The Mommy Gamers

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Elaine Stryker

    We Happy Few Review

    We Happy Few Review The Mommy Gamers

    What if a pill existed that could make you endlessly happy with the unfortunate side effect that it would slowly erode your memory and make you not care about what was really going on in the world? Compulsion Games, We Happy Few is an action-adventure game that explores a world filled with that very drug and all the complications and secrets it seeks to hide.

    We Happy Few is set in a fictional English city called Wellington Wells around the 1960s. Residents of the town begin taking a drug called Joy, a hallucogenic, to forget a rather upsetting choice that was made following an alternate timeline version of World War II. While Joy makes them happy and helps them forget past tragedies, it also makes them easily manipulated and controlled. The story is told through three distinct characters who all chose to avoid Joy for their personal reasons and are each trying to accomplish a personal goal and get themselves out of Wellington Wells before the entire city implodes on itself.

    Players tackle the world of We Happy Few from a first person perspective and the game combines elements of survival, stealth, and melee combat. Other residents of Wellington Wells are not keen on anyone not taking their Joy dubbing those people “Downers”. Residents and police will be immediately hostile towards anyone not fitting in and thus you’ll need to sneak, fight, and craft your way through the city to accomplish the various goals.

    The combination of stealth, survival, and crafting is both satisfying and problematic. On one hand successfully fooling citizens into thinking you are happily on your joy and accomplishing a goal without alerting the entire city is fantastic. On the other hand when a confrontation does break out the melee combat is swimmy and frustrating to control.

    It feels as if that combat may have been better served by a third person perspective instead of the first person one. Weapons do have durability and will break on forcing you to either hunt down a new weapon or craft one. Luckily crafting components are everywhere and I never wanted for anything especially in the later part of the game.

    My overall compulsion to loot every item actually caused me a lot of suffering because I was constantly overburdened but that is more an issue with my playstyle than the game itself. I do wish there was a perk that completely eliminated the carry weight of the characters.

    In the early parts of the game moving through areas without triggering a bunch of combat can be difficult as residents don’t take kindly to running, jumping, or being on the streets past curfew. Skills the player can choose do eliminate some of these concerns. The game gives out skills point after every completed quest or objective and one can pretty quickly eliminate any need to fit in on the streets pushing the stealth aspects to only be necessary in areas where you are considered trespassing.

    As a player who is very impatient, reducing the stealth aspects was a boon for me and I took those skills early on. Most of the time the crafting, stealth, and melee aspects of the game came together for me nicely and it was pretty satisfying to actually play.

    My biggest overall complaint with We Happy Few is the world feels unfinished. The game was originally released in early access in 2016. It showed with an extremely promising trailer before early access went live that painted it more akin to a story driven dystopia experience ala Bioshock. When the game did hit early access it was more akin to a run based survival game with a procedurally generated world and quests.

    Over the two years before the game came out of early access Compulsion worked to push the game in the opposite direction and built in a more substantial story and character development. The main areas of the game and all the quests were crafted instead of procedurally generated. This shift makes the survival aspects feel like they no longer matter, negating the players need to actually track hunger and thirst.

    At the same time the world doesn’t quite feel as fleshed out as I would like. I wanted more concrete details on the back story. Most of that information is sectioned away into masks that the player must find to hear little clips from each character’s past. If you don’t really work to seek those out you always feel like you are missing their individual motivations which makes their actions feel empty and meaningless.

    Complications aside We Happy Few is an interesting take on a dystopian adventure. The fact that the game left me wanting more information, more backstory, more of the characters is a testament to the fact that Compulsion has set up a world and a concept that is interesting enough to hold my attention even if navigating that world is not always the most satisfying experience.

    *The Mommy Gamers were given a copy of We Happy Few free for review purposes. 

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    The Halloween Happening

    By Priscilla York from Holiday Traditions
    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Halloween has become one of my children’s favorite holidays. They rapidly consume any Halloween-themed media they can get their hands, especially books. The Halloween Happening by Priscilla York is one of those books, and has created a delightful new holiday tradition in our house.

    The Halloween Happening is a story about a little pumpkin friend who comes alive and spells out a secret message in the days leading up to Halloween. The kids pick a name for their pumpkin character — we named ours Jackimus — and the book describes what happens next. Basically the pumpkin shows up each day, in a different location, holding a number. That number corresponds to a letter in the alphabet. The children record each number and then decode the message on the night before Halloween, when the pumpkin goes on his merry way until next year.

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    The idea is very reminiscent of The Elf on Shelf Christmas tradition, just a little less creepy. The nice thing about this setup is that each year the message can be different, and you can customize the number of days the pumpkin shows up by controlling how long the message is. Our pumpkin visits start on October 1 and run through the end of the month, so we have some wiggle for a slightly longer message this year. For people who have less patience, you could just do a week and have a nice short message.

