Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Review. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Introduction: How to...

If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times. The 1981 Basic Edition of D&D is my edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Before that, I had the 1979 AD&D books which seemed a little opaque to 7 and 8 year old me. But by 9, I could grasp all of the ins and outs of the Moldvay set. 

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

At 49, I set a challenge of reviewing 52 gaming culture significant titles. I've done novels, movies, game modules, supplements but only a handful of rule sets. The reason is pretty clear, how does one review old or new products which emulate old games? Everyone should know everything about them already. 

A month or so ago, a reader whom I shall call Blackrazor gave me dozens of books to replace the ones I lost. Additionally, he threw in a bunch of things I have never seen. By way of thanks to my readers, I want to review them. 

This loops me back to my original observation that everyone who plays these games should know them. So true. 

Back in February of this year, I reviewed The White Box by Atlas Games. This product isn't a game, it's a developer's tool to create games. In that review, I mentioned that the vast majority of essays written for this title explore the pedagogy of games. Pedagogy is the method and practice of teaching. 

This nicely brings me around to this little piece of artwork: 


The Moldvay version of D&D was meant to teach from the book, as opposed to the methods used in the prior editions. It's a fine distinction, in intent, scope, and for my purposes, a perfect distinction.  

OD&D, Holmes, and AD&D e1 are very fine games, but they were not designed and developed as the Moldvay books were which is very evident in terms of play and players. These three sets were designed with the intention that one person would own the books and that one person would teach the rules. Moldvay on the other hand, explains the rules with an almost boardgame approach so that players pick a role and act on it rather than the exploration of roles (and rules) that older editions supposed. 

It's the method of teaching that changes between editions. Players were always cautioned against reading the DM's material. But in a generic sense, meaning they shouldn't metagame. Knowing the rules was always encouraged, but defining which rules were in play was the purview of the DM. So, when players hit those OD&D type games, they often knew how to run a game even when in action as a player character, but they learned directly from the person hosting the game. In B/X the rules themselves teach. 

Going forward, I hope to review several B/X sets from the point of view of how the rules convey the pedagogy of the game. 

I have 10 more entries for my 2021 review series, if I could make whole rulesets half of those, I think I will have succeded in this adventure.  

HP-14dk1000 Laptop Review

Normally I would place hardware reviews over on Unpwnd.com but this one is special. It makes my website and games go. 

This particular HP is only available from Best Buy. At the $299 price point, you know this isn't a gaming machine. 

Here are the stats: 

  • Screen Size: 14 inches
  • Screen Resolution: 1366 x 768 (HD)
  • Processor Model: AMD Athlon Silver 3000 Series
  • Processor Model Number: AMD Athlon Silver 3050U
  • Processor Speed (Base): 2.3 gigahertz
  • Solid State Drive Capacity: 128 gigabytes
  • System Memory (RAM):  4 gigabytes
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon
  • Operating System: Windows 10 Home in S Mode
  • Battery Life: (up to) 8 hours
This laptop isn't a powerhouse but is adequate for webwork, minor photo editing, and lightweight games. 

For some buggy reason, Best Buy's spec sheet proactively shoots this laptop in the foot. It is not a 2-in-1, does not have a touch screen, a keyboard backlight, or a voice assistant. In my mind, these missing features actually define a functional laptop, so they aren't really lacking. I expect a phone or a Chromebook to talk back. I expect a drawing surface on a tabby. Not so much on a laptop. Not having these features is a-okay. 

The one stat that jumps out at me is the screen resolution. 1366x768. That is the finest screen of 2002, it's a weak point. In the image below, the desktop looks sharp due to the vibrant colors of the photo. When you go text on white, the weakness of 1366x768 is pretty apparent. 


It does have three other flaws, all of which revolve around the keyboard. The layout is "creative", placing the question mark on the bottom row, arranges the navigation keys vertically down the right-hand side of the keyboard and the trackpad doesn't have much in the way of palm rejection. It's really annoying, like $300 dollars annoying. 


On the plus side, the keyboard is responsive. The boot time is very nice and storage space is more than adequate at 128GB. Four GB of memory is kind of on the low end, but it's enough to run multiple tabs, GIMP, or Inkscape. The trackpad has actual buttons which are nice.  

The port arrangement and loadout is really great. It has 2 USB, 1 USB-C, HDMI, a card slot, and an ethernet port. While these are all pretty standard, but having all of them on a budget frame is surprising. 

A handful of items I missed. This laptop has great speakers for a subpar machine. Steamed movies actually look good on this machine. Neither is "brilliant" but this is more than what $300 should get you. The battery life is a quandary to me. I've had sessions where it pooped out in 3 hours and others that lasted all day long. I suspect that A/V software stresses the poor thing too much and text-only operations don't tax it at all. 

All in all, I give it 2.5 of 5 stars. 

Off the Shelf Review - Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

I am a huge fan of Andy Weir, author of the Martian. Project Hail Mary is an excellent science-themed page-turner. 

Title: Project Hail Mary
Year: 2021
Author: Andy Weir
Pages: 476 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Meet male, caucasian astronaut. He's adrift in space, destination unknown, mission unknown, name unknown. Weir rapidly builds our hero up in just 2 chapters without annoying the reader with the fact that he has no name or purpose. He also threads the needle with the hero to prove he isn't a recast version of Mark Watney from The Martian. 

Our astronaut is quickly introduced to two different problems. One is immediate, an inflated catheter in his... ah... you know. And the second more distant, an infrared glow around Venus. (Hey, I didn't write it. Well, I did but...) The second becomes the major problem of the story, no matter how immediate the other problem would be. Something is drawing energy from the Sun to the orbit of Venus. The sun isn't dying but the dimming will kill every living thing on Earth. If anyone is to solve this problem, one hell of a Hail Mary is needed. 

Here is our hero and his ship, the Hail Mary. Full of Dr. Grace. 

Weir likes solid science in his science fiction. He uses a couple of handwaves to get our hero into deep space. The major handwave is energy to mass ratios of fuel. Aside from that, I'm sure he took a couple of liberties with biology, but each choice was a smart, calculated one. In this novel, Grace and science are the heroes jointly. 

Weir uses Grace's memory loss as a convenient way to place him where he needs to be and then uses the resulting recovery of memory as excellently timed data dumps for the reader. It is used to great effect to expand the stage of the Hail Mary to a greater cast of characters than just Dr. Grace. The reader moves from the present to the past in a delicate dance of memory vs. discovery where Dr. Grace is first introduced to the world end cataclysm that he must prevent.  

