Mobile Mini-Reviews – With an Open Heart, Sharp Wits, and Neon Blood

One hill I am willing to die on is that mobile gaming gets much less credit than it deserves.

Don’t get me wrong. Much like other platforms like Steam where smaller developers can occasionally throw whatever they want into the marketplace with varying quality, it can take some sifting to find some of the gems hidden in the digital mineshaft. Even then, those gems are a matter of taste and might not appeal to everybody.

With much I use my phone in waiting rooms and while I’m trying to accomplish other things, I’ve come across a few games that met with some personal criteria I had set up- a defined ending, for instance- which I would love to share with folks who might be struggling to find some way to cut their teeth on the offerings at their fingertips.

HungryHeartsTitleHungry Hearts Diner: A Tale of Star-Crossed Souls
GAGEX Co., Ltd
Genre: Simluation
HungryHearts1In a small village just on the border of a large city in Japan in the Showa era, a diner sits steeped in antiquity and small-town conversation. The owner of the diner has fallen ill recently, however, so his wife has taken over the duties of cooking, meal planning, and keeping the diner in business for the locals. Every small town’s citizens have a story, though, and a small eatery is a perfect place for them to open up. After all, food can bring up memories and emotions just as well as any other stimulus can.

Taking the role of the elderly wife, your job is to keep people in your diner happy and fed while improving the diner and its menu. With particular customers, you will be able to suss out their favorite dishes and what food will help them open up, relating their stories and troubles to you in small cutscenes once their affection has risen enough. The more you create your available concoctions, you will also be able to create other dishes which will earn more money and cater to your clientele even more.

HungryHearts2At its core, Hungry Hearts is a ‘tapper’ game, which won’t appeal to everyone. The game does have the occasional option to watch an advertisement to gain more experience or money, but they can easily be skipped. It is free-to-play as a base, however, and the trappings only obscure the heart of the game underneath.

Where this game excels is in its stories, characters, and atmosphere. Hungry Hearts captures the village feel that it is going for with exquisite results. More than once, I felt a tug of emotion at the writing and interactions between the people of the town, many of whom have stories that interact with one another despite their not interacting directly. Each unique character has their own full story to be engaged with and the endings are almost entirely well worth the investment. In between stories, the game was also incredibly relaxing with an ambient soundtrack and charming visual style that I found myself addicted to.

If you don’t mind dealing with some of the usual free-to-play inconveniences and you need a game to wind down with, you would do well to seek out Hungry Hearts.

PartiaTitlePartia: The Broken Lineage
Imago Software
Genre: Strategy Role-Playing
Partia1
Taking place on the continent of Partia in the kingdom of Grana, you play as the younger of two princes slated to sit on the throne and rule over the people. The people of the land, however, clearly have their favored candidate of the two, whether it is the responsible and headstrong eldest or the slightly rebellious and more approachable second-born. Some of those people, however, will do whatever they must to ensure that their candidate of choice ascends to the throne.

With no qualms of being derived from the likes of Fire Emblem, Partia concerns itself more with political intrigue and strategic choices over knockdown brawls. Divided into chapters, the game takes you through the moves made by those who desire power as you gather a group of allies willing to fight by the prince’s side. Following the mechanics of Fire Emblem to a near-perfect T, characters level up, receive weapons with particular durability, and can be lost forever if they perish in battle.

Partia2The game isn’t without its obstacles. Without exploiting the arena in town between chapters, you will lose a lot of your allies so grinding is a bit of a must. The translation in the build I played was also a little choppy in areas, though easily navigable. The team has released patches since, however, so it may be a slightly different experience to play now.

What is to be commended is that the game captures the spirit of the early Fire Emblem games with a bit of an overhaul on the presentation side. The battle sprites are simple but effective, and the portraits and other art evoke the styles of games like Shining Force and the GBA entries of the Fire Emblem series. A lot of heart and passion for the genre appears in the short time you will spend with Partia which, as of this writing, rings in at $3.99 to purchase. There are also two sequels available, and while I’ve only just started the second game, improvements already appear to have been implemented.

MidnightShowTitleThe Midnight Show
Takster Games, LLC
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure
MidnightShow1It’s 1985. You’ve arrived at the Orpheum Theatre where some of the hottest new films are playing and the staff is way cooler than you’ll ever be. If you don’t feel like taking in a show, you could always hit the arcade and try to win some prizes from the crane game there. For such a rad looking place, though, it seems awfully empty. Something feels just a bit off about that, doesn’t it? Maybe if you look around a bit, you’ll figure out what’s going on and why you can’t seem to leave the way you came in.

I may be biased given my love of horror, the 80s, and point-and-click adventure games. The Midnight Show, however, was probably one of my favorite mobile games to get through and play. It unfolds like any other point-and-click game does, but with the in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek tone, it feels right at home with games like Maniac Mansion (which is has a great poke at) and other LucasArts adventures.

