Archive for November, 2011

Collapse! Blast

Posted: November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized
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TI love it when I find new games through my friends. G+ makes this extremely simple. And so, I come to you bearing Collapse! Blast, a Google+ game. Its an interesting take on the old classic where you find sets of 3 or more contiguous blocks of the same color and click on them and they get cleared and the blocks above them fall. In Collapse! Blast, you get a 60 second play at a time and gain experience and coins. Experience allows you to level up and unlock new features. Every time you level up, you gain coins and your lives are refilled. You start out with 2 lives and each life gives you a play. You can also get more lives from friends, by waiting for them to refresh or by buying lives with real money in the in-game store. After you reach level 5, coins can be used to buy special power ups.

Collapse! Blast has an almost overwhelming amount of stuff in the interface. You can see all the things you have yet to unlock, friends who are playing the game, your lives, coins experience. There’s a weekly tournament, messages, invits. You can go to the shop (which is a micro-transaction shop, by the way). I almost found the screen to be too busy.

The game itself is extremely fast paced and supplied in nice small chunks. Its very nice and enthralling. The ability to hit the space bar and bring up the next line of blocks is a particularly nice touch.

So here’s something I totally bet you didn’t expect me to be extolling the virtues of. This is one of the best microtransaction stores I’ve ever seen. Its simple and clean. Its easy to use. Most importantly, it doesn’t try to hide the fact that you’re spending money. There’s no virtual currency. You can buy coins and lives, that’s it. Very nice, very simple, not misleading. I applaud the developers.

I enjoyed playing Collapse! Blast very much. Its a nice simple game and well done. The interface is cluttered, but they did put a lot in. There are some features (like the messaging system) that seem slightly silly given that its in a social network, but overall it was nice and well made. As such, I award Collapse! Blast with a 3.5 out of 5 hearts.

Collapse! Blast is available on Google+.

Entanglement

Posted: November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

Puzzle games were among the first development when computer gaming became a big thing, and no wonder since they are fairly easy to develop. Gopherwood Studios have created a lovely little puzzle game that is available freely in the Chrome app store. Its called Entanglement. The basic idea is that you form paths, trying to loop the red trail around without hitting a wall or the center or trapping yourself. In order to control the path, you rotate the pieces which are randomly dropped. The controls are extremely simple but the game is extremely challenging.

To control the orientation of the piece, you just click those little arrow images. The challenge is paying attention to where the path will lead.

The user interface is really simple. The score for your current game and your personal records are kept in the upper left hand corner of the screen. The menu is available on the bottom right hand corner in a little tab that you can pull out. The UI is really pleasing to the eye and doesn’t interfere with the game at all. I also really like the art style. It has a very distinctly asiatic feeling to it, which adds quite nicely to the overall zen feeling.

I find that playing Entanglement is extremely relaxing but also quite challenging. I particularly enjoy the fact that I start it and I’m immediately playing. There’s no loading or intro videos or anything like that, just start and go. And a play is pretty short. It only takes a few minutes. More puzzle games should have that feeling that you can jump in at any time and play for as long or short as you would like.

In conclusion, I really enjoy Entanglement. I was particularly pleased to find out that the developers work with HTML5, which is easily my favorite development tool. I love the art and the feel of the game. It really fills an important niche in my games collection. As a result of that, Entanglement earns the much sought after 5 out of 5 hearts. Well done!

If you’re interested in getting Entanglement, you can find it in the Chrome app store here or you can check out Gopherwood Studios’ own website here

Letter Bubbles

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I love researching educational games. Most of them, to be perfectly honest, are monumentally terrible. Today, I am happy to say that I found a good one. My little brother has trouble with typing, so I went on a search for a good one for him to use. I found Letter Bubbles in the Chrome app store. The basic concept is that is a typing tutor with three different difficulty modes. The first, pictured below, is Beginner Mode. In this mode of play, you get an on-screen keyboard to help you play. You get a limited number of mistakes and need to keep up with the progress of the bubbles as they cross the screen. The on-screen keyboard shows you which letters are close to going over the edge, too. There are a few nice bonuses available too. The red bubbles are bombs, hitting them causes the bubbles around them to exploded, which is really nice for combos. There’s also a meter that slowly builds up from your combos to give you the ability to slow all the bubbles by hitting the enter key. There’s a line that moves across the screen periodically, which represents the space bar, and will pop any bubbles past it if you press it. If you make a username, your progress will be tracked and you can see your standings as compared to other players around the world. I particularly like this feature, since most people are competitive and score boards will encourage kids to play more so they can get better. You can also choose to play without logging in. The only difference is that your progress won’t be tracked and your scores won’t be submitted.
If you like the idea of mastering typing or you have a child you think should learn to type, try this game out. The graphics are nice and friendly, and quite elegant. The sounds aren’t annoying. And best of all, unlike a lot of so called typing tutors, this one actually helps the player to learn. I really enjoyed playing this game and found it to be extremely child friendly, just what I was looking for. As a result, I gladly award Letter Bubbles with a 4.5 out of 5 hearts.

