Dragging My Niece to H-E-L-L and Back!

For two years now Dipper has been trying to get me to play The Secret World. I tried it and loved the concept – it’s like playing a horror film or book. Everything is true – the Boogeyman haunts an amusement park with a dark past, Cthulhu knows your helicopter out of the sky, and the world is controlled by a series of secret societies. (Not to mention the other really creepy mythology of the game, but I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone – until another post, that is.)

I recently started playing in earnest with the release of Secret World Legends, which is a re-vamp of the game. Most of the original missions and storyline are still present, but Funcom tweaked the game. Combat is more streamlined, as is the tutorial process. Having experienced the old game to a degree, I feel able to say with confidence that the new iteration is much more fun for the new gamer. My brother, who has played it since it was in beta, is very much in love with the game. He hasn’t (to my knowledge) come across anything in the new game that he’s displeased with.

In any event, Phoebe watched Dipper play, and wanted to give it a whirl. She hopped on an alternate character that he had created and took off! She loves playing in the Maine-esque Kingsmouth town, which is populated by a haunted ship called the Lady Margaret, zombies, and other weird creatures. As Phoebe progressed through the game she wanted to start running dungeons. My main character is at the maximum level (50) and is able to take her through the first dungeon. In the first dungeon, you and your team are tasked to explore the wreck of the ship The Polaris (which is what gives the dungeon it’s name). As you fight through a series of bosses, you come to realize that the ship was besieged with horrible creatures and…..well, I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say Phoebe runs that dungeon on a daily basis and still isn’t tired of it yet.

Once she reached the level to do the first of the three H-E-L-L dungeons, she asked to be taken through. We joined up as a private team and entered. I’m a close-range fist weapon fighter (think Wolverine with cotton candy colored hair and teacher clothes) and Phoebe rocks a shotgun – hammer mix. When I say she rocks out, I really mean it. Those readers acquainted with any kind of raid or dungeon run know that sometimes when you’re taking a lower level character around, you’re stuck doing EVERYTHING. Not the case with Phoebe. She’s literally right in the middle of the fray, shooting and smashing her way to glory. (Though her motivation might come as a surprise. You can use in-game tokens to purchase digital pets for your character. As of right now, Dipper’s alt character has almost every pet you can purchase from a vendor, and Phoebe’s character on her own account is quickly gaining in the contest.)

One of the best things about playing video games with Phoebe is listening to her reaction to the content. Secret World Legends is definitely for mature players, though thankfully she skips through most of the cut scenes. In her eagerness to wipe out as many digital enemies as possible, I’m never sure how much of the story line she picks up while playing. However, she is a fast learner in terms of the raid mechanics. The first time I took her through I died while fighting Recursia. Recursia is a big-breasted dominatrix-style succubus who does not die easily. While fighting her, minions are released from a circle around her. If they get to her, she gets stronger. Well, I tasked Phoebe to keep the minions down since they don’t really fight back, they just move inexorably towards their destination. I was more worried about Phoebe than I was my own situation, and I got careless. I died – which in this game means the other players either have to kill the boss they’re battling, or die too. I was freaking out because I was sure she was toast. Much to my surprise, she jumped in with rabid vigor and destroyed Recursia with two swings of her hammer. I didn’t realize I’d died with so little of a window to go. I congratulated her, and she basically told me that she was pissed Recursia had killed me. Phoebe never fails to warm my heart.

She’s also eagle-eyed. There are little tidbits you can collect in all the zones called lore. Lore are little pieces of the mythology and story of the game and it’s inhabitants. Usually I’m pretty good at picking up lore, especially when running a dungeon with Dipper. Even so, Phoebe is extremely thorough and we were able to get two lore I didn’t have before. I have to check later, but I’m reasonably certain that I now have all the lore for the first H-E-L-L dungeon.

If you’re wondering why H-E-L-L is written letter by letter, that’s all Phoebe. For the longest time she wouldn’t say it because she thought it was swearing. Ever the teacher I tried to explain to her that it depended on the use.

