Bite Size Reviews – Dream Daddy

Dream Daddy is a visual novel created by popular Youtube Channel Game Grumps. Dream Daddy is a Dad dating simulator. You move into a new place with your beloved daughter Amanda as she is finishing up her final year of school. With a new move to a cozy cul-de-sac you have the option to create the Daddy of your Dreams and date your very own Dream Daddy.

Dream Daddy is a wonderful experience. Short in its narrative with 7 different datable Dads all with different routes and outcomes. It’s a showcase of what diversity and respect for the LGBTQ+ community cannot be overstated. The scenarios feel real and fundamentally grounded in reality. You experience the trails and tribulations of being a single father trying to navigate their way in a whole new phase of their lives.

Bite Size Review – My 49 Days with a Cell

Sometimes it’s hard to be honest about what you want and what you need, with yourself. I didn’t think to myself that this was something that was going to teach me anything when I landed on My 49 Days with a Cells in the Apple Store. A bit like the Eggs game (which is a time waste, and a very good one at that!)

That’s it. 49 days of these cell’s lives. You are the person who has to take care of them. Easy.

Well, not so much. It turns out that taking care of these little cells is about as difficult as it is to look after ourselves.

For a little while now I’ve been on a journey where I’m trying to learn how to take better care of myself. I’ve had very drastic changes in my life. Just a lot of life happens in a very short time. I suddenly lost my dad and as a result of his death I moved home 4 times in 3 years. During that period, I would have worked two jobs at the same time, just to get the ends meet.

Then, I started to suffer massively from health problems. Two months after I got married, I had a lump removed from my breast, as they thought it was cancerous. I was at the time in a job that was pursuing a dream I wanted but it made me slowly sick and stressed because of the working environment. Since quitting the job due to sickness and being burned out,I decided to go back to college to pursue a Masters degree and work at the same time. More health problems, however, occurred to a point where I wound up having to leave both my college degree and what work I was doing at the time. I had major surgery in January where they removed my uterus and not even a full 2 years later and I’m pending another surgery next month to figure out why things are still wrong.

TL: DR Needless to say, I know the strength of what one of those little cells holds firsthand.

We are back to the land of simplicity, gameplay wise. You’ve got bonus energy to spend on the first cell. What ‘s great, it gives you the freedom to see what you might want to do with your cell, and then you’re going to plan your first week with it. At first, your choices feel endless; food, exercise, culture, rest, play, study and wash are all your main categories and then they are subdivided into categories. So, my first week has started. Through my little cage, I tried to live vicariously, wanting to fly, read and play without end. However, it did not turn out that way.

There has always been a trade off doing too much without caring about other needs such as feeding or sleeping in the cell. Around the time I was halfway through my first lifecycle of cells I recognized that I was making the same mistakes that I personally made.

I just didn’t take care of it. The little cell couldn’t eat properly, couldn’t rest and had barely planned time to take a bath! I was so focused on putting everything in its existence that I would have forgotten to take into account what it wanted or needed. I just didn’t listen to it.

I was so focused on doing what I thought it was important, and wanted me to take notice of the fact Nobody was listening to them.

Ultimately, it was too late to rectify the error by the time I realised that I had left it undernourished, deprived of sleep and stinky. Fortunately, it didn’t die (well, it depends on how you look at it), but on its 49th day, it decided to turn it into a stone.

I started my second round with its previously divided cell (which carries all of the previous cell stats) disappointed, and equally a little mystified. A cell’s life cycle is from 15 to 30 minutes of playtime anywhere, so I was startled when I realized the cells respond to you when they’re in an event — if they don’t like an activity, they ‘re going to tell you.

It took me some time to understand that in some respects life imitated art. These little cells had hopes and aspirations and I forgot the key things to make this a success in the pursuit of that achievement.

Through listening, loving, and caring.

Like how I had forgotten to listen, to appreciate and to care for myself.

They say you should talk to yourself as if you were talking to your friends and I have never been good at taking advice like that. But something really hit home with me about My 49 Days with Cells, it taught me a lot about myself and I’m sure it can teach you something too.

My 49 Days with Cells are available on both the IOS App Store and the Google Play Store for free.

Women in Tech – Gaming & Technology Edition

In a world that is so dominated by men there is precious little more daunting in a journalist’s career than being a woman or non-binary person in tech. My background is in technology of all forms; mobiles, laptops and gaming. You may have already found me around the internet and on Twitter as @ThisIsSpecious and on websites like Big Boss Battle or Android Central.

As part of my new series on highlighting people who you need to know in the industry, I will talk to you about the women & non-binary people in technology who you should keep your eyes on!

Gaming

There are a tremendous amount of women doing wonderful things in gaming journalism at the moment. So, when making these lists it is nearly always impossible to narrow them down to a top three. To bring new people to your attention, I’m making sure that in these listings these are the women who don’t have a huge following and whose work deserves more attention.

Amanda Farough

Amanda is one of those unique people in the industry who will have been behind a lot of your favourite sites and yet you may not have realised it. She has been a founder of her own discord where she helps young writers in their journey through journalism. She is an endlessly giving and nurturing person, and a phenomenal writer and editor. She is a determined person, dedicated to her team and to delivering precise and informative content.

You can find a link to all of Amanda work right here.

Reb Valentine

I will always have a soft spot for Reb as I have had the pleasure of working with her in other publications but that is for a great reason. Reb has a writing style that is just a pleasure to read and connect with. Now she has found a home with Gamesindustry.biz she has found a space where she deep dive into the heart of the gaming industries biggest issues and will take you with her for that journey.

You can find Reb and her work over at Gamesindustry.biz.

Tayna DePress

Director of I Need Diverse Games, Twitch Partner, Conference Speaker, Diversity Liaison for GaymerX, Tayna is someone who should need no introduction – but somehow still is one of the most underestimated women in the video games scene. You don’t have to look too far to realise that this woman is in everything that is worth having a name on; DnD streams, Logitech team. Tayna’s ambition in life is to make the gaming world a more inclusive one for everyone to enjoy.

You can find out all about Tayna and how to support her work here.

Julie Muncy

Commonly found chatting to me about anything and everything to do with Kingdom Hearts, you will also find her work over at Wired, and Weekend Editor over at @io9. Presently is ready to be snapped up by the best outlets out there. You can find her contact details over on her Twitter.

Mim McDonald

Mim is the wizard behind some of your most beloved gaming magazines being Operations Editor, @OPM_UK and @edgeonline. A wonderfully gifted and gentle human, who is just one of the most sincerely beautiful people I’ve ever met. When she’s got some down time from being the backbone of her work force she’s interested in all with a vintage, alternate reality or retro-futuristic theme. You can find her personal blog here

Sam Greer

Sam is the hugely talented producer of Glass House Games. Her work can be found through various places on the internet, seriously, everywhere. A hugely talented and capable human who is worthy of so much acclaim it’s silly. When she’s not busy doing that you can be assured she’s over on Twitter trying to squeeze as many gifs about Lightening from Final Fantasy 13 as is humanly possible. 

Sam Loveridge

You might know Sam best from her work as Global Editor-in-Chief for @GamesRadar. When she’s not busy running the show over at Games Radar she can be found being her very awesome self over on her twitter

Mobile Technology

Some argue there aren’t a lot of women in mobile journalism. I’m here to debunk that myth and showcase some of the best and brightest that the tech scene has seen. By there being more women writing and talking about tech, we can unravel the complicated knot that is women in technology. There are lots of reasons women don’t get a predominant say in mobile technology. Much like games, they see us as being non-existent in the space, however there are many women being involved from all levels. I will introduce you to some of the best women in the mobile space you may never have heard of.

Florence Ion

You may recognise Florence’s name from her Android Central days where she was one of the most influential writers on the platform. We can also find her work in PCWorld, Ars Technica to name but a few. If there was a major publication, I can guarantee you that Florence has written for them. A monolith in the tech world, she has now gone freelance with her own work. Bringing her unique style and flare to her new podcast All about Android.

You can keep an eye on Florence and all of her work over at https://florenceion.com

Trisha Hershberger

One half of the Newegg Livestream crew, Trish is one of those women who can put her hand to anything she touches. A talented Youtuber, she dissects everything you need to know about tech, gaming and everything in-between. As an avid PC fan, she can bring her unique perspective to the Newegg family to talk about the best and worst of mobile and PC hardware. If you haven’t looked at her content and you are a PC person – you are missing out.

You can catch Trisha over at Newegg.com or at her personal YouTube.

Lory Gil

Lory is the powerhouse behind iMore. As managing editor for iMore she runs a tight ship with getting the cutting edge of Apple content out for you all to read. All this hard work can often come under acknowledged given she is the gears behind the machine. If there is a post on iMore, you can be certain that she has had something to do with it. Be it; editing, scheduling, she’d had a hand in making that site work as streamlined as it is. So will throw her a follow and tell her that Spec sent you.

You can find Lory and all of her work over at iMore

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner is a Writer at Android Central. Chromebook ifficiando and force of good. When she’s not writing help and how-to’s, she’s off dreaming about Disney and singing show tunes. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

You can find her gushing about Chromebooks and all of her more recent work right here.

While I know that there are plenty of people who I’ve missed, who are the people who you think deserve recognition? Let me know in the comments down below with their twitter handles or articles so we can all share the great work that’s created by women in the industry.

Top 10 Nintendo Switch Games of 2020

There are affiliate links in this post: any purchases make through these links helps support me in keeping this blog alive.

This list has no strict rules except for one – where possible to avoid remasters. I’ve also tried to keep the list specifically to one entry per genre where possible. So that there is a variety of options for people with all tastes and interests.

#10

Super Mario Odyssey

Join Mario on a huge, globe-Join Mario on a huge, globe-trotting 3D adventure and use his awesome new abilities to gather Moons to power up your airship, the Odyssey, and save Princess Peach from Bowser’s wedding plans!

#9

Katamari Damacy Reroll

An exception to the rule of no remasters has to be broken for Katamari Damacy ReRoll. This is a piece of art that needs to be experienced by every Switch owner. When the King of all Cosmos destroys the universe in a drunken haze, it comes down to you, the Price to put everything back together again. How do you do that, I hear you ask? By rolling up the entire cosmos to make back up the sky.

#8

Xenoblade Chronicles

If you only play one JRPG on the Switch, let it be Xenoblade Chronicles definitive edition. Yes, I know it’s technically a remaster too, but its an important addition to your library. Xenoblade Chronicles is easily one of the finest games ever created, and if you don’t believe me, take a look at some lets plays or some walkthroughs. You will not be disappointed.

#7

Stardew Valley

While Stardew Valley can be played on many platforms, on Switch is where it shines. It’s perfect for pottering around the house and then slipping it into the dock. Or take it on communities where you can get lost in your own little farming world where you can do nothing at all or focus on restoring buildings and delving into mines.

#6

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not what most people were expecting. For a series that is so linear in its narrative and progress the last thing that long term fans were expecting was an open sandbox experience. This allows the player to approach Breath of the Wild in a whole new way, which is any way they want. If you wanted, you could march straight out to contend with Gannon straight away. Or you can lurk in forests to try and find the master sword and everything in between. It is as limited as your imagination is.

#5

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

If you own a Nintendo Switch and you don’t own Mario Kart 8 what are your reasons? This is a wonderful kart racing experience one that stands up to all of the series additions so far. Race solo or connect with friends the choices are you! You can also participate in online tournaments to test your skills against other players.

#4

Pokemon Sword

Pokemon finally makes its long-anticipated arrival on the Nintendo Switch. First, with Pokemon Let’s Go! A warm-hearted and gentle introduction for new and old players alike to experience Pokemon for the first time on Nintendo Switch. Pokemon Sword and Sheild offer an experience unprecedented in Pokemon history. A feature-rich experience, from its world’s descriptions, visuals, to the Pokemon you encounter in the wild. The world feels real and vibrant, with little touches throughout so that you know that the love and care you expect from this 20-year-old franchise is right here. From online battles with other trainers to the upcoming expansions arriving in Summer and Winter of 2020. There has never been a better time to step into the world of Pokemon.

#3

Captain Toads Treasure Tracker

First debuting in Super Mario World 3D World, Captain Toad was an optional character for people who could find and help guide Toad through some puzzles. This is a full-fledged installment for Captain Toad where you are whisked away to a charming world. While it may look a little child like there is a lot to love about it and a lot to complete in this sweet and generous installment.

#2

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Could you really call this a top 10 list without Super Smash Brothers being at the top spots? The legendary battle brawler comes to Switch, a series that needs no introduction. Regardless if you are new to the series or a veteran in the Smash scene. There is no doubt what so ever that there is a lot of life to be found when you find your character.

#1

Animal Crossing: New Horizon

Easily one of the games that took the world by storm during what has been an insane 2020 was Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Friends, family, lovers, and friends came together in a way that we haven’t seen in years. Building and creating their own islands. It has brought people together from all across the globe to an experience that otherwise with the global pandemic that struck the world would never have been able to accomplish otherwise. 

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Top 10 Xbox Games of 2020

There are affiliate links in this post: any purchases make through these links helps support me in keeping this blog alive.

As we are getting into the Xbox One latter years and with the announcement of the Xbox Series X launching in the holiday season of 2020, it’s time to take a look back into what games are the must plays of a generation. This list has no strict rules except for one – where possible to avoid remasters. I’ve also tried to keep the list specifically to one entry per genre where possible. So that there is a variety of options for people with all tastes and interests.

#10

Gears of War 5

Players step into Kait Diaz’s shoes for the first time who, after the events of Gears of War 4, is struggling to come to grips with her mother’s demise, unravel her family tree’s warped origins and cope with her own emotional baggage. Meanwhile, humanity is once again being attacked-this time by the Swarm, the heir to the Locust horde.

#9

Halo 5 : Guardians

Of course, a franchise that has long defined Xbox as a platform is Halo and Halo 5: Guardians is a worthy addition to the series and our list of the best Xbox One games. This is the Halo game for Xbox One you don’t want to miss, with both a single player campaign and the usual thrilling multiplayer combat.

#8

Sea of Thieves

Rare’s Sea of Thieves swashbuckling adventure lets players take on the role of a pirate sailing the seas of a fantastic world – either alone or as part of a crew of up to four. If you want to concentrate on trade, treasure hunting or plundering others’ loot is up to you. This is a perfect title for those who want to play in an open-world setting with others, plus it doesn’t look too shabby at all! A recent Anniversary Update has also breathed new life into the World of Thieves.

#7

Sunset Overdrive

As it was a launch title for the Xbox One, it is quite possible that people have slept on Sunset Overdrive. Sunset Overdrive is a shooter action-adventure game developed by Insomniac Games and published by Microsoft Studios. The game is set in 2027, in Sunset City, a futuristic metropolis. The player controls a FizzCo employee who has to fight off the OD, short for Overcharge Drinkers: humans who have become mutants after drinking FizzCo’s energy drink. The player character can run wall-run in the dystopian Sunset Area, use zip-lines, and grind rails to navigate through it quickly, with a wide arsenal of weapons to be used.

#6

Fortza Motorsport 7

One of its best is also the latest entry from the celebrated racing series of Turn 10 Studios to speed its way onto Xbox One. Especially if you are someone who likes to spend time tuning all kinds of real-life cars and then enjoying their results on the road, Forza Motorsport 7 will surprise you with its 700 car range and almost unlimited ways to customize them.

#5

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Easily an all-time fan favorite. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is just a joy from start to finish. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a Metroidvania video game platform adventure developed by Moon Studios and released by  Xbox Game Studios for Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. Unlike its predecessor Blind Tree,  Will of the Wisps relies on “soul ties”  that are positioned manually rather than autosaving. 

For a system of “shards,” which can be bought or found in the game to update or change Ori ‘s stats and attacks, the sequential update scheme of the first title was discarded. Ori’s attacks can be managed through a convenient radial menu, and orbs can be found throughout the map to boost Ori’s health and energy.

#4

Hello Neighbour

Hello Neighbor is a survival horror stealth game developed by Dynamic Pixels, a Russian videogame developer, and released by tinyBuild. The goal of the game is to sneak into the basement of the neighbor’s house in order to discover the secrets of your mysterious neighbour. Taking on the lore and theory crafting following games with simular mysterious themes like Five Nights at Freddys and Bendy and the Ink machine. Hello Neighbours themes and overall style is promised to leave players scratching their head.

#3

Dying Light The Following

Dying Light is an open world first person survival action horror adventure video game developed by the Techland Polish game studio and published by Warner Bros. It features a dynamic day and night cycle enemy-infested, open-world city with climbable structures that support a fluid parkour system. The day-night cycle dramatically changes the game, as the zombies become more aggressive and harder to deal with during night time.

#2

Minecraft

You can’t talk about Xbox games and not mention Minecraft and just what a sensation the game has been since Microsoft acquiring Mojang and the behemoth moved into Microsofts care. Explore endless worlds and build everything from the simplest to the greatest of castles. Play in creative mode with unlimited resources or explore the world deeply in survival mode, craft arms and armor to fight dangerous mobs.

#1

The Outer Worlds

Lost in space while traveling to the furthest end of the galaxy on a colonist rocket, you wake up decades older than you thought, only to find yourself in the middle of a dark plot that seeks to overthrow the Halcyon world. As you explore the farthest reaches of space and find a host of factions all wrestling for power, who you decide to become will determine everyone’s fate in Halcyon.

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Top 10 PS4 Games of 2020

There are affiliate links in this post: any purchases make through these links helps support me in keeping this blog alive.

As we are getting into the PS4 latter years and with the announcement of the PS5 launching in the holiday season of 2020, it’s time to take a look back into what games are the must plays of a generation. This list has no strict rules except for one – where possible to avoid remasters. So I’m sorry but the Last of Us and Uncharted will not be making the list. I’ve also tried to keep the list specifically to one entry per genre where possible. So that there is a variety of options for people with all tastes and interests.

#10

Nier, Automata Game of The Yorha Edition – PlayStation 4

Nier: Automata is one of those games that the less you say about it the better. It’s a thrilling and engaging ride from start to finish. A game that demands the hours that go into it to get the most out of your time with it. This is not a game for those who are looking for a quick experience. Nier demands your attention and the only way to treat this dystopian science fiction is to go into it with an open mind and to expect the unexpected.

Glory to Mankind.

#9

God of War Hits – PlayStation 4

Kratos is someone who needs no introduction to long time Playstation fans. Known for slash and burning his way from the deep realms of Hades to the top of Olympus. The 2018 installment of God of War finds us with an older and more refined Kratos, who takes on a journey with his son Atreus to head to the highest point in the realm to spread the ashes of his recently departed wife. This adventure spans the entire realm of Midgar and beyond, and together both father and son learn the meaning of family and how there is no peek high enough or valley low enough to keep family apart.

#8

Persona 5 Royal: Standard Edition – PlayStation 4

Easily one of the most stylish and universally adored JRPG of the modern age. Persona 5 Royal is the semi-sequel to 2017’s critically acclaimed Persona 5. Persona 5 Royal is Persona 5 + and adds more story elements to the already brilliant base story. For those who have never heard of the Persona series, it is a story about a group of thieves who travel into people’s subconscious to reform people from toxic or evil behavior. Traversing this world they utilize the power of their alternative personalities or Personas and are able to use grand forms of magic to achieve their aims. Your player character is falsely accused of assault while trying to intervene in the attempted abduction/assault of a young woman. With a year of probation now under your belt, you’re sent to a family friend’s coffee shop where there you are to attend a new high school and try to keep your head down. But things start to go awry on your very first day where you meet a new friend and a mysterious cat.

