Articles Reviews Barnestorming #27: Cave Evil in Review, The Keep, Black Metal Starter Kit

Barnestorming #27: Cave Evil in Review, The Keep, Black Metal Starter Kit Michael Barnes Hot
Written by Michael Barnes     October 27, 2011    
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On the Table

Cave Evil reviewed. I love it, it’s one of my favorite games of the year. But I’m well aware that it’s like telling folks that Ulver’s black metal album “Nattens Madrigals” is a masterpiece while knowing full well that most people will think it’s just a bunch of ill-produced, amateurish noise.  It isn’t going to be for everybody, and there are things about it that are willfully obscure or esoteric. Cave Evil is definitely not mainstream- it’s pretty old fashioned in an Avalon Hill/SPI kind of way, the artwork would be regarded as crude by many (when in fact it’s awesome and appropriate to the subject matter), and it’s a fairly ruthless elimination game like Titan or Wiz-War.

Putting the black metal stuff aside, I still think it’s a great game. It’s like some long lost fantasy game from 1982, and I think that was exactly the design goal. There’s more Gary Gygax in its creatures and concepts than Tolkien, and I really appreciate that.

Yeah, it’s expensive. It’s tough when you can get something like Drizzt or Gears of War for the same price and get tons of plastic toys. But for as much as I like both of those games, neither has the heart or the genuine “indie” spirit that Cave Evil shows. This is totally what I mean when I talk about bringing in new themes, new settings, and new influences. It's also a self-published, made-in-the-USA game with a very limited print run made by people who are totally passionate about both games and obscure music. Your $70 is buying something more precious than bubble gum machine figures.

F:ATtie member in good standing Geoff Englestein sent me a review copy of his new Z-Man title The Ares Project, I’m really looking forward to digging into it. Four sides that play very differently. It looks like a great concept

Why wasn’t I paying attention to Eclipse before? That looks awesome.

On the Consoles

I’m on two Gameshark reviews this week, the console edition of Battlefield 3 and Cave Story 3D on the 3DS. I’ve already ranted about how fucking awful the single player game is in BF3, I’m playing multiplayer now. You can really feel the size of the maps with only 24 players in a game, as compared to the 64 the PC version allows. Cave Story is awesome, it’s the same great freeware game that’s been around since 2004 but the new artwork and graphics are great. The 3D is really well done. I still think this is one of the best of the retro platformers. It completely captures the tone of NES games like Goonies II or Blaster Master.

Arkham City is the best game of 2011. No need to prattle, just buy the god damned thing. A masterpiece.

On the Phone

Dang, Mage Gauntlet gets pretty hard. I’ve actually put it off and have been playing Rocket Cat’s hook games instead lately, particularly Hook Worlds. It’s the endless runner one, with four very different worlds to swing (and shoot) your way through. The gravity dwarf one is freaking hard.

Somehow I missed that Gunstar Heroes is on IOS. Sega had a sale this week and it was a buck, I couldn’t resist. Of course the controls are horrible.

On the Screen

Wow, The Keep sure is a screwed up movie. I had not seen it since the late 1980s, mostly due to the fact that it’s never been released on DVD. It does not, in any way, hold up. It is delirously 1980s, half of it looks like a freaking Ultravox video. MASSIVE lens flares, slow motion, “arty” angles, a Tangerine Dream score…it’s supposed to be set in WWII, but it’s pretty squarely occurring in 1983.

I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it, but it’s about Nazis running afoul of something hidden in…The Keep. In some ways, it’s kind of another take on the Golem story and it draws in a sort of Jewish revenge fantasy. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither does a young Ian McKellan made up to look like an old man. I think it was actually his first feature role. The weird ass cast also includes Scott Glen (sans his fishnet shirt and snake tattoo from Urban Cowboy), Gabriel Byrne, and Jurgen Prochnow.

But the real W.T.F. is that it’s directed by Michael Mann, just a couple of years before he put Crockett and Tubbs on the beat and long before Heat and his other stylish dramas. You can totally tell, too. You can also totally tell that he should never, ever go anywhere near the director’s chair of a horror film.

