GameBlast21: Later Levels’ press release

 
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Later Levels to battle sleep in 24-hour charity challenge

Committed gamers Later Levels are gearing up to burn the midnight gaming oil from Saturday, 27 to Sunday, 28 February 2021 to raise money for people with disabilities.

They’ll be playing video games continuously for 24-hours as part of GameBlast21, the UK’s largest gaming marathon weekend, and are aiming to raise over £3,500 for SpecialEffect. This amazing charity uses technology to help people with disabilities benefit from the fun and inclusion of gaming.

The Later Levels team is asking everyone to help them raise awareness for the organisation and reach their donation target by sponsoring them via their online fundraising page.

SpecialEffect makes it possible for everyone to play the video games we enjoy and take for granted, through assessment and equipment modification,” said Pete, a Later Levels’ streamer. “We believe in the positive power of gaming, and GameBlast gives us a chance to put this belief into action by showing our support for the charity.”

“Many people across the UK will be playing video games for up to 24 hours. It’s a big challenge, but they’re attempting it to help the thousands of people who, because of a disability, can only sit and watch other people have all the fun,” said Tom Donegan, the head of the charity’s fundraising and communications team. “GameBlast is an opportunity for everybody to do what they love best and level the playing field for individuals with disabilities at the same time.”

The charity is inviting teams of friends, family members and work colleagues to join the event, which has been likened to a ‘Children in Need for gamers’. There’s no strict requirement for people to take on gaming marathons, and many teams and individuals will be playing board games or holding gaming-related events. The aim is to raise a total of £100,000.

Later Levels’ efforts will help people like Aaron who never thought he’d be able to play video games again because his muscular dystrophy stopped him using a controller, ” said Tom. “The sponsorship raised through the GameBlast weekend will change the lives of many more people like him through the gift of gaming fun and inclusivity.”

Anyone can sponsor the team online via their JustGiving page and watch them live from 08:00 GMT on Saturday, 27 February 2021 on their Twitch channel. More details about the GameBlast event can be found on the official website.

SpecialEffect is an award-winning charity that helps people with disabilities to benefit from the fun, rehabilitation and therapy of video games. They support people of all ages through assessments, equipment loans and equipment modifications.

SpecialEffect
The Stable Block, Cornbury Park, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3EH
Office: 01608 810055
Email: info@specialeffect.org.uk
Twitter: @SpecialEffect
Facebook: SpecialEffectCharity

Charity no 1121004


Steam Game Festival February 2021: a round-up

The Steam Game Festival made a return this year after three events in 2020. Over 500 demos were made available to gamers between 03 and 09 February 2021, while developers broadcasted their upcoming projects and answered questions.

The COVID-19 lockdown saw the cancellation of the usual gaming expos and organisers decided to take them online so they could continue. This has been great in terms of accessibility, but it also means I’ve tried so many demos over the past 12 months that it’s now proving difficult to find new ones I’m interested in. Fortunately I managed to dig out eight that looked as though they might be worth a go –here are my thoughts and whether they were deemed worthy enough for a place on my wishlist.

Blind Drive

Wishlisted: yes

We first came across this title at the Leftfield Collection at Rezzed back in April 2018, where Pete gave it a go. You step into the driving seat of someone who has been blindfolded and instructed to drive against oncoming traffic and must use what you can hear to avoid any collisions. It was good to be able to play the demo at home without all the noise and crowds of an expo, and what we found was a darkly humorous game which has now been scheduled for one of our upcoming GameBlast21 streams.

Cats and the Other Lives

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

A pixelated point-and-click about a family mystery with a cat protagonist should be right up my street. Instead of controlling a human character, you guide Aspen’s fluffy paws and witness the conversations that take place during the funeral of patriarch Bernard. The demo crashed just before I hit the hour mark but that’s not the reason why I decided to not wishlist it right now; although I liked the idea of playing as a cat, it felt as though I didn’t have much control over the situation unfolding so I’ll wait to see what the reviews say.

Dr Livingstone, I Presume?

Wishlisted: no

There was something about this demo that our recording software really didn’t like and so there’s no gameplay video for it here unfortunately. It’s an escape room which takes place in David Livingstone’s house after you’re called there to help your friend, but he’s nowhere to be found. I wasn’t overly keen on the graphics and some of the controls seem as though they’d be far better suited to a touch device than a keyboard-and-mouse. It just feels a bit too clunky in both appearance and play to be wishlisted.

Fate of Kai

Wishlisted: no

I can see why many puzzle-lovers will enjoy this game once it has been released but I’m sorry to say it just isn’t for me. The adventure takes place in what looks like a graphic novel where you can turn the pages to find out what happens, then go back to change the character’s thoughts to create a different outcome. I’m so used to there being words within the type of releases I play, either spoken or written, that I didn’t follow the story as closely as I should have and therefore struggled to become invested in it.

