Muffin Express Best in Show Awards: PAX Edition

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a beer pairing on the site, so better late than never right?  Why not go big to make up for it. Summer is essentially over, and with it brings a new semester here at Digipen and of course the Fall line-up of impending new game releases.  This is also a great time for beer.  Oktoberfests, Pumpkin ales, holiday stouts and ales… Its gonna be a good fall.  Fair warning, this post is going to be a bit different than previous pairings.

I’m going to talk about a few of the things I played/experienced at PAX and a few of the things I drank to wash down all that digital goodness.  There was a lot to see and do this year at the Seattle Convention Center especially with this being the last mega-expo before the release of the new console generation. I was fortunate enough to get an exhibitors pass for the second day of PAX and frankly this is the way to see it. I got in early to walk the main expo floor about an hour before they opened the doors to the general public. Below is what I’m dubbing the “MEGames Best in Show: PAX Edition”

1.) Best Hardware -> Oculus Rift 


If you haven’t had the chance to strap this VR headset on, get your hands on it as quick as you can, if even just to say you remember the day when virtual reality changed your life.  A few colleagues and I missed out on the chance at E3 (with CCP’s Valkyrie demo) so I was dead set on making it happen at PAX.  Oculus VR had two playable demo’s to try, Hawken and some racing game I don’t care about remember, because I was there to get my mech on.  To my delight the headsets being demo’ed were in 1080p resolution.  So just imagine wrapping your big screen TV at home around your face.  I sat down at one of the pillared benches and the Oculus VR handler prepared me for my session.  The first thing I noticed was how noticeably light the headset was. I didn’t feel like it was pulling my forehead down and the rigging of the cables strapped to the elastic harness kept any awkward weight at bay.  The headset went on, followed by a set of studio headphones, and finally a USB Xbox360 controller to tie it all together. I must’ve looked like a spaz craning my head around admiring my handsome cockpit.  Listen up kids, this thing is a game changer. Why everyone hasn’t dropped what they’re doing, picked up their affordable dev kits and started porting everything to the Oculus Rift escapes me. Gimme a pair of haptic gloves and call me the Lawnmower Man, because when this hits the market I’m buying two.

“So just imagine wrapping your big screen TV at home around your face.”

Beer Pairing:  Honestly, nothing.

I know, it seems weird.  But can you imagine trying to paw around yourself searching for a pint glass?  Then trying to bring it to your lips without spilling?  Or have a beer or two before booting up.  If you do, I recommend something full-flavored like an double or imperial IPA. Something to compliment the sensory splendor of the Oculus Rift.

2.)  Best Software -> Titanfall


A fellow student and I wandered by the Titanfall area a few times before we badgered the staff to let us play.  They were just finishing the setup and we managed to get in the first group to play on Saturday.   Full disclosure, I have never been a big online player.  MMO’s and FPS online experiences are something I find pretty dime-a-dozen and I frankly don’t need the ego-check of getting verbally abused by an over-caffeinated pubescent informing me of my mother’s prowess in the sack.  But boys and girls, Titanfall was friggin’ amazing. The controls were very intuitive and when they weren’t, on-screen prompts made quick reactions easy. The feeling of semi-parkour/jump-jet aided soldier movement was smooth and satisfying.  But the belles of the ball were the Titans.  The sheer amount of satisfaction in stepping on NPC squads and laying waste with heavy weapons left me maniacally laughing.  Even getting shot at and being forced to eject was enjoyable. The ejection sequence was a highlight for me, you’d know when your Titan was on its last legs, get the QT prompt and be shot into the sky only to descend back down aiming to land on the enemy Titan responsible for your demise.  The revenge is delicious when you manage to land on the back of the enemy, rip open a panel of its armor and begin to empty mags into its inner circuitry.  I couldn’t get enough.  For my money, this will be the best reason to buy an Xbox One, by far.

“The revenge is delicious when you manage to land on the back of the enemy, rip open a panel of its armor and begin to empty mags into its inner circuitry.  I couldn’t get enough.  For my money, this will be the best reason to buy an Xbox One, by far.”

