Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: Turn Based

Russ Pitts | 21 Apr 2008 17:00
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Rushing to put on jogging pants and get outside to do a few miles before the sun went down, I realized I'm not really a fan of "real-time" strategy. Turn-based is way more my speed.

If I could have paused the sun, located my jogging pants, stopped a second to thoroughly tie my shoes, found my iPod without tearing apart the whole house and tripping over the dog and gotten out the door without knocking over old paperwork snowdrifts I'd been neglecting for months, I'd have been a lot happier. But life is not turn-based. In life, the other guy is moving during your turn, too. You can define "other guy" however you wish (time, weather, bill collectors), but the result is the same; rarely do you feel as if you're thoroughly prepared for the next assault, or through with one obstacle before the next is upon you. Sometimes you just gotta close your eyes and power through.

As I mentioned last week, I've got a boner for process, and keeping minutia from overpowering the big stuff is a minor obsession. Which means you have to actually tackle the minutia as it comes up, and some days, that's just too much to ask. Some days the minutia is so minute it's a struggle to even notice it, much less deal with it. This past fall, I had about 100 or so days like that. The result: a minutia avalanche I'm only just now able to claw out from under.

I spent the weekend filing backlogged paperwork, cleaning and organizing various closest and storage spaces, planting peppers, making lists and generally catching up. Taking advantage of the lengthening days to renew my lease on life. Spending time productively until I can buy a boat. Taking, in other words, my turn to plan for the next. I didn't realize what I was doing until I took a break.

If you haven't discovered Boxhead yet, go now and play it. I'll wait.

The series is designed by Sean Cooper, previously of Bullfrog/EA, and it's the most brilliant bit of capsule gaming I've seen in years. Entire 60+ hour adventures don't pack the excitement of one 10-minute session with Boxhead, and every new installment (there are five so far) ups the ante in new and unsurprisingly unpredictable ways.

Take for example the original Boxhead: Halloween. While shepherding survivors from a ruined suburban paradise to relative safety was entertaining, the best part of the game, by far, was killing zombies and watching the ground beneath them turn bright popsicle-red. "More of that," I said, "and this game will be irresistible." Enter Boxhead The Rooms and More Rooms, in which the premise of escorting survivors (or any premise at all) has been removed in favor if killing zombies, period. Lots of zombies. As in they never stop coming and you probably won't survive. As in the ground will be pure red after two or three levels because slaughtering them is so much insanity-laden fun that stopping to do anything else (breathe, eat, lie down) just doesn't come up.

"Damn, it'd be nice if I could play this co-op," I said to myself. Boom! "2 Play Rooms" introduced co-op. Yet, as entertaining as the core Rooms game can be, there's real fun to be had in exploiting the scenario just a little bit to make it even more fun. I like to select a long horizontal room, create a barrier of exploding barrels at one end of the map (the end the zombies pour out of), then take my time setting claymore and exploding barrel traps the length of the room and picking off survivors as they funnel through my death maze.

"More of that," I said, "and this game will be unstoppable. "Enter: Boxhead: The Zombie Wars. In TZW you star again as Jon Bambo, lone human survivor of The Zombiepocalypse, pitted against wave upon wave of the undead, with only a few basic weapons with which to fend them off. You can build barricades, plant turret guns and lay down barriers of exploding barrels. It's like Starcraft meets Tower Defense, which is exactly what I imagined I'd always wanted.

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