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Music Box Classics: Mario

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

I have been enjoying the Mario Bros. series since the Atari and Super Mario Bros. series on the NES. While the Atari 2600 version of the game lacks music, the NES version has quite the memorable soundtrack and it’s great to see it get the lullaby treatment in the Music Box Classics: Mario collection.

This digital album has ten tracks from various games through Mario’s 30+ years in existence. The first track is the Super Mario Bros. overworld music and is the slowest of the bunch. I honestly think it could have benefited from higher beats per minute. The rest of the tracks are a little bit more upbeat. The underwater music from the first Super Mario Bros. game is a welcome addition as well.

The most represented games are Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy with each having three tracks dedicated to them. You’ll find the following Super Mario 64 songs: Inside the Castle Walls, Bomb-Omb Battlefield, and Dire, Dire Docks. The songs from Super Mario Galaxy Include: Rosalina’s Observatory, Luma, and Gusty Garden. The overworld music from Super Mario Bros. 2 brings back pleasant memories as does Princess Peach’s Theme from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I wish that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Sunshine had tracks included in the collection, but they’re absent.

Overall, this is a great collection of classic gaming music in music box form. It’s great lullaby music so make sure you’re not too comfortable when listening to it or you may find yourself sleeping before you know it! The total length of this album is a little over thirty-one minutes. It sells for $8.99 on Amazon or for $7 on Bandcamp which provides the tracks in MP3, FLAC and more.


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The House with a Clock in Its Walls

Thank you Universal for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

The House with a Clock in Its Walls takes place in 1955 and is about a 10-year-old boy named Lewis who loses his parents in a tragic car accident. His closest relative is his uncle Jonathan who lives in a haunted mansion in Michigan. The previous owner of the house was a warlock named Izard. This warlock is responsible for placing a clock within the mansion, and Jonathan, along with his best friend and neighbor, who is also a witch, are trying to find and destroy the clock within.

Lewis is out of place in his new school and the goggles that he wears all of the time are not helping matters. There is a girl who is fascinated with insects that takes a liking to Lewis, but he is more interested in impressing a popular boy named Tarby. His uncle Jonathan is pretty lenient and lets Lewis eat whatever he wants and go to bed whenever he feels like it. His only rule is to not open the locked cabinet. If you’re familiar with Genesis 3, you know what happens when humans only have one rule to follow.

Without spoiling the story too much, I must say that this movie is very anti-Christian and heavily promotes magic use. Lewis wants to become a warlock like his uncle and that involves studying various texts, runes, and spells. There are many occult symbols like pentacle, pentagrams, and upside-down crosses shown throughout this film. Some of the spells require the castor to offer their blood in order to complete the ritual. Necromancy (while frowned upon), is also practiced. One of the characters makes a pact with a powerful demon in exchange for some forbidden knowledge. The occult issues aside, there is also language (hell, d*mn), and gross humor involving puking jack-o'-lanterns' and a topiary griffin that refuses to use a litter box.

If it wasn’t for the heavy-handed occult content, I would have enjoyed The House with a Clock in Its Walls. I haven’t read the book that this film is based on so I’m not sure how descriptive it is with the spell casting and symbolism. It’s a shame since the acting by Jack Black and Cate Blanchett is exceptional and the characters and story are well done. If you’re a Christian and interested in seeing this film, I recommend renting it first.



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God Bless the Broken Road

Thank you Lionsgate for sending us this Blu-ray, soundtrack CD, pot, and toy car to review!

God Bless the Broken Road is about Amber Hill, a wife and mother who tries to make ends meet after the loss of her husband in the Afghanistan war. Before his death, she was very active in church and led their worship ministry. Two years after his passing, her house is behind on the mortgage payments and working 7 days a week is straining the relationship with her daughter, Bree.

A dashing young racecar driver named Cody arrives in town and is instantly told that Amber is out of his league, but that makes her all the more appealing to him. After wrecking his racecar in the big leagues, he’s sent back to this small town to learn from one of the greats, Joe Carter. One of Cody’s first assignments from Joe is to work with the children at the town’s church. Bree takes a liking to Cody and enjoys making a pink camouflaged go-kart there.

While Bree is getting more active in church, her mother is becoming less so. Though Amber is working many hours at the diner, she’s still unable to make ends meet and resorts to pawning off possessions instead of pursuing a job offer from her mother-in-law. The relationship with Bree’s grandmother is strained and Bree wishes that she could spend more time with her. Amber’s walk with God is also deteriorating as she is relying on herself and not Him during her times of financial hardship.

One trait that Cody and Amber share is stubbornness. This film teaches a good moral lesson about listening to and relying on God. It’s Dove approved for all ages and there is little to be worried about morally. In fact, the war violence is bloodless which is contrary to most war films I’ve seen recently. The overall story is moving but predictable at times. While I’m not in a hurry to see this film again, I did enjoy it.



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Elliot the Littlest Reindeer

Thank you Screen Media for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

There are many Christmas songs about Santa and his hard working reindeer that fly his magical sleigh. Unfortunately, Blitzen suddenly retires and favors running a juice bar instead of helping deliver presents to well-behaved boys and girls around the world. With only a few days before Christmas, the elves are scrambling to find a suitable replacement who can win the North Pole tryouts, which lasts three days.