Me: “Phoebe, ‘hell’ isn’t a bad word.”

Phoebe: “Yes it is. You just want to hear me say it.” (Her refusal to swear is endearing, and we are all patiently waiting for the innocence to fade and her vocabulary to become more colorful.)

Me:“Well, yes and no. It all depends on how you mean it.”

Phoebe: “Mhm….”

Me: “No, really. If you’re telling someone to go to Hell, it’s totally cursing. If you’re talking about a Hell dungeon, well, Hell is a place on the game map. It’s also a place some people believe in. In which case it’s a proper noun.”

Phoebe: “Mhm….”

There will be no taking Phoebe for a fool. I meant every word of what I told her, but she’s wise beyond her ten years and she had to take some time to think on it. We’ve progressed to the point where she’ll ask to go to the hell dungeon, but it’s more of a whisper. She’s still not totally comfortable saying it.

If you’re wanting to join in the fun, you can download Secret World Legends for free here or through the game client Steam. My previous post  about the game The Park is also a game in this series. There are some in-game purchases, and if you want you can become a monthly Patron, which allows you to teleport around the map at no cost, as well as other benefits.

If you want to find me in-game, send me a message and I’ll tell you who I am. Just don’t expect Phoebe to want to play – she’s web-smart! I’ll never forget the day a random person tried to group with her. Dipper and I were talking and we heard her yell, “Ew! NO. Why would he do that?!” Dipper and I were freaking out wondering what was going on, and when we realized that she didn’t want to group with another player we almost died laughing. The sheer indignation that someone random would actually think she’d accept their invite….it was nearly Victorian in her disdain! I would have given almost anything to have been there in person and not listening over a phone! On a serious note, thank goodness she’s smart about online interactions. While it’s true there are plenty of good people online, I don’t trust everyone’s intentions. (She may not be my niece by blood, but she is by heart and soul, and I’m very protective of her.)

Stay tuned for more news from Secret World and the H-E-L-L dungeons! I’ll be periodically posting our adventures. Especially considering Panda and I now have enough computers at our house for Phoebe to experience her first LAN party!

 

A Strong Finish

Disclaimer: I pride myself on being an honest reviewer. In that vein, I’d like you to know before reading this review that I had the pleasure of copy editing the piece before publication. As a copy editor, I didn’t change anything in the story, just made sure the events were consistent with the first two books, and sussed out any spelling or grammar errors. I neither made nor proposed any other changes to this story.

 

Having given you my disclaimer, let’s get into the fun part! Afternoon is the third book of The Daylight Cycle. Initially Kody Boye wasn’t sure he wanted to release it, because he wondered how it would stack up against the other two books. He was looking for another pair of eyes, and I volunteered. Afternoon picks up where the previous two books left off, and serves to tie in two seemingly unrelated storylines in a believable and exciting way. Rose, from First Light, meets up with Dakota and his crew of survivors from Sunrise. They band together with other survivors they have come across and on the surface everything seems safe, or as safe as it can be given that they’re living during the zombie apocalypse. They spend their time fortifying their space, scavenging for supplies in the surrounding houses and shops, and getting used to life after the fall of civilization.

Everything is going well until the survivors run into trouble during a supply run. One of their members is taken down by a vicious pack of zombies. Of the three that survive, one is scratched. What’s worse is that the injured survivor is Erik, Jamie’s childhood best friend. It’s just a small scratch and doesn’t even break the skin, but nobody knows whether or not it will cause infection. Jamie is desperate to believe that Erik will be ok since there was no blood. Dakota and Steve, as much as they’d like to hold onto hope, are skeptical. Jamie’s hope is put to the test as Erik’s health begins to spiral. Fevered, bedridden, and incredibly miserable, nobody can deny he’s sick. But the signs of infection aren’t presenting themselves quickly enough. Is it the zombie virus, or something else?

