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Bilal: A New Breed of Hero

Thank you Vertical Entertainment for sending us a screener DVD to review!

Bilal: A New Breed of Hero is inspired by the true story of Bilal ibn Rabah. Though Bilal was one of Muhammad’s most trusted companions, this movie focuses more on slavery and equality than religion. Bilal’s master, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, was a wealthy man who made his fortune by selling idols in the town of Mecca. His son, Safwan ibn Umayya, treated Bilal and his sister very poorly. Bilal protected his sister even if it meant getting beaten later on for defending her.

Though whippings, beatings, and warfare is shown in this film, there is very little blood seen. This film is rated PG-13 due to the violence and warfare in it. Religion is watered down with a few references to a singular creator God and a prayer ending in amen. There is no mention of Allah and the only hint of Islam is that you see gamepeices with crescents representing the new movement versus the idol worshipers on a strategic game board. The idol priests are depicted as powerful and able to sense people’s needs and desires. I like how they’re associated with snakes.

The quality of the film is exceptional with top notch visuals and voice acting. The overall message of equality is great and I like how they reinforce that true strength is in the mind and not weapons. Bilal’s mother taught him that a great man is not bound by internal chains of anger, vengeance, or fear. Even though Bilal seeks to be a free man physically, he realizes that even his master is a slave to greed. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say that Bilal does speak his mind and stays true to his convictions and beliefs.

Though this film was originally made in 2015, Bilal: A New Breed of Hero will be coming to theaters worldwide on February 2nd, 2018. Hopefully it will do better in the Western box offices than it did in the MENA region despite its positive reviews. It’s definitely worth checking out if you don’t mind some harsh imagery and violence.

 

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How to Get the Best Skins in Dota 2?

How to Get the Best Skins in Dota 2?

Skins for Dota 2 became an object of obsession for millions of gamers all over the world - this is one of the reasons why the competition is so high when it comes to acquiring skins. Skins vary by quality and rarity and the higher are these indicators for the item the higher is the demand for it among players. That is why many players are interested in the best ways of acquiring rare items.

One option is available for you if you have a few skins and want to convert those in real money to purchase rarer ones. The easiest option for you would be to sell items you have in a skins marketplace as there you can make a prompt deal free of fraud. And the more skins you sell the higher would be the price for each new item sold. Actually, this is a good way to earn some cash and it is up to you how to spend it afterwards.

Dota 2 Skins

Track Special Events

Special events that take place permanently are usually followed with release of the limited line of skins and sometimes you can get those for free if you follow some conditions like participation in giveaways, or in the event somehow.

The value of the skins released for special events grows each month, as usually those are the limited editions and new similar models are not likely to be released. You can get really unique items - and what is rare is always of higher demand.

Play Frequently

When you play there is always a chance you are going to get a valuable case in the end of the game session. You need to use that chance, although the probability you are going to get a rare item after the game is really low, it still remains and even if the skin you get is not rare at all you can sell it in the specialized marketplace or exchange on forums.

Track Giveaways Organized By Different Services

There are many services that are associated with the Dota 2 or that count to engage as many Dota 2 players as possible and those usually conduct giveaways in Facebook and other social networks with corresponding hashtags (which you can use to find those).

Usually, all you need to do is to share the post and it is enough to participate in the giveaways. Of course, it is not the best way to acquire skins, but having a tiny chance to win a valuable item is better that having no chance at all.

Usually, such giveaways set several winners with different prizes which makes your chance to win at last something much higher.

 DOTA 2 skins

Conclusion

There are many legal ways to increase your skin account and the more of them you use the more are the chances that once you will get the skin that will cost several hundred dollars in a year or two.

 

 

Disclaimer - This article was provided by Skinsmarket.com

 

 

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Halo: The Complete Video Collection

Thank you Shout! Factory for sending us this six-disc Blu-ray set to review!

Back in 2015 we enjoyed and reviewed Halo: The Fall of Reach. Since we only had access to a low-resolution screener it’s nice to have a higher quality Blu-ray disc of it now. I have enjoyed the first two Halo games and my kids have been playing the original game, so we have a little bit of an understanding of the franchise. Thankfully, each of the discs features different characters and stories and don’t require an in-depth knowledge of the game to enjoy them. With that said these films are dark, bloody, and have some language in them so they’re not for younger children.

Aside from Fall of Reach, there are two other movies, Forward Unto Dawn and Nightfall. The first disc, Halo Legends, has all seven of the short animated films. If that’s not enough Halo lore for you to enjoy, there are also two discs worth of bonus content. This set is sure to please any Halo fan.

Each of the Halo Legends episodes is different in art style and storytelling. The history of the war with the Covenant and the Flood is retold from varying perspectives, including Cortana’s. Other side stories are told as well including some somber ones and light-hearted tales. Since the episodes are pretty short, I won’t spoil any of the details here. This disc is nearly two hours in length.

Forward Unto Dawn tells a ninety-one minute story of some fresh recruits that hope to be Spartans one day. Each of the cadets have their own viewpoints on the war and reasons for enlisting. Many of them have family members that will be hard to measure up to. Taking orders does not come naturally for the main character, Thomas Lasky. All of their sweat and training will come in handy when their academy gets attacked by the Covenant. Do they have what it takes to survive?

Nightfall stars Mike Colter who I recognized from the Luke Cage series. His character, Locke, is an ONI soldier on a mission to save the planet from a biochemical warfare attack from the Covenant. The fate of the planet relies on a handful of soldiers who must endure the harsh atmosphere of what’s left of the Halo ring. Humanity's acts of selfishness and selflessness are both shown in this ninety-eight-minute film.