In a warmer climate is a petting zoo that is struggling to pay its bills and its former minor-league baseball owner is considering a sales offer from a woman that seems more interested in eating the animals than caring for them. However, if their promising reindeer, DJ, makes Santa’s team, they may not have to sell.

There’s another hopeful at this petting zoo named Elliot. The only problem is that Elliot is a pony and not a reindeer. I’m all for having dreams and aspirations, but this movie is promoting the agenda anyone can be anything and that’s not necessarily a message I want to instill into my children. I believe that there is a place for boys and a place for girls which is contrary to today’s society that lets “transgender” boys compete (and unfairly win) on girls’ athletic teams and even partake in Miss Universe competitions.

Aside from the obvious agenda, there’s not much to say about the story in this 89-minute movie. Santa and some of the elves are cast in a negative light or even as villains in this film. The voice acting is top notch and has some notable cast members including Josh Hutcherson, Martin Short, and John Cleese. There are some positive messages about putting your friendship first and being selfless. A lesson is also taught about cheating. Given the overall moral of the story, I would still give this film a pass or recommend renting it before purchasing it for your family.


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Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: It's a Beautiful Day Collection

Thank you PBS for sending us this 4 DVD collection to review!

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood ran from 1968-2001 and has 895 episodes (excluding specials). It’s hard to select just thirty episodes from such a large collection, but this sampling is pretty good. My only complaint is that they’re not sequential, so the trips to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe are not always coherent as they often have multiple segments that need to be played in order to get the complete story.

The last disc has the very first episode which is in black and white. Mr. Rogers looks so young and his hair was mostly dark back then. Some of the same actors appear in the colorized episodes, but there were many changes since then. The later episodes still have the same puppets in Make-Believe, the same house set, and even the same fish tank. It's great to see that some of the final episodes are also present in this collection.

Many great memories returned when viewing these episodes again later in life. I wish that this collection was available when my kids were younger. The positive and encouraging messages and lessons are timeless. Kids should definitely know that they’re loved just the way they are.

Throughout the fourteen-and-a-half hours of content, you’ll get to see many famous writers, musicians, and singers showcase their talents in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was impressed with the musician who played Amazing Grace on a saw! You’ll also be able to accompany Mr. Rogers on many exciting field trips. During a trip to the zoo, Mr. Rogers gets to help feed a panda.

With the way Mr. Rogers encourages and talks to your kids through the television screen, your child will be engaged and feel good about themselves. Programs this wholesome are few and far between these days. The normal price for this set is $19.99 but I have seen it on sale on PBS’ website for $12.99. Amazon sells it too for even less.



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Anne of Green Gables - Fire and Dew

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Fire and Dew is the third installment from the Anne of Green Gables PBS movie series. It picks up a year after the previous movie where Gilbert vowed not to speak to Anne again after she chose her friends over him. Anne is not pleased with his behavior and finds it difficult to ignore him as they are academically equal and both selected to attend an advanced class to prepare for and apply to Queen’s Academy.

Anne is quite studious and applies for the Avery scholarship along with Gilbert and her friends hoping to earn it as well. Though Matthew and Marilla have budgeted for Anne’s education, they did not plan on their bank with all of their funds to be investigated and in danger of closing.

At Queen’s Academy, Josie is flirting with all of the boys and especially with Gilbert. Other emotions come into play as a character dear to Anne dies in this movie. All of us watching the movie got misty-eyed during that part.

As a result of the loss of a loved one, Anne has to make some difficult choices regarding her future education and employment. Anne is growing up fast and has many accomplishments to be proud of at the tender age of fourteen. I like the theme of forgiveness and sacrifice and hope to see more installments from these classic books. If not, I’ll have no choice but to read all nineteen of them to see how it ends.

Like the other movies, Anne of Green Gables - Fire and Dew is available to stream for free for Amazon Prime members. The DVD is also available to purchase from the PBS website for $14.99.


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Anne of Green Gables - The Good Stars

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD to review!

Anne is settling into her new life and is acclimating to school and her household chores, though she’s not too fond of geometry or chickens. Out of all of the girls in school that Gilbert tends to tease, he seems to fancy Anne the most. She’s not too keen of his antics, but eventually she warms up to him. As she spends more time with Gilbert, her friends are a little upset and feel neglected.

Upon turning thirteen, Anne feels that she has some difficult choices to make and seeks the council of the adults in her life. Marilla urges Anne to be sensible while Matthew wants her to pursue romance. Anne also learns that loyalty is more important than honor and makes a difficult decision as a result. Unfortunately, the movie ended before we could see the impact that it made. Thankfully, there’s still one more movie left in the series for us to watch.

It’s pretty safe to say that my kids and I are hooked on this series. So much so that we’ve decided to do like Anne did and bake an apple pie from scratch for Thanksgiving this year. However, we’ll be mindful of the time and not let it burn. Like the previous movies, there are several funny mishaps that Anne must learn from. As usual, most of her mistakes are innocent ones and she tries to right any and all wrongs that she has done.

