Saturday 8 June 2024

Nayu's Gaming Time #30 Disney Magical World Part A Nintendo 3DS


 Quick apologies for lack of posts recently, I'm close to having my 4 month delayed ketamine infusion so I'm feeling very ropey. Been focusing on surviving and hopefully soon I will feel a lot better. 

Not my image, this is on the main street with Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Disney do have a not so new game on Nintendo Switch called Disney Dreamlight Valley which I've played over 120 hours on. However, I realised in the last event that I wasn't finding the game fun anymore. I was doing it to get the event items but that's the only time I played. So I dusted of my 3DS, and got back to Disney Magical World. It is...a magical world! There is like the main street and the castle, a cafe to run and so many quests to  perform and maybe 100 character cards to collect. I played the Japanese version of this nd the sequel, I got so far and started to get stuck so I began the play in English and, unsurprisingly, it's much easier to understand. 

Again not my image (would be a bit blurry) but it's inside the cafe with Daisy theme

 Diving back into it the other week I instantly began enjoying myself, unlike DDV.  Yes to et new clothes I will need to repeat some levels to get the items I need to buy them at Daisy's but I don't care. Replaying the RPG element levels is so much fun. Seeing all the characters I know well makes my heart happy. It will take a long time to complete every quest and collect all the character cards, but I know I'll be super happy doing it. Sure the sequel doesn't have Rapunzel like DDV does, but overall I see more point to playing DMW than DDV. And I want to play it, which makes a difference. 

Let me know if you've played both games, and if you enjoyed Disney Magical World!

Again not my image but getting character outfits is so fun for group photos!


Thursday 2 May 2024

Review: Keeping Pace by Laurie Morrison (Children''s, 9 years +, 10/10E)

  April 2024, Amulet Books, 304 pages, Ebook, Review copy

Summary from Abrams Books

 Grace has been working for years to beat her former friend Jonah Perkins’s GPA so she can be named top scholar of the eighth grade. But when Jonah beats her for the title, it feels like none of Grace’s academic accomplishments have really mattered. They weren’t enough to win—or to impress her dad. And then the wide, empty summer looms. With nothing planned and no more goals or checklists, she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be working toward.

Eager for something to occupy her days, Grace signs up for a half-marathon race that she and Jonah used to talk about running together. Jonah’s running it, too. Maybe if she can beat Jonah on race day, she’ll feel OK again. But as she begins training with Jonah and checking off a new list of summer goals, she starts to question what—and who—really matters to her. Is winning at all costs really worth it?

Engaging and heartfelt, Keeping Pace is about wanting to win at all costs—and having to learn how to fail.

Nayu's thoughts

I'm smiling at the irony of this book - not necessarily an intended irony, but simply because recently in group therapy living a life that is value driven rather than goal driven has been a discussed topic, which fits Grace's life so well. Grace is used to setting goals, fixating on the goals and letting the goals dictate her life including missing out on outings with friends, being resentful for being forced to stop studying by her mother, that it is no wonder when she misses out on the school prize she was certain she should get she is massively disappointed and feels lost. All her other pre-planned summer goals fall by the wayside for various reasons, and having to find new ones and admit she didn't get accepted for a summer program derails her a lot. 

That would be enough to cope with on its own but her friendship with Jonah becomes a rollercoaster which includes quite a train-wreck at one point with Grace failing spectacularly at being a good or even semi-decent friend. It is most definitely a summer of learning lots, predominantly nothing fact related and everything to do with all types of relationships, be they friends, more than friends and family connections. A wide range of topics is covered, including running away, divorce, moving schools, fractured relationships, sibling jealousy, and making new traditions. It might make you want to eat bagels!

I would say that Grace has to work harder than she ever has in life. Her confusion and how she failed was so relatable. Watching her gradually realise that focusing on values rather than goals is really hard, but when her new goals are also not necessarily successfully accomplished she realises that it's ok. The world won't end, and she is totally a better person for learning flexibility, responsibility, and improving her personal relations with everyone in her life, even her father who she realises is not as wonderful as she used to think and is does not care about her on the same level her mother, sister and cousin do. Grace screws up a lot, which I love because of the realism. I'd definitely like a sequel to see how she applies her new-found knowledge to the rest of her life in the school year. 

Find out more on Laurie's website

Suggested read

Another tale about personal growth is  Listen, Layla by Yasmin Abdel-Magied (Children's, 9 years +, 10/10E)


Monday 29 April 2024

Review: Curious Words For Clever Kids by Sarah Craiggs & Fiona Powers (Children's, Non-fiction, 10E/10E)

  August 2023, Hodder Children's Books, 68 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary from Hachette Children's 

Have you ever wondered what an Indri is, eaten a Clapshot, grown a Cloudberry or come across a Colugo? Do you always find yourself looking up CURIOUS WORDS?

From Nefarious and Knots to Yuzus and Yews, this brilliant tour through over 1,000 wonderful words and their meanings, packed with awesome illustrations is the perfect book for kids who always want to know what EVERYTHING means!

