Archive for August, 2010

CrossworDS

Posted: August 30, 2010 in 3 Hearts
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So I was going to be writing about Band Hero DS today, but it doesn’t play on my bulky first generation DS, only on the nice, shiny new DS lites. Instead, I shall talk about the other game I bought, CrossworDS. At first glance, you’d think this was simply a way to do cross word puzzles on your DS, but this game also includes wordsearch puzzles and anagrams, which made me quite happy. Also, CrossworDS has 4 levels of difficulty which can teach a person how to think in order to solve crossword puzzles. The interface is very intuitive and you can choose to get immediate feed back about mistakes. This is a feature I greatly enjoy since I have a lot of trouble solving cross word puzzles normally. Another thing I’m enjoying is the little culture references. For example: It’s a ____! (4 letters)

The anagram puzzle is pretty similar to some that I have played online and enjoyed greatly. There are a set of letters and you have to form a set of words out of those letters in different arrangements. Unlike most games of this type, there is no time limit. Instead, the game tracks how long it takes you to complete the puzzle. The wordsearch puzzle is pretty much a standard wordsearch puzzle, and they time how long the puzzle takes you.

Unlike most games that use my handwriting as input, CrossworDS doesn’t make a lot of mistakes in interpretation. This is a massive improvement over earlier DS games. Also, I like that you can save one in-progress puzzle of each type at a time, instead of only 1 puzzle of any type.

3/5 zelda heartsAnd to the rating. CrossworDS delivered what it offered. A portable cross word puzzle player with anagrams and wordsearch puzzles. The hand writing parser is better than most, but still not perfect. Over all, this game is good but nothing special. I award it 3 out of 5 Hearts.

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Zombie Balloon Heads

Posted: August 29, 2010 in 3 Hearts, Uncategorized

I’m sure you knew that the way to kill a zombie is with a head shot. But did you know that the way to kill a doodle zombie is to shoot it in the head with ink until its head explodes? I bet you didn’t. Well, it is in Zombie Balloon Heads. The basic story behind Zombie Balloon Heads is that a boy was stuck in summer school doing algebra and kept seeing zombies in his math paper. Well, clearly the solution is to shoot them in the head until their heads fill up with ink and they explode. That’s pretty much how you play too. Movement is done using the WASD keys, you rotate between 4 different styles of squirt gun with Q and E and aim and fire with the mouse. The zombies to be defeated get progressively harder as you make your way through the platformer style levels.

The graphics themselves are based on the story behind the game. You’re running around as a little stick figure on lined paper with the levels drawn on it. Dead zombies leave behind a little ink stain. Its very cute, really. You collect more ink to refill your squirt gun and gain experience to buy bigger squirt guns. And since you’re a stick figure, the doodle zombies can eat you. There are normal zombies, big head top hat wearing zombies, zombie dogs, giant zombie birds and all kinds of other hilarious zombies. Its a very creative game and I enjoyed it greatly.

The levels are interesting. Your object is to get from where you are dropped in to an arrow somewhere else in the level. This can be achieved by running all over the place, jumping with or without spring launchers, shooting zombies, sneaking around zombies, going up stairs or ramps, riding moving platforms or really anything else you can think of. My only complaint is that once you learn the layout of a level, the replayability is lost and it is very easy to learn the layout of all the levels.

3/5 zelda heartsAnd now, the rating. Zombie Balloon Heads is a cute, creative game that I was very happy to find. I like the way the backstory ties into the graphics and gameplay. The levels were challenging, even if they were only challenging the first time through. Over all, I award Zombie Balloon Heads with 3 out of 5 Hearts.

Zombie Balloon Heads can be found at http://www.addictinggames.com/zombie-balloon-heads-game.html

Escape the Cube

Posted: August 25, 2010 in 4 Hearts, Uncategorized

Escape the Cube is a challenging level based puzzle game. The basic concept of the game is that you are a political prisoner in an interstellar prison with shifting gravity designed to keep you from being able to escape. In order to escape, you need to use a limited number of blaster shots and the ability to change the gravity of your prison to get keys off guards and continue to advance through the levels. There are 18 levels and 4 levels of difficulty ranging from easy to expert. The graphics are very simplistic but easy to understand and aesthetically pleasing. The fact that you only have a limited number of blaster shots, with the only way to get more shots being killing guards. This is an amazing game mechanic, making it much more believable that you are in fact escaping from a prison.

