a candle from the actress playing Matt’s wife and burn the entire place to the ground. Jeff Hardy was shocked by the sudden and unexpected change to the planned scene and fell off a ladder, landing awkwardly on a mattress covered in sand and dying instantly. No-one on the crew had any inkling that he had been allergic to sand, and had they known this, they probably wouldn’t have used that sand pit that just happened to be there.

All in all, it is a miracle that this project ever came together the way that it did. And though there were numerous deaths and maulings during that fateful day in June of 2016 it would go down in history as the day that some people tried to relive their glory days in somebody’s back yard and wished they hadn’t bothered.

Also, that xylophone was fucking delightful.

England Football Songs: Nostalgic Epilogue (1996)

I’ve just watched a documentary about Euro 96 and had another round of the battle to realise that nostalgia is no excuse for not living your life.

It’s a bit of a sour point, today; something I didn’t really need to realise if I’m honest. Today would have been my dad’s birthday and I feel guilty for having a surprisingly okay day at work.

But one thing the BBC has always been great at, long-lived institution that it is, is looking back through its own field of vision to pull out the vivid memories you didn’t realise you remembered.

Paul Gascoigne dentist chair euro 96

The 1996 European Championship kicked off 20 years ago, on this very day.

My dad was pissed off because we were gonna be late getting home from the weekly shop in time for kick-off. It was his 41st birthday.

(The day’s lottery numbers were 11, 15, 17, 25, 32 and 46. The bonus ball was 29. I don’t remember this – that would be fucking mental if I did – but Google’s a wonderful thing.)

‘Pissed off’ may be a bit strong – that was reserved for the Saturday afternoons between August and May when Leeds were doing poorly – but I remember the drive home, and a news report on the radio at 3pm saying the match was underway.

The first of England’s group games, against Switzerland, finished 1-1. That is all I remember of the game itself, but the build-up to the tournament was spectacular.

I’ve talked about it before in my popular (as of last week according to WordPress) series about England Football Songs, but my 11-year old mind was blown by the sweeping optimism blowing up and down these shores. Not just about the football – we were alright, but we were nothing without Gazza – but about the place in general.

New Labour were parked up outside Number Ten, waiting for the Tories to stop pissing about with the furniture and hand over the keys; and the charts were filled with chest-beating Britpoppers chasing out the last vestiges of dreary, introspective, Americanised pop and alt-rock. Things just have not been the same since. But that’s the nostalgia talking.

Collapsed Lung – Eat My Goal

In terms of footballing merchandise, I’d made a deal with the devil that was Coca-Cola. For the low low price of a couple of dozen ring pulls (and more than a couple of fillings in my teeth) I touted a red t-shirt with the slogan ‘Eat Football, Sleep Football…”. Except…well, I didn’t, not really. But a popular chart combo played on the Coke adverts named Collapsed Lung had me convinced otherwise.

They say you never forget where you were when the really important things happen. Like the time I came out of band practice just in time to see Zinedine Zidane bid adieu to his glittering career with an awesome headbutt. I certainly remember where I was on the day that I’m specifically not going to talk about. And the other one too.

But at the age of eleven you’re just not sure what’s going to turn out to be an important thing, or what the important things even are to you. When I was eleven, shit, now that I’m thirty-one, I feel like there’s vastly more important stuff going on that I’ll never comprehend.

What I remember from Euro 96

I remember Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland, a beautiful thing. I also remember just as well David Seaman’s penalty save from Gary McAllister, because Macca was the Leeds captain and seeing him being capable of missing a pen was like finding out there’s no Father Christmas.

I bought the official release of the Netherlands game on VHS, and I watched it a lot, but I still only really remember that Shearer goal – and I remembered that from the first time around anyway.

I remember nothing about Spain in the quarters. A nostalgic media more than filled those gaps in for me because Stuart Pearce scored a penalty. The whole narrative of the costly miss at Italia ’90 against Germany meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, so this wasn’t a thing.

And I do remember watching England go out on penalties to the Germans in 1996. I remember not really caring, but I don’t remember how my dad felt. He’s not the sort (fuck, I actually used present tense there, I’m leaving that in because I need a sign that today has buggered me up even in some small way) to make a big deal of it, because it was only penalties, and it was only England.

I remember being away with school on the night of the final, and overhearing two teachers talking about the result the next day. And not really caring.

Memory ache

The documentary I watched just now, keen to jam in a song from ’96 to suit every mood, played Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ just as everyone’s face fell after Southgate missed the important penalty. I don’t see anything remotely perfect about it even now.

The programme – well, it wasn’t anything to write home about. I was going to write a review of the whole thing but there really wasn’t much to it. Glorified clip show with new insight from the players, and a vast overuse of Three Lions, of course – even if the show actually did have 2016 Baddiel and Skinner on it.

