Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
The West Of Loathing soundtrack
I’ve expressed my appreciation for Asymmetric’s relentlessly funny Western RPG West Of Loathing on the site before, but I feel like Ryan Ike’s brilliantly old-school soundtrack deserves some special attention, too, given the dozens of hours I’ve spent with it since the game came out back in August. Like Frankie Laine’s famous Blazing Saddles theme, Ike’s compositions take the game’s Western roots seriously while serving as the background for incredibly silly action, the result lending some much-needed gravitas to all the evil rodeo clowns and murderous hell cows dotting the game’s weirdo version of the Old West. It’s also just great, energetic music, using sharp horns and driving percussion to keep its Morricone riffs moving with energizing speed. I’m especially partial to “Draw!” the game’s main battle theme, which has become my go-to writing music; when you’re crashing toward an already-late deadline and just barely keeping yourself awake, there’s nothing like an explosive xylophone intro at the top of a blazing fast Western instrumental to keep yourself on the trail. [William Hughes]
The Nick Box
Ever since Nickelodeon’s subscription box, The Nick Box, was announced a year or so ago, I’ve lusted after it. It’s one of those things you know you don’t need, but you still really want. Fortunately for my whiny self, I actually snagged one at this year’s Comic-Con, and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Each box comes packed with classic Nickelodeon goodies, all roughly organized under a theme like “Live Action ’90s Nick.” The one I got was “Summer Block Party,” meaning it was stuffed—literally stuffed; once I took the items out, I couldn’t manage to get them back in correctly—with all sorts of outside-related Nick swag, from a T-shirt to a little plastic desk toy that looks like one of those Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles popsicles. And while $50 a box had seemed a little steep for me when I was thinking of subscribing before, actually having the box in my possession convinced me I simply needed to own all of them going forward. [Marah Eakin]
Pokémon Gold and Silver
Just as it did for the original trio of Pokémon games last year, Nintendo has recently gone and re-released the series’ second generation of games on the 3DS. I’ve been playing Pokémon Silver pretty much nonstop while my partner grinds away at Gold, and I’m having a surprisingly good time with it. Many fans have long held that this was the best set of Pokémon games, and while they suffer from being 18 years old and lacking a lot of conveniences that seem like necessities in 2017, there’s still so much here that I’m enjoying. The monster designs and sprites have so much more detail and personality compared to the originals, but they don’t spill over into the overcomplicated messes that later generations would become. And the game’s animal rights themes, misguided as they might be in a series where you’re forcing creatures to fight for you, are implemented in some really strong and interesting ways that go beyond brainless text and window dressing. They’re only $10 each, and you can easily get 40 or more hours of battling and training out of them. And speaking from experience, it’s also a great thing to play alongside a friend or significant other, so you can trade tips and pocket monsters alike. [Matt Gerardi]