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Review: Ghost of Thornton Hall

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Fire so red, night so black. Dear sweet Charlotte, please come back…

If you like point-and-click adventure games and/or enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew books growing up, you owe it to yourself to check out Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew series. All of the games are playable on Windows, and everything from Trail of the Twister onwards can be played on Macs as well. There are even step-by-step guides on Her Interactive’s website about how to play the older games on updated Windows systems and how to play them on your Mac with the Wineskin emulator- a nice gesture on their part.

Each game follows more or less the same route: Nancy arrives at a new location, gets the initial scoop on the mystery, and starts questioning the suspects (usually 3-5 people). Sometimes everything starts out calm, and then after completing a task or two, the theft/murder/kidnapping/whatever takes place. After that, you follow the trail of clues, continue questioning suspects, and solve lots and lots of puzzles to crack the case.

The game that I recently finished, Ghost of Thornton Hall, begins with Nancy receiving a phone call from a paranormal investigator in the middle of the night. A woman named Jessalyn Thornton disappeared during her bachelorette party. It appears to be a kidnapping, but some believe that the culprit is a family ghost, Charlotte.

Charlotte died in a fire under mysterious circumstances, so Nancy finds herself solving two cases: who kidnapped Jessalyn, and what’s the story behind Charlotte? Was her death truly an accident? Is her ghost really haunting the family mansion? And what does this past tragedy have to do with Jessalyn?

Growing up, I loved playing the Nancy Drew series, but as I got older, I began to lose interest. I’m not sure if there was an actual drop in quality or a change in tastes, but Ghost of Thornton Hall felt like a return to form. In fact, it was even better than some of the classics that I’d loved to play.

Other games in the series would have a great premise, but then wouldn’t completely follow through with it. For example, as much as I loved Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake, you only encounter the ghost dogs once at the beginning of the game. When you venture out into the woods at night and hear the howling, it’s terrifying- at first. But after a while, you realize that the ghost dogs aren’t going to pop up, and that takes out a chunk of the tension.

In Thornton Hall, Charlotte’s ghost does pop up throughout the game, and you never know when she’ll show herself. Other times, you’ll hear eerie singing, or something will scuttle across the floor, or a statue will turn its head. The whole game takes place at night and the music is beautiful, but grim. Combine all of these elements, and you get a genuinely creepy game.

The suspects all have intriguing backstories and memorable personalities. I was constantly guessing who might be the culprit. Sometimes it felt like all of them could have done it, and other times it didn’t feel like any of them could have done it. I found the reveal satisfying. And while the culprit is always the same, this Nancy Drew is unique in that it has three possible endings.

It’s hard to gauge the fun and difficulty of the puzzles, as that’s going to depend on the person playing. The longer I game, the more I’ve come to realize that everyone’s brain works differently, and what seems so easy for one person is next to impossible to solve for another. I did find the final puzzle very frustrating, due to the fact that it was just a more challenging version of one that I’d already completed. But if you need help figuring out what to do, you can consult the Task List that Nancy keeps with her. In Amateur Detective mode, you can also select hints that tell you how to complete the puzzles.

I’m so glad that I played Ghost of Thornton Hall. It had the same magic as the classic Nancy Drew titles and then some. Now I want to check out some of the other recent titles that I missed!

An Event List: 10 Games to play during the Holidays

Holidays – BAH HUMBUG! I am not a huge fan of Christmas. I will take Halloween over it any day of the year. However, we do get some pretty great events in gaming this time of year. Just in case you forgot, or didn’t know when they started, here’s a short list of some to watch out for!


 

Overwatch: Winter Wonderland 2018: Dec 11 – Jan 2 

Anyone who plays this game loves holidays because it means new skins! Winter Wonderland is no exception. This holiday season Blizzard World is getting a makeover and with new heroes this year, we can expect new skins. There was an “accident” earlier this year that revealed a skin called “Figure Skater.” but no news on who’s getting this skin. It is confirmed that the Yeti Hunt and Mei’s Snowball Fight will be back in the arcade. There is rumor of a “Rat King” Junkrat, but we will have to wait a few more days to find out! 

 

World of Warcraft: Feast of Winter Veil: Dec 16 – Jan 2 

Feast of Winter Veil is a yearly occurrence for those of us that still play WoW. There are snowballs and cookies and ice cold milk. We get to save Metzen from the Greench and return some stolen treats. You can decorate your garrison for the holidays and don’t forget Great-Father Winter wants some milk and cookies before Christmas. Added last year was the snowglobe in which a Yeti spawns every 30 minutes or so and whoever gets there first wins! And of course come Christmas there are gifts under the tree for all to partake in. Get your pets, your toys, and decorate your pug and mounts – have all the holiday fun! 

