Tag Archives: cell phone

Dragalia Lost is pretty, confusing, and pretty confusing

Nintendo has released a couple of games for mobile devices now, namely Super Mario Run, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Fire Emblem Heroes, and Dragalia Lost, and I finally have a phone fancy enough to play ’em. Suck it, Windows phone…just kidding, I loved that phone mostly because it had games on it that connected with the Xbox Achievements system. That said, I’ve only touched the free-to-start version of Super Mario Run and found it both perfunctory and fine, but nothing worth dropping some bucks on. Hmm, I probably should uninstall it, seeing as I haven’t touched it in months. Anyways…Dragalia Lost. Hoo boy.

It’s old-school fantasy stuff, with the story taking place in Alberia, a kingdom where dragons live. Now, all royal members in Alberia have the Dragon Transformation ability, where they can wield a dragon’s power by forming a pact with it to borrow their form in battle. This is just something that happens and is accepted by all. Well, one day, a strange occurrence begins to happen in Alberia, with the Holy Shard protecting the capital beginning to lose its power. In order to save his people, the Seventh Prince, who has not made a pact with a dragon yet, sets off on his Dragon Selection Trial. It’s not the worst setup for an RPG though I am growing tired of magical crystals and shards being the McGuffin to get the plot going. Yes, Final Fantasy…I blame you.

How does this “big” game on a little screen play? Fairly straightforward. Players create teams of colorful characters obtained either through gameplay or by spending in-game currency via a randomized gacha machine-style store to assist the Seventh Prince on his mission. These teams are used to take on a series of bite-sized, action-oriented levels featuring very basic fighting mechanics. Mainly attacking enemies and collecting coins/XP. Players swipe to move, tap to attack, and press buttons via the UI to activate skills or temporarily transform into a giant beast. Yup, sometimes it’s a dragon, and sometimes it is clearly not a dragon, but the game still considers it so. Animal classification is tricky.

If you aren’t working your way through these quick levels or reading the game’s dailogue-heavy story chapters, there’s a lot of other things to manage or tinker with in Dragalia Lost. Most of it is seemingly designed to be confusing from the start. Everything can be upgraded–characters, weapons, dragon forms, dragon skills, etc. There is so much upgrading to do; however, this is a free-to-play mobile game, which means players need to grind out levels, materials, and partake in special event dungeons to acquire the majority of these essential upgrading items. Or, you know, spend real money to buy everything you want. Evidently, you eventually unlock a castle section that can help generate resources, but I’m not there yet. Nor will I ever be.

All items that you will want to upgrade share some key concepts with each other, of which the easiest to grok is enhancing weapons with materials. Each kind of item is upgradeable through the use of various rarities of material, such as crystals for adventurers. The next shared concept is enhancing items with the same class of items. Fine, fine. For instance, you can strengthen weapons by sacrificing other, weaker ones to it. Basically feeding a less-than-powerful weapon to the same type, like repairing guns in Fallout: New Vegas. The final communal upgrade path is unbinding, a term that kind of breaks my brain. Basically, this is how you get past an item’s eventual level cap. With unbinding, you will need a copy of an item to raise how much experience it can gain. It also doesn’t help that the menu UI is a little difficult to navigate, and there’s far too many things to click on at any one moment.

Here’s what really rubbed me the wrong way or just in general confused the dragon droppings out of me in Dragalia Lost. Every time I went to do something new, whether it was a quest or explore a just-revealed menu option…the game prompted me that it had to download more data. Sometimes this would take a minute or two, sometimes it was upwards of ten minutes if it was a sizeable chunk of stuff to install. I thought the whole point of downloading the game from the get-go was to download the whole game. I’m not a big fan of this piecemeal method. In fact, as I was writing this post, I went to uninstall the game and was prompted, from the home screen, that it needed to download more data to continue forward. Funk that.

Still, Dragalia Lost both looks and sounds amazing. The song that plays on the home screen is beautiful and worth the download. Or you can click this link and save some space on your phone. Everything else comes off as both a bit one-note or ultra head-scratchy, and I’d prefer something more in the middle, a little easier to digest. Maybe the Shining Force Classics from Sega–consisting of Shining in the Darkness, Shining Force, and Shining Force II, and which I have already downloaded and waiting for me to tap on–will do the trick. For now, I’ll say goodbye to Dragalia Lost and hello to more room on my cellular device. Hello!

