Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where's Your Mark by Jeremy Cowart



Where's Your Mark is a nonfiction book by Jeremy Cowart about numerous people—ranging from ordinary folk to well-known celebrities—making their mark in the world today through their faith in Christ and their works. The book is full of photographs and stories, and it's quite an interesting read.

The cover of the book is strangely silver, so that you can see your own reflection as though it were a mirror. I'm not exactly sure what this is for, but I'm certain it's symbolic.

The stories in the book are certainly interesting, and the various entries could possibly be used as devotionals in small groups or other such situations. Included in Where's Your Mark is the entire book of Mark from the NIV Bible. This was a good idea in theory, but each time there's a page from Mark the page will cut off in the middle of a verse, and it won't resume until a few pages later, after a couple more stories have been told. That part certainly could have been compiled better.

Where's Your Mark is a fascinating book filled with fascinating stories, but at this stage in my life it didn't really hold my interest. I may just hand it off to a friend sometime, or I may just keep it for later.

Where's Your Mark was published on March 19, 2013.
This book was sent to me for free from Zondervan Publishing. http://www.BookSneeze.com/

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson

Hittite Warrior

In my years as a homeschooler, I had to read a lot of literature. I still do in high school, but it's very different. One book that I read in my middle school years was Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson. It's historical fiction from the time of the Bible's book of Judges. I loved it when I first read it, and I was excited to pick it up again when it was assigned in high school.

The story focuses on Uriah, a Hittite who has found himself homeless and without family due to his homeland, Great Hatti, being invaded by the "sea people." He must make his way to Canaan, and eventually, though his adventures, find himself in a war between Canaan and the tribes of the Hebrews. Having no real allegiance himself, his nation being gone forever, Uriah must ultimately decide which side he is to join, and in the name of which god, if any, he will fight.

Hittite Warrior is unique, both in story and in writing style. It focuses on a portion of history largely ignored by today's society, because it was so very long ago and hardly relevant to anything anymore; but that's part of what makes it a good story. Since the reader might not know very much about this entire era, it almost feels like it could be from another world's history, rather than our own. All in all, it's fascinating.

The writing style is unique because it often moves events along at a very quick pace, almost as if the narrator is summarizing the events, but at the same time it never leaves any details ambiguous. It doesn't spend paragraphs and paragraphs explaining something, but rather explains it quickly in a way that you fully understand. It doesn't make you feel any less for the characters or their emotions. It's quite unlike almost anything else I've read, and it's very well done.

My biggest complaint with the book is foreshadowing. A lot of details are bluntly foreshadowed, but it's actually somewhat appropriate due to the writing style. It does not make Hittie Warrior any less of a spectacular read.

Hittite Warrior is a decently short book, and it's very easy to read. It tells a brilliant story with characters that the reader will care about. Uriah Tarhund makes for a great main character and narrator, and his struggle is realistic and relatable. I would never want to be in his position at any point of the book.

Overall, you should read this book. It's worth the time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Late Summer Update

Where have I been? What happened to Thursday Impressions? Why didn't you get any cake? I'm here to answer all of these questions!

1. School started up! I'm a senior! Unfortunately, this means it's going to be a lot harder to blog, or even write in general. It practically halts all pleasure reading, but it also means I'll have reviews for books I read for school. I'll still have some tricks up my sleeve as well.

2. Thursday Impressions has not been showing up the last couple weeks because it's now on indefinite hiatus. The series was fun and it had its time, but I felt it was time to stop, at least for a while. This decision was also partially chosen due to school starting back up, but it was shared influence.

3. I'm 17! I had another birthday, and it wasn't too shabby. (The definition of shabby is, according to Google: "in poor condition through long or hard use or lack of care." It might not have been a very fun birthday, but at least it wasn't shabby!) I can now legally play M-rated games without my parents' permission. Um... not that I necessarily would.

4. You didn't get any cake because I didn't even have cake for my birthday. So there.

If I forgot something, I'll make sure to mention it in a future update. However, for now, I shall see you all later.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Offspring Fling!



Offspring Fling! is a puzzle-oriented platformer game. You are a mother... something... and you have to find and save all of your children.

Right off the bat, I like this game. Great presentation, sweet visual style, and well-polished gameplay. While I find puzzle games very difficult, due to a mental condition, I still had a lot of fun with this one. Whether or not I would be able to complete it to the end, however, is another question entirely.

The soundtrack exceeds expectations. It fits the game perfectly, but at the same time it reminds me of Japanese RPGs, such as the Tales Of series. I actually own the soundtrack, and that makes me quite happy.

Verdict: I really don't know.
I love the game, but I don't know how far I'll be able to get before the puzzles are too much for me. They were already starting to get that way a bit when I stopped. Also, those bees are mean!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Zen Bound 2



Zen Bound 2 is a game where you wrap rope around various objects. Yup, it's just about as boring as it sounds.

Ever since I got this game (through a bundle that had other games as well), I always thought that it looked boring as heck. While it's not exactly... boring... it's certainly pointless. My thoughts beforehand were basically, "This is going to be far too easy, until a point where it's too hard and thus becomes boring." What do you know? I was right.

Verdict: Stop playing.
It's not as boring as it looks or sounds, but it's pointless and I see no reason to continue.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson



Disclaimer: This review will include the basic premise of the story, told in my own way; so if you object to spoilers as much as I do, you should probably skip this review. However, if you're not that kind of person, feel free to read on. The review actually contains no spoilers beyond the basic premise.

The Rithmatist is a young adult fantasy novel written by the master of fiction himself, Brandon Sanderson. It takes place in an alternate, steampunk version of our world. It's not an alternate future; it's an alternate world entirely.

As is traditional for a novel penned by Sanderson, The Rithmatist has a unique magic system that is so utterly unlike anything else, that once you actually understand it, you're shocked by its brilliance. I could try to explain Rithmatics to you, but it's not so easy to explain. Sanderson explains how it works throughout the entirety of the novel, for you can't just learn it all at once. It takes time to understand, but it's brilliant.

In the United Isles of America, those who can use Rithmatics—they're called Rithmatists—are of much higher social class than others. That's because they are the isles' main hope of staying safe. Rithmatics involve creating things using chalk, including defenses and possible weapons. In the isle of Nebrask, there's a tower from which swarm thousands of wild chalkings—savage creatures made purely from chalk but easily capable of killing people in terrible ways. The Rithmatists are the main force keeping the chalkings inside Nebrask and not letting them get into the other fifty-nine isles, fully populated with people.

In the isle of New Britannia, Joel Saxon is a student at Armedius Academy, where they train both Rithmatists and upperclass people who don't have the power of Rithmatics. He himself is not a Rithmatist, nor an upperclassman, but rather the son of a now-dead employee of the academy. All his life he's been fascinated by Rithmatics and has always wished that he could use them, but he lost that chance long ago.

Not everyone becomes Rithmatists. In fact, only a very few amount of people do, always chosen at age 8. Every child must go through the inception ceremony when they're young, which will completely determine their future. If they go through the ceremony and nothing changes, they go on with their lives. If they suddenly discover they can use Rithmatics, they get ridiculous privileges, get education at a special school (such as Armedius), serve in Nebrask for ten years, and then get a pension for the rest of their lives.

As a summer elective before his final year at Armedius, Joel finds himself working with the Rithmatist Professor Finch (a non-Rithmatist working with a Rithmatist is almost unheard of) on a secret project involving the disappearances of a couple Rithmatist students off-campus. Thus begins the fascinating and brilliant story of The Rithmatist.

Now, by this time I know Brandon Sanderson. I know he's going to have amazing, likable characters; I know he's going to have a brilliant magic system that will blow my mind once I properly understand it; I know that he's going to have plot twists that will make Ted Dekker look like the writer of children's books. That last fact is a trademark of Sanderson. If you think you know where the story is going, something's going to change that you will never see coming. That will happen numerous times with every book you read that he has penned.

If there's somebody who knows how to craft a story better than anyone else, it's Brandon Sanderson. He'll always leave hints to things along the way that you'll never pick up on when you first read a story. Things that will later blow your mind. As always, Sanderson has created a brilliant world with a fascinating and unique magic system that nobody could ever think of. When you spend seven years developing a book, it's going to be amazing.

I highly recommend that you pick up this book in print format, rather than digital. Each chapter begins with a diagram, often depicting something to help the reader to continue to understand Rithmatics, or something of the sort. With a print version of the book, it's easy to flip back to the beginning of any chapter at any time you want to refresh your memory, and I found myself doing that all the time. In addition, it's always easier to check the map anytime you like (which, by the way, is a really cool map).

So what, you ask, is the verdict? Well, The Rithmatist is a brilliant and well-crafted story by one of the greatest storytellers in history. The characters aren't just lovable, they're awesome. In addition, the novel takes place in a fascinating world with a unique magic system that nobody but Sanderson could even think up. I fell in love with the world, and I'm devastated by the fact that the sequel isn't estimated to hit shelves until 2015.

I can safely say I recommend this book. I can safely say you should go buy this book the very first chance you get. Thank you very much.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Fortix



Fortix is a game where you save a kingdom and slay dragons. How do you accomplish this? By walking around things.

It's difficult to explain, but it's fun. Your character certainly gets a lot of exercise. The music's good, the visuals are decent, and it's pretty addicting. In fact, I completed the entire game in easy mode before I typed this up, because it's that addicting (and that short).

Of course, there are resolution problems. So many games have resolution problems. In this case, neither fullscreen mode nor windowed mode worked properly. All I can say is I really hope such problems were fixed in the sequel.

Verdict: Keep playing, I guess.
Y'see, I already beat the game in just an hour. How do you keep playing when you're already done? Well, I guess there are other difficulty levels. I'll get on that.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Yet Fate Had Not Their Favor

Yet Fate Had Not Their Favor
By Reuben Horst

Time has passed, the flowers have grown.
I’ve learned new things you’ve never known.
They’re both tragic, they’re both lost.
They’ve found their way through greatest cost.

Carpe diem, the old ones say;
Live your life so you can savor.
They took the chance, they seized that day,
Yet fate had not their favor.

The illusion of light was bright and hopeful.
The snow had glistened, inviting and graceful.
Then shadows surrounded, and took them away.
Carpe diem; seize the day.

They’ll be led through this soon,
Their foundations made of stone;
Forever scarred and always frightened
That it will be left alone.

---------

This poem was originally published on An Einsteinian Approach on December 12, 2012, and is a sequel to After the Flowers have Grown.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Geometry Wars



Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is a 2D space shooter where you try to survive all the obstacles coming your way by shooting them. Yup, this is a brand-new and original idea that I don't think anybody has done before. Also, I'm good at sarcasm.

In all seriousness, Geometry Wars is pretty decent as far as space shooters go. It's pretty fun and the visuals are really cool. However, I did have some gripes. First of all, there are only three resolution options, which means I need to either play with a slightly stretched resolution, or play in windowed mode, both of which take away from the experience a bit.

Also, the game was made specifically to be played on the gamepad, meaning the developers didn't take time to really work on controls otherwise. Using the keyboard to aim your bullets really didn't work. Other games have done it well, but this one really fell short. I opted to use the mouse to aim instead, and that was a lot better, though still kind of awkward.

Verdict: Stop playing.
It's a fun game with potential, but it's not friendly for keyboard users. Until I get a gamepad I won't be able to get a very high score at all.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Am a Whatvian




Disclaimer: I have done my best to avoid any and all possible spoilers in this article. I'm not one of “those people.”

As some of you know, I recently became interested in the British science fiction series Doctor Who. At this point I've seen all of it since the 2005 revival, and I've also checked out various spin-off material and several episodes from the classic series. I know you're wondering: What made me turn away from the sane side of the internet? Well, truth is, I'm still more sane than about 95% of the internet.

Let's start with the age-old question: What is Doctor Who? It's a science fiction television series that initially aired back in November of 1963. It lasted until 1989, when it was officially canceled. There was a movie in 1996 that was meant to revive the series, but it failed. Eventually it was successfully revived in 2005, and has been going steadily ever since. Now, it's important to note, the series was not rebooted in 2005; it was revived. It's the same continuing story.

Now, how can a series go on for that long without rebooting? The main character must be old by now! Well, technically, the main character is even older than you might think, considering he's currently over 900 years old. Enter "the Doctor," a Time Lord from a planet far, far away. He's a traveler. He looks like a human, but apparently his race looked like that first. Doctor Who is the story of his adventures through time and space with whatever people he decides to bring with him along the way.

Time Lords might look like humans, but they are completely different. They have two hearts, and brilliant brains. Enough to baffle even the greatest Earth geniuses. They also don't age—or, at least, their lifespans are massive. In addition, when a Time Lord is about to die, he or she can regenerate into a brand new body. This is how the series has been able to switch actors but keep the same main character over the years. It might sound like a cheat, but it's actually pretty awesome and pulled off very well.

At the beginning of the revival series, many years have passed since the 1996 movie and the classic series. We are greeted by the Doctor in his Ninth incarnation (portrayed by Christopher Eccleston). He just recently returned from a war—the Last Great Time War, fought between the Time Lords and a great enemy—of which he is the only survivor. The Time Lords were fairly frequent throughout the classic series, but now they're all gone. Forever.

So, this is an interesting turn of events. It makes the whole story of Doctor Who a little darker, and a lot more sad; but at the same time it makes the story awesome.

Now, the only place to start watching the Doctor Who revival series (which I recommend doing over starting at the beginning of the classic series) is at the beginning of the 2005 season. At that time they had a very low budget, the CGI was pretty awful, the acting wasn't too great, but you need to get through it first, no matter how cheesy it might seem at the beginning. Believe me, it's worth it. This is the kind of series that you cannot watch out of order.

Why do I love this show, you ask? Well, for numerous reasons.

1. The Story

Doctor Who has one of the best stories of anything I've ever watched, read, or played. It's the story of a lone Time Lord traveling the universe and all of time with his companions, for no other reason than to explore. Of course, there are over-arcing stories, usually with key story points in the season finales. These are brilliant, but so are the individual episodes.

The writers of Doctor Who are some of the best writers I've encountered in my years of watching television. Logic as we know it doesn't exist in the Whoniverse, because the time-travel theories are all out of whack and so many things just don't make sense, but that's the way things work in that universe. It's not the same as our universe, and it's not even supposed to be, and that's just something you have come to grips with. Earth might exist and play an important role in that universe, but it's not our Earth. After all, the world wasn't actually invaded in 2006.

However, the fact that the Whoniverse works so very different from our universe is part of why the story is so good. The writers get to do things that people would never think of. Writing for Doctor Who allows one to let their imagination run wild, and create things so far outside the box, but things that at the same time are so very brilliant. Basically, by the time you get a few seasons into the series you'll know exactly what I mean.

2. The Characters

Doctor Who has a brilliant cast of characters. The current showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat is amazing at creating characters you will never forget, and all the characters introduced before he took over were often brilliant as well.

The Doctor is one of my absolute favorite fictional characters. If someone were to ask me my favorite action hero, I would say the Doctor in a heartbeat. While he does have a habit of saving the world time and time again (not to mention the entire universe now and then), he's not always a hero. He has great power, with all of his technology and brilliant brainpower. Being the last of the Time Lords, he is quite possibly the most important person in the universe; but with great power comes great responsibility.

A number of times, far too much power has been placed in his hands, and he doesn't always make the right choices with that power. He's flawed; he's just as human as anybody. (Though technically, he's not actually a human at all.) He faces all of the emotions, struggles, and internal battles that anyone would face in the situations he's placed. Speaking of which . . .

3. The Emotions

What goes along with the story and characters in Doctor Who is the emotions. When I said that the writers were brilliant, I neglected to mention just how much they can get under your skin. This television series is more emotional than any other I have ever watched.

Something Doctor Who is known for on occasion is devastating emotion. The kind that makes you want to find a corner and sob for a while. But the story is sooooooooo freeeaaaking gooooooood! This amount of emotion adds to the brilliance. While so many episodes have happy endings, sometimes they're not so happy. Sometimes they're bittersweet, or sad, or even downright devastating, but it makes for amazing story.

For all of the amazing episodes with Happy Happy endings, just one Sad one in every few is just as memorable as all the rest, if not more so. I apologize for using this word so much, but it's brilliant.

4. The Music

I didn't notice the music of Doctor Who really until the third season. That was when I noticed it and thought, “This is actually really, really good.” As time progressed I fell in love with the show's soundtrack, and I've purchased nearly all that have been released. I listen to the music almost every single day, and as a matter of fact, I'm listening to it as I'm typing this article.

My brother's favorite composer is Howard Shore, who is the creator of the beautiful Lord of the Rings and Hobbit scores. I agree that Shore is one of the greatest composers in the entire world, but my personal favorite is Murray Gold. He has a unique style, and it's brilliant. I've never fallen so much in love with a soundtrack that I immediately went and purchased it. That is, not until Doctor Who.

5. It's Very Clean

Doctor Who has always been partially directed at children, and that is how it can be one of the best science fiction series of all time, and also be one of the cleanest science fiction series of all time. I must emphasize, however, that being partially directed at children does not at all mean it's a “children's show.” In fact, it can be enjoyed even more by an adult than by a child. (I mean no offense to any younger kids who might read this—I mean you'll probably enjoy it even more when you're older!)

There is, however, the occasional content to which people I know may object. The creators of Doctor Who are very much for the acceptance of homosexuality, and so that comes up every now and again. It's not explicit, and if all else fails, you can just ignore it. There is one (occasionally) recurring bisexual character who would be found offensive regardless of the fact that he's bisexual. Just ignore him (even though he can be rather hilarious at times).

6. It's a Legacy

Doctor Who is coming up on fifty years this November. Fifty years! It's been around for a loooong time. It is the longest-running science fiction series in history, and it's one of the most well-known science fiction series, both for the classic and revival series.

I haven't watched a lot of the classic series, but I've really liked what I've seen. Of course it has cheesy effects and stuff—all science fiction did in the age that it was made! However, I would watch classic Who over classic Star Trek any day. For old 60s-80s science fiction, it was brilliant. Not to mention, it's the same main character that I love so much from nowadays. Unfortunately a lot of episodes of the classic series are missing from the BBC archives, so it's impossible to watch them all in order, but I've really enjoyed watching what I've seen.

Doctor Who has withstood the test of age. When there were talks of reviving the series that led up to it actually being revived in 2005, everybody was on board. Even the network was on board, which shows that British television networks are about a thousand times better than American networks, who care considerably more about money than the content they produce. What started as one simple sci-fi show in 1963 has turned into one of the greatest series in the history of the universe.

Also, because the series has been around for so long, it has built quite a lot of lore. Planets, universes, various things stretching across billions (er, trillions) of years of time, and it's constantly being expanded even more. In addition to the television series there are books, graphic novels, audio plays, and just about every kind of media out there.

So, there you have it. That is a summary of why I love Doctor Who so much. I still reject the term “Whovian,” which is used to describe fans of the series, but I will definitely say that I am a fan, and you should be too.

(Special thanks to Adam Bolander, Eli Johnson, Ashley Procko, and Taylor Bomar for your proofreading and constructive criticism!)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Aquaria



It is six days until the six-month anniversary of the Thursday Impressions series, and I thought I'd celebrate the occasion by playing an old friend. Aquaria is a game I owned over two years ago, but due to certain things (it's a long story), I lost access to it. I haven't been able to play it since, until now, thanks to Humble Bundle.

Aquaria is a 2D action-adventure game that stars the aquatic creature Naija. Its story is unique, immersive, and decently dark (from what I've experienced), and the world you explore is beautiful. The soundtrack is beautiful as well, and it's actually a bit nostalgic for me. When I used to own this game, I didn't actually get very far. This time I intend to follow through and see where the story goes.

Verdict: Keep playing.
It's gorgeous, and I love a deep story. Count me in.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Vessel



Vessel is a 2D puzzle platformer set in a strange, steampunk world.

First off, this game looks gorgeous. Secondly, if this game played as well as it looks, it would be a masterpiece. Many parts of the game, such as the art and presentation, are definitely top-notch, but the gameplay itself is pretty far from it. The entire backstory of Vessel is told through a series of photographs, and the entire narrative is told through your character's journal entries. This is really cool.

Vessel would have made a great platformer, but the developers instead decided to go in the direction of being primarily a puzzle game. Because of this, they didn't focus nearly as much on making the gameplay as smooth as they should have, and the game feels awkward to play. I also, personally, strongly prefer primary platforming with secondary puzzles to primary puzzles with secondary platforming. That is just a preference, and not the game's fault.

Verdict: Stop playing.
The game had a lot of potential, but it fell short because the developers wanted to make a puzzle game, and the end result just didn't turn out as well as it could have. I struggled numerous times just to get as far as I did, and the story barely progressed at all during that time. In the end, this is a game that I would much rather watch than actually play.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Farewell

Ever since I started this blog, there has only been one consistent reader. Somebody that I knew would read every single post, regardless of whether or not he was interested. That was my grandfather. About four weeks ago my grandfather had a stroke, and just a few days ago he passed away. Rest in peace, Gramps. You're awesome.

I said everything I needed to in one paragraph. My grandpa deserved a whole essay; but perhaps another day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Little Inferno


Little Inferno is, at first glance, an entirely pointless game. Well, if you can even call it a game.

Basically, you're in an apocalyptic world in which the entire planet is slowly freezing to death. You're given a furnace for entertainment. You can burn things in the furnace, and you get money from doing so. You use the money, then, to buy more things to burn, and the cycle continues. You're given very few limitations, and there's no overall goal except to try to find combos so you can unlock more stuff.

So, as mentioned, this game seems entirely pointless at first glance. Some would argue that it is. However, occasionally you get letters that you can burn too, after you read them. These are from the company that makes the furnaces, from the weather company, or from your ecstatic neighbor who has a "Little Inferno" herself. Through these letters you're gradually given a picture of the world outside; one of those rare, very subtle ways of telling a story.

Overall, through these letters the game becomes intriguing, sad, and even a little depressing. It's brilliant, though, and no matter how absolutely pointless it is, it's incredibly addicting. I've spent more time playing Little Inferno then I've spent playing any other Thursday Impressions games before writing the blog post.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I want to see how the story ends.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Crescent by Homer Hickam



Crescent is the second installment of Homer Hickam's Helium-3 series. It is highly recommend that you read the first book first.

Crescent does not pick up where Crater left off, instead taking place three years later. It's still the exact same world—same futuristic moon colony—with the exact same characters, but you can tell how much it's changed. War has broken out on Earth, on the moon, and everywhere in-between. Crater Trueblood, our protagonist from before, is a part-time helium-3 miner and a part-time soldier, fighting under Colonel John High Eagle Medaris against the crowhoppers, genetically-engineered troops sent by the UCW—the Unified Counties of the World, an alliance formed by over thirty nations on Earth. The reason for the war was that the UCW wanted control over the moon, and the residents of the moon were not going to let that happen.

With that little bit of premise, I will not tell you the story. If you are eager to learn it, you can look up a synopsis on any book-selling website, or check out most other reviews. I, however, would just recommend reading the books. What I will tell you, however, is that Crescent is amazing and it was definitely worth the wait. The main characters are now a few years older, and you can tell how much they've changed. Crater is no longer the super-naive kid anymore, but instead has grown into a wiser, slightly pessimistic young man who has seen too much in his short time. While the characters have clearly grown up, you can tell that they're the exact same people, just older. I, more than anyone, know how much even a simple year can completely change a person.

Crescent is an adventurous tale, once again taking the reader back to this alternate future that I love so much. I feel like it's a little more mature than Crater was, possibly simply because the characters themselves are older. The book can be humorous at times, and the author gave multiple nods to the first book through inside jokes. My biggest complaint with the entire book is that it ended. I mean, come on! It was so very good the entire way through, and then ol' Homer had to go ahead and end it! When I finished the last chapter I jumped out of my chair and started shouting at the author for ending the book, and ending it where he did of all places.

Now, of course, the next Helium-3 novel is to be the final book in the series. I am going to be truly sad when it's over, because I love this trilogy. I assume that the next novel will once again jump ahead in time a few years, and I absolutely cannot wait. Unfortunately, I have to. It comes out in a year.

Congratulations, Mr. Hickam, your world has once again stolen my heart. I eagerly look forward to the final installment, though I'll probably cry at the end because the series will be over. You're a brilliant writer. Keep up the good work.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make some turnip paste.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Uplink



Uplink is a hacking simulator. You're an Uplink Agent, which is someone who hacks into the servers of various corporations to access files, alter information, and do whatever else you're told to do.

When first being introduced to this game, my initial thought was, "Okay, this is really cool, but it's not my kind of thing." However, after getting a decent ways through the tutorials, I instead started thinking, "This is starting to get really fun."

There's not really much to say about this game except that it's a hacking simulator. I could go into detail, but that's some complicated stuff. This is definitely a game in which you want to keep a notebook nearby. You're going to need a lot of information on hand, and it just ain't easy.

I tried to hack my first company without the tutorial's help, but I was tracked and disconnected by the company just as I was finishing my business. They sent me an email and charged me 1,000 credits to illegally snooping around their servers, which I willingly paid because, unbeknownst to them, I had already finished my mission and had been paid in full, so I had the money to spare. Ha!

Verdict: Keep playing.
This verdict surprised me. I'm not much in simulations, or many games that require a lot of focus, but Uplink is actually quite a captivating game.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Revisit: Crater by Homer Hickam



A year and a quarter ago I reviewed a book called Crater. It was written by Homer Hickam, the retired NASA engineer who penned the bestselling autobiography Rocket Boys, which was later made into the hit film October Sky.

My original review was a mistake. I focused too much on the book's faults, to the point that people who read my review thought I was saying it was cliché and cheesy and basically written for children. I made sure to state that I loved it, but because of the way I wrote it, people basically thought it had just been a guilty pleasure of mine. That's definitely not true, because my guilty pleasure is Colleen Coble novels.

What bothers me the most about my initial review is that the author himself misinterpreted it, and suggested that I might enjoy his novel The Dinosaur Hunter instead; to which my unspoken response was, "Dinosaurs? How boring! I want to go back to the moon!" (As a disclaimer, The Dinosaur Hunter is probably pretty good; I'm just not interested at the present time.)

While it's true that parts of Crater seemed a little bit cliché or cheesy, it's a brilliant novel and I think it deserves a revisit. I recently acquired the sequel, Crescent, and I decided that before reading it I would reread Crater, and then set the record straight on my blog.

To begin, I love this book. I only read it the first time about a year and three months ago, but it feels like it's been so much longer, to the point where a huge part of the book was downright nostalgic.

Crater takes place on a moon colony in the 22nd century, and the book spans over a decent portion of the moon, exposing the reader to what the future could be like. The author, being a former NASA engineer, put all of his scientific knowledge into making an intriguing and brilliant world that actually makes sense in the reader's mind. As the characters traveled the vast world, I often wished that I could be there as well, exploring the reaches of the moon.

The main character is Crater Trueblood, a naive teenager who was older than me the first time I read the novel, but whom is now pretty much the exact same age. Sometimes his character felt a little too naive, but he also had some great character development throughout the book.

At the beginning of the book Crater is sent on a mission with a convoy from his mining colony to the great Armstrong City, and from there even to outer space, and the closest to Earth he's ever been. It's a long journey with many hitches along the way. The story is beautifully written, even when you take into account the minor cliché elements.

Crater is a brilliant, suspenseful, and even somewhat tragic story. It takes place in an epic and well-crafted future universe, and the characters are great and memorable. Honestly, I haven't looked forward to any book in a long time as much as I've looked forward to the sequel.

I strongly apologize to anyone who read my initial review. Crater is awesome.

Thursday Impressions: Anodyne



Anodyne is a Legend of Zelda-style adventure game that places you as a man named Young who is appointed by very suspicious sages to save the world. Before long you pick up a broom, rather than a sword, and you're ready to take on evil at full force.

This game was very highly recommended by critics, and it did not disappoint. I only played up to and through the first dungeon, but in that short time it could both feel just like an old 2D Zelda game, and also like a completely new, original adventure.

The developers do have a bit of a sense of humor. This is another one of those games that are "by gamers, for gamers," meaning the creators wanted to create a game that they, themselves would love to play. Yet another reason why the independent gaming industry can be superior to the mainstream gaming industry.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I love it. My only concern is whether or not it will be long enough.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thursday Impressions: And Yet It Moves



And Yet It Moves is a 2D platformer set in a world made of torn-off paper. Unfortunately, that fact is the only thing about it worth noting.

This is one of those games where you can alter the gravity in four different directions. I've played many games like this, and this one seems the least original. Everything about the game is slow, and the mechanics are horrendous. It's so easy to die again and again (by the fault of the game, not you), and every single time more and more frustration gets loaded onto your nervous system by the bale.

It's not fun, the puzzles are annoying and unoriginal, and the music is just dull. I never thought I could ever dislike something so much from my favorite genre, but this is one of the worst 2D platformers I've ever played. It's definitely not worth $10, or any price other than free. Don't get it.

Verdict: Stop playing.
There were some redeemable moments of gameplay, but it's nowhere near worth it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pianoooooo

A week ago I mentioned that I loved piano and I gave a link to a random example why. That garnered some great feedback, so I decided I would post a few more piano covers here for your enjoyment.







Thursday, June 20, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Closure



Closure is a 2D platforming puzzle game in which nothing that is unseen exists. For example, if you shine a flashlight on the ground, it's solid and you can walk on it; but if the ground is unseen by light, you will fall right through.

It's a fairly creepy game, but it's an original and quite cool concept. If you can't get past a wall, alter a nearby lamp so that it's no longer shining in that direction. Then you can just jump through the darkness where there once was a wall. It makes for cool and interesting puzzles.

The simplistic graphics style is perfect for the game. The soundtrack is very good and can be quite creepy; but when you jump into water, the music gets downright terrifying. It's kind of awesome.

Verdict: Keep playing, if I can beat that level.
It holds a lot of promise and I'm already excited to keep playing. However, I did rage-quit my playthrough, due to being stuck for too long. That could be a problem, heheh.

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Update, Just 'Cause


Some people check my blog for personal updates. How boring.

So how am I? Well, life's been decent since school got out. Not much is really happening. I've been watching Doctor Who, re-reading Crater by Homer Hickam so I can read the sequel, and waiting for the next volume of Fullmetal Alchemist to come in at the library, even though I haven't even gotten around to ordering it yet. In addition, I just finished this game called Thomas Was Alone, which was brilliant for the most part, but the ending was definitely lacking.

[There was another paragraph here at one point in time, but it's gone. Rest in peace, paragraph.]

I've been playing around on piano/keyboard recently, as always. I'm not good enough to really play in front of anybody except my direct family, but it's something I do and this is a personal update, so I thought I'd mention it. Really, though, piano is my favorite instrument. Here's a random example why.

What's the point of making this post? I dunno. Some people like it.

So, you can take note of the following, friends and foes:
-Thursday Impressions pieces still come out every Thursday, even though I don't post them on Facebook.
-I try to get another blog post in each week, be it a review or some boring personal update (though it doesn't always happen).
-I still try to keep the Status page updated, for the most part.
-We might see more giveaways in the near future. Keep yer fingers crossed.

And thus ends the personal blog update thingy. You happy? Hopefully so. I'll see you 'round the block, unless you're not there.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Proteus



Proteus is a simulation created for no purpose except to explore.

You're placed on a randomly-generated island. At first, it seems like you don't have anything to do, but that's a pessimist's perspective. Look around a bit. Go hiking. There's a lot more to this virtual land than meets the eye.

One could argue that this "game" is pointless. There's no goal, and no purpose except to walk around and explore. Honestly, though, who doesn't want their own personal island to explore? When you need alone time to think, you can just shrink into your beautiful, soothing little virtual world.

The world changes around you. Day to night, and even different seasons. There are so many things to look at that sometimes you just don't know which direction to go. Initially, I had a small complaint that you cannot go faster than a certain speed, but then I found out that walking into a swarm of bees makes you sprint. I also walked into a circle of lightning bugs and suddenly beheld an entire season passing before my eyes.

Controls are a bare minimum. Basically, you can walk around and look around, and that's about it. I would have liked a jump button to be implemented, but it's not at all needed. It would just feel right to have one.

Verdict: Approved.
I can't very well say "Keep playing," because this isn't the kind of game that you "keep playing." It's a beautiful world, to visit when you're feeling down or in need of something serene. The developers promised a different experience every time, and I can't wait to go back.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson

The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor's Soul is a novella that takes place in the same world as Brandon Sanderson's debut novel, Elantris. It focuses on a master criminal named Wan ShaiLu who's found herself on death row unless she can fulfill a forbidden task appointed to her.
Book Description:
When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos. 
Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai's only possible ally is the emperor's most loyal councillor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent. 
Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape…
Sanderson introduces a new magic system in this story, called Forging. It has to do with the carving of "soulstamps," which can rewrite an object's history. The entire process is very hard to explain, and in the novella itself Sanderson explains it over a decent amount of time. While Forging is very hard to do successfully, if someone with the right skill works for enough time—usually over years—they can Forge something as ridiculous as a human soul.

Shai is forced to Forge the soul of the most well-known man in the entire Rose Empire in only one hundred days, which is virtually impossible. Thankfully, her captors don't know the slightest thing about Forging, so over this amount of time she can plan her escape without the others knowing what she's up to. The Emperor's Soul is about what transpires during those one hundred days.

The narrative of the book is almost entirely from the point of view of Shai, allowing the reader to get to know her and sympathize with who she is. Though the world may not approve, there's a reason she does what she does. As always, Sanderson delivers with his amazingly well-crafted world and characters. During Shai's captivity, she begins to develop a fondness of the arbiter Gaotona, some of her guards, and even the emperor himself. An emotional aspect of the story is that even if Shai truly can Forge the emperor's soul in such a short time, he won't actually be the emperor that once was. He'd just be a copy, no matter how real that copy was.

In the end, The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson is a fantastic read. For a short tale, it's very well-developed and makes the reader feel at home in the fictional world. If you can spare a few dollars, I very highly recommend it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Thomas Was Alone



Thomas Was Alone is one of those stereotypical 2D indie platformers that use shapes as characters because the creators didn't know how to draw a sprite. Or... not. Though I am a fan of the genre just mentioned, this game is not included in the category.

"Thomas was alone. Wow, what a weird first thought to have."

The player is introduced to Thomas, a rectangle who knows nothing about his existence except that he exists. Before long, Thomas discovers he could move, fall, and perform a sort of inverse-fall called "jumping." Along the way, Thomas records his thoughts, for posterity.

What makes Thomas Was Alone different from other games that look similar is the fact that the entire game is narrated by the shapes controlled by the player. Are those supposed to represent characters who live in a world of squares? Well, there's that, but the characters are exactly what they actually are: shapes, making their way through levels by the work of a player. They don't pretend to be anything else. Yet, they record their thoughts and adventures, turning this from any old adventure to an intriguing and lovable adventure.

A half an hour into the game introduces Thomas to other rectangles who can do other things that he cannot, such as jump at different heights and use various abilities. I have no idea how many characters will be introduced in total, but Thomas is certainly alone no longer.

Maybe I love this game just because I'm a platformer fan, but I think the charming narrative and atmosphere will be enjoyable to gamers of all ages. This game is something else. Something unique.

Verdict: Keep playing.
It's fun, intriguing, and actually kind of deep. The puzzle elements stress me out a bit, but to the average mind they would be no problem. Many thumbs up.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The River by Michael Neale


The River by Michael Neale is a novel I acquired a while ago because of a hype. Many employees of the publishing company had read it and very highly recommended it, so I thought I would give it a shot. While it wasn't at all a bad book, it was certainly a disappointment.

The story starts out in the present day, where a fifty-ish man named Gabriel Clarke approaches the story's narrator and tells him that he's on his way back from travelling around the world, running National Geographic's Top Ten Most Dangerous and Beautiful Rivers in the World. After exploring numerous beautiful locations, meeting tons of new friends, and encountering multiple near-death experiences, he was ready to head home. And then he tells the narrator his life story, which is the bulk of the book.

Now, that might sound like a really intriguing story, but in reality the story doesn't focus at all on that long adventure he had. It's about his childhood and early years. When he was five, he watched his father die saving another man's life in The River. For the next fifteen years he would grow up with his mom in a small town in Kansas, before eventually, after a series of events, work at a summer camp in Colarado, where he would rediscover his true love of The River.

Right off the bat, I had problems with this book. The story is supposed to be about Gabriel, but the first two chapters are almost entirely from the point of view of his parents. If this is Gabriel's story, why is it being told through the eyes of others? In addition, the writing style of this book looks like it was written by a teenager. Not that it has bad grammar or it's poorly written or anything, but it just seems like it'd be something that I would write myself, if I had the ability to stay on a single writing project long enough to finish it.

The whole book just doesn't seem at all realistic. Some would argue that that's the point of fiction, but not when a book tries to be realistic. You can tell that the author meant for it to be a story that could have actually happened, but it didn't at all turn out that way. The entire story felt forced. Like the storyteller didn't know how to tell a story.

The dialogue is written in a way so that almost all of the characters appear to have the same personality (a personality which isn't in the slightest bit realistic), and sometimes it just felt like the author didn't know how things work. Things like animal behavior and what it's like to live in a small town—you get the impression that the author thought he knew what he was talking about, but he really, certainly didn't.

There's also the allegorical elements, such as whenever any river is mentioned at any of the book, the characters refer to it as The River. And everyone thinks The River is amazing beyond anything else, to the point where you get bored every time it's mentioned. Throughout the book, The River is a very obvious and poorly-implemented metaphor for God. If the author wanted to write a good book, he should have removed all allegorical content completely and just wrote it as a story. It would have been much more enjoyable.

Another part of the book I didn't care for was that some romance elements were added in, but for no purpose. If they'd been expanded on it might have added to the story, but as they were they were kind of pointless. Perhaps they were part of the allegory, and that would be why they could have been a brilliant addition, but they weren't. And on that point, the romance was absolutely unrealistic.

However, after pointing out all these parts of the book that made it not nearly as great as it could have been, I also have to point out that these can all be attributed as minor gripes. While I had problems with the story, other readers may not. I actually found the book quite enjoyable at times, though I always got bored when the characters got started talking about The River.

One of the aspects I liked about the book—though I'm not sure they should be considered as pros—is the similes used by the author. I don't know why, but I just found them hilarious. The sad part is that the author didn't mean them to be cheesy or hilarious; he meant them to be serious. However, I might be the only person who's even taken note of them.

Regardless of all the faults, there are still great gems in The River. I enjoyed it as a whole, and I know other people who would enjoy it a lot more than I did. While it could be boring, cliché, and poorly worded at times, I can see why people would like it. However, I find it difficult to recommend a book that I would not purchase myself.

The River was published on September 18, 2012.
This book was sent to me for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing. http://www.BookSneeze.com/

Saturday, May 25, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird. It's one of the most well-known novels of all time. It's one of the most-loved, and one of the most-hated. This year I read it for the first time, and here are my thoughts.

Our story begins from the point of view of Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, a six-year old girl who lives with her brother and her father—an attorney of law—in the fictional setting of Maycomb, Alabama in the early to mid 1930s. The story is about her life over the course of three years, with a range of interconnected adventures that develop both her personality and the personality of her brother, Jem.

I won't go into detail about the story—it's hard to summarize and far better to experience yourself—but this is one of the best stories I have ever read. Amazing, relatable characters, and an intriguing and lovable story.

