The Lost Reviews – Turmoil

3 08 2016

Turmoil (Gamious - 2016)

What is one way to get an insight into other forms of work while also enriching your television viewing experience? Why none other than the Discovery Channel. For many years now the channel has been a showcase for many varieties of TV shows which depict ordinary people exploring other avenues of work that you or I probably would not consider, other than possibly to get rich and famous as quickly as possible. Shows in this line include of course Deadliest Catch, to more recent programming like Gold Rush and Gold Divers. Now while it may not be the case that you or I would consider going down these routes of work, I have recently been playing a game on Steam that I find is very similar. There is no war, no guns, no racing; just lots and lots of Oil.

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Turmoil (by Gamious) is a cross between a tycoon simulator and a puzzle game, where you play one of four characters who are trying to get rich quickly in the Wild West by drilling for oil. To begin with, you are given some cash and a free plot of land to drill for oil. Initially you can only work for a few months before the level ends. As time goes past however you may work many more months in the game to a whole year. As the game progresses further you will experience different areas of land such as snow and desert, and realise that there are other resources than simply oil to dig for.

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The game is relatively simple to play; it uses a nice combination of mouse and hotkeys (if you prefer) for controls, while each level is a flat, 2D image of a plot of land. To begin with you only have a few resources, and have to rely on Dowsers to find Oil, when they have found a spot, they jump for joy and tell you where you can roughly find the spot. From here it is up to you. Initially you will need at least one horse-drawn Wagon of which to transport your oil to prospective purchasers, and will also need to construct a Rig to get the oil out of the ground (one or two Silos probably wouldn’t go amiss either). From there it is up to the machines to pump it out, and the wagons to collect the oil. On each side of the map there is a factory, to whom you can sell your oil too. But be careful, for if you send the oil to them when the price is low, you are not going to get much for it. As the level progresses, prices go up and down, more oil can be revealed, and more money can be made, but once the level is up, that’s it! Any remaining patches, or oil you did not sell is just wasted, and fines can be charged if you spill any. Once a level is up, you are provided a summary of how much money you made, to which you can use in the local town to bid for more land, buy improvements, bribe local dignitaries, and much later on, buy out some of the town.

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Turmoil is a nice simple little game to play and is nicely presented in an aesthetically pleasing, yet simple 2D interface. It takes away the need for a full 3D game where you will exhaust hand power having to move around some mining camp. Instead, it’s just a simple case of point and click and manipulate what you want to achieve as thus. The real joy to this game is that at heart, it is a game about drilling for oil and making as much money as possible. You don’t need to worry about building anything else other than the resources needed to pump and store oil. The upgrades you can purchase are easy to implement once purchased, and come in real handy really quickly. The levels themselves are rather interesting to look at, particularly the depiction of the pockets of oil, and it can be fun to see oil be pumped out of the ground. The reality of the game gets no finer than the experience of sheer joy when you find a large pocket of oil, one you believe in whole honestly that, that is where your fortune lies. It’s a shame then that the game does have some short comings.

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At heart, Turmoil is a game about drilling for oil and making money. If it was just left to that it would be a nice little game with plenty of energy to keep it going. Halfway through however, the game introduces a second dynamic, which then just takes over, and becomes entirely about taking over the whole town by purchasing stocks/shares. It just gets irritating, that while you plan out what upgrades you want, and what area of land you are going to purchase next; that before you can get to drilling, you need to take part in a stock auction you don’t really care about. That is until you discover that is how you win the game at all. By that time it’s too late, and then you need to take an interest the next time you play in order to win. It’s just annoying, as I would rather have the game be about something else, and only include that in some form of multiplayer, which the neither has nor needs, as it’s perfectly pleasurable by itself.

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Any other issues I have with the game come down to minor bugs that more come down to PC performance issues and miss clicking. Most of these though come down to human error as the game finds ways to trick and deceive you into a false sense of positivity, making you think that you are making money, where as you could be making more if you kept a more careful gaze. Quite a lot of the time you will find yourself clicking on the speed up button, but as a level starts, this is only natural as you want money fast to get more later.

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Altogether, Turmoil is a nice fun little game that can be either played briefly or for longer periods. It boasts a pleasant graphical view while also providing you with simple yet easy to use controls that can be used in more than one way. More than that though, it provides an enjoyable insight into a resource rags to riches tale that’s really immersive and makes you feel like you are there, and enjoy your success while also regretting your failures. It’s just a little 2D game, but it has a lot of Heart.

