If you’re into sims, Kasedo Games’ tower building business management simulator Project Highrise: Architect’s Edition offers a fun, low-key, relaxing way to spend a few hours here and there.
When I agreed to do this review, I hadn’t heard anything about this indie release from Causal Bit Games. But, as a woman who has been playing games since before those pixelated side-scroller NES days, I loved the title immediately. Back in the ’90s, working in the industry at a time when game companies could not figure out what girls wanted (good games with strong heroines, full stop), I waded through plenty of princess-y games that didn’t quite satisfy my need for action. So this game, designed for a real-life young girl who wanted to be in the world of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, comes a touch late for me. But it’s still a fun game, and maybe more suited for my old-school style than that of my more modern gamer son’s (he spent some time grousing about the need for a tutorial).
Battle Princess Madelyn is a side-scrolling platformer that follows a young heroine-in-training as she sets out to rescue her family from an evil wizard, with help from her ghost dog. The game is now available for PC and Xbox One; it’s being released today in North America for the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 4. It’ll be available in Europe and Australia for the Switch on January 7, 2019; A PS4 date for 2019 has yet to be announced.
If you like that retro NES-style vibe, you’re going to love the art of Battle Princess Madelyn. It really does feel like an old side-scrolling platformer, in terms of look and feel and evocative music. The controls are responsive and mostly easy to use. There’s a nice variety of places to go, adventures to tackle, and creatures to encounter. The 2D art is visually arresting and the environments are diverse and imaginative. Despite the undead, monsters, and other not truly scary obstacles, it’s got a family-friendly vibe. And the familiarity of the simple and straightforward gameplay, for us old-schoolers, is comforting. Two modes, Arcade and Story, allow for plenty of replayability.
On occasion I found it difficult to master talking to people. The game could use a bit more user-friendly direction-providing. I wasn’t always sure what my main quest was. I did a lot of aimless wandering (which, okay, to be honest, is not different from what I did back in the ’80s).
While part of me loves the formulaic qualities of those old platformers, I mean, they had their faults, too. I remember spending a lot of time back in the day trying to figure out what I was supposed to do, and also getting frustrated by knowing WHAT to do, without actually being able to pull it off. Battle Princess Madelyn, in this respect, may aim a bit too close to its 8-bit predecessors. I spent a lot of my Battle Princess Madelyn time stuck in various places, trying to figure out where to go next. If I weren’t writing a review, I probably would have quit – which would have been the wrong thing to do. The game gets better, and less frustrating, as you go on.
The Final Word
I’m fully behind the backstory of this game, as a former little girl wishing to be transported into the world of video games. And as someone who played many of these platformers back in the day, I can tell you this experience feels authentically like that, including all the parts where I threw down my controller and went to clear my head before trying again. But it’s worth getting through, because there’s enough of wonder and interest that you’ll be rewarded for continuing to play in Battle Princess Madelyn’s whimsically ghastly world. Just expect to die a lot, in many different ways.
Get more information on Battle Princess Madelyn here.
Going to PAX West 2018 this August 31-September 3? Then you won’t want to miss TERA, the free-to-play fantasy MMO of our dreams, debuting a new DPS character class for consoles – the ninja!
En Masse Entertainment, makers of TERA, will be offering PAX attendees the first-ever chance to experience the ninja before it debuts on Xbox One and the PS4 in September. So, if you’d like to try out this damage-dealer’s stealth-cool moves and those rotating blades of death, you’ll have to stop by the En Masse booth, number 7410 in the 6th-floor expo hall. The company will be showcasing the massively multiplayer role-playing game through a hands-on demo on your favorite video game consoles. Join a team of three and play a healer, a tank, or the much-anticipated ninja.
To sweeten the deal, En Masse will be giving out PAX West EME coins for completing the TERA demo. These terrific tokens can be exchanged for rewards at the TERA “Gift Shop” at the booth. Looking for exclusive merch, like TERA patches, art prints, a steelbook, and figurines? Earn the coins, and they can be yours!
And just how do you do that, other than playing the TERA demo? Go to Senior Product Manager Matt Denomme’s panel discussion on MMOs for consoles. And tweet out answers to the riddles the En Masse team asks throughout the event via @TERAonline. You’ll get the coins for participating. Then, go shopping!
Want to know more? Check out this link, which tells you all about the Ninja class. We think we definitely want to be her when we grow up.
Click here to go to the TERA website – learn more about the game and what else the console versions have in store!
