Posted in Uncategorized

Kingdom New Lands

Simple, challenging, and beautiful. Kingdom New Lands is a side scroller that focuses on resource management and self-preservation. The art design of this game is just stunning, with a beautiful pixelated style. You are a queen, and you have only three things: your crown, your steed, and your coinpurse.

Progression comes from investing money into different areas of the island to create watchtowers, walls, farms and more, offering peasants you find on the island a gold coin to join your cause, buying tools for the people to use in order to work for your kingdom, and collecting the profits that are made by the various characters under your rule.

But it isn’t all building and profiteering … once the night comes, it begins. Every night your kingdom will be attacked by gruesome monsters called the Greed. They hunt mercilessly for possessions – they will attack your people and steal their tools, their money, and your money as well if they are able to attack you. But if your coinpurse is empty and you get hit by one of these monstrous creatures? Your crown will be knocked from your head, and if they get their hands on it, it’s game over for you!

I have really enjoyed this style of gameplay, as well as the very real challenge the game offers you. As each day passes by, more and more of the Greed emerge from their portals to attack you, meaning that if you don’t pay enough attention to your defensive structures and army, you will soon find yourself getting overrun – which can be a devastatingly difficult situation to come back from. And this is not the only issue you will face. Eventually, winter will arrive, and your crop fields will die off, leaving your farmers with nothing to do and your kingdom with very little income.

There are a number of different islands, and you can travel between them by rebuilding a shipwreck on the island – something which will require no short amount of gold coins. But once you have successfully got it in ship-shape and docked, you may depart the island at any point to move on to a new island.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the game, it is a small one after all – but it still ticks plenty of boxes for me. Beautiful visuals, fantastic soundtrack, satisfying challenge.


  • Platform: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC, iOS, Android
  • Release Date: 21/10/2015
  • Genre: Strategy
Posted in Gaming Journals

A Hobbit’s Brain Training – Week 1

Week 1 of my Brain Training with Dr. Kawashima, and what an interesting week it has been!

A rather shameful start with the abysmal brain age of 72, I think my results have really improved as the week has gone by. The tests that determine my brain age each day are randomised, some I am quite good at, but there are some where I definitely need to improve!

Here are my brain age test stats for each day of the past week:



The most shocking thing to me is that my short-term memory seems to be the best thing on show here, when I have always considered my memory to be famously bad. Some of the exercises I find very tricky, but I manage to get through them at an apparently impressive rate.

I have found my processing speed to be the most disappointing. Previously I thought this would be something I am better at, but evidently not. My best age in this category so far has been 43! Well, I guess there wouldn’t be much point to brain training if there were no improvements to be made.

With any luck, the next week of results will show off something slightly less underwhelming!

Posted in Gaming Journals

A Hobbit’s Brain Training

Guess who bought Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch! Me, of course, why else would I be talking about it?

I thought it might be fun to document my progress each week, and hopefully we might see a positive trend in the results.

So as this is my introductory post, I’d better announce my first brain age result!


My initial brain age, 72.

As Dr. Kawashima told me … that’s a little underwhelming! I have to admit, there were a few teething problems on the first day. Some of the exercises involve you writing numbers or letters on the screen with the provided stylus. The software was … struggling somewhat, to understand some of the things I entered – in particular, 8s. I did later figure out what the issue was – the most abstract of issues you could possibly imagine. Turns out, I start writing my 8s from the bottom, and apparently the norm is to start from the top? Once I figured out that little gem, it shaved off several seconds on my future training sessions.

So, fingers crossed and wish me luck – let’s see if I can improve!

Posted in Recent Games

Prison Architect

Regular readers won’t be shocked to see another simulation game making it’s way to this site. Prison Architect has a habit of dragging me back to it by simple association … whenever I watch something on TV based around a prison (Orange Is The New Black, for example) I suddenly get the strongest urge to hop back in and start making my own prison!

There’s just something about designing layouts, considering the efficiency ad functionality of the various sections as you build them. Perhaps I missed my true calling?

