Sunday, March 31, 2013

Buster Bunny Pattern for Cross Stitch, Needlepoint, and Bead Sprite

Happy Easter everyone. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday. Thanks to my loyal followers. For you - a new Buster Bunny Pattern from Tiny Tunes.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A Mario Easter Pattern

Happy Easter everyone! I made this pattern for all my blog followers - enjoy! If you make one of these could you please send me a link so I can post your created work on my blog - thanks!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bioshock Infinite Review

Bioshock is back, and I am happy to report that this is the game everyone has been waiting for.

Bioshock Infinite differs from the original Bioshock in several ways. Rapture: the dark, murky, underwater world of Bioshock 1 and 2 is replaced with Columbia, a world that is a vibrant, colorful, air world.
Columbia is gorgeous. Every part of the world is realized. History plays a major role in the story. The story takes place in 1912, and Columbia secedes from The Union by literally lifting off. How all of this came to happen, and the alternate history of this world I wouldn't want to spoil, but know the blending of well-known history and Columbia's unique spin on these ideas is a narrative treat.

Bioshock Infinite is a political game. This is a game trying to say something. In fact, I cannot think of any game in recent memory that was trying to say something. Many games try to tell stories, but Infinite is doing much more than that, and it succeeds. The political landscape never leans in any direction, and you're more of a witness than a participator to all of this, but it really allows you sympathize with the protagonist and his companion.

The character you are, Booker, has a debt which much be paid, which lands him in the world of Columbia, and Elizabeth is your companion who helps you along your journey after you rescue her. Elizabeth is extremely helpful in your journey. She will throw you health potions, vigor, coins, and point out hidden areas or lock picks scattered on the floor. Elizabeth is a true companion, and she exudes personality. At first, Booker is stoic. He feels a bit like a silent protagonist, but once Elizabeth enters the picture, Booker comes to life and you'll enjoy their interaction.

What makes Bioshock Infinite special are little moments that make Columbia feel alive. From a quartet that floats by, to listening to a seemingly innocuous conversation, and even to an auction that is occurring, these moments add up to a bigger picture and it really allows you to feel as if Columbia is a real place. The best part is these conversations have meaning and you can spend as little or as much time watching the events unfold. The game is filled with dozens of these moments, and they'll fill you with actual emotion. Bioshock Infinite is Americana. This game is really saying something about Americans. Everyone should perk up their ears and pay attention because this isn't just an amazing game, this is an important game (at least in terms of story telling).

Graphically, you are going to be impressed with Columbia. The world is gorgeous, and I hear the PC version is outstanding. On the consoles, you'll be impressed, but you can see this old hardware chug. Screen tearing occurs from time to time, character models are nice, but could be better, but where you see the game struggle the most is textures. Oh the blurry, muddy, ugly textures - this generation is over graphically because these games have reached their limits. This doesn't make Bioshock Infinite in an ugly game; the art direction is outstanding and hides most of this. You're also usually too excited to pay attention to these little graphical qualms, but it is when you're trying to read - literally - the writing on the wall, that you'll start to notice that the textures and models are not perfect. It may be different on PC, but for console gamers - you'll see these little moments and they detract a bit. Enemy models have the graphical attention you expect. Whether it is the much talked about Songbird or another peculiar large baddie, the game feels graphically cohesive, and that is more important than a handful of ugly textures.

Gameplay wise: you have your guns, and you have your vigor (special power), and you can use them however you see fit. At the beginning of the game you may feel a bit under-powered  In fact, the first hour of gameplay took me by surprise with its difficultly level (I played it on Medium/Standard). The game seemed unrelenting, and I groaned every time I saw another battle. Eventually, you get a shield that replenishes itself and you get more viable vigors than possessing your enemies. The best part of Bioshock Infinite gameplay is you play how you want. After reading several people's different play methods it surprised me how different everyone's play style was. Many talked about using the pistol (a weapon I never picked up) mixed with possession vigor, while I tended towards the water vigor which can pull your enemies closer and then blowing them all away with the shot gun. Your powers quickly become more powerful and you're switching between different guns and vigors with ease. It is fun and action packed and I looked forward to each new group of enemies.