Steve and Rose manage to repair a radio enough they they can make contact with other survivors, if there are any left alive. As luck would have it, they manage to contact a college in Boise, Idaho whose science department is still laboring away at curing the disease. The decision is made to take Erik to the university, because his condition isn’t getting any better. Erik also feels a sense of duty – if he can be any help in curing the disease for others, than he wants to do what he can.

I’m going to be the first to tell you that I’m hoping Kody doesn’t stop with a trilogy. I understand authors want to expand, create new worlds and characters, etc. To that end, I’d be happy with a short story collection down the road sometime. I’m not quite ready to be done with Steve, Dakota, Jamie, Rose, and the other survivors.

Not to mention Kody has given the zombie apocalypse a wild spin that I’m craving more of – the plant walkers. You read that right. They’re dried up prune-looking zombies that smell like fruit, and undoubtedly dead, but maintain a small amount of intelligence and seem to abhor the zombies. It’s a concept I’ve never come across before, and I have to admit that I’m super curious. I’m anxious to see if the plant walkers are the gentle shepherds they seem to be, or if they’re something more sinister in disguise.

I found Afternoon to be a great way of tying the first two books together. It was great to catch up with Rose and several other survivors and see what they’d been up to while Dakota and his friends were traipsing across the country. I blew through Afternoon, despite editing it for spelling and grammar, because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Particularly when the group was at the university watching the doctor perform tests on Erik. I was tense the entire time, waiting to see what would become of Erik. Whether he’d be a glorified guinea pig in a dead world, or whether he’d be the answer to their plight.

Whether or not Kody decides to continue with this series down the road, or if this is the last book he’ll write with these characters, I’m 100% on board. The same goes for any other series he writes or has written. Kody has the ability to create characters who are realistic and varied. Some of the characters may more closely resemble the asshole sitting next to you in the cube farm than they do Mother Theresa, but regardless, they’re realistic. As are the relationships between the characters. Whether friends, partners, siblings, or strangers, Kody deftly navigates the different interactions without weighing down or taking away from the action.

Do yourself a favor and go pick up The Daylight Cycle, because each book only gets better!

Classic Zombie Lit

I have been friends with Rhiannon Frater via Facebook since 2013. Her posts are interesting and thought-provoking. Throughout the years, I’ve read posts on the different books she’s written and have always promised myself that I would give them a read. She has several series that I’ve been wanting to pick up, but haven’t been able to choose where to start.

When my Kindle died and I got the Paperwhite, I had to reorganize my books. I realized I already owned The Living Dead Boy, so I decided to give it a try. I couldn’t put it down. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I was so freaked out by a zombie novel. I’ve read so many and seen so many movies, that, while still enjoyable, I don’t find myself really scared anymore.

The Living Dead Boy starts out standard enough. Josh watches the news, and he knows the zombie apocalypse is starting. It’s not civil unrest, it’s neither riots nor protests. It’s the beginning of the end. The problem is that nobody will believe him. Not even the members of the Zombie Hunters Club, that meet to spar and prepare for the end of the world. His mom and dad are sure he’s just acting out to cope with the stress of the family’s financial situation. While at school, there is a crash on the nearby highway. The principal goes to investigate, and Josh’s worry goes into overdrive. He knows this is how every zombie movie starts. With people innocently trying to help the infected. His fears are confirmed when the principal comes back bloody, and orders the evacuation of the school. From there, everything disintegrates rapidly.

What Rhiannon brings to the table is raw emotion. She creates palpable tension between Josh and his younger brother, Drake, whom he resents for getting most of his parent’s affection. (And for getting him in trouble, as younger brothers will do!) There’s a scene in particular that I had to reread several times, because it was so deeply troubling. The kid’s bus has crashed and they’ve escaped. As they’re going down the road, Josh looks back and sees a zombie dragging itself towards them. Hungrily. Inexorably. It’s everything a zombie story should be.

There are more really freaky scenes, but I don’t want to deprive the reader of the ghoulish fun of reading The Living Dead Boy for themselves! Not to mention, there’s a sequel that’s already available. It’s called Lost in Texas: The Living Dead Boy 2. Reading the quick synopsis on amazon.com, it looks like Josh and his friends aren’t out of the water yet. The second book finds them travelling through a zombie-infested Texas looking for safety.

