Super Mario Run

After Miitomo, it was obviously only going to be a matter of time before Mario himself made his first official appearance on smartphones. But even though I knew it was coming, I have to say that at the time, the news of Super Mario Run felt pretty big to me.

Sadly, while the idea of Mario making his mobile phone debut is quite an exciting one, I didn’t think the game was really very interesting. It’s visually very similar to New Super Mario Bros. U and doesn’t provide much in the way of innovation. The unique twist of the game is that Mario always runs forward and all you do is tap the screen to jump. It feels very basic when compared to the other platformers in the series, but it also lacks the addictive nature you normally find in smartphone games. Oh, also you have to pay £10 to have all the levels, which feels like a lot. Though he doesn’t often do so, I feel Mario’s rival Sonic did the concept a lot better in Sonic Runners.

Outside of the usual platforming, you can also build a little Mushroom Kingdom of your own. You earn coins in levels, which you then use to build things and attract Toads. I never found this very interesting. One cool thing is that the game got some Super Mario Odyssey content before the game even came out (in the form of Pauline and Cappy statues) but this is pretty minor. You use this feature to unlock more characters by building different structures. You can unlock Luigi, Toad, Toadette, Peach and various Yoshis.

The best content in the game came a little later, when they added a feature called Remix 10. In this mode, Princess Daisy has been kidnapped and then you run through sequences of ten mini levels in order to rescue her. This is fast paced and fun. To be honest, the whole game should have been built around it. You can also put headphones on Mario so that you can listen to your own music instead of the game’s bland soundtrack – although, ironically, the Remix 10 music is better than all the rest. It felt weird to see him hopping and jumping around the Mushroom Kingdom while Anathema played – but weird in a good way. In the end, you unlock Daisy and can use her for the first time in a platformer, which I’m sure her fans appreciate.

To be honest, I didn’t really think it was worth spending £10 on, as the additional content was quite superfluous. You get all you could from the experience in the free version. I’m sure some fans got more enjoyment out of it than I did, but I found the whole thing very generic. I’d happily recommend skipping it.

Rating: 6/10

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The Value of Online Chats

Before I start this blog post, I would like to write a bit of a disclaimer: I find online chat systems very useful. I use several of them and I use them regularly. They’re a great facilitator for social interactions in reality, they’re a great way to keep in touch with people who move far away and they’re a useful tool for checking in on people who you haven’t seen in a while. Having said all that, I’d now like to proceed to tear them down with a string of criticisms.

As time goes by, I find myself less and less inclined to talk people online. The reason? Speaking face to face is just a much deeper and more rewarding experience. Lovely and touching conversations I’ve had with people stick with me for years and years – yet it’s extremely rare for an online chat to have the same sort of impact, no matter how positive it may be. I’m not saying that it never happens, but it’s just a lot harder to feel invested in words on a screen.

Then there’s the fact that it’s a lot trickier to communicate directly online. For many people, it’s hard to properly convey the emotion that they want to express, because they don’t have the help of body language or tone of voice. I’ve had a few instances where people have been concerned that I am either annoyed with them or deeply unhappy about something, when the reality has been that there’s no subtext whatsoever. And I’m equally as guilty of it: I have worried people have been upset or unhappy, when really they’re just quickly messaging because they’re busy with something else.

I suppose I think it’s kind of like this: you can watch or a film or you can read that films plot synopsis from Wikipedia. In both instances you gain the same information, but the experiences are vastly different. One will be fun and memorable, the other gives you the information and maybe engages you to some extent, but ultimately doesn’t provide you with much to engage you on an emotional level. The only issue is, that it’s a lot easier to find the time to read a synopsis than it is to watch a whole film.

So while I definitely appreciate the convenience of online chatting and wouldn’t be in touch with some of my friends without it, I also try to save as many conversations to be shared in person as possible and don’t apply too much significance to digital correspondence. It’s probably healthier this way.

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Smiley Face Badges

I was walking through the streets of Chippenham on my lunch break today, when I passed an enthusiastic stranger. “Yes!” he shouted loudly, “yes! Smiley badge man! Yes!” Apparently he quite liked the smiley face badge that I wear. I thought, perhaps, that today I’d write about the story of my smiley face badge.

Back in 2012, I was very happy – I had pretty much everything I wanted in life. I’m very fortunate to have experienced such a high. In that time, I decided to buy a smiley face badge to reflect my contentedness in life – since then, I continued to wear it because it was a nice connection to a very special time.

