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    Quick Reviews: Nintendo Labo

    With Nintendo Labo you’ll hear far fewer “I’m bored” whines this summer

    We picked up Nintendo Labo for some summer fun and it’s amazing! Check out the very first of our “Quick Reviews” section on YouTube where we will bring you reviews that are short and sweet.

     


    At $69.99 the cost of Nintendo Labo made me pause. That’s a lot of money to drop on something. After my daughter made just a couple of these cardboard crafts all of my doubts were gone.

    The fact that Nintendo Labo provides the most thorough step-by-step instructions I’ve ever seen is amazing. At eight years old, Hailey was able to complete these without any assistance at all.

    Nintendo Labo has kept her entertained doing one project each day so far. Then she spends the rest of the day showing everyone in the house what she made, and how it works with the game apps.

    As a parent my absolute favorite part about Nintendo Labo is the discovery aspect of each creation. This isn’t just a pile of cardboard, there are high-tech sensors as well, giving my daughter an awesome educational experience as well. She is as excited about learning how things function as she is about playing the games. Clean up is easy too as any unused parts can just get tossed in the recycle bin.

    We have enjoyed our time so far with Nintendo Labo and I believe you will too. This isn’t a sponsored ad. I picked this up with my own money, but if you use our link to pick up your set it helps us keep doing what we’re doing.

    You can pick up Nintendo Labo on Amazon. Use our affiliate link to support the site or just click the image below to shop for Nintendo Labo and start having fun!

    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 170: Of Eclipses and Uranus

    The Mommy Gamers Podcast Episode 170: Of Eclipses and Uranus

    For Episode 170 of The Mommy Gamers Podcast Carrie and Marcia are joined by Jeff Hannah, Principal Technical Artist at Volition Games to chat about the release of Agents of Mayhem. Jeff chats about all of the local community hype revolving around the game launch, and Carrie gets extra excited about all the Uranus jokes because #ButtStuff. The ladies introduce a new segment titled “You Know You’re Old When…”, everyone chats about their experience with the solar eclipse, and for some reason something about a poop emoji plunger Kickstarter made it in here too. An awesome listener question regarding the current trend of early access games turns into a really great discussion, which helped make this a very well balanced episode and one you won’t want to miss.

    Shout out to our newest Patreon supporter Dee Phair! If you love our show, and want to support us and get fun rewards including a shout out on the next podcast, you can join our Patreon community here.

    Also, you don’t have to come back here every week to get the latest podcast. You can subscribe to The Mommy Gamers podcast for FREE on iHeart RadioGoogle Play MusiciTunes and Stitcher or you can access The Mommy Gamers app through Podcast Box on iTunes or in the Amazon app store for Android. Don’t forget to catch the live streams on Twitch and follow them us on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook too!

    Care for Our World

    CareforOurWorldGameTheMommyGamers

    My daughter Amber and I received a copy of Care for Our World, an interactive storybook app for iPad, and we had a blast playing around with it. Care for Our World, written by Karen Roberts, was originally published as a book in 2012. It included punch-out animals for children to play with. Sunbreak Games, have brought that creative play to the app with features like Habitat Playset (Amber’s favorite feature) where children can use interactive stickers to create their own animal habitats, Coloring Book where you can color a scene from the book almost anyway you want to, and Animal Encyclopedia where your child can learn about all of the animals mentioned in the story as well as hear what they sound like, and see pictures of them in the real world.

     


    The actual storybook part of the app is well done for the most part, and is highly interactive. Nearly everything you touch has a reaction, and narration. The colors are vivid, and the illustrations are whimsical. In fact, the only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the narration. In my opinion, when you have a story with words that are rich and full of life, you should strive to have a narrator that matches them with their voice. Unfortunately, in this case the narrator falls a little flat, and while his voice is not unpleasant, he’s not far enough away from monotone for my liking. I also feel that since the app is geared for ages 3-8, not having an option for narration in the, Animal Encyclopedia section of the app was a missed opportunity, as younger children will need someone to read for them.