And damn, some of these characters are excellent. Even magnificent. Eva Stratt is the quarterback of Earth's defenses. She is assigned the task of clearing the way for Project Hail Mary's success. Since success is not assured, Stratt operates on the principle that anything short of total annihilation is a path to success. Including a suicide mission to Tau Ceti to find out why this Earthly neighbor isn't dimming when all of the other stars are. And boy, is she a bastard. 

Many of the other characters are charming and likable, even when not compared to Stratt. But none are entirely squeaky clean. Weir builds a cast of believable characters, with very few unnecessary bit characters to muck up the works. Some of the characters are particularly odd, given that they want to go on a suicide mission. And some of that oddly is pretty shocking. But not terrible, in context.  

Dr. Grace encounters both wonders and surprises unimagined by the builders of the Hail Mary and each is used to excellent advantage to progress the story.

As a plot device, all of the science onboard the Hail Mary is off the shelf, except for the technology to place the crew in a coma long enough to survive the trip. That is the one point of failure on the mission. If the crew never emerges from the coma, the mission is a failure. Having no other option, that is deemed an acceptable risk. 

However, there is a sneaky backdoor point of technology failure introduced by the plot. First, none of the technology at Grace's disposal is any smarter than a laptop or more sophisticated than a college chemistry lab.  Dr. Grace isn't an astronaut. He doesn't do checklists or planning because he isn't trained to do so. And pays for it constantly. There is nothing there to warn him of the errors of his ways. 

While this would normally be a plot hole, the fact that Grace pays for his erratic and Rocky behavior every time builds tension and drama, all the way to the climax of the story. And it's a hell of an ending, which parallels Mark Waverly's transition from astronaut to teacher in the Martian.

While Project Hail Mary is a very different read from the Martian, the sense pedigree is there. 

I am slightly annoyed that I paid full price for this book at Barnes and Nobles, but it was a much needed date night. You can pick the hardcover at a good price at Amazon. This is the portion of the post where you click the link which goes to Amazon and I get compensated if you buy. #Ad

Or you can do what I did for Artemis and grab the Audible version. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review - Dyson's Delves (Part 1)

Today I am taking a look at an older book called Dyson's Delves by Dyson Logos. From the moment I hit buy on DrivethruRPG, I had remorse about not ordering this title in print. It's a good thing I didn't because not many things made their saving throw. C'est la feu. 

DriveThruRPG's excellent library app saved my bacon as I wouldn't be able to keep doing these reviews with quick access to the hundreds of titles I've purchased there. 

Title: Dyson's Delves I 
Rule Set: Any OSR 
Year: 2012
Author: Dyson Logos
Pages: 153 pages
Rating: 5 (or more) of 5 stars

This is one of those titles that shatters my rating scale. I love art and this book has 60+ pages of Dyson's excellent maps, arranged into 5 delve adventures plus 44 blank maps for you to key. Each unkeyed map has a key page for you to fill out and the keys themselves are stylish and match the maps.  

The delves are prekeyed and all of the monsters are thematically grouped like the beasts in Keep on the Borderlands. Dyson doesn't spell it out in the text, but even a cursory look at the critters provides connections that the DM can weave together to fit their own campaign. If you wanted to repeat a particular delve, I suggest rekeying the dungeon using Shane Ward's 10 Monsters idea from the blog, The 3 Toadstools. These delves are cool and repeatable. 

I'm not sure what I like more, the stylish maps or the way this title was put together so that the reader can adapt the work to be their own table. Dyson gives permission to photocopy pages so you can write on them, but if I had this title in print, I would take the other path and write in the book. Yes, it destroys the ability to "start over" but with 5 complete delve adventures plus 44 single page maps, exactly when will I have the time to just "start over"? 

I'm in full-on heretical mode. The author is wrong, go ahead in write in this book. This is basically more than a year of content if you run 1 or 2 maps a week. Date each map as you run through it. When you're all done, either print a new copy from DriveThruRPG or order another book from Lulu. I get nothing for pitching a $20.00 book from Lulu, except the reward of knowing you will have a keepsake worth far more than the multiple purchases or reams of paper you burn to reprint the pdf. It's a kind of a keepsake journal.  

As I mentioned before, I have a copy from DriveThruRPG which is all fine and dandy, but as soon as my house is in order again, I will be ordering a print copy. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Bilingual Bonus Review - Cruce de Río

I only have a few more reviews to hit my goal of 52 for 2021. A few weeks ago a reader gave me a whole set of e5 books. So, e5 it is. One of the best ways to learn a ruleset is actual gameplay. 

Cruce de Río by Sebastián Pérez is a great introductory scenario for D&D e5. 

Title: Cruce de Río 
Rule Set: D&D e5
Year: 2018
Author: Sebastián Pérez
Pages: 10 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, right out of the gate, it's a little much to call this a "module". It's 10 pages. However, Cruce de Río is a gem of a product. The format of this booklet is scaleable, it works for characters between 1st and 6th levels. It verges on being ruleset agnostic because the scenarios spelled out in this book have crystal clear mechanics for several common events that take place in a fantasy setting. 

The gist of it is, the party needs to cross a river. Three possibilities exist: find a ford, find a bridge or make a dangerous attempt at crossing someplace else. Cruce de Río spells out each of these possibilities with great detail and excellent mechanics. These events can be sequential or run as individual events. There is a challenge for each choice and that challenge scales to suit the DM's need. Any one of them could be deadly, but Sr. Pérez spelled out the possible dangers and their outcomes so that each event need not be lethal. That purposeful planning allows a DM to pick which challenge to present meaning you could get several uses out of each. 

Sr. Pérez gives a couple of reasons for a river crossing, all of which are great. But river crossings should be commonplace for your band of plucky adventures. This is straight-up plug-and-play worldbuilding. This could happen in almost any campaign which makes this title so useful. 

There are bits of details and lore buried in the book that can enrich your campaign. For example, the ogre is motivated to take gems over gold because the government doesn't tax them. He is also not terribly inclined to kill the party as he is just doing his job of collecting a toll. 

I love details like this because these are far-reaching for a campaign setting. It says so much with so little. The kingdom has toll roads, the kingdom has the infrastructure, the kingdom employs non-humans, the tax system is a bit exploitable, etc. If you wanted to jump your 6th level party to hexcrawling, this is your entry point. 

