The Mommy Gamers

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Helen A. Lee

    Review: Battle Princess Madelyn

    Battle Princess Madelyn

    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.

    The Good

    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.

    The Meh

    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).

    The Bad

    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.




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    Get Hands-on with TERA’s Ninja Class at PAX West

    tera ninja class

    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!

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    Review: Forgotton Anne

    Immerse Yourself in an Anime Adventure

    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.

    Forgotton Ann ScreenShot 1

    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.

    Forgotton Anne Screenshot 2

    The Good

    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.

    Forgotton Anne Screenshot

    The Meh

    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.

    Forgotton Anne Screenshot train

    The Bad

    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.

    Final Thoughts

    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.

     

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    A Close Encounter with the Hello Kitty Food Truck…Part Two

    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.

    Yes, there is a young girl sitting behind the menu. I hope she got some good treats!

    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:

    A Quick Review

    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.

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    Food & Drink
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