Exploding Limes and Fractal Cabbage

secret study in enchanted cave banner

A few weeks ago, I covered the browser version of Enchanted Cave 2 for my students, so I was pretty excited to review this roguelike treasure grab for adult gamers over on Hardcore Droid. Lots of meta-jokes for RPG gamers, and silly items to loot!

Enchanted Cave 2 opens in a typical RPG town, full of townspeople sharing the requisite warnings about the boundless dangers and wonderful treasures found in the nearby cursed cave, but this is not quite an RPG.  I quickly discovered that the cursed cave is a randomly-generated dungeon of treasure and death, perfect for roguelike exploration. Adventurers battle their way through, looting bags of cash, weapons, armor, and crafting ingredients (like unicorn poop or exploding limes).  If you let your adventurer run out of health, he’ll die in the cave, never to be seen again. More importantly, you’ll lose all the gold, loot, and skills you’ve acquired in that dungeon run, so keep an eye on the all-important health bar. This gives a great tension to battles, and makes those healing potions incredibly precious.

via Enchanted Cave 2 on Hardcore Droid

DO IT OR YOU FAIL!

failIn one of my classes, our syllabus proclaims that the correct heading must be name, date, and course section number, and threatens that students will receive an AUTOMATIC ZERO if the course section number is above the date. This isn’t the only formatting mistake for which we’ll AUTOMATICALLY FAIL (and paper formatting mistakes are not the only student errors that will cause immediate failure), which leads me to so many questions. After 6+ years in the classroom, I’m really curious why an educator would open a course, and the student-teacher relationship, with the fairly minor formatting mistakes that will result in insta-fail. Of course, in this class I’m a student, so I’m guessing that my opinions on the syllabus aren’t terribly relevant.

When I encountered this kind of syllabus as an undergrad, I believed that the importance of carefully formatting papers according to the professor’s style was preparation for the Real World and a Professional Career. Maybe in the Real World, formatting will be super important to, uh, something? Maybe this is a test to see if I’ve read the syllabus? Maybe it’s a test to see if I can follow directions? Er, I mean, a test to see if I can follow these particular directions, not just the directions about which book to read and when to turn in essays, because in way the entire class is a test of direction-following ability.  Maybe our papers are going to be graded by robot? In which case, I for one, welcome our new robotic overlords with open arms.

But now I think the real takeaway is to accept that sometimes you have to do fairly pointless things in order to reach a goal.

Thaw the Vikings in “Frozen Islands”

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Frozen Island ShipFrozen Islands, from the developers of Strikeforce Kitty 2 (I reviewed that here), is a new browser game on CrazyGames. In this cute strategy game, you’re the commander of a tiny Viking band, surrounded by islands of frozen enemies and trapped Vikings. As you conquer new islands, you’ll gain experiences and new territory. Some islands include a new Viking character class to add to your band, like berserkers, chiefs, and spearmen. You’ll be able to upgrade your conquered islands and levy taxes, creating a nice sideline to your income from pillaging.

This gold is spent on upgrades to your band, which lets your Viking warriors go further and further and conquer more islands. Players are unable to replay completed islands to gain gold or XP, so financially, I found I was better off taking on difficult challenges and failing, as long as I survived long enough to loot a nice fat treasure chest.

I really liked the Viking theme and the bloodless battles, and I was just thinking how this would be a great game to show the students, when I got the ringleader character, who inspires the other Viking warriors to battle by standing up on a barrel, and waving his beer mug. So cute! But perhaps not exactly what parents would like me to share with the kids… Still, this is a fun expansion strategy game with a cute Viking theme, and no blood!

frozen islands battle


Frozen Islands is currently available on CrazyGames, along with plenty of other Flash games like puzzle game 2048, and evil twin 2584, secret vampire makeouts in Twilight Kissing, and cute buttonmashing adventure Mighty Knight.

