Tag: gaming

The High Score: ‘Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ Game Review

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


Title: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Price: $59.99 (Deluxe Edition available for $79.99; Collector’s Edition for $99.99)

Product Pairing: Blueberry Trainwreck by Pioneer Nuggets and Presidential Kush by Avitas

Summary: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is the third installment in the the Wolfenstein reboot by MachineGames and Bethesda Software. This cinematic first-person shooter feels like a mashup of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards and the newest version of Doom. The gratuitous violence and bloody combat animations emphasize the relentless rage of your character (and main protagonist), B.J. Blazkowicz, as he wields all manner of modifiable firearms in service of the Kreisau Circle (and the forthcoming revolution of the subjugated United States.)

Lend Me Your Wings

(Bethesda Softworks)

For those of you just entering the series, The New Colossus follows the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order (and the stand-alone prequel, Wolfenstein: Old Blood). B.J. Blazkowicz, who presumably died at the end of the The New Order, awakens to his friends and comrades airlifting him from Deathshead’s compound shortly before the facility is nuked. B.J.’s body is badly damaged, but with a little help from his friends and some ancient technology, he manages to rejoin the ranks of the resistance.

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The New Colossus abducts B.J.’s successes from the previous game and questions their overall effectiveness against The Reich, Frau Engel (our antagonist), and the massive Nazi war-machine that managed to cripple the United States in 1948 after dropping an atomic bomb on Manhattan. The New Colossus leads Blazkowicz through the objectively disgusting Nazi-tinted settings of Roswell, the irradiated streets of Manhattan, the walled off ghetto of New Orleans, and further to rekindle the fire of the resistance and the sheepish America people. These settings are beautifully rendered and meticulously enriched with small, telling details that give this horrid, alternate future an eerie air of possibility.

Overall, The New Colossus continues to reanimate and advance the Wolfenstein series with masterful craftsmanship. The facial animations, voice acting, story development, graphical presentation, and adrenaline fueled gameplay make this game a must for Wolfenstein faithfuls and single-player FPS fanatics. That being said, I wish the game was just a little longer. While the crescendo of Wolfenstein 2 led to a rewarding narrative conclusion, the bigger curiosities and questions brought up regarding war-ending technologies and the lore surrounding them remained unanswered. This made the game feel like an interlude that stitched the torso of The New Order to the legs of The New Colossus, which was then put back on ice.

Gameplay and Level Design

(Bethesda Softworks)

Score: 7/10

Level design is vivid and, for the most part, full of life. The design did seem to lose some of its visual flair after the initial missions, becoming a series of elaborate hallways that led into other hallways. The mini map and my endless search of collectibles encouraged me to explore and re-explore sections of the game I had played through, though the pleasure turned into drudgery at some point.

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The hatchet-throwing mechanics are responsive and feel powerful, like the bladed boomerang in RAGE. I would have loved to see an upgrade for the hatchet, but this didn’t detract from the joy of tomahawking Nazis from the shadows. I’ve never been much for hobbies, but I think my new hobby is throwing hatchets. Also, the fluid dual-wielding mechanic elevates B.J. from standard revolutionary to Rambo-like angel of death. Silenced pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers can all be dual-wielded with devastating and hilarious effects. I can imagine this mechanic would have made or broke multiplayer in glorious fashion.

There are tons of collectibles that offer a glimpse into the secret communications of characters throughout the “American Territories” as well as concept art, characters models, and more. Areas can be revisited through unique assassination contracts discovered post-credits, which lengthens the replay value of the game just a touch while hardcore players wait for the DLC.

Story and Character Development

(Bethesda Softworks)

Score: 9/10

This is a well-crafted single-player FPS that doesn’t need multiplayer ranking or gimmicks to keep the player’s attention. Seeing a big budget studio devote time to storytelling and thoughtful presentation should please gamers of all genres.

Both dialogue and voice acting are superb, and the story is carried by these performances and the writing that supports them. The tone created by Blazkowicz’ internal monologue magnifies the appalling reality that confronts him as he survives the unbearable loss of his comrades and the cruelty of his foes. His macabre quotations and painful awareness of war’s brutal cost are contrasted by the awesome ass-kicking he perpetrates against his enemies.

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Humor and sadness are difficult to balance in any narrative, but especially so when Nazis and the implications of Nazism are central to that narrative. This game and its characters are written in such brilliant and vivacious fashion that their laugh-out-loud weirdness eclipses the bloodstains and cruelty of the setting just long enough to amplify and re-amplify the player’s call-to-action.

The Woodshed

(Bethesda Softworks)

First, the game’s length felt short. I know FPS’s run about 15 hours in play-time these days, but I managed to finish the game with 48% completion and 24/50 achievements in just over 11 hours. I guess this gripe comes simply from my desire for more immersive Nazi ass-kicking.

Second, there is no multiplayer. This isn’t a big deal for me, but I know it’s a deal-breaker for some. In a quote from MachineGames’ Tommy Tordsson Björk said, “The only way we can create these super immersive narrative experiences is if we can solely focus on the single-player.”

While this game is great, it is not completely flawless. There was some texture pop-in and a few minor glitches, but nothing that crashed the game or detracted heavily from the overall experience. I can understand some flaws in a game with the scope of Fallout or Skyrim, but not in a short-form shoot ’em up like this.

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Final Verdict

(Bethesda Softworks)

Score: 8/10

Buy this game if you enjoyed The New Order (or Doom) and are a fan of fast-paced first person shooters. If you’re looking for multiplayer FPS action, look elsewhere.

