Carnies Come to Taproom 307!

What do you think of when you hear “Brooklyn, NY”? For most people, maybe it’s the Brooklyn Bridge, or the Barclay’s Center, or Junior’s Cheesecake. (All wonderful things!) But when it comes to me, I think of Coney Island!

Coney Island is so much fun to visit. They have roller coasters and amusement rides, a minor league baseball team, a beachfront boardwalk, a museum, an aquarium, and of course the freak show! There is an old world kind of charm that still lingers on Surf Ave. I used to go there a lot when I lived in Park Slope – I recommend that everyone visits Coney Island, and the original Nathan’s Hot Dogs location at least once! This is also the home of the Coney Island Brewery, which has awesome beer and hosts lots of super fun events, like when they hosted a Cinnamon Toast Brunch to celebrate the launch of their Cinnamon Toast Kolsch beer.

But I know. Sometimes it’s hard to make the trip. From where I live now, it’s like a two hour endeavor to get to Coney Island. Luckily, Coney Island Brewery understands that it’s not easy to get to them all the time, so they coordinate with local bars in Manhattan to bring a little bit of Coney Island to the heart of the city!

Most recently Coney Island Brewery hosted a tap takeover at Taproom 307. It was SUPER fun! I was greeted by a stilt-walker before I even got inside.

For me there were two highlights – delicious Watermelon Wheat Ale and the professional Sword Swallower: Claire Kasper! She was beautiful and talented, and of course very friendly and nice. Not only did she swallow a sword, but she used a hammer and nailed a nail up her nose. 😱

I got a video of the sword swallowing. Claire had this crazy wavy looking sword. Seemed pretty risky! Check it out!

Sword Swallowing

Love it!!! She’s so cool! Anyway, we had a lot of fun and I highly recommend everyone to check out Coney Island Brewery beers, events and the brewery itself! It’s super fun and they do lots of giveaways. I got Mermaid Pilsner pins and CIB sunglasses.

They give out raffle tickets when you buy their beer at the tap takeover, and then give out cool prizes! My friend won a sweet cooler!!

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Napping in the City that Never Sleeps

People love New York City because of all of the hustle and bustle. So much opportunity! If you can make it here you can make it anywhere! It’s the city that never sleeps! No wonder we’re so stressed out.

I’ve been lowkey going on a spiritual journey and exploring new ideas and methods of finding true happiness. (Sounds deep, I know.) My first step was reading self love books, which I still do and enjoy very much. And there are TONS OF BOOKS about this. After doing some reading, I realized there was a lot of potential in meditating regularly. (Since then I have also been exploring tarot cards, crystal grids and more… but I want to stay on topic here.)

Meditation can be a powerful tool in helping you to focus, calm yourself, or seek answers to a problem that you are having. In my meditations, I have experienced various kinds of visualizations, from out-of-body experiences to seemingly traveling to far off places… But this doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it can be very hard to focus; my mind wanders, or an outside element distracts me. This setback has caused me to start looking for new places to meditate, or maybe a class.

My search brought me to Nap York, located right near Penn Station. (Conveniently located for commuters who might have missed their train and need a place to chill while they wait for the next.) Nap York provides various services: the first floor is the Nap York Cafe, which I haven’t tried, but serves a variety of healthy looking organic fare. At the cash register you can enroll in a yoga or meditation class, or you can reserve a private nap pod. I had received a token for a free 30 min nap pod, so that is what I tried out.

I was told to walk up the stairs to the fourth floor, and to go into Pod 19. Admittedly, I was a little nervous – it was VERY dark and quiet. I was worried about making a noise and disturbing someone. When I got to the fourth floor, I found a wall of giant cubby holes. It was like a pod hotel; there were 2 rows of pods stacked one upon the other, with little steps to get into the top row pods, if that’s where you were assigned. Along the opposite wall were leafy green plants and a humidifier or some kind of incense burner. It wafted out a light, pleasant smelling fog.

Inside the basic nap pod is what you see in my photo: a pillow, a blanket, a little shelf with what looked like ear buds, and a strobe light. I say strobe bc it flashes briefly occasionally to give you your bearings without turning a light on. I have a feeling if I had messed with it, I could have turned the light on and used it for a reading light or something. But that’s not why I was there. I crawled into my little pod, drew the black curtain closed, and turned on one of the guided meditation recordings I have on my phone (using my own ear buds bc that’s not the kind of thing I like to share with strangers lol). On the top of each pod ceiling was a small sea of illuminated stars.

I felt that the nap pod was a great place to meditate. While there were a few dim lights in the pod, the overall deep darkness of the space allows you to really tune into your other senses. My meditation was deep and refreshing, and the time went by quickly. I definitely recommend Nap York for someone who needs a quiet escape, even if for just a half hour. (You can absolutely book much longer reservations, btw.) I am extremely interested in checking out one of their guided meditation classes.

Now, a review wouldn’t be complete with a few negatives. Here were my minimal gripes:

  • The “studio” space reserved for classes looked really small. I saw two girls warming up for a yoga class on the second floor, and their studio space was simply a part of that room, sectioned off by large planters. I would imagine if there was a class with more than 5 students, it would be very cramped.
  • There was nobody on the fourth floor to guide me to my pod. I think someone was supposed to be there. Since I felt very alone, I also felt a little insecure. Was I in the right place? What if some stranger jumps into my pod?? (Turned out that I actually did go into the wrong pod, but I didn’t notice until I was leaving, and nobody was there so it didn’t matter.)
  • I had a headache basically as soon as I left. Not sure if that was going from the darkness to the light or what, but that was kind of weird.