 

Fortnite: Season 7: Dec 6 

Fortnite’s sixth season is coming to a close, just in time for a Christmas themed Season 7! It is confirmed a big announcement and world premiere will be happening on The Game Awards that same night. There have been subtle hints about the cold front coming.. It is said you can see your breath on the starting island for Battle Royale, there is an iceberg on the horizon, and the message “A bitter ice spreads…” from their Twitter. So far no leaked trailers (the one everyone thought was leaked.. A fake!) to show what’s coming and also no leaked skins. Stay tuned to Fortnite’s Twitter this week as they will be sure to give more hints as Season 6 comes to a close. 

 

Creativerse: Elfi’s Toy Drive: Dec 24 

Nothing has been officially released on Creativerse’s News page, but a quick search reveals that they plan to update for the holidays later this month. In recent years the login chest was replaced by a Trog Trap Login Chest and most likely will again this year. It gives you traps for starting timed holiday events similar to the Halloween ones. You can also randomly find presents on blocks of ice and snow all day and night. You use rescued toys from these events to buy the holiday themed recipes and hopefully other holiday decorations. 

 

Ark: Winter Wonderland: No date released yet 

Ark may have missed Halloween this year because of the release of Extinction, but be damned if they will miss the rest of the holidays! This event brings Raptor Claws who will drop random presents around the map and there is a possibility of snow. No word yet if there is anything new coming with this new expansion, but with the devs saying to stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks. So we can hope! 

 

DC Universe: Season’s Greetings: Nov 30 – Jan 2 

This holiday season there are new quests to be found. Go and thwart Larfleeze! Be sure to look for the new feats to accomplish, as well as go to Skeet’s Workshop daily to view the discounted item of the day. 

 

Blade and Soul: Holiday Treasure Trove: Dec 5 

Blade and Soul doesn’t do big events for holidays like many other MMO’s. Instead, they mark it with troves! You get one chance daily to get extra awesome loots from this trove. You can buy extra slots and keys to increase your chances. The trove is essentially a store roll – but with drastically reduced prices. This is the time to try and get all those items you need to upgrade the legendary weapons of your dreams. I have also found out that there are a few quests this year that you can do. The event currency is snow crystals and you can get all the loots with it – including 2 items that reduce the cost of upgrading a legendary by 50%. If you go into the store for 0 hongmoon coins you can get a Joy to the Realm Jackpot gift that keeps on giving every 10 hours until you reach the end and it grants the phat loots!

 

Destiny 2: Dawning: Dec 11 

This will be the second year for this event, but is starting a bit later than last year. It still promises holiday quests to be done and the possibility of the return of the Mayhem PVP Mode. Not much is available for this right now, so keep an eye on their news feed! 

 

MapleStory 2 : Dec 6

We all know the adorableness of this game. This year we get to do The Holiday Uproar where we help a sad little girl enjoy the holidays. Could it get any cuter? There is also Schwanda’s Holiday Gallery where you can get lots of consumables and 2 event-exclusive prizes by doing tasks in the Merry Village. Plus! Our favorite game Dance Dance Stop is also getting a holiday makeover! I should also mention this is a huge expansion that has lots of goodies in it!

 


These games are going to have Holiday events, we just don’t really know when or what! But honorably mentioned anyway!

 

Slime Rancher – Wiggly Wonderland

There is no official information on when this will start, but it has happened in past years and has been confirmed for 2018. You get a visit from the Twinkle Slime on your ranch daily.

GTA 5 Online – Festive Surprise

Nothing out yet on whether this will be coming back this year. Generally, GTA releases some snow for snowball fights and masks for the occasion. Hopefully, this continues! 

 

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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I have a confession to make. I devour a good love story. However, I’m not talking about a love story the way you think I am. Sure The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society ends in a love story and that makes you think the whole point of the movie was for Juliet to fall in love, but that isn’t it at all. This is a love story of an island, of a community, of family and books. This is the type of feel good movie that you want to share with people and I’m here to share it with you. 

Juliet is played by Lily James, who I am a big fan of, and she does a fantastic job portraying a young writer trying to find herself after World War 2. She’s lost parts of herself and is trying to live a life she thought she should. Find the handsome husband, write stories about love and women, and live a comfortable life. Then she receives a letter from Dawsey, played by Michiel Huisman, that throws everything out of whack. She decides to visit him and his society. In fact, she just doesn’t seem to be able to keep herself from leaving as quick as possible.  

