RSS Feed

Category Archives: Review

Book Review – Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

“On the day she was to die, Liyana walked out of her family’s tent to see the dawn. She buried her toes in the sand, cold from the night, and she wrapped her father’s goatskin cloak tight around her shoulders. She had only moments before everyone would wake.”

Title: Vessel

Author: Sarah Beth Durst

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Publication date: 9/11/2012

Format Read: Bought for Kindle

Synopsis:  In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love.

Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone

Why I picked this book up:  In the first place, I started to hear good things about this author in general and this book in particular before it was even out, mostly by YA bloggers.  The idea of desert tribes and mythology really intrigued me as very different and something that I might want to pick up.

Then I saw the cover.  Yes, yes, I know the old saying, but look at that cover!  It is gorgeous and different!  They had to have photographed it just for this book.  There is no way that this is a stock photo.  I absolutely love it and how it really conveys the atmosphere of the book!

Why I kept reading it:  This is the first book by Sarah Beth Durst that I have read and I must say, if her other books are even close to being as good as this one, I may just have to pick up more.  One of the things that can make or break a fantasy or sci-fi book for me is world building.  Durst excels at this.  For a book that takes place almost exclusively in a desert, Vessel has a lushness that can only come from characters that truly inhabit and love their surroundings.

Liyana is a wonderful main character.  She is strong, intelligent and devoted to her family, tribe and way of life.  Even knowing that, to become the vessel for her goddess, she must give up her own life, she goes willingly because it is what she believes is best to protect those she loves.  She is a fully formed character from page one and continues to grow and change in response to what she encounters on her journey.

Korbyn fights change, but being a trickster god in a human body, it is much harder for him than for the humans he encounters on their quest.  He is not always a likeable character and often his godhood causes him to make mistakes that a human might not have, but he is always interesting.  When he does change, it is natural and hard fought, not merely for the sake of the narrative.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the mythology.  At no time did I feel that the author was cheating by taking an existing mythology and merely changing the names to protect the innocent.  Yes, it does have a somewhat Native American feel to it, as well as elements from a couple of other pantheons, but it is unique and well established.  The use of fables throughout the story allows the reader to learn about the tribe’s beliefs without ever becoming preachy or falling prey to the dreaded info dump.

Unfortunately there are two place where I believe Vessel falls down.  The first is in some of the side characters.  The first step of Liyana and Korbyn’s quest is to locate the other vessels.  I liked that the reasons that vessels had for going through with what they were doing were all different (pride of being chosen, unquestioning rightness of religious obligation, even forced into it by the tribe), a couple of the vessels seemed to be a little two dimensional.  I would have liked to see a little more fleshing out of two or three of the characters.

The other place that was a little weak was some of the romance elements.  Some seemed to occur in a very organic fashion, others seemed a bit forced by the author because that is where she wants the characters to go whether they agreed or not. 

All in all, despite the few flaws I have pointed out, I throughly enjoyed this book!  I wanted to talk about it as soon as I was done with it and was sad when no one else in my acquaintance had read it.  I will most definately read it again soon in order to really soak up this rich and complex world!

Who I would recommend it to:  First, I would recommend it to my daughter Ehlanna and the daughter of all of my friends, because it is a great example of positive female role models.  I would also recommend it to anyone who shares my love of YA literature and mythology.

4 Stars

Dragon Ball Z: An Anime Review

dbz

Tales of heroes who find their destiny are always beloved. There is just something that lifts that hearts and spirits about that narrative. To see a person struggle with their true identity and what that means for their future is just a troupe that audiences never get tired of. 

From 1984 till 1995 Shonen Jump had new volumes of Dragon Ball Z being released in manga form. Audiences enjoyed the story and the humor in it. Perhaps that is why it became an anime so quickly. In 1996 Dragon Ball Z got it’s chance to air for a larger audience. The anime ran till 2003. That’s right. For seven years there were episodes airing for fans all over the world. 

Goku learns that he is not of the world he has been living in. He is, in fact, from a warrior planet. As if that isn’t enough there are those from other planets who are coming that he must fight. So he trains and fights for those he loves. However he does it in a comical Goku fashion. Goku is big part of why this story is such a success. His loving and gentle nature is something that has been drawing in fans for years.