Sr. Pérez has also kindly bolded keywords for quick rule lookup. There is also a reference sheet of Monster Manual pages for easy access. When events call for advantage or disadvantage, those are clearly spelled out with good reasons for each. Based on this, I suspect Sr. Pérez is a hiker with actual experience fording rivers. 

All and all, I enjoyed this book greatly, even though I struggle with Spanish. This book is a part of the Before 2020 Bundle over on DriveThruRPG. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

App Review - DriveThruRPG Library

A few posts ago, I mentioned how the cloud saved many of my books in digital form. On logging into DriveThruRPG, I suddenly realized how many books that is. I counted to 100 and stopped. The website will pack up 10 files at a time so downloading them would be laborious. 

I also happened to replace my old Chromebook with a new one that will happily load Android apps, which lead me to the DriveThruRPG Library App in the Google Play Store or their website. It's a game changer and labor saver. 

Although this review is of the Android App, it comes in a variety of flavors including Windows, Mac and iOS

When you open the app, it asks you to log in. After that, it will sync up your purchased items in your library. 


Clicking a name will do one of two things. If it is a single file, it will open it. If there are versions of pdfs or multiple files, it will give you a list.  


The software can open the file one of two ways, in a browser on a Chromebook or within it's own build in pdf viewer. 


The build in PDF viewer is sharp looking an responsive. The main difference between browsing in a browser or dedicated PDF viewer in Android is you loose the ability to print. That was probably a bridge too far for DriveThruRPG to create in their viewer. Other than that one missing feature it's robust, including smooth rendering, table of contents or bookmark views. It's nice. 


All and all, I give it 5 of 5 Stars. 

The only negative I could find was that the storage directory is not easily accessible for file access or manipulation. That isn't really a knock on DriveThru's Library app as this would happen with almost all Android Apps because of the way that a Chromebook emulates the Android Environment. If you want to get at the files directly, open them in the browser and save them to your downloads. The only reason I can think of to do this would be to back them up to media or a different cloud environment. 

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Stargate Universe Review


"What if you took Stargate and made it darker, sexier and edgier?", said no fan ever. This show swiped the best of BGS and mashed it up with some great music, in front of a gate. It probably wasn't very good material for Stargate fans. 

But it was a really good show. I'd give it 4 of 5 stars. 

The actors were top-notch, the pacing slower, the sense of discovery was put at the forefront. Probably too much at the forefront. They wiped their butts with whatever Stargate had established. 

But it was good TV and science fiction. They stole a couple of key concepts from the series that came before it and ran like hell with them. The communication stones from the original show were placed front and center in the plot. These devices popped up in Season 8 of Stargate. "Citizen Joe" was probably meant to be a "cheap, one-off " episode to save on cast and film costs, but it was frakking brilliant.  SGU took that simple idea and made the speculative science fiction and flipped it towards contemplative. What does it mean to be "someone" if you can trade places? 

Like that one episode of Stargate, SGU tries to get into the head of the watcher by leaning on the contemplative. Some of the time, it worked. There were a lot of misses, but you could see the direction the show was taking. 

The show has many callbacks to some hard sci-fi, stuff so hard that it often isn't recognized as sci-fi at all. My personal favorite episode was "Trial and Error" which is a close crib of The Defence of Duffer's Drift. Capt Young experiences a series of dreams where the ship comes under attack. These dreams are the Destiny's attempts to communicate with the crew directly to determine their capabilities. It doesn't work well because as a program, the ship was expecting a commander to have all the answers, not to be the head of a team that creates answers on the fly. Young was exposed to his own failings and it became personal. Very personal. 

Another episode zig-zagged from high action romps back to the speculative. In Season One the episode "Time", the crew finds a Keno camera that recorded their deaths in an alternative universe which provides some answers to their current situation, again ask "who are you, if it's not really you?" 

Much of this show asks the question, "What does it mean to be x?". While Stargate was probably not the best vehicle for this contemplative study, it was very engrossing. This is the portion of the post where you click the link which goes to Amazon and I get compensated if you buy the item. #Ad


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Simutronics Gemstone IV F2P Review Part 1

Gemstone IV by Simutronics is an ancient MMO. I've tried to review it a couple of times, but each time out, I failed to capture the essence or appeal of the game. At age 23, the game has changed both a lot and very little in its life. 

This time, I'm taking a different tact. I will be reviewing this from the perspective of a new player in 2021 as a Free to Play player. It it a value investment in time? We'll see shortly. 

I have also decided to break this review up into many pieces, between 3-5. This is part one for character creation and first experiences. 

Title: Gemstone IV (GSIV)
Publisher: Simutonics
Platform: Windows, Mac, Others
Year: 1988

Gemstone IV is a text based open sandbox high fantasy gamed based in the world of Elanthia. It is heavy on the role play as much as the rolling of dice. In fact, there is a criterial that you not break character in game. In recent years, this standard has slacked off a bit but it is there. 

At first glance, it appears to be a clone of D&D, but that's not a fair assessment. It was based off of Rolemaster by Iron Crown Enterprises, the Shadow World campaign setting in particular. Although the contract lapsed decades ago, if you've played Rolemaster, you'll feel it's impact in the current game. 

Step one of the Mangler

Characters are generated in a system called "the Character Manager" or "The Mangler" by players. It's a points buy system. First you select a gender and move on to a class. There are 10 classes. 

Ten is a lot, so let's break them down to function. Melee based characters are the Monk, the Rogue and the Warrior. Spellslingers are Clerics, Empaths, Sorcerers and Wizards. Then there is a hybrid of the two in the form of Bards, Paladins and Rangers. Whole books have probably been written on these 10 types, so I am going to skip it until the next post. 

Once you have a class, you pick a culture and race. Just like D&D, you have elves, humans and dwarves plus 10 others. There is a mechanical advantage to picking a race as giantkin are strong, dwarves hardy, elves dexterous and so on. Other races are a little more complicated.  

Virtually all characters races have a selection of cultures to choose from. Unfortunately, a new player does not know any of this background, therefore can't sanely pick a culture.

Mechanically speaking, culture doesn't really matter at all. But it does matter when you interact with others. 

Up until recently, there was an imposed system of racial tolerances build right in. That, for the most part has been kick to the dust bin post 2020. 



Next up is a textual description of you character. You looks, for a text based game. Mechanically, this does nothing, but remember anyone who types "LOOK at" you will see this text. 