Beer Pairing: Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale


Creamy, chocolate notes with a hop hint to keep the sugar shock at bay. Drool over Titanfall’s totally sweet game-play with a pint of Moose Drool.  This Montana brewery makes one of the best brown ales out there.

3.) Most Potential -> SpyParty


I know what you’re thinking… anybody who hands you a four page booklet to read before you demo a game has to be nuts right? But this was exciting.  Its a little hard to explain, but its a model that most gamers these days aren’t going to be familiar with.  You play as either a sniper or a spy.  As the spy you have certain objectives to accomplish while interacting with NPC’s at a cocktail party.  The idea is not to telegraph your actions so as not to tip the sniper off to your identity. It’s all timed so there’s a clock working against you.  As the sniper you will receive cues and giveaways depending on how the spy plays to track him or her down to take them out before time expires. The fact that this works as well as it did in a very raw demo mode, was enjoyable as hell. I really cant wait to see this go gold and get my mitts on it.

“I really cant wait to see this go gold and get my mitts on it.”

Beer Pairing: Maritime Portage Bay Pilsener


A natural choice for this would be a crisp gin martini with a few olives, because y’know, its a cocktail party.  But in the interest of my passion for craft beer, the better than mediocre Portage Bay pilsener from Maritime Brewery. There’s a lot of potential in this beer, you know it could be great but it keeps you wanting more.

4.) WTF Award -> Camdrome 

Seriously? WTF was this? Google it. Follow it on twitter. Get creeped the eff out. Rumors of an ARG were getting tossed around the indie game booths, but no one seems to know.  If Banksy was at PAX, this was his installation. Just sayin’.

Beer Pairing:  Suds wont cut it for this one.  Pass the whiskey.


Make sure its cheap.  Something strong to stop hands from shaking and to calm the nerves. I didn’t spend very long watching that creepy monitor/webcam setup but I imagine Terry Gilliam’s and Jigsaw’s (from the SAW movie franchise) demon child hooked up with Rob Zombie and then went to RISD to study multimedia and “find themselves”.  Freaky as $#!+.

“Freaky as $#!+.”

Congrats to the winners!  It should be mentioned all the beers featured here were imbibed at the Tap House in downtown Seattle, a quick jaunt from the convention hall.  Over 150 taps, a decent lunch special and busy enough at the time to shake the spectre of the Camdrome that I was pretty sure was following me.  PAX was great even for the short time I spent, and I’d like to thank all the people that came and said hi to us at Muffin Express while we worked the Digipen booth. Those of you who played War of the Currents, we are very grateful. We sincerely hope you enjoyed it, and keep an eye out for hints and teases of our new project.

Cheers e’rybody and  remember to always play responsibly.

~Joe Erskine, September 2013

MtG: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 + Lost Coast Double Trouble IPA

Many moons ago (circa 1996) while in the throes of junior high, I was frequenting a store in upstate New York that specialized in baseball cards (Bo Jackson was my dude!) and comic books (Jim Lee era X-Men, Batman, etc). The shop was slowly allowing table top games and their supplements into its crowded shelf space and I had enough naivete to consider myself a well-versed nerd to start investigating.  When a collectible trading card game called Magic: The Gathering came onto the scene, kids all over town were trading in the their Jose Consecos and Ken Griffey Jrs for Shivan Dragons and Serra Angels.  I wasn’t an early adopter, but I started dropping my allowance on Magic right around the time the “Revised” edition was circulating.  This easily became the funnel that I poured most of my teenage income into until early high school, when things like gas money, sneaking into R-rated movies and parties in the woods took more precedence.