ANYWAY, I still liked Nap York. I think it is a great place to take a break and recharge my spirit. I think I might join their membership because I will get a discount on all services – which would allow me to try out one of the more DELUXE nap pods. I like the convenience of the location by Penn Station. They are open late too, which is nice to know. You can learn more about their services and pricing here: napyork.com/rates

Do you have any secret spots like this that are good places to escape? Let me know where you go to recharge, I’m open to new ideas!!

Inside the Nintendo Labo

With birthdays come presents, and so on Friday when I (and thousands of others) received the Amazon Treasure Truck alert for Nintendo Labo pick-up in NYC and a friend suggested this be her gift to me… I decided to go pick one up!

Amazon Treasure Truck!

I’ve never purchased anything through Treasure Truck before, so I was interested to see how it would work. My pickup location was near a Whole Foods, so I walked over to the store and found the truck stationed around the corner. There was only a short line – I don’t know if that’s because I got there on the early side, or if the demand is low for this game, but I was relieved that this wasn’t going to take too long. A table was set up for people to enter to win a free Nintendo Switch, and other workers were scanning our Treasure Truck QR codes and handing out the huge Nintendo Labo boxes.

Practice Tutorial: Joy Con Holder

The Nintendo Labo Variety Kit is a collection of “Toy Con” construction sets, as well as a Nintendo Switch game to guide you through the assembly and facilitate the cool game features that the Toy Con unlock. While the game is certainly geared towards kids, an adult is most likely required during the Make phase, which can get a little complicated! I’ve only made the RC Car Toy Con so far, check it out!

The RC car has no wheels, and is powered by the Joy Con inserted into the side, causing vibration down the legs of the RC car, propelling it forward. (It only works on hard surfaces, and my room is carpeted so I just used the Labo box.)

The RC Car set comes with a cardboard car to follow along with in the instructions, a matching ‘antenna’ to stick on the Switch console, as well as a few extra add-ons and stickers! It also comes with a second cardboard RC car that you can build if you have a second set of Joy Con to use with it. Right now I only have the gray set, but I’m going to get a colored Joy Con set with a birthday gift card. (SIDE BAR: I really can’t decide which color Joy Con set to get! Red and Blue, or Neon Yellow and Pink?? They are both really cool! I wish there was an Orange and Blue option… Leave me a comment on which set I should get tho!!)

You probably wanna see the RC car in action. It’s actually pretty loud. I made a quick video for you to see that this actually works. In the video you can see that I use the Switch console as a controller and press buttons on the screen to make the RC car move – and I can control the left and the right independently if I choose. That’s cool and all, but a little bland, right?

When you complete the initial construction and play through the mechanics, you are taken to the next phase of the Nintendo Labo game, the Discover phase. In this separate section of the game, you can explore some additional features of the new Toy Con you just built, and see some suggested new ways to play. When it comes to this RC Car that I made, did you realize that since the Joy Con utilize built-in IR technology that this RC car also has a fully functional ‘night-vision’ camera?? I didn’t, until I was checking through this Discover section! I used it in the day time but in my photo here you can clearly see the camera POV of my RC Car as it sits on top of the Nintendo Labo box.

There are other hidden features in the RC car, such as the ability to auto-navigate via use of reflective tape. There is also a ‘two player’ mode for people who have a second set of Joy Con. You can build that second RC Car that I mentioned and set up RC Sumo Matches! Or try racing them! Or come up with something else… I had fun freaking out my cat with my RC Car!! lol

OK so now you have your RC Car, and maybe a friend to RC Sumo with, but you still need to add a little SOMETHING to make this more fun? Nintendo Labo also provides a few extras to customize your RC Car. There is a Plow attachment, an Elephant head attachment, and a Sunglasses attachment. The Discover section also shows ideas on how to use paints, markers, and all sorts of materials to really customize the RC car and make it special. As a bullet journal enthusiast, I have plenty of washi tape and stickers on hand. Here is my final RC Car Masterpiece:

My RC Car! Does he need a name??

What do you think of my RC Car? If anyone else has this game and wants to race or sumo wrestle their car, hit me up!! lol

Since Nintendo Labo is so hands-on and mysterious to everyone, I’ll continue to document my construction of Toy Con projects for future blog entries. Unless you totally think this is over-sharing and want me to stop, let me know in the comments about that too hahaha!!

In closing, Happy Earth Day! And Carney‘s Birthday! Plus it’s Nature Day in Animal Crossing Pocket Camp! (Not to mention there’s ANOTHER new feature coming soon in ACPC! I’ll blog about it when it’s released!! Yayyyyy!)

Interview with a Pokédeck

ITS MY BIRTHDAY!!!! *rah rah* The animals in my Pocket Camp are all wishing me a happy birthday. How cute! But more importantly, I got an amazing gift yesterday at my birthday party. My always-thoughtful and amazing bestie CarneyVorous gave me what is called a Poke Box. It’s a deck of tarot cards that are Pokémon themed and beautifully designed. I couldn’t wait to try them out! I’ve learned from Carney that a good way to get a feel for how a new deck will work for you is to do a ‘deck interview.’ I ask a list of questions to the deck, pull a card to get an answer, and get to know the deck a little. Here’s how it went:

Tell me about yourself.

