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Adventure Time Season 4 on DVD/Blu-Ray is a Must Have – Review

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This week, on October 7, season four of Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” released on Blu-ray and DVD. The release features all 26 episodes from the season and some pretty awesome bonus material.

In the fourth season of the Emmy® Award-winning series created by Ward and produced by Cartoon Network Studios, fans witnessed Finn become infatuated with the Flame Princess in “Hot to the Touch,” anxiously looked on as Finn and Jake escaped from the clutches of Marceline’s demon father, Hunson Abadeer, in “They Went to the Nightosphere,”and followed alongside BMO on its journey to recover Finn’s missing sock in “BMO Noire.”

Marceline the Vampire has always been a favorite character of mine (mostly cause she is adorable and folksy but also slightly evil). So, I loved that the season four DVD and Blu-ray case is designed with her face much like previous releases focused on one character.

Season four has some of the best episodes we have seen so far. We not only get to see the introduction of the Flame Princess but also Finn and Jake’s trip to the Nightosphere. One of my favorite episode’s had to be “Card Wars.” It is accurate and hilarious. The Ice King is up to hijinks with his creation of his own princess after stealing his favorite parts of all the princesses in the land and it gets weird.

But not all the episodes are weird and odd. “I Remember You” was sweet and endearing. We see the man who Ice King used to be and I won’t lie it almost brought tears to my eyes. The song and moment that is “Remember You” is one of the best moments in the entire series.

One of the best things about getting season four on DVD or Blu-ray is the 19 minute featurette “Distant Bands: The Music of Adventure Time.” It has series creator Pendleton Ward, creative director Pat McHale, and storyboard artists Jesse Moynihan and Rebecca Sugar offering their commentary on the important role music plays in the series. One of the things that immediately first drew me into the series was how surprisingly good the original music actually is. All the songs from Marceline the Vampire are SO folksy and cute and just good. I mean even the theme song is super catchy. I loved seeing the background to each of the different songs and how important the writers felt they were to the show.

Overall, I feel like season four is such a high point for “Adventure Time” that I can’t sing its praises enough. It is only going to get better. I literally watched all  26 episodes in a row in a binge-watching session and still love it. Owning season four is a must have and it will be a GREAT gift for the upcoming holiday season. Trust me!

Try The Lumia 928 – You’ll Forget Why You Ever Loved iPhones

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I had been an iPhone user for a while, like years. And not just an iPhone user, a complete Apple user. Macs, iPads, iPods. Everything. Then one day, I made a switch to the Lumia 928. That’s right. A Windows Phone. The complete opposite spectrum of smartphones. Even though it took a few weeks for the shock to my system to wear off, I ended up loving the phone despite some ups and downs in the process.

The Good:

The first unit I bought was black because I figured it would look good with everything and any scratches would look minimal on it. The second unit I got was the white model which I admit looked WAY better than the black. It appeared much sleeker and overall attractive.

Coming from an iPhone what enticed me the most was the size of the screen. It is MUCH bigger. The iPhone screen can fit inside of the Lumia 928 screen. Plus the responsiveness of the touch screen is one of the best I have ever experienced. One subtle flick of your finger sends the screen reeling wherever you want to go.

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Previously when I found myself roaming about in a not so great cell service area (oh like Kentucky for example), my iPhone would die within a matter of hours. The Nokia Lumia 928 lasts much longer. On one charge, in a particularly terrible service area it would be around 12 hours before it would get close to dying. Significantly better than the iPhone. It should be pointed out that this only applies when not using frivolous apps and such in those particularly terrible areas. In good cell areas, like my big city, I still found the Lumia to have better life all together when compared to the iPhone.

The Lumia boasts a Sunlight Readability feature which is INCREDIBLE. Anyone who has ever had an iPhone knows the pain of trying to read anything in the sunlight. It is near impossible. With the Lumia, that is not a problem. The screen adjusts and you can read anything and everything no matter where you are and no matter what kind of visibility you are in. I cannot tell you how much of a step up it truly is until you experience it on your own.