MidnightShow2If I had one qualm, it is a bit short. This isn’t a major issue, though, as it doesn’t overstay its welcome longer than it has to, telling a tight story with a few atmospheric moments and just enough puzzles to make you think and explore a bit to proceed. My “qualm” probably lies in the fact that I wanted a bit more of the universe once the game closed up shop. Call me selfish, I guess.

As with the other two games here, the presentation is strong. While I loved the visuals, the soundtrack is where the game really hooked me with some strong 80s synth that found me sticking around a bit longer in places than I probably needed to. If you’re a fan of the music of the era, you’ll be hard-pressed not to relish in the soundscape a bit. Kudos to Wice and ALEX, who are credited as the featured artists.

Looking at the game, I don’t see a price tag on it anymore so it may just be free to download- which is a steal for the experience. The Midnight Show is well worth the price of admission, however, price tag or not, and it should be checked out if you have any interest after reading this.

I play quite a few persistent games that I could easily recommend, as well, and may write a bit about them in a future post. Having a game that has a defined beginning and end can be tough to find in a quality package and an affordable cost. Hopefully, this will point out some options to folks who might not be fans of mobile games to give a chance to!

Have any recommendations or thoughts on these games if you’ve checked them out? Any feelings on mobile gaming you’d like to share? As always, drop me a line here in the comments or on Twitter!

The Big 150 and A State of the Blog Update

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First of all, to those of you who have just started to follow along here- welcome, thank you, and I hope you enjoy what you see!  Feel free to reach out through comments, e-mail (3pstartgaming@gmail) or on Twitter (@the3rdplayer) if you want to chat sometime.  If you’ve been around and/or already chat me up, thanks for that.  I’ve seriously enjoyed interacting with everyone I’ve gotten the chance to!

Recently, I was hanging out with my buddy, Alex (a.k.a ShoggothOnTheRoof) and our spouses when I took a glance at our review archive.  I enjoy looking at the list and seeing if anything sparks something to write about or play.  Then I thought ‘hey, I wonder how many games we’ve written about’.

Well, my math might be off but if I read it right, my last review brought us to 150 games that we’ve discussed- either in series overviews or in-depth reviews.  Since I started this blog a few years ago and brought it over to WordPress, I’ve been learning plenty and seeing what a fantastic community the video game blogging world can be.

Honestly, the last span of time working on this blog and witnessing what others are doing has been a trip!  I want to take a quick look back and forward, though, while I’m thinking of it.

Reviews in Retrospect

After looking through the list of games we’ve talked about, I picked a few that I’m either particularly proud of or that I think should be a fun read whether you’re new to 3PStart or just looking for a fun few pieces to pass the time:

Sweet Home – My first review I ever did for the blog and a criminally unrecognized forebearer of survival horror.  Despite being a Japan-only release, the translation brought it over to us and it became one of my favorite games- enough to prompt me into starting a gaming blog!

Zombies Ate My Neighbors – Constantly vying for my favorite game of all time with Final Fantasy VI, this review is probably the best example right now that I have of my writing when I’m head over heels for a work.

Phantasy Star IV – While I wrote about the first three fairly recently, ShoggothOnTheRoof wrote a fantastic piece on the fourth entry of the series before I dug into those.  Honestly, while he has some amazing pieces on here, I know about his passion for this game and it’s reflected in his piece.

Fire Emblem – An Overview – This series on Fire Emblem is more educational than subjective, but that’s another goal of mine: to educate on games, their histories, and their development.  If you’re at all wondering if you want to try Fire Emblem, this can hopefully help.

Where is 3PStart Heading?

First, I’m sure there’ll be more overviews and reviews.  Specifically, I’ve been working on continuing the overviews for Fire Emblem with some snippets here and there and writing about the next trilogy in the Atelier series.  There are at least three or four other games in the pipeline to write about so- I’m at no shortage of material.  It’s just a matter of writing it!

Ideally, I’ll be working to collaborate a bit more and either seek out some more contributors or maybe even contribute to some other projects, if I can.  I’ve really been digging some of the interactions I’ve been seeing and the community has been a creative lot.  I enjoy working with people and incorporating other folks’ opinions and ideas has been something I’ve been interested in from the get-go.

On a technical standpoint, I’d like to improve the site and add more ways to check out other blogs and projects going on.  I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, but once I streamline the blog a bit and create a few more directories and pages, that might be something that can easily be fixed (and I can share more of the work going on outside of 3PStart, too!)

Last, I want to help promote and celebrate positivity in the gaming community.  There are a lot of people working against the negative stereotypes that have grown regarding gamers and their attitudes.  People who enjoy gaming, analyzing the business and the games themselves, and generally enjoying their hobbies and passions with others- there are a lot of people who are doing exactly what this section of the pop culture community needs.  They are encouraging healthy discourse, constructive debate, and generally working toward making things less toxic.  I think these efforts are worth mentioning and I want to figure out ways to illuminate them.

So I guess in short- I’m glad I’m still working on this project, and I hope to get more out there so that my little corner of the gaming world can be a safe place for people to discuss games and learn a little something or reminisce.  I’m pretty happy with the direction I’m going in, and I’m glad to have folks along for the ride, as well.

