Tag Archives: gaming

Dixit – Wonderfully Whimsical Wordplay

One thing I like about modern board games is the sheer variety available. After getting more into the hobby a year or so ago, I started researching what kind of games were out there and I was amazed to see there are now literally thousands of new board games released each year. The last few years has seen a boom in board gaming, so this number is only increasing. This can be quite daunting when wondering what games to get, you are spoilt for choice! Also of course, of those thousands per year released, most aren’t amazing, and you couldn’t possibly have time to play them all anyway.

So, what do you do? Well, there are a couple of options: You could research on the net, there are a lot of great game sites with information and game reviews out there, my personal favourite being Board Game Geek. The main method I would choose though is to try and only buy games that you have played before, so you know you like. I found out about the game I will be writing about today in just this way. We played it at a relative’s and straight away it went on to our family game wish list. It is a unique, beautiful and fun game, and it is called Dixit.

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Some of the cards of Dixit

Dixit is, at it’s heart, a card game. It comes with 84 cards, and the first thing you notice when playing is that these are not your average cards. They are oversized, approximately double the size of your average playing cards, and each card has unique fantastical, whimsical, surrealistic, dream-like pictures printed on them. The images almost all have more than one element to them, and it is a pleasure just to look through the cards the first time you play! There is a board of sorts included with the game, but this is only to keep score.

 

The game itself is kind of a guessing game. Each player gets six cards. Each round, players take turns to be the ‘storyteller’. They pick one of their cards and say a word or phrase that the card reminds them of (without showing the card). The other players pick one of their cards that best matches this phrase. All of the picked cards are shuffled and laid out, and then the players guess which card belonged to the original storyteller. If the storyteller makes it too easy, and everyone votes for them, or too difficult, and no-one votes for them, they don’t get any points. In this way, the subtlety of the gameplay when you are the storyteller is to say a phrase that means some people, but not everyone, guesses your card. There is an element of luck to the game, as the other players may have cards which either fit the phrase very well, or none at all, but due to the clever way that the cards are designed featuring several similar themes, this is not an issue very often.

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This game was actually originally released about ten years ago. Since it has been very popular, and as is the case with a lot of board games, a lot of themed expansion packs have been released, and are still being made. Here are a few from Amazon, for example.  Each pack contains 84 cards with even more original and beautiful artwork, so can be shuffled in to the base game cards, or bought and played separately. The main base game of Dixit (pictured above) and Dixit: Odyssey contain pieces to keep scores. If you play other expansions separately, you would just need a paper and pen for this.

I have played Dixit with different groups of people, including young kids and adults, and it has been enjoyed by all. Younger players may find it a bit more challenging to think of words that are not too easy for others to guess, but they should still enjoy it.  The game actually changes depending on who you play with, as different vocabulary and shared life experiences may change the clues you give so this allows for good replayability. I would say that this fact, the unique concept and the beautiful art style, make Dixit a fine addition to anyone’s board game collection!

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Switch and Snipperclips!

The Switch is Nintendo’s newest games console. It has been on the market now for almost a year. As I have made it clear in previous blogs, I am a big fan of Nintendo, so I couldn’t resist this latest machine.

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The Switch in handheld mode

 

The main unique feature of the Switch, apart from the great Nintendo games on it, is that it is a hybrid hand-held and home TV console, and can ‘switch’ between playing on a TV to playing in handheld mode very quickly.  This gimmick, and the really high quality games released (most notably Mario Odyssey and Zelda: Breath of the Wild), have made it very successful so far.  Even in the first ten months of release, it has now sold more than Nintendo’s previous console, the Wii U, did in its 5 years on the market.  This also reflects on the poor marketing for the Wii U, but in any case, the Switch is a fantastic console and if you are looking for a new gaming machine, especially for a family, this should be at the top of your list.

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Switch docked in TV mode

 

One of the reasons I like the Switch is that the main controller can be fixed to the side of the console, or separated into two parts, and this makes it instantly ready for two player games out of the box.  This makes it great for family/friends game time, and there are already a lot of games out that utilise this feature, such as Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey and Puyo Puyo Tetris.  One game that I feel uses the multiplayer aspect to great effect is the ‘couch co-op’ game Snipperclips, and so to continue the co-operative theme from last week, the rest of this post will be about that!