When I first bought this game, it was quite simple and bare-bones. Over time, continuous updates have built upon the excellent foundation that the original base game provided. The premise of Prison Architect as you can probably guess is to build and manage your own prison from scratch. There are the usual challenges that you might expect, such as balancing a budget, having the right amount of staffing, that sort of thing. But being a prison game, there are lots of extra things for you to consider.

Your prisoners will have to be looked after, and also watched closely – a prison riot is but one unfortunate incident away! Will you decide to be a cruel warden? Or will you create educational programs and work opportunities? Will you let the prisoners do their thing or will you crack down and confiscate all contriband?

The game is so well looked after by the creators, it is crazy to think of just how many differences there are between the original release and the game as it is today. Besides the many new rooms, items, and mechanics, my favourite of the new additions has to be escape mode. A mode which adds an entirely new layer of challenge and enjoyment to an already enjoyable game.

Escape Mode allows you to jump into the prison as a fresh-faced convict, straight off the bus. As a prisoner, your job is ultimately to escape. Of course, such a feat doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time, patience and planning. There are a number of different ways for you to consider. Maybe you prefer to stealthily gather the items you need and hide them in safe places where you can collect them later to make your grand escape. Or perhaps you’ll form a gang and overthrow the prison, destroying everything in your path, burning the prison down as you walk out towards your freedom.

It gets even better – you can access the Steam workshop to load up prisons made by other players and try to escape from them. I can tell you, there are some REAL challenges to be found on there! I’m not entirely sure if it is possible to load the prisons of other players on the console version, but I certainly hope it is available, because it really does raise the bar just that extra little bit.

Overall, it just feels like Prison Architect has an extra layer of challenge compared to most other simulation games, seeing as it literally could all go wrong in an instant. You will have to keep your wits about you and ensure that you have a good regime in place otherwise you will find yourself subjected to prison riots, arson, assaults, escape attempts, and even murder. They are criminals after all!

It’s a huge thumbs up from me, it really is one of the best simulation games out there. The minimalist style is charming, the hidden humour is satisfying, and the gameplay is just excellent.


  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Release Date: 06/10/2015 (PC), 28/06/2016 (PS4, Xbox One), 20/08/2018 (Nintendo Switch)
  • Genre: Simulation
Posted in Game Lists

Animal Crossing New Horizons: A Hobbit’s Dream Neighbours

Today I want to talk about my to 10 favourite Animal Crossing villagers, and seeing as New Horizons allows you to have 10 villagers on your island, I guess you could say that these are my ideal neighbours!

Please be warned, after whittling down my choices I have discovered that I love cute, fluffy villagers with excellent style and personalities. In other words, no cranky or jock villagers!


Erik

If you’re afraid of wolves, don’t go to the woods.

Oh let’s not pretend that you wouldn’t have a reindeer as a neighbour if you could! Plus, we actually have a lot in common. We both love the snow, have a passion for knitwear jumpers, and we’re always thinking about food!


Sprinkle

Frosting is just the icing on the cake.

As a general rule, I always love the penguins. I love real life penguins anyway, and most of the penguin villagers are pretty sweet. Sprinkle really takes the cake though. I mean, look at her. How can anything possibly be so adorable? Her little phrase is “frappe” … she just oozes cute.


Cleo

There’s something lovable in all of us.

Look at those eyes. Look at those eyes and tell me you don’t love Cleo! She takes her name from horseback rider Cleo Ridgley, a rather touching tribute! As a snooty villager, Cleo brings a touch of class to any town that she moves to, and don’t let Victoria know I said this but … she is definitely the best horse. (Sorry Victoria!)


Audie

Be the kind of person your future self won’t regret having been.

Another stunningly stylish villager on the list, Audie is an adorable wolf villager (although her colour scheme suggests she is actually a fox) who is supposedly named after 87 year old Audrey Buchanan who put more than 3500 hours into her New Leaf town. I really hope I can get her to move to my island one day soon!


Zucker

There’s no such thing as luck.

Zucker is one of the villagers who is portrayed as food, and frankly one of the best. I love the octopus villagers, look at their cute little tentacles and suckers! I always thought that he was supposed to be some sort of chocolate pudding, but he is in fact takoyaki, a savoury dish that often has octopus as a filling … slightly macabre huh?