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GENEPOOL

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Well, Here’s To The Big One – King Kong (1976)

8 06 2016

King Kong (Paramount Pictures - 1976)

Do you ever get that dream where you go to a faraway island in search of oil only to eventually discover that the oil is not ready yet; and while that is going on, your potential girlfriend gets kidnapped by a very large hairy bloke, so you go into the jungle to rescue her, and then decide to take the hairy bloke to New York who then decides that New York isn’t really his thing and so runs amok, climbs one of the two tallest buildings in the world before being brought down by a squadron of Helicopter gunships? Well you can stop dreaming, because it really did happen.

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Released in 1976 by Paramount Pictures, Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Directed by John Guillermin; King Kong is a remake to the legendary monster movie of the same name originally released in 1933 by RKO Pictures. This film, like the original features a Giant Ape known as Kong who lives on an island, has women sacrificed to him, gets captured and put on display in New York City before running amok. While based on the original screenplay of King Kong by James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; this version of King Kong does things differently, by placing the world and setting of the film in the modern era of the 1970’s (as compared to its original modern setting of the 1930’s) and instead of a film maker looking for an island and animal of legend for his next movie features an oil company exploring new ground to find something completely different.

King Kong 1933 Log

In Surabaya, the ship Petrox Explorer captained by Captain Ross (John Randolph) sets sail en-route to an undisclosed location. Executive to the Petrox Oil Company; Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin), basing his idea on an infra-red image of an undiscovered island hidden behind a fog bank in the Indian Ocean, believes he has hit the jackpot with possibly the largest untouched reservoir of oil on the planet. During his briefing though, he is interrupted by Primate Paleontologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges) who stowed away on the ship. Jack states that the island may have been visited in the past and that the fog bank may be caused by an undocumented giant beast. Believing him to be a spy, Wilson has him locked up. While being escorted away, he spots a life raft. On the raft is Dwan (Jessica Lange), a young aspiring actress who was on a boat belonging to a director which sank. Wilson does some digging into Prescott, discovers he is telling the truth as to who he is and appoints him the expedition’s official photographer. Eventually, the ship reaches the fabled island surrounded by a fog bank. Wilson along with Dwan, Prescott, oil expert Roy Bagley (Rene Auberjonois), First mate Carnahan (Ed Lauter), sailors Joe (Jack O’Halloran), Garcia (Jorge Moreno) and Boan (Julius Harris), land on the island to have a quick explore, and discover a giant wall made of tree logs. Wilson still believes the island to be deserted, but then the group hears music.

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Venturing inside, they find a ceremony taking place with a man dressed as an ape (Keny Long). The island villagers though spot the group and demand they hand over Dwan. The group beats a quick retreat, but that night a group of villagers steals Dwan from off the boat. Finding evidence of the villager’s presence, Prescott runs to get help, and soon the sailors arrive on the island. Too late however, Dwan, under some kind of drug is put into the same ceremony the group saw earlier, with the villagers chanting the name KONG. Eventually the big doors are opened and she is tied to an altar beyond the wall. With the villagers still chanting, something big approaches the village, smashing and pulling down trees in its wake. Eventually, it appears in full view to be a giant Gorilla. It snatches Dwan and takes her into the jungle. Prescott and the others arrive too late to save her, but after Wilson falls into the creature’s footprint, Prescott, Carnahan and some of the sailors head into the jungle to rescue her.

The following morning, Dwan tries several attempts to get away from Kong, but besotted with his new bride, Kong won’t let her go. He begins to soften to her constant ramblings and when she falls into some mud, he takes her to a waterfall to get clean and uses his great lungs to blow her dry. Prescott, Carnahan and the others continue to look for Dwan with no luck. Wilson meanwhile finds out from Bagley that the oil in the pool at the village needs roughly another 10,000 years before it is anywhere near ready to be put into people’s cars. Wilson annoyed with this takes inspiration from an Esso slogan and decides to try and capture Kong to be the company’s new mascot. While still out searching for Kong, Prescott and the others encounter Kong who dispatches most of the team dropping them into a large ravine. Prescott survives and continues looking for Dwan, while Boan reports back to Wilson. Back at the village, Wilson puts the men to work building a ‘monkey trap’. At his mountain lair, Kong tries to undress Dwan, but is then attacked by a giant rattlesnake. While Kong battles the Snake, Dwan is rescued by Prescott who both then flee to the village. Upon defeating the creature, Kong follows them back to the village where he falls into the pit and is knocked out by chloroform.

