Archive for the ‘Video Games’ Category

Last year I was a bad kitty. I didn’t keep up with the blog. This year is going to be different. There will be a new structure to the blog, with three weekly articles and a bunch of revolving monthly blogs. That way things are more consistent for you, the reader.

(Hope no one is offended by the graphic below.)

BadHelloKitty

Weekly

Wednesday – Life in a Box – Talking about geeky memories and emotions.

Friday – Card Shark – Weekly card spot light. How to use it, how it’s broken, or just how it’s awesome.

Sunday – Movie Time – Reviews, coming attractions, old movies

Monthly

What’s in the box?! – What we’re doing and where we’ll be.

Casual Time – Casual games I enjoy.

Brick by Brick – Talking about Legos… and sometimes Mega Blocks.

The Sandbox – Anything at all.

Toy Box – Toy reviews

Breaking Down 2015

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Some amazing movies and games came out this year. If you haven’t played Fallout 4 yet, or Santa thought you ordered Fallout 3, you are missing out. You need to save up the $60.00 and go get it. It’s $49.99 on the Steam Sale right now. They’ve made major changes that allow you to build settlements and craft items easier. You have a home base but it can be customized. It’s also work the investment to buy the guide, which was only $18.00 when I bought it two days ago. Animal Crossing also came out with a spin off game called Happy Home. It’s fun if you like grindy games with no end. I’ll write more about these two later. Rock Band 4 came out. We’re finally getting to play it tonight… hehe.

LEGO! How could you lose the TMNT license to Megablocks? Seriously, why did your stuff have to suck so much for that franchise when everything else was amazing. ( Side note: the Back to the Future car… also terrible.) Lego did a great job this year on their Friends, Elves, Disney, City and Star Wars lines but kind of dropped the ball on a few other licenses they were holding. The Jurassic Park sets were amazing but they had a hard time keeping up with demand. This left a lot of collectors flapping in the wind. The architecture line has been amazing the past few years but this year they didn’t do their big box of all white blocks. Color me disappointed. This is a Christmas time set that they release only in Lego stores. It wasn’t release this year but they did a smaller box. I have to give Megablocks their dues though. They came out with some really great looking historical military sets and Call of Duty brand Zombie sets.

Tanto Cuore, I love you. I will never leave you… EVER. I can’t wait for OktoberFest to come out. I had the good fortune to volunteer with Japanime Games this summer. It was amazing and I can’t wait for the conventions to start up again this year. Luckily they had demo sets to show people for Pre-Orders and Previewing. The game introduces a new mechanic, beer cards, which affect your ability to play certain cards. It’s going to be a lot of fun. If you want a GOOD FUN card game for 4-5 people, keep an eye out for it. They should be shipping them out in the new year. Also, they have an associated company called Kamikaze games. They produce Barbarosa, which is an irreverant, sexy, World War 2 card game. You really have to be a good sport to play this because they base it off real battles, so… you sort of play as an invading Nazi army, featuring chibi sexy Hitler. It’s a great game though. There is a version of the game that has historical photos instead of the Ladies if that makes you feel more comfortable. ( I like the Anime version.) They also have several other new games coming out. One is called Gods Gambit, which they let me try out when I was at Kumoricon! I’m looking forward to Gods Gambit so much. It’s an Uno Style game. It will be a great fast game you can play with your buddies at a party. The art is really interesting too. I have some photos, I’ll dig out later and write about it in depth.

Cell phone games… well… If you didn’t play Alpha Bears, go work on that right now. They have made so many improvements to the game. They added a VS mode. They added a better system of replenishing coins. They’ve added seasonal, special event content. Kudos to Alphabear for listening to their users. It’s amazing. They are also developing a new game for Android in 2016.

Movies were really great this year. Do I even have to mention Star Wars? Holy Carps. Holy, holy Carps.

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Crimson Peak, Mocking Jay part 2, The Martian, Jurassic World were all pretty incredible movies. I hope Hollywood keeps up the momentum because so far all I want to see in 2016 is Civil War and Dead Pool. Hopefully, it will rev up quickly and not be an off year for movies.