Next up are attributes. Again, there are 10 attributes ranked 1-100. You can't have an attribute under 20 and only one over 90. Race adds or subtracts from these limits. Note that two of the stats below are in red. That is your class's prime requisites, which general receive a bonus of 5-10. As you progress through the game, your stats go up. 

You could do a lot of research on what your scores should be, or you can hit the Auto button to have the game assign them for you. New characters get 5 chances to reset their skills in the first 30 days or 20th level. Yes, some people get hooked and can get a fifth of a way through the game in 30 days. 


Next are your skills. There are dozens of them. 


And like your attributes, there is an auto-generate button. The autogenerate button does build a playable character but after level 20, you'll see problems with these builds. 


Finally. It's time to name your character. Remember what I mentioned about staying in character, this is your first chance to blow it. They won't let you in with a name like "Ford Prefect" or "Yo Mamma" or "Dethsl4y3r". Deathslayer might have gotten a pass in the 1990s, so you've missed your chance. Don't do it now. 

And we're in! 


GSIV has many towns and nations. As a F2P account, you can random land in one of 3: Icemule Trace, Ta'Vaalor and Wehnimer's Landing. As a historical note, Wehnimer's Landing was the first city in the game and is the most populous in terms of players running around. Icemule Trace has an arctic theme, Ta'Vaalor is elven and the Landing is a human centric colonial boomtown.  

As you can see from the image above, you start of in a place. Each location in the game has a description and is generally called "a room" by players even though they might represent open spaces like a courtyard or a path by a stream. 

Also, each new character has a chance to experience an automated quest based on their class. These are called Sprite Quests and there are 5 of them. You can only do one and it will raise you from level 0 to 1 or 2 by the end. 

Loot and Prizes! In your first moments in the game, you will realize that you have some equipment. Clothes, weapons or a runestaff, armor, backpack, etc. You will also owe about 1000 silver to the town you are in. Typically, by the end of the Sprite Quest, this will be paid off. 

During your adventures with the Sprite, you will notice there are lot of key places in your town to explore and make use of. As a F2P character, you can keep a modest bank account in one town and one town only. Consider this choice carefully because if you move towns, you won't have the bank at your disposal. 

Next time we'll look at the various character choices and different play areas available. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Review - The Winds of Mars by H. M. Hoover

Title: The Winds of Mars
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1995
Pages: 192* pages
Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Helen Hoover was born in 1935, in Ohio. Her family home's basement that was dug back when Thomas Jefferson was president. From that humble beginning, she hopped from Los Angeles to New York City to finally land in Virginia. From 1973 to 1995, she wrote 16 published books. 

Mary Helen Hoover moves closer to home in this novel. As the name says, it takes place on Mars. Additionally, the story seems to set itself in a reasonable close time period to now. Say 200-400 years in the future. 

Annalyn Court is the daughter of the President of Mars, a man she has never met. She has been raised to take her appointed place in the elite upper class of Martian citizens. The question is, does she want that? 

The answer is not very clear. Starting with Court's earliest memories and progressing into young womanhood, she carves a path against her planned fate. Adventure and horror await and she clashes those who would make the average Martian subservient to the immortal upper class. 

This is one of my least favorite of Hoover books. First, it delves into YA horror and shock. Second, it has slightly dated itself through no fault of Hoover's. The fact is, Mars is now well known territory and her outdated information is rather glaring. There are fights, gunfire and bombings which is atypical for Hoover but handled very well when compared to most YA books about war. People die. Important people die. It's rough for a Young Adult title but nothing compared to the crap that is put out today. 

All of this running against some very child-like scenarios and characters. One of the standout characters in the book has a punny name: Hector Protector. He is the droid bodyguard of Annalyn Court. Almost three decades ago, such things were probably innovative; but now "Hector Protect Her" doesn't stand the test of time. It seems like a very fairytale addition to a book about a young woman coming of age and into her own on her own. It doesn't make sense. 

I happen to love the character Hector, but my daughter declares that he sucked. If only he had his own book because he is conceptually interesting but misplaced in a story about a woman growing up. It cuts the ending off at the knees. 

It is a quick and enjoyable read and available at Amazon. This is the portion of the post where you click the link which goes to Amazon and I get compensated if you buy. #Ad

* Amazon lists this book at 126 pages but it seems to be more like 200. 



Or you could get this book as a part of one the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Kindle Unlimited Memberships offer access to 1 million book titles like The Winds of Mars, or current magazines and Audible Narration for your books. Best yet, it offers a 30-day trial so you can test it out before you buy.

Review - Invasion of Theed Boxed Set

Happy Star Wars Day! 

Title: Invasion of Theed Boxed Set
Design: Bill Slavicsek
Year: 2000
Pages: 2 32 page booklets, and 16 page character sheets folio.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Theed is the capital of Naboo and this adventure runs contemporaneously with the end of the film, The Phantom Menace. The party of up to 8 players fights to help the Queen free Naboo from the threat of the Sith Lord.

This set is a modification of the rules that appear in Wizards of the Coast's Star Wars: Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. These "simplifed" rules cut out everything not necessary to run the adventure. It is heavily combat orientated, but other non-combat situations are addressed in a limited fashion. Characters star at level one and have the potential to level up several times during play. 

This set features 2 game booklets, one for the rules and second is the module. Players are given gloriously detailed 2 page character sheets which also include activity prompts and a rule guide focused on their particular character. There are 2 maps plus 2 sheets of tokens. 0

The adaption of the 200+ page d20 ruleset from the core book to simplified adventure game is more than adequate. As a fighting system, it is rock solid. Many items are pre calculated, such as experience. This takes a load off the Gamemaster and places it on the characters. Everything runs extremely smoothly. 

Being an introductory set, there will be situations the players could ask about that is not included. A season GM would have immediate answers but a newbie would invoke "That not possible" for these few situations. 

Being run alongside the events of The Phantom Menace, the players will notice that they don't really meet too many of the characters in the film and definitely don't interact with them in any meaningful way. It seems their insertion into the game was driven by IP consultants trying to sandwich in all of the content from the movie. 

If you look at the cover of the boxed set, you can see that the artists were free of this concept. Not a single major character is featured there. But the created characters fit wonderfully with the theme of the film, like a second batch of heroes in this titanic battle. The premade characters sheets include a very minimal backstory, usually only to account for their abilities such as being a soldier or Jedi. They can be made into whatever the player has in mind for their character. 

