Tharsis Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 February 2016, 10:00 am

I played a bunch of Tharsis after hearing about it a few weeks ago.  I thought it was still early access, but it turns out it's a "full game".  It sure doesn't feel like it though.

The core of the gameplay system is there but it feels like it needs options, missions, difficulty settings, and more fleshed out gameplay.  But, I really like what's there.

Tharsis is a game about traveling to Mars and everything goes wrong.  It's a crisis management game.  Every turn you decide where your crew goes in the space traveling vessel and you roll dice for the crew to try to complete objectives.

It's honestly like a board game made to be a video game.  I love board games and video games these days, which is what attracted me to Tharsis in the first place.

Honestly, I really like it, but it feels incomplete.

This one is going to go on the backburner for awhile until they add more to the game.  It's obvious that they intend to add more to the game and tweak it over time.  I bet it's going to be really fun in about six months.


Voyager Season 4 Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 10 February 2016, 10:00 am

Right near the beginning of the season some big changes happen on Voyager.  Kes leaves the ship in a blaze of telepathic glory that superspeeds the ship another 10 years closer to the Alpha Quadrant.  Right around the same time Seven of Nine comes aboard.

Seven of Nine is a Borg who is freed from the collective and quickly becomes one of the most interesting characters on the ship.  She brings into question what it means to be human and how to discover your humanity after being raised without it.  The episodes that focus on her are some of the best of the season.

There's also a lot of development between Tom and B'elanna.  It's the first real romantic relationship on the ship that we see consistently being developed.  This is the season where they finally come together and have an official relationship.  It's a nice common thread that keeps moving forward throughout most of the episodes in Season 4.

Not to mention that the Doctor once again gets a couple cool episodes with things that only his holographic self can do.  He's still my favorite character.

One of the most exciting developments of the season is that Voyager finally communicates with the Alpha Quadrant through an alien communications relay before once again getting cut off.  But they got updates from home, and now Star Fleet knows they're alive and on their way back.

It's nice to see big progress on the trip back to the Alpha Quadrant.  I'm still having a good time watching the show and I'm excited to start season 5!  I'm glad this Star Trek clicked with me.  It's making me really excited for the new Star Trek that CBS is launching later this year.


Firewatch Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 February 2016, 8:36 pm

I just played through Firewatch and loved it.  The game only clocked it around the 4 hour mark for me, but it was wonderful.  I'm so happy when a dev tells their story and then wraps up the game.  This is the perfect example of a game that doesn't need to be 8+ hours to be worth the money.

In Firewatch you get a little bit of backstory about your character and then start your first day on the job of watching for forest fires from your tower.  Your only line of communication is through a walkie-talkie to your direct supervisor and that's where the majority of the narrative takes place.


But things quickly start to happen that you need to go investigate.  Most of the game finds you wandering the wilderness around your tower digging into things that are going on.  You use an actual compass and map along with a limited gear set to traverse the terrain.

Not to mention the in-game disposable camera!  It only has around 20 shots, so make them count.  At the end of your game you get to see all the pictures you took and it even generates a webpage where you can go download them.  That screenshot above is a picture I took in-game with the camera during my playthrough.

It's an amazing game for explorers and for narrative driven gamers.  I haven't had a game grab me and amaze me like this in such a long time.  I'm so happy to have found a game that clicked with me so easily.

I know that the price point of ~$20 matched with the playtime of 4-6 hours will drive some people away, but I felt like it was worth every penny.  I already know that I'm going to end up replaying it very soon.

I highly recommend this one.  Check out Firewatch.  It's out on basically every major system today.




Voyager Season 3 Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 9 February 2016, 10:00 am

Voyager is still going strong in season 3.  I don't have a ton to add to my initial impressions of the first two seasons, but it's worth noting that the show has remained consistently good.  I'm happy I've been able to find a Star Trek to enjoy... I was starting to worry that I wouldn't be able to recapture my ability to like the series.

Season 3 finds the crew still on their roughly 70 year voyager home after getting flung into the Delta Quadrant of the galaxy.

All the characters continue to develop but this season had particularly good episodes for The Doctor and Kes.

