Archive for the ‘1 Heart’ Category

I had a lovely review planned for today for a game called A Tale of Colours that one of my friends pointed me at…then I found a new game from PETA. Its a parody of the Pokemon series, set up to be a serious game. I’m going to preface this whole review with the fact that I’m going to do everything in my power to objectively review this game for its merits as a socio-political persuasive game, but I feel I should mention that I love Pokemon, I eat meat and I tend to view PETA as a touch crazy. With that disclaimer noted, lets head into the game.

The Pokemon franchise is based around the idea of letting kids capture little creatures and then breed and battle them. It was based off the childhood of the creator, catching bugs and studying them. But enough is enough, says PETA! We cannot allow children to have fun by caging helpless animals and forcing them to fight each other. They created a Pokemon style game where you play as the Pokemon. Unlike other games, the Pokemon are fighting their trainers and trying to spread the word about the fact that this violence hurts them and that they have feelings too.

As with other PETA games, the game play includes rewards which are videos showing the harm to animals caused by humans. The idea is to indoctrinate the players. The problem is that the games are geared for children and they tend to be far too over the top to actually convince most kids. I tend to find that scare tactics just leave kids having nightmares, not actually changing their attitudes towards anything.

The biggest problem with this game as a persuasive game is that any kid who has actually played the Pokemon games knows that the main character wins because they love their Pokemon and bond with them. The professors are always in favor of treating Pokemon with kindness and even your Rival learns their lesson in the end. So basically, PETA made a game to try to teach the same message the Pokemon games are actually teaching….

Only they made it ludicrous and over the top. Wait…I forgot. Attempting to review objectively. Uh…uh… The art lends itself well to the persuasive game style they’re going for. They make frequent allusions to the actual games, enough to make it feel properly in-world. But the characters are all being portrayed as completely psychotic killers, such as their portrayal of Ash Ketchum.

Pokemon is a fun game for kids about getting along, making friends, playing outside and exploring. Pokemon Black and Blue is a parody of that trying to show that the Pokemon world teaches kids to be violent and uncaring towards animals. I believe they are rather wide of their mark. As with their other persuasive games, they’ve gone so far in trying to prove their argument that it comes off as deluded ramblings. Their game has no bugs, which is nice, and the graphics are well done for their purpose. I award Pokemon Black and Blue 1 out of 5 hearts. I’m really not sure what else to say…I think I might have nightmares.

If you’re interested in playing Pokemon Black and Blue, you can find it here, along with links to the other PETA games.

Any thoughts about Pokemon Black and Blue? I’d love to hear your comments.

Monster Corp

Posted: September 19, 2011 in 1 Heart, Uncategorized

Have you ever played Zoo Tycoon or one of the various clones? Then you understand the basic concept behind Monster Corp. Basically, it starts out with a very Jurassic Park-esque intro sequence in which it is revealed that the fossils of ancient monsters have been discovered and the scientists have begun extracting DNA from them to clone the creatures. Obviously, the next step is that you open a zoo to exhibit these monsters. Because clearly, there is nothing wrong with opening a zoo containing giant horrible bloodthirsty monsters. This clearly won’t end in terrible, right?

So, basically you have this little room that they keep calling a museum but it looks much more like a zoo, given that it has live animal…monster…things. You have to make sure you keep food and such stocked. You also have to keep cleaners and such on the payroll to make sure they keep your monster cages clean.

So, then you start in and realize just how unintuitive the interface is. I’m pretty sure that it has stopped  acknowledging any times that I send people out to explore for new fossils. They seem to be charging me the money but not giving me any DNA. Also, both of my monsters just died from neglect while I was writing this. I’m not entirely sure how the goals work in this game. They seem to keep giving me more goals to achieve despite the fact that I haven’t completed the earlier ones.

My favorite part of this comedy of errors is the grammar. I’m pretty sure the designer was translating their dialogue using an electronic translator. The word choice and grammar only get better in the help screens and such.