Lost on the back page of one of the booklets is a one page character sheet. This is a nice addition as it allows someone to roll a completely new character for the set. 

There are only two flaws to this set. First, major film characters are shoehorned into the end of the adventure in a way that can never be canon breaking, which will give the players a sense of being rooked in victory. 

The other flaw is only apparent if you have the Core rules. Scale is reduced to "squares" in this boxed which convert to a standard 2 meters in the core rules. So, when switching from this set to the main rules and back, invariably new players will screw up ranges by a factor of two. This isn't too bad, in my opinion. The Core set lists unrealistically low ranges for virtually every weapon. The idea that an energy rifle only covers "40 meters" or "20 squares" is somewhat ludicus. Forget the scale and just have fun. No one will notice. 
 
All and all this is a great introduction to Star Wars and d20. 

Sadly this set is out of print and not available in pdf. You can pick up a used copy at Amazon and full retail price, which is a shame. 


Monday, May 3, 2021

Review - The Rains of Eridan by H. M. Hoover

Title: The Rains of Eridan
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1977
Pages: 292 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eridan is an old world. Dry and slow under the heat of the little sun. Humanity reached out to it via their corporate sector explorers, founding three bases on the planet. As the story begins, a sort of madness takes them. The teams become obsessed with collecting strange crystals found out in the wilderness. 

Theodora (Theo) Leslie was equally obsessed, but with life not rock. As a biologist, she secreted herself away in the mountain wilds to explore and document all these new forms of life. 

Until death arrived. A mutiny broke out and the conspirators decided that Theo's forward base was a perfect place to dump the bodies. Theo rescues a young woman from the targeted kills and being a run for safety and sanity while searching for the cause of this plague of violence. 

The Rains of Eridan is a shift in focus for H. M. Hoover. These characters are heavily weaponized and Theo as an adult in charge of a young survivor introduces the maturity of love and compassion that does not come out in her other works. Hardly a romance novel, Hoover explores the different ways that people interact and come to care for one another on many different levels. The love story in this novel is multifaceted and pleasantly surprising. 

Of course, being who she is, Hoover only allows one love story to end within the pages of the book, allowing the others to persist in the reader's memories and questions. Many of her works seem to end before the end comes allowing the reader's imagination to take flight after the work is over. It's actually a wonderful thing to have open questions at the end of the reading.

The weaponization of the characters plays out in grim violence, which is delicately handled in this young adult book. The devices and scenarios are creatively but never come down to the insanity of technobabble. 

An artist like Hoover opens doors as the reader progresses through her works, but never opens the pandora's box of over the top creations.   



Or you could get this book as a part of one the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Kindle Unlimited Memberships offer access to 1 million book titles like The Rains of Eridan, or current magazines and Audible Narration for your books. Best yet, it offers a 30 day trial so you can test it out before you buy.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Review - The Lost Star by H. M. Hoover

Title: The Lost Star
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1979
Pages: 160 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

H. M. Hoover spent a lot of her time traveling from city to city in search of something. She apparently found it Virgina, where she settled down to write. Billed as a "young adult writer", her works are short and simple, and eye opening because they often feature worldviews and perspectives which could only those of a child. Exploration of the novel situations and realizations of discovery from the lens of the child's eye are her thing. 

Lian is a 15 year child of brilliant astronomers on expedition to Balthor. Her parents are researching a star projected to go nova, which gives Lian itchy feet. A voluntary supply run ends in a crash, and Lian finds herself in world much larger than she new existed. Rescued by archaeologists investigating ancient structures and strange creatures, Lian opens their eyes to incredible discoveries. 

As her discoveries mount, she enters a strange exchange with a machine-creature called The Counter and wild animals dubbed "Lumpies". The two are related. And her discoveries are all civilization altering, not just for humans but for other races on the expedition. Differences breed mistrust, but also kindness and compassion. 

Join Lian, Cuddles and Scotty on this wonderful adventure.

If you don't have a Kindle to read, why not pick one up? 

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Book Review - Another Heaven, Another Earth by H. M. Hoover

Title: Another Heaven, Another Earth
Author: H. M. Hoover
Year: 1981
Pages: 224 pages
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary Helen Hoover was born in 1935, in Ohio. Her family home's basement that was dug back when Thomas Jefferson was president. From that humble beginning, she hopped from Los Angeles to New York City to finally land in Virginia. From 1973 to 1995, she wrote 16 published books. 

Another Heaven, Another Earth takes place on Xilan, a planet far from Earth. The crew of the Kekelu find it to be an idyllic place for potential colonization. Except for one problem. The colonists of Xilan had been there for over 500 years. Alerted by The Cube, a centuries old device of unknown origin, the healer Gareth stumbles on to the Kekelu's survey teams throwing their corporate colony venture into chaos. 

The crew of the Kekule struggle to discover the source of Gareth's people, research their devolved technology and question how they came to be abandoned while fighting disease and infection brought on by this unusual first contact situation. 

Gareth's people are revolted by the spacemen's attitude of superiority and treatment of the "primitives", seeing themselves not being "devolved" but survivors and masters of their world. Families struggled against the challenges of a new world while retaining what knowledge they could of the past.   

Hoover pulls no punches with this classic story of first contact while successfully weaving a story that resists time by resisting the typical technobabble of the 1980s. Due to this lack of technobabble, aside from the one mention of film, the book avoids all the tropes that would date it. 

While written for the young adult audience, it is wonderful story for people of all ages. 

Pick up a digital copy at Amazon.com. 

Or try it for free with a Kindle Unlimited Plan. See the link below for plan details.
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
Or you could get this book as a part of one the Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans. Kindle Unlimited Memberships offer access to 1 million book titles like Another Heaven, Another Earth, or current magazines and Audible Narration for your books. Best yet, it offers a 30 day trial so you can test it out before you buy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Post 1000ish: Review of Myst

Title: Myst
Publisher: Broderbund
Developers: Cyan, Inc.
Author: Rand and Robyn Miller
Year: 1993
OS: Macintosh

I lucked out in having a computer or two since 1980. I purchased a Timex Sinclair with the 8 k extended memory for the outrageous price of $126.00. It was so expensive at the time, I financed it and made 12 payments of $12.25.16.6% interest! Not bad for a kid financed entirely shoveling snow and mowing lawns. I needed mom's help. Every month I gave her $12.25 in cash and she wrote a check for me.  

