RingFit Adventure for Nintendo Switch

When I bought myself a copy of Nintendo’s hot new game Ring Fit Adventure, I had no idea what a smart investment it would be. Since my purchase in January 2019, the promise of dynamic in-home exercise has become understandably appealing, and copies of the game available for purchase are nearly impossible to find. I’m proud to announce that I officially finished the game’s “adventure” portion this fall, and so I can now officially recommend the game – which I do, whole-heartedly.

The game’s main portion is structured like a pretty typical action-adventure RPG – your customized character finds themself in a strange world of villagers, animals and monsters, which is threatened by a power-mad bodybuilding dragon addicted to the dark side of exercising. It’s up to you and your trusty sidekick Ring to chase down the dragon and defeat him and his minions with the power of healthy, balanced exercise. The game is driven by your actions in the real world: a leg strap and ring accessory record your jogging, squatting, pushing and pulling and use them to move through environments and fight monsters. The more you play, the higher levels you achieve, which unlock new skills, clothing, abilities, and boosters that help you in battle. Everything is on the fitness theme – your boosters are smoothies with real-world ingredients, the skills are various fitness moves, and all the monsters have punny fitness names (yoga mat monsters are Matta Rays, kettlebells are Belldogs, water bottles are Protein Shakers, etc.)

I’ve had a great experience playing this game. The adventure portion of the game makes exercising fun, and it also has other modes that let me fit exercising into my schedule on my own terms. It has a “custom” mode where you can make your own list of your favorite exercises or jogging routes, it has mini-games that you can play outside the adventure for quick workouts, it has a rhythm game that lets you focus on moving to the music, and it even has a “multitask” mode so you can push or pull on the ring accessory while the system’s turned off, and earn points for the game.

Even better, the game makes a real effort to portray healthy, balanced exercise that is personalized to the individual user. Its included warmup and cooldown routines include easy stretches and lots of tips on living a healthier life, and it has an alarm function to help you stay accountable for playing regularly. It even includes lots of accessibility options, including a “silent mode” for simulating jogging (which is excellent if you share walls or floors with neighbors), various settings to adjust, and calibrating the accessories to your own body and strength.

If you’re looking to stay active during cold, quarantined winter months, AND you’d like to try before you buy, I recommend checking out Ring Fit for a family-friendly exercise option.

The Glorious Multimedia World of RPGs

Today, I’m going to share with you one of my deepest regrets: I’ve always wanted to play tabletop games, especially roleplaying (RPG) games like Dungeons and Dragons, but I’ve never had enough interested friends to learn how. I still hold out hope it could happen for me someday, but in the meantime, I’m happy to report there are lots of other ways to experience the RPG world, including podcasts, video games, and of course, books. Primarily, I want to share with you my favorite podcasts and video games that will give you the RPG experience even if you’re flying solo like me.

The arguably most famous – and wildly enjoyable – podcast about Dungeons and Dragons is The Adventure Zone made by the McElroy family. It’s available on a variety of free podcasting platforms including Podcast Addict. The formula is simple: a father and his sons sit down to play a game of Dungeons and Dragons together, recording it in real time so you can follow along with their campaign. The result is hilarious and addictive, and it gives you a real insight into how typical tabletop roleplaying games work. It’s so popular, in fact, that it now has its own graphic novel series!

The Glass Cannon is another option. This podcast is based on the Pathfinder roleplaying game, and is one of several put out by the Glass Cannon network. Like The Adventure Zone, it strives to give the listener an immersive gameplay experience, enjoyable for players and non-players alike. Unlike the Adventure Zone, it has an ensemble cast of various comedians, voice actors, and gaming nerds to flesh out the story and the characters. This podcast is also available on Podcast Addict, among other platforms.

As far as video games go, I personally strongly recommend trying Cat Quest and Cat Quest II for Nintendo Switch. As a self-declared newbie gamer, I appreciated the clear gameplay and intuitive controls as well as the frankly adorable graphics. In the second game (the one I’ve tried), you play as one or both of a cat and dog pair who are dethroned kings trying to regain their rightful places. Just like in role playing games like D&D, these two go on a series of quests to reach that goal, gaining supplies and abilities along the way. It presents enough challenge to be interesting but still manages to be relaxing.

