Friday, October 10, 2014

Top 10 Best of Greek gods in the Now

Who doesn't love a good Greek god story? With the release of HerInteractive's newest Nancy Drew game, Greek gods have been the table talk for the last several days. I've gotta admit, I'm not complaining. They're fascinating. The originals are so rich in drama, there's endless possibility of other pop culture versions. Here are my top 10 fave.

10. Clash of the Titans

Of all the live actions I've seen, this movie has it all. Winged horses, mummy-looking guys, Medusa! A great example of a story that based itself in Greek mythology, then made it their own!

9. Kid Icarus: Uprising 

Confession: I'm a sucker for Nintendo. But come on! Icarus is one of those stories I was told as a kid. Obey your parents, or you'll end up like that guy. I always felt sorry for him. Yeah, he disobeyed and all but he didn't know it was gonna be life or death. He was just having fun. So Nintendo giving this game a second chance? I'm rooting for him. 

8. DC's Wonder Woman

With her mother being THE Queen Hippolyta, that makes Wonder Woman granddaughter to Aries, Greek god of war!! Pretty neat-o. :)

7. Skylanders Lightning Rod

This guy is essentially Zeus. His bio claims when he joined the Skylanders in the popular game, he left a group of people who worshiped him as a god! 

6. Monster High's and Ever After High's C.A. Cupid

Daughter of everybody's favorite god. C.A. Cupid is an adorable character and makes a beautiful pair of dolls!

5. Rich Riordan's Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series. 

Riordan does a fantastic job of bringing the gods down to earth and presenting them in exciting, adventurous ways kids will understand. Way to make history more awesome! 

4. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys 

Kevin Sorbo. 'Nough said. (Side note. Kevin Sorbo voices one of the Skylander, the hammer wielding rock giant, Crusher.)

3. Charmed seasons 5-7 (various episodes)

Charmed was, and is, over all a fantastic show with lots of different and amazing aspects to it that make the show (pardon the pun) magical! Their interpretation of Greek gods and goddesses is one of many examples why this show should never have ended!

2. Disney's Hercules

Should'a seen this one coming. ;) The music, the animation, HADES!!! I fell in love with Greece after watching this movie as a kid. Still one of my favorite movies of all!

1. Nancy Drew: Labyrinth of Lies

Yes. This is, by far, so far, my absolute favorite translation of Ancient Greek mythology into pop culture. No spoilers but this game is FANTASTIC! 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bring In the Cavalry! Skylanders Character Breakdown

So, Sunday was the infamous release of the fourth game of the Skylanders series. Trap Team! We had so much fun running to the store before church to gather up all our new characters!

If you're unfamiliar with the Skylanders games, put simply they are a group of now four games from Activision where the player uses figurines on a portal to activate characters in a video game. Activision brings the world of gaming to life for gamers of all ages with unique ways of connecting to both parents and kids.

The game is comparable to Disney Infinity, which I reviewed here.  I'm well aware all my Portal Master friends will give me grief for saying so, but trust me. When I say they are similar, I use the term loosely. Skylanders is a much more intricate game with original characters who have original back stories all new to this game. There are a few familiar faces, like Spyro and Cynder, for those of us older gamers who remember the grand adventures of the dragons. Other than that, though, the characters are all new all the time.

Now, this isn't a review yet, since I can't justify reviewing the new game without having first completed it. However I would like to make a mention of the new pieces and characters for those of you thinking about playing for the first time.

So to start us off, the first guys we meet are the Core characters.

These little guys are your average, every day heroes. You've got your dragons, your elves, your robots, and an assortment of other odd and lovely little creatures. Each of these characters costs an average of $9.99 full price. But there are constantly sales, especially on older game characters. Walmart almost consistently has older game characters for $7.49 or BOGO bundles. It's worth keeping your eyes out for the price drops to snag the best deals.

With the release of the second game in 2012, players were introduced to a new type of character. The Giants. 