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Snipperclips is a smaller sized ‘indie’ game that was released at the same time as the Switch and it was published and promoted by Nintendo at the time.  There are a few side minigames to it, but the main part of the game is a series of puzzles played with two U shaped characters, apparently called Snip and Clip.  They can move around and jump, etc. just like in a normal platform game, but they can also snip parts of the other one’s body out to change their shape.  They do this by overlapping their body with the other player, then pressing a button and the overlapping part is snipped off.

The snipping mechanic is pretty unique among computer games, and it is this that is used to solve the many puzzles that the game presents.  Each level is essentially a single screen puzzle.  There are a lot of variations to what you need to do in each level, such as: cutting yourselves out to fit in a dotted line shape, playing basketball, popping balloons, helping a flower to grow, and many more!  There are well over 50 levels in total and they are all presented in a clean and cute styled background, with a theme that changes for each world, or group of levels.

 

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Basketball!

The game can be played with one player switching between the control of each character, but the main fun to be had with this is playing with another human.  there are even a few four player levels available, if you have enough controllers!  Since you both need the other player to snip you into the right shape, and the answer to the puzzles are not always obvious, a lot of communication and co-operation is required to pass each stage.  Obviously this doesn’t go without the inevitable arguments!  I think this just enhances the enjoyment of a game compared to a single player one, so this is a big plus point for me.

I would say that if you own a Switch this is an essential purchase.  it provides a lot of entertainment, the price is reasonable compared to a big AAA game such as Mario, and it is a really good demonstration of the unique two player ability of the console.  At the very least, it is worth downloading the free demo, which contains the first few levels.

That’s all from me, next time, back to board games!

 

It’s Dangerous to Play Alone – Take Kids!

Hi everyone, I’m back! I haven’t written one of these for quite a while now, life has got in the way a bit recently.

Well, I say life, I mean gaming.

Well, I say gaming, I mean one particular game: Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

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I previously wrote in this blog about my love for the Zelda series in general and my anticipation for the latest title.  I can now say that this game definitely lives up to the hype, and I have been playing it almost every free evening for the last three months or so (a lot of free daytimes too!).  The sense of freedom and adventure, size and beauty of the game world and just pure fun of the gameplay is unparalleled. Another Nintendo instant classic!

One aspect of this game that I have particularly enjoyed is playing together with my wife and kids.  The kids are now getting to an age where they are starting to be able to play this kind of game by themselves (the youngest is 5), and it is great to watch them having a lot of fun with this one.  I know that a lot of parents are not gamers, but we really enjoy playing as a family and would recommend it to anyone, so I thought I would share a few of the things that we do when playing this kind of game with kids to ensure a great time is had by all.  These are just things that we do, I am by no means saying that we are experts and know everything.  Every family is different, and I am always open to suggestions from others!:

1. Be Inclusive

When playing games with more than one child, you need to appreciate that each one will have a different amount of desire to play a game, and especially with younger children, they may find it difficult to fully express that desire.  What I mean by being inclusive in this context is to make sure everyone’s voice is given a chance to be heard, everyone is in agreement about the choice of game, and everyone’s expectations about what they want to get out of the gaming session is known and acknowledged.  This can be quite difficult to achieve in practice, especially with younger children, but when it is achieved it significantly reduces the amount of meltdowns during and after the play session!

 

2. Be fair with rules/turns

Another thing to lay out before starting is the rules, especially the system of taking turns.  Zelda, for example, is a single player game, but if reasonable rules are established, there is no reason it can’t be played by a whole family (we do it!).  For this game, we normally play ten minutes each before passing the controller to the next person.  We literally time this using a timer on one of our phones.  This is a clear boundary that everyone can see and the children usually engage with it.  Our daughter in particular loves taking control of the timer, and ensuring that it is paused for cut-scenes when she isn’t technically playing!

 

3. Set clear play session length boundaries

This could be contained as part of the rules set at the start of play.  This also applies to a lot of parenting situations, but since console gaming is particularly engaging for a lot of children it is especially important in this case.  Children need to learn that play time cannot be indefinite, things such as food time, bed time, or other planned activities also exist.  Also too much screen time is just generally bad for anyone, children and adults alike.