There are few games or IPs in the nerd-o-verse that carry the weight and devotion that Magic: The Gathering does.  The bell-weather for the stereotypical basement dwelling man-child is still probably Dungeons and Dragons but I would surmise that Magic has made a very strong case to be a contender in the past decade or so.  With both franchises making a more profound effort to digitize their games into sleek  video game versions, their presence has garnered more credibility and an even wider fan base.  Comic and collectible stores host weekly gatherings on Friday nights, as well as scheduled tournaments when new expansion sets are released.  My wife has fond memories of playing in sealed-deck tourneys at her local hobby shop in Brooklyn, NY growing up.  Even now, high schools and colleges are often a breeding ground for gaming kids to duke it out with their meticulously assembled decks.  Official teaser video below…


Nowadays, I tend to leave the mana-slinging to younger, more capable hands, but M:TG has become something of a guilty pleasure as I traverse my 30’s.  Its been hard for me not to associate trading card games like Magic and the soon to follow Pokemon with my awkward early teens, and therefore as an adult I certainly associated a bit of guilt and reticence when Magic came back into my life.  Full disclosure: after moving to Seattle, my wife and I both attempted to get back into the game, and this lasted about a month.  Perhaps the great genius/diabolical nature of Magic is that it can empty your wallet faster than a pickpocket on speed (“Four dollar booster packs?! I’ll take the whole box!”).  This flirtation and nostalgia faded fairly quickly but when Wizards of the Coast (with the help of Microsoft Studios) started releasing the Duels of the Planeswalkers series in digital formats, my wife and I now had a way to play while keeping the clutter of cards to a minimum.  Not to mention, it’s WAY more affordable.  This past weekend I downloaded Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 from XBLA, hit the hop shop for some Lost Coast Double Trouble Double IPA and shuffled up.  After making my way through the main campaign and the new sealed-deck mode, I jumped online with Muffin Express team member, Chris Morris (who’s recovering from surgery, so hit him up @Azereki to send your well wishes) to give the Two-Headed Monster mode a whirl (Double Trouble IPA, Two-Headed Monster… you get the idea).  For the record, we got our asses kicked.  A lot.  Regardless, we had a good time revisiting a game that’s got great balance, well-tuned mechanics and for my money some of the best fantasy art in the world.

The newest game plays much like its earlier incarnations and with a re-vamped tutorial makes it super easy for a newcomers to pick it up.  Duels of the Planeswalkers added story elements in its first paper editions to give players threads to follow and this game builds on a story line about Chandra Nalaar, a fiery-haired, red-deck inclined planeswalker.  Multiple game modes and more decks than you can shake a 20-sided die at give the player hours of playability.  For roughly the cost of a real-life booster pack, you can get to mana-tapping and spell-casting in the same time it takes to pour a round of pints. The sealed-deck mode is a great addition to the digital series.  It scratches that itch of opening new packs when foes are defeated to bolster your deck, but undercuts itself a bit by adding an “auto-build” feature.   There are a few pay-to-play elements like the deck keys. For a dollar you can buy a key to unlock a deck you otherwise would’ve had to unlock by beating an in-game opponent.  Chris and I had a feeling there was a lot of money getting spent on decks in the online mode by our online opponents who just wanted to dominate.   Seriously, if you play Eldrazi decks you’re not even trying (until I unlock one anyway).

As for the beer? I’m always on the lookout for new IPA’s.   They are hands-down my favorite style of ale, the more IBU’s the better (International Bittering Units scale).  Lost Coast Brewery, based out of Eureka, CA, has a great Indica IPA but I was feeling a bit more adventurous on a lazy Sunday so when I strolled into my local beer shop I decided to fill my growler with their Double Trouble Double IPA.  At 7.6% ABV it carries a very forward bitterness that gives way to a grassy, citrus-y flavor — perfect for a Sunday afternoon on the couch.   Seeing as how Chris was recovering from his adventures on the operating table, I figured I’d have to drink his share as well, so Double Trouble IPA fit the bill nicely.

