Dusty Shelves: “Back to Bed” Game Review

In “Dusty Shelves,” I review video games that I acquired years ago, but never (or barely) played them.

Back to Bed

Release Date: Aug. 6, 2014
Acquired On: Dec. 30, 2017
Genres: puzzle, casual, indie
My Rating:

Back to Bed is a short, 3D surreal puzzle game by indie developer Bedtime Digital Games. It’s one of those many Steam games that often costs $0.99 during sales, so if you’re patient, it won’t cost you much. Given how quickly you can finish the game, it isn’t worth its full price, in my opinion. I finished it in 90 minutes, and I’ve seen comments of others finishing it in one hour or less.

In Back to Bed, the goal is to guide a sleepwalker to their bed in each of the 30 levels available. The sleepwalker can only turn clockwise whenever he runs into a barrier. He’ll walk off of edges (which resets his position, but not the entire level) frequently on his own, so it’s up to you to intervene and navigate him safely to his bed. You do this by playing as a dog-like creature with a creepy humanoid face, moving apples to create barriers, and moving fish as well in later levels to create bridges.

Early on, the first nemesis is introduced: clocks. If the sleepwalker runs into them, he’ll wake up (which does reset the entire level). These are used in only two or three levels, then later on a similar “wake up” obstacle of a mean-looking dog is used for two or three levels. A couple of other dangers such as a man-eating hole in the floor and railroad tracks also appear, but only in a couple of levels each.

It’s not too tricky to get the sleepwalker to his goal. Sometimes you have to watch how he’s pathing for a while (footsteps will appear several tiles ahead of him to show his walking path) and maybe even let him walk off ledges while you’re busy getting things set up. Perhaps if the dangers had been used more frequently, especially in the later levels, the game would have been more of a challenge.

That’s not to say that I didn’t get stuck on a few levels. For those, I watched this walkthrough video by The Obsessed Gamer (it has no commentary, a bonus in my book). It was a bit gratifying to see them also make the same mistakes I was in the level, and eventually they would move a piece to somewhere I didn’t think of, and that would be my breakthrough to figuring out the rest.

Movement in Back to Bed can be clunky at times. You left-click to move, and when the special stairs that let you walk on walls appear, getting back on the stairs to leave the walls requires some precision. At times I also struggled with getting the apples or fish placed before the sleepwalker reached certain locations, but I think that was just me rushing and bumbling my movements.

The artwork was surreal, though got repetitive to look at after a while. I think that if the main tiles had different appearances from time to time, that would’ve diversified the environment enough to satisfy my tastes. There’s also no story at all to the game except words that basically tell you that the guy is sleepwalking through dreams. There’s a nightmare mode after you complete the game that, in theory, adds extra challenge to the levels. While I didn’t try it myself, some reviews I looked at commented that the nightmare mode made some stages easier because of the added objectives.

If you’re really into puzzle games, Back to Bed is a quick and fun diversion for you. However, if you’re looking for a game with story or diverse gameplay, I’d give it a hard pass.

TV Review: Bridgerton

Netflix’s new “Bridgerton” historical romance series has captured the worlds’ heart with its diverse and expansive cast of characters, exquisite ballrooms, carriages, fancy dresses, and even glimpses of Queen Charlotte. Oh, and sex. A lot of sex. (It’s tastefully done, but if you have an aversion to seeing sex scenes, this isn’t the show for you.)

By the end of January, more than 83 million viewers have watched “Bridgerton,” ranking it as Netflix’s most popular original release. The first season of the show is based off of the first book in Julia’s Quinn’s “Bridgerton” series titled “The Duke and I,” which originally released in 2000 and hit #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list, 21 years after its initial publication, on January 17.

The fake-relationship-turned-real-love story of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and the Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), takes the viewer on a roller-coaster ride through the trappings of 1800s England high society, from arranged marriages to propriety to duels to the importance of one’s lineage.

I read Quinn’s “The Duke and I” (quickly followed by the remainder of the series) back in 2015, and re-read the first “Bridgerton” book the week before the show launched to refresh my memory. Having followed show updates on social media throughout 2020, I was aware that the material would not be completely faithful to the book, that there would be modern tweaks and a diversity infused into high society that simply didn’t exist in England two centuries ago.

