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Review: Pokemon Snap

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By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Ah, Pokémon Snap, the only Pokémon-related video game that I ever got to play when I was a kid.  It was made for the Nintendo 64, but it’s also currently available on the Wii U Virtual Console.  I recently bought a copy for my N64 and found that it still held up for me as an adult.

First, I told myself that I just wanted to test the game out to make sure it still worked.  About twenty minutes later, I had furiously headed back to the Beach level to prove to Professor Oak that the size in my pictures was NOT “so-so!”  It’s one of those games that is so simple and yet so addicting at times.

Unlike other Pokémon games, you don’t get to capture, train, or trade any of the wild Pokémon that you find in the different levels.  You take pictures and send them to Professor Oak, who then gives you points based on its size, position, how many of the same type appeared in the shot, etc.  (And boy, does he have high standards for “size!”)  However, to get to the next level, you must complete a variety of objectives.  Sometimes, it’s a matter of taking a certain number of pictures of unique Pokémon.  Other times, you need to trigger something special within a level to get to the next one.

Additionally, certain Pokémon won’t appear without the help of tools that Professor Oak gives you throughout the game.  And sometimes the ways to get new Pokémon aren’t so obvious.  For example, there’s a Charmeleon that walks around a lava pit towards the end of the Volcano course.  If you knock him into the pit with an apple treat, he’ll evolve into Charazard.  This interaction increases the replay value of the game, since it encourages you to go back and try new tricks to find hidden Pokémon.  (Side note: it’s also worth mentioning that because it’s an older game, you won’t find any Pokémon that came after Mew. Mew himself doesn’t even appear until after you’ve unlocked the final level.)

Technically, the player character has a name, Todd.  But like Link and the early Final Fantasy heroes, you get to pick what you want to call him.  He doesn’t have much of a personality in the game beyond, “Oh boy, let’s take a lot of pictures of Pokémon!” but it works.

Pokémon Snap is a fun, colorful game.  I love the different environments that you get to view through Todd’s safari vehicle.  Hopefully, some day, Nintendo will make a sequel.  They could really make it work by including the other generations of Pokémon, and maybe add new features, i.e. editing your pictures or getting to explore open world settings instead of following the same track.

If you like the Pokémon series, but never got around to trying this game, then I recommend checking it out if you still have your Nintendo 64 or access to the Virtual Console.  It’s a lot of fun!

Review: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

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By Iris the Keyblade Master

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is one of those games that probably shouldn’t work as well as it does.  The first game in the series was this big, epic adventure, involving Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy traveling all over the universe to stop Maleficent and meeting all kinds of Disney characters along the way.  Kingdom Hearts II was another a big, epic adventure that continued Sora’s quest.   He searched for his lost friends, befriended more popular characters like Captain Jack Sparrow and Tron, and fought an evil organization.

Chain of Memories limits the adventure to one castle made of illusions.  Every floor that Sora visits is designed to look like a Disney world from his memories.  So almost all of the levels that you complete are areas that you’ve already explored from the first game.  (Little did we know that this would be a recurring problem in future games.)  It’s not necessarily what a person would have in mind if you told them to check out the sequel to Kingdom Hearts.

However, I love the story of Chain of Memories, so it’s probably the entry in the series that I replay the most apart from the first game.  It picks up where the first game left off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy on the trail of their lost friends, Riku and Mickey.  They come across a castle inhabited by a mysterious organization that claims to have something- or someone- that Sora wants.  Sora takes the bait, only to find as he progresses through the castle that he’s losing his memories.

First, the story’s fantastic.  It’s one of two games in the series that involve a group of villains trying to trick Sora into working for them, and this one executes the idea much better.  The other game more or less saves the mind-bending shenanigans for the final level.  In Chain of Memories, it’s a steady progression of Sora forgetting his previous adventures and becoming increasingly obsessed with rescuing Naminé and Riku from the Organization.  Sora’s been previously established as somebody who cares deeply about his friends and the promises that he makes to them, so his change in personality makes complete sense.  The new characters are also well-written.  It’s the game that kicked off Axel’s popularity, and it’s easy to see why.  Naminé is wonderful too and a good example of a well-written “damsel in distress.”

I thought I would hate the battle system when I learned that it would be card-based.  Every attack that you make and magic spell that you cast is limited to the number of cards that Sora has in his deck.  However, I found that it was very manageable and does force you to strategize a little.  You can only carry so many cards in your deck, and the powerful ones are more expensive than the weaker ones.  You can also create special attacks called “sleights,” where you load three cards and use them together.  But the first card that you load for the sleight will not reappear for the rest of the battle.  So spamming sleight attacks will only take you so far.