The characters in Dragon Ball Z are interesting. There are mothers, trainers, warriors and all kinds of people in between. They mess up, laugh and generally save the world. There are love stories that they play out. There are parents and children. 

The settings and the art are also interesting. Most anime have a style to them. You can always tell a scene or character from Dragon Ball Z. The clothing and hairstyles help tell the story of how characters are transitioning and evolving in the story. The music sets the tone of scenes, whether it be a battle or lighthearted. 

The elements all work together to create a story that people love. The unique style of the anime will always set it apart. The characters will keep you interested. The story itself is fun with twists to keep it going. 

dbz 2

While it was never my favorite anime I have fond memories of watching it with friends. I have seen people be brought together by it. I have seen the joy that this story brings. Enough so that there is even a new game out! 

So I would recommend giving it a try if you haven’t yet. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Death Note: An Anime Review

death note

What would you do if you found a way to punish those who do wrong? What if it seemed simple but in reality it had some big consequences? What is the only way to do it resulted in a person’s death, would you still do it? 

It is an interesting concept. Anime is a fantastic medium to explore such a question. It’s potential consequences. That is the aim of Death Note. To explore a world where such action could be taken by one person.  

Like many other anime Death Note started off in book form, a manga,  written by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. The manga was first published in Japan in 2003 the series became extremely popular. It is not surprising that by 2006 an anime form of the story was released. The anime did not disappoint and is a favorite among many fans. No doubt a factor in its popularity is the story itself.

Light is a high school student. He is extremely intelligent and seems to have the world opening up to him. There are just two problems. One is that he is bored beyond belief. The other, the world around him is dark and full of crime. One day Light finds a book with “Death Note” written on the cover. What Light doesn’t know is that the book was dropped by a rogue death god. After he discovers what the book really is he begins to use it to kill those who he deems as worthy of such a punishment. 

This starts a series of events into motion. People are dying suddenly. International police are called in. Will Light stop? Will he be caught? Is he going to spin out of control? Will the Shinigami ever have enough apples? 

Death Note has a great vibe. The whole anime is dark by design. There is almost a layer of grit on so many of the scenes. The character designs are just really interesting. The music is good and helps set the mood for scenes. 

As previously stated there have been a few incarnations of the story of Death Note. First the manga, then the anime and most recently a live action series by Netflix. The last was met with more of a mixed reaction. That is to be expected with source material as loved as Death Note

death note 2

I would highly recommend the anime. It is a great anime for an older audience that enjoys a slightly darker story. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Netflix’s Witcher: A Review

witcher 2

Well done high fantasy is such a wonderful story to enjoy. The mixing of myth, history and modern forms of storytelling can be difficult to get right. However when it is mixed properly it is truly fantastic.  

Witcher began its story in novel form. Written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski and translated by Danusia Stok the first novel in the series was a hit. Since then the series has grown, much to the delight of fans. The story continued to evolve in the form of video games. This different format brought new fans to The Witcher franchise. With multiple books and games there were many who wanted to see the story evolve even further. In 2019 Netflix released a dramatized version of the series to stream on it’s platform. 

Geralt is a witcher. After being mutated by magic at a young age now he travels to kill monsters for coin. His world is one of magic and uncertainty. Wars between men, elves and other things are waging. As Geralt travels he finds possible comrades. He also ends up on crazy adventures, the effects of which ripple through the kingdoms for years. In the Netflix series viewers also get to see many different stories play out that will connect to Geralt.

These stories give us rich characters. Some are just beginning their journeys while others are at the end of theirs. These characters are interesting all on their own. They not only enrich the story but make it more fun, no matter what side they are on. 

The story is interestingly told in the series. From all the source material to choose from a rich tale is woven for fans. The characters are just as multifaceted. The soundtrack is amazing, yes particularly that one song. The one that is still stuck in our heads. The costumes and prosthetic pieces are magical in and of themselves. The sets are phenomenal. 

So much work went into bringing this story to life.  The writing is a love letter to high fantasy itself. One of the shining accomplishments is how the female characters are treated. They are so richly created. They are so diverse and real. Truly the work put into the characters of this show are what I wish every fantasy show would be bold enough to do. 

