May the 4th Be With You – 2021 Plan

It’s almost May which means May the 4th is rapidly approaching. Every May, I devote my entire month to all things Star Wars. Last year, I re-watched all the movies and read a few Star Wars books throughout the month. This year, I wanted to share my May the 4th plan and hold myself accountable throughout the month. I genuinely look forward to May to dive into all things Star Wars.

Books and Comics

The first book I plan on reading is Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed. I received this book for free at Del Rey’s booth at C2E2 I was planning on reading this book last year, but the book was a lot longer than I had anticipated. I’m going to start reading Alphabet Squadron this week leading into May to give myself a greater chance of finishing the book in May.

To prepare for May the 4th, I bought books from my local bookstore, Cream and Amber. I purchased Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. This is the first book in a Padme book series. This has been on my TBR for a while, so I’m excited to finally read it. Padme is one of the most fearless characters in the Star Wars franchise. I hope this book lives up to my expectations.

As far as comics, I bought The Rise of Kylo Ren, Lando Double or Nothing, Star Wars Adventures Vol #1 Heroes of the Galaxy, and Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma. My goal is to read all of these along with Alphabet Squadron and Queen’s Shadow.

Movies & TV

Instead of re-watching the films, I’m going to watch The Clone Wars. I’m halfway through season #1 and I started to lose interest. Everyone I talk to who has watched The Clone Wars cannot stop raving about it and I don’t want to be missing out. I don’t think I will finish all the seasons in a month, but I hope to at least get through most of the show and get the motivation to finish the whole show.

Gaming

Last year, I put so many hours into Star Wars Battlefront II and it was a blast. I decided to try out Star Wars The Old Republic. I’m not sure if my laptop will be able to run the game, so as a backup, I found LEGO Star Wars The Complete Saga on Steam as well. Another option I have is to finish playing Jedi Fallen Order which I still have not completed the main campaign.

I am going to have a jam packed Star Wars themed month and I’m thrilled! I would love any Star Wars themed reading suggestions or podcasts, feel free to add those in the comments below.

Nancy Drew Secrets Can Kill

I’m back with another Nancy Drew video game review. I still have four other Nancy Drew games I purchased that I haven’t played through yet. I tend to play each Nancy Drew game on Sundays because I usually have a couple of hours I can spend playing the game before I go to bed. Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill is the first installment of detective games. While Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill was released in 1998, the game was re-mastered in 2010 and released on Steam. This was another fun outing, but it’s a bit clunky as the Nancy Drew video game formula hasn’t been established yet.

Eww what a jerk.

Nancy Drew visits her Aunt Eloise in Florida. Her aunt is the librarian at a high school and Nancy is looped into investigating the murder of one of the high school students, Jake Rogers. Since Nancy is in high school, it’s assumed she can get information from the students. Nancy is introduced to the staff, several students, and works with an undercover detective to gather evidence as to who murdered Jake. From Nancy’s investigations, it seems every person Nancy interacts with would have a reason to want Jake dead. Who killed Jake and will Nancy be able to solve the mystery without putting herself in danger?

Oooh creepy.

The answer to the above question is no. There are several instances in this game where Nancy can die if she doesn’t solve the puzzle in time. This includes being trapped in a boiler room and accidentally setting off a gas explosion in a diner. Both puzzles weren’t tough to solve, and while I died at least once, I was able to figure out the puzzle rather quickly. There is one broad puzzle that encompasses the entire game which involves searching for periodic elements Jake has hidden on student boards. The puzzles were fun to solve, and it helps to have a notebook handy while playing through the game.

I will say, this game does have a twist ending I didn’t see coming. There’s a videotape Nancy discovers that illustrates the conclusion as to who could have been involved with Jake’s murder. I had my mouth open for a little bit because it genuinely came out of left field. This bad guy suddenly appears behind Nancy which did give me a bit of a scare.

