Pokémon GO Celebrates Third Anniversary

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Believe it or not, the once cultural phenomenon and still decently popular Pokémon GO is turning three years old this summer. Niantic is celebrating the milestone with a series of special events and promotions.

From now until July 6 at 1 pm Pacific/4 pm Eastern, you’ll be able to find a Pikachu wearing a party hat. The partying Pikachu has a chance of appearing whenever you take a Go Snapshot photo. The hat-wearing mouse can also be hatched from 7 km eggs.

For the rest of the summer a new Special Research quest line has been added. It’s designed to help lapsed players jump back into Pokémon GO, with a slew of helpful rewards. The Special Research is only available to trainers who are at least level 10.

During the third anniversary promotion, raid bosses will be easier to take down when joining with friends, and everyone can earn bonus Premiere Balls. The stardust cost of trading Pokémon has also been temporarily reduced to 25%.

Finally, the first generation Alolan Pokémon who have made their way into Pokémon GO – Rattata, Sandshrew, Vulpix, Diglett, Meowth, Geodude, Grimer, and Exeggutor, have an increased chance of spawning as shiny versions.

The promotion ends September 2 at 1 pm Pacific/4 pm Eastern, except for the party hat Pikachu, which end July 6. Pokémon GO is free to download on iOS and Android mobile devices.

Jaws Board Game Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

Brody: I used to hate the water…

Hooper: I can’t imagine why.

Building upon the success of last year’s Jurassic Park Danger board game, Ravensburger returns with another movie license in the Jaws board game (available exclusively at Target). Released in 1975, Jaws is often considered the original summer blockbuster, as a trio of men on the vacation destination of Amity Island try to keep a man-eating shark from, well, man-eating, first by trying to close the beaches, then by getting on a boat and hunting the shark themselves.

The Jaws game brilliantly captures both halves of the film in a unique two act structure, culminating in an exciting finale where the shark player rips apart a sinking boat while other players desperately try to fend it off.

A Bigger Boat

As in Jurassic Park Danger, players are divided up into two teams, the humans and the shark. The three human characters of Brody, Hooper, and Quint are always present, making the 2 and 3-player game a little more challenging for the human player but also maintaining a proper balance when playing with fewer than four.

In act one the human team controls the three characters on Amity Island. Each turn they have a set number of actions with which to rescue swimmers (spawned from event cards drawn each round), gather motion sensing barrels, close beaches, and try to locate the shark. The shark player, meanwhile uses a hidden notepad to track their movement and eating habits.

Act one results in an excellent game of cat and mouse as the humans try to locate the shark player using their various abilities, like Brody’s binoculars and Hooper’s fish finder, while minimizing losses.

The first act ends when the shark has eaten nine swimmers, or if Quint manages to tag the shark with two of his barrels. Depending on how many swimmers the shark ate, act two swings in favor of either the shark (more ability cards) or the humans (more gear cards). The board is flipped and boat tiles are added to represent Quint’s boat from the film, the Orca.

If act one is a subtle detective game with some light strategy, act two is a full-on tactical strategy warfare with hit points and dice rolls. The shark resurfaces by choosing from several different Resurface cards, and the humans have to predict where it’ll appear, targeting the space with spears, flares, and pistols. The shark player rips apart chunks of the boat, flipping tiles or eliminating them entirely, and possibly dumping humans into the water where it can start whittling down their hit points.

I’ve played both extremes of act one, with the shark player eating the maximum number of swimmers (and thus gaining the biggest hand advantage going into act two) and the humans tagging the shark almost immediately, with the opposite swing in momentum. However, the card advantage from act one doesn’t grant an automatic win. In both instances the final turn of act two came down to a nail-biting thriller, with a 1 hit point shark nimbly trying to avoid becoming sushi while the surviving humans cling to the last shreds of a sinking boat.

We ran into a few rules questions when it came to act two’s constantly changing battlefield and adjacency conundrums. And it’s a bummer that the movie license doesn’t appear to include the actors’ likenesses, but that doesn’t take away from the fantastic gameplay.

The Rating

The Jaws Board Game has an age recommendation of 12+. Both acts require tactical planning and strategy, and in the case of the human players, coordination of their actions and attacks. The shark player needs to keep careful, honest track of what they do each round throughout act one.

The subject matter is another factor, as the shark player is eating people in act one, and both sides are trying to kill one another in act two. Humorously the original film is rated PG, but would garner at least a strong PG-13 rating (which wasn’t invented until 1984) if not an R rating today.

The Takeaway

I was very impressed to find the solution to whether or not to adapt a Jaws game from the ship or the island was “Why not both?” The two act gameplay structure creates a memorable mini campaign as both sides earn their powers from how well they handle act one. Alternatively you can play each act as a separate game mode if you’re short on time. Both sides play completely differently and the action is fun and tense throughout both acts. Even more than Jurassic Park Danger, the Jaws board game is a triumphant of great game design and an excellent use of the source material.

Explore Hoarfrost Reach in the Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Beta

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The highly anticipated Iceborne expansion for Monster Hunter World is arriving this fall on September 3. Capcom has announced a series of open betas beginning this Friday, allowing PlayStation 4 users to jump in and be among the first to see Iceborne’s new content.

The first Monster Hunter World: Iceborne beta will run this weekend, from Friday, June 21 (3 am Pacific/6 am Eastern) through Monday, June 24 (3 am Pacific/6 am Eastern). This first beta will be exclusive to PlayStation Plus subscribers.

The second beta will be open to all PlayStation 4 users and the following weekend, starting Friday, June 28 (3 am Pacific/6 am Eastern) to Monday, July 1 (3 am Pacific/6 am Eastern). Users can pre-load the beta several days before they start, and they don’t require the base game of Monster Hunter World.

The beta consists of three monster hunting quests, including the return of the introductory Great Jagras hunt from the base game. If hunters feel up to the challenge (and want to see the new Iceborne content) they can take on the horned brute wyvern Banbaro. For the ultimate challenge, returning series favorite Tigrex will be waiting.

Like the original Monster Hunter World beta, you’ll be able to try and use all 14 weapon types in any of the quests, as well as the training area. The weapons include new moves and abilities from Iceborne, including the new Clutch Claw slinger tool.

Completion of each quest nets item pack rewards full of consumables. These items will be transferred to the full version of Iceborne should you choose to purchase it.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne will arrive on September 6 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The PC version will release later this winter. Iceborne requires the base game of Monster Hunter World, and slayers must be Hunter Rank 16 and have completed the main story in order to access the new story and quests.

Little Friends: Dogs & Cats Review

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Available On: Switch

With the arrival of touch screen technology in the early 2000s, the ability to pet our furry friends wasn’t far behind. Nintendogs was a big success on the Nintendo DS, eventually spawning a sequel on Nintendo 3DS.

The Switch’s touchscreen controls and Joy-Con seem like an obvious pick for a new version, but thus far the series lies dormant. Here to fill in the gap is Little Friends: Dogs & Cats, a Nintendogs sequel in all but name. It brings the pet playing and petting to the big (and handheld) screen, though doesn’t evolve much beyond the original pet simulator formula from over a decade ago.

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