The Doctor keeps evolving from his initial holo-programming and after one weird time travel episode he gets the technology to have a portable holo-emitter which allows him to finally walk wherever he wants.  It's used to great effect and he has some fantastic episodes.  I love seeing his personality continue to grow and I'm convinced that he's one of the best actors on the entire show.

Kes' telekinetic abilities keep growing.  Sometimes they get out of control and sometimes they develop at a reasonable pace.  It's obvious by the end of the season that she must be nearing the end of her story arc.  I think next season is where she leaves and they bring on another crew member as a replacement.

Finding Voyager has made Star Trek fun again!  I hope the show keeps up it's quality throughout the entire run.


Perfect State Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 February 2016, 10:00 am

Perfect State is a Brandon Sanderson novella.  As such it has a unique world and fantastic worldbuilding, just like all of his writing.  I really liked it.

In Perfect State each person is in their own version of the matrix but they know about it.  The computer generated world adapts to them as they live their lives.  The worlds can be anything from a modern setting, to a fantasy realm with magic, or super futuristic high tech.

In the end the human race is basically brains in jars.  They've generally come to terms with it.

The really interesting parts occur when these humans interact with people from other "states".  Essentially people from other matrixes.  Someone who has lived their entire life in a realm of magic can suddenly find themselves dealing with future tech and robots.  It's a very interesting culture clash.

Since it's a novella it's a quick read.  I listened to it on Audible and it was about a 3 hour listen.

Perfect State is the best novella I've read in the past year.  I highly recommend it.


Final Fantasy Explorers Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 7 February 2016, 12:34 pm

Over the past couple days I've gotten to start digging into Final Fantasy Explorers.  It's a Final Fantasy spin-off game for the 3DS.

It's basically Monster Hunter by way of Final Fantasy.

After somewhere in the 6 to 8 hour range with the game I'm feeling very "meh" towards it.  I love the premise, getting to use Final Fantasy classes against monsters in the world.  But the game itself feels slow and directionless.

It has really bad messaging to player.  It's hard to know what to focus on or what to do to improve your character.  There's also almost no story, which is typically something that keeps me invested in Final Fantasy games.

I've finding Explorers less fun than I hoped it would be.  But it's not a straight up bad game.  There can be moments of fun against enemies or fighting giant eidolons out of the Final Fantasy lexicon like Ifrit and Shiva.

I think I'm going to put this one on the backburner.  It might be better suited as a game to play while doing something else, like watching TV or listening to podcasts.  Honestly, I'll probably pick it up next time I have to do air travel.  That always seems like a good time to dig back into 3DS games that I've moved on from.

I'm also going to wait and see if the community puts together good resources for this game.  I feel like if I understood how to progress my character better and had a clear goal to work for I would be having so much more fun with this game.



Final Fantasy Project Article List




Punch Club Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 5 February 2016, 10:00 am

I heard some good things about Punch Club so without really knowing what it was I picked it up on iOS since it was only a couple bucks.

Punch Club is about training, improving stats, getting new abilities, and then using all that against other opponents in a fighting league.  It kinda has a Rocky vibe to it.  That underground old school boxing training.  Kinda.

But really, at it's heart, Punch Club is an optimization engine.  It's for people who love to optimize everything.  If you're a theorycrafter or optimizer I can't think of a better game for you.

While I like RPGs that allow me to find efficient ways to do things... there really isn't much more here.  It's just an optimization engine.  That's not enough to hook me.  It doesn't help that the setting and themes are ones that particularly appeal to me.

But if you're someone who loves to optimize the hell out of your RPGs, you really should take a look at Punch Club.


Desert Golfing Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 4 February 2016, 10:00 am

Desert Golfing is a mobile game I've heard about off and on for awhile.  It's a deceptively simple concept.  You use trajectory aiming on a 2D plane to hit a golf ball into a hole... in the desert.  Hence the name.

The complexity comes in because some of the holes get extremely tricky.  And holes never repeat.

I was really confused after hole 18... there was no menu, no stats screen, no selection options... it just went to hole 19.  Then 20.  Now I'm on hole 503 and I thought it was time to write some thoughts on the game.