Although this was a fun game, I wouldn’t start playing through Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill first. While it’s the first game released in chronological order, it’s a bit clunky and the graphics while re-mastered are still not the greatest. I would recommend trying Nancy Drew and the Haunted Carousel or Nancy Drew Ghost of Thornton Hall first before starting this game. I think I liked this game more because I had played other Nancy Drew games first.

Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill was worth playing through. Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill can be purchased and downloaded on Steam.

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.

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.

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.

Spider-Man Miles Morales

In 2018, I played Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4 and it was amazing. Swinging through NYC as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man allowed me to relive my previous vacation to the Big Apple. Superhero games can be great or terrible and I’m happy Marvel’s Spider-Man was the former. Once it was announced that Miles Morales would be featured in his own game, I knew I would play it as soon as it was released. My fiance bought my copy for me as a Christmas present and I installed it right away. This past weekend I finally finished the story, 100% all of the districts, and unlocked all the trophies I wanted to unlock. Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales was a genuinely fun gaming experience although I felt Miles didn’t get the same treatment as Peter Parker did.

Miles is on winter break which gives him time to finish his homework and train under Peter. Peter has to leave town for a while allowing Miles to be the main Spider-Man. Miles begins investigating Roxxon after a group called the Underground breaks into the main facility. Miles finds evidence that Roxxon’s energy invention, Nuform might be making people sick. Miles out of the goodness of his heart wants to bring Roxxon to justice, while the Underground wants to exact revenge and make them pay for their mistake. Miles is torn as he finds a personal connection to the Underground. Relatively inexperienced, Miles struggles with right and wrong while hiding his identity from his family.

The gameplay in Spider-Man Miles Morales is the same as the 2018 game. Why change a system that isn’t broken? One unique difference between Miles and Peter is Mile’s “Venom Blast” which is a bioelectrical charge that Miles can build up and blast enemies with. It’s extremely useful in combat situations and can be used to heal Miles if needed. The Venom punch is what I used most often in combat situations and helps push back powerful enemies.

I loved completing the side quests! They felt personable to Miles and his story. One side quest unlocked after completing the main story is collecting postcards. Mile’s mom hides postcards around the city and taped on the back of them were USB drives with messages from Mile’s dad. As a reminder, Mile’s dad was killed in the previous Spider-Man game. It allowed Miles to hear from his dad on his birthday. There’s another side quest where Miles has to locate a cat. After completing this side quest, Miles can unlock a suit with Spider-Cat! The orange tabby gets his mask and gets to hang out in Mile’s backpack as he glides throughout the city. Of course, this suit was my favorite to unlock.

Additionally, Spider-Man Miles Morales has a great soundtrack. The songs on the album embody Mile’s experience growing up in Brooklyn and moving to Harlem. The beat of each song has a resemblance to the diversity in Harlem and even the complexity of Mile’s identity. I have been listening to I’m Ready by Jaden and This is My Time by Lecrae on repeat.

Throughout playing Spider-Man Miles Morales, I found myself comparing it to the 2018 game. The Miles Morales game is short with the campaign taking gamers about 8 – 12 hours to beat. Marvel’s SpiderMan had a story lasting anywhere between 17 – 23 hours. Marvel’s Spider-Man was twice as long as the Miles Morales game. When playing through Miles Morales, I found myself thinking that this game didn’t take me as long to finish. Besides the length of the story, Miles Morales hasn’t been given any DLC unlike the three DLC stories for the 2018 game. When comparing the games, it’s clear the Miles Morales game wasn’t on the same level. It’s disappointing since so many fans were excited to see a Spider-Man that looked like them. It feels this game was made to make money along with setting up the sequel to the 2018 game which I find aggravating.

So what’s next for Miles? While writing my review, I looked to see if any DLC has been announced for the game and I didn’t see anything. The next Spider-Man game should be released in 2022. It seems Miles is a placeholder for fans until the sequel is released for Peter. I wish Insomniac Games would work on DLC for Miles as his story felt too short.

Vampire the Masquerade Shadows of New York

Vampire the Masquerade. The screenshot was taken by me.

