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Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

The Gruffalo’s Child

Thank you JGPR for sending us this DVD to review!

After the resounding success of The Gruffalo, the author, Julia Donaldson released The Gruffalo’s Child in 2004. The Gruffalo’s Child was one of the biggest best-sellers of 2004 and won WHS Children's Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. Like the prequel, this children’s storybook has a 5-star rating on Amazon and a DVD based on it.

As spontaneous as the gruffalo came into existence, his daughter followed suit. Still being convinced that all the animals in the forest fear the mouse, he instructs his daughter to not go into the “deep dark wood” to avoid running into “the big bad mouse”. Because children are known to be curious, the young gruffalo defies her father’s orders and sneaks out in the middle of the night to see the mouse with her own eyes.

Along the way, she runs into the same snake, fox, and owl who have been out-witted by the mouse before. They gladly tell her the way to the mouse’s home since they believe that it enjoys feasting on gruffalos. The young gruffalo does indeed meet the mouse and joins the other creatures in being out-witted by him.

I’ll leave out the specifics since this thirty minute movie is worth experiencing first hand. While deception and lying is encouraged in this tale, there is a lesson taught about trusting and obeying your parents since they know what’s best for you.

The Gruffalo’s Child can be rented on Amazon for $3.99 or owned for a dollar more. It’s well worth picking up if you enjoyed the prequel. The best bargain is a double feature DVD that includes both movies and typically sells for less than $6.50.

(Amazon Affiliate Link)
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Power Rangers Super Megaforce: The Complete Season DVD Set

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

Following the cliffhanger ending from the Power Rangers Megaforce DVD Collection, the Super Megaforce season resumes with the Earth in peril from an enormous alien fleet invading it.  The Power Rangers have exhausted all of their options and need a way to drive back the invaders.  In this series they learn to harness the powers of the legendary Power Rangers from the past. 

Fans of previous seasons will recognize the costumes and abilities used in this season.  I feel old knowing that this series has been running for twenty years now.  Some of the abilities used are from the following shows:

  • Mighty Morphin
  • Zeo
  • Turbo
  • Lost Galaxy
  • Lightspeed
  • Time Force
  • Jungle Fury
  • Ninja Storm
  • Dino Thunder
  • Mystic Force

Some of the cast members of the older series reprise their roles in the movie, The Legendary Battle, which is on the fifth DVD in this set.  The interviews of the cast in the extras are worth watching too.  My son enjoyed all of the discs and is looking forward to the feature film coming out this spring.  Unlike the show, the upcoming movie looks to have some decent special effects!

The characters and actors remain the same from the previous season and their friendships continue to grow and get tested as they face challenge after challenge.  Even on their day off, the Power Rangers get summoned to save the world yet again.  There are some good lessons including valuing and trusting your friends even when they are not in agreement with you.  There are some losses that the Power Rangers have to endure and even though some of their team may disappear, they are not completely gone or forgotten.  

Aside from the fighting, the only other moral concern is that the Power Rangers get “in tune” with their spirit animal to harness the power of the Jungle Fury rangers.  The good outweighs the negative in this series and I can see why this show has kept on going over the years.  For less than $10 you can own and enjoy this series which is mostly complete with the exception of a couple of holiday episodes.

(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Civilization Revolution 2 Review

Since the dawn of time, humans have strived to build vast civilizations on earth. Rulers have sought to leave their mark on history by making advances in construction, culture and technology and by taking as much stuff from their neighbors as possible. The civilization series depicts this struggle from the Stone Age through to the modern era and beyond.

The PC versions of Civilization have given me more than a few bouts of ‘one more turn’ fever over the years. They are compelling classics that are epic in scope. But what of the trimmed down version for consoles and mobile devices? I played Civilization Revolution 2 on the iPad to see whether it could recreate the complex joy of the PC experience.

The game starts as all Civ games do. You control a group of wide-eyed settlers looking for the perfect spot to found their first city. Once the foundations of your soon-to-be great civilization are laid, it’s time to turn to the serious business of world domination. Explore your surroundings, choose technologies to develop, train units, and build municipal buildings for your city. The choices you make determine how quickly your civilization develops, scientifically, culturally, financially and militarily. Each of these four areas can lead to victory, so it is important to decide where to focus your efforts.

Civilization Revolution 2

You encounter rival civilizations along the way with which you can trade, swap technologies or fight. Most of the fighting occurs as a result of direct competition for land. Everyone is vying to found their cities in the juiciest spots, and this is where friction arises. There can be rewards in combat - If you manage to capture all three enemy capital cities, you win the game. But it also comes at a great cost - war is expensive, after all. Get bogged down in a long, protracted war and more peaceful civilizations will outstrip you in other areas of the game.

Though stripped down from the PC version, Civ Rev 2 manages to pack in a lot of features. Games can last for many hours and there is great pleasure in seeing your people rise from stone huts to build great wonders and powerful cities. There is a lot of replay value with many civilizations to choose from, each with their own bonuses and special troops. You earn achievements for winning in various different ways and unlock new civilizations to play with. There are also a variety of scenarios to play through that change the gameplay up, such as focussing solely on the space race, or defeating barbarian hordes.

Civ Rev 2’s graphics are crisp and clean with a style that supports understanding of gameplay. Units are slightly cartoonish without being too kiddy, and the UI is easily readable if not beautiful to behold. Given the platform, the scope of the terrain is pretty respectable and different land types and city bonuses are easy to make out.

Civilization Revolution 2

The menu music of Civ Rev 2 has the same orchestral world music vibe of the original games. It can sound a bit like a mixtape in a massage parlour, but is pretty unobtrusive, which is no bad thing. In game the ambient country noises and city sounds can get a little repetitive but they do add some character. There is very little music in-game, which is a good thing as any track would get stale over three to four hours of play.

Civilization Revolution 2 is obviously not as deep as the PC versions of the game. There are some great design decisions that have simplified it in a way that makes it easier to handle on the smaller screen but also a few more questionable ones. City management is mostly automated, which is great - I often found myself bored of moving workers around in the PC version. The stacking of units into three-strong armies is a little bit confusing though. At later stages of the game, individual units are pretty worthless so you have to wait till you have built three. When units become obsolete you cannot build them any more so any individual units not in armies are left in limbo. Curiously you are unable to disband these units so they just hang around, getting in the way.

Minor issues aside, Civ Rev 2 is a very strong iPad game. There are lots of features and oodles of replay value. This is a great introduction to the Civilization franchise for those who haven’t experienced it yet. Even if you have played the PC version, it’s still good for long train journeys or away days when you need to get a Civ fix.

Andy Trowers is a game design consultant, freelance ne’er do well and staff writer for www.canada.for-sale.com

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Lost and Found

Thank you Riverdale Ave. Books for sending us this e-book to review!

When Micky Neilson was eight months old he was kidnapped by his schizophrenic father and lived as a nomad in the desert.  He didn’t attend school until the seventh grade and his only socialization with other kids was in Boy Scouts. Although Micky thought his father’s stories and notions were strange, he loved him regardless.   

Sometimes Micky and his father would take refuge in Mormon churches, but religion didn’t last with Micky.  His life was pretty rough with being asked to steal or even point a gun at someone from a distance.  Before he was a teenager, he was in a foster home and would continue his relationship with his father via letters.

Micky goes into detail about his experience at different foster homes, jobs, serving in the Gulf War and even his love life.  As a gamer I found his experience at Blizzard Entertainment to be the most fascinating, though his pranks as a teenager are pretty hilarious as well.  I like the prank where he swapped out his boss’ telephone number with a customer's and had a new hire at the telemarketing company call him.

Some of the language in the book is a bit much for children to read and there is some mature content in terms of the war experiences and Micky’s first time with a prostitute.  There are also several references of drinking and partying.  Though Micky got baptized as a teenager his faith didn’t last long and he dabbled in using the Ouija board with his friends on several occasions.  

If you don’t mind those moral issues, this book is a very good read and has a happy ending despite the turbulent childhood Micky had.  The kindle edition sells for $9.99 and the paperback is twice the price.  I highly recommend it for fans of Blizzard games or great story telling in general.  

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With Skate 3 Added To Xbox Backplay, Is It Time For A Sequel?

Microsoft has celebrated the anniversary of the backward compatibility feature for its Xbox One consoles by adding a fan favorite to the list of available games. Anyone who owns a physical or digital copy of Skate 3 by EA Black Box can now play the classic 360 game on their Xbox One or Xbox One S console. Check the ‘games’ screen of your console for more information on this and other available backplay titles.

When backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games was announced at the E3 segment, there was an instant demand for Skate 3 to be among the available titles. The third installment of this cult EA skateboarding series instantly became the most popular yet upon its release in 2010, plus the game had something of a revival in 2014 after YouTube boosted its popularity. It rose to become one of the most demanded titles in fan forums for the backplay feature, and is a very welcome addition to the growing catalog of compatible 360 games.

Grab a copy if you missed it the first time

Backplay is available to any Xbox One owner - if you didn’t own a 360 game originally, you can still pick them up for just a few dollars in second hand gaming stores or online. Research Team at Frugaa (a leading coupon provider in the USA) saw a sudden surge in searches for deals on Skate 3 games right after the update was announced, and the game also became a featured product on Amazon’s front page for a short time, because of the boom in demand.

Not only is the game included in the list of compatible titles, but you can get to all the DLC extras as well! From extra tracks and courses to fun merchandise and additional tasks, many of the add-ons have been free to Xbox 360 users for some time and can be added directly from the menu when you load up the game. Some versions of the game include all of the extra features within the disk - these can be ordered online or found in most gaming stores.

What is Skate 3 and why should I get it?

Skate 3 is like many other EA sports games in that it will appeal to skaters and gamers alike. It combines the real world physics of skateboarding with the bright colors and crazy tricks you want from a video game. The whole landscape can be skated and the game is entirely open, with missions and goals to achieve or a simple freeskate mode. Players can also take on others in one-on-one online skate battles, or work together in teams to defeat opponents. The game features pro skaters from the real world, and combines a fictitious city with actual brands, events, locations and competitions.

In addition to the skating itself, an in-built video editor allows players to take photos and create clips during play, which can be edited and uploaded to the community boards. Unfortunately, this community area is one part of the game that has succumbed to time: EA have turned off the main servers and many online features are no longer available to play around with. That said, the online world is still a whole lot of fun, and thanks to a revived interest from Xbox One players there are always plenty of opponents to take on and skate with! Set up a team lobby or stay offline and freeskate privately: you can take on the environment in your own way.

Demand for a sequel keeps growing

EA are probably better known for their bigger sports titles, such as FIFA, Madden and NBA. Skating is a niche sport in itself and while Skate 3 has a strong cult following, the series has only achieved modest sales. This might be why they have so far declined to make a fourth game. However, fans feel that Skate 3 was the best game in the series, and that an updated game for the current generation of consoles would be well worth investing in. The company has also stated that the market for skateboarding games has declined - though fans argue this is due to a lack of games, not a lack of interest in them.

The web has been filled with rumors of a Skate 4 release for several years now, and this release of the backward compatible third installment has added fuel to the fire. Fans are taking to social media to push for a new title, and encouraging new players to buy the game and show some support for the cause. Will this renewed interest be enough to convince EA that a sequel is worth making? Watch this space for news as we hear it.

Disclaimer - The article is brought to you by team of Frugaa, but all the opinions are of my own.

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Scratch Programming Playground

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us this book to review!

No Starch Press has been publishing kid friendly programming books for a while and my kids have learned a lot through them.  My son went through the Ruby Wizardry book and didn’t like all of the typing involved.  Thanks to this book, he loves making games with Scratch.  Scratch is a beginner friendly programming language that uses very little code.  All of the programs are assembled by dragging and dropping code blocks.  

My son isn’t much of an artist; even when asked to draw simple shapes, the pediatrician said that he isn’t a Picasso.  There is a downloadable resource pack that includes all of the images and source code to reference if you get stuck.  There is also an image file of the completed program to use as a reference if your game is broken.  Throughout this book we have used all of the file types at one point or another.  When the computer was accidentally turned off we were able to restore a program close to where my son left off.  This saved us from further tears and frustration.

The games my son made were fun to play and well-polished (when using the included artwork).  In this book you’ll learn how to make an Asteroids, Snake, Break-Out, and platformer style games.  There is a maze game as well as my son’s favorite:  a Fruit Ninja clone.  My son truly enjoyed this book from start to finish and often completed multiple chapters in one day.

In total there are nine chapters and 256 pages of content.  It didn’t take long for my son to finish this book and we look forward to more written by Al Sweigart.  The list price is $24.95 but I have seen it for less than $15 on Amazon.

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Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit

Inkspirations: Fruit of the Spirit
Written and illustrated by: Lorrie Bennett
Published by: Health Communications, Inc.
Released: August, 2016
Price: $10.99

Thank you, Health Communications, Inc. for sending us a copy of this coloring book to review!

Although the health benefits of coloring have been documented for decades – including by Carl Jung in the early 1900s – there has been a recent resurgence in this trend. Adults have used coloring to relax the body, focus the mind, and train fine motor skills. The marketplace has reflected this, and it seems that you can't go anywhere without finding coloring books for adults anymore.

 

These coloring books often stand out from those for children by having more detailed and elaborate pictures, a higher quality paper, and sometimes hidden objects to locate as well. Health Communications, Inc. has decided to add another element to the genre of adult coloring book – scripture references. The copy that we received was illustrated by artist Lorrie Bennett, and each illustration is accompanied by a verse from the Bible on the facing page.

The paper is of a high quality, and handles crayons and colored pencils quite well, including the Mr. Cuya colored pencils we received to review a while ago. I was able to erase the colored pencil as well, and barely a smudge remained. The same can't be said with markers, though – both Sharpies and Mr. Sketch colored markers bled through easily. Fortunately, I colored outside the margin, so the picture itself wouldn't be damaged. Each page is perforated, so once the picture is completed, it can be separated easily from the book to display.

 

There are a total of 32 pictures to color in the book, not counting the facing pages which contain the scripture and a few border illustrations. The complexity and subject matter varies, from animals and teacups, to abstract designs that reminded me of a patchwork quilt. My oldest daughter (12 at the time of this writing) was fascinated with the illustrations, and looked forward to giving them a try herself.

One part of the book that I found surprising was the introduction. Printed on glossy paper are some instructions as to how to use the book. Although you may not think that a coloring book needs instructions, the tips it provided were quite useful, with recommendations of complimentary colors and blending techniques that go beyond the concept of simply filling in the area between the dark lines. The book also contains examples that other people did of some of the illustrations, to provide inspiration for those who are trying to decide what to do. 

Looking at their Web site, it appears that you can sign up on their mailing list and receive free coloring pages. For those wondering about adding these coloring books to their library – or their daily relaxation routine – it could definitely be worth a look!

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2016 Christmas Buying Guide

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most family friendly games we have reviewed in 2016. 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!
Mobile
Mobile
The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance
(Android, iOS, PC)
86% 93% $24.99
Mobile
Mobile
Dungenious 86% 93% $2.99
Mobile
Mobile
Galaxy Zega 80% 94% $149.99
Mobile
Mobile
Peppy Pals Farm 82% 100% $3.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Blasting Agent: Ultimate Edition 84% 95% $2.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Noitu Love: Devolution 90% 92% $9.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas 90% 94% $4.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Sega 3D Classics Collection 90% 90% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Ashes of the Singularity 86% 94% $24.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
King's Quest Series 86% 93% $24.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Overcooked
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
86% 100% $16.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
The Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge 90% 93% $9.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Organic Panic 
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
80% 89% $14.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Ratchet & Clank
87% 88% $19.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Trackmania Turbo
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 94% $29.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Hue
(PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One)
88% 96% $14.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Earth Defense Force 2: Invaders from Planet Space
86% 74% $23.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Green Game: TimeSwapper
(iOS, PC, PS4, Vita)
80% 94% $4.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X 84% 77% $39.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Laser Disco Defenders 86% 96% $9.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Cubikolor (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
82% 100% $7.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
The Flame In The Flood
(PC, Xbox One)
88% 85% $19.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Uno
(PS4, Xbox One)
80% 100% $9.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Valentino Rossi
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
82% 96% $38.50
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
The Climb (Rift) 84% 100% $49.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
The Gallery – Episode 1: Call of the Starseed (Vive) 90% 86% $19.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Hatsune Miku: VR Future Live (PSVR) 84% 87% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Quar: Battle for Gate 18 (Vive) 84% 94% $19.99
Hardware
Hardware
BuddyPhones N/A N/A $24.95
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hephaestus II Surround Gaming Headset N/A N/A $59.99
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hermes 7 Color Mechanical Keyboard N/A N/A $59.99
Hardware
Hardware
Mionix Alioth Large Mousepad N/A N/A $19.99

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Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Counter Strike: Global Offensive was released to the public in 2012 and can be played on various platforms such as OS X, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Steam, Linux and PlayStation 3.

Counter Strike is a multiplayer game in which a player can join either the Counter-terrorist or the Terrorist team. Its main objective  is to eliminate the opponent. The game is over when all the players in one team are dead, or the objective of the team is completed.

Development of Counter Strike: Global Offensive

A year after the release of the game, cosmetic items were added like weapon finishes. These cosmetic items were obtained through opening virtual crates and game-end drops that could be purchased through microtransactions just like in Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2.

Another update was made in October 2014. This time music kits were added, thus replacing the default in-game music.  The kit could also be borrowed, exchanged or sold within the community market.

The good thing about the new version is that the player needs not download maps by using third party sites. It’s because in Global Offensive, the player can upload content such as weapon finishes. They can also map and customize gameplay scenarios.

Game Modes

The game features five different modes namely:

•    Competitive or Classic Casual – This is the most played mode of the game and it involves Hostage Scenario and Bomb Scenario missions. The players can buy gear and weapons using the money earned after completing the objectives.

•    Arms Race – This mode gives the players a new weapon as a reward for each kill that they make. The first player who gets the golden knife will win the game.

•    Demolition – In this game mode, the player is given rewards, such as new weapon after each round. The reward can be used for the next round.

•    Deathmatch – The player can earn points from each kill that has been made using different weapons. This game mode consists of 10 minutes of matches, and bonus weapons can be obtained if the player chooses to respawn.

Global Offensive also offers offline game modes such as the Weapon course and Offline with Bots. Playing the game online is more exciting because it allows the player to filter the game modes, adjust the built-in system and use maps. The player can also use cheats and have the opportunity to find the player that can match your skill levels, making the whole experience extra enjoyable. Playing Global Offensive on PC is also supported by private dedicated servers that let the player connect with the community server.

Game Tournaments

The creator of Counter Strike: Global Offensive is offering events and tournaments. The prizes are bigger as compared to other online games tournaments and the fund is generated by the community through different sources such as special in-game cosmetics and open in-game cases. Likewise, merchandises are sold during the tournament.

Last October 2015, Counter Strike: Global Offensive tournament was held and more than $7.5 million prize money was awarded. There are major tournaments that are attended by huge audiences watching live and millions of people watching through the internet.

Conclusion

There's no doubt that Counter Strike: Global Offensive has become more popular. With a lot of games, both new and old competing in the market, it has managed to stay on the top. To access more games, you can try JoyLand Free games online.

*Disclaimer - this is a sponsored post*

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Your Brain On Video Games

Thank you Daniels Murphy Communications for sending us a screener for this special!

It has long been debated about the effects of video games on the human brain.  Do they make people more violent?  Can they be addicting?  Are there practical uses for them?  The BBC’s special Your Brain On Video Games which premiered on the Science Channel on November 1st, 2016 set out to answer all of those questions.

More and more violent video games are coming out every year and despite the bad press they are receiving, they only account for 5% of the games that are released.  There are 1.2 billion people in the world who play video games and a majority of them are over thirty-five.  Many of them have been gaming since their childhood and video game addiction is only attributed to less than 1% of them.  Gamers who play extended gaming sessions every day (on the tune of 20 hours a week) did not scientifically qualify as addiction through both the use of personality tests and brain scans.  According to Valerie Voon from University of Cambridge, one of the indicators of video game addiction is requiring instant gratification in many real life scenarios.  

Many professors including Craig Anderson and Doug Gentile from Iowa State University and Brad Bushman from Ohio State University have studied the effects of playing violent video games and how they raise levels of aggression.  Their findings indicated that after playing a violent video game the aggression level of college aged students showed an increase between 4-9%.  Studies have also revealed that gamers are desensitized to real world violence after playing violent video games.  

Despite the desensitizing and slight aggression level increases there is no direct correlation of video games influencing violent crimes.  In fact, many of the professors featured in the special believe the opposite.  They believe the routine activities theory is taking place where less opportunities are available for potential criminals since they are too busy playing video games instead of committing crimes.  

Besides possibly preventing crimes, video games have been shown to restore cognitive brain function in three different areas of the brain.  The game used in the study was Super Mario 64.  Therapeutic games have also been developed to help retirees restore brain functionality. To prove their effectiveness, the patients have scored better than twenty year olds playing the same game for the first time!  

Video games could possibly save lives too.  A custom game has been developed that is used to train prospective keyhole surgeons.  Be warned that there is some surgery footage shown and it’s pretty gritty.  I guess I haven’t been completely desensitized in my thirty plus years of gaming.  I recommend this show to any concerned parent or gamer interested in the impact of video games on their friends and family.

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Power Rangers Megaforce: The Complete Season

 

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

This is the first time my kids have watched Power Rangers and they enjoyed this series.  My son more so than my daughters, though they related with the female rangers.   This collection ends in a cliff-hanger and is missing the holiday episodes so I wouldn’t really consider it complete.  However, the less than $10 asking price is still pretty reasonable for twenty episodes and seven hours of entertainment. 

The first episode introduces the high school students soon to be the next generation of Power Rangers.  Troy, who becomes the red ranger, is good at handling adversity and is a martial arts expert.  Gia, with her calm demeanor, morphs into the yellow ranger.  Emma is Gia’s best friend and appreciates nature; she transforms into the pink ranger.  The nerdy, but likable Noah becomes the blue ranger.   Last but not least is Jake, who is strong, has a crush on Gia, and turns into the black ranger.

The character development is decent and held the interest of my daughters while my son likes the battle scenes with the insect-like alien invaders.  The special effects are cheesy and make Sharknado look like Avatar.   Each episode features a new insect-like invader with a different method to thwart the Power Rangers and to take over the world.  Thankfully, their plans get squashed every time until the final episode.  I won’t know the result of the epic battle until the next season of the Super Megaforce Power Rangers.

One thing I can count on is that the battle formula doesn’t change much.  At first the Power Rangers try to subdue the invader with hand to hand combat.  If that doesn’t work they start to use their weapons and then switch to their mega weapons.  If more force is necessary then the Zords come out and ultimately combine into the Mega Zord to finish off the attacker.

While this show has a lot of tacky special effects and violence, it does teach some good moral lessons as well.  The value of friendship and team work is shown as crucial to a successful outcome.  Believing in yourself is also expounded upon along with the value of honesty.  

There is much to like in this DVD set for current and future Power Ranger fans. I know my kids enjoy the show and that the epic theme song gets stuck in my head shorty after hearing it.   My children are looking forward watching the next season.

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Python Crash Course

Thank you No Starch Press for sending us a review copy of this book!

Python is a powerful programming language that is used worldwide and is a valuable skill to know for a hobbyist or anyone pursuing a computer science major.   In Python Crash Course you’ll learn basic coding concepts, troubleshooting skills, and how to make games, manipulate data, and deploy your programs.  The example scripts show how to code for both Python 2.X and 3.X.   The recommended and free editor, Geany, is user friendly and works well.

The first half of the book talks about variables, lists, loops, if statements, dictionaries, while loops, functions, classes, and working with files.  Each of the twenty chapters has about twenty or so pages with helpful examples to teach you how to use the concepts they are teaching.  The beginning coding examples aren’t that memorable, but they get you familiar with the basics required for the advanced projects in the second half of the book.  

My favorite project was making the Space Invaders type game.  The source code has all of the graphics needed and is available for troubleshooting purposes.  I ran across an issue in the eleventh chapter where the printed code is incorrect and the source code had corrected code that successfully compiled.    The printed code was "print(question)" when the proper code should have been "print(self.question)."  

From chapter fifteen on I could no longer compile my programs using cloud services like Dropbox or One Drive.  If I compiled my programs locally they worked just fine.  This is not the fault of the author; I just thought I would spare someone some frustration if they use cloud storage for saving their work.  

Other issues I ran across include changes in the classes referenced later in the book.  For the data graphing, pygal is required and since this book was published it no longer handles country codes like it used to.  Instead of 'from pygal.i18 import COUNTRIES' I had to use 'from pygal_maps_world.i18 import COUNTRIES'.

The final chapters involve making a discussion forum using the Django web framework. They also cover using Git for version control and Heroku’s free cloud services for hosting it.  However, despite my best efforts I couldn’t get the forum to work online and even had difficulty setting it up locally without using the source code.  Despite not being able to see the final project, I still learned a lot and got to play around with it locally in a virtual environment.

Although my experiences have been mixed using this book, I have learned a lot from it.  I was able to use concepts from it and code a program that quizzes people on the Ten Commandments for a mission’s conference I spoke at.  Without this book it would have taken me much longer to make.  The suggested retail price is $39.95 but it can be purchased for less than $30 on Amazon.

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Gifted Custom Art

 

 

Thank you Gifted Custom Art for sending us a product sample to review!

GiftedCustomArt.com’s founder Kevin West is a professional artist that grew up in the Boys and Girls Club as a child.  He considers it his second home and worked there as a part-time teacher until he was diagnosed with stage three cancer.  After he beat the cancer, he knew that God had bigger plans for him and wanted to share his passion for art with kids and adults alike.  After seeing his daughter paint an astounding self-portrait of herself using his paint-by number concept, he knew he was onto something big.

The painting kits sell for a promotional price of $99.95 and includes a 16” X 20” canvas that come pre-printed with an outline of your image marked with which color to paint the different sections.  The photo submission guidelines give tips on ideal file submissions and restrictions such as copyrighted photos are not permitted.  For best results the image must be close up, high resolution, and only featuring one or two people/subjects.

There are six color palettes to choose from (rose, green, blue, purple, black, brown) and five shades of paint will be included in the kit.  Five paint brushes of different widths are bundled in as well.  Last but not least are the disposable smock and easel.  The easel is cardboard and didn’t come with any instructions on how to assemble it.  I wound up using my kitchen table for painting a portrait of my dog.  

The painting took me a couple of hours to complete and my son helped out by painting some of the larger sections.  The tinier areas needed the smaller tipped paint brush and I wound up using all five brushes throughout the project.  

Overall this has been a positive experience and I highly recommend it for anyone who wishes to paint a loved one.  Gift certificates can be purchased and they can provide an excellent present for anyone who enjoys painting no matter their skill level!

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Fruit-Full Kids

 

Thank you Fruit-Full Kids for sending us a Golden Rule plate to review!

Fruit-Full Kids began unexpectedly when a mother offered a kindness award for her kids to get along after a day of bickering.  She didn’t expect her offer to make a difference, but God had other plans! When her children behaved the rest of the day, Laurie Canata, gave one of her kids a different plate than the others.  Following that day her kids were excited to see who would get the special plate.   And thus the idea for unique Christian/Bible verse themed plates was born!

At the time of this article there are sixteen different plates to choose from and they sell for $6.95 individually or $19.95 for a set of three.  There are plates for several fruits of the spirit including love, joy, peace, kindness, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Biblical principles like the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12), being a Fruitful Follower (Mark 12:30), and a Gracious Giver (2 Cor 9:7) are also available in plate-form.  Last but not least are holiday themes plates with Christmas (Luke 2:11 & Luke 2:14), Thanksgiving (Ps 136:1), and birthday (Ps 139:13-14) plates available.  

The dishes themselves are high quality with colorful and attractive artwork on them.  They are made from non-toxic BPA free melamine.  The plates measure nine inches in diameter and are dishwasher safe.  My biggest complaint is that they are not recommended for microwave use.  Given that my kids often need to re-heat leftovers, they don’t get as much use out of these dishes as I would like. However, in the past couple of weeks that we have been using the plate, it has held up fine and the design is not scratching or fading away.     

If you’re looking for a fun way to bless and teach your kids God’s word, then check out the wide variety of plates sold at the Fruit-Full Kids website and several retail locations.  Shipping charges apply on the website and Amazon.com.  These plates make great gifts and bless people in many ways as ten percent of the proceeds goes toward the fruit tree program through Samaritan’s Purse.  

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ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response pack)

 

ZORP (Zombie Oblivion Response pack)
Developed by: Carl Sommer
Price: $35

Thank you Wonky Rhino Games for sending us a review prototype!

ZORP is a table top strategy game that utilizes fun weapons like flame throwers, grenades, cars, and bazookas against hordes of zombies that are blocking the way to a cure.  Up to four players can play and there are only nine turns for the humans to make it to the limited number of cures available.  One player controls the zombie hordes while the rest focus on clearing a path to the coveted cure.  

Each turn has two movement phases and one action phase and they can be taken in any order.  After all of the humans take their turn, the zombie master gets to move all of the zombies and play an event card if applicable.  The possible zombie events include super zombies, explosive zombies, zombies armed with slingshots, and resurrecting zombies.  

Humans have events of their own including the chance to mow zombies down with a car, throw a grenade, wear faster shoes for increased movement, gain an extra turn via a distraction or recruiting the help of a rescued human.  There’s a wide variety of weapons available at their disposal including bazookas, shotguns, flamethrowers, and pistols.  Each weapon does different damage amounts and has a unique firing radius.  Intentional or not, humans can be hurt by them as well.  In our play-through, my daughter shot me to slow me down and ensure her victory of reaching the cure first.  If nobody makes it to the cure in nine turns, the zombie master is declared the winner.

All of my kids enjoyed playing the prototype of this board game.  Because of the guns and possibility of leaving piles of zombie parts behind, this game is rated 12+.  I can’t comment on the final build quality, but the artwork of our review sample is nicely done.  If you’re looking for a fun and unique kind of board game, then ZORP is worth checking out on Kickstarter.

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My Many Sons

Thank you Well Go USA Entertainment for sending us this DVD to review!

My Many Sons tells the true story of Don Meyer (played by Judge Reinhold), the “winningest coach that nobody knew.”  In 2009 Don Meyer passed Bobby Knight’s NCAA winning record and held it until 2012.  Coach Meyer’s dedication and work ethic helped put Lipscomb University on the map and because of him, they were able to move up to division one basketball.  Despite the university offering to double his salary, coach Meyer refused to coach division one basketball since he was investing more into the students than basketball skills.  

Besides teaching the students valuable basketball maneuvers, he taught them to be accountable, respectable and to clean up after themselves and to pick up litter.  Like many coaches, Don threw verbal taunts like calling them numb nuts. No other foul language was used in this film though.  On a few occasions he got physical with them and had to apologize for his actions.  He was not an easy man to get along with and was known for culling the weak links from his team relatively quickly.  After his first month at Northern University in South Dakota, Don only had seven players left on his team!  

Though his team didn’t lose very often, they found out that coach Meyer took to their losses pretty well. He didn’t rub it in any further since they did a pretty good enough of a job to themselves.  Don promised to be there for his students when things got rough and he kept his promise.  During his near fatal car accident, his students return the favor and visited while he was recuperating in the hospital for nearly two months.  When he was released, he showed up at work the next morning! 

While not perfect by any means, Don Meyer was a faithful and self-less man that wasn’t shy about his faith and work ethic.  He has touched the lives of many and his story is a good one that’s worth seeing.  Even though I’m not into basketball, I enjoyed this sports-themed movie that tells a great story of perseverance.  This ninety-eight minute film can be yours for less than $12 on Amazon.

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Magic Sketch

Thank you Magic Sketch for sending us a review sample!

My kids love to draw and go through a lot of construction paper and scurry off with all the pens in our house.  Of course they like video games too and primarily use their tablets to play them.   The problem with tablets is that they don’t last too long before needing to be recharged again.  The Magic Sketch is a durable tablet like device that allows kids to draw, trace, and play games in beautiful rainbow colors.  There’s only one button on it and it’s used to clear the screen.  The battery life is estimated to last seven years and is easily accessible and replaceable.

There’s plenty to do with the basic bundle that includes sixty stencils, four styluses, three stamps, and one roller.   The website says it’s $29.95, but after you factor in the $7.95 processing and handling fees, the final total is $37.90.  For all that you get it’s a pretty good deal.

 

The stencils have three different focus areas including learning, drawing, and games.  The learning stencils include math problems and letters of the alphabet to practice on.  The drawing stencils have step by step drawing, complete the picture, and tracing templates.  The favorite among my kids are the game stencils.  The game cards include mazes, word finds, connect the dots, tic tac toe and hang-man templates.  The stencils are easy to use and slide in and out of the top layer of the Magic Sketch.

Even without the stencils there is still plenty to do on the Magic Sketch.  In fact, my kids spent most of the time drawing freehand and using the stamps, styluses, and roller that came with it.  I was honestly surprised at how much use the MagicSketch got given that my kids are getting older and two of them are in middle school.  My soon to be twelve-year-old played with it the most.  

The Magic Sketch is a great device that is bound to entertain kids of all ages for extended periods of time.  We’ll be sure to bring it on any upcoming extended car rides.  The reasonable price makes this an affordable gift that’s sure to please!

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In-Lawfully Yours

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us a DVD to review!

In-Lawfully Yours is a Christian themed romantic comedy that stars and is produced by Corbin Bernsen.  Not only does it have a unique love story, there’s a positive message about God’s love and redemption.  This is another Christian movie that pleasantly surprised us with some funny moments and a good story.

Upon receiving the news of her father-in-law’s illness, Jesse went to inform her husband, Charlie.   Once she tracked him down, she caught him in the arms of another woman.  Divorce paperwork and the death of his father soon followed.  Charlie’s mother, Naomi, takes the loss pretty hard as she lost her daughter six years prior.  Packing up and moving out of her mostly empty house is not something she’s looking forward to, but her son is pushing her so she can move in with him.  Prepping to leave this small town behind she starts packing her things with Jesse’s help.

Jesse is from New York and is not familiar with how quickly rumors spread around small towns.   Besides the humorous and unwelcome treatment she gets at the only restaurant in town, Jesse is also treated rudely when visiting the local church for the first time in her life.  She has many faith questions and learns the hard way that it’s not proper to interrupt the pastor during his sermon to ask them.  The pastor, Ben, is her widowed ex-brother in-law who still wears his wedding ring. 

At first the relationship between Ben and Jesse is awkward, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize that it has some potential.  However, before things get too serious Charlie comes back into town stating that he wants to fix his marriage.  Is Charlie truly changed, jealous, or is he up to no good?  To find out Charlie’s true intentions and the future of Ben and Jesse’s relationship, I recommend watching In-Lawfully Yours which can be yours for less than $15 on Amazon.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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Pup Star

Thank you Air Bud Entertainment for sending us a screener link!

Reality singing shows like American Idol and The Voice are enjoyed by many humans.  With the help of Evolution treats, dogs have gained the ability to talk, sing, and enjoy competing in their own singing show titled Pup Star.  The contestants must sing original songs and are judged by canine judges with similar names and personalities of their human counterparts.  The judges’ names are Blake Sheltie, Dog Gnarly, Lady Paw Paw, and Simon Growl.  There’s plenty of silliness in this tale of love, revenge, and perseverance.

Tiny is a Yorkie who loves her owner, Lou.  Sadly, Lou lost her mother recently.  Lou and Tiny sing together and encourage each other to follow their dreams.  Tiny competes in Chicago’s audition’s for Pup Star and gets the golden bone and a chance to compete in the finals that take place in New York City.  Lou has to get her father’s permission to take her there though.  Sadly, the trip planning gets postponed due to Lou running into a truck and breaking her arm and Tiny getting dognapped by Roland, the greedy owner of Happy Ranch kennel.  

In the kennel Tiny learns that Roland only releases dogs that have a reward on them and that if they’re not claimed within a year they’ll be put down.  A dog named Charlie is nearing his execution date but has an escape plan and begrudgingly takes Tiny along with him.  As Tiny and Charlie travel to New Orleans, New Jersey, and New York they learn about love, friendship, and infusing their experiences into the songs that they sing.

Charlie has a bone to pick with the current Pup Star champion, Bark, and wants to pay him back for stealing his music without giving him proper credit for it.  Along the way Tiny gets to meet Charlie’s love interest and her personal idol, Emily Rose.  With all of the help and support of friends Tiny has what it takes to dethrone Bark, but needs to get past Kano the bounty hunter that’s after her.  I’ll leave the rest of the movie a surprise as it’s worth checking out.

The music is cute and has many different styles ranging from country, rap (performed by Juicy J), to rock and roll.  The lip syncing/special effects are well done and the dogs do a nice job of dancing while performing.  

While Pup Star is family friendly, it’s worth noting that there are references to Hinduism, Buddhism, and one of the dogs has homosexual characteristics though it's not expounded upon. With that being said, there’s a far more positive message about rescuing dogs and loving them unconditionally.  

Currently Pup Star is available on FandangoNow and we highly recommend checking it out!  We double dog dare you!

 

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Peter: The Redemption

Thank you Cinedigm for sending us this DVD to review!

Many of us have lied or made mistakes before.  Fortunately for us, our misdeeds are not recorded in the Bible.  Luke 22:54-62 recounts Peter denying that he knew Jesus three times, just as Jesus predicted.  After Jesus’ resurrection He restores Peter by having Him affirm him three times in John 21:15-19.  The movie Peter: The Redemption depicts Peter living his final months in a Roman jail and refusing to confess to burning down the city under Nero’s rule.  Despite being given several opportunities to recant his faith, Peter holds firm and refuses to deny Jesus any more in his lifetime.  Unfortunately, several other Christians are persecuted and tortured as a result.

There are many bloody and uncomfortable scenes as Christians are seen getting beaten and bloodied.  For this reason, younger children should probably refrain from seeing this film.  Fortunately, the scenes with them being set on fire are not shown, but the screams of torture still hit home.  Many popular actors are in this ninety-minute film including John Rhys-Davies as Peter and Stephen Baldwin as Nero.  

Besides the story of Peter’s strong faith, there is a budding romance between a dedicated Roman soldier named Martinian and a palace servant, Suzanna, who is tending to Peter’s many wounds.  Suzanna is a Christian and is treading on thin ice as Nero detests Christians and enjoys using them as torches to illuminate his garden.  To make matters worse Nero takes a liking to her and his wife is extremely jealous.

I won’t spoil this movie, but unlike many Christian films out there, Peter The Redemption tells a good story about faith, love, forgiveness, and perseverance.   Not all of the believers keep their faith as some of the prisoners recant to regain their freedom.  However, others die for their faith and those strong Christians inspire unlikely individuals to become saved and get baptized in Jesus’ name.   

For less than $10 for the DVD, Peter: The Redemption is worth picking up.  Though there doesn’t seem to be a Blu-ray version available, the visual quality is surprisingly good for a DVD.  My husband and I were pleasantly surprised with the overall quality of this film and highly recommend it to believers and non-believers alike.

 


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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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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