Gender, Politics, and the Media We Consume

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Voltron: Legendary Defender

Wyatt and I loved watching Netflix’s Voltron: Legendary Defender. Who doesn’t like a little space magic mixed with sword-carrying robots? In the midst of Voltron’s fight against an evil galactic empire, the show reveals that one of the characters is gay. This sudden character relationship fact hadn’t been hinted at for over six seasons. Suddenly Season 7 premieres and Volton’s leader, Shiro, is in a relationship with another man named Adam (shown via flashback). The show never mentions Shiro’s relationship again until the series finale, when Shiro and Adam kiss in the closing credits.

Voltron: Legendary Defender is an amazing show that disappointed me by injecting gender politics into something aimed at children.

Last year, I powered through Sayonara Wild Hearts on Apple Arcade. Sayonara Wild Hearts is a music-based action game (see video above) where your protagonist fights against past loves/relationships. The game’s finale has you kissing former flames instead of killing them. Wyatt happened to be sitting next to me as the kissing started:

W: “Are you playing as a boy?”

Me: “Nope.”

W: “So did two girls just kiss?”

Me: “Umm, maybe…. yeah.”

Life went on, and I didn’t make too big of a deal about that scene. I had read/heard online that Sayonara Wild Heart’s story was open to interpretation but why the sudden gender moment? All my love for Wild Hearts died as I felt as if the fourth wall had been broken by gender politics once again.

Mutazione

The other night, I was playing Mutazione on Apple Arcade. During one of the in-game conversations, the protagonist admits to another character that she likes a fellow female classmate of hers. The two of them exchange notes to one another via their lockers. This isn’t a game ending revelation to me, but I got thinking about what the developers worldview is. Nothing sinister… but definitely foreign from my own worldview.

I told Wyatt recently that the Bible is clear on homosexuality (it’s a solid no). But that does not mean we have to treat others poorly nor use others relationship preferences as an excuse not to love them.

Hollywood and even game developers continue to increase LGBTQ representation in the media we consume. We, as Christians, need to continue to be a voice in the Internet wilderness. Proclaiming that God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that none shall perish but have everlasting life.

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.

Tembo: Videogame Subversion

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Tembo the Badass Elephant. Big attitude distilled down to the size of a peanut, or something like that.

Side-scrolling games scroll to the right. This is a founding principal established by the platforming forefathers Sonic and Mario. Game Freak’s Tembo the Badass Elephant goes against convention in Stage 8 of the game. Check out the first few seconds in the video below:

Yes, I charged to the right and plunged to my death. Videogame experience has taught me that the developers were toying with me. There had to be some sort of invisible platform or some such device to catch me, right? Wrong.

The level began to the left. Videogame subversion.