In My Shadow

Wishlisted: no

Although there were several things highlighted in the trailer that pointed to a title which wouldn’t be for me, I picked this one because I liked the idea of the central mechanic: objects are placed within a room to create different shadows before you guide a young girl across the platforms to get a glimpse of her memories. It felt difficult to move the items as finely as I would have liked and ultimately, the whole thing is just a bit too ‘cutesy’ for my tastes. I wasn’t enjoying the demo so I stopped playing before I reached the end.

Jennifer Wilde: Unlikely Revolutionaries

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

I really enjoy detective games and this tale about murder, espionage and revolution should have really appealed to me. Clues about the death of the protagonist’s father are gathered in a traditional point-and-click style with the help of Oscar Wilde’s ghost, before being fitted together in her notebook. The demo got off to a good start and the introduction with the characters was fun; but over the course of the next hour, I gradually began to lose interest. This one will be put on the back-burner for now and may be wishlisted later.

Lacuna

Wishlisted: yes

I’d kept skipping over this one in my Steam recommendations but playing the demo changed my mind: it ended up being the only other game besides Blind Drive to make it onto my wishlist. CDI agent Neil Conrad is awoken with the news of a murder before he’s dragged into a case which will turn both his life and the solar-system upside down. The investigation section was fun to play through and I appreciate the mechanics the developer has implemented to get away from the usual point-and-click frustrations.

Page One

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

This was probably the most intriguing demo from the latest festival. Not much information is given away about the game other than it focuses on ‘a beach, a house, the howling rain and a mystery to uncover’ and takes inspiration from classics such as Zork: Grand Inquisitor and Myst. So why haven’t I wishlisted it already then? I’m sorry to say that the 360-degree environment and hand-drawn lines made me feel a bit nauseous, so I had to stop playing – I’m not sure I’d be able to make it through the whole title, which is a shame.

Did you get a chance to check out any of the demos during the Steam Game Festival this month? If so, did any of the titles make it onto your wishlist?

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


The Big Adventure Event: a round-up

2020 was the year of the digital expo. As lockdowns brought on by COVID-19 meant we were unable to attend such events in person, organisers decided to take them online and let us experience upcoming releases from the comfort of our own homes.

The trend looks set to continue in 2021 as we’ve had our first digital festival of the year last month: The Big Adventure Event. Hosted by indie publisher Hitcents, this took place on Steam between 21 and 25 January 2021 and was dedicated to ‘celebrating all walks of the iconic, varied adventure game genre’. I managed to find the time to play a number of demos from the weekend and add a few more titles to my wishlist, so let’s find out which ones made the cut.

Don’t Forget Me

Wishlisted: yes

Imagine Her Story but with a futuristic twist and pixelated style: that’s kind of what we’re going to get from Don’t Forget Me by The Moon Pirates. The amnesiac protagonist Fran must work with one of the world’s foremost experts in memory manipulation, delving into the mind of patients and using deduction to uncover their memories. Entering search terms into your machine may unlock routes in their mind but if you guess incorrectly too many times, you’ll be booted from the system. This game was wishlisted straight away.

Forgotten Fields

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

Forgotten Fields by Frostwood Interactive sounds like it’s going to be a game with a personal story that I’d enjoy. Struggling writer Sid must journey back home to attend an unavoidable family obligation, and though meeting old friends and reliving memories, he may just get over his creative block and write his story. Unfortunately however, the demo didn’t work properly for me so I gave up after watching his figure walk across a black screen for ten-minutes and gradually become more pixelated. Maybe I’ll wishlist it in the future once I’ve seen more.

Monorail Stories

Wishlisted: yes

Speaking of personal tales, Monorail Stories by Stelex Software was up next and takes place on a monorail that travels between the cities of L and M every day. Silvie and Ahmal both use it for their commute to work but travel at different times and in opposite directions so, although they may meet the same people, they may make different choices and don’t know they’re sharing the same story. It seems like this is going to be a title that’s more about the interactions between its characters, and it was wishlisted immediately.

Sarawak

Wishlisted: yes

A literary game which will appeal to fans of mystery novels and point-and-clicks? Sold. Cowleyfornia Studios’ Sarawak begins when a university professor is found dead on the steps outside your hotel. The police arrest someone very close to you for his murder so you must unravel the trail of secrets the professor has left behind. This one almost feels like a choose-your-own adventure but with puzzles: read the short chapters, choose your responses wisely, solve the challenges and try to figure out who’s lying.