The Game:


MAGIC: THE GATHERING, DUELS OF THE PLANESWALKERS 2014 —  For the veterans and newcomers out there, it behooves you to give this game a try. The matches are routinely fast paced and the plethora of decks and options keep the game fresh for hours. I’m not normally a multiplayer sort of guy but I had a blast playing with Chris despite our inability to win a single match together. The story line is negligible but adds something for those that need a deeper universe.  The sealed-deck play is fun, but take the time to construct your own decks, you’ll get more satisfaction when you win. Plus, the price is most certainly right,  I spent more on the beer than I did the game (this almost never happens).

The Beer:


LOST COAST DOUBLE TROUBLE DOUBLE IPA — A beer that goes great for washing down the guilt that comes when you’re playing a game you are pretty sure is best left to the younger set (I’ll get over it).  Deceptive in its smoothness versus ABV.  It definitely tastes more like an IPA as opposed to a 2x IPA or Imperial IPA.  Not much in the nose, but a healthy dose of hops lets it shine through on flavor alone.  I enjoyed a growler full, straight from the tap and I recommend you do the same.  

Tapping some mana? Get some tap beer (yay, lazy puns!). Specifically, Lost Coast’s delightful Double IPA.  All reluctance aside, the folks at Wizards of the Coast have one of the best table top card games EVER on their hands and have succeeded in providing an equally enjoyable digital experience.  If you consider yourself a gamer and haven’t played some version of Magic: The Gathering, I’m revoking your gamer card. Tried and true balance and mechanics play just as well with a controller as they do in real life.  As long as they keep putting out Duels of The Planeswalkers installments and subsequent DLC, I’ll be there, beer in hand.   Special thanks to my long suffering wife and Chris Morris for pushing me to write about the game and playing it with me.

Cheers dear reader, and please play responsibly!

– J. Erskine July, 2013


Walking Dead: 400 Days + Firestone Walker Pale 31

It’s the fourth of July holiday week and if you aren’t out at a barbecue scarfing some delicious animal flesh (you are? hit me up, I’ll be right over) then get inside and chow down on the latest “Play Responsibly” Beer Pairing.   This week, Telltale games released a new episode in their critically acclaimed Walking Dead series.  If you haven’t read the comics, seen the show or played the previous “Season One” episodes of the game then you are either a very talented recluse or living under a metric-ton of rocks.

The Walking Dead is an ongoing and totally boss comic (go read it) written by Robert Kirkman and published by Image Comics.  After much success in print, AMC got their hands on the rights to adapt it into a wildly popular TV show.  Telltale Games got their hands on this shooting star IP in short order and produced what was one of the best games of  2012.  It won just about every GOTY award in the business, and rightfully deserved all of them.  The game-play focuses on some hard choices that affect the plot, a lot of compelling story, and stellar character development.  Let me just add that when I say “hard choices” this essentially means taking the player to task.  Envision a morally ambiguous rock and a murderous hard place and try to pick the more appropriate of two evils.

I got on board with the The Walking Dead universe when the news broke about AMC’s pre-production on the TV show had begun.  This being a few years ago, at the height of the zombie-madness in pop culture (it’s still here, just a bit tired) I was all about it.  I tracked down as many of the hardback compendiums that I could find and started devouring the graphic novels with relish. I’ve since kept up with the comic’s story this way and as a fan of the show, its entertaining to see how they compare.  The great success of Kirkman’s twisted universe is the character study of the human race trying to endure in post-zombie-outbreak America (read: Georgia). The idea that the surviving members of the desolate world are more dangerous to themselves than the ravenous “Walkers” are,  is a theme that most zombie stories only seem to lightly touch on. This particular focus adds a gravitas that not only makes you care about the characters, it lets you root for their otherwise questionable actions.  Check out the launch trailer below…


The Walking Dead: 400 Days
is a stand alone installment that includes five playable “short-stories” as levels.  All of the stories star different characters that very loosely link themselves together at different periods over the course of 400 days around a Georgia truck-stop.  The episode itself lasts for roughly 90 minutes, which is measurably shorter than the previous “Season One” installments.  Telltale seems to be sating their fans thirst for the second season with this little ditty that may have ties to the upcoming season.  The game works on most levels (a few glaring graphical glitches aside), but I almost hesitate to call it a game in the traditional sense.  400 Days plays more like an interactive comic book with the occasional button-mash and dialogue option.  In fact, the delivery is so nicely presented that I asked myself after my play-through why more studios don’t present their games in an episodic fashion. In so many words, its a great interactive experience to gobble up while enjoying a tasty beverage.

