Try-It Tuesday: TEACUP

TEACUP is a short and sweet narrative adventure game about a shy frog who collects herbs, sugar, honey and cookies for an upcoming tea party.

It released September 23, 2021, for PC, Switch, Xbox and PlayStation, at a price of $9.99. I played a review copy on PS4 that I received from the publisher, Whitethorn Games, who also published Calico, a game I played earlier this year and really loved.

TEACUP was developed by Smarto Club, a team of three young developers from Santiago, Chile, inspired by games such as Night in the Woods and A Short Hike.

I’m not familiar with those games but of all the games I’ve played, TEACUP reminded me most of Burly Men at Sea because it felt like an interactive picture book, and the game mechanics were a bit like Arthur’s Camping Adventure, a PC game from the year 2000 that my kids loved to play when they were little.

The game’s strengths are its cute and colorful graphics, casual gameplay, animal characters, subtle humor, and variety of mini-games and brain teasers, including a hidden object puzzle, tangram, QTEs and a retro-style arcade game.

TEACUP had a few issues, though, which I hope will be addressed in updates.

Text included multiple typos and confusing sentences, I assume because something was lost in translation to English. This seems to be common in indie games made outside the US and not that big of a deal but … hey … if anyone needs an editor, I’m available!

What was kind of a big deal was the awful cursor movement in several of the mini-games. For example, in the hidden object game, I had to find and click on a very small key but had a really hard time getting the cursor to hover over it.

I couldn’t find any options to adjust the sensitivity settings and this turned what should have been a fun, relaxing experience into an exercise in frustration. I would have thought something was wrong with my controller – like the piece of garbage Xbox knockoff I bought once that was full of deadzones – except that it was the same controller I use for every other game without any problems, and other joystick movement in the game was fine.

This might just be an issue with the PS4 version. I’ve played other games on both PC and PS4 where there weren’t any issues with the mouse on PC but the console version was janky.

Despite its flaws, I think TEACUP is worth buying if you’re looking for a low-key, movie-length adventure and/or if you’re looking for something to play with children. It’s a singleplayer game but would be perfect for an adult and child to read together, like a book, and assist the child during mini-games if needed.

I wouldn’t say this is a “kids game” though. While the mini-games are pretty easy (aside from wrestling with poor controls), the protagonist is a young adult and the text includes some big words that would probably not be in a 5-year-old’s vocabulary.

Find out more about TEACUP:

Whitethorn Games (publisher)
Steam/PC
Switch
Xbox
PlayStation

~ J.L. Hilton

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Try-It Tuesday: POTION CRAFT Alchemist Simulator

POTION CRAFT: ALCHEMIST SIMULATOR is available in early access on Steam today for only $13.49, 10% off its list price of $14.99.

If you love alchemy in Skyrim, like I do, I highly recommend it. I tried a free demo back in July (that’s the video embedded above) and I absolutely loved it. Okay, well, the haggling annoyed me but I’ve since gotten the hang of it.

In POTION CRAFT, you physically interact with your tools and ingredients to brew potions, experiment with ingredients to create new concoctions, design the labels and bottles for your products, meet various villagers and navigate their needs, from rat poison for farmers (and possibly some other more nefarious plans) to weapon-boosting brews for adventurers.

It is similar to Mystic Inn in that the gameplay revolves around brewing and selling potions, but it’s not one of those timed games where you have to hurry. Play at your own pace.

Not only did I enjoy the gameplay, which is a combination of puzzle game and RPG, but I also loved the medieval style music and artwork, which inspired me to make a charm bracelet and necklace featuring some of the POTION CRAFT ingredients.

POTION CRAFT is developed by niceplay games, a team of five people in Russia, and is published by tinyBuild.

Right now, it’s only available on PC and requires a 64-bit processor, operating system of Windows 7 and up, dual-core processor, 4GB RAM, GTX 650 graphics or higher, and 2 GB available storage.

So, check your system stats and even if you don’t have a fancy gaming computer, you might still be able to play POTION CRAFT. Maybe it will come out on console, Nintendo Switch and/or mobile in the future, but I haven’t heard anything yet.

Find out more at PotionCraft.com, Twitter or Discord.

~ J.L. Hilton

See a complete list of video game fiction, articles and more under the Video Games tab of this website or click here

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Mixtape #10 – 1996 “The Ocean, the Stone & Samhain”


I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is labeled “The Ocean, the Stone & Samhain.” In 1996, my divorce was final and I’d moved to Twentynine Palms, California, a Mojave Desert town of 14,000 people near the Joshua Tree National Park and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, aka “mick-ag-see” (MCAGCC) to the locals.

