Stardew Valley Review @ Teen Services Underground

Stardew Valley is a retro-styled farming game that first appeared on the PC in February 2016. Since then, it has also cultivated a large fanbase on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The serene simulation is the work of a single developer, Eric Barone, and it was hugely inspired by the Harvest Moon franchise.

Teen Librarian Dustan Archer recently spent quite a lot of time with Stardew Valley and published a review of the game for Teen Services Underground.

I think it’s safe to say that he highly recommends it:

Stardew Valley is an indie role-playing farming simulator, very similar in style to the Harvest Moon franchise. Even the graphics are a throwback, but they’re beautiful in comparison to older consoles. You start off on an old, poorly maintained farm and begin to craft a new life for yourself. You decide what you want to do with your allotment of time and energy every day – whether it’s farming, raising livestock, fighting monsters, mining ore, or building friendships with the rest of the village’s inhabitants. You can craft all kinds of items, grow various types of crops (many of which only grow in specific seasons), go fishing, get married and have children. Very little in the game is mandatory and it is totally open-ended as to how and when you decide you’re ‘done’, if ever.

[…]

Truly, this game captured me like no other in the last few years. I’ve spent over 100 hours on two separate playthroughs, and few games can get my attention like that. It has become my go-to game when I just want to relax after a long day, do something that doesn’t require too much thinking, and enjoy either the peaceful music in game or my own soundtrack that I play in the background. The community is fairly robust and friendly, and there’s a great wiki on the game if you want to look up hints and tips rather than discover things for yourself.

Barone is still working on Stardew Valley, and he’ll bring the game to the Vita in 2018, along with a multiplayer mode on all platforms.

Best of Gamescom 2017 Winners Selected by Gamescom Committee

gamescomEvery year, Germany’s Digital Gaming Culture Foundation (Stiftung Digitale Spielekultur) supervises the Gamescom Committee, a small group of journalists who choose the best games that were present at the Gamescom expo. The Gamescom expo is held in the Summer, and serves as the European equivalent to the Los Angeles-based E3 Expo.

While most of these titles are still in development, you should keep them in mind when you add games to your collection this Fall and into 2018.

Super Mario Odyssey was named “Best of Gamescom,” and the full list of winners and nominees can be found below. Continue reading

Sonic Mania Review @ School Library Journal

It’s hard being a Sonic the Hedgehog fan… especially in the last few years. The “Blue Blur” has always endured his share of ups and downs, but his most recent games might mark a low point for the franchise. Thankfully, Sonic Mania is here to save the day.

Teen Librarian Alanna Graves recently reviewed the game for School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox, and she thinks Sonic fans will love it, though teens might be put off by its difficulty:

I would recommend buying a copy for circulating collections, but it appears you can’t buy a disc version at the moment. If you purchased the “Collector’s Edition”, you pay $70 for Sonic statue, cartridge cast with a gold ring, collector’s box, and the digital code to download the game.

As for teen gaming programs, I recommend asking your teens. If they’re really into Sonic, then this might be a good choice especially because the game only costs $20 on online console stores.

Sonic Mania is currently available as a digital download for the PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy Review @ School Library Journal

The Crash Bandicoot franchise kicked off a new wave of platformers in the late 90s and helped put Naughty Dog on the map. But after Vivendi Universal took over the franchise in 2000, a string of middling-to-poor entries forced the franchise to go on hiatus after the release of 2008’s Crash: Mind Over Mutant.

But that was then, and this is now. Today, Crash Bandicoot has returned thanks to the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, a remastered compilation of the first three games in the series. Even though the original games are over 20 years old, Teen Librarian Alanna Graves highly recommends the N. Sane Trilogy in a review on School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox:

Crash Bandicoot is a 3D platform jumper where on some levels Crash has to run left to right and some are bottom to top. While players can simply beat the levels, each level has bonus items like gems for completing unique challenges like destroying all of the boxes in one life or a relic for beating the level under a time limit. I have forgotten how insanely difficult this game is, especially the first one! My favorite game in the trilogy is Crash Bandicoot Warped (the third one), because it adds more moves like double jump, belly flops, and BAZOOKAS.

[…]

This game is great for kids around 8+, families, and teens. I also think this game is great for grown ups like me who played the original in the 90s!

The Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is currently available only for the PlayStation 4.

Nintendo Will Release Super NES History Book Alongside Super NES Classic

Nintendo is teaming up with Prima Games to release a colorful history of the Super NES this Fall. Scheduled to be released alongside the Super NES Classic on September 29, Playing With Super Power: Nintendo SNES Classics will be available in paperback and in a special hardcover slipcase edition.