But where it succeeded was in harking back to the heady days of 1996, with…well, clip-show portions and talking heads. But among its very many strengths, the BBC is very good at making me realise that I’m a sucker for nostalgia, as are most people I’m sure.

Nostalgia means time-pain or something, right? My prognosis is not good. I really need to work on that.

That’s probably the last of the England Football Songs column for a good while now; I’m not even sure if they bother releasing official efforts any more. But you can take a look back at the series by clicking here.

Tropico 5 is a delightful dictatorship simulator

The dictatorship sim Tropico 5 was another PS Plus offering, and one of my favourites so far.

I used to be obsessed with The Sims. Absolutely obsessed. I pored over every little detail of those guys’ lives – and I know that’s the whole point, but really.

And like Chuck Klosterman in his book Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, I sometimes thought about how easy it was to be pure evil to these Sims, if you really fancied it. The ability to choose your own moral alignment was a relatively new feature in games back at the turn of the millennium, with limited work previously done by the likes of the Ultima games in exploring how the decisions you make can alter your path.

Making the tough choices is one of the biggest challenges you face in simulation games, which is why I really enjoyed playing Tropico 5.


Humble beginnings

Your job is to build a dynasty of rulers on your very own tropical paradise. Starting off in the Colonial Era, you’re tasked with constructing the various facilities, residences and industrial buildings on each island, while improving citizens’ happiness and quality of life. On top of that it’s your responsibility to negotiate trade agreements with other nations, and best your political rivals through canny use of your natural resources.

Aside from the Tutorial there are three game types to play: the Campaign game is a full single-player narrative involving international intrigue, considerable strategy and all-out war. As you move through the different eras from Colonial times to the Modern Age you must suck up to the right people and prove your prowess as a fearless island ruler.


The Mission (and I assume there was more than one available on the online store but hey ho) is a fun contained story involving the vital production of cheese, and your quest to defy the Crown in becoming the worldwide leader of said cheese production.

The Sandbox is the real test – and where it most closely resembles its forebears; Sim City, The Sims, Sim Hospital…anything with Sim in it basically. And just like these games, the tongue-in-cheek humour is one of Tropico 5’s most appealing features.

Making difficult decisions

But when you’re faced with some of the tough choices, that’s where things really get interesting. You can alternately piss off the Allies and the Axis; the USSR and the USA, even as far back as choosing what’s best for your citizens who are fiercely loyal to the King, or to the Revolutionary cause. When the King’s representative asks you on a whim to ship him all the milk you have available, rather than make it available for islanders, do you cut them off or risk the wrath of the Crown?


There’s always a workaround for these things, but as your island grows more sophisticated the logistical and strategic solutions can be costlier, more inconvenient or simply a massive pain to try and organise. That’s where the real challenge lies, and aside from the odd arbitrary blip the makers of Tropico 5 have managed to strike a pretty good balance in most aspects of the game.

Before this instalment I wasn’t even aware of the series, but thanks to the PS Plus scheme (which has boosted the popularity of many a title), I’ve found what could be my new favourite strategy game.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to work out how to start a revolution.

Moneymaking Mobile Tap Games

Since I dedicated an entire post to reviewing AdVenture Capitalist – still the original and best for me – a few more moneymaking mobile app games have made their way onto my Galaxy S5. In the world of mobile gaming there seems to be quite the market for players to amass imaginary fortunes in a variety of ways.

Here in what’s becoming an ever-decreasing regularity of blog posts as of late (apologies!) I thought I’d take a look at a couple which have recently caught my eye.

Make It Rain – The Love of Money

This one’s actually been around for a couple of years now, and aside from the investment-based gameplay, its most endearing feature is the ability to make money by making that entirely classy motion of swiping dollar bills from your own fat stacks to ‘make it rain’ and watch the pixelated notes fly.

Make It Rain mobile game

Build up the value of your cash pile by investing in businesses, as well as increasing the value of your Bucket to add funds while you aren’t playing.

No doubt the game is fun – at first – and the thrill of ‘making it rain’ also lasts a lot longer than it really ought to. But there are a couple of non-negotiables here that do their very best to wreck the game experience.

First off, unlike AdVenture Capitalist, where you can start to see your imaginary purchases pay off over time and appreciate the finely-tuned systems, the equivalent effect in Make It Rain is rather off. I didn’t feel any sense of accomplishment in watching my empire grow because there was no sense of achievement – it was just all about that swipe.