After the credits, the player can choose to undertake assassination missions and minor tasks that help the crew. Allowing the character to revisit settings squeezes a bit more juice from the game, but doesn’t contribute much to the overall story of Blazkowicz or the subjugated United States. This is an opportunity to gather collectibles and crush some achievements, but what I am waiting for is the DLC that drops on November 7th.  Entitled The Freedom Chronicles, these standalone missions place players in the shoes of three different freedom fighters:

  • The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe: As former professional quarterback Joseph Stallion, smash through Nazi hordes from the ruins of Chicago to the vastness of space.
  • The Diaries of Agent Silent Death: As ex-OSS agent and assassin Jessica Valiant, infiltrate Nazi bunkers in California and discover the secrets of Operation San Andreas.
  • The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins: As the US Army’s renowned hero Captain Gerald Wilkins, embark on a mission to Nazi-controlled Alaska to dismantle Operation Black Sun.

Stay tuned for another round of The High Score and Wolfenstein 2: Freedom Chronicles.

The High Score: ‘Super Mario Odyssey’ Game Review

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


Title: Super Mario Odyssey

Available On: Nintendo Switch

Price: $59.99

Product Pairing: Happy Apple cannabis-infused apple cider and XJ-13 by Freddy’s Fuego

Summary: In 1996, Nintendo released Super Mario 64, a groundbreaking open world platformer that added a third dimension to a traditionally 2D world. Woven into the fabric of many childhoods, Super Mario 64 remains a nostalgic staple that would give rise to other titles in the franchise, including Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. This past weekend, the highly anticipated Super Mario Odyssey dropped on the recently released Nintendo Switch. Scoring perfect or near-perfect scores among major critics, I had very high hopes for Nintendo’s largest title release since The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild back in March.

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Three, Two, One Blast Off

(Nintendo)

Cracking open a cold cannabis-infused apple cider and filling my lungs with the sweet lemon-lime smoke of XJ-13, I was straight-up giddy as Super Mario Odyssey booted up with a stunning cinematic intro. The rich colors and stunning textures felt new and unique to the Nintendo Switch without breaking away from the distinct aesthetic cultivated over decades.

True to form, the game takes a few short minutes to set up the narrative: Peach is once again kidnapped by Bowser and must be rescued by Mario lest she be married to a large turtle against her will. But the spin that separates Odyssey from its predecessors is the added element of an animated hat named Cappy, who you can throw around as a weapon or as a tool for “possessing” the bodies of your enemies. You’ll spend the entirety of the game solving puzzles using this novel aspect as you take the shape of Goombas, Chain Chomps, Cheep Cheeps, and many other strange creatures native to the classic imagination of Mario’s world.

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Immersion and Atmosphere

(Nintendo)

Score: 9/10

I never held Nintendo to the same graphic standards as Xbox or Playstation, but since getting the Switch, all that has changed. With Super Mario Odyssey, Nintendo demonstrates that even cartoonish animations can be stunning in their own right. The attention to graphic detail can be found everywhere, from the fine textures of the sand to the mirrored reflections in Bowser’s metal boot. I can say with certainty that the sensitizing and immersive effects of XJ-13 paired perfectly with this strange, beautiful space.

Not only is this game visually astounding on the micro level, the macro environments are brilliantly built, too. Traveling through time and space across deserts, lakes, and cities all the way to the moon, there’s no section of the map that underwhelms. Even sights on the distant horizon have the ability to wow you, defining borders and distance with more realism than you’d ever expect from a Mario game.

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Super Mario Odyssey has a soundtrack that spans many styles of music, for better or for worse. The game opens with an amazing orchestral score that sounds written by some sky god vacationing in Italy, a symphonic sound that defines most of its soundscapes. But in what seems an overzealous attempt to be hip, Super Mario Odyssey drops a few out-of-place cringe-tastic songs, including one that sounds like it was performed by a K-Pop Josie and the Pussycats garage cover band.

But overall, Nintendo’s designers and animators really flexed their skills with Super Mario Odyssey, painting a breathtaking environment that will surely go down as a hallmark in the franchise.

Gameplay

(Nintendo)

Score: 8/10

As you drop into the game and explore controls, you’ll soon realize Super Mario Odyssey flies closest to Super Mario 64 than any sequel since. Mario’s movements and objectives are nostalgically similar to that of the 1996 classic as he leaps, jumps, and skids across puzzles to find “moons,” which are essentially rebranded stars from the original. Once you find enough moons, you are granted passage to the next area on the map.

The motion controls, enabled by the Switch’s two joy cons, are the largest deviation from the gameplay of the Nintendo 64 original, as you have to swing and nudge the controllers using various motion commands. The responsiveness of the controllers can be a bit finicky, sometimes confusing two different but similar motion commands.

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An endlessly entertaining aspect of this game is the many dorky outfits Mario can wear. Ever dream about Mario wearing nothing but boxers and a cowboy hat? Well, thanks to Super Mario Odyssey, your fantasy is now reality—if you collect enough coins, that is. Achieve wealth and your Mario can become a city slicker, a sailor boy, the Michelin Man, an obnoxious tourist, an American patriot, and so many other personas. It’s truly one of the most rewarding aspects of this game.

The storyline can easily be completed in a single weekend, taking just about 12 hours (maybe 15 if you’re as stoned as I was). However, don’t curse at the credits as they roll by, thinking Nintendo’s swindled you out of $60 for such a short game. There’s plenty of post-story content (up to 40 hours of gameplay) and new worlds to explore even after you’ve successfully torn Peach from the claws of poor, forever-alone Bowser.

Characters and Plot

(Nintendo)

Score: 9/10

The characters and plot of any given Mario game are as flat and two-dimensional as the original 1983 Mario Bros. But giving this game a compelling plot or intriguing characters would feel almost irreverent to its long-standing history of cutting the storyline bullshit and getting right into the action.

