Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

I was pretty intrigued when I found out that there was going to be an Animal Crossing game for smartphones. At the time, it had been a fair few years since the last proper instalment and I imagined that I could get quite addicted to this game… and for a while, I was.

While other Animal Crossing games start with you getting a new house and then working to build it up, this one focuses on you getting your own campsite. You can decorate it however you like, with various different bits of furniture and by doing things for different villagers and buying furniture and items that they like, you can persuade them to stay at your camp. You also get your own camper van, which you can customise as much as you like.

Something I like about this game is that you have a friendship meter with all the different villagers you meet and it levels up the more you do for them. This makes it easy to see how good your relationship with them is and I wish that this feature was in earlier (and later) instalments in the series.

Mostly, the tasks that you do for the villagers involve catching them a certain fish or giving them a certain item. Annoyingly, you can only really do so much at a time, as after you’ve caught so many fish, they stop appearing – the same goes for bugs, fruit and shells on the beach. Whereas in the earlier games in the series, you can kind of do these things endlessly, you definitely run out of things to do here – this, of course, is done in an attempt to get you to spend money.

As well as using them to woo villagers, the resources you gather are then used to make furniture and buy improvements for your campsite or camper van. An element of urgency is then added when they do limited time events. For example, you could find Poké Balls laying around the different areas of the map at one point and they could be used to craft special Pokémon items. You can also buy fortune cookies to obtain rare items and these are limited time only too, but are also luck based and even more strongly geared towards making you spend money. Unfortunately, this game does not feature a museum to fill up like the earlier ones do.

There was a time when I was playing this every single day. It was fun to catch the fish, build the relationships and do what I could to entice as many villagers as possible. The problem was, that after a while, I realised how formulaic it was. I got the resources I could, I did what I could for the villagers and then repeated the whole process again and again. After it started to feel that way, I found myself playing less and less and now that the next console game in the series has been released, I don’t imagine I will ever return to it. Still, it was fun while it lasted and maybe some people will find it fun for longer than I did – particularly if they are willing to spend money.

Score: 8/10

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The Return of The Waltons

Yesterday, a piece of delightful pieces of news was announced: The Waltons is returning! Specifically, it’s returning in the form of a remake of the original Waltons movie, The Homecoming. However, in order to keep some connection to the original, Richard Thomas will be returning to the role of John-Boy Walton, this time playing the role of the narrator. This has me excited for a number of reasons.

When I saw that there was going to be a remake, my first thought was “I hope Richard Thomas is the narrator” and I soon found out that that was indeed the case. Since then, I’ve been endlessly excited for the new movie to come out.

With Richard Thomas reprising his role, we could get something which is both a nice ending to the original run of The Waltons, while also being a new beginning. The ideal scenario in my mind is that the story starts with Richard Thomas’s version of John-Boy with his children (or grandchildren) on Christmas Eve and when they can’t sleep, he tells them a story from his childhood – then we get the new movie. Then, at the end, when he finishes the story, John-Boy sees the kids are now asleep and, having told the tale, he feels nostalgic and takes a look at some old photos of the family (the original actors) and concludes that he’s had a good life. For me, that’d be the perfect ending to The Waltons and it would book end the series beautifully, with it starting and ending with different versions of The Homecoming.

Secondly, along with the announcement came the news that if the movie does well enough, it could lead to a whole new series of The Waltons. Of course, it’s going to be a very different interpretation of things, but I think that the ideas and concepts behind The Waltons – e.g. of a young man who wants to go to college and become a writer and of a family who carry progressive values and are accepting of all people – is such a strong idea, that it transcends any specific actors. As long as it remains true to the ethos of the original, I think it has the potential to be really good – particularly as when I watch The Waltons, I often find myself thinking that a lot of the ideas are just as relevant today. They tried hard to tackle a lot of social issues in the show and, in my opinion, always came down on the right side of history, leaving them looking progressive and ahead of their time. Plus, it’s not as though a large number of cast members didn’t change between the original Homecoming and the main series and, of course, John-Boy himself changed actors later in the show. It’s exciting to think about who the third John-Boy in the pantheon of John-Boys will be.