Jessica Lange

Kong is locked away in a large tank on a Petrox Oil Tanker and causes trouble for everyone on board. Dwan though manages to calm him down. In New York, Kong is put on display and Dwan is cast as his bride to be. Prescott however has had enough and leaves, but stays round long enough to watch the show. The show opens with a giant petrol pump containing Kong held in a cage and with a crown on his head. Upon seeing Dwan harassed by reporters, King Kong breaks free of his supposed ‘escape proof cage’ and runs amok. Everyone attending the show runs for their life, several of them, including Wilson getting crushed under his huge feet. Prescott and Dwan manage to evade Kong, although the Ape’s attempts to find Dwan nearly get them caught. The military begins closing off the bridges to Manhattan and Prescott and Dwan manage to cross over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan before going into an abandoned bar. Prescott, realising that the Twin Towers look a lot like the mountainous terrain of Kong’s Lair calls the mayor’s office and tells them where Kong is heading so he can be safely captured. Kong however finds Dwan and takes her out of the bar and heads for the Twin Towers. Upon reaching the World Trade Centre buildings, Kong climbs to the top with Dwan. Prescott chases after them taking the lifts, but is however unable to get onto the roof. The military pursue Kong up the building and attack him with flamethrowers. Kong jumps across to the roof of the other building and dispatches the guards. He is however then attacked by a squadron of attack helicopters. He puts up a fight, but in the end its pointless and he collapses before falling to the ground. Dwan goes down to comfort him, but he dies from his wounds. The crowds surround the carcass of Kong while Dwan is harassed by reporters and though he attempts to help, Prescott is unable to reach her.

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It may not come as much of a surprise to either the people I know or the readers of this blog, that I am a fan of Monster Movies. It is a pretty solid fact with plenty of evidence. King Kong as a Movie Monster is not one I think regularly about in comparison to say Godzilla; however, this film in particular is real close to my heart. Ok, yes, it was the first time I had ever seen a King Kong film back when I watched it in 1998. Since seeing this film several times I have come to love it with a passion and consider it one of the very best Monster Movies of the lot. I have of course seen the other 2 versions of King Kong, but the thing is the one I talk about the most, and have enjoyed the most remains to be this one. Could it be that it was the first one I saw; perhaps, but the thing is, I truly love this film every time I see it.

King Kong (RKO Pictures - 1933)

King Kong 1976 is a very different film compared to its original predecessor; however there are snippets to the original one plus things that have not changed at all. Starting with the obvious, it’s set in modern times. Now while it may have been set in the New York of 40 years ago, the look of New York City hasn’t really changed all that much since. It’s still as modern then as it is now. The setting is modern, the vehicles are modern. What it’s basically doing is grabbing a classic story form the 1930’s, and doing it all over again but setting it in the here and now. It’s not like Peter Jackson who just remade the original film (although how he was able to make a 3+ hour-long movie out of what was originally an hour and forty minutes remains a complete mystery) in the same period. This film, remakes, but puts it in a time that is easier for the audience to connect with and believe, and feel like it could happen to or around them. It makes 2005 look just like a film, whereas this feels like an experience. Out goes the story of the film maker, in comes the greedy oil tycoons. Yet another piece of modern belief; out goes exploration, in comes discovery but only when it sort of latches onto a more profound statement of the world today. The need and desire of energy in a world that is losing it, Man’s Greeds and Needs in a dying world only to find something completely primitive but still incredibly dangerous. The story of greedy oil tycoon’s works in quite well and is constantly mentioned; even to point out the marketing campaigns of other companies and how this inspires the film’s dodgy oil executive. Other major changes of course lead us to the use of not the Empire State Building, but the now non-existent World Trade Centre buildings. Why these buildings instead of the Empire? I think it’s because that at the time those buildings were brand new but also far taller than the Empire, and so to continue to amaze the audience, who are already amazed by the figure of a Giant Ape, amaze them more with having said ape climb to the top of the Tallest buildings in the city instead. The incorporation of these building’s is of course handled in the story early on, but does not lead anywhere until the film’s final act. These changes are of course worked into what is basically the same story as the film that precedes it but are once again adapted into the story, so that in its bones it is the same film; but on the surface, it is technically very different in the raw core if not necessarily in the already visible flesh.

