Archive for December, 2011

Creatures and Castles

Posted: December 30, 2011 in 2.5 Hearts, Uncategorized

As its name hints, Creatures & Castles by Hiive is a dungeon crawling puzzle game where you play a hero looking for treasure. In this game, you’re solving the puzzle of how to move around the room without getting attacked by a monsters. You plan a path to get through the room and then your character follows it. You can stop them again by clicking on them and start a new path from that point.

There are two possible player characters: one male and one female. The initial level pack available is the Middle Ages, but for 99¢ you can buy the Egyptian level pack. Its also quite the challenge to get through all the levels. The tutorial levels are extremely good, but the difficulty ramps up way too quickly after that. There are 64 levels in the middle ages path and that’s where I got stuck.

The graphics for Creatures & Castles are really cool and don’t get in the way of gameplay at all. The controls are simple to use, which is very nice. It plays nicely on the computer, despite feeling like it was designed for the iPhone.

Here’s one of those things that drive me crazy. The backstory of the game isn’t in the game. If you want to find out things like the names of the characters or why they’re running around in a castle, you need to look on the website. That makes absolutely no sense to me. If you’re going to bother writing a story for your game, put it in somewhere. Even if there’s just a button you can click to read the story or a one-time splash screen on loading. Their names are Timmy and Susie by the way.

In conclusion, Creatures & Castles is an entertaining but ridiculously hard puzzle game available for all the iPlatforms and the Chrome App store. The game is decent, the art is nice but the story isn’t included in the game. It could use to have a slightly better difficulty curve, though I’m sure that some people can make it through. The other thing that really got on my nerves is that I have no idea what the gold is for. You collect gold over time and it doesn’t seem to serve any purpose. Creatures & Castles gets a 2.5 out of 5 hearts. I just wasn’t impressed.

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Freerice

Posted: December 28, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Freerice is an example of a really great serious game. For those of you who are new readers or new to my game designer lingo, a serious game is a game where the objective is more than just entertainment. In a lot of cases, serious games are used for educational purposes or to help make the world a better place. In the case of Freerice, it does both. The player gets to learn about lots of different topics and the better they are doing, the more rice gets donated to third world countries that need the food. What could be better?

Well, how about it being really really simple to play. So, you want to expand your vocabulary? Start with level 1 and get some nice easy questions, sending rice to people who really need it. Then you start hitting words you don’t know and you learn. Each subject has a different number of levels.

Any time you’re playing and you get something wrong, it tells you what the correct answer was and then just keeps going on. After a couple more questions, it will go back to the ones you got wrong and keep cycling like that until you get the correct answers.

It takes about 10 minutes to donate 1000 grains of rice. Sure, that’s not much, only about 3/4 of a cup. But that could be a child’s dinner. And if you, me and everyone else just logs on for half an hour a day, we could feed the world. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Sure the game has no flares, but that’s alright. Its worth it to play. I strongly suggest you check it out. Freerice gets 5 out of 5 hearts. They do what they do wonderfully.

If you want to play Freerice, it you can find it at freerice.com. Freerice is maintained by World Food Programme.

Nintendo 3DS

Posted: December 26, 2011 in 4.5 Hearts
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I’ve had my little 3DS for a couple months now so I feel like its about time I do a review of the little fellow. First up: the basics. The 3DS comes in 3 different colors, has a touch screen on the bottom half and sports a directional pad and joystick, alongside the start, home, select and x, y, a, b buttons on the front. There are also L and R shoulder buttons, leaving this unit capable of having some pretty complex behaviors, even before you add in the endless behaviors you can add once you start using the 3 cameras and the accelerometers.

My favorite upgrade from the earlier generations of DS is a little silly, I have to admit. The stylus is collapsable. Meaning that now I get a stylus that fits my hand and can collapse down to fit inside the DS unit snugly so it won’t get lost. It also comes preloaded with a bunch of really neat software like an internet browser, AR games, a camera that can take pictures in 2D or 3D, an e-store and it periodically updates itself for newly available free software if you have an internet connection.

The 3D is really quite nice, I wish I could show you pictures. One of the really nice features is a slider on the right of the top screen that allows you to turn up and down the amount of 3D that is being displayed, all the way down to off. That is startlingly useful since playing for too long can result in headaches. Also, DS games from before the advent of 3D can still be played, it just automatically turns the 3D off.

So far I’ve been playing Ocarina of Time 3D and Super Mario 3D Land. Both are extremely good, though I’ve had some trouble with the archery range in the Ocarina of Time. It requires you to aim at the targets by moving the unit around, which invariably ends up with me contorted in some very odd positions because of how I play (lying down with the unit in my lap). Over all, I love the system and the fact that they just keep putting out more free content for it.

Nintendo 3DS

Image by Dekuwa via Flickr

In light of that, I award the Nintendo 3DS with 4.5 out of 5 hearts. It has very few flaws, mostly the fact that the 3D technology results in headaches after more than an hour or so of use for most users.

4.5 out of 5 zelda hearts

Kongregate

Posted: December 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
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I know I’ve talked about Kongregate before, especially given that a bunch of the games that I’ve reviewed are on there. But today, I’m talking about the Kongregate META game. So, basically, you make a user name and you start out at level 1. You then gain points based on the achievements you have unlocked in the games and your points cause you to level up.

It keeps track of everything you do, including forum posts, comments, points, recent logins and fun stuff like that. You can also see your most recent achievements on your profile.

I mentioned achievements, right? Well there are a lot of them. They call them badges, by the by. There are hundreds of badges and 8 quests. Quests are this fun beast where you collect a certain set of achievements to get a special badge and more points. The beginner quest, for example, includes 9 easy achievements from different games of varying genres.

On the subject of achievements, they have this neat little thing called the Badge of the day, which you can see below. Basically, you go complete an achievement and not only do you get the points and the badge, you also get points if you are a GameStop PowerUp Rewards member. Which is the best deal ever. For more information on the PowerUp Rewards, you can go here.

The META game is to play games and level up in your gamer-i-ness. Which is really really fun. What makes it all even better is that its entirely free to play.

As a developer, I am a big fan of Kongregate for many reasons. You don’t need a separate account for developing and playing, and more importantly (as a poor college student) is the Kreds system. So, as a dev, you make a small amount of money from advertising while people play your game. On top of that, you can also get tips in the form of Kreds. Kreds are the virtual currency of Kongregate and they can be purchased for a small amount of money. And I think that Kongregate says it best on their website.

I really like the Kongregate META game. Its a nice addition to the gaming site. The games are wonderful and all, but the site itself is good enough that I want to keep coming back. In light of that awesomeness, I award Kongregate with a 4 out of 5 hearts. They would get the full 5, but they currently only support Unity and Flash based games and not my favorite HTML5.

4/5 Hearts

If you’re interested in checking out the awesome that is Kongregate, you can find it here.