Thursday, 23 August 2018

Haul : New Harry Potter Shop in Melbourne!

This month, the Shop of Requirement opened here in Melbourne. It's actually within walking distance of my work, and it's been very hard to resist the temptation to go nearly every day at lunchtime! I waited until Husband and a friend were able to come too, for my (first!) visit.

I'd been told there were queues down the street in the first week of opening, but thankfully we were able to walk straight in. It was still very well patronised though, and I didn't manage to get many photos because of all the people! The shop was exquisitely decorated and set up, with a back room for relaxing and looking at the premium items in a quieter atmosphere. All of the Harry Potter merchandise that you can possibly imagine was there, from wands and robes to biscuit cutters and shot glasses. One wall had a bay dedicated to each house:

The atmosphere was so full of excitement it was a little overwhelming, and I only bought a few things. I snapped up the sticker book because ... stickers! Over 400 Harry Potter stickers to use in my art diary, in one handy book? Yes please! The keyring blind box contained a little Dobby and Hedwig keyring.

I of course had to purchase some Hufflepuff-themed items, as a proud ... well, I'm actually a Hufflepuff-Ravenclaw hatstall, but I went with my heart.

A pink Pygmy Puff keyring! The metal tag is thick and good quality. All of the official Harry Potter items that I saw were very good quality.

Whenever I see a pack of playing cards lately, I have to admit I'm always thinking about whether I can use them for divination. The diversity and depth of the characters in Harry Potter seems like it could work. I chose the cards from Order of the Phoenix as that seemed to have the largest cast of characters and action in different locations of all the movies. (I'm willing to admit I'm wrong -- I was trying to remember off the top of my head!)

If you're in Melbourne, the Shop of Requirement is at 6 Smith Street, Collingwood. If you're planning on going, check the website, as the opening times are a little unusual. I'm sure I'll be returning soon!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

App Game Review: Furistas Cat Cafe

Furistas Cat Cafe is a casual app game by Runaway Play Studio, which came out in July 2018. You are the owner of a cat cafe, and your mission is to match cats with customers and keep them happy, while earning currency with which to decorate the cafe and upgrade the cats.

Customers enter the cafe with a preferred type of cat they wish to spend time with -- friendly, playful, shy, etc. Once you match them with a cat, they wander around spending quality time together. Minigames frequently appear, in which you prepare drinks for customers, give otherwise unoccupied cats a pat, or clean up kitty pawprints. These minigames earn you tokens. The games aren't timed and you can't "get it wrong", so they don't feel stressful. Occasionally cats will give you random tokens as well. These tokens can be used to buy furniture and other decorations for your cafe.

Periodically, baskets arrive, which contain currency and treats. There are 2 guaranteed daily baskets, and timed baskets, arriving in increments between 20 minutes and 12 hours. The treats in these baskets can be used to upgrade the cats (called "nurture" in the game). Higher level cats can spend more time with customers, enabling you to serve them more drinks and earn more tokens. As you level up, you get access to more cats and decorations, and your cafe gets bigger.

Aside from the minigames, it's just fun to watch the cats and the customers playing and spending time together. According to Runaway Games, all of the cats are modelled after real-life cats belonging to staff and friends, and there's a description of each one's personality on the cat screen. This makes them so much more charming in my opinion.

The developers have certainly gone to a lot of effort to make the behaviours of the cats lifelike. Cats will play with different toys, be cuddled, or petted, and sleep in different positions. Sometimes they sleep with one paw stretched out in front of them, just like my cat! They also knead the cushions, or rub up against the customers' legs. They make various different noises, from meows to purring to chirps. If you find the sound of cats purring relaxing, I definitely recommend having the sound on.

The decor of the cafe has a natural feel with many wooden items and plants to choose from. Similarly, the cats and customers are cute with large eyes, but aren't too far from reality, with realistic colours and features. This is unlike many games which are much more colourful and over-the-top. While I don't mind that kind of aesthetic, this is much more calming and appeals to my Mori Girl side. The mellow jazz soundtrack matches this feel. The sound effects -- including the cats purring when you pet them! -- aren't too obtrusive. While playing most games, I have the sound turned off as it can become annoying, but the sound effects in Furistas aren't overwhelming.

It's relatively quick and easy to level up when playing Furistas Cat Cafe. In the beginning, I was issued with a fairly generous amount of tokens, treats and kittykash. I started with one cat (Bon-Chan) and have collected another one at most levels so far. This is what my cafe looked like after only playing for about 2 hours (and I still had tokens left over!):

Many casual games these days have a plethora of advertisements, often playing involuntarily in between rounds. Furistas has no involuntary advertising. When a daily basket arrives (which occurs twice a day), you can optionally play an ad to double the amount of goodies in the basket. This is the only advertising in the game. The developers have chosen to prioritise the gameplay experience over getting revenue from advertising, and I really have to applaud this. When I come across games like this, I always enjoy the game more. I feel more positively towards the game developers, and open to purchasing upgrade packs or other things on offer. It also increases my feelings of loyalty -- I will often play the game for longer, and come back to it after a break.

+ It's cats! And adorable ones, too! What more can I say?
+ The fact that they are based on real-life cats adds an extra dimension to the kitty goodness.
+ Made for cat lovers with realistic behaviour and sounds.
+ Generous supply of currency for upgrading cats and decorating cafe. Guaranteed daily baskets make you feel less pressured to return to the game and add to the relaxing feel.
+ Diverse customers (both in appearance and in names).
+ Natural and calming aesthetic appeals to me.
+ Minimal advertising makes for a really enjoyable gaming experience.

- There are 4 different types of currency (5 when there is an event on). Even though tapping on a currency brings up an explanation of how to earn it and what it's for, it was still quite confusing at first. Now that I've been playing for a while, it seems to make sense though.

It was too hard weeding out the screenshots I took of the game, so I'll leave you with some photospam of the adorable kitties:

Sunday, 5 August 2018

My July

July has again been very cold and windy. I've had to wear my Winter 'coat' (really just a slightly thicker and longer cardigan with a hood, if truth be told) every day for nearly two months now. I even had to buy a beanie! I don't normally get cold very easily, so this is a rarity!

I'm not sure if it's the weather or some other factors in my life right now, but I've been having some issues with depression this month. I feel like I haven't done very much, but I wanted to make this post anyway. I feel like posting what I've been doing will be a positive thing to look back on, and I also don't like it when I'm away from the blog for too long.

What I've been reading ...
As I mentioned in my Winter Reading List post, I tackled reading Ulysses by James Joyce. I honestly wouldn't have finished it (or even started it!) if it hadn't been for Conner Habib's reading course/club. I do have to admit that I skimmed the last 2 chapters, but only because I wanted to finish it in time for the online meet-up at the end. Any description I could give of the book wouldn't do it justice, so I will link the Wikipedia page for the interested. I do think I'd like to read it again, but perhaps in (Australian) Summer next time so I can get a better feel for the atmosphere.

What I've been making ...
I started a new series of artworks made out of hama beads. They will probably have other things glued to them, too. I've started two so far. Perhaps once they're further along, I'll do a separate blog post about them. One thing I know for sure already though -- I'm going to need a lot more hama beads!!

What I've been eating ...
I mentioned last month that Husband and I have begun having a monthly lunch with our foodie friend. This month we went to Pepper Lunch (despite the name, it's open all day!). The Japanese-style meals are served in hot stone bowl, and the food cooks as you eat it. Pouring my curry and listening to it sizzle as it hit the bowl was immensely satisfying! There are lots of toppings to choose from, which I like, though for some reason every meal comes with corn. It's a good thing that I like corn!

What I've been divining ...
Here is an image of a combined oracle and rune reading I did for myself during the month. It was on the theme of sharing my art and participating in another exhibition. Lately I find myself wanting to reach for several different sources to answer the same question. It's not that I don't trust my own readings -- I do. At the time I find the insights to be very valuable, but somehow they don't "stick". I think this is something I need to look into further.

Selections from Instagram