Detective Pikachu

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I think it’s funny that this trailer broke the video game world this week. If only Nintendo would give us a date and confirmed North American release.

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Thoughts on The Witness

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Myst Island: Round 2

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has me intrigued. A Myst game for the modern era.

I tend to forget how hard Myst was. Sure, the game was beautiful in it’s time. But Myst required coordination with other players. Writing down clues, puzzles,and code. The ultimate water cooler game.

Polygon — 8/10

“But The Witness throws endless puzzles at the player while almost never recognizing their accomplishments, which creates something of an antagonistic relationship between player and creator. I fear that will send players running to walkthroughs faster than they would have in a more rewarding environment.” — Justin McElroy [Review]

USgamer — 2/5

“And that’s the overlying problem: The Witness doesn’t care if you’re having fun—for the most part, it relishes in how clever it can be. There’s some joy to discovery, sure, but once that’s over with, you’re just scraping against the few things in your way. I appreciate Blow’s lack of presence in his world, but it’s a blessing as much as a curse. Of course, I understand what he’s doing: The Witness is very much a modern-day update of Myst, and meant to be played as if we were back in 1993. Ultimately, it feels like something designed to be chipped away at over weeks or months—not an experience to cruise through over a handful of afternoons.” — Bob Mackey [Review]

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I have read several reviews that liken The Witness to Dark Souls or even the more recent Bloodborne. Games that demand skill, patience, and an almost sharing of secrets. My more recent foray into Bloodborne had me consulting with friends for both strategy and encouragement.

The modern era has us all on our individual technological islands. What if certain types of games force us off of them? Forcing us to bridge the virtual gap, to talk in person, to somehow experience humanity again. Yes, that sounds dramatic. But you understand where I am going. Gaming has become a much more isolated experience, despite the internet. I am all for games that force us to connect with one another. Even if that connection is forged over progress and survival.

Are you playing The Witness? Tell me about your experience in the comments below. 

King’s Quest – A Knight To Remember

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We (i.e., Bryan Hall and Josh Cauller) decided to do a co-review for King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember, the first episode of a re-imagining of the classic 1980s adventure game series. We liked this episode a lot. Here’s why:

M. Joshua Cauller

I thought this might be some obtuse point-and-click game — since King’s Quest was the founder of the prehistoric adventure genre of the 1980s, but instead I found a beautiful game with Telltale-like control and a ton of character. I was like, “Oh, I can play this!”

What was your first impression, Bryan?

Bryan Hall

My first impression? Surprise. I found the introduction to Graham compelling: through his exploits with the dragon and the Telltale-like choices with said dragon — set her free, or walk away.

Being able to do all of these things with my son, even better. King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember had me hooked from the opening. It advances at a steady gait until it falls to adventure game trappings. Do X in the right order to trigger Y.

Did you end up having to use a walkthrough, Josh?

M. Joshua

Yeah. I totally used a walkthrough.

I felt like I knew where I should go or what to do only about half the time. There’s a wealth of obtuse puzzles where you have to lure a badger into your inventory so you can use the badger to get the squirrels away from the pumpkin so you can take the pumpkin to the potion shop to get the thing you really wanted all along.

It’s old-school and the total opposite of Telltale style of adventure game — where you mostly just make decisions and press forward — but I think that it works well here in those few examples where you don’t need a guide. When I figured puzzles out on my own, I felt smart.

I’m curious how you handled the obtuse puzzles with your son. What did he love about the game?

Bryan

The game’s humor had Wyatt giggling beside me. The obtuse puzzles, however, left him ready to do something else. Anything else.

Wyatt is used to Skylanders’ world of constant action and character swapping, but King’s Quest calmly holds a hand up. Stop! Be patient. Talk, explore, and listen to the world and those around you.

There were some speedy parts that really had us on the edge of our seats, like Achaka, ninja dude extraordinaire. His journey into the dragon’s lair was probably our favorite part.

M. Joshua

Yeah, the part when you follow Achaka through the dragon’s lair was when the game really picked-up. It added a ton of character development to the protagonist, Graham. That surprised me too!

It’s funny that Achaka quest shows up several hours into the game. I mean, the first episode of most episodic games are longer, but never more than three hours. This first episode took me a whole six hours!

How long did it take you?

Bryan

Unfortunately, the PS4 features no such way of measuring time. I can tell you it was long enough to settle a disagreement with the bridge troll union, talk to some potion makers who reminded me of Princess Bride leftovers, and bribe a squirrel masquerading as a princess with a pastry.

What did you think of the overall framing device of a grandfather telling a tale to his granddaughter?

M. Joshua

I love Christopher Lloyd as the grandfather. He feels natural and loving: the perfect storyteller.