Yes I highly recommend Witcher. This lowly bard will sing its praises to all who want to talk about it. If you haven’t seen the show yet do yourself a favor and watch it now. 

Always keep sparkling!!!

Pokémon Shield: A Review

Calling all trainers, old and new: Pokémon is back with another fun-filled, action-packed game! And finally, one that can be played on the big screen. With the release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017 came the release of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! a year later.

While exciting for many fans, others were disappointed that they weren’t receiving a traditional, main-franchise Pokémon game. Fans of the game finally got their wish with the release of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield in November of 2019. This is the first time that fans have seen a game for console that follows the formula of the main handheld Pokémon games. The game takes place in the Galar region, modeled after Great Britain, and introduces players to a host of interesting and unique characters and Pokémon.

Basic Overview

In the Galar region, Pokémon Tournaments are widely viewed and enjoyed as one might follow a sport. After choosing your character (still limited only to male or female), you learn that you and your friend, Hop, have been personally endorsed as Pokémon trainers by Leon, Hop’s older brother and the current Pokémon Champion.

This game introduces the second female Professor in the history of the Pokémon games, Professor Magnolia. She specializes in the research of Dynamax, or the transformation of Pokémon into much larger and more powerful forms of themselves. You also meet Sonia, Professor Magnolia’s granddaughter, who is appointed as the next professor by Magnolia later in the game. Players also meet Chairman Rose, the chairman of the Pokémon League.

The starter Pokémon in this game are Sobble (the water type), Grookie (the grass type), and Scorbunny (the fire type). Players with previous save files for either Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! will also receive their respective Pikachu or Eevee, and it is important to note that these Pokémon cannot be evolved, even with the use of stones. After choosing your starter Pokémon, you’ll be on your way to competing in the gym challenges, some of the gym leaders being different depending on what game version you have.

What’s New?

Aside from the different Pokémon introduced in this 8th generation, there are many new features in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield. The most obvious of new features is the Wild Area, a new way for players to train their party and encounter new types of Pokémon to fill their Pokédex with.

Game developers took a page out of the Let’s Go book by making many Pokémon visible in the grass, while still allowing others to be seen by nothing other than an exclamation point or question mark in the grass and remaining as random encounters. This feature is cool because you can see the Pokémon to scale, some of them being much larger or smaller than they may have been perceived previously simply because you can walk up to them and compare their size with that of your player character.

You also receive hints that help you locate Pokémon you still need to fill your Pokédex. You can see these hints by visiting the Pokédex in your menu, and there it will show you recommended Pokémon and where they can be found on the map. There is also the Pokémon Camp, which allows you to set up camp and interact with the Pokémon in your party.

In the camp, you can play with toys with your Pokémon and cook curries for yourself and your Pokémon, filling out a Curry Dex as you discover new recipes you can create using berries and ingredients you can find or buy. You start out with two different toys to use with your Pokémon, but as you expand your Curry Dex, you may receive new toys from an NPC who will rate your Curry Dex.

This game also adds League Cards, which are cards that you will receive throughout the game from Gym Leaders and other Tournament competitors as you meet or compete with them. The League Cards feature the picture of the Gym Leader or Competitor on one side, and a description of them on the other side. You can customize your own League Card as well, choosing your character’s pose, facial expression, and the backgrounds for the card.

This is a new, interesting way to display your individuality with the styling choices you use in deciding hair, make-up, and clothing for your character. You can exchange League Cards locally with friends playing near you, or through an internet connection with international players (for which you will need a Nintendo Online membership for the Switch, which is only $19.99 for an individual 12-month membership, or $34.99 for a family 12-month membership).

The new form that Pokémon can take during battle is called Dynamax, where Pokémon transform into larger, more powerful forms of themselves. Many of the Galar region Pokémon and some earlier generation Pokémon have unique appearances when Dynamaxed, these are known as their Gigantamax forms.

One of the last big, new thing in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is the Raid Battle. Peppered throughout the Wild Area are wishing wells that glow and some of them have light streaming out of them. When you visit those wells, you will receive some number of Watts, which are used to buy rare items and certain teachable moves for Pokémon, and then you will have the option of battling a mystery Pokémon.