Click here for more mixtapes 

It was a year of soul searching, whirlwind romances and the intense demands of my job as a reporter, photographer and columnist at a low-paying, understaffed, high-pressure newspaper. I covered crime, business, education, outhouse races, experimental military technology, school board, city meetings, art galleries, and more.

As stressful as it was, and as blazing goddamn hot as it would get with summer temperatures in the 120s, I loved the people I worked with and I loved the town. It was the first, and possibly last, time I felt like I really belonged somewhere and was doing something meaningful. I saw it as a sacred duty to record and share the joys and sorrows of the community.

I made several wonderful friends who gave me the incredible gift of encouraging me to be myself, as funny, smart, geeky, sassy, foul-mouthed, horny, creative, witchy, wild and off-the-wall as I could be, but when I was sad or overwhelmed by life, when I wasn’t strong, when I made mistakes, they were there for me then, too. Only now, twenty-five years later, do I know how very rare a gift that is.

This mixtape embraces the music of its time. I abandoned the songs that repeated over and over in past tapes while I lived fully in the present. Even the older songs here were new to me in the ’90s.

Life in 1996 was a series of small adventures. I spent the first day of the year in Tijuana, Mexico, with friends. We had a pool in my housing complex and I swam frequently. I went to drive-in movies, to a friend’s softball games, and off-roading in pickup trucks. I worked as a nude model and my backside hung on the wall of a local art gallery. I covered my fence in pinwheels.

Almost every night after work, we’d eat jalapeno poppers at a roadside diner, or grab chocolate-dipped ice cream cones at a walk-up shake shack, and laugh until the sun went down over the sagebrush. I gave tarot readings in the local comic book shop and learned to play Magic the Gathering. I drove my editor’s red Mazda Miata covered in Christmas lights down Adobe Road in the holiday parade.

Merlin in 2009 with kitten Zoe

I adopted a cat from a neighbor who didn’t want him. His meow sounded oddly like “murrrr-in!” so I named him Merlin. I had him for fifteen years and he was the sweetest most wonderful cat in the world.

I also met Rob, a rivet head with a birthday on Halloween. He looked and sounded like a young Captain Picard, with the suave street-smarts of Hancock from Fallout 4, and the intelligence and wisdom of both. They called him “the golden voice of MCAGCC” because he would emcee many of the base’s formal events.

We moved in together the following year.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #9 – 1995 “The Blue Year”

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. I made this one in 1995 and labeled it “The Blue Year.” Because I didn’t just have a Blue Christmas, I had a whole damn blue year.

Click here for more mixtapes 

Most of this mixtape is about Lance and how our marriage didn’t last. We loved the Camelot stories and liked to think of ourselves as “Lancelot and Guinevere” (since we were Lance and Jennifer) but they were a tragic couple, and our relationship never went that well, either.

By the fall of 1995, I was sleeping in the other bedroom and preparing to file for divorce. We had nothing and I wanted nothing from him, so no lawyers got involved. I just had to scrape together the money to move out and file papers at the local courthouse.

In a last ditch effort to win me back, I guess, Lance surprised me with tickets to see David Wilcox, one of my favorite musicians. Problem was, he didn’t tell me what was going on when he picked me up “to talk” and when he suddenly started driving out of town, I legit thought he was going to murder me. I panicked so bad, I almost jumped from the moving car and he had to tell me what was up. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic how little I trusted him, at that point.

But, hey, I got to see David Wilcox. I even went backstage and met him, too.

The rest of the mixtape is about a character named Kelzy who I met at a barn dance. I wasn’t looking for anything but there he was, a tall, beautiful, red-headed Texas cowboy with a rodeo belt buckle and a crease ironed into his starched jeans, asking me to dance. If he were an NPC in a video game, you’d exhaust all his dialog prompts and hope for a romance option, believe me.

In California, I’d accepted the fact that only underfed, fashionable women were considered “hot.” When Kelzy approached me, I wasn’t wearing makeup, my hair was in a simple braid, and I was wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt. I’d put on a little weight  and at 5′ 9″ I was 145 pounds instead of the 125 I’d weighed in college. Oh, the horror.

But he would look at me and smile and say, “You’re… motivating,” as if I’d taken his breath away. It felt good.

We spent a lovely few months together. Like any proper cowboy, he played guitar. We saw Toy Story (1995) together. I took him to Disneyland, where he danced with me under the fairy lights of Main Street. I took him to my friend’s horse ranch, where he kissed me.