I like it, enough to have watched it twice in the past week…but it is really pretty terrible. Mayfair Games did a board game based on it, strangely enough, that Robert Martin (RIP) always talked about owning but we never played it. No, I never read the F. Paul Wilson novel.

Taking a break from the TV stuff to watch some good Halloweeny movies. Night of the Demon in particular. It’s an _amazing_ horror picture directed by the great Jacques Tourneur. The Aleister Crowley-like cult leader in it is one of my favorite characters in the horror cinema. He’s so subtly diabolical, yet he’s very much a slave to the dark forces he deals with.

On Spotify

I figured that since this is the Cave Evil review and that some of you might wander into the game without having any idea how to distinguish Burzum from Mayhem, I put together a little primer playlist. There’s some old stuff and some new stuff on there. I just heard the last track, off the new Wolves in the Throne Room record, last night. Awesome album, one of the better BM releases I’ve heard in a while.

Emperor- I am the Black Wizards

Celtic Frost- Return to the Eve

Darkthrone- Transilvanian Hunger

Satyricon- Dark Medieval Times

Ulver- I Troldskog Faren Vild

Bathory- Call from the Grave

Mayhem- Necrolust

Burzum- Lost Wisdom

Furze- Zaredoo Knives Endow thy Sight

Watain- Black Salvation

Deathspell Omega- Drink the Devil’s Blood

Mortifera- Le Revenant

Leviathan- A Bouquet of Blood for Skull

Enslaved- Jotunblod

…And Oceans- Aquarium of Children

Krohm- I Suffer the Astral Woe

Drudkh- Furrows of Gods

Negura Bunget- I

Wolves in the Throne Room- Subterranean Initiation

Done, bye.

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Comments (41)
  • avatarJosh Look

    I've been following the dev diaries on Eclipse. Some fucking _brilliant_ stuff going on it that game.

  • avatarBlack Barney

    declaring GOTY before Skyrim is released?

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Questioning my authority and impeccable taste at all?

    I don't think Skyrim will be good in the same way Arkham City is good. It's a very different kind of valuation.

    I think I'm going to preorder Eclipse...Asmodee doesn't always send review copies and since this is a hot one they likely won't bother.

  • avatardave

    Re BM: Seems like Agalloch's apparent popularity warrants an inclusion (I'd pick "I Am the Wooden Doors"). And, fuck 'em, the Ulver pick *should* come from Nattens (although "Trans. Hunger" should effectively weed out wannabes before that). Nattens is my third favorite black metal album.

  • avatarjay718

    I bought a copy of The Keep (the novel) when I was a kid at a neighborhood church's book sale for a quarter. It had a few pages of stills from the movie in the middle, and I ate it up. I watched a Betamax rental of the movie a year or two later at a buddies house on one of those old ass projection TV's that unfolded into a chair looking deal with the red, green, and a blue lights. We were blown away. It made quite an impression, and for years I remembered loving it

    A few months back the missus and I watched it on netflix (i think). I had told her how much I loved it and she just laughed her ass off as it proceeded to stink. The end was just ridiculous and had her in hysterics (though not nearly as hysterical as she was when we watched the bluray directors cut I picked up of Dark City; another flick I remembered loving.) Anyway, the comic book adaptation that IDW put out a few years back is a pretty good read and F. Paul Wilson said it was everything the movie wasn't.

    I'm really looking forward to playing Arkham City. Haven't hooked up the xbox since I moved. Hope it still works. The combination of your review and the almost seizure inducing artwork on the publishers website really has me wanting to try out Cave Evil, but I haven't been able to get any games in at all lately and just can't justify the purchase.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Dave, strangely Spotify doesn't have Nattens...otherwise, the Ulver track would have definitely come from there. Maybe "Wolf and Hatred". An _amazing_ record. So harsh.

    I was really surprised by what Spotify _did_ have though. Mortifera? Wow. Maniac Butcher (which I didn't put on there)? Get outta here!