Have a great week everyone!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Ryuji Thumbs Up

The Family That Games Together

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Not everyone can say that they have fond memories of gaming with their parents.  Based on the few replies on Twitter from a recent expression about my mother’s Animal Crossing achievements- I called to check up on the house and part of her response was that she just reached 50 million Bells in her bank account on the game- being able to game with your parents is a rare occurrence.

I hadn’t really thought about it, but I suppose it makes sense.  Most households where gaming was within the family seems to be either with siblings or as a hobby that their parents didn’t associate with.  I definitely gamed with friends, but until I was old enough to actually go to their houses by my own means, my parents were usually up for a game of some kind.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that in traditional stereotypes of the only child: I was spoiled.

My fondest memories of gaming with my mother go back to running through all of the Donkey Kong Country series together.  When I play them now, I realize just how good at gaming she had to have been because those games are not a walk in the park by any means.  The second game, Diddy’s Kong Quest, was probably the one that got the most play since she absolutely adored Diddy Kong, and I was a big Dixie Kong fan.  Thinking about that game transports me back to my room as a kid with vivid memories of sitting on the floor and staring up at the TV as we pushed through those games level by level.

There were a few other games that she really enjoyed (or humored me with as I enjoyed): she helped me through parts of Secret of Mana when she had some free time, enjoyed exploring Tomb Raider and its sequels once the Playstation era started, and Super Mario 64 was a family favorite.  She and my dad even went into the trenches with me with X-Men: The Arcade Game and The Simpsons cabinet (as I wrote about briefly in my arcade gaming history).  I have a close family, despite some of the usual differences that come up, and I think a lot of that was due to being able to share in hobbies and interests, gaming being a large part of them.

Gaming with my dad was a different experience, but it was still a bonding experience when we got the time to do it.  The sharpest memory I go back to with him was when we got the Nintendo 64, and the first game we played wasn’t Super Mario 64 like most kids.  It was Wave Race 64.  He commented on how awesome the intro was, realistic water effects and all, and we sank a ton of time into jetskiing around courses together and against each other.  Earlier in out gaming adventures, we spent a lot of time with NHL 95 on the Sega Genesis.  I don’t play a lot of sports games now, but I still have the urge to go back and play some of those because I remember how much fun I had with this when I was younger.  He was a big fan of racing games in general, so we had them in a bunch of different forms: Super Mario KartRoad Rash, and SSX Tricky making prominent waves in our household.

Lately, we don’t play a ton of games together and when we do, it tends to be remotely.  My husband and I played through portions of Fantasy Life on the 3DS with my mother, and every so often, we would visit her town in Animal Crossing.  My dad briefly got into the Wii craze when it first came out, but recently, he gave their system to me as a backup since they don’t play as often anymore.  Due to my parents not really being able to get out as often as they used to, my husband and I are always looking for games for my mom to check out, mostly in the vein of Animal Crossing and the old Legend of Zelda games.  My dad has pretty much played Candy Crush for months and that’s about all of the gaming he does now, but it works with his job to play in quick spurts so while I may feel like that particular game is- well, what it is- it makes him happy so I guess I can’t argue with that.

There are still plenty of memories to be had and written about, and I will probably jot them down as the mood strikes me.  Gaming really has the ability to bring people together, and while plenty of folks have made some of their best friends through gaming, I also managed to have it strengthen the bonds between my family members and create some pretty amazing recollections to come back to.

So how about you, folks?  Do you have any memories of gaming with your parents growing up?  If not, maybe you had some other family members who shared the same gaming bug that bit you just as hard?  Let me know and feel free to chat about it in the comments!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Let’s Think Positive! – A Retrospective on My Time with Gaming

Think Positive

Much like many people who would call themselves ‘gamers’ that I know, I have been bewildered by the assertion that video games consistently have a negative effect on people.  I’ve surrounded myself with people who list video games among their primary hobbies since grade school.  Sure, I faked sick a few times to play Final Fantasy VI or lost a day to (insert name of game here, as they’re plentiful), but I’ve primarily seen and witnessed the positive side to playing video games for as long as I can remember.

Please understand that I’m not blind.  I know that you can’t turn and take a step in the gaming community without at least seeing a pocket of toxicity within spitting distance.  That’s not foreign in any community, though, and that can extend outside of media related pastimes.  The truth of the matter is that volatility can be inherent anywhere that passion exists.  If the masses can access a piece of work, a concept, or even a political ideal, a multitude of emotions can spring forth, be they inspiration, satisfaction, or even vehemence.

I’d rather focus, for a short time, on the positive.  The positive effects that video games have had on myself and others I’ve interacted with throughout my life.  It’s definitely easy to say that without video games- and plenty of other ingredients, but bear with me since this is, after all, a gaming blog- my life would probably have gone into a much different direction with much different people and results, many negative or unfulfilling.

I invite you to take a quick digital stroll with me through some memories to reflect on some positive effects video games have had on me (yes, even some violent ones) and hopefully, feel free to share your own in some way!

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