8 Bit Attack Review

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Publisher: Petersen Games
Age: 10+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 60-90 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Cooperative dungeon crawling is one of my favorite digital past-times, and the same is true for tabletop gaming. In Petersen Games’ 8 Bit Attack, the pixelated dungeon has been distilled into a series of boss battles against aliens and demons, culminating in a gigantic showdown with Cthulhu himself.

The character and monster variety create lots of different situations, though the dice-chucking gameplay wears out its welcome long before it’s over.

Select Your Fighter

Before delving into the pixelated battles, players choose their character from an impressively diverse roster of cyborgs, elves, fish-ladies, suit-wearing ghostbusters, and drunken demonologists. A total of 20 heroes are available, each with their own character sheet, abilities, and future upgrades.

This is not a game where you can randomly deal out characters and waltz into a battle, however. The champions and minions you face will punish any team that hasn’t been carefully planned and balanced, including defensive tanks and supportive healers and buffers.

There are four waves of battles before taking on final boss Cthulhu, whose massive armor, damage, and stunning capabilities require the team to level up substantially before even having a chance at facing old squidface.

Players have to collectively decide what Assault level they want to face on each wave, from 1 to 7. A level 1 Assault will result in only three enemies, a champion and two minions, but there’s a big difference between splitting those three enemies up between three or four players than with two. Defeating level 1 only results in a single precious medal for the entire team, which can be used to upgrade heroes with life-saving armor, or gain new abilities.

Heroes are pressured to tackle the hardest possible assault level they can muster to maximize their medal gains, leading to long, drawn-out battles against half a dozen enemies, each of which can activate buffs and debuffs. I would have preferred level waves that gradually progress in difficulty (you know, like an 8-bit video game), and that each wave properly scaled for the number of players.

Boss Rush

The gameplay boils down to rolling a pair of dice to attack with either Slow or Fast hits, and using your limited energy to activate character-specific abilities. Even the lowliest minion often has a greater damage output than most un-leveled heroes – and enemies don’t have to roll dice. Due to the awful armor system, it’s not uncommon for a player to roll dice and not be able to do much of anything on their turn once they run out of energy, while enemies continue to mete out the pain.

Depending on the number of players and Assault levels, it can easily take two hours just to get to Cthulhu. Most champions have around 30 hit points with minions hovering around 10 hp each. By comparison, Cthulhu has 25 hit points PER PERSON, meaning 100 HP in a four player game! Even if you have a solid strategy that’s gotten your team this far, you’re still left at the whims of the dice, while Cthulhu gleefully stuns a player every single turn for the ridiculous amount of time you have to battle him. Elder god indeed.

Stellar components could have elevated the frustrating experience, but 8 Bit Attack suffers from the opposite problem. The cheap components remain a hassle throughout, from constantly shuffling heart damage tokens around to the annoying buff and debuff cards and timer tokens, turning the battlefield into a chaotic mess within the first few minutes.

The Rating

The recommended age range for 8 Bit Attack is 10+. It’s easy to teach, with tactics and synergy between heroes unfolding through experience.

The Takeaway

I can appreciate a challenging co-op game, and I love the rule-of-cool approach to throwing in demons, aliens, and cosmic horror. But 8 Bit Attack quickly became a slog in every game I played. Battles took way too long for too little strategy, and the difficulty ramps up to a ridiculous degree. Old video games were often frustrating, and I didn’t need to experience that all over again in 8 Bit Attack.

Find 8 Bit Attack at Petersen Games Website.

holiday guide

Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for Gaming Families

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With new consoles looming on the horizon, 2019 could’ve been a quieter year in gaming.

Thankfully it was anything but quiet, with hugely anticipated sequels like Kingdom Hearts 3, The Division 2, and Borderlands 3, excellent newcomers like The Outer Worlds and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and delightful indies such as Wargroove and Untitled Goose Game.

If you’re thinking of getting a new console this holiday season, we would wholly recommend the Nintendo Switch, or the Switch Lite. While PlayStation and Xbox consoles have never been cheaper, entirely new consoles are launching next year from both companies.

The Switch, however, is enjoying another banner year in 2019, seeing several big entries in beloved series such as Super Mario Maker and Pokémon, as well as a robust library of indie games and cross-platform titles. And the handheld-only Switch Lite, which launched earlier this year, may prove to be the most kid-friendly console of all time.

Below you’ll find links to our 2019 gaming gift recommendations, including tabletop games, organized by Younger Kids (under 10), Kids and Teens (10-16), and Mature Teens (17+). Note that many kid-friendly games, such as Super Mario Maker 2 and Pokémon Sword and Shield, are beloved by kids, teens, and adults alike.

