Britney Spears, BLACKOUT

History and timing have not been kind to the Britney Spears' album Blackout: When Britney appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards to promote the album, her performance was perceived as her descent into instability.  (It didn't help that the album was called "blackout" and ended with the song "Why Should I Be Sad.")  So how is the album with some distance from the scan,dals and controversy?

Blackout is, from start to finish an album made for the dance club (or, with songs like "Get Naked (I Got a Plan)," "Freakshow" and "Ooh Ooh Baby" the strip club).  There are no slow ballads or sensitive songs here.  Instead, the songs are almost all about sex (like the aforementioned tunes) or idolizing a guy ("Heaven on Earth," "Perfect Lover").  The only exceptions are Britney's take on the downside of fame ("Piece of Me") and her song trashing her ex-husband ("Why Should I Be Sad.")  The songs are all heavy on beats and bass, with frequent rap contributions by some generic rappers.

Unfortunately, "generic" sums up Blackout pretty well.  Britney Spears has never been known for her strong voice, and here the synthesizers and heavy production tend her to breathy speaking more than actual singing.  The lyrics are nothing special at all ("I'm cold as fire, baby/ Hot as ice/ If you've ever been to heaven/This is twice as nice") and the massively increased sexuality feels more like self-exploitation than musical or artistic growth.

Blackout 's opening "It's Britney, bitch" was meant to be a statement of defiant strength and putting down the haters, but in light of the singer's personal problems that followed, it turned out to be fairly ironic.  Alas, Blackout didn't help much due to its mediocrity.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



An often-overlooked difficulty in the world of Gaming is storage.  Naturally, all games fit in their box (though not always as easily once all the pieces and parts have been removed and sorter), but what about after the first expansion -- or several expansions?  The game Smash Up from Alderac Entertainment Group started with a box big enough for the core set and two expansions; but as their upcoming expansion Monster Smash will be their fourth expansion, that starter box is well out of room.  AEG has addressed the issue fairly well with Smash Up: The Big Geeky Box.
Well, The Big Geeky Box certainly lives up to its name, in two very nice ways.  First, the box itself (nicely illustrated with members of factions from all the game's sets) is a very good size.  While it won't take up a whole shelf, it has more than enough room for more Smash Up expansions than I can imagine.  The Big Geeky Box also stores the cards vertically, plus it comes with standing dividers for the factions and bases.  And to top it all off, there are foam bricks to fill any empty space and keep the cars from falling over .

Did I mention "geeky?"  The Big Geeky Box also comes with a new faction: Geeks!  These minions may lack the raw power of Dinosaurs (with lasers) or Robots, but with cards like "Rules Lawyer" and "Banned List: players can work the rules around to their favor.  And since Smash Up was played on TableTop, it's no surprise that there are cards for Wil Wheaton (and his fan site "Force of Wil") and Felecia Day too!  There are also two appropriately geeky Bases for the Geeks to battle for as well.

The Big Geeky Box is hardly mandatory for card storage (such as cardboard or plastic boxes), but it is a fun little spin on storage.  And who wouldn't want to play as the Geeks?

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



It's time to get your hero on!  The Champions of Zeta City have an opening, so you can make it onto the team by earning enough fame to prove your worth by taking on a big villain, plus their henchmen and underlings.  Other wannabe heroes have the same idea, but you can prove your worth by outdoing them (or attacking them).  This is the world of Heroes Wanted, a card/board game from Action Phase Games that has the silliest heroes and villains outside of The Tick -- and some very good gameplay too.

Each player assembles their hero by combining a card from the A deck (the top half, which gives a type of hero (Vigilante, Cosmic, Tech, or Mutant) and superpower) and from the B deck (with a more ongoing ability).  Players can go for straight ability (like Danger Blade), silliness (Brunch Giraffe), or a mix of the two (like American Weevil).  Players also get a random quirk, which gives them 10 fame but goes down 2 fame each time they don't do what the quirk says (like consoling another hero who rests, or posing heroically after damaging a bad guy).  Players get a Hero Bonus area, which gives benefits when they complete Headlines.  Finally, the heroes get four basic action cards, one Superpower action card, and one Hero Type card.