With everything going into the basic cost of the computer, I had to beg my parents to buy me software. A lot of times, I had to settle for going to the library for books on programing and a blank tape for storage. In 1981, the film War Games sparked my imagination as to what computers could be.  

A little over a decade later, I discovered a game that embraced both limitations and imagination to amazing effect. 

Myst.

You're the protagonist in a story that isn't told but shown. The limits of the then modern day Macintosh allowed for spectacular images, but only just an image. One at a time. Plus a bit of sound. To do this, the Rand Brothers tweaked the hell out of their hardware and software, even stripping down the color palettes to capitalize on the Mac's meager specs. Better than everything else on the market but still limited to handful of hertz and less than a half dozen megs of RAM.  

Gorgeous images told the story of a family shattered by envy, power and pride. Using the linking books, you search for the pages that will restore Sirrus, Achenar, and Atrus, whoever they might be. Catherine, the wife of Atrus and the mother of Achenar and Sirrus appears only via a note. You have no idea what is happening and what needs to be done. Your quest takes you to different worlds called "Ages" to recover the pages. 

Each Age, named Selenitic, Stoneship, Mechanical, and Channelwood contains puzzles to be solved. The mechanic of the game required at least two puzzles, one to progress in the game and a second so you may return to Myst Island. Travel between Ages required a book written to describe that age. Open the book and see the Age. Touch the page and enter the Age. To return, you need to find the linking book hidden within the Age. Ingenious.   

Game mechanics were limited to clicks. Nothing else. Move? Click. Actions? Click. 

Pure and simple. Easy? Hell, no. 

While the execution is simple, the hardware had just enough umph for a wonderful musical score plus tiny postage stamp size videos, which when they appeared were like magic. Puzzles were challenging but not insane or click-hell. 

The requirements of the game also allowed for very creative storytelling. There is no clock, no death, no violence, and no enemies. Yet the nature of the game caused tension. This is the fusion of art and storytelling at it's finest.  

This 28 year old game was the reason I started blogging. I wanted to make a fan site for this game. You'll notice there are no stars assigned to this review. How could I assign stars to something that provoked 10 plus years of work, hundreds of posts exploring the nature of play and entertainment. 


As a corollary to this review, gave my oldest son Paul a set of hardcover Myst novels I obtained from Amazon. As former library books, they were cheap. But my son claimed that made them more special. 

"These books have passed through many hands. They were loved my many people and loved by me." He was 10 and that was more eloquent that I could be. And it was true. 
 

For his 11th birthday, he asked for Amazon gift cards. 

"I want some books. I need books." 

So, his grandparents, aunt and godmother, and my wife and I gave him Amazon gift cards. And he got the books he loved so much. 

He ordered a complete set of Myst soft covered books. When I questioned this purchase he explained, "The little books are Linking Books. You need them both to succeed." 

To say that this one game has shaped many parts of my life would be an understatement. 

The world of Myst has expanded greatly, but these links are a start if you are interested. 

Unwritten: Adventures in the Ages
of MYST and Beyond from
DriveThruRPG


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New Mutants - Review

Title: The New Mutants (2020)
Publisher: 20th Century Studios
Year: 2020
Rating: 2 of 5 stars.

I've been a long time fan of The New Mutants. The idea of seeing the characters come to life on the big screen got me really excited. 

Until I saw it. This damn film has been to Limbo more times than Illyana has. It was not worth the wait, it seems to suffer from some sort of technovirus in addition to many questionable story and plot choices. 

Here is the run down of the character's names and powers: 

Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane. A mutant that can take the form of a wolf or a transitional human/wolf form. She has all of the sense of wolves plus more strength and perhaps a healing factor. 

Sam Guthrie, Cannonball. Can generate thrust anywhere on his body to propel himself through the air. While thrusting, he is impervious to anything. He does not have a healing factor. 

Roberto "Bobby" da Costa, Sunspot. Bobby has the ability to absorb sunlight and use it to empower himself with great strength, invulnerability and flames. 

Danielle "Dani" Moonstar, Mirage. Dami has the ability to project people's greatest fears and make them real. Historically, she not good at nicknames. Not only has her character changed her own code name in the comics several times, she doesn't even use other people's code names. A rare inversion of the "movie stars have no comic book codenames" trope. 

And finally, Illyana Rasputin. Magik. Oh, boy. She's a sorceress with a magic sword, the ability to teleport, partial body armor, a tail, and a baby dragon. 

There are only three other characters, Dani's dad, the Demon Bear and the evil doctor Dr. Cecilia Reyes who can make force shields.   

The film does a variable job at depicting the character's powers on a budget. The effects were on-par with Ready Player One which is not a complement. Ready Player One was a massive mashup of decades worth of video game art which works in that film. It isn't great for other film types like The New Mutants.  

The whole premise of the movie didn't make sense. The kiddos are trapped or staying a hospital for mutants. The hospital had a staff of one, Dr. Reyes. 

Now, I've had a bit of experience working with kids and young adults. The first rule of these sorts of operations are two deep leadership. If you are not using two deep leadership, you're an imbecile. Dr. Reyes is an imbecile, she's trying keep the kiddos in the hospital all alone. Sam, Bobby and Rahne have given themselves over to the idea of staying. That kind of works. Dani is uncertain as to what is happening, leaving her open to staying or escaping as the chance presents. That doesn't go well at all. 

The final character, Illyana has something else going on. She's a mass murderer and can teleport. Why is she still here, if not to kill everyone else in the film? And she definitely hates everyone, in a nasty, condescending, racist way.  

As far depicting superpowers, they did a good job for a few of the characters. Sam's blasting ability was a great special effect. Dani and Rahne power's appear reasonable well done, magic and werewolves are classic B-movie fodder. They couldn't have done this poorly if they had tried. I think they tried. Bobby's abilities were just ho-hum. Illyana's powers come off as a cheap video game most of the time for no good reason. 

Magik has the most wide ranging abilities, each with a vast scope. But they attempted to confine her character in tight spaces, like either Nightcrawler in the Oval Office or Captain America in the elevator. It was not a good choice because she has a massive frickin' sword. It looks like she can't fit in those spaces. When she gets out the open, they do a far better job at displaying her powers but by that time they had already decided on the video game style which wasn't applicable to the filming process.

Far too much time was spent on Rahne, who is a the most likeable character in the film but not the protagonist. They were one step away from having "The Wolfsbane Movie" and failed to make it. That would have been better than this, even if it was called, "A Werewolf in Starbucks". 