Thirdly, I have been a Waltons fan since 2009. Since that time, other than watching through all of what already existed, I have never had any new Waltons to look forward to. At last, a new instalment in the series is coming out within my lifetime – when I see the movie, I’ll be among the first to see it. It’ll be brand new. I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen ever since I became obsessed with the show. I hope this new movie renews interest in The Waltons and that we have lots of new Waltons content in the near future and that more people take an interest in the original show.

Finally, I love Christmas movies. There’s a long list of them that I watch every single year. It’ll be nice if this ends up being part of my festive routines. I’m sure there will be very many nice evenings in the future where I’m off work, looking forward to Christmas and watching the new Homecoming.

All round, it’s a brilliant piece of news and I struggle to understand why a lot of Waltons fans have reacted negatively. Yes, a lot of remakes aren’t as good as their originals but… so what? There are a lot of good remakes as well and even if it’s rubbish, it in no way effects the original movies, so I don’t understand why people are so upset. Ultimately, I hope it succeeds and does very well.

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Attila, My Attila! by Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley

This was one of the books included as part of the Reclaim Her Name campaign, which republished a series of historic pieces of writing which had been written by women who had to use male pseudonyms due to the misogyny of their time.

Attila, My Attila! was a play originally published under the name Michael Field, though was written by two woman named Edith Cooper and Katherine Bradley, a couple… although while the introduction in my edition is quick to tell us about the romantic nature of their relationship, it doesn’t draw attention to the fact that they were also aunt and niece… so, yeah. That’s kind of gross. But, anyway, that’s kind of irrelevant to the quality of their work.

The play is about the historic figure, Honoria, the sister of Valentinian III, the Emperor of the Western Roman Empire. She grows frustrated with the way in which her fate is left in the hands of others, especially when it comes to decisions about her marital status. She wants to be free to have relationships with anybody that she wants (including sexual relationships) and hates having to save herself for a husband who will be chosen for her. Because of all this, she’s constantly in contention with her mother and others who wish her to play the part that they expect of her. Ultimately, this all encourages her to take an interest in Attila the Hun, who is a rival to her brother on the world stage. It’s an interesting story, especially as it actually happened in reality.

I quite like the character of Honoria and her struggles against authority and I was also very fond of of the two chamberlains, Satyrus and Eugenius, both of whom play pretty major roles in the story and who have, what I felt like was, a fairly comical rivalry between them. Her mother, Galla Placidia, however, came across as a very unpleasant person (and intentionally so).

Contemporary critics of “Michael Field” were very positive about their work and even compared it to Shakespeare, though this praise disappeared once they were outed as two women. However, I think it’s a pretty fair comparison. Obviously, they were writing about three hundred years apart, so there’s nowhere near as much of the archaic language that you’ll find in something by Shakespeare, but the way that the characters behave feels very similar and so does the tone – then there’s also the fact that its a dramatisation of historic events, again, like Shakespeare.

I wouldn’t say that this particular play is better than the best of Shakespeare, but I certainly liked it more than some of what I’ve read by him. Though it is good, I do also appreciate that it’s quite a niche appeal, but if you like Shakespeare or the history of the Roman Empire, then you may well enjoy this.

Score: 7.4/10

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Ten Years of Trusty Water Blog

As of today, I’ve been writing this blog for ten years of my life. A crazy thought, because when I first started it, I had a feeling I’d end up abandoning it after a few weeks or months. While I may not update every single day like I used to, I still write at least one thing pretty much every week and, at this point in time, I imagine I always will. Looking back, it’s been a fun ten years.

2011

So, Dalfino made me start a blog. Or, at least, that’s what I titled the first blog post. Dalfino himself says that he merely suggested that I start a blog and didn’t actually make me do anything. I named it Trusty Water Blog, after my Trusty Water Bottle, which was a point of interest for some people. I was in Sixth Form at the time and working as an MDSA, which was a very dangerous job. One time on the way home, I narrowly avoided a wasp. Soon afterwards, I found myself starting an exciting new chapter in life at university and though I did miss my old friends, I was forming strong bonds with the new people I’d met.

