Saturday, May 25, 2013

Don't Starve - An Addiction We Can All Enjoy

Like many of you I have a busy life.  Full time job, hobbies, chores, family, etc.  One of my guilty pleasures is indulging in video games.  My favorites are Civ V, WoW and GuildWars 2, with a few mobile games like PvZ rounding out my on-the-go entertainment.

I'm in the process of getting a novel published (the beginning, looking for an agent portion of the process).  The last thing I need is another time sink.  Enter my loving spouse who insisted I try Don't Starve.  I was hooked!

You initially play Wilson, waking up in a strange world.  You run around, gather materials, make tools and prepare for night.  Rinse repeat.  Sound fun?  Believe me, it's so addictive!

You have to keep an eye on your tummy meter (so you don't starve), your sanity meter (if it gets low you start seeing things) and your health meter (so the spiders don't kill you).  Different resources keep one or more of these up.  You can craft increasingly complex devices.  Exploration is important to locate resources and dangers.

If you survive long enough you unlock other characters.  I won't ruin it for you by saying any more than that.  The great joy and frustration of this game is discovery.

A final note on the graphics - they're fantastic!  Creepy and well done, cartoony with a dash of Nightmare Before Christmas flavor.

My recommendation - support an indie game that's cheap, fun and won't nickel and dime you to death with in app/game purchase options.  Oh, and there's no subscription fee :)

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Little Something Extra - D&D Miniatures

I recently started playing a new Pathfinder campaign.  For those of you who don't know, Pathfinder is very similar to D&D.  My DM (Dungeon Master - and no, this is not a 50 Shades of Gray thing) is a big fan of miniatures.

I've always shied away from miniatures, those tiny, chess like pieces which represent PCs and NPCs.  It'll take all the imagination out of the game, I thought.  Miniatures make it into a board game.  I'm here for role-playing, not to count squares and move little plastic or metal figures like a grown-up Candyland.

My DM had laid out an impressive dungeon map and provided us with a plethora of miniatures to choose from.  I and the other female player had a hard time finding female figures both armed and clothed.  Big boobs and wee bits of leather or chainmail?  Check!  Fully clothed and adequately armored? Not a chance.

This is a really common problem, especially in anything that has to do with fantasy   Don't believe me?  Check out  Funny commentary on the typical bikini armor female characters are stuffed into.

That aside, miniatures did make it easier to judge distances in combat and figure out attacks of opportunity.  I have to admit, they do add a little something to the game.

Still, why can't my female elf ranger wear pants?  All the males get pants.  Why is she stuck in a loincloth and ity-bity top?  Maybe she should loot some pants in her next random monster encounter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A for Effort - Iron Man 3 tips his helmet to women

The summer blockbuster season is upon us and we open with the return of our beloved Tony Stark, the Iron Man.

Overall, Iron Man 3 lived up to my expectations of a comic book movie, especially one produced by Disney.  The plot is fairly simple:  Disillusioned genius scientist puts his skills on the free market and turns to evil.  Our hero, aided by his sometimes sidekick, Col. Rhodes, his steady girlfriend, Pepper Potts and a plucky kid with a knack for causing panic attacks, must face his own PTSD demons while battling the growing threat posed by the Mandarin, played quite ably by Sir Kingsley.

The story picks up after the events of the Avengers and Tony is having problems sleeping due to the the trauma of learning both aliens and Norse gods exists.  Strangely, the US is still more concerned about religiously motivated terrorism than they are about OMG ALIENS and GODS!  Anyway...

Mr. Bad Guy Pants has recruited wounded vets and using an experiment process created by Tony's one-night-stand Maya, turns them into super soldiers.  Queue the final showdown - Tony, Rhodes and Potts vs. an army of super soldiers and Killian.

This movie takes a few faltering steps away from the comic cliches in its treatment of three female characters.  While none are the main movers and shakers, they have their own moments to shine.  Sadly, these are almost immediately overshadowed by the boys.  When Maya takes a stand, demonstrating her moral courage, she's shot.  When Brandt fights Tony, she's blown up.  When Pepper saves Tony and herself from Killian, she turns right back into the uncertain girl, full of quivering pleas for comfort "Am I going to be alright?", thus putting a lie to her single moment of badassery.

I'm encouraged that scriptwriters and movie producers are trying to give their females roles outside of the classic damsel in distress or femme fetal.  I'm looking forward to more efforts and a day when women feel just as included at a Marvel movie as men do.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Zombies on my freaking lawn! Why I still love PvZ

Yes, once again, there are zombies on my freaking lawn!  I feel like Crazy Dave with a pot on my head...or butter, no, he wears a frying pan.  Anyway, I love PvZ (Plants vs. Zombies)!  No matter what the iOS game de jour is, I find myself humming along to the soothing sounds of my zen garden, or trying to break my streak in Vase Breaker Infinite (currently, up to 18).

So what keeps me coming back?  A couple of things:  I'm a completist and I still haven't achieved all the achievements.  Yep, OCD, that's me.  The game play is simple to learn and changes enough from level to level that it doesn't seem too repetitive.  There are mini-games and puzzles.  Also, you really feel like you're getting a lot of content for your money.  In the age of $60 games with a play thru time of 8 hours (about $7.50/hour of play time), considering how much I play PvZ, I probably paid fractions of pennies for each hour.

I, like many other fans of PvZ, worry that EA will fill PvZ2, coming out this summer, with in-app purchases and take it down the same rough road they have with other IP's they've acquired (cough SimCity).  We'll have to see when it comes out.  EA has a bad reputation from trying to squeeze every penny out of the consumer.  While PvZ currently has in-app purchase available, they're not necessary to enjoy the game, which I really appreciate.

The game's not big, it's not flashy.  It has nice graphics, a great sense of humor and you get more than your money's worth.  Let's hope it stays that way.