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Every day is “Demo Day” in House Flip with Chip and Jo

I never used to watch any of the many home renovation shows that are constantly playing on the television channel HGTV at every hour of the day, but then I met Melanie. She turned me on to a number of these shows, such as Love It or List It–I’m always rooting for David, though he seems to lose more often to Hilary, the queen of staging–Property Brothers, and, more related to today’s post, Fixer Upper. I really like the dynamic between Chip and Joanna Gaines; one is more serious, the other a loving goofball, and they pair off nicely when fixing up less-than-stellar homes and taking care of a swath of kids and farm animals.

Well, on a whim, after uninstalling Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery off my phone, I decided to download a game called…House Flip with Chip and Jo, developed by fun-gi and free for all to enjoy. Obviously, there are timers everywhere, and that means special currency–in this case, hearts and elbow grease–so there’s always the opportunity to spend real money on microtransactions, but the game is pretty good about not putting it directly in your face all the time and providing other ways to acquire hearts simply by playing the game. Gee, what a novel concept. My suggestion though is to save up enough hearts to buy a third construction worker, as it will help you do more actions each time you log in.

House Flip with Chip and Jo is naturally all about flipping houses. Chip and Joanna Gaines need your help to explore the world of renovation and design. You’ll assist them to renovate and decorate with a variety of construction and staging skills, discover new houses and architecture, and learn how to buy low and sell high in the cutthroat realm of real estate. You’ll do this in a number of locations, starting with Waco, TX, and then moving on to Kansas City, MO. There are other cities on the map yet to be unlocked, but it looks like you’ll be doing a bit of globe-trotting, moving from Phoenix to Salt Lake City to Seattle and so on. I mean, eventually, Texas is going to run out of homes to flip.

All you really do in House Flip with Chip and Jo is tap, and that’s fine. Most phone games are all tapping. However, when I start a timer to begin staging a bedroom or painting the walls in the bathroom, it’s nice to know that I can either return whenever I want to complete that mission, unlike in games in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery; those punish you if you don’t came back ASAP. Once you purchase a house and finish fixing up all its problems, as well as staging it just right in various themes, such as Mid-Century Modern or French, you can put it on the market and watch the bids come in. Sometimes you might want to reject an offer if you aren’t making a profit, and you can speed up additional offers by spending hearts. I do wish you could flip more than one home at a time in each location, but I get that that’s not realistically feasible for Chip and Jo to do, even in digital form.

However, I do have one major issue with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it has to do with the in-game depiction of Chip. Look, I know the man has gone through several looks, but the one below just seems oddly off. Like a wax museum statue or something. Just not quite there. Though fun-gi did nail his blindingly white grin; don’t believe me, then check out this quickly Photoshopped image below that I have prepared for y’all:

I kid, I kid. Honestly, I’m having a good time with House Flip with Chip and Jo, and it’s the perfect game to check in on a few times throughout the day, start a bunch of new timers, and watch progress inch forward. I do wonder if I’ll grow tired of doing the same actions as more cities unlock or if there will be new sets of challenges to pursue. Either way, these houses need flipping, and I am the flipper. Well, timer tapper, really.

Casting Relashio on the ho hum Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

I’ve been meaning to uninstall Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery for months now. Yes, I have known for quite a while that this is not the kind of digital Harry Potter experience I want, which means they need to reveal whatever that open-world thing is as soon as possible or I must finally play my cheap-o copies of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the PlayStation 2. Heck, LEGO Harry Potter did a much better job of immersing me in the fantastic and fantastical world of wizards, muggles, and a secretive school for learning magic.

The game is naturally set in Hogwarts, but before the events of J.K. Rowling’s novels, featuring a customized protagonist, who you can see above in this blog post’s prominent screenshot. Yup, that’s me, eating the world’s largest sandwich. Alas, he probably looks like a lot of other players’ avatars because the customizing options are fairly limited or locked behind spending high amounts of your precious gem currency…just to get a different hairstyle. Anyways, your homemade student is a first-year and can attend magic classes, learn spells, battle rivals, and embark on quests. So long as you have the time.

Throughout Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery‘s story, players are able to make choices that affect the game’s narrative. Occasionally, these choices are locked if the player’s statistics are not high enough. As expected, your avatar will be interacting with notable characters from the series, such as Albus Dumbledore, Rubeus Hagrid (aka, the best character ever), Severus Snape, and Minerva McGonagall. The main plot starts with your character meeting Rowan Khanna in Diagon Alley, a young witch or wizard–I think if you pick a male avatar, Rowan will also be male because Melanie’s Rowan was a young woman–who teaches the player all about the wizarding world. Later, a conversation with wandmaker Ollivander reveals that the player character’s brother, Jacob, was expelled from Hogwarts for attempting to open the “Cursed Vaults,” a hidden vault rumored to have existed at the school.

