Yearning for Wonderland

There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it...until they have grown so old that they forget the way. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again...The world calls them singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland. ~ L.M Montgomery

PC Game Review – The Book of Unwritten Tales

The Book of Unwritten Tales begins with a “spirited leap” onto the back of a dragon and doesn’t let go till the very end, some 20-odd hours later.



The action in the game is third person point and click. You play as a number of characters throughout the game: the gnome Wilbur Weathervane, elvish Princess Ivo, Nate the human buccaneer, or his creature Critter who is a…creature.

Some videogames have annoying and repetitive music and voices. This is not the case with The Book of Unwritten Tales. The few times when I had to play in a quiet area, I got my headphones so I didn’t miss a moment.

In fact, the music and vocal work is truly exceptional, the soundtrack nuanced with believable sound effects. Unlike some games that force two voice actors to create five or six different voices, this game has a sizable vocal cast about a dozen and you can tell as you encounter people throughout the world.

The visuals are five star, a dizzying array of locales. There are icy mountains, underground caverns, and dark forests.



 The pacing of the plot dynamic and keeps you interested.  The puzzles range in challenge from easy to ‘scratch your head difficult.’  The game raises the difficulty by disguising objects so perfectly into the background that you can’t perceive them.

Several mini-games require a series of quick key presses to progress, which creates a little urgency in a linear game since you cannot progress otherwise. Like most adventure games, the player has to combine unexpected elements. Fasten the rubber chicken to the torture device to create a makeshift slingshot? Check.

You also often have to switch characters during cooperative play as you often need to use a character’s specific skill to solve a puzzle.

Lots of humor is written into both the dialogue and the tiny reaction animations. The designers don’t take anything too seriously, a great deal is tongue-in-cheek. There are countless gaming and geek references: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Advanced Dungeon & Dragons, Lord of the Rings, Alice in Wonderland, Magic: the Gathering, Mission Impossible…and those are just the ones I caught on the first go-thru.


Not only are there countless references in-game, but also musical jokes to those attuned to the soundtrack. Early in the game, Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” starts playing to underscore with ominous bassoon a risky venture by the main gnome. I often found myself laughing out loud.
If you are not a fan of puns, some of the humor in the game may strike you the wrong way (i.e. you encounter a cast-iron safe for saved games). On the other hand, who can resist cheeky termites talking in a Cockney accent?  “Get out of our sun, homeotherm!”

The game, however, is not without a few issues. The animation to switch characters is odd; they half walk in a circle around each other to swap instead of instantaneous, which gets old when you have to constantly switch. The same half-circle happens when going in and out of doorways and entrances.

Though the script is very good, the last few lines of dialogue in the game is in untranslated German. It was an odd way to finish, but a small mar of the face of an otherwise excellent game-playing experience.

Some lessons to take away from The Book of Unwritten Tales:
• Don’t tee off the trolls.
• If you can’t see the solution to the puzzle, it’s likely under your nose.
• Individually, tiny creatures are no threat. Collectively, they can cart you off and toss you into the bushes.

The Book of Unwritten Tales definitely gives you your money’s worth. The game is presented as a book, divided into five chapters. I’m quite adept at adventure games and I found myself stuck in several places for a day or two. I opted not to use the walk-thru, as that takes all the fun out of it.



Like any good tale, I did not want it to end and didn’t want to leave these characters behind. Does plucky little Wilbur have the courage to adventure forth and be a true mage? Do Ivo and Nate end up floating off into their own sunset in a gnome balloon? Well, I’ll let you play and write the story on your own.

There are strong hints of a sequel–“Maybe there’s another adventure out there for us,” says Wilbur–and there’s definitely room for more creative adventure games like The Book of Unwritten Tales.

Game Trailer:

You can also buy the full game as a digital download for only $29.99.

The Book of Unwritten Tales is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB

Article first published as PC Game Review: The Book of Unwritten Tales on Blogcritics.

The Serendipity of Parent Matching

I sat in the molded red plastic chair in the hallway, staring at my bare feet. I tried wiggling one big toe and then the other. They wiggled appropriately, but I still sort of wished for a magazine or something, if I were able to read.

“NEXT!” called out the voice, booming down the empty corridor. I looked to my left and my right and saw no one, so I hopped down and toddled into the office. It was full of bookshelves filled with musty books. The dust motes caught the sunlight and sparkled, a legion of fireflies.

“Name?” came the voice again. I tried to peer over the edge of the desk to see the voice. All I could see was a podge of thinning brown hair, combed over neatly to cover a burgeoning bald spot.

“Um, don’t have one yet,” said I, tremulously.

“I know that,” was the impatient reply, “What do you wish to be called?”

“How about Brunhilde?”

“Surely you’re joking,” the bald spot bobbed and weaved as he turned another page of the massive book in front of him,”Best to choose a nice inoffensive name, like Sarah or Ellen. That will give you a lot more choices.”

“I think they should pick my name,” I offered, doing my best to keep the sulky out of my voice. “I mean, I hope I can find a pair with good taste.”

“What else?” His voice was disinterested, rather the aural equivalent of picking one’s nose and flicking it at the wall.

“Well, I’d like it if they were smart people. The kind that you could talk to about Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln and…um, paradigms.”

“Don’t pretend you know what any of those things are yet. What else?”

I crawled up into the arm chair across from the desk, but it was still a low squishy well of leather. I did manage to see the voice’s eyebrows, though; they were like ungroomed caterpillars and rather expressive.

“They should be funny. Not take each other too seriously. Maybe they could sing while they vacuum. I’d like it if they could laugh at themselves and at me too. Maybe the dad could teach me how to make funny faces in the mirror and how to dance like he’s starring in a Cecil B. DeMille musical. Maybe the mom could show me how to mummify a Barbie Doll and how to direct a room full of unruly people into doing what you need them to do.” I piped up, in a voice quite unlike my own, “It’s called ACT-ING!”

The caterpillars crawled across the furrows of his brow to a quizzical position, “This seems like a fairly specific request,” he said, rather suspiciously, “You haven’t been peeping in The Book, have you?”

“No sir,” I said, meek, hands folded in my lap in the primmest fashion.

He sighed and flipped a few more pages, the fuzzy wiggles of his brow descending towards the type. “There is one possibility here,” he said dubiously, “There’s a couple here that fulfills your requirements.”

“Really?” I perked up instantly, “Will they take me on trips to museums and nature trails and force-screen awful science fiction movies and black and white classics? Will they love me and help me, even when it’s questionable that I deserve either? Will they put me to sleep with Booshky Cream and sing You are My Sunshine and Side by Side and The Monkey Song? Will they make me cry when they sing On Top of Spaghetti with a fatal ending? Will they encourage me to write and sing and dance and do all manner of things which are not profitable in the world?”

The book slammed shut indignantly, “You, miss, have been reading The Book! How would you possibly know all that?”

I gave the only answer I could: “Because it’s my destiny.”

Finally, the voice and the bald spot and the eyebrows worked in conjunction and almost looked and sounded as though they were smiling, “Well. Well. Door 11C.”

“Thank you!” I chirped and wandered down the empty hall till I came to 11C. I opened the door and walked into the great white light and towards the parents I was meant to be with.

—–

This post is dedicated to my parents, on their anniversary. I’m not certain how I ended up with wonderful them, but this seems as feasible an explanation as any.

Fate, I owe you one.

by Artist 3001

3 Question View – Gordon McCleary

This post is the fifth of a new series, highlighting talented people whose work I admire.

I call it ‘3 Question View’ because it’s limited to three questions (Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three) and it’s a rather truncated inter-view, designed to elicit three compelling answers from each artistic mind.

 
Gordon McCleary

3 Question View – Gordon McCleary
Writer, Humorist & Blogger,  

A Yankee’s Southern Exposure

Anna:
The writings on your blog, “
A Yankee’s Southern Exposure“, focuses on the humorous side of the culture clash between North and South (Dunkin Donuts vs. Krispy Kreme, NY Jets vs. NASCAR, Philly Cheesesteak vs. Fried Green Tomatoes). What brought you to the South? What do you love best about your adopted homeland? What do you miss most about the North?

Gordon:
First off, thank you for this unique opportunity to participate in your interview series. I ended up down south while working for a state contractor. Once the contract ended, I had the opportunity to move with the company or stay in Florida and find another job; I stayed. I stayed because I love the pace and the people. The pace is more deliberate and not as tense as it is up North. The people down here (most of them) have good souls and go the extra mile in extending a courteous gesture.

On the other hand, I do miss the fast-paced environment up North and the daily grind the big city offers. I am conflicted and it does come out at times in my writings.

Anna:
Your style of blog post writing is breezy and charming, interspersed with exaggeratedly funny photos, such as this:

 

Your style of witty one-liners is also quite popular on Twitter (57K followers at publication). How do you divide up your time and inspiration between your social media? What are your favorite ways to engage with your followers and readers?

Gordon:

I write it as I think it and see it; I am a very visual person. At times, I will look at many photos of the subject matter and write around the visual experience. Things that strike me as funny and quick, I will post on Twitter. If the tweet has some relevance, sometimes I’ll add a link to my latest blog post.

As far as how long I spend on social media, it depends on my mood. I have days where I am gone, M.I.A…and then I have consecutive days where I will post on the blog/ Facebook/ Twitter. I never go too long without updating something. I like to tweet a funny, off-the-wall comment about my latest blog post and then tweet that with a link; this seems to bring in a lot of traffic. I don’t like a lot of ads when I am reading online, so I made it a point to not put any advertising on my blog. I am in it for the pleasure of sharing and writing.

Anna:
Your experiences down South have led to some bizarrely comic escapades (the disappearing roosters, adventures with food – pigs feet and collard greens). What is the oddest thing that’s happened to you thus far? What would be the title of your dream blog post?

Gordon:

I would say attending the annual “worm grunting festival” in Sopchoppy, Florida is right up there with one of the strangest experiences I have had. I also attended the worm grunting ball at the end of the festivities. They are serious about their worms!

Title of dream blog post? Bless his heart, A hot mess in a cool place” 

Best Tweets from @ASouthernYankee:
* My wife: you wanna watch Glee? Me: you know, I’d love to but I was gonna drink battery acid and play with my poison ivy plant tonight.

* Anybody know exactly what time tomorrow the end is coming? I need to tell my wife that this “honey do” list may not be happening.

* Tweeting from my bunker……my wife is pleading with me to come out….I know a zombie when I hear one !!!

Visit Gordon’s blog, A Yankee’s Southern Exposure
http://yankeeexposure.blogspot.com

Follow Gordon on Twitter: @asouthernyankee

Raison D’Etre

This post has been on my list for awhile, yet I never seem to write it. To define a raison d’etre (or roughly, “reason to be”) is very final and permanent-feeling…as opposed to constantly evolving. But perhaps if I put it out there, it will prove a touchstone along the way.

I can’t really explain why I started Yearning for Wonderland. I wrote a blog before. For the gluttonously curious, it was here: ruanna3.livejournal.com. I resisted writing one for forever. Blogs seemed an odd combination of public and private, half-diary and half-who even cares? The really private entries were locked and the really public ones didn’t seem particularly interesting, even to me. After awhile, it became clear that only a handful of people ever read it or cared, so I lost interest (see last entry? 2009).

Then one night I wandered over to Blogger and tried out a few names. Yearning for Wonderland just felt right. I added a vintage photo from my own collection and a few paintings. But what to write?
*cue obligatory finger on chin*

No, this is not me. My picture looked identical, except my roots are visible.

It took a few weeks before I started shaping what I truly wanted to achieve for the blog. This goal was was two-fold:

1) To force myself to write. Regularly. And to let my writing go. I’m such a harsh critic of my own work that it often paralyzes me. I try to write an entry every day or two. Because I only really have a few hours of free time, it forces me to do my best in a set time and then set it free. No writing and endless revising, just write and post. If it’s not Jane Austen or Shakespeare, I’m probably the only one surprised.

This also keeps me from playing endless hours of Plants vs. Zombies…which, incidentally, is quite fun and may one day be reviewed here. Currently the zombies are winning.

2) To offer a platform (however small) to others whom I admire. I have already completed two “3 Question View” posts for Paul Ramey and Sarah J. Stevenson. I have several others in the works: a poet, a travel writer, and a documentarian, Plus, I have a very long shortlist of people for whom I would like to do a 3QV. I really didn’t realize how many amazing, clever, peculiar and talented people that I know…until I sat down and inventoried them.

I have enough 3QV prospects until we colonize Mars…at which point I am heading to Mars for Red Rock Margaritas. My computer (which is smarter than me) can post to my blog.

You’ll find me there ===  , playing Plants vs. Zombies.
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In a galaxy far, far away, Mucha lives on

The genius of this piece is that it looks like a Mucha at first glance. Look again. Though not a huge Star Wars fan, I love Mucha and may have to order one myself.

La Dauphine Aux Alderaan

The subtle light saber is the best part, in my opinion. Click link to order, only $14.57 for a 5″ x 10″.

By Karen Hallion Illustrations