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So, it occurred to me that I've played a lot of KEMCO's Android jrpg fare in the last few years, and I should probably try to actually look at the details and try to summarize it.

I have played 31 KEMCO-published games (25 to completion), virtually all of which cost me $1 or were free. That's on the order of 270+ hours of gameplay for around $25. Completed games average around 11 hours each, and Adventure Bar Story was the only one to crack the 20-hour mark.

KEMCO publishes games from four major developers, and though they're all retro-jrpgs, they each have their own style and evolution, which I've conflated in some places and becomes clearer as I've played more of their games.

EXE-Create made the Asdivine and Alphadia series, as well as the contents of the second KEMCO Humble Bundle (Fanatic Earth, Illusion of 'Phalcia, Journey to Kreisia, Revenant Saga). Their games tend to be longer, have multiple difficulty levels, rely less on IAP, and have the best translations. That said, their characters tend to be identical and the plot sequences, sidequests and worldbuilding don't change much from game to game. They have been steadily improving; I should probably try a few of their most recent offerings.

Hit-Point tends more towards games with monster companions and a variety of ways to grind. Several of their offerings (Crystareino, Justice Chronicles) were on Amazon Underground and I bought several others in their holiday sale (Soul of Deva, Chronus Arc). If you need to grind for materials to craft weapons, it's a Hit-Point game. On the other hand, they're most likely to to put actual puzzles into the dungeons. Their IAP is usually there to reduce grinding time. A bunch of their games were in the Humble KEMCO x HyperDevBox bundle, so it'll be interesting to see how those function without IAP.

Magitec tries the hardest to get creative with their plots, often to the point of cramming in too many twists. They also had a bunch of Amazon Underground games (Grace of Letoile, Soul Historica, Dead Dragons) and a bunch I got in the holiday sale (Covenant of Solitude, Chrome Wolf, Shelterra the Skyworld). They tend to go in for class systems, mission-based plot sequences, and very standard space-filling dungeons that have the same half-dozen styles (take the long way around to hit a switch; one-way doors/traps; sliding ice/walkways; damage floors you need items to avoid, etc). They'll often have cool stuff in their IAP, though sometimes it breaks the game more than others.

WorldWideSoftware provided the first KEMCO Humble Bundle (Eclipse of Illusion, Aeon Avenger, Fortuna Magus, Silver Nornir, Symphony of the Origin, Eve of the Genesis). They're most likely to hide story content behind IAP (if you aren't playing a Humble version), and their translations are sometimes rocky. They've gotten better at designing dungeons in later games, but it's not hard to improve from three open screens with two arrangements of enemies, which was the standard in their earliest offerings.

I suspect I'll continue to play games from a variety of the developers, but I'll likely seek out the WorldWideSoftware or later EXE-Create ones when I next go looking, unless I'm really in the mood for a decent plot and willing to handle the Magitec style to get it.
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A Bird Story - A virtually wordless tale told in RPGMaker, by the same developer as To the Moon. It's not a game so much as an interactive story, and it's clearly trying to be “art”. Though it's a short and cute little tale of a lonely, imaginative boy making friends with a bird, I think I preferred To the Moon for its much greater depth.

Gone Home - Katie arrives home after a year in Europe to find that the door is locked and her family is gone. First-person exploration of the giant, creepy house tells the story, and it doesn't turn out how you might expect. I quite enjoyed this; I found that the story played out reasonably well and the game didn't outstay its welcome or throw up any ridiculous barriers.

Eternal Senia - An action-rpg made with RPGMaker, that was an “impulse play” because it was free on Steam. The battle system is similar to the early Ys games, where you're mostly trying to ram enemies before their projectiles hit you. The engrish is pretty terrible. But there are some decent puzzles and a nice progression—this was clearly someone's labor of love.

Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs – Mithrigil recommended this to me because I like puzzle games and horror exploration games. I'll admit, I was hoping for a bit more "point and click adventure" and a bit less "first-person stumble around and get killed." You seem to be playing an amnesiac man--a butcher-turned-investor, perhaps?--who is searching the mansion house for his children. This house makes the hotel from The Shining seem tiny, mind you. The paintings are one-way viewing portals from the secret passages. The desk drawers and cabinets (and there are many) are all full of bottles. There might be a deep mystery here, but it’s too big for my patience and there’s too much actual danger for my skills.

Goat Simulator - It is everything that I heard it was, and more. You play an immortal, incredibly strong goat and can roam the world smashing and jumping on whatever you want. The physics take "ragdoll" to new heights (people flop around in the most absurd ways). The design philosophy was clearly "if it doesn't crash the game, leave it in." It also qualifies as "a game for the whole family", in that ARR was delighted to watch me jump around smashing stuff,* and Jethrien provided color commentary. There are actually a surprising number of things to find and things you can unlock--I had kind of expected it to be stupidly simple, but for a glitch-filled bunch of craziness it's shockingly deep. Oh, and despite all the things that didn't back up on the Steam servers when my computer crashed? My saves for this bug-ridden monstrosity were just fine. It got old after a while, but I had lots of fun with this.

Besiege - A construction-set puzzle game of absurd destruction. Each stage has a goal, and you need to assemble a siege weapon from an assortment of generic parts to accomplish it. Of course, that's never as easy as you might hope, because you can't take for granted things like “steering” or “aiming.” I suspect I was “really” suppose to destroy a house on the other side of a wall by using a catapult, but I opted to build a crappy makeshift airplane and crash that into the house instead. This is still in Early Access, so I'll likely want to revisit it once the later stages and features are implemented.

Quote: “It's okay; I'm a goat.”
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Barry Allen makes terrible life choices and breaks space-time. Following time-travelling to finally save his mother, Barry discovers that this didn’t actually make the world better, and even after he “fixes” it, subtle changes have infected the reality he knew. And elements from the “Flashpoint” timeline start bleeding over, as well.

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Overall: The season was uneven, with some bits I really enjoyed and some that were kinda dumb; and the overall arc got tiring by the end. But I still like the show and I'm still on the hook for the next season.
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You live on a floating continent that's about to fall to the demon-infested world below. A princess and her stuck-up bodyguard hire you, a low-class treasure hunter, to find the magic stones that can save the world. Hmm...this actually sounds really familiar.

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Overall: Short and by-the-numbers KEMCO/Megitek jrpg; the challenge level was reasonable and it didn't outstay its welcome. Not bad, but nothing amazing.
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”A roleplaying game about kids and the relationship-devouring horrors from beyond time and space who love them.”

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Overall: This is a very cute system clearly streamlined towards a certain type of game, and I do look forward to trying it out at some point, though that may be a while.
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In Wallachia in the 1400s, the vampire Vlad Dracula Tepes is incited to bring down the wrath of his dark forces on the country. Fortunately, the Belmont family is well-versed in fighting this sort of thing. The plot is very loosely based on the events of Castlevania III for the NES, starring Trevor Belmont, who is later joined by Sypha Belnades and Alucard.

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Overall: The four half-hour episodes in the first season feel more like a teaser miniseries, testing the waters for something much larger. If you've felt the urge for a hard-R rated version of an NES game, give it a test run; but know that you're not getting much literary value.
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Kruz is an Imperial soldier that has uncovered a lie behind a mission to suppress the Rebel Army. Continuing the legacy of a fallen comrade, he defects from the Imperial Army and joins the Freedom Fighters. Kruz is devoted to fighting battles where the ideals and pride of a nation and its people are on the line...