My favorite bit was everytime Sam used his powers. He displays these brilliant blue/orange shimmery flames like charcoal on the grill which is an amazing play on his character. Sam comes from a mining family, so the reflection of coal in his powers is pure awesome. 

Magik was shown trying to knock the Demon Bear into Limbo. It made perfect sense since she couldn't win in straight combat, but this tactic was negated by the strange video game special effects. It was kind of hard to tell that was her intent rather than random flashy scenery. The Demon Bear was awesome and terrifying, but the viewer shouldn't be rooting for the villain. 

All and all, I give it one and half stars of five. (EDIT -- On rewatching, I've decided that Rahne and Sam merit a star on their own, so two-ish stars) Maybe you should read my 5 star review of Dungeons and Dragons (2000) to evaluate how not good this was.  

Now showing on HBOMax, but you could wait a bit longer. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Game Review - Home Worlds

Title: Home Worlds
Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: John Cooper
Artist:  OTHER Studio
Year: 2020
Pages: 32
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first page of the instruction sheet sums it up: "What Chess is to medieval warfare, Homeworlds is to Star Trek and Star Wars." 

Yup. 

This game is fascinating. You're off to fight an interstellar war against an opponent, manage resources, planets and ships with just 4 types of game pieces. Insane, but it works. This is one of many games by Looney Labs which use the Looney Pyramids. The game includes 36 pyramids of differing sizes and colors, a board for the bank, the rule book and a token to indicate which player's turn it is. 

Star Systems are indicated by an upright pyramid. Ships are indicated by a pyramid lying on it's side, your ships a;ways point away from you. Enemy ships point towards you. When a system is explored, a new upright pyramid is placed from the bank. When all ships leave a system, that planet is placed back in the bank. 

Movement is simple. You can only move to stars of different sizes. Stars of the same size are not connected and travel is blocked. A binary star, two stars in one system is connected to stars that do not match either of the two star sizes. 

Each player picks a color and builds their home world with a binary star and one large ship. The colors you choose at the start of the game controls your choices later on, so choose carefully. All of a sudden, your opening choices create puzzles to be solved by you. Color and size of the play pieces represent different options and limitations. 

Players choose from a Basic Action, a Sacrifice action which puts a pyramid back in the bank or a "pass". Passing your turn isn't optimal at the start but I am told that no action might be the best option later in the game. There is a forced action called a Catastrophe when the players place 4 of the same color pieces in the same star system. 

Each color means something: 

Green=Build
Red=Fight
Yellow=Move
Blue=Trade


Pretty simple? No. 

Size also determines what each piece can do. It all gets very complex very fast. 

These simple rules create a very rich system of game play. One of the nicer aspects of the game is it assumes loopholes in the rules will allow a player to create actual logical loops in play which may seem like cheating, but are merely built in options which may or may not be useful based on the pieces in play. This also makes the bank behave as a "third actor" in a two person game. What is in the bank creates or limits options. 

There are 3 win options, destroy all of your enemy's ships, destroy his or her home world or force your opponent into causing a Catastrophe in their home system. There are also a draw  and deadlock conditions which result in a tie. 

I've only played 10 or 20 times and not always to completion, but the rule set is so ingenious, it keeps pulling me back for more. I really want to master this system and Home Worlds. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Jendart - The Not Review

I've mention how many times I've been sucked into a document because of the artwork. Simon Miles, Todd Leback, and now jendart

Screencap of the artist on Jendart.com

Jenna Lauren Drummond did the cover art for several of Todd Leback's books. And I really love this style of work. It turns out that this doesn't seem to be the style that appears on jendart.com. There is a lot to love over on that website. Go ahead and check it out. Personally, I like the frogmen and the sci-fi stuff. The frogman is insanely animated, but the sci-fi collection is just poses. Nice to see both fluid action and static poses.  

Let me talk about why I love the covers of Todd Laback's series of books, since this style doesn't seem to feature on Jedart.com. 

It's the floating angles and the capture of the hex crawl ideal. The first product I saw was Hexcrawl Basics. I just love that this image is a map and landscape from the air. It's not avant garde or experimental or any other fancy thing, it's simply perfect for the book title. Everything you would wonder about "Hexcrawl Basics" is summarized in the image. Click the link to check it out on DriveThruRPG. There are interesting locals like the focal point keep and the walled town, plain areas and the sky above it all, with no edge to world as everything fades at the horizon. 

That is pretty much "Hexcrawl Basics" in a nutshell. 

The next title is "Filling in the Blanks" and I am sure you can see why I mentioning this one. I'm going to do a review and I want to get my admiration of the cover out of my brain before diving into this book. 

This image I like for a completely different reason. It reminds me of the comic book artist, Pablo Raimondi. Back in the 1990s, he had a quick, savage style which he lent to the covers of X-Factor. He went for impossible angles and clear cut actions. 

Jendart's handling of the image captures nearly everything from the Hexcrawl Basics title while also embracing whimsy. I love the viewing angle above the characters in the foreground. While it isn't a one for one match with Pablo Raimondi's cover art, I can see that sort of see the "capture the moment" aspect in it. Even though we can't see the heroes' faces, there is a clear sense of wonder in their poses. 

Edit - My apologies, I keep editing this post when I recall something that stood out to me. Expect that to happen a lot. We all have deal with crap like that. 

EDIT 2: I have been misspelling the name of the Jendart website in maybe 3-5 posts. I am so sorry and embarrassed. Because of the way blogger works, this mistake shall ever be memorized in the links which cannot be changed. Ugh. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Review - The Seventh Decimate

Title: The Seventh Decimate
Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Pages: 319
Year: 2017
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Donaldson is known for his use of obscure words and bleak stories where characters confront and cross their self created moral event horizons in support of a wide and wild ranging story. The Seventh Decimate is clearly born of this style of storytelling, but nicely reverses itself so as to place the reader at a distance from the main characters. The use of this "observation mode" narration is effective and engrossing as the reader can understand the main antagonist's point of view without having to buy into it. Additionally, the prose lacks those obscure words and heavy sentence structures Donaldson is so well know for using. This makes for a quick read.  

