Thursday, October 26, 2017

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Review

I had been wanting Nintendo to jump into the mobile market, like most people, for years. Super Mario Run was a decent enough game, but it just lacked something to me -- it didn't feel like a blockbuster mobile game, and that's showed. The second Nintendo-published mobile game, Pocket Camp, looks to really get the company started in the world of mobile gaming.

I have been playing Pocket Camp for about half a dozen hours now, and I can say pretty confidently that it fulfills most everything I had expected from a mobile Animal Crossing game -- it feels excessively simple for the most part, and the overall feel of the gameplay isn't what I love so much from core games, but it is what it is -- a free-to-play version of the game that still has quite a bit of the feel of a full Animal Crossing game.

Jumping in now, Pocket Camp's premise is that you're a campground manager and you are working to enhance your camp area for guests. The game initially introduces four villagers for you to befriend, but the game unlocks more as you level up through the game by completing tasks for your animal friends.

What really makes Pocket Camp feel different is its separate locales -- you travel in a camper (via a loading screen, nothing exciting) to different areas where you can be  automatically summoned a fishing pole or net. Each of the handful of areas have their own real purpose. Two areas allow you to primarily fish, another allows you to catch bugs, and there's also an area you can mine in, but that costs real money, be it earned in-game via goal completions, or from your own pocket. It's really very simplistic.

As you explore, you'll also find you can upgrade your camper, craft items with supplies you earn from completing quests (there is very little actual furniture purchases using Bells currency in this game), and get your character some new clothes.

Truthfully, getting down to it, Pocket Camp is an ideal freemium game. While you can most certainly use real money to speed up crafting or buy a couple exlusive furniture pieces, you can earn the real money currency in-game simply by, well, playing the game. At no point in my playing did I feel like this game forces your hand to make purchases... and that is of the utmost importance, I feel, when playing a free-to-play game.

An unsurprising but frustrating move by Nintendo in this game is also its decision to basically omit any social features. You can befriend players and visit their campgrounds, but truthfully, they may as well be NPC's, because they function the same way. This could be changed in the future, but I'm not counting on it.

My biggest concern in playing this game so far is its disjointed feel... the world doesn't flow together (as I said, there are designated areas separated by loading screens), your campers don't have their own places for you to visit, and a decent portion of the game feels spent at loading screens, as brief as they are, going to catch a villager three tiger butterflies or shake down a coconut. So, ultimately, while this is a fun little game, it absolutely does not replace my desire to play the core series of Animal Crossing titles. Animal Crossing in itself is a repetitive, grindy-yet-cashal game, but I always come back because I like the sense of community with my villagers... in this game, it primarily feels grindy and less rewarding. I'll be curious to see what changes as I level up and as Nintendo (most likely?) introduces themed events for the holidays, but, as is usually the case with freemium games, Pocket Camp, for one reason or another, feels somewhat empty.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

10 Ways to be as Useful as Possible in Blizzard's Overwatch

"Practice makes perfect," they say... I say that's wrong. In playing Overwatch for the past 16 or so months since its release, I have seen every sort of player you can imagine, but no players dumbfound me more than the ones who have a thousand or more hours of playtime and still are inexplicably worthless teammates who can't do their job. Maybe you're one of those people, but at least you're here -- trying to better yourself -- and this is a guide after-all. So, I will go through some fairly commonsense tactics, as well as some certainly controversial suggestions that are for the good of the team -- and that's ultimately all that matters... especially in competitive play.


1.) This is something I'm not too sure a lot of players take advantage of, but it's most definitely worth taking a few moments to personalize your control settings. Certain heroes can even have specific control settings, which I find hugely beneficial on some heroes. I'd recommend (on console) changing your jump button to R3 and melee to L3, while having crouch as O. For my play style, these controls help with overall mobility, effectiveness, and comfort while playing.