4.5 out of 5 zelda hearts

If you’re interested in playing Letter Bubbles, you can find it letterbubbles.com or in the Chrome app store.

Bloons Tower Defense 4

Posted: November 21, 2011 in 3.5 Hearts
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Ah, the tower defense, a time honored gaming genre that stems from its early development in Warcraft 3 mods. You place towers of various types and defend your lands from accursed invaders…or in the case of Bloons Tower Defense, you place monkeys to defend your land against the evil balloons.

There are 18 different towers at current. Each tower has four possible upgrades that can be purchased. For example, there’s a monkey with a boomerang. You can upgrade that boomerang to be sonic, then a glaive thrower and finally a Jedi. Yes, you heard me. A Jedi.

There are a bunch of different play modes, including the usual easy, medium, hard. There are challenge maps which are really really hard. There are a lot of maps too. See below for an idea. It keeps track of which tracks you’ve beaten and on what difficulties. Bronze medals have been beaten on easy, silver for medium, etc.

The controls are really simple. Point and click to place, upgrade, sell, pretty much everything. You can’t move towers once you’ve placed them, but that’s pretty much standard for the genre. There’s a nice rhythm to the game once you get into it and I really like that. My one major complaint is that flash lacks in the ability to deal with a lot of things being in a game at once. Bloons Tower Defense 4 has a lot of balloons towards the end of the medium and hard difficulties, to the point of crashing some computers. So be careful when you play.

Bloons Tower Defense 4 is a fun game, with plenty of challenge to it. There’s tons of content, even if it is a bit monotonous. It has one major problem, but that isn’t the fault of the designers. I give Bloons Tower Defense 4 a 3.5 out of 5 hearts. Its fun.

If you want to try this game, you can find it on Kongregate.

A Closed World

Posted: November 18, 2011 in 4.5 Hearts
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I haven’t mentioned my adoration of Gambit Labs games lately. I was very excited to find a new game they released this past summer. A Closed World is described by them as “a digital game that deals with queer issues”. This makes me understandably excited. Gender identity  and queer issues are a theme that very rarely come up in games and more rarely are treated well. Serious games are an extremely useful tool, not only for persuading people who disagree with the game, but also for helping people come to terms with themselves.

A Closed World is a JRPG style game where you take up the role of a teenager from a small closed in village on the edge of a forest. Your character is in love with another teenager from the village, one who is the same gender as your character. The forest and the fog beyond it are believed to be full of horrible monsters and people are forbidden from going there. Your character’s sweetheart decides that if the pair of you won’t be allowed to live your lives, then you should run into the forest. They went in without you and that is where the game begins.

Within the forest, there are creatures called demons. These represent your character’s inner demons and they must be confronted so that you can progress. One thing I want to mention here, looking at the above picture, is how awesome the art is in this game. Its simple, but quite lovely. All of the demons are stylized representations of the person or force that they represent and they were all really well done.

The confrontations with your inner demons are done in classic JRPG style with your attacks being arguments and your heal ability being taking a breath. The opponent can taunt you to keep you from using a given type of argument. This particular confrontation was done with your sweetheart’s parents. I thought the representation was quite nice and also pretty amusing. Looking at the battlefield, take a look at how small your avatar is in comparison to your opponent. It really strikes home the feeling of worthlessness or inferiority in the face of the rest of society.

The only complaint I could possibly make is that A Closed World was very short. On one hand, short serious games that come to the point and stick it are more effective. On the other hand, I was really enjoying this game when it ended. I would really enjoy another chapter or just more content. Maybe a sequel. In light of that, I award A Closed World with a well earned 4.5 out of 5 hearts.

4.5 out of 5 zelda hearts

If you would like to play A Closed World, which you should, you can find it here at the Gambit Labs website.

Teach Your Kids to Game Week

Posted: November 15, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I know, I know, I’m posting on an off day…but I was super excited when this found its way into my inbox the other day, forwarded from one of my friends who follows the RPGNow Newsletter. This week is Teach Your Kids to Game Week. They’re not talking about teaching kids to play Halo or Modern Warfare, they’re talking good old fashioned table top. I know what you’re thinking, oh masses of parents who do not game, but all those horrible things I’ve heard about Dungeons and Dragons! Don’t you summon demons and worship satan and other terrible things? Don’t you play in steam tunnels? Let me just be one of many people who points you in the direction of a magnificent FAQ put together by The Escapist. I highly suggest that people who aren’t familiar with table top roleplaying give that a read through.