That being said, we’re left to evaluate this game based on the low standards it has established for itself over the years. Sure, bringing to life a piece of clothing and granting it powers of possession is a random and entertaining twist on an otherwise static plot. But here’s what I loved most: Many characters felt hilariously out of place, like the dinosaur that looks like a Turok copy-and-paste, or the realistic Sims-like humans of the metro kingdom that make Mario look like a small, disproportionate alien man. I found these anachronisms to be all the more endearing as they cemented Super Mario Odyssey in my mind as a strange, psychedelic delight I won’t be putting down any time soon.

All in all, Super Mario Odyssey has proven to be a standout game in the history of Super Mario titles. With so few titles available on this young console, why not treat yourself to a game that will awaken your inner child while still challenging your intelligence and dexterity?

The High Score: 6 Horror Games to Play Lit Up With Lights Out

Sometimes, the passive watching of horror films isn’t enough. You need full immersion into horrifying virtual worlds, where you’re fighting for your life against terrors both physical and psychological. As October rolls in with darker, drearier days, there’s no better time to begin exploring the scary titles that will startle and disturb you in the best ways possible. And what better way to sink into terrifying atmospheres than with the sensitizing effects of cannabis? Grab a bowl of whatever strain that makes your heart thump and switch the lights off—we’re headed straight into the virtual hells of these six unforgettable horror games.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent

(Frictional Games)

Console: PS4, PC, Mac

Strain Pairing: Amnesia. Beyond the shared name, this mind-warping, thought-twisting sativa strain is a perfect companion for the game, plucking your mind from your body and steeping it in the disorienting, monster-infested horror-scapes of Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Amnesia is a psychological survival-horror game that still gives me chills seven years after its original release. In it, you open your eyes to a dark mansion with zero context as to who you are, where you are, or where you’re going. Equipped only with an oil lantern that drains with use, your primary enemy in this walk-through horrorscape is insanity—a force that depletes your mental fortitude, like an HP bar, with each step into pitch darkness. Unfamiliar sounds and vague outlines in the shadows scratch away at your character’s sanity like a ghostly fingernail—and if you let yourself sink deep enough, you might find your own heart pounding at the same elevated, anxious rhythm.

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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

(Capcom)

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Strain Pairing: Night Terror OG. You’re going to need this indica for its power to soothe your screams and relax shaking hands.

It’s family fun night over at the Bakers’ plantation in the newest Resident Evil installation, Biohazard! Playing as civilian Ethan Winters, you’re no combat hero—just a sad husband searching for his missing wife in an old, blood-encrusted farmhouse inhabited by the Baker family (who have all inherited the insanity gene) along with other monstrosities called “The Molded.” Breaking away from the action-focused Resident Evil 5 and 6, this first-person survival-horror aims its efforts on exploration, item interactivity, stunning graphics, and of course, scaring the absolute shit out of you.

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Dead Space 2

(Electronic Arts)

Console: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Strain Pairing: Alien Hallucination. This dizzying hybrid strain dishes out a trippy head high that will whip the gravity out from under you.

In this sequel to the 2008 original, Isaac Clarke is back to slice and dice more hellish aliens plaguing the Saturn space station, Sprawl. This survival-horror isn’t the latest in the series, but fans cling to this sequel for its bone-chilling ambiance that gets your heart thumping through long, dark hallways and around unpredictable corners. Taking place three year after the original storyline, the terror of Dead Space 2 is driven in part by the post-traumatic stress of the protagonist who must, once again, face extraterrestrial horrors that can only be defeated by strategic dismemberment.

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The Evil Within 2

(Bethesda Softworks)

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Strain Pairing: Monster Cookies. Being chased by a giant, deformed monster with a chainsaw calls for a nice, soothing indica with panic-taming attributes.

Remember the gore-soaked nightmare that was The Evil Within (2014)? Well, the pants-poopin’ good times are back with the sequel, The Evil Within 2. Released just days ago, this grotesque third-person shooter continues the story of protagonist Sebastian Castellanos, whose sanity has gone through the wringer after his experiences at the Beacon Mental Hospital (in the original game), the disappearance of his wife, and supposed death of his daughter. This nightmarish world comes fully stocked with monsters bearing vague resemblance to something once human. A true survival-horror game dreamed up in the bottommost layer of hell, Evil Within 2 taps into our most primitive adrenal instinct of fight-or-flight while tickling the senses with sickly creative figments of psychedelic horror.

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Inside

(Playdead)

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, iOS

Strain Pairing: Lucid Dream. This awakening hybrid strain brings curiosity to the senses, providing a perfect pair for this game’s artistic ambiance and darkly intriguing plot.

Let’s turn the terror down several notches: Inside is an indie puzzle-platformer that uses brilliant light and shadow effects to achieve a monochromatic but richly stunning atmosphere. From the same folks that made Limbo, this linear game suspends you into a narrative without context: You’re a nameless young boy sliding down a rocky hill into a series of surreal and strange scenarios, and the final destination is a place is one you won’t soon forget (and that is all I will say about it). Demanding only about four hours of your time from start to finish, Inside can sooner be compared to a comic book than a novel, and I can think of few better ways to spend a stoney, rainy evening inside.

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P.T.

(Konami)

Console: PS4

Strain Pairing: White Nightmare – This sativa’s stimulating cerebral effects will have your mind and heart racing while sharpening your senses to the interactive puzzles that demand both creativity and patience.

P.T. – short for “playable teaser” – makes this list solely as an honorable mention as it is sadly no longer available for download (sooo find a friend who has it). Directed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Torro, this temporary teaser released in 2014 was intended to introduce Silent Hills, the next installment of the Silent Hill series, before all plans for the game were cancelled. P.T. was a short, first-person horror “game” that involved repeatedly walking down a single hallway and foyer. Each loop brought something new and hideously terrifying to confront, whether by sound or sight. Driven by difficult puzzles that took many players days or weeks to solve, P.T. was a psychological challenge in more ways than one.