Giants are an orange bottomed character, meaning they work in their own game and beyond, but not in the games before. These super sized Skylanders are twice as big as core characters and are used in the games to unlock areas and prizes too big for just a regular hero. They usually weigh in at about $15 a piece. Because they're a couple years older, though, stores like Walmart and ToysRUs have started dropping the regular prices down to anywhere between $10 and $12 on top of constant BOGO sales. Stores need to move the old merch out to make room for the new. With new constantly pouring in, now is the perfect time to get your hands on a couple of these.

Last year, with the third game came a third time of character, the Swap Force.

Story behind these guys is pretty simple. Just your average magical volcanic eruption giving anything near it the ability to swtich tops and bottoms with each other. These characters are great, because for the first time, kids actually get to break their toys. On purpose!! Each piece has two little magnetic spaces at the breaking point, so they don't just fall apart while you're playing. When you switch and mix up the toys in real life, the characters in the game mix accordingly, and along with their new look comes all the abilities, quests, and upgrades. Swappers are usually $14.99 regular price. They aren't new anymore but they're still very easily found, and their "not new" status makes them a guaranteed sale item once the holidays hit. I'm hearing "Christmas presents!"

Now we have the new game. Which gave us a surprising and unexpected three new types of characters. Firstly, we have the new Skylanders addition themselves, carrying special weapons for tapping enemies. Therefore, these characters are appropriately called the Trap Team.

Larger than cores, and hefting translucent "traptanium" weapons, these villain snatchers sell for an average of $14.99 in most stores. ToysRUs has the price set a couple dollars higher, but during their sales weeks with BOGO 40% off sales and rewards points, they're cheaper than anyone else. Still, because this game is new, expect the sales to be fewer and the prices higher. At least for a while.

Second, we have a shrunk down version of core figures called Minis.

These may seem like they're not worth the $14.99 you pay, but each pack comes with two characters and both those characters are completely what they were in previous games. Only a thousand times more adorable. So with full powers and upgrade abilities, you're essentially paying $7.50 for a cuter version of a core that would cost you three bucks more! In my opinion? One of the best, and most adorable, deals the Skylanders game has put out yet!!

The third type of playable character in the fourth game are, believe it or not, the villains! But you'll need special traptanium crystal Traps to do so.

Traps are a little pricey. They're $5.99 a piece, and the variety is seemingly endless. But don't think they aren't worth it. Each trap can hold two villains and each villain is a fully playable character. Not only do they have their own powers and talents you can use to fight for good, they also talk to you through the portal when the trap crystals are in play.

A game like this can be expensive, and buying every character for a full collection could quite literally break the bank! But a game like this could also teach kids saving and money management. I love it, my family loves it. I'm sure you will too!

(More to come.)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Royal Rantings: Monster High's Frankie and Jackson

This past weekend, Mom and I watched a lot of Monster High movies. And while I love them, I'd just like to take a moment to rant.

Why in the world would they introduce such an adorable and perfect couple like Frankie Stein and Jackson Jekyll, then throw it all away for a half zombie half unicorn hybrid and a normie???

Frankie and Jackson are adorable. They appreciate and admire each other's freaky flaws. They're sold in pairs as a couple going on dates. The web series introduced the character of Jackson and the couple in the same episode. And when his alternate monster identity was revealed, Frankie told Jackson they couldn't be together until he came to terms with his Holt Hyde persona. That makes sense. How can you date a guy who's duel personalities are constantly fighting each other for control, and you???

Through the web series, they are constantly together, constantly flirting. Then last week we buy Ghouls Rule and watch it for the first time. The entire movie, both Jackson and Holt flirt with and fight for Frankie. Then the end throws you the weirdest, most nonsensical curve ball... All of the sudden, Jackson forgets all about his devoted and patiently waiting best friend and almost girlfriend, and goes off with a normie girl who was nice to him at normie school!

This ticks me off. Because it shows a total disregard for Frankie's feelings and allows Jackson and Holt to get away with not getting along. Yes, having unresolved issues with the half human half normie is fun for the story, but the way the writers chose to do it was totally Not Cool!!!