This is where veterans will benefit from years of “Guess That Pokémon” because you will only be able to see the silhouette of the Pokémon as well as its type. You can only take one Pokémon into a raid battle, but you have the option to switch from the head of your Pokémon party to any other Pokémon that you’ve caught, whether it’s currently in your party or not.

You can also invite others to battle with you through your online connection. If you choose not to, you will be partnered with three NPCs to help you battle the Gigantamax Pokémon. Participating in these Raid Battles allows you to catch the Pokémon if you defeat it. Your Pokémon will not level up as a result of participating in the battle. However, successfully completing a battle usually provides you with items, many of which can be used to give your Pokémon experience points, resulting in a post-battle level up.

Cons

(SOME SPOILERS AHEAD)

I wanted to address the things that I disliked about the game first because there weren’t too many, and I also wanted to be able to spend more times talking about what I did really enjoy about the game.

Those who have played Pokémon games in the past will know that there is a common formula for each game that the developers never really stray from. You have your character, the friend who goes on the journey with you, the Gym Leaders, the Pokémon Champion, the Team that seems always to get in your way at any moment, and the well-meaning but misguided and sometimes secretly evil Villain.

This game, as expected, didn’t stray from that tradition. However, my disappointment in that came from the way that the story unfolded, and how it seemed for the briefest of moments that it was going to take a slightly different direction. The game seems to try to mislead you, presenting three possible “villains.”

There’s Competitor Bede, who was personally endorsed by the Chairman himself and basically just conducts himself like a pretentious ghoul throughout the majority of the game. There’s Marnie, the little sister of one of the Gym Leaders, whose following calls themselves “Team Yell,” that classic gang of bumbling goons who are terrible at winning battles. And then there’s Chairman Rose, the one in the position of power, the one controlling the course of the Pokémon Tournament, and the one investing in the research of Dynamaxing.

And although the game does try to subvert expectations by throwing a couple of possible antagonists your way, it remains clear as the story progresses that there is something fishy going on with Chairman Rose. The story in this game is an interesting and poignant nod to real-world climate change issues, and Chairman Rose’s character development fell short.

To spoil a bit of the ending, the Chairman is adamant about using Dynamax research to summon an ancient legendary Pokémon in an attempt to save the environment. Cue my disappointment. For a split second, I thought that the developers were throwing us a curve-ball, and turning the well-meaning but misguided powerful character into the one who would help save the world. His passion for saving the environment would have been a really interesting change from the previous format of Pokémon games.

I thought it would have been cool to see the powerful character team up with the player’s character and their rag-tag team of friends and helpers, but instead he fell flat and right back into the predictable mold they used to make him. He was, of course, actually the bad guy, who now suddenly wants to save the world… by destroying it?

I feel that Game Freak really missed out on giving players a new, unique, and compelling story. It essentially ends up feeling like a palette swap: same suit, different colors. On top of the lack of depth in the story, it does feel as though the player’s hand is held throughout the whole thing. It isn’t lost on me that the target audience is primarily children, however veteran players may find it frustrating that it feels like there are almost no stakes at all.

And this wouldn’t be an issue if flying through the training of Pokémon and the defeat of gyms helped to guide the player through a compelling story, but it isn’t that. It just thrusts the player quicker through a story that feels familiar, and not in a fun, nostalgic way. This game also only has around 400 Pokémon that players are able to catch in-game, leaving out more than half of existing Pokémon, and many fan-favorites at that.

Pros

Still with me? Good. Because I do believe that there is still plenty to love about this game, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy getting to play another Pokémon game.

After all that I said about the predictable storyline, it is easy to feel at ease while playing this game and knowing exactly what will happen throughout the course of it. If you are a person who has enjoyed past Pokémon games, this does have plenty of similarities so as not to alienate those who may be returning after not having picked up a Pokémon game in a while.

That is to say: if you like Pokémon games, you’re probably going to like this one.

The expansive Wild Area is captivating, and the design—from Pokémon to landscapes to clothing options—is all beautiful and visually interesting. My favorite area in the game is the picturesque altar to the Sword and Shield Pokémon located deep in the Slumbering Weald.

There are plenty of new Pokémon, some adorable like Yamper or Wooloo, and some badass like Corviknight or Eternatus (a legendary Pokémon). I’m always a sucker for character customization too, which is why I really enjoy all of the options for character clothing and hair and the ability to customize your League Card.