After some hilarious debate with my wife regarding some of the decisions I was forced to make in the game, I decided a summer-y (its been exceptionally warm in Pacific Northwest this week) yet hoppy ale would help wash down my bitter, panicked hesitation while choosing between the “no-win” scenarios.  I’d been an enthusiast of Firestone Walker since relocating to the West Coast (their “Double Jack” double IPA is AMAZING) but had yet to try this particular entry in their repertoire.  Pale 31 is part of their “pale” series of ales and is brewed in loving honor of Firestone’s home state of California.  Its a dry-hopped pale ale that drinks like a pilsner but has enough hops to give it a mild peppery bite.  To edify the burgeoning beer connoisseurs out there, dry-hopping is the process of adding hops to the fermenting beer a bit later in the brewing cycle for a period of 10+ days. Timing is crucial (it compliments 400 Day’s dialogue-choice “countdown”) and when executed correctly, can add a plethora of hop aroma and flavor.  Being the experienced, successful brewers that they are, Firestone Walker pulls this off in spades.  What would normally drink like an American-style “yellow” beer becomes delightfully complicated yet smooth and satisfying.

The Game:


THE WALKING DEAD: 400 DAYS — A nice, tight addition to the franchise and game series.  A big thanks to Telltale for keeping us fans satisfied while we anticipate the new season.  The five short stories link lightly to each other and depending on the players choice of order, can play out in a Pulp Fiction-ish sort of way.  Great art style, true to its predecessor, and it sets the stage nicely as a bridge for upcoming episodes.

The Beer:


FIRESTONE WALKER PALE 31 —  A lovely, smooth and flavorful member of an already stellar collection from Firestone Walker.  Perfect for barbecues and moral judgement calls.  Easy drinking, great as a session beer and very satisfying.  Put the ‘Dudweiser’ down, and graduate to a “bridge” beer that will be a great intro for the un-initiated to the world of American craft brewing. Pale 31’s crystal clear, golden hued form is a nice juxtaposition to the weighty consequences of the game.

Be prepared to make some hard decisions but temper your bitter indignation with a clean, hoppy ale.  My recommendation is to enjoy the game as you would a comic book or long-form TV show. Enjoy the story, be amazed how quickly you emotionally invest in shady characters and above all,  keep an eye out for “Walkers” while admiring your Firestone Walker (I couldn’t resist).

Keep your beer cold and your controllers non-sweaty!  As always, cheers and play responsibly.

– J. Erskine, July 2013

Metro: Last Light + Stone Imperial Russian Stout

It’s SUMMER-time!  In the greater Seattle area, this is always a wonderful prospect. The rain and dreariness we get nine months out of the year decides to dial it back a bit and 70ish degree days with minimal clouds give way to the best time of year. Granted, it’s early in the season (“June-uary”), so we still get the intermittent crap day but the residents here can feel the sweet relief coming. I’ll gladly spend more of my free time outdoors with my wife (probably at the local pub’s patio), but for now, the beer is cold and these games wont play themselves.
While I finished my first tension-filled play-through of The Last of Us (the multi-player element is pretty rad as well) I knew I was due for a new pairing for your (and lets face it, mine) playing and tasting pleasure. So I dug into my recent gaming experiences and in the interest of staying relatively current, decided to reflect on Metro: Last Light.