Marina

If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

So adorable. So pink. So cute! I love her and I need her. I’m not sure if I can add anything else to this.


Julia

Cut once, measure twice… Wait- reverse that.

Julia is an ostrich villager, but her design makes her quite obviously a peacock. I challenge you to find a more flamboyantly stylish villager. She is currently a resident on my island, and that is actually the first time that I have seen her – I’ll make sure she sticks around because I have really come to like her. (Plus she sends me nice presents)


Tangy

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!


Tangy was my SALVATION. I had two villagers I couldn’t stand, I had my full town of 10 villagers, and I was desperate to get rid of at least one of these villagers. I waited and waited and waited … my campsite was empty for so long, with only occasional visitors who didn’t leave a great impression on me. And then she appeared. Tangy arrived with all of her peppy sass, and I knew instantly that I wanted her to boot out one of my troublesome neighbours.

Molly

Like water off a duck’s back.

Molly is an incredibly sentimental villager for me. I got her as an original villager in my first town on New Leaf. She was my favourite villager out of anyone else in the town, I definitely spent the most time with her, and in the end she became the first villager in any Animal Crossing game to give me their picture. Because of this, Molly will always be a special villager in my mind, and there will always be an open plot for her.


Goldie

A little bit of happiness is better than a lot of anguish.

The year was 2006. The game was Wild World. The villager was Goldie. She is the one, the only, the best – the absolute BEST villager! I have not had the fortune of running into her again since my Wild World game, but I am confident that I will find her and bring her to my island. I will rescue her from whatever impoverished lands she is currently enduring, and I will give her a home that is worthy of her. I owe it to her.


Posted in Gaming Journals

Vinland: A Hobbit’s Tour

Like so many others, I have been playing an awful lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons during this strange period. After all, wouldn’t we all like to go outside and see our friends right now? Animal Crossing has been an interesting placeholder for that, especially seeing as my friends can actually come to my island.

And as it is the first Animal Crossing game in the franchise that has allowed you to decorate and terraform your island as you see fit, I have of course been very busy building an island that I would be please to call home.

Now I would like to take you on a little tour of my fair island, so please sit back, relax, and enjoy your virtual trip to Vinland.


Welcome to Vinland!

Vinland – an island where community and nature come together. Although most of the island has been transformed into a friendly town, there is still much of the island which has been left to nature.


Vinland’s central plaza where locals gather to chat or meet visiting vendors.
Take a walk through the central district to see Vinland’s vibrant flower fields.

We have large fields of blooms which attract all manner of insects, as well as provide a colourful view as you get around the island.


We’re lucky to have a beautiful shopping district.
The shopping district is split on both sides by stunning waterfalls.

Our shopping district is never far away, no matter where you are on the island. You’ll find Nook’s Cranny, Able Sisters, and even some amenities along the streets. A waterfall sits besides both establishments, providing the district with a natural border.


We have beautiful beaches for you to relax on.

Vinland has a number of beaches for you to enjoy, but the most popular is just by the gorgeous tulip field, with a great view of the planes as they come to and from the island.


Take a walk through our shell path to our public park.
The park is a great place to pass the time.

We are proud to boast a spacious park where everyone is welcome to meet up with their friends and unwind on the various toys available. And once you are done there, you can take a short walk through the shell arch pathway straight to the beach.


We have a clifftop nature reserve with some stunning scenery for you to enjoy.
Enjoy the sea view, head down to Redd’s cove, or climb further up.
See Vinland’s water source and how far it stretches across.

We have a number of different natural areas for you to explore. You can take the clifftop pathway by the flowing river and watch the waterfalls on the cliff, head down to Redd’s Cove for a quiet moment of peace, explore the source of the river and hop over the waterfalls, or walk through our wild lily field whilst helping yourself to the native fruits.


Feel like visiting? Come and stay in our campsite, located in our oriental district.