It’s been a while since I had the chance to really sit down and enjoy my Xbox, but I just played through the beautiful and cinematic 2D adventure Forgotton Anne, and I really couldn’t think of a better way to remind me how much I love games.
Forgotton Anne, developed by the independent ThroughLine Games and published through SquareEnix, is due out May 15 on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. It’s a lovely, atmospheric adventure about a teenage girl, Anne, who is the respected Enforcer in a world of forgotten things (that single lost sock, old couches, broken alarm clocks). As the Enforcer, she has the power to “distill” the Forgotlings, the beings who live here.
She must use this power in chasing down the Rebels, a group of Forgotlings who are trying to prevent her, her master Bonku, and other Forgotlings from returning to the Ether, where they all originated. Bonku has almost completed the bridge back home.
The story comes to life through Studio Ghibli-style animation and your general mystery-adventure elements – puzzles, guided explorations, well-placed and seamless cut scenes. You get to know the characters, you find out the motivations behind the rebels, and you develop Anne’s personality through the choices you make. Many of the puzzles involve the manipulation of anima, the energy source in the Forgotten Lands, which Anne can utilize to power her Arca, the wrist instrument she uses to “distill” Forgotlings and investigate the Rebels.
It took me about seven hours to play through the game once, but I’m going to do it again just as soon as I can. I’d like to figure out how making different choices affects the outcomes of certain events in the game. And I’ve enjoyed being in the world of the Forgotlings – I’m thrilled to go back and play there again.
This game is just gorgeous. The visuals and music contribute to an immersive and intriguing experience that looks just like my favorite old-school anime, with just a tiny hint of a steampunk vibe. There’s humor and whimsy and the sense that you’re definitely in a fantasy world, but one that’s not so far removed from the one we live in. During the course of the game you’ll experience multiple well-designed environments that are pretty to look at and fun to play.
The story, while not totally unpredictable with mild twists and turns, creates an emotional impact not unlike what you get from the best, heart-wrenching films. The characters are interesting and excellently rendered. I felt totally guilty making the choices that would lead to an ending other than the one I should have taken. I swear I only cried once.
I’m not good with learning controls. This is why I’m so bad at shooters, where ducking and running seems to require a higher degree of education than I have. Forgotten Anne does require a certain dexterity with hand-eye coordination to get places, sometimes places you need to go in order to solve problems. The tutorial is very well-integrated, though, and I will say I never got stuck anywhere for long.
I admit to not always knowing what I was doing, though. Once, I encountered a puzzle that I thought might contain a glitch, but turned out to be easily solved in a different way. Other than that, I experienced the things I like most about adventure games – not terribly complex gameplay and simple decision-making, with consequences that bring you deeper into a mystery you’ve become invested in.
Can’t think of anything. Well, I’m not sure I was completely satisfied with the endings – at least one of them left me hanging. But then again, I’m not sure I was expecting any different. I’d be interested to hear what other people think about that.
Oh, I’m not sure I completely agree about the Teen rating. My 12-year-old experienced the whole thing with me without any issue at all. And he was better at the puzzles for sure. The warnings say there’s partial nudity, crude humor, and the use of tobacco. I don’t recall any partial nudity, and the other two may have been present but not obtrusive. I didn’t even notice. I’d allow a kid several years younger than mine to play with no qualms whatsoever.
I definitely recommend getting Forgotton Anne, if you like platform-style adventures. It’s really well done and stylistically perfect, with a compelling narrative and striking…well, pretty much everything is striking.
If you follow The Mommy Gamers, you may know that in April 2016 I sought out the Hello Kitty food truck in vain hopes of scoring cute snacks. Unfortunately, the truck was woefully equipped to deal with Chicagoland enthusiasm for adorable Japanese nonsense, and I failed. I get did a mug and a T-shirt (it should’ve said “I visited the Hello Kitty Cafe and all I got was…”).
This year, the Hello Kitty Cafe came closer to me – specifically, to a mall about 10 minutes from my house. Now, I know this mall. My kid did Gymboree in this mall every week from age 1-3. I do about 90 percent of my retail therapy here. I buy all my books at the Barnes & Noble. I get my Nespresso refills here. Until recently when it closed, I got my regular chocolate Godiva reward here (a free truffle every month!). I occasionally get together with my girlfriends and my book club here.
Just last week I made my houseguest from Kansas go visit so she could bring me some Nando’s Peri-Peri. Oh, I also get my hair cut here. And when I have giant stress knots in my shoulder from livin’ the glamorous freelance writer lifestyle, I go to the Mario Tricoci in this mall so someone can (attempt to) knead them out.