    Overall, I think Care for Our World is lovely, and has a great deal of replay value for children. It is well worth the $2.99 investment. You can download it now on the iOS App Store by clicking here.

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    What Is It with This Pokemon Go Thing Anyway?

    Everything Non-Gamers Need to Know…

    pokeGOlogoYou’ve been hearing about it ad nauseum, and you’re shaking your head at the bands of kids trespassing on your property in search of the Pokemon that’s apparently hiding in your backyard. You put up this meme:

    pokemongo

    Nevertheless, at least half the people walking down the street with their phones are clearly not 10, either. Some of us even have jobs. So what is the deal with Pokemon Go? Why do you hate it so much? Why does it feel so invasive? Why is everyone playing it in inappropriate places? Well, before you out yourself as the grumpy old person yelling at kids to get off your lawn, here’s what you need to know:

    

The Basics

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    The teams are Valor (red – discipline), Instinct (yellow – intuition, and Mystic (blue – intellect). Players can choose a team at Level 5.

    Pokemon Go is a free app available for smartphones, an “augmented reality” game from The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc. This basically means that it puts virtual gameplay onto a map of the real world, and players interact with both. Pokemon Go is designed to get people out and about, to make them happier and healthier. It does this by generating virtual “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokemon stands for), well known from previous Pokemon games and thus already favorites with fans, that appear on the phone screen.

    Players catch Pokemon with a flick of the wrist – throwing a virtual Pokeball toward the target. 

In addition to roaming Pokemon, the game also includes PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. PokeStops are basically stationary rings that you can spin to get free items such as Pokeballs, which are used to catch Pokemon, along with eggs, which hold Pokemon inside and can be hatched if you do a certain amount of walking, and other enhancements. Gyms are places where players can battle each other. If you win a battle, you can take over the gym.

    Playing Pokemon Go is easy. Open the app, and the GPS finds your location. Your screen shows you which Pokemon are close, and where nearby PokeStops and Gyms are located. Start walking. You’ll find Pokemon along the way. At level 5, you can join one of three teams – Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). Think of it as being sorted into a house at Hogwarts – your identification becomes tied in with these groups.

    

The Good

    artinst

    The Art Institute of Chicago posted a controversial Facebook post this week encouraging visitors to come find Pokemon inside – in this case, in front of its iconic Chagall windows.

    Pokemon Go is a game of discovery. It makes people get out and explore their neighborhoods, and it encourages socializing. My son has actually been getting off the couch this summer and going outside. Last night I took him to Ravinia Festival for an outdoor musical concert, and he talked to at least ten people about the game. We went to the zoo, where I’ve been volunteering every other week 20 years, and I didn’t recognize half the PokeStops because they were at statues and landmarks I’ve ignored in all my visits there. I had no idea they existed. In my hometown, I discovered a war memorial I must have passed 100 times, and never noticed before.

    Anecdotes already abound about how Pokemon is helping people’s mental health. And it’s giving local businesses a boost. Because Pokemon Go is so popular, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to utilize it for their own purposes and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales from people coming in the door to find Pokemon. Pet shelters and museums and retailers are advertising the presence of Pokemon to get people in the door. (If you are looking for ways to leverage the popularity of the game, I recommend making an in-app purchase; spend $1 – 100 PokeCoins- and set off a lure, which will attract Pokemon and customers for 30 minutes after you activate it.) Also, T-Mobile just announced that data used to play Pokemon Go will not count towards its users’ data allowance.

    Ultimately, the addictive appeal for Pokemon can be a good thing. The goal of hatching eggs is already making more inroads than my Fitbit Alta in getting me to walk places, and I’ve never seen my son so excited to go places that might have Pokemon. The zoo! The botanic garden! The hardware store down the street, which has a gym! And there will be more ways for small businesses to leverage the game’s popularity, too, such as sponsorships that will turn them into portals.