The Pokémon Camp is another main draw for me, as I enjoyed in the newer games the ability to spend quality time with your Pokémon. The addition of the Curry Dex to this game reminded me a lot of the cooking element in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, although I don’t believe it is as vast as BotW’s menu.

I enjoy getting to spend time in the Wild Area a lot, simply hunting for new Pokémon to catch, camping, and doing Raid Battles. Although some may dislike it, I do enjoy how easy it is to level up Pokémon in this game; it makes it a lot easier to integrate a newly caught Pokémon into your party without having to turn it into a total grind-fest to get a level 16 Pokémon on par with level 70 Pokémon.

Raid Battles also award you many different TMs and TRs that you can teach your Pokémon, so it’s a lot easier to switch out moves if you don’t like the current move set. The Pokédex guide for finding Pokémon makes filling the Dex way easier and way more bearable, which is great for someone like me who never previously completed a Dex primarily because I was too lazy to try to figure out where I could find all of the Pokémon I hadn’t caught yet.

I think the Legendary Pokémon in this game are also really cool; Zacian (Pokémon Sword) is a Fairy and Steel type, Zamazenta (Pokémon Shield) is a Fighting and Steel type, and Eternatus is a Poison and Dragon type. This game also features diverse character design; there are many characters who are people of color, elderly characters, plump and curvy characters, and of course, there are two women who work or worked as Professor for the Galar region. It’s refreshing to have major characters who are women in positions of power, and many other characters who are diverse and unique.

This game also makes it a lot easier to play and connect with many other players all over the world. You can even visit each other’s Pokémon Camp. And to top it all off, Game Freak recently revealed that they will be releasing the Expansion Pass, which will introduce all new Pokémon and game play. “The Isle of Armor” expansion is set to release on June 30th, and “The Crown Tundra” expansion is set to release on November 30th. Even if players choose not to spend the $29.99 for the expansion pass, they won’t be totally left out as new release Pokémon will be introduced for all players.

Verdict

Although I may have seemed rather critical, I genuinely enjoyed Pokémon Shield and would absolutely recommend it to anyone interested in trying it out. Those who are new to Pokémon will be able to easily adjust to the play style of Pokémon games, while veteran players will be able to jump into the familiarity of previous games, and explore the new ways they can grow as trainers.

On a 1-10 scale, I would rate this game an 8.5, and I’m really hopeful that the extended game play offered by purchasing the expansion pass will reignite the love and joy I felt while playing this game.

Thanks for reading, now go out there and catch’em all.

Review: Greenville 1989

3-6 players

Age 16+

Designed by Florian Fay

Published by Sorry We Are French

Image result for Greenville 1989

Greenville 1989 is a narrative co-operative game in which players take on the role of a typical 1980s teenager who just wants to go bowling. However, en route you and your friends are plunged into a weird and horrifying supernatural vision of your home town, Greenville. To escape players must work as team to direct each other out of this world and back home.

In game play terms, Greenville 1989 has much in common with Mysterium. Players all begin in a central location on a board and are dealt a location card. Each player describes their card and, more importantly, where they think they will be going next.

One player, the Guide, takes the role of directing everyone to their next location. The Guide is dealt location cards equal to the number of players +1. They then secretly allocate each card to a player including a red herring player. The rest of the team then try to work out which card belongs to who.

If correct, the new card becomes their location, and the next player becomes the Guide; get everyone through 4 locations and you all escape. However, if you fail to correctly identify your location you move a place along a path on the main board. Should one player reach the end of their path you all are lost to the void forever.

Now I am not a fan of horror. I refused to play the T.I.M.E. Stories scenarios because the first one was so unnecessarily horrifying. However, despite its 16+ age rating, I didn’t mind the horror elements of Greenville 1989. The locations are at best a bit trippy and at worst contain monstrous horror, but they are not openly gory or scary. It helps that they have little movie references in them, which the movie nerd in me enjoyed spotting and discussing.

Image result for Greenville 1989

As I said above this game is similar to Mysterium, and it’s nice to see someone other than Libellud take on the “describe a weird card” mechanic. One of the most enjoyable parts of Greenville 1989 is the feeling that you truly are all in it together. Sometimes the cards are against you and none of the locations match any part of what someone has described, but it feels like you’re in control and share in your teammate’s successes and failures.