Dying doesn't necessarily hurt you, but the compromise feels worthy. Your enemies you killed are still dead, but you lose some money (a necessity in Columbia), the enemies you were shooting gain some health, and you start out with half health. It feels like you've been penalized, but it doesn't disrupt the game in any way nor does it feel as if the game is holding your hand.

Columbia's sound is beautiful. Everything sounds the way it should, and whoever worked on the sound mixing should be applauded. I rarely struggled to hear dialogue, even among gun shots, but the gun shots still sounded loud; furthermore, phonographs play the musing in the distance adding to the overall atmosphere. Often times, the phonograph, shooting and dialogue is occurring in tandem, and you'll never struggle to hear anything. It really seems to be an achievement in sound design.

I cannot help but gush over Infinite. In many ways, I tried to get my hopes up so I wouldn't be disappointed, but I wasn't disappointed. The game has remarkable pacing, it plays like a dream and I love Columbia. I want to visit Columbia again. If anything, the game is over just a tad bit too soon. I cannot imagine I clocked in 12 hours of gameplay. That said, nothing outstays its welcoming, and minus one peculiar "Find three of these!" mission, the pacing is near perfect. Is Bioshock Infinite the game of the decade, only time will tell - but it is certainly early contended for Game of the Year. Go - buy it, love it, and be charmed with Booker, Elizabeth, and Columbia.

Overall: A

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Game of Thrones - Three Sigils and a free Minecraft Creeper Pattern

Over the last two days I have been very busy creating new patterns based on the hit show Game of Thrones. For those who don't know - in the show each house has its own sigil and motto, so I designed some patterns based around them, and then created them. All of them are available in my shop. Here are the end results:

First up: Stark



I'm thrilled with the end results. For all my dedicated followers - here is a Minecraft Creeper - exclusively available for you here

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Garden Challenge - Pikmin Tissue Box

This week I entered the Etsy Needle Arts Team Challenge. The theme for this challenge was "The Garden." I thought about going the Mario Fire Flower pattern route, but instead, I chose something completely different. I decided that one of the most famous garden games is Pikmin. As many know, "Much of Miyamoto's inspiration for games like Mario and Zelda came from his childhood exploring in the Japanese countryside; similarly, 2001's Pikmin came from his fondness of gardening" (The Escapist). This was the end result:

Here is the tissue box - pre-construction
The entire process was not too bad. Each Pikmin fit each side perfectly. 36 Stitches vertical. Here is a picture of the completed box

Overall, I'm very happy with the end result; unfortunately, the pictures make the green ganvas look a little more muted than it actually is. A small qualm. I'm hoping I have a shot, but other people's items are looking fantastic too. So far there are five submission:

Bridgit Bogg's "Rambling Rose" Art

Fun with Needles "Jumping Spider"

Definitely going to have a run for my money. Especially since all of these submissions are so elegant. For more info about The Garden challenge - check out Etsy NEAT (Needle Arts Team) Blog here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Color Sheep (iOS) review

Color Sheep is everything an iOS game should be by design. The concept is simple. You have a Sheep, and you have three colors at your disposal. You can change the sheep any one of these colors, along with a bright and dark variation. As wolves approach of a certain color and brightness, you turn the sheep that color, press him - and he shoots a laser that kills that color wolf.

But don't let that fool you, Color Sheep is hard. I mean really really hard. Bone crushingly difficultly hard. What begins simple, with bright red sheep followed by dark blue sheep, soon has you blending colors. At first, the color blending is simple. Red and green makes yellow. Red and blue makes purple. Then you are introduced into ever more complex ideas such as bright red with dark green make orange. Soon it is bright red, dark green and dark blue make pastel pink. And the combinations continue to expand as wolves race towards you. It all sounds simple in theory, but when six different color wolves are running towards you, you'll falter.

Those more privy to the game design will learn that many of the rounds have a motif. When the game introduces you to dark pastel purple and dark pastel blue, the game goes through all the various purple and blue combinations to the level. It is a little touch that inexperienced players won't notice, but as you make through the game, you'll be grateful for these levels.

Each level is broken into several rounds, and each level has a backdrop that suitably fits. One single attack by one wolf results back to level 1. It is frustrating, but it works for this type of game. That said, the game would have benefited from another mode (more on that in a second). Thankfully, many of the wolves drop various power ups, which range from slowing down the wolves, to rooting them in place, but the best of all is the cane, which turns you into a rainbow sheep that shoots a giant laser. You'll panic, you'll sweat, and your sheep breathes relief after a close shave.

The game also has a decent practice mode to help you practice particularly hard color combinations, but it could have been more fleshed out. It suffices, but I think it could have had a bit more. It also would have been great if there were missions or a level map you worked through; alas, this is not the case. A simple arcade mode is basically your only option. It's fine, but the game would have benefited from a bit more depth in gameplay modes. Despite this overlook, I cannot help but emphasize that this is a game all about arcade action - and though it has few modes, the game truly is fantastic.

Color Sheep is not for the faint of heart. If you don't have good reflexes or your not in the mood to test your patience, this may be best avoided. For the rest of us, enjoy what might be one of the new greatest games on iOS and Android.

Overall: A-

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mario Pattern for Cross Stitch, Needlepoint, and Bead Sprite

Just a small update today. I'm working on some new and exciting items for the week. Expect a unique Mega Man customized later this week. This week I created a new Final Fantasy Pattern. It is available now here.

I also worked on this pattern. Free just for people checking out my blog. Enjoy!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kirby Pattern for Needlepoint, Bead Sprite, and Cross Stitch

In honor of my new Kirby items available now

I'm passing you a new pattern of Kirby. Enjoy! Please leave comments - I appreciate it!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fire Flower Pattern from Mario Brothers - Cross Stitch, Needlepoint Pattern

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! On this happy holiday I figured everyone needs a bit of sprucing up so here is a free pattern for the day. This is one of Mario's most iconic items. The finished version is available at my shop: available here.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mega Man Pattern for Cross Stitch, Needlepoint and Bead Sprite

Along with the Mario Mushroom, one of the first patterns people create is Mega Man. My little cousin asked me if I could, and I am thrilled at his new passion. I did two different colors for your enjoyment. I figured green was very appropriate considering St. Patrick's Day is around the corner. Enjoy!

Example of some of the custom colors I have created. Available now!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tomb Raider 2013 Review

As we wind down this generation, it is no surprise we are seeing some of the best games ever. When I think of the end of the PS2 lifecycle, I cannot help but think of Shadow of the Colossus. What surprises me is that when we think of the end of this current generation, many will probably look fondly at Tomb Raider.

The history of Tomb Raider is pretty dark. The series has had a tumultuous time establishing itself as relevant since the PSOne. Tomb Raider and Tomb Raider 2 were amazing games at the time. Exciting adventures with an emphasis on exploring. She was associated with grace and mobility despite controlling like a tank. Once Tomb Raider 3 came along, it seemed Lara Croft had little to offer gamers. While other games were evolving, the "haven't I done this before?" feeling of Tomb Raider plagued it. Lackluster after lackluster game continued, and despite numerous reinventions, the series failed to make a blip on anyone's radar (the exception was the PSN / XBL spin off game Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light).

Now we are witnessing Lara's fourth revitalization, and all I can say is - wow. This is, simply put, the best Tomb Raider ever. Lara, a character known for agility and grace, moves silky smooth. Maneuvering the environment is genuinely exciting. Everything feels intuitive. From switching weapons, to changing ammo (from regular arrows to flaming arrows) all feels seamless. Combat controls always feel smooth, and as you upgrade Lara's abilities, she becomes even more fluid. If there are any problems is sometimes you are not in control of Lara's direct actions. This comes during the seemingly random quick time events. None of the quick time events feel necessary, and they could easily have been replaced by direct control. Worse, the first hour of the game is plagued with them, which makes the player feel he or she will never be in direct control; however, the game quickly drops them in favor of scripted events where you are still in control of Lara. The only other minor complain comes in the lack of an X axis inversion. I always played X axis inverted, so over the course of the first two hours I had to adapt. It was tough, and it may be a hurtle that some gamers never get over.

Graphically, the game runs mostly silky smooth. I played the PS3 version, and I rarely noticed a drop in frame rate and load times are hidden well enough. If there are any complaints, it is with Lara's hair. Something about it doesn't seem as fluid as the rest of everything around her. A minor complaint. Otherwise, anytime I paused the game, it truly looked like a wall paper that I could hang up. Every moment is a gorgeous screen shot. The HUD is also sparse and never clutters up your screen.

Story wise, the game works. The story of an ancient island inhabited by an unknown tribe is exciting enough. It has the usual pitfalls of these kind of stories, but I was always curious about what was going to happen next. Bigger problems happen with character development. Lara is a fully realized character. In fact, Lara may be one of the most developed characters of this generation. From unsure to guns blazing, the transformative behavior of Lara is a slow one. Some may compare it to the protagonist of FarCry 3, but the development here is far more nuanced. So what's the problem? Lara is so developed that she makes everyone around her seem flat. Angry girl, shiesty doctor, and lovable teddy bear are just some of the generics you meet; mostly you won't mind because Lara is such an exciting character, and you really go through her suffering and turmoil with her.

Speaking of suffering, I have never seen such suffering happen to a character. It truly is an adventure full of turmoil and you'll go through every moment with Lara. It is painful to watch. Also, this is one heck of an M rated adventure. Some of Lara's deaths feel like torture porn. It seems almost like the developers enjoyed torturing her, especially early on. It made me uncomfortable, but this all seems intentional and was excellent for plot and character development.

The game is truly exciting. It reminded me of Uncharted 2 levels of excitement. In fact, Nathan Drake could learn something from Lara Croft. The emphasis on exploration is superior to that of Drake's. You will want to explore every nook and cranny of the island; something I have never desired in an Uncharted game. Also, Tomb Raider is continually exciting and every area ups the ante. Uncharted 3 seemed to be set around set-pieces. In Uncharted, you would be excited to play the one area and then have to toil through a lull. Worse, Uncharted 3 felt like set pieces and there was a certain amount of eye-rolling during scripted events. Because Tomb Raider never stops the adventure, the game continues to surprise and amaze.

Optional tombs exist, and they're quiet and nuanced. You might think this could potentially ruin such an exciting adventure, but it is in these quiet moments that are full of as much suspense (if not more so) than the other areas. It is an excellent diversion, and when you are finished with the game, you can explore and find any of the tombs you may have missed. Collecting items is genuinely exciting, and you'll want to burn every banner and destroy every spider totem you find on your way.

A tacked on multiplayer exists. Whether it is worthwhile, I cannot say as I haven't sinked my teeth into as much as I would have liked. But it seems entirely functional and appears to have depth.

Lara's adventure is unparallel  One of the best of the generation. I absolutely adore everything about this new Tomb Raider and I am genuinely excited about the possibility of new tombs and new adventures that will soon come. Potentially: game of the year.

Verdict: A

Overall: Despite some minor quibbles over a supporting cast, Tomb Raider is one of the best adventures money can buy. A defining moment for Lara Croft and adventure games.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Needlepoint and Cross Stitch Pattern

It has been a while - so I apologize about that. I've been playing through Tomb Raider and I finally finished it, so look for my review later this week.

In the meantime I wanted to give you guys a new pattern (perfect for the upcoming holiday!). I appreciate any feedback of course.

Someone asked me how they can continue to support me providing free patterns. You can always purchase the pattern on my store, available here and that is the best way to give me exposure. Purchased item comes with bonus Irish Mario Mushroom. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog today. Enjoy the pattern!

Also - Brooke has a more elaborate freebie on her blog.