As a free-to-play mobile game, it naturally features a system with tasks costing energy to perform. Look, it’s just a staple of the genre now, so to speak. You have to tap on the screen–really specific characters or objects–to use energy during quests; when you run out, you can either wait for it to recharge over real time or pay gems to add more (don’t ever do this). The player also gains different levels of courage, empathy, and knowledge via the choices they make, and higher levels of a particular attribute allow the player to choose some different dialogue options or change the interactions of other students and staff. You won’t be surprised to learn that I focused mostly on empathy throughout my short, two Ravenclaw years at Hogwarts, because I’m a caring soul.

Here’s the part that I found really frustrating in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Many of the quests are limited not only by a specific amount of energy, but also time. For example, say you are trying to learn a new spell. Well, you have only an hour to complete the quest, and you end up being a few energy taps short after your first go at it. Obviously, you just need to wait a bit and come back to it, but I don’t like feeling tied to my cell phone all the time, and I’d often only return way later to learn that I had failed the quest and would have to do it all over again to progress.

The game looks quite good, but the writing is disappointingly bland. There are occasional moments of interesting stuff, but the side dialogue during quests is so generic it might as well not even be there. Every now and then you get asked a magic-related question to answer, and the questions are beyond easy, even for someone only faintly aware of the Potterverse. Dueling other students and casting spells is neat, but mostly just involves tapping and relying on a rock, paper, scissors outcome. Honestly, the waiting around for your energy meter to recharge wouldn’t be too bad…if you had more to do in Hogwarts. But everything requires energy. You just jump from space to space, looking for something interesting to engage in, and, shockingly, at a school where a professor can turn into a cat or staircases move on their own, there is nothing special to engage in. What a shame.

Ultimately, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery made me feel like a prisoner of Azkaban, demanding I check in on it sooner than later, and I am deathly afraid of Dementors…so no thank you.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #26 – Late Night Wanderer

A late night walk home
The paranoia sets in
Dead phone battery

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

Some of your dreams can come true in Disney Magic Kingdoms

GD Disney Magic Kingdoms f2p mobile game impressions

At some point, I do promise to write about Theme Park, which was not the greatest simulation game ever to be simulated, but it stands out in my mind as something special because my sister Julie and I played it together, creating less-than-stellar amusement parks and laughing at how many people we could get to hurl after going on our sick–and I do mean sick–rollercoaster designs. I also remember being extremely impressed, at the time, over the visuals, especially the 3D parts where you could go through the rides view a first-person POV. I guarantee the game doesn’t hold up one lick today, but it’s a sentimental entry in my gaming history nonetheless.

Disney Magic Kingdoms doesn’t let you do that or even really run an amusement park in a simulation fashion. You can’t adjust how much the hot dogs cost or what admission tickets go for on a weekend versus a weekday. It’s instead more about leveling up, both the rides and attractions you place on the ground, as well as the familiar characters inhabiting the park from open to close. Yes, you level up Mickey Mouse, and it is both satisfying and unnerving at the same time. Also, every time you complete a mission with a character, you collect your reward by tapping their upraised hand, giving them a digital high-five. I’m pretty okay with that, especially when it is Buzz Lightyear.

Magically, Disney Magic Kingdoms does come with a plot, as well as many small, off-to-the-side subplots. Here’s the big one: Maleficent casts an evil spell on the Kingdom, ridding it of all of its powerful magic, and it’s up to Mickey and his friends to bring everything back. A bit perfunctory, but it gets the job done, and this thing is clearly aimed at a younger generation, with its bright, colorful graphics and bouncy tunes, so it’ll never get darker than that. Basically, you’ll be trying to build specific attractions and bring in famous characters from all the popular franchises, ranging from Sleeping Beauty to Toy Story to The Incredibles. To do that, you need the right amount of currency and special items, which you collect from rides/attractions on timers and completing missions. Alas, some missions take sixty seconds to do, and others go for anywhere between six to twelve hours. Yikes.

I find that, obviously, Disney Magic Kingdoms, is best played in short bursts, with the goal of returning to it many, many hours later to see what got done and start the process all over again. I usually finish everything I need to do in under 10 minutes, and once you have checked all your rides for currency/items and given every character a quest there isn’t much else you can do except stare at your screen and wait. Might as well wait doing something else. However, let me confirm that it is a big bummer when, after waiting six hours for a quest to complete, you sometimes don’t get the item you want and have to try again. I’m sure there is a way to buy the item or complete the quest using real-life U.S. dollars, but I’m not interested in that. I’m saving my hard-earned cash-money for next month for Disney Magical World 2, which should come as no surprise to those that read my thoughts on the first game.

