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Games Created by Women: Blackwell’s Asylum

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Would you think you would be able to survive in a nineteenth century mental institution? What if, once admitted, you were sent to an asylum known as a place where no one ever left? What if the doctors were not only there to keep you from escaping but also to perform whatever atrocities on you that they wished?

Blackwell’s Asylum is a game that tests the abilities of the player to not only survive but also  to escape a terrifying asylum for the insane. Claudia Billie Stræde was the director of this game which started out as a project for the University she was attending. Blackwell’s Asylum was a multiple nominee. It also won Game of the Year and the Adventure/Roleplay category in the Intel Level Up 2011 Game Demo Contest. The game is also interesting becuase it was inspired by true events.

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Claudia was inspired by the written chronicle from Nellie Bly. Bly was a writer who had started her career as a young woman writing; “women’s columns.”  Bly wanted to write about more than cleaning and traveled to New York seeking opportunities. There she pitched the idea of going undercover at a mental hospital to expose what was really happening behind the closed doors of such institutions. For ten days she gained information and stories from other patients. Upon her release Bly wrote down everything in her six-part series called; Ten Days in a Mad-House. This work helped not only expose the crimes of the asylum but also gained more funding for public institutions to try to improve them.

The design of the game is interesting and unsettling. The player starts off, as Nellie, restrained as a doctor drugs them. The player then tries to escape. The coloring of the game is dark and it can make it difficult to determine where in the game the player is.  The effects of the drugs only aid in making the surroundings distorted and confusing.

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There are random shouts and other noises to make it difficult to focus. Blackwell’s Asylum does have a neat effect in which large circles like sonar when footsteps get closer to the player as they sneaking in the darkness. It is the only effect that helps the player with all the distortion. The character design is very well done. The sound effects also aid in the gameplay. 

Blackwell’s Asylum is an interesting first person game of escape.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Review: Escaflowne

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Escaflowne is one of the most gorgeous animes I have had the pleasure of watching. The series also has an interesting story and cast of characters. This is probably why fans enjoy Escaflowne so immensely.

The Vision of Escaflowne, it’s original title, first aired in both Japan and America in 1996. The series has had Mandy different directors for various episodes. The series was originally released by Sunrise.  Escaflowne was then licensed by Bandai Entertainment for release in other regions. Currently Escaflowne is licensed by Funimation.

Hitomi is an ordinary high school student. She runs track, has friends and other interests. Though, in reality, Hitomi isn’t quite as ordinary as it would seem. She has psychic abilities. After having a vision of a battle she is transported to a magical land called Gaea. There is a war raging and Hitomi maybe able to help.

The soundtrack of Escaflowne is lovely. It helps set the mood for the story being told throughout the series. It also gives the viewer clues about different characters and situations. The soundtrack is also fantastic to listen to on its own.

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The setting and character designs are really fantastic. The industrial, pastoral and modern settings are well animated as well as diverse. Each character has a different design. The costumes are a real treat to view throughout the length of the story. The battle scenes are also just really fantastic. Escaflowne treads the line between what most animes looked like in the mid-nineties and having a very distinct difference in animation. It really is a great anime to watch.

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It is safe to say that I really enjoy Escaflowne. The series is a total package for any anime fans. Great soundtrack. Interesting story. Fascinating characters with a little bit of romance. It was an anime that I would rush to watch on television. It was also a favorite in my group of friends, the series has clearly inspired our styles of art and storytelling through the years.

I would really encourage giving Escaflowne a try if you haven’t seen it yet. There is also an interesting, and slightly more grim, movie version that came out in 2000. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Games to Get Excited About: January 2019

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It’s that time of the month again! (And I mean that in a good way!) Not only is it a new month, but a new year! Happy 2019! Here’s to hoping it’s better than last year! So far it’s off to a good start, there are great games releasing this month. Let’s chat about a few! 


Resident Evil 2 – Re-imagined – January 25

If you are an older gamer and like horror the chances are high that you’ve played a Resident Evil game or two in your life. Even if you haven’t, you may have seen some of the movies. Well, they have re-imagined Resident Evil 2 because it was released over 20 years ago and sold almost 5 million copies.  The game was bloody, scary, and had horrible graphics (not for the time, just for now). The new re-imagination looks amazing and you can watch the trailer here. They have what they are calling an immersive camera that is supposed to let you “feel” it when you get bitten, plus there is tons of detail put into Raccoon City. If you love Resident Evil as much as I do, this is a must get. Even if you’ve never played it or watched the movies, it should be on your list if you are a horror game buff! 