While my family and I enjoyed these films and short movies, they are not for younger kids due to language and intense violence. There is plenty of blood and alien worms eating people alive. Pretty good nightmare material for young ones. Those who are old enough to enjoy the games will find a lot to like in this set though.

 


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eniTAB360

eniTAB360
Developed by: Filofax
Price: $19.99

Thank you Filofax for sending us this product to review!

I’ve been toting around a tablet for a few years and I use it for accessing online recipes in the kitchen and taking digital sermon notes at church. The purple Fintie case I’ve been using for my LG tablet has served me well and I like how it has a built-in flap that allows the tablet to be propped up horizontally. Until now, I haven’t heard of Filofax and their universal tablet cases and tablet holders. Many of their tablet cases are over $50, but they include the universal tablet holder with them ($19.99 value).

The eniTAB360 comes in two sizes: small and large. The small is designed for 8.5” screens and smaller and the large is for 8.5” or more. I was sent the small model to review. The design is well thought out and very sturdy. I like how the edge that comes in contact with the flat surface is rubberized to prevent scratching. The green circle part that sticks to your tablet uses silicone based polymer micro-suction technology. The suction is very strong and you need to use the included smooth card device to have it loosen the grip off of your tablet. If you lose the remover, a credit card could work instead though I would worry about some potential scratching.

For my first test, I used my tablet and was quite pleased with the results. Putting the eniTAB360 on is much easier than taking it off though. The 360 rotation is great and the 0-140 degree hinge works well. After installing and removing the eniTAB360 several times, I have not noticed any loss of stickiness. As advertised, there is no residue left behind after use.

After the eniTAB360 passed with flying colors on my tablet, I wanted to test it out on my Switch since the built-in stand for that is a complete joke. The built-in stand is small and prone to coming off. Not surprisingly, the eniTAB360 works great on my Switch. Since our tablets have cases with built-in holders, we’ll continue using the eniTAB360 for our Switch from here on out since we know that it works and does not scratch or leave behind any goop after use.

 


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Flash/Browser Games Trends to Watch Out for In 2018

 

flash browser games

Games that can be played in browser are our salvation when we’re bored, regardless of our location. As long as there’s WiFi and you have a device that supports a modern Internet browser, you could be at work, caught in a long commute, or bored out of your skull at a conference and still have entertainment options due to these wonderful creations.

The history of browser games started in 1995, with the birth of Macromedia Flash (now known as Adobe Flash) and Action Script and evolved to HTML5 games, that don’t require you to install Flash as a browser extension. The cool thing is that browser games cover a wide range of genres and they can be both single and multi-player. Even more, these games are highly portable and can be played on different devices and browsers, some even offering a persistence feature (where your game progress is saved).

Throughout the years, you can observe an ascending trend, with flash/browser games becoming more complex and diverse. Thus, both the level of action and the graphic quality evolved so nowadays, games like DOOM, Dragon Ball Z Online, and Infinite Mario Bros, can be played in browser (of course, there are more cool examples to check out).

But what will happen next? Is there more space for development when it comes to browser games? Let’s see what we should expect in 2018.

More Remakes of Classic Games

The classics made history for a reason: they are entertaining and difficult to let go. So there’s no surprise that you’ll find them available online in a free-to-play format. I already mentioned Mario but other classics are expected to show up this year so keep your eyes peeled.

The best thing about a browser game (except the fact that they’re readily available without complicated installs) is that you can enjoy a fantastic game for free (as most browser games are free versions). Even more, classic remakes come with better graphics and smoother action.

More IO Games

The trend of IO games may have been born on a whim and showed up as of nowhere, but it will stay strong in 2018 as well. If you don’t know the genre, you should know that these are online browser games that are easy to understand yet difficult to master. A good example of an IO game is Little Big Snake (which is also based on the classic Snake game).

Basically, this trend started with basic games that took around 5 to 10 minutes to play (just perfect for when you’re stuck somewhere with nothing better to do). However, as people’s interest grew, so did the complexity of the game (both in graphics and gameplay).

More HTML5 Games

flash browser games

There is a constant battle between Adobe Flash and HTML5 and there was a time when we thought that the multitude of security issues and other problems may bring an end to the first. However, Flash still has lots of power in the world of browser games and other applications so you’ll still find that you’ll need the browser extension if you want to play all the cool games.

Still, it is expected that 2018 will bring more browser games based on the HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript technologies since they evolved and grown becoming more reliable. The HTML5 platform allows game creators to offer a more fluid and immersive experience for players due to great animations and cool interactive elements. Not to mention they are already embedded in modern browser clients so games will run on a native platform.

More Complexity in Graphics

Just like with PC and Console video games, it is expected to see more graphic complexity for browser games as well. Of course, you can’t compare one with the other since browser games are specially created for short-term entertainment and they run in a browser, but specialists expect a bit more this year. As it can be expected, game creators already deliver with games like League of Angels, Imperia Online, and more.

Overall, the 2018 trend for flash/browser games is of growth and we can’t wait to see new releases with more complex gameplay and stories. Our time-to-kill moments just got a lot more interesting this year!

 

 

 

 

--Disclaimer - this post has been provided by Katie Green.

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The Infographic Guide to the Bible: The Old Testament

Thank you Simon and Schuster for sending us this book to review!