Honestly, this isn't ever going to be a game that you monotask.  That is to say, this is a perfect game to play while doing something else like listening to a podcast or watching TV.  It's great as a second activity when you're doing something that doesn't take up all your mental RAM.

It seems like this desert goes on forever.  So, it's a game I'll keep picking away at over time.  It's pleasantly simple.

Oh!  And one time I saw a CACTUS!  EXCITING!


The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 3 February 2016, 10:00 am

Yeah, ok, I'm late to the party.

I went back and forth about picking up this game ever since it released.  I had tried the first two Witcher games and they didn't click with me, but I kept hearing rave reviews about the series.  Then this third game launched and it's ended up on so many game of the year lists that it's crazy.

One of the biggest Witcher advocates I've seen is Syl.  She's a long time blogging and twitter friend of mine (she's awesome, you should follow her on twitter) and I think she finally got sick enough of my indecision that she grabbed the game for me when it was on Steam sale.

I have to say, thank you so much Syl!  This game is great!

I didn't think I was in a mood for another open world game, but this game has been fantastic.  The story hooked me within the first hour and I went almost entirely critical path ever since then.

Even going critical path through this game I could see the detail to worldbuilding and dedication to realistic side quest encounters.  I chose to stay on the main quest because it feels like it's time sensitive and I just constantly wanted to see what was next, but the few times I let sidequests pull me away I was floored by how much detail was put into them.  I can see why so many people put so many hours into this game.

The main story finds Geralt (The Witcher) trying to track down his adopted daughter Ciri who is on the run from The Wild Hunt.  She's an adult and very capable of taking care of herself but she's definitely in over her head.  The whole chase to find her I constantly felt like I was about to catch up to her.  That's the main drive that kept me on the main quest.  No random stranger I don't have time to kill a monster for you, I have to find my daughter.  As a parent it's a strong motivation.


While the story and worldbuilding excelled, the gameplay itself was... fine.  It wasn't anything groundbreaking.  Almost every gameplay system I touched felt like games that I've played before.  They all worked fine but they weren't the main draw of the game for me.

With the storytelling, characters, and worldbuilding I can definitely recommend The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.  If you've been on the fence about it maybe it's time to jump in.

The developer, CD Projekt RED, truly impressed me.  While I loved the main story and felt driven throughout the entire game, this old medieval style isn't really my favorite setting.  But wow did they commit to it and flesh it out into a full world.  Imagine my joy to learn that their next game is a Cyberpunk futuristic sci-fi romp.  Cyberpunk 2077 was barely on my radar before but now it's staying on my most anticipated games list.


Shadows of Self Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 2 February 2016, 10:00 am

This is another in the long line of Brandon Sanderson novels I've read.  Wow, he's good at staying productive and getting his books completed.  This is the latest in his Mistborn series.

The Mistborn world has great worldbuilding (as does all Sanderson writing) and a really cool magic system.  Magic users are able to burn specific metals inside their body to produce very specific effects.  It ends up being weirdly precise and scientific while being awesome at the same time.

The last book in this series, Alloy of Law, was a jump forward from the original trilogy.  The events of the first trilogy are mostly myths and legends now.  The world has advanced past the medieval setting and is made up of mostly western and early 1900s type settings.  Basically an entire set of new characters were introduced.

This book, Shadows of Self, starts to bring the old and new series together.  Characters and events from the first trilogy begin interacting with the new cast.

I didn't really like the western setting of the previous book, but this one takes place in a major city and feels more like an alternate early 1900s.  It's a setting that I still don't love, but it's much more appealing than western.

The characters, locations, and situations from the original trilogy start to line up and interact with the new ones.  It started off a little slow but by the end I was completely hooked and torn through the last third of the book in one night.

I love the magic system and underlying story ideas in the Mistborn series.  I'm really tempted to go back and re-read the original trilogy after finishing this one.  But, I think a new one in this series is due out soon so I'll probably wait for that instead.

