Welcome to what may become a regular SP Sunday-night feature, if you’re in the US (more like second breakfast or elevensies time in NZ). I’ve always fancied myself a decidedly non-prime hours horror host, in the vein of Vampira, Elvira, and Commander USA. Don’t remember Commander USA? Just imagine Watchmen’s The Comedian unconvincingly faking enthusiasm for El Santo movies and “drawing on” his hand with his cigar. I asked editorial for a wardrobe budget, but all I got back was a series of farty noises, so just imagine me in a LBD and a smoking jacket, wearing a wig stolen from a community theatre production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, sitting in a ridiculously oversized Gothic armchair next to a roaring fireplace (burning official strategy guides and AOL diskettes, ‘natch) and cradling a coffee mug bigger than my head in my arms with a degree of tenderness usually reserved for newborn babies and Alpha Edition Magic: the Gathering cards.
Got it? Good, let’s go.
Handelabra’s got to be the Herbert West of the mobile games scene. Just when I thought it might be safe to take Heroes of the Multiverse off my iPad, Season 2 Mini-Pack 4 came a-knocking at my door, and it ate my brains. I picked up the season pass in a past life (I was a highwayman, along the coachroads I did ride, sword and iPad by my side), and it keeps coming back to take a toll on my free time comparable to the toll of human lives taken by successive waves of the black plague in Mediaeval Europe. That was a season pass too: “Multi-century Subscription to Infectious Death That You’d Think Would Give Europeans a Little Compassion When Small Pox and Measles kill 30-90% of the Population In Every Other Part of the World they Visit, but Noooooo, US$19.99.”
Too soon? Sorry, I’ll confine myself to unsubstantiated ancient Egyptian plagues hereafter. Anyway, unlike Peter Molyneux, who never had a crowdfunded project he wasn’t eager to abandon incomplete, Handelabra has sticktoitveness: still rolling out Sentinels expansions (bless/curse them!), adding new content to One Deck Dungeon every other day, and they’ve got two more games in the works, Aeon’s End and Spirit Island. I’m particularly interested in Spirit Island, where you play as the totems of an indigenous people whose island is being colonized. This is the kind of Vizenor-worthy alternative history game I’ve been waiting for.
Back to Sentinels of the Multiverse. Mini Pack 4 is sweet, featuring Benchmark – a brother with a crash-ridden computerized robot suit created by some Elon Musk-alike to promote their company. I love the little bits of story embedded in the cards: in Benchmark’s case, it’s clear from several of his cards that the company is only in it for the PR, and from one particular card that the company eventually regrets underestimating both of them. There’s also Stuntman, a French… wait for it… stuntman who fights crime with ennui and guns, but mostly with ennui. Chokepoint is the new villain, a Magneto-type, and when I took Benchmark, Stuntman, the Naturalist and Mr. Fixer up against Chokepoint in the (also new) Celestial Tribunal, she whupped my team. See, Chokepoint collects “destroyed” cards to fuel her powers, and at Challenge difficulty, she takes every non-villain card that gets destroyed, immediately heals 2 and deals 2 damage to all heroes. My entire team, especially Benchmark and the Naturalist, depend on destroying their own cards and being able to get them back again from their discard piles… but against Challenge-diff Chokepoint, she takes those cards, hurts my entire team, and keeps them so I can’t get them back. Owie.
I like to play new heroes against new villains “blind” at high difficulty: I usually lose the first game, but it sets up one of the most classic superhero tropes of all: getting your ass handed to you by the big bad the first time you fight, then owning them hardcore in the rematch. But can I do it with this team against this villain (without reducing difficulty?), hmm, I need to think about that.
In another world entirely, Avee Bee, Mia Schwartz, and Alec Lambert, the team who created transgender-inclusive summer camp horror visual novel (say that three times fast) We Know the Devil (win/mac) have a new game, Heaven Will Be Mine (win/mac/linux). Like We Know the Devil, Heaven Will Be Mine features a triad of co-protagonists, and things can’t turn out well for all of them, but instead of regularly switching subjectivities in a way that really suited the feel of We Know the Devil, in Heaven Will Be Mine you choose one to play and decide how to fight (and/or flirt) with the other two. Oh yeah, and this one’s not set at summer camp, but in space, with mecha (“Ship-Selves”), bringing the skeptical transhumanism of Ann Leckie to the time-honored formula of deeply traumatized young folks in control of giant robots.
Protip: supervillains with magnetic powers can use them to pull all the iron out of your blood. Hollywood told me so. On the other hand, they are powerless in the face of giant robots composed entirely of non-ferrous material, so don’t bring your blood to a mech fight.
I’m out of coffee, so we’re done here. Nga mihi.