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oathbreaker

Pixelkin 2019 Holiday Gift Guide: Board Games

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Despite (or perhaps because of) video gaming’s incredible popularity, board and card games continue to ride a golden wave of success. Like their digital counterparts, tabletop games come in all shapes, sizes, genres, and age groups.

Below you’ll find our list of some of the hottest new games of 2019 divided by Kids (~8-13) and Teens (14+). Note that “Kids” doesn’t mean Teens and Adults won’t love them too!

Kids

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers

invasion of the cow snatchers

Invasion of the Cow Snatchers is more a series of puzzles than a board game. Fences and disc-cows are assembled in a small grid, and players must carefully navigate their magnetic UFO to pick up cows and avoid getting stuck behind fences. The box includes 60 puzzles divided into five difficulty levels, making it a brain-teasing winner for kids and adults.

The Mind

The Mind is a simple card game with a hilariously devious premise. Players need to play their randomly dealt number cards (1-100) to the center of the table, in ascending order. Play the wrong card, and you lose a precious life. The catch is that no one can talk to each other, forcing lots of furtive looks and telling grunts. The Mind features 12 levels of increasing difficulty, as each player must calculate a larger hand size.

Funkoverse Strategy Games

Fans of the bobblehead-like Funko pop figures can throw down the gauntlet in this new series of tactical Funkoverse Strategy Games. At launch you can find DC, Harry Potter, and Rick and Morty packs in 2-character and 4-character sets, and each come with exclusive Funkopop figures.

Wayfinders

In Wayfinders, players place their workers on hangars to gain resources, then use them to move their plan among a randomly generated set of islands, building airstrips and gaining victory points. It’s an easy-to-teach gateway game to the wonderful worker placement genre.

 

Teens

The Blockbuster Party Game

The Blockbuster Party Game is the ultimate movie trivia game, featuring multiple party game trivia modes, including head-to-head categories, quotes, and even silently acting out movie scenes, and it’s all wrapped up in a nostalgic VHS tape package.

Clank Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated

We love the Clank games for combing dungeon crawling with deck building. Clank Legacy combines two more of our favorites: the overarching campaign RPG structure of a legacy game, and the hilariously fun machinations of the Penny Arcade D&D group, Acq Inq!

Disney Villainous: Wicked to the Core and Evil Comes Prepared 

If you followed our advice and got the excellent asymmetrical game Disney Villainous last year, you’re more than due to check out the two new expansions, each adding three new villains that feature their own unique and thematically appropriate paths to victory.

Game of Thrones: Oathbreaker

oathbreaker

Game of Thrones finally ended earlier this year, but you and your friends can carry on the backstabbing and subterfuge with Oathbreaker, which takes the hidden role system of many a party game and divides players into two teams of loyalists and conspirators, and a paranoid king who must determine which is which.

Jaws Board Game

Who would’ve guessed a board game based on the seminal 1975 film would be so darn good? The Jaws Board Game is two games in one, with the first act featuring the human players scrambling to find the shark before it eats too many swimmers. The second act takes place entirely on the boat, as the shark destroys it (and the humans) while the humans try to guess where it will surface and attack. For a game where one player plays a man-eating shark on a team of their own, it’s surprisingly well-balanced and wonderfully tense.

Wingspan

One of the best reviewed board games of the year is about bird-watching, and collecting birds for your personal wildlife preserve. Wingspan features over 150 bird species, gorgeous artwork, colorful egg tokens, large player mats, and an awesome bird-feeder dice tower.

The Blockbuster Party Game Review

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Publisher: Big Potato Games
Age: 12+
Players: 4-8
Game Length: 20 mins
MSRP: $19.99

The category was “movies with superheroes.” My wife and I locked eyes from across the table, hands poised over the buzzer. What followed was a hilariously heated exchange as we realized the incredible amount of superhero films we’ve seen together.

The Blockbuster Party Game combines multiple social party game modes within a delightfully nostalgic package, hearkening back to those 90s days of Friday night runs to the VHS tape emporium, Blockbuster Video.

Be Kind, Please Rewind

In the Blockbuster Party Game, players divide into two teams. Gameplay is divided into two halves, with the first half featuring a head-to-head match between two players on opposing teams. A card is drawn from a deck of 60 category cards, such as “movies set during Christmas,” or “movies by Steven Spielberg.” Both players call out answers while hitting the buzzer to impose a 15-second timer on their opponent, until one of them is stumped.

In the second half of the game, the winner of the head-to-head match draws six cards from a different deck of 200 movie cards, selects three, and gives the other three to the losing player. Both players choose which of their three cards to put in each of the three spots on the board for their team to guess. Depending on the spot that was chosen, the players then take turns using a single word, a single quote, or attempting to act out a scene in the hopes their team guesses each film.