Last year, I invited a couple of friends down to my apartment to play Vampire the Masquerade. Vampire the Masquerade is a roleplaying game released by White Wolf where players create their vampires and roam around a dark city. Vampire the Masquerade is one of my favorite role playing games as I love the dark aesthetic of the game. I found on Steam a variety of different Vampire the Masquerade video games and decided to try it on a whim. Overall, it’s a gritty gaming experience, although I was left wanting more.

Vampire the Masquerade Shadows of New York tells the story of Julia who’s a reporter in NYC. The story she’s writing falls through and she’s swiftly fired from her job. On the subway home, she’s approached by a vampire where she’s “embraced” which is Vampire the Masquerade terminology for being turned into a vampire. As Julia gets comfortable with vampire society, she’s sent to investigate a murder of an older, more senior member of their clan. As she starts interviewing other vampires, she realizes the murder is only the beginning of a sinister plot set to unfold.

Downtown Time Square. Screenshot taken by me.

I loved the art in Shadows of New York, it was easily the highlight of playing this game. I felt each scene Julia was in had darker tones mixed with a dark purple which reminds me of the cover of the Vampire the Masquerade rulebook. The above screenshot is right when Julia was Embraced. She looks down at New York with sudden darkness she never had access to before. I also liked how each vampire had its style. Julia had a gothic look to her while Qadir, the sheriff of the region, was well dressed. Each vampire in the game had these beautiful golden eyes that felt unnatural to look at. Everything artistic about the game was aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Shadows of New York is described on Steam as a “visual novel” which is fitting to the game. There isn’t much interaction I had as the player, it was a lot of listening to the dialogue and choosing actions when prompted. There were times I felt slightly bored since there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for me to choose what Julia said at what times. The game prided itself on being able to sway the outcome of the story, however, there were only five “major” choices for Julia. I wish there was more. I don’t feel duped as this was a “visual novel” so it’s more viewing the story versus participating in the game, but I wish I was able to choose more outcomes in the game.

Besides the interaction piece, the game felt too short. According to Steam, I only played this game for five hours. There isn’t anything I need to replay since I finished the game twice and I have unlocked all the achievements. I do think it was worth it to replay this game twice to see both endings. Five hours for two full playthroughs of the game means each time I played a full game it was about two and a half hours apiece. The game itself is priced at $12.99 which I would say is fair for what I got. I wonder if DLC will get released for this because I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Vampire the Masquerade Shadows of New York was an enjoyable game, however, I wish there was more to the game. I want a game released similar to Shadows of New York, but make it more investigative. Let me as the player examine crime scenes and pick which mortal I can feed on. Let me customize my vampire, pick my faction, and change the appearance of my vampire. Once that game is released, I will be a happy, vampire camper.

Windpeaks – Summer Camp Themed Hidden Objects Game

Wind Peaks.

Last year, I played Hidden Through Time a hidden objects game available on Steam. Hidden Through Time was one of my favorite games I played in 2020. Steam had recommended to me Wind Peaks another hidden objects game centered around kids heading off to summer camp. The premise of Wind Peaks sounded promising, but I found myself comparing Wind Peaks to Hidden Through Time. When I did the comparison, Wind Peaks was nowhere near as good as Hidden Through Time.

Wind Peaks included a story with cut scenes in between each map. The story can be quickly summarized as kids heading off to summer camp in search of buried treasure. The treasure is buried somewhere within the camp and collecting these objects will aid in their search. I’m not sure why a story was introduced because I’m not sure if any of the kids were given names? I’m not sure what the significance is of the buried treasure? It’s mostly thrown into the game to make it memorable from other hidden objects games. I did like the overall aesthetic of Wind Peaks. The summer camp theme gave off a cozy, relaxing feel to the game.

I made it clear Wind Peaks is not on the same level as Hidden Through Time. One example of this is the hint system. To get a hint in Wind Peaks, you would click on the object. A countdown would begin and if the object wasn’t found in that time, the object was revealed on the map. That’s not a hint system. The game forced me to struggle throughout the map and then finally revealed the object instead of providing a hint. In Hidden Through Time, a hint is included above the object, so I could still find the object on my own without it being given away.