Our oriental district spans the eastern edge of the island, you’ll think you have taken a trip to Asia with out bamboo groves, the blooming azaleas, and the beach-side rock pool. Why not bring a tent to stay the night in our peaceful campsite where you can listen to the sounds of the bamboo and the beach with the scent of the hyacinths in the air.


We have residences set up in our busiest areas.
And our more quiet areas.
Vinland residents are often out and about, enjoying their wonderful town.

Our residents live all over the island, but distance is no matter as everyone likes to visit their island neighbours and explore the island.


Coming soon, Vinland’s natural outdoor concert arena.

Vinland’s latest attraction (nearing completion) is our exciting outdoor concert arena! Just head down the steps from our clifftop walk to find yourself in this tiny valley, and you just might be treated to a concert with the best acoustics you’ve ever heard, and even a sea view while you enjoy the show!


Posted in New Games

Animal Crossing: New Horizons


Eight long years we have had to wait, but Animal Crossing: New Horizons is finally here, but was it worth the wait? Anyone who has played will most likely join me in saying … Yes. Without a doubt, absolutely yes.

New Horizons is Animal Crossing as we have never known it before. Previously we have been a new villager in an existing town, New Leaf had us become the mayor of the town which brought some innovative new possibilities to the gameplay, so how does New Horizons build from this? It does so taking you right to the very beginning of it all!

You have opted in to Tom Nook’s brand new deserted island package, where you and two animal villagers have decided to settle down on a deserted island, giving you the opportunity to build a new town completely from scratch. I don’t think I can remember any other game that provided such a chilled out experience right from the beginning of the game! The first several days will serve as your sort of tutorial while new features are brought to your attention one at a time, alongside all the regular features that Animal Crossing fans have come to love and expect.

You will need to play each day for several days to get through this tutorial before the game can really start in earnest. This will include learning about the new crafting mechanic, collecting materials around the island in order to make your own tools, handing in bugs and fish that you catch which will bring Blathers to the island, and there is plenty more to do after that.

It is so satisfying to see the Animal Crossing world on the Switch, with stunning visuals – the animals all look spectacular with their fur textures, the water looks beautifully serene, and even has waves crashing against your cliffs! And it’s not just visual improvements that we’ve been treated to, there’s lots of practical improvements too! Previously you would need to get your hands on some sort of storage furniture to be able to be organised and store things away … but now every house has closet space for you to fill up as you see fit! Do you own a mirror? Well if you do, you can change your appearance whenever you want! How about a wardrobe? No need to put on items of clothing one at a time, trying to figure out a good outfit – you can now look in your wardrobe and take part in some sort of point and click fashion show, with poses that really make it as adorable and charming as you would expect from Animal Crossing.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that so far I am pretty much in love with this game already, and we’ve only just got started! A new layer of life has been given to the villagers, as they interact with the world around them much more. Previously you would either find them at home, or wandering about the island aimlessly, perhaps holding a tool to insinuate that they were doing something. But they’re going to be a lot busier from now on! Head into their homes and they might just be busy crafting something, or if you find them outside they could be exercising in the plaza, sitting on the beach and relaxing, or even sat down reading a book! One of the excellent new features is that you can freely place furniture and items around your island, as opposed to just in your home. It’s never been easier to make the town your own! We even have the luxury of being able to build fencing around our island – once you collect some recipes for them, you can craft them and start plonking them down to make yards, walkways, whatever you want with them!

One of the best new features is the online accessibility: it is by no means a new development to be able to visit your friends’ towns, but it has never been easier, and furthermore you can now have up to 8 people on an island at once! I have had a great time with my friends so far, visiting their islands, seeing what villagers they have, sharing resources, catching bugs and fruit together.

Speaking of fruit, there is finally a reason for you to actually eat fruit instead of just selling anything you get your hands on. Remember when you were told as a child to eat your fruit so you could become big and strong? Well New Horizons takes that message to a whole new level! Eat your fruit so that you can be instantly strong enough to dig up an entire fully grown tree with your shovel, and plant it somewhere else entirely! No longer must we wastefully chop down trees if we find it to be “in the way” or “unsightly” … wait, is that just me? I like my town to look nice okay!