Metro: Last Light is the follow-up to Metro 2033 (March, 2010). Both games are based on the book series primarily written by Dmitry Glukhovsky in a post-apocalyptic Russia, specifically inside the metropolitan underground train lines of Moscow. You play as Artyom, a man who serves in the local militia’s ranks as a protector against warring factions, mutants and (and in the case of the latest installment) the aftermath of the Dark Ones. Metro: Last Light picks up where 2033 left off, and assumes you chose to destroy the Dark Ones with a missile barrage that for all intents and purposes wiped them out, or so you’re told.
For many reasons, this game needs to be recognized as a sleeper hit of the year. It wont get the same attention as many of its counterparts and hopefully wont get brushed aside in the midst of the new console hoop-la. I like to follow a decent amount of the gaming press and started catching a bit of Metro’s press back during the weeks leading up to the games release. The real story in my mind was not about a FPS from some obscure Ukrainian studio but the development hell that this team endured to get this game made. The ridiculous and challenging (truly, an understatement) circumstances these guys faced to make this game happen are detailed by Jason Rubin, who was brought in (after a bunch of other Producers) by THQ to see it through to release. I wont be able to do it justice so you should go read his piece on the experience here (go ahead, I’ll wait).

Regular power outages, card table desks, folding chair seating, smuggled dev kits and the list goes on. How many of us take our chairs for granted, let alone the space required to fit them all in a bull-pen? Do you have to wear a parka and/or gloves to stay warm while coding? If conditions like this existed in a western studio people would be wearing out their email accounts talking to Human Resources while unbunching their boxer-briefs . You hear about indie devs starting studios in garages, NOT in a proverbial gulag. The team at 4A deserves all the credit in the world for persevering and at the very least showing up day after day to put Metro together.
Truth be told, until I read Rubin’s article about the development, I had no interest playing Metro: Last Light. I figured it was another throw-away AAA FPS that was among other less-than-exciting releases (exception: BioShock: Infinite) in the first half of the year. A fellow team member directed me to Rubin’s article and I was intrigued more so about the development than the game. After finishing the read, I knew I was going to buy the game. At first it was a show of support to honor the effort involved and playing it became a exercise in appreciation. For the record, I payed full price about 2 weeks after release. I easily could have traded in a few used games to knock down the price but I want to believe a few of my dollars ended up in these guys pockets, anything to let them know their efforts were admired. Hell, if I ever have the pleasure of meeting any of these guys, beers are on me.
Here’s why Metro: Last Light is worth your time:

  • Graphically, these guys nail it. Awesome, gritty textures add to what is already a great environment. The lighting, as sparse as it can be, becomes your friend or enemy depending on the circumstances.
  • The best part of this game, and the aspect you will hear the most about is the finely crafted atmosphere. The claustrophobic tunnels, low-ceilings, desolation and murky air leave you craving sunlight and an oxygen re-breather. In a few segments of the game, you don a gas-mask and you can feel how restrictive it is as grime accumulates on the visor with your breath boxing your ears. Having a time-limit on your mask filters added to the urgency of the out-door levels.
  • The bullets-as-money mechanic is a nice touch. Resource management becomes important and the option to run-and-gun versus stealth opens up the game-play.
  • Those goddamn flying mutants. Fun as hell to fight. Getting snatched up, whipped around and dropped made me laugh in frustration many times.
  • I could feel influences from Fallout 3 and Half-Life 2 and in no way is this a bad thing.

Now, with all of that in mind, what does one drink while traversing the subway tunnels of an irradiated Russia? I debated this question quite a bit. Considering where the game is based, a vodka cocktail would’ve been trite, even stereo-typical. I could have tracked down a Ukrainian or Russian brand of beer, but my local hop shop seemed to be out of Baltika. So, browsing the aisles I came across Stone Brewery’s excellent Imperial Russian Stout. What makes a stout “Russian”?  Brewers back in the 1800’s took English recipes and decided it needed to be fuller, more viscous beer in hope’s of winning the Czar’s favor. Full disclosure, Stone is my favorite brewery. Ever. They brew beer like angels play the harp. If you told me they made a brown ale hopped from dirty diapers, I’d assume the position and say “Please sir, may I have another?” I wouldn’t want to associate just any game with this brewery, but these guys definitely earned it. Stone is based out of San Diego, California and exist in the upper echelon of craft breweries across the states.

