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Reviews

REVIEW – ‘Little Player’ Magazine brings age appropriate gaming to kids

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When I was a kid, my brother and I would wait anxiously every two months for a new ‘Nintendo Power’ magazine to come to our mailbox. And every time that glorious publication made its way to our home we were excited to read the new articles, insights into new games, and interviews with people in the gaming industry. The internet was around, but wasn’t widely used, so magazines were the way to go.

As I grew up, I started reading other publications, or going to the internet for gaming news. ‘Nintendo Power’ ended up stopping publication in 2012. As a young adult, I was a little nostalgic about the last issue, but as a parent, I was worried.

Every other gaming magazine features adult content in it, either very violent or very sexy. While I don’t mind reading these myself, my kids are young gamers so I don’t allow them to read those. And pretty much everything on the net is a no-go unless I’m driving the mouse, because you never know what they’ll click on and what page they’ll end up at.

So imagine my excitement when I heard about a new publication just for kids. As soon as I heard rumblings about it, I knew I had to get my hands on it and check it out. So, I did.

And, let’s face it, as much as I like the concept, my kids may not. So, joining me on this review is CJ and Anna, who are 6 and 5 years old respectively. (Granted, they’re slightly younger than the 7-12 age group that this magazine is targeted at, but they’re familiar with gaming and I thought it would be a good gauge anyway.) So let’s get to it!

The following is a review of Issue 0 of ‘Little Player’, which is a preview issue. It will be available to download for free at the Kickstarter page – which you can find here.

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Review: ‘Battle Odyssey’ (Win Phone)

(NOTE: In order to get some feelings about this game off of my chest, I have decided to write this review in the form of a letter.)

Dear Gameloft,

I am very happy and excited that you have chosen to distribute some of your games onto the Windows Phone. As you may know, our choices are slightly more limited than that of Android or iOS users, and for that, I am appreciative.

So, I downloaded one of your games called ‘Battle Odyssey’, which is a fantastic little puzzle RPG. The graphics are great, the music is awesome, and the gameplay is simple to play with, yet challenging to master. Even the storyline is fun, which is really hard to do for a puzzle game.

There’s just one little issue. Just something minor that happens. The game shuts off.

Let me just say this: There is nothing more frustrating that trying to enter an event, such as the dailies or pvp, and have the game crash on you.

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How I got sucked in and spit out by “Disney ‘Tsum Tsum'”

First, let me explain why I even decided to download this game. I’m not a huge Disney fan, and I’ve pretty much been over puzzle games for awhile (thanks, ‘Candy Crush’). But, when we spent a week in LA, and the only channel the kids could watch played the same commercial for Disney Tsum Tsum over and over again, it started to look like a cute little game to pass the time.

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Funding Alert: ‘Graywalkers: Purgatory’ The next awesome strategy RPG

Awhile ago I started getting into strategy RPGs, specifically ‘Shining Force’. I downloaded an emulator and started playing, because it had been recommended to my by my brother. It was a charming little RPG, with cute little characters and terrible translations. But what kept me playing was its awesome strategy element.

Nowadays, games have been kicked up a few notches. Graphics are better, physics are realistic, translations are sometimes just as terrible. But most of these assets have been funneled into other types of games such as first person shooters.

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My short rendezvous with ‘ArcheAge’ leaves me wanting more

‘ArcheAge’ is just finishing up with its open beta. Sadly, I didn’t get to play it as much as I would have liked to, but I did attain level 15, clear the first two areas, get a mount and a glider, and became a wife. Not too shabby, I must say.

ArcheAge

So, what is ‘ArcheAge’? It’s a new F2P MMO (fun fact, almost just typed MOO – lol) from Trion that promises open world sandbox play in a world filled with angst and vengeance. You have your run of the mill mobs – ogres, spirits, small animals – and a basic quest line, with side quests to keep you busy. And of course, there’s crafting. Oh My God the crafting. This is sincerely the most crafting intense game I’ve ever seen apart from games like ‘Minecraft’. Aside from crafting your normal armor and weaponry, you can craft houses and everything that goes in them, boats and ships to take to the sea, and even better gliders so that you can bomb your enemies from above.

By enemies, I mean the other faction. This is a very PvP centric game – if it’s red, it’s dead. There’s no option to go to a strictly PvE or RP server, as there is in ‘WoW’ or other MMOs. PvP is everywhere. However, you better make sure that you’re fighting with honor. If you’re caught doing dishonest warfare (slashing down low level players, for instance), stealing, trashing other people’s farms, or other various offences, you will be taken to trial.

Now, this trial system is a bit different than, say, ‘League of Legends’. You’ll be taken to trial while you’re still online, and you’ll get to see what the jury has to say in the chat log. An interesting take on internet justice. Seeing as how this was open beta, I have no idea how well this will actually work once the game goes live. I’m hoping it cuts down on serious griefing infractions, but we’ll have to see. If it goes too rampant, they may have to scale it back a bit, or leave it for the worst offenders. Pirates, take heed, you may want to stay on your ships.

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Overall, the game is beautiful. To be honest, I had the graphics scaled way back on my machine, because my video card isn’t all that great. I did peek over at my husband’s screen, and the detail was much better. But, even with my lowest setting graphics, I was still pulled in by how well done the graphics are. It’s still not as realistic as, oh y’know, real life, but it’s a major step up from some of the cartoony looks of ‘WoW’ (I’m aware they’ve cranked up some of the graphics. I haven’t played in a couple years, though, so I’m basing off of that.) and demands your attention. The sound is beautiful, and the ambience is also realistic with the chirps of birds or the sound of water.

A few things that could be improved, though — The UI is almost a complete ripoff of ‘Tera’, and could use a little more “oomph”. The map starts out HUGE, but you can choose between small, medium, and large. It’s slightly annoying, though, in that it’s a HUD map with a clear background. That’s okay in some areas, but when you have 50 buildings around you, it’s a little too chaotic. I also had a hard time getting my abilities to go off (I’m a clicker, so sue me.) during battle, or even selecting targets. TAB targeting is basically the only way I could get things done. Something that I like, but other people may not, is the lethargic controls. Just like ‘Tomb Raider’ slowed down the speed of movements to make them more realistic, so did ‘ArcheAge’. Movements such as running, jumping, swimming, and fighting seems slow. But, it does increase its authenticity. You don’t just appear on your mount, you take hold and vault yourself up on that mofo.

If you’re looking for an MMO that offers a true OPEN WORLD experience, I highly suggest trying ‘ArcheAge’. I know I’ll be playing it when the launch happens. And, hey, if you want to get a headstart, you can always become a founder.

I honestly hadn’t planned on playing this –> Fable III

Ever had a game where you’re like, “I’m not shelling out my hard-earned cash for that $50 POS game”?  You’d read the reviews, you’d talked to your friends, and you decided that the game wasn’t worth it.  Only, come to find out due to a chain of events that led you to play the game, that you were actually really into it.

Recently, that game for me has been Fable III.

I had played Fable II and loved it, although I had a hard time trying an “evil” character because I put too much importance into virtual people and couldn’t bring myself to be mean to most of them.  I was actually excited when I had first heard about Fable III coming out, and then I read some of the reviews.  What’s worse, I talked with a couple friends who had actually bought the game after the release, and they hated it.

“There’s no menu anymore, just some sanctuary thing.”

“Multiplayer is worthless.”

“The dog can’t play fetch because it’s dumb.”

“You end up holding hands with a lot of people for ‘escort’ quests.”

“A waste of four hours of my time.”

Well, LAME, right?  They pretty much took a lot of the fun I had in Fable II and sucked the life out of it.  There’s no way I’m going to buy it and waste my time.

Flash forward a few years later.  I have an opportunity to do a survey for Microsoft, and they compensate me by sending me a free game, which just so happens to be Fable III.  Well, it’s free now, so I might as well play it.

And, OH MY GOD, were my friends wrong.  Call me stupid, but I love this game.  

The sanctuary is actually an interactive menu, which I love.  It took me awhile to get used to it, but John Cleese as Jasper is just great, and it really does feel like a second home, or the Batcave.