The High Score: ‘Cuphead’ Video Game Review

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


Title: Cuphead

Available On: Xbox One, Windows

Price: $19.99

Product Pairing: Oleum Chem Taffy Select Sugar Wax, a terpene-heavy hybrid hash oil

Summary: Released September 29, Cuphead is a challenging run and gun indie platformer with a unique animation style inspired by 1930s cartoons. Play solo or co-op as Cuphead and Mugman, two brothers who must win back their souls after losing a deal with the devil. Navigate stages within different worlds and prepare for boss battle after boss battle–no level is “easy” in Cuphead. You’ll definitely want need cannabis on tap for this game: not only will it tame inevitable frustration and rage, its focusing, pace-altering attributes can pull victory closer within arm’s reach. (Hopefully.)

Three, Two, One Blast Off

(StudioMDHR Entertainment)

When Cuphead was announced at this year’s E3 convention, it was nowhere near the top of my must-play list. But since I’m constantly looking for ways to validate the purchase of my Xbox One, I figured it’d be worth a try for $19.99. Little did I know I’d spend at least half of my weekend playing it–and all of Monday wishing I was playing it.

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Striking a nostalgic chord for anyone who grew up with Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, Cuphead draws direct inspiration from both. Its parry of boss battles conjures memories of Mushroom Kingdom castles and scuffles with King K. Rool, giving the occasional nod to either Nintendo staple through familiar remixed soundtracks and borrowed bosses (you’ll recognize a reincarnated Necky and Gnawty in the first half of the game).

In spite of these most welcome overlaps, Cuphead carves out its own original world reserved for only the most dedicated platform gamers.

Animation and Atmosphere

(StudioMDHR Entertainment)

Score: 9/10

In an era where realism is often considered the high watermark for game designers, Cuphead creates a league of its own, traveling back in time to champion the grainy, vintage look of a 1930s Fleischer-esque cartoon. Using traditional, old school animation techniques and original jazz/ragtime/big band scores, this game’s loyalty to the era makes it easy to sink deeply in historical immersion.

Cuphead is composed of flat cel illustration animated atop stunning watercolor backgrounds, making this game as much a work of art as it is entertainment. Coercing louder “wow”s and “whoa”s with every new stage and character, it’s plain to see the game was derived from the pure passion of brothers/creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer and their small team.

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The masterfully crafted hard-lined animations are truly a visual delicacy, but they don’t always lend well to Cuphead’s chaotic, fast-paced gameplay, particularly when playing co-op. It can be difficult to discern Cuphead from Mugman, and the watercolor backgrounds are sometimes as bright and colorful as characters and deadly projectiles, causing objects in the foreground to “chameleon.”

Yes, the game would have been easier if colored with a less random, more contrastive palette, but then again, I suspect that Cuphead’s sadistic developers never intended to make this game anything but agonizing.

Gameplay

(StudioMDHR Entertainment)

Score: 8/10

Cuphead is hard. So hard that the only negative one-star reviews I’ve read are from gamers who physically lacked the ability to complete a level. It took me about 10 hours to make it halfway through the game, and I have no idea if I’m making good time or terrible time, but I don’t care–I’m enjoying myself despite the stream of profanities ever flowing from my mouth.

Each stage takes about 2 to 5 minutes to successfully complete–but how many attempts will it take? My partner and I have collectively died 700 times, and I expect that number to triple in the second half of the game. There are no checkpoints, no opportunity to regain HP, and no damage meter on your enemies. The difficulty of this game demands careful strategy, flawless collaboration, and impeccable technical precision, testing you in new ways every level.

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To my surprise, cannabis paired magnificently with this game and I found myself taking a dab of the Oleum wax whenever I got stuck or overly frustrated. Time seemed to slow ever so slightly, and I felt more reactive to the dance of projectiles and strikes coming at me. Being high helped me see the rhythmic patterns and flow of every enemy as well as new creative solutions whenever I hit a rut.

As frustrating as this game can be, Cuphead is massively addicting. There are unlockable guns and perks that incentivize you to keep pushing forward. When you fail a level, a progress bar appears, showing you how close you were to victory and you think, “So close. Better try once more.” Then an hour passes. Maybe two. You finally beat the level and celebrate as if you’ve just won the Superbowl. Confetti falls, you shower your partner with Gatorade, etc., and then you ride that high into the next level once again.

Characters and Plot

(StudioMDHR Entertainment)

Score: 9/10

The plot of Cuphead is simple; as simple as Mario and Luigi rescuing a princess, and as simple as Donkey Kong rescuing his banana hoard. There’s a brief cinematic cut at the beginning that establishes the plot: the devil won your soul in a bet and you have to go recover it. You’re barely immersed in any additional plot development until the end, but Cuphead still manages to build a rich, vibrant, and interesting world without taking the gamer out of the action.

Where this game truly shines is in its character designs. You’ll encounter brilliantly designed, emotive enemies like an angry slot machine that spits out obstacles based on your spin, a vulture with cuckoo clock armor, a shapeshifting genie, and many more bosses oozing with creativity (which you can watch in this mind-blowing no-damage speed run). Anticipation is something no battle is without as the bosses grow and evolve in phases over the course of a level, blooming into newly impressive forms that will punch the “whoaaaaaa” utterances straight out of you.

Cuphead is an instant classic in my book, sending its players back in time not only to a pre-war era we never lived, but also to childhood where basic platformers were virtually all we ever played. As technology steers us straight toward immersive virtual reality consoles, Cuphead reminds us of simpler days preserved by memorable characters and unforgettable 2D worlds.