Unless you’re reading a children’s edition, there are not many pictures or visual materials in the Bible. The Old Testament has many great events recorded and seeing them come to life in this infographic book is pretty cool. The breakdown of Noah’s Ark and Goliath’s measurements are truly breathtaking. In total, the ark was 1,518,750 cubic feet! Another neat tidbit in this book is that Goliath’s armor was 155lbs and his spearhead was nearly 19lbs. I recently watched Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark and was pleased to see the specs of the Ark of the Covenant detailed in this book as well.

As neat as this information is, I was shocked to find some inaccuracies. The infographic on page 31 regarding Rachel's and Leah's children is incorrect. The diagram shows Leah with four sons when she had six plus a daughter (Dinah) and Rachel with four sons when she only had two, Joseph and Benjamin. The book also claims that Rachel bore Jacob's only daughter when it was indeed Leah according to Genesis. If you want to get technical, Genesis 46:7 implies that Jacob had multiple daughters. Last but not least, Zilpah's name is also misspelled (Zilphah).

Here's a breakdown of the children:

Gen 29
Reuben - Leah
Simeon - Leah
Levi - Leah
Judah - Leah

Gen 30
Dan - Bilhah
Naphtali - Bilhah
Gad - Zilpah
Asher - Zilpah
Issachar - Leah
Zebulun - Leah
Dinah - Leah
Joseph - Rachel

Genesis 35
Benjamin – Rachel

Because of these errors, I can’t rely on and trust the information throughout the rest of the book. This critique is based off an advanced review copy of the book. Perhaps it has been or will be revised to correct the errors. Until that happens, I would recommend skipping it or taking it with a pillar of salt.

 

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Austin Stone Worship – Everflow

Thank you Austin Stone Worship for sending us this digital album to review!

The Austin Stone ministry is located in Austin, Texas and they consist of talented worship leaders, musicians, songwriters, and artists. Their goal is to proclaim the gospel of Christ throughout the world and to challenge believers to live a life fully devoted to Jesus. Everflow is their seventh album, and after hearing how great the production quality is and how the gospel message is clearly in it, I’m going to have to backtrack and check out their previous recordings.

Everflow consists of thirteen tracks, which range from calming instrumental songs to electronic dance music. My favorite song is titled The Center of It All and its electronic dance music style reminds me of music from a Christian group called Capital Kings. There’s a wide variety of music styles represented in the album. Many of the songs have piano, synthesizer, and electric guitar in them. The vocal talent is exceptional and I enjoyed listening to the male and female lead singers.

The theme of this CD is based off of 1 Peter and points to the supremacy of Jesus in all things. With song titles like Jesus Lifted High, You Can’t Be Praised Enough, and Jesus Is Better, they are on the right track. The lyrics are certainly praising God and lifting his name on high. The instrumental tracks are pleasant to listen to as well, but they’re not as moving and the ones with words.

This CD is availably digitally and in physical form on Amazon and at many popular brick and mortar retailers like Walmart and Target. I highly recommend checking out Austin Stone Worship’s website for all of their music and resources available to believers, worship leaders, and musicians. I look forward to more God honoring music from them!



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Whalek/Happy Life Self Inflating Sleeping Pad

Thank you Whalek for sending us this product to review!

My family loves to go camping though we don’t “rough it” entirely. We make sure that our phones stay charged and we pack our own food to cook on an open fire. Showering facilities are welcome as well. Though we have always brought sleeping pads in the past, having an extra layer between our tent and the sleeping bags is always appreciated. Not too long ago, we reviewed the Whalek Self-Inflating Camp Pad and it’s great for a single person. The double-pillowed sleeping pad is ideal for married couples.

Setting up the sleeping pad is fairly simple. Removing it from the carrying bag and unfolding it does not take too much time or effort. Loosing up the valves on each end of the mat will allow for air to automatically inflate the bottom mat a little bit. This process takes some time and it won’t ever look or feel like an air mattress. Still, it’s far better than sleeping on bare ground! The pillows require inflating the old fashioned way and they each have their own valve.

When you’re ready to roll up and put away the sleeping pad, be sure to thoroughly deflate the pillow and mat portion. Despite my best efforts of deflating and rolling up the sleeping pad, it took several attempts and some force to (mostly) get it back into it’s original carrying sack. The straps and buckles are nice but one of the buckles came off when I was trying to fasten it. I was able to put it back on though. The straps and buckles will probably last longer than the carrying case as I lost a few stitches at the opening when attempting to put away the mat.

In the event of an accident, there is a repair kit included. The manual is helpful as well despite finding a typo in it. The company seems to stand behind their products and are willing to help if you are not satisfied with it. The Amazon reviews are positive and this sleeping pad sells for $56 there.


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Jonathan Cain - Unsung Noel

Thank you Hoganson Media for sending us a digital album to review!

Jonathan Cain was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April of 2017. Many may know him as Journey’s keyboardist and co-author of Don’t Stop Believin’. A quick look at his Twitter feed will show that he’s a Christian and listening to his latest Christmas album, Unsung Noel, truly emphasizes the reason for the season. The first song, The Heart of Christmas, emphasizes that Jesus is the reason for the season.

There are fourteen songs and they are all beautifully performed and produced. A couple that I recognized right off the bat are Angels We Have Heard on High, Oh Holy Night, and Do You Hear What I Hear. The other eleven tracks were all new to me. Even though I’m not Catholic anymore, I enjoyed Hail Mary. That song and entire CD proclaim Jesus Christ as the king, savior, and true meaning behind Christmas.

All of the songs are calming and have great singing and keyboard playing. The lyrics throughout the CD are inspiring, praise Jesus, and tell of his miraculous birth. The song Joseph’s Pride tells Joseph’s doubts and role as Jesus’ earthly father.

If you’re looking for praise filled Christmas music, look no further than Jonathan Cain’s Unsung Noel Christmas album. Digitally it sells for $8.99 and the audio CD is only a dollar more. I love playing Christmas music throughout the month of December though I have made an exception for this album. It’s great to listen to Christ-centered music instead of ones focusing on made up figures. This one is definitely staying in my Christmas music collection!

 


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All Saints

Thank you Affirm Films for sending us this DVD to review!

All Saints tells the true story about the recently ordained pastor, Michael Spurlock, who takes over a church slated for closing in a few weeks. Michael used to be a corporate salesperson and he has a history of clashing with his bosses. After getting to know the twelve church members, he realizes that the All Saints church is a big part of their lives and closing it down may hurt them spiritually. On top of that, some Karen refugee farmers have started attending and their growing numbers quickly fill up the pews in the chapel.

Michael must again clash heads with those in authority over him as he refuses to cooperate with the building appraisers. To keep the church afloat, Michael proposes that they use the land for farming and the expertise of the refugees for maintaining it. The diocese reluctantly agrees to keep the church off of the market until after the first harvest.

The church members work together to plant and tend the fields. Farming is hard work and requires a lot of time and water and both of them are in short supply. Friendships, marriages, and people’s faith are tested and strained throughout this journey. I’ll leave the rest of the details for you to watch in this 108 minute film.

The credits show some neat pictures and stories of actual All Saints church members. It’s also great to see that some of them are in the film. This movie is rated PG and shows a bit of blood and violence. Most of the movie is family friendly and I recommend checking it out. The Blu-ray is available for less than $20 and the DVD is $16.99 on Amazon.

 


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All I Want For Christmas Is You

Thank you Universal Studios for sending us this Blu-ray to review!

All I Want For Christmas Is You features Mariah Carey’s song with the same title and she is the narrator of this cute Christmas themed story. The main character is a little girl named Mariah (big surprise!) who has been asking for a puppy for many years without any success. While her father is allergic to dogs, he also struggles with saying “No” to her and would rather come up with an excuse to leave rather than give her a response. This year is a little different from before as Mariah agrees to be in a doggie fashion show without the required dog. Her friends are still okay with it since Mariah assures them that she’s getting one this Christmas.

Mariah’s grandmother is in her corner and tries to get her parents to reconsider after seeing a cute hypoallergenic poodle-bichon hybrid puppy at the local animal shelter. Mariah sets her sights on getting this female puppy that she names Princess. Her father, on the other hand, has different plans. He brings home a troublesome puppy named Jack and promises that if she can take care of this wily dog, then they’ll consider getting Princess for her.

Jack is quite the troublemaker, destroying many items in the house, and even manages to tarnish Mariah’s impeccable reputation at school. Because of some of his hijinks, she is forced to trespass into her neighbor’s yard to “borrow” Mrs. Claus’ outfit since Jack destroyed the one she needed for the fashion show. Unfortunately, her grandfather trespasses into their neighbor’s yard all of the time out of jealousy to interfere with their obnoxious Christmas decorations.

While there is justification for lying and jealousy in this film, it does have a good message about love in the end and how it does not require perfection to thrive. I won’t spoil any more of the story or the ending, but I recommend checking out this film if you’re a fan of dogs or Mariah Carey. All I Want For Christmas Is You sells for less than $15 on Amazon.



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The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

Thank you Team Click for sending us this movie to review!

Life isn’t easy for a squirrel. Everything is out to get them: cars, bikes, gum, and humans. They had the easy life in the closed down nut shop, but good things don’t last forever. Sadly, it exploded and the easy life is now gone for Surly and his friends. Surly’s love interest, Andie, wants him to go back to the park and live as a wild animal again. However, the greedy mayor wants to remove Liberty Park since it’s not generating any income.

Instead of going back to the park, Surly and his friends decide to steal their meals from humans. Their life of crime is short lived after discovering that it’s not worth the hassle. Aside from stealing, there is some alcohol consumption and a spoiled rotten child being given her way when she throws a temper tantrum. Some gross humor is also shown when it comes to dogs and vomit.

The comedy begins when the ground breaks in the park to construct a new amusement park. The animals team up to stop the construction team from making any progress. The mayor brings in reinforcements and things get serious when Precious the dog gets taken by the mayor’s daughter. The daughter’s dog loves Precious but the feelings are not mutual.

During Precious’ rescue, Buddy gets injured and the animals rally together once again. With the renewed comradery, the animals vow to take down the newly opened amusement park. The animal exterminators come in full force and capture everyone but Surly. Does he run and take the easy way out or does he save the park and his friends? I’ll leave the rest as a mystery as you should see this movie firsthand.

My kids and I enjoyed this movie and recommend picking it up. The Blu-ray/DVD combo can be yours for less than $20.


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CORE Gaming Backpack by Mobile Edge

Thank you Mobile Edge for sending us a loaner backpack to review!

The CORE Gaming Backpack was successfully Kickstarted in September 2017, exceeding its $30,000 goal by $4! As of this review, the backers have received their products and most of them are satisfied with the results.

As an owner of a 15.6” gaming laptop it’s rather challenging to find a laptop bag big enough to fit my laptop let alone the accessories I like to tote around with it. Granted some of the items I carry around are not your typical fare, but I like to keep it all together if possible.

I’m happy to report that my laptop does indeed fit in the checkpoint friendly pouch. This is great for easy access and airport security checks. The fleece pouch for tablets is super soft and won’t scratch the screen unless you add something sharp in there along with it.

Core Gaming Backpack

There were some nice add-ons like a USB charging bank which I did not get to review, but this backpack does make it easy to charge accessories with its built in USB cable. Another add-on was a Samsung Gear VR. Again, this was not included with the backpack, but, my first generation Samsung Gear VR fit nicely in the middle pouch. While I was able to store my SteelSeries controller, Oculus Touch controllers and sensors, I could not get my Oculus Rift to fit inside the backpack with all of my other accessories. My current laptop bag can fit everything.

As long as you don’t need to carry a full blown VR setup, there is plenty to like in this backpack. The build quality is top notch. The rubberized grip on the metal reinforced carrying handle is both comfortable and sturdy. The gel lined backing and straps adds further comfort for long walks with a heavy laptop on your back. The shock absorbing straps seem pretty strong as well. Since we can’t keep this review sample, it’s hard to say how long it will last, but the overall build quality is quite good at first glance.

Core Gaming Backpack

In my attempts to squish my Rift in there I started to see some threads showing but that would probably happen with any item and I did not force the issue to avoid damaging my Rift or the backpack. If something were to happen to the CORE Gaming Backpack, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. On the Kickstarter page they seem to be very responsive to customer complaints and thankfully, a majority of them are satisfied with their products. One of the backers was having trouble fitting their 17” Asus RoG laptop in it, but I don’t have a laptop that big to confirm that. My 15.6” MSI fits great with some room to spare.

There are plenty of pouches for various accessories. I like the small memory storage units for SD cards. The Velcro front is rather strange for my tastes but it makes customizing the backpack rather easy if you have Velcro decals for your favorite games, sports teams, or sponsors. There is a Velcro free version available as well.

The price is very reasonable for this gaming laptop backpack. Early bird backers were able to get it for $75 with free shipping. Not so early backers were able to snag it for $89 shipped. Everyone else can get it on Mobile Edge’s website for $129.

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2017 Christmas Buying Guide

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most family friendly games we have reviewed in 2017. More reviews can be found on ChristCenteredGamer.com! Each game is given a gameplay score for the overall gaming experience and a moral score for how suitable it is for younger gamers. The Amazon and Humble Store links will benefit Christ Centered Gamer by giving us a small % of the sale.

System Game Game Score Moral Score Buy it!
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Metroid: Samus Returns 92% 90% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns 86% 94% $39.99
Nintendo 2DS/3DS
Nintendo 3DS
Kid Tripp 80% 96% $3.99
Switch
Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
(Switch, Wii U)
98% 83% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 88% 98% $59.99
Switch
Switch
Puyo Puyo Tetris
(PS4, Switch)
88% 97% $39.99
Switch
Switch
Fast RMX 86% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Hover: Revolt of Gamers 94% 96% $19.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
RIVE: Wreck, Hack, Die, Retry 94% 94% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
20XX 90% 93% $14.99
PC/Mac
PC/Mac/Linux
Minecraft Story Mode: Season Two
(Android, iOS, PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 87% $24.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Destiny 2 
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
96% 86% $59.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4

Cities: Skylines
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)

94% 100% $49.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA Future Tone 92% 87% $53.99
PlayStation 4
PlayStation 4
Aven Colony
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
90% 82% $29.99
PlayStation Vita
PlayStation Vita
Oceanhorn: Monster of the Uncharted Seas
86% 83% $12.99
  While we have reviewed other Vita games this year, they
are not on this guide because they are not family friendly
enough to be included. You can read our other Vita reviews
 here.
     
Xbox One
Xbox One
Seasons after Fall
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
88% 86% $19.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Aaero
(PC, PS4, Xbox One)
86% 94% $14.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Ghost Blade HD
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
84% 87% $9.99
Xbox One
Xbox One
Typoman Revised
(PC, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U)
82% 93% $12.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
GNOG (PSVR) 90% 93% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Darknet (Vive) 88% 86% $14.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
Sairento VR (Rift) 88% 85% $29.99
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
EVERSPACE (Vive) 86% 96% $29.99
Hardware
Hardware
Custom PS4 Controller N/A N/A $70+
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hebe M1 RGB Surround Sound Gaming Headset N/A N/A $69.99
Hardware
Hardware
Gamdias Hermes E2 7 Color Mechanical Gaming Keyboard N/A N/A $56.99
Hardware
Hardware
Kidz Gear Wireless Headphones N/A N/A $19.99

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What to look for in a gaming laptop

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Buying a gaming desktop or laptop is a big commitment. However, if you get a machine powerful enough, it can provide years of entertainment. Desktops are cheaper and easier to upgrade so if you don’t need portability, you can get more machine for your money that way. No matter which route you go, the advice in this article is applicable for both systems.

Generally speaking, with gaming laptops, you have the classic 'pick two' rule: Power/Specs, Size/build quality, Affordability - pick two. The slimmer and lighter something is, the less powerful - unless you are willing to pay more for it. There are relatively affordable gaming laptops that are significantly less expensive than the thin and powerful variety, but they are usually an inch thicker or more. It's only on the very high end where no matter how much you spend it won't be thin (like SLI video cards and such).

All system types discussed herein are assumed to be Windows computers. Macs can play some games, as can Linux, but they are sadly limited. And while Linux can actually use much of the same hardware as Windows, so most of this guide still applies (with the caveat that OS and hardware support is all on your own), you are still limited on game selection (though you may learn other useful technology skills!). On Mac, you are limited to the maximum of a midrange gaming GPU - for their top of the line Macbook Pro prices. Typically, I would say that people who purchase Mac computers do not or should not choose them with primarily gaming in mind. This is something that Apple Corp. has simply chosen to ignore; they do have the power to fix it if they so choose. Instead, Apple has pre-chosen size and build quality as their sole focus, which is dandy, but they do not make gaming capable laptops, and what they do offer is extremely expensive.

The first step in purchasing a gaming machine is to determine your budget. Faster machines are more expensive and there is no way around that. Most laptops come with Intel graphics but if you want to do some serious gaming, you’ll have to pay a premium for AMD or Nvidia graphics. If you plan on doing VR with your system, you’re going to want a GeForce GTX 1060 at least. Anything faster is, you guessed it, more money.

Another thing to consider is current year vs. previous models. Generally the rule I follow is that it's okay with CPUs, but tread carefully when comparing last generation GPUs. While in principle older models are okay and a decent compromise if the price is right, realize that each new GPU model year, especially when there is a new process node or architecture, dramatically decreases power usage while simultaneously increasing performance. For example, the NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB is in most cases more powerful than the GTX 980M - and uses far less power doing it, at a much better price to boot. The GTX 1070+ naturally blows the doors off of anything available in the mobile space before.

The best resource available, when comparing notebook graphics chips, is this tool from notebookcheck.net:

https://www.notebookcheck.net/Mobile-Graphics-Cards-Benchmark-List.844.0.html

As you can see, at the time of this publication, NVIDIA owns the high end space, and it's been that way for several years.

When it comes to the CPU, newer models are still better, but not nearly as dramatic as it is when comparing GPUs. For example, the Intel i7 6700HQ is only about 200-300MHz difference between that and the newer i7 7700HQ. There is a difference, but it's not worth spending a lot more for, though at similar prices, obviously get the newer one.

When it comes to gaming, the priorities are GPU first, then CPU, then RAM and storage. You would want no less than 8GB of RAM (and 16GB is better). More is not necessary. I highly recommend a SSD drive for the OS, but that can sometimes come later as an add-on if you are technical enough to clone it there, though it should be standard on any laptop >$1000. There are other considerations, like whether you hope to hook up the computer to external monitor(s) or not, or whether built-in speaker sound quality is important to you or not.

For the record, almost all gaming laptops lack a touchscreen.

Generally, the price to performance brackets go somewhat like this:

<$800: There are significant compromises. Typically you only find integrated video for less than $800, or last year's models of dedicated GPUs. AMD has the brand new Ryzen Mobile CPUs, and they are quite competitive. They seem like a good compromise platform for lower priced systems, though laptops with NVIDIA GTX 1050 GPUs would be slightly faster, if you can find one in this price range, though they often only have 2GB of video ram, which impacts higher resolution gaming. Intel integrated GPUs work okay these days, but are generally to be avoided for a primary gaming PC. (As a companion to a gaming desktop, they can be quite decent, however.) If they have a GPU at all, they will likely come equipped with an i5 CPU, which is a very reasonable compromise to reach that price point, and if this is your budget, go for that.

As a general rule, games will run:
Intel Integrated: low settings only.
AMD Integrated: low to medium settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 2GB GPU: medium settings

These recommendations generally assume a 1080p resolution (1920x1080), though honestly, integrated video (both Intel and AMD) will have a much better experience with less than a 1080p resolution, as even some games at the lowest settings aren't playable at 1080p, or simply will not work at all on any resolution if the computational requirements are too high, especially on Intel. This is why, generally speaking,

$800-$1000: This is probably where the best price to performance gaming laptops are. Almost all have i7 CPUs (with the occasional i5), and most have NVIDIA GTX 1050s, 1050TIs, or the occasional 1060 on a good sale. For the record, I would choose an i5 CPU with a 1060 over an i7 with a 1050 (either version) any day of the week. AMD GPUs in this price range do exist, but are pretty rare. Most of the laptops with 1050s are a bit thinner, but not thin and light. If you want something with these GPUs that are thin(ner) and light, add several hundred dollars.

NVIDIA GTX 1050 4GB version: medium to high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti 4GB: mostly high settings
NVIDIA GTX 1060 3GB version: mostly high settings (there is a case to be made for 1050Ti over 1060 3GB... and vice versa too)
NVIDIA GTX 1060 6GB version: high to ultra settings; performs well in VR.

$1000-$1300: This is pretty much the exclusive range of the i7 with NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or 1060 6GB. These should perform comfortably in most games at 1080p. They often come with a bit more 'bling' at this price range, with things like G-Sync screens and extra DisplayPort outs, for multiple monitors. These are the big and heavy gaming laptops, not the thin and svelte ones. Automatically add several hundred dollars if you want thin.

Up until this point, I have assumed that we are talking about playing games on the integrated 1080p screen. None of the above GPUs will work well at 4k, and only the GTX 1060 6GB is acceptable for entry level Virtual Reality (VR). Generally speaking, VR compatible gaming laptops demand much more from the system itself, the thermals, and naturally, the GPU. You may find switchable graphics on the 1050 model laptops; once you enter the VR ready space, this disappears, as VR requires a direct connection to the GPU, which switchable graphics, which tend to optimize for battery life, cannot provide.

Three USB 3 ports and an HDMI 1.4 (or DisplayPort 1.2+) connection are required for VR. Thunderbolt 3 is nice to have since that allows you to connect an external GPU to your laptop at some time in the future if you choose. Not all gaming laptops have these, even if they have USB 3.1 ports. Read the specs carefully!

From here, you have the higher end. If you plan on driving a 1440p external monitor, you can probably get away with a GTX 1060 6GB, but a GTX 1070 is much better here. If you are not going to enjoy VR with your laptop, and you only stick with a standard 1080p screen, then a GTX 1070 is almost certainly overkill. If you are going to play extensive VR or move up to a 4k screen, then a GTX 1070 is practically a bare minimum. 4k gaming is very taxing on the GPU.

$1300-$2000: This is typically NVIDIA GTX 1060 or 1070 territory. One of the only stores to buy a laptop with a GTX 1070 at less than $1500 is at a Micro Center. They currently are selling on one sale for $1299; suffice it to say I count my blessings being able to drive to one. (At our house we have two laptops with GTX 1070s inside thanks to our local Micro Center.)

NVIDIA GTX 1070 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Medium to high settings at 4k. Performs excellently in VR.

$2000+: This is the high end, and prices can get pretty crazy. There is everything from thin and light notebooks with 1070s to huge fat SLI desktop replacements. These are no holds barred, but I have a hard time justifying the price personally (as at that point you can get a desktop and a 1060 gaming laptop and come out ahead).

NVIDIA GTX 1080 8GB: Can play anything at ultra settings at 1080p and 1440p. Mostly high settings at 4k, but not ultra. Performs excellently in VR.
NVIDIA GTX 1070/1080 SLI: Yup, it's fast.

Optical drives are not standard issue in laptops anymore. Since many games and applications are digital these days, chances are you won’t miss the DVD/Blu-ray drive that much. I do recommend picking up an external drive for the rare moments you’ll need it.

Depending on the size of the laptop you’ll be considering, there may be room for two hard drives. The ideal configuration is having an SSD for booting up your operating system and frequently used apps the fastest and a standard spinning drive for data storage. SSD drives are great but costly in comparison to mechanical ones. Thankfully, this is a pretty standard configuration for most gaming laptops over $1000.

If you want to use your laptop as a desktop replacement or only computer, consider how many video out ports there are. HDMI supports only a single monitor, so if you want two or three, that option will not work. If you would like more, look for laptops with either several video ports on the side, or ones that support DisplayPort MST, which allows you to daisy chain multiple monitors off of one DisplayPort connector. This can also be in the form of a USB 3.1 port, as long as DisplayPort (or Thunderbolt 3) is wired internally. This is how I run two monitors off of my laptop with only one cable.

There are some ways to save money on laptops. If you time it right, you can buy the previous model as they are being phased out by the latest and greatest. Another option is to buy an open box. Before spending any money, check the return policy. As gorgeous as some screens are, many may have some dead pixels. Thoroughly check your laptop for any defects before the return period is up. If possible, open up and power on your laptop at the store to spot any noticeable dead pixels or defects.

Once your machine is purchased, keep an eye on the price for any changes. Some stores will refund the price difference in your favor if it changes within fourteen days of purchase.

I find that the best way to get a great deal on a gaming laptop is to check out a local Micro Center if you have one, and/or check out slickdeals.net. At the time of this writing, there are some killer gaming laptops on sale, being the beginning of Christmas shopping season. If you are lucky or keep an eye out, you can often find fantastic deals.

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Cars 3

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Thank you Disney for sending us a Blu-ray, board game, Cruz Ramierez plush, Miss Fritter toy, snack cups, plates, and napkins!

My family has enjoyed and owns Cars 1 and 2 on Blu-ray. Though we enjoyed the first movie more than the sequel, we had high hopes for the third entry (if you don’t count the Planes movie). Cars 3 is a solid film despite its predictable ending.

In the beginning, you see Lightning McQueen at the top of his game with several adoring fans in the audience sporting his number 95. The banter and pranks between the top three performers is quite entertaining and fun to watch. The racing season starts off good for Lightning McQueen, until a younger, high-tech model racer named Jackson Storm starts winning the races. It doesn’t take long for many of Lightning McQueen’s friends to see the writing on the wall and start retiring one by one. Lightning McQueen doesn’t want to throw in the towel so easily, but a bad car accident gives him plenty of time to reflect on his situation and think back to the good advice that Doc Hudson gave him during his training.

Despite being at a disadvantage against the modern cars and their hi-tech simulation training machines, Lightning McQueen decides to continue on with his career. He soon befriends a personal trainer who constantly makes cracks about him being old, needing naps, and leaking oil. As someone who is pushing forty I can relate to feeling insecure to the threats of younger and more efficient models out there.

The overall story is good and the heartwarming ending isn’t a total surprise. My family enjoyed watching this film and highly recommend it to any Cars fan out there. People of all ages can enjoy this film and its lessons of pushing yourself to try harder and thinking smarter than your opposition. Sometimes things are not as hopeless as they seem. Currently you can enjoy this movie digitally and on November 7th it will be available on Blu-ray and DVD.



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7 Lessons From Heaven

Thank you Roslan & Campion for sending us this book to review!

Mary C. Neal, M.D. drowned in a kayaking accident in 1999. She was unresponsive for a half hour and vividly recalls her loving encounter with Jesus and shares her experiences and advice with her fresh perspective on life, death, and eternity. I have not read her previous New York Times best seller, To Heaven and Back, but I do appreciate the detailed recap of her near death experience.

Dr. Neal is an orthopedic surgeon and I really enjoyed the scientific analysis of her near death experience and how it could not have been her imagination, a seizure, oxygen deprivation, or a DMT trip. Not only are her experiences shared, but there are several other quotes from people who have also had near death experiences or encounters with the heavenly realm.

As a Christian, I appreciated the many Bible references throughout the book and hearing about her judgement or "life in review" process. It’s comforting to know that it’s not as bad as many fear. The main emotion felt in the afterlife is love and even the painful experiences are shown from various perspectives. One of the goals in the "life in review" process is fact finding instead of fault finding.

The first lesson taught in this book is that circumstances make sense from heaven’s lens. God’s grace should be freely given as it is to us. There’s probably a reason that someone may be in a foul mood and it’s best not to judge them unless you know what they’re going through.

I won’t spoil any of the other lessons taught as they should be read first hand. I told my daughter about this book and she started reading it and got to chapter five in her first sitting! In total, there are eighteen chapters in this 274-page book. It sells for less than $11 on Amazon and I highly recommend checking out if you’re curious about the afterlife.



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Luminoodle Color Bias Lighting

Thank you Power Practical for sending us this product to review!

The Luminoodle helps reduce eye strain for watching TV or playing video games late at night in a low light environment. The Bias Lighting comes in two flavors (white and color) and three different sizes (1M, 2M, 3M). The 1M length is designed for TVs and monitors up to 30" while the 2M length is intended for TVs and monitors up to 55". If you have a TV bigger than 55” then you’ll want to consider the 3M model. We were sent the $29.99 3M color model to review. The white model is $10 cheaper in comparison to the similarly sized color one.

luminoodle

Installation is pretty easy though the double sided tape may come off on the product while trying to remove the protective tape. The LED strip is powered by the TV’s USB port but Power Practical also sells an external USB power adapter on their website if you don’t have a USB port available.

You can power off and change the dimming/lighting modes through the remote that comes included with the product. The CR2025 battery for the remote was installed, though you have to remove protective tape to get it working.

 

luminoodle

There are R(ed), G(reen), and B(lue) buttons on the remote to switch to those colors. Variations of those colors can be achieved by pressing the mode button. Despite all of the nifty options, I still preferred white. There is an option available that to me was very difficult on my eyes, and that was something like a strobe light. I'm not sure what the purpose of this option is, but it may cause seizures.

After learning all of the options available with the remote, I am quite happy with this product. If you’re a night owl like me, you may want to consider picking one of these Luminoodles up.


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Undertale: Strings of Determination

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

I reviewed Undertale shortly after its 2015 release date and this game continues to stay popular, with many kids still talking about and playing it. I can see why since it’s a fun game. While I did beat the game once, I haven’t had the time (or determination) to revisit the other endings. What impressed me most about Undertale was the wonderful soundtrack composed by the very same game developer, Toby Fox. Although the game was gifted to me, I purchased the soundtrack and Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition as well. As great as those are, I truly feel that String Player Gamer’s digital album, Undertale: Strings of Determination, is the definitive soundtrack to buy if you have to choose one. Of course, I recommend picking up all three!

The violin and guitar work is top notch and the production quality is as good as it gets. The songs don't stray too much from the original soundtrack, but the instrument work really does stand out. In total, there are forty-six songs and they are all well done. All of the tracks are arranged by Diwa de Leon and the song ‘Temmie Village’ has a guest acapella singer, Tera Catallo aka TeraCMusic on YouTube. It’s hard to believe that this album was made by a couple of people!

The asking price is a very reasonable $14 and this album can be listened to and purchased on BandCamp, Spotify, and on iTunes. Before this complete album was released, String Player Gamer released four Undertale volumes so if you only want a few of the songs, that’s a cheaper option. Each of the volumes cost $6 so getting the complete set is still a better deal. I now consider myself a fan of String Player Gamer’s work and will continue to follow and look forward to his future masterpieces.

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Supergirl

Thank you JGPR for sending us this film to review!

Supergirl is a 78-minute documentary about Naomi Kutin who is a record setting power lifter. The catch is that she started breaking national and world records when she was eight years old! Her first national record was set for lifting 148lbs at eight years old. In this documentary, you’ll see her living out her Orthodox Jewish faith and lifting over 230lbs while weighing less than 100lbs. In fact, she has to maintain a strict diet to keep her weight at 97lbs or less. As she grows up physically, she’ll have to change weight classes to adjust to her adolescent body.

It's pretty neat to get a glimpse into the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle. When traveling for events they cannot operate gas or electric powered tools like elevators at hotels on Saturdays. Seeing her become of age and watching her Bat Mitzvah is pretty exciting as well.

Despite all of the excitement, there are some somber moments in this documentary which should be considered before showing this to children. Naomi reads some comments on her YouTube and Facebook videos and many of them are rude and laced with profanity. Her adoring brother has autism and her mother was a victim of sexual abuse as she was growing up. With Naomi’s many successes come failures and she doesn’t win all of her competitions, but she does learn from them though.

One of the biggest trials in this film is the migraines that she experiences for months on end. Per doctor’s orders she has to take a break from lifting. This is a pretty tough blow because she loves lifting and her parents encourage her and don’t force this upon her. Once some progress is made, she resumes lifting and I’ll leave the conclusion of whether or not she makes a comeback for you to watch! Supergirl became available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray on September 28, timed to coincide with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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