Missing Translation Review


Since I’m super skint and a major tight-ass at the moment,  I’m just playing and reviewing FREE games on steam. Despite the price tag, or lack of one, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few titles. Missing Translation is one of them.

The narrative is light but basically you get pulled into an alien world and have to find parts to fix the portal that transported you there. To do that, you need to explore (in a very linear way) the world and solve puzzles. Apparently you can also try to figure out the native dialect by talking to people in the world and ‘studying’ at the school, but that is optional and frankly, I didn’t bother.

The puzzles are pretty cool, in my opinion. Although there are no hints or any explanation of what to do (or why), I found them fairly intuitive and very rewarding. For a while there I felt like a flipping genius!

You have to solve 25 levels of three different types of logic puzzles. Note: 15/25 in the first set of puzzles set my brain on fire for a while there… There is no punishment for failure and often it is a mix of trial and error and puzzle planning that gets you through within a few minutes. One thing I did find annoying was that I had to ‘re-engage’ with the puzzle every round (e.g. 1/25, 2/25 etc). I guess this was to give you the option to leave the puzzle without having solved all 25, but it mostly just created dead space between rounds and unwanted extra clicks.

The whimsical ditty playing in the background made playing through so many rounds… kinda nice. The simple art style and black and white palette worked with the game and the simple narrative. There was enough detail to pull me in but not take up too much of my time (I have a 2 year old, I don’t have a lot).

Final thoughts – definitely worth a casual play.

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Oxenfree Review


This game is aaaaaall about the narrative. Oxenfree’s story follows Alex, a teenage girl, struggling to cope with the recent death of her brother. At the same time she’s learning to accept her new stepbrother, Jonas.

The game starts with Alex, her stepbrother and her friends on a ferry to an abandoned island for a night of reminiscent fun. Soon after they arrive, Alex finds her hand-held radio is picking up strange signals and voices. After a brief interlude of teenage angst and conversation, Oxenfree dives into supernatural suspense.

Playing as Alex you explore the island and talk with friends, uncovering the secrets of Oxenfree’s characters and world as you do so.

Now for my thoughts on the game…

The game mechanics are quite simple but very cool. Your time is spent walking around a mostly 2D environment, usually with a friend or two. But the magic is in your radio that’s frequently used for clever interactions and lends itself well to the supernatural horror setting. You are also in constant conversation with a friend or two. Speech bubbles with multiple options to choose from appear over Alex’s head and you select the option or let them fade away if you choose to remain silent. You can offend other characters and change the course of the game by the selections you make.

Speaking of characters, all of the character backstories and dialogue is very realistic and interesting. You really want to get to know them, and quickly begin to translate their actions against their history.

So what didn’t I like about Oxenfree?

There was an hour or so in the middle of the game where I started to get bored of the constant chatter and seemingly useless choices to be made. Walking and talking, walking and talking and talking while walking. Also, the game map is a little tricky to use with various forks and alternative routes that can sometimes leave you frustrated (after walking for 30 minutes, only to find you went the wrong way and have to back track for screens and screens). Luckily, the story pulled me back in and I ended up finishing the game, quite content.

The only other brief annoyance was the intermittent “quizzes” towards the end of the game that depended on your knowledge of the island history. I tried my best to tune into island history points and listen read relevant plaques and signs but I think, since there are alternative routes to places, sometimes key areas are bypassed and then consequently I had no idea of correct answers. It’s not really important whether you “fail” the quiz or not, but it got on my nerves a bit.

Over all, the game made for an interesting and fun few hours. The interactive story and characters were the prize in this game. I definitely recommend everyone play it, no matter what your preference of game.

Journey Review


Journey, produced by Thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PS3 on March 13 2012

This beautifully unique and magically presented game tells its story without words, leaving awestruck players to develop their own theories for the purpose, lesson and conclusion of the journey. Here are my own:

I’ll cut to the chase; Journey is about life – all of it, simplified into 2-3 hours of tranquil, curious play. The subject is very topical for me at the moment as I am a new mother of a 9-month-old baby girl. Watching her grow and learn about herself and the world around her is an entertaining joy and so is Journey because it invokes a similar wonder and pleasure.

Puer (the name I’ve given our cloaked protagonist) is reincarnated from the stars to find himself with very little knowledge about his world (a windy, undulating desert) and limited ability to communicate or move around – just like a baby. The landscape is awe-inspiring and vast and Puer seems so small and insignificant. As he moves through his journey, he slowly gains skills and understanding; now he can have a bigger impact on the world around him. He meets and takes guidance from others who help him along the way (cloth creatures and spirits). He slowly grows and ages, although this is not visible of his character, it is the made apparent by the environment around him. Suddenly there are more complex problems to solve, histories to understand and a visual richness bringing to light detail that makes the mind wonder and guess at the past.