The High Score: 8 Visually Stunning Video Games to Explore While Stoned

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


Few things go together better than cannabis and immersive, atmospheric video games. Whether they’re impeccable imitations of reality or stunning worlds of animated imagination, recent years have treated us to many graphic masterpieces to get lost in. Here are eight that ranked at the top of our list here at Leafly, but the recommendations could go on and on. Share yours in the comments section!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Remastered in 2016)

(Bethesda Softworks)

Console: Xbox One, PS4, PC 

Few games live up to the atmospheric standards set by Skyrim, which first debuted in 2011. Since then, its makers have remastered it and blessed console players with the ability to stack on additional mods, which take an already breathtaking game to the uppermost echelon of visual achievement. Even the soundtrack sings its way into the very fabric of Skyrim’s landscape, adding a beautifully hypnotic tone to the game’s wildlands.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)

(Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Console: PS4

Uniting environments of fantasy and sci-fi, Horizon: Zero Dawn is a game that masterfully paints a sublime world of civilization reclaimed by nature. The juxtaposition of a Viking-like society and robotic dinosaurs is disorienting in the best way possible, and it keeps you pushing deeper and deeper through the striking landscapes as you seek to answer the question of “what the heck happened here?” You can almost feel the breeze of this game, as winds run through grasses and Aloy’s hair to create detailed atmospheric movement.

Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (2015)

(CD Projekt)

Console: Xbox One, PS4, PC

The world of the Witcher series is not only rich with mythological creatures derived from Slavic folklore, the landscapes that house them will have you wanting to roam the animated outdoors for hours on end. Inspired by geographies and architecture of Scandinavia, Poland, Russia, and many other real-world locations, Witcher 3 rebuilds these places with radiant detail given to light and textures.

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Uncharted 4 (2016)

(Sony Computer Entertainment)

Console: PS4

If you’re a sucker for realism, look no further than Uncharted 4. The places you’ll be swept off to may be unfamiliar, but the convincing imitation of real life will make you feel like you’re actually there. Giving attention to details as small as splinters of wood, kicked-up dust, and the flashing spark of a bullet against metal, the game often feels more like a live-action movie that you control.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (2013)

(Nintendo)

Here’s a nod to a game that’s a bit older than the flashy games of recent memory―although it did get an HD remaster in 2013. Originally released in 2002 on Nintendo’s awkward turn-of-the-century Gamecube, The Wind Waker demonstrated that not all immersive, explorative games had to march toward realism. It took a brave step away from the more “mature” artistic style and story of masterstrokes Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time, but gave players a wide open sea to explore by boat. Its artistic, cartoonish animation style already gave the game timeless qualities, but the added detail and textures of the HD remaster make it an even more accessible game to revisit.

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Final Fantasy XV (2016)

(Square Enix)

Console: Xbox One, PS4, PC

I’ve somehow never played Final Fantasy XV, but having seen the stunning screenshots, I knew it belonged on this list. So take it from our customer service specialist, Natalie: “The Final Fantasy franchise has never been lacking in unique stories with equally well-executed graphics/artwork, but what set FFXV apart for me is the massive open world concept complete with unique biomes and ecosystems. My two favorite visual aspects of the game are the realistic light/shadow effects used for day to night transitions (check out the sky at night in a dark lit area!), and the intense, cinematic boss battle immersions that affect everything from the landscapes to the weather during combat.”

Abzu (2016)

(505 Games)

Console: Xbox One, PS4, PC

Abzu is another video game that steeps the player into an environment generated from artistic imagination as opposed to mimicries of reality. You’re a scuba diver exploring the colorful undersea realms swarming with schools of fish, forests of kelp, and other ocean wildlife. Leaks of light spill from the surface, illuminating your environment with bright rods. The graphic atmosphere is not altogether unlike No Man’s Sky, but you’ll likely wrap this game up in just a few short hours. If you’re looking for a visually astonishing experience without much commitment, this is your game.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

(Nintendo)

Console: Nintendo Switch, Wii U

This list would not be complete without one of the most accoladed games in recent years, Breath of the Wild. With a map that seems limitless at the start, players will see thousands of gorgeous sunsets and sunrises before finally reaching Calamity Ganon. There’s almost no surface you can’t climb, which means you’re constantly standing on mountain peaks gaping at miles upon miles of breathtaking landscape. Shadows stretch and contract with the sun’s movement. Nature sways and steadies with the changing weather. Though enemies and boss battles become repetitive with time, the ever-changing landscapes and immaculate atmospheric detail are what make this game truly phenomenal.

The High Score: The Best Nintendo 64 Games to Revisit as a Stoned Adult

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


Who could forget the feeling of tearing back wrapping paper to reveal the box of the legendary Nintendo 64? Children foamed at the mouth with rabid euphoria, an emotion few of us have been able to replicate in our adult lives. At this very moment, my Nintendo 64 remains plugged in alongside the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. My love for this console is undying, especially as an adult who regularly enjoys reverting to a childlike state with the help of cannabis.

I know I’m not alone when I say that N64 games are some of the best to return to as a stoned adult. Sure, the graphics make everything and everyone look a bit polygonal, and yes, the controller’s design still puts you at risk for carpal tunnel. But many of the games released are some of the best of all time (in my humble and completely biased opinion). So grab your pipe, your favorite strain, and your dusty old N64 (…or a simulator) and let’s get gaming.

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

Strain Pairing: Aliens on Moonshine – because that’s who/what I suspect designed this game to begin with. Its disorienting euphoria is also a perfect companion for this game’s strange, strange world.

It’s weird, it’s dark, it’s creepy, and it’s absolutely the most captivating N64 game to play while high. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask will make you feel like you’re in an alien’s nightmare with creatures and characters that look like they came from the deepest depths of some deranged imagination. And as you look up into the sky to find an evil, grinning, wide-eyed moon slowly descending to crush the entirety of mankind, you might wonder how you ever got through this game as a child without a calming indica strain.

Pokémon Snap

Strain Pairing: Cheese – Get it? You’re a photographer, so. (…Eh, I’ll see myself out.)

