Friday Favorites: My Video Game Hall of Fame

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

A couple of new games have recently been inducted into the Video Game Hall of Fame — Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Kart, Colossal Cave Adventure, and Microsoft Windows Solitaire. While there are criteria as to which games are inducted, I thought it would be fun to make a small list of my own for Hall of Fame games.

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Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley has rocketed in popularity since its original release in [date]. The calming atmosphere of the game has likened it to the Harvest Moon franchise while also giving players new mechanics and aspects to the farming sim genre. It added an RPG-like element with cave exploration and monster slaying, as well as allowing players to marry either gender, including fellow players in the co-op updates. Considering the small team that created the game that has since gone on to be published on other consoles, the feats it has done deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

This is definitely more of a personal preference than figuring out anything groundbreaking about the game’s mechanics or style. However, it did throw Mario into yet another genre of video games, showcasing his versatility as a video game character. It also was the ancestor, if you will, of the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi series, games that are popular in their own right. The Final Fantasy and other Nintendo character Easter eggs in the game were fun, and the unique characters that were introduced are popular enough to be shown in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s World of Light mode.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

We’re not a pair of gamers that plays shooting games too often, if at all. However, we have tried out PUBG and have seen plenty of streams of the gameplay, finding it stressful when we play and amusing thanks to the content creators that we’ve watched. It was one of the first major battle royale games that hit the market and, while Fortnite’s popularity and gimmicks may propel it to the Hall of Fame before PUBG, I believe PUBG deserves its share of recognition.

What are some games you’d like to see in the Hall of Fame? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Arcade Spirits [Video Game Review]

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Title: Arcade Spirits
Developer: Fiction Factory Games
Publisher: PQube
Platform:
Windows, MacOS, Linux
Category:
Visual novel/Dating Sim
Release Date:
February 12, 2019 
How we got the game:
Bought it on Steam

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I had never heard of Arcade Spirits before Rachel and I discovered a Let’s Play of it on the ProJared Plays YouTube channel. We haven’t finished his entire play through of it just yet due to me getting interested enough in the game to play it myself. And, honestly, I freaking love it. A visual novel set in an arcade with a fun story and fantastic characters had me sold almost immediately!

gameplayBeing a visual novel, Arcade Spirits does not have difficult gameplay. Rather, the most action you do is choosing your choice in a small list of answers at certain points in the levels. Yet, there are plenty of options and dialogue choices for you to make, even if sometimes the menus of choices aren’t that long. Indeed, there were some menus that only gave you two choices aside from a basic option.

Each choice that you made would help develop your avatar’s personality, whether it be Quirky, Steady, Kindly, Gutsy, or Basically. The choices indicate which answer goes with which personality trait, but there is an option in the short tutorial that allows you to hide the indicators so you have less of a chance to “gamify” your personality. Every multiple choice set would have a Basically answer, while the other few options would point toward one type of personality or another. When speaking with other characters, some would prefer certain types of responses over others, but there are no bad choices. You cannot get kicked toward a Game Over screen for the “wrong” choice (except for a couple of instances where you have to really try for a Game Over).

Not only are there no bad choices, but the game is clever enough to remember your choices in later levels. In Level 1, you may help a little girl at the arcade who will then remember you in Level 7 and want to help you in return. Certain choices  from the beginning of the game — such as why you decided to get a job at an arcade — pop up as motivation for other choices in the game, as well as interactions with other characters. Visual novels, especially dating sims, have branched paths with the choices you make, but Arcade Spirits is the first game in my memory to actively have earlier choices be referenced to and the reason as to why choices later on happen.

My other favorite aspect of this game? In the beginning, you can actually choose if you want flirting and romance, a slow-burn romance, or just friendship. Considering I’m asexual, this is huge to me. I like slower romance, but the fact that there is a route where I can just befriend every character so we’re all working to save the arcade is fantastic!

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The graphics of this game is just so much fun! The characters are really well-done, as are the backdrops of each scene. Most of the backgrounds have small, animated touches that both draw you into the scene while not being too distracting from the character(s) are are interacting with. I was also impressed with the customizable avatar. There aren’t any choices with clothing and only three hair styles — short, medium, or long — but skin, hair, eye, and clothing colors are whatever you’d like them to be. Your avatar is featured in several scenes no matter what crazy color combo you choose. Most importantly, you can choose the pronouns you go by, which was also something really nice to see.

Being a video game about… well, arcade and video games, the sound effects were on point. The music was subtle but went really well with the game overall, each scene having its own ambiance sounds. I really enjoyed the partial voice-acting and quips from all of the characters. A couple of my favorites were two dudes who owned the book and doughnut shop next to the arcade. The voice actors were phenomenal going back and forth with each other!

storyThe gist of the story is that your character has lost another job and feels that… it’s rather normal. The avatar’s backstory involves their family always having to settle with what they had, and the avatar seemed to be resigned to that fate. They do not have a real dream to follow, prompting their roommate to suggest a special app that helps their user stay organized and in control of their life. This app then searches for the avatar’s “dream job” which lands them at an arcade called the Funplex.

The Funplex has interesting and dynamic characters to meet and befriend, and woo if you so choose to, ranging from your fellow coworkers to some of the arcade’s regulars. As the avatar, you try to figure out your dream, the reason as to why you decided to join Funplex’s team, and in doing so, you do your best to protect the Funplex from collapsing or being sold to a bigger arcade tycoon.

And that’s just the first half of the game. I fear I’ll spoil the finale if I continue. The story itself is heavily focused around dreams and finding out who you are and what you want out of life. The writing is both impressive and thought-provoking, with humor and some serious topics thrown in to keep everything in balance.

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Considering all of the routes — romance, friendship, all the characters — and plethora of dialogue choices you can make, this game has amazing replayability. At the time of this review, I’ve done one romance option and am currently exploring the friendship route, but there are a couple of other characters I’d like to get to know and romance down the line. Right now, I’m just eager to get back to the game!

Arcade Spirits gets…
5-lives
5 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! If you like this post, please share it around!

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Anniversary Live Stream Today!

Switch Stream

Today is the day! Come and join us at our Twitch channel for a 6-hour long stream to celebrate our personal two-year anniversary with our Nintendo Switch!

We’ll be going live at 9am EST, so be sure to give us a follow on Twitch to know when we go live.

We’re going to be playing games such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Yoshi’s Crafted World, to name a few. We’ll also have an hour or so dedicated to a slew of the indie games we have on our Switch, like Tetris 99, Miles & Kilo, and Robbotto.

So, please, come and join us if you can. Even if you can only pop in for a quick hello, we’d love to see and chat with you!

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Gris [Video Game Review]

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Title: Gris
Developer: Nomada Studio
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Platform:
Nintendo Switch, PC
Category:
Platform-adventure
Release Date:
December 13, 2018
How we got the game:
Downloaded on Nintendo Switch

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Gris was a game that was on my radar since I first some some screenshots of the game way back in August. With the help of some Nintendo eShop gift cards that I had gotten for Christmas, I finally bought and downloaded Gris, and it did not disappoint. Be warned, there will be some spoilers of this game in the review!

gameplay

The gameplay is fairly simple in Gris. It’s a light platform-adventure game where the character is exploring a world while trying to return color to it. As the character, you explore the world around you, collecting beads of light that in turn will help you reach farther places. The controls are as smooth as the art as you direct your character to run and jump while searching the world.

Throughout the levels, your character will also gain a few power-ups, new abilities that will be used to explore more, and most of which will manifest with the help of the character’s dress. The first is a solid, block-like phase, where your character’s dress solidifies into a block that is used to smash through crumbling structures or to help you stand your ground against unrelenting winds. The second ability grants you a double jump, the character’s dress unfolding likes wings to give an extra boost to reach far ledges. The third ability has the dress envelop the girl to give her a silhouette resembling a stingray, with wing-like fins to glide through underwater caverns.

The fourth ability is found at the pinnacle of the game. The character regains the power to sing, her echoing voice bringing back plants and animals to go with the color that is now blooming in the world.

graphics-music

The art style of this game is what captured my attention in the first place. I found the screenshots to be amazing, but I was not expecting how breathtaking the graphics would be when we first turned on the game. The art resembled watercolors with how smoothly it flowed. When you completed a level and successfully brought a color back to the world, it was amazing seeing the color bloom and transform around you.