That’s all for now. 2015 was a great year and 2016 is going to be even better. Happy New year!

2015

Return of the Reactor! After long last, I’m back. Mostly because their is just TOO MUCH GOOD STUFF to not tell you about it. So, here, in order of end date, are the Kickstarters that caught my eye.

Wayfarer Tactics ends September 28th. A toolbox miniature war game. Supports just about anything you want to throw at it.

Divinity: Original Sin 2 ends September 30th. Sequel to the award winning Divinity: Original Sin. Single player and multi player options. Heavy on the RP!

Mech Deck ends October 1st. Customizeable tabletop mech combat using dice, cards, and a hex based terrain system.

Burrows & Badgers Freelances ends October 5th. More anthropomorphic animal miniatures for a fantasy setting. An under served niche to be sure! This time, with a skirmish game.

Dark Age Outpost ends October 6th. A VERY reasonable price for some nice looking fortifications as well as historical minis.

Battle Chasers: Nightwar ends October 10th. I have to be perfectly honest. I have NO idea what this is based on. A lot of my friends are excited about it, though, and it certainly LOOKS cool. JRPG with action elements.

Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan ends October 20th. Sidescrolling action RPG inspired by African folklore. The unique setting is a great change of pace.

Warpath ends October 11th. Mantic. Sci-fi. You know what you are getting. Don’t know? Go download the free alpha at their website.

Battle Systems Urban Apocalypse Terrain ends October 18th. Modern/post-apocalyptic terrain for tabletop gaming. Easy to use cardboard punch outs. Excellent graphic quality!

INFINITY Role Playing Game ends October 18th. Tabletop sci-fi RPG in the same setting as INFINITY by Corvus Belli.

El Alemein ends October 20th. The latest deck building game from Arclight, makers of Tanto Cuore and Barbarosa. Published by Kamikaze. Arclight has a great history with these, so should be well worth it.

Pixel Noir ends October 21st. Retro inspired video game with JRPG elements. Reminiscent of Shadowrun SNES.

EXCEED-Card Fighting Evolution ends November 1st. From the makers of BattleCON and Pixel Tactics, a non-collectible, card fighting game for two players.

The Book of Starry Wisdom. This one has not actually started yet, but come October 1st, you should definitely check it out!

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Fallout Shelter had a lot of hype as a game to keep you happy till Fallout 4 is published. In reality, it’s just Fallout Farmville. The game is a resource collection game. Here is how it works.

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You start with a vault. Either you can choose a random vault number or name one yourself. My fault was good old 13. People show up at the vault doors. You assign them to work in room producing resources like electricity, food and water. You can take your shelter dwellers and put two in the living quarters to make more dwellers. You can also choose to have them go out into the wastes. In the wastes they can collect caps, clothing and guns. Over time you unlock more rooms, including faster, better versions of the resource rooms. There are lots of collectibles and random goals that can be completed as well.

The end game is just to keep your people alive. There is no “real” end to the game.

It doesn't matter

You can only have 200 Dwellers, which makes it interesting because there are special characters you can collect in the game. There also get a check list for costumes and weapons. The special characters are usually a higher level than the other vault dwellers. Population is capped by the number of living spaces you have. They get more expensive, the more you build. When you hit a population cap pregnant women stay pregnant and outside dwellers can’t enter the vault. So, it’s pretty much like real life.

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There are in-game purchases of lunch boxes and Mr. Handy robots. (The lunch boxes are a tribute to the Fall Out 3 special edition.) They both give you a bonus. The lunch boxes have random resources, caps, costumes, weapons and sometimes characters. The Mr. Handy robots will collect resources for you and help protect your vault. You can get lunch boxes by completing objectives. You can’t, as far as I can tell, get a Mr. Handy from playing. You have to purchase a Mr. Handy.

Protect them from what you ask? At random times you will be attacked by raiders. They come into the vault and steal your resources. Later in the game every time you open your vault door or the longer you transmit radio signals increases the chance of a deathclaw attack. Let me tell you something, raiders are like marshmallows compared to deathclaws. There are other random events that can kill your dwellers. Mole rats and rad roaches can appear at random or after a failed rush attempt.

OnFire!

Rush attempts are part of keeping life balanced in your vault. The vault has bars that monitor electricity, food and water. When something is in the red your dwellers become unhappy, they start to take on radiation or lose life. You can try to rush a room to produce resources but there is a chance you will fail. The game tells you what percent you have at failing. You can either have a fire, rad roaches or mole rats show up if you fail. The reason you want to rush the rooms is because it takes time to develop resources. Certain resources take a certain SPECIAL something. Strength, perception, endurance, intelligence, agility and luck are the special things you need.  The higher your stat, the faster your characters will produce a resource.

Strength gets you electricity.
Perception gets you water.
Endurance is used later on for the Nuka-Cola room.
Charisma helps vault dwellers mate faster and attracts more dwellers through the radio station.
Agility yields water.
Intelligence helps you make stimpaks and rad away.
Luck helps you with rush attempts.

Caps can also be used to upgrade rooms. Rooms can be made as big as three spaces but no bigger. The bigger the room, the more dwellers can work. Also, the bigger the room, the more resources can be produced. Plan your vault wisely. Other rooms include training rooms, which let you raise a single stat at a time for a single dweller.

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They did add in some weird things. Children are useless. You can’t tell them to do anything. They just wander around and take up resources. If they get injured, you can’t heal them either. Pregnant women run and hide from any dangers and they can’t be sent out into the wasteland. This posed some weirdness when deathclaws killed everyone in my vault except the children and pregnant ladies. After they ran through almost all the living people in the vault it was suddenly populated with only pregnant ladies and children. Let’s talk about death, it’s not necessarily permanent. You can revive people for caps but it gets expensive. The cost is based on their level and also on how many times you’ve had to revive them.

Fallout deathclaw

If you send someone into the wasteland, you can watch their progress. It’s kind of neat. They have pretty much the same encounters but the outcomes vary. I like reading through them as the different people run through and I often send more than one dweller into the wastes at a time. They can die while in the wastes. Paying caps will allow you to revive them and bring them back to vault.

Happiness is very important. This can be effected by having a dweller in the right or wrong room. You can increase happiness by having them make a child. Happiness is also affected by the balance of your resources. The radio station, which lets you attract other dwellers, also helps you increase the happiness of your dwellers. If your dwellers are sick from radiation or hurt from a an attack, they will let you know it. Keeping your people happy gives you a bonus because you have a daily report. At the end of a week you get a bonus based on your grade. If your people are unhappy, you are going to have a failing grade.

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The last thing you unlock through population is the Nuka-Cola room. This produces food and water for your dwellers and thankfully uses characters with high endurance. After that, at this time, there are no other rooms to unlock.

So, 200 dwellers, all the rooms unlocked, your only reason to play is to try to collect all the characters, guns and costumes. That is unless you have a great imagination.

I started a new vault. This vault is Vault 0. I’ve been giving all the new dwellers alphabetical last names. I started with just the letter A, then B, then C and so on. As they have children, I change their last name to show who their progenitors are like Sara AB. When Sara AB has a child with Billy NM, their child will be Johnny ABNM. That way I can keep track of what traits are passed on. Right now in Vault 0, all my residents have red or white hair. If they brown hair or are bald, I don’t let them have kids. It’s selective parenting. I’m curious to see what happens. I just had most of the women in the vault get pregnant by a male with a mohawk. I’m pretty happy with the results. The women with mohawks are super cool looking.

Red Heads

Hopefully, later on, they will have an update that adds content to the game. I would at least like an end game of some sort. I was hoping for an overseers room too.

Talking to my other friends, it’s easy to get bored by this game. I have to admit, I’ve forgotten about it from time to time myself. I think that’s why I have started experimenting with genetics. The game also seems to just be unbalanced. I was in the red for most of the time. Even after training my dwellers and expanding my vault, I was in the red most of the time. Whenever I put couples in the rooms to make babies, my resources went red. Really people, a little sex shouldn’t shut down your vault.

Although, I have my few petty gripes,  I still play this game all the time. My OCD make grinding fun. In WOW, I loved grinding and collecting. Eventually, I stopped running missing and collected items for potions. Then I would sell them on the auctions. Anyway, I digressed. I’m going to keep playing it. If I get any three-headed vault dwellers, I’ll let you know.

Out in the wastes, this is Three Dog, signing off!

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I found an interesting game that uses Chemistry as the basis for game play. The playing field is a circle. It gives you elements, pluses and minuses. You can combine like elements, cause chain reactions and move elements around with the plus and minuses. When you combine two elements you get a the next element usually. Like two Hydrogen, atomic number 1 combine to make Helium, atomic number 2. Lithium combines to beryllium.

 

There are chain reactions as well. You can line up elements so that they all combine when you deploy a plus. The game relies on the magic of symmetry.  The bigger the chain and the larger the elements, the better your score. The full extent of the chain is indicated by the colored line outside the ring.  You can use that to aim you shot with the plus. 

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There is also the minus, which allows you to move elements around the board. This is great if you have one out-of-place. Later on there are black pluses that will combine two unmatched elements of any kind.

If you are in a bind there is a fusion power up that absorbs half the board. You can earn more antimatter or buy antimatter through an in-game purchase.

The game either ends when you get all the elements or you fill the board.

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After you’ve played the game, you get into a rhythm. There are certain elements that count as lucky charms. The charms give you bonuses and minuses. You can only equip one at a time. Silicon gives you 10 extra combination pluses in the game.

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The game has three modes as well. There is the standard mode, timed mode and FULL ALCHEMIST. I haven’t unlocked Full Alchemist yet. You have to create gold in order to unlock the final mode.

Atomas is made by Sirnic. The developer is out of Germany. They have several other apps including Gravity Blocks. You can find the games on IOS and Android!

Enjoy! All the games I love are addicting.

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Scrabble started my addiction. Scrabble is a gateway to word games. When I was 8 my family was given a deluxe edition of Scrabble. The board had a plastic shell that you could fit each piece into. It was also on a lazy susan. My Brother was really into monopoly, Risk and Stratego. I couldn’t win at those games against him. When I did win it was always a scene. When we would play Scrabble as a family or with friends even if I lost it was a social happy time. I was also really good at Scrabble. Word games were something I felt good at, even when I lost.

Fast forward: the Smart Phone

“What do you mean I can download crossword puzzles on here?! Shut the front door!”

The first I had that could download game was not a Samsung. It was some weird phone with a keyboard that could pull out. It wasn’t a flip phone, it was more advanced. (Read that and think about Invader Zim.) I didn’t want to run up our bill so for a long time I just played games on Facebook through my phone. This was when touch screen phones still needed major work. So that was… three years ago.

Now I have a super fancy phone and a notch on my left pinky from holding it up.

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There are a bunch of great word games out there but the one that keeps me coming back is Word Crack. This game is appropriately named. I play it everywhere; bus, bathroom, train, practice, dinner, before bed, in bed, while waiting for Pathfinder to start, standing on the corner, hang out with my parents, etc. You get the picture. I’ve become the person constantly on the phone. I’m not doing anything interesting to others, just paying Word Crack.

I have adapted so much I can have conversations while playing several rounds.

Word Crack is electronic Boggle. You have two-minute to spell as many words as possible. There are three rounds for each player. Then the score is totaled from the three rounds. The winners get 3 coins. The game matches you with a random opponent or a friend. You get to choose which option you want. If you play against someone and you enjoyed it, you can invite them to another game. I’ve had some serial games with other players.

There is strategy though. There are power ups you can choose before your match starts. By playing you earn coins so they do come back after a while. They let you but power ups to get an advantage. You can choose three at the start, if you have enough coin.

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Fire gives you double points for 30 seconds. Wisdom gives you the path for words that can be made. Freeze stops the clock for a 15 seconds. Time Boost adds more time by chosing a random letter. If you use that letter it adds time to the clock. The power lasts 30 seconds. Whisper tells you a word but doesn’t show you where it is on the board. I almost always use FIRE. I find fire is the most useful for me right at the start. You have to activate it yourself at any time during the round. If you don’t use it, you lose your power up.

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I’ve spelled some weird words. The longest word I’ve spelled is “Arriviste.” My best game score 1995. You can see all that information in your profile.

When I first started playing  I was methodical. I would try different ways of just randomly swiping across the board to spell words. This was ineffectual. Eventually I figured out if I ignore the clock and turn the sound off, 2 minutes feels like forever. I do my best when I don’t care how much time I have left.

Remember back in school how they taught you to spell? I you find “…at” you can spell a host of words around like, tat, cat, hat, rat, mat, matte, late, lat, ate, eat, eta, etc…

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Another cool feature is they have different languages and versions. If you are bilingual, try one of the other languages like Spanish or French. Sometimes late at night random opponents become far and few between so I switch to the British English. That’s always weird because they have a lot of slang in there that I’ve discovered.

Also, if you’re having trouble look at the words your opponent spelled or change the orientation of the board. Sometimes just turning the letters a different way helps.

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Be careful though. This game can be very addictive. It will consume your life. You can find yourself buying coins and everything goes down hill from there.

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I found Little Alchemy in the Play Store on my phone. I was intrigued. You have to combine the elements to create more elements to create more elements… The game doesn’t have instructions. It’s pretty obvious what you have to do.

You start with earth, air, fire and water. Combining them you get wind, lava, rain, ponds, plants, and much, much more. The objects become more evolved over time. You create day, night and twilight as well as Super Novas and Atomic bombs. Some of things you create are man-made, like fire works and soda.

They have some secret combinations that don’t show on your menu of combinations on the right hand side. My favorite is the Tardis (Time and Space). The game does pop up with suggestions. At one point it told me to make the sun. It took me a while to figure out that combination. If you do get stuck, the game has a hint system.

This game plays into my OCD hard-core. I have a method. I take one thing and then combine it with everything down the line to see if it will combine. As soon as I put the game down I start wondering, what if I combine a unicorn with the ocean or a bird with ice?!?!?! There are 540 combinations that are outright. There are also SECRET combinations. If you get stuck the game can give you hints or you can easily search on the internet for libraries explaining the combinations.

Honestly, you won’t learn anything specific from this game but it does make you think about what elements go into our every day lives. This is a fun distraction from the every day. The game is also a free download.

Here are some exciting combinations I discovered.

Water + Cold = Snow!

Snow + Surfer = Snow Board!

Wizard + Bird = Owl

That’s all I’m giving you for now. I don’t want to spoil the experience for you.

The creator, Jakub Koziol, did not come out with a second edition of the game. In the play store you’ll find Alchemy Fusion 2 and a bunch of other games like this. These are clones made by different companies. The original game creator doesn’t seem to have any other games out. From his blog he’s currently trying to help people live with ADD. The blog is an interesting look at the game creator. I tend to bounce from one thing to another myself and his illustrations in the blog really show how some creative minds work. Read it knowing he’s working through things after the success of his game.

BTW: My recommendation is to turn it to night mode. That way the background is back instead of white. This just makes it easier to see.

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Cell phone games seem to be the only thing I’m interested in lately (after Animal Crossing and MONSTER HUNTER.) They are great because in the summer I’m often stuck on a city bus for an hour or longer to get home. One of the best ways to find a new cell phone game, look around you on a bus. I have a bit of an advantage because Big Fish Games is on my way home. A large number of their employees get on the bus only a few stops after mine. If you take time to look up, sometimes you’ll see someone playing a game. It doesn’t hurt to watch them for a bit. If they are next to you, just ask them what the game is. Since they are developers, they often play other games to either research different genre of games, because they like those games or because they hear what other developers are making.

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Friend I made on the bus

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I’m on a bus!

Even if you don’t have a game company conveniently on your bus route, take a look around during your commute. That’s how I found 2048. There were a few people sitting near me playing the game. Every day for a week, I saw someone playing it. When the lady next to me started playing it, I had to ask her what the game was because I was fascinated. If you’re uncomfortable asking a stranger what game they are playing, ask your friends. My friends, even though they are hard-core gamers, always have one of two games on their phones.

Another great way to find cell phone games is to look at the indie games that were at PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) or your local video game convention. You can browse through the games and pick the ones that sounds fantastic. It takes a little more work because you might have to research them. Most conventions though have these games in the INDIE area. That’s where I’ve discovered some really fun games.

There are a few companies like Big Fish Games that have apps to help you find their games. The app lists the new games, top games and allows you to search for genre games. They also use the app to notify you when a new game is being released.

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Big Fish Games game App

If you’re lwpid-screenshot_2015-07-19-15-38-31.pngooking for game on the play store, you can search by categories. After you’ve played through one or two games, it will suggest other games based on your downloads.  The play store also has a section for free games. Half the time the free games are limited versions of a full game. These allow you to play a few levels before you have to purchase a full version. The plus side is you get to try out the game and often, it explains the mechanics that are unlockable in the full version. Dinner Dash mobile edition is like this. You can play through three restaurants before you have to purchase the full version of the game. I can’t stress this more though, if you can buy a game out right, it’s better than games that need continuous “optional” in game purchases. When I like a game with a free version, I give those people my money. Take it! Take my money! You deserve it. Stop asking me to view adds though. If I buy your game, I want the freaking game. I’ll even rate it or review it. (Although Word Crack keeps asking you to rate it, even after you rate it. Super annoying.)

 

When purchasingwpid-screenshot_2015-07-19-15-39-03.pngg or browsing free games, I like to sort by category. I tend to stick with puzzle games, strategy games and word games. There is a multitude of different styles including action, rpg, visual novels, hidden object, adventure, card and sports games. You really can find a game of any style. Some PC games are even available on mobile as well like Plants vs Zombies and World of Goo. Finally, a not so new phenomenon is the porting of old games to mobile versions. You can download several different emulators in order to play FFVII or any of the Final Fantasy franchise.

 

I still think the best way to find a good cell phone game is though is looking around your on the bus.

 

Ways to find games:
1. People Watching
2. List of games at conventions
3. Talk to Friends
4. Company Apps
5. Play Store recommendations and searches
6. Emulators

wpid-screenshot_2015-07-18-10-12-16.pngNever before have I wanted, of my own free will, to do in-game purchases.  Yeah, you heard me right.

Alphabear is a cellphone game that is based on a boggle style game mechanic. You are given letters and you get points for spelling different words. They have added some Scrabble-esque features like point values per letter, but made it their own. They have also added a power up/ RPG style feature where your party of bears grow and gain more bonuses from experience points.

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The mechanics they have added make the game really fun and challenging. Over time the point value of an unused letter diminishes until the tile turns to stone. Stone letters impede you’re progress. In each chapter there are bear characters that you can collect to help you through levels. They each have unique powers. Some give you end score bonuses for specific letters or word length. Other bears help you with timed puzzles or keep letters from turning to stone for longer time. The more you play, the stronger your chosen bears get. They earn levels and their score bonus will increase and make it easier to make either goal.

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Every day there is a big puzzle and a basic puzzle. The basic puzzle is usually timed. After you beat the two puzzles there are boss puzzles to progress from chapter to chapter. Two days after I started playing they added a feature that allows you to move from chapter to chapter. I’m so happy!

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One of the cuter aspects is the bears grown on-screen as you play, moving the board along to reveal different letters. You spell a word and they grow out of the one of the letters. As you use the letters around them, they grow bigger, longer and wider. At the end of a puzzle, a bear uses some of the words you spelled to fill in a mad libs style saying. You can share these to social media or just move on. I love them. I will sometimes use the remix button on the bottom left to find one that is really funny and post it to my Facebook.

Remember the in-game purchases I mentioned? There are two kinds honey and coins. Honey allow you to play the different daily puzzles. Coins buy you into the treasure events. The honey regenerates over time. Coins you gain by playing puzzles. You can unlock endless honey for $4.99. You can not get endless coins but you can purchase coins if you are having trouble earning them through the game. You can use money, honey or watching a video to earn more. Buying the endless honey is the same as just purchasing this well made and adorable game. Honestly, you can make as much coin as you want if you have endless honey. If you’re being impatient though, or you need coin fast they have given you the choice.

How do you win?  They give you two goals at the start of a level. Using the letter value, bears score multipliers and BIG WORDS you try to make one of the two goals. At the end of a game the bears that grew on your board add to the final score.

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The final score is a combination of all the points. You gain coins from playing each level. It can be as little as 5 or as much as 50 from what I’ve seen. As a bonus they take a few of your words, thrown then in a mad libs style generator and create a hilarious photo you can upload to social media.

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Spry Fox is the company behind this adorable game. I found out it’s only been available for two weeks. Their other games include Triple Town and Road Not Taken. All their games feature the signature art style of blocky bears. There is an older word game called Panda Poet which is more like Word Crack or Words With Friends, than Alphabears. Panda Poet you play against a computer or an online opponent. They have three days to spell a word. Triple Town you are building a town and have to protect it from the bears. Road Not Taken is a completely different style of game. It’s an adventure game where you rescue children lost in the woods. They still have bears though and foxes!

They go to PAX every year. I’m really surprised I’ve never run into their games before now. I’m going to keep my eyes open from now on. They have a cool looking dragon game called Free Range Dragons that they showed off at PAX. They used their testers at the con to improve the game on the fly too. That’s an innovative use of a focus group that doesn’t know they are a focus group!

I recommend this game. I NEED ALL THE BEARS!

 

 

 

The Missing Muse

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Lucky duck, I caught wind of a show Cibo Matto was playing in Seattle in December. They were opening for Tune Yards and I really only wanted to go to see Cibo Matto. I got my wish and Tune Yards gained a new fan. The night turned out to be pretty magical.

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Adult? Haha… who’s an adult?

 

Who is Cibo Matto? Seriously, you should fall in love with this band. Japanese expats living in New York, Cibo Matto is a duo act that started in the 90s. They are a mix of Sonic Youth style grunge pop and trip hop. The band name means crazy for food in Italian. Their first two albums all had to do with food of some kind. The concept was surprisingly robust. Throughout the years their music has appeared in movies and a video game, Jet Set Radio. (Although, I swear they were on one of the Katamari games.)

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I was out by myself to see a concert, which was strange for me. I’m usually with a small group or performing, either way I’m never alone at music events. I found a way to pass the time. I was there early bc my keys were locked up at work. I had to rely on timing and texting to make sure my husband and I connected at the right time. Since I was at his mercy, I was only fifth or sixth in line outside the beautiful Moore Theater. I’ve never been inside this Seattle Landmark. Footage from Pearl Jam’s Evenflow video was filmed at the Moore Theater. The weather was unseasonably warm which was perfect because I had a new outfit that was meant for summer. Standing in the line I realized as the sun started to dip it was a good thing I had an over jacket, scarf and gloves. Using my lovely phone I took photos of some of the surrounding area while standing in line as well as facebooking and tweeting about where I was and how excited I was to see Cibo Matto finally. I never had a chance to see them in the 90s.20141213_18475020141213_184104

The Moore Theater was built when architecture really meant something, 1907. The floors and walls are lovely marble with curving stairs up and down to the different levels. I found a bar in the basement with some restrooms. On the main floor was a snack bar with some food. The only things I could eat were candy, so I bought a water and some peanut butter cups. I was struggling with eating a gluten free, meat free diet and was starving. Really, I just needed something to keep myself standing. Looking around the room I glance to the second floor to see the room guarded by the muses. Counting the statues and reading their names I found Melpomene and Terpsichore. Both of whom I’ve used for character names but… there were only eight that rimmed the lobby. Who was missing?!

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Rewind… on my way out the door I suddenly doubled back. Taking off the necklace I had on, I grabbed a necklace I’d picked up at Geek Girl Con. On the necklace is Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space. I love this necklace. I felt compelled to put it on, leaving the other necklace behind, then running out the door so Kane could lock up.

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Fast Forward. Starring up at the ceiling I start puzzling over who was missing… Urania. Urania is the muse of Astronomy and Astrology. I found this especially interesting because of my choice to go back for my necklace. Striking up a conversation with the ushers on my way to my seat, I mentioned the missing Muse in the lobby. 20141213_194918

According to the employee, the Muse haunts the upper balcony where a second circle of statues is also missing a statue of Urania. Searching for other stories about the haunted balcony, I have found accounts where people felt a statue was starring at them or seen mysterious movement. One story involved roadies sleeping with gear over night. They didn’t sleep at all because of footsteps, voices and a door that kept opening.

Hearing about the haunting, I felt instantly blessed and protected. As if I had listened to quiet whispers sending me back for my necklace to honor the missing Muse. They left her out because they didn’t think she had anything to do with the arts… now I find myself writing a song for my band about the last days of the universe.

The sky will grow dark and we won’t even know it on Earth until it’s too late.

Thank you to whoever told me to grab the necklace.

Part two will be about Cibo Matto performing. Amazing…

 

You would be hard pressed to not have noticed the return of hand-crafted pixel art to the world of gaming. Some of these have launched indy developers into mainstream success. Some big name developers are jumping on board as well. I can’t say I mind. I was always a huge fan of a well crafted sprite. I once designed a series of sprites for a (long since abandoned) RPG years ago. It brings back a welcome nostalgia as well as challenging artists to work within a much more limited palette. Here are a few examples over the last few years.

Minecraft (2009)-“Wait a minute” I hear you say. “This game is in 3D!” Well, yes. It is. But everything is built, primarily, of 3D pixels. I put this here because it helped modern, younger games get used to the aesthetic. For so long, games were “MORE BETTER FASTER” but along comes Minecraft with its charming low-def polygon cubes and it became about the gameplay. Not exactly on point, but a good starting point!

Mega Man 9 & 10 (2008/2010)-One of the kings of old-school games, Mega Man is looked on with nostalgia and reverence. They made many, many sequels as well as spinoffs, but sometimes you just can’t beat the old classics. So, Capcom, paying attention this once, went back and published a sequel years after the fact, going all the way back to Mega Man 1-6 for inspiration. The whole production screamed NES.  This was in large part to the success of downloadable legacy games on the consoles. The old master, Keiji Inafune, was back to his roots making the kind of games he wanted to again. Nostalgia was ramping up!

They Bleed Pixels (2012)-A strange combination of Super Meat Boy and Castlevania. Very retro looks with lightning fast gameplay. Not for the easily frustrated!

Retro City Rampage (2012)-This game started as a low def, NES version of Grand Theft Auto. It slowly took on a life of its own. Now, it is a nostalgia bomb with a look and feel reminiscent of the era without being completely hamstringed by the technology.

Hotline Miami (2012)-Less on homage and more an inspired by, Hotline Miami is a hyper-violent, top-down shooter in the vein of Smash TV, but amped up to splatter-flick levels. More colorful than most NES style games, but still having a similar look.

Thomas Was Alone (2012)-Talk about low-resolution! You play as several undefined boxes. Surprisingly deep with a very engaging narrative.

Shovel Knight (2014)-The current king of the retro pixel video game world. This one looks, sounds and feels like an old NES game despite being in high definition with none of the technical limitations of the era. Absolutely amazing that a new game from a new franchise (I have no doubt sequels are forthcoming!) could bring up such nostalgia. Definitely one to put on your list!

Boss Monster (2013)-Whats this then? Its not a video game. Its a card game! Featuring pixel art. Seriously. Highly recommend if you have a friend or two that like to sit and play games the old fashioned way while still feeling nostalgic about video games. Lots of fun and simple to grasp. In a stroke of brilliance, they are bringing things full circle with a video game adaptation over on Kickstarter. You can even buy the physical version as part of your pledge.

Obviously, this trend is fairly new, but doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Art can truly be at its best when given limitations. It forces the artist to consider things in a different way, giving rise to something truly special. What new games are you enjoying that use this throwback art style? Let us know in the comments!