I would still recommend this series for sure, but this isn't the place to jump on board.  If you're more interested in a fantasy setting go back and check out Mistborn which kicks off the original trilogy.  If the fusion western/industrial revolution setting sounds more like your style then start with the book right before this one, Alloy of Law.  Either of those are great places to get started with the Mistborn series.


Joss Whedon: The Biography
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 1 February 2016, 10:00 am

This book hooked me.  I started it not really expecting much and ended up finishing it over the course of one weekend.

It's a biography but it's mostly about his history of creation in media.  It doesn't focus much on his childhood, and it's all the better for it.  Instead, it's broken down by what he was working on and when that happened.  There are multiple chapters devoted to some of the longer works, like Buffy, but it covers all of his film, video, TV, and comics up through The Avengers and prepping for Age of Ultron.

The book gives lots more context for his work and it's made me appreciate things I already liked, but in a new light.  I have to admit, as soon as I finished it I re-watched Dr. Horrible.  It's probably my favorite made for the internet thing ever.

Mostly, it just makes me excited to see what his next project will be.  I understand Joss Whedon as a creator so much more now and I'm definitely already interested in all of his future projects.  For me, he's now one of those creators that I'll always keep an eye on.


Gauntlet (2015)
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 29 January 2016, 10:00 am

Gauntlet (2015) was free through PS Plus in December and I finally got around to trying it out.

It's an example of the basis of all Hack and Slash games.  It makes sense since Gauntlet itself was one of the main origins of the entire genre.

This one has been updated and modernized a bit, but it's a hack and slash game at it's core.

I played a few levels of single player to see what it has to offer and quickly realized that this game is truly made to be played with friends in local co-op.  I'm going to keep it installed for the next time I have some people over who would be interested in local co-op.  It's not that great single player but with friends it could be so much fun.


Some Fallout 4 Endgame Fun
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 28 January 2016, 10:00 am

I tried to go back and explore some endgame of Fallout 4 with my character who had completed the story.  It wasn't as compelling as it had been when I was pushing through the main story.  So I did the thing that made the most sense.

I started using console commands.

Player level 35?  Let's just crank that up to 300.  Then activate every perk.

That was fun for a night.

The next night going back to it and I was kinda over the normal loop of exploration in the game.  So I turned on god mode.  Want to know the best part of god mode in Fallout 4?

Infinite Ammo.

I basically spent an entire night charging into groups of enemies wildly firing the fat man.  If you haven't played Fallout 4 the fat man is a handheld mini nuke launcher.  I don't think I had fired it the entire time I played the game because I only ever had a couple shots of ammo for it.

Running around and firing off fat man mini nukes all over the place was a ton of fun for another night.

And now I think I'm done with Fallout 4 until they start releasing expansion packs.  I held onto my true save (before console commands) in case they release some DLC that I want to play.  Until that time I'm signing off from Fallout 4.


Star Wars The Force Awakens: Before the Awakening
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 27 January 2016, 10:00 am

I'm still catching up on some of The Force Awakens tie-in novels that slipped past me in the months leading up to the movie.

While I basically read every adult novel of Star Wars as it comes out, I skip over most of the young adult or early reader books.  Generally this has served me well, but occasionally there's a Star Wars young adult book worth my time.  It turns out Before the Awakening is one of those.

It's a book broken into three parts, one for each main character in the movie.

Finn's story is all about his stormtrooper training, relationships with his squad, interactions with Captain Phasma, and his first deployment.  It's really good backstory.

Rey's story covers a few months of her scavenger.  It explains where her mechanical and piloting skills come from as well as giving some more information on how she views the world.

Poe's story ties in most directly with it basically leading right up to the point where the movie starts.  We learn about Poe's skills a bit but mostly his story fleshes out the relationship between the New Republic, the New Republic Navy, Leia, and the Resistance.  I feel like I have such a better understanding of the political situation in the galaxy after reading his story.

Before the Awakening is a quick read but it definitely adds some depth to The Force Awakens.  I think it's worth your time.


Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 26 January 2016, 10:00 am

I have a confession to make.  I'm playing a dumb, grindy, exploitation, micro-transaction, f2p, mobile game.