This is a definite advantage when scoping out Hello Kitty food trucks. When I heard it was going to be by the L.L. Bean, I knew exactly where to park when everyone else was complaining about no parking. So I arrived right at 10:30 and got into line immediately. I know this place so well I could tell without even looking that my wait would be shorter than last year.
This year I was somewhat more prepared, although I still didn’t bring any sunblock (it’s October in the Chicago area, who knew – and it looked cloudy when I went to Zumba that morning). I also forgot a snack. I had a giant book. The fourth in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, to be exact, which I’m re-reading for an online book club. I had a water bottle because my kid was in Orlando riding Space Mountain without me, so he could not make a tea run. I had my workout bag, with a wrap inside in case it got cold.
The people behind me clearly didn’t know what they were getting into. They’d just come from a dance class, following a slumber party that was making their two little girls very grumpy because they’d stayed up so late. After I told them about my four hours in line last year, they decided their kids wouldn’t be able to stay a half hour, let alone four, and left.
The people ahead of me were a bit more knowledgeable, and had done this the previous year as well. Nevertheless, they disappeared somewhere between my arrival and the front of the line, and I ended up talking to a nice group of three people – one of whom had the exact same name as me.
We all took lots of pictures and selfies. The point where you get to the menu sign is A Big Deal. Kids are running around, people are refreshing their pals in line with Starbucks coffees (there’s one right near where the truck was parked) and snacks (ironic, right?), and we’re getting to know our neighbors.
Actually, come to think of it, when I stood in line to see Hillary Clinton this past Monday at a local bookstore, it was basically the same thing except that Peet’s Coffee came by every so often to offer free samples of cookies and brownies. Now that would have been a good marketing ploy for someone at the mall.
Apparently I like standing in lines in order to spend money on stuff. Capitalism loves me.
Anyway, it really didn’t feel that long before I got to the front, where all of us took pictures of the Hello Kitty truck’s tires – well, they were decorated with images of bows! It felt like a triumph, especially when the only thing they’d run out of were the small thermal water bottles (18 ounces). Everyone takes longer than they should at the front because they’re deciding, once they actually see the product in the window. Today, they were selling handmade bow headbands that were not listed on the menu.
Sadly, I was assuming the t-shirts and mugs would be like last years, and they weren’t. So of course I had to buy one of everything. Although I never wore my t-shirt from last year, so I was able to resist that.
Here’s a picture of my haul:
So, I finally got to try the food. Actually, it’s pretty good. I don’t eat macarons that often so I’m not sure how they compare to the regular stuff, but they were pretty, tasty, and sweet, and you could even tell what the flavors were supposed to be. The mini-cakes were denser than I expected, rich and flavorful. The cookies – whoa, I forgot about the cookies! I know what I’m having for lunch…
I bought a freaking $36 thermal mug! But it’s totally cute and I’m just going to put it somewhere prominent in my house and stare at it with adoration from time to time. And the regular mug, with the bow handle, is going to hold lots of chai tea this winter.
Was it worth the money and effort? Well, I guess it depends on your point of view. I had been in Chinatown just the day before, and if all I’d wanted was cute Hello Kitty stuff I could have gotten it there at a fraction of the price. The best part of doing the Hello Kitty Cafe, I’ve learned, is the experience. Being there with other geeky people who are willing to stand in line for the privilege of buying overpriced merch is most of the fun.
No, I don’t regret it. Yes, I’ll probably do it again. Yes, I’m probably a bit crazy. But if you’re not willing to do it, too – or at least laugh with me about my doing it and bring me lattes while I wait – you’re really not my people anyway.
I love to cook. I get a chance to do it quite often because I’m a single mom and I can’t afford healthy, gourmet restaurant dinners every night. I can barely afford pizza once a week!
I love gaming. That, I often have to skip because I also have to make money. My time is pretty much always taken up writing, trying to get more writing work, getting my school work done, and doing mom things.
So – I don’t always have time to game. I have a new PS4 I’ve barely touched. I have Zelda: Breath of the Wild, sitting in my living room starting at me. I drop my kid off at D&D games and then go home to study. This doesn’t stop me from sneaking a few minutes of smartphone gaming at bedtime and Pokemon Go when I’m out and about. But it does mean my gaming time is cut pretty drastically. Every year my #1 New Year’s resolution is to Play More Games.