    The Bad

    Screenshot_2016-07-14-23-02-49

    Here’s a screenshot of my phone, with a promotion that showed up on my feed from Binny’s Beverage Depot.

    As with any other engrossing app, Pokemon Go has people looking down at their phones instead of ahead. This can cause problems, because people not paying attention can cause accidents and such (although that traffic accident supposedly caused by someone playing the game is totally false, bad things are happening to players who are careless or who are putting themselves in danger). In addition, Pokemon tend to spawn everywhere, even places that aren’t necessarily friendly to the public, and Gyms and PokeStops can be located in unexpected locations.

    This is because, by the way, Niantic put out a previous game called Ingress, in which users submitted “portals” to be included on the virtual map that’s now basically being used for Pokemon Go. There are rules for these submissions, so PokeStops and Gyms do not interfere with private property, emergency services, or schools. Not all of these locations are completely current because things change so often in the real world, which is why players may end up in locations that don’t truly exist anymore (Please note: you can now submit requests to create portals in the game).

    There are other issues (for example, click here for the word on the game’s overly broad permissions ask). Different Pokemon are found in different locations, and at different times of day. So it can very well be dangerous for some people to play. I know a white man who feels uncomfortable loitering around parks where women and children are clustered. I’ve heard stories of black men who feel the game is too dangerous for them to enjoy, given the present climate. I’ve heard tales from physically disabled people who literally cannot access places where where Pokemon are found. It is not a perfect situation.

    

The Ugly

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    A game screen, with map. The blue rings at the bottom are a PokeStop; click on it, and a photo of the landmark appears. You spin it to  get items. The darker blue landmark in the distance is a Gym, and it’s blue because right now it’s controlled by Team Mystic. On the bottom right of the screen, the white box tells you which Pokemon are near. If you click on a Pokemon as it appears, the screen changes to a camera image of what’s in front of you, with Pokemon superimposed and a PokeBall ready to “throw.” I caught a Rattata on my bed this morning…

    In the nine or so days that the game has been available, there’s been been a lot of buzz on the Internet, and much of it is bad. Any obsession, enjoyed without rules and not in moderation, can of course be dangerous, and there is etiquette to be learned and followed. The game is new, and people haven’t thought about the consequences of their actions yet (most of them have never heard of Ingress, so they don’t have experience with a game of this type). On the other hand, Pokemon Go gamers have been called many bad names by people who don’t understand the game’s appeal. The Internet is judgey, as usual. The comments sections should not be read.

    If Pokemon Go players are encroaching on your space, you have every right to say something. If they are breaking rules by sneaking in someplace that requires paid admission, that’s wrong. It’s true that there are currently PokeStops in some places that might be viewed as inappropriate – those places were put on the map by previous Ingress players and are only now being deemed offensive because of the number of people playing Pokemon Go. No one even noticed them before. In the past, however, Niantic (once a part of Google) has been responsive about removing them. The people who placed portals in these places most likely had good intentions – bringing people in, for example. It doesn’t mean players are being forced to use those stops, though. As more people play, and as everyone understands the problems of having Pokestops in these locations, things will change.

    But in my experience, it is both possible to stay out of the way of people while I’m playing Pokemon Go, and also be tolerant of people who are, after all, simply enjoying a fun little game that is getting them out and about. Just give players a little time to adjust. I’ll also remind the naysayers that the novelty will wear off – and although there will be updates and changes (an announcement about trading and other improvements has already been made), Pokemon Go – which is, after all, a fun game but not a really great one – will be much less appealing in the winter. At least, here in Chicago. If you live in Florida, you may be out of luck.

    If some kids do cross your lawn in search of Pokemon, feel free to channel the spirit of the game. Instead of yelling at them, why not ask them about it and make some new friends?

