Comfort in the Stories We Tell

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All was dark; all was not bright. But in the darkness sat a boy named Walter, and his pet alligator named Frank.

“How long have we been sitting here?” Questioned Walter into the void. He knew Frank was somewhere near him.

A low rumbly growl came from nearby, “A long time, Walter.”

“Frank, why is your breath so bad?”

“I haven’t been able to brush my teeth since the lights went out.”

“Why do you think the stories stopped?”

“I think Wyatt’s dad has forgotten about us.”

For a period of time, my bedtime routine with Wyatt included stories about Walter and Frank. Until one day… those stories stopped. I’m not sure why I quit telling of their adventures with their mighty robot. Or why I quit expanding the weirder aspects of their universe, with characters such as the ninja dolphins.

All of that changed the other night, as I put Wyatt to bed. I pulled Walter and Frank from the darkness. Starting the story just as I did above.

  • Turning the creative lights on once more.
  • Firing up the mighty robot.
  • Adventuring.
  • And, as always, concluding with milk and cookies provided by Walter’s mom.

There is comfort in the stories we tell. And there is no need to leave anyone in the dark, most of all, Walter and Frank.

For the Love of Cupcakes, Fear is in the Air!

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An invisible enemy is scarier than most enemies. For how does one combat what one cannot see? An invisible enemy could be anywhere. They might even be sitting next to you right now.

Photo by Rae Goldman on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, Wyatt and I walked into a local cupcake shop. We quickly noticed a piece of tape marked out on the ground that read:

“Stop. Stand Here.”

From behind the counter, the shop employee was wearing a mask. She was trying to fight against the invisible enemy. But underneath that mask, Wyatt and I both could read the look on her face. Which screamed in terror (and I’m not trying to be mean):

“Why aren’t you two wearing a mask?”

And even louder:

“Why are you two even here?”

A cupcake for momma; A simple Easter treat. I had wanted to surprise Tabitha, and Wyatt had come along for the ride. But here we were, in the cupcake shop, and feeling like we shouldn’t be in there.

It was in that moment that I discovered that I didn’t have my wallet…

I smiled, “We’ll be back.”

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

How we respond to the invisible enemy matters. Even weeks later, Wyatt and I can still remember the cupcake employee’s face. I hate the way this pandemic has caused us to view others. To think differently about something as simple as human touch. I want my personal response to be different, but I’m finding it hard to wade through the daily onslaught of online negativity. How about you?

Review: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends

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Bubble Bobble 4 Friends, developed by Taito, is a game all about dragons! Bubble blowing dragons, that is. Whether playing in single player mode or couch co-op (up to 4 players), players navigate their cute dragons through a series of stages that feature:

  • Bubble Combat – As a bubble spewing dragon, you can trap your enemies in bubbles. Said bubbles can then be popped in an effort to gain combos, which increase your score.
  • Bubble Platforming – Why use bubbles just to trap enemies when you can use them to reach new heights? Bubble Bobble 4 Friends allows you to create your own bubble platforms, which your dragon can use to float upon.
  • E-X-T-E-N-D Bubbles – While traversing stages, you can collect lettered E-X-T-E-N-D bubbles individually. Acquired letters grant your dragon upgraded bubble powers such as lightning and bomb bubbles.

The Good

  • Controls are simple and easy to use.
  • Being able to create a bubble to ride on, bubble platforming, is a neat gameplay mechanic.

The Bad

The decision to create a couch co-op game, where players share a single life pool. As a father who plays games with his son, I can say that life sharing is a massive no-no in a multiplayer game. Thankfully, Bubble Bobble 4 Friends overcomes this bit of ugly design with unlimited continues. The catch though is that if you decide to continue, you will lose all points earned up until that point in the game. This is not a game killer, for me, but could be for the casual audience this game seems to be aiming for.

Note: Wyatt reminds me that invincibility also becomes an option when you’ve died too many times against enemies/bosses.

The Ugly

  • Anytime a player gets hit, they are put into a bubble and their dragon starts crying out for help, “Help me!” This cry drove Wyatt and I nuts! I am thankful that the developers thought to include a way to turn down the voices in the options menu.
  • Length of game versus game’s cost seem at odds with each other. However, a downloadable content expansion will be released later this year that could help with game length.

Once upon a time…

…there were dragons. Cute, cuddly, dragons who threw up bubbles from their mouths. They didn’t lick things like a Yoshi. Instead, they captured/tortured their enemies with clean, clear, bubbles. The End.