World Trade Center

The setting of this film is not held down to just New York of course. King Kong as an idea is not one to come knocking on your roof. Kong is always a creature that needs to be discovered, his original appearance came about in a film that was before the time that Monsters started coming to cities instead of brought. One, Kong is less a force of nature but still not technically just an animal, and why on earth would he want to go to the city if he is happy where he is, on an island worshipped as a God? To this end, we go to an island, an island in the middle of a giant fog bank that keeps the island a secret until someone finds it. On which we find a tribe, a lost tribe, one who has no knowledge nor care for the outside world. The tribe has its own culture, beliefs, and ethos. Once though that this is threatened, they demand some form of penance, and go out of their way to get it. They then use this to their advantage to pull off a major marriage ceremony by putting this form of penance against an outside tribe in a relationship with their God. This God is part of their world, one they fear, but one that they believe carries a level of Magic and belief and brings them down to a real humble level, when he gets captured. From there the island does not look like much, until along comes 1: A Giant Ape, and 2: A Giant Snake. Apart from that, the island looks like some kind of haven like it would be a nice holiday resort (and one I have seen in at least one film since, it’s so obvious it’s that location). This island though has character to it. It’s a lost part of a planet that we have already covered and know so much about. It has a very primitive but still well thought out tribe with a deep culture, and on this hidden island, are hidden secrets. From the lost tribe to the island’s great King, it has a lot. But maybe it was hidden and lost for a reason, because the island contains special elements, special things that we have come to squander and take for granted, in as such this film is not just showing us the raw power of nature, but also shows us what we have lost, and that maybe we don’t deserve any of what we have, and that for the sake of history, one small bit should remain preserved for all time.

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Now that’s the profound stuff out the way, let’s get to the characters. This film does hold something of a barrage of acting talent of people who were either already stand outs at the time of production to those who have become stand outs since. Now there is quite a lot of small tertiary and secondary characters who deserve some talking time, so that’s where we’ll start. Most of these (well, in fact I think all of these) were with the crew on the Petrox Explorer, but later on the film you do get one or two people. From an army commander watching Kong head to the final show ground (the bit where the lights come back on behind him, in some kind of old roman looking archway), to the rather entertaining helicopter pilot (George Whiteman) leading the attack on Kong, to the political governor character (John Agar) who shows no real sympathy, at least from me. But in turn you do get really good stand outs from the ship’s crew. Leading the pack is Carnahan who throughout his time alive in this film portrays this nice secondary and respectful character who is a real on-screen joy to watch. Along with him you also get sailors Joe, Garcia and Boan, with Boan being the only one to survive, however, all of these guys get a good time in and produce some really cool mini scenes even if most of these have nothing to do with the plot. Similarly, the ship’s radio operator has a nice early on scene but is not really seen since. In a similar fashion this leads us up to the ship captain. He is strangely very entertaining as well as a strong figure-head that consists to produce a level headed approach and provide some of the only real sanity this film has. Much the same could be said for Bagley who; one the one hand is the film’s scientific advisor but not in the sense of apes, more on the subject of oil. Both characters carry some level of wit but are not comedy installations, more the voices of reason to bring the film down from the high edges of ridiculous to the point of sanity once more. Although these two are sort of on other sides of the coin, the captain is more respectful, while Bagley is a little wild, but both carry a real enjoyment factor that they are two characters you do not want to ignore.

