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Games Created by Women: Centipede

250px-Atari0028For many gamers, there are fantastic memories associated with games from the 1980s. Between the accessibility of arcades and finally being able to play at home these games became a foundation for so many of us who like to game.

One such game was released in 1981. Centipede was sent out into the world by Atari and it has been a favorite ever since. Many quarters have been lined up on Centipede machines in arcades through the years. One of the creators of this game is Dona Bailey. Dona has truly been a pioneer for women in the field of programming.

 

If you choose to play this game you should know that you are our only hope. Using a gun at the bottom of the screen you must target and shoot down threats. These threats come down the screen in waves. The player must try to shoot them down with a gun at the bottom of the screen. You can only go so far and so fast so this game so it requires patience and skill. It is a lot of fun though!

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The game isn’t very complicated looking by today’s standards. However that is not to take away from the graphic design of it’s time. Centipede has a classic look and feel when being played. The concept is great. The music is timeless. So if you are looking for an old school game to play this is the one to get.

 

I would like totally recommend this game. It is a great game to start off with. It is also a great game for nostalgia feels. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Kingdom Hearts III: The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

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Like many people, I’d waited almost thirteen years to play Kingdom Hearts 3.

Technically, you could say that I’ve been waiting since 2012, when I beat Dream Drop Distance. But thirteen sounds more impressive, and it’s been that long since Kingdom Hearts 2 came out in Japan. And ever since then, we’ve all hoped to hear Square-Enix announce development on Part 3. Instead, we got hit with a number of smaller titles on different consoles. All have proven to be important to the story to varying degrees and I enjoyed playing all of them. (Well, except Coded. Sorry, Coded.)

But now, here we are. I can say that I beat Kingdom Hearts 3 at long last. Many have asked, and many more have their own opinions regarding this one question: was it worth the wait?

My answer: yes and no.

Kingdom Hearts 3 was an emotional rollercoaster for me, a lot of ups and downs. When it’s good, it’s phenomenal. It surpassed some of my wildest hopes and dreams. But when it’s bad…yikes. It’s worse than I could have imagined. I’m not even really trying to be dramatic here. That’s really how I felt as I played this game.

Let’s start with the high points.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy are back! These characters are the best that they’ve ever been. Their friendship is so strong in every scene, whether they’re teasing each other, reminiscing about past adventures, or having each other’s backs in battle. Donald and Goofy love Sora and they’re prepared to go anywhere with him to the bitter end. And while Sora is the hero of the story, his two companions got to have plenty of “awesome” moments all on their own. That was a pleasant surprise. 

The Disney worlds look, sound, and feel fantastic. They’re enormous in size compared to previous games and they’re all beautiful. Each location presents a unique environment to explore, from the lush forests in Tangled to the wide, open ocean from Pirates of the Caribbean.  The attention to detail is just wonderful and I keep finding new things to appreciate.

And best of all: the game has NPCs! Sora no longer runs through empty streets! You can actually see people in the cities and towns!

Unfortunately, while I adore all of Yoko Shimomura’s work in the Kingdom Hearts series, I have to admit that I came away with mixed feelings about the soundtrack this time. Kingdom Hearts 3 recycles and remixes a lot of music from the previous games, when I would have liked to have heard more new tracks.

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But I can’t complain too much because both the new and old music sound just as good as they always have. And I was extremely impressed by the new field and battle arrangements for each world. They each reflect the style of the scores from the original Disney films. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that Alan Menken composed the music for Corona.

Now, you’ve probably heard that Kingdom Hearts 3 is too easy. Speaking as someone who’s not a very skilled gamer, I can confirm that these fans are correct. Most of the game is a breeze, even on the hardest difficulty level. Usually, I need to put in some level grinding at various points in a Kingdom Hearts game. Not this time.

Why is it so easy this time around? I suspect that a lot of it has to do with the number of options at your disposal when you’re fighting. As you attack with your Keyblade, you fill up a gauge that allows your Keyblade to change form and unleash more powerful attacks. Then, after a certain period of time spent fighting, you can trigger a joint attack with one of your party members, i.e. throwing Mike Wazowski at the enemy like a bowling ball. You also acquire Links, which are characters you can summon into battle using magic, i.e. Ariel and Wreck-It Ralph.

But wait- there’s more! On top of everything else, attacking certain enemies will trigger a type of attack called Attraction Flow. These attacks are designed to mimic popular rides at the Disney theme parks: a swinging pirate ship, the spinning tea cups, Prince Charming’s Carousel, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, etc. They are a lot of fun to unleash…the first couple of times. And they can be great for crowd control. But after a while, I got tired of using them.