Wait, I mean, this is not the end. But in the end, Wyatt and I played quite a bit of Bubble Bobble 4 Friends. The entire time we were playing, we kept thinking the game reminded us of a Kirby game. Maybe it has something to do with the overall design aesthetic? I am not sure. But for us, we couldn’t get past comparing Bubble Bobble 4 Friends to Kirby Star Allies (see our review here). You see, we’d much rather be playing Kirby Star Allies.

Bubble Bobble 4 Friends isn’t necessarily a bad game but an okay game. One we both agree we won’t be playing any further. Good night and goodbye sweet dragons.

3/5 – While we love the unique bubble platforming mechanic, we believe there are better co-op games to play than Bubble Bobble 4 Friends.

THE END FOR REAL!!

Title: Bubble Bobble 4 Friends*
Developer: Taito
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
MSRP: $39.99

Review by Bryan and Wyatt Hall

*Bubble Bobble 4 Friends was reviewed using a code provided by PR Hound.

Review: Hidden Through Time

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Hidden Through Time, developed by Crazy Monkey Studios, is a game about finding things. The levels progress through different periods of time such as:

  • The Stone Age
  • Ancient Egypt
  • The Middle Ages
  • The Wild West

Players hunt down objects, with the help of subtle clues, in order to move forward in history.

The Good

We recently had grandma and grandpa over to visit. While they were over, we decided to play Hidden Through Time together. Sitting around the television, we hunted objects through not just one but eleven levels. Grandma was super good at finding things. Who knew?!? By the time we were done, she said that she really liked the game.

Wyatt also enjoyed using the level editor (see video below). He says:

“Just say that I liked it… that it was good… that it was awesome!”

He notes that the object placement could be better when duplicating the same object. For example: A player goes to place a tree. Hidden Through Time allows you to place one tree and then forces you to go back to the object toolbar to select another tree before placing.

Wyatt and I also liked:

  • The hand-drawn design aesthetic.
  • The levels being in color, unlike Hidden Folks (which we’ve played on iOS).
  • How the controls feel dialed in, making movement around the map and the ability to zoom in and out a breeze.
  • The gibberish language the characters speak when poked.
  • How well Hidden Through Time plays in a group.

The Bad

  • Object hints, at times, do not make sense.
  • Size of objects often makes them harder to find than they should be—I hate eggs!—.
  • Load times between the main menu screen, level selection screen, and individual levels can take a few moments.

The Ugly

  • Hidden Through Time needs an overall hint system for those times when you are super stuck. This is more of a suggestion than a game destroying experience. We, as a family, haven’t gotten stuck in-game yet.

Conclusion

Wyatt and I have enjoyed our time with Hidden Through Time. This is a perfect game to play individually and as a family. The music is relaxing and does not annoy—as a parent, this is important—. We recommend this game to others looking for a digital Where’s Waldo experience.

5/5 – A great game to play as a family or while hidden away in the bathroom. Seriously, just go hide in there, the kids don’t have to know!

Title: Hidden Through Time
Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios
Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android, Xbox One, Windows, and iOS
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
MSRP: $7.99

Review by Bryan and Wyatt Hall

*Hidden Through Time was reviewed using a code provided by EvolvePR.

Waiting for the Bomb to Go Off

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Life for me, in this pandemic, hasn’t changed much. I still get up in the morning and drive to work. I spend my day at the office, filled with bosses and coworkers, where we push forward on projects. At home, my wife continues to homeschool our son. His home education hasn’t stopped even due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19. Life hasn’t changed much for the Texas Halls.

And yet life has changed all around us. From the local grocery store being out of such things as rice, yeast, and other baking supplies. To hearing stories about people around us dying, oftentimes alone/separated from their spouses, due to hospital quarantines.

Spring, in the South, is filled with severe weather days. Days where we:

  • See the skies darken
  • Hear the thunder, off in the distance
  • Watch for for rotation in the clouds
  • Find ourselves praying over the weather

Tornadoes are a real threat in the violence of Spring. A time of pollen and a time for death from above. There are days where we feel like we are waiting for the bomb to go off, for the hammer to drop. That feeling of anticipation we experience every Spring is the same feeling I feel, right now, in the midst of this pandemic. Even though my life hasn’t changed one bit, I feel as if I am on edge.

Photo by Siim Lukka on Unsplash

To all my friends and family, who live in places where the weather doesn’t try to kill you, welcome to feeling like you are living in the South. A place founded on sweet tea, sweet people, and the subtle feeling of dread. From experience though, I can tell you, Summer is coming. Threats of rain-soaked death will cease. This pandemic is only for a season, as is the pollen. Soon the sun will come and bake it all away… or try and kill us too.