2 of Swords: I’m a “Pokédeck.” Throughout my set of beautiful cards, you will find an assortment of the 721 Pokémon found in the sixth generation of the series. On the Two of Swords we see a blindfolded Samurott wielding what appears to be an unsheathed Doublade, standing beneath an ominous crescent moon. There are seemingly endless choices and countless possibilities of what Pokémon you might encounter in this deck. Do not let the information overload overwhelm you!

What are your strengths?

Knight of Cups: My cards are beautiful depictions of Pokémon living together in their world. The artistry of the illustration will inspire and motivate you to keep learning to read these cards. In the Knight of Cups, a Knighted Piplup rides the back of a mighty Keldeo, a water-type Legendary Pokémon, as they pass a small stream. This scene is an imaginative example of the potential outcomes of a reading with this Pokédeck. But while the romantic fantasy shown on this card is enchanting and reassuring, do not be too taken in by my charm. I am still a tarot deck, with deep spiritual messages and lessons to be learned. Just because I am cute does not mean I am not to be taken seriously. Do not have unrealistic expectations that the guidance will be easy or happy all the time. Do not assume that because there are Pokémon on my cards that this deck is for children. Most assuredly, I am not.

What are your limitations?

The High Priestess: I am a tarot deck to be used to help you develop your intuition and gain connection to Higher Powers. I am intended to help you seek out the deep questions within your subconscious mind and help focus your path to enlightenment. On my card, Cresselia the Psychic-type Legendary is illustrated as the High Priestess. She is guarded on both sides by the Black and White Legendaries, Zekrom and Reshiram, the yin and yang of the Pokémon world. Remember that this deck is to guide you on a spiritual level, and I can’t predict who is going to beat the Elite Four.

What are you here to teach me?

Four of Swords: The card I am showing here is what appears to be the remains of an old Regigigas, asleep for centuries and overgrown with moss in an old temple in the mountains. (Yes Poké-nerds, this is exactly like the movie “Giratina and the Sky Warrior.” The artist who made this deck is clearly a devout Pokémon fan!!) Imagine the complete stillness and silence of the scene on this card – this is the level of concentration and relaxation that you can strive toward. Your life has had it’s share of challenges lately, so take this time to relax and reach a refreshing zen state. Recharge your batteries. Also note that there is one separate Aegislash laying beside the Regigigas – this suggests that there is one key issue in your life that we need to explore and address to help you achieve your goals.

How can we best collaborate?

Seven of Swords: I need you to be committed and not sneak away if my readings seem too complicated or intimidating. Psychic/Ghost Mythical Hoopa is shown on this card, stealing  a pile of Aegislash (the themed Pokémon for the Swords suit) and using one of his rings as a portal to easily transport away from the scene. Hoopa is winking, showing that he is crafty and prepared for his stealthy heist. Use the information that you learn from my deck strategically for best results.

What’s the potential outcome for our relationship?

The Chariot: You want to be the very best, like no one ever was? I am here to help you achieve victory! Every challenge along the way, with courage you will face. You will battle every day to claim your rightful place! I could sing the whole theme song for you, but this card with Lucario riding in a Coliseum under a starry sky, in a chariot pulled by two Luxrays is pretty much as epic of a visual you need to get the idea. One of the Luxrays shown is a SHINY Luxray, making the illustration even more special. Lucario is wielding a gleaming golden Aegislash in a confident and strong gesture. The Chariot card represents strength and courage, victory and determination… all of the facets you need to be a Pokémon Champion. You got goals and dreams? We’re gonna catch ’em all.

How will you evolve over time?

Ace of Wands: Yes, one would think that because I’m a Pokédeck that I’d evolve like most Pokémon. However, like the image on the Ace of Wands, showing an illuminated Ho-Oh flying off towards a rainbow in the sky… I am Legendary. I can help you use creative powers to unlock inspiration, and use your instincts to hone your intuition more clearly. It is more likely that YOU will be the one doing the evolving!

What is your special move?

Four of Cups: My specialty is looking introspectively and contemplating decisions. This card depicts an Eevee that is deep in thought, with three cups holding different evolution stones set up before him. This scene indicates that Eevee is trying to mull over the important decision of which evolution stone to choose. However, Eevee is so deep in thought that he does not notice the fluffy Cottonee floating next to him, offering another cup… the option of more unknown possibilities. Keep this card in mind and remember that while this journey may teach you the strength of looking inward to find answers, there are still other possibilities to which your eyes might be blind. Remember to seek advice from external sources as well as through this Pokédeck. 

I think this tarot deck will take me on a deep journey towards seeking inner peace and enlightenment, while also fueling my fandom for Pokémon and appreciation for the artwork and thoughtfulness that went into the creation of this deck. The creator really did their homework both on the messages of the cards and converting them into themes that work directly in the Pokémon universe. I’m really so impressed with this deck, and I think that the interview was correct in that the beauty of the deck will keep me inspired to use it daily. I am already in love!!

Is that an UPDATE in your Pocket [Camp]??

While we all anxiously wait for the inevitable announcement (someday) of an Animal Crossing Switch title, most fans are content to play Nintendo’s mobile version Pocket Camp. I really want to give them kudos because I think this game encompasses the AC feel and cuteness of the main franchise, while seamlessly adapting it to a mobile platform and play-style.

People complained about it a little at the beginning, but Nintendo has been adding a TON of updates and new features to this simple mobile game. It seems that every two weeks there is a new in-game event regarding holidays, gardening or collecting items to craft fun new themes. This week there was another big update and there are even MORE new features! I am pretty psyched about ’em and I wanted to make sure everyone was aware and would log in and start playing some more!!

Gulliver!