If you couldn't tell from the title of the post, that game is Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.

It's so out of character for me in most ways.  I really like engaging and unique mobile games.  I typically can't stand this low-input waste-away-the-hours  check-back-frequently type of game.

But this one is Star Wars.  And it's grabbed me.

At the bare minimum I've been doing the daily quests every day.  Most days I've been checking in a few times throughout the day.

I'm upgrading gear, giving my characters new moves, unlocking new characters, leveling them up.  All the things you would expect from this type of game.  It's actually not that far off from a game like Final Fantasy Record Keeper.  Except that it's Star Wars.  Apparently that makes all the difference to me.

In the global arena ranking I generally hold my own and am consistently in the top 1000 players.  Worldwide.  Ugh.  I can't believe how a game like this has hooked me.

Anyway, I haven't spent money on it and it's a great game to check in on a few times each day.  Especially while I'm doing something else.  It's a good multi-tasking game.

If you like Star Wars and you're a fan of this type of game you should definitely check it out.  If you know this type of game isn't for you then you can safely avoid it.




Final Fantasy Dimensions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 25 January 2016, 10:00 am

After trying out Final Fantasy IV: The After Years over the past couple days and bouncing off the game I thought I'd try the other iOS Final Fantasy that I've been putting off, Final Fantasy Dimensions.

This one is a little different.  All the other Final Fantasy games I've played on iOS were remade, remastered, and ported over to the system.  They were mostly the mainline Final Fantasy games and they were really good.

Final Fantasy Dimensions is the first Final Fantasy game they made specifically for mobile... and it's not very good.  The controls aren't nearly as responsive or intuitive as all the other mobile Final Fantasy games I've already played.  You can tell this was one of their first attempts at the platform.  It just feels rough.

Not to mention a story that starts off overly heavy on exposition and with some pretty bad player guidance.  It makes for a lot of frustration right off the bat.

This is my second time really trying to get into Final Fantasy Dimensions and I can tell it's just not going to happen.

I'm glad I gave this one a couple tries to see what it had to offer, but I'm moving on.  Final Fantasy X-2 is still near the top of my "to be played" list and I have good memories of the battle system in it.  I hope that one lives up to what I remember.

Final Fantasy Project Article List




Show Sampler
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 January 2016, 10:00 am
I needed a break from Voyager after flying through the last couple seasons, so I thought I would sample a few other things from my "to check out" list.


Parks and Rec
After hearing about this show for years my wife and I finally sat down and watched a couple episodes.  It took a few for us to get the style of comedy they're going for but now we're into season 2 and it's getting really good.


Galaxy Quest

After Alan Rickman died I heard this movie mentioned everywhere.  It's essentially satire and comedy about Star Trek.  It's ok, but not fantastic.  It's obvious that it's a late 90s movie.  I'm probably never going to rewatch it but I'm glad I watched it once.


Stargate Universe

This one was the biggest hit of the show sampling for me.  I watched the first episode and already I'm interested in the characters and the overall premise of the show.  If I wasn't specifically doing a sampler I would have immediately watched the next episode.  I'm excited to get back to this one later for sure.




Farscape

This one was a total flop for me.  I didn't like the characters, style of the show, or the production.  I very quickly tuned out and moved on.



The Flash
I've never been a huge fan of DC heroes, most of the superheroes that have resonated with me have been Marvel.  But, I've heard a ton of good stuff about The Flash so I thought I'd try anyway.  I was surprised that I liked it as much as I did.  I need to go back and watch a couple more episodes to see if the show is for me in the long term but I came away with a good first impression.





Star Trek Enterprise

Taking a break from Star Trek and watching more Star Trek.  Funny, right?  I've heard horrible things about Enterprise but I actually really like the premise after the first episode.  It's all about the first real Star Fleet starship, the Enterprise.  It takes place before all the other Star Trek shows, not long after the warp drive was invented.  The whole galaxy is unexplored at this point and I think that's really cool.  I need to watch a few more episodes before forming a full opinion.