The music was spot-on and just as gorgeous as the art style, and isn’t a stranger to being played on our Spotify accounts now. Considering the game has no dialogue or narration, the art and music are what’s telling the narrative, and it is wonderful. The mood brought on by the music was always right no matter where you are in the game.

storyThe underlying theme of Gris is grief.

The game starts out with your character — a young woman named Gris — who awakens in the hand of a crumbling statue depicting another woman. Gris attempts to sing out, but her voice is gone, and the statue splinters into pieces. Gris then traverses the land, finding beads of light — of hope — to restore color back into the world and to help bring back the statue.

Each level, if you will, represents a stage of grief. The black and white, dusty gray world at the beginning could be shock or denial at what has happened. Red is the first color you restore to the world, laying the ground for plains and desert where Gris fights against angry winds as you push onward. When green is found, Gris explores a lush forest where she finds and helps a creature as she traverses the land, as if striking up a bargain in order to keep moving. Blue leads Gris to water-filled caverns and rain soaking the world, making the character feel a bit waterlogged and, possibly, depressed. Yellow is the last color that is found near the climax of the game and brings about the level that even the game calls Acceptance.

Throughout the silent story, Gris will see and encounter bits and pieces of the statue of the other woman, finding her gray, crumbling, and in various stages of weeping, laying down and, finally, standing up again. The major enemy of the game is within Gris herself, as a giant, shadow bird and eel appear and attempt to prevent her from moving forward, threatening to consume her. The grief tries to swallow Gris once more near the end but both she and the statue find their voices. Together, they sing in harmony for the last time as they banish the grief away. Once the grief dissolves, Gris bids the statue one final farewell as she walks up the stairs of light to the sky.

When we first turned on the game, we had heard the story was one of grief. As we played, we guessed that the statue of the woman was the one whom Gris was grieving for, as if the woman was the one who had died. However, at the end when Gris took those steps up towards what may have been Heaven, we believe that it was Gris who had died. Gris was trying to find her voice to help soothe the statue woman who was grieving for her, making the ending that much more bittersweet.

replay-value

Gris itself is only about three and a half hours long, and I have heard there are a couple of completionist elements to it after the main game is through. It’s a short enough game that can be played in just a couple of sittings, and the story, music, and graphics are gorgeous enough to warrant you in picking up the game again.

Gris gets…
5-lives
5 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! If you like this post, please share it around!

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Play for the Story, Not the Game

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

The narrative and storytelling techniques in video games are generally a big factor in whether or not I enjoy said video games. In fact, there are definitely some games where I enjoy the story more than the gameplay itself. 

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I am a writer. Not just of blog posts, but also of stories, short ones and novels alike. As such, I’m always interested in the narratives of video games I play. I love to devour a game’s story just as much as I love to devour a good book.

With that said, there are a good handle of games that I would be perfectly happy with reading like a novel. I play these games for the story and the characters rather than the gameplay itself. Sure, the gameplay mechanics may be amazing, but if the story has snagged my attention, the gameplay is always going to be second fiddle. Fantastic gameplay mechanics will not redeem a game with a dull story line in my eyes.

Take Undertale and Deltarune, for example. There is so much lore and theories behind the developed stories of these games. Especially in Undertale’s case, there are multiple ways you can take the story through your actions, whether or not you decide to do a peaceful or violent run-through of the game. And if you played it through a second time? There are characters that remember your first playthrough. There are characters that remember if you killed them before. I didn’t care much for the game’s battle mechanics, but I continued to play it to see how the story ended.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is another example. War and faith are the general themes of the story, like many Fire Emblem games, but I was intrigued by the characters and definitely impressed with the voice acting. It was enough to keep me playing until the end, even though I found some of the battles repetitive and the dungeon sequences unappealing.

The most recent game we played through was Gris and we went into it knowing that it was a game with minimal enemies (if any at all). I picked it up first for it’s gorgeous art and stayed for the music and haunting narrative of trying to figure out the main character was searching for. My sister and I both teared up at the end once we realized how heavy and bittersweet the story was.

Thinking on all of this, it’s no wonder that I’ve gotten a newfound appreciation for visual novels and simulation games.

How important is story to you in games? Or do you prefer amazing gameplay to the story? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Friday Favorites: 2018 Games to Finish

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Friday everyone!