The first new addition to AC Pocket Camp is Gulliver and his ship! No, not a space ship… it seems that Gulliver has hung up his space suit in favor of a sailor suit and is now in the import/export business. What’s really going on here is the game has finally added the ability for you to get rid of extra furniture or clothing items (if you befriend enough animals, you end up with some duplicate t-shirts automatically). And not only can you get rid of these unwanted items – Gulliver will bring you treats in return! Depending on the rarity of what you are throwing out, Gulliver brings snacks of varying star rating that you can give to animal friends to help them level up. It’s a win-win! And you don’t have to worry about shooting him down because Gulliver shows up at regular times and is super easy to find in ACPC.

The feature that Nintendo seemed the most excited to announce is apparently the most controversial on the internet right now, the Fortune Cookies! Personally, I think they are really cute. People are complaining b/c they are basically ‘loot crate’ cookies that give you a random item and you might end up with a repeat.

Pocket Camp Fortune Cookies

From what I’ve seen, there are 5 types of Fortune Cookies: Marshal’s pastry cookie, Rosie’s pop star cookie, Filbert’s rocket cookie, Timmy’s cookie and Tommy’s cookie. The first three are pictured above and can be purchased with 50 leaf tickets. The cookies contain new, rare furniture items and clothing to collect. And the best part – if you do manage to collect all the items and have the right animals visiting at your camp, you can unlock cute little “Memories” which I can only assume are little cut-scenes.

Filbert Fortune Cookie Prize

What people seem to be upset about is that the Marshal, Rosie and Filbert cookies can be purchased with leaf tickets as well, and at 50 leaf tickets each… that is a little pricey. But maybe they don’t realize that these premium cookies are also in the regular rotation. I bought a Filbert cookie for 5,000 bells yesterday and got this cool Control Room Desk without spending a penny!

Keep in mind that the log-in bonuses to kick off this new update are two fortune cookies, and then 5 days worth of 10x leaf tickets, so Nintendo is giving away a decent amount for free. And if you play diligently, it’s actually pretty easy to accumulate plenty of leaf tickets without buying a premium pack. I have yet to spend any money on this game. I think Pocket Camp is pretty generous for a freemium game. They make it much easier to get premium currency for free than some of the other mobile games I’ve played on my phone.

So aside from this controversial new Fortune Cookie feature, there are even more updates in Pocket Camp that I think are even better. They are just little things, but bring more of the full Animal Crossing experience to the game. New animal requests have been added, and in certain requests you can actually select which fruit, fish, bug or flower that you want to give away. Also, the ‘perfect fruits’ that were introduced in ACNL can now pop up in your fruit trees at random. Which is great, because if you choose to gift a perfect fruit in an animal request, they will give you bonus treats and sometimes even a fortune cookie!

But if you’re a long-time hardcore AC player like me, then the new fish and bug additions in the update are the most exciting! I caught a loach the other day! AND they added the ability to see the quantity of each item that you already own when you catch a fish, pick up a fruit, catch a bug, and pick up a shell. No more wasting inventory with a million corals because you forgot you already had them. It makes managing your items a lot easier.

Maybe the haters don’t like this new update, but I am once again re-inspired to log in and check on my campers. I would also like to mention that one of my favorite things about Animal Crossing Pocket Camp is that your favorite animals NEVER LEAVE. It’s not like the other AC games where townies will slip away in the night leaving an empty lot and broken hearts behind. In Pocket Camp, the animals stay until you say so! You can keep them forever and dress them up. I truly hope this sort of idea is passed along into the next AC game. Nothing is worse than the loss of your favorite animal bestie lol!

OK well I gotta go do some missions and earn some more fortune cookies because I want to unlock these new Memories! Have you been playing Pocket Camp? Are you excited or upset about the new features? Let me know your opinions!

Detective Pikachu Review

What. A. Weird. Game.

Nope, overall I’m not happy with the new game “Detective Pikachu” which came out for Nintendo 3DS last week.

For those who are unaware, Detective Pikachu is based on an upcoming movie that isn’t out until next year. And Detective Pikachu is not like other Pikachus, with their cute squeaky voices and mannerisms. This Pikachu has a deep voice and talks in a strangely gruff manner. To me it was extremely off-putting and not amusing or funny in any way. It was a major distraction to me the entire time.

The game works similarly to Professor Layton games in terms of exploring different areas by clicking on things that show up with a magnifying glass indicators, keeping notes and putting together the clues to solve mysteries. But it was NOT difficult or challenging like Professor Layton games. In between this ‘evidence collecting’ exploration game play, there are cut-scenes and overly simple “Press A at the right time” action sequences. On top of that, there times when Detective Pikachu decides he has something to say, and you are forced into watching these redundant Pikachu cut-scenes where he reviews info that you literally just discovered two seconds earlier and then has a sloowwwww fade out before returning back to your game play. Like why?? I would have loved to turn that feature off.

I’m going to post some vague spoilers here. I don’t recommend playing this game. Your life will be okay if you read on lol!!

To end each case, you use logic to solve whodunnit mysteries for random Pokemon owners that you encounter. But what really annoyed me was that there was a completely unresolved subplot. The character that you control is a young man searching for his missing father, and his missing father used to be Detective Pikachu’s partner. Detective Pikachu has amnesia and can’t use his Electric abilities. They never find his father. They never address the fact that they don’t find his father. They never explain WHY Pikachu and your character are able to communicate easily despite him being a Pokemon and you being a human. WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS???