Mysterium, though fantastic, can feel a little like the Ghost is in control and therefore is someone to blame when things don’t shake out. Also, after a few dozen games of Mysterium, cards end up having unintentional meanings, so-and-so always uses that card to mean the Groundskeeper for example, which sort of spoils the purity of the game.

This may happen to Greenville, I’ll let you know in a few years’ time, but on an initial playing it feels like this is less likely. Greenville 1989 also feels like a pared down, purer form of the mechanic. It doesn’t have the slightly complicated scoring system of Dixit or the separation in Mysterium between the Ghost and the Psychics.

Everyone gets a turn at being the Guide and it’s simply pick your card and win (or not). So, if you like a cross between Mysterium and Stranger Things this is definitely the game for you. Describe your locations, see what’s behind the mirror, direct your friends into the mouth of the beast and try to get home in time for your TV dinner.

Pokémon: An Anime Review

pokemon

There are some anime that really need no introduction. It takes a very special kind of story to captivate audiences for over twenty years. It would have to be the kind of story that has a little bit of everything that makes a story great.

That is exactly what Pokémon is, an anime that came at the right time with all the right elements for a great story. The anime first aired in 1997 and hooked fans from the start. The story had an interesting group of “pocket monsters” who were inspired by real animals and creatures. While starting in Japan it also became a huge hit in the United States. The television series spawned spin-off movies, trading cards, stuffed toys, games and all kinds of toys. New seasons of the show are still going, helping to inspire new trainers everywhere. 

A young boy named Ash is on his way to make his dreams come true. His world is full of amazing creatures called Pokémon. Pokémon can be tamed and trained to fight with the help of their human trainers. Most trainers form a very strong friendship with their Pokémon. Each Pokémon has special abilities based on what type of Pokémon they are. They can also evolve into a more powerful version of themselves. Ash and his new friends have many fun adventures in store as they gain new Pokémon allies and, of course, try to fend off the sinister group called Team Rocket.

Pokémon utilizes the tools to make a great story. The character’s have wonderful and sometimes even whimsical designs that intrigue the viewer. The real design stars, though, are the Pokémon themselves. They are drawn from real creatures and myths so so they, like the show itself are both something we know but also something magically different. The music is perfect with what is happening with the story line. The characters are interesting. They, like their Pokémon, also evolve throughout the series. 

I, like many other anime fans, grew up with Pokémon. It is a great anime that showcases the power of friendship and learning. I would highly recommend it to anyone. It is kid friendly but also funny enough for anime fans of different ages. It also has a fantastic theme song. 

pokemon 2

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: Just One

4-7 player
Age 8+
Designed by Ludovic Rody and Bruno Sutter
Published by Repos Production

Just One is a party game where, in true parlor game fashion, you get a card with a word on it and your friends have to communicate it to you. With Just One, the card is placed on a pleasing white board stand and you pick a number from 1-5, which will communicate the word to your group. The other players then secretly write something related on their white board stands, then compare words. Any repeats are discarded and then these clues are shown to the first player. You then have to work out the word from their brilliant, but obscure clues.

Now my family loves a parlor game. Our copy of Pictionary went on every family holiday with us, but we were rubbish at Just One. Maybe it was just us, we kept going a bit obscure on the clue in hopes that no-one else would pick it, which only led to the first player being utterly baffled.

I then played it at a dinner party and, again, rubbish score. Telestrations, on the other hand, we played endlessly over Christmas, to much hilarity. And this brings me to my point. For whatever reason, we did not find the normal joy in Just One that we do in Pictionary, Articulate or Telestrations, with the usual “I’m sorry that is NOT what a dog looks like” or “How could you not get Blue Tit!!”

There are some games which people struggle with in social situations, Spy Fall for example can reduce people to a mute confusion, while other people lie with such mendacity you worry for your own safety. Just One seems to fall, unfortunately, into the former category.

It was the 2019 Spiel Des Jahre winner, beating out the equally word based Werewords, and L.A.M.A, an Uno style card game. I’ve not played either of the other nominations, so can’t really speak to whether it should have won. What I can say is what my mum said, “its not really in the same league as King Domino, is it?”

