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Game Review

We frequently see studies focused on how video games can negatively impact players' lives. (Especially when it comes to young gamers playing graphically violent first-person shooters.) That research is important to bear in mind. Thankfully, not every game grabbing kids' attention these days falls into that problematic category.

Take Nintendo's Ever Oasis for example.

Gamers play as a male or female Seedling. These special creatures have the magical ability to link with something called a water spirit and create a life-sustaining Oasis in this land of golden dunes and blowing sands.

But a mysterious evil called Chaos has been waging war on Seedlings and their Oases. Chaos-infected plants and animals have been so successful in their consuming attacks that our Seedling and a water spirit called Esna are the last beacons of hope for the surviving good creatures roaming the sun-scorched wasteland.

Caring For the Many …

At first blush, this Nintendo 3DS title feels like a simple building game. When our Seedling and Esna link hands, a nice patch of palm trees pops into being. From there, it's up to us to manage things: keeping the grounds green and healthy; attracting desert wanderers into this nascent little town; using resources to grow organic booths and stores where residents can sell their merchandise, then fulfilling their requests. Each day we find items to help our endearing new friends make their wares and expand their businesses.

If that were the only task at hand, this would be a sweet-but-slow endeavor. But there's much more woven into the gaming tapestry here. While managing an expanding Oasis, our Seedling chief must also venture out into the desert to explore caves and dungeons, as well as gathering resources and useful bits of hidden treasure.

Soon, players discover that there's a whole lot of exploration, puzzle-solving and Chaos-besting RPG battles mingled into the gameplay mix here, too. Chaos can materialize in many malevolent forms, including evil snakes, lizards, bats, giant crabs and glowing-eyed kangaroo rats. We have to keep a careful eye peeled for some nasty plant life, too.

And as we look for powerful magical gems known as Lumites to push back that ever-encroaching evil, we also rescue those in need—including lizard-like Drauks and scorpion-like Serkahs, creatures who eventually become neighbors with beneficial puzzle-solving skill sets.

… and Bashing the Rest

Those monstery battles aren't messy, however. Foes may look dark and angry until we (and a couple of Oasis-recruited teammates) literally smack the bad out of them. Accordingly, weapons such as our sword, staff, slingshot and hammer only bash and never bloody. There's also no spoken dialogue in our interactions, so no worries over language. (Younger gamers will need to read a lot of subtitled text, though.)

In fact, the only negative worth mentioning is this game's fantasy magic milieu. Ever Oasis world brims with outlandish creatures, evil-possessed baddies, water spirits and the like. The Great Tree is spoken of as the source of life, and magic-imbued gems relinquish transforming powers.

However, if looked at through a more metaphorical lens, it's not difficult to spot positive spiritual parallels in the mix, too. The core conflict here contrasts the distinctly good versus a definite evil. The desert is a place of death, but through the self-sacrificial efforts of those who are kind and brave, new life sprouts and gives solace to many who suffer. And in the end, there's even a central character who makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to offer renewed life to one and all.

So while the spiritual reality in play in this game obviously isn't a biblical one, it wouldn't be difficult for parents to draw some compare-and-contrast parallels between the spiritual themes here and the Christian faith.

In our modern, rush-about world where good is often bad and bad is often good, Ever Oasis largely offers players an oasis of fun and engaging gameplay … without the pitfalls that frequently plague more edgy and violent titles.

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June 23, 2017

On Video

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Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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