Cardboard Addiction: The Manhattan Project

Nothing says “game night” quite like bombing the shit out of your best friends.

Manhattan Project box

Note: this is the first entry in our Cardboard Addiction series. For an explanation of how we plan to approach these reviews, click here.

The Manhattan Project is a worker placement game. That means that, on your turn, you place workers (I’m a college student). These workers do different things based on where you place them. For instance, if you place a worker on the “get money” space, guess what. You get money (there’s that education paying off again).

Sound simple? Well, in a sense, it is.

But this game isn’t just about getting money. It’s a game about building bombs. And launching air strikes at your opponents. And processing plutonium and uranium. And it’s also a race.

photo (4)

The only way to earn points in The Manhattan Project is to build bombs. At the start of the game, five bomb cards are revealed to everyone, as are their building requirements. The fact that the end game requirements are public knowledge means that everyone has the same goals. However, not everyone will take the same path to the goals.

Buying buildings allows players to put together their own personal economic engines. Much of the game depends on your ability to combo your buildings together. For example, using your university might produce a scientists, and using your mine will net you some yellow cake. Now, you might have enough scientists and yellow cake to make some uranium which, in turn, will finally allow you to build your 20 point bomb. That is just a minor example, but you get the idea.

photo (5)

And then there is the air raid option. Players who feel particularly dickish can perform an air raid on their opponents. Air raids can put buildings out of commission, forcing players to waste precious game turns to repair their buildings. Air raids can be absolutely brutal, and was the most polarizing aspect of the four-player game we played.


The Manhattan Project is the most thematically interesting game I have played in quite some time. The game is presented in the style of World War II era newspapers which goes a long way in selling the theme.

The game ends as soon as one player reaches a certain number of points. This mechanic essentially makes the game a race to build the most bombs. A race to see who can craft the most arms first. An…arms race, if you will. Thematically, it just makes sense that the first to build the most bombs win, and I absolutely love this aspect.

One of the players complained that the game ended to quickly. I disagreed (not just because I won (maybe a little)) because an arms race should instill a sense of haste. The game rewards clever usage of buildings, and the most efficient players are going to win.


This game can be mean. The air strikes can put a player out of commission for more than one turn, giving a huge advantage to the other players. Luckily, there are ways to defend against air strikes, so there is a balance. Our group actually prefers high conflict in games (because we hate each other), so this was not too much of a negative.

The Verdict

The Manhattan is an easy “keep” for me. I will not be trading this one away any time soon.

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Episode 7: A Triumphant Return

second logo

Guess what. There’s a new podcast. That’s right, after a ripe run of six episodes, we have rebranded our show as Good Enough. We’re still under the larger Bad Mojo umbrella, but the podcast itself is now Good Enough.

So, why the change? We felt that the title “Good Enough” fell in line better than “Bad Mojo”, mostly due to our inability to produce a quality show. You’re welcome.

I can’t remember exactly what we talked about on this episode because honestly, we recorded it literally months ago. You see, people. This is why we call it “Good Enough”.

Thanks for listening, and expect more shows coming soon. Or not. We’ll see.

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Cardboard Addiction: So Many Games

I have a problem, and it’s made of cardboard.

Like most kids, I grew up on family games like Monopoly and Sorry and absolutely lost my shit when someone landed on a property I wanted or bumped me off the board. We played Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, Scrabble, and a dozen others, and I had a great time. As I got older, however, these games began to wear out their welcome as I realized that, boiled down, they rely purely on luck. Dice rolls, card and tile draws, what spaces you land on – all of these are completely out of the hands of the player.

"Are you buying Marvin Gardens? I'll fucking kill you." - Dad

“Are you buying Marvin Gardens? I’ll fucking kill you.” – Dad

Then about four years ago, I stumbled across this post on Game Informer. See that little bit about board games? Yeah, that’s the one. That’s what did it.

Having no idea what “Arkham Horror” and “Dominion” were, a quick Google search brought me to BoardGameGeek. Thus the floodgates opened. Here were games that rewarded careful planning and skill rather than simply the roll of the dice or the draw of the cards. These were games that relied on your ability to manipulate the situation before you while utilizing a bevy of mechanics from “worker placement” to “pick up and deliver”. It was a veritable utopia of gaming bliss.