Normally when I see a game with “Escape” in the title, I’m expecting something fairly straight forward that I would play once and never again where you escape from something by solving simple puzzles. This game was a much more complicated puzzle, too the point where I’m willing to compare it to Braid. The fact that you can change the direction of gravity (and the orientation of the screen) causes for a lot of headaches early on in the learning curve. To counter this, the levels are built in such a way where you can adjust to what things in the environment do and learn to solve the puzzles slowly. I found the tutorial level to be very useful. At about level 10, I started to have problems being to beat levels, but it was still enjoyable even though I was beating my head against the wall trying to figure out the puzzle.

One thing that did confuse me a bit about this game is that Addicting Games lists it as “Cube Master” and searching for “Escape the Cube” doesn’t result in finding it even though that is what the title screen says. This was more than just a bit perplexing when I went looking for it the second time.

And so the rating. I enjoyed this game, despite it being simplistic graphics. The mechanics were interesting and made sense in the game world. While finding the game is difficult, this isn’t the designer’s fault and rests firmly on Addicting Games. I will award Escape the Cube with a 4 out of 5. 4/5 Hearts

Escape The Cube is available at http://www.addictinggames.com/escape-the-cube-game.html

Jungle Speed

Posted: August 23, 2010 in 4 Hearts
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I love Jungle Speed. Its a gloriously difficult and usually some what violent card game about matching shapes and colors. There is a wooden totem in the center of the table which is the object that all of the players are trying to get. In order to grab the totem, your card must match another player’s card exactly. Unless of course the color effect card has been played, then you want to just match their color. When played in the campus center at my school, this game is known to draw in 10-12 players and become extremely cut throat. Its a very nice game to carry around with you a set up on a random table. Its easy to set up and seeing 2 or 3 people playing will draw in a lot more. The drawstring pouch the game comes with for storage is also small and so easy to carry with you.

The box says that it is for 2 or more players and for players ages 6 and up. Now this last part bothers me. I tried to teach it to my 7 year old brother. He couldn’t tell the shapes apart. When shown 3 shapes, 2 of which were identical and the third was merely similar, he couldn’t tell which 2 matched. The rules are also a bit complicated for a younger child. For example, you have to flip the cards so that the other players see them before you do. If a game claims to be for ages 6 and up, I think a 7 year old should be able to understand the rules when they are explained to him. Instead they were so complicated that he got angry and wouldn’t play with me for a few days. If you have an unusually smart younger child, or one who has been raised on this kind of game, it will probably go better.

Jungle Speed is one of the most complicated card games I have ever played, which in most respects makes it an amazing game. Its also a very social game, very good for parties or any kind of get-together. The totem is solid wood and can put up with the wear and tear inherent to the game. The worst I’ve seen happen to it is for the totem to go flying across the room. The cards themselves are printed on normal card stock and are prone to bending if not treated somewhat nicely.

Some poking about the internet on my part looking for information about this game, I discovered that there is a Wii Ware version of Jungle Speed out for those of you interested in a video game version of this awesome game.

And so, the rating. I do love Jungle Speed. Most of the people I know love Jungle Speed. My only complaint is that I feel they’ve marked the age wrong on the package. Perhaps its more for 8 or 9 year olds than 6 year olds. I will award Jungle Speed with a 4 out of 5 for being an excellent game.4/5 Hearts

The Sims 2 Pets for DS

Posted: August 20, 2010 in 2 Hearts
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Envision a Sims game that has nothing to do with The Sims. That’s more or less what The Sims 2 Pets for the DS is. The game starts out with making your Sim avatar. Then your choose their pet and customize them. This seems pretty promising. Except that after that, your poor little pet gets pretty much ignored in the wild rush to care for other people’s pets. As it turns out, The Sims 2 Pets for the DS is a veterinary simulator, unlike The Sims 2 Pets for the computer which is an expansion that gives your Sims the ability to have pets. Awkward, isn’t it?