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    Thanks to Neko Atsume, I’m A Virtual Cat Lady

    The Cat Collecting Craze…

    neko-atsume-logoI admit it. Lately, I haven’t been playing that many games. Oh, I still dabble in Clash of Clans or Super Mario Maker once in a while, but life – and work – keeps getting in the way, and I was never any good at gaming anyway. I do play enough that some Facebook quiz, trying to guess my gender, age, and income level via the apps on my phone, seems to think I’m a 32-year-old married man with a $52,000 per year salary. In reality, I’m a middle-aged single mom trying to eke out a living as a freelance writer, working from my laptop at home, baking Alton Brown recipes for fun.

    In other words, I’m a perfect candidate for Future Crazy Cat Lady. Enter Neko Atsume.

    2016-03-05 20.40.11

    My milkshake brings all the cats to the yard. Or something like that…

    Preparing me for my upcoming feline-friendly career, Neko Atsume is a cat-collecting game. You must have seen it. It’s a non-game kind of game, which is pretty much perfect for the amount of brain cells I have alive in my head by the time I’m ready to do anything fun.

    My son, through the kids at his school, introduced me to this free mobile game. But it doesn’t matter. I would have found it some other way. For one thing, my college alumnae pet group (I went to a women’s college) is obsessed with Neko Atsume, and I’m always getting on to Facebook to find my feed littered with advice on how to get certain cats, or just people posting screen captures of the cats in their yard. I played this game for two months, off and on, before I actually got interested in it.

    I don’t get it. There is no reason this game should occupy me the way it does. I mean, you buy stuff. You put it out in your yard. Cats show up. They go away, leaving gifts behind that you can use to buy more stuff. That’s literally it. Nothing else happens.

    Yet there’s something very Zen about Neko Atsume. The stakes are low. If you leave, there are no consequences. No one attacks you while you’re gone. There’s no action whatsoever. There are cute kitties, sometimes with bags on their heads (isn’t that adorable?). Because they are drawn to different objects, it’s almost like they have personalities. You make them happy by providing items they like. It’s like virtual love, with the minimum amount of energy expended.

    I’m not the only one who feels this way. Heck, I’m late to the party. Plenty of people have spent time pondering this simple game’s popularity, and many others have jumped on the bandwagon. Academics and comedians have weighed in. Blog posts have been written. Buzzfeed has done a list (because of course they have). There’s a Tumblr (duh). There’s a sub-Reddit. The cats have been ranked. Recipes have been created. Heck, I learned to capture screenshots on my Android phone just so I could share pictures of my collected cats. I don’t even share pictures of my REAL cats (much).

    For those of us aspiring future multiple-cat-owners-about-to-be-raided by-the-humane-society, Neko Atsume is perfect. These cats don’t pee where they’re not supposed to, or need to go to the vet to have their teeth cleaned, or shed fur all over all my black yoga pants (I’m looking at you, Beasley), or steal tuna off the counter (I’m looking at you, Elsie).

    I think I like being a virtual cat lady. It’s at least a touch less pathetic than being a real one. Right? Right?

    Category
    Apps, Games, Mobile Apps
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    GUEST REVIEW: Owlegories

    The fauna steps in where the flora fell down

    Owlegories_1

    I had been down this road before. I became a Christian in college and immediately was made aware of the presence of Christian-themed anthropomorphic produce shows.

    They were fine. I mean, they were cute, they told a story, had a Bible verse or two, and were generally exactly the kind of wholesome cartoons the classic Christian household would prefer to the likes of Spongebob Squarepants or Monster High.

    Then there was a feature-length movie. As the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, VeggieTales quickly spiraled down the drain, replacing Christian stories and lessons with a focus on therapeutic moralistic deism. Instead of adhering closely to the Scriptures as their source material (to the point of actually putting verses on screen), VeggieTales became an avenue for teaching moral lessons (be kind, love one another) through allegorical tellings of Biblical stories with animated fruits and vegetables. Phil Vischer, one of the creators of VeggieTales, shared his regrets about what happened in an interview with the Christian Examiner back in October of 2015.