My assumption is that these questions might be answered in the upcoming Detective Pikachu movie. But that movie doesn’t come out until next year. By then this game will be irrelevant and forgotten.

Don’t get me started on the Detective Pikachu amiibo. The only cool thing about it is that it’s huge. But that means it was $30. What does it unlock? Pikachu cut-scenes that you might have missed in the game. No thanks. (I bought it bc FML I am obsessed with collecting Pikachu stuff lol.)

It is really cute tho.

Another [useless] thing I liked was that the game came with a digital download for a Detective Pikachu home menu theme. It plays latin inspired music like in the characters’ favorite coffee shop, and features a little cameo from Mimikyu.

The cute Pokemon characters throughout the game were fun too, I must admit. Being able to communicate with other Pokemon via Detective Pikachu was pretty adorable as well. But overall the game was pretty disappointing to me. The unresolved subplot and complete lack of any post-game whatsoever make this game a “definite pass.”

Have you played Detective Pikachu? What are your thoughts?

Crate Crazed!

Now for a rare blog post that isn’t about video games. This is more on the general  gamer girl theme… I’m here to talk about CRATES. Basically everyone has heard of some kind of monthly crate subscriptions that you can purchase to get a surprise of goodies curated to meet a certain theme or topic sent to you. I think it’s time to start talking about the good, the bad and the ugly of these subscription crates… because let’s face it, they are not all created equal. Plus, I’d love to hear your suggestions for your favorite crates too!

My first subscription crate was Japan Crate. I was a Premium Box subscriber, which was the biggest box they had on offer, and was always packed with stuff! It is definitely a good quality subscription crate, you got plenty of stuff for your money. For a while I was pretty happy with Japan Crate, since I’m a total weeb and I had always heard about crazy Kit Kat flavors in Japan, and things like that. However, after many months of being a member, I realized that half of my snacks were going uneaten. I’m a picky eater and I am not really into eating mysterious corn puffs covered with powdered artificial shrimp dust. One time I did get a dark chocolate Kit Kat, and occasionally there would be a Pokemon themed candy, but overall I wasn’t loving the snacks. Then finally, the last straw came. The company was based in San Francisco, and then they moved to Japan. I’m sure for them it was an important business move that helped them in the long run. In the short term, it meant that my shipments were late. I wasn’t thrilled and I ended up canceling the subscription. But I still go on their website from time to time, because you can order some of the popular snacks directly from them. If you’re a more adventurous eater than I am, this may be a good crate for you!

The second crate I ever tried was the Gamer Girl Monthly crate. I just looked up the website for the first time since I ended the subscription (over a year ago) and it seems they have restructured their subscriptions and now you can personalize what items you want to get. So I can’t really comment on how GGM works now. But I can say that it is more expensive that it used to be – I believe I was paying $13 a month when I was a member. However, the downside was definitely that I was getting items that were not from fandoms that I was into. I would also get a lot of earrings and… I don’t have pierced ears. So eventually I decided to cut the cord. I will say that I did get some SUPER cute items, like the Kirby plush coin purse, Zelda necklaces, and some cosplay quality accessories. If you like girly gamer stuff and can afford the new price point, it might be worth a shot for you!

For a little while, I was on a subscription crate hiatus. I’ve joined other monthly services, like JustFab and Adore Me. However, I’m about ready to stop those services because I often forget to tell them not to charge me, and then I end up with credits that I’m obligated to spend… it’s just a hassle. I hate having to send stuff back when it doesn’t fit. Just ugh. I need to shop in stores more lol. If anything, maybe some day I’ll get Stitch Fix instead.

Anyway, when the calendar turned to 2018, my amazing friend Carney (check out her blog!) and I decided to go hard with planners, bullet journals, self love books, and overall life organization and wellness. We each purchased the planner that we thought was best for us, and went to work organizing our lives. It’s actually a lot of fun and helps me stay on task and work toward my goals. However, as we have been sharing photos of these beautifully designed bullet journals (#bujo on Insta, check it out!!) with expertly drawn hand lettering… I felt a little inadequate. I can’t draw, and that’s ok. I got colored gel pens and started writing in bubble letters. Not QUITE as cute as I wanted it to be though. So what did I do? I went to Cratejoy.

I wanted to find a sticker subscription to help take my planner to the next level. And oh boy do they have sticker subscriptions! There are tons of sticker and stationery crates to choose from. I opted to try out the Stickii Club crate and after only one month, I am so happy that I did! I love it so much that I am considering adding an additional theme to my current subscription, since they are only $10 a month. You can choose from Cute, Retro or Pop stickers. I went with Cute… and it was f’ing CUTE!! They sent me several sheets of stickers with a cute bunny theme, featuring stickers representing different emotions and foods and lots of other fun stuff. They also sent a “Stickii Storage” which is a translucent folder sized for an A5 6-ring Filofax style binder, and it neatly organized all of the cute stickers for the month. So what did I do? I went on Amazon, ordered an A5 6-ring binder, an extra folder to hold more stickers… and I ordered some cat stickers while I was at it. I’m clearly out of control with stickers already, and I’m reliving the joys of my 10 year old self by creating this new sticker book to use with my planner. Whew. Stickers never go out of style!! I totally recommend this club to anyone who ever loved sticker collecting. Your love will be renewed!!

Now that my planner is helping me organize my life, and my sticker collection motivating me to continue to use said planner, things are definitely moving in the right direction! But Carney and I also enjoy reading and thought it would be fun to start a book club for ourselves. (Wanna join? Comment or PM me!) We both had picked up the crazy political exposé “Fire and Fury”, so we figured we’d start with that. (Brace yourselves, I’m going to post a book report about it here on the blog when I’m done!) But what about next month? We figured we’d try out a book crate subscription.