Colourful pages burst with curious words on subjects from space and dinosaurs to colours and actions, while language spreads explain how different types of words can do what you want them to do.

Nayu's thoughts

Words to any language are strange and require time to learn, something I can still appreciate as I do speak more than one language and while I don't formally learn French and Japanese any more, I still pick up new words as I read manga and watch anime. It is impossible to learn every word that exists, and children have to learn a lot of words throughout school. Anything that makes learning memorable and interesting is an absolute must. Sarah's choice of words along with Fiona's illustrations are a perfect combo to portray over 1000 words stated in this book. I liked how immersive each double page is, no two pages are alike. Words are displayed at different angles; food words are shown through a food market, weather words are shown in a picture of the world including weather system. Some are brightly coloured, others in pastels. 

All are presented in unique ways  that hopefully makes assimilating the words easier to comprehend. I may be in my early fourth decade but I didn't know all the words in the book. I'd never heard of a "crwth", a welsh musical instrument played with a bow, and as a bird lover I'd never heard of an ovenbird, a bird who builds dome shaped nests (I guess like domed ovens). No matter our life experience we all have something to learn, and ok some of us may never need to know that a group of rhinos are called "a stubborness of rhinoceroses" (very apt name given their size and strength), but they might prove useful for general knowledge quiz games and are amusing to think about. The book itself is about A4 sized, which is plenty big enough to read alone or with a friend. I'm going to be giving this to my helper as I know her 4 children will enjoy reading this (two are far too young for now but it can wait until they are older). 

See more of Fiona's work on her website

Suggested read

If you love new words I believe there are some in A Kiwi Year and A Canadian Year by Tania McCarney and Tina Snerling (Children's, Non-fiction, 10E/10E)



Sunday 28 April 2024

Review: Pirates and Sea Monsters by Gill Lewis & Irina Avgustinovich (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)

 11th April 2024, Barrington Stoke, 72 pages, Paperback, Review copy

Book summary from Barrington Stoke

 Tia’s mum has a new job as the vet on Gull Haven Island and there are a lot of animals who need her help.

When she’s called away to help a sickly cow on a nearby island and gets trapped there in a storm, Tia has to step up and care for the animals staying in the surgery. It’s a big responsibility and then she has to deal with a mysterious creature that washes up on the shore after the storm.

Their new life on the Haven Islands is clearly going to be full of adventures!

Nayu's thoughts

Starting life in a new home is never easy, and often those involved can dread it because it is a massive upheaval. I really liked that Tia is looking forward to it because all the things she couldn't do on the mainland she can do with her mum on friendly Gull Haven Island. I liked how instantly the close-knit community feel of the island is portrayed, everyone looks out for each other. Rather than being fed up of having to look after the animals it's all Tia wants to do, so when her mother is unable to return home one night she is really eager to take care of everyone. She knows what to do from watching her mum, and what I liked is that she was taken care of by a nice lady called Peggy. Tia did miss her mum from time to time, as nice as Peggy was she wasn't Tia's mother, but they all survived the storm safely which is what mattered. 

As for the sea monster - it was an amusing encounter, and the resulting plot twist was quite unexpected and well written. I am so eager for the next book in the series, partly so I have an excuse to reread this. I mean look at the cover by Irina, it looks so warm and inviting just like Gull Haven Island. It has the standard Barrington Stoke off-white pages which an easy to read font. 

Find out more on Gill's website.

Suggested read

If you like animal adventures try The Pocket Dog by Holly Webb and Sharon Renta (Children's, 7 years +, 10E/10E)


Saturday 27 April 2024

Nayu's Gaming Time #29 Early thoughts on Stellar Blade PS5

FYI the age rating is 18 not 8 - blame my in a hurry photo skills for missing out the 1 on the label.

Stellar Blade
, Developer Shift Up, Publisher Sony, Console PlayStation 5, Released April 2024

 I thought about writing several sentences about Stellar Blade on social media but it felt easier to say what I think here. 

Way back when it's place holder name, Project Eve, was announced, I hadn't heard of it. I didn't have a PlayStation 5 back then, hadn't thought about getting one even when it launched as a) it took a lot of time to save for it and b) there were so few games (or so I thought) that I'd be interested in I never paid any attention to upcoming game presentations that Sony regularly shows. Fast forward a few years to last year, when I actually got my PS5 (end of April, or early May), and I decided to pay attention to State of Plays just in case I like any games. 

 When I saw Stellar Blade I was totally wowed by how awesome Eve is. Ok, some of the outfits aren't that pretty for me but overall she looks totally gorgeous and I love her signature long ponytail. I watched the trailer at least a few more times, and vowed to preorder it on release. Which I did, and that brings us to today. Or rather yesterday when I started it. 