It is important to let them now before they start playing how long this session will last.  Since they generally forget things very quickly, this will also need to be reminded to them in the middle of the session, and definitely when there are only 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes left.  As long as they know the boundaries all along, they generally accept the situation, at least they accept it a lot better that you just saying “Right, turn it off NOW” at the end and pulling the plug!

4. Ensure play is age appropriate

So, there are a lot of computer games in the world now, and they clearly aren’t all appropriate for children.  The first step when choosing a game to play with kids is to check the age rating.  This is normally clearly displayed on the front of the box.  If you are going to let the kids play by themselves, don’t let them play a game too old for them!

After saying this, I am now going to sound hypocritical, since the age rating for Zelda: Breath of the Wild (at least in the UK) is 12, and my kids are all under 10.  I did not take the decision to play this with the kids lightly.  My wife and I played for several hours to evaluate the reasons the rating may have been given.  We also know the kind of things our kids are sensitive to.  Using this knowledge, we decided to let them play.  Zelda is an open world game.  There are a lot of different things to do, and a lot of ways to pass the story.  The reason for the 12 rating in the game is the violence.  The hero, Link has to fight off several monsters with a large array of weapons during the course of the game.  Since we had played the game ourselves, we decided that this violence was not something that we wanted to expose the kids to too much, but there were several aspects of the game that they would enjoy, such as horse riding, puzzle solving, cooking, exploration.  In this case they are allowed to play, but in a ‘low violence’ style, i.e. running away from inessential fights, and if there are enemies that need to be fought, such as end of level bosses, pass control to a parent (I myself have no problem carrying out this parenting service!).  The other important thing is that they are closely supervised when they are playing, and if any seem overly distressed, we stop playing and address the issue.

5. Relax and have fun together!

If you follow the above guidelines, the only thing left to do is to relax and have a great shared experience with your family!  This kind of activity for me is where you can experience beautiful moments, create beautiful memories, and just generally have beautiful fun!  For us this fun spills over well past the actual time playing the game.  We have several discussions about it, how we are going to play next time, what happened in the story, etc. The children demonstrate incredible creativity acting out their own imagined versions of the game, draw endless pictures of characters, real and invented, and everyone’s lives are just generally slightly more enriched because of it.

 

So, those are my tips.  Let me know if there is anything you do when playing with your family, and happy gaming!

New Zelda Excitement!

Just thought I’d write a quick post about one of my favourite game series, which seems to be lesser known by non-gamers – The Legend of Zelda!

There is a new Zelda game coming out tomorrow, for the new Nintendo Switch console (also out tomorrow), but the game is also out for the Wii U.  More on those consoles here!  it is called Breath of the Wild, and reviews so far are already calling it probably the best game ever made.  This is not a light statement to make, especially for gamers, who prize their own personal top ten games over anyone else’s, but among gamers the Zelda series is one which is much more than others on or near the top of most of their best games ever lists.

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The Zelda games are kind of their own genre.  They are mostly role playing, more or less open world, action adventure games, starring the hero Link (Zelda is the princess that Link has to rescue).  They have been around for as long as Nintendo have been making consoles, with the first one being released on the NES.  Although they are not quite as well known as Mario, they are one of Nintendo’s biggest game series, with at least one Zelda game released on each hand-held or home console (more or less..).

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Zelda: Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy

 

The first Zelda game I played was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy.  Even with its basic black and green graphics, the game still had the ability to immerse me in the fantasy world that it created and got me hooked for the series.  Since then I have played several other Zelda games and loved each and every one of them.

As for playing together, even though the games are single player, in the same way as watching a movie together, the Zelda games can absolutely be enjoyed with others.  I have played through at least half of the games with my wife, and that has only increased my enjoyment and given us an amazing shared experience.  With this new game I am extremely tempted to coordinate time off work with her so that we can spend a whole day immersed in the land of Hyrule together with no other distractions.

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Zelda: Ocarina of Time

 

Now I have kids, I have, of course introduced them to the series.  We are currently playing through the widely regarded best of all, the Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. We are currently on the water temple, and fans of the game will know that we may be there some time..  it is great to see them as excited as I was for this game when playing it for the first time.  Just about as excited as I am for this new game – The Breath of the Wild!

So here is a picture of my boy as excited as me!:

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