Secondly, and extremely annoyingly, the ads. The opportunity to double the earnings from your Bucket once you log back in is quite tempting, and the option to watch a video to do so is a small price to pay. But then there’s the regularity with which an advert just starts playing, for no reason at all. I know it’s a free game, but here there’s a definite sense of a cash grab, and it can be very off-putting,

Once I realised just how often this game-ruining experience would pop up, not even the mimed display of wealth could keep the game installed on my phone.

Bitcoin Billionaire

Bitcoin Billionaire struggles to stay quite as flashy as Make It Rain, but that’s as much down to the more 8-bit feel and more honest portrayal of making digital riches from the comfort of your modest surroundings as anything else.

bitcoin billionaire mobile game

But where the game succeeds, far more so than in Make It Rain, is in giving you much more control (as in – any control) as to where the ads pop up. If you want to benefit from a quick cash boost or get some help to mine the elusive Hyperbits, you can choose between running banner ads for 30 seconds, viewing a pop-up ad or watching videos. Given that choice, it’s still unlikely I’ll ever watch a video but I am grateful to have the option rather than have it play regardless.

But there’s the rub with freemium games – given the choice between a finely-balanced playing experience and the opportunity to simply lob ads in willy-nilly, the developers have got to know where an otherwise fine game just descends into an unplayable mess – and while the more modest  Bitcoin Billionaire succeeds, Make It Rain fails spectacularly.

For that reason I’d be far more likely to recommend the latter game, but when it comes down to it neither are really a patch on AdVenture Capitalist.


Machi Koro board game review

I’m still relatively new to any board game which doesn’t involve having a top hat or a small yappy-type dog as a playing piece, but when I saw Machi Koro in my local branch of Travelling Man I knew it would make a great birthday present for my lady.

She really enjoys all things cute and kawaii, so I knew instantly with this cover that I was onto a winner – provided the game was fun to play. And we weren’t disappointed.

Machi Koro board game review

Since its unveiling on Sunday morning I’ve had a couple of two-player and four-player games, and found it to be just as fun either way; unlike Adventure Time Fluxx (another gift for the birthday girl) where the contrasts with the original version mean it’ll be more fun with more players, playing just one opponent works just fine here in Machi Koro.

Objectives and gameplay

Your job as the newly-elected mayor is to build your small town into a thriving city by completing construction on four major projects – the Landmarks. This is done by earning money from a roll of the dice and collecting the resulting funds from the Establishments you already have. Once you’ve earned enough money to pay for the four projects, you’re the winner.

You start off with two Establishment Cards and three coins; roll the dice, take the actions as described on the card(s) with the number you’ve rolled and then choose which new facility (if any) you’d like to build. As you amass more properties, you’ll become wealthier through the income your properties generate, and with certain cards are even able to tax your opponents – and be taxed yourself.

Machi Koro board game

As you get to spend more on the bigger and better properties, you’ll find that certain Establishment Cards like the Shopping Mall can be very favourable, as they can potentially multiply your income each time you roll the right number.

Game design and mechanics

Machi Koro is a beautiful-looking card game; everything from the box art to each individual card looks fantastic, and I personally felt a surge of pride each time I looked down at my growing town. The game system is very well designed too; for my relative newcomer status everything was easy enough to grasp, although it can get a bit confusing when there’s a lot of money changing hands at once.

Most appealing in terms of strategy is that as the game begins, everybody starts at the same level; it’s just a matter of working out the most financially viable system in determining how you spend your income from the bank, and of course hoping that the dice are always in your favour.

There was just one small issue with the game mechanics of Machi Koro. The Establishment cards are numbered 1-12 and you need to ‘unlock’ the second dice by building the Train Station before you can get any benefit from the cards numbered 7-12. However, I’ve found on every single playthrough so far that I haven’t needed to use that second dice – in fact, barely anybody bothered on any of the games we played last weekend. It’s no big deal though – I’ll just experiment a little more next time I guess, and see how it affects my winning record.

To sum up, I’d definitely recommend Machi Koro to anyone who wants a game that’s fun and quick; at only 30 minutes playing time, it may prove a bit too filthy casual for some, but for people who are just dipping their toe in like myself, it’s proved to be time very well spent in city-building mode.

Adventure Time – Love Letter board game review

Been a busy weekend playing some board games with family over this Bank Holiday, as you do when the weather outside is decidedly non-seasonal.

The first one I’ll write about takes a popular card game and adds some fun flavour with a popular cartoon theme. Adventure Time Love Letter is for two to four players, all competing to win the heart of Princess Bubblegum by making sure she reads your letters to her.

Adventure Time Love Letter

Rules of Love Letter

The game is quite simple really; players draw from a deck of cards with values from 1 to 8. The Princess herself is number eight, while Guards occupy the bottom spot in the ranks. With one card in hand, draw another and decide which of the two actions on the card you wish to play; these can range from seeing another player’s hand to swapping cards with them.