When having dinner with an old friend in 2015, they asked me if I had always had that badge, because they felt like it suited me very well and it was easy to imagine it had always been there. Though they were wrong, I quite liked that they thought I’d always had it.

In 2017, I decided that it would be nice to start giving these badges to people as a sentimental item – something I’d only give to my very closest friends. I tried to give them for significant reasons: one was given to a friend to cheer them up, one was a farewell gift, one was an engagement present, several were birthday presents.

In 2018, I had to replace my original smiley face badge with another, as the original was becoming significantly worn out. I was sad about replacing it, but decided, like my Trusty Water Bottle, that though its physical form may be replaced, its essence and soul remains the same – so, therefore, so does the meaning behind it. I do keep the original in my wallet at all times though.

During that year, I also gave a smiley face badge away to somebody who I didn’t count among my very closest friends. I knew a colleague was feeling unhappy about a lot of things, so I put a smiley face badge on a packet of Thornton’s chocolates and left it there for them. I thought of it as a kind of calling card. In a nice turn of events, they ended up becoming somebody I count among my closest friends anyway. The magic of the smiley face badge made it so

In the past, people often misunderstood it and thought that it was a sign that I was a fan of the graphic novel, Watchmen. I’ll admit it’s a good read and I do like it – but not enough that I would make it a part of my everyday apparel. If people were to mistake it for anything, I wish it would be the face of Koro-sensei, the star of Assassination Classroom. I remember one time in particular, somebody asked “Are you a Watchmen fan?” I said “No, just a fan of happiness!” and they laughed, thinking I was being sarcastic. But, on the other hand, somebody told me that they thought of me when they first saw the Assassination Classroom manga in a shop, because of the association with smiley faces.

The truth is that I wear it, not only, as a connection to the very happy era of my life in 2012, but also a reminder. When a lot of people have spoken about me, they’ve described me very positively – it sometimes feels like some people see me as a kind of superhuman positivity machine. I’m glad that I’ve been able to come across that way, but it’s also simply not the reality. I can’t be positive all the time, nobody can. Sometimes I am negative and in low moments, I have selfish and self-centered thoughts. My badge is a reminder to myself that life can be really good and to always try to be kind and make new friends – ultimately, to remind myself to be the best version of myself, the version of myself that my friends perceive.

(I have a terrible memory when it comes to this blog – in 2015, I wrote a fairly similar blog post. Thankfully, today’s has more meaning to it and is a little longer. I must always be careful not to repeat myself though!)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Tom Sawyer is one of those literary characters who are so ingrained into the public consciousness, that even if you don’t know anything about him, the name will still sound familiar. This was kind of the situation I was in when I went into it, with one exception…

Before reading, I was also familiar with the iconic whitewashing scene, which has had countless parodies and tributes paid to it throughout the years in popular culture. In it, Tom essentially passes off the boring job of whitewashing onto somebody else, by making it out to be much more exciting than it is. It’s a clever and funny little moment.

But, anyway, to the book at large: in the introduction, Twain explains that the happenings within the book are based on many real people and events from his own childhood. In a way, this is very much what it feels like: somebody sharing interesting anecdotes from their childhood.

On the one hand, it’s great to know that many of the happenings from the book are based on things which happened in reality. It’s always nice for a novel to have that authenticity. What’s especially appealing to me is that even though this was written in America in the 19th century, there are still times when I relate to the experiences of the boys within it. Their obsession with wanting to dig up treasure and desire to be pirates, without ever really comprehending the true nature of piracy, are two things I definitely went through as a child.

On the other hand, it really is just like somebody telling interesting anecdotes from their childhood. By which I mean, not much effort is made with character development and the overall plot structure is very loose and is really just a string of events. Tom and his friends get into scrapes and have fun in different ways in each chapter – that’s it. I also felt like the novel as a whole was lacking in much emotional value. Perhaps it was banking too much on making people feel nostalgic?

So, as much as I enjoyed reading it and am glad that I did, I feel that it was lacking in quite a few areas. The story was definitely interesting and I was surprised by quite how dark it got at times, but despite the serious events which take place, I feel like the writing was quite removed from the associated intensity of emotion. Plus, there’s a somewhat uncomfortable portrayal for the novel’s sole Native American character – although I did feel like it was kind of progressive in other areas. It’s not very long and worth a read, but I certainly don’t consider it to be one of the greatest novels of all time…

Rating: 6.8/10

Buy it here.

