Saturday, April 30, 2016

GadgetJax Reviews: Cave Story (PC, Wii, 3DS)

   After two months of doing shortened reviews, I think I would like to go back to a more explorative review. This time, we won't be covering a book OR a movie. Rather, we're going back into the wonderful world of video games, and the game of today is Cave Story.

What is Cave Story? Well, of course it's a story, and it's probably about a cave, right? Or, maybe it's a story about Cave Johnson from Portal 2. Nah, I take that back: It's probably just about a cave.
      Before getting to the actual game, though, I would like to cover a bit of Cave Story's history: This game was independently created by just one man, Daisuke 'Pixel' Amaya, and released completely free of charge in 2004 (In Japan, the game is subtitled as 'Dokutsu Monogatari'). The game slowly garnered attention from the western gaming community when it was given an English translation. Within the following years, Cave Story amassed a huge fanbase, as did 'Pixel'. This fad continued to grow as 'Pixel' teamed up with Nicalis Inc to develop updated versions of the game for WiiWare, DSi, 3DS, and Steam. In some respects, Cave Story could be considered one of the first and most influential Indie games ever created!
      To avoid spoiling any of the game's story (haha, get it?), I'll just be covering the first bits of monologue during the game. You wake up in a large cavern with no idea who you are (you won't learn your name until later) and where you came from: after searching around, you meet a village full of rabbit-like denizens known as 'The Mimiga'. These creatures tell you that an evil Doctor has been kidnapping their kind, and you head out to rescue them. Of course there's much more story than that to find in the game, but I recommend living that story yourself: This is NOT the game you would want to spoil. Really, don't spoil it for yourself or anyone else.
      Now, onto gameplay: Cave Story is known by many as a 'Metroidvania' title. Unlike traditional platformers, a Metroidvania platformer does not have segmented levels. Rather, the entire game is linked together as a singular world that can be independently explored at any time - as long as you can access that area in the story, anyway. Your main character can run, jump, and shoot in any horizontal or vertical direction.
      Upon booting up, you'll start with just a single weapon, the Polar Star, but you'll slowly collect more and more. Your arsenal expands to include a missile launcher, a fireball blaster, and more. What makes Cave Story's weapons different is the unique Experience System: Every time you bust an enemy, they drop EXP for you to collect. If you pick up enough EXP, your weapon will eventually level up. Each weapon maxes out its power when it reaches Level 3. The catch? If you receive any damage, your weapon will lose some of the EXP you collected for it. You'll want to play carefully to get through the caves with your weapons still at max power. Here's a diagram to see how the EXP system works for your first weapon:

      Cave Story's weapon system is more dynamic than just its experience system, though: some weapons can only be unlocked by trading certain weapons away, and some needed to be crafted by fusing together one or more weapons. There are a total of 10 weapons to be found: 5 of them are found naturally, and the other 5 are optional through trades or combinations. The extra weapons are fun to find because they add lots of replay value to each Cave Story experience.
      Advice to new players: this game is incredibly challenging. There are no difficulty options in the freeware version; only the versions of the game on Steam and Nintendo include Easy Mode. Cave Story will infuriate you to no end if you aren't up for a fight. Cave Story also features a secondary ending, but accessing it without knowing where it is in advance is nearly impossible. Even if you do manage to find it, you'll have to fight your way through an extra dungeon. Oh, that last dungeon is a heartache and a half.
Final Thoughts:
Cave Story is awesome. Why use words to describe this great game when you can just play it right now? You can download the original freeware version at this link: - The updated versions of this game on Nintendo and Steam will cost a bit more, but are worth it for players who want the definitive Cave Story experience.
Recommendation Level: Maximum (Worth every penny - or, try the original version: you won't regret it either way.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Quote of the Month April 2016- Hayden

Soooo Hayden Rick Rolled us at the last Teen Advisory Board Meeting when I asked them to introduce themselves to the new member. The text reads:
When introducing themselves "My name is Hayden and I'm....Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down” 

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Review of High School (by High Schoolers Lily W and Melanie VT)

A Review of High School (by High Schoolers Lily W and Melanie VT)

Who better to ask about the stresses of high school than high schoolers themselves?

We are both two honor roll students in high school, one a junior, the other a sophomore. We are writing this article to stress how important it is for us to have our lives back. We both have about four or more hours of homework on a normal day of school, not including our clubs, rehearsals, and practices we both take pride in participating in. All around us, our classmates are breaking under the pressure of the impossible expectations that high schools make for us. Some
classmates regularly have panic attacks, medically recognized anxiety, and related eating disorders due to the stress of homework and the expectations put on our shoulders to stay on top of our class assignments. We are writing this article to bring attention to a problem that teachers and administration for many schools overlook the well being of their students’ mental and physical health.
(Infographic from Teens suffer from chronic stress due to homework, 2014 Stanford study finds) 

On a typical school day for me (Melanie), I receive about 4 hours of homework. I try to
start right when I get home from school at 3:30 and work on it. Add on to that amount of time
dinner and a shower and the general preparation for bedtime and that takes away another hour or
so from my working schedule. Now my schedule is work from 3:30-5:30, dinner and a shower,
and then homework from 7-9.

Afterwards I get ready for bed and try to get one word in with my parents on how my day is going. Not to mention I haven’t had any time for any type of social life whatsoever, yet this is the expectation we are supposed to hold up without any snags or problems with our homework, making it take longer than 4 hours (Often times I spend more than 4 hours on homework because I am a slow learner/worker, which puts me at a disadvantage against quick working kids). My schedule allows me no outdoor activity, jobs, or sports. Sunday should be a day of rest without homework, and I never have the time to simply sit back for one day because of the excess of homework. Studies show teenagers need 9 hours of sleep, which rarely happens for me. Most nights, I get about 6.

On my typical school day (Lily) I arrive before the 7:45 start time for first hour. I have no
study hall and a short lunch after 12. After school gets out (2:54 usually except for Wednesdays
when we leave at 2:25) is club meetings, rehearsals for music or plays, or volunteering at my
local library. Generally I won’t get home until after four o’clock but sometimes it won’t be until
dinner. On a usual day I will begin homework and studying as soon as possible, usually spending
as much as 4-6 hours on it, leaving me no free time to spend doing things I enjoy or time to spend with my family and friends. Being a good student means that I have to give up any chance of my social life on several days of the week including the supposed “weekends” in which I still have a whole lot of homework and projects to complete for these hardcore classes (which are honors and advanced placement). So basically I have eight hours in school + at least one hour of after school extracurriculars + 4-6 hours of homework = very little sleep, incredible amounts of stress, and more time working towards education than adults work on in a full time career! Can you see our frustrations?

We aren’t even the kids who are worst off because of high school. All around, kids are feeling high levels of diagnosable anxiety, depression, and even eating disorders because of the levels of stress placed on us to do so well in school or else face a life where we are “doomed” to never make it into college or to have a successful career and happy life. We are pressured to give up all our free time and our childhoods in order to make sure that our futures are amazing, even if our present situation is not right! Students who are trying to prepare for their future now are applying for jobs which they don’t have time for. This situation haunts millions of teenagers every day and they are just trying to save some money. Some students are expected to keep up a high grade point average while supporting their family financially. Going to college obviously requires a lot of money, and not all parents can easily afford sending their child to whatever college his/her heart desires. Students therefore need to help pitch in by getting a job and supporting their future career. That is, if they had time.

Studies show that more than two hours of homework is counterproductive to the education of highschoolers. Giving only two hours of homework is an attainable goal for teachers. Many teachers do not realize our workload is so bad, not considering that the other six classes in their day also assign plenty of homework. We’re already busy we don’t need the busywork. If only they could take into account that we take their instruction seriously and they can be just as effective without assigning an unreasonable amount of homework. Please remember that we are still children, we need to have a strong social and family life, and having so much busy work really affects how we interact with others. It can be very hard to make friends at this age for many teens, but consider having no time to make or keep those friends what then do you think happens to teenagers emotionally?

(Chart from Homework around the world: how much is too much?)
Several students suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and eating disorders. Many different studies show that about half of high school teens feel stressed about high school (These studies can be found in our works cited). It is suggested that high schoolers should have no more than 2 hours of homework daily, or else it will become counterproductive, but the average American teenager has 3.5. In comparison, adults do get frustrated when they are forced to do an excessive amount of overtime for any job how is this any different? If an adult had literally no time to be themselves don’t you think they would become stressed, burnt out, and upset? No wonder students are so negatively affected by high school’s unreasonable standards.

Many countries, in fact, do not emphasize the need for homework. Finland has even passed laws to ban homework in some areas. Now I know what you’re thinking: Don’t those kids in reaction to less homework have poorer knowledge and ability to take what they learn and apply it to new situations? Surprisingly, no. Because of more student teacher interactions in school, the kids require less take-home busywork. Teachers on the other hand are held higher expectations before they’re even allowed to become a teacher. They must have a master’s degree and be in the top 10% of their class. Class size in Finland is about 12 students per teacher, which makes for better one-on-one interaction time and personal help. Not only that, but most students actually prefer smaller class size.

The purpose of this project we have taken on is to bring light to a subject that a lot of teachers tend not to consider when assigning homework the students’ emotional well being. While you may think that we are all perfectly coping to these high levels of stress and higher expectations, you are completely wrong. We want a life! We are still kids, so while we may be mature and starting to make adult decisions like taking on more responsibility like jobs, we aren’t adults quite yet. You can’t expect us to take on so much work and not have negative effects on our mental and physical health. We just want you to hear us. We hope that this article can make a positive change for kids like us.

Works Cited:
CNN . Cable News Network. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"Education in Sweden." . 11 May 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"A High School Student's Perspective on Homework." ASCD
Express 4.26 . Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"School Stress Takes A Toll On Health, Teens And Parents Say." NPR . NPR. Web. 23 Apr.
"Teens Suffer from Chronic Stress Due to Homework, 2014 Stanford Study Finds The
Redwood Bark." The Redwood Bark . 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"Teens Suffer from Chronic Stress Due to Homework, 2014 Stanford Study Finds The
Redwood Bark." The Redwood Bark . 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.
"There Is No Homework In Finland." Content Marketing Blog . 04 Mar. 2013. Web. 23 Apr.