Over all, this game is hilariously bad. The story doesn’t make sense, the grammar and writing are atrocious and the mechanics didn’t make any sense. The graphics were kind of cute…I guess. The music was repetitive and kind of hurt after a while. I’m really sad to say it, but I feel like this might be the worst I’ve ever slammed a game, this might be worse than Kitty Spangles, which is impressive in a terrible kind of way. In conclusion, like the aforementioned nightmare of my gaming, Monster Corp has earned 1 out of 5 hearts.

Dead Frontier

Posted: August 10, 2011 in 1 Heart
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The MMORPG is becoming a rapidly more popular game style. Its also becoming much more commonly made by low budget or independent developers. In this case, Dead Frontier is a zombie fighting game. You start out by making your survivor character. I was really impressed with the number of options available to choose between, and not just in the graphics of the character. There were a lot of different options for adjusting the base stats of your character as well.

The graphics for this game are pretty impressive as well, too. Especially given that this entire game runs in a browser. I wish I could explain the controls and combat mechanics and such to you, but to be perfectly honest, that one area of the screen is what I saw for a good 80% of the time I was playing.

This was the other 20%. Sadly, as gorgeous as Dead Frontier is, it seems to have serious lag issues and is quite probably just too big to be run in a browser effectively.

In light of this, I’m sad to say that Dead Frontier only gets a 1 out of 5 hearts. I wish I could have moved my avatar without Chrome crashing, but it never worked.

I am all for the betterment of people through video games but it seems to me that a lot of people don’t realize that the game has to be good in order for people to play it. The Biggest Loser for the Wii is one of those games. Have you ever tried to follow along with an exercise video where they use the names for different yoga poses or exercises but don’t once tell you how to do it? That’s how I felt playing this game. Ever heard of upper body twists with knee? Me neither. I can guess what they mean and once the person on the screen starts going, I can follow along, but they dock you points if you aren’t keeping up. To make matters worse, if someone is trying to follow this and doesn’t know how to do the exercises it is possible to hurt themselves pretty easily. I mean, that risk exists with pretty much anything where you don’t have a coach or trainer watching you but still. There are a lot of different ways to make a weight loss focused game without having people get into positions they aren’t in the physical condition to pull off.

So, The Biggest Loser bosts over 60 different exercises and yoga poses, has recipes for healthy food alternatives and has exercise goals that you can set. However, none of that matters, because the user interface is but together so badly that it becomes hard to use. Repeatedly, I went to hit the button to go backwards and discovered that you had to use the B button on the back of the Wiimote, that trying to use what appeared to be an on-screen button would actually start the workout I was trying to exit out of. So instead of me exiting the game, I get roped into another 20 minute cardio session. I know what you’re thinking: turn off the stupid game, right? Ok, sure, you can do that. But shouldn’t the user interface be, well, useable?

So then you get to the exercises themselves. They’re all quite reasonable, the sorts of exercises that anyone should be able to do. But remember, this is supposed to be at least something of a game. I get the whole weight loss thing, and exercise is important, but what this game is missing is that exercise has to be fun. The game is very, very goal oriented but completely lacks any fun factor. This is only made worse by the fact that the game has a hard time figuring out if you’re actually doing what it told you to do. I actually just stood still and moved the Wiimote at one point and got a perfect score and at another point did the exercise properly and got no points.

So here is my biggest complaint about this game. When a game has audio overlays that are supposed to be helpful or whatever, they should really NOT stop each other to play. “Wow, you’re doing a rea-What on earth are you doing?” Yeah, that doesn’t sound natural to you either, does it? This happens to the two coaches in The Biggest Loser game all the time. They’ll be trying to tell you that you’re doing a good job and suddenly its time to do a different exercise, so they have to tell you, so they have the first audio clip turn off and the second one turn on. There has to be a better way to do that.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this game. The workout was intense, but nothing was laid out in any way that was reasonable to use. The audio tracks did all kinds of annoying things. The graphics were comfortably nestled in the uncanny valley where people look like aliens. I give The Biggest Loser a 1 out of 5 hearts. Epic fail.