#7

Bloodborne

It might surprise some readers to find this Souls game as the one of the generation. But for me this comes at a time in FromSoftwares development where they have really honed in the formula for what makes a Souls game great, but turns it on its head with a shift from more defensive tactics into aggressive moves. Bloodborne is about agility and the ability to take calculated risks while trying to outfox your opponents. It takes place in the most haunting realm of Yharnam where there was so much opportunity to delve deeper into what the world has to offer.

#6

Dragon Quest Builders 2 – PlayStation 4

The much awaited sequel to the excellent Dragon Quest Builders comes Dragon Quest Builders 2 which does everything you’d ever want to from a sequel. More, and better. And it does so in spades having literal worlds to explore now, not just set areas where things get reset and mercifully no bosses that are illogical to the objectives of the main campaign. A stellar script suitable for kids and grownups alike. An expanded and more nuanced crafting system. It’s an absolute must.

#5

Final Fantasy XV: Day One Edition (PS4)

Easily one of my favourite games of all time. FF XV is just a joy from start to finish. The starting scene sets up what the tone of the rest of the game will be for you. This is a coming of age story where you’re forced to watch a bunch of boys grow up a little too fast when their world turns upside down. It’s a testament to the bonds of friendships and what one must go through in order to grow. It’s sometimes silly, sometimes serious and sometimes sad. But it’s a journey worth taking.

#4

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (PS4)

Hellblade Senua’s sacrifice is something very special. As someone who deals with mental health issues – that are often fairly well documented in this blog – I’m always empathetic to the struggles of people with mental health difficulties. Senua’s situation and her journey is very relatable. It’s a crippling tale and often is one that is very difficult to walk through. I know personally I found walking in her shoes and seeing her face her demons to be tremendously tough, but its an experience that – like most things in life – can only be appreciated by the time you’re able to look back and see how far you’ve come.

#3

Fortnite

It would be remiss of me to leave Fortnite out of this list. From the way it has introduced gaming into homes to making prime time media, it’s undeniable to say that Fortnite has surpassed its name as transformative media. It’s sparked dance classes based on characters’ movements or dances in-game. There have been multiple books on it as well as a ton of merchandise. So much so, if you go into clothing retailers on your local high street you would be able to pick up a Fortnite shirt somewhere. As its seasons roll on its popularity shows no sign of ceasing. A tribute to the mechanics of this battle royal shooter.

#2

Shovel Knight (PS4)

There were lots of choices for platformers for this console generation but the one that sticks out the most in my mind is Shovel Knight. Be I a fool for the graphic style or simply just watching too much Game Grumps, Shovel Knight has managed to plant itself as a favorite of mine. From creatively stunning level design to inventive co-op options to a fabulous sequel and add ons. If you’re into platformers and haven’t played it – its some of the best that there is to offer.

#1

Rocket League Collectors Edition (PS4)

When you think racing games on PS4 Rocket League always seems to rear its head time and time again. It’s not too surprising to see why. This co-op driving game is easily accessible to new players while still proving a suitable challenge for experienced drivers. It certainly comes under the descriptor of “easy to pick up and hard to master” there will never be two matches that will be the same. With its unique options that unlock for your car customization the possibilities to express yourself are endless. And with online matchmaking, it’s an easy recommendation for anyone who owns a PS4.

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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX – Review

Having pumped double digits of hours into the new Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX, I can safely say beyond doubt that this is the most loving entry into the history of the franchise. It will charm old and new players alike. However, much like its first incarnation, there were several opportunities where developer Spike Chunsoft could have made moves to better plan a better player experience where it matters the most and that is within its dungeons.

Choosing your character  A selection of Pokémon appear before the character ranging from Bulbasaurs to Machops
Choosing your character.

It all begins with a Question

I remember when I picked up Mystery Dungeon for the first time. I was sitting in Eddie Rockets (Johnny Rockets to my friends in the USA) and when the game asked you to place your finger on the touchpad and begin your quest by answering a series of personality questions. I was hooked, hooked the same way I can remember being hooked playing Pokémon Crystal when the first female playable female protagonist was introduced. The same way I remember being hooked when I first started playing Pokémon Red. I knew that this would be a love affair that would last me my entire life.

Little did I know how right I would be, leaning into all entries regardless of version. A love that would lead me to buy multiple copies and keep old systems around just to go back to that world, that place. A deeper love than maybe the original Pokémon series had on me as the series was more formulaic in its iterations.

Mystery Dungeon was something special to me. Something unique. This wasn’t just a protagonist who I was aiming to be, shoes I was yet to fill. This was my own journey, with my answers, my solutions, with my friends.

So when I heard of the remake it thrilled me to bits to go back into this place, and I’m delighted to say that Spike Chunsoft (the makers of hit visual novel series Danganronpa) made a faithful recreation of the Mystery Dungeon world; with some beautiful ascetic changes.

Watercolour Masterpiece. Pikachu and Bulbasaur by a forest lush with watercolours straight from a childs book.
Watercolour Masterpiece

Watercolour Masterpiece

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX is stunningly beautiful in its depiction of the world. It’s the closest thing I’ve come to going “this is exactly what I had in my brain when I was young”. The watercolor imagery captures all that is whimsical, bright and alive in this world. It is bright without being overbearing, a brightness you could stare out at for hours without needing to avert your gaze. Thankfully there are instances in the games where you can pause for a moment to take in your surroundings. Even going so far as to have a dedicated art mode viewer on the main menus.