This film is family friendly and even has some Bible stories told by the newly married pastor’s wife. Forgiveness is a strong theme in this ninety-minute film. Like the rest of the entries, it’s only available in DVD format. It’s a shame since this island is so beautiful and can really benefit from Blu-ray visual enhancements. Either way, it’s still worth checking out for free on Amazon Prime or buying for $15 on PBS’ website.



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2019 Gaming Calendars

Thank you Abrams Books for sending us five calendars to fight over…I mean review!

2018 is coming to an end and with the new year fast approaching we must decide on a calendar to use for next year. Gamers may want to look into the following calendars from Abrams Books:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Pokémon
Splatoon
Super Mario
Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Each calendar has four mini-calendars from September-December of 2018 in case you want to swap it out a little early. Holidays are noted for various countries around the world. I now know that Australia Day is on January 26h and observed on the 28th. Australia, Canada, and New Zealand will be celebrating Mother’s Day with us on May 12th. Australia and New Zealand don’t celebrate Father’s Day until September though. Religious days like Diwali, Kwanzaa, Purim, and Ramadan are also shown. All of the Christian religious days are accounted for.

Many of the holidays that my kids' schools shut down for are also listed along with various bank holidays that are observed in other countries. The beginning and end of daylight saving time is also noted so I can adjust my clocks accordingly. The only thing missing that my current calendar provides are the phases of the moon. I can live without that feature though.

The calendars are nice and big with smooth glossy pages. The artwork is exceptional and any gamer will be pleased with the images chosen for their gaming calendar choice. My family was debating on who should get which calendar and the samples that were sent to us made us do some serious decision making. As the writer of this review, I get first dibs.

The calendars sell for $14.99 on abramsbooks.com which is a reasonable price. They’re still selling similarly themed 2018 calendars so make sure you’re getting the 2019 version of the Pokémon, Splatoon, Super Mario, or Zelda ones. Whichever one you decide on, I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.

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8 Interesting Uses for Drones in Society

Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from Pexels

If you think that drones are just a quick fad or gimmick that makes a fun Christmas present, you're very much mistaken. They've actually got tons of uses in big industry that you might not be aware of. The drone industry has exploded in recent years, with growth in many different areas. There are industrial drones, public service drones, commercial drones and much more.

We're going to look at eight different drones you might not be aware of. Each of these could have a big impact on a number of different industries.

  1. Ambulance drones

These have been trialed in The Netherlands recently. While they can't offer emergency care on the level of a trained professional, they can help professionals carry out their duties. They can also deliver supplies and equipment much more quickly than an ambulance that has to beat traffic. As well as that, they can relay real-time video back to someone in an emergency call center, who can provide expert advice to the public before a real medical professional arrives.

  1. Security drones

Allowing the police and other security professionals the ability to get an aerial view is a huge benefit to them. While surveillance planes and helicopters have been around for a while, they are expensive and are therefore out of reach for smaller police forces or security companies. With the right surveillance drones, your neighborhood can be made much safer. Dronethusiast.com has more on home surveillance drones.

  1. Delivery drones

You might have seen the trials Amazon has been running for these recently. But they aren't just for books, you might soon start seeing pizza delivery drones. You can get the items you want quicker and cheaper than when using traditional delivery drivers.

  1. Internet drones

If you live in a remote area that's hard to reach, you might have had to rely on satellite Internet. Companies like Google have started looking into hovercraft-style drones that sit in the sky above areas which have previously found Internet access difficult. They act as Wifi beacons that send the signal down and allow people in remote areas the chance to get online. This type of drone could be helpful to you if that's been an issue in the past.

  1. Window-cleaning drones

Getting up high-rise buildings to clean the windows has often been an unsafe, difficult and time-consuming job. With the right drone, window cleaning companies can now take a controlling role rather than actually getting up a ladder or pulley.

  1. Traffic analysis drones

Again, this is something planes and helicopters have done for a while. But again, these solutions are very expensive. Now you can get more up-to-date information in smaller areas, and at a fraction of the cost, with the right drone.

  1. Farming drones

Drones are starting to change the way farms work. They've made it much easier to spread pesticides and water crops, and much less labor-intensive.

More and more industries are starting to see the benefits drones can bring. If yours hasn't yet maybe it will soon.

  1. Drone gaming

Drones have also had quite a big impact on the gaming industry. Not only are there real-life drone competitions, there are also more and more games that incorporate drone use as part of their gameplay. Whether you want to fly your own drone or enter a virtual drone environment against others, drones look to have lots of new gaming applications over the next few years.

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Puppy Star Christmas

Thank you Air Bud Entertainment for sending us a screener to review along with a stuffed bear, an apron and hat, candy for a ginger bread house, dog treats and toys!

Puppy Star Christmas begins with the wedding of Tiny and P.U.P. and puppies arrive several months after that. In total, there are four puppies who could not have fit inside the mother without being born premature or delivered via C-section. The three female puppies take after their mother in appearance and the boy pup, Brody, looks just like his dad. Brody and his sisters, Charlie and Rosie, tend to get in trouble while Cindy tries her best to stop them to no avail.

With some of the trouble the puppies are getting into, Tiny and P.U.P. are wondering if they are being neglectful parents. In an attempt to spend more time with them, they put together a Puppy Star Christmas show and have managed to book Santa Claus as a special guest. News of this spreads like wildfire and catches the attention of the mischievous Bark and his co-conspirator, Kano. Roland assists them in their plan to take over Christmas as long as he gets to fly Santa’s sleigh.