As far as SDJs go, it does tick a lot of the traditional winner’s boxes; it’s an entry level, simple, family game with a fun/unusual component. As I said, the elements are all very pleasing, however for a party game it can be very isolating and thinky. Mostly you sit there pondering what a good clue would be (discarding words that you’ve forgotten how to spell) and hoping that no-one else came up with it.

Invariably, even if you come up with something lickety split, someone else will be sitting there for 5 minutes going, “I just don’t know what to put?” During this time you are just thumb twiddling. Maybe if there was a time limit, it might add an element of jeopardy lacking in this part of the game. Then again, the first player sits there with no time limit checking that they can read your appalling scrawl and then head scratching only to guess something totally unrelated.

In contrast, the big boys of the SDJ winners, Ticket to Ride and King Domino are arguably a lot less interactive in their mechanic, however there seems to be more fun interaction. We always end up having joking arguments about who is hoarding all the yellow cards or why you stole the route someone else was CLEARLY working towards.

Just One is a fine party game and for £20. There’s no reason not to own it if you like word-based parlor shenanigans. If your only experience of the SDJs is of Azul and Ticket to Ride, you might be a little disappointed or baffled, but its low price point is a massive benefit. If you find a group who can ace this game with minimal umming and erring then I see no reason why it shouldn’t be a family favorite, just maybe not my family.

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files: An Anime Review

yu2Death is a difficult thing to deal with. Particularly if it is the premature death of a young person. Beyond the grief of the family and friends left behind is the question of  what is to happens next? Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files gives us one version of what could happen. 

In 1990, the manga version of Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was released. The creator and artist behind the manga is Yoshihiro Togashi. The story took off and became gained popularity. Fans continued to show support as the manga was adapted into an anime in 1992. The show was successful enough to run till 1995. 

Sometimes all it takes is one selfless act to change the course of a life. Or to end it. When juvenile delinquent Yusuke saves a child’s life it costs him his own. Once in the underworld Yusuke’s actions are judged. His one selfless act puts his afterlife on a trajectory no one could have guessed. Now he must navigate the dangers of the afterlife. Along the way he meets new allies and some old friends. 

Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files was one of those great animes that I was able to watch as it had reruns America. My younger brother and I loved it. We watched every episode we could when they would air after school. It helped cement a bond between us and a lifelong love of anime that either of us have yet to quit.

The designs for the characters are interesting. They may seem a little dated to fans of more current animes. To be honest the style is very typical of characters from the 1990s. However the choice of hair and outfits does give the audience clues about the characters and their goals. The music is similar but fun. The scenery is well drawn and very different depending on where the characters are. 

The concept of the story is fascinating and evolves well. It is also just fun. The characters are relatable. Most of them are young and bold which makes for interesting decisions. They not only push the story but give the audience someone to root for. 

I would highly recommend Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files.
yu1

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Digimon: Digital Monsters: An Anime Review

dmonWho hasn’t imagined having a really cool animal companion? Why stop there, though? What if you had an animal companion that was not only your friend but could also help you fight epic battles?  Oh, and they have a fantastical design because they are actually morphing creatures. I know that I would want in. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters was an anime that ran from 1999 to 2003. The creator of the series is Akiyoshi Hongo. The series first aired in Japan to much acclaim. When Digimon came to the United States, it was released by the 1990s powerhouse, Saban Entertainment. It was popular enough to have spin offs and games based on the series. 

A group of young teens are transported to a digital world. There, they are paired up with powerful morphing creatures. Together, they have to protect not only the digital world but also Earth from a growing evil. Through the series, the characters and the Digimons grow and become stronger. They find ways to be better through the bonds of their friendship. 

The character design is really interesting. All of the characters have very different outfit designs that match their personalities. The Digimon themselves also have very interesting designs. They are based on different animals or plants. The animators did a wonderful job on giving every character a different look that works well with the story line. The music also adds to the story. It has an overall happy feeling, as this show was geared more toward younger audiences, but also gave depth to different scenes. 

Digimon: Digital Monsters is an anime that I loved to watch as a kid. I would highly recommend it. The story lines were well written. The characters were multidimensional and multifaceted. It is a great anime for kids. I hope you will give it a try.

digimon 2

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!