The show absolutely delivered, especially with the diversity: Queen Charlotte is played by Black actress Golda Rosheuvel (historians contend that the queen was mixed race), which allowed the showrunners to work in how the Black community obtained high standings in their fictional English society. The dresses have modern flair, and even some of the classical songs in ballroom scenes are actually modern songs reimagined into classical ballroom dance music.

​For me, changes like this are fine in the transition between a book and TV—as long as we’re getting the core plot and it’s entertaining, then the creators did their job well. Not all reader fans of the series felt the same. I saw comments from fans who refused to watch “Bridgerton” simply because one or more characters didn’t look as they envisioned they should, as well as fans who watched and vociferously complained about every little deviation from the book’s plot.

Two subplots were introduced in the TV show that don’t appear at all in the book: one subplot involving an illicit romance between Daphne’s eldest brother, Anthony, and an opera singer, and a subplot involving a major secret that the Featheringtons’ (neighbors of the Bridgertons) cousin, Marina Thompson, is harboring. Anthony’s subplot seemed to be more filler and made him act out-of-character compared to his characterization in the books, whereas Marina’s subplot was a clever way to introduce characters and a story that will involve one of the later Bridgerton sibling romances. These additions did something essential for TV viewers: they provided a much more engaging story experience compared to what the result would have been had the show been 100% faithful to the book (because who actually wants to watch Simon and Daphne ignoring each other for two months?).

Most importantly was the core plot of Simon and Daphne’s relationship. They begin as strangers, who become friends that concoct a fake courtship to ease both their circumstances in society: Daphne starts getting attention from better suitors and Simon has less women pawing over him. Simon doesn’t want marriage and children, while Daphne wants it all. They’re quite happy helping one another until something new and unexpected gets in the way: love. The pair struggle through the trials of a real and unexpected relationship with each other. All the riches in England (which I imagine Simon has a lot of, his houses—yes, plural—are ridiculously huge) doesn’t make the journey any easier for Simon and Daphne.

Accompanying each episode are narrations from a gossip writer, known only as Lady Whistledown, voiced by Julie Andrews (who does not appear on screen). Whistledown keeps tabs on everything in high society and has no fear of dragging someone through the mud (or, occasionally, praising them). Her rumors propel some of the plot and even become an obsession of Queen Charlotte. Unlike the book series, which doesn’t reveal Whistledown’s identity in “The Duke and I,” viewers get the satisfaction of discovering who she really is during the final episode of season one.

In the end, despite all the glitz and glamour and sex and rumors and fighting, historical romance is known for its theme of love overcoming the odds, resulting in a happily-ever-after. The characters discover who they are and who they want to be, and for each other, they become the best versions of themselves. It’s a theme that is echoed in the real world, in our dreams and desires for our own happily-ever-afters. It’s a theme of hope that we all desperately need right now.

Review: Flame

Book CoverFlame by Donna Grant
My Rating: 2 Stars
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Flame is book #17 in Donna Grant’s Dark Kings series. I’m going to start with a disclaimer: when I requested an ARC of this book on Netgalley, I had no idea it was so deep in a series as the cover and title did not indicate as such. This is the first book I’ve read in Dark Kings and my opinions are likely skewed by that fact.

Living among the Dragon Kings, Cain has spent lifetimes learning to distrust both mortals and Fae. He is a warrior born—and every instinct demands that he fight to keep his own kind safe. But when a fringe member of the Dark Fae contacts the Kings with an urgent warning, Cain is torn for the first time. How can he trust this beautiful creature when resisting his primal attraction to her is battle enough?

Noreen is horrified by what her kind and the malevolent Others are planning for the Dragon Kings. Dark Fae or not, there are lines she will not cross—even if it means risking her life. But she never imagined that she would risk her heart until she meets Cain. She wants him with a soul-deep desire that frightens her…and endangers them both. Is saying goodbye to everything Noreen has ever known worth a love that will span time and realms?

Flame is backstory heavy, which was helpful to someone who didn’t read the prior books. The fantasy setting, alternate Earth setting, and various types of magical people were described and thought-out quite well. The epilogue did a good job of setting the stage for the next book in the series.