As a Xbox Live gamer, I absolutely ADORE the integrated gaming between Windows Phone and my Xbox. The integration allows you to play certain Xbox games on your phone and the gamer points you earn on your phone will show up on your Xbox! I absolutely love it. You can even see you gamer avatar and adjust it on your phone, see which of your Xbox Live friends are online and what they are doing and check out the achievements you have earned so far. The Xbox integration is by far my favorite feature of the Windows Phone.

If you have a need for Microsoft Office products on the go without wanting to carry the Surface Tablet around, the Lumia also has Office products integrated. I have my work email which runs on Office Outlook synced to my phone so that I am never left out of the work loop. I love being able to see presentation and Word documents whenever I need to on my Lumia as well.

When I first switched from the iPhone I was surprised by how much better the camera is on the Lumia 928. The photos are much crisper, cleaner, and well-defined. The zoom works infinitely better than on the iPhone with the photos coming out clearer. The Lumia also has a much better rear facing camera pixel ratio.

The Bad:

The bad aspects of the phone are far outweighed by the good which is why I plan to keep it regardless of what they are. But they exist and here they are.

Currently, there are a lack of apps when compared to the Apple App Store and the Android App stores. Though on the plus side it is growing. There inst a free Spotify version, which I find very frustrating and my bank doesn’t even have Windows Phone app yet. When I first started using the Windows Phone there were not a lot of official apps for popular websites but that has started to change over the past few months so don’t let that change your mind. Vine, Instagram, and others have started creating platforms for this smartphone so it will be a matter of time before it will be just like any other. It is just a matter of hanging in there!

While the Lumia 928 is a lightweight sleek model, putting it in a case somehow made it feel bulkier and uncomfortable. The first Lumia I purchased, I made sure to put in a case. I purchased the silicon case through Verizon. I hated it. It felt somehow larger and much more uncomfortable in my hands (which are tiny by the way) so I switched to this model which was much more comfortable. Though the phone still never felt as comfortable as did without a case.

Which brings me to the worst part of the phone design. The rough edges and the reason I ended up with TWO Lumia 928’s. Despite my first 928, the black one, being in a case. It shattered. I dropped it from about a foot off the ground and the entire screen just shattered even though it was in the above mentioned Incipio Case. As you can imagine, I was beyond pissed off. I was a year from my contract renewal with Verizon. But accidents happen I suppose and the Lumia does not have rounded edges so it should be noted that impacts can be rough.

But also…

The Incredibly Annoying:

Here is what I find very annoying about the Lumia 928 but not also not enough so to switch back to the iPhone ever again.

There are not enough color choices for the tiles. I end up switching through the same five colors ever few days and it gets a bit boring. I think it would be a lot more fun to have customization color wheel or picker, rather than just 28 colors to choose from. Though that is a lot better than the iPhone where you get no choices.

I cannot use the Lumia 928 as my music player in the car. The sound is shit. I have to turn my car stereo up all the way to MAX and the phone volume up all the way to 25 just to get good sound. Then when I get out of the car I have to turn my phone volume back down to 10 (which is where i like it and it doesn’t disturb those around me when i get calls or texts.) And I have to remember to turn my car volume back down so I don’t blow my eardrums out when I turn my radio on. I find this insanely frustrating. This is the one and only time I still use my iPhone, it’s practically a $500 music player now.

Conclusion

The Lumia 928 is a magnificent phone. It is hard to find a better smartphone for the price. It has better specs, better battery life, and a better price than the iPhone and even has a batter screen. Take the plunge and try something new. You won’t regret it. I won’t ever go back to Apple as a primary phone in my life and I doubt that if you try a Windows Phone, you would either.

“A Darkling Sea” by James Cambias a Science Fiction Classic – Review

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There a lot of things that James Cambias does right with his new science fiction novel, “A Darkling Sea.” It is intriguing while keeping the reader on their toes. Each group of characters are fully realized with 3-dimensional personalities and lives. Plus it takes us to a brand new alien world that is both earth-like and incredibly foreign.

On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a group of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The human explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don’t disturb the native Ilmataran populace, they’re free to conduct their missions in peace. But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between human and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war. Against the backdrop of deep-sea guerilla conflict, a new age of human exploration begins as alien cultures collide. Both sides seek the aid of the newly enlightened Ilmatarans. But what this struggle means for the natives—and the future of human exploration—is anything but certain.

Every chapter of “A Darkling Sea” is flush with different perspectives and points of view surrounding a major event. What I found most captivating is the fact that we see the story from three different alien races: the humans who are trying to explore this new planet with water on it, the Sholen who are trying to oversee the humans and limit further destruction by them, and the Ilmatarans the alien race caught in the middle.

Cambias goes so far as to create entire worlds for the two alien races in the novel. He builds their society from the ground up for the Illmatarans. Almost from the first time we see them, we get to learn how the Illmatarans handle almost every aspect of their society. From their schooling, their laws, the way their towns work, and even how they handle scientific exploration, literature, and technological innovations at the bottom of an ocean and ice.

As for the Sholen from Shalina, we learn they are very similar to humans (aside from their appearance) but Cambias goes to great lengths to make their differences feel very unfamiliar and foreign in staunch comparison to the human scientists that they interact.

Even after all the work put into creating the two alien races, Cambias still manages to make the humans relatable and sympathetic. Rob starts off with a tragedy and from there we can’t help but root for him to succeed and be happy. However, the scientists of Earth are not as developed as the rest of our cast of players. This could be due to the fact that there is really no need to go in-depth in a society we are already relatively familiar with.

The plot itself rests on one simple inescapable truth. You can almost never have three species in a disagreement not go into war. What was once passive resistance in the beginning by both humans and Sholen turns active and deadly for all sides. Then almost unstoppable becomes an all-out interstellar guerrilla war aided by the Ilmatarans.

Yes, the story is interesting and exciting, but when it comes down to it, the real gem of “A Darkling Sea” is the societal and cultural insight by Cambias. Very few authors have mastered the interspecies interactions of intelligent species in a thought-provoking and realistic way. A true science fiction classic.

Brandon Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance” Is a Masterpiece – Review

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If you haven’t had the chance to read any work by Brandon Sanderson, you need to stop what you are doing and pick up one of his novels. I recently got the chance to read “Words of Radiance,” the second book in The Stormlight Archive series and found myself engrossed in a fantasy world like no other.

In “Words of Radiance” their intertwined stories will continue and, as Sanderson fans have to come expect, develop in unexpected, wonderfully surprising directions. The war with the Parshendi will more into a new, dangerous phrase as Dalinar leads the human armies deep into the heart of the Shattered Plains in a bold attempt to finally end it. Shallan will come along; hoping to find the legendary, perhaps mythical, city of Urithiru, which Jasnah believes holds a secret vital to mankind’s survival on Roshar. The Parshendi take a dangerous step to strengthen themselves for the human challenge, risking the return of the fearsome Voidbringers of old. To deal with it all, Kaladin must learn how to fulfill his new role as leader of the restores Knights Radiant, which mastering the powers of a Windrunner.

Sanderson does several things really well in this second installment. He has the precious ability of building and creating worlds of fiction and fantasy so they feel incredibly real. He also can write both battles and characters very well in a believable and genuine way.

Roshar is more than just another fantasy world. It is another character in the ever evolving storyline. That kind of dedication to a mere setting is something you don’t see very often.

Similarly to A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, “Words of Radiance” features the viewpoints of several main characters allowing a more complete yet complex look at the overarching story. Having multiple viewpoints allows the reader to get a grasp of the bigger picture happening rather than just one character’s perception. Sanderson pulls the off seamlessly as he transitions to each person. You can see each character’s perception of the world around them in a dynamic and distinctive way.

One thing I found particularly marvelous about “Words of Radiance” was Sanderson’s ability to write women characters realistically. Male authors tend to have a difficulty writing females, particularly, I have noticed, in a science fiction/fantasy setting. I was SO glad to see that Sanderson treated women, you know, like normal people and not some exaggerated stereotype.

The best part of “Words of Radiance” is how the tale twists and turns and keeps surprising you when you least expect it. You think you have got it all figured out until all of sudden some small piece of the story emerges and changes the entire course of where you think it is heading.

“Words of Radiance:” is masterful, captivating, and a literary tour de force. Sanderson knows how to hook a reader almost immediately until you find yourself thinking about Roshar and Kaladin and Shallan and everyone else when you should be sleeping.

Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season Is Entertaining and Perfect for Binge-watching – Review

AT Season 3

Up until about a month ago, I had never watched a single episode of “Adventure Time.” I love Cartoon Network and their avant-garde programming but “Adventure Time” was something I hadn’t gotten into. That has since changed. I recently got the chance to watch and review the Blu-Ray release of “Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season.” And I loved it.

The complete third season of “Adventure Time” released on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 25. It featured all 26 episodes as well as bonus features and episode commentaries, an interview with creator Pendleton Ward, and an alternate show introduction. Not to mention, the edition was released in a custom die cute BMO slipcover that can turn into a figurine of the beloved character.

I ended up binge watching the entire series over the course of two days while home after a surgery. Not only did it cheer me up and keep me laughing for those two days but it kept me entertained the entire time. Plus once you are done watching all the episodes, you have tons of bonus features to keep you busy till your next binge watch. It is safe to say that the every episode is unique and hilarious. If you proceed like me, and watch several episodes in a row, you will not get bored and the episodes won’t run together. It is perfect for marathoning without getting stale. Ward has done wonders with Jake and Finn and all the inhabitants of the Land of Ooo. It is not often that a show is both absolutely unique, off the wall weird, but also incredibly entertaining.

While the animated series may seem like a show for little kids, there is humor in it that adults like myself will enjoy and laugh along with. Don’t let the look fool you, give “Adventure Time” a chance if you haven’t already. There are a lot of components to the show that make it a winner from the silly setting to the ridiculous adventures that Finn and Jake get themselves into on what seems like a daily basis. ( Though I think we can all agree that there should be more cats in the series. Do you hear me Pendleton Ward?)

From the mind of series creator Pendleton Ward and produced by Cartoon Network Studios, Adventure Time follows the unlikely heroes Finn and Jake, best buddies who traverse the mystical Land of Ooo and encounter its colorful inhabitants – and always find themselves in the middle of heart-pounding escapades. Finn, a silly kid with an awesome hat and Jake, a brassy dog with a big kind heart, depend on each other through thick and thin. The Land of Ooo is teeming with imposing mountains, lush green plains, accessible forests, ubiquitous prairies and winding rivers, the cities and towns are filled with bizarre characters in need of unique assistance. Whether it’s saving Princess Bubblegum, defeating zombie candy, mocking the “oxy-moronic” Ice King, or rocking out with undead music wiz Marceline the Vampire Queen, with Finn and Jake it’s always Adventure Time.

Turtle Beach XL1 Headset Delivers Great Sound At a Great Price – Review

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Over the past few weeks the boyfriend and I had the chance to try out the Turtle Beach XL1 headset. Despite the fact that we have different gaming styles, his more on multiplayer games with friends and mine a solo adventure, we both got an excellent experience.

The Turtle Beach XL1 XBOX 360 headset is the perfect entry-level headset for gamers looking for immersive game sound and crystal-clear communication at a great value. With premium 50mm speakers and oversized circumaural ear cups, the Turtle Beach XL1 delivers superior audio quality and extreme comfort.

First I will start the pros of the XL1 headset. It is INCREDIBLY immersive. Not only does the sound from the game play in the headset but so does the gamer chat if you happen to be in one. Whether you are playing “BioShock,” “Call of Duty,” or even just an arcade game such as “Toy Soldiers,” every little sound will come through crystal clear.

The headset features a quick access to independent game and chat volume controls as well as a built-in bass boost feature that adds depth and realism to the game audio. These capabilities enhance the gaming experience and surprisingly increases the depth of videos.  As a test, I watched a show on Netflix (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to be exact) with the headset on and it sounded better than when the sound comes through the television.

*Please note that you will need to connect this headset to the stereo outputs from your TV or audio receiver for game audio and use the Kinect® for game chat with Xbox One.

One of the biggest pluses of the headset is how conducive it is to gaming without people in the room. As a girlfriend I can vouch for how annoying and frustrating it can be when trying to read, work, or even sleep while someone else is gaming. Thanks to the XL1, the boyfriend can game all night while I sleep and I don’t hear a thing. And even better, he has a glorious gaming experience at the same time.

Even though the boyfriend and I LOVE this headset, there are some cons. The wires are very bulky and cumbersome. If you have a choice, I would recommend springing for the wireless version. I cannot count how many times I tripped on the wires and my cats raced through them causing the XL1 to go flying.

Also, I am a tiny lady. I found the headset to be a bit bulky. The ears were far to big for mine and even on the smallest setting I looked like a fighter pilot. But by no means does this mean I will not use them.

The Turtle Beach XL1 Headset is on sale now for $39.99.

“Mind’s Eye” Examines How Far Science Can Go – Review

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From the first page of “Mind’s Eye,” author Douglas E. Richards draws you in to his tale of ESP, conspiracy, love, and a future that seems more probable every day.

When Nick Hall wakes up in a dumpster–bloodied, without a memory, and hearing voices in his head–he knows things are bad. But they’re about to get far worse. Because he’s being hunted by a team of relentless assassins. Soon Hall discovers that advanced electronics have been implanted in his brain, and he now has two astonishing abilities. He can surf the web using thoughts alone. And he can read minds. But who inserted the implants? And why? And why is someone so desperate to kill him?

As Hall races to find answers, he comes to learn that far more is at stake than just his life. Because his actions can either catapult civilization to new heights–or bring about its total collapse.

Much like the protagonist, Nick Hall, we are thrown into a world with little to no information about what is going on. Richards skillfully forces you to empathize with Hall as neither of you have any idea what is happening or why our main character is in such a predicament at the beginning.  So what do you do? Like Hall, you keep on trucking forward as you slowly find out more about the main character and why he is special. It is a brilliant way to connect the audience to the story while illuminating that things are not what they seem and be prepared for one hell of a journey.

Richards also shows us a future that could likely be happening as we live and breathe.  Hall literally has the internet surgically implanted into his brain and optical systems to create a mind controlled internet with extensive technological capabilities. Not only does Richards explain the theory behind this concept in a way that is both believable and interesting, but he reminds us of the danger that such abilities could have.

Whether it is because of the resulting ESP or implanted internet, everyone considers Hall to be dangerous as well as a threat to National Security. Not to mention the social implications including his desire to have some peace and quiet every now and then.

Overall, “Mind’s Eye” is a jaunty and fun ride that keeps you entertained through every page. Richards chilling and thought-provoking look into just how far science can and will go borders on prophetic.

“Year’s Best SF 18” Compilation Will Wow Sci-Fi Fans – Review

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I began this year as I begin most years, reading science fiction. So when Tor Books announced they were releasing a compilation of 2013’s best science fiction short stories, I was thrilled. “YEAR’S BEST SF 18″ was edited by the critically acclaimed, award-winning editor and anthologist David G. Hartwell. In his collection he includes astonishing stories from some of the genre’s most respected names as well as exciting new writers to watch.

“Year’s Best SF 18” has some amazing writers including Michael Swanwick, Paul Cornell, Bruce Sterling, Ken Liu, Yoon Ha Lee, C. S. Friedman, Gene Wolf, and many more.

I can safely say that there is not one short story in the collection that is better than any others. Each one is uniquely interesting reflecting the authors who wrote them.

Starting off the collection is “Old Paint” which takes you into a future where cars drive themselves while being fully equipped with artificial intelligence. The world portrayed by Megan Lindholm is getting closer to reality everyday as cars become more complex and easier to manage. Lindholm reminds us how easy it is become attached to the technology in our lives and then takes it a step further by giving the technology a mind of its own. Don’t worry though because even artificial intelligent cars get a happy ending.

In case you are more of a fan of dystopian futures with an underground resistance and uprising, “Prayer” by Robert Reed might be more your speed. We see a future where weapons can talk to their owners and adolescents are another soldier in the fight. The brilliance of this short story is that sometimes we forget that there are not always just two sides to a war.

My science fiction love always lays with time travel and through out the entire compilation, no story quiet affected me like “The Ghosts of Christmas” by Paul Cornell (you might remember his name as one of the writers of “Doctor Who”.) The story follows a young woman about to become a mother. At her day job, her and her team have almost perfected time travel via an electronic crown they wear on their head. However, there is one catch, you can only travel to the same day every year of the future. Against her better judgement, she uses the crown to visit her future Christmases to see if she becomes a good mother. After viewing love, heartbreak, depression, pain, and redemption, she takes the crown off a final time knowing she still has all the awful things to live through a head of her. After reading the story, it remains one of the more powerful short stories I have ever read.

This book is also perfect on the go. Only have time for a little bit of reading, get a whole story rather than stopping in the middle of something.

If you need your science fiction fix fulfilled, I highly recommend this compilation, “Year’s Best SF 18.” For a full range of science fiction variety, you can’t go wrong. Hartwell has done a fantastic job of picking some truly outstanding short stories in the world of science fiction. Pick it up from Tor Books, you won’t regret it.

“The Cure” Offers insight into Psychopathy While Delivering A Jaunty Science Fiction Tale – Review

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The newest science fiction tale from writer Douglas Richards effortlessly weaves in a believable modern-day setting with a race to save the world from ourselves in the face of sure destruction.

THE CURE ponders the questions, what if you found the cure for the psychopathic condition? Would you break the law to use it? Would you force it on the world’s psychopaths, even if they didn’t want to be cured? In Richards’s riveting new novel, after a series of twists, turns, and escalations, the answer to these questions has a major impact, not only on the future course of human history, but on the future prospects of all intelligent life in the galaxy.

In “The Cure” Richards gives us Erin Palmer, a young but brilliant student whose life was shattered as a young girl when a psychopath took her family from her. As an adult she studies psychopaths and what makes them tick. She is revealed to be working with a world-renowned scientist who may not be all that he seems. Soon Erin finds herself embroiled in a worldwide conspiracy to cure Earth of psychopaths for the good of the entire universe.

Right off the bat, Richards does two things right with his main heroine. The book begins with a truly devastating event. A psychopath kills both her parents and her little sister leaving Erin as the sole survivor of the tragedy. The immediate back story allows the reader to instantly identify and empathize with Erin when we see her as an adult. We can understand why she has dedicated her life to such a macabre topic. Knowing her struggles and her back story also allows us as a reader to continually root for her throughout the entire novel. We want her to succeed, we want her to be happy, and we want her to have the happy ending she deserves.

The second thing Richards does is that he uses her work to delve in to the science of psychopaths. He gives the reader background in the way the brain of a psychopath works, they way they think, and more importantly offers reasoning of why they are so dangerous without giving away the later plot twist. By the time the central theme of the book is revealed we, the readers, are already aware of how dangerous psychopaths are and thus immediately on the side of Erin and her partners Drake and Kyle Hanson.

However, the best part of “The Cure” is the questions on morality that it presents. How ethical is it to cure people without their knowledge when it could save the lives of billions? Is the safety of humanity and universal exploration worth intervening into the course humanity is set to take? Knowing that as much as 1% of the population can be classified as “psychopathic” is the threat large enough to take away those people’s basic freedoms even if they haven’t committed a crime? Richards presents these issues along with a highly relatable main character who often questions her own morals in regards to these questions.

“The Cure” is a quick but enjoyable science fiction read that will keep you on your toes while exploring the savage brains of psychopaths. Douglas Richards appeals to all kinds of readers with his new novel from sci-fi enthusiasts to thrill seekers and even a little bit of a love story.

3 Reasons “The Last of Us” Could Be Game of the Year – Review

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The Last of Us is the first game I have ever actively sought out to play despite not owning the system it was released on. As someone who typically sticks to the Xbox 360, seeing this as a PS3 exclusive meant there was a very real possibility I wouldn’t play it till it was way spoiled for me. I couldn’t let that happen, so I borrowed my friend’s PS3 with their copy of the game and did nothing else during my free time for a week. And honestly? It was incredibly worth it. Naughty Dog, the game’s developer, is doing something right with this game from the storyline, the game mechanics, and the depth of detail that makes it a fucking masterpiece of gaming.  Continue reading 3 Reasons “The Last of Us” Could Be Game of the Year – Review