Slender Threads

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

There were a lot of good things about the demo for Slender Threads by Blyts and their tale of a travelling book salesman who’s trying to write a novel. Harvey Green is hoping that the weird town of Villa Ventura will inspire him but foreboding dreams, impossible coincidences and hidden motives are hindering his progress. I liked the visual style, the atmosphere was suitably creepy and the demo was fun – but it just didn’t grab me. This game is going on the backburner and I’ll check it out again after it has been released.

The Drifter

Wishlisted: yes

Powerhoof’s point-and-click The Drifter reminded me of The Blind Prophet as they’re both adventures with adult themes which obviously aren’t for kids. When Mick Carter is forced to return to his home town for a funeral, he doesn’t expect to witness a violent murder, be pursued by mysterious armed men and then be killed – until his consciousness is thrust back into his body seconds before his death. I loved the Australian setting and voice-actors in the demo and can’t wait to play the game once it has been released.

Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery

Wishlisted: yes

A detective story with escape-room-mechanics? Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery by Kiary Games was another game which was wishlisted right after playing the demo. Each setting is like an individual escape room with a variety of puzzles involving keys, codes and symbols and you’re given the next part of the story once you’ve figured out how to progress. The story revolves around a private investigator who receives a strange letter from his father, then finds the entire city deserted after he travels back home.

Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town

Wishlisted: removed

I’m not sure what I disliked most about imaginarylab’s demo for Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bonetown. It could have been the curved-lines and fishbowl-effect graphics which made me feel slightly nauseous; the story that begins after Willy’s mother weirdly decides to leave her teenaged son at home alone while she goes off adventuring in the Amazon; or the stupid joke about cooking furry animals made when clicking on a microwave. I’d already wishlisted this game a while back but now it has been removed.

Due to the number of digital expos that took place last year and the ability for organisers to include more games in these than at physical events, it was somewhat difficult to find demos I hadn’t already tried at other festivals such as LudoNarraCon. But I’ve now added five more titles to my wishlist so well done to The Big Adventure Event. The one I’m looking forward to the most right now is probably The Drifter, as I do enjoy a grown-up adventure that doesn’t hold back.

Did you try any of the demos during The Big Adventure Event and if so, how’s your wishlist looking now?

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


Time to Talk Day 2021: opening up

Although 2020 was a very strange year, it offered some silver-linings. One of these was an increase in the understanding of just how important our mental health is and the willingness to have more open conversations about the subject.

This is positive progress but there’s still a lot of work to be done. One in four individuals will be affected by an issue this year alone and it’s incredibly sad to hear that over a half of them will say the associated isolation and shame is worth than the condition itself. The social stigma attached to mental health and the discrimination experienced because of it can make the problem worse and recovery that much harder – but there are things we can all do to change this.

Time to Talk Day, an annual event hosted by growing social movement called Time to Change, gives everyone a chance to tackle this silence and shame. Having open conversations about how we’re feeling can help break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery, and take the stigma out of something which will affect each of us at some point during our lives. Nobody should have to fear being treated differently because of a mental health problem.

You can get involved by joining the virtual festival being held on YouTube, starting at 19:00 GMT this evening with a discussion about the power of talking and continuing tomorrow with a short series of webinars (see the schedule here). You can also check the Time to Change website for details on events taking place both online and around the UK, along with resources if you’re interested in planning your own activity.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do though is let people know you’re there to listen if they need someone to support them. There’s no right way to talk about mental health but these tips will guide you in approaching it in a helpful way. My channels are open to anyone who’d like to chat – whether you want to talk amore about this post or would just like to speak to somebody who isn’t going to judge. I can’t say I’ll know how to fix what you’re going through but I can certainly be there for you.

If you’re worried about someone in your life and haven’t heard from them in a while: please don’t hesitate in reaching to them. Send them a private message and ask how they’re doing so they know you’re thinking of them and have your support. We all need somebody to look out for us every once in a while and if your friend is going through a tough time, stepping in and showing them you care could mean more to them than you realise.

Together we’re stronger and can end mental health discrimination.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


GameBlast21: games and goals

How does playing video games for 24-hours straight sound to you? It’s certainly tiring and takes a whole load of stamina to make it through to the end, but it’s also a lot of fun. And doing it to support an amazing cause makes the experience even more worthwhile.

This is what’s going to happen on a dedicated weekend in February when hundreds of gamers all over the UK will be taking part in GameBlast21 to raise funds and awareness for SpecialEffect. The charity aims to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with disabilities by using technology to help them play video games to the best of their abilities. This not only brings friends and families together but has a profoundly positive impact on confidence and quality of life too.

With now only a month to go until our own event, read on to find out about the games we’re going to be playing during our 24-hour stream along with our fundraising targets and the rewards you can expect to receive.

24-hour marathon game schedule confirmed

Towards the end of December, we asked you to help us decide on the schedule for our marathon stream by voting in a short series of polls. Thank you to everybody who took part and created the confirmed line-up! There’s a nice selection of games with a little something for all gaming tastes. We’ll try to stick to the timings below as much as possible and have posted a handy visual reminder of these here.

Date Time Genre Game Votes
Saturday,
27 February 2021
08:00 GMT Platformer DuckTales Remastered 48.39%
11:00 GMT Adventure Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars 62.50%
14:00 GMT Other Escape-room-in-a-box 51.61%
17:00 GMT Retro The X-Files: Resist or Serve 48.57%
20:00 GMT Action Assassin’s Creed Valhalla 48.48%
23:00 GMT Horror The 7th Guest: 25th Anniversary Edition 48.57%
Sunday,
28 February 2021
02:00 GMT FMV General Horse and the Package of Doom 48.15%
05:00 GMT MMO The Elder Scrolls Online 51.72%
08:00 GMT Stream ends Sleep 100%


#DaysForDonations fundraising targets and rewards so far

A huge thank you to everyone who has kindly donated to SpecialEffect through our JustGiving page to date! The higher we get, the more rewards that will be unlocked – so look forward to some special streams which are likely to involve us embarrassing ourselves. We’ll also complete an additional stream for at least an hour a day during a specified period after the main event, and you can see everything unlocked so far in the round-up below.

Target #DaysForDonations Achievement unlocked
Any amount raised No additional days 24-hour GameBlast21 stream on 27-28 February 2021
£500 raised 10 days (up to 10 March) Signed Zelda postcards are sent to all donators
£1,000 raised 20 days (up to 20 March) Pete wears a Pikachu costume for the 24-hour stream
£1,500 raised 30 days (up to 30 March) A signed copy of Project Zero is given away
£2,000 raised 40 days (up to 09 April) The team streams wearing Pokémon costumes
£2,500 raised 50 days (up to 19 April) The official #KaraokePete album is emailed to all donators
£3,000 raised 60 days (up to 29 April) The Lawful Geek hosts an extended TTRPG stream
£3,500 raised 70 days (up to 09 May) The team completes a cocktails-and-karaoke stream
£4,000 raised 80 days (up to 19 May) Ellen from Ace Asunder gets a Zelda and GameBlast tattoo
£4,500 raised 80 days (up to 29 May) Kim completes a treadmill marathon on stream
£5,000 raised 80 days (up to 08 June) #DaysForDonations finishes with another 24-hour stream


How you can get involved

We’d be lying if we said that donations weren’t greatly appreciated and put to good use. They enable SpecialEffect to continue their work assisting hundreds of physically-disabled people all over the UK to experience the joy of video games. The charity does this free of charge, and shares the knowledge gained from their lifelong assessment and support services with hardware and software developers – so a feature that’s worked successfully for one individual can then go on to benefit thousands of others.

Check out our JustGiving page for details if you’d like to donate. It’s not just about money though: anything you can do to raise awareness and help spread the word about SpecialEffect is hugely beneficial too, as it increases the potential for them to reach more people they can help. Tweet about the charity’s work, share the press release which will be published here in February, come along to any of our GameBlast21 streams and join us in chat; it’s all valuable and we’re so grateful for your support.

Give the official GameBlast account on Twitter a follow for the latest announcements and visit at the SpecialEffect website to find out more about what the charity do. It’s time to get everybody back in the game.

We’re taking part in GameBlast21 to support SpecialEffect, the gamers’ charity.
Making a donation will bring you great loot, increase your XP by +100 and make you immune to fire.*
(*Not guaranteed.)


Christmas kisses and birthday wishes: 2020

It’s Christmas! Curl up with that new video game from Santa, hunt through Steam for bargains, and get your controllers and mince pies ready. Who knows, you might even be able to rope your mum into a game once she’s had a sherry or two.

I’d like to take this festive opportunity to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and happy New Year before we all get caught up in the madness of the day. I hope you have a lovely time and find everything you wished for waiting for you under the tree; and that 2021 is a year of change and hope. May it be filled with happiness, love, laughter and even more great video games.

It’s a double celebration here at Later Levels as today is the blog’s fourth birthday. The last four years have been such an incredible experience filled with so many opportunities and highlights, but most special of all are the talented bloggers I’ve met along the way. I’m now privileged to call some of them friends in real life and they’re some of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the chance to know.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart and, once again, merry Christmas.

Kim   ❤️

PS: remember I asked you guys to bring along festive tunes to the winter blog party a couple of weeks ago? Enjoy!