[Here comes the game]

Hosting: CrazyGames


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Bennington Girls Are Easy

Bennington Girls Are Easy is about two best friends, and their wider circle of college friends. Actually, it’s about living in the city right after college.

I love struggling-friends-in-the-city chicklit, and I love lifestyle porn, but I get extremely annoyed when they touch. (The I gotta find a job — any job! motivation* does not work for characters who each have their own room in their doorman apartment, and it just makes me wonder if the author’s ever been to Manhattan.) Bennington Girls Are Easy does not make me wonder if the author’s ever been to Manhattan. No, I’m convinced that all of these characters are real people who are going to sue the author for revealing all of their private and unflattering moments.

Would definitely recommend — I read it in two sittings, and I only stopped because APPARENTLY Harold wants to spend time with me or something —  but don’t expect a cheery adventure about college girlfriends making in the big city, though. That NetGalley blurb is a bit misleading. Instead, this novel is a blunt and somewhat dark look at sex, money, social class, and the evolution of college friendships in adulthood.

*But I love when the protag needs a job and can’t be picky, so she takes this strange position with this oddball cast of coworkers, and hilarity ensues. Love it.

Bennington Girls Are Easy by Charlotte Silver will be out on July 14th, 2015. I received a copy of the book to review. Opinions are my own, as always, and eARCs have never stopped me from snarking about a bad book.

A for All Done

hello kitty chinglish squareI’ve not exactly enjoyed everything about my online class, but I passed with an A, because 90.0000000001 is an A.

I was obsessively checking, so I saw this in the grades section of my online “classroom”. Then I got an internal college message telling me my grades are available in my student account, then I got a regular email telling me I have my grades in my student account, then I got an email telling me that my most recent (only) grade has been added to my GPA, and my new (4.0) GPA is available in my student account, and blah blah blah basically every day since the class ended, the college has found another way to congratulate me on my A.

I hope skywriting is next.

(Photo explanation)

No Pineapples Will Be Left Behind!

Alternate Title: Even More Thoughts Around Games and Education

A while ago, I posted about No Pineapple Left Behind, a serious game Seth Alter from Subaltern Games is working on, all about standardized testing and school systems. I was really disappointed to hear that the Kickstarter had failed, and I was completely delighted when Seth told me at IndieCade that he’d found a publisher for No Pineapple Left Behind, so I’ll soon have a chance to play with the pineapple-children.

His first dev diary(ish) is up here:

 

I’m really glad these pineapples won’t be left behind.

 

Enchanted Cave 2

enchanted cave 2

I recently played and loved the web version of Enchanted Cave 2, and covered it for Youth Digital’s students, so I jumped at the chance to review the new mobile version for Hardcore Droid. I really love doing reviews for the kids, but naturally, game reviews for kids aren’t as in-depth as magazine articles, so I’m really looking forward to writing a longer piece for gamers on this cute and evil roguelike adventure.

Anyway, I started playing the mobile version, but figured I didn’t need the mechanics explained by the cave guard. He clearly did not appreciate me skipping the exposition.

Climbing the Walls With ‘Vex’

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Vex 2, on CrazyGames, is one of those evilly difficult games that no one can stop playing. Kind of like a certain flappy little bird.

Vex isn’t about exploring a world or following a storyline, unlike Grey, which uses platform mechanics to tell a story. Vex is simply about vexing platform levels. Your little stick figure needs to typical platformer things, like avoid spikes or falling to your doom.

Fortunately for players, our vexed little stickfigure can do something most platform heroes can’t: Climb walls. So, if you’re starting to fall, or you can’t jump over something, you can grab on and climb up. It’s a great mechanic because it adds so much tension. Whenever I started a new level and saw a path of too-high jumps, I was reminded that this game is Vex, not Super Relaxing Fun Time. And every time little hero misses a jump and hangs on by his fingertips, it adds tension to the game. Fortunately, most of the truly evil challenges have checkpoints immediately after, so you don’t spend too much time re-running levels.