My preferred genre is turn-based games as I have more time to think (mostly), or farming sims where again I don't have to think too much. I have a few action-y titles under my belt now, while never amazing at them I can get through them. Way back in the day of the first PlayStation console, with a woman called Lara Croft who I spent dozens of gaming hours using walkthroughs to get through the tricky parts. The way I felt back then with Lara is how I feel now with Eve. PS5 games are not cheap, think I managed to get it for £65 which I had to save for and is a lot of money, so if I'd made a mistake and disliked the game I'd have been annoyed with myself. 

Thankfully I hadn't misjudged the game at all. It plays as the trailer looks, there is so much exploration of the mostly deserted world I'm super happy playing it. It's interesting because Eve isn't fully human, she doesn't know human history so ordinary things like an elevator intrigue her. There is a skill tree for several different sets of skills  which feels overwhelming as I feel i won't recall 99% of the moves. I read an online review that said button mashing won't work with boss fights and that is so true. I kept button mashing but each boss takes me over 4 attempts to eliminate. There is a way to train at certain camps where i don't have to worry about death (I must be almost at 20 game overs now), although I'm on the easier of the 2 game difficulties, have activated prompts on screen so in theory i should be able to dodge fatal attacks but in practice I miss at least half of them. I am really very poor at action games like this. I get frustrated (why can't every game be turn based? It's so much easier!!) but I love the story. I already have theories about who Adam is and how he will or won't help Eve (I'm eyeing him with suspicion). I want Eve to succeed her mission but I also want her to live life and am afraid at the end of the game she may die. (Please DO NOT tell me if you know the end. I will be upset if that gets spoiled). 

I love using the scan feature on the droid to see where both enemies and items are. I love that some areas need a passcode that has to be found then used. I already know I'm going to replay this one day. I've almost enough material to create a whole new outfit for Eve which is exciting. Yes some of her looks/camera angles are a bit much, like Tomb Raider was, but overall I love playing as Eve and how she dresses makes sense for her character. I might have some conservative views in the real world, but fantasy life I'm ok running around in a skin-tight suit. I focus on improving defence mostly since my combat skills are not good. I'm definitely in a happy place with Stellar Blade especially as my current area is a construction site and apparently we get to use the crane to make a bridge! I've not yet got to can collecting but I'm eager to get to that, and get to the base where other humans are that was shown in the trailer.

We need to talk about the soundtrack. It is so beautiful, I love listening to songs which are easy on the ears and fitting for the overall atmosphere of the game. I could listen to the music all day. I'm using the English voices, whose tone fits how I'd expect characters to sound. It's a Korean game, I sadly don't speak Korean, or else I'd listen to it but I wanted to give the English a go. Maybe in my second playthrough one day I will play in Korean or even French I think might be an option. But oh the music....

Stellar Blade is a PS5 exclusive, and I for one absolutely love it. The only less than great element is there are no manual saves. I save every time I visit a camp which is helpful as they are usually right by where as boss appears, but I still have to take those steps from the camp to the boss which when it is repeated over and over due to my ineptitude it takes time to do. I love how it looks, sounds, the plot is intriguing for me as someone who rarely plays apocalyptic games (not into Nier which I've seen it referenced to). For me this is a really spectacular game, and I really hope they make another game like it one day.

Review: Finding Figgins by Shayna Leib (Children's, Picture book, 9/10E)

 October 23, SNL Design Works Publishing, 38 pages, Hardback, Review copy

Book Summary

Figgins is a lonely stuffed animal who feels forgotten by his human friend, Julian. Figgins has a rich, secret life unbeknownst to Julian in which he is a professor, a painter and scuba diver. But when Figgins goes missing, Julian has to venture beyond his comfort zone into an unusual magical world. By retracing Figgins' steps Julian finds out just who Figgins really is, with a little help from Mrs. Zebrasky's cats who know all that goes on in their neighborhood.

Nayu's thoughts

An alternate title could include the fact that cats are EVERYWHERE and Mrs Zebrasky has 18. Eighteen cats! That seems so many, my family only ever had 2 at the most. Those 18 cats are very busy, they help Julian on his journey to find Figgins. I still love my plushies, but it is normal for some to neglect childhood plushies as they grow up. Julian wondered where his past-favourite bear was, and it turns out he was quite the adventurer. 

The bright and mostly colourful illustrations truly bring the unique story to life. At one point there is a field of crayons - I was convinced I could smell that specific crayon scent as I read about it. Flying penguins was a sight to behold, although the water labyrinth made me feel a bit odd (a me thing, I like solid land). The range of adventures really bring out Shayna's talent in the varied pictures that invite pondering over them, looking at all the intricate details.  Plus there are a lot of active cats who aren't lazing at home on a blanket on the sofa like my family's cat. It is hard to tell who is having the most fun, the cats, Figgins or Julian. Or me as looking at cats is very comforting! 

Find out more on Shayna's website.

Suggested read 

If you love stories with cats check out this gem with a cat on the cover Jump by Tatsuhide Matsuoka (Children's, Picture book, Board Book, 10E/10E)