    It became became a shell of what it was. It’s not that these lessons were bad, but they were no longer the Christian programming they purported to be. As such, there wasn’t great, widely available, Gospel-centered animated children’s programming anymore.

    Enter Owlegories. There is no doubt anyone with even casual familiarity with VeggieTales will immediately be reminded of it when the show begins, but the similarities to the VeggieTales we have today ends very quickly.

    Owlegories is a brand wrapped around a number of apps and direct-to-DVD/digital cartoon episodes. The brand makes use of a core cast of owls to tell of the glory of God through nature. Using metaphorical language, student owls learn from teacher owls about aspects of who and what God is that are like certain elements in nature. How is God like the sun? Like water? Like fire?

    Owlegories

    Owlegories is an inventive way to teach children about God by providing real world examples that can be replicated by parents. Instead of a story with ethereal touchpoints that is theoretically tied to a Biblical event (and taking wide liberties, at that) Owlegories provides concrete examples and concepts that are easy to grasp. Each episode features three ways in which God is like the aspect of nature they’re studying (the Baptist in me is proud).

    The episodes reminded me a lot of VeggieTales with a little bit of The Wild Kratts thrown in. There is an adorably goofy conflict with a classic over-the-top villian owl named Devlin in each episode that the student team needs to resolve, learning about God through nature along the way.

    My wife and I chuckled a few times while watching the three episodes with our children. Even though the construction of the episodes was superior to today’s VeggieTales, that wasn’t what impressed us the most: after the show was over, a guest would give a Gospel message.

    The episodes, which provide the bulk of the content, can be seen via DVD or by downloading the Owlegories TV app. There is also an “Owlegories: The Original” app that allows you to view a lot of the same information in a more interactive way. and an Owlegories memory verse app currently in development. The apps are currently available for iOS and Android.

    Owlegories App

    Owlegories is a labor of love initially developed by the Boto family. That team has grown to include a number of others including the accomplished Keith Alcorn, who has worked on movies like Jimmy Neutron and The Ant Bully. The leadership team is working with Spy House Productions and Gundersen Entertainment to bring Owlegories to market.

    Owlegories is well on its way to becoming a Gospel-themed multimedia force, if it can keep up the quality of what they have put out so far. I do hope they continue to do so, and especially that they don’t deviate from their banner verse(s): Psalm 19:1-4.

    Though I could pick nits with its theology from a personal preference perspective, I think Owelgories does an excellent job conveying the core message without diverting into a feel-good mess. I also think any parent who is looking for this kind of entertainment for their children is probably prepared to buttress it with direct teaching. Within this vein I’m very happy to see the continued efforts of the staff at Spy House/Gundersen Entertainment to engage their community on the Owlegories Blog.

    There are two Owlegories DVD’s currently available that can be purchased on Amazon or at Wal-Mart or a number of other brick & mortar stores. It is an excellently produced show with a clear Biblical message. If you’re a Christian parent looking for some entertainment for your kids that is a little more Biblical and a little less moralism, it might be something for you to check out. With additional content right at your fingertips via the apps, it is easy for a family to check it out to see if it is right for them.

    MoreOwls

    Owlegories DVD Giveaway

    The Avengers Get Schooled in MARVEL Avengers Academy

    8a26fdc9-653c-4f8c-a289-00039092c26dWhether it’s on TV, in movie theaters, or in the pages of the comic books that spawned them, you can’t turn around these days without seeing superheroes. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I mean, I’ve made no secret about my crush on Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. But as much fun as these characters are, it’s kind of hard for some of the younger crowd to really relate to them. After all, it’s not like they’re dealing with things like school, socializing, or fashion faux pas when they’re not out saving the world. That’s where TinyCo’s new mobile game, MARVEL Avengers Academy, comes in.