Oh, and Donald gets to be just as useless in this game as he is in every Kingdom Hearts game.  Only this time, he doesn’t just fail to heal you.  If you don’t watch it, he can heal your enemies.  Yeah.  You read that right.  You’ll be desperately fighting Axel or Hades, who both use Fire spells, and he’ll happily hit them with Fire spells that bring their health back up.  Try to avoid using him in a fight with a magic-based enemy.

I also find it interesting how the difficulty level of the bosses and the usefulness of certain cards did change in the GameBoy Advanced version and the PlayStation 2 version.  See, the GBA obviously has a small screen, so big enemies aren’t hard to fight and Summon cards have a wider reach.  Cloud Strife was my favorite card in the GBA game.  All I had to do was summon him and he’d wipe out enemies with two slashes of the Buster Sword.  But the PlayStation 2 remake puts you in a bigger, three-dimensional area, so it’s a matter of getting close to an enemy, hoping that enemy stays put as you summon Cloud, and hope that Cloud moves in the right direction to slash said enemies.  If you’re in the wrong place or facing the wrong way, he’s completely useless.

All in all, I think this game was much better suited for the GameBoy Advanced over the PlayStation 2.  It has a smaller story and the levels are mostly the same as the first game.  In a way, it’s kind of impressive.  In terms of world design, it plays like a GBA remake of the first game.  Yet it has its own unique story, which supplies a reason for why you’re playing through the same locations again.  If you play the PlayStation 2 remake without that context, it comes off like a cheap, lazy sequel.

Nonetheless, I love playing the PS2 remake due to the improved graphics and voice acting.  Sora’s character arc and his relationships with his friends go to interesting places.  The series got two new fabulous female characters.  The soundtrack mostly rehashes the first game, but Yoko Shimomura composed some beautiful new tracks, i.e. “Naminé” and the final boss battle theme, “Lord of the Castle.”

Although it’s not an entry in the series that you absolutely must play to understand the rest of the plot, I highly recommend Chain of Memories.

Review: Cursed

Dev/Pub: Jetdogs Studioscursed_1
Medium: PC

I received Cursed and had a hell of a time playing it at first. I was trying to record it for Let’s Plays, but my software wanted NOTHING to do with this game. Finally I was able to stream the game.

What is it?
Cursed is a point-and-click horror type game with a female protagonist. Her fiance has been offered quite a sum of money to rebuild something at a far off estate. It’s odd, but you both want to get married and he takes the job. Off he goes, but it’s been sometime since you’ve heard from him. You do the only sensible thing, you go find him.

What did I think?
Well, that is a complicated answer. I liked and hated this game. It is gorgeously done, the graphics are great. I like the story concept and they added in some great touches. There is a lot to like about the game.

However, it felt disconnected. It lacked fluidity. You were given random puzzles with no inclination of what you were supposed to do. The clues were non-existent. It felt like dumb luck that I figured some things out. There were plenty of instances that it took me longer than it should have to get it, my fault. There were also plenty of times that I was using the hint button over and over because I had no idea what I was supposed to do.

At one point, you need to make a freeze potion to freeze the fountain. Unless I’m the only person who’s never seen an alchemy machine, I was lost. The lack of fluidity made me more frustrated than I would have liked for such a relaxing game. I found myself roaming around trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next. I really wanted to love this game, but I walked away from an anti-climactic ending feeling… meh.

It’s only $5 on Steam so give it a try if you want, but it isn’t one I’d recommend.

Watch Crymson’s stream of Cursed here:
https://www.twitch.tv/realwomenofgaming/v/111729543

Review: Slayaway Camp

Dev/Pub: Blue Wizard Digital
Medium: PC

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My inner horror nerd was squealing with gore-filled joy when I received this game. Of course, I fired up everything and started playing the game. The interior of a 1980s/90s video store popped up in my view. My first thought was, No Shit, well done! I haven’t seen a video store in nearly 10 years and it brought back that nostalgia of going to Blockbuster on Fridays with my parents to rent some VHS tapes for the weekend. Everything from the shelves, the tube tv in the corner playing previews to the cheesy overhead music was amazing. I’m pumped and I haven’t even started playing.

So what is it?
It is a 1980s horror puzzle where you control the killer. Your first killer is Skullface and you have to move around the board and slaughter teens at the summer camp you may have died at. Sliding around leaving bodies in your wake before disappearing into a demonic portal.

What did I think?
OMG THIS IS AWESOME.

The pixel graphics are only making this game more awesome for me. Not only that, it’s hard and easy at the same time. The game itself is easy to understand. Even when they add more elements in, those elements are easy to understand, yet hard to master. Not to mention, there are different types of deaths to be had! Sometimes, when you slide over to that annoying teenager about to have premarital sex, there pops up a cut scene and you are shown a comical and brutal scene THAT YOU PICKED.

You earn coins throughout the game so that you can buy other murderers and ways to die. I haven’t unlocked a lot, but I love the ones I have and am excited to see more. However, sometimes you just slide over and put a butcher knife in their forehead. Clean and classic. I appreciate the simple murders as much as the cut scenes.