Puer’s scarf seems to represent knowledge and his life force. As he discovers and interacts with his world it grows in length and gives him power to move more easily through his environment. At the same time, the history of his world is slowly revealed. A once thriving population lived within a great city but the introduction of technology and eventual war caused the fall of the civilization. This history lesson is an important part of Journey. As Puer uncovers the past, he has aspirations for his future – knowledge is power, actions have consequences, be better than those before you. You feel a sadness at the loss of something once great and it drives you to want to ‘fix’ the world, but that is not the purpose of your Journey.

By the time Puer reaches the snow-covered mountain (the mother), he has aged substantially. His scarf is covered in frost, hindering his power to float and fly. It also represents the cloudiness in his knowledge – it is still there but it can’t be easily accessed. Puer’s movements are slow, impeded by powerful icy winds. Friends hover far away, high in the sky and are no longer much help. Some die around him, reminding him of his own dwindling mortality. Foes are lurking around every corner. The world has become a scary, difficult place.

Thankfully as he nears the end, Puer has a chance to be free of the shackles of age once more. He accepts his fate and returns to the source of all life – the mountain peak. Now he lives in his mind and is free of the burden of his body. He remembers the good times, his relationships and how far he has come. He finds peace and at that moment he is ready to die. As his soul is released from his body, it is returned to where it all began…

A cloaked being awakes in the dunes, ready to begin a new journey.

 

The game story gets 5/5 symbol stars. The fact that much of it is up for interpretation is a tribute to its intricate and personal subject – life.

Square Heroes Review


I lost a couple of hours this weekend to a quirky, fantastically fun game of Square Heroes. I must admit, what lured me to purchase the game on Steam was a completely egotistical desire to see the new character names and dialogue I had created, but what kept me playing (between social and domestic obligations) was the kick-ass kills and phat loots!

There is something extremely satisfying about beating a monster with a rubber chicken whilst wearing a tiara. Choosing the right weapon and approach for each type of battle (Gnome Hunt, Team Death match etc.) becomes more important and fun as the game progresses. Don’t get too trigger happy with the big hitters though, as you are likely to annihilate yourself (along with your foes) in a feat of superb suicidal splendour.

I’m looking forward to further improving my skillz, playing the single-player tournament, while convincing my friends to get on-board!

Square Heroes Release


Check out the latest release of Square Heroes – an AWESOME little arena shooter featuring Online, LAN, Co-op and local multi-player gameplay. I was lucky enough to write the in-game dialogue for this comical, yet addictive game so keep an eye out for my name in the credits!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/334560

Square Heroes Games Writer

 

Be an Author Supporter


In a marketing world so driven by so social media and “mass movement” it is evident that you need “supporter swell” when endeavouring to sell something to an audience wider than your field of friends and family. There are endless social media sites you can use to get likes and followers but you need more than the average share to encourage others, who have never heard of you, to click that button and officially become a supporter.

So how do you attract supporters? Good question. In my experience, I’ve found it extremely difficult to reach strangers and entice them, not only to buy my book but also to visit my web site or follow me on wattpad. But I’m new on the block and I’m learning so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. Many authors get involved in writing communities, do blog tours and interviews, sign up for review sites, run promotions on sites like BookBub and consider cross-promotion with other authors (such as chapter swaps or multi-author box sets).

So I would like to declare my openness and eagerness to gather support from those who can most understand how important and illusive it is- other authors. If you are interested in collaborating, chapter swapping, building a short story set etc, please drop me a line and we can talk tactics. I have recently been tagged in a writing process blog tour here and I need to tag 3 other authors to continue the tour in my next post. If you are an author and you are interested in cross promotion, send me an email today at me@estherkrogdahl.me 🙂

Good Gaming – My Gaming Life


For the longest time now I’ve wanted to write about how games have been an important and joyous part of my life. I’ve put it off for so long because, to give it justice, I would need several hours of writing time that I just can’t justify stripping from the Ruthless series sequel I’m currently working on. After attending an amazing event at the University of Western Australia’s writers festival today, I’ve decided I’m just going to put down everything I can and add to it over time (as I slowly remember games I’ll no doubt forget to include below). Today was spent watching Hex and Bajo from Good Game, interview a number of amazing, interesting and super intelligent game designers and writers (from Bio Shock, Freedom Cry and Far Cry). So now I am inspired!