If cute and cuddly’s not your thing, you might enjoy other RPG games like Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or the online World of Warcraft. These games lean heavier into the more typical fantasy world of elves, dwarves, dragons, and dangerous, bloody quests. In the case of Elder Scrolls, you play as a prophesied hero with a unique gift, which uniquely places you to deal with dragons returning to the realm.

Wii’s Last Dance — Just Dance 2020

On a rainy, mid-quarantine day, I dusted off my old Nintendo Wii. My goal was the play the the last game made for the Wii: Just Dance 2020.

It was the perfect pick-me-up for a day stuck indoors after days of not going anywhere. While I’m not a super-fan of any of the songs, the game is filled with upbeat tracks. I giggled at the throwback “Everybody” from Backstreet Boys. Not having kids of my own means that even “Baby Shark” was a refreshing change of pace. Other songs from around the world kept me challenged to follow along with the unfamiliar beats and rhythms. I threw enough energy at the game so that it counted as my workout for the day. I would recommend this game to fans of the Zumba workout. It was fun to unlock new avatars, compete for stars and rack up points.

Don’t worry if you’ve let your Nintendo Wii fall into disrepair after switching to a Switch or another platform. Just Dance 2020 is available from the Davenport Public Library in the Switch format as well as PlayStation 4 and XBox One.

The Outer Worlds Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

2019 has been a good year for AA developers – studios that fall somewhere between small indie teams and big corporate juggernauts in terms of budget and labor power. In September, Spiders released Greedfall, a better BioWare game than BioWare itself has released lately. Now, Obsidian has done something similar with The Outer Worlds – a better Fallout game than Bethesda’s own Fallout 76 (and, for that matter, some might say, better than Fallout 4). Of course, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed Obsidian’s output over the years. The studio is responsible for some of my favorite games of all time: Knights of the Old Republic II, Alpha Protocol, the Pillars of Eternity series, Neverwinter Nights 2, Tyranny. Most relevantly to The Outer Worlds, they made Fallout: New Vegas for Bethesda, a game that remains many fans’ favorite entry in the Fallout franchise.

Critics, however, were less kind to New Vegas. While there was a strong favorable consensus around the narrative (particularly the level of freedom and player choice), the gameplay was more hit or miss, and the experience was riddled with bugs on release. These technical issues stemmed mainly from the fact that New Vegas was made using Bethesda’s rickety Gamebryo engine, on a tight Bethesda-imposed deadline (the game was made in 18 months; for perspective, Fallout 3 took four years to develop). It seems a tad unfair, then, that Bethesda tied Obsidian’s bonus to the game’s Metacritic score – a benchmark they fell short of by a single point. In light of this history, it’s easy to view The Outer Worlds as Obsidian thumbing their nose at Bethesda. And as I said above, the game does fill the Fallout-shaped void present in gaming since 76 bombed. The Outer Worlds is its own beast, though, not just a reskinned Fallout game, and deserves to be judged on its own merits.

To begin with, let’s get the similarities out of the way. Like the modern Fallout games, The Outer Worlds is a first-person shooter/role-playing game hybrid with an emphasis on exploration and dialogue. As you reconnoiter the world and chat with its inhabitants you’ll quickly find your journal filling up with side quests. You can talk your way out of conflict, sneak around to avoid it, or confront it head-on with ranged or melee weapons. There are locks to pick and computers to hack in order to gain experience, loot, side quests, and lore. When you level up, you’ll be given skill points and perks to distribute as you see fit. You’ll be presented with morally ambiguous decisions to make that will affect the world and how the people in it treat you.

Some people point to the Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) as a similarity, even going so far as to call it knock-off VATS. In my experience, though, the similarities between the two are strictly superficial. VATS in Fallout stops time (halting you and your companions and opponents in your tracks) and allows you to flick between targets, and fire as many shots as you have action points for. TTD, on the other hand, doesn’t stop time, but simply slows it down significantly, allowing you to aim and move freely until the TTD meter depletes. TTD also allows you to analyze your enemies and target different locations to proc various status effects, like knockdown, stagger, blind, and so on. As someone who relies on VATS to get myself through Fallout, I actually prefer TTD – it feels much more fluid.

The most obvious difference is to be found in the setting. Both games take place in the distant future, but Fallout explores a post-nuclear apocalypse America, while The Outer Worlds takes us to a whole new solar system, the Halcyon Colony. Halcyon is under the complete control of the Board, a holding company comprised of executives from the colony’s various founding companies. While both franchises use their settings to critique the structural shortcomings and moral failures of late stage capitalism, the extraterrestrial setting of The Outer Worlds allows for a much greater variety in flora, fauna, terrain, technology, and – perhaps most importantly to those of you who are aesthetically inclined like I am – color palette (I adore the Fallout games but sometimes it’s nice to see colors other than dull browns and greys).

