The Agent’s Mobile Gaming Dump – November 2018

Well, I’m burnt out and uninspired. So let’s fall back on my default topic of discussion; my growing appreciation of mobile games.

Honestly, despite the classic-to-crap ratio being kind of disappointing, I’m surprised at how much fun I have with mobile games if only for a brief time before moving on. But these three have stuck with me for some time now and I’m likely not going to back out of them soon.

Steven Universe: Tap Together

Aww… no love for Amethyst on the title screen? But she’s my little purple pumpkin…
Source: Steven Universe Wiki

Wow, how long has it been since I geeked out over Steven Universe on this page?

I’ll be honest, as much as I love this show, the games are the one segment I’ve been giving a pass on for some time. That said, This is a fun little idle clicker to help pass the time.

It also does a fair job at going beyond a few of the other idle clickers I’ve played by getting other players involved with raid matches, regular events, and club tournaments – all big rewards. You can even donate character fragments (use for unlocking and improving characters) to your club and use them to bid on fragments you need. It adds a much-needed sense of community.

It’s far from perfect; hearing the same voice lines from characters gets tiresome after a while and there’s a lot of downtime between rounds of leveling up. But it’s a good game to chill with after a long day.

Game of Dice

They say that the gods play dice with the lives of mortals…
Source: god.joycity.com

You know that trope of anime where the hero has to save the world by playing games with the rest of the cast. Well, this a game that plays like one of those shows if the game were Monopoly.

That description may sound like a bit of a turn off as Monopoly is the poster child for ‘games that will end friendships.’ But this app does a lot to fix many of the problems with the original. The game moves much faster and often ends well before the set limit of turns while unlockable characters, dice, and customizable decks of skill cards add an extra level of strategy to the game.

If I were to complain about anything, I’d say that it feels a bit limited in its gameplay with only a hand full of game modes that only offer a few minor changes to play. But, even then, it’s a fun game that gets me using my brain.

Clawee

All the fun of a claw machine without the feeling that you’re getting hosed out of your quarters.
Source: Facebook

You know those claw machines at the arcade that are a total scam because the owner crams them so full of crap that you can never get a good grip and they set claw to be super flimsy and slide right off of everything.

Yeah, this ain’t one of those claw machines.

Clawee is a for real, totally legit, physically-present-in-the-real-world claw machine that you control from your phone to win ACTUAL prices. You get free coins to play with every day, they mail the prizes to your door and even if you run out of plays, it’s still a lot of fun to watch other people play and get excited as they score cool stuff as well.

The unfortunate downside is that, due to the fact that the video streams live, there is a slight delay between your commands and the action on screen. However, with skill and patience, you can very quickly compensate for this and be on your way to winning plush dolls, jewelry, vinyl figures, and home decor.

Advertisements

The Agent Reviews A Game: Hungry Dragon

Live every fantasy fan’s dream; roleplay as Smaug.
Source: Ubisoft

So a lot of my essays lately have been focused on LGBTQ+ – specifically transgender – issues due to their impact on my life. However, I realize that some people might need a break from the heavy topics and just have some fun. So, let’s get back into one of my increasingly favorite topics; mobile games.

In my side mission to find entertaining distractions that I can play anywhere I damn-well please (a big deal in previous months with no reliable Wi-Fi of my own), I’ve developed a sort of affection for fun and simple little games on my phone. And they don’t get much more simple and fun for me than Hungry Dragon.

Yes, from the company that gave us Rayman and Assassin’s Creed comes a manic mobile game with a simple premise; You dragon, they crunchy. EAT. THEY. ASS.

I was immediately grabbed by the visuals. A lot of mobile games claim to have great graphics, but they lack the charm that Hungry Dragon has. All of the detailed texturing means nothing if the design is uninspired. And luckily for this game, the dragons are given so much personally and variety ranging from genuinely intimidating to cartoonishly wicked that almost everyone will have their own favorite.

As for the gameplay, it’s a simple endurance game. You fly around the world eating anything you can fit in your gob – humans, livestock, goblins, OTHER DRAGONS, etc. – while dodging hazards like hunters, mines, and larger predators. Eat enough at once and you breathe a massive gout of flame that makes quick work of everything in your path. Keep eating and avoid starvation for as long as you can to get cool loot.

