Gaming without your brother

Category Archives: Browser

Remember when I talked about a game-a-thon for charity awhile ago? It was a terrible, meandering post about just losing meaning in my life a little bit (maybe the post wasn’t so much about that, but in hindsight that’s the attitude it was written in). This is about that.

I recently tried to get more involved in the Rooster Teeth community. It has . . . been going okay, still haven’t worked up the courage to game with anyone on the site even though I joined a couple of groups for that specifically. Slowly but surely! The best connection thus far has been a Salt Lake City group. One proactive site user in the Salt Lake area has started a team for Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, as a part of Extra Life, and I joined!

The link above explains the details of Extra Life, if you haven’t heard of it before. My donation page is here.

Why donate? Why am I doing this?

A) I feel really strongly that all charities should give 100% of their proceeds to who they’re trying to benefit. Check, Extra Life does that.

B) The Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals uses all of its money to let patients stay at their facilities cost free. On the list of noble causes, that’s pretty high up there. They deserve some help for that, doncha think?

C) I get to play video games for 24 hours in a really cool locale, Gamerz Funk.

I understand that part of the challenge of getting donations is that it’s for a very specific, local hospital. The factor that I think could transcend geography is that it’s helping kids, right? You might not know a kid in Salt Lake City, but they exist right? Kids that need help. So if you have a couple bucks and want to encourage me to last the full 24 hours, consider clicking the link above and donating towards my modest $200 goal. The SLC team I’m a part of has a $5,000 goal that my $200 will contribute towards.

Thanks, you know I love you all despite my absence in the blog-o-sphere,

Laurie

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Not from lack of games. In that department, I’m actually drowning. I should rather say my gaming writing well is running dry. I haven’t played games in so long! LIIIIIFE. WHY HAST THOU FLOODED ME!? It’s a great thing, really, but seriously, the best gaming experience I’ve had in the past week was playing Fruit Ninja in the bathroom at work. How do you guys do it? How do you carve out time to prioritize games in your life? Teach me your ways!

In lieu of being able to talk at length about one or more games, I’ll just highlight some flash/mobile games that I’ve gotten a chance to check out in the past little while:

Disclaimer: I’m not an iPhone hater, but I do have an Android phone, so all the app links are to the Google Play store. ALSO! Lots of these cost money, but there are really awesome free apps everyday in the Amazon App Store so be sure to check that to pick up some of these for free, like I did!

Pixel Dungeon – My brother put me on to this game a while back (for the subtitle of this site, “Gaming without your brother,” he certainly does come up a lot . . .). It’s a randomly generated dungeon crawler; find the next set of stairs down, go down the stairs, try to find the ultimate artifact, the Amulet of Yendor.

It’s still in beta, but that also means it’s free for the moment! There’s 20 levels at the moment, with more coming in the next update says the dev. It’s difficult! Which makes it fun, but there is perma-death which is heartbreaking. Three classes (warrior, rogue, mage), potions and enemies and weapons and armor and items – all the needed elements for a fun action RPG. And the pixel art . . . gets me right in the nostalgia every time. Well done pixel art is my jam.

Candy box ! – Automated ASCII art?! Get out of town! The key in this game is to just wait until you have more than two options. Then it becomes seriously exciting/addicting because you wonder “WHAT COULD HAPPEN NEXT!?” You can also “save” which is nice for a browser-based game. Shoutout to friend and reader Susan for putting me on to this super fun game.

Robot Unicorn Attack – Super old, but I figure it’s mildly relevant because RUA 2 just came out, AND, I really am playing this game a lot. Something about endless runners . . . I just want to beat my old high score! I would’ve been hopeless in the 80s, all those arcades around. I also can’t try RUA 2 until I feel like I’ve sufficiently used the original app approximately $2 worth (for the app, free online though). Anyway, an oldie but a goodie!

