Blueberry Pancakes

Recently an idea popped into my head. I work in the produce department of a grocery store; I ought to eat produce often, not just for my health but to be able to answer questions like “how is this.” Currently I don’t eat totally healthy although I don’t eat terribly either. My plan is to buy something from produce and eat it straight or make something with it. The first item… blueberries!

A nearly empty case of Naturipe blueberries.

The blueberries were on sale: an 18oz container for $2.99, normally $5.99. They are super fresh as I purchased them on the day they were delivered; surely a benefit of buying fresh produce is knowing the delivery schedule. Naturipe is the brand and they are grown the US, specifically where, I’m not sure. The case says they are sold out of Naples, FL and checking Naturipe’s website showed me the location of their farms in Florida.

The blueberries are plump and juicy. Biting into one reveals the pale green flesh and a somewhat tart taste. My first thought was to make blueberry pancakes. I bought a case of Hungry Jack pancake mix for a couple of dollars and on the side of the box there is a recipe for blueberry pancakes which I decide to use. I made the batter, dropped in some blueberries and then off to the griddle I was.

Once completed, I got myself a plate, slapped some butter in between the pancakes and dug in. The initial pancakes only had a few blueberries in them whereas the last couple had upwards of eight. Next time I try blueberry pancakes, I’ll have to portion out the berries better. They added tartness to the pancakes and juiciness when bitten into. Personally I’d prefer to not have the whole blueberries and rather smash them together and make a glaze. The pancakes were very simple to make; all I had to do was make the batter and plop the blueberries in. All told, I spent about seven dollars: three for the blueberries, three for the batter and two for the syrup.

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Picross 3D – Review

Before picking up Picross DS, I had only heard of picross through snippets in magazines and until I played it I had no idea why it received these mentions, when there had only been one game released in the US. Once I had got it, I was instantly hooked. I’m a fan of Sudoku and crosswords and for those who have never played picross, it compares to those games favorably to those kinds of games.

Notice the blue squares that have been marked in and the faded clues on them.

Before making the transition to 3D, picross was played in a grid (5×5, 10×10 etc.) and to complete it you’d fill in boxes by the clues given to you on the outside of the rows and columns; once completed, an image is revealed. I would have been happy with more puzzles for picross but instead they went and added another dimension which changes the game dramatically, yet it still retains familiar elements that make it picross.

In Picross 3D you are now given a 3D grid, that you can rotate and “look into” to figure out the image. Each image is completed the same as it has been in the past: each row and column still has the numbers that tell you how many of those boxes you need to fill in. The controls are superb and allow you to maneuver the starting grid easily and without any confusion. The game has a great, and lengthy, tutorial explaining every aspect of the game clearly and repeatedly which will help new players learn invaluable techniques and practice using logic to complete examples puzzles.

Creating a school bus with the creation tools.
There are more than 350 puzzles, and if my experience with the game is any indication, it’ll keep anyone busy for a long time. Whenever I play, I typically do a handful at a time or pop in some music when playing for extended periods; I seem to play it every night just before bed. Once you finish with the included puzzles, you can get online to download more, for free, for what looks like will be a long time to come. Even whenever I finish everything, I foresee myself going back and starting a new profile to do it all again, the game has a good ability to allow you that opportunity; once completed, I can come back to a puzzle and not remember how to quickly solve it, or remember the image until it’s revealed.

And if you’re the type of person that likes creating in games, Picross 3D also scratches that itch. There is the ability to create your own puzzles and then share them locally or submit them for themed contests. Without a dedicated community to share with, I can’t see the creation being that much of a draw, unless you have a friend or two who are into that aspect of games.

For only $20 it’s hard not to recommend, and with the amount of puzzles included, it’ll remain in your DS for a long time, but if you’re not a fan of games like Sudoku or crosswords, check it out before running to the store, regardless I highly recommend getting Picross 3D.

Super Street Fighter IV – First Impressions

Super Street Fighter IV Logo

I’ve always wanted to get into the Street Fighter games but have never tried or really had the chance. I bought a copy of Street Fighter II Turbo for the Super Nintendo a long time ago at a garage sale but I probably haven’t put in even an hour. Recently, while over at a friend’s house, we decided to pop in Street Fighter IV; coincidentally, this was a few days  before Super Street Fighter IV came out. My two friends were in a similar situation as me, they’ve played a bit of Street Fighter in the past but came away not liking it.

We played it that day and all that time was spent learning about the game. We were figuring out how to read the moves and what everything meant. This was a few hours of nothing but learning; we were fighting matches but they weren’t competitive.After this, I am of the opinion that if you want to get into a fighting game, you can’t do it alone, you need to have someone else who wants to learn as much as you do.

A day or so later my friend went out and purchased SSFIV and we’ve moved onto that. Throughout this I’ve stuck with Ryu, wanting to be able to perform all his moves on command (I still have trouble doing his Shoryuken and the two quarter circles for his Special and Ultras) but have tried a few other characters. They have each done the same thing, but with different characters. I have since purchased SSFIV and an arcade stick. The arcade stick, I think, has improved my technique and I can now play the game for long periods without a sore thumb. Now that I have the game I’ll probably write a review of the game once/if I play something besides versus.

Grandia: Day Three

When I left off yesterday I thought I was getting ready to fight a boss and that’s kind of true. Justin has a Spirit Stone from his father; it’s an ancient artifact and it opened a door that no one else managed to iin the Sult Ruins. Inside were two psychedelic rooms where I met Liete of Alent. She took Justin and Sue into outer space, or perhaps it was just an illusion. She convinced Justin to travel to the new continent to meet her. Upon exiting the area Colonel Mullen tried to capture Justin and Sue but they got away. Colonel Mullen doesn’t seem like a bad person as afterwards he burst into laughter and was happy Justin was so daring.

To get to the new continent I needed a passport; Justin and Sue learned they could get one from a partly crazy, old adventurer. I took a train to the Leck Mines, south of Parm. Once there Java, the adventurer, required they pass a test to get his passport. I traveled into the mines and explored it until I met an orc king who I subsequently defeated. Java gave them the passport and I headed back to Parm. To get to the new continent the group had to travel by ship but Justin thought Sue should stay in Parm. Justin sailed away the next day alone and without telling his mother, but she left him a note saying that she knew. After exploring the ship I found out that Sue had snuck on! Justin and Sue were back together and since she is considered a stow-away, they are required to do some manual labor.

TOTAL TIME PLAYED: 04:41:36

Grandia: Day Two

Today I experienced the battle system for the first time. I left Parm and was heading to the Sult Ruins. Prior to this I received an invitation to visit the ruins from a curator at the Baal Museum whom Justin is friends with. To get to the Sult Ruins I had to pass through Marna Road which was full of a few bug type enemies.

The combat is very fast; most matches seemed to be over with thirty seconds. The hallmark of the Grandia series is its real-time battles. There is a meter that shows everyone in the battle, enemies included. The representative icons progress until the command point when you enter in what you want to do and then it a progresses a little more until the action point. Another staple of the series is the lack of random battles; you can see all enemies on the map.

I found a few items in Marna Road and eventually got to the Sult Ruins. Outside were the army’s equipment and a lot of soldiers, some working and some slacking. I viewed a cutscene with three female leaders who act very childish. I explored the area outside and then set foot into the ruins. I was surrounded by ancient artifacts and enemies. I proceeded two levels in to what appears to be the entrance to a boss and stopped there.

TOTAL TIME PLAYED: 02:18:42

Grandia: Day One

Similar to what I did with Seaman, which you can find here, I’m going to do a journal of my time playing Grandia. They won’t be that similar though; the nature of Seaman allowed each player to add a lot and ruminate on what was happening whereas Grandia is telling a story and I expect to add less and communicate more like an actual blog.

The game opened up in what I consider to be quite cinematic for the time. The intro cutscenes didn’t explain much but showed that the game had good production values. After the beginning cutscenes I got to control Justin and Sue, the main character and his cousin. They are early teens and most of the intro consists of me looking for objects to show up a bully/rival. The game looks pretty good, it’s in 3D and it isn’t a fixed camera game; it looks very good. The controls feel good; movement feels loose and fast, how I like it.

I explored Parm, the starting city, and learned a lot about the game and my surroundings. Justin’s family is full of explorers and that’s what he wants to do, coincidentally many ruins nearby have recently been found. The game appears to be pretty traditional story wise; this’ll be another RPG where I play as a young adventurer, following in his families footsteps. I played for a little more than an hour and was just getting ready to leave the town; haven’t fought a battle yet, which is why I’m playing Grandia. I love action RPGs and I loved Grandia II.

TOTAL TIME PLAYED: 01:13:26

Haze – Review

Probably been doctored up to look better.
Taking out Mantel soldiers as a rebel.

My first impressions of Haze were disappointing: after the initial setup for the game I get thrown into the main menu which looked like something from a last-gen game and once I’m into the actual game, I’m introduced to some stereotypical characters. Thinking about these and other lows early on upset me; I grew up with loving TimeSplitters 2 and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect and to think that Free Radical (the developers) had fallen this far since then was depressing. However, as I got farther into game, I enjoyed it more.

I’m not sure why I began enjoying it more though. An hour or so in you defect to the rebels, but the mechanics didn’t change very much, at least enough for me to think “wow, now it’s better.” I think I just lowered my expectations by then. I think a big problem with the game were the expectations for it prior to its release; they were out of proportion. When it was announced that it was a PlayStation 3 exclusive, people began to latch onto it and want it to be great, like with most console exclusive games. Once I lost the mentality that this game had to be great because it was a console exclusive, I enjoyed it more, but that’s a backhanded compliment and not to say the game isn’t good.

The gameplay, like the game overall, is decent. I thought the controls were too stiff, especially for vehicles. I do like that the game doesn’t feel super arcadey like TimeSplitters games do; even something as minor as that adds weight to the story, after all, it seems like Free Radical wanted to make a more serious game, but that’s part of why I think this game is just decent. It seems like Free Radical wanted to make a game that told a story, but the characters weren’t believable and the majority of them feel like cheap jokes on played out stereotypes. Even the main character is hard to like; Shane Carpenter rarely seems like someone who should be in the position he’s in. Throughout the game he consults everybody but himself on what to do next, all the while asking himself who he should be fighting for.

Again, probably doctored up.
An example of what it looks like when using Nectar.

I interpreted the game as being about the Iraq War. You initially fight for Mantel, a large corporation that produces Nectar, a drug that enhances their soldiers’ abilities in battle. Through some errors you begin seeing that Nectar might not be so great while learning later on that you’re in this country because the natives have begun harvesting a key ingredient in Nectar and this would be bad for Mantel’s bottom line. Taking into account that some believe the Iraq War started in part over oil, we can replace all instances of Nectar with oil and it seems close, or perhaps I’m looking too deep into it. The game does touch on some other topics: free will in a very small way, anti-drug sentiments and that people, no matter their differences, are alike.

I found Haze very enjoyable a few hours in, whether this is due to me lowering my expectations or just playing for another side I’m not sure. I only played a few minutes of the multiplayer and thought it was great that they melded it into the fiction but at this point, there aren’t enough people to make the game exciting for me to put any serious time into. Haze was a disappointment compared to the TimeSplitters games, but as an FPS, it gets the job done.

The internet's source for Mansion of Hidden Souls.

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