Charles Grodin

Then on to that we have our 3 main leads. Charles Grodin’s character of Fred Wilson is quite a fun character. He is not really defined as hero or villain. What he is really is something of a diva. Someone who desires and demands the spotlight and is to go far out to show how he needs wants and deserves more. He sort of gets more atrocious as the film goes on, but he carries this amazing presence throughout, so that even if he becomes a villain, he is too likeable and you just let it go. He’s like a nice chap, someone you could be really good friends with. He’s sort of like Dr. Cox in his funny wild moments, and sort of keeps that energy going despite the scene intentions. I don’t know if that was the intention, but it works and I like it. Which is more than can be said for Dwan! Dwan is something like a bottle of champagne. She is someone who has a cork that is itching to blow, but when it does, she can’t stop fizzing. I find it very hard to understand anything she says or does, and is in one sense like Tanya Roberts in A View to a Kill, in that she is more a screech, not scream, Queen and doesn’t know when to stop. He place in the story though presents itself differently. Unlike her acting, she creates something of a double tragedy. A forbidden love between her and Kong creates an ending where his love for her brings him and her to a fall, and the real love of her life, is one that finds it hard to control or persist for. In turn, this creates a double tragedy; tragedy for her and Kong…..while Jack looks on. Jeff Bridges meanwhile is the film’s real anchor and lead. He is someone who’s just generally a nicely going guy who has an interest and knowledge of the island and persists to go. He makes friends quickly, even though he and Grodin tussle a bit, but quickly persists to help Dwan, not knowing what he is getting himself into. In the end, he has no idea what to do with her, and love does not win or succeed, it just sort of perishes under the weight of emotion. Throughout though, Bridges persists to provide a character who is fun-loving, but still a serious counter balance against the antics of those around him. One who understands the seriousness of the situation, and works hard to maintain a professional but still caring attitude. He is sort of a Jack of all trades in his chosen field of study, and in that, helms this film rather nicely, if in the end providing a dark temper as he goes.

Jeff Bridges

When I think of King Kong, just imagine him in my head the first thing that usually comes to mind is the scene where Jessica Lange is sacrificed to the great ape, and Kong walks through the forest, pulling down trees and yelling at his high voice. This for me is what King Kong is supposed to be like, not some generally big animal like gorilla, but something more God like, something that is not necessarily a force of nature, but still a powerhouse of a creature, one so special that he does not act like a normal animal. Here, we have one that stands and walks upright like a person. That scene at the wall is one I like a lot, as it is the first time we see Kong, and first impressions are important. So we see him, just his face or back of his head, then towering over Dwan, shouting and yelling before grabbing her then simply walking away. This first impression though gives us one important point of imagery; that in the way he is posing. By standing upright he looks big, he looks strong, he looks powerful. TO explain that further one could point to how George Bush (the recent one) used to put his arms out to the side, like a monkey of sorts, but it makes him look bigger and more powerful as a result. But the clearest way of saying that is to think of times when Animals are scared of things bigger than they are. By having Kong positioned like this, he looks daunting and un-nerving, but also makes you already consider that he is more than simply an ape. Kong though is not just about power. In here, we get a sample of behavior that he expresses which in turn shows what he is like deep inside. Yes, he is besotted by his bride to be, but he cares for her, even offers her a shower and blows her dry. Yet, his inner instinct is very man like as later on he tries to undress her, giving in to a more primitive man like temptation to desire what is underneath. Could it be that his signs off affection are selfishness, or could it be that he is looking for a way to connect to be closer to her? He shows great levels of defense for her too; even to defend her from a Giant Rattlesnake and even the Press, but this could once again be him, trying to keep hold of her for himself. However, this relationship is far more believable, as she can see it’s not going to work (where as for some reason Naomi Watts seemed to be actually falling in love with Kong, like that Simpsons episode). But that is not say that he does not understand that, but in the end, she does show a level of sympathy to his death, as it was really for her that he did die.

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King Kong as a film utilizes of course a large level of special effects to pull off what is a very big film. These could be considered relatively primitive to today’s output, but, for the most part, still work. Kong is of course a Suit, but a pretty good suit, in fact it’s very lifelike, and supposedly because the now legendary Rick Baker, (and Peter Cullen, and Will Shephard) a human is in the suit (Cullen did voice), the actions are very lifelike. All the scenes containing the suit are incredibly well done and really go far to present the image of an ape that big actually being in existence. Scenes such as tearing down the gate, bursting through the trees at the introduction as well as the chase aftermath, and even climbing the Twin Towers. It looks real, because it is a real suit, in a real shot and being performed (by evolutionary standards) by a descendant or at least relative of apes like Kong. Combine that though, with other stand out moments of special effects that were revolutionary for their time and you still gets some interesting perspectives that just enhance the film further. Things like the staging of people on a wall, looking down on a suit that is as big as the wall and is still tearing down trees. That shot only appears a couple of times but is a nice detailed shot that makes you think that you are really there.