Continuity 2 – Another oldie but goodie that again my brother put me on to. I had never heard of it, but this a puzzle game I can really get behind. You move around tiles that are snapshots of the actual level to facilitate the character you’re controlling to be able to move through, collecting the key to the last door, as well other little tokens. ALL AS FAST AS YOU CAN! Three factors rank your level success: time taken to complete, how many tokens collected, and . . . moves maybe? I forget, and to find out and tell me how stupid I am, download Continuity 2!

Osmos HD – This game. YEESH this game. I mean that in the best possible way. It’s so good! So addicting! Such a great soundtrack! So hard for me! In general, the object of every level is to become the biggest cannibalistic blob. You can only absorb blobs you’re bigger than, and you die by bumping into blobs bigger than you, which then absorb you. There are some different types of blobs that attract things, and move faster. A cool mechanic is being able to slow down time in the level which gives you a little bit of reaction time buffer. And fo’ real, the soundtrack. Dat soundtrack. Check out the game!

Temple Run 2 – I wasn’t going to include this game because I am a little embarrassed that I play it so often instead of playing some of the other critically acclaimed games in my library, but what can I say? I just love unlocking stuff and endlessly running (virtually that is, never in real life. Have you seen me?) It’s a good game! If you want something mindless that’s easy to play while you’re going to the bathroom at work, this would be my top recommendation.

I enjoy these games that have depth, that I can spend an hour or more on (equivalent to how much time I would spend playing a console or PC game) but can do out and about, away from my TV or monitor. Ya hoo for the increasing caliber of mobile gaming!

What about you guys, what games do you love on your phone, or tablet, or browser? Let me know in the comments!


Hardy har har, what a clever title. I actually really enjoy the novel, Catch-22. But the point is that the game Catch-22, a puzzler that was one of the PAX10 (ten indie games selected by a panel as the best indie games at PAX), is truly delightful.

I am notoriously bad at puzzle games. I talk about how bad I am at them all the time. I googled my way through many spots of Portal, I watched a lot of YouTube videos for Braid levels, I am basically the worst. Hell, I even looked up how to get through a couple spots in the A Book of Unwritten Tales demo I played. Perhaps the worst part is that I don’t even feel bad about the internet searching I do for answers and experiences that aren’t my own. So for me to play a puzzle-type game (maybe more a strategy game? I’m not sure what genre to put it in exactly) and then get really hyped for it is notable.

Built by a three-man team that started the development company Mango Down, Catch-22 features a green ball and a blue ball circling a pink sphere in opposite directions. You first control the blue ball as you jump over the green ball to collect gold coins hovering above the pink sphere’s surface. Once you collect all the gold coins (which increase in number with every level you pass), you swap to controlling the green ball and have to collect the same gold coins which then reappear. The catch (HEY-O!) is that the blue ball remembers the exact trajectory it took while you tried to collect all the gold coins the first time. So you have to dodge its jumps, and collect coins. After you move back to the blue ball, the green ball remembers its most recent path, so on and so forth.

It’s a total brain bender for me. It’s so beyond the realm of my intelligence that I can still laugh every time the balls collide and I lose. For a brief moment after all the gold coins are collected, both balls look slightly shattered and if you can maneuver them to collide in that brief window of time, then both balls forget their past paths and you get a clean slate for the upcoming coin collection, which is a bigger bonus than you realize until you play the game. The video below is a demo of a slightly earlier build of the game, but the premise is the same.

The art is really simple, which I’m a sucker for. Warm tones and cartoon-y fonts give it all a whimsy feel, and I love that it doesn’t try to make it anything more than it is – a fun, simple game to play on your mobile device when you’re waiting in line. One piece of the puzzle I didn’t get at PAX due to the noisy exhibition hall was the music playing in the background. When I started playing it on my PC, I was pleasantly surprised by the warm strings and mid-range notes that guide you through the game. Very beautiful and soothing, a great addition to the experience.

And perhaps best of all, when I stopped by at PAX to play this, the guys were so incredibly nice. I’m not sure which one of the gentleman I talked to, but he answered all of my questions, didn’t laugh at my abysmal lack of skills, and just seemed genuinely happy and enjoying the spotlight of the PAX10 (which with the high caliber of indie games that were there, is a huge and well-deserved accomplishment for Catch-22). More than the gameplay, the artwork, or the music, that makes me root for Catch-22 to be a roaring success.