Additionally, I felt the maps in Wind Peaks were a bit too big. I couldn’t zoom out to view the map as a whole, so it took forever to visually scan the map looking for objects. I wished either the maps would have been smaller or the zoom function would have allowed me to view the whole map. I also can’t stand using “WASD” instead of the arrow keys. The arrow keys make sense, I’m not sure why I couldn’t have used them to move around the map.

Wind Peaks was an enjoyable, cozy, cabin hidden objects game. The gameplay in my opinion could have been better, but it didn’t take away from the experience. The way Wind Peaks ended left open the potential of new maps being added to the game. I would play through the new maps in Wind Peaks although I hope the hint system is overhauled. Hidden object games are a nice distraction from the console games I’m currently playing through. I would rate Wind Peaks a 6.5 / 10.

Marvel’s Avengers

I had high hopes for Marvel’s Avengers. As written in a previous post, superhero games can either be well made or unplayable. From everything I had read regarding Marvel’s Avengers, I thought this game had potential. I didn’t buy the game immediately after it was released which is something I usually never do. However, my fiance brought it home for me one day since he knew I wanted to play it. Marvel’s Avengers is a mediocre, and disappointing superhero game.

The game opens with a celebration titled A-Day. A-Day launched the new HQ in San Francisco along with a helicarrier powered by a Terrigen Crystal. The Avengers have pulled away from A-Day celebrations after an attack by Taskmaster. Unfortunately, the helicarrier is destroyed leaving the surrounding citizens in San Francisco being exposed to the Terrigen mist. The Avengers were blamed and were forced to disband. Kamala Khan was exposed to the Terrigen mist and has been hiding her powers. Five years after A-Day, Kamala starts to investigate “AIM” the replacement for the Avengers, and discovers some incriminating evidence against them. She’s on the run to protect her family and bring the Avengers back together.

Marvel’s Avengers claims to be an “Avengers” game when really it’s centered around Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel. I loved playing as Kamala. She’s a character I didn’t know much about and her positivity helped bring back the Avengers. I do believe the game wasn’t marketed as well as it could have been. The title of the game is Marvel’s Avengers, so I went into playing this game believing I would be playing an Avengers game. Kamala is on the cover, although a lot of the gameplay is her story. Besides Kamala, the Avengers do sound like the characters they are supposed to represent. I thought the voice acting was spot on and the way the characters were designed felt true to the comics.

In my opening paragraph, I stated how Marvel’s Avengers is a mediocre game. This game could have been so much better. I hated how I couldn’t switch heroes in a mission. The heroes have various abilities that allow for collecting resources. Resources are used to level up the Avengers. For example, if I played as the Hulk on a level, there might be a collectible to unlock as Black Widow, but since I can’t switch hero mid-mission, I’m not able to unlock this collectible. It’s annoying! I don’t understand why there couldn’t have been a button on the controller allowing me to switch between the heroes.

Let’s talk about the missions. There are the main campaign missions contributing to finishing the main story along with side missions. I found the missions were repetitive. If I played a side mission on one map, it was often repeated in the campaign. It seems Marvel’s Avengers used repeat maps to try and finish the game faster. It’s lazy to create missions as side quests only to replay them in the main campaign.

Finally, I disliked how the Avenger’s health worked. As an Avenger loses health, one of the few ways to regain health was to punch green boxes on the maps. This would allow an Avenger to heal. It seems odd that a god of Thunder doesn’t regenerate health, isn’t he a god? Doesn’t Captain America’s super-soldier serum allow him to regenerate health automatically? The health system could have been designed better to be unique to the specific Avenger I was playing as.

Overall, Marvel’s Avengers was a fun game. It could have been amazing if the game was tweaked. I must not be the only gamer who feels this way because Square Enix lost $105 million from this game. To bring life back to the game, Square Enix is introducing Kate Bishop and Hawkeye as DLC. I’m afraid it’s a bit too late. I’m undecided if I would invest more money into the game or pick up the game again. I give Marvel’s Avengers a 6/10.