So, what’s the compromise? This fall, I’m finding it in a little book called Cooking With Dice.
Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. A kitchen-based RPG. And it’s going to save my season!
This original game, the first in what will be a series, turns cooking into a game you can play alone or with the entire family.
This past spring, Cooking with Dice was a Kickstarter project offered by the people behind Adventure Scents. Creator Jennifer Howlett says that the project, and her company, started as a way of gamifying cooking to make it more fun for her kids, and to help her family connect. “I think that gamifying something is a great way to drive learning and motivation,” she says. “I love watching TV cooking competition shows (it’s a guilty pleasure) and have always wished I could capture that adventure in my own kitchen. I feel like Cooking with Dice has helped me to experiment more with cooking and try out things I’d never done before.”
She did plenty of research to create the recipes in the book, and utilized family members and volunteer play testers to complete the project.
There’s a story. You’re an adventure-chef, journeying through a fantasy setting with different scenarios. Like Dungeons & Dragons, there are classes and races, and you roll your dice to introduce an element of chance into your endeavors. Actually, you start out at Level 1 as a Plongeur (dishwasher), and work your way up to Chef de Cuisine (head chef).
And it’s fun. Using formulas and gaming tables rather than outright recipes, Cooking with Dice allows you to gamify different aspects of cooking. You can be more creative and flexible, and, as Howlett says in the book, add “your own personal magic.” This first installment of the series forgoes heat in favor of chemical changes caused by acid. Every food you create is a bit different, because the dice decide.
I’m not really an RPG gamer. I don’t have any patience to read the manuals, and no one has ever invited me into a D&D session that evolved past character creation. But Cooking with Dice is short and the instructions are clear and simple.
But this concept has made my grocery shopping more interesting. I hate grocery stores. Now, though, I take my copy of this game, and a bag of dice, and I roll to see what ingredients I’m going to be buying. If you see a random person in the produce section trying to find a flat surface, then rolling a 20-sided die, that could be me. Or someone else playing the game.
Also, this type of cooking is unfamiliar to me. I tend to be more hit or miss when it comes to dishes that require chemical reactions as the main form of food alteration. However, this is giving me a chance to try things I’ve never done. It’s fun, and getting kids on board is easy. The writing is engaging and witty, and the recipes and instruction are creative, well thought out and simple.
I made pickles (see above)! In fact, I made quite a few items that are outside my comfort range, and my son helped. He hates pickles, but would eat the game’s Quickles all day. (Ours were cucumber seasoned with rosemary, based on our roll.)
So, success! Howlett’s goal worked for me. I’m sold! And my son has never had so much fun cooking. I haven’t quite finished the book yet, but I’m getting there. This is a really good way to get your kids involved in the kitchen.
I can’t think of anything, except that failure can be discouraging, and I failed with the cheese the first time because I used pasteurized milk. I also failed with the Dragonfly Jam because I could not locate the right kind of pectin. But those things aren’t Cooking with Dice’s fault. The book clearly said I could not use pasteurized milk, and I could not locate the correct kind of pectin. Oops. Like I said, this is not an area of cuisine that I’m terribly familiar with.
To be honest, it’s actually taking me a long time to get through the game because I’m always so busy, and finding other ways to use up ingredients I bought for the game is sometimes beyond my mental capability, even though they aren’t weird or anything. So my son and I have to make an extra effort to do the game justice, but Cooking with Dice gives our kitchen a much-needed culinary spark on nights we decide to play. It’s a good thing the game is so easy and flexible, because otherwise it’d just be another Crock-Pot dump meal for us.
In a world that’s becoming more and more digitized, in which we have much less free time than we’d like, Cooking with Dice is a breath of fresh air. My son isn’t always a super-adventurous eater but he’ll try new foods, especially if we make them ourselves.
Cooking with Dice lets us fit gaming into our busy lifestyle, and eat better food while we’re doing it. That’s a win-win in my book!
Howlett and her 12-year-old daughter are working on a sequel for 2018, which would contain formulas that are easy for kids to make with minimal supervision. I’m on board with that!
If you’d like more information on the book and Adventure Scents, visit www.cookingwithdice.com. Next month, Cooking with Dice: The Acid Test will be available via the website and through Amazon.com.
As a child, I think you connect with role models and heroes in a way that you don’t when you’re grown up. You’re learning about yourself, finding your passions, figuring out where you fit in. You attach yourself to people you see on screen, relating to them in deeply profound ways and perhaps not understanding exactly where reality detaches from fantasy. Those characters become a touchstone for your life. As you get older, you may grow out of that intense passion for your heroes, but they’ve left an indelible mark that never quite fades. For me, Apollo of “Battlestar Galactica” is one of those icons.