Final Fantasy IV: The After Years Impressions
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 22 January 2016, 10:00 am

After having Final Fantasy IV: The After Years on my iOS devices for awhile I figured it was time to actually try it out.  The structure of the game is broken into "tales".  Different characters are highlighted in each tale but (according to howlongtobeat.com) altogether they add up to about the length of a typical JRPG.

This game is the same world and lots of the same characters as Final Fantasy IV.  It's a direct continuation of the story, only years later.  One of the main character's is the son of Final Fantasy IV's main characters.

It really feels like I'm retreading old ground when I'm playing The After Years which is probably what some people want, I'm just finding it boring instead.  I don't think I can force myself to push through and find the fun in this game.

Although I want to try all the spin-offs from the Final Fantasy series, I feel no desire to force myself to play through a spin-off if it isn't engaging.  Where I really struggled to get through a few of the mainline Final Fantasy games I still felt it was worth it for a sense of mainline completion.  I definitely don't have that drive for spin-off titles.

I think the problem is I'm probably not the target audience for this game.  There is a huge Japanese fan base which feels that Final Fantasy IV was the best game in the series.

This game is for those people.

I'm not one of them.  I thought Final Fantasy IV was pretty good, but not fantastic.  My golden age for the series happened in the PSX era of Final Fantasy VII through IX.

I'm putting this game down, most likely permanently.  I played enough to know what it has to offer and that's all I needed to see.

The next Final Fantasy spin-off I'm most likely going to revisit is Final Fantasy X-2.  I remember just loving the battle system in that game.  I hope it holds up to my memories.

Final Fantasy Project Article List




Steamworld Heist Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 21 January 2016, 10:00 am

I picked up Steamworld Heist when it suddenly appeared on a bunch of "game of the year" lists in early January.  I had been interested in it since I loved Steamworld Dig but for some reason the release date (near the end of December) had totally slipped my mind.

If I would have played this before the end of the year it would easily have been in my games of the year post.

Steamworld Heist is a 2D sidescrolling turn based strategy game with skillshots and trajectory skills.  It's awesome.

You all know I love a good turn based strategy game, and this is a great one.  It follows the aesthetic of Steamworld Dig but beyond that similarity it is it's own game.  Steamworld Dig was a dig deeper and upgrade your character sort of game.  Steamworld Heist is all about being a ROBOT SPACE PIRATE.

Maybe I should have put that up at the front of the post.

YOU ARE A ROBOT SPACE PIRATE!  It's so much fun.

The progression mechanics of acquiring new gear and finding new characters for your robot space pirate crew are fun, if nothing too unique.  But the gameplay itself is the perfect blend of strategy and skillshots.  You move, trigger abilities, and aim in a turn based mode.  But when you actually attack an enemy (usually with a projectile weapon) you have to aim manually.  There's no behind the scenes dice roll or random number generator to determine if you hit or how much damage you do.  It's all up to your aiming skills.

I bet almost any of you could enjoy this game on casual difficulty.  And if you happen to be a turn based strategy fan you will probably adore this game... and crank up the difficulty.  Either way, it's a great game and it gets a big recommendation from me.

Steamworld Heist is currently out on 3DS but it's coming to almost every platform in the near future.  So if you don't own a 3DS just keep your eyes out for it to show up on your platform of choice.




Voyager Season 1 and 2 Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 20 January 2016, 10:00 am

Typically I like to review season by season once I get into a show.  With Voyager I actually didn't realize I had finished the first season until I was half way through Season 2.  It looks like the first season was shorter than typical and the second season was longer, so this will cover them both.  There was no clear break point or big season finale for the first season, they just kind of flowed into one another.

This is such better Star Trek than my attempts to watch the other shows.  Those quickly failed when I got bored or frustrated with some part of the storytelling or production.  Voyager still holds up, even the first season which is from 1995.

There's a bit of crossover with the other Star Trek shows to launch the pilot of Voyager, but after the first episode the crew is lost and alone in the Delta Quadrant.  In Star Trek terms this means they've mysteriously been sent to the other side of the galaxy and it's going to take roughly 75 years for them to make the journey back to Earth in the Alpha Quadrant.