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Similar moments of staging happen earlier on when Kong goes after Wilson at the first wall, or when at the second wall, Kong can be seen walking on and through the crowd from a low-level shot. Sadly, this is not continued throughout, why, because, well, for the sake of the film, a large full size animatronic was built for scenes where they felt that might not be achievable. But the thing with that is, is that it’s obvious when the scene changes to show the large animatronic instead, I don’t even need to point them out, just look for them, it’s easy. All though, I would say that the animatronic hand of Kong, is actually pretty good and is able to convey enough fluid movement to look real, and those scenes where it’s just the hand and arm, look fabulous, yet similarly terrifying. Altogether the design for Kong is fantastic, and at times can look incredibly terrifying when the scene demands it, but also rather humbling. While those effects are one thing, the film does have moments when it suffers from others. The only one that really gripes me enough is some use of fake backgrounds, which just look atrocious. The film especially in the New York scenes works hard to convey an empty city, one under panic and horror from the might of the situation, but some scenes sort of rid themselves of either set pieces or staging, and instead layout a near 2D image of an island view or city street. If it wasn’t for the content in the middle, the shots would be pure ugly. These moments are rare but also sadly noticeable, and even worse, as Kong climbs the tower, they use real shots of the beautiful city scape of New York in the background to provide real perspective. So why they couldn’t have done that earlier is anyone’s guess, because those shots are beautiful and in the end, more of those could have been great. But like I said, those situations are only rare.

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What isn’t rare though thankfully is the film’s soundtrack composed by the iconic John Barry. The film has different tunes all the way through, but manifestly it uses and carries three distinct pieces of music which it sort of adapts all the way through. Sometimes they are mixed in, but in the end, we get three rather interesting tunes. One is the Romantic Theme which is used in spots of light moments between Dwan and Kong and Dwan and Jack. It’s pretty simple but it sort of works and is positively not over the top, or camp. It’s more of a filler, but it’s used wantonly throughout. The second starts and builds from the islanders chanting. It stays this way for a bit, but then builds from that each time it’s used and becomes the main Destruction Theme for all rampages involving Kong, especially his arrival. The third though, is my all-time Favourite. The soundtrack does have its moments of irregularity. The main theme is a combination of most while trying to continue a sense of both wonder and amazement. On the other hand though you get things like the parade music which then leads into a sweet near electronic disco sort of piece which is a nice break, but rather bright compared to the scene of Dwan and Kong in the Ship’s Tank where there is a real Baroque heavy pounding tune probably from a brass section which really sticks in your mind and brings feeling to an even darker situation and is used again when Kong begins the climb. The third distinct piece though, is different to all the rest, as it’s this near replica to all villains residing in an inner sanctum playing an organ. This Organ Theme is used a lot, but I really like it. It’s on show the most when Kong arrives into the city arena and it builds, but for the brief few seconds that it plays, it has this real level of feeling about it. It’s not dark, it’s not bright. It’s chilling, like something is coming, possibly wearing a cape, coming, but taking its time, time for you to behold their presence before it brings you your doom. It’s a real nice theme, chilling, yes, but nice.

I regard this film as one of the all-time best Monster Movies. Its many things really, all of which I have gone into. Many of the people involved in this film I have found were either successful when it came out or have gone onto become successes in their field not forgetting the Prolific John Guillermin, the Powerhouse Dino De Laurentiis and the Iconic John Barry. It contains a nice select and enjoyable group of actors, which together with the filmmakers produce one of the best adaptations of classic film making to date. Posting it in a more believable modern and realistic setting and in turn make it feel like something that could really take place in our world; all the while, not forgetting the true star of the film, in turn bringing new life and a new audience while also creating new memories that are still true, as today as it did 40 years ago. King Kong, remains one of my favourite Monster Movies, and is one that I will always cherish and give time for when it is shown on TV, and more bizarrely is a film I end up having dreams about on a more consistently regular basis. I love this film; with as near a passion as King Kong loves a beautiful lady, and for me, at least for the time being, will remain, the real and true; King Kong.

