Archive for the ‘5 Hearts’ Category

Extra Life

Posted: September 20, 2012 in 5 Hearts

So you guys love playing video games, right? And you like the idea of helping sick kids, right? Then you should check out Extra Life. You’ve heard of walk-a-thons and things like that. Well, this is a game-a-thon. The basic idea is that people donate money to sponsor a person who is playing video games for 24-hours straight. That money then goes to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to help kids. The best part? It goes to local hospitals in the your area! So you get to play video games and kids get a chance at a better life and the money for medical treatments they need.

If you want to help, you can go here to sponsor one of my friends who is going to play for the Boston Children’s Hospital or you can go here for more information or to register.

I know its not exactly a game, but this is such an amazing idea that I’m giving them 5 out of 5 hearts!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to make video games? Playing games leads to modding which leads to making your own, its a wonderful process that more people should experience. That’s why today I’m bringing you Stencyl. Stencyl is a development suite for creating Flash, iOS and Android games, and if you have the pro version you can also create Desktop Mac and PC games. The engine is designed for 2D games, but that’s what most people want in a Flash game, right? One of my favorite parts is that they include a feature called StencylForge which is an online hosting of various game assets such as characters, backgrounds, environment building tools and even pre-coded behaviors so that you can learn at your own pace. This is great for kids or people who want to get into game design but don’t have the strong programming background. It also includes example games so you can get an idea how a lot of classic mechanics are done.

One of the great features of Stencyl is the forums. There are tons of people on there willing to help out newbies. Another great thing is that it includes the Kongregate, Mochi and Newgrounds API so you can connect to their score boards and give achievements. Speaking of Kongregate, There are tons of tutorials and forum posts about Stencyl and how to use it. For some of those tutorials, you can go here:

Here’s a code block that handles two different types of collisions: the player with an enemy or the player with a coin pick-up. But you can also choose to write real code if you want to. The interface for building scenes is just as simple. They made everything very drag and drop and friendly.

If you’re interested in learning the concepts behind game design and even starting to make your own games that you can upload to a real gaming site and get feedback from people, you should consider trying out Stencyl. Stencyl is available for Linux, Mac and PC and can be downloaded here. I am thoroughly enjoying using it and can’t suggest it enough. I award Stencyl a 5 out of 5 hearts for wonderful software, community and game design teaching.

This strange game has been sweeping the internet by storm for quite a while. The basic idea is that you are a homeowner in a zombie apocalypse and the only way to survive is by cultivating your garden of zombie destroying plants. If that doesn’t sound fun, I don’t know what does. What’s even better is you can now get a free trial of Plants Versus Zombies from the Chrome app store.

So, first I just have to say that I love the quirky sound effects and upbeat music that plays the entire time. The graphics are also adorable. One of the things I really liked about this game is just how much content there is. I have the trial version and I got 20 stages to play through and mini-games. And there’s way, way more in the full version. The mini-games that I have seen so far include a puzzle game where you have to break jars and you might get a plant to place or you might get a zombie and a bowling game. There was also one where you get a randomly generated list of plants coming, sort of like in Tetris, and you have to place them to combat the zombies. Another thing to be mentioned is that the environment changed, including fighting off zombies in the day or night or even on the roof.

I found the game play to be quite simple and the difficulty ramps up in a very natural curve. The levels always felt like they were right at the level of difficulty I should be at. The gameplay is completely made up of point and click mechanics but its very enjoyable and engaging.

Plants Versus Zombies is available for the following platforms: Xbox live arcade, iPhone, DS and DSi, Playstation, Android, PC, Mac, iPad and Chrome web app. According to their website, they won Game of the Year. This is a really stellar game and I suggest trying it out for yourself. I’ve enjoyed it thus far and it just keeps getting better. Every new plant or zombie type is just hilarious. I especially like the one zombie who is reading a newspaper. He gets very angry if anything happens to his paper. So, having really enjoyed this game, I feel that they have earned the 5 out of 5 hearts. I have no complaints. Any time the game started to feel even the slightest bit tedious, they would give me a mini-game or change the environmental variables. It was very well done.