It's such a cool departure from typical Star Trek.  All the other shows take place in the Alpha Quadrant with the support of Star Fleet and around areas of the galaxy that are familiar to humans.  There's exploration but there's also the sense of never being too far from back up.

Voyager takes the opposite approach.  They give the crew a brand new top of the line ship, the Voyager, but then immediately cut them off from all support and all contact with the rest of the human race.  It's breaks with typical Star Trek in a fantastic way.

Within a few episodes I was already connected to all the main crew members and super excited to see them develop.  And they actually do develop.  Unlike other Star Trek shows where you can drop in anywhere and they're basically the same crew... Voyager has a crew that grows and changes over time.

This is what I wanted in a Star Trek show.  Real exploration in unknown areas of space.  Crazy new encounters on the wilds of the known universe.  And real crew growth and development.

There was only one really bad episode that involved time travel, Amelia Earhart, and random alien abductions from the 1930s.  There were maybe one or two more that weren't very good.  But overall the 42 episodes that make up the first two seasons are still really good.

Season 2 ended on a cliffhanger where the ship was taken over and almost the entire crew was abandoned on a planet.  My guess is that by episode 2 of Season 3 the crew will be back on the ship and ready to continue their trek home, but it's still fun to see radical changes thrown in for season ending episodes.

I'm having a lot of fun with Voyager and I'm going to keep watching for now.  Onto Season 3!


Pokemon Omega Ruby Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 19 January 2016, 10:00 am

I grabbed Pokemon Omega Ruby before heading out on my last trip and finally got around to beating it the other day.

Every once in a great while I get the craving for a Pokemon game and this one did the job just fine.  It has Pokemon, gym leaders, a story, the Pokemon League, and everything that comes with a Pokemon game.  It was fun to play through fairly quickly.

The thing that I noticed most of all is how much extra stuff they've added to Pokemon games over the years.  I can see how it would be nice if you're going to devote hundreds of hours to Pokemon to have all these side activities, but I'm just in it to play through the game once and then move on.  When I was really into Pokemon as a kid it was with the original two generations of the game.  They were just about Pokemon, leveling up, and beating the game.  I guess that's still all I want.

These modern incarnations of Pokemon have so many side activities it's almost overwhelming.  News feed, special powers interacting online, mystery trades with strangers, Pokemon beauty contests, Pokemon training, Pokemon virtual pets, Pokemon Finder, Pokemon everything.  I barely touched any of it.  But I bet if I was a kid and this was one of the few new games I got each year I would really get my money's worth out of it.

I basically went critical path through the main story.  I really had fun with it that way.  I had a great little Pokemon adventure and now I'm done.  Total play time was around 12 hours.

I think I'm all set for Pokemon games for awhile.  I'll keep my eye on the next one that comes out, but if my personal history is any indication I'll probably wait a few more generations before I play another one.  Except for Pokemon Go.  That mobile game looks awesome.


Giving Deep Space 9 a Try
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 18 January 2016, 10:00 am

In trying to dig into Star Trek from my younger days I decided to pretty much tackle the different series in order and see if any of them stick.

While TNG's late 80s / early 90s production values and pacing didn't hook me I still appreciated the acting and the stories.

Deep Space 9 was next up and it failed to grab my attention on any front.  The production quality is similar, if not a bit better, but the acting and the premise just aren't as interesting as TNG.  Star Trek is typically about exploration but Deep Space 9 is about a space station that stays put in one place.

The most interesting thing about it is that it has crossover episodes with both TNG and Star Trek Voyager.  It bridged the gap between to two and that's pretty cool.  Thinking back about it, there was some form of Star Trek on TV for a long time from the late 80s all the way to the early 2000s.  It's weird that it's been off the air for so long now.

Anyway, with DS9 I tried the first few episodes and then reverted to the old standby of a "best episodes" list.  After watching a handful I knew this one wasn't going to hold my attention either.  It's tackling some interesting topics and the setting gives it a different feel from all the other Star Trek shows I've seen over the years.  But that very difference is what turned me away from it.

I'm moving onto Voyager next, but at this point I'm wondering if these shows are just dated.  They're from a different era of TV production that doesn't click with me anymore.