The game doesn’t have a release date yet (a couple of false dates are floating around on their Facebook page and website, but it is confirmed in Facebook comments that it isn’t available yet), but when it does come out it will be on iOS and Android platforms. To be even more awesome, the guys at Mango Down put out a completely free Facebook app version, found here! Great practice before the app officially releases for mobile devices. To play, just install the Unity web extension (which it will prompt you to do when you click the link) and wait for a not short amount of time for it to load.

My high score is level 8, 25,087, which I’m proud of now but I feel like once you all start playing and commenting your high scores I’m going to be severely disappointed. Leave a comment, what’s your high score? Better yet, are you hooked already?


I’m working on using really catchy titles so people are outraged and want to read, and then really the entire premise of my post is opposite to the perceived stance of the title. Slimey, huh?

A few weeks ago my brother and sister-in-law sent me an old iPod Touch they had lying around and weren’t using any more. For someone as poor as me and as obsessed with gadgets and toys as I am, I was incredibly grateful and excited, despite it being a second generation iPod Touch that can only support iOS 4.2. I immediately downloaded apps I had played and loved before (Temple Run, Fruit Ninja) and downloaded the big name social games that people were playing (Words with Friends, Draw Something). And as I started playing these games, I started thinking a lot about casual gaming, and thus felt prompted to rant about it here.

SO SATISFYING.

SO SATISFYING.

Flashback: last Christmas, my parents got rooted Nooks with Android ported onto them so they could use them as tablets and not just e-readers. The backstory is that while both of my parents are savvy and intelligent, computers and technology in general aren’t really their thing. So, we thought this would keep them current and be useful for different things they like to do. Neither of my parents has ever really approved of any of their kids gaming, so when my mom started trying out Angry Birds on Christmas day, it was kind of surprising that she was enjoying herself.

Jump back to the present, where I find out my mom has graduated from Angry Birds and now plays Draw Something. We’ve been playing for a few dozen turns now and every time I see a push notification telling me that she’s sent me a drawing, I get excited. My brother articulated it well by pointing out the excitement comes from the fact that she gets it. I don’t mean to belittle her intelligence (my mom is a smart, smart cookie), but there’s a learning curve to touchscreens and gaming and she seems to have picked it right up.

The next milestone was that she had never played Words with Friends, but is a Scrabble champion and avid reader so I assumed she’d love to play the game. The catch was that she has always had my brother help her download apps (they live near each other; I am far away). Throwing caution to the wind, I told her via Facebook Messages that she should get the app and shortly thereafter she messaged me back and asked if it was the Zynga one. A few minutes later, I had a request from her to start our first game. Of course, I also received two other requests a few seconds afterwards, because she wasn’t sure if the other request had gone through, but these small steps were awesome to see.

Hey, Laurie, what’s the point? Great question! The point is that gaming is awesome. All gaming, is awesome. And I say death to the casual gamer because there should not be any kind of label on what kind of gamer you are. You know how many hours I’ve put into Bejeweled? TOO MANY. But you know how many hours I’ve also put into the entire Zelda series and the entire Final Fantasy series, and Team Fortress 2 and the Grand Theft Auto series and the Mass Effect series and many others? A LOT. I say too many hours into Bejeweled just because it’s not my favorite game but sometimes I want to veg out and play something really simple, and for that I turn to my casual games.

Damn this game.

Damn this game for it’s addictive properties. And at the same time? GOD BLESS IT.

Also, the label “casual gamer” detracts those who might be looking to get back into gaming. As people get older, unfortunately we just game less (although it might be a bell curve, because I gamed less during college, but have graduated and am going to town on gaming, but will probably game less once I get real responsibilities in life). If you played a lot of video games when you were younger, you know the label of “casual” is like the black spot, so you think “I used to game, but don’t any more” because no one wants to have to tell gamers “Oh, I game only every so often when I can.” That doesn’t deserve a label! That deserves a pat on the back to acknowledge the commitment to gaming even when free time is sparse. Good on ya, mate! We shouldn’t put you down, we should prop you up and let you know you’re welcome as a gamer and we don’t look at anything else like frequency of gaming; we only look at the fact that you game!