So, you’ve decided to go along with this and you’re going to run a table top game for a group of kids. The first thing you need to do is decide what you’re going to be running, as far as genre goes, and then find a system that you want to use. There are a lot of webpages (such as this one) devoted to talking about what sorts of table top systems and settings are good for use with kids, but in my experience as a camp counselor, you would be surprised. We had kids ranged from age eight to age seventeen all playing in the same D&D game together. The rules are complicated, yes, so you guide the kids through character creation and make sure that they understand the types of dice and rolls they need to be able to play their character. I’ve even seen suggestions that I rather like, involving making customized character sheets that only show the skills and such that their character has.

The next question is how do you tailor your game for children. You have to keep the themes of your story kid friendly, obviously. But you also have to keep the sessions short to tailor to their attention span. I’m not saying that kids have a short attention span, I’m saying that 2 hours is a long time to sit still doing one thing, let alone the 24 hour sessions I’ve seen some gaming groups do. You need to make the adventure exciting and compelling, but you also need to be prepared for them to go haring off in random directions because it sounds neat. Really, its like writing for any average gaming group other than that you need to remember that your players are children.

 

Danddha

Image via Wikipedia

Here’s the thing that I’m surprised more of these guides and sites don’t mention. Under no circumstances should you underestimate your players. Sure, they might not have hit puberty yet, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t grasp the tactics of battle, or the inter-play of politics. Depending on the kid, you might be pleasantly surprised by their understanding. I’m not saying to show them the dark underbelly of the world, but you don’t necessarily have to dumb down your system or run something that involves happy stuffed animals making friends when you could be actually just playing Dungeons and Dragons or Fudge. Kids aren’t stupid, they’re just young.

IMG_0147.JPG

Image by mshea via Flickr

I read a fascinating article the other day about how afraid people are that with geek culture being popular that the geeky tendencies to have trouble speaking to people might become the norm. What better way to nip that in the bud than through table top roleplaying from a young age. You’re probably thinking that that statement doesn’t make any sense, but if there’s one thing that I learned through my time as a table top player and a LARPer its that roleplaying games really help with the development of social skills. I’ve learned to see other sides to situations from playing that other type of person, I’ve learned to speak up more and how to lead people so that they’ll listen. Certainly, whether kids learn anything from gaming is dependent on the GM, but think about that while you’re writing the game and running the game.

So go forth! Find children, teach them. Pass on the hobby and the wonder. They are the future of table top.

For further reading, feel free to hit up these blogs:

Yes; Every System!

Posted: November 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today, my friend Becky and I wrote a card game. It is strangely entertaining and confusing at the same time. The people who have played thus far have greatly enjoyed it. It might be designed to be played by a certain young and confused elf LARP character. She was challenged to prove that she knows how to play cards. This is my way of doing it. 🙂 Enjoy!

Yes; Every System!

Requires:

  1. A standard deck of 52 cards + both jokers
  2. scoring mechanism such as paper for counting tricks

Rules:

  1. Deal out hands of 5 cards to each player
  2. Play proceeds counter clockwise
  3. The game is comprised of rounds until a player has taken 13 tricks exactly
  4. On each round, each player has to make hands in as many card games as possible.
  5. The following rules are in effect:
    1. 8s are crazy (wild)
    2. Pair games are not allowed
    3. Once per turn, each player may invoke “Go Fish”
      1. If you invoke “Go Fish”, you must declare which card you are discarding or passing first
      2. To score “Go Fish”, you must have 4 of a card
    4. Black Jack must be 21, use of  black jack trumps
    5. War must be a card that was used in no other hands
    6. Cribbage must be 15 or 31 (neither trumps)
    7. Jokers:
      1. if a single joker is in your hand it is minus a single trick
      2. if both jokers are in your hand, they are a poker pair higher than aces
    8. Muggins:
      1. If you see a valid hand of cards in another player’s hand and call it for them, then you can claim the trick if they win it
  6. Each “game” they win is a trick
  7. If a player passes 13 tricks scored, they bust and are out of play
  8. Dealer passes counter clockwise each round

Rules for Taking Tricks
In order to take a trick, you must have a better hand in that game than the other players.

Valid Card Games
Valid card games should be announced at the beginning of the game. Some examples follow:

  1. Poker
  2. Crazy Eights
  3. Go Fish
  4. Black Jack
  5. Cribbage
  6. Old Maid (see also, single Joker)
  7. War (special rules)
If any of the rules are unclear, please feel free to leave a comment.