Villains are assembled by combining A and B cards  -- so far, I've faced the Mama Twins, Unstoppable Jock, and the dreaded Cat Taco -- and the villain usually has 15 hit points per player.   The scenario (four come in the basic game) includes: spaces for the Villain (plus their movement), underlings, and henchmen; special rules, from throwing out trash to secret doors; Headlines that give players fame when accomplished; and when the villain escape if not knocked out.  Once that's all set up, it's time to play!
Starting with the first hero (which can change during the game) and going clockwise, each player can play one action card.  These are usually a movement or attack, but they can sometimes do other things, like make a player the first hero or let them get a card from their discards.  Players can knock out an underling for 4 damage (and earn 1 fame) or henchman for 5 damage (and get 2 fame), or damage the villain (earning half the hit point damage at the end of the game, plus a bonus for knocking them out or doing the most damage to them).  Players can also attack other players.  If a player meets a headline requirement (like knocking out three henchmen or earning 10 fame), the players get a bonus from their Hero Bonus card.  And since players can't use cards in their discard pile, they can choose to rest, doing nothing but getting all their cards back.

Of course, villains get to attack back!  The main villain does an amount of damage determined by their A and B cards; in addition, heroes take 1 damage from each adjacent underling and 2 damage from each adjacent henchman.  Players can discard cards equal to or greater than the damage to avoid being injured.  If a player can't, they spend the next turn doing nothing (and getting all their cards back) and get an injury token, which adds 1 to future damage and costs them 2 fame at the end of the game.

There is so much I like about Heroes Wanted.  The game has an absolutely terrific sense of humor, from the hero and villain combos to the flavor text ("Giraffes are the nunchucks of the animal kingdom") and scenarios (where you stop villains from jaywalking or selling bootleg dvds).  The gameplay is also quite effective, as you have to decide when and who to attack, when to holds cards back to defend with, what headlines to grab, and what you'll do to win.  (I learned early on that knocking out the villain doesn't guarantee victory.)  The tokens are designed perfectly to see exactly what's on the board: Underlings are small and gray, henchmen are bigger and tan, and the villain is the biggest and black.  The Extra, Extra expansion gives many more hero and villain cards, and future expansions should provide new scenarios as well.  Heroes Wanted is perfect for folks what want to play something that's both thoughtful and amusing.  Trust me: I was DJ Worm.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch



When I firsr heard about Regular Show Fluxx, it seemed both surprising and logical: The show seemed a bit too currently popular compared to other Looney Labs licenses, but the silly and surreal nature of the show certainly lends itself to the combinations and silliness of the Fluxx games.

Regular Show Fluxx mixes the standard Fluxx rules with the characters and stuff from Regular Show.  Players put down Keepers, New Rules, and Goals, hoping that their Keepers will match a goal.  They can also play actions and may have to play Creepers, which keep that person from winning (unless the Creeper is part of a goal).  Rule-wise, there's not much new here.

 What is present is a very strong feel of Regular Show.  Keepers include almost all of the main characters from the show (though due to the time of making the show, Margaret is here and CJ isn't), plus things like the Eggscellent Hat, Video Games, and Soda.  Players can play the Death Punch of Death, Rock-Paper-Scissors Showdown (which makes two players have a 3-round R-P-S challenge, where the winner gets all of the loser's cards), and Step Off!  And the new rule "Yeahuh!" makes players use Mordecai's catchphrase whenever they play a Keeper, or another player gets that Keeper.  Some cards also have small pictures of the Regular Show cast commenting on the card.
Regular Show Fluxx isn't new in terms of rules or gameplay, but it's the closest anyone will come to entering the world of Regular Show.  This game is fun, funny, and terrific for anyone who's a fan of Regular Show.  Yeahuh!
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch