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Top 10 Steam Games Under $5

I trolled through my house today looking for loose change. All in all I found $4.82. Not bad. As a kid growing up in the 80’s this would have been a spectacular find. That $4.82 is a sweet, sweet candy stash. Today, not so much. In 2018 this kind of couch change doesn’t have the same kind of impact… however, for under $5 there are a plethora of enjoyable games you can find nestled in the deepest depths of Steam store.

(Before I start a quick note on how I choose these games. Every single game I choose are games that I have personally played and can vouch for. I realize that there are many games out there under the $5 mark that could easily make this list. This is MY list. I did not include games that are Free as that’s a whole other list… I also looked for a plethora of games that could be enjoyed by various audiences and appeal to many types of gamers. That’s that. I hope you enjoy the list and please, feel free to let us know what you favorite $5 and under game is, and if there are any suggestions you may have.)

Organ Trail

10. Organ Trail: Directors Cut. When I was in 6th grade I was introduced to PC gaming by a fun little experience called The Oregon Trail, in which you follow the historic trek many took across our country in a time when dysentery and fording a river were more dangerous than we could possibly imagine. There were hunting mini games and indian attacks. You usually didn’t make it… Imagine that set in the zombie apocalypse, and that’s what Organ Trail is.

Town of Salem

9. Town of Salem. This game is fun… with friends. Please bring your friends. With that in mind Town of Salem is a great time and a ton of fun, and if it tickles your fancy you can look into the tabletop version…

Xcom

8. X-Com: UFO Defense. Sure this game is old as dirt. Sure it has a bunch of bugs. Sure it can make you want to throw your controller through your TV… But, you still love it. It’s charming and horrible and well worth a look if not just to see the origins of the rebooted X-Com series.

PLants v Zombies

7. Plants vs. Zombies GOTY. In which you plant plants to fend of a zombie invasion. It’s fun and addictive, and hard to put down… Tons of game time packed into a charming package. Well worth a look.

Sally Face

6. Sally Face. What a great little game. This horror adventure has a uniquely catered art style that reminded me of classic Nick cartoons like Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. This aesthetic combined with a disturbingly unique story line make this a great pickup.

VVVVVV

5. VVVVVV. A 2D platformer where instead of jumping you control gravity. This colorful masterpiece is simultaneously ridiculous and charming. I don’t recommend this for those that are easily frustrated as each level takes a bit of trial and error, and can be quite rage inducing at times. It’s still well worth the price tag.

Reigns

4. Reigns. Yes or No? As the new king you need to decide what sort of entity you will be. You are presented with requests from your citizens and need to decide what is best for you or your kingdom and impose your will. Reigns is simple in concept but hides a layer of strategy well worth looking into.

Overlord

3. Overlord. You are in charge and your decisions matter. Its hard to deny the surprising charm Overlord brings to the table. Every action you take on the battlefield has lasting effects on the world around you. Command your plucky minions to do your bidding in this quirky adventure. Take them on raids in villages or fight monstrous beasts. What kind of Overlord will you be?

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2. The Binding of Isaac. Roguelikes are a dime a dozen anymore and their influence on indie developers are like a blanket on a hot and humid day. I wish they would go away so we can finally move on. That being said, there are a number of great roguelike games available and few have the draw and prestige of the one of the greatest. The Binding of Isaac is one of the originals and is still loved today.

Superflight
1. Superflight. Wow! That was my initial reaction when I first picked up this game. There is something to be said about simplicity and atmosphere. Superflight is a game about adorning a flight suit and traversing beautiful procedurally generated atmospheres. You can feel the speed as you dip and dive your way through colorful landscapes. Even with the intense feel of falling it is a surprisingly relaxing experience. I was initially gleeful with my experience and was overjoyed to find myself willing to go back and play some more. If you haven’t seen this title, do yourself a favor and give it a solid look.

Review: The Man in the High Castle

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What would have happened if the Nazis would have bombed the White House before the United States could bombed Japan during World War Two? That is the base question for The Man in the High Castle.

The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon Prime television series based on the book by Philip K Dick. In the year 1962 the United States as we know it no longer exists. The pacific states are under the control of the Japanese Empire. The eastern states are under control of the Nazis. There is a strip of states in between that are called “The Neutral Zone” where no one has control and it is more like the lawless Wild West of old.

There are many players in this show and they all contribute to the direction that the story takes. The Man in the High Castle, is at its heart, a story about stories. Different people reacting to the situations they are put in and how those actions affect those around them. There are also alternate versions of the stories, but we are just beginning to find out about those on the show.

Julia Crain has accepted the Japanese influence in her life. She practices aikido, looks after her mother and lives with her boyfriend. She has a fairly normal life for someone who is considered a second class citizen in her own country. There are other forces at play around her though. There are plots within the Nazi party itself and Hitler’s health is failing. The relationship between the Nazis and the Japanese are on shaky ground with the threat of war. The Resistance has something that they are trying to keep safely hidden. These are films. Films which show a different world. The question is whether these films a solution or are they something that should be destroyed?

The storylines in The Man in the High Castle are amazing. They take us from multiple people in the Pacific States, to the idyllic looking states under control of the Reich to Germany itself. All of the people from different countries and vocations are spun around each other seamlessly. The show keeps you guessing as it is filled with switches and turns. The characters are masterfully written.

The settings are also key to The Man in the High Castle. As the viewer travels from set to set we get an inside look at the lives which we are to be so invested in. Costumes let us know the show takes place in the past but also the status of the characters. Music is also a reminder that the sometimes familiar surroundings of our characters that what we are seeing is not what it seems. Everything in The Man in the High Castle is very delerate.

I would highly recommend The Man in the High Castle. It is a great story about alternative history with a rich cast of characters.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING.      

 

Influental Women in the Gaming Industry: Christie Golden

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Christie Golden joined Blizzard Entertainment in 2017 where she has become a senior writer for the company. Prior to that Christie made a career of writing. She has written fifty novels and even more short stories.  

A native of Atlanta Georgia Christie was born in 1963.  She spent most of her young life in Arlington, Virginia. There she went to high school with Sandra Bullock. Christie went to the University Virginia. After earning her degree in English she traveled.

Christie used her degree and her experiences to help her start her career. At first it didn’t seem like it would pan out. Seven years after receiving rejection letters for her first manuscript Christie was able to use the connections that she had made to help her get the first break of her career. From there she was able to sell her first book; Vampire of the Mists, a Ravenloft book. Yes Ravenloft, as in supernatural Dungeons and Dragons campaign that kills so many of us Tabletop gamers. Thus began a beautiful relationship between Christie and writing novels that take place in the worlds of games.

Writing what are known as “tie in” fiction has been good for Christie. It has also been good for us. She has given the world a plethora of novels to dive into. From there gamers can get a more in depth knowledge of the worlds of their favorite games. Also for some people a love of books does not come easily. Books based in the settings of their favorite games can be a wonderful invitation to a world of reading that some may never have received otherwise.

Fiction of this subgenre is also inspiring for writers. Learning how to channel your interests, such as gaming, into your own projects is always a good skill to obtain. However the only way to achieve that is just to sit down and write. It is a tough enre to get into but Christie has proven that not only can writers make the cut but that it can lead to bigger things from companies that give us the games we love. If you are willing to put in the work the work will work out.

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What Christie has really taught us is do what you want. Game how you want. Write what you want. Put that passion into a career and you will get there. It may take time but you will get there.

You can also keep track of what Christie Golden is up to though her Twitter.

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Dungeon Crawling: My First Hero

…Or Dungeons and Dragons for Beginners.

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So you want to play Dungeons and Dragons, but you don’t know where to begin. There are so many books, so many rules, and so many choices that the options can be a bit overwhelming. Fear not for I shall simplify it for you.

Before you worry about what books to get, and what rules to learn, you need to find a Dungeon Master. They’re the arbitrator of the rules, the referee if you will. They are also in charge of all the monsters and characters not in control by a player. The will have a story in mind (also called a campaign). You need to check with them to see if there are any classes or races they don’t want you to choose from when creating your hero. Most likely, they will also have all the books you’ll need to make your hero.

So now you know what you can’t choose for a race, or a class, if there are any restrictions at all. This means you still have quite a few choices to make, and even though you’ve seen Lord of the Rings, you’re still not sure how to narrow it down. D&D is a game of “let’s pretend…with rules” as such most it is left up to your imagination. There is a mental exercise called The One Room Dungeon.

Before you stands a long corridor. Torches light the way every ten feet, and somewhere in the distance you hear the constant drip of condensation on the flagstones. At the end of the hall stands a solid oak door. It is closed, but flickering lamplight can be seen shining from the crack beneath it. There is a treasure chest behind the door, but also an Orc Warrior guarding it. How do you approach the door? Do you use stealth to sneak up? Do you stride confidently down the hall, clad in your heavy metal armor? Do you cast a spell that silences your footsteps? Once you open the door, do you sneak attack the orc, face him head on with a deadly weapon, or blast him with arcane spells? Which of these choices excite you the most? Are you feeling like a rogue, a warrior, or a spellcaster? Maybe you’re a combination of two or three. When you can imagine how you deal with the orc and gain the treasure, you should begin to have an idea of what class you want to play.

So you’re beginning to have an idea in you head of what your hero is. Great! Borrow the Player’s Handbook from your DM. Flip through the races and see if any jump out at you. There are quite a few to choose from, and you should be familiar with the basic idea of them if you’re into the fantasy genre at all. D&D tries to balance them all out, but if looking over their mechanical benefits helps you decide, then by all means do it.

Next you’ll want to narrow down your class. There’s more than three in the PHB, so the choices you made in The One Room Dungeon are just the tip of the iceberg. Did you choose stealth, using your skills to overcome the orc? There’s a Rogue, a Monk, and a Bard to choose from. Maybe weapons were your go to solution. Fighters, Barbarians, Rangers, and Paladins await you. Or if spell-casting was your thing there are Wizards, Warlocks, Sorcerers, Clerics, and Druids waiting to be called upon. There is no wrong class, race or combination of the two. Sure, you’re choice might not seem optimal mechanically, but if you have fun that is what matters.

The final choice is your Background. What’s your story? Who were you before you took to the life of adventuring? Were you a sailor making a life on the open seas? Did you grow up in the posh life of a Noble house? Were you a criminal thumbing your nose at authority?

Between your race, your class, and your background you have you’re starting equipment and skills. You’re almost ready to play.

You need to generate your ability scores. Ask your DM what method they want you to use. Are you going to roll six-sided dice, spend an allotment of points, or place a static array of numbers? Your class choice will determine what score is important for its features.  Do your weapon skills rely on Strength or Dexterity? Is Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma your spell-casting stat? Perhaps you just want to have a high Constitution and be healthy as an ox.

All those choices made during creation and you’re finally ready to play. “How do I play?” you ask. Improvisation. The Dungeon Master will describe a scene and ask you what your hero wants to do. You can respond descriptively or in character. “My rogue sneaks up to the door and attempts to pick the lock.” or “I’ve seen harder locks in my mom’s cupboard” and I take out my lock-picks. Whether or not you do it is another story.

Anytime there is a chance of success or failure you’re going to roll a twenty-sided die and add a number to it. The higher you roll, the better the outcome. What numbers you add to it depend on the task being attempted. If it was an attack or a spell you’ll need to roll another smaller die to determine how much damage you did. Don’t worry about rolling the wrong one, or forgetting which one is an eight-sider and which is the ten-sider. We all had those same stumbling blocks when we first started.

Mistakes will be made. Heroes will fall. New ones will rise in their place. It is a game. Have fun, and make their tales legendary.

 

Review: Narcosis

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We all know how much I love me some horror games. I’m always looking for new games to play, especially from amazing indie developers. I was ecstatic to get a review copy of Narcosis from indie developer, Honor Code, thanks to my fellow Mixer streamer and friend, Rorifett, who put me in contact with David, one of the writers and the marketer for the game.

What’s it about?
A hundred leagues under the sea lies several research facilities. Narcosis follows a nameless man as he attempts to find his way back to the surface after an earthquake destroys these facilities and kills almost everyone else down there. He must find his way to the single escape pod, while avoiding aggressive squids, bloodthirsty fish, and terrifying spider crabs. All the while, the game is being framed and narrated by an interview, possibly on a talk show.

What did I think?
This game is visually stunning. The detail in each chapter was so painstakingly realistic, both visually and atmospherically. Each piece of floating debris made me jump. Each spider crab injected a new nightmare into my brain. Each squid caused a mini panic attack.

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The story was slow building and kept me at the edge of my seat. What happened to the other survivors? Would we ever get out of here? All questions were answered in the end, which is extremely satisfying in a horror game. I don’t want to be left with more questions than I started with. I want to be left wanting more content, not answers. Narcosis accomplished this in bounds.

The most important thing – to me – is that this game actually terrified me. My stress level was so high throughout the entire game that I had to take my anxiety meds. Not only am I terrified of the ocean as it is, but the creatures in the deepest, darkest reaches also fuel the worst nightmares. If I never see a spider crab again, it will be too soon.

Do I recommend it?
Highly. If you like horror games, this game is for you. If you like deep sea exploring, this game is for you. If you want to be afraid to go into the ocean for the rest of your life, this game is for you. (That last one’s a joke, of course, I was already afraid to go into the ocean!)

Narcosis can be found on PC and Xbox One.

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Recap Review: Arkham Asylum

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Here we have yet another game that’s been on my radar for a while, but I never got around to playing until now. And boy, did it live up to the hype!

Full disclaimer: my knowledge of the Batman mythos mostly comes from the Christopher Nolan films. I’ve started watching The Animated Series, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of Tim Burton’s Batman and the 1960’s Adam West show. Oh, and The LEGO Batman Movie and Batman and Robin (unfortunately). That’s about it.

So I knew I wasn’t fully appreciating Arkham Asylum the way that a diehard fan would. But I still really enjoyed playing it and it’s inspired me to finally start watching the beloved animated series.

If you haven’t played it yet, here’s the plot: Batman has captured the Joker and they’re off to Arkham Asylum. Shortly after they arrive, the Joker escapes, kidnaps Commissioner Gordon and Warden Sharp, and then traps Batman and members of the Gotham police force in the asylum. Naturally, you play as the Caped Crusader as he navigates the island to rescue Gordon and figure out the Joker’s real plan behind all of this.

To save the day, you’ll have to use a variety of skills and weapons. Sometimes, it comes down to a regular fistfight with the Joker’s hired thugs. Other times, you’re stuck in a room with armed men patrolling the area, and you need to take them out through stealth. Other times, you’ll enter Detective Mode to follow the trail of the Commissioner or whomever else you’re trying to find as the plot progresses.

Personally, I found Stealth/Predator mode to be the most challenging, but also the most fun. That’s when I really felt like Batman. You’ll often have to take out enemies one by one, because if the others see you, they’ll start shooting, and your health drops fast. Then the Joker will often add to the challenge, i.e. rigging explosives on the gargoyle statues to prevent you from hanging from the ceiling, or telling Harley to kill the Commissioner if she or any of the other thugs see you. It’s not unlike the kind of challenges that Batman would face in the movies, shows, or comics. Only this time, it’s down to you to figure out a way around them. That makes it feel all the more satisfying when you succeed.

Another fun element of the game comes from the Joker’s commentary as you navigate the place; he constantly mocks his henchmen as you take them out. Fans of the animated series will be happy to know that Mark Hamill returned to voice him, while Kevin Conroy and Arleen Sorkin also reprised their roles as Batman and Harley Quinn, respectively. They all do a wonderful job bringing their characters to life, as do all of the other voice actors in this game.

I won’t spoil the rest of the game, but I will say that you meet and fight several other major villains in Arkham Asylum besides the Joker and Harley, and they each contribute to the plot in some way. The Riddler also provides two sidequests for you: one to find the many hidden Riddler trophies throughout the game, and the other involves solving actual riddles by examining the right area. I feel bad that I couldn’t get as excited by some of the character cameos, since I’m such a newbie to the Batman franchise. But diehard fans will love them, and the game’s so well-written that newcomers will likely enjoy them too.

Arkham Asylum was originally released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows. It is now available as part of a collection with its sequel, Arkham City, on the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The collection is titled Return to Arkham. I wholeheartedly recommend it if you haven’t played it already.

Guest Post: The Holy Grail of Retro Video Games

List of the Most Expensive Retro Games

One of the biggest reasons why so many people like playing retro games is the price. They are more than just affordable and they come in a wide range of choices. But there is a different side of the same story. There are retro games which are more than just expensive and which ones can cost a real fortune. Furthermore, they are extremely difficult to find.

Air Raid $33,000

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This game is the most expensive retro game in the world. It was developed and released for Atari 2600 and the gameplay is based on an alien invasion. You will have to defend the city from the aliens. There are only 12 copies of the game ever released and one cartridge will cost you $3.000. However, a plastic copy of the game will cost you $33.000. The game was released by Men A Vision, and this was the only game they have released. This also adds the value.

Nintendo World Championships 1990 $25,000

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The Nintendo World Championships 1990 is rare. As a matter of fact, there are only 25 copies of the game. It features specially adapted versions of the Mario, Rad Racer and etc. which were developed to look like championship-based games in the United States. The imaginable tournament was believed to be played in 29 cities in the United States. The price for this game starts at $20.000.

Tetris – Sega Genesis/Megadrive $25,000

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Tetris – Sega Genesis/Megadrive is the game to look for if you want to own something special. There are only 5-6 copies of the game in question, due to an interesting reason. The game was developed by Sega, but back then Nintendo owned the license for Tetris, so this game never reached the market. It is known that only 5-6 copies are present in the world and their price starts at $16.000. Tetris – Sega Genesis/Megadrive original port, for example, was sold for $1 million.

The Flintstones: Surprise at Dinosaur Peak – NES $13,000

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The game was released during the NES period. But, it was released for rental only, meaning that it was impossible to purchase the game as an average gamer. As such, these games are rare and hard to find. A well-preserved copy will cost you around $1300. Keep in mind that the price refers to the sequel we have mentioned only.

Red Sea Crossing $13,000

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This is one of rare religious games. It was developed for Atari 2600 and there are only 500 copies. The game is rare due to the fact it was sold as a part of religious books and content. The goal back then was to change the idea of gaming and make it more appealing for all people. It should also get the approval of the adults. In the game, you will be placed in the shoes of Moses and you must cross the Red Sea.

DuckTales 2 $600

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This is a sequel of a popular game back from the 80s. Most people will know that the sequel follows the same story as the original game, but there are a few differences. It was released at the end of the NES period and there are no a lot of people knowing about the existence. As such, this game is extremely rare and almost impossible to find. The price starts at $150 and will reach $600.

If You Own One You Are Lucky

As you were able to see, these games are truly special. They are extremely rare and they can cost more than a house. Still, believe all retro games are obsolete and useless? If you have one, you will think otherwise.

The good thing is that there are websites you can download them in form of ROM’s and use emulator to emulate the game. This will basically cost you zero and you will be able to have the same playing experience as actually owning the game.

 

 

Emily Lopes is a computer geek and daily gamer currently playing League of Legends. In her free time, she enjoys blogging and plans to have a copy-writing career.