The fact that you traverse an entire solar system means that The Outer Worlds has you visiting, unlike Fallout’s expansive open world (on a single, interconnected map), a variety of separate, enclosed, discrete locations. It’s also a much shorter game than the typical Fallout experience, though of course the actual length varies greatly depending on how much side content you do, how thoroughly you explore, and so on. These changes might be negative for some people, but I actually appreciated them. Obsidian, lacking the overhead of Bethesda, knew they couldn’t match the scope of a Fallout game, so chose instead to opt for quality over quantity. The smaller maps sacrifice breadth for depth, and are filled to the brim with content and details, making them feel incredibly vibrant. The shorter storyline meant the writing was focused and well-paced, holding my interest throughout. Most importantly, it left me wanting more – I can’t wait to make a new character with different skills, experiment with new playstyles, and see how the game responds to different choices.

The Outer Worlds is available at the Davenport Library on the PlayStation 4 and XBox One platforms.

Moonlighter Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

When I first launched Moonlighter, I was immediately struck by its art style. True, an indie game with retro-styled pixel graphics isn’t exactly a rare find these days, but Moonlighter manages to stand out from the crowd with its refreshingly bright and varied palette. Even more impressive are the animations, which are painstakingly detailed and impart a remarkable amount of character to the simplistic sprites. My favorite example is the shop assistant you can hire after expanding your shop enough. They have a distinctive coif of thick hair that they always take a moment to tie back when you open your shop for the day.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the beginning of the game, your shop (named, surprisingly enough, the Moonlighter), far from being successful enough to require an assistant, is struggling to stay open. In fact, the whole town of Rynoka is depressed, both economically and emotionally – a far cry from its heyday as a bustling hub for both heroes and merchants. This prosperity stemmed from the nearby Dungeons – four mysterious caverns that appeared out of nowhere one day, attracting adventurers of all sorts seeking fame and fortune within. Of course, there’s neither glory nor riches without risk, and as the death toll mounted, all but the least dangerous of the Dungeons were boarded up. Rynoka’s (and by extension the Moonlighter’s) salad days ended soon after.

Enter Will, the player character. Although a merchant by trade, he moonlights (get it?) as a hero by night, venturing into the sole open Dungeon for loot to sell at the shop by day. This is the conceit by which developers Digital Sun integrate two disparate (but similarly addictive) genres of gameplay – roguelite dungeon crawler and shop simulator – into one brilliant, engaging gameplay loop. The money you make selling your loot in the shop can go to upgrading your shop or resuscitating Rynoka by investing in new businesses. The most important of these businesses is the blacksmith, who takes money and materials and crafts armor and weapons for you. These in turn allow you to delve deeper into more difficult dungeons, making more money to further expand your shop and upgrade your gear, allowing you to make it even further into the Dungeons, and so on. It’s the type of game that will have you saying “just one more day” over and over until the sun rises – in the real world this time.

Dead Cells Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

Although I’ve been playing video games for well over two decades, on the historical scale, gaming is a relatively young medium. As such, it’s not surprising that it has undergone many changes – growing pains, one could say – as it struggles to come into its own as an artform. Over the past decade, big budget AAA games have settled into a fairly rigid formula; fortunately, at the same time there has been an indie game renaissance, with brilliantly creative developers putting new spins on classic genres.

Two of the most popular genres in indie gaming today, despite formerly being rather niche, are roguelites and metroidvanias. The primary feature of roguelites is permadeath; when you die, that’s it. While some progress, such as items or skills, might persist between deaths, each run starts over from the beginning, giving you just one life to make it to the final boss. Metroidvanias (a portmanteau of the two franchises that cemented and popularized the genre, Metroid and Castlevania), on the other hand, are (typically 2D) platformers with an emphasis on exploring large, interconnected maps. Usually you acquire power-ups throughout the game, which then allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas.