Now for something a little more lighthearted. Return to the world of Todd Snap, a photographer commissioned by Professor Oak, to go out and take photos of Pokémon doing adorable, whimsical things. Smoke up and try your best not to dissolve into a puddle of smiles and “dawww’s” as you bonk Charmander in the head with an apple or make Snorlax do the truffle-shuffle to the sound of your PokéFlute.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Strain Pairing: Timewreck – which basically sums up the musical-based time travel of this game; plus, the stimulating euphoric effects will have you immersed for hours.

Yes, another Zelda game. I know. But both Legend of Zelda games released on N64 were utter masterpieces. For me, Ocarina of Time demonstrates the tallest heights of creativity in gaming, from character design to music to plot to atmosphere. With a soundtrack so enchanting it’s been performed several times by symphonies around the world, this game’s story revolves around the power and mystery of song. Its characters range from darkly disturbing to endearingly hilarious, and they’ll lead you through Hyrulian lore so imaginative, leaving it will feel a lot like waking up from a dream.

Mario Party

 

Strain Pairing: Death Star – because guess what, you’re fighting to the death to become what Toad calls the “Superstar.” This indica will help slow time down, for better or for worse. You decide.

Oh, I remember the days when us third-graders would order a pizza and have ourselves a little Mario Party. Things haven’t changed much (other than adding a dab rig to the table), and even though there are now nine sequels to the game that started it all in 1998, I’m still forever loyal to the original. It’s simple and nostalgic, and who doesn’t love a little friendly* competition with friends?

*Disclaimer: this game can actually get vicious, so play at your own risk.

Mario Kart 64

Strain Pairing: Jet Fuel – this hybrid enhances performance through its focusing effects, and you can pretend it makes you zoom faster, too.

Whether or not you liked video games growing up, you probably remember some kid from your childhood forcing you to play Mario Kart 64 with him/her. And admit it, you had fun. Adding a layer of strategy through an artillery of shells, slippery bananas, and lightning bolts that shrink your enemies, Mario Kart 64 is much more than just a racing game. (Diddy Kong Racing and Star Wars Episode I: Racer were also great and you should play them, too.)

Goldeneye 007

Strain Pairing: AK-47 – because I think I remember guns being in this game (duh), and AK-47 is a magnificent hybrid strain that’ll ground you solidly in the couch while zoning in focus.

First-person shooters existed long before Goldeneye 007, but this game definitely provided many with their first experience in the genre. Whether you’re a skilled marksman or a hot mess spewing aimless bullets (me), Goldeneye 007 offered a playground of tactics from guns to grenades to landmines.

Banjo-Kazooie 

Strain Pairing: Transformer – a sharp cerebral strain perfect for gaming, Transformer also makes sense thematically when Banjo is given the option to transform into a walrus, a pumpkin, and, for some reason, a washing machine.

Banjo-Kazooie’s a puzzle platformer that is easy enough to enjoy while stoney baloney, and it arguably stands the test of time. You’re a shirtless bear who keeps a loudmouthed, cynical bird stuffed in his backpack. That’s Kazooie, and she’ll emerge now and then to poop out combat eggs or verbally accost other characters. The levels are sensibly designed and manageable in size, meaning you won’t be wandering anywhere long enough to forget where you’re going or what you’re doing.

Super Mario 64

Strain Pairing: Skywalker – Lose yourself to your couch with this heavy indica strain as you fly around the Mushroom Kingdom skies with your little winged cap.

The first game ever released for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 is immortalized by nostalgia. For us kids who grew up exclusively with side-scrolling Mario games, walking into this 3D world felt a lot like the first time I tried cannabis: a new dimension opened, colors became brighter, and ohh snap, I can also fly. Super Mario 64 may feel a bit aged after Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, but there will always be a timelessness to this game as the first of its kind.

The High Score: E3 Video Game Teasers That Have Us Readying Our Pipes

Welcome to The High Score, where we explore the creative, immersive intersections of cannabis and gaming through reviews, product pairings, and more. Check out more installments of The High Score series here.


This week, video game developers both large-scale and small gathered in Los Angeles for E3 2017, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where they shared exciting projects currently in the works for video game enthusiasts worldwide.

E3 for gamers can be compared to Christmas morning for a 7-year-old; it can be the best or most disappointing day of the year depending on what gets unwrapped. Like when game developer Bethesda hands you an Elder Scrolls VI-shaped box, but inside is just paid mods and yet another version of Skyrim. Or when your sibling with the Playstation gets God of War, Day’s Gone, and Horizon: Zero Dawn…and you get Cuphead (which, to be fair, looks like one of the better Xbox exclusives).

Sure, there were a few lumps of coal in the E3 stocking this year, but there were also some real bangers. Which games have us loading a bowl in restless anticipation?

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Super Mario Odyssey 

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Console: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: October 2017

I’ll Be Smoking: Amnesia Haze, to achieve the weird, psychedelic euphoria this game deserves.

Nintendo was the undisputed champ of this year’s E3, dishing out major titles and nostalgic teasers that have everyone’s inner child screaming with delight. Cue Super Mario Odyssey, a game that harks back to the era when Super Mario 64 ruled our adolescent lives. But while the 3D platformer of yesteryear stayed well within the lines of what to expect in the world of Mario, Odyssey looks to be of a more vivid, actively hallucinating imagination as Mario possesses anything’s soul with the power of his hat.

You can be whoever or whatever you want. A T-Rex? Just give him your hat! A business man? You can be him, too. A taxi cab? Sure. Why not. Whatever you need to be to save Princess Peach again. The sky seems to be the limit.

Based on the trailer, I can’t tell if this game takes place in New York, Jurassic Park, Mexico, or a boat in the sky, but one thing I do know: I can’t WAIT to be stoned exploring it all with my sentient hat friend, “Cappy.”