I don’t know if my desire for a deeper game experience was compounded by an addictive personality or something, but four years later, my collection looks like this:

It's a good thing no one offered me cocaine at the time.

It’s a good thing no one offered me cocaine at the time.

That’s a lot of games. You can see that there is very little room left on that shelf. But because I’m weak, I want more games, but my nagging wife loving wife who understands financial responsibility better than I do has given me an ultimatum: I can acquire no more new games until I get rid of some of the games we don’t play very often. “But I love them all equally!” I said just like any lying parent would. In all honesty, though, I see the reasoning behind it. We don’t have a lot of space to just pile games up, and so a cull must occur.


Like some kind of really dumb Dr. Manhattan, I must now choose between my love of my current collection and the necessity to purge. My solution is going to be as follows:

Over the next several weeks (and months, probably) I am going to play every game in my collection. At each game ends, I will ask all the players their thoughts about it. Then, based on a combination of their opinion and my opinion, I will decide if the game stays on the shelf. Don’t expect any black-and-white, strict criteria for this decision. If the group likes a game, but I don’t, I may get rid of it anyways. On the reverse, however, I may keep games that the group didn’t care for. The group’s overall opinion will probably carry the most weight seeing as how these are the people I regularly play games with, and if they’re not having a good time, neither am I.

Board games are exactly this serious.

Board games are exactly this serious.

I plan on writing a post on each game detailing the consensus, divided into a number of categories:

-Player Interaction
-General Fun-ness(?)

There are a number of games I already know I will not be getting rid of, such as Puerto Rico, Lords of Waterdeep, and 7 Wonders. These are games that our regular group has played repeatedly and enjoy immensely. I will be including them in this project though, simply for the sake of completion.

So, there it is. If anyone is interested in viewing my collection, check out my BoardGameGeek profile for a list of games that I will be reviewing. If you’d like to get in on a game night, just let me know; we’re always down for more people.

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Review

Diablo III’s first expansion is a game changer

By Sam Desatoff

Note: This review also appeared in The Collegian and can be found at


Last year’s launch of Diablo III was very much a mixed bag. While the core action-RPG mechanics were solid and enjoyable, the experience was dragged down by a number of poorly-implemented systems. For the first expansion, developer Blizzard has addressed the vast majority of problems that plagued the game, while adding enough new content to keep players busy for quite some time. The result is a game that is far more enjoyable and rewarding than it was last year.

Before the official launch of Reaper of Souls, Blizzard rolled out a hefty patch aimed squarely at overhauling those features most complained about by players. Loot 2.0 introduced the “Smart Drop” system that tailors item drops to the class you are playing. This is a large improvement over the old system that would drop items with completely random stats. Now, it is far more likely you will obtain upgrades rather than useless gear.

Blizzard has also removed the auction house from the game, stating that the focus should be on slaying monsters, not on paying gold to become stronger. This, coupled with Loot 2.0, goes a long way in improving the Diablo III experience.

Reaper of Souls brings new story content in the form of a new Act. Act V is longer than the previous four acts and offers plenty of new enemy types, side quests, and inventive boss fights that players can tackle on their way to the raised level cap of 70. Like the base Diablo III story, don’t expect anything mind-blowing in terms of plot, but the new content is enjoyable nonetheless.

After finishing the campaign, a new game mode called Adventure Mode is unlocked. Inside, you can go after bounties across all five acts in exchange for rewards. Do enough and you can enter a Nephalem Rift, a difficult dungeon with extra tough monsters. The rewards for completing a rift are more substantial than in normal dungeons and offer something to do after completing the story.


One of the rewards for completing bounties are blood shards. The shards can be spent on gear of varying levels of rarity – from magic to legendary – with mystery properties. It’s a form of gambling, but the payoffs are laughably poor, making the shards hardly worth your time.

A new artisan – the Mystic – joins the Jeweler and Blacksmith. The Mystic allows you to reroll any stat on an item, which is great for customizing your gear to your playstyle. She also grants the ability to change the appearance of some armor and weapons, a purely aesthetic trait but it’s nice to have more options.