Dead Cells, one of my most-played games on my Switch, is a hybrid of these two genres: a roguelitevania, if you will. While its genre might be an awkward mouthful, the game itself is a masterclass in elegant simplicity. You play as a headless prisoner brought back to life in a ruined kingdom. Using a combination of two weapons (which you choose from a huge assortment of swords, daggers, hammers, whips, shields, bows, spells, and more) and two skills (chosen from various grenades, traps, and abilities), you fight your way out of the prison, then through different areas of the kingdom. The art style is gorgeous, with each region looking dramatically different with radically varied color palettes, and the animation is tight and fluid, important in a game where twitch combat is of the utmost importance.

The game is hard, and when you inevitably die, you’re brought back to life in the prison to try, try again. Fortunately, as you fight you collect cells, which you can invest in various upgrades that carry over between runs. While the game is never easy, you can at least give yourself progressively more of a fighting chance, so you never feel like you wasted your time when a run is cut short. Even when (if) you finally beat the game, there is a hard mode for even more of a challenge, plus new daily challenges each day, where you play a region with various modifiers, competing with other players for the high score. Dead Cells is hard to master, but even harder to put down.

Villainous Video Games – Halloween

While many think about telling spooky campfire tales with friends and loved ones around the Halloween season, another fun way to share in the frights is to turn off all of the lights, bundle up in your warmest blanket and snuggle in with a terrifying video game to scare your socks off. I have compiled some truly terrifying offerings of games that are sure to do just that.

Outlast Trinity

This game is actually a collection of three experiences all packaged into one case. Unlike some horror games that let you take on the bad guys and supernatural creatures, Outlast only gives the player a camcorder with night vision capabilities as their tool. No weapons or tools to fight off the bad guys, only hiding or running are your options. This helplessness drives up the intensity and horror in this atmospheric instant classic.

Until Dawn

This story-driven game follows a group of teenagers trapped at a ski resort in the mountain being hunted by a serial killer, and potentially other, more deadly supernatural forces. This game puts the player in charge, allowing you to make choices that dictate who lives and who dies. Try to survive the night in this narrative-focused thriller.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

Halloween isn’t all about scaring your boots off, sometimes it is about strategizing the layout of your garden to fend off hordes of cartoon zombies. This tower defense game is great fun for all ages and is a great way to get into the Halloween spirit for those of all ages. It has a silly cartoon aesthetic to go with the generally silly atmosphere of the game. A ton of fun to be had in this game where you plant fire-breathing dandelions to fend off hat-wearing zombies.

These titles and many more horrifying tales are all available at your Davenport Public Library. For more recommendations like these to get you into the Halloween spirit, check out our Halloween LibGuide for more wretched recommendations.

 

 

 

 

Greedfall Video Game

guest post by Wesley B

To gamers of a certain age, the name BioWare is synonymous with excellence in roleplaying games. The mere mention of the iconic Canadian developer conjures memories of epic single player journeys filled with impactful, morally ambiguous decisions and memorable companions. Deep theorycrafting – stats and attributes, traits and talents, skill trees and loot tables – rounds out the typical BioWare playthrough. While this may make their games sound formulaic, each of their franchises manages to feel fresh and distinct, ranging thematically from high fantasy to kung-fu mysticism to space opera. From Baldur’s Gate to Jade Empire to Mass Effect, a new BioWare release has always been an experience.

Their most recent release, however, is a radical departure from the usual formula. Anthem is an always-online, squad-based looter shooter set on a post-apocalyptic planet littered with the ruins of ancient civilizations. The main hook is that your character pilots a Javelin, a powered exosuit (think Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits). Although I’m generally not a fan of shooters or multiplayer games, BioWare’s track record was stellar enough for me to give them benefit of the doubt. And besides, who doesn’t want to fly around stunning alien environments?

The foundation of a good game is there: flying around in your javelin feels great, the world is gorgeous, there are tantalizing scraps of lore. However, none of it is able to cohere into a satisfying whole, and there’s plenty lacking. It’s evident that BioWare had never made a game like this before. Compared to other genre staples, like The Division and Borderlands, the amount of content is severely lacking – and what is present quickly grows repetitive. Most egregiously for a BioWare game, the story and characters are dull (and mostly relegated to the background). That being said, these flaws make Anthem the perfect candidate for checking out from the library. Get it for free, spend a few days living out your Iron Man fantasies, and bring it back when you’ve had your fill.

If, like me, you find yourself craving a more authentically BioWare-like experience after putting down Anthem, I cannot recommend Greedfall highly enough. French developer Spiders has much less labor-power and a significantly smaller budget to work with than BioWare, so don’t expect the same level of polish found in BioWare classics like Dragon Age, but Spiders nails what’s important: writing, characters, world-building, and mechanical depth. And while the graphics aren’t top-notch, the uniquely beautiful art direction more than makes up for that fact.