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Rap Battle

Though only a short one, today’s Trusty Water Blog anecdote tells a wholesome and heartwarming rap battle-based story. I’d wager you don’t know too many tales which could be described like that now, do you? No, the movie 8 Mile doesn’t count.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact year in which this takes place, which I know is unusual for me, but it was essentially just one small interaction that I wanted to share. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say it was Autumn 2010, because my friends and I were interested in rap battles for some reason and I have a feeling that it was because of the web series, Epic Rap Battles of History, which started in September 2010.

So, anyway, my good friend Elliott Egan and I had decided to try and rap battle one another. I believe Egan went first and when it came time for him to start rapping against me, he found he couldn’t. It wasn’t due to lack of rapping capability, but because he couldn’t find anything bad to say about me. Then, when it was my turn, I found that I had the same dilemma – I decided to try and fit some compliments into my rap instead. We went into the battle preparing to hurt feelings, but came out of it by lifting each other higher than every before.

And that’s my pleasant and wholesome rap battle story. Why don’t they do compliment based rap battles? Or rap love ins, they could be called. I don’t know the answer to the question, but as the human race progresses forward, amasses more knowledge and expands its moral consciousness, I am sure that it will only be a matter of time before this dream becomes a reality. Yo.

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Nintendo and Friends (a social media experiment)

I’m afraid that today’s blog post isn’t a particularly exciting one, but I wanted to talk a little about a project I’ve been working on recently. It’s a bit of an experiment really, but I was thinking about how I’m quite good at social media marketing, but that none of my own accounts really reflect that ability.

So what I decided to do, was to create a Twitter account based around my Trusty Water Blog video game reviews. I didn’t want to build my numbers by telling my friends about it, so instead I’ve just tweeted about my reviews and been an active member in online communities.

I started it few months ago and I only update it every now and then, but I am quite glad to have built up 99 followers and counting. I know it’s not really that impressive – in work, I’ve built up 500 followers on a new account in much less time. Still, for me, this is an achievement that I am quite proud of.

If you’re interested in looking at it, I’m @AndNintendo and the only things I tweets are my video game reviews: I write super condensed versions of them, along with their scores, then I link to the full thing. Since I’ve written literally hundreds of game reviews now, I’ve got a steady flow of tweets! I guess 99 people enjoy it (which is significantly more than my author fan page on Facebook has!)

I hope that one day I’ll have built up so many followers that it will be something worth showing off whenever I find myself in interviews for social media roles in future! It would certainly be a nice way to go against the curse of social media marketers.

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Wii Shop Channel

I’m sad about the Wii Shop Channel being shut down, just like I was when Miiverse was taken down. Though I will admit that I’ve not bought anything from it in a couple of years, it’s something that I have a lot of nostalgia for and I have a great deal of appreciation for what it was doing at its peak.

Long ago, prior to the release of the Wii, I remember reading about the Wii Shop Channel in the Official Nintendo Magazine. In it, they made a huge collage out of the boxes of hundreds of classic Nintendo games and the prospect of having all of them in a single console, without ever having to change disc, was incredible to me. In fact, that was probably the one thing which made me most excited about the Wii – much more than the motion controls or anything else.

Of course, my young and naive mind imagined it as being much better than it was in reality. I imagined a complete archive of every game that had ever been on a previous console which could be accessed for free from every Wii. But while my young fantasies were largely inaccurate, what we did get was still pretty spectacular.

It’s the Virtual Console which appealed to me most and it was through this that I got the chance to properly play several NES, SNES and N64 games for the first time. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Mario Party 2, Kirby’s Adventure and Super Metroid, are just a few of the games I experienced for the first time thanks to the Wii Shop Channel. And of course, I also got to replay some classics that I hadn’t played for years, such as Donkey Kong Country (and it’s two sequels), The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and Super Castlevania IV.

It wasn’t just an opportunity to revisit classics though, as there was also a significant collection of new and original games available to purchase as well. Though I don’t think the original games were ever as appealing to anyone as the classics, there were some high quality games available. The indie classic Cave Story is a fine example of what you can find there… but a lot of it is stuff like a video game version of Pop-up Pirate! which I’ll review at a later date, but which wasn’t that great.

Plus, as well as providing access to a large library of games, the Wii Shop Channel simply had a lot of style. The distinctive theme song that plays while you’re using it is something which I’ll always get a nostalgic joy from as it reminds me of that feeling of excitement which came before downloading a new game. I’m glad that this music continues to appear in the Super Smash Bros. series. Even the download screen was fun: instead of watching a bar fill or something like that, you watch an 8-bit Mario or Luigi collecting coins – sometimes you even got Fire Mario and could control him!