I’m grateful for that tiniest of little touches to take your time and appreciate the world that you’re in. It encourages a place to go and gather yourself, place your feet firmly on the ground and take your time to get to grips with everything that the game has to offer. It is deceptive in its ability to surprise you. Especially as the game starts to get into the deeper aspects of the story.

Many to one. Your team vs a load of enemies
Many to one

Not so Mysterious Dungeon

Formulaic is the kindest word that I can find to describe the gameplay, although a more accurate word would be boring. The dungeon part of Mystery Dungeon is easily the weakest part of the game. Which is unfortunate – as it is the most predominant part of the game. The premise of the mystery dungeon title is that every time you enter a new dungeon it is different from the last one you enter. This means you can only go so far to prepare for what lies ahead of you.

This has its pros and cons, naturally. Pro’s being it does keep the gameplay from being completely dragged down by the sameness of having to go through the same layouts on repeat and you will encounter different sorts of Pokemon on each run you do. Giving you more opportunities depending on rare qualities a likelihood to recruit them onto your squad for more adventures.

Cons, unfortunately, outweigh the pros. You invariably are trying to do quest markers more often than you are doing a quest to boost your rescue teams’ rank because you just can’t bear the thought of having to do any more dungeons. I was doing so many dungeons at one stage I had to take a break because I was getting headaches. That’s not the best sign in the world that your gameplay is engaging or keeps you in a rewarding loop. The items you get from dungeons are, most times, are either completely useless to your objectives or essential items that you need for dungeons; like apples.

The Kecleon Shop that you have access to in the Pokemon main square or occasionally popping up mid dungeon has an uninspired array of items. Apples are essential for longer dungeon runs, as getting hungry will invariably lead to your party fainting if you can’t get some sustenance. The shop only selling one of these a go at any one time just isn’t useful. You have to bank on the ability to either find them in dungeons as they spawn or that the shop in dungeon spawns more than just a single-use item.

What is the biggest gamble of these mystery dungeons is starting them in the first place. There are no hard and fast rules for level requirements and you will find out super quick if you are under the level required for it and with that loss comes the loss of all of your money as well as your items. So if you have had a set of equipment and are fully prepared for your dungeon you could get wiped out in one go by just having an unlucky encounter or worse, a monster house.

Silver linings in unlikely places

Auto Mode allows the player with one click to move around the dungeon
Auto mode

There are some incredible accessibility modes that more developers could do with taking on board. Some of these are unique features and others are just sheer thoughtful input created from a thoughtful development process. There is quite literally an overabundance of them. Some of which there has been no fan fair or notice through other outlets, but I can’t tell you how much these things matter for players with disabilities.

Auto Mode

Auto mode is a mode where, as the name would imply, allows your character to explore the dungeons without you needing to toggle or hold down buttons in order to explore. The auto mode only ceases when there is an enemy in sight, allowing the players to make a decision on what to do from that point on.

Move Sets

For players with Cognitive difficulties or simply new players who wouldn’t know what the best moves are. They can simply press the A button and the game will make the best decision as to what move to use in order to get the upper hands on your opponents.

Highlighted Text

One of the best things that I have seen in accessibility tools is the ability to look into highlight words by simply hovering over the words. Each is colour coded into their specific categories so they are distinct from each other at all times. This gives the player the ability to review at any time what is going on or what item will have an effect etc.

Audio Captions

Something that goes so understated in video games is the ability to read captions. Thankfully, Spike Chunsoft has been experts in their field when it comes to visual novels. All that experience comes into play with the way that they have used text in this game. Not just in the way that they have used highlight text, as per the example above. But their ability to capture sound in text to tell a story. This level of storytelling should be standard across all titles, as this is a level of care that you take to include people from all backgrounds, levels, and experiences in being able to enjoy your game fully. I can think of no higher praise than this. It is a sheer masterclass of accessibility and something that developers from all around the world can learn from.

A Storys End

Camp Corner with Wigglytuff and our protagonists
Camp Corner

There is an awful lot to like about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX. You can feel the love of the source material from the Spike Chunsoft team and the care that went into developing this game. Using their length and breadth of experiences to breathe new life into a franchise that was feared to be left in obscurity. However, even with the quality of life improvements as well as some stellar accessibility features – it doesn’t stop the game from having some fundamental flaws where it matters the most and that is in its gameplay.

It leads to a larger conversation around remakes, how close should you stay to the sources material in order to maintain its truest self? With other remakes of significance lurking around the corner like Final Fantasy VII, I’m sure this will only be the start of the debate to come. All I know is that I’d appreciate the intention but am sad for the opportunity missed to tweak some mechanics or to expand on what made the series iconic, to begin with.

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Should You Care? Women – Critical Lit Games

CriticialLitGames is the brainchild of writer turned coder Susan Grey, her focus with CriticalLitGames is to blend her two loves of literature and gaming using Augmented Reality (AR).

CriticialLitGames is the brainchild of writer turned coder Susan Gray, her focus with CriticalLitGames is to blend her two loves of literature and gaming using Augmented Reality (AR).

Coming from an arts background, Susan has been writing fiction from a young age starting off with short fiction and novellas moving on later to writing and publishing plays and poems. Her love of writing didn’t end there but seeped into her gaming life. She told me during her chat that when she was younger, she used to write to gaming companies with her ideas for games that she wanted to see. From this love of gaming leant her to coding where she had picked up Q and Visual Basic realising she may not need the major gaming companies to achieve her dreams. She could make the games herself.

Upon completing her PhD in Creative Writing, she decided to try her hand at Unity. Her first foray

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into Unity was in the VR space, but during her testing, she stumbled upon AR. She was fascinated about what she describes as the “breach into physical reality” rather than the separatist nature of VR. She realised that anything could be a host for an extra layer of information over the items we see as commonplace in our daily lives. Her mindthen strayed back to her first love of books. How could she add this layer over a timeless medium without distracting the reader’s attention?

She then drew on the experiences she had as a child and tieing that in with her love of video gaming realised she could create the modern gamebook. Thanks to the technological advancements that have to lead to AR she felt this could add a level of novelty to the everyday.

You can find a demo of her previous work here, and you can follow her progress on Twitter at @CritLitGames, on Instagram @criticallitgames, her blog https://criticallitgames.co.uk, and her Patreon if you want to support what she is up to.

Hyperkin Smartboy – Review

The holiday season can be a mixed bag sometimes. Between the socks and the body wash there can be little surprise for an adult Christmas! However, there was an exception for this Christmas when the Smartboy from Hyperkin appeared under my Christmas tree. Much to my delight!

img_0026The very first console I owned was a Nintendo Gameboy, and I still own it. It resides in its original very flattering messenger carry case. It was my first fore into gaming, and I still have my original cartridges that I acquired in my youth. And it’s a good thing I’ve kept them too because one of the primary usages of the Hyperkin is not to just to look like a Retro Gameboy but to play old Gameboy and Gameboy colours Cartridges. Happily, the unit supports NTSC/PAL cartridges so most people can be accommodated.

 

img_0027Setup for the Smartboy was a little complex; there is a proprietary cable that you need to use for the initial setup. Where you have to connect both the Hyperlink Unit and your phone through this cable. It took me about two tries to get it all up and to run. But my biggest fear for me would be losing that cable should I ever swap handsets, which I do fairly regularly. Though, a nice thing to balance that is the Smartboy does not need any batteries unlike the Gameboy that it is modelled on.

After that though, it’s predominantly smooth sailing. The SmartBoy needs two separate apps to work with the unit. Both are free, and once you have them installed and fully setup, it works seamlessly every time after that.

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While the Smartboy is designed for the Samsung Galaxy line of phones, it has an adjustable frame that will adjust to most phones regardless of size (5.2 – 6.4 inches). Right now I have the Galaxy Note 8 which is notoriously broad. But the Smartboy can support it just fine. There is a bottom at the back of the unit which expands the width of the phone, and then you can push the sides together to ensure a good fit.

 

 

The buttons are tactical, and the unit has the same button and hand feel as the old Gameboy used to. I would say the noise of the keys has a little bit more of an audible clack, but nothing that distracts from the overall experience. Particularly in the age of mechanical keyboards and cherry switches!

Games that are inserted into the cartridge slot at the back are put in traditionally. Those games are subsequently upgraded to the handsets resolution. Your mileage may better, but Tetris, Pokemon Gold and Mickey’s Grand Adventure have never looked so crystal clear.

img_0029There were only ever one or two features that are borderline annoying. Usually, if you touched the back of the cartridge in a Gameboy that’s it, you stop playing and risk losing your cartridge data. Although, I’m sure there were many of us as kids who just ripped their cartridges out of their units while the Gameboy was still on. I certainly did, and I instinctively did the same when I was swapping over to another cartridge. Only to be greeted with a Piracy Warning which then locks down the system. So, that in itself is a bit of a pain to contend with.

As you physically have to take your phone out of the unit close and restart all the apps again. It only happened a handful more times in my first few days with it, and mostly that was user error on my part by not inserting the cartridge firmly enough into the unit. However, its undeniable that it has taken away from my enjoyment of the experience.

So, is this something that I could recommend to the gamer in your life? Sure, but at $59 for the unit itself then the additional cost of the old cartridges (Which depending on the type of game and its rarity could cost more than you might think) it’s a hard sell to recommend to anyone other than the hardcore retro gamers in your life.

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Review: ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote

Disclaimer: This is a review unit I was able to get from the lovely people at ThinkGeek.