In the months before Reaper of Souls launched, Blizzard spent a lot of time advertising the Crusader. The new playable class has elements of Diablo II’s Paladin, but is fresh enough to keep from feeling like a rehash. The Crusader has lots of area-of-effect skills that make tearing through large groups of enemies very satisfying.
Diablo III is not the same game it was when it released, and that is completely for the better. Thanks to Loot 2.0 and the removal of the auction house, gone is the feeling that the endgame is an arduous. If you haven’t played the game since its launch, now is the perfect time to return to Sanctuary.

Final Score: 9 of 10

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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review

Retro Studios sticks to a winning formula

DKC screen 1

When Nintendo decided to revive the Donkey Kong Country franchise in 2010, developer Retro Studios approached the project with a keen eye for platforming. Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii offered difficult-yet-rewarding gameplay coupled with a colorful art style and a well-honed sense of humor. The end result was one of the greatest platforming experiences available last generation. For the Wii U sequel, Retro adheres closely to the formula established in Returns, but kicks up the difficulty significantly.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze opens when an army of penguins uses a massive alpine horn to summon an ice storm and freeze DK Island. Donkey Kong and friends are blown away and must traverse six separate islands filled with enemies and other obstacles in order to reclaim their home. While there are fewer levels in Tropical Freeze than were in Returns, the levels themselves are longer and offer more variety. During my time with the game, I platformed through a massive tornado, scaled a mountain in the midst of an avalanche, and rode a mine cart through an active sawmill. The action on screen is frantic and can be a little distracting, but the overall effect is absolutely charming. Underwater levels also make a return to the series and are equally filled with many large-scale set piece moments.

DKC screen 2

Dixie and Cranky join Diddy and Donkey Kong this time around. With the exception of Donkey Kong, each character possesses a unique jumping ability that allows them to traverse levels in different ways – Cranky can pogo on his cane to move across spikes, Dixie’s hair can propel her higher than the other Kongs, and Diddy uses his jetpack to hover for a short time. I found myself leaning heavily on Dixie and Diddy throughout most of the game as the ability to adjust trajectory mid jump is invaluable.

My biggest complaint about the game lies with its difficulty. Tropical Freeze offers some of the most testing gameplay this side of the Dark Souls franchise. Retro has blurred the line between difficult and frustrating in a way that might discourage some. Jumps require high levels of precision and expert timing, and Retro has designed some levels to encourage trial and error. By placing horned enemies directly where your character is expected to land or moving a platform out from under your feet, memorization becomes an important method of finishing a level. Most times, this feels like the devious product of a finely-tuned gaming experience more than a device to frustrate the player. The resulting effect is two-fold: some levels become a slog and an exercise in muscle memory, but the feeling of accomplishment when you finally complete a stage is nearly unrivaled.

DKC screen 3

Luckily, controls are very tight and responsive – I recommend playing with a Wii U Pro Controller and using the directional pad – and most of my deaths felt like they were my fault, not the game’s. Retro also provides enough extra lives that finishing the game never feels impossible, and Funky Kong returns to sell additional bonuses like extra hearts and temporary invincibility to help you along. In addition, each level features more than one checkpoint which goes a long way in alleviating many frustrations.

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze showcases Retro Studios’ ability to produce an extremely polished platformer. I hope they continue to develop such fine-tuned adventures, and I certainly hope the difficulty is not too discouraging, as those who stick it out will find the most rewarding platforming experience the Wii U has to offer.

Score: 9 of 10

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Episode 6 – Xbox “None”


Welcome to another episode of Bad Mojo. With this week’s announcement of the Xbox One, there’s a lot to be skeptical of. We break down all the details we care to remember and mostly bag on them. Also, all credit for the name of the episode goes do Leonard Torres.

In the second segment, we realized that we didn’t plan very well and had nothing to talk about. So we talked about which movies set to release this we’re most looking forward to.

In the final segment, we answer listener questions. All two of them.

Thanks for listening!

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Episode 5 – Captain Canuck

Iron Man 3 logo

In this episode of Bad Mojo, we discuss Iron Man 3 (SPOILERS), Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, and Titus Young.

We also invent a super villain, eat some chicken, debate about Peyton Manning, and ponder why Creed ever existed. So kick back, grab a sandwich, and immediately hate yourself for listening to this.