If you’re looking for a genuinely scary book with loads of heart, do yourself a favor and pick up The Living Dead Boy. Make sure to leave a review on amazon.com, goodreads.com, and anywhere else you can.

March HorrorBlock Subscription Block

March’s HorrorBlock just arrived in the mail today. (In case you’re new to it, it’s part of the NerdBlock family, and focuses on bringing unique horror merchandise to subscribers every month. Usually there’s a theme, but lately they’ve chosen one or two movies or tropes and centered the box on that. It costs $19.99 per month.) Per usual, I waited to see Dipper before opening it, which incidentally meant that I had to wait until I was at work tonight.
This month’s theme was again zombie-centered. After the letdown of last month’s block, I was not looking forward to this one. As luck would have it, the second try was really the charm. This month’s block was a delight to open.
horrorblock
* Samara t-shirt – This month’s t-shirt was a close-up of Samara from The Ring franchise. It’s blue and white on a black background, and not bad at all. I was dreading what Ring merchandise would be included, as it’s not one of my favorite films by any stretch. (It also doesn’t stand up to a second watching, as all of the secrets are spoiled by the first viewing.) Dipper recommended that I give the shirt to our co-worker for his daughter, since she’s pretty all-in when it comes to horror movies.
* Oven Mitt – I’m not gonna lie, I pounced on the oven mitt. I enjoy baking, and have been looking for a new oven mitt. This one is most likely going to be too thin to actually use with any sort of safety in mind, but the pattern is really awesome. The color green also goes with my current oven mitts, which are the same slime-snot green. I can’t wait to hang this on the cupboard door above my stove! (UPDATE: Omg! It really works! I can use it without burning my hands!)
* Zombie Hand Back Scratcher – I’m not going to use that for it’s intended purpose by ANY stretch of the imagination. However, having a telescoping zombie hand plaything is about the best thing you can think of in a cube farm environment. After taking it out of the packaging, I spent about 10 solid minutes terrorizing coworkers (and my unsuspecting supervisor) with it. The possibilities are literally endless!
* Zombie Squeeze – To me, he looks more like a voodoo doll, or a shrunken head with a body. But he’s pretty cool just the same. When you squeeze him, you can see his brain stretching at his head to get out. It also makes a nasty kind of squick noise when you squeeze him. I suggested Dipper give this little ugly to his horror-loving daughter, but I have my suspicions that it’s going to go to his personal collection instead.
* Zombie Door Stop – This was in a mystery box, and when we opened it, Dipper’s eyes about boggled out of his head. I was over the moon that I already have a zombie door stop, because I really wanted to be able to give this item to him. When we divvied up the goods, this was the first item he chose. I don’t think he’ll use it as a doorstop because the guts are kind of delicate, but I think it’ll look great on whatever table or shelf it winds up on. (I’m actually hoping his kitten menaces it, so that I can snag a picture of that!)
* Walking Dead Building Blind Bag – I had no idea these were a thing. I thought it was going to be some kind of Lego, but it’s really a little figurine that comes in pieces. You put it together and then you have whatever character (or zombie). Apparently it’s part of a set you can get where you build the pieces. I’m not going to track down the set, but it’ll look pretty neat on one of my shelves. Preferably somewhere that my cat and dog can’t get to it. It’s a little small for them to safely menace.
* Zombie Dog Tags – These are pretty cool – not gonna lie. I’m not usually the dog tag type of girl, so they went to my husband. While not quite the zombie fan that I am, he enjoys his military shooter video games just fine. (He was pretty psyched when he got them!)
* Rue Morgue – It’s taken practically everything that I have not to purchase this magazine before it arrived in the box. When Dipper and I were out in Barnes & Noble the other day, I saw the cover. Love me some Rob Zombie! Apparently he’s got a new album coming out, so that is something I’ll be looking forward to. Probably should put his other stuff on rotation again to make a comparison when the new disc drops.
Overall, I think this block made up for the last one, which was incredibly lame. They varied the contents, and included 3 exclusive items. I also didn’t feel bad giving Dipper any of the items – when the block isn’t as good, I can’t escape the feeling that I’m giving him sub-par horror merch. And that is NEVER a good thing!
If you’re still debating on whether or not to order this block, I’d say go ahead. The instances where the block isn’t as good are few and far between, and usually even if you get one bum item per box, the rest of the merch more than makes up for it.

