Nicole Tanner

Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.

toca boca toca life

The Toca Life Series Is the Absolute Best Set of Kids Apps

Posted by | Feature, Mobile, Opinion | No Comments

Read the headline. There I said it. I rarely call anything the “absolute best.” Even less so in a world that’s populated by thousands of choices. But the Toca Life series of apps are the best. Though they’re not overtly educational, they give kids the largest amount of creativity and freedom to create their own worlds and characters. The sheer options in these games are enormous and they’re made by a dedicated team who loves to see kids play. Read More

orwell

Orwell Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available on PC

Orwellian is a term that’s being used to describe a lot of games these days. Since Orwell wears its gameplay on its sleeve it’s easy to predict what it’s about. It’s the actual gameplay that’s the unique element here. It’s really different than anything I’ve seen and I had a blast playing it.

The Story

As a new agent in a special program called Orwell, you’re tasked with investigating a set of bombings that appear to be politically motivated. There are multiple parties involve and you end up working through a complex set of suspects to find the culprit, or who you think is the culprit. Throughout the project some of the people you work with as part of the program seem to have some motivations of their own. That’s about all I can say without giving too much away. The story is actually really interesting and kept me engaged throughout the entire game.

The Gameplay

What’s neat about this game is that there’s no external UI. The second you boot up the game, you’re in the tool that you use to complete your investigation. There will be daily headlines from the local newspaper for you to read, not all of which will be relevant to what you’re looking for. Beyond that, you’ll take at some video footage, scour official and personal websites for information and even monitor chat conversations and phone calls. Any important information gleaned from these exploits can be used to create a profile for the people involved. You can bring up these profiles at any point in the game to see where some pieces might fit together.

orwell game

This gameplay is really, really cool, but I do have one issue with the game: It holds your hand way too much. Any information that’s important is always highlighted so there’s no challenge in trying to figure things out on your own. It isn’t until late in the game you’re given the task of only grabbing a set number of what are called datachunks. That made the game a challenge as you had to stop and think about whether each piece of information was important and how important it actually was. I think the game would have been much better if this gameplay mechanic had been employed throughout the game.

The Rating

Orwell hasn’t been rated by the ESRB, but I would estimate it would probably gain a T rating. There is some language and sexual innuendo, but’s all fairly mild.

Takeaway.

Orwell is really fun and new take on the concept of “Big Brother.” I had a lot of fun with this game. My only issue was that it was made too easy by providing you too much guidance. But that’s a small reason. Even with that issue, it’s still a game you should definitely check out.

goy

Pixelkin’s Game of the Year 2016

Posted by | Feature, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

Rather than settle on one game of the year, here at Pixelkin we feel like every one of our writers brings a unique perspective. Therefore our most prominent contributors have made their game of the year selections. Our hope is that these recommendations give you an idea of the great games of the year in all of our eyes.

Nicole’s Pick

Event[0]

I’ve been playing games my whole life and have been writing about them for more than 10 years. While there are many games that are great at what they do, it’s a rare occasion that I see something completely new. Event[0] is one of those games. Though the story isn’t that different from other AI gone wrong games like Portal, the gameplay is not only intriguing, it’s a lot of fun. Rather than listening to the  AI spout information to you, in Event[0] you have the chance to interact with that AI, whose name is Kaizen.

event0-screenshot-01

You use terminals throughout the environment to converse with the Kaizen. Very little direction is given in regard to what you should ask or say, so the conversations end up being unique to each player. And besides that, they can be very amusing. This is impressive given that even modern RPGs that are focused on choice only have a few canned responses. In Event [0] those responses are nearly limitless.

Kaizen is arguably one of the main characters, if not the main character in the game. Heck, he’s one of the most interesting characters in any game. You can’t proceed without his help and many times you’ll have to be nice to him to get him to help you. Kaizen is a witty and somewhat moody character. Many times I tried multiple approaches to see what he would say and it was endlessly entertaining.

Lots of games that are trying something new with their gameplay end up falling into a hole where the game falters in other aspects in order to accommodate that gameplay. Event[0] keeps an entertaining story and other types of gameplay intact while adding in something new. This game hasn’t received the kind of attention that it deserves. It’s unique, amusing and fun. That’s the reason why it’s my favorite game of the year.

Eric’s Pick

Stardew Valley

My game of the year came as a complete surprise. I knew I’d love Overwatch, XCOM 2, and Civilization VI. I’d never given much thought to sim farm games like Harvest Moon, but I ended up sinking over 70 hours into this charming, pixelated adventure.

stardew-valley

Stardew Valley plays like a love letter to 90s JRPGs, localized entirely within a single town. There’s so much to do in and around Pelican Town it’s often overwhelming, especially since the game takes place in a strict day/night cycle with real seasons. Explore the mines to defeat monsters and find treasure. Socialize with townsfolk to earn rewards, and maybe even a spouse. Fish, explore, trade, and participate in seasonal events. Each day brings a wealth of important tasks and new possibilities.

Stardew Valley is so much more than a farm sim, yet the farming portion is also immensely satisfying. There’s a wonderful balance between scrapping enough money to buy just a few seeds, to eventually turning your land into a well-oiled brewery or animal farm that makes more money than you know what to do with. It’s a great experience with a catchy soundtrack, surprisingly poignant writing, and some of the best pixel art I’ve seen. Stardew Valley deserves all the praise and accolades for being this year’s big indie success, and my favorite game of the year.