Kelzy was absolutely darling, but I had the Dustin problem (see Mixtape #4). I thought he was too good for me. After leaving Lance, I’d started drinking, and one night when Kelzy showed up to take me to dinner, I was drunk and acted stupid all night.

He stopped seeing me after that and I don’t blame him. But I blamed myself for fucking up something really good, and I quit drinking. Still don’t drink, to this day.

“The Dance” is on there for a lot of reasons. There’s a romantic memory of us dancing to this song, and him singing along softly in my ear, but the lyrics also tell the story of our brief time together.

Looking back on the memory of
The dance we shared beneath the stars above
For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I’d have had to miss the dance

And, ultimately, isn’t this true of life? We don’t know where it will take us or what tomorrow will bring. Anytime we take a chance at great happiness, we risk terrible sorrow.

I ran into Kelzy at a used bookstore in 1997. We were both dating other people. He was polite. I was polite. I watched him get into his car and drive away. The shop owner, a scruffy old hippy-looking dude, said I had a look on my face that made him want to know what was going on.

I don’t remember what I told him. Probably, “I used to date that guy.” And that was probably all I needed to say. The wistful sorrow on my face said the rest. There’s a sharp kind of pain in being rejected by someone who is not only someone you love, but someone who makes the world brighter just by being in it.

If I’d heard the song “Creep” (1993) at the time, it would have been on this mixtape, too. Instead, I ended the tape with these:

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #8 – 1994

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is from 1994, the year I finished my bachelor’s degree and married Lance (remember him from Mixtape #3?). I left Los Angeles and moved back to the Mojave Desert.

For this mixtape, I collected songs from our past (we’d known each other since high school and dated off and on over the years), and songs about being apart, for side A. The songs on side B were from our new life together.

Many of these were played at our wedding celebration. We were married in a courthouse, by a woman judge, while wearing jeans (not blue, though, we weren’t quite THAT casual… his were brown and mine were beige), and we immediately went to Disneyland for our honeymoon. But we held a party a few weeks later. I designed our wedding cake, which looked like a castle, and my mom made it because she was a professional cake decorator.

There’s a lot more country in this part of my life. Lance was a firefighter, so “The Fireman” was a favorite of ours. He was a great dancer, whether it was a slow love song, a twangy two-step or a fast-paced ten-step. We spent some fun evenings dancing under the stars at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown. We also spent a lot of time hiking and working at a Renaissance Faire on weekends.

Side A – “Then”

Side B – “Now”

Man, Collin Raye was doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it came to romantic country songs in the 1990s.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #7 – 1993


I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is labeled “Mike’s tape” and it marks the point my life where I’d broken up with Ron and started dating a guy named Mike. In 1993, I was still living in Los Angeles and working my way through college.

Looking back, I think Ron only dated me to piss off his mother. He didn’t seem to like me, thought psychology was a stupid major, told me I dressed trashy, and even refused to kiss me. He didn’t like me giving food to homeless people and he talked me out of joining the college newspaper. I’d already written for a few magazines by 1993 and after college I ended up working as a newspaper reporter, photographer and editor from 1995-2000, anyway.

Once, when we were out in public together, an older woman overheard him talking to me and told me I should dump him because he was abusive. I didn’t think he was as bad as my dad, but I didn’t really know what a healthy relationship was supposed to be like.

I met Mike in a strange, kismet kind of way. I saw him at the mall while doing some holiday shopping and thought he was really handsome. Then, the next day, he showed up at the photo lab where I worked and dropped off some film to be developed. We struck up a conversation, he returned to pick up his photos and we started going out.

Mike was 30 and I was 21. He was a wonderful photographer troubled by an unhappy engineering career he felt pressured into by his parents, intelligent, well-traveled, and unlike Ron he wanted to kiss me. I was smitten.

Disney’s Aladdin came out in 1992 and offered a new song perfect for this mixtape. “I can show you the world, shining, shimmering, splendid…” 

Click here for more mixtapes 

Side A

I’ve got to stop and talk a minute about David Wilcox. Most folks haven’t heard of him. He’s a folk musician who writes beautiful, meaningful songs about the human condition, and I highly recommend checking out more of his music on YouTube. He’s still out there doing his thing.

“Language of the Heart” was my first exposure to his music, performed at the Jolly Roger bar by that band Flyer I mentioned back on Mixtape #6.

The lyrics perfectly described my relationship with Mike. I was “smitten,” as I said, but he was not. He was not Aladdin and his magic carpet adventure didn’t include me.