The Walking Dead: The Final Season  Episode 3 – January 15  

I’ve personally never played a Tell Tale game, but I hear they are wonderful. Many people know they are having some issues with the company, but it seems they are bent on finishing what they started. Episode 3 is following Clementine and takes us 75% through the story for this season. Zombie games are one of my favorite things and the ones in The Walking Dead TV show are pretty fast, so if they are the same in this game you better make sure you have running shoes on! If you enjoy Tell Tale games or The Walking Dead in general this is probably a great game. 

Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe – January 11 

 I grew up in the 90s and some of my favorite memories are of playing Super Mario Brothers, so while I don’t even own a Switch, I am super excited for this. This new game is a 2D Platformer that you can play solo or with up to 4 player. There are five different characters to choose from – Mario, Luigi, Toad, Toadette, and Nabbit. Now, if you are one of those people who thinks these games are too easy there are three extra challenge modes in this game to appease you! I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a Super Mario game, and I highly recommend you check it out! 

Last.. But definitely NOT least… 

Kingdom Hearts 3 – January 25


This is the game I am most excited for (even though I can’t get it because I don’t have a console /cry). I have played Kingdom Hearts from the very start and found it fascinating. If you are a gamer and a lover of all things Disney and you haven’t played this.. GET IT! I highly recommend starting from the beginning, but rumor has it you won’t need to do that to follow this new story. We will go to magical worlds like the 100-Acre Wood, Pirates of the Caribbean, Frozen, Tangled, and even Monsters, Inc! It took YEARS for this game to come out because they wanted it to be amazing and I have very high hopes. The game play looks beautiful and the characters make you fall in love with them.  

 


That’s all for this month, but there are plenty more games coming next month so stay tuned! And as always, ’til then, play what you love! 

The Long Road

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Back in 2013, we honestly had no idea that we’d be where we are today. We were just a bunch of women sick of not being taken seriously in the gaming world. We were tired of seeing the constant barrage of the “fake gamer girl” stereotype. We made a Facebook page to raise awareness that the women who game are real gamers and not just faking it to get the attention of gamer guys.

Today, on the eve of 2019, we realize just how much we’ve grown. We have this amazing website, a YouTube, Twitch and Mixer channels, and a huge presence across social media. We’ve raised thousands for charity, been invited to exciting conventions, and made so many new friends in all of you. We’re incredibly proud of the journey so far, but it’s not over. Not by a long shot.

We wanted to take the time to say thank you to all of you who helped us get this far and continue to support us as we move forward. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for you! We appreciate every single one of you more than you could ever know. To our readers, our viewers, our patrons, our friends: Thank You!

Happy New Year

Now, here’s what we have planned for 2019:

New Content

Keep an eye out for new content on both the website and YouTube. This coming year, we will be featuring games created by women, reviewing new and old games alike, and bringing you the latest gaming news.

Live Shows

The LOST: This Dungeons & Dragons show, run by VelozMuerte, will keep it’s spot on the first Saturday of every month, but will also be claiming the third Saturday! Now you’ll get twice as much!

The Alabaster Forest: Run by Oresan_Fells, this D&D show will hold tight on the second Saturday of every month.

New Seattle Rifts: This exciting City of Mists adventure, run by Oresan_Fells, will continue into 2019 on Sundays at 7pm EST.

Past episodes of all of these shows can be found on YouTube!

Charity

Be Someone’s Superhero: April 27th. This event will benefit PACER’s Anti-Bullying Centers. Real Women of Gaming will be live from the Microsoft Store in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA. Hang out with us on stream and in store!

You’re Not Alone: July 27th. For the fifth year in a row, we are fundraising against bullying! This event will benefit PACER’s Anti-Bullying Centers. We will be live from Uncanny! Comics & More in the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA. As usual, there will be giveaways on stream and a raffle in store.

Charities & Champions: September 28th. Back by popular demand, we will be playing Dungeons & Dragons to raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia! As always, your donations can affect the game. Help or hinder our players/DM to create the most interesting D&D one shot we can possibly create.

100% of proceeds will go to the respective charities.

We’re so excited to go through this next year with you all. Here’s to a fun, exciting and game-filled 2019!

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Review: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

 

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I like weird movies. I like magic, dragons, faeries, and mysteries. I also enjoy period pieces and anything that can suck me in and not let go. You will find much of this in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on Netflix. I was just searching for anything random to watch and stumbled upon this image of a man in old clothing and a white wig. Well, let’s see what kind of period piece is this? A magical one! 

Bertie Carvel plays Jonathan Strange and does a superb job portraying a young man who wants nothing more in life than to love his wife, Arabella, and read and practice magic. He has such a love for it that he will do anything to keep learning more, until he realizes that may lose him what he holds most dear. Charlotte Riley is Arabella and she does a wonderful job trying to keep her husband with her and on the path she feels is right. All the while, Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) is in the background silently messing everything up. 