But, by all means, it wasn’t without it flaws. Even at the time, I felt like it took forever to load and, for some reason, instead of showing you the actual prices and buying things directly, you needed to buy Wii Points to spend, which seemed arbitrary. There were also some significant absences from their library, notably: Diddy Kong Racing (and many other Rare-made games for Nintendo consoles), Starwing, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and more. With it soon to be discontinued, it also raises the point of how much we actually own anything we bought from it too – I probably spent quite a lot on Wii Shop purchases, so when it’s gone and I’m unable to redownload past purchases, I’ll be pretty unhappy.

All in all, I’m really glad that I had a Wii when the console first came out, as it meant that I had the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the Wii Shop Channel while it was new and current. I hope, in future, Nintendo will make an effort to ensure their back catalogue remains available…

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Shared Knowledge

Something which has been coming up a lot at my work lately is the subject of shared knowledge. Of course, I subscribe to the age old expression “sharing is caring” and I absolutely apply that to knowledge and information too. In terms of both personal development and the smooth running of any business or organisation, I think that it’s important for people to educate one another as to the different areas of their expertise.

On the one hand, this is a great way for people to learn new skills and to expand their own skillset and on the other, it means that should one member of staff be unavailable to do their job for whatever reason, their colleagues will be able to cover them without too much difficulty. There’s no real downside, unless you consider the time spent in training as a downside – which you probably shouldn’t.

And it’s not just something that people should do at work – but outside of work too. To be able to learn new skills from your colleagues, you already need to have a job… so what about the unemployed? I, personally, do try and teach friends about my skills as much as possible. I’ve discussed creative writing techniques with many friends and done all I can to try and refine their skills (as they, also, have done with me.)

I appreciate that writing is more of a hobby skill (and probably something which you’ll get more out of, if you share in a social context) but I have also made efforts to try and teach friends about digital marketing and SEO. I enjoy teaching and I think quite a lot of people do get some kind of pleasure from imparting knowledge on others. So, if you’ve never done it before, I recommend that you try and exchange skills with your friends (and colleagues) as it will be rewarding both personally and professionally.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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Nobody Knows the Full Story

I had an interesting thought earlier today: I don’t really know anyone who knows everything about me. I suppose it’s possible that this is true of a lot of people, because many of us have secrets, but I feel I don’t know anybody who truly knows all of my significant experiences and the overall structure of my life. I have many people with whom I feel very close, but I feel that each of them is only conscious of one portion of my life (specifically, the portion which is most strongly related to them.)

Perhaps this is quite common, perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps, indeed, it’s true of every person to some extent or another. From my point of view, I think it’s quite healthy to have many different aspects of your life – that way, if something goes horribly wrong within one of them and starts to become a cause of distress, you can take solace within another. While I behave quite consistently with different people and make it a rule to treat people equally, I do think that some people would be quite surprised if they knew about certain experiences and relationships that I’ve had.

Having said all that, I don’t mean to sound like I’m advocating a lack of communication. I do think that it’s very important for friends to share their experiences with one another; not only is it a good way to help form bonds with people, but can also help give a sense of solidarity for those who have been through similar things. But, on the other hand, I find it much more enjoyable to hear stories of somebody else’s life, than to share details of the history of my own. Perhaps I should share more things about myself with people.

It was something which had never occurred to me until I was watching television the other day and one character mentioned that they knew everything about another and started mentioning things about their life. I feel that a lot of people might know me very well in terms of the way that my mind works, but not so much in the sense of knowing about my life experiences. Is this the norm? Maybe it’s wrong to talk about ‘norms’ when it comes to something which might be different for everybody…Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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Exotic Excursions by Anthony Nanson

This collection of short stories opens with a very interesting essay called “The Allure of the Other” and I know that a lot of people skip over introductions in books, but in this particular case, I heavily recommend you read it. In it, the author, Anthony Nanson, talks about different groups of people who have been considered “other” and explores ways in which writing and storytelling can begin to bridge that gap. It’s a very nicely thought out piece of writing and perfectly lays down what these stories are supposed to do. It provides a context which ties them all together. It also explains that these stories narrowly tread the line between travel writing and fiction and that alone, for me, sounds very appealing. But, anyway, without further ado, here’s a review of each story in this collection.