The dog is pretty dumb, and has never fetched anything I’ve thrown out, but it doesn’t matter, because he KICKS ASS.  This dog is a fighter, and as loyal as they come.  AND, he’s a better treasure hunter than in Fable II, also.  Shame they let you change it into a poodle if you want to, though.  

The NPCs in the game have just as much life, if not more.  I’ve actually come to find I enjoy going back to my home village of Brightwall to visit my husband and kids, and kick back and enjoy the conversation with the villagers.

Now, onto the things I’m not particularly thrilled with.  

The damn garden gnomes.  I seriously had a mini heart attack when I walked into the garden gnome grove at night for the first time. (Granted, I had just stopped playing ‘Fear’ right beforehand, and was still a little jumpy.)  At this point, I had not activated the quest yet, so they were all just sitting there… silent… staring at me.  These little guys replace the gargoyles from Fable II, and they are mean.  The gargoyles threw insults at you, but I actually had passed a few of them just because I was busy.  These gnomes, though… if I hear one, it has to die.  I will rid the Earth of them all.  I guess I understand what Lionhead was thinking when they put gnomes instead of gargoyles, but I just really hate these guys.

Combat: Feels mostly the same as Fable II, however you get “guild seals” now instead of points in whatever you’re actually using to defeat your enemies (melee, magic, or ranged).  So you have to go on this “Road to Rule” and use the seals to gain power, instead of gaining power automatically in whatever you choose to do damage with.  A little annoying, but tolerable.

Demon Doors are overplayed now.  They were amusing in Fable II, but now they’re just annoyances.  And honestly, I haven’t opened one that’s been really worth anything.  Not that I’ve opened all of them, but I really don’t have any motivation to actually want to.

Hand holding IS actually kind of annoying, but it’s also beneficial, too.  For instance, I had a quest to seduce some woman’s husband to help her out.  Problem was, I was married already, and my husband is the town crier… right in the middle of town.  So, I was able to not piss off my husband by dragging him away, and then moving on with the quest.  Most of the time, though, you’re dragging someone somewhere, and they’re just slowing you down. Not the best way to escort, but works better than someone walking ahead of you blindly, getting attacked while you’re opening a treasure chest.

Multiplayer: Whether you’re playing online or co-op, feels very clunky.  Not recommended.

Overall, Fable III feels like it’s just been slightly dumbed down, but what they did add to the game still makes it fun to play.  Now, you’ll have to excuse me while I go fight nightmares and buy real estate.

My quest for a great F2P game: Part One – “City of Steam”

They say you get what you pay for, and in the realm of free to play online games, I’ve gathered that much of this is true.  Still, there are some gems out there that shine like diamonds in a boggy mass of poo, just calling to people to come and pick it up.  Games like “League of Legends” come to mind when I think of, “Successful Free to Play Games”.  

Unfortunately, “City of Steam” isn’t really one of these gems.  

I really WANT to like this game, and considering I really haven’t devoted much time to it yet and it’s only a couple of days into open beta, I may still be somehow amazed by something while playing it.  Highly doubtful, though.

“City of Steam” is a game in a steampunk universe with demons that crawl out of towers landing from space.  Right… 

But, because I like steampunk, and I’m trying to find a wider variety of games to play in the F2P universe, I created an account.  The character creation page is somewhat dull, with very few choices to make your character “unique”.  All in all, you’ll still look like everyone else.  

It is nice that you get experience, gold, and items during the tutorial, which make it worthwhile to play, but I found myself just flying through the dialog boxes.  After a couple of interactions, I completely lost interest in what was actually going on, and just wanted the next quest in my log.  It doesn’t matter if you read the quest or not, because you can just click on it and it takes you directly where you need to be (which, quite frankly, I find handy, but non immersive).  

The dungeons are very Diablo-esque in nature, with the player being able to pop in an instanced version of the dungeon to complete missions, and timed runs (which are actually kind of cool, and probably the highest point I’ve found so far in this game).  Speaking of dungeons, there are a lot (A LOT) of dungeons.  From what I’ve heard, around 80 or so.

There’s also a transmuter, which takes these special coins that you get during gameplay.  It’s kind of confusing at first, but basically it works like Texas Hold’em and Press Your Luck mashed together to earn money and prizes.  Some of the items you get, though, expire in a matter of hours, so you have to pick and choose what kind of prize outcome you’re looking for.

Overall, though, this game feels like some sort of cross between “Crystal Saga“, “Sword of the New World“, and “Torchlight“, all of which are good games in their own right, but which probably shouldn’t mix together.  Game play is average, controls are easy, and artwork is mediocre.  For being a mostly average game with a slight punch up because of the timed dungeon runs, I’d give this game a 3.5/5 and suggest that you don’t quit all your other games just for this one.

My take on Scarlet Blade (aka Crystal Tits)

I’ve never been offended by the way girls have been portrayed in video games.  They’re no more demoralizing than TV, magazines, or Barbie.  In fact, if most males in a game can be slightly scruffy hunks, then I don’t see the problem with making the chicks obvious sex bombs. They’re imaginary people, after all, and they just portray what’s popular.

So when I was asked to play Scarlet Blade, an obviously mature title with so much T and A offered as eye candy that I can see guys literally never making it past the character creating stage, I said yes.  And I realize, that was a good move on my part.

Scarlet Blade, which I have dubbed Crystal Tits, looks extremely superficial on the outside.  You play the commander of a chick called an “Arkana”, which is some sort of man-made creation of perfection that kicks major butt.  She barely wears any clothes, and they make mention of that constantly.  The trailer (NSFW) for the game is so sexed up that you almost feel like you’re watching a “Girls Gone Wild” commercial minus the steel drums when it starts up.  

Shameless marketing?  Yes.  And it works.  Because Crystal Tits is actually a really good game.  The storyline, while rocky at times, is more realistic than a lot of games I’ve played recently.  And it draws you in by speaking to you directly, without actually breaking the fourth wall.  It even laughs at its own character design, with quite a few NPCs making mention of the lack of clothing.

Meanwhile, the gameplay is pretty easy.  If you’ve played World of Warcraft or any other MMO that was made after WoW, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.  The fighting moves are pretty seamless, and actually feel like you’re in control.

While definitely not a feminists dream game, what with all the pervy comments and inclusion of lingerie, it is also empowering.  Your Arkana kicks some major butt, all while wearing pumps.  They look oversexed without actually being so.  And, it’s nice to see a game be true to itself, and not mince words when describing itself.

Scarlet Blade is still in Open Beta over at Aeria Games.  If you have some time to kill, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Not the best game I’ve ever played, but it’ll be nice to play every so often when I’m trying not to starve…Image

The life sucking evil that is Candy Crush Saga

I’m a fan of casual games overall.  I have a busy schedule, so it’s nice to have some games that I can pop in and play for a couple of minutes instead of devoting hours to.  

But, let’s face it.  Most casual games suck.  And the ones that aren’t bad suck too: they suck the life out of you.

Center stage: Candy Crush Saga.  This heartless game throws you onto a Candy Land style board to play Bejeweled style levels and get through the game.  Not bad, and kind of addicting.  I was blasting away through the levels, waving to my less fortunate friends as I passed by them on the board, giving the middle finger to that crazy looking guy offering the little girl candy.  And then, it stopped.

Level 147 was created by Satan himself.  It’s hard.  Soul-crushing hard.  I’ve been stuck on it for about a month.  I haven’t quit the game, it quit on me.

WHY?!  Y U SO FREAKING HARD?!  WTF am I supposed to do on this board.  Seriously?  Bombs every five moves.  Candy coated 5 times in gel. Holes where you can’t move candy at all.  51/52 completed 32 times…  -_-

You would think I would quit.  It should be like, “Well, eff this game.”  But, I can’t let the game win.  If I quit, it will suck all tenacity and drive from me and laugh at my sadness.  This Scumbag Steve of a game will hang in my doorway until I beat this level.  

I must defeat this troll of a level before it defeats me… or I smash my tablet.

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