Bark’s objective is to monetize Christmas further and make every family pay for the privilege to receive gifts and not coal. Not only does this provide a lot of income, it nullifies the penalty for being on the naughty list. As long as you have money, presents are guaranteed.

With Christmas in danger, everyone wants to re-kindle the Christmas spirit of love, forgiveness, and selflessness. Christ’s birth is not mentioned whatsoever in this film. I do like the aspect of forgiveness and not carrying a grudge against those who have wronged you.

Puppy Star Christmas is ninety minutes long, rated PG, and has some comedic violence. There is also some gross humor as a character discovers that reindeer poop tastes like toothpaste. Many of the same characters and actors are back in this film, including the effeminate Shep, though he does manage to find love in this movie.

If you enjoyed the silliness of the previous films, then you’ll probably like this one as well. My kids and I enjoyed watching it and it’s now available on Netflix.  Though it's listed on Amazon, it's not yet available for purchase.

 


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Dark Souls 2: When Less is More

box art

Most modern games seem to put a huge emphasis on amazing, jaw-dropping graphics, intensely fun gameplay, and a riveting storyline that may very well rival the stories written by our friends in Hollywood. These components are often deemed to be the recipe for a great game.

And well, the formula hasn’t led any games astray. If you think of it, most of the greatest games of all time have two of these three things sorted out. So, it would seem to be the highest degree of tomfoolery if one were to create a game without at least trying to get all three right. In fact, most games strive to get these three things done.

Then there’s Dark Souls 2.

It’s a game that isn’t exactly impressive when it comes to today’s standards. The gameplay isn’t that refined as some of the more popular titles, and the storyline? It’s barely even there.

And yet, I’d proudly say that it’s an amazing game and it’s definitely unique. Why do I say so despite having just said that it has none of the things that makes a video great? Well, it’s really just one word -- experience.

That’s right. This second installment in the masterpiece series from From Software is a great game because of the experience it thrusts gamers into. On the title screen, you’re greeted (or not greeted, rather) by something strange -- there’s no difficulty setting. Not only that, but the beginning of the game already makes you feel that you’re playing on hard mode.

And while this may discourage most casual gamers, those who brave the cruel, unforgiving world of the Dark Souls universe are in for a treat.

In all honesty, even the early enemies you face will kill you if you aren’t skilled enough of a player. There are so many traps, some even posing as chests when they’re in fact mimics that cause instant death to beginners and even those who’ve been playing the game for at least 10 hours. The bosses are not only resistant to the damage you deal, but they also hit like trucks, often killing even high-level players with just two blows.

And the terrain, don’t get me started on the perilous terrain. There are so many areas in the game that make it feel like a horrible copy of a platform game, and well, of course, you die if you fall off.

But that’s not all. The controls are wonky and the honestly feel a little robotic at times. Also, the PVP matchmaking is unbalanced.

But all of these make for a unique experience. And because it’s such a unique experience, this video game is a great game.

Most games will make you feel powerful, they will hold your hand and they will praise you as you play the game.

This game, and the other titles in this series? They will mock you with each death by stating the obvious. Red text appears on the screen saying “You died”. It even tracks the number of times you die in the game as if to add insult to digital injury. It forces you to learn, to adapt, and to overcome.

This game is notorious in the sense that it’s greatly contributed to the spike in the search for services like “game console repair near Detroit, MI” where many controllers and consoles have been destroyed out of frustration from the game.

BUT.

This game is great because it teaches you something most games don’t -- true hard work. The strength to accept that things are going to be difficult, and at times the odds may even seem impossible. Sometimes you may fight as hard as you can and still fall short by one swing of your sword.

And the experience of being able to surmount difficult and nigh impossible odds is one that keeps players coming back to this game. You may even say that this game is a rite of passage of sorts between boys and men in the gaming community.

 

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Anne of Green Gables

Thank you PBS for sending us this DVD set to review!

Anne of Green Gables was written by L.M. Montgomery and published in 1908. The book has sold over fifty million copies and has been adapted into several films. PBS first aired Anne of Green Gables on November 24th, 2016. This 90-minute movie stars Martin Sheen as Matthew Cuthbert who lives with his sister Marilla on a beautiful farm called Green Gables. They’re not getting any younger and can use some help with their chores and seek to adopt a boy to live with them.

Instead of a boy, Matthew and Marilla are greeted by a chatty redheaded girl named Anne Shirley. Matthew is more welcoming than most others that Anne meets, but even the meanest people are nicer than those that Anne dealt with growing up. She was physically punished in orphanages and lived with a family that had a drunk and often violent husband.

As rough as her past was, her future is looking bright at Green Gables and Anne gets to experience many firsts while living there. Her first friend, prayer, church service, school, and even ice cream! There are many humorous moments that my family enjoyed while watching this film together.

This movie is the first in a three-part series and I look forward to watching the rest with my children. The visuals are stunning, but are limited to the DVD format. I wish it was available on Blu-ray for even more vibrant colors. The acting is superb and there are many likable (and unlikable) characters that I look forward to being further developed in this series.

