You could easily drive by the strangest corner in Vancouver, Washington. Traffic flows briskly at 40-50 miles per hour past the intersection of 137th and Fourth Plain. Three of the four corners are very mundane, a hospital, a gas station, and a used RV lot. The fourth corner looks like just another gas station as well, until you get closer. Then the oddness becomes apparent.
The corner is dominated by a gas station, seemingly an Arco with AM/PM minimart attached. But look closer. All Arco signs are covered with tarps or tape. There is no sign of any alternate name anywhere. Where a business name should be, a large vinyl sign simply reads, “NOW OPEN”.
In front of the mysterious un-named gas station, a mechanical woman on a handtruck waves a sign reading “Tacos ‘n’ Cream”. Her eyes are dead and lifeless, her brown hair stirs listlessly in the wind. In the distance behind her, one can see the food truck she advertises. Even farther back, a small race track made of old tires behind a chain link fence corrals about a dozen idling go karts.
Today I had a free afternoon, and I decided to see how much fun I could have at this strange little corner with twenty dollars. I decided to start with the go kart track, because going around in circles at high speeds after eating somewhere called Tacos ‘n’ Cream seemed like an exceptionally bad idea, even for me.
The cash register for the track was in a building that also seemed to be the headquarters for an excavation company, and after paying my $11, I was promptly led to a go kart with no instructions other than to return to the pit when I was flagged down after 10 minutes. The kart was powered fairly well, and hugged the corners nicely even though the track was wet from recent rain. I enjoyed driving the track, and it would have been much more fun if I were racing someone. Ten minutes seemed like quite a long time, and eventually I was flagged to the pit.
It’s hard to talk about Tacos ‘n’ Cream without mentioning the owner. Chester-Castillo Morales’ face lights up as he sees you, and he exclaims “welcome home” to each new customer. He is obviously very proud of his offerings, there is an entire placard dedicated just to his beans. He will happily tell you all about his process for removing most of the lard from his meat, and he proudly showed me his grease trap, which had no actual grease in it.
My burrito was quite good and filling, and there were certainly plenty of black beans in it. For dessert I had a scoop of mango strawberry “ice cream” which looked like sweetened frozen fruit. It was delicious, but I couldn’t see any cream in it. I thought it was funny that my entire meal didn’t actually have tacos or cream.
I ended up spending just over $23 at Vancouver’s strange little corner, including the losing scratch it lottery ticket I bought from the mystery gas station. It was a fun hour or so, and a good reminder to stop and notice what’s around us. You never know what strange and interesting things you might find.
Talk about taking you out of the moment.
I just finished the first season of the podcast Serial. It revolves around a reporter investigating a murder over 14 years ago. Many of the witnesses, including the person charged and convicted of the crime, have very fuzzy memory of the day of the murder. Depending on which version of events you believe in, there is either someone innocent in jail, or the right person was convicted.
Home plays with that idea of unreliable memory as you go through the game, asking you how you “remember” certain things. Did you find a body here? Was he where he says he was? Did he have a drinking problem? The answers you give shape the game, and create the atmosphere of doubt, that you, the player, are an unreliable narrator.
The motto of this blog is many games, little time. I probably have the time to finish 20% of the games I purchase. Some people look for games that are 20 hours or more, and if that provides value to you, great. I’m becoming more and more appreciative of bite size games, even games that can be finished in one sitting.
Home is a great example of a bite size game. Using simple pixel graphics, the game leads you through a dark adventure in about an hour and a half. The choices you make will greatly affect your story. Will you have your character pick up that gun?
Would you like a $15 Playstation game for free? If you play through the first 15 levels of the mobile game Fat Princess: piece of cake, you will earn a voucher for the Playstation 3 game, Fat Princess.
The two games are very different. The original Fat Princess for Playstation 3 is a multiplayer action strategy game featuring up to 32 players and has 5 character classes to switch between. The mobile game is a simple storm the castle game with jewel matching for attacks. The mobile game allows you to buy upgrades or pester your friends on Facebook to progress quicker. I was able to beat 15 levels without resorting to either.
Earning the free Playstation 3 game takes 4 steps:
- 1. Download Fat Princess: piece of cake for free (android) (apple)
- 2. Open the game, register on Facebook DON’T TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS
- 3. Play through 15 levels, then go back to the title screen and get your PS3 voucher
4: Redeem your code either on your Playstation 3 or online.
I thought the mobile game was fairly enjoyable, but after 15 levels, I was done with it. I was able to redeem the code on my Playstation 3 with no problems, and now I have a free console game. I hope some of you will take advantage of this promotion. Getting a free game for playing a free game is a pretty good deal!
Today, Eiji Aonuma unveiled a few details of the new Legend of Zelda title for Wii U to be released in 2015. Since I am a huge Zelda fan, this was the E3 announcement I was most excited about. Although very little was shown, what I did see piqued my interest, and what Aonuma said about it gives me a lot to look forward to in 2015.