2.) This was a recent suggestion on Reddit, but it's always been important -- turn on your teammates' health bar display. For some reason, Blizzard doesn't have this is a default setting, but at least it can be changed. Knowing your teammates' health level is crucial regardless of what class you're playing. As a tank, you should protect your healer first and foremost, but when there's not one on the team (sigh...), or the healer(s) just died, you should know who needs protection soonest.

3.) One of the larger annoyances I've found when playing Overwatch is that an overwhelming number of people choose to play whatever they feel like. In a game like this, you have to play what's needed, not what's wanted. Teamwork is ultimately the only way you'll amount to anything in competitive. I'm not saying Widowmaker or Hanzo or whatever other heroes that are perceived as being worthless are, indeed, worthless (there are plenty of insanely great Widow or Hanzo mains), but every match is fickle: know the situation, accept when it's your time to switch heroes, and win the match.

4.) Following off the last tip, you'll want to make sure you have a solid team balance. It's a bit less of an issue in ranked as opposed to quick play, but it still happens... a squad full of DPS with no tanks or healers. This can work if you're an above average player who's slicing through Bronze, but when you're a higher rank, you need to have a mix of heroes to get the job done. This seems like common sense, but the amount of stubborn people I've met who play this game and refuse to learn how to play another hero is too damn high.

5.) Now coming off number four, be sure to keep up with meta changes. Blizzard mixes things up pretty regularly in their updates, making some heroes incredibly strong, while making others far more situational. As an example, I was using Tracer pretty often before the last update, but now that Junkrat is in virtually match, there are less risky heroes I can opt for so I don't blindly zip myself over a trap, and inevitably into death. 

6.) You may have already figured this as a no-brainer (hey, probably most of these tips should be), but do your best to main at least one hero from each category. This tip mixes in with some of the few preceding this one, but it's crucial, and for what should be obvious reasons. See: #3.

7.) This suggestion isn't so much directly related to the game as much as it relates to you and how you communicate with your team -- don't rage on the mic. If you say something, communicate your point constructively. Everybody and Jeff Kaplan's mother know that Overwatch has an (unfortunately) very toxic community. Don't immediately go on about how small a teammate's manhood is just because he locked in on Genji -- if he's good, he's good. But, if you're very well aware your team needs a support or tank (and you're already one of them), recommend he switch off.

8.) Similar to number seven, don't hog the mic-- no one cares how delicious the cheesy tots from Burger King are (and truly, they are), try to leave the game chat to just that. Game chat. Leaving the mic open to pertinent conversation prevents miscues for your team. 

9.) If you can't tell from playing the game or from at least this post that teamwork is critical/absolutely necessary to winning in Overwatch, you're a lost cause... but I'll try one more time: make sure you GROUP UP. Blizzard was courteous enough to give us an in-game communication wheel with one that says, sure enough, "GROUP UP." Going onto the objective with your team like you're in line at a cafeteria is no way to win a game -- there needs to be a plan. If everyone does their job, this can be done without even using your mic. It can be implied. Just... for the love of God, don't objective hop alone. If you're one of your team's last surviving heroes, it's most likely better for you to back off the objective and wait for your beautiful teammates to meet you.

10.) Now, even more important than grouping up is making sure you play the mother fudging objective. Grouping up doesn't matter a whole lot if your team's number one priority if trying to pin the other team in their spawn point. Breaking news, friendos: that does not work. Someone will sneak out, get on the point, and you'll all be scrambling back with your backs exposed and end up all out of position like fools. Know when to group up, know when to attack, know when to back off... ultimately, know your role. Read the match. Overwatch is not your run-of-the-mill first-person shooter. It's more of a strategy game that happens to take place in an FPS realm.


And that's all I've got for you right now. I'll tip more on heroes and situations where particular heroes are largely useful, as well as nearly entirely useless. I'll probably also have a separate post for each hero with tips on how to use said hero... we'll see what happens. I really wanted to get this post out there to get people to stop beating each other up on the game: get points across without being needlessly rude, and get points captured with a well-structured team.