Stephen’s Pick

Overwatch

The time has come to bid farewell to one heck of a bad year. 2016 wasn’t very good for much, but we did get some amazing video games. Nicole, our fearless leader, asked me a few weeks ago to think long and hard about what my personal game of the year should be. I had a lot of options, because I played a lot of very cool video games. But, at the end of it all there is only one game that stands out as “the best” and that is Overwatch.

overwatch-screen

Overwatch is a brilliantly designed game that is possessed of a level of polish that is rarely seen in games today. Every minute detail in that glorious game is treated with care. You can feel the energy that went into development just like you can feel the excitement in a match rise naturally as it reaches its crescendo.

It isn’t just the details that make the difference though. Overwatch has managed to prove that an online multiplayer shooter with no single player campaign to speak of can be successful. And it achieved this goal by having an amazing set of characters that are well balanced against each other and all but forcing players to learn to play all of them in order to excel at the game. In most multiplayer games players are expected to select a “main.” This is the character you focus all of your effort into learning. With Overwatch the game forces you to learn all of them the same way you would learn the nuances of different weapons in other shooters. This would be bothersome if it weren’t for the fact that all of the characters in this game just so freaking COOL!

Speaking of characters – The world is a scary place and there are a lot of people who are more scared by people who are different from them. Overwatch doesn’t do that. It celebrates a cast of characters that celebrate diversity more than just about any game to have come before. If you have doubts, then look at the character select screen and take a look at all the different nationalities, body types, and genders represented. Its impressive, but what makes it better is that nothing feels forced. All of the characters are complete and well rounded. No one is the “token” anything. This is a great feeling when it feels like the celebration of diversity is being squelched elsewhere.

These are just a few of the reasons that Overwatch is a must play game. No excuses people. Go grab it and enjoy!

beholder

Beholder Review

Posted by | PC, Reviews | No Comments

Available on PC

Spying on people seems to be the new gameplay du jour. I’ve noticed a number of games with this premise popping up lately. Fortunately all of them seem to be sufficiently different from each other, which has made playing these games a lot of fun. One of these games is Beholder. It’s spying gameplay is layered over a substantial amount of RPG choice-making that makes the game way more interesting than it might seem at first glance.

The Story

In Beholder you play as a man who is tasked with running an apartment complex and also making sure none of the residents are up to no good. The world is a totalitarian state, which won’t abide by crimes or even ideological differences. One of the ways this plays out is regular announcements that will ban random items like apples or green ties. At the beginning of the game you realize your predecessor has failed at his job and is being taken away with rather violent means while you and your family are introduced to your new home. Yes, you have a family. A wife, a teenage son and a young daughter.  You live in the basement of the apartment complex. From there you watch what happens on the street and the four floors of the complex above it. The art style has a unique aesthetic wit crisp black and white characters on a colorful, but gloomy background. This fits the story perfectly.

beholder

The Gameplay

Beholder plays much like a point-and-click adventure game. You move around the environment by clicking in different place and interact with objects by doing the same thing. You’re given missions by the state that involve you needing to spy on the residents by noticing their comings and goings and entering their apartments when they’re not home in order to install security cameras. Without the cameras, the apartments are dark and you can’t see anything. Once a camera is installed, you’ll be able to see a section of the apartment. That section can be larger or smaller based on the type of camera you use. Once you see someone doing something they shouldn’t you file a report and the perpetrator is promptly removed from the premise.

All of this seems pretty straight forward, but the game has another layer of play that gives you choices on how to proceed. You can be a good little servant of the state reporting anyone and everyone, or you can choose to withhold information and help some tenants escape before the government knows what happened. This can get increasingly complex as your family members get caught up in the process.

beholder

The Rating

Beholder hasn’t been rated by the ESRB. Based on the content of the game, I would imagine it would probably garner a T rating. The art is a stylized black and white, but the messaging and choices you need to make as a player can have dire consequences, making it a bit more mature on a thematic level.

Takeaway

I really liked this game. I came into it expecting fairly straightforward gameplay of doing X, Y, and Z in a certain order. It was only after I played for an hour or so, that I began to see the depth of the choices I was making and how they were affecting me and everyone else in the building. After two attempts, I met an unfortunate end. But I want to go back and try again because the game is just so intriguing.

 

death stranding

Gaming with the Moms Episode 77: Even Kojima Can’t Live Up to That Hype

Posted by | Feature, News, Opinion, Podcasts | No Comments

The PlayStation Experience is this weekend and Hideo Kojima will be talking about his upcoming game, Death Stranding. Is it a good idea for him to be talking about this game so early? Besides that, attendees of the show will be able to play 100 games. We’ll tell you what they are. No Man’s Sky, the most hated game of the year, got a big update that actually adds in a lot of what we all wanted in the first place. Plus an investigation into false advertising for the game has been closed. The developers didn’t do anything wrong. Now you can play games within Facebook Messenger, and there’s speculation that a new Marvel vs. Capcom game may be on the way. Oh, and Stephen’s been playing Final Fantasay XV. We’ll give you scoop.

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