If you’re a fan of the book or for some wholesome family friendly entertainment, you should check out this film. Amazon Prime members can watch it for free as part of their subscription. PBS also sells the DVD on their website for $14.99.



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2018 Christmas Buying Guide

Christmas Buying Guide 2018

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most family friendly games we have reviewed in 2018. More reviews can be found on ChristCenteredGamer.com! Each game is given a gameplay score for the overall gaming experience and a moral score for how suitable it is for younger gamers. The Amazon and Humble Store links will benefit Christ Centered Gamer by giving us a small % of the sale.

System Game Game Score Moral Score Buy it!
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
The Alliance Alive 82% 81% $29.09
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Block-a-Pix Color 72% 100% $7.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Link-a-Pix Color 72% 100% $7.99
Switch
Switch
Freedom Planet
(PC, Wii U, PlayStation 4, Switch)
88% 94% $14.99
Switch
Switch
Happy Birthdays 84% 94% $29.97
Switch
Switch
Lost in Harmony
(Android, iOS, PC, Switch)
88% 92% $6.99
Switch
Switch
Semblance
(PC, Switch)
88% 96% $9.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Candleman: The Complete Journey
(Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 92% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Tyler: Model 005
(PC, Xbox One)
90% 96% $9.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Staxel 90% 91% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Tracks - The Train Set Game 94% 100% $19.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
de Blob 2 
(Nintendo DS, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii, PC, Xbox 360/One)
84% 93% $18.51
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4

Forgotton Anne
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

92% 89% $19.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
GRIP: Combat Racing
(PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
92% 90% $39.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Railway Empire
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
82% 92% $34.44
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Word Sudoku by POWGI
(Android, iOS, PS4, Vita)
72% 100% $7.99
  While we have reviewed other Vita games this year, they
are not on this guide because they are not family friendly
enough to be included. You can read our other Vita reviews
 here.
     
Xbox One
Xbox One
Crayola Scoot
(PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
82% 92% $39.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Octahedron
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
86% 96% $12.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Overcooked! 2
(PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
88% 94% $29.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
RGX Showdown
(PS4, Xbox One)
80% 96% $9.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
ARK Park 74% 95% $39.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Pinball FX2 VR Universal Classics 78% 84% $19.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Throw Anything 76% 83% $11.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
TSA Frisky 70% 100% $6.99
Hardware
Hardware
EWin Calling Series Ergonomic Computer Gaming Office Chair with Pillows N/A N/A $220
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hephaestus P1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset N/A N/A $55.79
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hermes P2 RGB Optical Mechanical Switch Gaming Keyboard N/A N/A $76.41
Hardware
Hardware
ZMI PowerPack 20000 Portable Power Bank N/A N/A $69.95

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Pixar Animated Shorts: Volume 3

Thank you Disney for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

Pixar movies are great and they always have the added bonus of a wonderfully made short to precede them. Sometimes they’re funny and other times they’re insightful. Volume 3 contains eleven shorts, two mini-movies, and some bonus features that are exceptionally made. While I have seen some of them, many of these shorts were new and thoroughly enjoyed by my family.

Here’s a breakdown of each one:

Bao – An eye-opening tale about a mother’s love for a rebellious son.

Lou – Lost toys come together to teach a bully a lesson and the benefits of forgiveness.

Piper – Teaching a baby seagull to feed himself, and overcoming the fear of the ocean waves.

Sanjay’s Super Team – Mostly based on a true story. Sanjay is trying to watch his superhero TV show and his dad is trying to meditate by their family shrine. After Sanjay loses the battle over the television volume, he joins his father in worship physically while mentally he daydreams fighting bad guys alongside some of his gods.

Riley’s First Date? – Inside Out characters in the minds of the boy, parents, and Riley. The mother tries to pry information from Riley with “hip talk” while the father attempts to intimidate Jordan.

Lava – A Hawaiian-themed musical short about a lonely volcano looking for love. Will he meet the “lava” of his life?

The Radiator Springs 500 ½ - Stanley Days is interrupted by some young punks looking to challenge Lightning McQueen to a race. Unfortunately, they’re given some bad directions and have quite the adventure.

Party Central – Mike and Sullivan save a lackluster frat party at Monsters University by stealing food and students from another one.

The Blue Umbrella – In a city full of black umbrellas, a bright blue one stands out from the crowd and takes a liking to a vibrant red one. Eventually, they go their separate ways, but will they meet again?

The Legend of Mor’du – A witch shares the tale about a king and his four sons with different skills. When the king passed, the eldest son wanted to rule the kingdom by himself and not share it as his father had decreed. War ensued and resulted in a stalemate. The oldest son enlisted the help of a witch who gave him a spell of choice: great strength or to restore his bond with his brothers.

Partysaurus Rex – The characters of Toy Story gang up against Rex who ruins their fun. They call him Party Pooper Rex. Rex meets some new bath toy friends and introduces himself as Partysaurus Rex. Since he has arms he can draw the bath water to keep the party going after bath time.

There are also two mini-movies:

Marine Life Interviews – A bunch of fish and a couple of seals recall their time with Dory. This one is shorter than most of the shorts.

Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool – The bus from Cars 3 has an infomercial that is pretty intense. Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez are her most recent graduates.