We made our warm bed out of blankets in the meadow way up high
You took off your dress in the moonlight, to sleep beneath the sky
Your touch was a warm summer ocean
Your kiss made the whole mountain fly
And you looked deep with in me and smiled
At the tears in my eyes

(Chorus) You can say that you always were honest 
And your words were clear from the start 
But its more than just words that got spoken 
There was language of the heart 

I won’t keep on calling your number if you never have the time 
I don’t want to claim you or blame you, but you’re always on my mind 
You had no idea I would love you, it comes as a total surprise 
And you shake your head slowly and smile at the tears in my eyes 

(Chorus) 

Your eyes like an ocean of clear sunlit green 
My eyes with the salt water 
Wash me clean….again 

And just imagine you whispered a secret that could take away my blues 
And you let me believe it to please me, though it just wasn’t true 
You just meant to share with me pleasure 
And you’re gifted at what you do 
But you’re speaking an unspoken language 
I thought that you knew 
It’s one that we all learn by heart 
And our hearts think its true 

(Chorus)

Side B

Country music entered my life right about here. With the popularity of crossover country artists like Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Reba McEntire and others, my friends and I started hanging out in country-western and biker bars, line dancing, two-stepping and ten-stepping on Friday and Saturday nights.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #6 – 1992

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is from 1992, when I attended California State University, Long Beach, working on a degree in psychology. Bill Clinton was elected president that year. It was the first presidential election in which I was able to vote. I was still dating Ron, though our relationship wasn’t great.

I wanted someone to love me the way Billy Joel did in “She’s Got a Way.” This song came out the year I was born and I don’t remember what brought it into my life 1n the ’90s. Probably heard it while hanging out with friends at a small bar in the Jolly Roger restaurant, at the Long Beach marina, where we’d go to see the cover band Flyer.

Overall there’s a very dark tone to this mixtape. The music is sad, moody and melancholy. The lyrics repeat themes of loneliness and hopelessness over and over… Is there anybody out there… Hey you… Wish you were here…

But now the sun shines cold
And all the sky is grey
The stars are dimmed by clouds and tears
And all I wish
Is gone away

– To Wish Impossible Things, The Cure (1992)

I was dealing with a lot at the time, struggling to come to terms with my abusive childhood, putting myself through school, working full time while also a full time student, living in a large, dangerous city. The Los Angeles riots happened in 1992.

Some songs show up again from previous tapes but now we start getting The Cure, Pink Floyd, baroque music, and Beauty and the Beast, which came out in 1991. I’ve had a brass Beast on my keychain to this day.

I have no idea why I included “Tara” by Roxy Music. The song was 10 years old at the time I made this tape, and I wasn’t a fan of the band or anything. But another eight years later, in 2000, I named my first child Tara.

Side one

Side two

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #5 – 1991

I found a box of tapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is straight from 1991, the year I moved back to Los Angeles and dated a guy named Ron while I went to university. The year of the Gulf War, Clarence Thomas, dissolution of the Soviet Union, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Most of the music is sampled in bits and pieces, as so many full-length songs wouldn’t fit on one tape otherwise.

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Who Wants to Live Forever (Queen, 1986)
Princes of the Universe (Queen, 1986)
It’s a Kind of Magic (Queen, 1986)
Englishman in New York (Sting, 1987)
Children’s Crusade (Sting, 1985)
Hotel California (Eagles, 1977)
Bring Him Home (Les Mis, 1985)
Red & Black (Les Mis, 1985)
In My Life (Les Mis, 1985)
One Day More (Les Mis, 1985)
Empty Chairs at Empty Tables (Les Mis, 1985)
Castle on a Cloud (Les Mis, 1985)
Blowing in the Wind (PP&M, 1963)
If You Leave (OMD, 1986)
Remember the Feeling (Chicago, 1984)
The Search is Over (Survivor, 1985)
Evening Falls (Enya)
Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds, 1965)
I Dreamed a Dream (Les Mis, 1985)
Somebody (Depeche Mode, 1984)
Guinevere (Camelot, 1967)
If I’d Ever Leave You (Camelot, 1967)
I Loved You Once In Silence (Camelot, 1967)
Sailing Ships (Whitesnake, 1989)
Take My Breath Away (Berlin, 1986)
Part of Your World (Little Mermaid, 1989)
Cuts Both Ways (Gloria Estafan, 1989)
If You Want (Depeche Mode, 1984)
In Time (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Robbie Robb, 1989)
Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel, 1966)
Take On Me (A-ha, 1984)
My Love I’ll Always Show (Stryper, 1986)
Twilight (ELO, 1981)
All for Love (Nancy Wilson, 1989)

