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Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks Review: Tabletop Board Game, But Make It Horror

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If you love slashers, 1980s pop culture nostalgia, and board games, Mixtape Massacre (available here) is for you. The series began with a Kickstarter campaign that collected over $26,000 back in 2015 to fund the first board game. Five years later, after another successful campaign, Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks was confirmed. In the near future, as in sometime in early 2022, the latest installment of the game, the Director’s Cut, will be shipped out to Kickstarter supporters. We love to see successful indie efforts. This article will focus on Escape from Tall Oaks.

With a minimum estimated playtime of 45 minutes, the game isn’t too long, and it is pretty easy to pick up. The rules are straightforward enough, though the rulebook can be a bit intimidating at 13 large, information-packed pages. Essentially, you and one to five others play as teenagers trying to survive the onslaught of three killers. Each teenager has their own special ability, such as Derrick with his extra Defense point on every roll. You move across the board with two standard six-sided dice, but the outcomes of your turns are decided by three action dice. The goal, at first, is to collect Scene Markers/Rescue Tokens, which will allow you to try to complete Tasks once you have five of them. Watch out for attacks on your health and the level of the noise meter, though! When the noise meter is full, the active player must face off with the killer. If you are lucky enough to complete all your objectives, you have a chance of escaping. But only one teenager can get out of Tall Oaks. All, however, can die. It’s difficult to lay out all the aspects of the game in one paragraph, but that’s the gist of it. As with most board games, forgetting a rule here or there won’t destroy the experience.

The gameplay itself is smooth. It is particularly interesting that, for most of the game, everyone works together to keep the noise down, rescue survivors, and kill the slashers. But once the escape route appears . . . all that camaraderie is out the window. There’s also an option to get into “Scuffles” when two players land on the same space, though, which results in the losing player losing health and giving one Rescue Token to the winner. If you’re feeling nasty and competitive, this is a good way to burn some in-game bridges.

As expected in a game inspired by ‘80s slasher flicks, there are plenty of nods to the genre and its tropes. Each Killer Scenes, Dude card reveals the event that happens in your character’s location. They are usually either calls to attempt rescues or cards that immediately summon the killer. Some great rescue scenes include “Time to Chop the Salad!” featuring killer plants, “Put that Damn Thing Away!” with a Ouija Board, and “Why Are You Running towards the Woods?” which is pretty self-explanatory. One of my favorites is a reference to Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) on one card that shows a clawed hand reaching out of a bathtub.

The aesthetic of Mixtape Massacre: Escape from Tall Oaks is delightful. The backs of the various cards show relics from the ‘80s. There are VHS tapes with the bright green HORROR sticker on them, cassette tapes, and marble notebooks. The Final Scenes, Dude cards have a video rental sticker on them as well. Instead of “Be Kind and Rewind,” they read, “Rewind or Die!” The Scene Markers/Rescue Tokens are also great, with images of Rubik’s Cubes, red-and-blue 3D glasses, red plastic cups, and roller skates. Of course, there’s a splatter of blood across most items too.

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There are currently two base games of Mixtape Massacre, and the boards can be combined to make a larger map. Additionally, there are four expansion packs, and, as stated in the first paragraph, the preorder for the Director’s Cut will be coming to Kickstarter supporters soon. There are enough twists to keep the replay factor high, and playing with different groups of people is always amusing. Horror junkies and scaredy cats alike can enjoy Mixtape Massacre. I thoroughly enjoy the game, and I’m looking forward to playing the expansions as they come. Have you played Mixtape Massacre or its sequel? Did you back the Director’s Cut? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Amanda Nevada DeMel is a born-and-raised New Yorker, though she currently lives in New Jersey. Her favorite genre is horror, thanks to careful cultivation from her father. She especially appreciates media that can simultaneously scare her and make her cry. Amanda also loves reptiles, musicals, and breakfast foods.

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‘The Last of Us’ Adaptation is Almost Here, Will It Meet Gamer Expectations?

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We’re counting the days until The Last of Us premieres on HBO, and the latest trailer doesn’t make the wait any easier. This trailer has everything: titillating hints to a revolution brewing in a post-apocalyptic world, brief introductions to the game franchise’s most beloved characters, the creature reveals, and a surprisingly menacing version of the saccharine 80’s bop “Take On Me” by A-Ha.

There are some big names attached to this project, including Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann himself. The score will be composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who also did the original score for the game.

By the looks of the trailer, the show will be as visually stunning as the games. The trailer opens up with a pensive Ellie asking Joel, “if you don’t think there’s any hope for the world, why bother going on?” A gruff Joel responds, “You haven’t seen the world, so you don’t know.” Joel goes on to tell Ellie that she’s not family, but cargo. Fans of the game know that Joel eventually does a 180 on that sentiment, but here he is, all business.

The latest trailer gives us more background to Joel and Ellie’s epic journey and the people they meet along the way. The Mandolarian’s Pedro Pascal is our intense protagonist Joel, tasked with getting Ellie (Bella Ramsey, Game of Thrones) west. We get a few peeks at the crumbling cities, snowy forests, and gritty militia-style outposts they encounter, and Ellie shows off the scarred-over bitemark on her arm and the true reason for their trip. It’s revealed that Ellie may be the answer to finding a cure for the Cordyceps fungal infection that left the world in ruins, underscoring the high stakes and how treacherous Joel and Ellie’s journey out west will be.