Lastly, there are two bonus features:

Making Bao - Bao means steamed bun or precious. It’s neat that the whole crew learned how to make dumplings from the director’s mother. I didn’t realize it until this behind the scenes that the short takes place in Toronto.

Caricature: A Horrible Way of Saying 'I Love You' – A look into mean caricature night at Pixar. I’m glad I don’t work there…

Despite that a couple of the shorts don’t align with Biblical teachings, but they’re all family friendly. I do like the theme of forgiveness and making things right in Lou. This seventy-six minute collection can be yours for less than $25 on Amazon.

 


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She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

Thank you DreamWorks for sending us a cape, tiara, pins, and glitter to decorate it all with!

She-Ra has been around since the mid-eighties. He-Man was geared for boys and got a motion picture. Over thirty years later She-Ra and the Princesses of Power gets its own animated Netflix series courtesy of DreamWorks.

The series begins with Adora, a hard-working Senior Cadet who quickly advances in rank because of her efforts. She’s an orphan and has some close friends including the troublemaking Catra. In order to cheer up Catra who is jealous over Adora’s new rank, they take a “borrowed” ship for a spin and crash it into a forest. In the forest, Adora sees a sword that’s calling for her to fulfill her destiny and fight for the honor of Grayskull.

Adora doesn’t hold a high regard for princesses; little does she know that she is one herself! When Adora uses the sword that has been calling for her, she transforms into She-Ra, a very powerful princess and a force to be reckoned with. It’s nice to see a princess that can hold her own in battle without needing the help of some wandering prince or plumber brothers.

The episodes are twenty-four minutes in length and are action packed. The characters are likeable and often have funny lines. Their voice acting is well done too. The animation is simple but nice.

My kids, including my son, enjoyed watching this show. If you have Netflix and younger kids, you should definitely look into this series. I didn’t pay much attention to She-Ra growing up so I can’t say how true to her story this series is. My brother grew up playing with He-Man so I’m familiar with some of the characters and I look forward to getting reacquainted with them.

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Why World of Mazes Is The Best VR Adventure Around

Why World of Mazes Is The Best VR Adventure Around

World of Mazes is one of the best games you can download if you are a fan of VR gaming. It is currently available for Oculus Go, Rift as well as the Gear VR and it is one of the best examples of how to mix puzzles, mazes, and a compelling story.

One of the things that other VR puzzle and maze games have struggled with is giving you a reason to care about the puzzles you are solving or the mazes you are competing. World of Mazes is very different in that regard. You see, World of Mazes has one of the most interesting and engaging stories you will ever see in a puzzle game. The story is not just tacked on to move you from one section to the next. A lot of work has gone into this and it is so well written and the characters so compelling that you really get caught up in it all.

The idea of the story is that you are trapped in a maze when a person called Gelayon has been thrown in there with you. Turns out that Gelayon is actually a servant to Princess Maya who has been kidnapped. You agree to help Gelayon escape so that he can save the Princess. The story has some twists and turns along the way and even involves an ancient prophecy. What is really neat about it though is the way that the game makes you actually care about the characters. You want to help them survive and this makes getting through the mazes that extra bit tense.

Speaking of the mazes, the mazes in World of Mazes are very challenging. There are many different kinds of mazes. Each one will have its own set of rules, characters, and challenges that you must overcome. What makes this very interesting is that there is no map of where you need to go as the mazes will actually change on a weekly basis. This kicks the tension up about ten notches and when you make it to the exit portal of the current maze you are in, you are never really sure when you will end up next.

To give you an idea of how different the mazes are. The first one that you will be in is the Aztyle Maze. This is a rather small maze considering the size of the others and this is where you first meet Gelayon and find out about Princess Maya. There is a lot of green here and while you can see the sky, it has a kind of dungeon feel to it. Compare this to another maze like the Grezorth Maze which is much larger, scarier and has been blasted by meteorites and you can see quite the difference. The differences between the style of the mazes as well as the inhabitants and challenges really do keep you guessing.

World of Mazes really is one of the most fun puzzle games that you can play in VR. They have managed to walk the fine line between offering challenging and rewarding puzzles all the while giving you a story you actually care about. 

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Does Anyone Else Miss Bad Translations in Video Games?

Do you remember the days when the average video game translation was enough to make English teachers despair en masse? Bad video game translations have left a lasting legacy, with phrases such as “Winner Is You” and the classic “All your base are belong to us” worming their way into popular culture. The latter remains popular on memes all over the internet and can even be found on road signs around the world in countries where signage officials have a sense of humor and a fondness for retro video games.

However, as funny as bad video game translations are, they can ruin the immersion of the gaming experience. Nothing takes you out of an in-game world faster than trying to figure out what that garbled sentence is supposed to mean. Thankfully, video game translation services have become far more sophisticated and competent over the years.

For old time’s sake, let’s take a wander down memory lane and look as some of those truly amusing games that were produced before translation and localization skills became such an integral part of video game production.

Bad Video Game Translations: A History

Before we get into some of the funniest video game translations, let’s consider what led to such amazing mishaps in the first place.

Today, gaming is a such a juggernaut entertainment industry, it’s hard to imagine terrible translation and localization being so commonplace. However, in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, bad video game localization was so common that it was simply accepted as a charming part of the industry. The problems came from translating these games out of their original Japanese, in most cases. Japanese to English translation is an art. The Japanese characters often don’t translate into English perfectly, so some creativity in finding the right terminology and grammar is required. 