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Review – Guacamelee


Piledrive and platform through two worlds

Review by Sam Desatoff

Publisher: DrinkBox
Developer: DrinkBox
Genre: Action/Platforming
Platform: PlayStation 3/PlayStation Vita
Release Date: April 9, 2013

It’s not uncommon for developers to borrow elements of other games and use them in their own titles—this is how entire genres are created in the first place. Not every instance of imitation breeds flattery, but every once in a while a title stands out and makes us appreciate the finer points of tried-and-true design. Case in point: DrinkBox’s new downloadable game Guacamelee.

You play as Juan, an agave farmer in Mexico. When the president’s daughter is kidnapped by Calaca, a malicious skeleton from the Land of the Dead, Juan must don a magical luchador mask and suplex his way to his love’s rescue. The story is fairly mundane, but the execution is superb. The bright and colorful art
style is supplemented by humorous dialogue and entertaining cut scenes.

Guacamelee contains many references to other games

Guacamelee contains many references to other games

These story moments are charming, but they bookend the true draw of the game: the gameplay. The 2D exploration takes its cue from Metroid and Castlevania, with a map that fills out as you progress. The world is ripe with hidden treasures like heart pieces (collect three to increase your maximum health) and gold. You can also perform tasks for townspeople for extra rewards.

The “Metroidvania” influence extends to the distribution of powers as well. As you explore, you will come across areas that cannot be accessed until a new power is unlocked. This helps encourage players to revisit old areas to access new treasure. Most powers cost stamina to perform (the Guacamelee equivalent of Metroid’s energy tanks), and can be integrated into combat.

As the title of the game implies, there is no ranged combat. Instead, Juan uses punches and kicks to stun enemies. He can then grapple and toss baddies, or he can perform special finishing moves that are purchased at a shop. The combat is satisfying—it is very easy (and fun) to rack up one hundred-hit combos. In later stages of the game, the combat scenarios can become a bit tedious as the game throws different combinations of enemy types at you, but none of it felt impassable.

Platforming feels tight and responsive, which is nice considering how precise some scenarios require you to be—unlocking a double jump in a game has not been this blissful in ages. The game approaches MegaMan levels of challenge in later stages, but is much more forgiving. Rather than boot you to the start of a level when you fail a platforming segment, Juan is instantly transported back to where he fell. This helps alleviate some of the frustration, but still allows for a feeling of satisfaction when you pass those tough challenges.

guacamelee screen 2

In addition to several popular Internet memes, Guacamelee contains countless references to other video games, from Mario to Zelda, and even Journey. Some may complain about how many references DrinkBox crammed in, but they in no way detract from the fun factor of the game.

In what I hope becomes a shining example of the compatibility of the PS3 and PS Vita, Sony has implemented its “cross-buy” feature for Guacamelee. Buying the game on one system automatically unlocks it on the other. Saves can be transferred between systems without headaches, and the Vita can even be used in conjunction with the PS3 for co-op sessions. The system works well and I hope more publishers take advantage of this in the future.

Not only is Guacamelee a love-letter to many beloved franchises, it also stands well on its own in terms of gameplay and entertainment value. If you are a fan platforming and exploration, you shouldn’t miss this one.

Final score: 8.5/10

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Review – Tomb Raider


Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics reinvents an icon

Review by Sam Desatoff

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Genre: Action
Platforms: PS3/Xbox 360/PC
Release Date: March 5, 2013

Lara Croft is an industry mainstay. Since the original Tomb Raider released for the Sony PlayStation in 1996, she has become one of the most recognizable characters in the medium. But how do you keep a 17-year-old franchise relevant in today’s packed market? The answer came to developer Crystal Dynamics in the form a reboot. When faced with the task of reimagining Lara Croft, Crystal approached the situation with all the gravity befitting of such an icon. The result is a thrilling ride that transforms Lara from a budding and enthusiastic adventurer into a hardened survivor.

