Masquerada: Songs and Shadows Review [Pixelkin]

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Many of my favorite games stick with me over the years not because of finely-honed combat systems or impressive visual effects. Often it’s the story and characters that remain the most memorable aspects of the those cherished gaming experiences.

Masquerada: Songs and Shadows has one of the best stories I’ve experienced in years. It’s an epic tale about heroic sacrifice, forbidden love, political betrayal, and self discovery set within a richly realized world of urban renaissance and ancient mystery. Masquerada’s tactical combat is serviceable, but it’s the story and characters that demand you experience this unique RPG.

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Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer Review [Pixelkin]

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At my daughter’s preschool graduation she confidently announced that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. She draws and colors every day. Her desk is a warzone of papers, crayons, paints, Play-Doh, and magic markers.

Like most kids she’s also in love with her iPad, an old hand-me-down. She watches videos and plays games. Nothing had prepared me for how well two of her favorite activities could intersect with the newest Dr. Panda product. Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer combines the creative joys of drawing with the magic of augmented reality to transcribe your creations into a kid-friendly digital playhouse.

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Nintendo 3DS Is Having a Great Year in 2017 [Pixelkin]

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All eyes are on the Nintendo Switch this year, as well they should be. Nintendo has been in a weird place with home consoles over the last decade. The Wii exploded onto the scene as a gimmicky toy, then quickly collected dust in everyone’s closest. The Wii U failed to capture an audience at all, reaching only 10% of the sales of its predecessor. Launching earlier this year, the Switch is faring much better, including a killer app like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and featuring full portability.

It’s the portability that had me worried about my favorite Nintendo product of this century: the Nintendo 3DS. With the announcement and launch of the Switch, I had concerns over how Nintendo’s handheld-only console would fare when stacked up with a device that could do both.

Turns out my concerns were completely unfounded. The six-year old Nintendo 3DS is having its best year ever in 2017.

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Monster Hunter Stories Review [Pixelkin]

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The Monster Hunter series has been around for over a decade, though far more popular in Japan than in the US. The world of gigantic monsters, challenging combat, and hours of grinding and crafting weapons and armor often remains impenetrable for many would-be fans.

Monster Hunter Stories refreshingly succeeds at being a more intuitive, kid-friendly spin-off game. It incorporates basic elements of Pokémon’s monster-collecting while still using the core tenets of Monster Hunter’s questing and hunting tasks to create a welcoming, yet deeply rich experience.

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Fortnite Early Access Preview [Pixlkein]

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Fortnite exists in that odd space between a public beta test and a full release. Epic Games’ online tower-defense, third-person action hybrid can be purchased right now; but it’s actually launching as a free-to-play title next year. The closest equivalent is a Steam Early Access game. An Early Access purchase grants access to the live game right now, as well as some extra loot.

Fortnite’s laborious focus on grinding and digging through random loot mars an otherwise fun experience of scavenging, leveling, shooting, building, and defending with friends.

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StarCraft: Remastered Review [Pixelkin]

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Blizzard’s online service Battle.net wasn’t quite my first foray into online gaming, but it did solidify my love of computer gaming throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. Many a Friday evening in the early days of high school were spent constructing marines and mowing down Zerg with friends. To say I have deeply ingrained nostalgia for StarCraft is an understatement.

StarCraft: Remastered is a very faithful HD update to one of the best strategy games ever created. It suffers a bit from forgoing any gameplay or UI updates that strategy games from the last two decades have evolved (such as StarCraft 2). But make no mistake, StarCraft: Remastered makes a great game better.

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No Game Over: Pyre and the Acceptance of Failure [Pixelkin]

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I had mixed feelings about Pyre, the recently released tactical RPG by Supergiant Games. Despite my misgivings on how the story and gameplay were structured, I was fascinated by Pyre’s complete lack of a traditional Game Over screen. Unlike most video games, Pyre forces you to accept the consequences of failure.

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