Until next time!
See you online.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Bones Coffee Sampler Review

If you're on Facebook and follow at least one coffee page, you likely see Bones Coffee advertisements quite often. After seeing an ad that offered free shipping, and seeing that they had "make your own sampler" as an option on their site, my girlfriend and I decided to give it a try. We got a sample of five of their coffee varieties: Maple Bacon, Strawberry Shortcake, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Coconut Rum, and Carrot Cake.

Maple Bacon: I've seen a lot of people saying this is an underwhelming "normal tasting" coffee that is slightly salty -- I found it delicious, and maybe my favorite of the five. The added  flavor isn't strong until the aftertaste (a common theme from Bones' coffee), but I find it different every sip. It tastes like bacon on one sip, then maple syrup the next. Also, for the vegans or vegetarians out there, this coffee doesn't have any actual bacon in it. A-

Strawberry Shortcake: Smells like Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries, really -- again, that flavor is mostly in the aftertaste. Not much like cheesecake per se, but tasty nonetheless. Not a strong coffee flavor, but it's there enough. I think this would be excellent iced. B

Peanut Butter and Jelly: Probably my least favorite of the bunch. The grape smell dominates, and there's no peanut butter to be found. I think of it as the Strawberry Shortcake variant with grapes in place of strawberries. This coffee should have been called "Jelly Filled Doughnut" over PB&J, because this lacks peanut butter -- good for what it is, just not aptly named. C+

Coconut Rum: The smell is strong of coconut rum -- how surprising. It almost comes off smelling like alcohol it's so strong. Brewed, it's still potent, but not as much on the taste buds at first. Not my favorite variant, as I think the rum is somewhat too strong, but rum and coconut  lovers would really like this one -- I just think it's about average. B-

Carrot Cake: Well, carrot cake. The flavorings in this are suited better for coffee than maybe the Strawberry Shortcake or PB&J ones. It tastes like fall or winter to me -- not like pumpkin spice necessarily, but a similar vibe. Very tasty and not overbearing. B+

If you're curious about Bones like I was, I don't think you'll be disappointed if you go in open-minded. So-called "purists" bash flavored coffee like it's the devil, but they're just too lame to try something new. If you're feeling adventurous, I recommend you pick a few that pique your interest to have shipped to you. $30 for five samples may seem a bit pricy, and maybe it is, but rest assured it's quality coffee in pretty nicely sized bags.


+: Great customer service, unique flavors, quality coffee, awesome label art.
-: Some flavors could use a bit of work, premium cost.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Drink Review (Starbucks' Unicorn Frappuccino)

Starbucks has gotten a lot of crap recently in the media, and now they're getting more with the Unicorn Frappuccino. I'm not one to order frappuccinos, but I made an exception just to see what people were going on about with this thing.

Basically, I understand why it's so polarizing. The pink "body" of the Unifrap (as I'll call it) doesn't have much flavor -- it's rather vanilla. Literally. What makes the Unifrap so "special" is its sour blue syrup, which tastes like mango. And, apparently, a lot of people aren't mango fans.

My girlfriend and I each got a grande Unifrap, but for some reason, hers didn't have syrup. After having half of each I came to the conclusion that $5 is too much and 16 ounces are too many. While I didn't dislike the sour mango sauce, it wore on me pretty quickly. But, without it, it's like a faintly fruity milkshake. It's nothing special.

I'd love to tell Starbucks to stick with what they know (coffee), but it's clear that these things are super popular for one reason or another. While I wouldn't order it again (especially a grande), I'm glad I tried it so I could fairly say that, rather than attack Starbucks relentlessly for no reason because this non-coffee drink isn't coffee and doesn't have caffeine (seriously -- I've seen that a lot.)


+ Eye catching. Pretty decent flavor.
- Can't imagine having more than a tall/too sweet. Not worth the price.