Crystal Dynamics has settled on a decidedly darker tone for the reboot of Tomb Raider, and the new direction is evident almost immediately. The game opens with the ship carrying Lara and the rest of her expedition getting torn to pieces by a storm. Lara is thrown overboard and makes her way to the nearby island where she must regroup with the other survivors of her crew. What follows is a sprawling story of ritualistic sacrifice, betrayal, and desperation. The opening cave sequence sets the pace at breakneck and does not let up until the end credits roll.

Voice actress Camilla Luddington brilliantly brings the new Lara Croft to life. The performance contains many small touches that illustrate how unsure Lara is in her abilities – she can often be heard telling herself “I can do this” and “Just keep moving.” Luddington’s work lends weight and believability to the inexperience of the new Lara, and goes a long way in selling the reboot.

tomb raider screen 1

Perhaps because of the high caliber of voice work provided for Lara, however, the rest of the cast falls short in comparison. The remaining members of the expedition fall into stereotypical archetypes such as rugged father figure, spiritual sage, and tech nerd. The voice acting is not as strong with these characters, but an unintended result is that Lara shines even more when compared to the others. The characterization shines when Lara is alone and struggling against all the danger the island throws at her, but loses something when she interacts with the other survivors.

The island is divided into several hub areas, which can be revisited at any time through the fast-travel system. Each environment is full of small details and beautiful vistas, making Tomb Raider a very pretty game indeed. The appeal of returning to previous areas comes in the form of gear-gating: Some areas are locked off until Lara receives better gear, not dissimilar from games like Metroid or Castlevania. This makes story and character progression all the more satisfying. New weapons are doled out at a respectable pace, but I found myself leaning heavily on the bow, which is the first weapon you’ll acquire.

Combat scenarios all usually play out in similar fashion: Lara is dropped into new environments from a vantage point. She can then choose to silently take out enemies with the bow and stealth kills, or use her guns and other gadgets. When in combat, Lara automatically takes cover behind low objects. This system
feels more natural than the sticky cover mechanics of series like Gears of War.

Because Lara is a fresh-faced adventurer, she begins the game with very few survival skills. For example, Lara starts off with no melee attacks. But as she explores, collects salvage, and takes out enemies, she gains experience points. Players can use this experience to purchase new skills such as the ability to collect ammunition from downed enemies or to highlight collectables in the environment. Players shouldn’t feel stuck with skill choices, however – as long as you spend some time exploring and searching for collectables, you should be able to obtain most of the skills available.

tomb raider screen 2

While I appreciate the attempt at character progression, many of the skills are unattainable until you have unlocked a certain a number lower-tier skills. Because of the distribution of experience points, this creates an artificial barrier that feels like a cheap way to hinder progress until key story moments. Still, this gripe is minor.

The story is filled to the brim with huge set-piece moments in a way that Uncharted series could be envious of. From outrunning a plane crash to climbing a storm-ravaged tower, Tomb Raider provides a huge number of action movie-worthy moments. The controls are responsive, if a bit stiff at times. Platforming is satisfying and rarely did I feel that the game was to blame for any deaths.

Crystal Dynamics go out of their way to throw everything they can at Lara during her stay on the island. Throughout the story she is beaten, stabbed, and shot, creating a sort of Die Hard effect where, by the final moments of the game, you wonder how Lara is still standing. The reboot is much more violent than previous Tomb Raider games. Some of the deaths Lara can meet shocked me with their brutality. The punishment she takes stretches the believability of how much damage the human body can sustain, but I got more enjoyment once I set aside those preconceptions and let the game sweep me along.

Reboots are often points of contention among a franchise’s fan base, but followers of Tomb Raider shouldn’t worry. Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix have re-imagined Lara Croft for a new generation, and in doing so have made her more believable a character. If you’re a fan of the series, or good action games in general, you shouldn’t miss Tomb Raider.

Final Score: 9/10

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Episode 4 – So Many Benjamin Franklins

infinite logo

So, we’ve been away for quite some time, but we’re back. It turns out we’ve been playing BioShock Infinite. We all came together to discuss the ending, SPOILERS AND ALL. If you haven’t played the game yet, it’s probably best for you to move along.

In the second segment, Robbie and Sam talk about Iron Sky, a film about moon Nazis. Yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds.

Finally, Sam and Leonard discuss Guacamelee and Injustice: Gods Among Us. It turns out that both games are really good.

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