Because of how little detail I am willing to go into, this is more of a recommendation than a review. It's a brilliant story, featuring some of my favorite fictional characters of all time. I love how sometimes an author can pen stories like these, from the point of view of a precocious child. Shows just how smart young'uns can be, while at the same time assuring us that they really are their supposed age, and still make the mistakes that children of their age make.

Though the story is written from the point of view of a young girl, it's definitely a book for adults. It's realistic, which means there are some not-so-pleasant aspects and subjects that may want to be avoided by younger generations. Then again, I'm the only who's talking about how I love precocious kids, so I guess it all depends on the individual.

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is a masterpiece. I couldn't recommend it any higher.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Spectromancer



Spectromancer is a game I avoided for a long time, because it just looked boring. In retrospect, I'm not entire sure why. It's a turn-based game in which you control a mage who summons creatures and spells in order to defeat your opponent. It was obviously inspired by card games such as Magic: The Gathering*.

It took me about an hour to figure out how to play (and I'm not entirely sure I figured it all out, yet), but once I got the basics down I had a lot of fun. I only played some quick single-player matches, but the game also includes a campaign mode, online multiplayer, and a lot of other cool features. I haven't even scratched the surface in my short time playing.

Verdict: Keep playing.
Whether you're interested in a quick match or a full-fledged campaign, this game is sure to get some enjoyment out of you. That is, if you're into this kind of thing.

*In fact, Spectromancer was co-designed by the creator of Magic, but I didn't know that until I'd already written this piece.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

20 Random Facts About Me - #5

So, it's that time again. Here are another 20 facts that you may or may not have known about me.

  1. My favorite instrument is piano.
  2. If I ever get pet chinchillas, I'm going to name them Zulf and Zia.
  3. I love lemons and limes.
  4. I honestly don't care for watching movies... very often.
  5. I love animals, but I know so very little about them.
  6. I've become hooked on Doctor Who, but I still reject the term "Whovian."
  7. My brothers are extraordinarily smart.
  8. In my experience, beef soup is better than chicken soup.
  9. I have never worn a tie.
  10. I can't decide whether big marshmallows or small marshmallows are better.
  11. I hate the term "video game."
  12. I hate sports... unless I'm playing them.
  13. My favorite sport to play is Ultimate Frisbee.
  14. I want to meet Steven Moffat someday.
  15. I hate washing dishes, though that's hardly surprising.
  16. I've recently gotten hooked on the manga Fullmetal Alchemist.
  17. A lot of my older blog posts look terrible because of how much I've improved since.
  18. I want to visit New Zealand someday.
  19. I hate waking from a dream.
  20. I don't care for bacon. Mwuahaha.

Special thanks to everybody who ever existed. Mediocre thanks to everybody else.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday Impressions: To the Moon



To the Moon is an interactive short story about a man at the end of the road. Johnny Wyles has lived a long life and is nearing death. Though he's certainly had many regrets, there was one regret that stood out: He'd always wanted to go to the moon. A pair of doctors have a way of making his dream come true, somehow, by travelling through his memories.

From the beginning, the player is met by amazing presentation. The visuals are unique, combining SNES-era pixel art with objects and locations that can be found in modern day. The player is immediately drawn into the surreal world and life of Mr. Wyles. The soundtrack moving, and for its quality, it could be priced much higher.

I only played for about forty minutes, but during that time I was definitely intrigued and drawn into the story. Occasionally I felt like so much time was put into the story, the visuals, and the music that the programming wasn't as polished as it could be. The resolution doesn't fit my monitor screen, with the only real solution being to play it in windowed mode, and the point-and-click controls didn't always work properly.

In the end, though, To the Moon looks to be an amazing and emotional story. I can't wait to see the end of it.

Verdict: Keep playing.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Impressions: NyxQuest



NyxQuest: Kindred Spirit is a 2D side-scrolling platformer that takes place in a post-apocalyptic Ancient Greece, if that makes sense. The story focuses on Nyx, who in Greek mythology was the goddess of the night.

A man named Icarus had been crafted wax wings and had taken to the sky to explore, and thus found the wonderful land in the sky in which the gods and goddesses reside—including Nyx, whom he becomes quite fond of; and she becomes quite fond of him. One day on one of Icarus's flights, the sun decides to send out terrible beams of light and melt his wax wings, sending him plunging to the Earth below. Disobeying the laws set in place by the gods and goddesses, Nyx travels to the world below in search of her friend. Unfortunately, she finds that the entire world is now in ruins because of what the sun did. The only living creatures to be found are strange, flying shadow beasts.

Thus, you are entered into the game to control the goddess of the night, though I'm not certain that she actually is a goddess in this interpretation of the story. I originally played NyxQuest years ago, but it ran terribly on my old computer, and I pretty much forgot about it until now. I can safely say that I'm kind of glad I did, because now I can appreciate it a lot more. I'm familiar with more names, places, etc., and that makes the game a lot more intriguing.

NyxQuest somewhat reminds me in gameplay and setting of another game I've played and beaten, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King. While that game wasn't bad, it wasn't really good either. Similarly, I feel that NyxQuest really has its flaws. The developers worked hard to make the world beautiful, but at the same time the environments could use a little bit more variety. It's decently fun to play through the game, but at the same time it's ever-so-slightly... boring. The soundtrack partially makes up for that, though.

Verdict: Indifferent.
It's a pretty fun game and it has potential, but there's nothing in it that has drawn me in or really made me want to continue playing. I both love and hate Greek mythology, so I'll probably end up beating the game someday, but that might not be for a very long time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea is a novella by classic writer Ernest Hemingway. It tells the story of an old man and his attempt to catch a giant fish. The old man's name is Santiago, but that's not important.

An elderly fisherman is unlucky—he hasn't caught a good fish in a great long time. The townsfolk know he's unlucky, and so do the parents of the boy who used to be his assistant. Hence the words "used to." Now, old Santiago struggles to get by, though he goes out to sea every single day to hope against hope that a fish will bite.

One day, a fish bites his bait. He's finally caught something, eh? But this fish is so large that he can't haul it in. Instead, the great fish swims off with the bait in its mouth, dragging the boat and the old man with it. Hour after hour goes by, and the old man can do nothing but wait for the opportune moment to kill the great fish and haul it back, strapped to the side of the boat if necessary. But the question is... will that ever-so-persistent fish give in and die, or will the old man die first, from lack of supplies and no way to escape the vast sea?

The Old Man and the Sea is a fairly good book. It's not a masterpiece, but it's definitely worth a read. The story is sad, but few good stories aren't at some point. I probably wouldn't have ever read this in my own time (it was a school assignment), but it's definitely worth a shot. A reader might get bored from how much time Hemingway spends describing the process of fishing in Cuba, but at least this novella's got nothing on Moby Dick in that matter.

If you need something to read, check it out. It's not worthy of cutting the line on your reading list, but it's good nonetheless.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Magnetis



Magnetis is a Tetris-like game that involves dropping magnetic pieces strategically in order to get the highest score.

It turned out to be pretty fun. My first play was pretty awful, but I was somehow able to make a comeback once I figured out how to play. Then each time I tried again I did so much better at the beginning, yet in the end I still managed to always do worse than the previous time. Like Tetris and all the other similar games, it will occupy your time for a while with nothing but its simplistic fun.

Verdict: Um, okay. Keep playing?
I have no real reason to stop playing, but it's not something to which I'll get addicted.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins



Catching Fire is the second book in Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games Trilogy. This is not a warning I give often, but I do not recommend reading this review until you have read both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, as it contains spoilers.

One year after the events of the 74th Hunger Games, we are once again entered into the mind of one Katniss Everdeen, who'd survived the arena as a victor, along with a boy named Peeta Mellark, in the first double-winning in Hunger Games history. For those who do not know (in case you did not heed my advice and are reading this review anyway), the Hunger Games are an annual reminder from a tyrannical government in which 24 teenagers are drawn from the twelve districts and placed in a miles-wide arena to fight to the death.

Seventy-five years ago, a rebellion broke out in the country of Panem (formerly known as North America, long ago), and the Hunger Games were served as a reminder every year since that opposition to the government was a very, very bad idea. But in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta showed the world that the government wasn't as great and powerful as they claimed. While Katniss only wanted to keep herself and her friend alive, she unintentionally sparked a new hope for rebellion, and now that spark would come to haunt her.