The Inspired Book Club crate is a monthly subscription featuring a book and some items that are on theme with the book. After some drama of waiting much longer than expected to receive tracking info, I finally received my first crate yesterday. Now, I haven’t read the book yet – saving it for next month’s book club book – but it’s not as long as I expected. But it does say New York Times best seller. I don’t want to post the contents b/c Carney didn’t get her box yet (compounding on the shipping drama!!), but the items that came along seem very nice, good quality… but I have no idea what they have to do with the book. They seem like completely unrelated self-pampering products. Which I’m fine with, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

So that’s really the bottom line – these crates often do not deliver what you expect. Sometimes you are surprised and delighted, sometimes you are disappointed or feel like you wasted money. It’s important to read the reviews (Inspired Book Club also does not have good reviews) and remember that some of these crates are shipped out by an individual to hundreds or thousands of subscribers. Other times, the crates are shipped from overseas and have kinks to be worked out, like what happened with Japan Crate. But that is what makes these subscription crates fun – you never know what you might get!

Do you subscribe to any monthly crates? Have you had a great experience, or maybe a terrible one? Please share it in the comments, I’m very curious!!

Masterpiece of the Year?

Greetings to all my Nintendo nerds! I can’t believe it’s November already. Maybe I should dust off my 3DS and check in on my Animal Crossing town sometime, grab some mushroom furniture. But who has time when we have been blessed with some amazing new games in 2017?

As the year comes to a close, I have been reflecting on which games were really groundbreaking in 2017. We certainly needed some escape from reality this year! Personally, as someone who went to art school and really appreciates the artistic design of video games, I felt there were two titles that I could qualify as “masterpieces.” Which was the best of the year? I am going to try to decide right now! lol

The first game I’m considering for Masterpiece of 2017 is the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A long anticipated title, BotW launched with the Nintendo Switch at the start of the year. Fans were astounded by the new open world approach to their beloved Zelda franchise.

The art style was even more impressive. Using an updated approach similar to Wind Waker, the design of BotW uses what I’d describe as cel-shading with water colors. It’s not overly cartoony, and it’s very much high definition. Individual blades of grass bend in the wind. Wispy strands of hair blow in the breeze. For the amount of time that fans waited for the latest Zelda title, it’s clear that it was worth the delays.

My personal opinion: If you really follow my blog, you’ll see that I don’t talk about Zelda a lot… b/c I never really beat these games. The only game I even got close to beating was Phantom Hourglass. Since BotW was basically the big name launch title for the Switch, I got it mostly b/c everyone else was playing it, and not b/c I had been desperately waiting to play it. However, when I did start playing it I was completely obsessed! It’s a very immersive experience, and I really loved the freedom of the open world. 

The second game in contention for Masterpiece of 2017 is *gasp* NOT A NINTENDO GAME. I know – it’s hard to believe that I play games on other systems. And honestly, I usually don’t. But there’s an indie game called Cuphead that FINALLY came out on Xbox 1 and Steam this year, and as far as art style is concerned… it’s a doozy!!

Now I realize that not everyone had the same upbringing as me, and may not realize the nostalgia factor in Cuphead. But I was raised watching Betty Boop and Silly Symphonies cartoons on loop ad nauseam. The creators of Cuphead took every step necessary to produce their videogame with the same exact art style that was popular in the 1930’s. This includes the hand drawn animation, 24 fps frame rate, the use of lampshade effect and much more.

Cuphead is a standard 2D platformer style game, and initially had been designed to have a Mega-Man-esque Boss Battles setup. But when the hype train rolled in, the creators expanded the game to have some standard platformer stages in addition to the boss battles. That’s all well and good… except they made the game insanely challenging. Many casual gamers find themselves unable to fully appreciate the game due to not being able to progress and see all of the stages.

My personal opinion: I was literally waiting YEARS for this game to be released. Delays and more delays pushed the game back several times and I waited patiently. When the game FINALLY released, I downloaded it right away and was so excited! Unfortunately, I haven’t actually been able to experience much of the game. I guess I’m just one of those lame casual gamers who isn’t good enough at platformers to progress in the game. It makes me very sad that after years of anticipation, and having loved this art style my ENTIRE LIFE… I can’t even see all of the gorgeously designed stages hiding in this game. 

You can probably guess which game gets my vote by now. As much as I wanted to love Cuphead soooo much… it fails b/c I can’t actually play it. The game does not forgive anyone who isn’t at ‘their level’ which I feel is kind of mean and makes me feel excluded and alienated. And it makes me not want to buy another game by Studio MDHR. First they made me wait, then the gameplay drops the ball… so they blew it with me. Being the belle of the ball doesn’t get you everywhere in life!! In Breath of the Wild I am free to explore the entire world, appreciate all of it’s beauty and play at my speed. And it’s darn pretty too.

SIDE NOTE:

Most people will want to interject – HEY WHAT ABOUT SUPER MARIO ODYSSEY?? That game is glorious too! I will give it an honorable mention. I don’t think that it’s a masterpiece, in that the art style of Odyssey is basically on par with every other 3D Mario game, albeit updated to the latest HD graphics, of course. New abilities and game functionality, plus the awesome smoothness of the controls thanks to the Joy Con and Pro Controller, make this game awesome! No doubt about that. But masterpiece? Not exactly. What makes Super Mario Odyssey a contender in this category is that the game truly allows you to create YOUR OWN MASTERPIECE. This game goes way beyond taking screenshots. You can change the camera angles, zoom, blur, add filters, add text if you want… it’s a meme gold mine. I created several masterpieces of my own:

Screenshot by @gluxbox

Screenshot by @gluxbox

Any game that lets ME make my own art gets a thumbs up from the Glux Box!

This is just my opinion, of course. Which game would YOU consider to be the Masterpiece of 2017??

Monster Hunter Stories Review

Monster Hunter! One of Capcom’s most popular franchises these days. It’s a fan favorite with a die-hard core group of players. Many gamers who aren’t in this core group can find themselves overwhelmed by the vastness of Monster Hunter. There isn’t much in terms of training and orientation in the main Monster Hunter games, unless you have the patience to sit and read tons of little Hunter’s Notes in the menu. I know I sure don’t.

I started playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate a few years ago. The graphics are cool, I love the monsters and the collection aspects of the game. But the actual gameplay I found to be very difficult. In addition, the monsters have different elemental types, of which I knew nothing b/c I didn’t read the Hunter’s Notes. It’s just not a very approachable game, and since everything is based on missions, you don’t have much freedom or storyline. You can’t even necessarily ask friends for help either, as many quests are based on rank. The hardcore players rank up really fast and only the charitable ones will spend their time helping you get up to speed, and even then the noobs tend to simply rely on the higher ranked players and not really learn the game.

At least, that has been my experience. I’ve been WANTING to like Monster Hunter, but I’m just not there in terms of knowledge about the monsters or having the determination to rank up without an interesting story line to keep me motivated. That is, until I started playing Monster Hunter Stories, which is the latest spin-off from the world of Monster Hunter.

Monster Hunter Stories

Monster Hunter Stories appears on the outside to be a kids game, with it’s cutesy character art style and dialogue. The demo, which I haven’t played, is apparently just a play through of the first few minutes of the game. I think this was a mistake on Capcom’s part, because you don’t really get a feel for what you can do in this game until you have unlocked some of the cooler features. Many of the die-hard MH community have scoffed at this game due to the demo, which is sad.

One main difference between Monster Hunter Stories and the main Monster Hunter franchise is the storyline. There are Story Quests and Sub-Quests, with markers pointing to where you need to go on the vast world map. Why markers? Because MHS is an open world game. You can go wherever you want, whenever you want (once you have unlocked that area in the storyline). Feel like just slaying a bunch of docile Slagtoth and collecting herbs? You do you, boo!

Another major difference is the complete overhaul of the battle system. First of all, you befriend monsters and they will help you to battle against other monsters. You fight in a turn based system that uses a rock-paper-scissor mechanic for the normal attacks. But there’s more to it than the game of chance. Your character gets special Rider skills and attacks, based on your weapon. You can control your monster’s moves, which include awesome special attacks. As you and your monster battle cooperatively, you raise your “kinship” meter, which unlocks killer attacks when filled!

On top of the new battle mechanics, you can also customize your monsters, just like in Pokemon. By collecting eggs and hatching tons of monsters, you can transfer a move from one monster to another. Suddenly you can have a Lagombi, who is a giant icy rabbit who prefers frozen tundras, that now can shoot fireballs at enemy monsters. I would say that if you like Pokemon but think the battles are little too tame, give Monster Hunter Stories a shot. You can also battle your monsters in a tournament setting in-game, or via local wireless and online battles. With so many modes of battle, you will find yourself making different sets of monster teams with different strengths so you can take on any opponent! (Sounds a lot like Pokemon, right?)

I will add that on a personal level, I think that Monster Hunter Stories is fantastic for gamers like me who aren’t familiar with all of the elemental types, especially when it comes to monsters from older MH games. This game is helping me to learn which monsters are weak to the different elements in a more natural way than constantly checking Hunter’s Notes.

For the Monster Hunter purists, I will add that you still have all of the collection aspects of the main games in MHS. You still need to collect endless monster materials to forge new weapons, armor and upgrades. All of your favorite monster armor is available in this game. And you will still need to find all the hidden Poogies, of course!

One final thing I really like about MHS is the storyline itself. The Hunters (basically the characters from the main game) don’t like or trust the Riders (your character and other people who develop kinship with monsters) and you face discrimination and adversity at the beginning. One of your friends suffers tragedy and you watch as he transforms into a darker version of himself. I think it’s very interesting subject matter for a “kids game.” Just saying. The Felynes get to play a much larger role in the story as well, which is pretty fun!

I definitely recommend this game, especially if you are new to Monster Hunter. It’s much more approachable than the main series. Keep an open mind and give these Riders a chance!

Hands On with the Nintendo Switch!

Woo what a weekend! Everyone has been talking about the Nintendo Switch ever since the presentation last Thursday, which introduced the system and showcased the new Joy Cons – the convertible controllers that come with the Nintendo Switch system. But I felt lucky because I had a ticket for the Nintendo Switch Preview Event in NYC! I was able to get a hands-on demonstration of the Nintendo Switch system, the Joy Cons, software and more!

The event was held at a secret off-site location in midtown, open only to invited ticket holders. (I was able to get a ticket by logging into my MyNintendo account when they first announced the event. This apparently triggered an event invite to be sent to me at the time. So what have we learned? Log into MyNintendo once in a while!) I went with one of my besties, CarneyVorous. We braved the cold wintery weather and it was SO worth it!