There are a lot of super Vex-ing levels, and if that’s not enough, there are 3 different Vex titles for more evil platform fun. I checked out Vex 2 for this post, but there’s also a new Vex 3 as well as the original Vex, if you need more funstration in your life.

The Vex games are available on CrazyGames, along with plenty of other Flash games like puzzle game 2048, and evil twin 2584, secret vampire makeouts in Twilight Kissing, and cute buttonmashing adventure Mighty Knight.

[Here comes the game]

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Writing About Writing, Again

games gender eduOn Monday, I gave a talk at Davidson College about games and education. It was a really great day. the campus is beautiful, and it was lovely to talk with Anelise, about her work in digital media (old texts + new technology is so awesome), about mutual acquaintance, about Jersey girls in the south.

I did have a couple odd moments in the coffeeshop office hours on campus when (male) students explained things to me. I’m not sure if it was youth or mansplaining or what exactly, but I was thrown a bit when I was informed that the patriarchy affects career choice, or that the games industry regularly lays off talented employees. It wasn’t hostile, just… surprising. There’s a lot for me to unpack there, actually, there’s so much for me to think over from all the questions and comments from undergraduates. Anyway, I just read Matt’s post-mortum on his eduWeb talk, and decided to process my talk the same way.

Things I Was Awesome At

Slides with topic headings and supporting quotes! Next time I will add more images, too. I also used Prezi to draw actual lines between connected topics.

Talking slowly and making eye contact with audience members. I talk too quickly for the south and I don’t really enjoy eye contact any way. So this should have stars and glitter and confetti around it.

Used my full allotted time. Didn’t go over. Didn’t have time to kill. I guess 6 years (!!!) of classroom teaching has taught me some things.

Not too much reading. I read my intro and conclusion directly from my iPad but besides that, I was glancing at my notes and facing my audience as much as possible.

Things That Could Have Been Better

More practice. I could hear myself saying Oh, yeah, and another cool thing about that, but I was powerless to stop it. Ugh.

Better topic organization. See above. I waffled between trying to say ALL the THINGS and trying to make one point clearly and well, so my end result didn’t really do either.

Stand up and walk around. It’s more charismatic and inviting to stand up and move around, in fact, I secretly judge speakers who just plunk down and don’t move, but managing my Prezi, notes and nerves was enough.

Post-Lecture Manic Phase I compartmentalized to do a good talk, and got pretty jittery and manic after presenting. This is preferable to freaking out before or during the talk, so progress! But still not exactly best practice.

Post-Mania Crashing Having a body is hard. Having feelings is hard.

Take a photo of me speaking. Actually, take more photos in general. It was a good day and I wish I had remembered to take more pictures of it! I often hear laments about selfies or cries to put down your phone! Be present! But for me, I usually wish I had my phone out more to take more photos of my experiences.

Secrets of ‘High School Story’ #hssgame

hssgame

A few weeks ago, I was at a homeschool education conference for my work, and I got chatting with a twelve-year-old about our favorite games. (This was a theme of the conference weekend, and I got quite a few game recommendations from the under-18 crowd) She was very excited to find out that I also play High School Story, and gave me all the details of unlocking the secret missions. I didn’t even know there were any secret missions!

But I had my own High School Story secret. See, I didn’t expect to be showing my high-school themed appointment-style game to anyone, so I sort of named all my HSS students after Star Trek characters, and put them in Star Trek situations. As one does.

Student gov’t Seven reveals her #Borg past in #HighSchoolStory #hssgame #Voyager #7of9 #ios #screenshot

A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

This won’t end well, Tuvok. #hssgame #Voyager #latergram A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

Think that’s called shipping. #HighSchoolStory #hssgame #startrek #trek #fanfic #otp

A photo posted by Meg (@simpsonsparadox) on

It lines up pretty well, in case you were thinking of trying it.

 

Design Flaw

Recently, I’ve been feeling awful, just kind of dragging myself through things, and I have a great deal to do for class, regular work, freelance work and apparently if I don’t wash my clothes, they won’t clean themselves. Design flaw.