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Overall: The thing is, this developer's (Magitec) dungeons tend to be uncreative and tedious; mostly excuses to fight very repetitive random battles with virtually no puzzles or interesting hazards. (Or even interesting scenery.) Combined with the tank battles being disincentivised and the plot being another fantasy racism retread, I just lost interest in playing it. Ah, well, I got my dollar's worth.
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"When I was a child, my planet Krypton was dying. I was sent to Earth to protect my cousin. But my pod got knocked off-course and by the time I got here, my cousin had already grown up and become... Superman. I hid who I really was until one day when an accident forced me to reveal myself to the world. To most people, I'm a reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media. But in secret, I work with my adoptive sister for the D.E.O. to protect my city from alien life and anyone else that means to cause it harm. I am Supergirl."

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Overall: I realize that there are lots of people—even in my own family—who think this show is stupid and does things terribly and blah blah blah. But I like it. It’s fun, it’s positive, I enjoy watching it. I eagerly await season 3.
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This is the Sky Island “Forselia”
In an effort to maintain peace throughout the Sky Islands, the Lord must use his “Double Weapon Throwing” technique to do away with invading monsters.
Today he has taken on a request to exterminate a Wyvern, and is on his way to get it done.
This is just the beginning of a much larger battle, that will ultimately determine the fate of all Sky Islands.


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Overall: This is a casual game with a surprising amount of tactical depth; I was very excited to see a sequel and I think it is better than the original. I’ll update this post if I find more hidden items or if they add a postgame segment.
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I got this because I was intrigued by Always Sometimes Monsters, which I turned out to not really have the patience to play at length. (At least at this stage of my life.) I was underwhelmed with the rest of the collection, with one exception:

Shooting Stars! - Fire your nyancat at absurd parodies of internet celebrities in a touch-controlled shoot-em-up. I actually found it easier than most shmups, and I’m not sure how much of that is the game itself (at least some—the levels are short) and how much is the control scheme, which I quite like. It’s heavily a momentum game: If you can survive long enough to get power-ups, they provide you with the extra life or firepower to survive much longer. I played quite a bit of this and enjoyed my time with it.

NO THING - So…it’s a runner game, where you need to swipe to turn so you don’t fall off a ledge. But it’s a psychedelic, surreal one where commentary is being provided while you run. Which works terribly, because trying to pay attention to the commentary gets you killed; and trying to ignore it makes the game feel pointless. There’s a theory that the designers only had boring and repetitive gameplay ideas, so they decided to disguise it as ART.

Last Horizon – A space exploration/survival game with a decent concept (explore the galaxy, try to maintain enough fuel and oxygen by stopping at planets, and collect biological samples to eventually terraform your new home when you arrive) and a painful execution (the ship has no reverse thrusters and obeys physics, so you need to pivot and thrust to reduce speed, meaning that the meat of the game is trying to perfect landing on planets without crashing). I’m not interested in pixel-perfect landing simulator, thanks.

Circa Infinity – A circular platformer that feels more like a tech demo than an actual finished game. You need to dive through layers of circles, avoiding 8-bit demons all the way, until you reach the swirly one that ends the level. Dying knocks you back two layers and hurts your time. I give them credit for making a circular control scheme that I found tolerable, but after that there’s really nothing to keep you interested.

Space Grunts - A roguelike with a space marines theme. Again, as a top-down shooter with decent controls I’ll give them credit, but I think it’s more complicated than I’m willing to give a game where death is often instant and permanent. (I often find roguelikes frustrating, which should make it fun when I’m playing the Humble Roguelike Bundle.)

Cloud Chasers – An adventure / survival game in which a father-daughter team tries to make it through a desert, stopping for role-playing opportunities and harvesting clouds for water. I don’t think this was a bad game by any means; it had a lot of clever bits to it. But it didn’t grab me, probably because the survival genre isn’t so much my thing and the cloud-gathering gameplay wasn’t addictive enough.

Always Sometimes Monsters – This is a cross between a slice-of-life game and a visual novel made with RPG Maker. I’m interested in it; I’m curious about where the plot goes. But it’s rather slow-moving and I wasn’t falling into the story. I’ll likely revisit it later.

Cosmonautica – A deeply complex space trading/simulation game that makes my tablet cranky and doesn’t particularly interest me.

The bundle also included the Android versions of Tomb Raider 1 & 2, which aren’t so much my thing.
Overall: I was underwhelmed with everything but Shooting Stars, which made my $6 for the bundle totally worth it.
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- My back went “poing” on Friday afternoon, shortly before we got in the car to go. I threw my cane in the car as an afterthought, but in retrospect it made life a lot more pleasant. It wasn't until mid-week that I was willing to go roaming without it, because I was getting nasty spasms if I stood too long or bent over wrong. This was, however, probably the best possible week to hurt my back, as I had already planned to spend large portions of it lying down.

- I read and played my 3DS on an assortment of couches in our rented house, on my bed, on a lawn chair, and on the beach. (I had the option of additional lawn chairs but the mosquitoes were too much. I got some nasty bites just playing outside with ARR.) I also went to bed at 9pm some nights, and took several naps. This was the portion of the trip I actually considered vacation.

- I actually didn't do as well as Jethrien did in terms of eating lobster—I only had it a couple of times; one lobster roll and twice in assorted seafood dishes. I did, however, eat some form of seafood pretty much every day—and the scallops and mussels were arguably even better than the lobster. I also had a duck burger topped with pork belly, which was delicious and I very much regretted it the next day. I also had blueberries in the form of pie, muffins, whoopie pie, crumble, cheesecake, lemonade, and margarita. I thought the Popovers at Jordan Pond House were very good, but not worth the insane hype. And there is a LOT of good ice cream in Bar Harbor.

- The best cell reception I got all week was halfway up Beech Mountain, which was coincidentally where I was when I got the only call from work while I was away. (Also, I did exactly two hikes, this being the latter one, and they managed to call during one of them.)

- We took ARR to Timber Tina's Lumberjack show (which he very much enjoyed, especially the part where he got to try the big saw). We actually saw a lumberjack show in 2008 in Ketchikan, AK, and by intermission we confirmed that it was very similar because it was run by Timber Tina's brother. (They even had some of the same jokes.)

- I got a set of OiDroids for ARR on a whim, when I was building a collection of things to do on the trip that didn't take up much space. They're paper craft robots that don't require scissors or glue to assemble, which means that I bought a pack of 15 action figures that fold flat. That's a deal! (Also, you can cover them in glitter glue and feel okay about that.)

- Over 20+ hours in the car, the most effective entertainment for ARR was generally either his tablet or singing along to a mix of (mostly) They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Weird Al and Laurie Berkner that I put together. But we also played various car games, played with multiple puzzle/game books, colored with crayons and colored pencils, read a chapter of The Hobbit out loud, and napped. The most effective of my pile of “car surprise” purchases was a Rescue Bots sticker book, which should come as no surprise.

- ARR got severely off-schedule via refusing to nap and staying up too late (despite being clearly exhausted from all the hiking he did), so on Wednesday, after a super-cranky morning, I wrestled him down for a nap. I haven't had to do that in months, but it clearly helped. Also, he was in full preschooler pickiness form about food for much of the week, opting mostly to eat potato chips, crackers and cereal. I suspect that some amount of dehydration and wacky blood sugar levels played a role in his moods, as well. We'd remedied a bunch of that by the end of the week. And really, he was generally well-behaved and clearly had a great time, but it's easy to forget that he's four and sometimes acts like it.

- We stopped to visit Jethrien's brother and his family on the way back, and the fact that ARR and his (year-younger) cousin FJG played for two solid hours, effectively unsupervised, with nobody crying? Blew my mind. We need to spend more time with them.
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Secret Loves of Geek Girls ed. Hope Nicholson - An anthology combining prose and graphic storytelling, with an assortment of mostly-personal stories about being a geeky girl and dating. While most of them were decently-written experience summaries, they got a bit repetitive by the end, and several of the graphic stories seemed oddly condensed. (And honestly, the bits from Ménage a 3 and Girls With Slingshots felt thrown-in.) Not bad, but not amazing either.