It gets super creative. From using bookcases to murder unsuspecting teenagers or just to block the way so you can redirect your murder to his exit hell portal.

I’ve only played through 3 movies and have unlocked very little but I’m not stopping anytime soon. This is provides me with endless entertainment and it’s less than $10 on Steam. I can’t say enough good about this game. Actually, stop reading this and go buy the game and murder some teenagers yourself.

Review: Grim Dawn

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Review: Grim Dawn (7/10)

I don’t know what it is about steampunk and muzzle loader guns that attract me so, but I do love them in an RPG. Grim Dawn (available on Steam) is just such a game.

In Grim Dawn you play one of the Taken, a victim of demonic possession in a world gone to hell. Freed from your servitude at the end of a hangman’s noose, you are left with a connection to those demonic energies. This connection allows you to use Rift Gates as shortcuts to jump to and from the hubs you’ll encounter along the way of the linear story progression.

You’ll also be able to wield magical energies, as well as martial, as you level. The combination of two classes (chosen from a variety pack of 6) each with its own multipath of trees to specialize in. The customizations available are vast, and that’s got to be one the things that draws me to this game time and time again.

To date, according to Steam, I’ve logged 97 hours in the game. I still haven’t gotten out of the second chapter, or progressed beyond the mid 20s in level. That’s my fault though, too many creation choices.

The graphics are gory, the sound squishy, and the color scheme of the first areas a tad depressing. It is an apocalyptic setting however, so I urge you to look past that. With only a single body type of each gender to start with, your gear is the sole way to make you YOU. Find a weapon that suits you in all the myriad of colored-fantasy-rpg-rarities, summon your pets, carry a few potions, and by all means loot the bodies. Iron bits don’t grow on trees.

The Aetherials won’t kill themselves. Go face the Grim Dawn.

Year in Review: Games I Played in 2016

By: Iris the Keyblade Master

Hi everyone!  I’m Iris and this is my first game review for Real Women of Gaming!

This past year, I tried to expand my horizons a little bit and play more video games that didn’t have “Kingdom Hearts,” “Legend of Zelda,” or “Final Fantasy” in the title.  And by that, I mean that I played three games that didn’t have those words in the title.  Considering how often I play Kingdom Hearts, I’m going to call that “progress.”

So these are some of the games I finished in one form or another in 2016:

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

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This is a game that I’ve played on and off for years.  Finally, I managed to beat it during a blizzard this past winter.  It’s known for being such an unusual game because it forces you to go back and replay the same three days over and over again, until you have everything you need to save the world.  Link, the hero, gets stuck in a parallel dimension called Termina that’s about to be destroyed by a possessed kid in a mask.  You defeat him by collecting masks of your own that give you all kinds of powers.  Also, by replaying the same series of events over and over, Link gets to know all of the side characters in the story the way you wouldn’t in another game.

But the element that drew me into Majora’s Mask was the soundtrack.  After hearing an amazing fan remix of “Stone Tower Temple,” I just had to play it.  It didn’t let me down: from the Song of Healing, to Oath to Order, to Majora’s Theme, to Stone Tower and the Deku Scrub Palace, this game’s music is haunting and beautiful.  So on that note, I also recommend checking out Theophany’s “Time’s End” albums.  They’re incredible.

Life Is Strange

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This is the other time travel game that I played this year.  It was very different, but no less good.

Life Is Strange stars a high school senior named Max Caulfield, who transfers back to her former hometown to study photography at Blackwell Academy.  One day, out of the blue, she discovers that she has the power to control time.  This allows her to stop her former best friend from getting shot, and thus begins a very dark, character-driven plot to figure out Max’s new power and why a girl in town went missing.

This is like an adult indie movie meets the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series.  Often you get to pick how Max responds to the people she meets, which changes the course of the story.  If you don’t like how something turned out, you can send Max back in time to try something else.  However, the power is limited.  Once you leave an area, you can’t change your past decisions.  So get ready to feel paranoid as the game reminds you that “THIS ACTION WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES!”

The best part of this game is the cast of characters.  First of all, there are a ton of well-written female characters and the entire game centers around the complicated relationship between Max and Chloe.  Additionally, most of the characters grow and change in some way, or at least show a side that you didn’t see before if you allow Max to interact with them over the course of the story.

However, I do need to point out that the game has some extremely trigger-worthy plot lines.  These include suicide, drugging and assaulting women, domestic abuse between Chloe and her stepfather, and major character deaths that you can’t always prevent.  So, please tread with caution if you decide to play it.  It’s a highly emotional experience, but I’m glad I played it.

Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X

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Kingdom Hearts was the series that turned me into a gamer, so it makes sense that it would be the same series that got me interested in mobile games.  One of the best parts about Unchained X is that you don’t need to play the rest of the series to enjoy it, unlike a majority of the other entries.

In this entry, you create your own character who lives in Daybreak Town with a cute cat creature named Chirthy.  Chirthy guides you through different Disney worlds, helping people with their problems.  But gradually, your character will get sucked into events that lead to the legendary Keyblade War that’s discussed in the main series.  It’s simple to play and there’s lots to do in addition to the main story quest.  Definitely try it out if you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan!

Secrets Can Kill

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If you grew up reading about Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but you haven’t played the computer games yet, you’re missing out on a lot of fun!  (Not to mention another great series with a positive female character as the star!)  I played the remake of the first game, Secrets Can Kill, and enjoyed it for the most part.

Nancy goes undercover to find out why a high school student was murdered.  You have to question suspects, figure out complicated puzzles, and escape the occasional trap to catch the murderer.  It’s not my favorite entry and it’s really short.  Nonetheless, it’s a solid game so I recommend giving it a try.

Final Fantasy VII

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Yeah.  The Big One.  One of the most well-known classics in video game history.  Like Majora’s Mask, I played this one on and off for years, and this was the year I finally beat Sephiroth!  AW YEAH!

As you probably know, Final Fantasy VII came out for the PlayStation in 1997, so it hasn’t aged well in the graphics department.  But the story and gameplay make up for it.  I first came to know the characters through Kingdom Hearts, and then one of my friends sent me a video from a walkthrough that covered Cloud’s attempt to rescue Tifa by crossdressing.  All I could think was, “I have NO idea what’s happening right now, but I have GOT to find out.  Where’s the rest of this game?”

And the rest of the game turned out to be just as entertaining.  If you haven’t at least tried it yet, do so.

Bioshock

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I don’t usually play first-person shooters at all, but after receiving encouragement from a friend, decided to give it a try.  Now, I’m not a fan of the horror genre any more than I’m a fan of first-person shooters.  And to top it off, I had to play this game mostly at night so it wouldn’t bother the rest of the family (because why subject them to the Splicers’ ramblings too?).  But once I started, I could not stop playing.

You play a mostly silent protagonist, Jack, who gets stuck in an underwater city after a plane crash.  It’s been overrun by the Splicers, zombie-like people who are out to kill anything that moves.  Only a few survivors are left, and most of them aren’t friendly either.  You’ve got to navigate the city to find a way to escape.

It’s the atmosphere that makes this game so amazing and terrifying.  The city of Rapture is dark, gloomy, and falling apart at the seams, even without the Splicers.  You usually hear them rambling threats before you actually see them, and they look pretty scary too.  And while it’s a science-fiction game, the way that the city fell apart feels sadly realistic.  You learn more about the backstory through audio recordings that they left scattered in different areas.

So, what games did you play this past year?  What are you hoping to play in 2017?

Review: Anarcute

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Anarcute is advertised as a riot simulator. When I think of riots, I do NOT picture the cutest fuzziest animals alive, but there is a shit load of rioting going on.

What’s it about?
You are cute and fuzzy animals that have had it with the government oppression and squishing your desire to spread love. You are so filled with furry rage that you take to the streets and beat the crap out of anyone who gets in your way, taking down every building you can find to combat the evil overlords and bring peace and love back to your world.

You have to navigate your rioters through maze-like levels of buildings to avoid guards, lasers and mines while rescuing your friends to make your group larger. The larger the group, the harder they are to navigate and control. Keeping them from harm is a near impossible task. You move through the level trying to keep as many of your furry friends alive while trying to complete your level objective.

What did I think?
OMG, I LOVE THIS GAME. I have fun even during the most difficult levels. This game stresses me out even less than Flat Kingdom does. You go through different countries, liberating areas and freeing locked-up comrades. You can buy bonuses and earn them. You gain different abilities depending on how many rioters you have in your group. You can get anything: from stomps that throw your enemies, to abilities to knock down buildings and even a roman shield formation to project everyone.

This game is full of adorable visuals, a great soundtrack, a terrifying story line and continued complexity. However, this game isn’t for kids (in my honest opinion). There are snipers and your rioters will die if they take too much damage. I don’t know how well they will react to seeing a bunny sniped in the streets (even if there is no blood). The mechanics of the game continue to impress me and the boss battles are interesting and well thought out. I am also impressed at the animals that you save/unlock throughout the game. They aren’t just your typical animals. They have snails, jellyfish and unicorns alongside the cats, pugs and horses.

Do I recommend it?
This game is by far one of my favorites. I love every aspect of it and I think it’s a steal for $14.99, available on Steam. If you love great music, cute fuzzy characters, a really good laugh and supporting indie developers, then this game is surely for you.

However, if words aren’t enough, please take a look at all the fun I’m having in my Let’s Play here: