Legoland during a pandemic

One of my favourite places in the world is Legoland. I am also very lucky that I live about an hours drive from the Legoland Resort in Windsor. I have had this whole week off to celebrate my birthday, and it seemed only right to celebrate my birthday in true style!

As you can see, there were zero lines to get in!

If you have never been to Legoland, I would highly recommend it. It is big enough to keep you busy for a day but not so spread out that you end up walking for miles just to get to the different rides. It is also, for the majority of rides, all outside. Henry and I went on Monday and lucky for us it was pretty dead. There were still a lot of people, but no where near the crowds that we usually get when we go. It was therefore super easy to socially distance from the other guests and also meant we didn’t have to wait long at all for the rides. So win win!!

Me and my new adorable backpack!

The only downside is that the Star Wars Lego exhibit was shut. This is completely indoors though and it consists of a lot of Lego dioramas showing scenes from all of the movies. It is, without a doubt, the best thing at Legoland. And so I was a little bit gutted that it was shut. But that being said, it was all inside and is also very interactive, so trying to make that sort of attraction covid friendly would have been impossible.

While walking around the park they had regular sanitation stations and arrows on the floor showing which ways to walk. There were signs up to regularly wash your hands, face masks were to worn on certain rides and even the character interactions were wearing masks and promoting social distance. The staff were all lovely and were clearly doing their best to make sure that everyone still had a really lovely day out. You had to wear a mask on certain rides and in the shops, but as the whole park is outside you didn’t need to wear one if you are just walking around.

In a few rides, we were the only ones there!

The queues for the rides were unreal: The longest we waited was about 5 minutes, and that was purely because we had to walk through all of the aisles to get to the front. The times also seemed to include time for the staff to completely wipe down and disinfect the rides. The rides also made sure to leave rows of seats and carriages empty to promote social distancing and we did see on multiple occasions staff members in full bio-hazard suits deep cleaning areas of the park and carriages on the rides. They did all that they could to create a covid safe place and I believe that they did a really good job.

If you do want to visit Legoland I would highly recommend it. I should say that the restaurants do not have any vegan options at all, but there are some lovely areas around the park in which to have a picnic. Make sure to pack a big lunch with you and you’ll be fine. There also daily shows put on around the park where you can set up for lunch and watch some entertainment. There are also places to fill up water bottles, or to buy little snacks and drinks, so you won’t be completely out of luck. The ticket prices are expensive, but compared to most theme parks this one is probably one of the cheaper options. We were clever and used up our Tesco Clubcard points, so apart from petrol and parking, we essentially had a completely free day out!

Overall Legoland was an absolute delight. Henry and I have been so good during this entire pandemic – staying close to home, not really seeing anyone unless it’s outside – and Legoland was always our Happy Place. It felt so good to have some sort of normality back, to be able to just be a big kid for a day and to completely forget about how scary and crappy the world is right now. So stay safe everyone, and hopefully we can all get through this together.

T xxx

Kingdom Hearts 3: Worth the wait?

I know this may be a bit late to the game (no pun intended) as it did release in January this year. However, I am only now getting to the end of the game and thought now is as good a time as ever to discuss my thoughts on this game.

Slight disclaimer: I have only ever played Kingdom Heart 1 and 2, so chances are the majority of the characters in Kingdom Hearts 3 and the majority of the story is also very much lost on me. So if I sound like I don’t know everything about the franchise, that is because I don’t.

The good

Do not get me wrong, I LOVE Kingdom Hearts. I love Disney, so the chance to play an action packed RPG game that explores the various Disney worlds is my kind of game.

The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 are actually really well done and really immersive. The previous games made the worlds small, usually based around one route that you could take so that no matter what you were always heading in the right direction. The worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 however are large and interactive: You can actually explore your surroundings and can actually spend quite a bit of time just wandering around the various worlds. It is the stuff dreams are made of!

Image result for kingdom hearts 3You can even take selfies! Which can lead to some pretty pictures and funny interactions with the various characters

The combat is also super fun. Granted it is quite a bit of button smashing, but as a player who cannot aim a weapon to save her life, the fact that I can just dance around the arena and spam the buttons makes the game so much more enjoyable. Kingdom Hearts 3 also adds to this by adding new combined moves that allow you to bring classic Disneyland rides into combat: thunder Mountain, the Carousel, Buzz Lightyear’s Blazer Blast, the Mad Tea Cups and more. They may be super overpowered in combat, but they’re so bright and fun it doesn’t really matter. It’s also nice to have a little bit of a change after the usual button smashing we are used to.

You can also go to new worlds that haven’t been featured before, and a lot more focused on Pixar films. You also have new summons, including Ariel, Simba, Wreck it Ralph and Stitch to name a few. The summons also make game play and combat that bit more exciting, and while none of it is overly difficult anyway, it’s just…fun. It’s such a fun game that you almost don’t care about the bad….almost.

The bad

The issue I have always had with Kingdom Hearts is the incredibly complicated story. I was with it at first: Bad forces are stealing hearts to bring sadness and anger to the Disney worlds. You – or namely, Sora – is tasked with the job of travelling through the various Disney worlds to banish the evil in them, return everyone’s hearts to them and save the Disney Princess who is currently being held captive by the bad guys so that they can be the vessels of darkness (I have paraphrased slightly, but that is my understanding of the game). Sounds great! Travelling around all the Disney worlds, meeting all of my childhood characters and exploring their worlds to save the day!

But no.

The story gets so confusing that I cannot even begin to explain it. I understand that once a person loses their heart, they become a heartless. But their heartless body becomes a nobody. Right, I’m with you there. BUT OH NO. Nobodies can then become somebodies (who tend to become playable other characters as the stories go on), such as Roxas or Namine in KH2. But these nobodies can have their own hearts which…means they aren’t nobodies? But they are someone else’s nobody? That’s as far as I get before I get lost and sadly that is only the beginning.

The Heartless

So. Many. CUT SCENES. Game play seems to last about 30 seconds and then I have to sit through 30 minutes of cut scenes, which only add more and more depth to an already complicated story so much so that I am completed disconnected from it all. Which is also why it has made it so difficult to get through the game: I have watched at least 5 hours of cut scenes, none of which I fully understood due to the story line. Don’t get me wrong, it is very pretty to watch and the cut scenes are clearly well made, but GOOD LORD, GET ON WITH IT. I do not care enough about this story to sit and watch a feature length movie about it all, that usually just makes me even more confused than before. It is really hard to get through the game, when all you want to do is progress and discover new worlds, but for every hour spent on the game you spend 45 minutes of that hour just watching cut scenes.

Image result for kingdom hearts 3

Final thoughts?

Sometimes less really is more. Get rid of the majority of the cut scenes, simplify the story that little bit and you would have a winner. Yes there are some die hard fans who lose their mind delving into the intricate details of the story, but for most of us we are here for the fun Disney aspect of it all: The characters are adorable, the game play is great fun and the story (at least at first) is enough to keep you guessing and tells a pretty concrete story. But when your ‘game’ is 90% cut scene, it might be time to rethink whether you are making a game or a movie.

What do you guys think about the new Kingdom Hearts game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx

Video Game of the week…

This week has been a tough one! From super busy schedules to super stressful work days, this week has felt like a crazy whirlwind of activities but also the longest week of the year. And sometimes no matter how hard you try, there are some things that not even a good work out can fix and you just need a complete dose of escapism from real life….and what better way to achieve this than with video games!

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp

Animal Crossing has existed in the world of gaming since 2001, first appearing on the Nintendo 64. It has since then had 7 games released across the multiple gaming devices. Pocket Camp is the latest instalment of the Animal Crossing world and is also the first to be used on a mobile device.

The transition

Adorable. There are no other words for this game except that: ADORABLE.

It follows the general aspect of Animal Crossing in that you play as a little digital person who spends their time building the perfect community. It is an RPG world building type game, where you can create and build whatever type of society that you please: For example in New Leaf, you are the new Mayor of a small town. In Pocket Camp, you run a campsite. Throughout the game, your fellow inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals, from elephants to hamsters and all other manner of animals in between. You carry out activities for the animals from planting certain plants to building certain features and adding to the overall success of your chosen area.

In Pocket Camp you travel about the different areas and fulfil tasks for the visiting animals. In return, they give you certain supplies that can then be used to craft features and furniture for your camp site. Each time you complete a task for an animal you develop a better relationship with them which in turn helps level you up, and as you level up you can craft and build a bigger variety of items.

Interior design

On of the best things about Animal Crossing is the ability to create whatever environment you wish: In each game you are given you’re own little house which you can decorate however you like, and even the town itself can be moulded to look however you wish. In Pocket Camp, you are almost spoilt for decorating room as you have the main area of your campsite, where visiting animals can request certain items or pieces of furniture, as well as having your own personal camper-van which you can decorate as you own private residence. The game allows you to constantly change the campsite having different themes: You can build a tree house for the animals that love all thing ‘cute’ or a skating half pipe for those who love ‘cool’ things.

Challenges

Animal Crossing is a game that also uses real time in it’s game play: 24 hours in game is 24 hours out of it. The game also changes with the seasons allowing you to build little snowmen in the winter or celebrate Halloween in the fall. In the main games the seasons also change which animals or fruit you can collect throughout the year meaning that you have to play for at least a solid year in order to catch the hundreds of different creatures that the game has on offer.

Pocket Camp also uses this to release timed events during the seasons. Over the Christmas period you could collect candy canes to craft cosy festive items and in the New Year you could watch a firework display. The summer months brought summer festivals with fishing tourneys and flower challenges to create brightly coloured beautiful digital gardens and a little summer paradise. The upside to this is that you stay engaged with the game but the downside is that every item that is available for the limited event is also so darn cute that you become glued to your phone in order to get them all before the time runs out which is a whole new level of stress that only those who love collecting can really understand.

The Calm of Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing has always been a very calming game to play. Since there are no specific ‘quests’ that need to be completed, you can simply play the game at whatever pace suits you. The music is also calming as there is no real urgency for the game: It doesn’t matter if you want to play for 5 minutes or 5 years, the game ticks along as it needs to and you can spend your time with whatever activity you want to.

Pocket Camp is no different. As there are only 4 visiting areas, there are only 4 animals that have requests for you at any one time. Each animal has 3 requests to complete before they are satisfied, and depending on how much farming you’ve done before hand (catching fish or bugs or collecting fruit from trees and seashells off the beach) it will depend on how long it takes you to complete each task. At most, it can take about a half hour to finish all of the tasks (if that!) and I find this to be just the right amount of time to unwind: I can play it on my lunch break while I enjoy some food or even before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media and making myself sad.

Outcome

This game is just as adorable as the others. The game is utterly charming, with each animal having their own style and wit. It is varied enough that you don’t get bored but also slow enough that you don’t feel any need to rush through the game. As there are no levels to complete you also don’t have to hit certain save points or checkpoints as the game just saves as you go on and each time you complete a task or change location. It is fun and calming and just utterly serene in every way.

Have any of you guys played this game? Let me know your thoughts below!

T xx

We are all animals

Throughout history, films have always had an impact on society: In most cases, they act as a platform for social commentary by highlighting issues within society, usually in a very subtle manner.

One film I have only recently seen has highlighted all of the issues that we are now seeing in modern day society. This film won Best Animated Picture at the Academy Awards 2016 and I am still moved by how well this cartoon highlighted the issues that we see in society everyday. Zootoptropolis (or Zootopia as it is sometimes called) highlights very common issues that are very rarely seen in these type of films: ignorance, prejudice, social class and racial stereotypes were all hidden under the pretence of predators vs prey in a society where animals of all shapes and sizes live together harmoniously.

This film doesn’t hold any punches: It is fun enough for children to watch it and still see the message in a lighthearted manner, while adults watching it are hit square in the face with how real the issues are. Watching the film, it struck me how it is essentially the same old story of Us vs Them. In society there always seem to be two sides that are fighting over very old, ignorant and stereotypical issues.

In this film, the main character is the adorable Judy Hops, the first ever bunny cop. She herself is one example of how you as a person can fight stereotypes, as throughout the film she is called ‘cute’ because she’s a bunny, and people assume that she is too sweet and too meek to ever make it as a real police officer in the big scary city of Zootropolis. She highlights the use of language when talking to other animals and how we should all think about our terms of reference before we open our mouths.

 disney disneyedit zootopia kp animationedit GIF

The film also highlights the way in which people can manipulate our prejudices towards people that are different to ourselves. In the film, (spoiler alert!) some prey animals want to infect all predators with a toxic plant that causes them to resort to aggressive and carnivorous behaviours. Throughout the film there is the underlying concern that all prey animals have that the predatory animals could very easily eat them if they wanted to, despite the clear fact that animals have evolved beyond this basic instinct. While it may not be seen as realistic, it helps to show how our own stereotypes of how people have behaved in the past affects how we think they are going to behave again: For example, there is the racial stereotype that all Chinese students are super smart or that all black people are ‘thugs’ or ‘ghetto’. There is little evidence to suggest that any of these are actually true, yet we are all exposed to these stereotypes on a daily basis, usually unknowingly. This is highlighted more in the film when Hops realises that even though she meant well and thought she was being PC, by assuming there is a ‘them’ and an ‘us’ she offends one of her newest friends.

Image result for zootropolis gifs so theres a them

I don’t want to go on about this film and its underlying components because I know this isn’t normally what I write about. But in recent times, with all the horrid stories we are hearing at the moment about Muslims being terrorists and the sexual harassment women have to deal with on a daily basis, this film made me think a lot about how we are all viewing each other. If a simple animation made for children can highlight how dangerous and how corrupt this type of thinking is, then why can’t a society see this? All in all, this film is wonderful. It’s funny, it’s silly, it’s sweet and it has some wonderful life lessons that people of all ages can learn from. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it…it may even help you see things from another perspective, and that is always a useful skill.

This may appear to be too insightful for a review on an animated Disney film, but I found it to yell loud and clear that while we all may be from very different walks of life and no matter how complicated our history may be, we are all animals and we are all equal. We can only move forward and build a society where all are welcome, all are equal and all we do we do in harmony.

Image result for mean girls bake a cake Mean Girls yet again with the truth…

What films have spoken to you guys? Has there been a film that made you rethink your priorities?

Much Love people 🙂

T xx