Kevin C. Wong

Spot Reviews 10/15/21

Ling Ling Chicken & Vegetable Potstickers [/] Not as good as dad's but if you follow the pan fry instructions exactly they come out fairly good and crispy. A bit sweet which I'm not a fan of... It also comes with several packets of sauce (which is convenient) though the sauce is a bit sweet so I guess that's the taste they're going for.

Podcast - Save or Die (2010) [-] A podcast about old RPGs, from the mid to late 70's. I don't like it because the I don't like the hosts' humor. The one saving grace is that over their decade of existence they've interviewed a lot of RPG luminaries and those interviews are usually pretty cool.

Movie - Horizon Line (2020) [/] Sara (Allison Williams) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon) hooked up a year ago and then she vanished. Now she's back to attend an island wedding. For whatever reason she's late to the wedding and has to take a private plane to the next island and Jackson is also tagging along. When the pilot has heart attack Sara and Jackson have to keep the plane flying and somehow find their way to safety... Not a bad thriller.

Movie - Life in a Year (2020) [+]

Life in a Year is a romantic drama. Daryn (Jaden Smith) is a straight-edge honor student preparing for Harvard then he meets Isabelle (Cara Delevingne) a free spirit who doesn't even go to high school. They start dating then he finds out she has cancer and a year to live so he with the help of this friends try to recreate all the big moments in life for her. Meanwhile she teaches him to relax, get wild, express his rap soul but that comes into conflict with his dad (Cuba Gooding Jr)...

I like the setup, meeting, falling in love. The life-in-a-year stuff is a bit up and down. The ending manages to be good. This is a movie about Daryn and he has a good arc, growing from teenager to young man, from doing what his father wants to striking out on his own. I don't think I was expecting much from this movie but it more than delivered.

Challenge Magazine (1986) [+]

GDW's Challenge Magazine replaced JTAS (which ended at issue 24) and started out with #25 running to #77 over 11 years. It was half house organ, covering GDW's RPGs, and half other games all modern/sci-fi (which went along with GDW's lineup as they had no fantasy RPG).

A bit of the content is miscellaneous and typical of a game magazine: foreword, letters, reviews. There's a regular JTAS News 2-pager. Lots of ads of course. Maybe an article or two with rules-type stuff: equipment, optional rules, replacement rules. Maybe an article or two on GM campaign help: NPCs or locations.

But half to 3/4ths of each issue was scenarios, often 2 to 4 pages (and often that included that a full-page cover illustration). Often one longer adventure of up to 10 pages or so. Half the adventures covered GDW RPGs so lots for Traveller/MegaTraveller/TNE, 2300 AD, T2K, Space 1889, Dark Conspiracy. And also lots of adventures for other RPGs such as CoC, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Star Wars, even GURPS.

To me Challenge is a scenarios magazine. Lots of the scenarios are brief and basic and leave a lot to the GM but some are fairly detailed and multi-session. In general one to three interesting scenarios per issue. So overall a worthwhile older gaming magazine to pick up, especially if you are into the old GDW RPGs. You can buy a CDROM with all the issues for $45 at Far Future Enterprises.

Spot Reviews 10/08/21

Movie - The Vault (2021) [/] Spanish heist film where a team of underwater salvagers attempt breaking into the most secure vault in Madrid in order to retrieve an artifact they salvaged and then was stolen by the Spanish government... The story was entertaining.

Anime - High-Rise Invasion (2021) [-] A group of teens find themselves in a virtual city full of skyscrapers connected by rope bridges where all routes to ground level are blocked off. Masked people try to kill the teens or force them to commit suicide by jumping... I didn't really like the concept and the main protagonist is rather frustrating. Maybe it gets better but I only watched the first three episodes of twelve.

Porn Director's Podcast (2013) [/] I forgot I tried it out six years ago and found the two hosts annoying. I think I tried listening to more episodes this time (almost 30). The hosts are still annoying and so are the sound effects. The guests are ok but very variable since sometimes the guests are high or just not that interesting and there's too much trying to be naughty when I just want to hear talk and stories.

Movie - The Hunger Games (2012) [+]

I finally watched The Hunger Games and it's actually a pretty good film. I've watched the Divergent series which was ok and the first Maze Runner film which was not as ok and the Twilight series which was ok. The Hunger Games is at least as good as those other films.

In a dystopian future it's been almost 100 years since the outlying 12 districts rebelled against the central government. That rebellion was crushed and since then there has been an annual battle royale-type where each district sends a male and female teen to compete in a kill-or-be-killed multi-day outdoors death match.

In the 74th games Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the games in order to protect her younger sister. She is thrown in with random draw Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), kid from the better part of town (very relative since district 12 is poor coal miners -- all the districts seem to be lower-income resource producers and professionals for central gov) who has a secret crush on Katniss.

The two are thrown into a whole new glittery world at the capital city where they train with fellow contestants and try to garner sponsors (it's reality tv style where the contestants lives' are filmed and later on during the games sponsors can provide little gifts to help out their favorites). Then halfway through the film the game starts.

Battle Royale I think was the groundbreaking film that had teens battling each other to the death. That film was graphic and showed lots of individual kills in various ways. Although Hunger Games has that same central concept it's really a character drama centered on Katniss and most deaths you don't actually see and the ones you do see are tame, though at least varied. I think Katniss herself only kills a couple of contestants in self-defense.

The action as not as action-y as BR and the ending not as dramatic either, but HG does have a satisfying ending and sets up a bit for the next film in the series. There is Katniss' boyfriend Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) who stayed behind and watched the televised "romance" between Katniss and Peeta. There is also central gov President Coriolanus Snow (Donald Sutherland) who sees Katniss as a possible focal point that might spark a new rebellion.

