She Held A Lightsaber

** Spoilers ahead. I was careful not to ruin any big reveals, but the nature of the post requires a minor spoiler. Proceed with caution. **







I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday and it was so many things I’d hoped for and one unforgettable thrill. In the climactic battle, Rey, the scavenger from Jakku who has consistently been competent and talented and brave and strong, she summons the lightsaber. Luke’s lightsaber. And I burst into tears.

Because she was holding a lightsaber. It’s hard to explain, unless you were a young female geek who spent much of your childhood casting around for heroes that look like you. There are some notable standouts: Eowyn. Aerin Firehair. Xena. But most of the time I had to content myself with identifying with Bilbo and Luke, and countless other men on their hero’s journeys.

I like the original trilogy, but I recently saw a video that compiled women who talk in the Trilogy excluding Leia. It was embarassing. 1.03 minutes, and only really had Aunt Beru, Rebel Alliance Chief Communications Officer Toryn Farr, and Mon Mothma’s monologue. I do love Leia Hutt-Slayer, to be sure, but I always wanted more. To me, Star Wars was a universe strangely devoid of women. I wanted star battles and lightsaber fights and all the heart-throttling excitement…I just wanted a girl there. Or two.

I almost bought a poster of Rey before I saw it, but I hesitated. I mean, what if the promise of the trailers is not fulfilled? What if she’s just another token girl? But she’s not sexualized, she’s not there to be romanced. She was not the reward or the princess in the castle or the forgotten sidekick.

/She/ was the hero. She was the Chosen One. She was the one the movie closed on. And Leia, she was a strong leader, didn’t crumble under a crushing blow. And there was a female X-Wing pilot! And a female guard captain, Captain Phasma, with the First Order! The movie is threaded with amazing female characters.

While I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work, I’ve not always been the biggest J.J. Abrams fan. But I will always thank him for this. For giving her a lightsaber.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a poster to go buy.

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.

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