I can’t figure out if the way to out from under is to just power through it, work just as hard as I can to complete things. It’s been pretty hard to focus, but I’ll feel better for having accomplished something, and then I’ll rest better and feel better, and get into a positive cycle instead of a negative one.

Or maybe I should quit telling myself to work and power through, and actually acknowledge that I find myself zoning out instead of completing anything. In that case, I should shut off the computer, have something nice to eat, read a book for a while, and come back to it later when I’m in a better mindset. I’ll do better work because of it. and feel accomplished and get into that positive cycle.

But mostly I’ve been compromising between the power-through and self-care methods by eating horribly and doing sloppy work. Adulthood!

Continuity

continuity screenshot“Easy to learn, hard to master” is usually considered the gold standard for a casual game. The more time new players must spend, learning how systems and items work, the less casual and accessible the game is. (I love a good World of Warcraft or Icewind Dale, too, playing a game for years and still discovering new abilities for new character classes, and still finding tweaks to my customized hotkeys.) But accessible doesn’t have to mean match-three.

Continuity simply uses arrow keys to solve puzzles, in two modes. The first mode is a slider puzzle, with gentle meditative background music. In this mode, the puzzle is to build a path for your little hero to get the red key and get into the red door.

Hit spacebar to enter the second mode, a platform adventure exploring the path you just made. Again, players will use arrow keys to navigate, trying to get the key and then reach the door.The faster, more energetic music matches the jumping and running challenge.

continuity 3

There’s a surprising amount of variation in the 30+ levels. Later levels add extra keys, and speed-pausing puzzles, but the real growing challenge, and the real fun, comes from the interplay of the two gameplay modes. Players are building a platform game through a slider puzzle, then playtesting it, switching back to change the layout, playing again, switching back and forth to reach a goal.

Working in games, it’s hard not to play a game and think that it’s just like a popular other title with 1 vector of innovation, the common “like X but with Y” formula. In this case, I played each new level and legitimately wondered how the developers came up with it. So fun. It actually was really easy to learn the game rules, and then quite challenging to defeat the later levels.

Anyway, I discovered the PC version of this game over on Kongregate, but there’s also a mobile version of Continuity 2 for iOs and for Android.

Retro Mobile Ready

mobile readyI recently changed my theme to make my blog mobile-friendly, and in doing so, I went to a very simple theme and then took out a lot of features.

I’ll probably put the header image back, style up the sidebar widgets, and set up a related posts plugin again shortly, but it reminds me now of when I first started on Blogger in 2005. At that time, I thought it might be fun to have a blog, maybe, for a little while, so I picked the green default template and started writing.

Tugging the Table

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Tug The Table is a cute and very casual game on CrazyGames. Ii this game, the little red dude and the little blue dude have decided to play tug of war, but I guess they are out of rope, because they’re going to tug the table. Now, there are two ways to tug this table. You can play against a friend, or against the computer. Either way, you’ll win when your opponent crosses that middle line, so players tug the table by hitting that key as fast as possible and as much as possible. If you want to play against a friend, you’ll both sit at the same computer and hit either the up arrow or the W key. It can get pretty heated, and pretty ridiculous, because as we all know, a lot of really simple games lead to a lot of giggling.

tug the table

There’s also an iOS version of this game, for table-tugging on the go. I’m a little worried about this one, because I worry that it might get a little too realistic, and Tug The iPad doesn’t seem like a very good hobby…

The little characters are pretty cute, and sometimes it’s funny to pull the table and then let go to let your opponent fall. Remember, don’t actually do this in a tug-of-war with your friend. Actually, that’s a pretty good rule, don’t actually go around tugging tables in general, only in this cute game.

Tug The Table is currently available on CrazyGames, along with plenty of other Flash games like puzzle game 2048, and evil twin 2584, secret vampire makeouts in Twilight Kissing, and cute buttonmashing adventure Mighty Knight.

 

 

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