In the sequel to the renowned Hunger Games, we are returned again to the dystopian world of Panem. While the first book worked to introduce its readers to the strange future world, the second book no longer has to do that. You're already familiar the world, the characters, and the society... so instead, Catching Fire focuses more on plot; and man, is it good.

Suzanne Collins not only returns with a worthy sequel, but the book surpasses its predecessor. In a gnarled twist, the competitors of 75th Hunger Games are taken entirely from the list of former victors, including Katniss and Peeta. This not only makes for interesting plot, but it makes the whole story more personal. For much of the final half of the book, I was desperately hoping that the ending would not be cliché. In the end, I was not disappointed. In fact, the ending was so awesome that my heart was beating quite hard throughout it.

In conclusion, Collins did a wonderful job of continuing her story. Many people don't care for the book—or at least they like the first one better—but I can't disagree more. The Hunger Games was a spectacular novel, but Catching Fire was phenomenal. Very highly recommended.

Now, I've been told that Mockingjay, the final installment of the trilogy, is a bit of a disappointment; but since I was told the same for Catching Fire, I'm remaining optimistic. I don't plan on reading it immediately, but perhaps sometime within the next few months. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Caveman Craig 2



Caveman Craig 2 is the sequel to the award-winning freeware title, Caveman Craig. I was a fan of the first game years ago, so when I was given a free Desura download key for Caveman Craig 2, I had to play it and type up my first impressions.

You control Craig, a caveman in prehistoric times. You have to build up your tribe, training new members (who have terrible manners) and defending your cave from dinosaurs, until you can conquer all four enemy tribes and reign supremely. The game plays a lot like the first one, with many, many new features that immediately make it superior.

The graphics got a major overhaul, and not only does the sequel have music, but it's darn good music. Right from the start I was drawn in by the soundtrack. I wasn't expecting it, and it was definitely a pro.

In fact, when I first booted up the game, I both loved and hated with what I was met. Amazing music... but the window was of awkward resolution for my computer, and there was no way to change the window resolution. Fortunately, playing the game in full screen mode fixes any resolution problems, and I was able to enjoy the rest of my experience.

I played for about 45 minutes, and I was able to send the first opposing tribe leader back to whence he came. It was a fun experience, and I actually learned something from it. The game also has unlockable achievements and minigames that I wasn't able to look into much, but I certainly will soon.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I don't know how far I'll get, but I'm enjoying it so far. Thanks to Parabox Games for giving me a free download code on Caveman Craig 2's one-year anniversary!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Downtime (Or... Not Really)

There's no Thursday Impressions piece today. I've been busy with my life of being lazy that I just didn't get around to it. Don't worry, though; the next few weeks are set to go with the series, and hopefully I'll get some other reviews in there as well.

I'm currently reading a couple more books—Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee—so perhaps we'll be seeing my evaluations of them sometime in the future. Remember, you can keep up with what I'm reading on my Status page.

I've been tossing around some ideas of what to do for this blog, and I and my friend Adam Bolander are considering creating a gaming-related blog together. Stay tuned for more information, if that's going to happen!

And so ends my hastily-created update post to cover up my inability to get a Thursday Impressions piece out today. Live long, prosper, and don't let the bed bugs bite!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Lone Survivor



Lone Survivor is a 2D survival horror game about an unnamed character. It takes place in some post-apocalyptic world where almost everything is mutated or dead. The character finds hints here and there that he may not be the only survivor, but it's quite likely he is.

The game creates an atmosphere of dread, as the more you play, the more confused the character becomes. He's constantly afraid to sleep or venture too far from his home, for fear that he'll forget whatever he had been trying to do. His main goal is to find another living person (not one of those mutated nightmares) so that he does not have to die alone.

Verdict: Keep playing... maybe.
Lone Survivor is pretty darn creepy. I want to see how the story turns out, but I don't know if I want to take the frightening journey to get there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Cogs



Cogs is that classic "slide the tiles to unscramble the picture" game, but brought to the next level. It's a puzzle game where, as I just said, you slide the tiles in order to connect gears or pipes to complete various different tasks. Some levels are completely 3D, and you need to rotate the playing field, opening up all sorts of possibilities for puzzles.

It's not really my kind of game, but it's fun and I can see it having a lot of replay value, with all of the levels and game modes. The presentation and music are both of good quality. As I've stated before, however, I'm pretty awful at puzzle games, so it's doubtful that I would be able to get much farther than I did.

Verdict: Stop playing.
Once again, this verdict is chosen due to my own skill. If you're good at puzzles, you should definitely check the game out.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Flying Eagle by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen


Flying Eagle by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen is a children's book I found and read in a museum's bookstore. It had absolutely nothing to do with the museum, but it impressed me enough for me to write up a quick review.

In short summary, this is a poem about an eagle trying to find food for his young, and the adventures he has on his way. It's short and simple, but at the same time it's beautiful. The book is illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray, whose gorgeous imagery adds a wonderful flare to the already impressive poem.

Though I had not on me the money to purchase this gem, I highly recommend it. Flying Eagle is beautiful.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Oozi: Earth Adventure



Oozi: Earth Adventure is a game currently in the Steam Greenlight, which means it's not officially on Steam yet, but it may be eventually. It's about an alien named Oozi who crash-lands on Earth. As described on the Greenlight page, "Oozi: Earth Adventure is a classic 2D platformer with old school gameplay, with no puzzle, no punishment, just 100% pure classic platforming fun!"

You see, that description in itself was enough to get me excited for the game. 2D platformers are my specialty, but I can't stand some games because of the "puzzle" and "punishment" involved. From what I've played, this game lives up to what it says... for the most part.

Oozi is a super fun game. It took me a while to get used to the physics, but that was expected. (Of course the game was meant to be played with a gamepad, but I don't have one.) Also, the game has a control scheme that only uses the mouse. I've never seen that before in a 2D platformer, and I have no idea how well that would work. It's pretty cool, though.

The gameplay itself, once the physics have been gotten used to, is quite fun. There is a not-so-infrequent form of "punishment" in the game, and that is that water always kills you instantly and sends you back to the last checkpoint when you touch it. This can get very, very frustrating, as it's harder to avoid than other hazards are, and other hazards only take one health each.

The visuals and music are pretty sweet as well. The soundtrack could occasionally get a little bit repetitive, but never annoying. In the end, I really have to recommend the game. It would make a perfect addition to Steam's library of games.

Verdict: Definitely keep playing.
It's my kind of game, and it's awesome so far. Perhaps I'll review it once I'm done.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Indie Game: The Movie



Indie Game: The Movie is a documentary about what it takes to make and release a game in the independent gaming industry. It focuses on Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes during the final months of development on Super Meat Boy, Phil Fish during the later development of Fez, and Jonathan Blow reflecting on the development and release of Braid.

For those who don't know, indie developers are game developers who create games on their own without the help of larger corporations. If you were to download some free programming software and create your own game, as even I have done myself, you would be considered an indie developer. It's not always so simple as that, however. This film focuses on those who have battled their way to the top of the industry and gotten recognition for it. In other words, those who have succeeded where so many others have failed.

With success comes great sacrifice. Similar to how it is with novels, you cannot just come up with an idea that will instantly sell millions (though there are exceptions). You have to fight. You have to give it your best and push through the hardest times, knowing full well that even in the end you could fail and everything will have been for naught. It takes an unbelievable amount of endurance and creativity to make something that will sell.

But in the end, the point isn't really to sell your game, is it? The point is to put yourself into something. Make something that everyone, even yourself, would want to play. It doesn't come down to money; it comes down to others enjoying what you have created. If there's no enjoyment—if there's no love—then everything will have been for naught.

Indie Game: The Movie tells a brilliant story of what it takes to get through the living hell of being a successful game developer without the support and funding of corporations. In a way, a lot of parallels can be drawn between game development and writing. Both paths are nearly impossible to travel, but if you can succeed, it's worth it. Anybody can make a game or write a book, but few can create something that will always be remembered.

