Craft Beers For Craft Games

Blues and Bullets paired with Speakeasy Payback Porter

I love episodic adventure games. Games like Telltale’s Walking Dead and Square Enix’s Life is Strange have brought tears to my eyes and been one of my most memorable gaming experiences. But for every amazing episodic game, there is a godawful one and unfortunately  Blues and Bullets is one of those. Despite being ambitious, unique, and having excellent art design, Blues and Bullets is a mess of a game and a serious let down. But hey, the Speakeasy Payback Porter was good.

Blues and Bullets is a noir murder mystery set in an alternate 1930s California. You play Elliot Ness, the famous “untouchable” agent who took the down the infamous gangster. Except in this universe, Ness arrests Al Capone after murdering his guards in a drunken stupor. Ness has since retired and leading a quiet life as a civilian while running a dinner, until Capone reappears. The imprisoned gangster requests Ness to investigate the disappearance of Capone’s granddaughter.

Blues and Bullets attempts to pair the art style of Frank Miller’s Sin City with the plot of L.A. Confidential and True Detective. While this sounds good on paper, it utterly fails in execution. Blues and Bullets is a disjointed and random experience. It starts off strong with a glimpse into the lair of the cultist kidnapper, but then spends several hours establishing that Ness and Capone dislike each other. Anyone with a general knowledge of US history is aware of this, so it feels like a waste of time. The gameplay itself is essentially stagnant; you simply wander around a room slowly hoping you interact with the object necessary to advance the plot. There are splashes of interesting moments, such as the shootout at Capone’s mansion and an L.A. Noire style murder investigation. But generally, the gameplay is dull.

Again, I like this gaming genre. But that’s only because the characters and plot are well done and well written; unlike Blues and Bullets. The writing is laughably bad and the characters are terrible. Ness is an awful lead. He mumbles all his lines in an attempt to sound gritty and world-weary, and his facial expression never changes from a dull frown. Capone has an almost offensively bad Italian accent. The game also suffers from terrible animations, lip syncing, and unnecessary dream sequences.

But hey, the beer was good. Speakeasy always has high quality beer and this porter was no different. Given the time period and tone of Blues and Bullets, a Prohibition style beer seemed appropriate. Speakeasy Payback Porter is a dark and tasty craft beer that you can easily drink. In fact, I was surprised by how drinkable it was. There’s no harshness or bitterness, I was genuinely shocked when I picked the bottle up at one point and it was about empty.

To summarize, buy Speakeasy Payback Porter and avoid Blues and Bullets. The game has high ambitions and an intriguing premise, but fails disastrously in execution. The characters are uninteresting, the plot is slow, the gameplay is stagnant, and the lip syncing is awful. The art design is excellent, but it in no way saves the game. Enjoy the beer though, it’s good. Not good enough to make up for the five hours I wasted playing Blues and Bullets, but it’s a small consolation prize.

Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime paired with A Little Crazy

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a 1-2 player local co-op game in which player(s) must face the anti-love forces that threaten to make the universe a very unlovely place. Advancing from level-to-level is a simple matter of rescuing enough space bunnies to open the bright pink heart-portal. But of course, the various monsters and meteors in the depths of space make this a more challenging task. And if none of those words made any sense, here’s the trailer:

A big part of my gaming aesthetic is cuteness. While my taste certainly extends beyond this: I have a soft spot for adorable characters in either dark, twisted, worlds or lands with ridiculously vibrant colors. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is the latter. As soon as I watched the trailer and these little guys put on their space gear, I was hooked.

As I got farther into the trailer, the madness increased. So much was happening on screen: monsters, bullets, shields, gravitation fields, it was crazy! So when I went to Binny’s Beverage Depot (it feels good to be back in Chicago) as was selecting a beer I tried to find one that would do this game justice. I went with my city’s own Revolution Brewing’s A Little Crazy.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime can be played via local co-op or single player with “an A.I Pet.” Personally, controlling two characters at once for the entire game has no appeal to me.  For this particular space odyssey I enlisted my older brother, Edwin. He’s six years my senior and my only sibling so I’ve always been his Player 2. It was nice to team up again for this one.

But regardless of how you play, here’s what you need to know: the two of you must man the ship by operating different battle stations within it. These include fuel/steering, weapons, the map, and the shield. The whole game is really just 3 controls: jump, interact, and move (which on the Xbox One are A, X, and the joystick, respectively). Throughout your space journey you will find different “gifts” in the form of power-ups. Add these to different stations for some souped-up capabilities.

Once again, I can only speak to the local co-op experience but I adored this game. While the difficulty builds it starts off very accessible. The game gives the player(s) enough time to figure out the controls and develop a strategy before everything gets too chaotic. Playing with my brother, as opposed to an A.I pet, was a blast because we were able to talk and strategize together. The two characters in the ship are meant to be partners and that’s exactly what we became: I took control of steering and the shield while he did most of the shooting.

I was a little salty to have gotten stuck with the less glamorous role but I quickly realized that once we are in the thick of battle our roles become a lot more improvised. We tried to organize this by assigning one of us to the left side and one to the right, but when enemies are all coming from one side that strategy becomes obsolete. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime keeps you on your toes and constantly running about your ship. This occasionally led to me and my brother accidentally attempting to man the same station, which included a funny collision animation.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is all about teamwork, multi-tasking, and rescuing space bunnies.

I paired this game with a beer that boasts a similarly wild experience, Little Crazy by Revolution Brewing. A Belgian-Style Ale with a 6.8 ABV, this beer does things differently. Those who love Anti-Hero will feel at home, as they taste similar hops but with a twist. Despite its malt base, the caramel and citrus shine through for a delicious and new experience. There’s even a cute story behind the beer: “Ever wonder how A Little Crazy got its name? It was originally called a “small beer”, as it was brewed from the second running of mash used from our original Instutionalized Barleywine brew. Hence the name, “A Little Crazy.”

All in all, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is the most fun I’ve had gaming recently and I got to pair it with the best beer I’ve tasted in awhile.