2012

The first full year of Trusty Water Blogging. This was the year in which I read my least favourite book – but that aside, it was a nice year. My first year of university came to an end and I did well enough that I wanted to celebrate my results. I even gave advice on how others could celebrate in the same way. Someone commented to me that the homeless people of Bath were dangerous drug addicts, so I took steps to prove them wrong. I had a very nice time seeing Anthony Nanson and Davie Metcalfe perform at the Rondo Theatre in Bath. I bought some finger puppets at a local toy shop and then made a little comic strip using them to cheer up a friend when she was sad. In a significant milestone in my life, I got a yo-yo. What a beautiful day that was – a loving gift from a loving friend.

2013

This year started off very strong, with lots of wacky hijinks and fun memories. Like the time my friend Tulin and I accidentally started a fire when making brownies, or when we got off the bus at the wrong stop and had to walk along the grassy verge of a dual carriageway in the dark and the snow. Sadly, later that year, the two of us had a falling out and I was very sad about it. Back then it seemed really important, but looking back, it lasted only a few months and it’s funny now that it once seemed so important. Later that year, I was asked on a date for the first time – I was quite baffled by the offer and politely declined. During this year I made a new friend, I made no note of it on the blog, but at our first meeting, I did ask if she’d be interested in writing a guest post and so added her on Facebook. Perhaps it was a good thing that I did, because we now live together!

2014

As my time at Bath Spa University came to a close, I found myself growing more wistful and reflective – thinking both of the past and the future. I buried a digital time capsule for my future self. Freshly made up, Tulin and I were back to having good times together again. I came full circle and became an MDSA again after university, just like I was before. It was only a short-term thing, but I had some fun times with the children. Sadly, my next job involved me being tricked into distributing Conservative propaganda. By the end of the year, with many university friends having moved away, I started to feel a bit sad. I had to rely on my own company and yearned for happier times.

2015

I started the year feeling the same as I’d done at the end of 2014. I reflected that my Trusty Water Bottle was my only constant companion and funnily enough, writing about it got me my first proper full-time writing job! Or it helped, anyway, with the interviewer saying they’d read and loved that blog post. During this year, I had an unpleasant interaction with a homeless woman. In quite a milestone for this blog in particular, my friend Liam bought me the domain for www.trustywaterblog.co.uk, which was a very nice gift indeed. I was in a better place at the end of the year than I was at the start.

2016

A new year, a new job and new friends. Working alongside somebody named Sarah, she soon won me over and we became the best of friends – an experience involving chocolates in particular was one catalyst for our friendship. It’s a good thing we made friends, since she later saved my life! During this year, I stopped to reflect on all the benefits keeping a blog had given me, and there was quite a list! Sadly, the job I had at that time was a really rubbish one (only due to the boss I had) so I wrote a blog post about my frustrations, waiting a year before publishing it so that I could avoid getting in trouble. Overall, it was a good year in my life, but a bit of a rubbish one on the world stage, but I tried to stay optimistic.

2017

For the most part, 2017 was a pretty good year. I accidentally went on a date with someone, which was probably pretty awkward for them, but not for me, it was good blog material. This was also the year I got to meet some cast members from The Waltons – that’s pretty darn amazing. I hope I get to meet them again. That was thrilling. This year, I ended up with a fairly boring call centre job. I came up with ways for it to be more fun and also found little things which made it quite rewarding. This was also the year I met a close real world approximation of one of my fiction characters. I was also given serious cause to reconsider my stance on tomatoes. Plus, I wrote a blog post about my local MP, which essentially got me blocked from her Facebook page. It’s probably been my most popular blog post.

2018

I started the year by reflecting on the Top 10 Vegetables of 2017. It’s one of the finest pieces of journalism I’ve ever written. Speaking of food, this was the year that I went to Nando’s by myself and had quite a profound experience there. I was gifted a smiley face ball in a job, which created a nice parallel to a similar experience two years previously. I almost missed a bus, but successfully outran it to the next stop. I also took a moment to reflect on all the unusual people I’d met and blogged about and asked myself the question, where are they now? In many ways, it was a bit of a disjointed year.

