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CORE Gaming Backpack by Mobile Edge

Thank you Mobile Edge for sending us a loaner backpack to review!

The CORE Gaming Backpack was successfully Kickstarted in September 2017, exceeding its $30,000 goal by $4! As of this review, the backers have received their products and most of them are satisfied with the results.

As an owner of a 15.6” gaming laptop it’s rather challenging to find a laptop bag big enough to fit my laptop let alone the accessories I like to tote around with it. Granted some of the items I carry around are not your typical fare, but I like to keep it all together if possible.

I’m happy to report that my laptop does indeed fit in the checkpoint friendly pouch. This is great for easy access and airport security checks. The fleece pouch for tablets is super soft and won’t scratch the screen unless you add something sharp in there along with it.

Core Gaming Backpack

There were some nice add-ons like a USB charging bank which I did not get to review, but this backpack does make it easy to charge accessories with its built in USB cable. Another add-on was a Samsung Gear VR. Again, this was not included with the backpack, but, my first generation Samsung Gear VR fit nicely in the middle pouch. While I was able to store my SteelSeries controller, Oculus Touch controllers and sensors, I could not get my Oculus Rift to fit inside the backpack with all of my other accessories. My current laptop bag can fit everything.

As long as you don’t need to carry a full blown VR setup, there is plenty to like in this backpack. The build quality is top notch. The rubberized grip on the metal reinforced carrying handle is both comfortable and sturdy. The gel lined backing and straps adds further comfort for long walks with a heavy laptop on your back. The shock absorbing straps seem pretty strong as well. Since we can’t keep this review sample, it’s hard to say how long it will last, but the overall build quality is quite good at first glance.

Core Gaming Backpack

In my attempts to squish my Rift in there I started to see some threads showing but that would probably happen with any item and I did not force the issue to avoid damaging my Rift or the backpack. If something were to happen to the CORE Gaming Backpack, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. On the Kickstarter page they seem to be very responsive to customer complaints and thankfully, a majority of them are satisfied with their products. One of the backers was having trouble fitting their 17” Asus RoG laptop in it, but I don’t have a laptop that big to confirm that. My 15.6” MSI fits great with some room to spare.

There are plenty of pouches for various accessories. I like the small memory storage units for SD cards. The Velcro front is rather strange for my tastes but it makes customizing the backpack rather easy if you have Velcro decals for your favorite games, sports teams, or sponsors. There is a Velcro free version available as well.

The price is very reasonable for this gaming laptop backpack. Early bird backers were able to get it for $75 with free shipping. Not so early backers were able to snag it for $89 shipped. Everyone else can get it on Mobile Edge’s website for $129.

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2017 Christmas Buying Guide

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most family friendly games we have reviewed in 2017. 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
Metroid: Samus Returns 92% 90% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns 86% 94% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Kid Tripp 80% 96% $3.99
Switch
Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Switch, Wii U)
98% 83% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 88% 98% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Puyo Puyo Tetris
(PS4, Switch)
88% 97% $39.99
Switch
Switch
Fast RMX 86% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Hover: Revolt of Gamers 94% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry 94% 94% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
20XX 90% 93% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two
(Android, iOS, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 87% $24.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Destiny 2 
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
96% 86% $59.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4

Cities: Skylines
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

94% 100% $49.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone 92% 87% $53.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Aven Colony
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 82% $29.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
86% 83% $12.99
  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
Seasons after Fall
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
88% 86% $19.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Aaero
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
86% 94% $14.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Ghost Blade HD
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
84% 87% $9.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Typoman Revised
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
82% 93% $12.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
GNOG (PSVR) 90% 93% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Darknet (Vive) 88% 86% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Sairento VR (Rift) 88% 85% $29.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
EVERSPACE (Vive) 86% 96% $29.99
Hardware
Hardware
Custom PS4 Controller N/A N/A $70+
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hebe M1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset N/A N/A $69.99
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hermes E2 7 Color Mechanical Gaming Keyboard N/A N/A $56.99
Hardware
Hardware
Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones N/A N/A $19.99

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What to look for in a gaming laptop

laptop

Buying a gaming desktop or laptop is a big commitment. However, if you get a machine powerful enough, it can provide years of entertainment. Desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade so if you don’t need portability, you can get more machine for your money that way. No matter which route you go, the advice in this article is applicable for both systems.

Generally speaking, with gaming laptops, you have the classic 'pick two' rule: Power/Specs, Size/build quality, Affordability - pick two. The slimmer and lighter something is, the less powerful - unless you are willing to pay more for it. There are relatively affordable gaming laptops that are significantly less expensive than the thin and powerful variety, but they are usually an inch thicker or more. It's only on the very high end where no matter how much you spend it won't be thin (like SLI video cards and such).

All system types discussed herein are assumed to be Windows computers. Macs can play some games, as can Linux, but they are sadly limited. And while Linux can actually use much of the same hardware as Windows, so most of this guide still applies (with the caveat that OS and hardware support is all on your own), you are still limited on game selection (though you may learn other useful technology skills!). On Mac, you are limited to the maximum of a midrange gaming GPU - for their top of the line Macbook Pro prices. Typically, I would say that people who purchase Mac computers do not or should not choose them with primarily gaming in mind. This is something that Apple Corp. has simply chosen to ignore; they do have the power to fix it if they so choose. Instead, Apple has pre-chosen size and build quality as their sole focus, which is dandy, but they do not make gaming capable laptops, and what they do offer is extremely expensive.

The first step in purchasing a gaming machine is to determine your budget. Faster machines are more expensive and there is no way around that. Most laptops come with Intel graphics but if you want to do some serious gaming, you’ll have to pay a premium for AMD or Nvidia graphics. If you plan on doing VR with your system, you’re going to want a GeForce GTX 1060 at least. Anything faster is, you guessed it, more money.

Another thing to consider is current year vs. previous models. Generally the rule I follow is that it's okay with CPUs, but tread carefully when comparing last generation GPUs. While in principle older models are okay and a decent compromise if the price is right, realize that each new GPU model year, especially when there is a new process node or architecture, dramatically decreases power usage while simultaneously increasing performance. For example, the NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB is in most cases more powerful than the GTX 980M - and uses far less power doing it, at a much better price to boot. The GTX 1070+ naturally blows the doors off of anything available in the mobile space before.

The best resource available, when comparing notebook graphics chips, is this tool from notebookcheck.net:

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benchmark-List.844.0.html

As you can see, at the time of this publication, NVIDIA owns the high end space, and it's been that way for several years.

When it comes to the CPU, newer models are still better, but not nearly as dramatic as it is when comparing GPUs. For example, the Intel i7 6700HQ is only about 200-300MHz difference between that and the newer i7 7700HQ. There is a difference, but it's not worth spending a lot more for, though at similar prices, obviously get the newer one.

When it comes to gaming, the priorities are GPU first, then CPU, then RAM and storage. You would want no less than 8GB of RAM (and 16GB is better). More is not necessary. I highly recommend a SSD drive for the OS, but that can sometimes come later as an add-on if you are technical enough to clone it there, though it should be standard on any laptop >$1000. There are other considerations, like whether you hope to hook up the computer to external monitor(s) or not, or whether built-in speaker sound quality is important to you or not.

For the record, almost all gaming laptops lack a touchscreen.

Generally, the price to performance brackets go somewhat like this:

<$800: There are significant compromises. Typically you only find integrated video for less than $800, or last year's models of dedicated GPUs. AMD has the brand new Ryzen Mobile CPUs, and they are quite competitive. They seem like a good compromise platform for lower priced systems, though laptops with NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPUs would be slightly faster, if you can find one in this price range, though they often only have 2GB of video ram, which impacts higher resolution gaming. Intel integrated GPUs work okay these days, but are generally to be avoided for a primary gaming PC. (As a companion to a gaming desktop, they can be quite decent, however.) If they have a GPU at all, they will likely come equipped with an i5 CPU, which is a very reasonable compromise to reach that price point, and if this is your budget, go for that.

As a general rule, games will run:
Intel Integrated: low settings only.
AMD Integrated: low to medium settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB GPU: medium settings

These recommendations generally assume a 1080p resolution (1920x1080), though honestly, integrated video (both Intel and AMD) will have a much better experience with less than a 1080p resolution, as even some games at the lowest settings aren't playable at 1080p, or simply will not work at all on any resolution if the computational requirements are too high, especially on Intel. This is why, generally speaking,

$800-$1000: This is probably where the best price to performance gaming laptops are. Almost all have i7 CPUs (with the occasional i5), and most have NVIDIA GTX 1050s, 1050TIs, or the occasional 1060 on a good sale. For the record, I would choose an i5 CPU with a 1060 over an i7 with a 1050 (either version) any day of the week. AMD GPUs in this price range do exist, but are pretty rare. Most of the laptops with 1050s are a bit thinner, but not thin and light. If you want something with these GPUs that are thin(ner) and light, add several hundred dollars.

NVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB version: medium to high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti 4GB: mostly high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB version: mostly high settings (there is a case to be made for 1050Ti over 1060 3GB... and vice versa too)
NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB version: high to ultra settings; performs well in VR.

$1000-$1300: This is pretty much the exclusive range of the i7 with NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or 1060 6GB. These should perform comfortably in most games at 1080p. They often come with a bit more 'bling' at this price range, with things like G-Sync screens and extra DisplayPort outs, for multiple monitors. These are the big and heavy gaming laptops, not the thin and svelte ones. Automatically add several hundred dollars if you want thin.

Up until this point, I have assumed that we are talking about playing games on the integrated 1080p screen. None of the above GPUs will work well at 4k, and only the GTX 1060 6GB is acceptable for entry level Virtual Reality (VR). Generally speaking, VR compatible gaming laptops demand much more from the system itself, the thermals, and naturally, the GPU. You may find switchable graphics on the 1050 model laptops; once you enter the VR ready space, this disappears, as VR requires a direct connection to the GPU, which switchable graphics, which tend to optimize for battery life, cannot provide.

Three USB 3 ports and an HDMI 1.4 (or DisplayPort 1.2+) connection are required for VR. Thunderbolt 3 is nice to have since that allows you to connect an external GPU to your laptop at some time in the future if you choose. Not all gaming laptops have these, even if they have USB 3.1 ports. Read the specs carefully!

From here, you have the higher end. If you plan on driving a 1440p external monitor, you can probably get away with a GTX 1060 6GB, but a GTX 1070 is much better here. If you are not going to enjoy VR with your laptop, and you only stick with a standard 1080p screen, then a GTX 1070 is almost certainly overkill. If you are going to play extensive VR or move up to a 4k screen, then a GTX 1070 is practically a bare minimum. 4k gaming is very taxing on the GPU.

$1300-$2000: This is typically NVIDIA GTX 1060 or 1070 territory. One of the only stores to buy a laptop with a GTX 1070 at less than $1500 is at a Micro Center. They currently are selling on one sale for $1299; suffice it to say I count my blessings being able to drive to one. (At our house we have two laptops with GTX 1070s inside thanks to our local Micro Center.)

NVIDIA GTX 1070 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Medium to high settings at 4k. Performs excellently in VR.

$2000+: This is the high end, and prices can get pretty crazy. There is everything from thin and light notebooks with 1070s to huge fat SLI desktop replacements. These are no holds barred, but I have a hard time justifying the price personally (as at that point you can get a desktop and a 1060 gaming laptop and come out ahead).

NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Mostly high settings at 4k, but not ultra. Performs excellently in VR.
NVIDIA GTX 1070/1080 SLI: Yup, it's fast.

Optical drives are not standard issue in laptops anymore. Since many games and applications are digital these days, chances are you won’t miss the DVD/Blu-ray drive that much. I do recommend picking up an external drive for the rare moments you’ll need it.

Depending on the size of the laptop you’ll be considering, there may be room for two hard drives. The ideal configuration is having an SSD for booting up your operating system and frequently used apps the fastest and a standard spinning drive for data storage. SSD drives are great but costly in comparison to mechanical ones. Thankfully, this is a pretty standard configuration for most gaming laptops over $1000.

If you want to use your laptop as a desktop replacement or only computer, consider how many video out ports there are. HDMI supports only a single monitor, so if you want two or three, that option will not work. If you would like more, look for laptops with either several video ports on the side, or ones that support DisplayPort MST, which allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors off of one DisplayPort connector. This can also be in the form of a USB 3.1 port, as long as DisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 3) is wired internally. This is how I run two monitors off of my laptop with only one cable.

There are some ways to save money on laptops. If you time it right, you can buy the previous model as they are being phased out by the latest and greatest. Another option is to buy an open box. Before spending any money, check the return policy. As gorgeous as some screens are, many may have some dead pixels. Thoroughly check your laptop for any defects before the return period is up. If possible, open up and power on your laptop at the store to spot any noticeable dead pixels or defects.

Once your machine is purchased, keep an eye on the price for any changes. Some stores will refund the price difference in your favor if it changes within fourteen days of purchase.

I find that the best way to get a great deal on a gaming laptop is to check out a local Micro Center if you have one, and/or check out slickdeals.net. At the time of this writing, there are some killer gaming laptops on sale, being the beginning of Christmas shopping season. If you are lucky or keep an eye out, you can often find fantastic deals.

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Undertale: Strings of Determination

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

I reviewed Undertale shortly after its 2015 release date and this game continues to stay popular, with many kids still talking about and playing it. I can see why since it’s a fun game. While I did beat the game once, I haven’t had the time (or determination) to revisit the other endings. What impressed me most about Undertale was the wonderful soundtrack composed by the very same game developer, Toby Fox. Although the game was gifted to me, I purchased the soundtrack and Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition as well. As great as those are, I truly feel that String Player Gamer’s digital album, Undertale: Strings of Determination, is the definitive soundtrack to buy if you have to choose one. Of course, I recommend picking up all three!

The violin and guitar work is top notch and the production quality is as good as it gets. The songs don't stray too much from the original soundtrack, but the instrument work really does stand out. In total, there are forty-six songs and they are all well done. All of the tracks are arranged by Diwa de Leon and the song ‘Temmie Village’ has a guest acapella singer, Tera Catallo aka TeraCMusic on YouTube. It’s hard to believe that this album was made by a couple of people!

The asking price is a very reasonable $14 and this album can be listened to and purchased on BandCamp, Spotify, and on iTunes. Before this complete album was released, String Player Gamer released four Undertale volumes so if you only want a few of the songs, that’s a cheaper option. Each of the volumes cost $6 so getting the complete set is still a better deal. I now consider myself a fan of String Player Gamer’s work and will continue to follow and look forward to his future masterpieces.

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Our Experience At GDEX

The GDEX was our second conference and it was much bigger than Gamer Grace. We enjoyed our stay in Ohio and felt at home there. I arrived on Friday and got our booth set up as much as I could given the 30-minute unloading time limit and lack of power. Since I had some time to kill before I could check into the hotel, I decided to try some local cuisine and was introduced to fried corn nuggets - those were yummy! Once checked into the hotel, I was planning on utilizing the swimming pool, but some kid threw up into it and it was closed for a few hours. Despite some obnoxious neighbors and kids in the hotel (not mine), I did manage to get some much needed sleep until Jay arrived at 12:30am. Thankfully, on Saturday we had enough time before the doors opened to the public to finish setting up our laptops and Oculus Rift.

Even though they had a nice VR exhibit with several games, our VR setup got a fair amount of use on Saturday. On Sunday, the attendance in the exhibitor hall was much lower and it was only used once or twice that day. I don't know how many people attended the seminars but the exhibitor hall didn't seem to have 4,000 people as advertised. On the other hand, the classes were scheduled back to back and didn't give guests much free time without sacrificing a class to attend.

The GDEX

One highlight of the conference was meeting one of our reviewers, Gamer4Christ, there. Until this year, she never heard of GDEX! We also met a couple of developers (Hullbreach Studios and Schell Games) whose games we have reviewed (and they were still happy to see us!).

There were a lot of exhibitors present and many promising games being shown. Some charities like Extra Life and Able Gamers were there as well. We were not the only gamer reviewers present and we handed out plenty of business cards and made some new contacts. Our review queue has grown because of this conference! That’s a good thing though as many of these games are family friendly and deserve to be promoted.

Many Christians stopped by our booth and offered appreciation and encouragement for what we're doing. We were not the only Christian exhibitors as representatives for The Bible Project were two booths down from us. Some of the game developers we got to know are Christian too!

The GDEX

Our biggest goal at this convention was promotion and awareness. So many people stopping by our booth did not know that we existed! Many of our business cards were taken and people wanted to tell their pastors/priests about our ministry. Despite a few Bibles being returned with (broken) promises of picking them up later, we still gave away about a dozen to good homes. We didn’t want to force them on people and we hope and pray that the people who took them are blessed by them.

Although we didn’t sell any shirts or action Bibles, I still consider this conference a success. I’m smacking myself for forgetting to bring the bumper stickers that we have. In the end, it was great interacting with the gaming and game development community. I look forward to returning next year, Lord willing.

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Battle Princess Madelyn First Impressions

The way of the knight is a path of honor, duty, and cute graphics. At least that's what it is according to Battle Princess Madelyn. This knight in training and her kingdom fall under siege to the forces of a cruel wizard. With her ghost dog Fritzy, fight, jump and bite your way to saving your kingdom.

The first thing this game says is that it is heavily inspired by the Ghosts and Goblins franchise, and this is true in every step down to the way Madelyn runs. While she tosses spears, she can either have her dog shoot balls of energy to stop her foes or she can channel his power to charge at enemies to devour them whole. 

The first impressions are great so far. The story isn't trying to be some deep and complicated trek into Madelyn's world and yet I was invested into the introduction of the game. The combat was simple, but it felt satisfying and fun. My spear wasn't too weak and the trusty ghost dog didn't make the enemies in my way super easy. The artstyle is visually pleasing; people may say doing retro graphics is a lazy indie trope, yet the team behind Madelyn worked hard to make sure the world pulls you in. 

The most important aspect of these sorts of games is the challenge. Despite my own experiences with Ghosts and Goblins, I had a hard yet fair adventure with Madelyn. The enemies were paced well, I didn't get to a point where I felt I could just rush through the game. The enemies were varied and unique. This game doesn't suffer from “enemy recolor number 1000” syndrome. I started my journey with Madelyn in a unkempt graveyard. I had to climb through an Underground Mausoleum and it ended with a boss battle with a giant skeletal knight. When a game is challenging, the satisfaction of beating a level or a boss is all the sweeter. 

I can't completely critique a game that is far from finished so I’ll talk about what should be improved or what I hope stays strong. The music for the first few stages was not what I’d call memorable. While the artstyle pulled me in despite being based on retro graphics, the old school music just didn't do the same thing for me. I hope that the rest of the tracks are more immersive as the game progresses. While the enemies were varied in my playthrough of Madelyn, I hope this stays true throughout the game's development. Recolored enemies can make or break a game; that's why I hope enemy design remains unique throughout the levels. 

Morality wise, you'll see themes of necromancy, and evil magic being used against this girl. Some people may also be bothered by the idea of her loyal friend coming back from the dead with the same evil magic. Though it could also be seen as a pure dog willing to help the hero. From the preview build, Madelyn didn't use any magic herself, this may or may not change. Though as it is now, I have a feeling that this game will be for most people.

I have confidence in Madelyn's development team; I have a feeling it will join Ghost and Goblins in my yearly halloween knight charity run. Best of luck to Casual Bit Games.

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Nintendo Switch Event impressions

For being a loyal My Nintendo member, I was offered two tickets to attend the Chicago Nintendo Switch demo event.  My husband and I planned on going without our kids since tickets were limited.  Thankfully, 360 PR was able to let us bring our three kids along and they had a blast testing out the upcoming console and launch titles with us.  The turnout was good, and I’d guess that there were three hundred or so people there.  The staff members were easy to identify with their red Switch shirts and warm smiles.  They were also very knowledgeable about the game demos and were happy to teach and assist if you got stuck in a game. 

Out of all of the launch games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the most in demand and you had to grab game session tickets to schedule your twenty-minute play session.  Headphones were provided to help drown out the loud electronic dance music that the DJ was playing, as well as the substantial crowd noise throughout the event.  I really enjoyed my time with the game, though like many open world games, twenty minutes was barely enough time to get a good feel for it.  I was very impressed with the art style, the beauty of the world, and how much there is to do.  The clearly less than 1080p pixels on TV was rather annoying, but you do get used to it.  It looks gorgeous on the small Switch screen.  Combat was also fun, and there is a lot of variety as well.  You constantly pick up new weapons either found outside, or as dropped loot.  Items, including weapons, wear down and break, which is a bit of an adjustment from previous games.  Arrows also seemed hard to come by, but I can understand that given how powerful they are.  I definitely look forward to playing this game more once we get it, since we pre-ordered it along with our Switch.  

Some classic games like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers and Sonic Mania added retro feels, but didn’t show off what the new console system was capable of doing visually.  ARMS was fun and looked good on the flat screen TV/monitors we played it on.  I thought it was one of the highlights of the show, but it's hard to say if it is worth full price, since it's somewhat of a one trick pony.  Some games like Splatoon 2 were playable on TV/monitors as well as the Switch itself.  In all honestly I was disappointed with the pixelated visuals of this title on the TVs there and while there are new weapons, I don’t think it’s different enough to warrant buying it at full price.  On a positive note, this did spark some interest in our kids playing the Wii U version we already own.

Super Bomberman R is a challenging co-op game that allows up to eight players.  The CPU players are pretty formidable and they won more matches than the humans did.  I wouldn’t mind owning this game, but I’ll be waiting for a sale on it.  

Another game I enjoyed was Fast RMX which is a fun racing game that adds a color matching element to change the color of your car’s exhaust to take advantage of speed boosts.  If your car is the wrong color, it will slow you down instead!  The graphics were decent in it but didn’t blow me away.  The local four player multiplayer is fun, and if you’re online, you can race against eight players.   

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe looked well polished, though I only got to play it on a hand-held screen.  I do look forward to checking it out on a big screen.  This game is still a blast to play and the included DLC and added levels and characters make this title worth picking up, especially if you missed it on Wii U.

My son enjoyed playing Skylanders Imaginators and like the Wii U, the controller base has an IR reader for importing your favorite Skylander characters into the game.  One of the games that did not resonate with me was Has Been Heroes.  I enjoyed the row-based combat from Grand Kingdom, but the way this game implemented it didn’t seem to click with me.  

Skylanders 

One of my favorite games I played with my oldest daughter was Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!  It’s been a while since I got a good laugh from playing a game with someone.  In this puzzle game you must cut the paper based characters to rotate and fit into specified shapes.  This game requires good team work, communication, and accuracy when cutting.  Just when I was getting close to getting my daughter into the proper shape she’d snip me and I would have to start over to do my part.  This title will be available for $19.99 and I’ll be picking that up as soon as our Switch arrives.

The whole family got to play 1-2 Switch and thought that it was okay.  It had a guessing game where you and your partner had to guess how many balls were inside of a box.  Whoever was closer to the correct amount would win or in our case resulted in a draw since both parties were off by one.  The cow milking simulator was fun to watch as a bystander and the winner is determined by who can get the most cups of milk from the udders.  My husband and I faced off in a Western style shooting match and I shot my hubby down first.  No blood is shown, just the shadow of the loser kneeling before the winner.  I like how the speed in milliseconds is shown at the end.  While this game is alright, I’ll wait for it to hit the bargain bin before purchasing it.  (I still think this would have been a perfect pack-in title.)

We got to check out some games that we anticipate getting review codes for since we’re on good terms with Ubisoft, NIS America, and SEGA/Atlus.  I’m happy to report that I earned a score of 5 stars in Just Dance 2017 to Joan Jett’s 'I Love Rock N Roll'.  Puyo Puyo Tetris is a fast paced and fun mashup of those two games and it switches between them every ten seconds.  Sadly, the CPU whooped me.  I had fun though, and that’s what counts.  Disgaea 5 Complete looks sharp with modern visuals, along with fairly revealing outfits when it comes to female attire or lack thereof.  While the gameplay is fun, I really am spoiled by the accuracy of a mouse from playing PC ports of the first two games.

Puyo Puyo Tetris 

Stay tuned for more in-depth reviews from us as we get to spend more time with these games after they are released.  I’m looking forward to the arrival of our Switch!

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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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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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Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids

Thank you Quartous for sending us this book to review!

Like many kids, my children enjoy building all sorts of things in Minecraft.  It’s a great outlet to encourage creativity and to interact and work with each other to create enormous structures.  If your family is new to Minecraft, the Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids book will go through the basics and will provide guides on building projects both inside and outside of the game.

My son learned how to make a TNT cannon and both him and my daughter also made flags and banners inside the game.  I like how the home projects correlate with the in-game ones.  To accompany these labs, my kids also learned how to make a marshmallow launcher and a Creeper face banner.   To go along with setting up a target practice inside of the game, my kids learned how to make a bow and arrow using wet popsicle sticks, dental floss, and Q-tips.  (I kept finding Q-tips throughout my house for a few days afterward.)

Minecraft is about survival and that entails foraging for food to eat.  One of the final labs gives a recipe and instructions for making mushroom stew to enjoy outside of the game.  If your kids are like mine and not a fan of mushrooms, they may prefer the cookie lab found earlier in the book instead.    Some other labs include making a simple circuit with an LED and a watch battery, or a Chinese finger trap to go alongside the in-game zombie trap.

There are lots of great ideas and fun projects to enjoy together as a family.  This book was a hit over spring break when the weather wasn’t nice enough to play outside.  The book will retail for less than $24 on Amazon when it comes out in June 2016.


(Amazon Affiliate Link)

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5 Reasons to Play Slither.io

slither.io

Fresh on the heels of Agar.io is a new, exciting multiplayer game: Slither.io. Challenging for casual and advanced gamers alike, Slither.io is one of many free titles available at Poki.com. It's essentially a highly competitive and fun multiplayer version of Snake. Below, we've outlined five of the best reasons to play Slither.io.

5. It Really Is Free
Not every "free" game is truly without cost. Many of the most popular online games are free to play, but inundate gamers with invasive advertisements. Or, all too often we start a game at the beginner level, and have a difficult time progressing due to competitors that have paid for upgrades and special abilities. Slither.io doesn't incur any of these issues, because it's completely free, and there's absolutely nothing to pay for. Everyone is on an even playing field.

4. Quick to Start
Slither.io is a casual multiplayer game. By casual, we mean that every player can begin a game within seconds. When you're done playing, simply close the game or your browser, and start fresh next time. There's no lengthy registration process or progress to save. There aren't any introduction videos, cutscenes, or ending credits. Slither.io is one of the most convenient games to join and leave whenever you wish. That's why it works great on desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices alike—try Slither.io and see.

slither.io

3. Easy to Grasp
There's nothing more frustrating than reading a game manual, memorizing complex controls, and losing because you accidentally pressed the wrong button. Slither.io has an extremely simply control scheme and practically no learning curve. During the game, your snake will follow your cursor. Point the slithering reptile in any direction, and it will go there. For a quick speed boost, simply click and hold—that's all there is to it. This type of one-button gameplay is the key to attracting all types of players. Young, old, casual, and hardcore gamers can master the control system instantly.

2. Healthy Competition
Multiplayer games are extremely popular because they bring people together. In Slither.io, there are no teams, but everyone shares the same arena. Every second of gameplay is shaped by individual players. Certain parts of the map may be inhabited by gargantuan snakes, and other sections may be filled with smaller, more defensive snakes. Each player chooses where they want to go and with whom they interact. The always-visible leaderboard is a constant reminder of how you currently compare to other gamers. Jump into the competition, and feel the joy of thriving!

1. Fun, Fun, Fun
The best reason to play Slither.io is for sheer entertainment. It's an undeniably fun game that uses simplicity as a vehicle for addictiveness. Crawl, eat, slither, and grow. The bigger you become, the more you have at stake. Sometimes it takes a minute to climb the ranks, and other times, well, it just doesn't happen. The most important thing is that you have fun trying. Be the best snake you can be in Slither.io!

 

Disclaimer: This article has been provided by one of our donors - Poki.com

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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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