As a completely random aside, I found it amusing how many of the contributors were named some variation of “Megan,” as Jethrien and I have a running gag that if you meet a woman in our neighborhood and don't know her name, you can guess Megan and be right half the time.

Dear Cthulhu Vol. 4: What Would Cthulhu Do? By Patrick Thomas - More of the same, the future devourer of all that lives as a classic agony aunt. The question-writers are often more amusing than Cthulhu’s answers in a lot of cases, because his advice is decent and his routine has gotten stale.

Extracted by RR Haywood - This is a series of fight scenes strung together by a time-travel hook that never really pays off. The first third of the book is dedicated to getting the band together, then the rest is them training and setting up hooks for a longer series. The descriptions and exposition get ridiculously repetitive (if I have to hear one more time about Ben changing his name because of what he did when he was 17; oy). The attempts at being witty don't really work; it mostly comes across as inappropriate levity. An entire chapter is dedicated to the characters marveling at prehistoric megafauna...that could never have existed because of the cube-square law. Then we get several chapters devoted to one character being depressed about being extracted, until he gets beaten to shit and gets over it. Oh, and there are only two female characters, one of whom is only referred to and is apparently a legendarily horrible person, the other of whom gets a loving description of being sexually harassed by her boss. To sum up: It's a crap book without any real redeeming qualities.

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente - Similar to Kelly Link’s short stories in that they have a mystical, dream-like quality to them. Better than Kelly Link in that Valente knows how to end a story. Though I think she occasionally gets into Grant Morrison territory where everything must have a wacky backstory and long description, even if that doesn't matter to the thrust of the story at all. There's a lot here, and how much gets interpreted as pretentious fluff is heavily dependent on the reader, but I was generally positive on it.

A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett - Having now read virtually his entire corpus, I find that Pratchett doesn't always produce brilliance, but he hit a stride mid-career and even in his later years things remained serviceable. Clearly some of his ideas also work better as short stories; "The High Meggas", which was the basis for The Long Earth series Steven Baxter wrote 25 years later, was one such case. I had read two of the longer Discworld pieces many years ago, but they remain very solid assuming you already know all the players. This is less a stand-alone book and more a completion piece for the thorough Pratchett fan.

Rise of the Dungeon Master by David Kushner - I hadn't realized until I saw this at a bookstore that it was a graphic novel, which prompted me to actually buy it. The problem was, they didn't actually have that much material and took a very surface-level view to the story of Gygax and Arneson creating D&D. Also, they were trying to gloss over the parts where the two of them behaved badly and were dicks to each other. (Though the author pretty clearly thinks Arneson was in the right.) It's a fun fast read of shallow history and the art is acceptable (I mean, Gygax looks like his pictures, so...) but it's probably not worth your money. Borrow my copy if you're intrigued.
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Long ago, Ganondorf was defeated and his soul splintered into four fragments. Three of them were sealed in different moments in time, while the fourth was trapped by the Master Sword. But Ganondorf plots his resurrection through Cia, a sorceress who protects the balance of the Triforce while maintaining neutrality. Cia becomes fascinated with the spirit of the hero of legend, with her amorous feelings for the hero providing Ganondorf an opportunity to purge her inner light. As a result, Cia becomes consumed in her desires, opening the Gate of Souls, a portal to different time-space realities of Hyrule, to amass an army of monsters. Seeking to unite the Triforce and conquer Hyrule, she uses her subordinates Wizzro and Volga to wage war against Princess Zelda and the Hyrulian army.

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Overall: This was a lot of fun time spent pressing the attack button over and over again. Exactly what I signed on for.
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A puzzle platformer with a simple framing story about a father searching a mysterious swamp for his son. He finds a little light spirit whose glow can reveal hidden dimensions, and uses that magic light to reveal platforms, traps, wheels and other trickery.