The Things We Love
In the first story of the collection, a man named Brian who’s working in East Africa to help install a pipeline, encounters a strange pillar in a church, which he is sure is a bone… but no living species could possibly be the owner of that bone. Together with his colleague, Mary, they investigate its origins. In a way, this feels like a precursor to Nanson’s later novel, Deep Time. There’s some nice irony in the ending.

This is a very simple story about a man trying to navigate Lake Bogoria, a place which is very close to the equator and therefore very hot! It illustrates how much we take for granted the essential luxury of running water. It was short, but pretty tense!

A Drink Before Bedtime
A seemingly inconsequential story of an interaction between two people of very different backgrounds. It’s hard to quite identify what this story is really about – but I feel that it was written to highlight the prejudices and preconceptions that everyone is guilty of forming from time to time.

This was an especially good one. A tourist/traveller in Greece appreciates the beauty of natural scenery and then feels a little lonely as he watches a group of friends interacting later on. It seems to compare the magnificence of the natural world, with the unquantifiable value of human bonds and interaction – I really liked that. Though this was only short, it felt very much like a real snapshot of a person’s life.

Touching Bedrock
To put it very simply, this story tells of a beautiful moment shared between two people. Personally, I didn’t like it quite as much as the stories which came before, but I feel like it’s nice to share a beautiful moment, simply for the sake of sharing a beautiful moment.

The Waves Never Ceasing
A very interesting one. It tells the story of a collapse of a civilisation and it’s done in a very timeless way. By that I mean that, after I read it, I had an internal debate – was it a story told from a future perspective about our own civilisation? Or was it somebody today telling the story of Atlantis or another lost civilisation? Well, why not read it and draw your own conclusions?

The White Hoover
This one was very different the those which came before and after it – both in terms of tone and subject matter. In it, a man heads to a castle in Scotland in order to meet a therapist who he hopes will help him to overcome some extreme allergic reactions which he has been suffering from. I guarantee you won’t guess what happens. I found it quite funny.

Rite of Passage
A story of a coming of age ceremony for some young men – with one of them having some concerns. It’s hard to say much about this story. It’s written very in the moment, which adds a great deal of tension to it all and I could actually imagine it as a performance piece actually (I’d love to see it performed one day.)

The Cobra Hissed
I remember speaking to the author and he told me that once, during his travels, he had a near encounter with a cobra and couldn’t help but think about what might have happened. This tells the story of what might have happened and it really highlights how, in certain moments, our lives could go down vastly different (and indeed, much shorter!) paths. Based on that premise, I was looking forward to this one and I enjoyed it.

The Sun Cafe
This is the second longest story in the collection and, perhaps, my favourite. It tells the story of a man in Greece who wishes to see the top of Mt. Olympus. I shan’t tell you whether or not he makes it, but on his way he interacts with a variety of different people and has a lot of interesting experiences. I feel like there’s a lesson to be learned when you get to the end, but I’m not sure that the protagonist ever learns it himself. What helped make this story so enjoyable was that the immersive writing style really made me feel like I was seeing, hearing, feeling and doing everything that the protagonist did.

The Leap of Faith
A man (Perry) is shocked when his wife (Prue) suddenly leaves their house because she is disillusioned with her life. She’s sick of the unfulfilling humdrum of day to day existence and so one night she decides to leave it all behind – much to Perry’s bemusement. This decision takes them both on quite a journey and I found myself very invested in these characters. I think what makes it so appealing is that everyone will have thought about doing what Prue does at some point and it’s nice to see that fantasy play out.

The Last Coelacanth
A very short and depressing story about the last Coelacanth in existence. Presumably set in the near future, what makes it so much worse is that it is so terribly believable. It’s hard to say as much about this one – but again it creates the impression that you’re seeing just a snapshot of the lives of real people.

The Flower People of the Pamirs
One of the best in the collection: a group of three people in Soviet Russia head out to an obscure corner of the country in order to investigate rumours of Neanderthals. The three characters are all very different people and all have very different motives for being there: the story is told by switching between each of their diary entries and it’s an approach I quite enjoyed. Together they encounter the ‘Rayu’ people, who they hope may give them some insights. I found the direction of the story most unexpected, but appreciated that clues to what was really happening were planted along the way. The ending was very sweet and nicely optimistic. A perfect way to close off the anthology.

So, if you happen to come across this book (which, unfortunately, isn’t very common!) I recommend you give it a try. Genuine thoughts, feelings, sensations and impressions have been captured in these stories – but it’s not just raw experiences, there’s some thought provoking and insightful stuff here too.

Rating: 8/10

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