    MARVEL Avengers Academy takes the cast of characters from Marvel and reimagines them as college age students at the newly minted (and still under construction) Avengers Academy.  Players will recruit Marvel heroes and villains as students enrolling in the school, teach them how to use their powers, and even build up the school with new classrooms, dorms, and superhero necessities like aircraft hangars and shooting ranges. Imagine “The Avengers Meets Saved by the Bell” and you’ll start to get a good idea about the game.

    Building on that whole hipper, younger superhero theme, TinyCo pulled together a surprisingly talented cast to voice this fresh faced version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The game features Dave Franco (Now You See Me, Neighbors) as the smooth and charming Tony Stark, Alexandra Daddario (both Percy Jackson movies, American Horror Story: Hotel) as the hyperactive fashionista, Janet Van Dyne (a.k.a. the Wasp), and Colton Haynes (Arrow, Teen Wolf) as the God of Thunder, Thor.

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    Haynes pointed out that he’s no stranger to the world of spandex and superpowers. “I have more experience with Super Heroes and the supernatural than some, but this is the first time I’m playing an actual god. Thor literally brings the thunder, and has helped build people’s passion for Super Heroes for over 60 years. I was excited that this is a really fresh take on the character, being a young adult going to college. It was great working with Marvel and TinyCo on bringing him to life in MARVEL Avengers Academy.”

    TinyCo even picked up WWE superstar (and fodder of memes everywhere) John Cena to lend his voice to Marvel’s gamma-irradiated powerhouse, the Hulk. Talking about his role as the Jade Giant, Cena said, “I had a ton of fun playing one of my favorite Super Heroes ever, the Hulk! In MARVEL Avengers Academy, this is a Hulk that has to exist in an environment with ‘rules’, not just ‘smash’. It really allowed me to show some lesser-seen sides of the big green guy that people might not experience in the movies. It’s was great getting a chance to work with crew at Marvel and TinyCo on this awesome project.”

    MARVEL Avengers Academy was officially released last week for both iOS and Android devices. The game is free to download, but like most free-to-play games, features in-app purchases ranging in price from $1.99 to $99.99 (Wow! Does anyone EVER actually pay that much at once for a mobile game?). On the upside, that cost is for packages of either gold coins or crystals, which can also be earned through various in-game activities.

    Game Title:             Marvel Avengers Academy
    Publisher:                TinyCo
    Publisher URL:      http://www.tinyco.com

    Platform:  
    iOS – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/marvel-avengers-academy/id1061768547
    Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tinyco.avengers

    Category
    Games, Mobile Apps
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    Cute Valentine’s Deal from Artifex Mundi

     

    mainsite_imageIt’s nearly Valentine’s Day, love is in the air and nothing makes my heart flutter quite like a great deal on games.  If you don’t already have a relationship with Artifex Mundi, now is a great time to start up a fling with this casual gamer creator and publisher.  Their “Cute Valentine’s Deal” has three of their games priced up to 85 percent off now through February 19th.

    Artifex Mundi is best known for their stunning hidden object games with compelling stories. As an added bonus their games are available on multiple platforms, which is something I appreciate.

    For Valentine’s Day, they are running sale promotions in the Mac App Store, Google Play, BlackBerry World, the Windows Store, and the Windows Phone store. There are 2 games in each store, discounted at different levels at least through the weekend. Here’s the breakdown:

    Mac App Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $2.99 (normally $6.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $1.99 (normally $6.99)

    Google Play:
    Grim Legends:The Forsaken Bride, $1.99 (normally $4.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $4.99)

    BlackBerry World:
    Grim Legends:The Forsaken Bride, $1.99 (normally $4.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $4.99)

    The Windows Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $2.99 (normally $6.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $6.99)

    The Windows Phone Store:
    Clockwork Tales:Of Glass and Ink, $0.99 (normally $2.99)
    Time Mysteries 3:The Final Enigma, $0.99 (normally $2.99)

    Visit the Artifex Mundi site for more information and links to purchase any of these games. I really enjoy their games and I hope that you will too.

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