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Overall: I can see why this won awards; the puzzles are very good, the concept is interesting and the graphics are very pretty. That said, the platforming difficulty level is awfully high and the controls could stand to be more responsive. I'd specifically recommend this to platformer enthusiasts with high-end computers.
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Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II - Kamala continues defending Jersey City, competes in an only-slightly-exaggerated science fair (Sky Shark, the happiest shark!), watches her supporting cast splinter in the wake of their own drama, and comes into conflict with Captain Marvel over pre-crime profiling. While some of the allusions to real-world issues are heavy-handed, I continue to like the general tone of the series.

Superman: Earth One - This is yet another “modernized” retelling of Superman's first appearance in Metropolis, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was JMS's rejected script for the Man of Steel movie. (It's better than what they went with, but that's not exactly a high bar to clear.) I don't think there's enough that sets it apart from so many similar origin stories for the accolades it apparently got—it's good, but nothing stands out.

Lumberjanes Vol. 5: Band Together - Now with more mermaids!

Lumberjanes Vol. 6: Sink or Swim - Now with more selkies! Seriously, though, I am slightly concerned that, while this remains a lot of fun, they're getting stuck in a formulaic rut and they aren't actually going to pay off all the mysteries they've set up. I suppose the eventual volume 7 will tell us whether they're spinning their wheels indefinitely or if they're willing to actually progress things.

Archie Vol. 1 (Mark Waid) - Is Archie still Archie if you reboot the various relationships, adapt the art style and add more minority characters? Short answer: As long as Archie is catastrophically incompetent at most tasks and remains torn between the many women in his life, yes. I think I prefer when it goes for more outright goofy than dramatic, but that's pretty much always been my preference for Archie comics.

Jughead Vol. 1 (Chip Zdarsky) - Set in the same continuity as the Archie reboot, this Jughead is explicitly asexual, exceptionally devious, and prone to extended daydreams that match classic more-fantastic Archie stories (I particularly loved the Jughead's Time Police references).

Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man, Vision Vol. 2: Little Better Than a Beast - This is the story of the Vision making terrible life choices, and his attempt at creating a “normal” suburban family turning into a slow-motion train wreck. Greek tragedy starring android superheroes.

Giant Days Vol. 1 - A slice-of-life comic featuring a trio of college girls as they encounter love, loss, angst, booze and flu season. Fun!
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Continuing the theme of near-future, tech-based Twilight Zone shenanigans.

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Overall: ...It makes me think, and I suppose that's good?
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Lita and Adrian go seeking a mysterious magic ring in the elven ruins in the floating continent of Ara Fell, which floats above the Abyss, the Land of the Dead. Lita finds the ring and foolishly puts it on. Oops.

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Overall: An attempt at doing creative things with RPGMaker that was interesting, but ultimately missed the mark. The Amber Throne, which I got off the same recommendation list, is a much stronger game in my opinion. That said, if there was a sequel, I'd check it out to see what the author learned.
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We are the Crystal Gems
We'll always save the day
And if you think we can't
We'll always find a way
That's why the people of this world believe in
Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl, and Steven!


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Overall: Yeah, this is very cute. And it's on the list of things I'm perfectly happy for ARR and I to watch together. Season 2 is likely to get added to my list.
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Your workaday cubicle-dwelling city life leaves you hollow, so you accept your grandfather's offer to go live in his old farm in Stardew Valley. It...needs some work.

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Overall: The game has amazing “flow” and the “just one more day” impulse is strong. The potential for addiction is very high. I quite enjoyed it, and recommend it with caution.
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Given that I’ve always liked Twilight Zone inspired sci-fi / spec-fi, and this is billed as an anthology along those lines, it seemed worth my time to give it a try. Spoilers for the first three episodes below.

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Overall: Intriguing ideas, less-than-perfect execution. I’ll probably watch some of seasons 2 and 3, but I may skip around based on recommendations, rather than watching them all.
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