Below I will mention my most memorable games but I’ve played many many more. I have avoided some because of their addictive and all encompassing nature (I know my weakness and I’m not interested in waking up in a pool of my own filth one day). I hope my gaming story makes you remember your own and perhaps- encourages you to write it down and share it 🙂

I first discovered “video games” when I was about seven years old -that was in 1990. Every year, my family used to stay in a big camping and cabin resort in the South West of WA. We would stay there every Easter with a number of other family friends who all had kids around my older sister’s age. I was the youngest by almost three years, which at that age was quite a significant gap. While the other kids went horse riding, played tennis and pool- activities that meant my size (I was tiny compared to your average seven year old) and my intellectual age were a serious handicap, I preferred to spend my time in the games room- playing arcade games I could barely reach.

I remember wrapping my small, clammy fingers around the joystick of Ghouls and Goblins and plugging piece after twenty-cent piece into the machine. One year I was delighted to find that they had two new games at the camp- Golden Axe and Double Dragon. GA quickly became my new favorite and without fail I would chose to play as the only female character- slaying skeletons, using magic spells and kicking tiny gnomes in the tush for potions and chicken drumsticks. Arcade games were mesmerising to me and if I wasn’t playing them, I was watching someone else play them. Consequently, I had my 8th birthday at Timezone- an arcade where my four best friends and I had free reign to play any games we wanted for two full hours.

One magical Christmas, my cousins got a Commodore Amiga 500. Introducing the PC. Family interaction became secondary to playing Gianna sisters until I puked (I really did play for so long one afternoon that I was sick). My parents eventually caved and bought one for our family. That day I was lost to the world of games forever. The only known Amiga shop in Perth, which was not so close to our house, sold copied games on single floppy disks, second-hand adventures in frayed boxes and of course those awe inspiring plastic wrapped packages filled with disks, maps, code books and guides that had yet to be drooled on by pre-pubescent gamers. It was a good day indeed when my father took me to that shop. Even if we only came away with a $2 copy- I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get home and play it.

I played unknown games like Amoeba, Bally and text adventures such as Sorcerer but also the classics like Lemmings, Indiana Jones, Superfrog, Bubble Bobble and F18 Interceptor. My great love was for the epic Sierra RPGs like King’s Quest, Hero’s Quest, Quest for Glory, Space Quest and even Leisure suit Larry.

I had not yet discovered the console. I had only played Altered Beast on a Sega Mega drive at a friend’s house, which I found intriguing but I still preferred to play on my Amiga. I would play PC games from sun up to sun down and although my parents periodically protested, I am forever grateful that they recognized my passion and for the most part, let me be.

When I was twelve years old I made a friend who owned a Nintendo. I made sure that I maintained a friendship around the use of the Nintendo for fear that I would lose access to the Nintendo forever. Snake Rattle and Roll was my favourite. She didn’t have Mario brothers. I also made another friend who was completely uninterested in games but she had an older brother who was quite the opposite. Soon I was head-over-heels in love with him.

Any opportunity to compare notes on a PC game we were both playing (because I had found out what he was playing and saved up to buy it myself) was a heavenly and uplifting moment. As a serious teenage gamer- one that had money to spend on games and time to expend in a dark, smelly room- my crush was an inspiration and a guide into my own teenage gaming life. When he bought a PlayStation and let me play Loaded and then Reloaded with him and two friends on a Saturday night, I started saving my pennies.

I eventually saved up and bought a second-hand Super Nintendo and Yoshi’s Island. I played that constantly until I finished it. I later brought Donkey Kong, which I also obsessed over until I’d finished. By this time, I was about fourteen years old and I’d made plenty of girlfriends who had no interest in games. Eventually when I realised my crush had no interest in me, I suddenly lost interest in games myself. I didn’t play games of any kind for  five long years. 😦

When I was nineteen or twenty, my boyfriend bought me an Xbox for Christmas. That was a pretty awesome gift (I consequently married him nine years later). I was back on board. I started playing Starsky and Hutch, The Matrix, Call of Cthulhu, Splinter cell, Time Splitters, Halo, Halo and more Halo!

From then on I dabbled in games between computer-science university lectures, worldly travel and eventually a full time job. I began as a web developer and consequently met plenty of like-minded gamers (to varying degrees) in my career. Gaming was no longer an obsession but an excellent casual pastime, a great conversation topic and I’d even roped my partner into playing with me, so occasionally it was a fun Saturday night in.

At around twenty-seven, I discovered DOSBox. So many of those old games still tugged on my heart strings so I revived a few such as Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall and Legend of Kyrandia. They weren’t quite like I’d remembered them (how times had changed) but I still thoroughly enjoyed the trip down memory lane.