Alright, so now you’re a veterinarian with a pet you’re ignoring. And then, random people are coming in to your house to drop off their pets that they’re bad at taking care of. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people came in and they’re like “My dog smells”. I don’t know about you, but when my dog smells, I give it a bath. I don’t rush it to the vet in a panic. Pets can also be brought in because they swallowed something, because they’re actually sick, because they have fleas, because they have worms and fun stuff like that. But I can’t get over the idea of rushing to the vet because ohnoes, my cat smells. I understand that in the real world, your pet could smell because of any number of reasons other than it needs a bath, but they didn’t account for any of these while programming this game, if a pet smells that’s because it needs a bath.

The other things about this game that baffle me include the fact that I can keep up to 3 pets in the same enclosure without them fighting or catching each others diseases, the fact that when you send your Sim to bed the animals never need them in the night and the fact that the Sim can eat once a day and be fine. Did I mention you never have to feed the animals? For a game that is supposed to be a simulation, they sure left a lot of stuff out. I’m willing to cut them a little slack since its a DS game and they could only fit so much on the cartridge, but still. They did, however, include the ability to train the animals and play with them outside. You can also take them to the park. The training feature is rather limited including only about 6 or so commands. And the mechanic for training the pets reminds me of something out of Windwaker or DDR. You have to tap a button on the screen to match the whistles shown. If you can successfully match it 3 or so times, the pet learns the trick. Its pretty simple.

At first, you have your dog or cat (whose stats magically never go down) and maybe 1 or 2 other pets on site that you’re taking care of. Then suddenly, you get a high enough reputation to have 5-6 other pets on hand that you’re trying to cure all at once. Once you hit this point, you have to be organized about which pet needs what or you start losing customers. Its about this point where I stopped having fun. It becomes less of a game and more of a chore as you try to get each pet cured in the amount of time you said you could. It almost feels like they designed the game to ramp up how many animals you were caring for too quickly so you don’t really have a chance to get used to each increase.

And so, the rating. I really didn’t enjoy this game very much. I found it very stressful and, to be completely truthful, I was very annoyed that it wasn’t what I thought I was getting when I purchased it. I was expecting something where I take care of 1 or 2 animals and a few people not 1 person and 8 or so different animals per game day. The realism, something the Sims genre is usually pretty good about for some things, was completely lacking. I’m sorry, but you can’t sit on a couch for 2 minutes (game time) and have your comfort levels be completely full. Neither can you put a dog with fleas and a dog without fleas in the same enclosure and not end up with two dogs with fleas. And so, I feel that I have to give this game 2 out of 5 Hearts. The Sims really should just stay on the PC where they have the processing power and memory to make the kind of games that they’re known for and people expect.

Pandemic 2

Posted: August 18, 2010 in 3 Hearts, Uncategorized

Imagine making a plague capable of destroying the entire human population. That’s the object of Pandemic 2. There are two game play modes available in Pandemic 2: realistic and relaxed. Realistic mode has more traits for the diseases and is a longer, more in-depth game. Each mode includes 3 possible disease types to choose from, each of which has different stats to change the way the game goes. The three types are virus, bacteria and parasite. Once you get into the game itself, you can spend evolution points on symptoms such as fever, vomiting and organ failure. You can also gain resistance to different climates and to medicine. There are also four ways your disease can spread that are available for purchase. As your disease becomes more and more known and widespread, the people in the game world will begin to close their borders and try anything to stop your disease from spreading farther. There is a log on the left hand side of the screen that shows you things like weather such as flooding, drought and earthquakes, disease spread and government actions to stop the spread of your disease.

