Archive for October, 2010

I didn’t have the mental capacity either this morning or last night to write up a post for today since this was the end of finals week. I’ll be back on my normal posting schedule come Monday though.

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Games for Preschoolers – The Best of the Mainstream

Posted: October 13, 2010 in Uncategorized
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If you have young children who are starting to hit that age where they want to play on the computer like you or like their older siblings, cousins or friends, then I’m sure you’re looking for safe, educational web pages that you can trust your child to be able to use with minimal help and enjoy. I went on a quest for the 5 most well known preschool game sites. These sites were mostly small portions of a website associated with something else for kids like toys or educational television. The 5 sites I’ll be talking about are : PBS Kids, Playskool, Lego, Nick Jr and Disney. Each separate site will get a rating based on how safe, educational, usable and fun they are for children. These ratings will be on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the absolute best.

PBS Kids:

PBS Kids has lots of street cred for being educational and wholesome. I remember my little brother spending hours playing the Curious George games. They also have a huge selection of games on their website, sorted by category. The games are very educational and are also very clear about when you’re wrong. For a kid, these games would be fun. I suggest giving them headphones though because everything is narrated since most younger children can’t read and that got annoying fast. The directions are very clear and almost always given out-loud for games designed for pre-readers or early readers. My one complaint is that all of the games are mixed together so its difficult to figure out which ones are for which age group without just playing. I also once accidentally ended up leaving PBS Kids and ending up in PBS Kids Go which is for slightly older kids. Not a huge problem since it was still PBS, but a problem none the less.

educational value: 8

safety: 9

usability: 6

fun: 8

Playskool:

Playskool Kids is a part of the Hasbro web site. The web site itself is pretty simple to navigate and most things are interactive to keep small children entertained. Anything that is a game is easily identifiable (and the voice over says its a game). The games themselves, though, have no educational value that I could find. All of them seem to just be advertisements for the various toys or board games that Hasbro sells in stores. This bothered me a lot. Other than that, there were no forums and no way of communicating with the other people playing so it was quite safe. It was also very clear how to navigate through the web site. The games sometimes lacked instructions, but most were pretty straight forward.

educational value: 0

safety: 10

usability: 9

fun: 8

Lego:

When you think of early childhood toys and games, most people will think of Lego. I know that both my little brother and I both greatly enjoy Lego in all its forms. So when I decided to go look for some early childhood games to talk about, one of the first places I went was lego.com. I was not disappointed. They have a nice section of free online games for preschoolers. There are 8 games available in their preschool specific section. These games, like Legos themselves, are mostly puzzles or creative. Despite the fact that they have these free online games in a specific section for the younger crowd, that’s really about what they offer. Some of the games were so unintuitive that even as an adult I had trouble playing them. The one that I liked (Animal Bingo) was far too short, even for a small child. Winning in one move and having to press the play button again just isn’t fun. The only game that they offered that was what I was hoping to find was Creative Builder. This is like a Lego version of Tangrams with multiple play modes. Lego, you have failed me. With regards to the rest of the site, there is a message board available but the entire board is moderated by real people so nothing can be posted that they don’t deem to be appropriate for all audiences.

educational value: 4

safety: 9

usability: 4

fun: 6

Nick Jr:

Alright, this one blew my mind. I remember my little brother playing on noggin.com all of about 3 years ago. Its…completely different. First off, Noggin itself appears to be gone. Also, Nick Jr has an unintuitive interface that makes it very hard to find more than one of their games. Once I finally navigated my way to their games, I discovered that some of their games appear to be a premium service. They sort the games by category, age and show. They also keep the premium games more or less separate from the other games. When you find your way to the game that you want to play, they play an advertisement. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think enough advertising is already targeting kids as it is. Plus the premium games? Really? Does Nickelodeon really need more money that badly? There’s ads all over the page, a lot of them are pretty sketchy looking. The games themselves are quite good and very educational. But that doesn’t make up for the sheer amount of advertising on this web page.

educational value: 8

safety: 7

usability: 6

fun: 9

Disney:

Disney is a childhood classic, the very definition of innocent fun and games to most people. That’s pretty much all their site had in the games section. It was mindless fun with little to no educational values. There were ads on the pages but there weren’t many of them. The games themselves were mostly short, arcade style games. They were fun, but not much else. I feel kind of let down. I sort of expected more from Disney, just because of the sheer number of childhood lessons I learned from their movies.

educational value: 0

safety: 9

usability: 8

fun: 9

I hope this helps you in your endeavors to spread gamerdom on the next generations!

Survey

Posted: October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Hey folks. I’m working on a project for class (and helping out one of my classmates at the same time). If you have a moment to spare, it would be fantastic if you could take this survey for us. Its about collectible card games.

Click here to take survey

Thanks a bunch!

Update to Diceroller

Posted: October 11, 2010 in Uncategorized
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While I haven’t yet fixed the diceroller to be more random and less pseudo-random, I have added a flag for rolling in Scion mode. Simply use the –scion flag on the command line to enter that mode. I also fixed a glitch that was returning -1 successes on a roll with more 1’s than successes instead of returning 0.