And the loot is indeed cool. You’ll end up unlocking pets that give stat bonuses, costumes that change how each dragon plays, and larger dragons that grant access to different pray and new areas of the world. Again, there’s enough variety and the designs are inspired enough that you’ll quickly find your favorites.

One of the things I appreciate most about this game though is it’s one of only, if not THE only mobile game I’ve played that doesn’t harass you to play it on its schedule. I’ve railed in the past about my disdain for games that force daily login goals just to keep players and how they make a simple game feel more like work. There’s no sign of that in Hungry Dragon. All you ever get is the occasional notification that an egg you’ve been incubating is ready to hatch. It makes for a much more casual, laid-back game perfect to unwind to after a long day.

While this is easily one of my favorite mobile games at the time, I have my qualms with it. For one, the graphic intensity of the game does tax my phone slightly resulting in some minor loss in frame rate. It’s not enough to ruin gameplay, but it does break the immersion for me. What’s more, I feel the lack of a competitive multiplayer mode is a bit of a missed opportunity. Games like Agar.io proved that people quite enjoy the concept of a player-eat-player competitive game.

Other than those minor points, however, this is a solid mobile game that I have yet to find myself leaving. It’s relaxed, it looks amazing, and it’s just silly fun to inhale an entire village only to find your controls have suddenly been reversed because you accidentally got tipsy on the town drunk. Download this game – you will not regret it.

3 Fun Activities to Get You Out of The House

So, in an ongoing effort to stave off the effects of depression and anxiety, I’ve been trying to take steps to change my lifestyle here and there to better facilitate my emotional health. I recently started a new anti-depressant/anti-anxiety treatment, I’ve been actively cutting out people and things that may cause me undue stress, and I’m starting to listen more to my own sense of comfort – favoring an “if it feels good, do it” mentality over fretting over what society will think.

But, in addition to all that, I’m also making an effort to try an overcome my mild to moderate demophobia and disdain for social interactions by trying to force myself to go outside more often. The only problem is – and I imagine this a problem for A LOT of people with social anxiety – that unless you need to go shopping or something, there’s often little reason to leave the comfort of your bedroom/living room/personal office (I have very little living space; shut up).

So, I’ve been attempting to find and rediscover some old out outdoor activities to help get me outside, be more physically active, and socializing with humanity again. So far, I’ve come across three viable fun-time adventures to go on.

Urban Hiking

Yes, nature is pretty. But a skyline can be nice to look at too.
Source: Liz Thomas Hiking

My Father is a bit of a mountaineer. He’s hiked along almost every major mountain trail in New Hampshire and he’s been very encouraging to try and get me to join him.

The problem is that I live in the middle of the city with very little time to devote to traveling to the mountains. But who’s to say you can’t enjoy a hike through the city?

Sure, some people may scoff at the idea. But if you find it difficult to get to a nature trail, urban hiking may just suit you. Not only does it get you into a social setting, but you may just be surprised at what you find on your travels. I’ve been on hikes through college towns with lots of shops packed together and found places that I end up coming back to later; thrift stores, cafes, etc.

Most Urban Hikers seem to favor places with lots of stairs and hills to simulate the incline of a mountain trail, but you can always choose the path that best suits your level of expertise. It all makes for a more travel-friendly, lower-risk social activity.

Geocaching

“I found treasure… WITH MY PHONE.”
Source: Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

One part hike, one part treasure hunt, and one part time capsule. Geocaching is the high tech way to wander the world in search of fresh new sights.

What’s nice about geocaching is how accessible it is. People have quite literally hidden these little boxes of surprise goodies that they trade from one cache to the next EVERYWHERE; in cities, on nature trails, in cemeteries, in parking lots – if you can covertly fit a container big enough to hold a logbook of some kind in it, someone has likely done so. As such, there’s no shortage of options to fit your skill level. All you need is a phone with a GPS and the drive to explore.

What’s more, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of coming across an item in a cache with a tracking number on it so you can see where it’s been. On my first outing, I found a keychain from the Hard Rock Cafe in Singapore with such a tracker. It had gone up the west coast from the southern tip of California to Washington state, leaped to mid-state New York, and again to New Hampton here in New Hampshire. I then left it in a cache in Maine to complete its coast-to-coast journey and, last I saw, it was somewhere in Texas.