I was just eight years old when the series first started airing on ABC, and I have hazy but fond memories of sitting in my living room in front of a console TV, watching a traitor named Baltar give silver robots orders from a high pedestal in a dark room. I have clearer memories of reruns being aired every single weekend throughout my entire childhood, into my mid-teens, even though BSG was canceled after just one high-profile season. I watched the series over and over again. I’ve probably seen every episode of the 1978 series 50 times.
One of the show’s main actors was Richard Hatch, who played Apollo, and who died this week. He was my first star crush. I was way too young to think of Luke or Han as potential crushes, when I saw “Star Wars” at age 6. And I’ve always been more drawn to strong female characters than male ones. This means that though Apollo was my first crush, I always wanted him for Sheba, played by Anne Lockhart – not for myself. That was my first ‘ship. Not that we had a name for it in those days.
By the time I met Richard Hatch in person, I was too wise to the ways of the world to expect this actor to be anything like the character he portrayed, and he isn’t – exactly. The two are both dark and handsome and charismatic. Apollo is serious and uncorruptible, the brooding hero that good girls like me dreamed of. Richard Hatch is outgoing, fun, and easy to hang with. In my limited encounters with him, his charm has seemed more what I’d expect from Apollo’s fictional co-conspirator Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict.
I’ve been told that girls either gravitated to Starbuck or Apollo. This told you pretty much everything you needed to about said girl – and I was an Apollo girl. Whatever that says about me. This didn’t change after I met the man who played him. That was on the 2008 Galacticruise, celebrating the series’ 30th anniversary. I am just one of many fans who experienced the Hatch charm, and found my love for BSG revitalized by his clear passion for the series, even after all these years.
Richard Hatch has a way with people. In my journal from 2008, I say that he’s “handsomer in person,” which is very unlike me. But his attractiveness is more than skin-deep. He makes every single person feel special. You know, at first I thought it was just me – wow, he really thinks I’m cool, I thought. But nope. It turns out he’s that way with everyone. Just ask anyone who’s ever met him. It’s easy to react positively to that vigorous, yet authentic charm, and to be enthusiastic about whatever Hatch is enthusiastic about.
And some of his enthusiasm has always been reserved for BSG – the story, the characters, and the family that has grown up around the series over decades, which expanded when the newer SyFy reboot entered the fold. Over the years, he’s spent much of his time and energy campaigning for another version of the series, being an ambassador for the show, and otherwise strengthening the bonds between BSG and its fans. It has been his life’s work, in a way. The fact that he ended up playing Tom Zarek in the new BSG was simply – fitting.
I’ve met him once or twice at conventions since then, because he’s always going to them all over the world, and I interviewed him just a little over a year ago. He remains one of the most approachable actors I’ve ever spoken with, and I’ve interviewed my share. I also took one of his acting seminars. Now I’m no actor, and I have no pretensions that I’d ever be good at it, but here’s what I remember learning during that experience: acting is a lot like life. You may not be a professional actor, but the techniques used to improve one’s acting ability can help you work through your feelings and establish self-esteem. You can break through the fear that’s sapping your energy, poisoning your attitude, and holding you back from discovering your best self.
I know, it all sounds like cliched self-help stuff, but I can’t do justice to his actual words. When Richard Hatch said it, it was quite moving and very inspiring. And I’m a cynical Gen X-er so that means something. It’s not so much the words I remember as the kindness, and the sincerity, behind it. He really wanted to help us achieve our dreams.
I have come to know firsthand how amazing, interesting, and generous the BSG community is. This is no accident. The fans have had, as their champion, a man who who truly believes in the BSG story – its “heart and soul, and spirit,” as he described it to me in an interview in 2015. In a very real way, Richard Hatch was the heart and soul and spirit of the BSG fandom, and he will be missed. Those of us who were “Apollo girls,” or kids who aspired to be like him in a world that needs heroes, will not forget.
And Apollo, that upright, good, honest man who saw so much darkness but imparted so much hope, may very well be waking up on that Ship of Lights again. At last.
Click here for a Nerdist video paying tribute to Richard Hatch. And click here to go to the article I wrote on BSG, “A Fan History of Battlestar Galactica,” which explains Hatch’s contributions to BSG fandom (and a lot of other things…).