    The book itself has fantastic illustrations and is fun to read. The kids sit attentively through the whole story, and then say goodbye to our pumpkin friend until he mysteriously appears again. My daughter especially loves all the illustrations for the pumpkin’s different facial expressions throughout the story. The included stuffed pumpkin character is super cute and seems durable enough to hold up to a few years of Halloween fun, given the right storage. At this rate I am going to have a creepy box filled with various characters that come alive at different times of the year. If I ever write a horror movie script that would make the perfect starting point.

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    Photo Credit: Elaine Stryker

    The bottom-line is: if you are looking for a fun activity that the kids can participate in around Halloween, this book seems like a great idea. It is excellent for kids that are just learning to read, or even younger kids who need practice identifying letters of the alphabet. This is a nice, warm, fuzzy experience in the middle of a spooky holiday season. My kids remain very excited about our Jackimus making daily visits all through October. I have a feeling this will be another tradition my children look forward to for a few years to come.

    The Halloween Happening and other Holiday Traditions books by Priscilla York can be purchased at htraditions.com

    [box type=”info”]You can read more about our official disclosure policy here. A review copy of The Halloween Happening was provided to The Mommy Gamers by Holiday Traditions.[/box]

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    Product Review: GlomTom

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    As is probably evident from my chatter on the podcast and online in general, I play a lot of games. Most evenings once the kids go to bed I park myself in front of my TV, grab a controller, and spend about four hours in that position until I finally give in to sleep. Given that I spend so many hours playing games I’m constantly seeking a way to make that activity more comfortable.

    I have a tendency to rest my arms on my legs when I play and that position causes me to kind of roll my back and shoulders forward. This is especially problematic for me because I have a bad right shoulder due to an old injury. My solution to this problem was to stack a bunch of pillows on my lap so my arms were supported and my back was in the right position. The pillow solution works but it’s unwieldy at best and doesn’t really support my whole arm unless I use enormous pillows.

    Given all of that I was super pleased to see GlomTom had created a product that solved my arm position issue extremely effectively. The GlomTom is a u-shaped pillow that sits around your waist and supports your arm when you hold a controller or tablet. It’s got a slight angle to it, 15 degrees to be precise, which puts your arms in a more natural position than if they were draped along your legs with no support.

    My kid is never going to give this back.

    My kid is never going to give this back.

    I spent about a week with the GlomTom standing in for my usual pillow method and I can honestly say I’m impressed. The pillow itself is extremely sturdy and actually supports my arms without them sinking into it. The GlomTom wraps around the sides of my waist which means my whole forearm and elbow are supported and nothing hangs off. My back and shoulders stay in the right position and I don’t have the hassle of stacking a million pillows on my lap in an effort to avoid stiffness and discomfort.

    The cover is removable and washable which anyone with kids knows is a must. There is also a neat little pocket at the front which I didn’t have much use for but my four year old son really liked being able to put his water bottle there while he played. In fact my son tried to claim the GlomTom as his after it was in the house for only 24 hours. He loves putting the thing on his lap, throwing his tablet on it, and playing. His exact words were “Mommy, this pillow is rad!” He’s right the GlomTom can be described as rad.

    Well the cat has claimed it. Now I KNOW I'm never getting it back.

    Well the cat has claimed it. Now I KNOW I’m never getting it back.

    If you’re reading this and finding yourself interested you can order the GlomTom online for a reasonable $60. There is also an app in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store that they use to give out special offers. Considering the build quality of the GlomTom I think $60 is a fair price but if you can score a special offer to it a bit that’s a no brainer.

    I can honestly say I’ll be using this particular gaming accessory for years. I’m not usually one for specialty items like this but the GlomTom truly makes playing games more comfortable for me. It’s a wonderful bonus that my son also enjoys using it. If he keeps stealing it I may have cause to get a second one in the house so I don’t have to share. Actually I may have to get the cat one too or I’ll have to face her furry wrath every time I want to play video games with the GlomTom.

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    8bit Acrylic is Crafting Fantastic Decorations for Gamers

    I am definitely one of those people who wears my geek on the outside. I’ve got an entire drawer full of gaming or tech related t-shirts and my basement is decorated with framed posters ranging from Star Wars to Portal 2. That’s why when I was given the opportunity to check out one of the offerings from 8-bit Acrylic I immediately jumped all over it.

    8bitacrylicFor those who haven’t heard of him 8-bit Acrylic is an artist who paints 8-bit characters on canvas. All of his current offerings are on 8×10 panels. That size is perfect for me because it can be displayed or hung anywhere and it doesn’t look overwhelming to have more than one panel on a single wall.  The owner, Andrew, can paint just about anything your heart desires on that canvas as long as it’s 8-bit.