If you are interested in finding Plants Versus Zombies, you can find it in any of the places I listed before or you can go here. The game is available free to try the demo or $19.95 for the full version.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, I’ve been quite sick. Well, now its time to talk about my new favorite toy : the Fudge system. I picked up the book for this at PAX East this year. I might have mentioned it.

justfudgeitThe great thing about Fudge is that you don’t really need to follow the rules, know the rules or even care about the rules. My favorite quote from the book was something to the tune of here’s a table you can use, if you like tables, and if you don’t, just make it up. I ran a game of Fudge during Gaming Weekend at school. The campaign has the intentions of continuing, but we haven’t yet due to outside forces. The characters involved are amazing. So, we have the fairly stereotypical bookish wizard with his familiar, an ermine named Vlad. Then we’ve got the energy manipulator who also happens to be a prostitute by night. Then the divine oracle who worships the stars and has something of a temper. And last but certainly not least, the druidic water bender. The characters were all made purely subjectively and the things on their character sheets are just the kinds of things that they think they should be able to do. And let me tell you, they can do some pretty wacky stuff. The quote from the session that has been bandied about the most, I think, is “We do not condone violence in this school! Mind crush!”. It was beautiful. The roleplaying in the session was way more than I tend to see in D&D and I really feel like Fudge helped. Especially since skills and attributes are recorded as “Good” or “Fair” or “Excellent” not as numbers like in other systems.

 

Fudge (role-playing game system)

Image via Wikipedia

I really like the concept of using Fudge dice, which have +, – and blank on the sides. It allows for the game to be much more subjective. I also house ruled out rolls for things that a player’s character should just be able to do. For example, a 7th year wizarding student should be able to cast a mage light without any trouble, so they just can. There’s still the possibility that they will backlash themselves. I use the fatigue table in the Fudge book to handle this effect and it works beautifully.

My players really loved this system and character creation didn’t take nearly as long as I’ve seen it take in other systems. It was largely them deciding what they wanted their character to be and coming up with skills based on that. My players used 2 of the 4-5 different magic systems presented in the book, and I’m considering writing a new one. Its an amazingly adaptable system, as evidenced by the community forums which can be found here. The Fudge system allows, no encourages, people to add their own content and to make custom content for their own settings. Fudge is inherently a rules-light, worldless system that focuses on the story, not the rules. But for people who like the feel of the D6 or the D20 or even diceless, there are rule sets for that. Its completely amazing.

Overall, I love Fudge, my players love Fudge. Fudge is truly the storytelling system I’ve been looking for. I hope that other people who like tabletops but hate rules can check it out and give it a try. I give Fudge a 5 out of 5. It has fulfilled my every hope and dream.

 

Castle Ravenloft: The Solo Adventures

Posted: January 28, 2011 in 5 Hearts
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Castle Ravenloft is a board game that was released this year by Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro. The basic idea of the game is that you’re playing fourth edition Dungeons and Dragons in the Ravensloft setting only the rules are simplified and the characters are pre-generated. One of the best things about Castle Ravenloft for those of us who haven’t got people to play with all the time is the solo adventures that are included. The adventure booklet is your DM and you are the hero(es) and the monsters. Both of the solo adventures are well written and easily explain the fact that you’re one adventurer on your own in the world where normally adventurers travel in packs.

The art and the miniatures are gorgeous. The miniatures for this game are plastic casts of the real miniatures released for use with Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve actually had my roommates raiding my copy of Castle Ravenloft for their D&D game. The art on the cards for the attacks and items are also really nice. Everything is color coded and easy to use. Even the miniatures are color coded, heroes being one color, low level monsters another, etc.

Castle Ravenloft does very well at maintaining a level of urgency. It always feels like you’re about to lose any second now, especially in the solo missions. I actually finished one of them, a mission where you have multiple heroes you can use but only one at a time, and the last one I had left was the wizard. It was really close, but I barely scraped out the victory. The level of urgency is wonderful. The stories are also well written which helps the feel of the game.

My one problem with Castle Ravenloft is really just a petty grievance from a gamer who has played 3.5 and 4.0 D&D. The rules are way simplified. But that is also a good thing, really. It means that people who don’t normally play table top roleplaying games can play this and not feel like they’re left behind or slowing down play like can be the problem in real tabletop play.

In conclusion, Castle Ravenloft’s solo game play is very well done. I really love that it exists. Most games like this don’t acknowledge the fact that its very difficult sometimes to find other people willing to play. And so, I give Castle Ravenloft’s solo adventures a 5 out of 5 hearts and thoroughly suggest at least that you try playing it at some point.

Hopefully soon I will get some people to play Castle Ravenloft with me and a camera so I can take some pictures of the board while in play. Once I have, a review of the multiplayer portion of the game will be available.

World of Goo

Posted: December 29, 2010 in 5 Hearts
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Prepare for 11 reviews in a row from the Humble Indie Bundle. I picked it up just before Christmas and set down to the playing now. I can also offer an upcoming review of Betrayal at House on the Hill edition 2 and Castle Ravenloft. Up first, is a review of World of Goo. Feast your eyes on the adorable graphics!

The basic idea of this game is that you have to use the little goo balls to form a structure to get from the start to the pipe somewhere else on the level. There is physics involved in getting the structures built, physics which can be slightly odd at times. As someone who’s taken classes on engineering design and basic kinematics, I have to say, this game is pretty accurate. The goo balls are also adorable. Like, amazingly adorable with the big eyes and the little things they say when you’re moving them around and sucking them up into the pipe. The game itself is structured in stages within chapters, sort of like a Mario Bros game.