The galpal. So white. Much basic. Wow. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Energy Supply Co. Review

Mail delivery services have gained a lot of steam over the last few years, and, with caffeine as popular as ever, Energy Supply Co. decided the idea of energy drinks sent to your door would be a wise idea. It turned out to be, in my opinion, a success, but the service is not without its flaws.

For roughly $25 (US$, including tax and such), Energy Supply Co. will send you six generally hard-to-find energy drinks every month. In my box for February was the following:

Bawls Root Beer
Electric Monkey
Liquid Ice
A bonus powder energy packet, which I have yet to have.

The first one I decided to crack open was the Liquid Ice, which, goes without saying, really, is the absolute worst name for any energy drink. The drink itself was pretty solid, but for some reason, it gave me a weird buzz from it -- maybe it had something to do with the launch of Pokemon GO's biggest update since July (yes, I still play it), and the frustration I had when the servers were crashing. As for the flavor, I enjoyed it, considering it was zero calories. Liquid Ice has the flavor and smell of Pixy Stix, with an after-taste that isn't so terrible for a diet version of an energy drink. Not a mind-blower, but in the realm of sugar free energy drinks, it was tasty. 4/5

MSP was next -- a horrendous looking can seemingly designed by a middle schooler circa 1999... it truly looks like a failed Tron design. This drink hits the tongue with a strong blue raspberry candy flavor, not unlike a blue raspberry Ring Pop. Sweet and smooth with a not-too-assertive amount of carbonation. This was one of my preferred drinks from my pack, but I really am struggling to get over that Microsoft Paint looking can. 4.5/5

One of my favorite drinks from high school was Bawls, so I was excited to see Bawls Root Beer in my box, since I hadn't had it before... there's not a lot to say about this one, as it tastes exactly like you'd expect -- like root beer. More precisely, I'd say it tastes more like a Mug or A&W root beer rather than something like Barq's. 4.25/5

Next up was the sole healthy energy drink in the pack... Purps. Being a connoisseur of energy drinks -- but also trying to give a damn about my health -- I appreciated the inclusion of Purps. This one tastes a bit strange. I found that this tasted very weird at first because I brushed my teeth. But, after a little while, I just found out that Purps just sort of has a bit of an off-putting bitterness. I'd say it's a bit of an acquired taste. The best I can say is that it has a flavor of dark fruits and perhaps an essence of dirt. The "essence of dirt" flavor wasn't helped when I finished my can and noticed sediment... and then saw on the can that it says to shake the can before drinking. Well, to be fair, who would think to shake a carbonated energy drink before cracking it? Ah, well. User error. For what it is, I enjoyed it, and I had a great, productive caffeine buzz from it. My can was a couple months past its best by date, but I don't believe that that affected its flavor at all. 4.25/5

DaVinci I probably looked forward to most out of my pack just because the can was so awesome looking. As it turned out, the juice inside wasn't too bad either. DaVinci has a flavor of blackberry, raspberry, and grape, which is very pleasant. Unfortunately, its all pretty damn sweet, and any can bigger than the one in my box (either 8oz or 12oz) would have been a bit much, and DaVinci would have become cloying. 4.25/5

The last drink from my pack was Electric Monkey, which was one of the most interesting flavors in my box... not so much because it tasted unique, but because I couldn't tell if I really enjoyed it or not. Primarily, Electric Monkey tastes like Rockstar Original with vanilla added with a high level of acid that feels pretty abrasive. One sip is pleasantly sweet, and the next is super harsh. The acidity doesn't exactly play well with the vanilla flavor I get out of this (it's almost like vanilla and lime?), but I don't hate it. I will say I'd much prefer this in a smaller can, as it did get a bit hard to finish the last quarter or third of my 16oz can. 3.75/5

At the price of about $4 a can, Energy Supply Co. isn't a bargain of a subscription (they gotta make money!), but you're really paying for the convenience of 1.) getting energy drinks you can't just find at your local grocery store and 2.) having them sent to your doorstep.

Since I'm just a lowly college student, I won't likely continue my subscription of this for much longer, but I was pleased with my box. While I think I would like to be able to go on Energy Supply Co.'s website and select which drinks I would like sent to me (just to avoid constant duplicates), I do like the element of surprise the boxes provide.

If you enjoy energy drinks and trying new flavors, this is a great way to go about it. The price is more than fair for anybody with any sort of disposable income, and you get the opportunity to guzzle some stuff you may not ever get the chance of guzzling if it weren't for Energy Supply Co.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Quintessential Firefly 2017 Post

Going to The Woodlands of Delaware for Firefly 2017? For the first time...? Second? Sixth? This is the one post you'll need to make it to and through Firefly's sixth year -- updated often. Whether it's camping survival tips or trying to make your way through the line-up to find what's worthwhile, I've got it all. Seriously.

First off, I want to say that, while I was initially miffed with this year's lineup (especially the headliners...), a few weeks of listening through the under card has helped me find some serious gems. So, I'll be listening and listing some of my favorite artists headed to Firefly this summer, from the bottom on up.

Ill Fated Natives: The first group I heard and was instantly intrigued by. These guys have an interesting sound -- think The Black Keys meets Jimi Hendrix? RIP the already zero credibility I had, I know, but that's about the best way I can put it. Many of their tunes have a great jammy vibe with some nice lickity licks thrown in. Definitely a group to be on the lookout for at Firefly and in the future. I'll most definitely be at their Sunday afternoon set at North Hub.

Mir Fontane: I'm not a huge rap connoisseur, but I can't deny that Fontane's "Who's Watching the Kids" is some damn good stuff. It's a bit comical at one moment, and shot straight from the heart the next. "Whatever You Want," "Space Jam," and "Twenty Five" are standouts, but almost the whole album is solid. Only having a 20min set is insulting and disappointing (and, at a crappy time -- 5pm or so), but I plan on trying to make it over to see him.

Bencoolen: I don't know what to describe Bencoolen's sound as. I'm sure this comes off as lazy of a description as it does pathetic. Just listen to them.

Vita and the Woolf: Really can't ignore these two. I'd describe them as "the poor man's Florence + Machine," but as far as I can tell, they're the real deal. The vocals on "Qiet" are simply phenomenal. Nobody with a voice as great as Pague's deserves such little recognition.

OWEL: I'm not sure what's better... the build up and overall feel of their tracks, or just the raw, powerful vocals. Soothing, yet eye-opening... like Vick's VapoRub on your upper-lip. OWEL has a unique sound that I look forward to hearing live.

the Orphan, the Poet: Alright, so "Terrible Things" is already very clearly on the up-and-up, but the Terrible Things EP as a whole is pretty great. "Terrible Things" is definitely the standout from the EP, as it's irresistibly catchy, but I can't wait for a full-length release from these guys... for some reason they're playing at General Camping twice, so I won't likely see them. Bummer.

Warm Brew: Sounds like throwback rap -- maybe most people have moved on to the newer sound of rap, but I'll always have a preference for this style. Catchy as all hell -- especially their most popular song, "Can Ya Blame Me."

Sub-Radio: A definite "Who?" from the under card that has wound up being one of my more looked forward to groups at Firefly. It sucks that they won't get the exposure they deserve INSIDE the festival (like any artists in this list), but it's a start. Different Station is a fun, poppy album, and their newest release, "Better Than That" could easily be on radio stations everywhere.

Jared & the Mill: Definitely a "poor man's" Mumford & Sons, but that's okay -- "Messengers" and "Breathe Me In" especially give that vibe, but their sound as a whole is quite comparable. Their first album recently got dropped off of Spotify (maybe some strategic way to push their new stuff?), but they're great and certainly going to just be getting bigger.

Spiritual Rez: I find it kind of shitty that they won't be playing at the North Hub (Wednesday Premier Camping) this year, but if you're in General Camping, they're a must see if you like sounds of ska and reggae. "Whiskey" and "Bring it On" are just a couple songs that ought to be far more popular than they are.

DREAMERS: It's just about at the point in this list now where a lot of people will know the artists -- DREAMERS is already fairly popular thanks to their songs "DRUGS," "Wolves (You Got Me)," and, especially, "Sweet Disaster." They ought to put on a really fun show... their debut album is pretty deep.

888: "Critical Mistakes," which sounds like it should be the theme song for Bloodline on Netflix, has a catch-as-hell poppy sound not too unlike COIN or Night Riots... but the falsetto and synth sound makes them stand out. There are few artists I'm looking forward to more than 888.


There are plenty of other artists I would highly recommend and personally love to see, but the list could go on forever in what I think wound up being a deep under card. Fickle Friends, MISSIO, Sofi Tukker, Barns Courtney, Quinn XCII, Lewis del Mar, Nahko & the Medicine for the People... this line up just goes and goes. I was one of those who was disappointed at first (because of the headliners), but some of the sub-headers and a lot of the under card are actually great -- I expect to miss a lot more shows that I want to see this year than I did last.

It's also worth adding that as of this posting, none of the bands in bold will actually be playing in the festival, with the exceptions of 888 and DREAMERS. It's possible that that could change, and I hope it does, but I'm not expecting it.

Camping Tips
Whether you like camping or not, I absolutely think going to a weekend festival like Firefly is something everybody should do at least once. I didn't really think I would want to go to Firefly again before even going last year, but here I am, counting the days until the festival again.

Firefly has a lot of camping options, but I'll give my suggestion -- rough it a bit. I've opted for Wednesday Night Premier for a second year in a row for a few reasons. First, you get an extra night of music, which in itself is a selling point for a lot of people. Second, you get to be set up and ready a night early, which is, for me, maybe an even bigger perk. I like the convenience of being able to set up my camp site and have an extra day in the camp grounds. There are other camping options and add-ons that include air conditioning and exclusive rest rooms, but I think you'll make-do -- waking up in a bed of sweat at 8-9am isn't ideal, and I don't mean to sound like your grandpa, but it really does just add to the experience.

Another note... I'm a pretty clean person. I was certain the idea of not being able to shower for five or six days would make me go crazy -- but, dude, baby wipes. That and dry shampoo. I did end up washing my hair on Friday or Saturday with a jug of water, but I was surprised just how well baby wipes worked. I was also impressed with how inoffensive everyone else smelled... nice job, guys. I was expecting radiating crowd B.O. by Thursday night.

Anyway, there are a ton of camping tips and lists online with people saying what you should and shouldn't bring... there are a few must-haves, I think:

1.) A reliable cooler -- preferably a "roto molded" cooler that will keep ice, unlike a cheap one from Walmart. If you can afford to blow a couple hundred on a roto molded cooler, I'd recommend Rtic or Frosty, as they are the same (or very similar) quality as bigger names like Yeti for literally half the price. Ice isn't to exorbitantly priced at Firefly (I think it was $5), but you'll need to buy a bag every day and constantly drain your cooler. Plus, if you plan on ever camping again, a quality cooler is something worth investing in... I can't overstate the importance of cold water, and, of course, beer, at the campground. I also definitely recommend bringing some food to store in your cooler to make at your camp site to save money, which brings me to my next suggestion...

2.) A grill -- I don't remember for sure, but Firefly may have made it so you "can't" (well, aren't supposed to) have open flames at the camp grounds, but that wouldn't include a portable gas grill. Food in the festival obviously isn't cheap (but, pretty damn good for the most part), so you'll likely want to at least split meals.

*Stay tuned for more updates. ... in 2018 evidently, since I never finished this. SIGH.*