    My specific request was to get an image of Link from the original Legend of Zelda with his sword held out in front of him. The canvas painting came out perfect. The colors are vivid and the single color background makes the sprite pop wonderfully. My Link will be proudly displayed amongst my other poster in my basement nerd cave. I’m so infactuated with his work that I will likely be purchasing a few more paintings of my son’s favorite Mario characters to adorn his walls.

    If you have a love of 8-bit sprites and wearing your hobbies on the outside definitely check out the 8-bit Acrylic Etsy store. You will not regret your decision.

     

    Devil May Cry is a Reboot Done Right

    Dante DmC

    The Devil May Cry series and I go way back. In fact, the first DmC game was the thing that tipped the scales and convinced me to purchase a PlayStation 2. I would spend endless hours playing and replaying that game in my dorm room as a college freshman. I also played (and hated) Devil May Cry 2. But it was the third game in the series that I fell madly in love with. Devil May Cry 3 was hard, but in that very satisfying way that forced you to improve and rewarded you appropriately when you did. I played through DmC 3 a number of times, and one of my coveted Dual Shock controllers even fell victim to my rage during one particular boss fight in hard mode. While I eventually I beat that boss, I’m fairly certain my blood pressure is permanently elevated by more than a few points as a result.

    As much fun as I had with Devil May Cry 3, I felt disappointed when the fourth game in the series seemed to squander everything that DmC 3 fought to accomplish. It’s not that DmC 4 was bad, but rather that it was intensely mediocre. The combat system felt like it should for a Devil May Cry game, but I felt like the level designs were boring. Plus, halfway through the game you end up retracing your steps through the same levels all over again. Let’s not talk about that “boss rush” crap that happens towards the end. I almost lost a Xbox 360 controller to that nonsense.

    dmc-devil-may-cry-screenshot-4Now comes Ninja Theory’s reboot of the series, appropriately titled “DmC Devil May Cry”. This new DmC aggressively reminds me of all the things I loved about this series. It is hard without being impossible,the combat flows beautifully making you feel in control at every second, and every combo feels satisfying. The game gives you all the tools to defeat higher difficulties, but you need to spend the time to get good at the game. The story is utterly ridiculous, just like it should be, but it makes sense in the context of the fiction that has already been created around these characters and this situation.

    I’m in love with this reboot of something I hold very dear. I’m so happy with it that as soon as I completed it on the medium difficulty, I quickly started a new game to play on one of the higher unlocked difficulties. The last time I did that with a character action game was, you guessed it, DmC 3. If you love combat that’s free flowing and fun and you don’t mind a difficult game with an absurd story you need to play this game. DmC Devil May Cry is easily a “buy”. Even if you’re on the fence, this DmC is easily worth a rental and a play through (probably at a lower difficulty) if for no other reason than just to experience a reboot that feels as good as the original.

    Category
    Games, Video Games
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    Fitbit “Flex”es Its Muscles

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    Let’s talk about fitness trackers for a hot minute here. Personally, I’ve used one as a motivator to get me moving since having my second baby. My device of choice was the original Fitbit. Since getting my first device, Fitbit has improved on their original design with a line of new trackers, all of which look wonderful. But it’s one model in particular that has my attention: the Fitbit Flex. Following in the footsteps of the Jawbone UP and the Nike Fuel Band, the Fitbit Flex is a tracker that you wear on your wrist like a bracelet, instead of on your hip the way you would wear a standard pedometer. According to Fitbit, the Flex will be able to track steps, distance, calories and sleep. It will also have a silent wake alarm as well as having the added bonus of being water resistant.

    The reason I haven’t bought either the Jawbone UP or the Nike Fuel Band is simple. Neither device had exactly what I wanted. The Nike Fuel Band doesn’t track sleep (and thus has no alarm capabilities). The Fuel Band seems to do a wonderful job with everything else, but I have consistent problems with insomnia and figuring out my sleep patterns is particularly important to me. My major issues with the Jawbone UP are the build quality (lots of complaints of breakage), as well as the fact that the device doesn’t sync wirelessly. Remembering to put a device on a cradle or attach it to a cable is something I am terrible at. The Flex fixes both of my major issues with the devices currently on the market. I get sleep tracking and wireless sync. I also get what I consider to be the best part of Fitbit, its online tracking tools. I’ll be checking out the Fitbit Flex when it hits the market this Spring for $99. What about you? Are you interested in a fitness band?

    Considering the Flex? Let us know how you feel about these types of trackers in the comments!

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