The only catch is that you have to exercise a little stealth while playing as any non-players (referred to, much to the delight of Harry Potter fans, as Muggles) may be inclined to tamper with or even steal the cache. So tread lightly and stay aware.

Battle Gaming

All the action of a Dungeons & Dragons game right in your face.
Source: Wikipedia

Do you miss the days when you and your friends would roughhouse in the yard, but don’t want to risk losing teeth to recreate the feeling? Do you like the look and action of LARPing, but can’t be arsed to deal with all that role-playing nonsense? Well, grab yourself some foam and get into the ring of battle games.

I got into this back in my convention days and it was a blast. Armed with foam-crafted blade and shield (called Boffers) and your nerves, you can now capture the feeling of charging into battle like the warriors of old.

The rules of battle differ depending on who’s organizing the events. Some are one-on-one gladiatorial battles. Others are large-scale wargames with competing tribes and armies. And each has different regulations on how boffers are crafted and what weapons are allowed. Though almost all of them are designed to minimize the risk of injury while letting players go wild.

With foam arrows flying through the air and people shield bashing their way through a crowd, it can get hectic. But with the light bruises comes a sense of pride and exhilaration as you face down the horde and stand your ground against the odds… even if it’s all just pretend and sport.

The Social Importance of The Selfie (and The Agent’s Selfie Catalog)

In addition to the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year and my official start of summer, today is recognized by us digital denizens as National Selfie Day. And I felt that the day provided an opening for useful commentary on human psychology and sociology.

Remember not too long ago when just the word ‘selfie’ conjured up a bevy of negative images in our heads? We associated the selfie with vapidness, vanity, and egocentric narcissism.

However, while that stigma has persisted to an extent, I feel people are slowly understanding the importance of the selfie in a modern society. The simple act of taking a photo of yourself says so much about you and your life.

For a start, it’s a proclamation of pride in your achievements – no matter how small. By going out into the world and snapping a photo of you at the beach or in the crowd at a concert, you are proclaiming to the world, “I was there. I saw the world HAPPEN in front of me and contributed to it.” A brief look at history will show the need to document our actions. Selfies are just a new evolution of this process that replaces long-winded words with an image that speaks thousands at a glance.

What’s more, it’s a statement of self-love – a form of love that seems in sadly short supply these days. I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook; body positivity being a big deal to someone like me who is about to begin a gender transition. I can’t tell you how helpful it is to receive loving encouragement from friends, family, and kind strangers when coming to terms with my appearance. And judging from the response of others, I sense I’m not alone in that feeling.

So, make it a point today to go out, put on the best you that you have, and proclaim your existence to the world. Show – don’t tell – that you are here and that you matter.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper National Selfie Day article if I didn’t celebrate along with you. So, for those that don’t or can’t follow my actions on Twitter here’s a collection of my recent selfies. I wish you all a lovely day celebrating your beautiful selves.

The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

3 Generally Awesome YouTube Channels

You know what, I’m still reeling from illness and haven’t talked about anything positive for a while. So, let’s shout out some talented people.

The last time I had something nice to say about YouTube was when I shared a trio of channels for the artsy DIYer. Today, I just want to go off on three channels that had nothing in common other than just being a lot of fun and offering something nice and/or useful to the viewer. So, let’s just get happy and celebrate some cool people.

The Obscure

The tongue-in-cheek review has been a staple of internet entertainment for as long as most of us can remember the internet. However, they’ve almost always come from a stance of crapping on old media for laughs.

The Obscure stands out from the horde of angry reviewers by demonstrating genuine nostalgia for the things of the past that mirrors the fond memories that we have for our favorites-gone-by; offered through the character of someone with all the enthusiasm of someone who probably shouldn’t have dropped the brown acid at Woodstock.

While the goofy comedy is the primary draw, The Obscure does occasionally drop some insight on us; showing how these things long-forgotten helped shape popular consciousness today.

AvE

Here’s a little something special for the handymen in the audience.

AvE may be a little to foul-mouthed and rough around the edges for some, but for me, he more than makes up for it with his knowledge of tools and machining.

