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kingdom hearts dream drop distance splash

I love the Kingdom Hearts series. I may not have finished 358/2 Days and I might not have even played Birth By Sleep, but I played the hell out of the main series and beat both the Sora and Riku versions of Chain of Memories. I do realize that the stories are convoluted and emotionally manipulative but I don’t even care: the gameplay is great and there’s always some new mechanic or system to explore from game to game.

When I saw that I had completely overlooked Dream Drop Distance, I immediately picked it up. It took a while to get back into that close-up Kingdom Hearts camera angle and it took even longer getting used to the camera controls (the game is compatible with the 3DS’s Circle Pad Pro but like hell I’m going to buy that) but I’m finally getting a feel for it which is allowing me to really get into the new systems in the game.

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kingdom rushAs some of you know, I don’t like tower defence games. As one reviewer put it, “tower defence gameplay feels more like frantic managerial work than anything else.” With that in mind, I approached Kingdom Rush with a degree of cynicism, expecting yet another stupidly long and boring resource management game where you can die right at the end and lose everything.

Thankfully, I was surprised with how much I engaged with Kingdom Rush the more I got into it. I wasn’t sure why I kept playing and I didn’t bother to stop and think about it. I played through the first eight or so battlefields before putting it down to take a break. When I realized I had just killed three or four hours, I started to wonder what it was that kept me so interested in a genre I usually actively avoid.

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Don't Starve capI have mixed feelings about Don’t Starvethe survival roguelike that I just started playing again (largely because it’s now out on Vita). When I wrote a previous article lauding it’s many virtues, I hadn’t really TRIED to beat the game, or at least to do well at it. I did a lot of research instead, watching gameplay footage and reading wikis. Now that I’ve actually had the time to sink my teeth into the game, I’m finding myself more frustrated than I would have thought.

When I first played Spelunky, I was enthused. The game was fast, quirky, and had funny puppies in it. That being said, it was still hard as hell. It was only when I stopped sprinting off ledges and throwing bombs any which way that I started to really master the mechanics (and I STILL haven’t actually beat the game yet). Still, the frustration I felt when I tried Spelunky for the first time is no match for how much I’m starting to hate Don’t Starve. 

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hohokum screenshot3

After reading a review on Polygon and sinking a few hours into Hohokum, I’m not sure what I think. One part of me agrees with Phil Kollar when he pines for a decent map system or some new gameplay mechanic after swirling in a circle for the ten thousandth time, but another part of me really loves the way this game just meanders here and there.

One thing that this type of game always brings up for me is the now-exhausted argument of whether or not video games can be considered art and, consequently, whether or not we as a culture should treat them as such. As much as I want the answer to that question to just be “yes, let’s move on,” it really doesn’t look like that’s going to be the case any time soon, especially with the way “comfort food” video games are pretty much the only ones that get mainstream attention. Still, Hohokum was a nice little break that let me philosophize on what it is to play a game.

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LexI rarely download word-based mobile games any more. Honestly, they’re usually such a disappointment that I just figure why bother buying yet another Scrabble or Boggle clone? Do I REALLY need to play some new version of what’s already been done to death? Turns out, yes, I really do.

Lex isn’t really the same as Scrabble or word-finds or crosswords, even though I’m sure it’s a copy of some game or other that’s out there (see my article on 2048 vs Threes). Instead of giving you the chance to mull over your words like Scrabble does, it forces you to play before each letter’s individual timer runs out. Instead of giving you a set of letters to choose from like Boggle does, it constantly replaces the letters that you make words out of, showing only nine letters in an unchangeable order at one time.

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Monster Hunter Freedom uniteI got Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite a while ago on my Vita, played about five minutes of it, got totally overwhelmed, and gave up. The game is HUGE. Whether it’s crafting stuff, figuring out the best armour combinations (which can grant you skills, I think), or just picking a weapon that works for you, the game has tons of content and I’ve seen people say that they’ve sunk hundreds and hundreds of hours into it.

My first instinct when I come across a game like this is “I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it.” That’s a shitty attitude, I agree, but it’s hard imagining myself dedicating that much time to one game when a) there are so many other awesome games out there and b) I do not, in any way, have that much free time on my hands. Still, I’m now trying to get into it again and there’s one thing I’m starting to notice, something that hasn’t really shown up in a lot of other games I’ve played recently: Monster Hunter is weirdly satisfying in an incredibly elitist way.

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Blek

I recently ran across a mobile game called Blek. It’s a paid app so I avoided it stupidly until I saw it show up on a few “Top 10” lists across the internet. So I paid my 99 cents and jumped in.

The game didn’t really seem like much: the opening screen was just a black circle and a smaller blue circle with a hand drawing a half-circle shape. Weird. No instructions, no menus, no flashy splash logo. So I touched the circles, but still nothing.

Finally, after “clicking” around the screen, I swiped my finger and the game opened up. The sketchy black line I had drawn multiplied over and over again, bouncing off the wall and, fortunately, colliding with the blue circle. That was it, tutorial over.

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woman1Meeting a woman who plays video games is no longer a cause for surprise; instead, it’s gone through a weird variety of reactions from “you’re obviously a poser” to “man, I wish I could wife that!” Both are equally generalizing, obviously, but the concept of women in the field of video games seems to fascinate people.

For anyone who’s perused my author page, you’ll know that I have a degree in Creative Writing and English Literature but what it doesn’t say is that my specialization was in feminist and gender studies literature. I’m not an activist, I’m not even an outspoken person, but I am interested in watching out gender dynamics play out in everyday life and more and more lately, the video game world has become my everyday life.

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DestinyI haven’t actually played Destiny yet, although I have a feeling that, for the first time in a very long time, I might be willing to engage with a game that is made to be played as a multiplayer experience. The game will be “always online” which basically just means they want you to be online so they didn’t waste their money implementing tons of multiplayer stuff. I’m not certain if the game stops you from playing without an internet connection, but if it does, I’m sure it won’t for long.

Everything I’ve heard about the multiplayer experience in this game makes me reconsider my long-standing hatred of playing online in general. While playing COD or Halo against others online wasn’t fun for me just because those types of games don’t appeal strongly to me, playing games like Borderlands 2 online was still pretty disappointing in some respects, something that Bungie seems to be directly addressing in Destiny.

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Super mario 3D land logoI had a lot of trouble playing Super Mario 3D Land when I first picked it up; there’s something about the moving Mario around in a 3D space that I just couldn’t quite get a grip on, likely because I was so used to side-scrolling with the guy. Thankfully (or maybe not?), the game provides you with a safeguard against losing too many lives on one level: if you die a certain amount of times, the game gives you a Tanooki suit that’s also an unlimited invincibility star at the beginning of the level in question. At first I would sigh with relief but I quickly came to despise it because of how easy it made things.

I’m not saying that Super Mario 3D Land is so easy that it’s not worth playing. I’m not even saying that the leaf ruins the game. What I am saying is that, as game developers, critics, or just gamers in general, we should be aware of what makes a game good for us and why getting a little frustrated once in a while might actually be a good thing.

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