20170114_185030As we approached the entrance, we were surprised to see that Link from Breath of the Wild was guarding the door. Well, Link and a dozen event coordinators. Everything was very organized, which was nice. They checked our tickets and finally after long last… WE WERE INSIDE THE SNEAK PREVIEW EVENT!

The event consisted of two large rooms. The first room had a glamorous setup with a main stage, glass windowed demo cubicle setups, and a third of the room dedicated to Legend of Zelda demo stations. The second room had a huge area dedicated to Splatoon 2 demos, as well as third-party titles and a Super Mario Odyssey photo-op station! It was a lot to take in. We didn’t even know where to start! Sadly, the Zelda line got ridiculously long in a short amount of time, so we decided to make the most of our time by trying as many fun demos as we could.

Our first stop was Splatoon 2. Who could resist? To make the experience even more *new*, the demo we played was done on the Nintendo Switch in hand-held mode. This means the player is watching the Switch screen with the Joy Cons attached to the sides. This mode is pretty similar to playing on the Wii U Game Pad, which I personally enjoy a lot. The Splatoon controls were set to use the gyroscope. It can be tricky if you’re not used to playing that way, but the Switch console is light and easy to move around as needed. I also decided to try out the new Splatoon weapon which was introduced in this latest title – the Splat Dualies! I thought they were pretty sweet. They shoot fast and it’s easy to aim. I played very well, got second place in my winning team with those Splat Dualies! (Did much more terribly with the Splat Roller in the second round. Sad face.)

Splatoon 2 on the Nintendo Switch in hand-held mode.

Next, we wanted to get an up-close look at the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons by checking out the glass cubicle 1-2-Switch Demo Stations! The 1-2-Switch game utilizes the Joy Cons in a way that showcases all of the new features it has to offer, including HD Rumble technology. This game is unique in that you don’t really need to look at the screen to play – it’s all about playing with other people, making eye contact, interacting with humans… you know, scary stuff.

The 1-2-Switch Demo consisted of Quick Draw, Milking Cows (yep) and Counting Marbles. Each game showed a different feature of the Joy Con controllers. I will note that the Nintendo reps insisted on using the wrist straps with the Joy Cons for this game. Very sensible – and side note! – the wrist strap adds an extra half inch of width to the controller, which makes it even easier to hold.

Quick Draw showcased the Joy Con’s basics, such as motion control. Milking Cows introduced new ways to feel awkward around your friends (because yes, the game is exactly what you think it is) and also makes use of the L and R buttons that have been incorporated into the new controllers. Counting Marbles was the most interesting game in the 1-2-Switch Demo, because it featured the new HD Rumble effects. The Joy Con simulated the feeling of small marbles rolling around inside of it (and does an EXTREMELY CONVINCING JOB doing so) and you have to guess how many marbles are “inside.” You determine this by moving the Joy Con and “feeling” the marbles sliding around and clicking against one another. It was pretty amazing! The HD Rumble is very responsive and I am very interested to see how other games will incorporate this new technology.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Demo Stations

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Demo Stations

One of my all-time favorite games has always been Mario Kart. I would play after school with my friends on the N64 back in the day, and I haven’t stopped since! Playing MK on the go has always been a strong selling point… so being able to play MK8 Deluxe in full HD while on the move is going to be AH-MAY-ZING! To give us the full experience, Nintendo set up some fun ‘simulation’ demo stations. In the picture above, you see a fake diner with demo stations, as well as some guys in what looks like an RV? Or some kind of van?

Playing MK8 at

Playing MK8 at “the diner”!

Here I am “at the diner” enjoying some MK8 Battle Mode in handheld mode – which I won with Bowser, btw! It’s great to have some authentic battle mode back in the mix.

We also tried out a demo station that was set up to look like we were playing on an airplane. (Awesome idea!!) They set up the chairs to have those awful tray tables, and placed the Nintendo Switch in tabletop mode for us to play. Tabletop mode is when you have the screen standing up with the kickstand, and the Joy Cons are removed from the sides so that two people can use them and play while watching the screen. I will say that as a veteran MK player, I did not mind the Joy Cons for this game. Yes, if you’re using the Jon Cons, it is a small controller. Like I mentioned before, the wrist strap helps a lot with that issue. It takes some slight ‘getting used to’ but it’s not bad at all, and having usable L and R buttons meant that my game play was as good as ever! Please note that in this side photo, we were also trying out Mario Kart with the Joy Cons in what I am calling “nunchuck mode,” which is similar to the old Wii nunchuck and Wii Remote setup… without that cumbersome cord connecting them together! You can play with the Joy Cons as nunchucks, yet sit however you prefer, so that you can play comfortably. So much easier! Imagine how much better air travel will be when you’re challenging the random stranger sitting next to you to a Grand Prix!

We also tried out some other games, such as Street Fighter, Just Dance 2017, and PuyoPuyo Tetris. We got some cool swag – Nintendo Switch hats, pins, cookies, water bottles… It was a really good event. I wish they would host events like this every week! *sob*

Only 44 days until Nintendo Switch is released in stores!! Comment if you’ve got it preordered! What are you excited to play? I’ll leave you with a few more photos from the event…

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - Battle Mode

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Battle Mode

Joy Con [puppy] Controller

Joy Con [puppy] Controller

Tetris!!

PuyoPuyo Tetris!!

Nintendo Switch and Accessories

Nintendo Switch and Accessories

Nintendo Switch Main Stage

Nintendo Switch Main Stage

Super Mario Odyssey Photo Op!

Super Mario Odyssey Photo Op!