2019

How recent 2019 feels. This was the year which contained the biggest gap between blog posts in the history of Trusty Water Blog – and why? Because I finally achieved my dream of moving to Bath. Me and my house friend have a wonderful living arrangement and one night we had a fun time going out and playing good cop, bad cop with a local hoodlum. In this year, I made a collage for International Friendship Day – I’m still very proud of it. It was during this year that I started to find it a bit harder to update my blog three days a week, so I abandoned my regular schedule and just started writing in it whenever I felt like it. It was the right choice.

2020

A year which started off normal, but then a global pandemic happened. I had to stay at home, which was fine, because me and my house friend get on beautifully – not like a house on fire, but a house well built which lasts until the end of the earth. During this time, I witnessed something deeply beautiful, which was nice. Despite not being able to see friends, I still had a very good time hosting a global quiz with a big portion of them over the internet. During this year, I became more unwell than I’d ever been before, I had to go to hospital in a life-threatening condition. In the end I was fine though, so I had a pizza to celebrate. Thanks for saving my life, Sarah and the NHS. (Did you like the foreshadowing in the 2016 section?)

2021 (and beyond)

And now here we are, ten years later. I won’t bother to write a summary of the blog posts from the last five months, but the year is off to a good start. I’m really pleased that I’ve been able to keep writing this blog for a whole decade. It’s a fun and therapeutic experience for me, kind of like keeping a diary, but one which I’m happy to share with the world. I’m glad that I’ve been able to make people laugh, to help people to better understand how I see the world and to share my love and appreciation for the people in my life. Going over my old blog posts to make this has been a very nostalgic experience and I hope I’m still writing here in ten years time.

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Animal Crossing: New Leaf – Welcome Amiibo

Three years after Animal Crossing: New Leaf originally came out, Nintendo released a new version of the game with Welcome Amiibo added to the title. This updated version adds tonnes of extra content and, very nicely, Nintendo let owners of the original version gain access to all of it via a free update! They may have done many greedy things, but this, at least, was pretty good of them. Here are a few of the added features:

  • The town gets a new area, a campsite run by a dog named Harvey. People come to visit this campsite inside camper vans, giving you a chance to meet special characters and buy furniture.
  • Something called a CAT Machine was added to the town, this gives you MEOW coupons (which can be spent on exclusive furniture that Harvey sells) in exchange for you completing certain tasks.
  • You can scan Amiibo in order to have new villagers visit. Using Animal Crossing Amiibo cards, you can get any existing villager, on top of that, you can also get several new villagers.
  • Tonnes of content from the Legend of Zelda series was added to the game, including the option to have Wolf Link, Ganon, Epona and various other characters as villagers. There’s even an outfit from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in the game, added as a kind of preview.
  • There’s some good Splatoon content as well, where Amiibo can get you villagers who are huge fans of the series, as well as various pieces of clothing and furniture which come from the game.
  • Furniture and gameplay features from Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer were added.
  • The game Desert Island Escape from Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival is now unlockable.
  • A new version of the game Puzzle League is also playable (and very fun too).

Overall, I love everything that was added to the game, particularly the new Zelda stuff. Nintendo could have very easily just released it as a new, updated version as they do with various other things and charged full price, but instead it was free. For me, the addition of this updated prompted me to revisit the game and I’m very glad I did. Now it’s even better than it was originally.

Rating: 9.6/10

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Medical Trauma

I recently had to undergo a highly invasive and painful medical procedure and I was completely conscious the whole time. The process is called a flexible cystoscopy and I’ll save the details for those who are faint of heart, but please do look it up if you’re curious. In my humble opinion, most online accounts (from official medical resources) tend to significantly downplay how painful it is.

“Oh my,” I said, as it started. “I suppose that was unpleasant, but I imagined it being a lot worse because-” I stopped to wince, because the pain had suddenly reached a significantly.

“Yeah,” said the doctor who was working on me, “it’s a very unnatural thing to have done to you.”

“That’s okay,” I said, holding back the pain, “Every new experience is a valuable experience.”

The doctor reached a particularly painful part in the procedure. “I’m really, really sorry.”