    I'm not that crazy about Agalloch...they have some really interesting songs, but for some reason they never quite come together for me. I hear their last albums was excellent though.

    As for "Transilvanian Hunger"...that record is just amazing. It's really quite avant garde, that whole droney, thin sound they got on there is incredible. I thought about putting some newer "black n' roll" Darkthrone on there because that stuff is really good and funny- I was thinking "The Wind they Call the Dungeon Shaker" or "Canadian Metal" in honor of Black Barney. But I went with a classic, one of the best BM songs of all.

    Jay, that actually sounds like the ideal viewing circumstances under which to watch The Keep. Those old TVs were something else.

  • avatarGary Sax

    I'm going to assume Rob Martin isn't actually dead.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Hey, it could stand for "really in Paris".

  • avatarDr. Mabuse

    Thanks for the CE review Michael.

    I'll say it again but with the exception of Jur, you all missed out on After Pablo. I think Nate is only growing stronger as a designer and my hat's off to him for taking unusual subject matter and bring it to gaming.

    I'm looking forward to playing this.

  • jason10mm

    Hah, I watched "The Keep" just last week. Or rather, I started it, got real busy and just saw the end with that ridiculous bad guy. Are we sure Ridley Scott didn't ghost direct this? I liked the book but have never been able to just sit down and watch the film. Can't be any worse than the other trash I've been watching off of netflix though, to include "One Eyed Monster", "Bikini Girls on Ice" and "Stripperland".

  • avatarjay718

    Wow. Just checked out Eclipse. I guess I've been seriously out of the loop, because I hadn't even heard of this. It looks pretty badass, but those player mats look a little...complex. Lot going on there. I wonder how well this will play with two. And how different it will be from that 4xx game folks were slavering over a few months back.

  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Oops- Worthpoint article this week too- expensive Halloween games. Of course Frank and Sandi helped on this one. aftermarket-values

  • avatarlfisher

    Wait, Jay, WHAT, Dark City is one of the best movies ever. What exactly was meant there?

    I don't think anyone would play Cave Evil with me.

  • avatarShellhead

    Dark City is visually spectacular. There isn't much story there, and there doesn't need to be. The local goth bar played the whole movie silently on a full movie screen during one dance night, and the visuals matched the music well.

  • bomber

    first of all you should definitely read the novel, and indeed the whole adversary cycle, most people think they are a lot better than the movie inspired by it.
    I, however, think the Keep is a masterpiece, one of my favourite movies, it has incredible atmosphere thanks to one of the best movie scores of all time. OK, I am a Tangerine Dream fanboy but I think they did an outstanding job here, probably even better than on Sorceror (though neither film score comes close to their Virgin era mid 70s stuff like Phaedra, Rubycon, Ricochet, Atem etc). It is a bit of a cult movie, I guess I'm "in" so not necessarily that objective! The fans of the movie are constantly hoping to get a proper release of the soundtrack and there's a lot of interesting stories about the wrangles between Virgin and TD for example. It's one of the most bootlegged soundtrack. The silver cross track which you should instead find as "Logos 1B" (get the live version done in London) builds to an awesome crescendo and I get tingles at the "Gloria" version that kicks in when Molasar carries Eva back to her father post rape attempt. Yeah, its a bit cheesy and camp in places, but surely you can't say that the demon isn't pretty cool, even if we never get to see his full powers as Glaeken does his stuff. I know most hardcore fans of F.Paul Wilson detest the movie, but it's definitely one of my favourites and I guess I watched it at the right time when I was impressionable enough to let it leave a mark. Good to see it mentioned

    trivia note, finding a reference to the boardgame was the first thing that led me to TOS way back in 2004 (I didn't stay long, the horrendous site design wasn't really clear an welcoming to the hobby). I never did get hold of a copy of the game, but I know it was pretty crappy.

    ah, fond memories.