Overall I found the film entertaining and look forward to watching the next film.

Apple Arcade - Speed Demons (2019) [/]

Speed Demons is an overhead-view arcade highway racing game with controller support. You drive generic sort of cars that can be upgraded for speed and handling. There are several different race types spanning 150 levels.

  • Checkpoint - pass the five checkpoints before your timer runs out.
  • Race - race against 31 other cars.
  • Pursuit - chase and knock out other racers.
  • Rally - try to pass as many other racers as possible.
  • Rampage - destroy every vehicle you can, civilian or racers.
  • Escape - drive away from a pack of blue police cars trying to ram you off the road.
  • Slalom - race while passing flags, missing a flag is a time penalty.

And there are other race types.

There is lots of traffic which are various white vehicles. Other racers are red so easy to pick out. But you are also red with a different shade and occasionally you might lose track of your car in a pack of red.

Control with my XBox controller was fairly good. You just have turn left and right with the stick (a bit too sensitive for me) and a brake button.

It's a somewhat entertaining game, perhaps a bit too arcade-y for me.

Spot Reviews 10/01/21

Podcast - Byte-Sized Ethereum (2021) [/] Ethereum developer Topher Benson and enthusiast Alexandra Botez discuss crypto with a focus on Ethereum. Mostly trying to educate people rather than promote. A bit dense and I have to pay attention otherwise I get lost.

Apple Arcade - Spidersaurs (2019) [/] This is a side-scrolling platform shooter with a cartoony theme. You play a police officer trainee or a punk rocker girl (and you can play two-player simultaneous). Shoot various spider-dinosaur hybrids, collect powerups for your two weapon slots and collect extra abilities, defeat boss monsters. Controller support is good but not optimal and unfortunately you can configure the buttons making that first boss encounter too hard -- I just couldn't jump-aim-shoot well enough with the default controller bindings.

Movie - Air Force One (1997) [-] Kazakhstan terrorists hijack Air Force One but they didn't count on President James Marshall (Harrison Ford), former Vietnam helicopter pilot and Medal of Honor recipient... I guess the movie was not that great back then and watching it now it seems dated.

Netflix Series - The Liberator (2020) [/]

The Liberator is an animated 4-episode drama following the 157th Infantry Regiment and one of it's officer's Felix Sparks (Bradley James) as he goes from leading Easy Company -- composed of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, and Redneck Texans -- to battalion command in the same regiment.

Episode 1 - Formation, Italy
Episode 2 - Anzio (western Italy)
Episode 3 - Operation Anvil (southern France) to the West Wall (Germany's border)
Episode 4 - Germany and Dachau

By the end only Sparks and two or three other people from Easy Company live to VE Day.

The episodes tend to be two vignettes. Characters come and go while the main plot remains on Sparks. Animation is sort of hand-drawn realism and not cartoony. Action is good without being gory and minimal shock scares (e.g. nothing is going on then suddenly someone gets shot in the head by a sniper).

Overall it's an interesting series though not engrossing enough to be a [+].

iOS Game - Missile Command: Recharged (2020) [+]

Missile Command: Recharged is an official Missile Command retro-clone adding power-ups. You have three anti-missile launchers and are shooting down enemy missiles as they rain down trying to destroy your six cities. Unlike the original you don't have a set number of anti-missiles, instead each launcher has a recharge timer before it can launch another anti-missile. Also if a launcher is destroyed it will start to be rebuilt after a pause and complete a few seconds later.

Enemies

  • Normal missile
  • Small fast missile
  • Big slow missile that splits into multiple missiles
  • Smart missile that can move a bit left and right to avoid anti-missile explosions
  • Horizontally moving boxcars that launch missiles and smart missiles

Power-Ups - move horizontally, changing type every few seconds. Once you shoot one it activates and lasts for a few seconds (shield lasts longer but still fairly short)

  • Bomb which is a very large explosion that almost covers the playing area from side to side
  • Chain which is like a drone that goes around destroying enemies
  • Fast makes your anti-missiles almost instantly move to the target point and explode
  • Homing which makes your anti-missiles target nearest enemy
  • Rebuild which triggers rebuild of all launchers (but also means you can't launch anything for a few seconds)
  • Shield which adds an overhead shield over your cities
  • Time stop which freezes all bad guys for a few seconds

Graphics are vector-style and a bit more abstract than the original. Sounds effects and background music are well done. Gameplay is pretty smooth and great since you just tap to shoot an anti-missile to that spot.

Like the arcade game this version doesn't have variants. You're pretty much just playing it over and over trying to bet your high score. It is free and you can play about three to six games per day ($3 for infinite coins). It's a really enjoyable old-school arcade game.

Spot Reviews 09/24/21

Apple Arcade - Super Impossible Road (2019) [/] Downhill marble racing game on a narrow winding track where the key is knowing the shortcuts -- all requiring jumping off the track and leaping down and if you miss you go back to a checkpoint. Nice graphics, smooth gameplay, good controller support but ultimately a bit dry. I'd rather race cars than marbles.

Movie - All My Life (2020) [/] A funny then sad romantic drama based on a true story. Jennifer (Jessica Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum Jr) meet and fall in love but in the second half they find out he has cancer which turns out to be terminal and their friends manage to put together a memorable wedding for the two... Didn't hit the teary-eyed button for me but otherwise it's a nice movie.

Movie - Sentinelle (2021) [-] French film. Klara (Olga Kurylenko) returns to Nice from a tour in Syria where her squad was decimated by a suicide bomber. Suffering PTSD she's assigned to an urban Sentinelle unit that walks around securing the city from possible terrorists. After her sister is raped and left in the hospital Klara goes a bit rogue looking for the perpetrator... A slow broody drama that is rather boring outside the three or four action sequences.