As anyone who has been viewing this blog for a long time, you’ll know one of my pet peeves in my digital life is that I struggle immensely with finding the right sort of bag for my tech. I’m not entirely a “and the kitchen sink” kind of person. But, with my daily commute and the amount I have to travel, I do have to consider seriously what bag will suit my purpose the best. That usually depends on what I’m doing. Am I flying? Am I just going to town? How long will I be waiting for one form of transport to another? Do I need to bring clothes? A myriad of question always accompanies all of these essential choices.

Most people would know that I swear by my Timbuk2 Custom Prospect messenger bag. It’s my regular go-to for travelling and day to day use. You can find more of my gushing over it in my Women Tech Bag Video.

So, with the ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote, there are a few things that are worthy to note about it before we get started.

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Product Specifications

  • Convertible Tote of Holding
  • A ThinkGeek creation & exclusive
  • Comes with double handles and also removable backpack straps
  • Custom d20 print accent
  • Magnetic snap closure at top
  • Organizer built-in to lining (9 card slots, 2 open pouches, 2 zip pouches, ThinkGeek keyholder)
  • Metal feet on the bottom for durability
  • Materials: 100% polyurethane exterior; 100% polyester lining
  • Care Instructions: Hand wash
  • Exterior Dimensions: 13″ wide x 17″ tall x 4″ thick
  • Weight: 2 1/2 lbs.

It is a beautiful bag; its print accent is one of the most striking elements of the tote. It’s wonderfully detailed, and I regularly got compliments and comments from the passers-by who I encountered who were curious about where on earth I found a bag that had a pattern of a D20! It’s a testament to the care and craft of putting a bag together like this. kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_detSubtle details in the stitching and lining indicate this to the core. It’s challenging to find a rough edge on the tote, and that’s a testament to the craft of it in itself. However, that robust construction comes at a price in the form of its weight. It’s a good two pounds when its empty. So, if people are expecting this to be a light bag, I fear this may not be one for you.

That being said, I wanted to put it through its paces. I was off to a Ted X in Canada, and I decided since it was an overnight trip that I would need to bring a change of clothes for the event. I was also going to need to bring some form of entertainment, food. I made a noble attempt to fit all of these items into the tote but alas I failed to do so without leaving some essential items out. Which is a no-go for this bag to be used as my new travel companion. I’m not going to lie; I was pretty astonished that I couldn’t fit more into it, dimensions wise it’s a pretty big tote bag. Now, as my Youtube Review Video will show, I am bringing quite a bit, and arguably my packing cube for my clothes was the principal offender when it came to the space available. It was still none the less surprising though, as right now it’s not quite living up to my expectations for a bag that has the title of Bag of Holding.

My timbuk2 to had to resume its position for that particular trip as I had little issue getting the contents I needed there for my trip. Throughout my time bouncing from airport to airport to get to Toronto I was curious about what other use cases could I use this bag for? So, I decided I’m regularly in and out to college as well as the gym I would see if this would be a suitable all in one solution for this, as my Timbuk2 for those trips is complete overkill. Sadly, I ran into different issues when using this bag as a daily driver for my college and gyms trips.

kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_int1Cardinal of all sins for me is the lack of a dedicated pocket for my laptop/tablet. This is something I’m quite pedantic about. I think if you’re creating any bag, it makes sense to have a dedicated pocket for your tech that needs that added bit of protection. So having something that didn’t even protect my iPad had me quite frustrated in parts. I was always second guessing where things were in my bag or worrying if my lunch box was going to spill and what that would do to said iPad.

I ran into the space issue on multiple occasions too, sometimes having to forfeit a bigger towel for the gym or a bottle of water to fit something else in for a particular day. Which, evidently, isn’t a great solution for things either. It’s not as if I’d be bringing a lot with me for these sessions, but I’d always feel like I was running short on space.

It leads to a more significant comment too which is after a while it can tend to make the bag heavier than you would otherwise think. Having a 2-pound starting weight then adding other essential items on top of that can rapidly make a significant weight change to the overall bag and limits your options on how best to carry it.

kgiq_convertible_tote_holding_strapsMy go-to carry style was to use it by the handles on my shoulder as I was always overly aware in the backpack style that a small clip only closes the bag, and it would be straightforward to reach into the bag from that position pretty much unbeknownst to the wearer. So I didn’t have enough experience with the backpack style element to make a concrete opinion on it other than its relatively well executed but the straps suffer from the same fault that others do which is the straps are awful thin. This can lead to the straps cutting into your shoulders, and I am a women function over fashion. So, in my time of usage it didn’t get a lot of use, but as always your mileage may vary.

It might seem like I’m ragging on the Tote, but really, I’m not. I think I’d be more lenient on it if they’d omitted the title of it is a Bag of Holding. I think that’s where I’ve got the most of a mental block. I can’t view this bag out of the context of it being in its brand. The line is notorious for being compact but being able to hold pretty much everything. I’ve even seen the standard bags, and others in the range attest to this mantra. This, however, doesn’t.

Let me be clear; it is not a bad bag in the least. It’s incredibly constructed, aesthetically pleasing and works as a bag. But is it a bag of holding worthy of the namesake? I don’t think so.

You can find out more about think ThinkGeek Bag of Holding Tote at http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/kgiq/?srp=1