Featuring 320 pages of Super NES-fueled nostalgia, here’s what fans can expect from the book:

  • The Console: A nostalgic celebration and exploration of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in all its 16-bit glory.
  • The Games: Discover everything you’ve always wanted to know about some of the most beloved SNES games, including speedrun tips and little-known facts.
  • The History: Learn about the SNES development and the visionaries behind this groundbreaking console.
  • The Legacy: An in-depth look at how the SNES has left its mark on the gaming industry, and how its legacy continues.
  • The Memories: From family stories to fan art to merchandise and more, this book is a love letter to fans of the Playing With Super Power era!

Playing With Super Power: Nintendo SNES Classics is actually the second partnership between Nintendo and Prima Games. Last year, the two companies published Playing With Power: Nintendo NES Classics to coincide with the launch of the NES Classic.

A Weeklong Series at Waypoint Examines Gaming in Prison Libraries

Waypoint (the video game arm of Vice) has announced plans to publish “At Play In the Carceral State,” a series of articles this week about the intersection of gaming and prisons. It’s not a corner of the games culture that you hear much about, and part of their focus will be devoted to the way prison libraries play a role in giving inmates access to games during their incarceration.

Waypoint’s Editor-In-Chief, Austin Walker, laid out their mission for the series in a letter to the site’s readers:

When I’ve explained this series to people, one of the most common responses has been a sort of awkward bewilderment. Games and… prisons? Play and the… ‘carceral state’?

On first blush, they’re an odd pairing, but a closer look reveals that games are a natural locus for this contention. They are concerned with boundaries, limitations, and rules—the hand of cards you’re dealt; the empty energy meter that prevents you from using your powers; the invisible walls and infinite, uncrossable seas which border otherwise vast open worlds. Yet they also enable players to experiment, explore, and defy expectations as they respond to those limits. And it’s that tension where games are at their most powerful—perhaps even their most utopian.

The first article from “At Play In the Carceral State” is Inside the Gaming Library at Gitmo, America’s Controversial Military Prison, a look inside the Detainee Library at Guantanamo Bay by Muira McCammon:

Over the past 15 years, many detainees have requested and read books from the Detainee Library. Journalists have actively documented what titles appear on the shelves, and in recent years, the inventory has grown to include not only DVDs, but also PS3 games.

But the library remains a labyrinth, a facility full of thorny questions. This summer, Waypoint sent me to the Detainee Library, to figure out what happened to the games at Gitmo.

New articles will be added to the series all week.

Max Brooks’s Minecraft: The Island Novel is Now Available

Mojang teamed up with Max Brooks (the author of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide) to create the first official tie-in novel based on Minecraft. Titled Minecraft: The Island, the book is targeted at a younger audience and it’s available on store shelves today.

When writing Minecraft: The Island, Brooks found inspiration in classics like Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe to tell his own tale of survival and mystery:

Washed up on a beach, the lone castaway looks around the shore. Where am I? Who am I? And why is everything made of blocks? But there isn’t much time to soak up the sun. It’s getting dark, and there’s a strange new world to explore!

The top priority is finding food. The next is not becoming food. Because there are others out there on the island… like the horde of zombies that appear after night falls. Crafting a way out of this mess is a challenge like no other. Who could build a home while running from exploding creepers, armed skeletons, and an unstoppable tide of hot lava? Especially with no help except for a few makeshift tools and sage advice from an unlikely friend: a cow.

In this world, the rules don’t always make sense, but courage and creativity go a long way. There are forests to explore, hidden underground tunnels to loot, and undead mobs to defeat. Only then will the secrets of the island be revealed.

You can read the first chapter right now at Random House Books.

ALA Games and Gaming Round Table’s Report from ALA Annual 2017

gamesgamingroundtable

The American Library Association’s ALA Annual Conference traveled to Chicago this year, and there was quite a bit of discussion about games and gaming.

The ALA’s Games and Gaming Round Table highlighted some of the events as part of a report for the ALA’s Games In Libraries page:

This year’s ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, Illinois, was brimming with opportunities to experience and learn about games. The Games and Gaming Round Table (GameRT) started with Escape to the Library, a pre-conference about escape experiences and breakouts in the library. Attendees at this sold out event received an overview of escape rooms and breakouts, experienced three different custom breakouts, and received guidance in approaching the design process.

The Games and Gaming Round Table also looked at several other topics in their report. The ALA Play event, where game publishers and distributors demo their products, was a bit hit. As was Conference Sessions that discussed enhancing discovery of game collections and active learning through games. Sharing Sessions looked at “Teen Driven Game Programming” and “Using LibGuides to Promote Your Game Collection,” and a huge panel about “Tabletop Gaming 101” closed out the gaming portion of ALA Annual 2017.