Buffalo Haunts 2014: House of Horrors / Haunted Catacombs

House of Horrors and Haunted Catacombs used to be two separate haunted houses. They joined together to bring people an enhanced scare experience, and in many ways, that’s worked hoh and hcgreat for them. This is another house that Steve and I try and visit every year. Sometimes the houses change, and some are the same title and theme from year to year, but with noticeable differences.

One of my favorite things about HoH and HC is the interior decoration, before you even get to the haunted houses. They have an animatronic torso that is suspended from the ceiling by two chains that it holds. It whips its head back and forth and see-saws with the chains. In the low colorful light it almost looks real. This year, a guard post was added with zombies and human dummies, which was a nod to their two Walking Dead themed haunted houses. On a big screen commericals for old horror and sci-fi movies play. If you’re not careful, one of the myriad fiends in costume will sneak up on you, or you can take a picture with them for free. There is also a concession stand for candy, popcorn, and soda.

leatherfaceSteve and I started with Killer Theater, which was a favorite from last year. The premise is pretty basic – you go from movie set to movie set. You encounter Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason, and Leatherface. Last year included Pinhead, complete with his spinning pillar of body parts. This year, thankfully, Leatherface was without his chainsaw. Say what you will about me – I’m fearless until the chainsaws come out! Killer Theater certainly didn’t disappoint this year either!

We went through Zombie Apocalypse Paintball, which was like walking through a Resident Evil set. At two different points, we were instructed to walk up to a window where we could shoot zombies wandering back and forth. Pretty fun – not exactly what I expected. When another visitor accidentally shot me in the back with the paintball, I understood why there were designated shooting spaces! It sucked being shot without armor! Overall, it was a very interesting house.

Dragged into the Grave was extremely disappointing. The facade was a tomb, complete with a leering gargoyle larger than a grown man. It was very realistic and intimidating. And it led to – nothing. Absolutely nothing. The entire house was a dark maze. It didn’t even have any actors. Fumbling in the dark quickly became tiresome, and when it was over I was pissed.

The Walking Dead: Prison Break and The Walking Dead: Escape From Woodbury were both pretty cool. They closely mirrored the television series. Prison Break featured a walk through the prison where the characters made their home in the TV series, complete with Rick and Carl statues. Escape from Woodbury had Michonne, Rick, Carl, and even the Governor, with his aquariums full of heads. It wasn’t so much scary as it was really cool to walk through what felt like scenes from the movies.

HellHouse was, by far, the best. And it always is! It’s not analogous to the Richard Matheson masterpiece, unless you go by the fact that both are haunted houses. The facade is the most highly decorated, and looks like an old Victorian house. The inside is also the most well-furnished. There was an animatronic demon-head goat-monster that reached out to bite you on your way out. There are was even a child’s room filled with creepy dolls galore, and the kitchen. Oh man the kitchen! That’s where my nightmare man with the chainsaw was waiting.

Love…With a Dark Twist

I love anthologies! It’s like eating at a buffet. You get to sample all sorts of delicacies – enough to whet your appetite, but not so much that you get tired. In the horror genre, it seems the list of rom zom com pictureanthologies is never ending. There are carnival zombie anthologies, animal zombie anthologies, Victorian zombie and ghost anthologies. And now this. Rom Zom Com. It’s an anthology chock-full of zombie stories based on romance and comedy.