Version 2 of the dice roller is available at http://users.wpi.edu/~hifo/diceroller_v_2 and there is also a readme file available at http://users.wpi.edu/~hifo/diceroller_readme.txt

Tasty Planet 2 : Back For Seconds

Posted: October 8, 2010 in 5 Hearts
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Tasty Planet 2 is a very pretty game, let me just say that first. I also think I should mention just how rarely I play a demo for a game and then actually buy it. With this game, I finished my demo time and immediately bought the game. That’s how amazing this is. The basic concept is roughly like Katamari Damacy. You are a blob and can eat things smaller than you. Now eat as much as you can in the time limit. What makes Tasty Planet 2 interesting is the setting and storyline. You start in the modern day in the science lab where you, the gray goo, were created and eat the other creation of the scientist…his time machine. Next stop, the time of the dinosaurs.

There are 4 play modes for Tasty Planet 2. The first is the timed mode where you have to beat a level’s objective within the time limit. The second is casual. You get the same level, same objective but no time limit. I liked this, because it meant when I got stuck in timed mode, I could still go get the rest of the story. The other two modes are timed bonus and casual bonus which are extra levels that become available after beating timed and casual modes. The levels themselves are quite well designed and the difficulty is, in my opinion, much greater than that of Katamari Damacy once you get towards the end game. Plus, is there anything more fun that running around eating dinosaurs?

The art for this game was quite pretty. Not like super spectacular over the top 3d or anything, but very well done cartoon graphics. They fit well with the feel of the game. The music also blended together with the game play and the art to form a very nice game experience.

For a rating, I have to say I’m stunned. But I loved this game. It was one of the best games I’ve played in a while. And for that, I award Tasty Planet 2 : Back For Seconds a 5 out of 5 hearts. For anyone interested in purchasing Tasty Planet 2, they can get it from http://www.dingogames.com/. Tasty Planet 2 is available for both Mac and Windows.

Kitty Spangles Solitaire

Posted: October 6, 2010 in 1 Heart
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I like playing card games on my computer. There, I said it. I really like klondike and spider and stuff like that. So I picked up a demo for a game called Kitty Spangles Solitaire. First off, tehe it has adorable cartoon cats. Ok, now that that’s out of my system: to the review!

So far, I’ve gone through the exceedingly unintuitive set up process to start playing. You’re presented with a screen asking what style you want to use for the background. Finding the button to advance to the next screen where you choose your game shouldn’t be anywhere as hard as it is. And this is just the beginning. I actually just found the rest of the options in the options pane (which is apparently where you start when you first turn it on). Instead of being a nice tabbed interface, there are these confusing little buttons at the bottom of the screen that have icons and only have words on mouse over. Well…that’s special.

And now for game play. So take every other solitaire card game pack you’ve ever played. Now made it strangely adorable and yet terrifying and add in a good dose of unintuitive…ness. The next step is to slap the face of a soulless cat on all the cards. Erm…game play…yes. So, the major thing that I noticed about the game play is that when a card was automatically transferring to the stack or where ever, it locked up against other inputs. Meaning that while an unnecessary animation is happening…I have to stop playing the game. Also, so most solitaire games have a double-click feature to automatically move cards to up were the aces go if they can. This one will automatically make any move that card has available. So what you’re telling me is that instead of actually playing solitaire, I can just keep clicking and watch your AI fail at solitaire for me? I fail to see the fun in this.

I will concede the fact that Kitty Spangles has a lot of games. But really, some of them were just clones of others with mildly modified rules. I also debate the existence of “two-cell” and “three-cell”. But that’s neither here nor there. Now, if you could be so kind as to reference the above image. See on the way top where the button to close the window is? (no, no silly windows users, its on the left. I have a mac) Notice how the red one isn’t red? Its in fact gray. Implying that it does nothing. Normally this also means that CMD+Q to quit won’t work either. SURPRISE! It does. Oh, and the button to close is bottom right. Why is it there, you ask? I have no idea. Clearly, to distract us from everything else that is wrong with this game

And so, the review. This was terrible. Normally I really like solitaire. I play it when I’m bored, when I just want to take a break from work, when I’m listening to a book. This one? No…it was jarring, it forced me to stop playing at times. And that cat’s eyes are really creepy after a while. In total, I give this game 1 heart of out 5. I think I see a game over in your future, Kitty Spangles.

For those of you silly enough to want to buy this game after such a scathing review, it can be purchased at Kitty Spangles Solitaire $24.95 and if you act fast, they’re also throwing in Kitty Spangles Sudoku for free. That gives me so much faith in your Sudoku program, let me tell you.

31 Days of Halloween Games!

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Hey there everyone. I know I haven’t posted in a while, and I’m not posting on one of my normal days. But I come bearing something interesting. Comcast Games is offering up an advent calender of sorts for Halloween. Every day, they will reveal a new game for the playing. I hope you guys enjoy.

http://games.comcast.net/app/information/showById/t_03cm/1006/en?aff=t_03cm&cmuber_filter_checks=reset&genre_filter_checks[contenttype][casual]=1?cid=NET_49_14

I’d also like to announce a contest. Send me the best Halloween themed video game screen shots you can come up with. The prize will be announced in a couple weeks.