Tom Nook has outdone himself with the Nook Miles program – there are many achievements that you can get, and in return you will receive Nook Miles! These can be exchanged for a wide variety of things – extra inventory space, DIY recipes, special items and clothing, and plenty more. It’s the perfect way to encourage players to take part in everything the game has to offer!

There is a lot more to say about this amazing game, but I suppose that will come in time! Animal Crossing is a game to be played a day at a time, and so I haven’t yet come across all the amazing features that New Horizons has to offer.


  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: 20/03/2020
  • Genre: Casual Life Simulator

Posted in New Games

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX – Demo Talk

Wow, that is quite the lengthy title isn’t it? I’ll admit I have to keep looking it up to make sure I’m getting it in the right order!

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon! I imagine there are plenty of Poké-fans out there who have never ventured into this little spin off series. Let me be the first to tell you, that if this is you … you are missing out!

DX is a remastered Switch version of the original Red and Blue Rescue Team games that released on Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS respectively. Red was the first one that I got my hands on, and I was so impressed with everything about it that I made sure to buy any future Rescue Team title (and so far I have never been let down).

So here’s the premise. You’re a human. You have somehow managed to enter the world of Pokémon — but not the world where they are captured by trainers, a world without humans! You will answer a personality test which will then determine what Pokémon you are from a small list of potential candidates. Historically, you would be stuck with whatever the result is, but in recent titles (DX included) you are offered the chance to decline and choose for yourself. You then pick your partner Pokémon and it’s time to get started!

Once all the intro to the game is out of the way, you will find yourself forming a rescue team with your partner. You will spend the game journeying to the randomly generated mystery dungeons, where Pokémon have been driven wild by natural disasters, rescuing lost Pokes, defeating boss Pokes, picking up loot and fighting the wild Pokes as you go.

I have so many fond memories of playing this as a child, I can’t wait to get this on the Switch. The demo allows you to play out the first few days of your adventure, giving you just enough of a taste for what DX is all about.

One thing that I feel will be slightly controversial is the style of graphics used. Personally, I’m actually undecided. When I first heard about this remaster, my gut reaction was to hope for something along the same lines as the Link’s Awakening remake, with a diorama/clay model feel. I felt like that would be a cute and appropriate style for the series. Instead a simplistic style which is almost sketch-like has been used, and while it’s a long way from what I originally hoped for, I can see a certain charm to it. I’m sure I’ll be used to it, and even happy with it, as I play more of the game. Hopefully anyone else in a similar situation will also learn to love it.

Although the graphics might be questionable for some, I’m sure many would agree with me when I say that the soundtrack couldn’t be any better! The Mystery Dungeon series has always had strong soundtracks, and there’s no exception to be made here. Hearing music that was once made for a system as old as the Gameboy Advance revitalised for modern systems is always a treat!

For anyone who has not tried the series before, I seriously suggest downloading this demo and seeing what you think of it. It’s a lot of fun, it has so much charm, and even a surprising amount of challenge!


  • Platform: Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: 06/03/2020
  • Genre: Casual Adventure
Posted in Recent Games

Friday The 13th: The Game

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. I love horror. Although Friday The 13th had a fairly buggy start, it was an instant hit with me. Most of you will likely know the general idea of what the movies were about… masked killer, hangs out at camp, tends to get a bit stab-happy. Naturally it won’t be for everyone, but for horror junkies like me, few things beat the adrenaline as you run into the darkness with Jason Vorhees hot on your heels! I should point out, that would more than likely be a lot less enjoyable in real life.

As you probably guessed, Friday The 13th: The Game is a horror survival game, unless you are chosen to play as Jason, in which case it’s a rather unsettling simulation of things that should absolutely not be done in reality. Once the game starts, a small cutscene plays that … well, let’s say it announces Jason’s arrival. All the camp counsellors scatter across the map and now you must do what you can to survive! If you live for a whole 20 minutes, manage to call the police and escape to them, drive or sail away by car or boat, or manage to pull off the incredibly difficult and coordinated task of killing Jason, then you win. So of course, if Jason catches you and makes you see the light… well, better luck next time!