Plus, before the gaming industry become as mainstream as it is today, many of those early companies were seriously underfunded, producing their wares on shoe-string budgets. Localization services often got the short end of the stick. That meant translations done by developers with a phrase book and a looming deadline. Specialty video game translation services didn’t become mainstream until gaming did.   

This led to some truly charming errors, which have given gamers plenty of amusement over the years. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best video game translation errors of all time.

Remembering the Best of the Worst Video Game Translations

Before the modern era of dedicated localization services, the gaming industry ended up with some really botched translations: 

“All your base are belong to us. You have no chance to survive make your time”

The list wouldn’t be complete without the iconic, worst video game translation of all time. It came from the arcade top-down shooter “Zero Wing” in 1989 and makes gamers smile to this day.

“A Winner Is You”  

This congratulatory scene was from Nintendo’s “Pro Wrestling” in 1987. The real reward was this hilarious proclamation of victory.

“You are the very prevailer that protect right and justice” 

This was the closing message at the end of Nintendo’s difficult “Ikari Warriors” from 1987.

“You Spoony Bard”

Not sure how an eating utensil became an adjective? Nor are we, but rumors abound. This iconic line is from “Final Fantasy IV.” It was released on the SNES in 1991 for North American audiences under the title of “Final Fantasy II.”  

“X-Men… Welcome to die!” 

This hilarious line really took the edge off the popular villain Magneto is the 1992 arcade version of “X-Men.” 

“I am Error”

This text, introducing a character in the NES game “Zelda II: The Adventure of Link” in 1988, had gamers scratching their heads. Was this character’s name Error? Really? Rumor has it that the character’s name was actually Error, which makes sense, given some wordplay around the terms “error” and “bug” in the original Japanese.

“Remember to flash the toilet”

This unfortunate reminder was given by a professor-type character in a 1997 Game Boy “Tamagotchi” video game. Consider yourself reminded!

“Fry to the rain forest and save the nature”

Huh? Those poor trees… should we save them or fry them? This line came from the “Aero Fighters 2” arcade game in 1994.

Bad Video Game Localization Today

Today, despite the rise of professional, specialist translation services, video game localization still isn’t immune to bad translations. The most infamous bad translation of the modern gaming era is “Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.” It was released on the PlayStation Vita in 2014.

Some of the game’s bizarre lines include:

“Klein became to one who did the fight without everyone noticing it.”

“Would not doing other thing else and focus on attacking be better?”

“(She’s very serious at training and absorbs very fast)” 

Speculation seems to state that the game was text-only in English, so the company didn’t focus on the translation and localization as much.

The modern industry also has a few other examples of poor gaming translation. For instance, Frank West in “Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite” became Flank West in 2017, as a result of the Japanese confusion over the letters R and L. 

Video game translations have come a long way over the years. Luckily “Hollow Fragment” and its ilk are now the exception to the rule, in an industry that has become well served by skilled video game translation and localization efforts.

Author Bio

Louise Taylor was gaming almost before she could walk. Nowadays, when she’s not playing video games, she can be found managing content for Tomedes, a translation agency that provides video game translation and localization services to clients around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Incredibles 2

Thank you Disney for sending us this Blu-Ray to review!

It’s been fourteen years since the original Incredibles move was released. Incredibles 2 takes place shortly after the first film where performing heroics is still illegal and has been for fifteen years. It was just a regular day for the Parr family when a villain rose up and robbed a bank in broad daylight. The Incredibles took it upon themselves to stop this criminal and to save the city from his out-of-control drilling vehicle heading towards City Hall. Even though that crisis was averted, much damage was done to other buildings and all superheroes were further chastised and told to stay out of the crime fighting business. In fact, the agency that has been helping the Incredibles is shutting down due to this incident.

Though most of the public are against superheroes, not everyone is. A very rich entrepreneur wishes to reverse this law and uses Elastigirl as his ideal example. She was chosen for her performance and lack of damage caused to personal property. Her husband’s ego is shattered, but he wants his wife to succeed as it will benefit all superheroes in the future.

While Helen is fighting crime and making televised appearances, Bob is taking care of the kids at home. He has to learn “new” math, cope with his daughter’s dating drama, and discover Jack-Jack's multiple new powers. I won’t spoil any of the story, but I will say that the whole family must work together to untarnish the reputation of superheroes.

For a film geared towards families, I was surprised at the language in it. Hell, d*mn, and the Lord’s name taken in vain can be heard in this two hour and five minute film. Cartoon violence is a given. If you don’t mind that you’ll probably enjoy this film despite its predictable ending.



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Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Final Fantasy games are known for their extraordinary music and my husband and I have had the pleasure of seeing multiple live symphonic performances of Nobuo Uematsu’s masterpieces. As a result, we own several compilations of Final Fantasy music and managed to get one of our daughters sick of it. Our other two kids love the music so they turned out alright.

Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII focuses on a title with many great songs and the music box treatment works well with these melodies. J-E-N-O-V-A is a little too fast paced to be included, but there are plenty of other great songs in this collection. There are lots of theme songs including the Aerith’s, Tifa’s, and the Chocobo song. Of course, the game’s title song is on this album as well.