Players can be knocked out of each round in various ways, if you lose a one-on-one battle to reveal the highest-ranked card or if another player is able to guess what card you’re holding. From a deck of only 16 cards and three placed face-up at the start of every round, it takes some deduction and logic to be able to deduce what other players have.

Or, if you’re like me, your opponents just have to possess the ability to read minds, because that’s what seemed to happen every other round!

Adventure Time Love Letter

When the deck of cards has all gone, players compare their last cards and the one with the highest value wins – they are the one who delivers that all-important love letter. Alternatively, the last player left standing after eliminations is the winner, and takes one of the fetching jewels which come with the game. There are 13 stones, so it’s the player who collects seven in a two-player game, five in a three-player game and four in a four-player encounter.

Love Letter game design

While I’m not a fan of the tendency to reskin a traditional game and pass it off as new – the likes of Star Wars and WoW-themed Monopoly being two that come to mind – this particular take on Love Letter does have some great features. The deck’s designs are fantastically well detailed, with cards of our favourites Finn and Jake, plus the likes of Lemongrab and Gunter joining the fray.

Adventure Time Love Letter game design

In terms of the game itself, as I’m fairly new to any type of board or card game beyond the old favourites like, ahem, Monopoly, I really enjoyed this game. It’s easy to learn and difficult to master, as all good games are, and even the relatively small deck takes some time to get on board with in terms of strategy.

I’d highly recommend the Adventure Time variation of Love Letter to any newbie board gamers who are looking for something new and fun to play, and am myself becoming more and more intrigued about what else is on offer out there. This is a great place to start.

Nintendo’s Miitomo is fantastic fun…for precisely two hours

It’s only been on the app store for a couple of weeks, but Nintendo’s Miitomo game is already racking up some fantastic engagement.

The Japanese titan’s first foray into the lucrative market of mobile gaming and microtransactions – aka cash for hats – is apparently drawing more than a quarter of a million dollars every week.

But more than that, the game itself has so far proven to be a fun and engaging hit, with four million monthly active users logging on to change their costumes, take photos with Mii friends and answer each other’s questions about their favourite meals and what they’re up to at the weekend.

It is a great game, but if my own experience with Miitomo is anything to go by, this surge of success may not last.

nintendo miitomo

Nintendo’s casual appeal

In terms of the game itself, and as you’d expect from the all-time masters of video gaming, Miitomo is a beautifully-designed and cleverly thought out game with plenty of fun to be had by its users.

I said as much when I logged in myself for the first time. I set up my little character, gave him a jaunty (free) hat and let him loose on the Questions board, to tell everyone how much I loved season two of Daredevil and how much I love pizza. (That really seemed to come up a lot. Is that their design flaw or mine?)

There was plenty to keep me coming back for a whole weekend – more friends to add through Twitter, Facebook and in person. The face-to-face add is a particularly excellent idea, as me and my friend found out at a wrestling show a couple of weeks ago.

nintendo miitomo

There are a few niggling issues with Miitomo – the Miitomo Drop, a seemingly enticing mini-game with unique clothing to be won, is a frustrating experience and not all that fun a game to play in the first place. And I was getting a few too many randoms trying to add me too – without the benefit of a Twitter account or Facebook page to display, I was hesitant to accept any invitations.

Regardless, I tapped on and enjoyed the whole playing experience for a few more days. But then I just stopped.

No real reason, really – and whenever the mood strikes me I’m still liable to get in there and see what funny in-jokes my friends are sharing as their Answers to certain confusing questions.

But there’s nothing else really to make me want to go back. All of which is fine – I’ve talked before about how I’m never going to pay money to get special features on mobile gaming, for a start – but I’m at a bit of a loss.

Maintaining the mobile hype

Mobile gaming is a tough one; even with the most attractive titles, once you’re through the initial frenzied gameplay there’s really nothing to keep you going without heavy investment of time and money – neither of which I’m inclined to put in to most mobile games.

I am sure that this isn’t something Nintendo are too worried about – they’ve got 3,999,999 much more hardcore users to take care of right now. But for filthy casuals like me that are too easily distracted – or simply not that attached to their mobile – the magic wore off a little too quickly. And maybe that’s something that Nintendo should worry about six months or a year down the line, especially if they see mobile gaming as a major route to revenue as they’ve indicated previously.

By all means, download a free copy and give it a go – it’s a fascinating experiment and there’s certainly enough of a novelty to it. But the appeal wore off for me quite quickly, and considering that mobile is more than a passing concern for Nintendo right now, the next few weeks can be very telling for their entire mobile strategy. That is, until that VR Pokemon game comes out, then I’m right back in there.