Then there's the new movie, Freaky Fusion. In which, Frankie is unaffected by Jackson's abandonment and instead falls head over heels (literally) for a new boy in school, the hybrid Neighthan. This I get. Sort of. She's got a thing for hybrids. She's patched together, Jackson was patched together, half monster half human. New guy is patched together, half zombie half unicorn. They're both clumsy. Both love their family. Both want to fit in. So I get the whole attraction thing. But do they have to act like Frankie and Jackson never happened? Because it did, people. It did. And there is physical doll evidence out there to prove it.

Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest. What do you think? Agree they should have put a little more thought into the story of it? Glad they didn't go too much into it for the sake of younger fans?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Almost Getting Notebooks for Life

In my high school, it was tradition at the end of the year to pass around a big trash bag and dump in all the things you didn't need anymore. Nine months worth of class notes, flash cards, worn out high lighters. The amount of paper thrown away each year blew my mind every time.

When it was my class's turn to go clean out our lockers, I saw some of my friends pulling out big armfuls of unused spiral notebooks and throwing them away! Of course, I stopped them. As a writer, it broke my heart to see perfectly good notebooks go to waste. My friend Liam, who was throwing out the biggest armful, insisted "They're used. Look!" He showed me each notebook, with the first few pages of almost all of them scribbled in for some reason or other. Sometimes there were actual class notes, but mostly the pages were covered with stick figure doodles. 

"I'll take them!" I chimed up. My family wasn't the richest around and couldn't always afford new school supplies at the beginning of the year. So we were always looking to salvage what we could. Liam seemed shocked by this but willing to help. As he promised "Alright. I'll put them by your locker if I find anymore. 

I went to my last class of the school year, and the day, satisfied with a job well done. And after class, went to my locker to collect my things. What I found... was two extra-large black trash bags FULL of spiral notebooks, loose leaf paper, folders, and binders. Liam had taken it upon himself to fish out all the unused paper from what had already been tossed. (Nothing dirty was on it since they were all just school supplies anyway.) Then he'd gone up and down the halls, to every student, and made the announcement that anything unused and unwanted went into HIS trash bags. I came home the proud owner of over 100 notebooks that day. 

Liam did the same thing the next year, and the next. And after my first year at University, he started off my summer with three bags full! I've since used almost all of those notebooks for various class and personal writing projects. Just goes to show, if you have a great friend, you may never need to buy notebooks again!

Kick Off October Party!

Last night was our first party of the season! Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The colors are gorgeous and the food is simply to die for. Speaking of, what better way to kick off out October than with candy apples?

October is the month of 3 C's! Costumes, creatures, and candy. It was only fitting we had at least two out of three for our first day in October, right? We started out with 4 Granny Smith apples, one bag of Brach's caramels, and one bag of MnM's minis.

We heated up the whole bag of caramels according to the instructions, then rolled the apples in while it was hot. 

Immediately after covering the apple in caramel, we rolled it in the MnM's. 

The candy didn't stick as well as we'd hoped, but they were SO good!

Later that night we went to ToysRUs and found these two spooktacular films on sale for just $10 a piece. With an extra $5 off for buying the pair, we got a total of three movies for $5 a piece. A steal!

To go along with our movies, we stopped by McDonalds for some adorbs Monster High gear. We got a locket including pictures of Frankie, Clawdeen, and Draculaura; and a little kit complete with stickers, pencil, games, and note paper. 

Our night was a blast! And one of hopefully many fall celebrations to comes. How do you celebrate fall? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Infinity And Beyond! An In-Depth and Personal Disney Infinity Review

I realize this review is a little late to the table, but with the release of Disney's Infinity 2.0, I know there are a lot of new players hopping on board with us long time toy-boxers. My aunt and cousin are among the many buying the first game for the first time, and while trying to help them decide what to buy, we realized there is a serious lack of honest and informative reviews out there. So here's hoping to change that.