I still really like Star Trek as a universe.  I love the new movies.  But I may simply need to wait for the new show to premiere next year with modern production sensibilities before I'm able to get back into a Star Trek show.

Let's see what happens with Voyager.  In my mind it has always been my favorite, but that could just be nostalgia talking.


Disney Infinity 3.0 The Force Awakens Playset Review
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 12 January 2016, 10:00 am

I had a lot of fun with this playset.  So far I've played through all four available Disney Infinity 3.0 playsets and this one has been my favorite.

The Force Awakens set comes with Rey, Finn, and the playset piece itself.  I love the look of the characters and I also ended up grabbing Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren as well.  I wanted all of them!  They just looks so cool!

The gameplay is very similar to the Rise Against the Empire playset which covered the original trilogy, but that's not a bad thing.  It follows the events of the Force Awakens through the use of basic exploration, traversal, and combat.

Really, this is an excuse to have another way to interact with the newest Star Wars movie.  And more than that, it's a way to introduce my kids to the new characters.  They love playing in the Disney Infinity 3.0 toybox mode where they can run around and swap characters freely.  They were super excited to see that I got new characters they could play with and by the end of the first day they knew all their names.


Both of my kids are still a little too young to be interested in the Star Wars movies, but it makes me so happy to see them playing with the toys.  I never want to force them into anything they're not into, but every time I've put a Star Wars toy near them they've been interested in it.  I'm curious to see if they'll latch unto the movies at all once they're a bit older.

If you already have Disney Infinity 3.0 then The Force Awakens playset is a no brainer.  Go get it.


Star Trek TNG as an Adult
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 13 January 2016, 10:00 am

I remember being a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG) when I was little.  Based on when the show was released I probably didn't watch most of it until it was in syndication, but it's possible that I watched the last few seasons as they came out.

It's been on my list to get back around to checking out as an adult.  I finally did and it's not a show that's sticking with me very well.  I'm not feeling it.

I can tell the show is really good in some ways after findings it's feet after the first few seasons.  But it's just so... early 90s.  There was a way they made TV then and it just feels like it.  It's a product of it's time.  I can't quite get over it.

In shows like this I really miss an overarching storyline.  I guess I take it for granted now that most shows have one, but back then almost every episode was self contained and it was rare for big changes to carry over week to week.

This means it's easy to watch any random episode of TNG without context.  It also means it's less compelling overall as a series.

But as I said, TNG isn't bad.  It's just very 90s and I can't deal with that style anymore.

I watched some of the better episodes and then decided to move on.

I might be on a quest for Star Trek now.  I'm really interested to see if any of the newer ones can hold my attention.  I remember Voyager being my favorite because I watched it every week for the entire series.  I've never watched Deep Space 9 but maybe I should give it a chance?  And the newest Star Trek, Enterprise, I think I may have watched one or two episodes but that's it.

I'll keep you apprised of my Star Trek attempts.


Hearthstone's Single Player Adventures
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 14 January 2016, 10:00 am

Lately I've been picking away at the Hearthstone single player adventures.  They're really fun, especially the newest one with the League of Adventurers.  The single player adventures give a new way to experience the game and they're not afraid to break typical rules.  It's cool to see.

After finishing up the normal mode I jumped into the class challenges.  It surprised me to find that these are actually my favorite thing in Hearthstone so far.  You're presented with a match up of a predetermined class vs a boss and given a pre-made deck.  It's everything I want from this game.

I like having a balanced playing field where the decks are fun to play against each other.  This mode provides that.

It makes me realize how much I just hate the deck construction.  I love piloting a fun deck but I hate spending time trying to create my own decks.  I wish there were more modes in Hearthstone with premade decks.  I know that if there were I would play it more often.

With the completion of all the single player adventures I'm once again on a Hearthstone hold until the next expansion or new mode comes out.

I feel like this is a game I'm going to keep coming back to and play it in bursts.  The daily ladder grind gets to me too much to make this a game I play consistently over long periods of time.  But that's ok.  I'm still excited to see what's new and improved every time they add to the game.



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