Did everyone have a good new year’s? It’s hard to believe that we’re in 2019 now! This is a time that most people try to finish up tasks that they’ve accidentally left behind so they can start the new year with a clean slate. Going through our 2018 Game Reviews page, I’ve realized that there are a few games that I started last year that I would love to finish up.

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Undertale

I know the story of Undertale, I know the gameplay and probably many of its secrets. I’ve watched quite a few playthroughs of the game through YouTube and Twitch, after all, playthroughs that prompted me to try it myself. Yet, while I’ve played and completed Deltarune, the “sequel” of Undertale, I haven’t finished a playthrough of Undertale just yet.

Batman: The Telltale Series

I’ve finished the first two episodes, I believe, of this game, and it definitely held my interest to want to play the rest. Considering the game has a sequel, I would love to finish the next couple of episodes before exploring the next one.

Octopath Traveler

This is a major game that I want to finish. Honestly, with the other newer Switch games out, I cannot remember where we’re at in this game. From what we’ve played, it’s one of my favorite games from 2018, with its gorgeous graphics, music, and battle system, but we’ve yet to finish it.

Stardew Valley

Although this isn’t a game to actually “finish” considering how open-ended it is, I definitely would like to return to the world of Stardew Valley. I’ve accidentally abandoned my farm on our Steam account, but I’m also hoping to rope Rachel into doing a co-op farm with me at some point in the future.

What are some 2018 games that you’re looking to finish?

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Double Jump’s Game Awards

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While we have nothing personal against any of the games that won their respective Game Awards — it’s a wonderful feat — there were definitely games that we’ve played this year that we felt were a little overlooked. If we were nominating games for categories in the Game Awards, we’d add a little more variety.

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By variety, we mean Nintendo and more Indie games. Because, let’s face it, that’s pretty much all we play. We love the “family” games and tend to have more fun with those. We enjoy puzzles games, mystery, and certainly love Pokemon, though we adore games that have rich stories and engaging characters. With that, we’ve had quite a few favorites this year.

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For instance, if we were nominating a few different games for the Art Direction category, we probably would have added Minit, A Case of Distrust, and The Lion’s Song (which came out for the Nintendo Switch this year, even if it was originally published in 2016). Each of them takes art in a completely different direction. Minit was more pixel-y, with back and white images, while A Case of Distrust was very minimal to ensure the player was focused on the mystery of the story. The Lion’s Song had almost soft and light animation with a sienna-color palette, a style that we definitely enjoyed.

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I would also keep in Octopath Traveler for that category as well. Speaking of, if I were to nominate a couple of games for the best soundtrack, I’d nominate Octopath Traveler, Deltarune, and The Lion’s Song. Deltarune has some great, upbeat music while music was a huge part of the gameplay for The Lion’s Song. Octopath Traveler had fabulous music for battles and various areas in the world that always gets stuck in my head.

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Deltarune would be fantastic contender for the narrative category as well, in my opinion. I definitely enjoyed the lore of that game and can’t wait for the full version! It could fit in with the role-playing category, depending on how you play the game, too. Other games that could have been recognized in the role-playing category could have been the Let’s Go Pokemon titles and The Sword of Ditto, a rogue-like game that can be played co-op where you get one life.

Rachel Mii Double Jump
Well, if there was a multiplayer category, The Sword of Ditto would be on that list. Overcooked 2 would, for sure, be nominated. That game is perfect for multiplayer and I’m sure that’s kind of the point.

krismii
There was a multiplayer category, but I believe it catered more to online multiplayer rather than local, which seemed to be the family category. Burnstar, which was first available on the Switch this year, was great, and we can’t forget about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which seemed to have missed the cut due to timing. A category I would have really liked to see more variety in would have been the Content Creators. This year, it seemed to be all about Fortnite streamers. I would have loved to see Twitch and YouTube channels like Black Girl Gamers or Normal Boots be nominated, to name a few smaller channels.

Rachel Mii Double Jump
For sure. We definitely have our own opinion and may be a little biased with indie and Nintendo games. Though this is what we like and what we would love to see. However, there are no bad games. Each and every game deserves an award.

Do you have any games you would have loved to see in the Game Awards? Let us know in the comments below!

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