Of course, nothing is so simple that you can escape just like that. Want to call the police? You have to locate the one hut in the whole map that has a phone, which will have a busted fuse box, so you must find the fuse, fix the box, call the police, wait for them to arrive, get to the exit point, and pray Jason doesn’t stand between you and the police cars. Maybe you think driving is easier? Well first you better find the car battery, install that, then find fuel to top up the car, not to mention you need the car key, and then drive to safety without Jason appearing in the road and smashing your car to a halt. Maybe you just want to try to survive for the whole 20 minutes? Well good luck with that! If you do pull it off, maybe go buy a lottery ticket.

You’re not entirely defenseless though, so make sure you always keep an eye out for handy tools. You can find pocket knives which will allow you to escape Jason’s grasp, firecrackers which you can drop to stun him, weapons which you can swing at him and hope he gets knocked down, and bear traps that you can strategically place and hope that Jason gets caught before one of your fellow counsellors stumble into it.

There’s also some customisation – you can choose from a number of different counsellors and killers to play as. The counsellors all have different stats to bear in mind, and the killers have different strengths and weaknesses in what they can and can’t do. The counsellors can be customised with different clothes and perks which will give them various benefits, and the killers can be customised with special executions – handy if you’re the kind of person who really likes to show off your Jason skills.

If you ask me, this is the perfect game to either sit down with some fellow horror-loving friends, turn off all the lights, and take it in turns to survive the night, or to play online with your friends on voice chat, trying your best to work together to escape Jason’s clutches!


  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: 26/05/2017 (Switch 13/08/19)
  • Genre: Survival Horror
Posted in Recent Games

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

If you were to ask me to describe The Witcher 3 in as few words as possible, I would know exactly what to say.

It’s a commitment.

Without a doubt this is one of my favourite RPG games out there, but it is not to be taken lightly. The Witcher 3 boasts an enormous open world with so much to explore, a wealth of characters to meet and assist, many beasts and monsters for you to defeat, and a rich lore that truly gives the impression that you are in a living, breathing world.

I first got my hands on game in 2015, and I sunk a fair number of hours into it, before getting distracted by other games .. I made a second attempt to tackle the game in 2016, where I met the same distracted fate… fast forward to 2020, and the incredible Netflix adaptation of the original novel by Andrzej Sapkowski, I had recaptured the urge to play this incomplete adventure – no excuses!

I actually put myself on a ban of any other games whilst playing The Witcher – I wasn’t about to risk getting distracted again! But there doesn’t seem to be any chance of that happening. After watching the series, I have found myself with a newfound appreciation and understanding for so many of the characters and even the politics of the world.

There are many different ways for you to play. Besides the fact that this is one of those RPGs that will quite often give you big decisions to make, which will have certain consequences somewhere down the line, there’s also a number of different ways to go about developing your character, Geralt. Different armour types, runes to attach to weapons and armour for different effects, five different combat spells which you can develop as you level up, bombs, potions, oils, many other things you can enhance or change as you level up Geralt – there are many tricks up his sleeves.

The characters and cultures that you will come across are astounding in how much life they seem to have. Excellent voice acting throughout the game offers a real immersion into the world. The Skellige Isles region would have to be my favourite place as the Norse inspired culture observed there has been crafted so meticulously, I find it fascinating to explore the different settlements, interacting with the Jarls and their people, observing their customs, and trying to solve the issues that seem to be plaguing every island.

Another aspect of the game that I like is the limitation of fast travel. As opposed to being able to fast travel at any time, you can only travel from signpost to signpost, so only from specific points. This means that you are encouraged to journey through the world on foot (or horseback) and discover all the different points of interest that are lurking in the wilderness.

For anyone who hasn’t played The Witcher 3 and is thinking about it – I can’t recommend enough watching the Netflix series before you play! I feel that it really enhanced my experience of the game for me, so hopefully it will do the same for others.


  • Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
  • Release Date: 19/05/2015 (Switch 15/10/19)
  • Genre: Fantasy RPG