This leads to a plot full of intrigue, books, and a family made on the island. She meets remarkable people on Guernsey. Some turn out to become family, others show how war can make someone hard and unreasonable. She chooses to see the bright side of things and do everything she can to help these new friends. I really don’t like giving away everything in a review because I want you to experience it for yourself, so let’s just say that, through flashbacks of the war, she learns a lot about these people and how they came to be who they are.  

Through this learning of how the war affected this island and its inhabitants, she starts to see how she wants her life to be. She realizes what is important in life and what she was just doing because she didn’t know what else to do. In the end, it is the love of books and the love of people that brings them all together and helps her to figure out what she ultimately wants out of her life. I like period pieces and I find this one to be very good. I would recommend it to anyone that loves a good story. That has a notion to read a different sort of love story and to want to share it with someone they love afterwards.  

Loot Boxes and the FTC

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Loot boxes. Any gamer know what that means. FREE STUFF! Or is it? So, for some games you can purchase loot boxes and/or get them from completing objectives in the game. In Overwatch, you get them when you level up, get so many arcade wins, or buy them with your hard earned cash. Loot boxes can be found in other games like FIFA, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Gears of War 4, Hearthstone, League of Legends and many more. So, are they harming people? What about kids?  

This is the new controversy in the U.S. However, it isn’t new around the world. Earlier this year, Belgium declared loot boxes to be gambling and therefore illegal. There are hefty fines, and jail time, that can be given. These fines can be doubled if they include the kids using these boxes. And they aren’t the only ones. Fifteen countries in Europe are looking at these boxes as gambling and now the FTC here at home is investigating as well.  

The problem seems to be they are comparing loot boxes to slot machines. You have a chance to get something great or to get something worthless. While lots of loot boxes are purely cosmetic, some games do allow their loot boxes to give weapons or other things that can improve a player’s performance. Does this really seem like gambling to you? I think it’s a close line because of being able to buy the boxes with hard earned cash, but other than that I don’t see an issue. 

I think there should be a difference made between the loot boxes in games like Overwatch and mobile games. I can see where mobile games are causing a problem because people are not regulating how their kids use their mobile games and are getting “addicted” to loot boxes on them. Honestly, if you don’t give a kid your credit card number to purchase them – why are you worried about a gambling addiction? I think this shouldn’t all be on the gaming industry, but also on how kids aren’t being regulated by their parents. 

But.. Not my business! So onward! 

So far, all the FTC has said is that they are going to investigate. They won’t reveal anything else. What does this mean? It means they will look into it and it will most likely result in some proceedings where all sides get to bring forward their case to the FTC. This may end up in rules governing loot boxes, a ban, or hopefully nothing. Right now we have to wait and hope that the games with loot boxes explain them well when queried.  

It is possible that if the gaming industry itself were to come up with some rules and regulations on loot boxes, then governments wouldn’t have the need to do this. For now, all we can do is sit and wait. I will keep you up-to-date as more information comes out! 

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: The Black Girl Gamers

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The most effective change comes when people band together and make it happen. The Black Girl Gamers are one such group. They work to make sure that the world of gaming is more inclusive for everyone.

In 2015 The Black Girl Gamers formed. They began as a safe space against sexism and racism in the gaming world. BGG has grown from their original purpose to become a tour de force in the gaming world. Which really isn’t surprising due to their dedication. The BGG have become the people to go to for the black perspective of gaming.

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The community that is BGG continues to grow. They have 2400 multifaceted gamers, streamers and game developers in their ranks of members. That alone would be insanely impressive for BGG. However they do even more. BGG are also on panels and do press!

The members who make up BGG are a huge part of their success. They have a dedicated group of main streamers. The BGG also have an amazing troop of writers who help keep the gaming community informed and entertained. There are also a few members who should be referred to as nothing less then Elite. These dedicated folks have been with BGG since it’s start and who continue to aid in it’s progress as a community.

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One of the best things about this group is that they also allow their community to merge into other public streams and discords. This gives the BGG the ability to spread safe spaces throughout the gaming community. The BGG is a family that works hard to make sure that the gaming community a better place. Not only do they make gaming spaces more diverse but they also give others a place to use their voices. That makes this awesome group of gamers pretty phenomenal.

You can unite with them on their Facebook.

If you never want to miss an update you can follow them on their Twitter.

They could also use your support. A great way to that is their Patreon.