It’s a double edged sword, though. Grandfather Graham retells stories of his youth, but the past-tense keeps the tension out of the experience for us as players. For those of us who fell in love with Telltale’s ultra-tense Walking Dead, King’s Quest doesn’t have quite enough drama to keep me from feeling sleepy.

I had to fight to stay awake early in the game because I felt so little stress (which I need in my games). It took me a number of sleepy play sessions before the game really grabbed me.

How about you? How did you feel about the game’s hooks?

Bryan

I have a confession to make: I played King’s Quest for myself, even though I played the game with Wyatt sitting next to me.

The game taps into this adventure game purity. While I didn’t so much like the badger puzzle chains of this world, I enjoyed everything else. Solving situations was refreshing.

Graham lacks an agenda. He is a normal guy, with a feather in his cap, trying to do the right thing. I love that. It speaks to a time in my life when gaming was less violent. I applaud the use of puns and clever storytelling.

I enjoyed revisiting a unique season in my life — a season of late night sleepovers, back and forth phone calls, and puzzle solving with friends. And I love sharing that with my family.

M. Joshua

I like that Graham’s solutions veered towards practical creativity. That’s the thing that sticks with me.

Through Graham, we become dependent on relationships with sneaky merchants, bridge trolls from France, a sassy blacksmith, and a midget knight with voiced by The Princess Bride’s Wallace Shawn. These characters stick with us. They’re unique and well-drawn.

I think back to the relationship with the ninja knight, Achaka. Your relationship with him depended on your interactions with him because of a language barrier. This is a hard concept to explore through any medium butvideo games: getting to know people through interaction instead of our own voice. This first episode of King’s Quest does that swimmingly.

I think that covers my thoughts on the game. What would you say to anybody who’s thinking about checking out this first episode?

Bryan

We often shy away from things we don’t think we’ll like, but we can end up surprised when we try new things. At the dinner table recently, I asked Wyatt if he wanted to try some Greek yogurt. He snubbed his nose at me. I persisted, knowing that it was something he would enjoy. After a bit more coaxing, he put a spoonful of yogurt into his mouth. Mmm. Wyatt loved it!

Perception is everything. Whether that is a different type of yogurt or an old school video game genre. King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember is a great first taste that left me asking for more.

Wave SplinterTitle: King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember
Developer: The Odd Gentlemen
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Reviews on: PS4
MSRP: $9.99

Get Up And Play With Your Kids

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The Gospel Coalition’s Trevin Wax wrote “4 Principles for Parenting in a World of Video Games“. His article contained some practical advice but featured a tone laced in fear. Zachery Oliver, over at Theology Gaming, wrote a rebuttal titled “Kids and Video Games“. My wife, Tabitha Hall, wrote the following as a response to both articles:

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Model good media behavior in front of your kids.

If you restrict your child’s screen time, then make sure you model that while they are up. Meaning, don’t sit on your recliner and watch sports or play a video game by yourself all day. Turn off the TV. Get up and play with them.

If the rule at your house is no phones at the table, turn your phone on silent and put it away. Want your kids to love to read? Then let them see you reading a book and discuss the book with them. Pick a book to read aloud together with your kids.

Something I believe both Mr. Wax and Mr. Oliver have to remember is that every family’s technology engagement will look different, and no one needs to be judged on their own personal plan. Rather, as I believe Mr. Wax was trying to point out, there needs to be a plan for technology in the home. Not a rigid plan with no flexibility for the child, but a fluid plan that can change with the ebb and flow of the family.

Our family decided to keep technology out of the bedroom. We have a limit on how much screen time our son can consume at one sitting. Twenty minutes is our norm before we encourage that he do something else. Technology is not going to go away, it will just get more influential as time progresses on.

As a parent, you help your child solve a problem by brainstorming solutions. You help them practice their catching, bike riding, or even their shoe-tying skills. In the same way, my husband and I are trying to model good technology behaviors to our son.

The Mammoth: A Cave Painting

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The flicker of flame, wet finger tips pressed against cold rock walls. Stories take shape, history recorded in hand presses and finger strokes. Archaeological parietal art, or cave paintings, offer a glimpse into the past.

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The Mammoth: A Cave Painting, tells a 5 million year story in 5 minutes. A story about a mamma mammoth, her babies, and the wide world around. Joyful-filled trumpeting. Heartbreaking charging.

Developer inbetweengames have handcrafted a stunning play framed in torchlight.

Take a moment. Download the game. Enjoy the brevity of the experience.

DEFCON 5wavesplinter5/5 – A unique experience at the dawn of the age. 

Wave SplinterTitle: The Mammoth: A Cave Painting
Developer: inbetweengames
Platforms: PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Reviews on: Android
MSRP: Free