Invested in Critical Role

The first time I heard Critical Role mentioned was at Gen Con in 2019. The cast of Critical Role was appearing and my friend was thrilled. He had tickets to go and he said it was the highlight of his convention. Earlier this year, I figured I’d watch the first episode on Youtube because why not? I was still at home and wasn’t sure when I was going to be vaccinated. I can’t believe how easily I have become invested in their campaign. For the past month, all I have been watching is Critical Role.

For those completely new to Critical Role like I was, it’s a D&D campaign show hosted by voice actor, Matthew Mercer, and his other voice actor friends. Every show is streamed live on Thursday nights Pacific Standard Time and uploaded to their Youtube channel. Originally, Critical Role was a private campaign Mercer had, but they decided to partner with Geek & Sundry and start airing their episodes on their channel in 2015. All of the episodes of Critical Role can be watched on Youtube.

When I started watching Critical Role, I went back to the beginning with episode #1 of their first campaign, Vox Machina. There were some recommendations to start with campaign #2 Mighty Nein since it was more refined with better video quality, however, I wanted to start from the beginning. From my watching experience, I would recommend watching Critical Role from the start. It’s fun to witness the chemistry the players have with each other. It’s tough to pick a favorite character because all the characters serve a role in the story.

Another reason I’m enjoying Critical Role is that it’s easy to follow along. I have listened to other D&D podcasts where I couldn’t quite keep up with the game. It helps that Critical Role has a recap told by Mercer and story introductions narrated by each cast member. I usually skip over their backstories, but every ten episodes or so, I will listen to them in full just to keep their stories fresh in my mind. I also prefer watching Critical Role on their Youtube channel versus listening to the podcast.

Additionally, I love how Critical Role gives back to their community. In the beginning, Critical Role was taking donations for 826LA which focused on creating opportunities for younger kids. Now, they have their non-profit that’s launched. I think it’s admirable since they have gotten so popular to start giving back to the community.

I wish I started watching Critical Role sooner than I am now. It’s such a fun group to watch and they all seem to get along with and care for each other. Critical Role has gotten me through some hectic workweeks along with making me look forward to the end of the workday. It’s been a true escape to leave the stresses of work in my office and come aboard Vox Machina and their adventures through Tal’Dorei.

Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel

The Nancy Drew computer games can be a huge hit (Ghost of Thornton Hall) or pretty mediocre (Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake). I’m determined to play through them all and officially rank them once I do. It still surprises me how challenging the Nancy Drew games are. The puzzles require some in-depth thought and it’s easy to get stuck not knowing what to do next. Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel was one of my favorite Nancy Drew games I played.

In this game, Nancy is recruited by Paula Santos, the owner of Captain’s Cove Amusement Park in New Jersey. One of the horses from the Carousel was stolen and some of the rides seemingly begin to move on their own. Nancy is introduced to several employees of the park who each have a motive as to why they would be interested in the park shutting down. Since this game is set at a carnival, this game is a bit heavy on mini-games especially when Nancy is exploring the arcade. Nancy Drew & the Haunted Carousel is one of the better games to start with because Nancy isn’t at risk of dying in this game. If Nancy makes a wrong choice, it’s more likely she’s fired from the case than perishing. There are also fewer “jump scares” in this game than other Nancy Drew games I played.

I liked how this game had more suspects. It made it that much more intriguing when it was finally revealed who the culprit was. I liked the setting at the park. Certain areas in the game were super creepy. I was a little anxious going through those areas because I was convinced something would jump out at me. The soundtrack to this game complemented the haunted theme.

Overall, this would be a good beginner Nancy Drew game. It’s less scary, and the puzzles while challenging are doable. I have five other Nancy Drew games installed on my computer, so it’s safe to say another Nancy Drew review will be written soon.

PEEPin at a PEEP Art Exhibit

I hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend! For Easter, me and my fiance visit his family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With Covid, we would normally quarantine at his parents and watch TV. However, with both of his parents being vaccinated, we decided to go do something. For the Easter weekend, I convinced the fiance to go to the 11th Annual PEEPS Art Exhibition at the Racine Art Museum. From the title, all of the art pieces were made out of PEEPS.

The exhibit was open from noon to 4 PM. We arrived at the museum at 12:15 and there were already people waiting outside of the museum. Each ticket was $7 which I thought was a good price to see the PEEP room along with the whole museum. As we paid for our tickets, there were dots on the floor representing where to stand to be socially distanced. The museum had a cap of 50 people, so someone was counting how many people were being sold tickets. The PEEPS exhibit was in one room with a walkway with various art pieces. My favorite had to be the Baby Yoda made of brown and green PEEPS glued together. There were also several Bernie sitting on a chair PEEPS along with a Harry Potter-themed one as well.

With Covid, I missed going out and doing random activities. I would happily go to this exhibit next year. It was such a fun way to spend the Holiday.

Intergalatic Cooking in Space Battle Lunchtime

With starting a pull list, I have been reading more single issues than trades. It’s funny because when I first began reading comics, I heavily relied on trades to continue in a series. The latest trade paperback I read was Space Battle Lunch Time published by Oni Press. Imagine if Top Chef took place in space and that’s the synopsis of Space Battle Lunchtime. This had such a fun premise and left off on a big cliffhanger.

Space Battle Lunchtime is an intergalactic hit! It’s a reality cooking competition featuring chefs from a variety of different galaxies. Peony a human from Earth is in the right place at the right time when she is zapped from her bakery to appear on the show. Peony is replacing another contestant who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Peony has never used galactic cooking ingredients which makes her at a serious disadvantage compared to her previous opponents. Will Peony fall under the pressure? or can she cook up to the competition.

This graphic novel was such a lighthearted read. I liked reading about their challenges and how Peony has to quickly adapt. While Peony is the main character, I would say I liked both Neptunia and Aris. Neptunia is a fellow contestant and has to work with Peony on a cooking challenge. There’s a budding friendship between the two and I liked seeing it unfold. Aris is a cameraman on the show and he’s always in Peony’s corner wishing her good luck. Both characters added to Peony’s journey throughout the show.

The art in this graphic novel complemented the story perfectly. I liked how the beginning of each issue had a recap page which felt in line with other reality TV shows or cooking shows. I also liked the logo of Space Battle Lunchtime with the pink spatula and the star.

Additionally, Space Battle Lunchtime is an age-appropriate novel. This would be great for kids to read. There were so many good messages in this story including highlighting teamwork, emphasizes the negatives of cheating, and how hard work can pay off. It can be intimidating to find graphic novels for kids, however, Space Battle Lunchtime would be perfect.

I have nothing bad to say about Space Battle Lunchtime. It was a fun departure from other graphic novels I tend to read. This is the first graphic novel I read from Natalie Riess and it won’t be the last. Space Battle Lunchtime can be purchased directly from Oni Press’s website or through a local comic book store.

Computer Games From My Childhood

My mom has been doing spring cleaning at my childhood home. The latest find was old computer games I used to play. My mom was planning on donating them to Goodwill, but I insisted she give them to me instead. I’m not sure if I ever plan on playing them again, but I don’t think I can get rid of them. I’m not sure if they would even work still considering on the disc itself it lists Windows 97/98 as being the running system. I wanted to share the computer games that made up my childhood.

Carmen Sandiego Math Detective

I loved the Carmen Sandiego computer games! My dad bought them for me because technically they were educational. I liked the overall plot of the games and how the main goal was to capture Carmen even though Carmen would escape every single time. I have played through each Carmen Sandiego computer game at least five times throughout my childhood.

Backyard Baseball 2003

My dad bought me this game to help teach me the rules of baseball. I would watch Minnesota Twins games with my dad and constantly be asking questions about the game, the rules, and the players. In the Backyard sports games, it would take professional players and make them into little kids. I could pick the players I wanted to create my team to get into the World Series. The Minnesota Twins player included in this game was pitcher, Brad Radtke who played on the Twins from 1998 – 2006. I never played any of the other Backyard sports games, but I know there was one for Football as well.

Clue (1998 Hasbro Interactive)

This Clue game freaked me out as it was very dark. Once you navigated around the Boddy mansion and started accusing people, it would show a clip of the person you accused murdering Mr. Boddy with the weapon. I probably shouldn’t have been playing this game at a young age, but me and my friend had the best time. We would always turn out all the lights and play this game in my basement.

The Game of Life (1998 Hasbro Interactive)

Besides Clue, I would always play Life. I tried to have the most babies in one go through of the game. I liked how I could customize my character and change the color of the car I drove. I found myself constantly playing this interchangeably with Clue.

Computer games from the 90s were my jam. As mentioned, I don’t think I can get rid of them because of the many memories attached to playing through each game. I may try and buy a CD drive and run them on my Windows 7 laptop to see if they will play. Let me know in the comments if you still have any old computer games and if so, have you gotten rid of them or keep them to play later.

Justice League Snyder Cut

My fiance took off work on the release date of the Justice League: Snyder Cut. My fiance is a big DC fan. While I didn’t hate the original Justice League, the movie felt like a mess. There were rumors of a “Snyder Cut” however, with DC’s movie track record, I didn’t get my hopes up. After my fiance finished watching the movie, he came into the office where I was working and couldn’t stop talking about how good this film was. I was still skeptical, but I agreed to watch it with him the following weekend. I was pleasantly surprised because Justice League: Snyder Cut was amazing. It was way better than WW84.

My expectations into watching the Snyder Cut was Joss Whedon’s movie with more scenes. To be blunt, this was a completely different movie. Cyborg (aka Victor Stone) in this full version had much more of a character arc than in the theatrical release. In this film, Cyborg’s origin story is told on screen. The relationship Victor has with his parents, how Victor’s father ends up helping the League, and Victor listening to a recording from his father saying how proud he is and how he is fortunate to be given a second chance. Ray Fisher (who plays Cyborg) has been the most vocal about Joss Whedon and his abuse of power behind the scenes. I can understand Fisher being upset after the theatrical release because his character’s backstory was erased. Cyborg is easily the MVP and his role in splitting the mother boxes was crucial to prevent Darkseid from coming to Earth.

The return of Superman is so much more satisfying in the Snyder Cut. As Cyborg is pulling apart the mother boxes, Steppenwolf comes up behind him about to deliver a devastating blow when Superman appears blocking the attack in his black suit. Superman pummels Steppenwolf buying more time to assist Cyborg. I could feel myself getting amped at seeing Henry Cavill back in action at just the right moment.

Another surprising moment for me was the role of the Flash (aka Barry Allen). In the theatrical release, Barry seems a bit incompetent and immature. In the Snyder Cut, Barry is much more aware of his powers and the speed force. In the final battle, Cyborg isn’t able to pull the mother boxes apart in time leading to the Justice League losing. However, Barry notices this and can run back in time to produce the energy needed to split the mother boxes. This moment was special to watch because, without Barry’s help, Darkseid and Steppenwolf would have won. In this version of the Justice League movie, each member of the League has a role. Without one of them, they would have failed at various steps of their plan. In the theatrical version, this wasn’t laid out.

If I would have been told months ago that I would have liked the Snyder Cut better than WW84, I would have laughed. The Snyder Cut was everything I would have hoped for from a film adaptation of the Justice League. Unfortunately, Warner Bros. was trying to control Zach Snyder’s vision leading to the theatrical version. Justice League Synder Cut was amazing and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was my favorite movie of 2021.

Sunshine Blogger Award #2

This is my second nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award. This time I was nominated by Stephen over at Honest Gamer. I’m awe-struck as to how he can play so many video games in one month. I have been trying to play more video games throughout my week, but I somehow seem to fall short of my gaming goal. Here are my gaming answers and thanks again to Stephen for nominating me.

If you could have a new entry from your favorite video game franchise, but in a new genre, what would it be?

Image from Bioshock Wiki

The first idea that popped into my mind was a Bioshock Big Daddy parenting simulator. Bioshock is easily one of the video games in my life that has the most meaning to me. It would be a fun spin on the franchise to make a horror game into a parenting simulator.

What video game crossover would you love to see happen?

I think an Uncharted / Lara Croft crossover would be neat to see. When I purchased my PS4 back in 2017, one of the first games I played was the Uncharted franchise. Nathan Drake and Lara would have great chemistry together and I could see them balancing each other out in combat.

What platform did you start gaming on?

I started playing PC. My dad felt at the time that having a PC was all we needed. My first console was an Xbox 360 in 2007 which brought me to the world of console gaming. Now, I mostly play consoles with a little bit of PC gaming thrown in here and there.

There is often talk about difficulty vs accessibility in video games. Do you think that developers should include difficulty settings in their games?

I think game developers should have the freedom to do what they wish as it’s their game. At this point, I don’t like to play extremely difficult games. Gaming is a relaxing hobby to distract me from my daily life stresses, so I don’t want a game that emphasizes that. I tried playing Cuphead last year and while I think it’s a well-made game, the difficulty turned me away.

Which legendary video game franchise do you think has the better music, The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy?

I’m not a big Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy fan. Right now, I’m listening to the Spider-Man Miles Morales soundtrack on repeat.

What popular video game, movie, or book series could you not get into?

Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Mass Effect were three that I couldn’t get into. I respect why these franchises are as big as they are, but I am unable to get in on the hype.

Serious question now….dogs or cats?

I grew up with cats, so I always will prefer cats over dogs. My rescue kitty, Athena is eight years old now and we love her to pieces.

What three indie games do you recommend and why?

I’m not sure if the games I’m describing count as “indie”, but here goes. Costume Quest II, Life is Strange, and Hidden Through Time. Costume Quest II is a Halloween-themed game where kids have to save Halloween from this evil dentist. Life is Strange is a story about love and friendship, and Hidden Through Time is a hidden object game I found on Steam.

What do video games mean to you?

Video games to me are a visually stimulating experience. Playing a great video game can be emotional, invigorating, and memorable. Gaming is a hobby above all else, but it’s also gotten me through tough times in my life. I think back to getting through middle school by playing Halo 3 and getting through a breakup by playing Batman Arkham City on a snow day. Gaming will always be in my life in some capacity.

I tag anyone who wants to complete this challenge. I’m going to use the questions Stephen originally came up with in case you would like to do this along with me:

  1. If you could have a new entry from your favorite video game franchise, but in a new genre, what would it be?
  2. What video game crossover would you love to see happen?
  3. What platform did you start gaming on?
  4. There is often talk about difficulty vs accessibility in video games. Do you think that developers should include difficulty settings in their games?
  5. Which legendary video game franchise do you think has the better music, The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy?
  6. What popular video game, movie, or book series could you not get into?
  7. Serious question now….dogs or cats?
  8. What three indie games do you recommend and why?
  9. What do video games mean to you?

Unicorns, Critical Role & 90’s Punk – Highlighting Indie Comics

I consider indie comics to be anything other than Marvel or DC. With Image and Dark Horse becoming more prominent comic publishers, are they still considered indie? Despite the lack of conventions I have attended, I have been reading more comics than ever before! It helps to have weekly trips to my local comic book store. I wanted to highlight a couple of indie comics I read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

By The Horns Issue #1 Naso, Muhr, and Tabacaru

By the Horns is published by Scout Comics whom I had never heard of before purchasing this issue. By the Horns follows Elodie, a monster hunter who is fueled by revenge after her husband, Shintaro was murdered by a unicorn. Elodie is so consumed by rage that she’s asked to leave her town after they feel she’s abandoned them. Accompanied by her animal sidekick, Saijen, she adventures through various cities in search of unicorns.

By The Horns was a fully fleshed-out first issue. I liked Elodie as the main character. I felt the way she was designed with her white, rogue jacket and blue face paint gave her a look that was memorable to me. Elodie feels like a character I would play as in a dnd campaign. Saijen is Elodie’s fox companion. Elodie and Saijen have this close bond and I’m interested to see more of their battles together.

By the Horns issue #2 will be released in May while issue #1 is available for purchase. I rated By the Horns issue #1 five stars.

Home Sick Pilots Issue #1 Watters, Wijngaard, Bidikar, and Muller

Home Sick Pilots is published by Image whom I’m a huge fan of. Home Sick Pilots follows the band of the same name. To be competitive with a rival band, Ami suggests to both Buzz and Rip to perform at a haunted house. Both Buzz and Rip are terrified because of the rumors they have heard. Ami ventures in on her own and finds that this is more than a haunted house.

I love anything spooky and Home Sick Pilots gives off this feeling. I liked the art in this issue a lot. The blues/purples of the haunted house along with the ethereal look of Ami as she enters the house. There’s a panel showing both the Home Sick Pilots and rival band Nuclear Bastards as they are both exploring the house at the same time. There was so much to look at that I found myself staring at the page way after reading the panels.

Home Sick Pilots has been releasing weekly issues and should all be available at your local comic book store. I rated Home Sick Pilots issue #1 four stars.

Critical Role Vox Machina Origins Series III #1 Mercer, Houser, Samson, Msassyk, and Maher.

I started Critical Role last month and I’m hooked! This issue follows the group from Critical Role’s first campaign: Grog, Keyleth, Vex, Vax, Trinket, Scanlan, Pike, Percy as they find their next paid mission. They wander through the town, drinking ale, and deciding their next move.

I felt each character was written the way they were roleplayed. I read their voices in my head as I read their lines. Grog has his witty one-liners while Keyleth serves as the humanitarian of the group. It helps with Matthew Mercer, the DM for Critical Role had a hand in writing the script. Since starting Critical Role, I cannot get enough, so I’m happy with the addition of a comic series coinciding with their game.

Critical Role Vox Machina Series III Issue #1 can be found at your local comic book store. I rated this issue five stars.

Reading comics is so much more than superheroes. I find the easiest way to get into reading comics is to take your interests and find a comic equivalent. Let me know what indie comics you’re reading in the comments below.