Back to consoles- I ended up jumping a generation or two and finally purchased a PlayStation 3. Again I fell in love with games. One of the first games I played was God of War. Wow. How I love that game. I was later gifted Heavy Rain for Christmas by my super husband and that is what I played exclusively until I finished it. I dabbled in Little Big Planet (everyone should) and got more deeply involved in Borderlands 2 and then Portal 2 (angel harps playing here).

Right now, as of February 22nd 2014 I am working my way through The Last of Us. All I can say about that is I am no good at being stealthy and I therefore attract clickers like flies to poop. Speaking of poop- The Last of Us is a truly pants-pooping game.

I am ashamed to say that I already have my eye on another game and will likely get my hands on Gone Home much before I finish The Last of Us. In fact, maybe I’ll just download it now…

Good Game Host

Still in love with those nerdy gamer dudes. My hero- Bajo from Good Game

 

Mortal Kombat Komplete Review


Released all the way back in 2012, this game is worth playing anytime you can get your hands on it. Whether you are a fan of the series or not, this is a great place to start or get back to your MK roots. The story mode gives you a good back history of the series and slowly- each of the characters. You also have the good ol Krypt that allows you to unlock some sweet stuff like new endings, costumes and best of all – kick-ass character fatalities. There is some lame stuff speckled amongst the screaming tortured souls of the Krypt so I  suggest having a look at a walk-through site such as this, so you avoid the crud and only spend your hard earned coin on pure awesomeness.

Speaking of pure awesomeness… Freddy Krueger and Kratos. Need I say more?

Kicking ass has never been more fun with improved beat-down moves and x-ray attacks, which are hilarious because the character on the receiving end somehow manages to keep fighting with a broken neck and two broken legs- hardcore! Best of all, you’ve got some really gory fatalities that will make you scream “Yes!”

On to graphics- zero complaints. The backgrounds are really interesting and ghoulish (if you have time to sneak a peek mid-match). The characters look amazing and in my opinion- realistic (or as realistic as you want them to be). Their movement is fluid and adds to the awesomeness of attacks.

All previous DLC is included in this Komplete edition so you just put it in and play! Be prepared for some sore thumbs-ups.

Pebble Watch Review


-By Coder Mike. Jan 2014

Are you tired of checking your phone constantly to find out the time? Well those marvellous boffins at Pebble have been hard at work on the problem and have come up with a revolutionary device you can wear on your wrist that they are calling a “watch”. This stylish new accessory is able to tell you the current time with just a subtle glance and a casual flick of the wrist.

Do you like analog clocks? No problem. Digital is your thing? Got you covered. Prefer your time to be reported in relation to the nearest mealtime from the perspective of a hungry hungry Hobbit? That is an option too. With a large array of available watch faces you can personalize your timekeeping experience to suit your needs.

How often do you find yourself in a meeting when your pocket vibrates? Are you getting a call, or a text? Did something amazing just happen on Facebook or twitter? Even worse is when your pocket starts playing that ridiculous ringtone that seemed like a good idea last time you’d had a few and everyone in the office is looking around for the culprit. The pebble is able to communicate with your phone and let you know who is calling. It can pass on the contents of SMSs, emails, even Facebook and twitter notifications to the screen of the device. It will even vibrate to let you know that something has happened. Since getting my pebble watch my phone has been on silent for over a year and I haven’t missed a call, a text or a cute picture of a cat!

Did those magnificent masterminds at pebble stop there? Of course not. How about the ability to see artist/track information for that catchy tune pumping through your headphones, pause the music right from your watch when someone wants to talk to you or even skip to the next track when that mood-killing song interrupts your flow.

You might think such an amazing device would require a lot of power and demand constant charging but the Pebble uses an eInk display (the same that’s in your kindle or eReader) and a new-fangled low power Bluetooth connection to talk to your phone. All of this means that I only charge my Pebble Watch once a week and it doesn’t drain the battery life on my phone either.  In fact, as I turn the screen of my phone on a whole lot less, I get more life out of my phone charge each day!

I was just an ordinary guy but since putting on the Pebble Watch I’ve become a futuristic cyborg, directly wired into the pulse and flow of the internet. I’m no longer a slave to my phone; I have become its master and begun to build a personal cloud of devices that make me more powerful than those around me. That’s the experience that’s waiting for you. That’s the Pebble Watch.

-Esther says

Thanks Mike! For those who are interested, you can pick one up easily enough right here: Pebble Smart Watch for iPhone and Android Devices