  • avatarwice

    On Nattens Madrigal: personally I think that Garm (the Man Behind Ulver) is an extremely talented songwriter, who tries way too hard to be artistic and/or original, and usually ends up being cheesy. This is their/his only album, that gets it entirely right, to the point of being one of the best black metal albums ever. Ironically they recorded it as a joke: they got signed to a big record company (Century Media), and was expected to churn out the same (then popular) folksy shit that can be heard on their second album. So, they decided to give them the finger, and recorded the noisiest, most necro-sounding black metal possible. And somehow this self-imposed constaint worked perfectly: Garm was forced to write simpler, catchier melodies than he used to, the wall of noise removed whatever cheese there could have remained, and the end result became a masterpiece, incidentally. Unfortunately I doubt this formula could work for Garm ever again, but I'm glad it did at least once.

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    That Worthpoint article was really, truly good writing.

  • avatarwice  - re:
    vandemonium wrote:
    On the Black Metal Tip some of you may find the [url=]Vegan Black Metal Chef[/url] amusing. I sure do!

    His Pad Thai video is brilliant.


  • avatarjay718

    The local goth bar played the whole movie silently on a full movie screen during one dance night, and the visuals matched the music well.

    Genius. That way you don't have to hear Kiefer Sutherland's horrendous delivery, which was probably her biggest gripe with the movie.

  • avatardave  - re:
    wice wrote:
    This is their/his only album, that gets it entirely right, to the point of being one of the best black metal albums ever.

    Yeah, I've dabbled in other Ulver, but they are a one-album band to me. I don't care that it was put out ironically; I like to think that they were inadvertantly channeling the [pagan] gods.

  • avatarNotahandle

    Your review's whetted my appetite, still about two weeks before Cave Evil will arrive though.

    The Keep: good novel, poor film (leaves too much out).

    Eclipse: More comments please, maybe a Trashdome, Space Empires 4X vs Eclipse?

  • avatardragonblaster


    @Notahandle: Is yr game with someone else? Did we send to you directly?

  • gschmidl

    No, no, no, this won't do at all.

    If you're playing a tongue-in-cheek black metal board game, your playlist is only allowed to consist of Sunn O))) and NǽnøĉÿbbŒrğ VbëřřĦōlökäävsŦ.

  • avatarNotahandle

    dragonblaster: You took it to Essen - so I could avoid the customs charge - to be collected by a friend (along with a few others). He's just awaiting a game to arrive before posting it all to me.

  • avatardragonblaster

    @Notahandle: Ohh yes of course. Wow, thought you were going to get it the next week following Spiel.

    @gschmidl Sunn O))) is great for tongue in cheek stuff. Barnes's list and this is for TRVE KVLT BLACK DVNGEON WAR GAMES:-)

    Although this game is constantly being compared to Black Metal, we must not forget equally as important Big Trouble in Little China soundtrack, Realm music, dark electronics, dub step, Pagan Metal, Death Metal.

    The game was forged in these sounds. As a gamer you need to know nothing regarding the nature of this music to enter into Thee Cave of Evil.

  • avatarHex Sinister  - Cave Evil

    Thanks for the Cave Evil review, Barnes. Since I've gotten fully into boardgames this is one of few I've ever wanted just to have. Whether I ever got to play it or not I could just look at it and enjoy it on that level. Not sure how to explain it but I guess it's like you were saying about your 'forever shelf'. It's like SFB, I may never play it but I don't want to get rid of it either. Just checking it out every seven years is cool. Sounds like I'll be playing this one though! I would have bought a copy by now but my damn car broke down, etc...

    I was hoping combat might be a little deeper but now that I think about it the battles in Titan could be too long. I was wondering if army composition is hidden or not. Not really a fan of memorizing enemy forces. That is something I can live with but am not excited about.

    I really like the dark setting here and it seems pure and rich to me. It's good to see something with a unique flavor ya know? So many diluted fantasy settings and crap art out there that just drowns in own generic vomit. And you know some of that art is really pro. But it doesn't matter, it fucking sucks so often and makes me embarassed. Like I was looking at my (modern) Monster Manual 2 last night and god does it fucking suck. There are no 'classic' images in that. It's drek. Cave Evil has flavor. And those videos are awesome. I've watched em like 7 times.

