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Categories Video games |

Explore a world of wonder with Mario and friends, explore the Quebec wilderness in Kona II: Brume, explore all sorts of puzzles with Puzzmo.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder a world of delights

The latest Mario game is astounding. So much of what’s here is the same. It’s a two-dimensional, side-scrolling platformer in which you run, jump, and avoid enemies in an attempt to get to the finish line.

But, as with so many Mario games that came before, Super Mario Bros. Wonder manages to transform something the same into something, well, wonderful.

The developers at Nintendo assembled Mario Wonder did two things that contribute to this transformation.

The first is in deciding to make the game so that younger and beginner players can have as much fun as everyone else.

So the cooperative play is completely cooperative. You can’t push other players off edges or into enemies in Mario Wonder. The only time that characters even contact each other is when one of them is Yoshi, and they are giving a ride to another character.

Yoshi is invincible, too, as is Nabbit, and while this benefit means that they can’t use power-ups, but beginners won’t mind if it means they can keep up.

The second difference in Mario Wonder is in how the idea of wonder is executed. While the individual levels are side scrolling, the main world is semi-open. You collect Wonder Seeds to open up different parts of the map, and in each level, one of those seeds is hidden in an area that only reveals itself when you’ve found the Wonder Flower.

Pick up that flower and the level transforms into a psychedelic romp that would not be out of place in Sgt Pepper or the Magical Mystery Tour: Piranha Plants launch into a song-and-dance number, a herd of Bulrushes chase you in rolling waves. Collect the Wonder Seed at the end and the level returns to normal.

Power-ups include some of the usuals like the Super Mushroom and Fire Flower and some new ones including an Elephant Fruit (use your trunk to swat enemies, break blocks, or spray water) and a Drill Mushroom (great for underground levels).

And along the way you’ll collect badges that grant bonus skills and abilities like special moves (Fast Dash, Parachute Cap, Dolphin Kick) and passive effects (Coin Reward, Coin Magnet). Some badges provide powerful boosts – Jet Run, Invisibility – but must be earned by completing challenges.

You and up to three friends can play on the same Switch, choosing from characters that include Mario and Luigi, Peach and Daisy, Toad and Toadette. And the game supports online play, too.

With bright colours and a crazy weirdness, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a game the entire family will enjoy.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is available now for the Nintendo Switch. Rated everyone.

Kona II: Brume casts Quebec for supernatural thriller

Brume is a synonym for mist or fog. It’s derived from French, where it also refers to the winter solstice and to a being in a confused state. It’s a perfect subtitle for this asmospheric adventure game.

Developed by Parabole, an indie studio in Quebec, and published by Plaion, Kona II: Brume is set in the 1970s. In the first game, detective Carl Faubert was hired to find out who was vandalizing the mansion of an industrialist in Northern Quebec. The sequel begins with Carl on the run, still unclear about what’s going on in the village and surrounding wilderness.

You need to manage a number of things to survive in Brume, including your body temperature, batteries for your flashlight, and ammunition for your weapons. The threats are varied and some aren’t quite what they seem at first. Because there’s something going on in this part of the world. And Faubert is falling right into it.

You can opt to have a narrator describe what’s going on, if you want, and that comes with a glimpse into the thoughts of the detective you have inhabited. For me, having that narration provide context to the various storylines that you uncover, and the characters at the heart of them, reminded me of classic television detective shows like Rockford Files and Magnum, PI.

Faubert documents his investigation in a notebook, and you’ll occasionally want to pull out your instant camera to take photos of the things you’re observing. It’s what a good detective would do.

Kona II: Brume is available now for PS4, PS5, Windows, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Rated teen.

Puzzmo is a new daily puzzle challenge

Zach Gage is the guy behind puzzle games like Knotwords and SpellTower, and his new thing is Puzzmo, a daily collection of puzzle games that has an interesting way of getting players.

Each day, keys to the site are awarded to the first 500 people to solve a puzzle. At that site is the rest of the day’s puzzle bonanza that includes things like Really Bad Chess, SpellTower, Typeshift, Wordbind, and Flipart.

Once you’ve gotten through the door you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the site from then on.

And you can subscribe to get access to the archive and leaderboards. $40 USD gets you two logins for a year, for you and a friend, say. Or that same price gives one person a lifetime membership.

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Categories Consumer technology |

Canadian businesses looking to stand out on Facebook and Instagram can opt for a subscription program being offered by Meta called Meta Verified.

The $37 monthly fee gives you a “verified” badge on your business page and protection against anyone trying to impersonate your business.

This seems a lot like paying for your business name and phone number to be in bold font in the phone book, and it probably makes sense for small businesses that are advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

The one hitch is that, for now anyway, you can only have one subscription, so you’ll have to pick whether you want to be verified on Facebook or Instagram. You can’t have both.

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Categories Video games |

Alan Wake II is a mind-bending thrill, Jusant is a calming meditation, Catan comes to the Nintendo Switch.

Alan Wake II thrills by exploiting expectation and breaking convention

Alan Wake II is part survival horror, part narrative experiment, and all kinds of interesting.

This is a sequel, to Remedy Entertainment’s 2010 Xbox exclusive, which introduced the titular character and the notion of the “Dark Place” and the dark entities that come from there.

I found the combat and level design in the first game “a bit tedious”, but there’s none of that drag here.

Instead, you’ll be scrambling to keep up with what is an ever changing experience. You’re thrown from one environment to another, from one frame of reference to another, from one storyline to another.

You begin in the role of Saga Anderson, an FBI agent investigating a series of ritualistic murders in the Pacific Northwest town of Bright Falls (that Twin Peaks is an inspiration for the Alan Wake games has been acknowledged by creative director Sam Lake).

But you also play as Alan Wake, an author who seems to have the ability to write reality into, or out of, existence. And in sections of the game you can opt to play as either protagonist, and the experience shifts with the character.

This is a web of narrative that creative director Lake and the Remedy development team have become expert at crafting, and the characters and events in Alan Wake II seem to tuck neatly into the larger Remedy universe that includes the 2019 phenomenon, Control.

In Alan Wake II, this universe becomes more comprehensive and connected, expanding on its cosmic horror core.

Light, as in the first game, is critical. In 2010 I wrote that, “it’s the atmosphere, it’s a gameplay mechanic, it’s a plot device, it’s a metaphor.” That’s all true in this sequel, but there’s more survival horror gameplay in the sequel. Your resources are limited, and while the light can protect, it’s doesn’t heal like it used to. And it can wane, with disastrous – monstrous – consequences.

Alan Wake II was developed by Remedy Entertainment and published by Epic. It’s available now for PS5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S. Rated mature.

Meditative Jusant a charming puzzle platformer

Jusant is a French word that refers to receding tide, and it establishes the world that you step into when you begin this game as a young explorer. The world is dry, desert-like, but it’s filled with the remnants of a marine culture: boats, anchors. remnants of sail.

Faced with a pillar of stone, the obvious thing is to climb it, and that’s what Jusant is all about. The goal is to find paths up the pillar, revealing snippets of the lives that used to inhabit the hollows, nooks, and crannies of the stone.

It’s lovely and meditative, and there are hidden places for you to find and explore.

Jusant is available now for PS5, Windows, and Xbox Series X/S and is part of Xbox Game Pass. Rated everyone.

Catan Console Edition launches on Nintendo Switch

Earlier this year I wrote about the board game, Catan, being developed as a console game.

Now it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch, and cross-play is enabled, so you can play online against players on any system.

Starting Thursday, you can get a 10 percent discount on the “super deluxe” edition, which includes an expansion called, the Helpers, and boards used in the World Championships.

Catan Console Edition lands on Nintendo Switch on November 9. It’s also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. Rated everyone.

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