“No need to apologise,” I said, “I should be thanking you for conducting a difficult procedure in the name of improving my health. Funnily enough, the last time I had something similar done, that other doctor was very apologetic too.”

“We’re only human,” she said.

“Yes, true, but, after all, you’re doing my a kindness, really. A painful kindness, I’ll admit, but a kindness all the same.”

“I’m glad you can see it that way,” she said. “Now, if you look to the screen to your right, you’ll be able to see the inside of your bladder.”

I turned my head to see the computer screen beside me. “Oh, very nice,” I said, “I always wondered what it looked like. It looks good to me, but how does it look to you? I obviously have no point of reference for bladder interiors.”

She explained that everything looked healthy and then gave me a little educational tour of my insides. Despite the pain, it was definitely interesting stuff. Sadly, the time then came to move onto the final part of the procedure which on the bright side meant the end was near, but that I’d be in a lot more pain.

“What do you do for a living, anyway?” said the nurse beside me, offering a distraction from a particularly painful moment.

“Funnily enough, I write about medical matters. So really, this is a valuable first hand research experience for me. Perhaps I’ll get to write about it one day.”

They laughed at that and said “We’re glad we could give you some writing material.”

“Right,” said the doctor, “all done now. You did remarkably well. We don’t often get people who are so friendly and chatty throughout the whole thing. Well done you.”

All in all, it took about fifty minutes. They spoke about my health for a little while afterwards (telling me everything was fine) before sending me on my way. There was a general feeling of stress and unease about me for about two days afterwards. I didn’t feel right at all and it just made me feel very sad – the longer it went on, the funnier it seemed to me that the doctor and the nurse had commented that I seemed to have ‘done well’ because the emotional and psychological impact on me was enormous. I’m fine now, thank goodness, but it goes to show how easily a person can be mistaken for taking something well, when they’re really not doing well at all. Keep in mind, should you ever find yourself experiencing something similar, that you’ll start to feel normal again eventually! Speaking to a friend of mine, it seems that this kind of response to medical trauma is actually very common, but I’d never heard of anything like it, so I thought it was important to write about my feelings in a blog post.

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Mistborn: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

After the events of the first book, The Lord Ruler is dead and Elend Venture is now king. A lot of stories end with an evil empire being toppled and then leave it at that, as if this is a sufficient ending, but what The Well of Ascension explores is what actually happens after you topple an empire and it’s not an instantaneous happy ending.

Kelsier, the leader of the team who helped topple the previous regime, is dead and the crew who are left behind are now somewhat directionless. Elend sits on the throne and is a man of good ideals, but somebody without self-confidence or practical experience. While he tries to be the new ruler, the vacuum left by the Lord Ruler is one he doesn’t seem to be able to fill and others are forming armies to try and claim his position of power. Meanwhile, as he and his comrades try to stop a war from breaking out, the average person actually ends up with worse living conditions than they had under the Lord Ruler

I really liked the nuance to this book – there are several different factions vying for power and as you read, you have to question whether our protagonists are really the best people for the job. Everything is falling apart and, unlike the first book, where there was a clear good vs evil dynamic with the Lord Ruler against a group of noble thieves, here you have a situation where the best choice for a leader really isn’t clear. It’s an interesting story of fantasy politics and one which I found much more interesting than the first book (which I did also enjoy).

This book also introduces us to the Koloss, a race of large, brutish creatures which are used as grunts. I found them very interesting, but also felt somewhat bad for them, considering how they were seen as completely inferior to everybody else. We’re also properly introduced to the Kandra, a particularly intriguing species who consume the bodies of dead people so that they can then become a replacement for that person – we’d seen them in passing in the last novel, but what they are and how they operate is really fleshed out here and I was fascinated by them.

Meanwhile, the main characters continued to be fantastic – particularly Vin and Sazed, who are easily my two favourites. It was interesting to see Vin’s doubts and hesitations as she becomes an almost unstoppable Mistborn and we get a glimpse at more Terris people beyond Sazed as we meet a character named Tindwyl, a woman who is much less mild mannered than Sazed. Their adjustments to the changing world were interesting to see and while I was never all that fond of Elend, I think that works well and is exactly what we’re supposed to feel, as there’s a lot of intentional uncertainty over whether or not he is fit to rule.