And finally, casual games bring people together in much better ways than more labor and time intensive games ever could, and that is undisputed fact. And isn’t that the goal? For the rest of non-gaming society to realize that gaming isn’t a waste of time and it isn’t the ultimate evil that turns your kids lazy or homicidal – it’s just an outlet that can be really challenging and really engaging and really cathartic and really special and most of all, really fun? So if my mom has started to realize that (and to her credit, she probably already did to an extent. My dad was the one who really hated video games) through her Sudoku, Mahjong, and Draw Something apps, then god bless those casual games.

There’s probably much more that could be said about this, but these are the main points I wanted to highlight. Based on some rumblings in the comments when I mentioned casual gaming in a previous post,  I think I have some reader support behind me, but for those of you who can’t stand casual games or casual gamers, leave a comment! I love the discussion and would be ecstatic to hear more from you.


Okay, the title is misleading, because I got over my addiction in one day. But for those five hours, I was hooked. Currently, the open beta of Pottermore only goes through the first book in the series. Had the other books been available, I’d probably still be playing through the site.

As a huge Harry Potter fan, I find the value of the site solely in getting a wand (elm, 13″, dragon heartstring core, hard), being sorted (Hufflepuff, with alums like Tonks and Diggory so don’t hate), and reading J.K. Rowling’s extra content. Extra backstory to multiple characters, as well as her thoughts and insights about what she’s written, and other funny anecdotes about her life while writing are like crack cocaine to me. The navigation of the site is pretty atrocious, the Flash animation is slow as dirt, and the randomized usernames (while necessary for child protection online) are obnoxious. But those extra paragraphs of information from J.K. Rowling . . . I CAN QUIT WHENEVER I WANT, OKAY!?

Pottermore

A decent start for what is hopefully an improving site and experience.

So if you’re looking for a factual recap: I got through pretty much everything I could possibly do (not including making potions for fun and dueling other Pottermore members) in 5 to 6 hours. I read every piece of new content (but not the recaps from the books) and favorite’d characters, objects, creatures, and places that I loved in the books, to flesh out my profile. I added two friends, and did try brewing two potions and unlocked one door (“alohomora!”) so I wasn’t just going for speed, if that’s what you’re wondering.

I’ll specify my navigation gripe: through the first five or so chapters of The Philosopher’s Stone, I was clicking back to the main page map, to click on a chapter, to then click on the next moment in the chapter I wanted to see. By about chapter six, I realized that there were navigation buttons on the bottom of the screen that I could use to click to the next moment and then the next chapter. At the end of every chapter, you have to scroll through the latest twenty comments or so to get to those navigation buttons. LAME. But something that could be easily fixed (my suggestion: make the buttons bigger, make it a frame so it’s present on every part of the moment you’re looking at).

And to those questioning why I’m writing about this at all: a) I’m in class and bored out of my gourd and b) it’s game, albeit a simple game at that. This enters the age-old debate against casual gaming, and this is certainly a casual game, but this is a future blog post (spoiler: casual gamers are gamers too).

CONCLUSION: Pottermore is ridiculously fun for those of us Harry Potter fans who cry every time they finish rereading the series because they just want more. For kids who enjoy the simpler games, it’s also ridiculously fun. The navigation and slow loading times are pretty terrible, but it’s still technically beta so hopefully that improves in the near future. If you want a friend in the Pottermore world, I’m BludgerNiffler3610, and I’ll keep going back.


As I alluded to in my first post, I’m graduating from college soon, but unfortunately I still have the hurdle of finals week to jump through. I wrote my first post because it was on my mind and I wanted to at least get things going, but I knew that after that the blog would be stagnant for a few weeks while I wrapped up a hellish semester.

My last day of classes was on Wednesday and my first final is on Saturday. The intelligent person would have spent the past two days writing his or her research paper. Unfortunately, I am not the intelligent person.