Eddie is amazing at being this introverted magician who wants all the knowledge to himself while simultaneously wanting magic in England. He hoards books full of spells and stories of how magic was once there and is vehemently afraid of what would happen if he doesn’t have his books. He does everything in his power to make sure the books are safe with him and that magic is only what he thinks it should be. Gloriously ignoring what it used to be and what it could be again. That is, of course, til the end. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We foray through history into war scenes and zombies raised from the dead. We go to lavish parties and political meetings and all the while I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be great if magic was real and we got to use it like this? It’s more a practical approach to magic here. No flying on broomsticks or presenting kings with riches. It’s helping the military stay alive, healing the sick, and eventually trying to stay alive.  It’s entirely about magic coming back to England and making it better. 

My favorite part of this show is Lady Pole, The Gentleman and his world of Lost Hope. The Gentleman is played rather majestically by Marc Warren and Lady Pole by Alice Englert. I absolutely loved Alice in Beautiful Creatures and could not figure out why I loved her so much in this show until I read her IMDB profile. She is just an actress that can really get into character. Thanks to Mr. Norrell, Lady Pole lives half in real life and half in Lost Hope with The Gentleman and she really begins to lose her mind, but who could blame her. 

Lost Hope is through the King’s Roads on the other side of the mirror, or the rain. It is a fantastically dreary place where the ball never ends and everyone is at the mercy of The Gentleman. The Gentleman himself is a mysterious faerie who is only out to help himself. In the end, the only thing that can break him is the Nameless Slave, for not even The Raven King cares to get rid of him. 

Another person to watch for in this show is Vinculus, played by Paul Kaye. He may seem to be just a crazy homeless man, but really listen to the things he says and it all can become clear. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t, the end of the season will be sure to clue you in. This show was based on a book of the same name by Susanna Clarke in 2006. Seeing as it only took until 2015 for it to have a series air, one would have hoped she would have written a sequel by now. Alas, no such luck and therefore no season 2 to this marvelous show. No matter, I still recommend you watch this when you have some free time as it will draw you into a magical world of love, war, and friendship. 

Review: Breach

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Publisher/Developer: QC Games
Platform: PC
Release Date: January 2019

I was extremely excited to be invited into the Technical Alpha testing for Breach, a game that is expected to be released in early access just next month. Breach is a third person co-op action RPG that has strong hints of Over-salt… I mean, Overwatch.

What’s it about?

Breach takes place in our world, but the veil between the “real” world and the world of mythology has been broken. You can either play as a Hero – with various class choices – or as a Veil Demon.

As a Hero, you can be any number of classes. You don’t have to stick to the standard balanced party of tank, healer and DPS, though it helps. As a Veil Demon, you create breaches, which summons monsters, and try to defeat the Heroes.

Breach has solo, co-op and versus modes. You can also do a custom mode with just your friends.

What did I think?

Gameplay reminded me strongly of Overwatch, but it was still extremely unique. There are various types of objectives for each area. I am unsure if they’re chosen by the game or by the Veil Demon. You may have to capture a point, defeat all enemies, deliver artifacts to a drone, or collect and deliver monster souls to a drone. At the end of each match is a boss. Either the Heroes can win an objective or the Veil Demon can win an objective.

I started out in solo play to get the hang of it. Even in Novice, this is difficult. You spawn in with 3 bots and you’re up against a Veil Demon bot. The Hero bots will only help you kill monsters, they won’t help you with any of the other objectives. This makes sense, of course, but timed capture objectives are nearly impossible when you’re the only one capturing the points.

I moved on to co-op mode. Four players are up against a Veil Demon bot. These are pretty cookie cutter so far. Each location has a set pattern of objectives.

Finally, I tried versus and we were annihilated. It’s 4 Heroes versus 3 Veil Demons, all played by people of varying degrees of experience. We didn’t even get to the end before we were all downed. Unfortunately, the Veil Demon of that section face camped me, so I couldn’t be revived. Needless to say, I was salty.

I did the Veil Demon tutorial, but I didn’t play a match as one.

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The game was laggy when in areas with other people, but that was to be expected. The server was only up for 3 hours and everyone who was invited to the closed Alpha was logged in. I had no lag in the solo matches. This being the Technical Alpha, I expect that that will be addressed before release.

The graphics are amazing and the gamplay itself was pretty intuitive. The tutorial is short and sweet, basically just showing you the basics before letting you into actual matches.

I like the fact that you can play by yourself with AI on both sides. It seems there’s a bit of a campaign with the solo mode, so you can unlock new areas by finishing the previous area and follow a story. I also like that you can have custom matches with up to five people.

Do I recommend it?

Yes, I really do. As someone who loves these types of games (a la Dead by DaylightFriday the 13th, and Overwatch), I definitely see a lot of potential in Breach. On Steam, it’s labeled as Free to Play, so what’s the harm in taking it for a spin when it’s released? You may also be able to still sign up to be a tester here.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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!