AvE combines his experience as an engineer with his glorious and uniquely Canadian sense of humor (“skookum as frig,” has become one of my favorite phrases) to teach us the nuts and bolts of making your way around a DIYer’s workshop. In amongst his workshop tricks, he also works on his series, ‘Bored Of Lame Tool Reviews’ (BOLTR for short) where he disassembles and analyzes everyday tools and appliances to determine if they’re actually worth your money.

CGP Grey

An American-born teacher living in England, CGP Grey is the kind of person you want to run an educational YouTube channel; someone you genuinely enjoys teaching and believes that knowledge can change the world.

CGP Grey covers a broad swath of topics including modern technology, civics, politics, and geography while explaining in clear terms why these things are so important to know and how they affect us. Overall, he’s very good at making you care about what he’s saying with a calm, mellow, and charismatic voice.

He also has a podcast with his friend Brady at Numberphile if you need more knowledge dropped on you by people WAY smarter than I could ever hope to be.

How To Get the Most Enjoyment Out Of Pokémon GO

Trainers can now live the dream.
Source: Game Rant

So, like every nerd in America that grew up with it and has been asking for it since the invention of augmented reality gaming, I freaked out when Pokémon GO finally went live in the U.S. In fact, I’m literally writing this after an hour long hike through my neighborhood to get a feel for the new world (thanks for contributing to my fitness regiment, by the way).

However, I’ve already started to see some complaints on the horizon; ones that aren’t entirely the fault of the game.

So, in an attempt to help future trainers and speaking as a veteran of Niantic Inc.’s last AR explore-a-thon – Ingress, here are some tips to keep you safe and happy on your new Pokémon adventure.

Tip #1: DON’T train and drive

Shame on you all; you aren’t even wearing seat belts.
Source: AlphaXXI @ DeviantArt

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it was a HUGE problem back in my Ingress days. People would hack and attack portals while behind the wheel and stare at their phones instead of watching the road. And I foresee similar problems here.

Fortunately, the way Pokémon GO incorporates your phone’s camera makes the most important aspects of being a Pokémon Master impossible to do from a car anyway. You need to be able to look around freely to see wild Pokémon and line up your throws (yes, you have to aim your Pokéballs in this game).

Still, that isn’t much consolation from people who ignore the next item on the list.

Tip #2: While you’re at it, don’t train and WALK

Now imagine if it really WAS a tanker truck.
Source: Mike-Dragon @ DeviantArt

I realize this may seem counter-intuitive to some, but let me explain.

There have been complaints of people staring intently at their phones while walking and not seeing the oncoming car as they cross the street BEFORE Pokémon GO showed up (thanks for that one, texting and social media). Now we ALREADY have reports of that happening with Pokémon GO.

My advice; make use of the game’s vibrate function to give a tactile alert when a wild Pokémon shows up. Or, better yet, invest in a half-way decent pair of earbuds and listen for the sound of them leaping out of the tall grass.

Speaking of things to invest in…

Tip #3: Get a power bank

No, not THAT kind of bank…
Source: pokemonbank.com

This is something everyone with a smartphone should have anyway for emergencies, but it’s nigh crucial to get the most out of Pokémon GO.

Like IngressPokémon GO uses your GPS to track where you are in relation to key in-game locations –  gyms and Pokéstops in this case. The problem is that your GPS is a MASSIVE power draw. That, combined with the power needed to run the game, ensured that my battery was half-dead by the time I finished my aforementioned morning hunt.

To that end, you should have a portable power bank handy to keep you in the game if you intend on any extended trips. To help you out, here’s a fine article on Digital Trends to aid you in shopping around. Personally, I’m fond of the EasyAcc solar power bank.

Tip #4: Don’t forget to take a break

The benefits of TM44.
Source: fishki.net

We gamers are used to being told to peel ourselves away from marathons of our favorite games to stave off the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. But even a physically active game like Pokémon GO requires you to not over-do it.

While it’s good to get out and exercise (believe it or not, PokéFitness is a thing), It’s a good idea to take at least 2 minutes to catch your breath for every 10 minutes of moderate to strenuous work. Also, keep a bottle handy for water or a hydration pack if you’re CRAZY dedicated to your jog.