Speaking of art, Greedfall starts with your character sitting for a portrait, a rather clever presentation for character creation, as well as immediately signposting what kind of world you’re entering – in this case, a baroque fantasy world inspired by the historic Age of Exploration. Appropriate, as you soon set sail for Teer Fradee, a “new world” of sorts where there is said to be a cure for the mysterious illness plaguing your home town. Of course, much like the “new world” in our own history, there are already people living on Teer Fradee. In addition to the natives, there are three main factions vying for control of the island and its resources, and as a senior diplomat, it’s up to you to balance their conflicting interests, all while uncovering the island’s many mysterious secrets. Greedfall gives you immense freedom in building your character, not just mechanically, but from a roleplaying perspective as well. Unlike Anthem, this is a game I see myself coming back to check out again and again.

Greedfall is available at the library in both X-Box and PlayStation 4 formats.

Control Video Game

I should be honest up front with this review, I love Remedy games. Alan Wake, a game made by Remedy back in 2010, is one of my favorite video games that I have ever played. The games that Remedy makes are examples of how to make effective linear single player games. The stories they write are always engaging, the worlds that they create are always immersive and full of life, and the gameplay is always crisp and responsive.

Control is no different.

Control tasks the player as Jesse Fayden, a woman who lost her brother due to a traumatic event in her youth that she believes is related to the Federal Bureau of Control. The Bureau is a shady government agency that holds plethora of supernatural phenomenon. As Jesse explores the Bureau she gains more and more psychic powers and begins to unravel the secrets that the Bureau holds and with it, how those secrets tie in to the disappearance of her brother.

The gameplay of Control is a 3rd person action game where you use an ever-expanding suite of psychic powers to fight off a variety of different enemies called the Hiss. Starting with an energy strike from your “service weapon” and growing into mind control, the ability to pick up and throw any object with your mind and even the ability of flight. Jesse grows in power in a really rewarding way as you play throughout the game that keeps the gameplay from getting stale and repetitive.

The sound design and atmosphere of the game is also top notch, exploring through mad science labs and bureaucratic labyrinths has never been more fun. The game is a perfect mixture of Twilight Zone, Men in Black and Aperture Science from Portal in terms of the tone of the Bureau. Every single research file or piece of correspondence helps to anchor and engross the player in the world of the game. Remedy’s incredible world-building and writing is in full effect here.

Despite my reservations about Remedy deciding to make this over a sequel to my beloved Alan Wake, I have to admit that they have hit it out of the park yet again. Remedy continues to hold the banner for single-player story-driven experiences that focus on gameplay, immersion and excellent story-telling. No other game developer out there today is able to perfectly blend all of those aspects like Remedy does.

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Video Game

Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a unique tale in the world of video games. It started as a joke project back in 1993 that Nintendo developers worked on after-hours and eventually morphed into a full fledged game that was released on the original Gameboy. Because of the games peculiar origins, it stood out as a unique departure from any Zelda games that came before or since its creation. This game takes place on Koholint Island instead of the Kingdom of Hyrule where Legend of Zelda games typically reside.  Characters in the game use telephones to communicate and Nintendo characters from other properties even make their appearance such as Kirby and Yoshi. The story and gameplay of this game is utterly unique and has just been remade for the Nintendo Switch.

For a remake of a handheld game from almost thirty years ago, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening does an incredible job of staying true to its roots and not deviating from the original when it comes to level design. There is a new dungeon builder function that was added to this remake that was not in previous iterations. Other than that addition, its been kept in the same state as its predecessors. There are some quality of life improvements such as taking advantage of all the new button options that the Switch has that the original Gameboy did not have.

The basic gameplay also holds up. Controlling Link from a top-down perspective as you explore dungeons, fight baddies and unlock new items that help you further explore the world and solve puzzles. While it might not be the massive time sink that Breath of the Wild can be, that might actually be a strong suit. If you are looking for a fun game to play on the go and beat without having to devote hours and hours to, Link’s Awakening might be the game for you. Nintendo has an interesting track record of bridging the gap between the past and the present by remaking their games for the next generation. While this game is going to be a nostalgic trip back in time for some, it is also just a fun game for anyone who likes Legend of Zelda games whether you are a new or old fan.