My experience. I've always been a big Disney fan. Ever since I was little, but surprisingly more so as an adult. I've also been a fan of video games since I was first allowed to use Dad's computer to play Freddie Fish. To top it all off, being the daughter and granddaughter of two avid collectors, I have a genetic tendency to want to collect things. Rocks, dolls, seashells. So it was only natural that when Disney produced a video game with collectible figures, I was all in!

Little by little, through savings and sales, I've collected all of the regular characters. Each character is regularly priced at $14.99 and comes with a trading card specific to the character. Stores like ToysRUs and GameStop regularly have reduced price sales. Pinching pennies and biding time can get you "3 for $30" at ToysRUs, a half off at Walmart, or even a rare but worth it BOGO. If you're not in it for collecting, keep an eye out for opened packages and missing cards. Some stores are willing to give discounts for open or damaged products, and a missing trading card won't hurt your ability to play! With a little more saving, I'll be able to add to that the seven crystal ToysRUs exclusive figures, then hopefully the remainder of the power discs, to my collection.

The more figures I collect, I have to admit, the more fun the game is. Though the toybox isn't my favorite aspect of the game, being able to play with a favorite like Jack Skelington or Ice Queen Elsa is pretty fantastic. The playsets are more my speed. The game comes with three to start. Monster U, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Incredibles. Monster U is great for little ones, with quests to play pranks and show your school pride. The Incredibles is perfect for the young kids who like the action and adventure of getting to be a super hero, with missions that aren't too difficult for younger ones and gore-free battles with robot bad guys. Lastly, of course, the pirates are perfect for older kids and adults who like to take the slow approach to the game, puzzle solving and treasure hunting galore!

To any new players looking for some extra adventure, I recommend the Toy Story playset. It's the right amount of action and quests to keep any age interested, and there are a lot of fun aspects to the game. Like getting to shrink Bullseye and supersize yourself. Giant Buzz on Mini Bullseye is hilarious! But if westerns are more your speed, the Lone Ranger Playset allows you to jump into the saddle of the Lone Ranger or Tonto and save the wild west from the money grubbing railway outlaws. For little racers, the Cars playset is all about the movie. Stunts and races and helping out your neighbor. It's a great time, especially playing with friends. Each playset costs $35.99 and comes with two characters, the crystal playset piece, and one card.

The game is good for any age. There are puzzles, mysteries, things to discover and explore. And if you're like me and can't build your way out of a cardboard box, there are pre-made downloadable Toyboxes so all your characters can fight bad guys, climb towers, and raise to the finish line!!

If you're not interested in buying every character out there (because let's face it, they're pretty pricey) focus on getting your faves! Armed with her epic frying pan, Rapunzel is the perfect pick for any princess loving player. Speed junkies will love the champion Lightening McQueen or the comedic Mater. Also, set aside a five here and there for those $4.99 power disks. They may seem like nothing special, but getting to motor over Omnidroids in Cinderella's pumpkin carriage with monster truck wheels is an experience you just can't top. Plus, having the extra power-ups in the playsets really helps defeat those tough boss bad guys.

Some things to look out for. Just a couple things we wish we'd known before hand. The Wii version of the game does not allow two player mode in the playsets worlds. There is a glitch in this version of the game only. On all other consoles, this isn't a problem. The Wii version does still allow two player mode in the toybox, but for a household with more than one gamer, this isn't a fair compromise.

As an added note, though not well advertised, there is in existence a 3DS version of the game. I wasn't able to find much information on the interwebs about this game before purchasing it. When we bought it, I realized why. It's nothing like the bigger console games at all. There are no playsets, no toybox. Instead, you get a series of arcade like games. The power disks still help out your characters, who still level up as they play, but don't expect a handheld mini world to build and create your own Never Never Land in.

Royal Rating. Over all, this game is family friendly fun for all ages. It has it's downsides, like anything, but the good outways the bad. I give this game a 4 out of 5 crowns!