Yes – I know exactly what you’re thinking. And that’s definitely a crazy mix. Some of the authors pulled it off beautifully – and some delivered romantic zombie stories with sharp biting irony. My favorite story is about a guy trying to impress the girl of his dreams – while she only has eyes for another. The beauty of the story is that just when you think you know everything, the author pulls the rug out from under you, and the story takes on a whole different perspective. I guarantee you won’t see it coming! Another favorite is a story of two lovers who are separated, and reunited during a chance meeting. So far, not so exciting. But the way they hold the zombies at bay is one of the most unique I’ve read yet! In another story, a man does everything he can to keep his friends from finding out the truth – and someone else will pay the price for his hidden identity. In yet another, a family struggles to keep it together while one hides their true identity.

The only fault I can find in this book, is that it’s heavy on romance and short on humour. But that’s only if you’re looking for traditional comedy. The stories contained in Rom Zom Com lean more towards irony and sarcasm. They flip the viewer’s perceptions and play with them – turning everyday courting and marital situations into something altogether new. It’s an interesting and cheeky read, and I recommend it to everyone – but especially those who favor their zombies a little more light-hearted!

Looking for something fresh and new?

Two weeks ago, I got my hands on Braineater Jones, by Stephen Kozeniewski. I loaded it into my iPad, opened it in Kindle, and then went straight to Amazon.com to read the book description. Based on the description, I Braineater-Jones-800-Cover-Reveal-and-Promotionalwasn’t sure what I would think of the book. I love zombies and horror, I love books set in historical periods other than my own, but for the most part I’m not fond of mysteries. I blew up the cover image and studied it. It reminded me of the pulps, and the tagline, “No memory, no pulse, no clue” hooked me instantly.

It’s October 31, 1934. Braineater Jones, the titular character, wakes up face down in a swimming pool with a bullet hole in his chest. He has no memory of his previous life, no idea how he wound up dead, or what he’s going to do about his situation. Not to mention, he doesn’t even know the rules of being undead. He heads to the seediest part of town, The Welcome Mat, and begins his search for identity. Before he knows it, he has become a private investigator, specializing in helping his fellow undead community members. Each case brings him simultaneously closer and further from his list of questions about himself and his past. When Jones unwittingly stumbles on what he believes to be a community-wide conspiracy, shit gets real. And fast! Armed with only one ally, Jones will go up against powerful members of the community as he unravels the greatest mystery of all.

Along the way, Jones runs afoul of some of the craziest zombies one could imagine! There’s a head without a body, a closet full of dismembered hookers, a talking fetus, and all other kinds of crazy characters. If you asked me, I’d be hard-pressed to tell you my favorite. Kozeniewski gives each one just enough backstory to be interesting and relevant, without waterlogging the book with nonsense.

I can’t sing Stephen Kozeniewski’s praises enough! He deftly wove history and 30’s vernacular to create a world that was believable, but not to the point of being cartoonish. At the back of Braineater Jones, Kozeniewski gives the reader a glossary, where all of the terms used are clearly (and humourously) defined, but more often than not the reader can figure out the meaning based on the rest of the sentence. Rather than being a hindrance, the vernacular adds atmosphere.

I highly recommend Braineater Jones, but especially if, like me, you’re not sold on mysteries. The plot is gripping, the mystery is hard to solve, and all of the characters are interesting. The twist ending was a strong finish, leaving me feeling satisfied, but wishing for more of Jones’ exploits. I hope I haven’t seen the last of Braineater Jones, P.I.!

Truly Tantalizing Tales

I read often, the upside of which is that I experience great storytelling, and the downside of which is that sometimes I can predict how a story is going to end. That’s the worst, isn’t it? Being drawn into a story, turning pages with sweaty fingers, only to find that the ending was exactly as you thought it would be, and feeling the subsequent disappointment.  Luckily for readers like us, author Kenneth W. Cain keeps you guessing right until the end in his anthology These Old Tales – A Collection of Dark Fiction. With each new story, I kept trying to guess the ending, and each time I was wrong.

theseoldtalesWithin the pages of this book, you will find the usual culprits.  There are zombies, werewolves, and devils.  However, there are other terrors without a name – and these are some of the worst, because you can’t protect yourself from what you don’t understand.  To say that Cain has filled his anthology with strange stories is an understatement!  Cain’s strength is in his ability to take realistic, everyday people – your neighbors, co-workers, and possibly yourself – and subject them to a funhouse of tortures.  (No – I’m not going to give away any story plots or hints.  I don’t want to ruin the enjoyment for you!)

It was hard not to read the stories with Rod Serling’s voice echoing in my ears.  Cain’s stories are very reminiscent of those written for The Twilight Zone by such masters as Richard Matheson. They have the same draw and increasing intensity as Twilight Zone Episodes, and sometimes even the same scary warnings. My personal favorite was a cautionary tale of Chinese food…and shrimp. (God I love shrimp!) A gentleman is sharing a meal with his wife when he spies a very ugly shrimp on his plate. He is told by the proprietor that if one makes a wish and bites the shrimp, it will grant the wish. The hapless protagonist cycles through wishes, and finally comes to decide that what he really wants is what he has. Too bad for him, the proprietor has some tricks up his sleeve!

If you’re the type of person that monsters in every shadow, you’re going to love These Old Tales by Kenenth W. Cain!

 

 

Fun for Everyone!

Resident_evil_rev._2012_CapcomI know I’m a little late to the party on this one, but so be it! Two weekends ago, my husband Chris and I were at our local Best Buy. He was searching for a pair of headphones and a keyboard for his computer. I was along for the ride (and secretly scouting the price of Xbox games). I was eyeing Resident Evil Revelations, deciding whether or not to purchase it at the buyer-friendly price of $59.99, when my husband handed a game to me. It was a Blizzard offering – Diablo III – that I had glimpsed on Chris’ computer. I hadn’t ever played a Diablo game, but had spent many an hour yoked to World of Warcraft, and I knew the quality of the game in my hand.

Flipping it over, I read the back of the game. You know what word got me? Witch doctor. Hell yes, witch doctor! The words “masses of loot” didn’t exactly damageDiablo_III_cover my thoughts on the game either. (The other classes mentioned on the back of the case were barbarian, monk, demon hunter, and wizard, if you’re wondering.) Five minutes later, and I was in the checkout line holding the video game, game guide, and Resident Evil Revelations. Chris was smiling as though it were Christmas morning – I was just happy to have a colorful game that saw me tearing through demons with my husband at my side.

Now fast forward two weeks. Chris and I are sitting in the basement on a Friday night in front of the TV set, our surround sound at near-full blast, pumpkin spice coffee at our side. The opening cinematic was the typical lush style long associated with Blizzard games, and immediately drew me into the storyline, after which we were tasked with choosing our classes. As mentioned above, I chose the witch doctor. I have to admit it was tough, I was drawn to the wizard, but also to the monk. In World of Warcraft, which I played for just over five years, I had always played a healer and paired with some muscle, or I was a DPS class. I let Chris choose first, because he had played the PC version of the game. His choice was easy – barbarian. A simple hack-and-slash character, but bound to be fun, who he named TkOut (technical knock-out). I finished flipping through the game guide and chose a witch doctor, whom I named Erzulee. For quick class comparison – take a look at the chart below.

Diablo-3-classes

After choosing our classes, we are shown another cinematic – this time the history of New Tristram. New Tristram is the cursed town from which most of the Act 1 action originates. When the cinematic ends, you and any companions playing with you begin on Overlook road with one ability. You take the road into New Tristram and from there you’re off!

grotesquesIt’s pretty difficult not to get sucked into the easy gameplay, which lends itself more to Xbox gaming than to PC if you’re wondering. There is no need to conserve on ammo, which allows you to freely destroy any monsters you come across, as well as most of the free-standing structures. This feature comes in handy especially when you’re in graveyards and tombs. Don’t worry – the first several quests have you romping and stomping your way through graveyards, cathedrals, and tombs a plenty. You face all manner of uglies – worms, crawling zombies, and these fat monsters that run around with their arms in the air. To the left, you’ll find a monster called, aptly enough, a grotestque. When they are put down, their body explodes and you’re stuck fighting various trios of ugly over-sized grave worms.

The actual narrative that drives the story is very interesting, and interspersed well between fighting. When you encounter various NPCs, you can choose the parts of the story you want to hear. This is an added bonus, because if you’re a hack-slash-ignore-the-story type, you can blow past that. Also, you can replay the game without the story scenes that can make other games tedious. However, if you’re like Chris and I, and you prefer a bit of story to go with your zombie meat, there’s more than enough. The music is great too – it’s never too loud or invasive, and it doesn’t have annoying recurring themes that pop up and make the game predictable.

There is no reason you can give me that is good enough for not playing this game. It’s fun, colorful, and well-made. Every quest is new and exciting, you accrue gold and gear quickly, and the dialog is fast-paced. The monsters are appropriately scaled so that they don’t whale on you or drop dead too easily. Loot is duplicated for each player, and it’s easy to swap gear with others. In short – it’s an awesome game! If you don’t have this game – go buy it NOW!

 

World War Z Part 1: Why I Saw It

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The picture to the left is one of the official posters for the movie World War Z, which I saw this past week with my wonderful husband Chris.  The picture to the right is of the original book, by author Max Brooks.  When this movie was first announced, it caused quite the stir in the horror community.  There were some who thought it would be  a good movie.  The rest of us in the community were worried it wouldn’t be a faithful adaptation. I think I was just pissed that Brad Pitt was pushing the project.  I didn’t think he had the appropriate reverence to pull it off.  Those of us who feared, feared the bastardization and ruination of one of the most important pieces of zombie literature.  Not many zombie books make the New York Times Bestseller list, but Max Brooks’ did, which means it crossed over got noticed.

I was hardcore against this movie.  If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband, family, friends, and co-workers how bitterly and incessantly I bitched about it.  I nearly broke my soapbox from all the time I spent lamenting.  And then, I read a blog post that changed everything.  Author Timothy W. Long wrote a post titled, “World War Z – Everybody Just Calm The Fuck Down“.  Long makes several very compelling arguments for watching the film, but below is the game-changer:

This movie represents something that most zombie fans wouldn’t have though possible ten years ago. A huge summer action movie with zombies as the driving force, Massive military battles against hordes of Z’s, worldwide settings, and a huge Hollywood A-list actor to bring in the crowds.

So that’s why I’m seeing it. I want to watch a big budget Z movie. I can’t wait to see the world overrun by zombies while the military guns them down by the thousands, and make no mistake, the scale of this movie appears to be that large and I want it on the big screen. I want zombies so in my face I reach for a Remington Versa Max Tactical Zombie, 12 Gauge shotgun“.

That got me thinking about the movies that he referenced in his post.  Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead (remake).  28 Days Later.  28 Weeks Later.  Shaun of the Dead.  Zombieland.  Long made another great point.  There aren’t that many zombie blockbusters out there.  Why was I trying to boycott what could be the greatest zombie movie since 2009?  I realized that I had to do my part to support the genre.  If World War Z fails during the height of zombie popularity, that’s pretty much it.  I will be relegated to showing my future children only a handful of films.

As for my thoughts on Brad Pitt, here’s what Long has to say:

“Brad Pitt, you scoff? If you hate him I have two words for you: Inglorious Basterds, here’s three more: Fight Club, Seven. Here’s a number and a word: 12 Monkeys.”  

Fair enough.  Fair enough.  Let me add my own:  Legends of the Fall.  I must confess, I am sick and tired of hearing all the tabloid press.  I miss Brad Pitt the actor.  His abilities have been overshadowed by the press-made drama.  It was time to bring back Brad Pitt the actor.

My husband and I made after work date plans to go see it.  What comes after, you can read about in World War Z Part 2:  Movie Review.