  • avatarNotahandle

    Made the mistake of going over to TOS to read about Eclipse. Found a lot of passive-aggressive snide remarks from Eclipse fanboys with the result that I'm a lot less interested in the game. Since there's nothing worth reading over there, I look forward to some comments over here.

    I'll leave you with one obnoxious quote, "Small Pox games... I wouldn't lay my hands on their merchandise", which fans of John Clowdus may wish to take issue with.

  • avatarclockwirk

    hmm. if i changed my opinion of a game every time some idiot supporter said something stupid, I probably wouldn't be in this hobby.

  • avatarJonJacob

    I listened to that Ulver Album Nattens Madrigals and the weirdest thing about it is that the production is so shitty that at a low volume it was just white noise, a little louder and it was white noise with an odd thumping noise accompanying it, a little louder still and it was metal with some thumping and a vaguely discernable bit of screaming happening once in a while. Louder still and it sounded pretty good. Interesting syncopation, nice riffs and solo’s songs sounded strong. That acoustic bit near the end of the first song was a nice touch. I was enjoying it but a little louder again and it was crap. I've never listened to an album where the volume was so important to the quality of the music.

  • avatarSuperflyTNT

    I had an old Jethro Tull vinyl, and with the volume not quite right, Aqualung was almost unintelligible. The level seemed much lower than the others on the album. Not sure how that worked, but there you have it.

    And about smallbox...I think the guy was trying to make a play on words, not comment on Small Box. He just isn't very funny, that's all.

  • avatarhotseatgames

    I'm still enjoying Mage Gauntlet. I'm at the golem boss. I wish there was more of an upgrade path, and that the quest wasn't so linear. But is it worth the $2 I paid? Hell yes.

    Eclipse sounds cool. I doubt I'd ever get it to the table though. :(

  • avatarSpace Ghost

    I decided to order Cave Evil -- just couldn't resist the uniqueness.

  • avatarNotahandle

    clockwirk: But I didn't change my opinion did I? Just decided not to waste further time reading over there, given the signal to noise ratio.

  • avatardragonstout
    But I didn't change my opinion did I?
    with the result that I'm a lot less interested in the game
  • avatarMichael Barnes

    Jon Jacob- you've got to understand that Garm (the main guy behind Ulver) is actually a very smart guy, very artistically inclined, and very specific about certain goals in what he does. With "Nattens Madrigal", the aim was to more or less outdo the whole "necro" sound that Darkthrone had sort of pioneered on "Transilvianian Hunger" (which is also one of the best records in the genre). It's an ultra lo-fi, thin, and barely produced sort of sound...but yeah, it is really volume-susceptible, which is weird.

    I like the necro stuff like that a lot, and there are bands that have REALLY pushed that concept to pretty much the limits of listenability. If you can find any of the Les Legions Noire stuff (Belketre, Vlad Tepes, Moevot, Brenoritvrezorkre), that's all some of the WORST production you'll ever hear- but it's totally appropriate to the style and atmosphere of the music. These bands aren't as musical or as accomplished as Ulver though, which also shows.

    It's funny, BM can totally get away with utterly shit production...there's a Belgian (I think) guy that records as Paysage d'Hiver, it's this SUPER cold, dank sound that just wouldn't sound right in high fidelity

    Then there's stuff like early Burzum, where he recorded that stuff in his bedroom with a four track...yet got a pretty distinctive, atmospheric sound. As opposed to the stuff that he recorded with a four track in jail, which is just some dopey viking synth-noodling.

    Dang it, I meant to put some Sunn0))) on the playlist, something off of Black One.

    Big Trouble in LIttle China soundtrack...heh heh...that's awesome. "Biiiiiiig little Chiiinahh!"

  • avatarNotahandle

    dragonstout: To you 'interest' means the same as 'opinion'?!!

  • avatarNotahandle

    interest |ˈɪnt(ə)rɪst|
    1 the state of wanting to know or learn about something

    opinion |əˈpɪnjən|
    a view or judgment formed about something

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