I love the battle music in Final Fantasy VII and the Fighting song and One Winged Angel are both included. Another welcome addition is Cosmo Canyon though I have to say that I still prefer the version from the game’s soundtrack.

There are fourteen songs in total and they range from a minute and forty-seven seconds to six minutes and forty-one seconds. All of the tracks are great and I highly recommend this $7 digital album to all Final Fantasy VII fans. The songs are available in MP3 and lossless FLAC formats.

As for my daughter who is sick of Final Fantasy music, I have a plan. After she gets married and has a child, I will give it a stuffed animal or a music box with Aerith’s theme. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I’m sure the kid(s) will love it.


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The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1 (A-M)

snes omnibus

Author: Brett Weiss
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing
Hardcover book
416 full-color pages
Over 350 games covered
MSRP: $42.99

Thank you Schiffer Publishing for sending us this book to review!

I was fortunate enough to grow up with video games and technology as it did. Being born in 1978 (and recently turning forty), I was fortunate enough to play the Atari 2600 long before I went to kindergarten, played tons of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) through elementary school, and got my Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) in late jr. high or early high school (I don’t remember exactly when; it was early in the system’s launch, but I doubt it was year one).

I had gotten a PlayStation maybe a year after that released, and enjoyed it, but I always felt like the SNES was a perfect storm of available technology and maximum creativity that led to some of the best games of all time, and many remain timeless and revered to this day. (It also helped that I had more time to play games in high school rather than the busier early adulthood that occupied my time shortly after I got my PlayStation.) This book celebrates that generation of gaming by devoting one or two pages to each and every game in the SNES library. This volume covers every game in alphabetical order, starting with ‘3 Ninjas Kick Back’ and ending with ‘Musya: The Classic Japanese Tale of Horror’. Volume 2, when it is released in 2019, will cover game titles starting with N-Z.

The first few pages include a foreword, where the technical specifications of the SNES are discussed, as well as a brief summary of historical context about the system’s release. There is also a preface, where the author talks a bit about his history with gaming, and what led to him writing this book. All of the action starts on page ten.

Each page is in full color, with the title, publisher, developer, game type, and release year all notated at the top. Under that is the box art, a picture of the cartridge, and a general description and summary of the game. If it’s particularly good or bad, you might find some commentary there, too. Sometimes they will compare the game with its Sega Genesis counterpart, if there was one. There are also screenshots, and some titles may have promotional art or a picture of an ad as well.

Other than the general overview, each page also includes a ‘Notable Quotable’, which is typically an excerpt from a review, sometimes modern and sometimes classic, or a comment from a famous YouTuber, game developer, or industry veteran. Some games also feature one or more ‘Insider Insight’, which is a story of how that game impacted one of the many contributors. There are ninety people listed as contributors on pages 404-410. There are also brief articles about the console wars from the era, the historical and preservation value of emulation, and a bibliography.

Reading through this lovingly crafted archive, I was reminded both of the many great games that shaped my adolescence, but also the many that I remember looking at fondly but never having the chance to purchase for myself. I had a job in high school, so I worked for my games – but no kid can afford everything, so something always had to give. Thankfully, I often had great success scouring the used games at my old Blockbuster Video, which no doubt saved me a pretty penny in these early days before GameStop (and FuncoLand was the only used game store around).

A few notable games that I either owned or borrowed from friends which are covered here include:

ActRaiser
Breath of Fire
Chrono Trigger
Clay Fighter: Tournament Edition
Contra III: The Alien Wars (my cartridge is gone, but the SNES Classic delivers)
Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf (borrowed from a friend)
Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest (spelled wrong in the book: it's supposed to be Diddy's Kong Quest!)
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
Earthworm Jim (I have this and Earthworm Jim 2 on PC also!)
Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
F-Zero (SNES Classic only)
Gradius III
Inindo: The Way of the Ninja (my cartridge is gone, and makes me very sad!)
Jurassic Park (actually haven’t played it, but apparently it’s quite excellent! Garage sale find)
King of the Monsters 2 (another garage sale find, haven’t played it yet)
Kirby Super Star
Kirby’s Dream Course (SNES Classic only)
Lagoon
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (I thought I had a copy of Lufia 1, but my memory must be hazy)
Mario Paint
Mega Man 7 (I played it on the GameCube collection)
Mega Man X (I played it on the SNES version, but ended up beating it on the rare PC version!)
Mortal Kombat (I think I played a friend’s copy)
Mortal Kombat III (I played the arcade version much more)

This book is an excellent retrospective, and reminded me of several games that I wanted to pick up when I was younger, but never had the chance, as well as some new ones I hadn’t heard of. Who knew that one of the better RPGs on the SNES had a name as wacky as Brain Lord? I had no idea the Michael Jordan video game was actually decent. Apparently the Disney games were all fantastic. Did you know that Blizzard Entertainment met the team that eventually became Blizzard North who created Diablo though their early work on SNES games? All of this, and much more, is lovingly detailed in The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Volume 1. If you are a collector, or simply love the SNES, then I highly recommend that you pick up this book ASAP. It may be pricey, but it’s worth every penny.

 


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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