The 200-card movie deck contains a rich assortment of popular films, spread among eight different genres, from Horror and Animation to All-Time Classics. Even if you’re not a cinephile, there’s a solid chance you’ve at least heard of movies like Groundhog Day, Rambo, and Forest Gump. The game ends when one team acquires at least one of each genre movie card by correctly guessing the movie.

For a light party game, there remains a decent level of strategy as players decide which movies and which categories they want to assign them. For Home Alone I could shout “KEVIN!” as my one word clue, or use the classic quote, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.” The Act It category often becomes the throw-away section, however, as we found it challenging to pantomime any scene of a film within a 30-second window for all three categories. We quickly realized how many action films are just Dude Shooting Gun.

The Rating

The Blockbuster Party Game has a 12+ age rating. The gameplay isn’t tactically complex nor does it contain any objectionable material (unless you count R-rated movie titles). The age rating is due to the decades of movie knowledge that’s recommended, at least on a surface level, to fully enjoy the game.

The Takeaway

The party game goes all-in with the Blockbuster theme, featuring a foldable parking lot board with attachable Blockbuster sign, and VHS tapes as movie cards. The entire package is contained within a rectangular plastic shell, exactly like a VHS box that I’d rent stacks of throughout the 90s. The Blockbuster Party Game effectively balances head-to-head movie trivia with the social enjoyment of remembering, quoting, acting, and referencing popular movies, the perfect party game for nostalgic 80s and 90s kids of a bygone era.

Find The Blockbuster Party Game at Target.

Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-3 (the full game supports up to 6)
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
MSRP: $24.99

The second stand-alone expansion to excellent asymmetrical card game Disney Villainous, Evil Comes Prepared, finally adds Scar as a playable villain, along with dark-horse picks Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove and Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. Scar is mildly disappointing but the others make up for it with unique and interesting play styles, proving that Villainous continues to host an impressive pantheon of Disney favorites.

Circle of Life

By now you should already be familiar with how Disney Villainous plays. Each player selects a Disney villain, which comes with their own deck of villain cards, a fate deck of meddling heroes, a player board with four locations, and a stylized 3D token. Each turn players move their token to a location, performing the limited actions at that location, such as playing cards, gaining power, and vanquishing heroes. Villains can also draw from their opponents’ fate decks to place heroes on their board, partially covering up their actions and thwarting their plans.

Part of the genius of Villainous is its asynchronous gameplay. Each villain has a unique victory condition, as well as their own unique card decks and player boards. No two villains play alike, though with the second expansion Evil Comes Prepared adding the 10th, 11th, and 12th villains to the game, we’re beginning to see some overlaps.

Surprisingly Scar is the weakest of the new additions in Evil Comes Prepared. Scar’s goal is to defeat 15 strength worth of heroes. Eliminating heroes is something most villains do anyway, though Scar has to defeat Mufasa before any defeated heroes count toward his goal. Defeating heroes doesn’t make for an interesting nor engaging goal, and most of Scar’s strength comes from playing a bunch of nameless hyena cards. I also question the theme, as Scar’s goal in The Lion King was to usurp Mufasa and take over the pride lands, not hunt down and kill all the heroes.

Professor Ratigan is much more interesting, featuring a two-in-one goal that changes if his initial plans are thwarted. As in the film, Ratigan’s goal is to replace the queen with a robotic version. The card costs a ton of power, however, which means Ratigan needs to play items and allies that reduce its cost. Once the card is played it needs to be carefully moved from one side of the board to the other. If Basil comes into play, the card is discarded, and Ratigan goes into a rage, physically flipping his goal over to defeating Basil. It’s a brilliant callback to the climax of the film, and often reflects the same playful frustration the Ratigan player is feeling.

Of the three new villains Yzma is the most radically different. Her setup involves separating the fate deck into four different stacks, with each stack at a single location. Yzma needs to spend her time locating Kuzco, then defeating him with Kronk. I’m less familiar with The Emperor’s New Groove than other Disney animated films, but Yzma has to make sure Kronk stays under her control, creating an interesting dynamic while trying to defeat Kuzco. Fating the Yzma player can be a bit of a pain, however, as you have to look through the full stack of cards at a location, and don’t want to give away Kuzco if you find him.

The Rating

Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared has a recommended age of 10+. The gameplay is complex enough to make it more suitable for older kids, teens, and adult Disneyphiles.

The Takeaway

Scar, clearly the marquee new addition, is unfortunately one of the weaker villains of them all, though Ratigan and Yzma provide interesting new ideas and gameplay opportunities. Evil Comes Prepared can coast on how good Villainous plays and the still-excellent production quality of the cards, boards, and tokens (Evil Comes Prepared definitely has the best tokens), but at this point we probably have all the villains we need.

Find Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared at Target.