One Year Later Covid 19

It was one year ago when I canceled my trip to Seattle for Emerald City Comic Con and spontaneously drove to Michigan. On the way home, I checked my work email and to my surprise, we all were able to work from home the following Monday. At that time, I had no way of knowing this would be semi-permanent. While 2020 was a rough year for almost everyone, I have found myself reflecting on what this pandemic has taught me. I think in order to grow as a person, it’s imperative to reflect on my time in quarantine. I wanted to share what I have taken away from this experience.

Be Appreciative of My Experiences

Before Covid, I was always planning the next vacation. I would finish my trip and a week later I would plan my next destination. Since I wasn’t able to travel, I found myself going through old pictures and reliving memories of previous trips. One example was reading through my travel journal. I have this beautiful, Maurader’s Map Harry Potter journal that I used to bring with me when I traveled. Reading through my past vacations made me hopeful for the future and decreased my feeling of isolation. It made me appreciate all of the life I have been able to live. I was always living in the future, not as much in the present. I don’t want to lose the travel bug I have acquired, but I also want to live more in the moment.

Paid Sick Leave

While the stimulus checks are crucial, I hope the United States re-evaluates the need for sick leave. In previous jobs I worked, I would show up sick because I had no other choice. This led to everyone in the office getting sick because I showed up to work. While I think the pandemic would have progressed the same regardless of paid sick leave, I think this would have made a difference.

Activism!

By staying home, I have been able to save money. Since I had more money left over, I was more aware of how I spent my money. I found myself trying to donate to various nonprofits and how that made me feel. After the murder of George Floyd, I started donating to NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and ACLU. I want to leave the world a better place, and donating money here and there helps. I’m fortunate that I’m able to do this as I was employed throughout the pandemic.

What Makes Me Happy

Playing video games, reading books & comics, and exercise all got me through this pandemic. It was a stressful time, and to get through it, I needed to figure out ways to destress. Additionally, I had to analyze my coping methods. Last April, I found myself relying more heavily on alcohol. It was a Friday staple to drink, and play video games. The morning after, I woke with a headache. I found myself having to analyze why I was using alcohol in the way that I was. I still drink, but I find I’m more in control.

I’m elated because I feel there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My mom received her first dose of the vaccine. While I wait my turn for the vaccine, I realize how much Covid has taught me about myself and life in general. I’m excited to be able to get back to attending conventions, seeing friends regularly and going to my favorite brewery.

Taxi Driving & Solving Murders – Night Call

I talked about Xbox Game Pass before and I honestly can’t recommend it enough. I pay $11 a month to have unlimited access to several games I wouldn’t have played otherwise. One of the games on my “Play Later” list was Night Call. I thought the premise behind the game was intriguing and it seemed to be something I would enjoy. After downloading the game and playing it for about five hours, I can safely say this game wasn’t for me.

Night Call is a black & white noir detective game starring a taxi driver. The object of the game is to solve murders while gathering hints from passengers. There are three cases to solve in the base game with many passengers to pick up and drive around. Each passenger has a different conversation whether they are completely random or they are suspects in the murder investigation. By the end of the case, the taxi driver has to use the evidence gathered to pick the killer and hopefully lead to the right arrest.

From the three case choices, I picked “The Sandman” case. As the taxi driver, I picked up the suspects and was collecting evidence. By the time the game prompted me to pick a suspect, I felt it wasn’t clear who the killer was. Fortunately, I randomly guessed the correct suspect. I’m not sure if I played this game wrong as it felt like I was missing evidence that was needed to make a clear choice.

Once the game begins, I am provided the map with the passengers to choose from. I was slightly confused at first because I wasn’t sure what the strategy is. Do I pick up passengers farther away for more money? or should I pick up passengers closest to me? When I select a potential passenger, I’m given no information. I found it odd that I had to drive to the passenger first without getting any information about who the passenger was. Additionally, I had to wait for my driver to drive to the passenger to pick them up. I wish this was a faster process. I found myself scrolling through Instagram in between waiting for the driver to pick up the passenger.

Another major grievance I had with Night Call was the idea I had to create a new game per each case. It felt like I had to start all over in picking up new passengers because I had to start a new game. It made way more sense to me if one saved game would allow you to complete all three cases. Some of the achievements in Night Call revolved around meeting all the passengers. I felt this setup made collecting these achievements difficult.

After giving Night Call a chance, I decided this game wasn’t for me. After finishing “The Sandman” case, I had no desire to play through the other two cases. Night Call is an aesthetically pleasing game, however, I found certain aspects of the gameplay bored me to the point where I didn’t want to finish the game. For those who enjoyed Night Call, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.