The interface for this game is very easy to use and very logical. There is also a video tutorial available from a link on the start-up of the game. I didn’t find watching the tutorial to be necessary, but some people might need it. Everything is available on a subscreen that can be accessed by clicking on the main play screen and also pauses the game while active so that time stops passing.

The major flaw with Pandemic 2 is inherent to the closing of ports and borders and the way it was designed. There is a little island off of Africa called Madagascar. In Pandemic 2, Madagascar is sort of the holy grail because of how hard it is to infect. There is only 1 port and it closes very quickly at the slightest sign of anything. You can literally have a disease with no symptoms and Madagascar will close its port. The fact that governments begin to act even when there are no symptoms is somewhat bothersome. I can’t even begin to stress how annoying Madagascar is. There are actually a lot of jokes about it if you do a quick little google search. Here’s a link to one that I found to be rather a good example of what it seems like must be happening. http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/CaptainFailcon/SHUTDOWNEVERYTHING.jpg

Well, now I guess I should rate Pandemic 2. The game is fun, albeit long. The interface is easy to use and understand. But what bothers me deeply is that I’m not really sure you can ever win. Please, if you’ve ever managed to win Pandemic 2 WITHOUT starting in Madagascar, I want to hear about it. So I award Pandemic 2 with 3 out of 5 Hearts. 3/5 zelda hearts

For those of you who would like to check out Pandemic 2, you can find it at addictinggames.com or go directly to http://www.addictinggames.com/pandemic2.html

Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree

Posted: August 17, 2010 in 4 Hearts
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I love this new movement for games that involve bettering yourself either physically or mentally. I also love games that I can play with my little brother (he’s 7). Needless to say, as a college student, my game tastes don’t always overlap with his. That’s where Big Brain Academy comes in. The games have very simple mechanics, its all point and click. The only skills that are required for the easy modes are basic addition and reading. The idea is that you can test yourself in the 5 different aspects of intelligence: memory, analysis, visualization, computation and identification. Each aspect has 3 different mini games available in single player mode and there are more mini games in multiplayer mode. The games themselves aren’t hard to play, they really are testing the aspect of intelligence that they’re associated with, not your gaming skill.

There are two major parts to this game: the solo mode and the group mode. In solo mode, there are two different modes called Test and Practice. The Practice mode contains all the games in all the aspects of intelligence in different difficulties from easy to expert. Practice mode is where you go to train your brain to get higher scores in Test mode. In Test mode, you do 10 random activities on random difficulties and the game scores you based on your speed and accuracy. Then you can compare the scores of all the players on a graph available in the game. There are also scores for all the games in Practice mode and rankings so you can see how you compare to the other players at individual games.

Group mode is by far my favorite part of this game. There are three group play modes available. The first is a straight 2-player game called mind sprint. The object is to be the first to complete 10 activities correctly. If you make a mistake, you have to repeat the same type of activity. This particular game can be challenging, especially if there is a specific activity that you’re not very good at. Then there is the mental marathon. The object of this game is to keep going for as long as possible with making a mistake. This can be played with up to 8 players all using the same Wiimote. Each player does 3 activities before passing the Wiimote on to the next player. And lastly is the brain quiz. The brain quiz can be played by up to 8 players on up to 3 teams. The teams are randomly generated, which is the only downside to this game. The brain quiz offers games that aren’t available elsewhere for practice or in the test, but are based on those same 5 aspects of intelligence. The brain quiz is also played with only 1 Wiimote, making it a favorite in my house since we only have 2 Wiimotes but 4 players.

And so, it comes time to decide upon a score for Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree. I really enjoyed this game, and for once so did my brother and parents. The fact that you can have up to 8 players using 1 Wiimote is something that few games offer. The game itself is challenging but can be played by anyone as long as they can read and they can even play competitively fairly. My complaints about Big Brain Academy are that you can’t choose the teams yourself for team based competitions, that there are games only available in one of the multiplayer modes that I would really like to be able to play in practice mode and that younger children do have some problems playing due to lack of fine motor skills. 4/5 HeartsSo I will award Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree with 4 out of 5 hearts. There’s room for improvement, but over all it was good.