And wait- there’s more! If you’re low on health, you might trigger an attack called Rage Form. Similar to Anti-Form, this turns Sora into a humanoid Heartless with faster, powerful attacks. His Rage attacks do significant damage at the cost of his own health.

Add it all up, and you can see why it’s not so easy to die in this game. I’d come close, only to trigger a slew of special attacks that allowed Sora to stay alive until the fight ended. Although you do not have to use any of these commands, you can’t disable them either, so they will keep popping up as you play.

Last of all, Kingdom Hearts 3 adds a very welcome option when you do fail at a battle or similar objective: “Prepare and Retry.” This allows you to access the menu before restarting a boss fight, so you can restock items you might’ve forgotten to equip, change your abilities or customize your spells differently. I hope that’s an option that’s here to stay for future Kingdom Hearts games.

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So, what didn’t I like about this game, besides the difficulty?  On paper, it doesn’t look like much.  However, the story has some problems and some of them bothered me so much that they almost tainted my feelings about the whole experience.

Granted, there’s actually a lot to like about the story of Kingdom Hearts III. The Disney characters get so many opportunities to shine. There’s a nice balance between worlds that strictly follow the plot of the movie and worlds that follow an original story that ties into the central conflict between Sora and Organization XIII. The Organization members have actual conversations with one another about their personal goals, their motivations, and their opinions of one another. One member gets a whole subplot that I won’t spoil, but it’s fantastic.

But, I reiterate: when this game goes bad, it goes bad. The biggest problem lies in the treatment of the female characters. It’s not a new problem for Kingdom Hearts, given that the games introduced us to dozens of engaging male characters and a handful of ladies. Yet many fans hoped that this would get rectified, especially for poor Kairi- the girl who is supposed to be one of Sora’s two best friends, but constantly gets pushed aside in favor of giving Riku more character development.

Kairi gets a couple of good moments in this game, but by and large, what Tetsuya Nomura decided to do with her was abysmal. I won’t spoil anything, but something important happens to her that left me feeling shocked, disgusted, and angry.  It’s not so much that I want Kairi to become a Strong Female Character who fights with a sword and doesn’t need a man in her life.  I just want Nomura to write her the way that he writes the male cast: as a person with her own goals and character growth, not an accessory to Sora.

To a lesser extent, there are twists in the game that seem to exist just for the sake of confusing/shocking us and getting the fans talking, not because they contribute to the story or characters. I know that some of this comes down to personal preference, and that if I want to continue with this series, I need to accept that this is how Tetsuya Nomura likes to tell stories. Still, I wish he’d stop pulling things like, “THIS character is secretly connected to THIS thing or person ALL ALONG!” When he just lets the characters play off of each other, Kingdom Hearts III shines. When he starts to go into the Lore, that’s when I begin to tune out.

I recommend Kingdom Hearts III to people who have stuck with this series for all of its installments. I would even recommend it to people who have never played a Kingdom Hearts game before. If you are willing to embrace the odd story and you think running around beautifully recreated Disney worlds sounds appealing, you should have a great time.

However, I do not recommend this game to anyone who has only played Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Weird as it sounds, I think you’ll have a harder time enjoying it than people who have never picked up a Kingdom Hearts game in their lives.

Why? Because you know just enough about the world and its characters to find certain ret-cons and new characters/information all the more confusing. The game doesn’t offer a clear, concise explanation for why some characters have returned from the dead, like Axel. Whereas, if you’ve never played one of the games before, you don’t know that they’re supposed to be dead.

Overall, I rate Kingdom Hearts 3 a 7/10. It’s not a perfect experience. The treatment of Kairi and certain parts of the ending left a bitter taste in my mouth. Yet the game also provided a lot of joy and I don’t want to throw that away. Sora, Donald, and Goofy: thanks for the ride. I look forward to playing future installments.

Games Created by Women: Portal

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Hello readers and welcome to Aperture Science, where absolutely nothing is wrong. In this article, everything will be perfectly safe. Maybe there will even be cake for you at the end!

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Portal is a single player game. The player finds themselves in Aperture Science Laboratories. At Aperture, scientists have been working to create a special kind of gun that creates portals. Players must listen to the announcements for updates and information throughout the game. The story of what happened to the labs, and why you are now running around with a gun that creates portals will also be revealed throughout the game.

Portal was designed by Kim Swift. Kim is one of the creative directors at Airtight Games. She is also a speaker. Kim is looking to expand her repertoire with her website. It features doodles and her opinions. Her creativity is a gift to the gaming community.   

Portal was released on October 10, 2007. Players are able to take advantage of the innovative nature of gameplay that Portal provides. Puzzles are the keys to winning the game. This style of gameplay has been one of the things that players enjoy most about the Portal games. They are able to find creative ways to win while they try to make it through the labs.

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Portal is a multi-award winning game. This is not surprising with the success of the franchise. The game forces players to look for different solutions to reach the end of the game. It was a refreshing form of gameplay when it came out. The game is also highly entertaining.

If you are looking for a fun game that will challenge you then you should give Portal a try. It has interesting graphics. The style of the game also helps to immerse the player in the story.

Portal is a fun and challenging game that fans have been wild about since it first came out.

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

 

Review: Ring of Elysium

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Developer: Tancent Games
Publisher: Tancent Games
Platform: PC

What’s it about?
Ring of Elysium is a multiplayer battle royale game. With graphics closer to PUBG than Fortnite, this action packed battle royale certainly keeps you on your toes. Sixty people are trapped on a mountain and must avoid the massive snowstorm, Ymir. The objective is to get to the rescue flight, which can save up to 4 people.

What did I think?
The game itself runs very smoothly. There was no lag, no glitches that I came across. I would have liked the chance to learn what my controls were before being thrown into a match. I know that other battle royales do the same thing, but it’s frustrating when you don’t know what you’re doing and are killed within seconds.

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Like PUBG, you can drive a car or a boat to get to your destination faster. These are loud, however, and can be heard from very far away. I did have an opportunity to snipe someone driving in a car, but I didn’t know the controls and they passed by without me so much as firing a shot.

The customization was pretty cool, though extremely limited. You can go in and change your facial features, but mostly everything is preset. My biggest issue was the lack of diversity. You can only be an Asian man or Asian woman. This being an Asian game in early access, I understand why that’s the case, but I hope that they add more to this as they get closer to a full release.

The ambiance is rather jarring to me. The game itself is very quiet. The only sounds around are natural sounds, like wind blowing and leaves rustling. You can hear people walking if you’re in the same building as them, which is pretty cool. I actually got a kill because of this (which is more than I can say for any of the other battle royales I’ve played). The gunshots are loud, though. So loud that they gave me anxiety. I’m sure I can mess with the sound options, but my chest is still a little tight.

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Do I recommend it?
If you’re into battle royales, definitely check this game out. It’s free to play on steam, and it is currently only available in North America and Asia. If your anxiety is triggered by loud noises or gunshots, I highly recommend you let this one pass or tweak the sound settings to make it not so jarring.

Recap Review: The American Girls Premiere

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One lovely summer day, my parents were summoned to the basement for the world premiere of my very first play created on the computer.

This one-woman show invoked the minimalist style, in the sense that almost nothing actually happened. Its protagonist, Felicity Merriman from the American Girl franchise, crossed the stage and recited a brief soliloquy in robotic monotone: “Hello. My name is Felicity.” Then she curtseyed and walked off the stage.

…well, I thought it was a work of genius at the time. And it was the start of many more bizarre plays starring the American Girl characters.

For those unfamiliar with it, the American Girl franchise started out as a doll collection. Each doll was based on a fictional nine-year-old girl living in a specific period in American history. Around the time that the franchise caught my interest, there were six of them: Felicity, living in Colonial Williamsburg just before the Revolutionary War, Josefina, living in New Mexico before it became a U.S. territory, Kirsten, a Swedish immigrant, Addy, a slave who escapes to Philadelphia with her mother, Samantha, an orphan who lives with her wealthy, old-fashioned grandmother in 1904, and Molly, whose father is a doctor overseas during World War II.

The dolls each had six books that described their misadventures with family and friends and showed how important historical events had an impact on their lives. I loved reading them as a kid. I also loved staring longingly at the many, many accessories and clothing that you could purchase for the dolls in the American Girl Catalog, most of which I couldn’t get because they were just too expensive.

And then came an odd but kinda amazing addition to the franchise: The American Girls Premiere.

The American Girls Premiere was a computer game for Windows and Mac, where you could create your own plays using the characters from the American Girl stories. It gave you numerous tools to work with: characters, setting, props, music, sound effects, lighting, and actions.

Unfortunately, it did have one big limit, story-wise: you couldn’t create an epic crossover starring Felicity from 1774 and Molly from 1944, or Josefina from 1824 going on adventures with Addy from 1864. Once you picked one of the girls, you became confined to her time period, her settings, and her supporting cast.

I’m guessing that the company didn’t want girls coming up with plays that were too wacky, but in hindsight, they might as well have let us go wild.

