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Smith: Too many games, not enough vacation

By now, most regular readers know I spend my vacations behind a controller.

This past week was no exception, but there was a lot more to it than that. My wife and I spent a lovely weekend in Moline, Illinois, taking in a live WWE wrestling show that got us out of the house for the weekend.

But I’m guessing my readers are more interested in the video games I played rather than the wrestlers I saw. I’m still working on a lot of them for upcoming reviews, and I figure now is as good a time as any for a sneak peek of my gaming vacation — game by game.

Most of them are new releases, but I can never resist playing a few old games on vacation. And I played far more than what’s listed here.

“Uncharted: The Lost Legacy” available exclusively for PlayStation 4

When an expansion of a previously released game grows so large that it has to be put on its own disc, I can’t help but grin. Not only do I enjoy meaty expansions, but that means I can rent it instead of paying for the online version.

This spin-off to “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” is everything I could have wanted in a swan song for the series. It came in the mail just a few days before my vacation started, and a couple of days later, I had already finished it.

I didn’t think I was ready for a treasure hunting trip in the jungle again, but even the most overworked premise can thrive with the proper execution.

“Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle” available exclusively for Switch

This is one of the reasons I took vacation. This intriguing mix of turn-based combat (ala “XCOM”) came out out a week before Labor Day, and has kept me glued to my Switch ever since. Who wouldn’t want a board game-esque strategy title that features the colorful Mario universe?

Plus, Mario has a gun. Sure, it’s an adorable hand cannon that occasionally shoots honey, but it’s still a gun. Only the zany humor of Mario and his pals make the violence seem less … violent.

I’m just sad that I’m getting close to finishing it.

“Yakuza Kiwami” available exclusively for PlayStation 4

This is the other reason I took vacation. In fact, it came out the same day as “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.”

I’ve written at length about how the January release of “Yakuza 0” sparked my passion for the “Yakuza” series, forcing me to purchase another PlayStation 3 just so I could play the older games in the series.

That makes this my fifth “Yakuka” title this year, and I’m still not tired of it. My attachment to Japanese culture certainly makes me biased (I studied Japanese for two years, and never got good at it), but who wouldn’t want to walk around Tokyo and get into random fights with hooligans?

“Yakuza Kiwami” is actually a remake of the original title released for PlayStation 2 in 2006 (2005 in Japan), filling in gaping story threads that stretch through every game in the franchise. I’ve got about 20 hours in right now, and I’m just getting started.

“The Evil Within” available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. Released in 2014.

I have a tendency to indulge in a bit of online shopping during my vacations. When I saw this horror title from Shinji Mikami (the creator of “Resident Evil”) on sale for $5, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m certainly not a horror game fanatic, but with Halloween around the corner, I’ve been in a particularly spooky mood.

I gave “The Evil Within” a quick rental when it was released three years ago, but never got hooked. I admired much of it, but this is game that demands to be played in darkness — preferably with some decent headphones.

Despite a few graphical and difficulty hang-ups, the game does a marvelous job of taking the survival-horror genre back to its roots. That means far less ammo than there are enemies, and a frail main character who can die in just a few hits.

In other words, I’m loving it. All I had to do was turn out the lights.

“Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy” available on PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. First released in 2001

Yet another deal I found online. I completely missed the lovable “Jak and Daxter” platforming series when it hit the PlayStation 2 back in 2001, and was able to find all three bundled together in an online edition for the PlayStation 4.

Since the games are so old, it cost me a grand total of $2.50.

Developed by Naughty Dog — the studio behind “Crash Bandicoot” and “Uncharted” — “Jak and Daxter” feels like a transition between the two big franchises. The sunny, island atmosphere and platforming owes a lot to “Crash Bandicoot,” while the combat and epic story telling reek of “Uncharted.”

I’ll be honest. As much as I enjoyed the history lesson, I only played the first “Jak and Daxter” for a few minutes. The camera control is a bit clunky, and I got lost nearly as soon as I started.

While not as treasured as the competing (and admittedly superior) “Ratchet and Clank” platforming series, “Jak 2″ and “Jak 3” are supposed to be better than the original. You can pick up a re-skin of the original on the PlayStation 4 store, but it will cost you $15.

“The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” available for Switch and Wii U

I’ve been playing this game since reviewing it in April, and I’m still playing it. Odds are, I’ll be playing it during my next vacation in December. It never ends.

Smith: Too many games, not enough vacation | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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