The Game:

METRO: LAST LIGHT – A dark, forbidding game that plays like it should and looks fan-frickin-tastic. Crazy-good atmosphere adds to fun combat and an enjoyable story. Very well crafted considering the trials and tribulations of the development team.  Go for the “Ranger” difficulty (a NewGame+ type mode) for a real challenge. In post-apocalyptic Russia, game plays YOU.
The Beer:

STONE IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT – A very dark, challenging beer that goes down smooth. A great palate of oak-y chocolate malty-ness, hop bitterness and a creamy, almost oily finish. Superbly crafted by one of the best breweries in the biz.  At a whopping 10.5% ABV, this beer should be approached with respect. One 22oz bottle and a pony glass will suffice, especially if you are playing the game in “Ranger” mode.  ThePaintedGrey (commentor) on described the beer perfectly (and instantly made me want to drink one):

“Black. Absolutely BLACK. This beer devours light and all semblances of color. It pours thick and syrupy and creates a frothy beige head that retains well and leaves tan lacing all over the glass… ” – ThePaintedGrey

Go play the game. Have a Stone IRS while doing so. A game like this deserves a great beer to accompany it. Boot up the disc and toast the team at 4A Games for giving us something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. If you were on the fence about Metro: Last Light, go buy it just to support a team that deserves your respect AND your money.

“Za vas!” (which is essentially “Here’s to you!” in Ukrainian) and remember to play responsibly.

– J. Erskine, June 2013

The Last of Us + HUB Organic IPA

In an effort to recharge the batteries after an eventful week in LA for the E3 extravaganza, I returned home to unpack, unwind and do my best to digest everything I had seen at the convention. The first order of business was of course to call my Dad, and wish him a happy Father’s Day. It’s in that spirit that I’ve decided to add a new pairing to the Play Responsibly blog.

After scouring GameStop, Best Buy and Target I was unable to get my mitts on a disc copy of The Last of Us, the highly anticipated and latest offering from Naughty Dog. Dejected, I returned home and decided for only the second time in my tenure as a console owner, to purchase and download a game for full price. I briefly considered spending the 60+ dollars on my Dad, but had already sent him a new wallet. Sorry Pop, but the post-apocalyptic adventures of Joel and Ellie were calling. I snagged a four-pack of HUB (Hopworks Urban Brewery) Organic IPA’s for the beginning of my play-through and loaded that bad-mamma-jamma up. HUB has quickly become one of my favorite breweries here on the West Coast. Based out of Portland, Oregon (incidentally, my parents recently moved to the out-lying area), they are serving up some of the best hopped ales I have had the pleasure of imbibing.

“Whats the connection between Father’s Day and The Last of Us? Or even HUB IPA and The Last of Us?”, you might ask. To which I reply, “Who cares? Just go with it.” Minimal spoilers ahead.

I have yet to finish the game, but from what I’ve played you mainly control Joel, a grizzled, hollow-eyed smuggler in the post-outbreak areas of Boston, Eastern Colorado and Salt Lake City (among others). Think of a super-depressed Han Solo, without the swagger or hairy alien sidekick. Early in the game he suffers a horrific loss (seriously, it’s tragic) and spends his days in the aftermath running contraband in and out of quarantined zones. Ellie, which is predominantly an AI companion, joins you fairly quickly in the initial missions and becomes Joel’s most precious cargo yet. Between blood thirsty bandits, fungal zombie abominations and human soldiers, Joel has his hands full. There are sequences where you play as Ellie, but for the most part you play as Joel in a reluctant father figure role (see what I did there?).

Lets just throw out a few more game related observations here:

–First, this game is brutal on numerous levels. The violence is heavy and arguably necessary as a plot device. You bludgeon, stomp, punch, shoot, and stab your way through encounters (that should definitely be approached with caution), all the while collecting items to craft useful new supplies. Ammo is VERY limited, encounters quickly turn in the enemies favor and evasion via distraction is usually the best policy. On a related note, the HUB IPA cans have the creed “Do what you can.” written on the top. I found this to be sage advice while playing.