GENEPOOL





Yardmaster

6 05 2015

Yardmaster Box

Yardmaster is a set collection game for 2-5 players from Crash Games and designed by Steven Aramini. In Yardmaster, players build up the line of a freight train, adding different types and sizes of cargo onto one another until one player reaches the score limit to win. Players start out with a basic train engine and a set of coloured cargo cards. In the centre there is a draw pile for railcar cards with some set out in the middle for players to choose from. There is also a draw pile for cargo cards and everyone begins with an exchange rate token of a specific colour. The person who was most recently on a train goes first and gets an extra token to use once on his turn.

Yard Master Table Setup

On their turn a player can do up to two of three optional actions. First, they can draw a cargo card and add it to their hand. There are 5 different colours of Cargo Cards: Green – Timber, Purple – Automobile, Red – Livestock, Blue – Coal, Yellow – Oil; and together they are the main form of currency in the game. The second action a player can do is purchase a railcar from the arrival yard. The arrival yard is in the centre of the table of which 4 are available to purchase. Each railcar represents a different kind of cargo and for so many points. In order to purchase them, players spend the correct number of cards and the correct colour of cargo for each one. So for instance, if a player wants to purchase a Yellow railcar worth 2 points, they would need to discard two yellow cargo cards. Upon purchasing the railcar they can then add it to their train; however it is not that simple. The third action that players can do on their turn is swap the exchange rate token they have with that of another player. Exchange rate tokens allow players to buy railcar cards of a certain colour, with cards of another colour. Basically, when players are short on a certain colour of cargo card, the exchange rate token that they have, represents a specific colour of card. For instance, if a player wants to buy a green 3 railcar, but only have 2 green cards, depending on the exchange rate token that they currently have; purple for example, they can use two purple cargo cards in exchange for one of any colour (in this instance; green).

Yardmaster Cargo Cards

Buying rail cars is the main mechanic of the game and is how a player wins. Building up a chain of rail cars though is not as simple as it sounds. The first railcar that is added to a player’s engine can be of any number and colour, no problem. After that however the player will need to think clearly as to what to buy and add next. You see, in order for another railcar to be added, it needs to be at least one, of any of the two factors of a railcar; those being colour and number. If the player had bought a purple railcar with a value of 3 and added it to their train, the next card would have to be either or both the same colour, or same number. So if they bought a yellow 3, no problem, it can be added to their train. If however they bought a red 2, they would not be able to add it straightaway, because it is a different number, and a different colour. Players will therefore need to think a little more tactically about what they purchase. Any cards they purchase but cannot immediately add, they will have to store them in the sorting yard below their train. If space for that card becomes available though, so it matches either colour or number; they can then add it for a free action.

Yardmaster Train and Sorting Yard

Other things that can be done in Yardmaster include using Bonus cards which allow certain actions to be done differently, such as using an exchange rate token 1:1 instead of the usual 2:1. The other major thing is the Yardmaster Token. The Yardmaster token allows the player who has it to do 3 actions during their turn instead of the usual 2; however, if they don’t use it on their turn, they lose it, just as if they did use it. It is then passed to the player on the nearest right. This is actually quite a clever mechanic. Because it is passed to the player on the right, and play goes in a clockwise motion around the table, when you use it, it will be the player who was before you that will get to use it next and it can be a long time before you get to use it again. This is especially the case in a game consisting of 5 players, and can be punishing if you forget to use it, when you have it, because then someone else may get to take an advantage that you did not use on your turn.

Yardmaster Tokens and Bonus Cards

For what is basically a small game that can be played in the space of about 30 minutes, Yardmaster is actually a very clever game with a level of complexity so that it has plenty of depth for most players to enjoy while also not being too difficult neither. For one, it is a very colourful game, which on the whole is actually quite nice to look at and is not completely restricted to just a few colours. Some of the coloured cards are also nice and bright to look at making it not much of a grim game to look at neither. It is in the game core play though that it stands out the most. I think it is rather similar in mechanics and play to Ticket to Ride and UNO. Collecting enough cards to buy specific types of rail car is a lot similar in my opinion to the collection and placement mechanic of picking train cards and placing them on the board in Ticket To Ride. It is the main score tactic however, where you need a certain colour or number to add to your train that is like playing cards in a game of UNO. Together they make quite a fascinating method of play. One which takes time to build up a collection of cargo cards to buy rail cars, but then, it’s not as simple as just adding them. You need to therefore buy certain types to make up your train. Therefore; players will need to think more tactically about how to play it. Do they buy rail cars of a certain colour, or perhaps number, just so that they can consistently add new rail cars as soon as they purchase them, or do they buy what they can and think of logistics later. Either way, it requires a more in-depth level of thinking rather than just getting as many cards as possible and then just straight up adding them. The addition of the exchange rate and tokens is an added bonus, as it allows players to still purchase rail cars, even if they don’t have the correct value of cargo cards in their hand.