This documentary is highly recommended, especially for those who are trying to make a name for themselves in any given industry.

Caution: Indie Game: The Movie contains frequent strong language, along with brief footage of a NSFW game.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Lume


This one I didn't play very long because I was stumped on puzzles very soon after beginning. This came as no surprise to me, and it was even expected from what I had seen of the game.

Lume is a point-and-click puzzle game that takes place in a world made completely of paper and cardboard. It stars a little girl named Lumi, who has to find out why the electricity went out, and where her grandfather has gone.

Right off the bat it you're welcomed by the unique visuals and soothing music that create a wonderful in-game atmosphere. The game has many difficult puzzles... and that's where I got stuck. Honestly, I'm pretty awful when it comes to puzzle or strategy. I love puzzle games, but I can never get very far.

Verdict: Stop playing.
Lume looks to be an incredible (and cute) experience for those who are good at solving puzzles, but I may have to wait a few more years before I'm to that point.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Q's & A's - #1

A year and a half ago I told my friends to ask me a bunch of questions, which I answered in this post. That was a lot of fun, so I decided to do it again. So, here are a bunch of questions, from slightly relevant to completely random.

---------

What is your favorite season?
Season 3 of Hogan's Heroes.

What is the worst book you've ever read?
Anything written by Dan Brown.

Windows, Mac, or Linux?
I am content to stick with Windows.

Do you play an instrument?
Piano. Sorta.

What kind of animal would you want to be if you were forced to be an animal?
Probably some kind of cat.

What animal would you own if you could tame anything?
A lion would be pretty awesome.

Which is your favorite Star Wars trilogy?
This may be surprising, but I might actually go with the Prequel Trilogy. Outstanding music and VFX, even for today's standard, and I love Ewan McGregor in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi. I'm hoping that the Sequel Trilogy will be as amazing as the first two.

If you could magically teleport to any time and occupation, what and when
would it be?
That's a tough one. I know I would never travel to the past, because that would alter time, and I don't want that to happen. Maybe I'd go ten years into the future, just to see what life is like then—the gas prices, who's president, what's the latest technology, etc. It'd also be sweet to see where my favorite YouTubers will be in ten years.

What are three (real, alive today) people you would pick to join your zombie apocalypse team?
Narrowing it down to three is super hard. If just picking from among my friends, I would probably pick Justin Fisher, Thomas Cook, and Steve Scott. Yeah... with that group I would definitely be the first person to die.

White chocolate, milk chocolate, or dark chocolate?
I'm allergic. Go away.

What does conforigurious mean?
It's when you're so angry that you want to marry someone.

If you were shrunk down to a miniature Rueben and you had to live in someone's navel, who would you pick?
1. That's not how you spell my name.
2. That's gross.

Where's Waldo?
I don't know. I actually haven't spoken to him since the Missing Apocalypse of 1997.

What is the square root of a flexnard?
Whatever times itself equals a flexnard, of course.

What have I got in my pocket?
A ring, you fool of a Took.

What question have you wished someone asked but hasn't?
Why so serious?

What is your favorite color?
Pink*.

*this definitely isn't sarcasm.

---------

Stay tuned, because someday I'll do another of these. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, and maybe they'll get on the next one.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Glowfish



Glowfish is an underwater, side-scrolling adventure starring an aquatic creature named Glowfish.

The evil Dr. Urchin has no friends, so he goes and kidnaps all of Glowfish's friends, including his girlfriend Coralline! Glowfish sets out on an adventure to get his friends back—and he makes quite a few new ones along the way.

First off, this game's presentation is spectacular. The story segments are cool, and no doubt a lot of very hard work was put into them. The gameplay, while not entirely original, is fun and definitely enough to keep you going. While the music doesn't necessarily stand out, it's still really good, and it complements the entire atmosphere of the game.

Speaking of which—the visuals. Glowfish is full of beautiful environments that make you want to keep playing just so you can see the next one. In addition, there are many, many different kinds of creatures you can come across, including some friends that become full-time helpers. You can upgrade the abilities of these friends, and they help you a lot in your journey.

I spent an hour and twenty minutes with this game before telling myself that it was enough for my impressions piece, so I should stop. Needless to say, I had a lot of fun with it.

Verdict: Keep playing.
I'm loving Glowfish so far, and while the previous games in this blog series weren't really my kind of game, this was. I'll keep playing, and perhaps even review it when I'm done.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thursday Impressions: Bullet Candy



I sat down with a game for half an hour, and this is what I thought of it.

Bullet Candy is a 2D space shooter, and though it has that "instant fun" sort of feeling that most space shooters have, that feeling is not what makes or breaks a game.

You start out with one mode unlocked: Arcade Mode. This mode is where you fight through numerous waves of enemies and try to get to the end. If you lose all of your lives, you can start up at any wave whose number is divisible by five. You earn combos by picking up little ships that are littered everywhere and apparently in need of help. You can also pick up various power-ups that help you greatly along the way.

Though the game really is fun, I found it hard to truly enjoy. One reason has to do with the fact that, with the amount of hostile bullets flying everywhere, it's almost impossible to complete later levels without dying several times in each. Another downside is that there's no proper tutorial, so it took me a while to figure out that power-ups are power-ups and not things you have to avoid.

I couldn't get all the way through Arcade Mode, but somehow along the way I unlocked Survival Mode, which is exactly what you'd expect it'd be: You have one life, and you try to survive as long as you can, with more and more enemies appearing as time goes on.

In conclusion, it's a fairly fun game, but I've certainly played better space shooters of its kind.

Verdict: Keep playing, but only if I ever get around to it.
I had some fun, but the game was nearly impossible even in the easiest difficulty. I'll probably play it again, but it's unlikely that I'll get around to it anytime soon.

Monday, February 11, 2013

After the Flowers have Grown

After the Flowers have Grown
By Reuben Horst

A change of perspective, a difference of view
Leave it alone, leave it alone
The past is behind; what's ahead will be new
Still leave it alone, leave it alone

Friendship has many costs
Injustice can happen
Why are you still lost
After the flowers have grown

An for ask for forgiveness, a beg to let up
Leave it alone, leave it alone
An assurance of sorrow, a surge of regret
Still leave it alone, leave it alone

Two objects, so much alike
Yet they are far from the same
One tragic, one lost
And neither can finish this game

There is still a chance, a light on the snow
But leave it alone, leave it alone
Still the flowers will grow
Leave it alone


---------

This poem was originally published on An Einsteinian Approach on November 29, 2012

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thursday Impressions: World of Goo



I recently realized that I own too many games on Steam, and unless I do something, a lot of those games are probably never going to be played. My solution is to set aside an hour or so every Thursday to play a game I've never played before (or at least that I haven't played in a very long time). I'll archive my impressions of said games on my blog because... well... because I feel like it!

I started this out with World of Goo, one of the first independent games that made itself known to the mainstream gaming industry. I've played a demo a long time ago, but I was awful at it and my brother thought it was stupid. Nonetheless it's a classic, so I thought I'd try my hand again.

This is a puzzle game that involves connecting balls of goo in order to get to the end of a given level. It's a simple concept, but it was pulled off with great presentation.

Unfortunately, my very first impressions were negative, as the game runs on a set resolution that you're not allowed to change. The entire game was stretched on my 1366x768 monitor, and since there were no in-game options, I had to use alt+enter to activate windowed mode.

I'm generally awful at puzzle games, so it took me an entire hour and a half to get through the first world, but I had a lot of fun along the way. The graphics are cute, the physics are well-implemented (albeit quite frustrating at times), and the music was phenomenal. Even if the entire game was a boring piece of crap, I would still play it for the beautiful soundtrack.

In conclusion, if you generally enjoy puzzle games, you'll certainly enjoy this game. I found it frustrating and it took me a long time to get through some of the levels I played, but that's simply because my mind doesn't let me figure out puzzles as well as others' do. World of Goo is a great game with great presentation.

Verdict: Keep playing... for a while.
I'm not great at puzzle games, and I probably won't get much farther in this game, but I'll probably go on to see how far I can get.