Yesterday I tried out AirMech which is in alpha testing in the Chrome web browser, so it’s free! I didn’t do my homework, so I’m not sure if Carbon Games plans to keep the game free or not. Anyway, it’s fun enough, but almost exactly like League of Legends except you’re a robot/airplane instead of a mythical creature . . . I’ll probably keep it in my Chrome apps but I doubt I’ll revisit it any time soon. Having said that, I love everything indie, so props to Carbon Games for putting out a good product in a popular niche that people are playing a lot these days.

After I gave AirMech a run through, I tried out the Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances browser game (also free and in beta testing right now). I never actually played Command & Conquer back in its hey day so I don’t know how much of this iteration is just the old game put in browser, but for a C&C virgin like myself, so far it’s been fun. Lots of base building, not a whole lot of action so far, but you get to battle other players and join alliances with others as well so I think it has some potential to be entertaining enough.

And then earlier this afternoon I saw a Kotaku headline about Shigeru Miyamoto toying with the idea of making a sequel to A Link to the Past for the 3DS. My nostalgia gland went into overdrive as I thought about how fun that game is to play, and how (you guessed it) I never finished it so it’s on The List! I played it for about 6 hours tonight and got through two castles in the dark world before I realized a) I should write about this and b) I need to sleep.

NOSTALGIA

NOSTALGIA

I think it would be pointless to review this game: everyone should play it, it’s incredibly fun and is just a well-made game with an engaging story. If you don’t play it . . . I almost said something really rude, but I’ll keep that to myself. Just play the game. What I do feel like sharing though are impressions as I delve back into this world.

A) Wow, Twilight Princess was really just a remake, huh? Dark world, light world? I recently heard someone say they hated the Zelda series because everything is pretty much the same, and actually, I had to acquiesce to this person’s point. However, I say if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Obviously people love the rote gameplay of Zelda (including myself) so more power to Nintendo. The last Zelda series game I played was Twilight Princess so it has been cool to see the origin of a lot of the ins & outs of TwiPri (is that a thing? I don’t want it to be but I’m gonna leave it) in ALttP (that can’t be a thing, but again, I’m just gonna abbreviate).

B) That music! As it all started up again I was loving it! Bobbing my head, chair dancing, making syllabic noises along with the instrumentals! And then I realized every theme is no more than 12 bars repeated, over and over and over . . . Granted that’s true of a lot of videos games now, and particularly a lot of earlier video games. But still, it’s an interesting comparison between music now and then. And who am I kidding, I still love it. NOSTALGIA.

C) I watched my brothers play this so often that I know where everything is even having never beaten it before. It’s fun pretending that I’m really good at video games.

How did people ever find this?

How did people ever find this? Granted, it's kind of random so logic would say "just try to bomb it" but man, the no-crack-in-the-wall bomb spot . . . good thing I remember my brothers blowing it up.

D) You guys, I am really bad at video games. Throughout the quests for the 3 pendants and even all the way up to fighting the wizard in the light world, I was cooking! I don’t think I died once, I was just going to town on all of those baddies. Then I hit the dark world dungeons and I died about a million times. Give or take a few hundred thousand. Seriously, I am bad. I’m confident I’ll get better but man. There was much swearing. And much wishing I could mod armor or something modern gaming-ish like that for Link. Although I gotta say, the Master Sword with full health is always a fun combination.

2nd Crystal Dungeon Boss

This clown took me way too long to even get to, and I feel bad about myself because of it.

E) The modern gaming notion of hording and checking every nook and cranny for potential items is great to apply to older games. I was grass cutting and bush whacking in every frame and got 999 rupees in no time. And then I bought the Zora flippers and spent the rest of my dough increasing my bomb and arrow maximums, and then I got 999 again.

Anyway, that’s all for now. My “official” ALttP post will be up once I finish the game but, in an effort to actually pass my final exams, that may not happen for a week or so. If you have any commentary or questions about Zelda, AirMech, or C&C, leave a comment!