The most memorable part of the game was the horrific, computerized voices that you got to use to make the “actors” say their dialogue. Technically, the game also provided a voice recording option if you had a microphone with your computer. I didn’t, so I could never get that feature to work and had to rely on the voices given to me.

The results? Well, you can watch this masterpiece of a play to get an idea of what they sounded like:

I couldn’t find many videos of people’s American Girls Premiere plays anymore (and I suspect some of them were removed for copyright infringement), but “Meet Robot Felicity” is a perfect representation of how these productions often looked and sounded, and then some. You could indeed make characters soar through the air or burrow underground.

Although the game came with a basic tutorial, I ended up uncovering most of the ins and outs myself. It offered me an opportunity to mess around and see how far I could go when putting together a play. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it also offered a learning opportunity in how to create something with limitations. Need to show the character sleeping in a bed instead of lying on the floor? Levitate him or her so that he or she would appear to be lying on top of the bed. The computer can’t pronounce the lines correctly? Well, time to deliberately misspell the words so it would.

The American Girls Premiere wasn’t perfect, but it offered many, many hours of fun.  It served as a nice introduction to the different elements in creating a play: having the right props, the right lighting, etc.  The silly robot voices added some unintentional humor to the whole experience.  I’m glad it existed and I miss playing it.

TooManyGames 2018: An Overview

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This year, we had the pleasure of attending TooManyGames again!

I am excited for this convention every year for one big reason…. Indie Games Showcase!

Unfortunately, we had zero time to prepare for this event. We didn’t talk to guests this year, but we were very excited to see Charles Martinet, the Voice of Mario, and Kenny James, the voice of Bowser. Again, we weren’t able to talk with them, which was disappointing, but it was fun to see new guests with such an amazing background. I had several friends who were thrilled to get the chance to meet them.

However, I was sad to see that Keith Apicary wasn’t there. He had became a weird and hilarious part of my TooManyGames experiences.

The gaming hall was a bit smaller this year, making room for more competitive gaming. The food was in a different section all together, making for much more seating and faster food lines. It also created a much calmer area, if you were overwhelmed by the noise.

The vendors room was full and I was happy to see new vendors this year. My little horror heart was hovering around Death Couture and chatting with Megg Morbid about custom orders.

But let’s talk about the best part: the games! There were video games, card games, board games. So many to play, never enough time. Let’s go over a few favorites.

Wither Studios is working on Immure. This is a game we played a little last year and more of this year. Their game looks amazing and has come far in the past year. We are excited to play the final product. Here is a little bit about Immure…

Immure is a 2.5D psychological horror video game currently in development. Throughout this dark, twisted story, the protagonist Will Wicker traverses through a mysterious mansion that contains many strange realities to uncover the horrible truths behind each locked door. Will is desperate to escape this house of hells and discover the secrets of his past. Will soon realizes he has the ability to wield the Shining Trapezohedron, a supernatural crystal with strange powers. How far into the depths of hell must Will venture before finding solace? …

ParaLily is another amazing horror game. This is our first year seeing it and love how absolutely passionate Nate and Jeff are about their game. We watched two women striving to play as far as they could and the pure anger and devotion with each time they died and refused to quit… well, it was a thing of beauty to watch.

ParaLily is one little girl’s adventure to retrieve her dear stuffed dinosaur Patches, who in the middle of the night sprung to life and took off through a mysterious door. This strange journey will take Lily through a set of dangerous and terrifying parallel universes, as she attempts to retrieve her little stuffed runaway. Lily can shift between the parallel universes at will; which will help her avoid danger, and solve puzzles while traversing the paranormal universes.

Super 80’s World is a mobile game that is all about the 80’s, mullet included. It’s a bright neon world all about saving this decade, from big hair to cassette tapes, it was a trip down memory lane for me and I’m interested to see this finished product.

Dr. Noid Wormser hates the ’80s and has vowed to erase the decade. Armed with his power glove of doom, he’s finally able to realize his evil plan.

Only one man can stop him. That man is Dan Camaro.

In this mobile platform-runner, you collect old-school memorabilia to save the decade. Every year is a new world to explore, from coin operated arcades to the neon streets of South Beach, you’re sure to get your ’80s fix.

So pop your collar, fluff your mullet and lace your kicks… It’s time for Super 80s World.

I run into people I know often, especially at cons. I didn’t expect to run into someone I knew working on a game I knew NOTHING ABOUT! Red Essence Games is working on Mask of Semblance. Nik Hagialas is the lead artist and writer which explains why I love the artwork. I loved listening to the game concept and can’t wait to get my hands on the full release!

Red Essence Games is currently working on its flagship title, Mask of Semblance! A boy wakes up in a mysterious place to find a sentient Mask artifact. With the mask as your companion you will travel through a mysterious world encountering themes of the self and the mind, nature vs. technology, and the cyclical nature of life.

One Day West Games was also there showing off their successful Monster Highway, which we’ve talked about before. I was excited to see them still going strong with their unique board game and working on something new that I can’t wait to play!

After a nuclear power plant melts down, a tiny alligator transforms into a gigantic beast – and it’s a little cranky!

Build roads, move your car and be the first to get back to your HOME BASE!

Hyper Galaxy Studios I had the pleasure of seeing my first TMG. Back this year they showed off a more polished game, still hard but amazingly well done. This side scrolling sci-fi game will surprise you!

Horizon’s End is going for those nostalgia feels with The Great Gaias. An epic RPG is in the make and we are looking forward to what tales this title has to tell.

I had to pleasure of purchasing Risky Arcade. I haven’t played it yet and will be giving a review once I do. I have no doubt this board game will do amazing things. Not only is it an interesting concept but Dominique is driven and passionate about her game. Can’t wait to open it up.

There were so many games, you may say too many games… and I know I missed some amazing ones here and I am sorry. I hope to be giving you details on each game as they come to Kickstarter or full release.

Thank you to all of the Indie Developers. Keep making amazing games for us to play!

Review: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit

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At E3 2018, DONTNOD Entertainment announced that they would release a new, free-to-download game at the end of June, set in the same universe as Life Is Strange. The game turned out to be more of a demo that sets up Life Is Strange 2, titled The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. It’s available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. While Captain Spirit only takes about 2.5 hours to complete, it felt wonderful to be back in the Life Is Strange-verse, even for a little while.

Captain Spirit stars a new character, a nine-year-old boy named Chris with an active imagination. He lives with his father; both are struggling to cope with the sudden death of his mother. His father does this through drinking; Chris does so by pretending to be a superhero called “Captain Spirit.” In the game/demo, your objective is to complete a number of “awesome” things that Chris has planned for the day.

First things first, a trigger warning: the original Life Is Strange dealt with some very heavy topics, including suicide, abusive parents, and kidnapping/assaulting young women. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit doesn’t get as dark as the first entry in the series. (It doesn’t have the same amount of time to do so anyway.) But it does show Chris with a dad who drinks heavily; it’s strongly implied that he’s physically hurt Chris when drunk, and he verbally lashes out at him more than once, depending on the choices you make. He’ll almost immediately backtrack and apologize, and he’s clearly trying to be a good parent, but that doesn’t excuse his actions at all.

My own parents are loving, supportive, and have never given me anything worse than a lecture. So, while I can say that I liked how Chris’ story was written, I can’t say whether or not his relationship with his father was handled correctly.  Regardless, if this situation hits a little too close to home for any of you, you might want to play something else.

That said, I immediately identified with Chris in another way. He spends a lot of time in his room or in his yard, playing with his toys as he acts out their adventures battling his arch-nemesis, “Mantroid.” I couldn’t stop smiling, because that’s exactly how I used to play with my toys. He does feel like a real nine-year-old kid.

There are a few little shout-outs in the game to remind you that Captain Spirit takes place in the same universe as Life Is Strange. This initially gave me the wrong impression that Chris might be related to Max or Chloe somehow. While I missed the previous cast of characters and would’ve liked to see a stronger link to them, I liked Chris so much that, ultimately, I didn’t mind switching over to his world.

The game plays the same as Life Is Strange, in the sense that you’re choosing what you want Chris to do and how to respond. But Chris doesn’t have time travel powers, so you’re stuck with the consequences of whatever you do. That felt weird at first. I’m used to trying something out, rewinding, trying something else, and then picking which outcome I liked best before proceeding with the story.

There’s also a hilarious mini game that you can play if you can unlock Chris’ dad’s phone. It’s a side-scroller starring “Hawt Dawg Man,” who dodges obstacles with his mustard jetpack. Although I never beat Chris’ high score, I had a lot of fun trying. It’s a nice bonus to flesh out the game and gives you something else to do besides your short list of tasks.

Captain Spirit ends on a good cliffhanger and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Chris’ story in Life Is Strange 2. The first episode of that game will be released on September 27 for the same systems as Captain Spirit. If you loved the original Life Is Strange, you’ll love this one too. And if you’ve never played a game in this series before, this is the perfect way to get a sense of what they’re like and whether or not you’d enjoy them.