However, after a few chapters of backstory it began to feel like bloat that an editor should have suggested large cuts to, and combined with lack of action and development by the main characters, it made this book difficult to get invested in. Continue reading “Review: Flame”

Review: In the Dark With the Duke

Book CoverIn the Dark With the Duke by Christi Caldwell
My Rating: 4 Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: June 9, 2020
Formats: Kindle Unlimited, eBook, Paperback

In the Dark With the Duke is book #2 in the Lost Lords of London series, and features a supporting character from one of Caldwell’s 2019 releases, The Spitfire. It can be read as a standalone, but reading The Spitfire first will give further insight into Lila’s growth as a character.

Lady Lila March is spunky and tenacious by night and filled with terror by day. Her past trauma from the events at Peterloo, where she was trampled during a military crackdown against the lower class, has scarred her both figuratively and literally. Lila seeks a way to cope in the world so that she doesn’t feel quite so helpless, and that connects her with Hugh Savage.

Hugh has experienced a life of violence and shame. He loathes what made him the man he is today, yet is still drawn to Lila’s entreaty for help. Events unfold that change his life in drastic ways and he must determine what from his past to hold onto, and what toxic pieces are worth shedding.

Both Hugh and Lila have good character growth in this story. They both have troubled pasts and demons, and while those will continue to haunt them, it bridged a connection between the two and allowed them to move forward in their lives.

In the Dark With the Duke starts out slow but picks up its pace about nine chapters in. It continues the discovery of the lost lords of London, revealing that the underground network of stolen noble children may be deeper than anticipated in Caldwell’s previous books (the first lost lord was found in the Wicked Wallflowers series).

I feel like a broken record at this point with Caldwell’s books, but I’ll say it again: the book needs an epilogue. We’re left not knowing what happens with Hugh’s partners or the antagonist of the book, and since both were involved in the plot, no epilogue leaves the ending feeling rushed and unresolved. (Don’t worry, there’s still a HEA. I’m just picky and want to know how everything works out, not just the relationship.)

In the Dark With the Duke is available now in eBook and paperback formats.

I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: When You Wish Upon a Rogue

Book CoverWhen You Wish Upon a Rogue by Anna Bennett
My Rating: 3.5-Stars
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Formats: eBook ($8), Paperback ($6)

When You Wish Upon a Rogue is book #3 in Anna Bennet’s Debutante Diaries series (see my review of book #2). Like the previous entry, the pacing in which the two main characters’ relationship grew was done well. Also like the previous entry, the circumstances that thrusts them together is too far-fetched, which seemed unnecessary since they are both in the same social circle.

Miss Sophie Kendell must marry for money, not love, to save her family. She’s agreed to marry a marquess, Lord Charles Singleton, in two months time, a situation she’s unhappy with but resolved to do. Henry Reese, the Earl of Warshire (who is referred to as “Reese” throughout the book), is plagued with the grief of losing his older brother and the circumstances that arose when he left the war to take over the earldom. When Sophie, who runs the Debutante Underground society, seeks out a new, suitable location for its growing numbers, she meets Reese and though it’s a rocky start, she affects him in a way he hasn’t experienced in a long time.

She helps him fall asleep.

That’s the premise that brings Reese to seek out Sophie again—a request to, at least once a week, help him sleep. Not sleep together in a sexual way, but to offer her presence so that Reese can simply evade the nightmares and feel like a person once again, however briefly. Like I said, it’s far-fetched, but it allows the two to spend time together and get to know each other.

The story has a lovely connection with flowers. They become an integral part to building their relationship and offer an organic element to how it builds over time. Reese is cunning and tenacious, growing as a character to work past, or at least with, his demons. Sophie isn’t a shy miss, takes her married friends’ advice, and was both forthcoming and cautious about the realities of her and Reese’s situation early on. It was refreshing to see Reese respect her boundaries even as their feeling grew.

When You Wish Upon a Rogue takes you on a romantic journey through Sophie and Reese. It’s a story that reminds us that not all is lost, even if the odds seem against you. The book is a fast read that will sweep you into their little corner of London and leave you feeling warm inside. It is part of the Debutante Diaries series, but can be read as a standalone.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Note: I have additional end-of-book spoiler commentary on my Goodreads review (since there’s no tag to hide those comments here). I suggest avoiding it prior to reading the book unless you want the resolution to the story completely spoiled.

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