Anthem 

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Console: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC

Release Date: Fall 2018

I’ll Be Smoking: Kosher Kush, to slow down my sloppy, anxious trigger finger.

Anthem, you guys.

In this shared-world RPG, you’re a mechanical bumblebee-human that jetpacks around a rainforest with all your friends. Y’all are leaping off cliffs, flying through ruins, diving underwater among bioluminescent orbs, singing songs over headsets, and generally enjoying the stunning atmospheres lit by soft beams of light squeezing through green canopies. What a great day.

…Until an enormous mechanical Trojan horse-robot charges in carting in a chest full of laser-spitting enemies. Here’s where I pause the game, take a huge rip of the heaviest indica I can reach, and try to hit something–anything–with my little virtual bullets. I’m not huge on first-person shooters, but I’ve subjected myself to worse for breathtaking open-world environments that you can immerse yourself in alone or with a buddy.

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Rocket League

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Console: Nintendo Switch (just announced), Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mac

Release Date: Winter 2017

I’ll Be Smoking: Chocolope, to enhance focus and to generate more creative insults for my enemies.

If Mario Kart and FIFA had a baby. That’s Rocket League described in a nutshell. The premise is simple: you’re a little car trying to bash a ball into a goal. The fun of it all comes from the chaos, the mayhem, the defiance of gravity, and cursing at your friends.

Rocket League has been around for a couple years now, but the announcement that it’ll soon be released on the portable Nintendo Switch came as a pleasant surprise to those of us who want to take the game with us wherever we go.

God of War

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Console: Playstation 4

Release Date: Early 2018

I’ll Be Smoking: Thor’s Hammer, to sharpen reflexes and because Norse stuff.

God of War has been around over a decade and has traditionally been set in the world of Greek mythology. But Sony presents a different God of War this year–a game with two feet firmly set in the snowpack of Norse mythology. Here, you’ll recognize deities like Thor, Odin, Loki, and creatures like giants and the World Serpent, Jormungandr.

Despite taking place in an era of Viking brutality, the fourth God of War shows a different side of the perma-aggro Kratos we all know. “This game is about Kratos teaching his son how to be a god, and his son teaching Kratos how to be human again,” explains the game’s Creative Director, Cory Barlog.

With its breakaway from the static of the previous three God of War games–and also its step into the surreal mythology of Scandinavian antiquity–I easily have not been this excited about game since Skyrim, Breath of the Wild, and Witcher III.

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Transference 

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Console: Playstation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift; Non-VR available for Xbox One, PS4, and PC

Release Date: Spring 2018

I’ll Be Smoking: Green Crack, for its mind-melting properties that will make this game as nightmarish as it deserves to be.

Elijah Wood has been up to all kinds of shenanigans since his days of gallivanting around Middle Earth as little Frodo Baggins. Apparently when he isn’t acting or DJing on the weekends, Wood is developing virtual reality games that could easily appear on an episode of Black Mirror (actually…didn’t it?)

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The game is called Transference–developed in collaboration with Ubisoft–and though the trailer leaves us with far more questions than answers, we know that it takes place in the mind of another person. In other words, you are entering a VR world of someone else’s memories, traumas, and thoughts, which is all made possible through uploaded neurological “data.”

I don’t know if I’m excited for or terrified of this game, but traversing the mind of another using immersive virtual reality is a concept I can’t help but be totally intrigued by, especially when you consider its uses beyond entertainment. Could virtual exploration of a traumatized mind eventually change the world of psychology and medicine?

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps

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Console: Xbox One, Windows

Release Date: TBD

I’ll Be Smoking: Northern Lights, for dreamy euphoric effects that ease you into full immersion.

Introduced at E3 with live piano performed by the game’s musical composer, Ori and the Will of the Wisps may have been Microsoft’s most visually stunning reveal of the expo.

With graphics that look painted with magical luminous paints and a soundtrack probably sung by a choir of ghosts, Ori is begging to be paired with your favorite cannabis strain. Its fantastical characters, dreamy landscapes with light leaks, and heartstring-tugging plot entertain all the senses, and I cannot wait for the next rainy day spent with tea, blankets, and Ori. 

What E3 reveals got you most excited (or disappointed)? Let’s talk it out in the comments section.

10 Thoughts We Had Playing the ‘Hempire’ Mobile Game While High

This article is sponsored by Hempire. Hempire, the world’s first comprehensive marijuana growing game, gives players the opportunity to build their empire, bud by bud. By producing a hundred strains, baked goodies, and cannabis extracts, players will build their empire, restore their city, battle local politics and pests, and compete against friends and foes for the greatest Hempire.


Have you ever considered building the most legendary canna-business in the world?

If you’re already working hard to get that going, perhaps some of Leafly’s Industry resources would be a good bet. But if you’d rather skip the exorbitant price tag, heavy lifting, and overall legwork and stake your claim to fame from the comfort of your own couch after a few good hits of your favorite strain, good news—that’s what Hempire is here for.

What is ‘Hempire’ All About?

Hempire Game Review | Leafly

The new mobile game, which launched worldwide on 4/20 and is free to download, was designed by British Columbia-based LBC Studios with the goal of celebrating the cannabis community with a true-to-life plot that mirrors some of the industry’s unique challenges and opportunities.

“We wanted to make a real game for the marijuana community. Something adventurous. Something great,” says Dennis Molloy, President of LBC Studios. “We’re really familiar with the industry … for many years prior to this we watched it develop and witnessed the public opinion shifting, which is when we realized that this audience deserves an outstanding game.” The team sought to fill the gap of worthy cannabis-themed mobile games with something that brought together cannabis enthusiasts and the cannabis-curious in a way that was relevant, meaningful, and most importantly, fun.