This game is several varieties of special. And my review for this is going to be way more verbose than normal. I wrote about this for one of my classes, so I’m just going to be lazy and copy paste my report 😛

The purpose of this game is to convince people that the immigration laws in this country are unfair to immigrants and to educate the populous about the truth of immigration. This game details things like that fact that many immigrants are afraid to call the police because they may be deported, or the fact that a misdemeanor to a citizen is a felony if an immigrant does it. It also shows the environment in detention facilities for immigrants who have been detained. The goal of the developers is that people who play ICED will be more likely to vote for changes to the immigration and citizenship laws. In fact, ICED stands for I Can End Deportation. This game doesn’t do terribly well at its goals. The fact that the information is all given in either voice overs which can be turned off or text boxes that can be ignored, or in Myth Or Fact puzzles that can be solved without any trouble by picking the choice that seems more against the immigration policies.

The setting of the beginning of this game is a nameless, fictional city with a large immigrant population. The second half of the game takes place in a deportation detention center. There are five different characters, made up of teenagers and college students. Each one is an immigrantwho is unknowingly breaking immigration law. For example, Suki didn’t take enough courses on a student visa. Another example is Anna, who thinks she’s a citizen but the lawyer that was supposed to get her citizenship when she was younger wasn’t a real lawyer. The story takes the player from a normal day walking through a city, through an immigrations officer raid and into a detention center. The story is brute forced at points. Even if the player succeeds completely at the first two stages, they still go to the detention center just to see it. The story does help the goals of the game, though the fact that the story doesn’t change based on player actions is quite odd.
ICED is played by moving the character around through a virtual city trying to gain points without raising their danger level. If their danger level gets too high, immigration officers show up to arrest them. The choices include the Myth Or Facct questions and other questions about whether or not to do certain actions such as registering to vote or calling the police on a man beating his wife. The actions don’t have any kind of mix or randomization though, and all of them should not be done because, for example, registering to vote while not a citizen is illegal. Scattered throughout the world are ways of getting points. The main way to find these is by looking at the minimap for the little green dots. The player doesn’t actually have to pay any attention to the main screen. The questions are the main gameplay which is intended for any kind of learning, though and while the questions could be very educational, they are very easy to determine the correct answer with out actually absorbing any of the information. The player merely needs to see whether the question seems to be expressed as a fact or an opinion and how reasonable the statement sounds.

ICED was developed using the Torque 3D engine to make a first person game. The controls are mouse to look and arrow keys to move, just like most first person shooters. The user interface has many different measures of the player’s success, include score, progress, freedom and risk. Despite being on the interface the entire time, the risk meter only seems to apply during the city half of the game and the freedom meter seems to only apply during the detention center half of the game. The minimap in the top corner of the game by-passes the need to actually look at the 3D environment that the player is inhabiting. The questions are the main gameplay that is offered to the player. To make the point really stick, the information should have been offered through another medium rather than textbased questions. Perhaps by making the options be something more immersive like conversations or by making more actions available.

In 2007, Breakthrough asked the Education Development Center to assess ICED. Their assessment largely showed that the game was having a strong emotional affect on the players, but it also showed that many of the players thought that the game was far too biased and was putting its own facts into question. Some of the open-ended responses from the players suggested that only part of the story was being shown and that it was hard to feel for a character who was being detained for breaking that law. The main strong points of the game, according to the assessment, were the roleplay and immersion aspects. The major suggestion from the assessment board was to make the questions from the gameplay be more complex, since a simple true/false question doesn’t cover the full depth of the situation.


ICED! is a basically good serious game with several flaws. The story is over-simplified, as are the choices, and the game bias is so strong as to turn off the kind of players who really notice, with some even noting that it puts their facts into question. For some people, this game and its emotional response will be enough to cause them to want to change immigration policies, but for many it will be lacking because of the overly strong bias. Had they used more complex gameplay and allowed less of their bias to show, perhaps the game could be more successful.

So, for an actual review, I suppose that means I should give it a score. I hate this game. It was boring and I felt like I was being hit with a clue bat. A really hard, possibly steel clue bat. The best way to describe it is that one of my friends watched me playing and said “I think this game hates America.” So I’m giving it a 1 out of 5.

If for some unusual reason you want to play ICED, you can find it at http://www.icedgame.com/.


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.