Oh, and I never really mentioned the whole Happiness aspect. See, a bunch of the park’s visitors are looking for things to make them happy, and that could be going on a specific ride or listening to Jessie yodel. Everyone has their kinks. Anyways, if you fill the Happiness meter up all the way, you can start a themed parade, which, for a limited time, allows rides and attractions to give off bonus magic and XP, and quests will also end with better rewards. Unfortunately, the Happiness meter drains when you aren’t playing, so I haven’t focused too hard on this area as it never feels worth the effort.

Being a free-to-play mobile game, Disney Magic Kingdoms is constantly changing. The game has gone through several updates already. One update brought in a timed event themed around The Incredibles and tapping on a bunch of evil robots invading the park. Looks like this week there’s an update that’s all about Pirates of the Caribbean. When will we get one focused on The Rescuers, hmm? There are also now chests akin to the chests from Clash Royale that you can find and open, but they are naturally on timers, and you can only open so many and open them so fast unless you are willing to spend the rarer currency of gems. No thanks. I mean, I’ll continue to open one chest at a time and hope for the best, but otherwise want nothing to do with this system.

Disney Magic Kingdoms is a more enjoyable time-killer, tap-taker than other games in this genre, but I wonder if that is mostly due to my love and appreciation of all things Disney. It really does help that the quests revolve around familiar, likeable characters, and that the carrot on the stick is unlocking more familiar, likeable characters. Plus, the game both looks and sounds amazing. They have Mickey’s “Oh boy!” and Goofy’s “Guffaw!” down perfectly, and the soundtrack features a number of memorable tunes. The characters are well animated, the environments are authentic, and you’ll find yourself whistling while you work as classic Disney themes play overhead.

Look, I’ll keep going with it, but I wonder if, just as with The Sims FreePlay, I’ll hit a point with Disney Magic Kingdoms where the grinding takes too long and becomes more of a nuisance than fun and close this park for good, only to ever see it appear again in one of those posts about creepy, neglected amusement parks overgrown with rust and decay.

Building a bland city and not blowing up

Yesterday, someone called in a bomb threat to the building I work at. Not for my company, mind you, but one of the ones we share working space with, and so a little before lunchtime hit we all had to evacuate the building. This was signaled by a blaring fire alarm, and not knowing what I know now, I just grabbed my cell phone and headed outside. I left my lunch in the fridge, as well as my Nintendo 3DS and car keys on my desk. At most, I figured we’d be back inside within fifteen minutes or so. I learned my lesson.

But then fifteen-plus cop cars showed up, and numerous officers of the law asked everyone to move away from the building. Like, not in the parking lot, but maybe in the parking lot across the street. The roadways coming in and leaving the area were closed down, and cars in the parking lot were restricted to remain there. Some people managed to drive out to freedom and a place to eat foodstuff, but others were left standing across the street, huddled like cows, chewing grass and pondering life. Myself included, except I did what I always do, going solo and finding a tree to sit under by myself while I waited this whole “fire alarm” out in general curiosity.

After a while, as we are all wont to do, I began playing around on my phone to help pass time. Or at least distract me from my grumbling stomach. An hour had passed, and no one was still allowed near the building. Flashes of my lunch in the company kitchen tortured me constantly. Now, if you didn’t know, I don’t have an amazing phone–it’s the Verizon Reality–and I’m fine with that. My phone is a device I use in emergencies to call people, as well as text my wife that I made it to work in one piece. I have two full games downloaded on it: Final Fantasy and The Sims 3. So, I played a little more Final Fantasy, grinding my team of four up a whole level, but that eventually became stale. I began looking around the shop for something new, but nothing seemed interesting or worth the price.

Until I saw a game labeled FREE. It’s called Little Big City, and it’s basically the mobile version of CityVille, a game I played diligently for a month or so, but faded away from like all Facebook games. Like FarmVille, you click on things and wait for them to finish doing what they are doing. Every action is accounted for, and when you run out of energy actions, you have to wait until the bar grows again to do more. This doesn’t take terribly long, so one is constantly tapping and seeing results. It’s not the most amazing little game, but it definitely helped distract me from the cop cars zooming back and forth by or trying to listen in on their cryptic radio chatter. I planted a lot of blueberries, built some homes, played a “match two” mini-game after raising a park, and also created some city staples, such as a flower shop and bakery. Gone are the annoying parts of having to bother real-life friends for things like construction beams or lightning bolts, as Little Big City just gives you a handful of AI neighbors to help and poke when the time calls for it.

