First Impression: Rocket League

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

We’ve been using our Xbox One more often lately, even if we really only have a couple of games on there. One such game is Rocket League.

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Rocket League is soccer with race cars and exploding balls. Neither Rachel nor I are really into sporty games, unless Mario Kart counts, so Rocket League was never on our radar.

Then our awesome brother-in-law got us an Xbox One with the game already on it. While we haven’t played it with him yet, we did get a couple of rounds in with another friend recently. Rachel and I were… not good, haha.

It was fun enough for playing the game the first time. We each got a goal or two into the opponents’ nets, all computer-controlled rather than other humans, with our friend being on our team and carrying us to victory. The only downside was some lag during the last couple of rounds. Rachel’s and my car would blink and teleport across the field, usually right when we were about to smack into the ball. Pretty sure Rachel’s car was frozen on the ceiling at one point, too.

It’s not a game that Rachel and I are raring to boot up again, but it wasn’t too bad. We’ll probably try it again soon, at least with our brother-in-law.

 

Have you played Rocket League? What do you think of it?

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Friday Favorites: Pokemon Gym Puzzles

Double Jump Kris MiiHow was everyone’s week?

I’ve been playing more Pokemon lately, finding the series to be rather relaxing after a week of work. I prefer the regions with gym challenges rather than Alola, both for the challenging battles and the puzzles that some gyms had in order to reach the leader. This week is all about my favorite Pokemon Gym puzzles!

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Mahogany Gym (Johto)

Mahogany Gym is the Ice-type gym in the second generation of the Pokemon games. It has one of those classic ice-sliding puzzles where one misstep can mess you up. While the original Gold/Silver/Crystal trio had just one room of this puzzle, the HeartGold and SoulSilver remakes had three.

Vermilion Gym (Kanto)

Lt. Surge’s Electric-type gym was a fun puzzle in which there are two switches hidden in trash cans that the player needs to press in order to open up the electric doors that the gym leader is behind. While the switches are always adjacent, if you guess the second one incorrectly, the switches reset.

Fuchsia Gym (Kanto)

This Poison-type gym used invisible walls that you had to walk around in order to reach the gym leader. As a kid playing the original first generation games, I was a little frustrated with this gym until I realized that you could very faintly make out where the walls are. Nevertheless, it was a good challenge.

Mistralton Gym (Unova)

In Black and White, this gym uses freaking cannons to blast the player around the room. Your character is supposed to be, what, a young teen? I feel as if this gym would get sued for human injuries. In Black 2 and White 2, there are giant fans that blow the player around, and I’m not sure they’re much better. While not particularly challenging, this is probably one of the gym designs that I found the most amusing while playing!

What are your favorite Pokemon Gym puzzles? Or did you prefer the gyms that were straightforward and led you immediately to the gym leader?

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Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness Review

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Title: Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness
Developer: Marvelous Interactive
Publisher: Natsume
Platform:
Nintendo DS
Category:
Simulation
Release Date:
August 2008
How I got the game:
I got it as a gift years ago.

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I’m usually a sucker for the Harvest Moon franchise — they’re my go-to relaxing games. The older games tend to have a basic story and simple goals, and I feel that the newer games are trying a bit too much in having overarching story lines and encompassing goals. Island of Happiness is one of those games that was in between, still simple enough to be relaxing but with a few gimmicks that, in my opinion, were not needed.

gameplay

Island of Happiness is similar to other games in the Harvest Moon franchise in that it’s premise is you, as the main character, starting a ranch from scratch. One of your main objectives is to raise crops and animals as best as you can while also befriending the villagers in the town. Wooing potential spouses and raising a family are also staple aspects of the Harvest Moon games, and Island of Happiness is no exception.

Harvest Moon games tend to give you free range when it comes to customizing your ranch, allowing you to grow whatever crops you want (in season, of course) and raise whatever combination of animals you wish. Want all chickens? Go for it. Want to have your field covered with tomato plants? You can do that. There’s no one telling you what to raise. Selling the crops and animal byproducts is the best way to earn money for your ranch, and some products are more profitable than others, so most take that into account. Products are also used in cooking dishes and gifts to friends and romantic interests as well.

With that said, Island of Happiness was on the Nintendo DS and, as such, Nintendo thought it would be best to utilize the touch screen as much as possible. It was more of an annoyance rather than feeling innovative. You move your character with the stylus on the touch screen while the D-Pad buttons was used to equip tools. This was rectified in the immediate sequel, Sunshine Islands.

Island of Happiness also had a more complicated method of growing your crops. In early Harvest Moon games, the best way to grow crops was to plant them in-season and water them once a day. Weather plays a part in helping crops grow and, unless there is a storm or blizzard, most days granted enough sunlight to help your ranch. Island of Happiness had some hidden mechanic where each type of crop needed a number of water and sun “points” in order to grow as quickly and strongly as possible. Later in the game, it is possible to build a Greenhouse to help control the weather. However, considering all of the possible crops that are in the game, trying to figure out and remember all the needed points was an unnecessary mechanic.

graphics-music

The graphics of Island of Happiness took a little getting used to. When I first saw the 3D models, I wasn’t too sure of them. However, the graphics grew on me, with the areas of the island being vivid and fun to explore, and the villagers all being distinct (with the exception of the minor NPCs).

Music in the Harvest Moon series was always enjoyable to me, even if the tunes do tend to make me sleepy. They’re relaxing and calming as they play in the background while you farm or explore, being perfect in matching the mood of the genre and game play.
storyIsland of Happiness opens up with your character on a boat heading toward a new land. However, the boat gets caught in a bad storm, resulting in your character and a couple of others being shipwrecked on an island. Worry not, though — your fellow island refugees are a small family that has connections and experience with farming and shipping products.

Your character and the family, consisting of a brother and sister, their mother, and their grandfather, decide to stay on the island and work to make it habitable. You agree to be the rancher while the family runs a shipping business, helping to incite trade between your island and the mainland. Your goal is to really build up and clean the island to tempt other people to move in so the island can continue to flourish.

The more people that move in, the more relationships you can develop. Building up friendships can lead to new events and festivals, new areas to explore and, if you wish, romance that can lead to having a family.

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Island of Happiness, despite some of the gameplay mechanics, is one of my favorite Harvest Moon installments. Developing the island and luring new characters to move in is enough of a challenge so farming doesn’t become so routine. There’s always something to aim for, which is why this is one game that gets plenty of use.

Harvest Moon DS: Island of Happiness gets…
4-lives
4 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

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Friday Favorites: Mario Party Boards

Double Jump Kris MiiYay for Friday!

Despite having the Switch and Xbox One, Rachel and I have been turning our Wii back on to play Mario Party 2 on they system’s Virtual Console. After the disappointing Top 100 3DS game, going back to one of the best Mario Party games was natural. Playing Mario Party 2 and its boards reminded me of some of the best boards from the series as a whole.

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Space Land (Mario Party 2)

Space Land is one of my top choices in Mario Party 2. The space aesthetics are fun, and the Bowser junction in the middle of the board can really mess up the standings. Once the countdown in the middle reaches zero, Bowser launches his Coin Beam to steal every coin from whoever may be caught in the crossfire.

Yoshi’s Tropical Island (Mario Party)

Yoshi was always a favorite character from the Mario franchise, and we always enjoyed his board from the original Mario Party game. Going back and forth between two islands for the star, there was always the chance that someone could land on a Happening space and make Bowser and the star switch places.

Goomba’s Greedy Gala (Mario Party 4)

This casino-based board is all about chances and gambling (of course). Yes, it easily got frustrating if you were never able to go the way you wanted based on the roulette wheel in the middle of the board. It was fun, though, to let chance that much control over who could reach the star space.

King Boo’s Haunted Hideaway (Mario Party 8)

Mario Party 8 is not my favorite Mario Party game due to the motion controls — I was never thrilled with them. This board was always fun, though. The night scenery and the fact that the board changed every time you played or were looking for the next star was a cool concept.

What are your favorite Mario Party boards? Which Mario Party game do you enjoy the most?

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Global Game Jam

Double Jump Kris MiiIt’s a brand new week — how is everyone doing?

While there are plenty of conventions that Rachel and I have heard of, we recently just heard of something called the Global Game Jam. It sounds like an awesome competition!

 

We’ve showcased String Player Gamer on this blog before, as we really enjoy his music and covers of video game tunes. A couple of days ago he posted a video on YouTube titled, “I made a video game!”

Rachel and I love hearing about indie games, especially ones from brand new creators trying their hand at making a game for the first time. Apparently, that’s exactly what Global Game Jam is. Applicants from all over meet and have about two days to create a game from scratch in teams, each bringing their skills to help create different aspects of the game.

It’s pretty damn cool! Who knows — maybe Rachel and I will be part of something like this one day! Both of us would like to help with storytelling, Rachel would be fantastic with voice acting, and I may be able to whip up some programming for a game. It’s something for the bucket list, anyway!

Have you ever heard of or participated in a Game Jam? What role would you play in a team?

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Friday Favorites: Johto Pokemon

Double Jump Kris MiiThank God it’s Friday!

Pokemon Crystal came out on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, and I’m having so much fun with it! It’s a fun nostalgic trip for me, and I’m having a great time training up some of my favorite second generation Pokemon.

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Ampharos

The Mareep family was always a favorite of mine, and I am missing them in Pokemon Crystal (since, for some reason, they’re only available by trading with Gold or Silver). Ampharos is one of my top electric-types, and its Mega Evolution gives it such fabulous hair, haha!

Crobat

Poison and Flying are two of my favorite types of Pokemon, and Crobat is the best of both worlds. It blows my mind that it’s literally about a foot taller than me in height, but its size doesn’t hinder its speed at all!

Quagsire

Quagsire, with its dual typing of Water and Ground, can be such a powerhouse. Despite how common and versatile they are, I tend not to train Water types, but I don’t think twice about snagging the Wooper line. I think Quagsire is adorable, too, with its dopey looks.

Steelix

The second generation of Pokemon brought about two new types, namely Steel and Dark. Despite that, there really weren’t too many Steel type Pokemon, especially ones that weren’t new evolutions of an already existing line. Steelix, though, I loved seeing. Onix was a favorite from the first generation and I loved the design of his evolution. That, and Jasmine’s Steelix definitely kicked my ass the first time I tried fighting them, so I appreciated the challenge!

Umbreon

Likewise, Dark also became one of my favorite types after this generation, and I adored Umbreon. While I enjoy all of the Eevee evolutions, Umbreon’s design was always one of my favorites, especially its Shiny form. It’s stats may not be the best, but it was always fun to raise.

What are your favorite generation two Pokemon? Did you download Crystal?

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Reality is Broken

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

It’s the end of the first month of 2018. I hope you’re all doing well and that everything has been working in your favor so far. Here’s to the rest of the year!

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A book I’ve been reading lately is Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. It depicts why video games are important in today’s society and how they aid us in being happy and fulfilled with our lives. While the book was published in 2011 and, thus, is a little out of date at this time, it has made me think about my love of games.

Think about why you play video games. Is it because of the challenge of saving the world? The relaxing atmosphere of caring for a virtual town? The social aspect of online video games? No matter your reasons, you wouldn’t be playing video games if you didn’t enjoy them.

There’s a particular quote near the beginning of the book that McGonigal put in from Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist of play: “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”

Depression often gives people a sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity. Games, on the other hand, give us a sense of being able to overcome obstacles, an endorphin rush when we focus on our energy on achieving a goal. By gaming, we’re focusing on an activity that we’re good at and enjoy.

In other words, McGonigal claims, “gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.”

The key ideas of being happy include satisfying work, the experience or hope of being successful, social connection, and meaning, or “the chance to be part of something larger than ourselves.” Gaming gives us all of that. Rather than using games as a way to escape reality, gamers are actively making their real lives more rewarding by playing.

I’ll be honest. My day job is not at all what I want it to be. It’s stifling and not creative at all, in my opinion. Sure, my co-workers are fantastic and the job itself pays well with good benefits, but it feels like more of a chore than anything else. I’m working there to survive, not to live.

Reading this book just kind of made everything click into place. Video games were always a way for me to help save the world and pour my creativity into, such as writing a blog about gaming. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, and gaming has opened up a few connections that I never would have had otherwise. It’s rather amazing to think about, isn’t it?

Have you read this book? What made you start to play video games?

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