World of Good is a very nice puzzle game, challenging enough to keep a person occupied for hours and quite fun. Its also subtly teaches basic concepts of engineering and kinematics. In fact, I would suggest this game to physics teachers for their classes. There’s also a very nice metagame that lets you build a tower with goo balls and if you connect to the internet, it shows you the heights of other people’s towers. Not only does it tell you how tall their tower is, but it also shows you how many of their goo balls they’re using.

I love the graphics, music and gameplay, but I have to say my favorite part of this game are the absurd things said by the sign painter on all the signs throughout the stages. They’re just surreal enough to be entertaining but also give little clues for how to beat the stage.

In conclusion, I have to say that World of Goo is an awesome game. So for its score, I rate the World of Goo at a 5 out of 5 hearts. Well done, 2D-Boy, well done! For anyone who missed out on the bundle who is interested in purchasing World of Goo, they should go to http://www.worldofgoo.com/.

Best of the Old School

Posted: December 1, 2010 in 2 Hearts, 3 Hearts, 4 Hearts, 5 Hearts
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Remember when games were 8bit or less? I do (barely). I remember tottering down the stairs to have my grandmother turn the Atari on for me. Did I mention that the TV had a black & white or color switch? Yeah. This was before kindergarten for me. So, the question becomes which of these classic games is the best? Well, we can start by narrowing it down to the names that have survived through the ages and choose the top 5 to look through. Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Frogger and Asteroids will be the final list for review. Quite the impressive line up of stars, isn’t it? Lets see who comes out on top.

Pong – 1972

Oh, Pong, you are such a special little classic. Two colors…or maybe one color and a background, two players if you have two controllers and all to simulate ping-pong. So, lets see, first off the controls are simple but impossible. Second off, I swear to you the computer cheats. The graphics are so old that they’re adorable rather than bad but I still can’t get over the fact that the computer cheats. I really don’t know what else to say. So here comes the score. I’m sorry its so low, Pong, but well…stop cheating.

Space Invaders – 1980

I love Space Invaders. I had this thing emulated on my graphing calculator, that’s how amazing it is. The aliens are adorable, there’s like three colors and you get more than 1 life. Plus there are levels. For being an old game, Space Invaders has a lot of the things you want in a good, simple game. Sure, its only a one-player game but you can take turns per life or even per game since its not very long. I also really like the fact that Space Invaders is one of the first games I ever experienced where you get a shield to hide behind and can make strategic use of it. I used to drill out a sniper hole in one of the bunkers to shoot safely. Plus, there’s just something special about playing it with a joystick that I miss…I don’t think any of the TVs in my house play nicely with the co-ax cable on my Atari… So, the score.

4/5 HeartsPac-Man – 1980

Pac-Man is an amazing point in gaming history, one of the first arcade games available in the United States that wasn’t a shooter (or Pong). Pac-man was a break in a new direction that opened up an entirely new genre for development. Its got very nice, simple controls and the graphics (in both the classic game and in this flash remake) are adorable. I really like the ghosts too. The gameplay is challenging, but not so hard as to be impossible. Unless of course you’re trying to take screenshots while you play. Then things get interesting. I also really like that the screen wraps left and right. I think this was one of the first games I ever played where that happened instead of having invisible boundaries. And so, the score.

Frogger – 1981

Alright, it might just be me but I totally remember Frogger being way harder when I was a kid. I remember getting mowed down all the time. Especially by that stupid 18-wheeler in the last car lane. I love how cute the graphics are in this remake, but I remember sitting there when I was little and everything was much blockier and less colorful and yet still entrancing. Sadly, though, I think Frogger is just one of those games that didn’t stand up to my childhood memories. I was expecting a challenge. Not something I could nearly do blindfolded.

3/5 zelda heartsAsteroids – 1979

And last but not least, Asteroids. Now, I never had this one on the Atari myself, but I’ve played it at the arcade. I really like the way the controls work. Its like they couldn’t program normal controls so they just made them weird and it feels like you’re actually maneuvering in outer space. I also love the hyperspace button, but I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve killed myself with it. Now, I know I gave Pong a hard time for being white on black, but look! Asteroids managed to make thin lines and irregular shapes. That’s impressive for being this old. Sure, Pong has 7 years on Asteroids, but dang.

4/5 HeartsAnd so, the final winner is: PAC-MAN. Not that anyone is surprised, of course. Pac-Man is a classic above and beyond the caliber of these others. Out of this selection of games, only Frogger and Pac-man spawned series and the Pac-man series was much more long-lived and had many more titles, even if Pac-Land was terrible.