All previous Legend of Zelda titles have been a collection of small areas stitched together to give the illusion of a large world to explore. In the fist game, each area was only the size of a TV screen! This new Zelda game will feature a TRUE open world. If you can see it, you can travel to it. No loading screens while a bird flies you there, or a train moves down a track, etc. The puzzles in the new Zelda title will be figuring out how to use what tools you have at your disposal to get around natural obstacles. Of course, there will still be monsters to fight, caves and dungeons to explore.
A new Legend of Zelda game with open world exploration like Skyrim? Could I be more excited? (No.)
I have a dilemma.
I want to tell you all about Gone Home.
I want to share how perfectly it captures a household of the nineties with every detail from letters printed on a dot matrix printer, to old TV shows taped on VHS tapes stuffed into cabinets. I want to praise the original music that perfectly supports the themes of the game. I want to share in detail all the themes the games explores, such as…well that’s where I’ll stop.
The thing is, I want you to play this game for yourself. I could tell you all about it, but the game is about discovery, and if I told you almost anything, it would ruin it.
So, here is what I’ll share with you. The game opens with Kate returning from a European vacation to a creepy old house in the Pacific Northwest. The wind and rain howl outside, and the lights flicker occasionally. No one seems to be home. As Kate, you navigate through the halls and rooms, clicking open drawers and doors. You will discover much about your absent family, and even the original owner of the house, while exploring every nook and scrap you come across. The story unfolds at a very satisfying pace. I really enjoyed Gone Home’s environmental storytelling, and I never found myself confused for long as to how to unlock the next area. My experience with Gone Home was about 4 1/2 hours, yours might be slightly longer or shorter depending on how thoroughly you search.
If you ever spent an afternoon in your grandparent’s attic going through old boxes, peeking into a life you never knew they had, this is the game for you. If you want a first person adventure that isn’t about shooting people in the face, this game is for you. If you haven’t played a video game in a long time, and want a slow paced game with simple controls, this game is for you. If you have felt the pleasantly hot sting of your first love, and felt no one understood you, this game is for you.
Please play Gone Home.
Let’s talk about mobile games for a second.
Most are utterly terrible, with the exception of a few gems like Angry Birds or Plants Vs. Zombies. Apple has the best marketplace for mobile games, keeping in mind 95% of the apps are crap. If a game does well on iOS, you can expect to see a version on the Android Google “Play” marketplace. Another 3 months after THAT, the Amazon appstore might get a version of a game, that will likely never be updated. Amazon has an incentive program called Amazon coins that you earn for purchases in the Amazon Marketplace. Each coin=one cent.
Today (10/16/13) if you want to earn $4.60 in Amazon app funny money, “purchase” these 23 FREE apps. You don’t need to download; each app “purchase” (free)earns 20 cents. I highly recommend you spend this $4.60 on good games like The Room, Plants Vs Zombies, or maybe Angry Birds Star Wars. I can’t in good conscience advise anyone to spend any time on the following 23 apps, with one exception.
Here is a list of the 23 free apps that will earn you Amazon coins for a total of $4.60 in Amazon app credit. I inexplicably tried each app for 5 minutes and wrote a short review
I’m a miner. The ceiling moves down constantly. My pickaxe breaks unless I spend more $. So I die. Deleted.
I’m a gun in a gunstore. I can shoot other guns. Or targets. Oops, only 7 bullets. Buy more? NO.
Fisher Price commercial with scarily happy characters. Nightmare fuel.
Game required registration with Facebook before I could play. Nope. Out.
Actually pretty fun. Frantic resource management. I kept forgetting to put away dirty dishes.
Dress up your zombie hunter. Fight cute zombies in cute stages. Meh.
I’m building guns out of wood blocks. (?) Now I’m stuck on inescapable ad screen. Unlock full game? HAHAHA
I would say this is the methadone for slot addicts, except you can still spend real money.
Spent 2/3 of 5 minute review downloading additional content. Followed byloading screens. Actual game was a decent runner.
Like a Pinterest for interior decorating ideas. Let me contain my excitement. How U ZZZ…
Hidden object/puzzle game. Spent most of my 5 minute review rearranging a horse. Cleared first room, will probably play more.
Took over half an hour to download. Looked and sounded amazing for the 20 seconds before it crashed.
If you have over 100 updates, you don’t deserve to call yourself a mobile game.
I broke my Hillbilly’s neck in Hill Climb Racing. I hope Bobby-Sue got lots of royalties for drawing the levels.
Actually pretty good. Simple play mechanic, great graphics for mobile. Falling death scream hilarious.
Same game as Temple Run 2. Except everything looks terrible. Guaranteed to make your grandma angry.
I made this. Yay.
Another Temple Run knockoff, this one with adorable street urchins tagging everything in site. I can’t.
Mark Zuckerburg is a NSA tool, and I’m also a tool for already owning and using this app.
Look. I tried. I even made a board of creepy clowns. I’m just not pinterested.
Genuinely fun endless runner type game. Actually controls well for touch. First game I can recommend.
67 degrees, sunny with 3 mph SSW wind. The ads tell me to shop at Home Depot in my new Mazda.
MAKE IT STOP
So would you play a free browser based game? The strongest reason is that because of their limitation of running on a browser, they often shine with creativity instead of eye popping graphics. Browser games are often short, giving you a satisfying experience in a single sitting. Lastly, all of these games are free! As we reach the sunset of this current console generation, gaming pennies are being saved toward the $500 consoles coming out this fall, and these free games are most welcome.
The Republia Times
This game places you as a newspaper editor in an opressive regime. Basically, you are in charge of printing propaganda. Randomized stories appear in a simple feed, and you must select which stories to highlight, as well as how big to make the story on the page, and what placement it gets. Sometimes you’ll have bad luck, and all of the randomized stories seem to paint your country’s leadership in a bad light. After each day, you see a mockup of your paper, and get instant approval ratings.
Ah, Candy Box. First of all, please don’t confuse this game with the fiendish “free-to-play” Candy Crush. This entirely text and ASCII adventure starts with a simple line stating how many candies you have and giving you the choice to eat the or throw them on the ground. By the end of the game, you are vanquishing multiple foes with your flaming sword on an epic quest. I encourage you to start this game, play for 5 minutes, then let it run quietly overnight, and see how it opens up. It even has a simple save feature. Give it a shot!
I saved the best for last. Do not let this game fool you into thinking it is a simple educational game about frogs and fractions. There is SO much under the surface of this game! Your first clue about the devious programming is in the upgrades menu, where the game argues with itself over the virtue or lack there of in buying the auto-targeting frog tongue. Speaking of upgrades, I left you a big clue in the picture about how to really dive into this game. I don’t want to say more, because this gem has many surprises that you should experience first hand. If you play just ONE of these free games, make it this one.
Many games have referenced the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. Most recently, Assassin’s Creed III incorporated this date as a time of great upheaval, a reversal of the natural order, and a great cataclysm. As with most doomsday dates, this one came and went with no major disasters, no magnetic pole shifts, sunspot flares, meteors plunging into the ocean, or zombies.
Every year my family likes to have an informal holiday party in late December. The first one was memorable for burritos and wine (not a gastricly satisfying combo) and the board game Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The last few years, we’ve borrowed Festivus from the Seinfeld Show, with a simple, unadorned aluminum pole, Airing of the Grievances, and Feats of Strength. A Festivus for the rest of us. This year to mark the end of the Mayan calendar, we celebrated End of Us Festivus.
I tried to come up with a simple end of the world scenario, and let my house be the storybook. While I had fun decorating, as usual it was the energy and enthusiasm of our guests that made the party a blast to host. I never imagined we would go through 5 MREs for the Feats of Strength for example. If you were with us last night, thank you for helping to make the end of the world a blast.
Finally, a reason to power up my Playstation Vita! I like this system, I really do. It has a great screen, great hardware in general, and finally dual analog sticks. There haven’t been any games I’ve purchased for my Vita since launch, until Retro City Rampage. For anyone with a Vita who lived through the 80s, this is a must purchase title.
When I was twelve or thirteen, I had two favorite things; NES games and Saturday morning cartoons. I still remember how excited my brothers and I were when Burger King sold single Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle episodes on VHS for $3. We wore those tapes out, never tiring of blaring the theme song on days other than Saturday. Retro City Rampage gives me the same feeling, like I snuck a piece of 1987 magic into 2012 that I can play whenever I want.
Retro City Rampage is a top down open world driving/shooting adventure that begs comparison to the original Grand Theft Auto. There are two driving control options, and shooting is either assisted lock on or dual stick. The game controls well in all modes, but that isn’t what makes it special. All of the buildings, cars, and characters are lovingly crafted with old school sprites, all of the music is fresh work from great chiptune artists, and the game even includes alternate screen modes like an old computer monitor or an original Gameboy system. This game is a love letter to gaming and life in general in the 80s. I simply lost track of the cultural references from that decade, whether from video games, movies, music, or TV. Quick example: I’m on a mission from the game’s version of Doc Brown, reassembling the Flux Capacitor. While driving by the Thunder Hats store, I jump out of KITT from Knight Rider and steal Peewee Herman’s bike. The game also has many special stages patterned after classic Nintendo NES era games.
All of the pop culture nods and game modes are great, but fortunately the game is fun to play as well. I often play for 10-15 minutes, completing just a few missions, and have a great experience.
Tight controls, short fun missions, a colorful and humorous world, retro-nostalgic sprites and chip-tunes combine to give the player great bursts of pick up and play fun.
Retro City Rampage is available on Wii, Xbox, PC, and Playstation 3, but the sprites look great on a smaller screen, and the quick play sessions make it easy for me to recommend the Vita version. It should be noted that this is one of Sony’s first crossbuy titles, which means if you buy either the Vita or Playstation versions, you get the other version free as well, and you can move game saves between versions! No matter what platform you decide to play Retro City Rampage on, you are in for a great time, especially if you remember the 80s with fondness.