Yardmaster Trains

On the whole, Yardmaster is a really fun game. Its design is nice and colourful as well as having a basic art design. Its core mechanics make it easily accessible to everyone from new, to the more veteran players and can be played in a short enough amount of time as well as be long enough to enjoyed to the full. Alltogether, Yardmaster is a lot of fun with plenty of in-depth gameplay, but is still simple enough for most people to just pick up and play.

Yardmaster Train

GENEPOOL





Top 5 Murkum Show Episodes (Season 1)

6 08 2014

Murkum Show Titles

Some of you may be aware (thanks to some of my past posts) of my good friend Matt and his great talent for animation. I have spoken about this in the past particularly when he did an episode of Arbitrary Stopframe which was written by me entitled Monster Movie. About a year ago he did a small spin-off series around one of his characters called Dr. Murkum for which I also wrote a couple of episodes for and as the second series has just gone I thought I would look back at the first series and pick my Top 5 Favourite Episodes of The Murkum Show (for those of you who may have questions as to who or what a Murkum is and other pieces of essential information that may help you to understand what anyone in the following sketches are saying, please refer to the blogs from Matt and Tim).

Murkum Show 2

5. Drinkies – What is quite a quick episode has a real sense of slapstick that works really well. Murkum needs oil, someone goes to get it. Some one is getting drinks and Murkum orders a coffee. Original person comes back but Murkum forgets about the oil and drinks it thinking it is tea. It is quite interesting to note though that Murkum is supposedly a robot scientist yet oil is poisonous to him but this adds a sense of suspicion about his character and makes you want to find out more, even if it is just to see if robots like coffee.

4. Cough Sweets – The second of two episodes I wrote. This one about people wanting something badly to get rid of a cough and will settle for anything hoping that it will cure them but not asking if said item will do more harm than good. This is the case here with supposed cough sweet delivery actually being the arrival of cyanide capsules, but it is all too late as Murkum is more interested in people getting better than safely reading the ingredients label, even if someone else has. This episode also works on the opposite side of most episodes of the show as most of them involve Murkum getting hurt in someway, while this one takes the approach of his actions causing harm to somebody else. In addition I really do like the use of sound effects in this one and Tim’s voice as Mephnar Senior.

3. Headlong Dash – Another great piece of voice acting from Tim here pointing amount the most obvious of things. This episode actually does show some of Murkum’s military might but Murkum has forgotten to open the door. His speech is also a bit lacklustre but this could be a way of showing how un-intelligent he actually is. When he finally get’s in his car and crashes, it’s the additional voice who points out Murkum’s mistake, which in turn is what is so good about this episode.

2. Shiny New Toy – Another one from me now. I like this one a lot (and not just because I wrote it) because instead of Murkum getting injured in some ridiculous way, here is just getting robbed/mugged. I also like the little jokes I made towards Apple and the iPad brand too by using the names Pomegranate and X-Brick as well as the reference to Angry Birds by saying Happy Pigeons. Murkum’s cluelessness as well to the format shows just how difficult such devices can be to people as well as people’s general ideas and names to such things/devices. Also one thing to point out is the idea as stated in Chris Martin‘s Book Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area: Driven Crazy by the Modern World? that people don’t really know what the point of an iPad is, with Murkum stating that it might “help”.

1. Boss Machine – This one I think is the absolute funniest of the bunch. Murkum has a machine that he thinks will help him brainwash people into doing what he says, however it is not quite ready yet and Murkum constantly asks the same person over and over again to do things for him bordering on the ridiculousness including trying to steal all of the man’s money to making him  sing while setting his trousers on fire. This eventually accumulates to the point that the thing that Murkum asks for finally is the one thing the man has been wanting to do to Murkum all along, that is to punch him in the face. From the moment that he demands money, this becomes such a funny episode and does not stop until the very end, and that is why it is my favourite (of series 1).

GENEPOOL








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