This book describes the war between the magic using Amikans and the gun toting Bellegerian forces. There is no lead up to this juxtaposition of genres, Donaldson just lays it out there for the reader. The plight of both kingdoms are presented in the Bellegerian Prince's point of view. The Prince, a simple man, lacks many of the horrible traits of Thomas Covenant and he is a transparent character for the reader to study. Oddly, this level of transparency makes the Prince an ideal, if unlikely, hero to carry the story to completion. Being that this is Donaldson, there are many "What the Hell, Hero?" moments in this story, but none of them are surprising or horrifying which is a heavy shift in style for the author. There is nothing terribly inexplicable in the Prince's actions, he is flawed and simple but never works in a way to sabotage the story for the sake of a twist. And there are many twists.  

The final chapter is rather disappointing as a singular book, the cliffhanger ending is great for a series but may put off the casual reader who was expecting some sort of solid end point. However, that end IS exactly as you would expect which is very pleasing. 

I can't wait to read the next book, The War Within. All links will take you Amazon.com to check out the series. \

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Film (2000) Review

Title: Dungeons and Dragons
Publisher: New Line Cinema
Year: 2000
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

Am I insane? 5 stars for the 2000 Dungeons and Dragons movie? Yes, I am but it isn't a factor here.  

We have a film starring Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and the Original GQ Smoothy Jeremy Irons. They tried to work with all kinds of Intellectual Properties from the game and it's a dud. 

Well. That has to be some sort of record. How could you fail with that much background information and those actors? Easily, apparently. 

But why would I give it 5 stars? 

It's funny really. It's like someone at New Line Cinema sat down at a table and said, "Gee, let's throw some money at a long list of actors who probably aren't filming something today and we'll see what happens. We can fix a lot of stuff with edits and in post." Looking at the list of people involved with this project, they could have picked worse people. Hell, some of them I like a lot. Actors, directors, writers and so on. When it comes to the actors, I am sure they went out of their way trying to make an excellent movie and I am positive it was perfect. 

What they missed was a quality Dungeon Master. You know, someone who could come up with an engrossing story and snappy delivery. Something that makes the players want to come back for more. 

If only that they hired an actual DM to actually, you know, produce something. Instead, what we got was Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and Jeremy Irons all in a room, picking their character sheets and paychecks off the commissary table and trying to work out their motivation in all of this over some dicey ham salad sandwiches. 

The result is laughly bad. How could they pick out 8 people with actual 18+ charisma scores and botch a movie? 

Well... they didn't. The result is exactly like if you sat down with Justin, Marlon, Thora and the gang and tried to play D&D for the first time. I can't tell you how many horrible campaigns I've put stellar players through and this movie captures this process perfectly. This film is a perfect rendition of every noob mistake made by a rookie DM. 

5 of 5 stars. 

"I know Mr. Irons. You ARE charismatic. You just rolled a one, that's all. It happens..."

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: Dark Forces

Title: Dark Forces
Publisher: LucasArts
Year: 1995
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, memories. In Dark Forces, you control Kyle Katarn on his mission to recover the Death Star Plans and save the rebellion from the Evil Empire. 

Oh, but there's more... Kyle discovers a secret base on the Arc Hammer, ready to pump out a new weapon system, the Dark Troopers. This is one of the first times Star Wars fans access the universe via a character who does not have the Force and does not pilot a cool ship. Han Solo and Wedge, Kyle is not.

The game plays out like a cross between The Mandalorian and Doom. Considering how the 1990's were, that should be no surprise. It was refreshing not to see Sith and Jedi gumming up a straight shooter game along with the idea that the Cool Ship was merely a vehicle within the story, not the main character like TIE and X-Wing.

Kyle does a cool ship, but it's not an item you use on your missions. It carries you from and to each mission via screen cuts. The Moldy Crow is epic looking and seems to be the look Bungie was going for in Destiny with the Guardian's ships. 

This game is very similar to Doom in it's execution, but has some notable differences. Like Doom, Kyle Katarn  is armed with an array of weapons, each one except fists needing ammunition. These weapons can strafe and have two modes of file. 

They are: 

1 Fist
2 Bryar Blaster Pistol
3 E-11 blaster rifle
4 Thermal Detonator
5 Imperial Repeater Gun
6 Jeron Fusion Cutter
7 I.M. Mine
8 Packered Mortar Gun
9 Stouker Concussion Rifle
10 Assault Cannon

In addition to these weapons, Katarn has a collection of items which are helpful. Headlamps and Infrared googles, a breathing mask, ice cleats, and medi packs are all necessary to complete the game. Kyle will also need batteries, power ups and extra lives to make it to the end. 

Unlike Doom, the player is able to look up and down, move vertically and maps simulate different elevations. There are jumping puzzles, mazes, environmental hazards to stymie the player. It has three levels of difficulty to assist the new player get into the game. 

Mission 1: The Death Star Plans: Operation Skyhook – Secret Base
Mission 2: After the Massacre – Talay (Tak Base)
Mission 3: The Subterranean Hideout – Anoat City
Mission 4: Imperial Weapons Research Facility – Research Facility
Mission 5: The Blood Moon – Gromas Mines
Mission 6: Crix Madin’s Fate – Detention Center
Mission 7: Deadly Cargo – Ramsees Hed
Mission 8: Ice Station Beta – Robotics Facility
Mission 9: The Death Mark – Nar Shaddaa
Mission 10: Jabba’s Revenge – Jabba’s Ship
Mission 11: The Imperial Mask – Imperial City
Mission 12: Smuggler’s Hijack – Fuel Station
Mission 13: The Stowaway – The Executor
Mission 14: The Dark Awakening – The Arc Hammer

Gamer Walkthroughs is an excellent resource I wish I had back in 1995. Each mission has specific win parameters, so you need to hunt for solutions and solve puzzles. If all the Storm Troopers are not enough for you, you'll fight Boba Fett, a Kell Dragon with no weapons and finally, face off against the terrifying Dark Trooper. 


While no longer canonical Star Wars, it's nice to see some of these scenarios come to life via The Mandalorian.  

The audio track was excellent, the music virtually lifted from the movies. The use of stereo sound was terrifying, you hear things coming from the proper direction with headphones. The first time a Dark Trooper attacks, you know it's badassed just by the sound of it's footsteps. 

The AI is sort of lack luster and the missions are designed Doom style meaning you don't sneak or bypass enemies. It's straight up blast and kill session even though you have a story and mission parameters. 

Performance was iffy if I remember correctly. 4 MB was not enough for you to get the full effect. It's even choppy on my Sawtooth, which has more than enough horse power for 1990 games. 

All and all, I give this game 4 stars. Go check out the videos at Gamer Walkrhrough for a feel of the game.