The BGG are an amazing force in the gaming community. They are using their skills and passion to make real change in the world. The members of BGG prove that you can be the change you want to see. So fight to make gaming spaces what they should be.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: A Review

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Many of us grew up with the beloved television series called Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. This year a new version was released. Based on the comics of the same name a darker, one could say a more chilling, show called The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina was an early Halloween gift for us all.

Created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and staring Kiernan Shipka The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina aired on Netflix on October 26, 2018. Sabrina Spellman has a big secret. She is only half-mortal. Sabrina is also half-witch. Her whole life up to this point her family has been preparing her to make a choice that will change her life forever.

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On her sixteenth birthday Sabrina can choose either side but she must choose. She can continue to go to her mortal school and live as a mortal teenager. There are her best friends. Her boyfriend. The movies and the books that she loves. Or she can choose the path that her family has been grooming her for. She can go to an elite school for witches and live as a witch.

Sabrina is torn between both. She loves being a witch. Sabrina has grown up casting spells and being surrounded by magic in her home. She is also very protective of her mortal friends and is unsure if she can leave her life with them. Sabrina is being pulled between these two worlds that she loves. With her birthday drawing closer the pressure is mounting for Sabrina to make her choice.

The assorted cast of characters in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are fantastically written. Witch or mortal these characters bring the viewers into the world that Sabrina dwells in. The characters fleshed out creation help us to believe that we are really their with Sabrina as she fights for the life she wants. The costuming is also an important tool for the show. Every costume tells us about the town and the people who populate it.

Speaking of the town the sets are wonderfully constructed. The Spellman house is actually magical to look at. Every room helps tell a story. Sabrina’s high school serves as neutral ground for Sabrina and her friends. The soundtrack is also well picked to further the story. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into creating the world of Sabrina Spellman.

I would highly recommend watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. It is a fantastic show full of well written characters and plenty of twists.  

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Games to Get Excited About

Well, it’s that time of year, the time we’re all broke! All the big name games have already come out earlier this year, so December isn’t really a big time for video games to be released. However, there are some good ones coming out so let’s have a chat…

Just Cause 4 – December 4, 2018

This game is taking place in Solis, a South African World. The hero Rico Rodriguez has come here to find out about his past. And as we all know, in a video game that means things will get dicey! Just Cause games are really an excuse to do whatever it takes to complete your mission. I haven’t personally played any of them, but I’ve seen game play and they look like a blast. Lots of action to be had and enormous world maps. This new installment promises to be the most diverse and dangerous world they have had so far.

On this new island you aren’t just finding the truth, you are leading a rebellion, as in all the Just Cause games. Only this time you get a wind suit and insane weather that you can use to help you. The footage of this game is beautiful. The map has all different climates and it promises to keep you on your toes. Without having played any of the previous games, I’d definitely give this one a try.

 

Forza Horizon 4 – Fortune Island – December 13, 2018

Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve heard that Forza Horizon 4 is an amazing game. The driving is fun, tweaking the tuning can be for beginners or experts, and who doesn’t want a car just the color they always dreamed. This barely came out a few months ago and already it is expansion time! This new island is the biggest expansion of any of the Forza games and is promising to beat your expectations. They have new terrains and weather to really change up the driving experience. You can even watch the Aurora Borealis while you drive! If you own the base game, you definitely need to pick up this expansion. And don’t forget, it’s on Game Pass!

 

Silent Night: A Ghost Story for Christmas – December 2018

Until now I was completely unaware there were ghost hunting games. As a lover of horror and creepy – how dare I not know this! Then I found Silent Night. It’s a standalone game from Darkling Room who are the creators of the Crown franchise of ghost hunting games. There isn’t a lot about this game, but the idea behind it and the short trailer make it look like it could be a fun play through. I mean come on, a haunted church and graveyard on Christmas Eve, what could be more exciting? You get to use ghost hunting gadgets and encounter ghosts from all the way back to the Black Plague. This game doesn’t have a set release date yet, but I have definitely followed to find out when it is. I recommend this one for anyone who likes a game that’s a bit different, ghosts, and creepy things!


We all know these aren’t the only games coming out in December, so keep your eyes out for anything that looks good! It never hurts to take a chance on something you think you will have fun with. For those that love Borderlands 2, the VR version does drop on December 14, 2018. You can head over to Steam to find Silent Night: A Ghost Story for Christmas, you can find Forza Horizon 4‘s expansion on the Microsoft store, or Just Cause 4 online and at your local retailer.

That’s all for this month, time to get looking at what comes out in next year! ‘Til then, play what you love!