Ron’s Songs:
The Ghost in You (The Psychedelic Furs, 1984)
Little Wing (Sting, 1987)
America (Simon & Garfunkel, 1968)
Scandalous (Prince, 1989)
Julia (John Lennon, 1968)
Twin Peaks theme (Angelo Badalamenti, 1990)
Falling (Julee Cruise, 1990)
One of my Turns (Pink Floyd, 1979)

~ J.L. Hilton

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Mixtape #4 – “North Meets South Enchanted Mix 1990″

I found a box of mixtapes I made in the 80s and 90s. This one is labeled “North Meets South Enchanted Mix 1990” and was made for my friend Dustin Woods after he moved away to Northern California. I lived in Southern California at the time.

Dustin was a deep, heartfelt, romantic and intelligent person who had a passion for vampires, swords, Dungeons & Dragons, Sting, history, mythology and classical music. He was handsome, like a young Nathan Fillion.

He and I both made cloaks like kids today might use for cosplay or larping, but back then there were very few people – far as we knew – who were doing that kind of stuff. When he still lived in the Mojave Desert, he would come over to my house in the evenings, usually around 10pm, we’d put on our cloaks and go for long walks in the dark, talking about everything under the stars. It was an odd thing, but we were comfortable being odd together.

Once, for shits and giggles, he drove me an hour away to Palm Springs, to cruise the strip at night, blasting Toccata and Fugue in D Minor the way other people blasted rock or rap music.

We were goth before we knew what goth was.

For a brief time, during the summer of 1988, we worked together at Baskin Robbins. At night, when we were closing, he would wheel out the mop bucket, beeping and whistling like a robot, and say, “Come along, R2.”

Though I had feelings for him, I never acted on them. I never thought I was good enough for him. He didn’t make me feel that way on purpose, he wasn’t arrogant or anything, totally the opposite. He just seemed like such a knight in shining armor, with a lovely family, while I was a messed up girl with an abusive family. We were both perpetually caught up in bad relationships with other people, for one reason or another, and then when he moved so far away it just wasn’t an option.

We eventually fell out of touch but he is fondly remembered.

Click here for more mixtapes 

Side One

  • Opens with something I called the “Vampire Mix,” which features the beginning of  Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, then jumps through various excerpts from “There’s a Moon Over Bourbon Street” and “They Dance Alone” by Sting, and “If I Close My Eyes Forever” by Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne
  • Love Bites” – Def Leppard (1986) full song
  • Then we skip around a bit through lyrics from “Heart of Stone” (Cher, 1989), “Fortress Around Your Heart” and “Englishman in New York” by Sting
  • The opening lines from “Jenny Wore Black” by Men Without Hats: “Jenny wore black, Jenny wore white, and Jenny was real, but almost not quite…”
  • It Cuts Both Ways” – Gloria Estefan, 1989
  • Unchained Melody” – instrumental version from the 1990 movie Ghost
  • Somebody” – Depeche Mode, 1984. Dustin and I used to talk a lot about our relationships and what we wanted out of life. This song reflects some of the things we talked about.
  • Drive” – The Cars, 1984
  • Part of Your World” – Little Mermaid, 1989. I think I was being a bit obvious here that I had a huge crush on him, but I also really loved this movie and the song itself. It had come out the year before and as an 18-year-old just entering the adult world, I related to Ariel’s longing.
  • Watermark” – Enya, 1988. This song is on the tape because Dustin gave me this album for my birthday. “Watermark” was the first song on the album of the same title and it brought me to tears the first time I heard it.

Side Two

  • Unchained Melody” – The Righteous Brothers, 1965
  • An excerpt from “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel, 1986: “Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart; When I want to run away, I drive off in my car…” 
  • Who Wants to Live Forever” – Queen, 1986
  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy” – Bobby McFerrin, 1988. A sort of palate cleanser after so much sad music, and a hope for my melancholy friend.
  • The First Time I Loved Forever” was the theme song for the live-action Beauty and the Beast TV show that ran from 1987 to 1990, starring Ron Perlman as Vincent (the Beast) and Linda Hamilton as Catherine (the Beauty). Some episodes were written by George R.R. Martin.

~ J.L. Hilton

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Imagine

I doodled this back in 1995 with pen & colored pencils. I still feel this way when “every night I lie in bed, the brightest colors fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake…”

~ J.L. Hilton

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