I mean no disrespect to the first book, which was a great and enjoyable read in its own right, but The Well of Ascension does everything you want a sequel to do: it expands on the story, characters and setting and does a better job of it than the original. This is a brilliant novel of conflicting fantasy politics – just my kind of thing. If you liked the first book, I strongly recommend reading this too.

Rating: 9.3/10

Buy it here.

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Cohabitation during Lockdown

I’ve been living with a good friend of mine for almost two years and, of course, a large portion of that time has been spent in lockdown due to the ongoing global pandemic. A lot of people have had difficulty maintaining relationships with the people they live with during lockdowns, I’ve heard married couples are getting divorced and housemates are having to spend time apart because they are sick of seeing one another. So, of course, the question is: how has the ongoing global catastrophe affected my relationship with my house friend?

Well, I’d be lying if I suggested that there had been any kind of tension whatsoever, because, if anything, the two of us have just become even more happy and relaxed around one another. It’s a shame that this hasn’t quite been the case with everybody, but then I suppose it does give me cause to be proud of my relationship with my house friend. Since our dynamic doesn’t seem to be standard, I thought I’d make a blog post about why I think our relationship is as healthy as it is.

Not taking things personally

Sometimes my house friend comes home, says hello, then goes straight to her bedroom and I don’t see her again other than, perhaps, to say goodnight. Maybe someone in that situation might think to themselves “Oh no, why do they not want to be around me?” but I know in this situation that it’s not that she doesn’t want to spend to me, it’s that she does want to spend time on her own – a need we all have. How could I possibly be offended at that? Space is important to everybody.

Never being entitled

Good friends give each other emotional support and I have sat and listened to things that upset or annoy my house friend many times – just as she has sat and listened to things that upset or annoy me. However, it would be wrong of either of us to think that we can count on the other to provide emotional support 100% of the time – everybody has their limits and it’s not always possible to take on negative energy. So if we ever need to talk to the other about something, we always say “is it okay to talk about something negative?” Neither of us are entitled to the emotional support from the other – we both provide it often, but we both know that we can say no.

Communicating clearly

If either of us think that we have annoyed the other one, or if either of us just think that the other seems a bit grumpy or unhappy, we just ask “Are you okay? Have I done anything to upset you?” and then we express what the issue is or, much more likely, reassure the other that there is no issue. To be honest, because we are so open with one another and neither of us are ever afraid to raise anything, I’d never interpret something as passive aggressive, or thing that she was ever holding something against me. We both trust each other to be up front about about potential issues and therefore live with much greater peace of mind.

Doing nice things together (when we want to)

It’s easy to think “I live with this person and see them every day, therefore I don’t need to make special plans with them” but it’s important to continue to have fun positive experiences with the people you live with. Both of us are always coming up with nice things that we can do together, while at the same time understanding that we won’t always have the energy to do such things and that it’s okay to change plans at the last minute if the other isn’t feeling up to it.

Respecting boundaries

Many of the things I’ve already mentioned are boundaries, but they deserve their own point. My house friend dislikes physical contact or people being too close to her, so I avoid physical contact whenever possible and make sure I don’t stand too close. Perfectly reasonable – again it ties into not taking things personally. Someone might say “why would you be uncomfortable with me being so close? We’ve lived together happily for two years now, this is ridiculous!” but that’s not the right away to see things. The fact is that everybody has unique needs and boundaries and it’s important not to try and bend them to meet your own needs or expectations.

Bonus Point: Sense of humour

A good portion of every day is spent talking absolute nonsense. My house friend and I have almost developed characters that we slip into, or sometimes we pretend to be really nasty and toxic towards each other, which makes us both laugh. We have a similar sense of humour and are good at making each other laugh, so it is fun for us to spend time together. I guess this isn’t really something you can control, since it’s more a matter of chemistry. Although, by making fun of toxic behaviour (particularly toxic behaviour that both of us have previously encountered in others), we are inherently condemning it and passively reassuring the other that we won’t display those same toxic traits ourselves.