Ellie’s charming personality and Joel’s rough and authoritative demeanor are on full display in this trailer, and I’m looking forward to Ramsey and Pascal making these beloved characters their own. You’ll see a few familiar faces and may recognize them as some of the other endearing characters Joel and Ellie meet while traveling across the post-apocalyptic U.S. The star-studded cast also includes Merle Dandridge, who reprises her role as Marlene, the leader of the resistance movement the Fireflies; Nick Offerman as the survivalist Bill, and Storm Reid as Riley. Riley’s appearance in the trailer means fans can expect to learn more about Ellie’s past from The Last of Us: Left Behind expansion. We also see glimpses of brothers Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard), and I, for one am not ready to relive that trauma.

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And of course, this trailer saves the best for last: the creature reveal. The last few seconds reveal several cordyceps rising from a fiery pit, which is enough to fuel a few nightmares. Fans of the game will recognize the monster in the center frame as a bloater, the last and most formidable stage in the Cordyceps fungal infection. Honestly, no notes: the creature design looks perfect and faithful to the game’s style. I’m already creeped out by their various clicking noises, much like I was while playing the games.

I was undecided on if I would watch The Last of Us when it was first announced. We all know that movies and shows based on video games can be hit or miss, and I worried about how such a compelling story would translate to primetime TV. But it’s a great sign that Neil Druckmann is credited as a writer for this project, and it’s obvious that HBO/Warner Brothers are invested in producing a faithful retelling of this story. I’m excited to see how accurate the show is to the source material and what new nightmares it’ll bring to audiences.

The Last of Us premieres on HBO and HBO Max on January 15.

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The 5 Best Spooky Games To Play This Fall

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Finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for all year: Spooky Season!

There’s a magic in the air that you can only feel during Spook Season. It’s by far the best season, full of treats, coziness, and, of course, HALLOWEEN!

My favorite fall self-care ritual is popping a giant bowl of popcorn, lighting a concerning amount of candles, and cuddling underneath three blankets to unwind with a good horror movie or video game.

A video game with the right amount of spooky imagery and soundscape can definitely elevate the #vibes and get you excited for the season ahead. Here are five of my favorite video games to get you in the Spooky Season Spirit:

Animal Crossing (Nintendo Switch)

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How long do you think you’d have to be away from your island for your villagers to organize a search party? It might be time to clear the weeds on your island and get rid of the cockroaches in your house, babes. Unless that’s the kind of Beetlejuice vibe you’re going for, of course!

Animal Crossing is still one of the best games to get you excited for any season, and Spooky Season is no exception. The new update included over 9,000 new items, which includes a ton of new seasonal decor items, limitless Halloween costume possibilities, and fun ways to interact with your villagers. And now that your villagers can visit your place, it’s a great time to turn it into a haunted house!

Night in the Woods (Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, Windows, iOS)

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When I first started playing Night in the Woods, I figured it would trigger repressed memories of growing up in a smaller town. But I was quickly immersed in the game’s idyllic fall scenery elevated by its buoyant and melodic soundtrack.

You play as Mae, a recent college dropout who returns to her small hometown to reconnect with her friends. The town is surrounded by thick and treacherous woods, and most of her neighbors wish she had stayed away (and do not hesitate to tell her as much). Mae quickly discovers a dark secret about the town and how it relates to her missing friend Casey. Mae also has some secrets of her own, and her unreliable narration will have you rushing toward the end in search of more.

 Luigi’s Mansion 3 (Nintendo Switch)

Poor Luigi. Always playing second controller behind his more popular and beloved Mario, he’s now forced to explore a haunted mansion to rescue his brother and their friends after King Boo snatches them.

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While Luigi’s Mansion 3 is light on the horror, you’ll still have a lot of fun sucking up ghosts and other malevolent spirits with Luigi’s vacuum. Luigi’s trembles and whines throughout the game will also get you in the right spooky mood for this season. This game is a lot of fun as couch co-op as well. A second player can control Gooigi, Luigi’s slimy clone companion, and Professor E. Gadd’s latest invention.

What Remains of Edith Finch (Nintendo Switch, Windows, iOS, Playstation, Xbox)

This beautiful and chilling game follows Edith Finch as she explores her childhood home in Washington state. The gothic Victorian home is perpetually shrouded in fog and has sprawling additions much like the Winchester Mystery House in San Francisco. Edith believes her family is cursed in a way that only leaves one member of each generation alive, and the bedrooms of the deceased are sealed off and treated as shrines.

Each Finch passed away in a peculiar way, and Edith’s tour of the house allows you to explore each family member’s room. You play as Edith, crawling through hidden corridors and trapdoors into each family member’s room, and also as the deceased during their final moments. There are also some fun easter eggs for horror enthusiasts. The game is endearing, eerie, and at times tragic.

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Death’s Door (Nintendo Switch, Windows, Xbox, Playstation)

Work is hell, right? In Death’s Door, you play as a plucky crow and a harbinger of death tasked to bring back souls to the bureaucratic Reaping Commission. You’re also obligated to bring back larger souls that have outstayed their welcome in the world of the living.

Adorable isn’t really a word you’d find often on this site, but Death’s Door has such an adorably moody aesthetic that’s elevated by the indelible soundtrack. If you couldn’t tell, I love a good game soundtrack! And out of all the games listed, Death’s Door has my favorite one. It’s the perfect backdrop to exploring overgrown ruins, lush cemeteries, and long-forgotten fortresses in search of lost souls.

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These games are sure to get you ready for the Spooky Season ahead! Each game is perfect for curling up on the couch and recharging from inevitable Halloween candy sugar crashes. All that’s left to decide is which one you’ll play first.

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