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.
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.
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.
I’m sure you’re already very familiar with Mario Kart 8, especially if your library has a publicly-available Wii U console or a circulating collection of Wii U games. But Nintendo has decided to fill out the Switch’s launch window with an enhanced and updated version of the game known as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
I recently reviewed Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for Warp Zoned, and it’s safe to say the game is just as essential the second time around:
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe offers all of the same options as its original Wii U incarnation from 2014. Recognizing that many players who purchase Deluxe also owned it on the Wii U, Nintendo has unlocked all characters and courses from the get-go, as well as the 200cc Class and Mirror Mode. All the DLC content, even the Mercedes Benz Pack, is also included at the start, and Nintendo added more than a dozen new kart parts and five new characters (Splatoon‘s Inklings, King Boo, Dry Bones, and Bowser Jr.).
But all of this is just a prelude to the return of Battle Mode. Yes, Mario Kart 8 technically had a Battle Mode, but the jousting-style minigame was a huge disappointment, and I’m still baffled as to why Nintendo decided to do that to one of the franchise’s signature features. Thankfully, the Battle Mode in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe erases that horrible memory with multiple match types, all of which are exciting in their own way.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is an all-caps MUST HAVE for all collections, and it’s now available for the Nintendo Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has absolutely captivated gamers across the world since its launch on March 3. I’ve even seen some commentators go so far as to say that it’ll change the way we think about video games. But even if you haven’t upgraded to a Nintendo Switch, Nintendo’s newest console, you can still give the sprawling RPG adventure a shot on the Wii U.
Teen Librarian Alanna Graves recently played through The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild as part of a review for School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox, and she agrees that it’s something special:
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the launch game that was simultaneously released with Nintendo’s newest console, Nintendo Switch, which came out in mid-March. In my opinion, Breath of the Wild is by far the best game in 2017, although I have been playing it on my Wii U, not the Switch. I still am not wholly convinced to spend $330-$400 on a Switch, but I’ll keep you posted if I ever cave.
I recommend this game to teens and adults who are fans of Zelda games, because I think it’s one of the best Zelda games in the last 10 years.
After putting a few dozen hours into the game myself, I agree that exploring Hyrule in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is an almost magical experience, and should be a requirement for all circulating collections.
If the traditional Smash Bros/Mario Kart/Minecraft rotation has your gaming group in a funk, you might want to try something different and check out Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, a two-person bomb defusal game from Steel Crate Games. The developer explains how it all works pretty well on the game’s official website:
One player is trapped in a virtual room with a ticking time bomb they must defuse. The other players are the “Experts” who must give the instructions to defuse the bomb by deciphering the information found in the bomb defusal manual. But there’s a catch: the experts can’t see the bomb, so everyone will need to talk it out – fast!
Writing a review for School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox, Teen Librarian Alanna Graves was also happy with the chaotic camaraderie created by Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes:
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, created by Steel Crate Games, was recommended to me from a colleague when I asked our staff if they knew of a fun game where players work together to defuse a bomb. I was not disappointed with this recommendation.
The game can get really dramatic as the timer ticks closer to zero, and voices tend to get louder as anxiety increases!
I’ve played a few rounds of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and I’ve got to agree, it’s a great game for any group of players.
Telltale Games has embarked on their biggest project yet with the release of the premiere episode of Batman: The Telltale Series. Following both Batman and Bruce Wayne, the publisher wants to tell the kind of Batman story that you don’t often see in games.
I recently reviewed Batman: The Telltale Series for Warp Zoned, and while some of the scenes drag a bit (especially the lectures from Alfred), I can’t wait to explore more of Gotham City in the future:
I’ve never played a Telltale game before, but Batman: The Telltale Series felt like a good jumping off point for their patented combination of dialogue choices and Quick Time Events. Even with the inclusion of a “Finishing Move” meter, it felt like the Quick Time Events were a bit pointless. But I liked that the conversation choices let me mold my Batman into a noble hero, rather than the psychopath he’s sometimes depicted as (even if many of the choices do boil down to “Punch A Mobster” versus “Punch A Mobster Really Hard”).
The first episode of Batman: The Telltale Series is currently available to download for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
A “Season Pass Disc,” which contains the first episode and a one-time download code for future episodes, is also now available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.
With complaints of broken promises and missing features flooding its online reviews, No Man’s Sky has become one of the most divisive games in recent memory. That said, many PC and PS4 players are absolutely amazed by its massive universe, and have gladly spent hours upon hours exploring strange new worlds and boldly going where no one has gone before (different franchise, but you get the idea).
Unfortunately, Teen Librarian Alanna Graves falls in the former camp. In a review on School Library Journal’s Teen Librarian Toolbox, she had this to say:
After a few days, I grew tired of No Man’s Sky. The game is too repetitive and overwhelming for my taste. All you do is find a new planet, land on it, explore, gather materials, maybe learn a few alien words if you’re lucky, rinse and repeat. This game is great for gamers out there who love to grind in video games, but I think those gamers are the type who will go out and purchase the game for themselves.