–Second, this game will punish you for rushing into anything ( a good rule for life, thanks Dad). Anyone who tries the run-and-gun approach will regret it within seconds. Crucial crafting items will get missed, enemies will swamp you quickly and you WILL waste ammo. This adds to a palpable, weighty feeling of tension as you sweat through sequences avoiding detection. In fact, the tension is one of my favorite aspects of the game.

–Third, this game is a visual and aural gem. As in, lets put it in a laser guarded glass case at a Swarovski outlet. It’s astounding how much graphical power Naughty Dog squeezes out of the PS3. They wring that GPU like a sponge, and your eyes will thank you more than a few times. The mo-cap performances portray emotion and expression on a level that rivals (perhaps even exceeds) L.A. Noire’s tour-de-force in digital acting.

My only caveat to you potential players is the movement control. Its fairly standard in the 3rd person perspective realm, but walking and running around can feel stiff and a bit unnatural. My Producer, Joe Arroyo had a great tidbit on this, positing that Naughty Dog had essentially unraveled the movement mechanics in the Uncharted series and left them de-tuned on purpose. Regardless, moving becomes more comfortable the more you play, and by no means is it a reason to fore-go what is shaping up to be a Game of The Year contender.

The Game:


THE LAST OF US – A beautiful, bitter, brutal game experience. Amazing cinematics, great story, and game play worthy of the Naughty Dog pedigree (zing!). Not to be approached lightly, be prepared to work for it.

The Beer:


HOPWORKS URBAN BREWERY ORGANIC IPA – A beautiful, bitter, beer experience. A clean hop aroma with standard hop dryness. Crispy and just nutty enough to not be malty. Easily one of the best IPAs on the market for my money. Easy drinking for complex video gaming. Plus, it’s organic. Sort of like the crazy fungus growing all over your terrifying enemies.

Like the dirty, gasoline soaked rag stuffed into a brown bottle of flammable liquid, The Last of Us and HUB IPA make an explosive combo. I look forward to enjoying more of both. Call your Dad, wish him a happy Fathers Day and make sure he never ever sees the opening sequence of The Last of Us.

Cheers and as always, play responsibly.

– J. Erskine, June 2013

Rayman Legends + Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse

Alright so here we go… the first pairing. This one is inspired by the E3 trip. A few of us ( in hopes of doing some uninhibited networking) decided that hitting the “Yard House” near the LA convention center was a novel concept. This place was the second best reason to be in LA for E3. An amazing craft beer restaurant with a daunting amount of tap lines (also, affordable happy hour bites). We enjoyed a few Franziskaner Hefeweizen’s and headed to the great sensory-overload-fest and exercise in the nerd-abundance that is E3. After checking out a few booths, playing a few demos, and having passed out zero business cards, we entered the Nintendo area and came upon… wait for it…




Oh my good god this game is amazing. I had always heard universally good reviews about this series, yet had never managed to play any of the entries. The art style is gorgeous. The quality of game play and controls is something every platformer should strive for. The truly best piece of the puzzle was being able to play a level together, and based on our timed (sometimes poorly) actions, play Eye Of The Tiger based on our jumps and item collection. UN-BE-LEEV-UBLE. It was so much fun, it was the only game we played twice at E3.



The Game:

Rayman Legends

RAYMAN LEGENDS – Go for the art, stay for the game-play, and don’t forget to punch and/or rescue your pals.


The Beer:


FRANZISKANER HEFE-WEISSE – It’s banana bread + beer in a glass. Seriously, the best wheat beer ever. Go get some right now.


A game like Rayman Legends, with all of its bright, cartoon-y splendor goes swimmingly with a crisp, full and bright flavored beer like Franziskaner Hefe. The banana undertones and clean, wheat flavored body is something to behold. Enjoy both with friends. They go together like Ron Swanson and breakfast food.


See you next time and remember, play responsibly.


– J. Erskine, June 2013