There’s probably a lot more to it beyond these few points, because human relationships are complex, many faceted things, but I wanted to write an overview because these are the same principals I try to apply to every relationship in my life. Essentially, I think it comes down to empathy and respect – with these at the heart of a relationship, it’s sure to be a good one.

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Shovel Knight: Specter of Torment

As I start this review, I have to say once again: I love how Yacht Club Games added so much free DLC to Shovel Knight. I once read that if they had charged a single penny for each new campaign, they could have made millions off the downloads, but instead they opted to add them for free – in an industry as greedy as the video game industry, I have a lot of respect for that.

Anyway, Spectre of Torment is the third Shovel Knight campaign and the second one they added to the base game – which can also be viewed as an independent game in its own right. In this story, you play as the Grim Reaper-esque Specter Knight, who I thought was one of the toughest bosses in the original game. While Plague of Shadows was different enough, I did think that Specter of Torment did more to distinguish itself from the original game. The story is not set at the same time as the base game and is actually a prequel, with Specter Knight working for the Enchantress at the Tower of Fate in order to help her grow her forces.

Just as Shovel Knight and Plague Knight both control very differently, Specter Knight also has a completely different playstyle. You have to jump through the air and lock onto things to attack with your scythe – you can also run up walls. Every level feels completely different and you ultimately have to get used to a whole new way of playing… and it’s really fun. There was a lot more technique to it, but once you master it, Specter Knight begins to feel very powerful.

One of the big upsides, for me, was the fact that the tone of this game was much darker. We learn that Specter Knight was once a regular human called Donovan and as you progress through the story, you get to play as Donovan in occasional flashbacks, all of which lead up to him eventually becoming Specter Knight. It’s as beautiful as it is tragic. Both of the previous two games had been moving, but nothing quite to the extent to what you get this time. It’s nice to have so much emotion in a 2D platformer as I know its a genre which can sometimes skrimp on the story side of things.

You’re also allowed to play through the game in whatever order you like, with all the levels accessible from the start. The benefit of this, I suppose, is that you don’t risk getting stuck on one specific level for ages, because you can just play the other levels until you’re good enough to come back to the one you struggled with. Since you can buy weapon and armour upgrades, Specter Knight may well be powerful enough to win those levels by the time you next return to them. In some ways, that makes it even more like Mega Man.

Other than that, all I can say is that this game is just delightful. It captures all the charm of the NES era of gaming and takes it further with modern technology. It has a beautiful 8-bit aesthetic and a suitable atmospheric soundtrack – I’ve already said this in my other Shovel Knight reviews, but it surpasses the games it drew inspiration from. Specter of Torment is, potentially, my favourite Shovel Knight campaign, as the character is particularly endearing and the gameplay is amazing. Definitely worth playing, though I would recommend at least playing regular Shovel Knight first.

Rating: 9.5/10

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Pregnancy April Fools Jokes

Whenever April Fools’ Day gets closer, I see several social media posts which say something along the lines of “Pregnancy is not a joke – there are people who want so desperately to become pregnant, but will never be able to, don’t make a pregnancy announcement as an April Fools’ joke this year.” For the longest time I never understood this – the people who make jokes like that aren’t making light of people who are unable to have children, they’re just making a dumb joke. I would never have thought that it was a particularly funny joke to make, but also it seems harmless.

Of course, I thought all that as somebody who has not been through the experience of finding out they can’t get pregnant. I wasn’t saying that people were wrong to say or think that, I just didn’t understand. I thought to myself “By the same logic, any pregnancy announcement is just as bad, right?” and then I thought about it for a while and I realises that that was the point. If you can’t get pregnant it probably does make you feel a little bit sad whenever you see that one of your friends has successfully done so and so, that’s a sadness you have to go through a lot anyway, so you may as well not have to go through it for the sake of somebody making a pointless joke.

I suppose I could have simply asked someone why they found posts like that so offensive, but as it’s obviously a very sensitive subject, it didn’t feel appropriate to bring it up. The other day I was just walking along and thinking about the subject, when all the pieces fell into place and it suddenly made sense.

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