In honor of the upcoming 2018 Nebula Awards, Humble Bundle is offering a rather brilliant selection of fabulous (including numerous award-winning) titles in speculative fiction, fantasy, and science fiction. We’ve got previous Nebula winners, Hugo Award winners, Philip K. Dick Award winners, and World Fantasy Award winners. There are a few repeats from previous humble bundles, yes, but there are a lot more titles that I haven’t seen featured here before, including a couple of Jane Yolen novels I’ve been planning to get which, personally, make the bundle worth it in their own right. If you’re interested, you can find out more here.
In other news, Humble Store is having their big spring sale, which means lots of great games at deep discounts. Seriously, some of this stuff is up to 90% off right now. I found Hakuouki: Kyoto Winds for $8.99! Plus, there are some free games thrown in if you spend certain amounts. Again, if interested, check out the Humble Store at https://www.humblebundle.com/store.
Author: Christopher Keene
Dream State Saga, vol. 3
My rating: 4 of 5
Noah has made the difficult choice to work for Wona–the company he had believed responsible for his girlfriend Sue’s death as well as the deaths of several other individuals–in order to find those truly responsible and hopefully see justice done. But that choice has come with a cost as most of his friends in the Dream State now see him as having betrayed them . . . which he kind of deserves, actually. He’s trying to fight for the greater good and hope they come around eventually. Of course, working for Wona has its perks, too. Cushy living conditions and great pay IRL, position and privilege in-game–it’s not all bad. But things continue to get more complicated as players in the Dream State find themselves attacked by seemingly untraceable random attackers . . . especially when one of these Screamers, as they quickly become known, shows up wearing the face of Noah’s friend Chloe’s brother, one of several beta-testers who had previously disappeared. Now it’s up to Noah to bring together a functional team and figure out what’s going on and who is behind it all.
As with the first two Dream State books, I found Ghost in the Game to be a treat to read. Keene continues to impress with his world building, giving us a sweeping, imaginative view of the Dream State world in its many iterations. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I really think that his way of presenting the world and the way the characters interact with it in-game are not only one of his greatest strengths as an author, but it’s also some of the best I’ve read, period. It manages to be immersive, easily understood, and captivating. I really enjoyed that in this volume we move away somewhat from the revenge theme, getting into more mystery, adventure, and relationship building/repair. There’s definitely some intriguing plot going on, which is fun to read, and it’s nice to get more interpersonal development in this volume as well, especially with where Back in the Game left us. I’m still not sure about Noah’s way of looking at the whole situation, but after three volumes, I’ve basically come to the conclusion that he and I just think really differently about stuff . . . and it’s actually kind of neat to have a character that is developed enough that I can draw that kind of conclusion about him. I also quite enjoyed getting to see more of the characters IRL in this volume; combining both in-game and IRL character interactions seems to add a lot to the character development and really flesh Noah’s group out as individuals. I should mention, we get left with a bit of a cliffie, or at least with lots of room for plot development in future volumes, which I am looking forward to. I would recommend Ghost in the Game, particularly for gamers, cyberpunk fans, and LitRPG fans in particular.
NOTE: I received a free review copy of Back in the Game from the author in exchange for an unbiased review, which in no way affects the contents of this review.
For anyone who’s interested, Humble Bundle currently has a graphic novel bundle that looks potentially interesting. I’m not really that familiar with any of the titles, but some of them look like they have potential. In any case, they’re supposedly “fan favorites,” for what that’s worth. If you’re interested, you can find out more at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/fan-favorite-graphic-novels.
Also, Humble Bundle is having their big Winter Sale in the Humble Store, so there are a lot of games on sale there that might be worth checking out.
Just an FYI, for those of you who enjoy visual novels, Humble Bundle currently has a pretty nice bundle of them for a decent price ($10 for the entire thing). Looks like it’s got some variety–horror, tourism, looks like some slightly ecchi idol ones, and even one that looks like a nostalgic/romantic shoujo ai one. Honestly, I’m not at all familiar with most of these games, so I can’t vouch for how good they are, though some definitely look interesting. Probably the biggest selling point of this bundle is its inclusion of the first five Higurashi When They Cry sound novels–which, frankly, is enough to be worth buying this bundle in its own right. Because, let’s face it, those games are classic.
If you’re interested, you can find more information at https://www.humblebundle.com/games/mangagamer-and-friends-bundle.
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Nikki gets dragged from her ordinary life in fashion design school and dropped–along with her cat Momo–in a strange place called Miraland. There, the enigmatic Queen Nanari tells her that she has a destiny that is tied to the fate of Miraland. Not that that actually tells Nikki much. But what an odd place she’s landed. It seems that fashion design is a huge thing here; conflicts are even resolved through design competitions! Looks like her design skills are going to be tested as she meets new people, learns more about the land and its people, and tries to figure out what on earth Nanari was talking about. Now if only Momo could find a satisfactory supply of grilled fish, they might be in business.
I generally don’t play mobile games much–like, ever. But Love Nikki is one that I’ve actually enjoyed. It’s basically a fashion design/styling game, but it has a lot more to offer than it looks like at first glance. You’ve got a main storyline in which you encounter other characters and advance along a storyline. It’s not too complex, but it’s cute, and the fashion competitions there are pretty challenging–but there are plenty of tips to help if needed. There are also two levels, if you need a bigger challenge. There are also a number of other arenas in which players can engage with each other, whether competing directly against each other or teaming up in associations to complete tasks together. Plus, the publishers are really good about keeping fresh events to keep some variety. You also have several options for getting outfits–as rewards for completing levels, by purchasing them in the store(s), by completing special events, or by crafting them yourself. There’s a wide variety of outfit pieces to choose from (like, seriously huge), and they’re attractively created. Overall, the whole game aesthetic is really cute/pretty–kind of an anime sort of style. There’s definitely some strong Japanese influence (I think maybe it’s originally Japanese and has just been translated, actually). But yeah, the gameplay is pretty fun, and the style is cute. Plus, it’s free (okay, you can pay for extra stuff, but it’s entirely possible to play completely free, so why on earth would you pay for it?!). I would definitely recommend Love Nikki for those interested in an above-average mobile game.
Note: You can find more information on the game, including lots of helpful tips at https://lovenikki.world/.
By EasyGameStation & Carpe Fulgur
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Ditzy and warm-hearted Recette finds herself left with her father’s enormous debt and no way to pay it off. But in the interests of protecting their investment, the creditors contract the straitlaced fairy Tear to help Recette pull her act together and open an items shop in order to pay off her debts. A shop with Recette immediately names “Recettear,” a combination of their names, with a huge grin on her face. Excited to face this new adventure, Recette begins the process of acquiring items, building relationships with customers, and honing her haggling skills. Poor Tear’s got an uphill battle to make this thing work!
If I had to boil Recettear down to one word, “cute” would definitely be it. The anime-like art style, the character designs, the music, it’s all basically adorable. The premise draws on the concept from your typical RPG of the ubiquitous items shop. But while in most games, these shops are pretty generic, this story takes it from the shop owners’ perspective, selling to adventurers and townsfolk alike. It definitely plays like an RPG, but the majority of the focus is on resource management in the shop. Not that you can’t go dungeon crawling if you want to–and sometimes the variety is nice. While the whole buying and selling thing can be a bit repetitive, you are faced with time-management challenges and an increasingly complex market as time goes by. Plus, there are some fun character interactions mixed in, especially between Recette and Tear. I think the adorable relationship between these two–and the stark contrast in their personalities–is what truly makes this game. It’s certainly what I enjoyed the most. As for sound, the music is simple but cute. There is some minimal character voicing, mostly just set phrases, which is all in Japanese but is quite well done; the timing and quality of the actors really does add to the overall flavor of the game, although none of the actual words will make sense unless you have at least a basic understanding of Japanese. All the written text has been translated to English, though, so it’s completely playable–also, the translation is actually quite good. So yeah, it you’re looking for cute RPG that’s a bit different from the norm, I think Recettear is a fun option to try.
Note: You can find Recettear on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/70400/Recettear_An_Item_Shops_Tale/.
So I know I’ve been posting waaaay too many deal notices and not nearly enough actual content, but . . . these were too good to pass up. I promise, I’m working on an actual post, just as soon as my heart stops bleeding enough to actually form coherent sentences. (I just finished re-watching BBC’s Merlin, and wow, but ouch!)
Anyhow, Humble Bundle has an amazing manga bundle available right now–tons and tons of Fairy Tail stuff. If you haven’t checked out Hiro Mashima’s incredible manga series yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun shounen series full of lots of feels. The bundle includes the manga through volume 45 as well as several side stories like Blue Mistral and Ice Trail . . . and some swimsuit edition sort of stuff if you’re into that kind of thing. Yeah. Anyhoo, well worth it just for the main manga alone. You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/fairy-tail-manga-books-bundle, and it’s good for around 10 days as of when I’m writing this.
On another note, Steam is having their big summer sale, which means lots and lots of games for bargain prices. This sale lasts until July 5th. You can find out more at http://store.steampowered.com/.