I do, however, have a major complaint, and yes, I am going to complain about a free game, so if you’re not into that thing, well…see ya. In Little Big City, you always have something to do. A list of missions is clickable on the side, and these exist to give you guidance, as well as reward you for doing big things, like constructing a City Hall. However, if you built a City Hall before you received the mission to build a City Hall…you’re boned. You either have to build a second one–which, as a city planner, makes no sense–or bulldoze the one you already built for a measly amount of cash and rebuild to complete the mission and earn the EXP and monetary reward tied to it. It’s madness, and it happened a lot. Like, I already made six plots for farming and then immediately after was tasked with making six plots. It’s like they knew. But whatever. Not everything can be retroactive, I guess.

That said, Little Big City did the job though and kept me going until we were finally allowed back into the building–somewhen around the 2:30 pm mark–and then I had to monster my lunch in a matter of minutes and get right back to work. Next time someone threatens to blow up the building I’m working in, I’m definitely grabbing my lunch, Nintendo 3DS, and car keys before getting the bleep out of Dodge.

Greeting somewhat warmly The Sims 3 on my Verizon cell phone

I can’t go into the specifics, but over the weekend I was fretting and waiting and worrying and trying very hard to pass the time in a mildly distracting way, but all I had was my cell phone and football on in the background. Ew, ball-foots. So, yeah, sports wasn’t helping, nor was watching the crazies around me. There was a very weak WiFi connection available, limiting the time I could fiddle around on Twitter and Facebook to a minimal. Yet probably enough time to download a mobile game…

…which I’ve never done before in my life.

I have a Verzion Reality cell phone, and that’s exactly what it is–a cell phone. I use it to make calls, text my wife that I made it safely to work, update Twitter rarely, and sometimes take pictures. Other than that, I don’t use it much as a piece of entertainment or gaming device. In fact, the Verizon Reality doesn’t even come with any free games. There’s three trial games for Tetris, Pac-Man, and Oregon Trail, as well as Dice…which just has you shaking the phone and rolling dice around. Exciting. But yeah, I perused the list curiously to see what was available and found myself surprised at some of the titles–Call of Duty, Final Fantasy, and Guitar Hero to name a few. How bizarre that tiny iterations of these big blockbusters exist on such an underpowered piece of equipment.

I ended up putting all my chips on The Sims 3, figuring it was the genre best suited to filling voids of time and performing mindless actions. It was $9.99. The only Sims game I ever played was the very first one, way back when, and I had a good time with it during college. My neighbors were my roommates, and I had a family, as well as a bad habit of setting myself on fire in the kitchen. I know that since The Sims released there’s been about 9,723 more editions, but that’s okay…they all play about the same, right? Sort of.

The Sims 3 mobile version plays vertically, with a mouse arrow stuck in the middle of the screen. You then slide the screen left, right, up, and down until the arrow is on whatever you desire (stove, shower, bed, your neighbor’s uncouth wife) and then tap on it to bring up a list of options (quick snack, shower, nap, seduce her and steal all her jewelry when she’s asleep, respectively). Honestly, it takes a bit of getting used to, and I do worry about not being able to get Sim Pauly over to the bathroom quick enough when he’s got to read a novel.

You start out as a jobless Sim in a modest home with a tad bit of money. It’s up to you to then form your Sim’s life. I gave mine such traits as shy and calm, and I plan to be that way as long as possible. As you play, Wishes pop up randomly–these are kind of like in-game Achievements in that they are specific tasks (example: sleep in another Sim’s bed). There are 75 in all to do…which definitely adds to the time-wasting quality here.

At this point, I spent all my money on a coffee pot and better kitchen table. Now my fridge is broken, and I don’t have the cash money to buy a repair kit. So I did some fishing (caught two catfish!), and applied for a job at the local quickmarket. Haven’t shown up yet to work. My neighbors think I’m a bit creepy. And , just like me, Sim Pauly seems to never not be hungry. Greaaaaaat…

Oh, and here’s what the game looks like if you were as curious as I was:

But yeah, I don’t foresee myself playing this a lot in my free time. I have the Nintendo DS for handheld gaming, but if I’m ever stuck somewhere and need to desperately get my mind off one thing and onto another, this should do the trick just fine. Also, I’m gonna try my bestest to set Sim Pauly on fire in the kitchen, in honor of nostalgia, as well as an excuse to blog about it on Grinding Down.