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According to the game’s description, “By producing hundreds of strains, baked goodies, and extracts, you will provide for people in need, restore your crumbling neighborhood, battle political corruption, and compete against real-world friends and foes to see who can grow the most legendary canna-business.” How exactly might you do that? Hempire is story-driven, so opportunities include:

  • Using the lab to breed and discover new strains;
  • Extracting THC from your plants to craft concentrates such as shatter;
  • Customizing your grow op;
  • Selling your product through a dispensary or striking deals with other characters;
  • Investing your cash in local businesses and real estate;
  • Helping little old ladies bake brownies;
  • Competing for glory in the Hempire Cup;
  • Taking back control of your entire home city in order to be victorious.

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To get a sense of what exactly game players can expect, we signed up three Leafly volunteers to give Hempire a whirl. And since they would be surrounded by plants, buds, edibles, and concentrates of all kinds in the online world of Hempire, it seemed only fitting that we should outfit them with some cannabis to aid them in their professional journey. Unsurprisingly, the volunteers were doubly eager to participate after they found out they’d be provided with “supplies” from nearby dispensary Have a Heart.

Meet the Panelists

Hempire Game Review | Leafly

  • Name and position: Jeremiah, strain researcher
  • Name and position: Marika, e-commerce developer
  • Name and position: Fermin, software engineer

After divvying up the array of products and pre-rolls they would consume while playing, the testing team went their separate ways to get into the game. For a picture of what gameplay is like, check out their observations and highdeas below, shared after several hours each spent building their Hempires.

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  1. You know it’s going to be good when Snoop kicks things off. “Opening Hempire, I immediately noticed two things: The loading bar states, ‘Rolling a joint…,’ and it is underpinned by a quote from the magnanimous Snoop Dogg: ‘I wake up early in the morning and it feels so good. Smoking on some shit that you wish you could.’” —Fermin
  2. Your character is a bit of a troublemaker. “The setup is innocent enough if you disregard the fact that your first few missions include bribing the Mayor’s Aid for a growing license with your illegally grown cannabis, getting extorted by your parole officer and his lackey, and setting up an illegal interstate drug distribution scheme. But other than that, it’s business as usual.” —Jeremiah
  3. Get ready to see some familiar faces. “Among the characters I met are some familiar faces—a bespeckled old science teacher who lives in an RV, a dealer who resembles a famous gonzo journalist—along with the usual suspects: the fuzz (an attractive, no-nonsense female cop just waiting for you to slip up), the government (via the mayor’s aid), and the incumbent competition (who warn you not to get too big for your britches).” —Fermin
  4. Best part while high? “The most fun while high was the grow process, from watering and using soil to trimming the bud itself—I was a growing machine! I also enjoyed selling to people, it was interesting to see what kind of bud was requested and I imagined what it would be like to sell cannabis IRL.” —Marika
  5. There’s something subliminally satisfying about digital gardening. “I’m given a batch of Afghani seeds and a pot of soil. Amazingly, the buds grow in mere seconds. I wag my finger over the plant and the clippers make a deeply satisfying sound as the colas tumble into my inventory. I feel a deep and yearning need to hear that sound again, and again, and again.” —Fermin
  6. You’re going to have to do some thinking. “Hempire challenges a cannabis consumer’s perception and management of time as they water, harvest, refine, and sell their cannabis and cannabis-infused wares throughout the city.” —Jeremiah
  7. You might actually learn something about growing… “Over the next hour I grow more plants. I get another two pots, learn to water regularly to increase my yield, and also install lights. I breed a new strain and diversify my offerings. The Flo I smoked is coursing through my body, into my thoughts, driving me to create a flow of digital buds to expand my Hempire.” —Fermin
  8. …or about strains. “One educational feature is the small descriptions on the strain information card that can be accessed after planting. This one to two sentence description elucidates some practical uses for the strain which players can use to inform future cannabis purchases.” —Jeremiah
  9. Don’t spend your gems all in one place. “I accomplished having a good time, growing some dank plants, and also spending all my gems on something I didn’t actually want … lol.” —Marika
  10. The right cannabis truly kicks it up a notch. “Flo OG…so good. I wish I still had some. It made me really good at that game.” —Fermin

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Our Conclusion

Hempire Game Review | Leafly

We played Hempire. Should you play Hempire, too?

Let’s put it this way: One panelist became a Level 10 grower in the space of three days, reached a net worth of $10,000, and dipped out after becoming one of the three top-ranked players on their friends-list leaderboard.

The other two panelists? They’re still playing.

Want to check out Hempire? Download it through the App Store or Google Play here.

Leafly’s High Five VR Challenge: Stoned People Compete in Virtual Reality

Five contestants lean back into the couch, disappearing inch by inch into the cushions with every puff off the vaporizer or join. A golden trophy, filled to the brim with a mixed ounce of Rainbow Jones, Moon Cookies, and Thin Mint GSC, sits nobly among a table full of snacks. The winner of Leafly’s High Five Virtual Reality Challenge would be the proud owner of the stash, but six episodes would stand between them and their prize.

In this inaugural episode, watch the five fearless contestants pass around the DaVinci IQ vaporizer before they slice and dice their way through a rousing game of Fruit Ninja.

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Meet the Contestants:

  • Josh, the familiar bearded face found on the popular YouTube channel Strain Central
  • Sasha, AKA SilencedHippie, another social media cannabis maven
  • YouTuber and strain reviewer Ashley, better known as Positive Smash 420
  • Jamila, a cannabis enthusiast who came dressed ready to play “Space Pirate Trainer”
  • Will, a budtender by day and EDM bandmate/harp player by night

Which participant maintained enough hand-eye coordination to be crowned Leafly’s High Five Challenge champion? Tune in for Part Two of our six-part series to see who advances and whose bowl gets cashed too soon.