Thursday, December 31, 2009

The magic of art! - a review of Drawn: The Painted Tower

Every so often, we get to play a one-of-a-kind casual game that raises the bar and leaves us wanting more. Big Fish Studios' Drawn: The Painted Tower is this kind of game. Interested? Read on!

What I liked

  • Whimsical art style
  • Adventure game mechanics
  • Fitting music
  • Good game length
  • Built-in hint system
  • Fun puzzles

What I didn't like

  • Technical issues
  • Vagueness in the story



Quick Plot

Save a magical artistic girl from a looming threat!



Mechanics

Inventory: This is an inventory-based adventure game, like Monkey Island or Grim Fandango. You'll encounter puzzles along the way, and there's a story driving it all, but you spend most of your time traveling around the environment collecting inventory items and using them.

Exploration: Some games, like the Nancy Drew series, are more heavily driven by conversations with characters, and often include lots of text to read. This isn't the case with Drawn - for which I was thankful. This game is more in the style of Myst, where you're wandering around trying to figure things out as you explore various areas.

Hints: Unlike most adventure games, Drawn has a built-in hint system that slowly refills after each use. So, you don't have to leave the game and look up a walkthrough when you're stuck. Fortunately, the game wasn't difficult enough to require frequent use of these hints. But for those of you who like them, the hints are there. Similarly, after a certain amount of time on a puzzle, you are offered a "Skip Puzzle" option.




Highlights

Art-style: The development team for this game put in lots of work to create beautiful environments. The dreamy and cold look permeates everything. The style is whimsical, with odd curves and unbalanced lines throughout. Rarely will you play a casual game with this much beauty.

A sense of direction: If you've played many adventure games, you know the sinking feeling that comes when you reach a point in the game where you have absolutely no idea what to do next. Drawn pleasantly avoids this flaw. Everything you need for a task is usually nearby, or somewhere else obvious. The times when I felt like I didn't know what to do next, it was because I hadn't tried something relatively simple in my current surroundings. You shouldn't ever be stumped for long in this game.


Music: The music in this game does what any good adventure game music does - it matches the theme of the game, and enhances the mood of each scene, making the experience engaging and memorable. This music team did well.

Game length: Very often, I find games to be too short, and therefore a waste of money. I think you'll find that Drawn has a very reasonable length. You accomplish a good number of things before the final resolution of things arrives.

Puzzles: I love puzzles. An adventure game without good puzzles is like a movie without any memorable scenes. Solving interesting puzzles is what makes adventure games so fun for me. This game has a good variety, requiring different types of mental processing and analysis. Sometimes, you simply need to use you mouse to trace lines or paint a picture. Sometimes, you need to make sense of a more complicated arrangement of things. I would compare the variety and difficulty level of these puzzles to the puzzles found in Nancy Drew adventure games.



Issues

Technical problems: The main problem I had with the game was surprisingly a technical one. Usually, the games I download from Big Fish play just fine, but this time I had a big problem where the game quit every time I reached a particular scene, and it happened for my wife too. We just couldn't advance. The good news is, once I contacted Big Fish's tech support, they were incredibly kind and helpful, and gave me troubleshooting steps to try. The steps worked and I was up and running soon after! If you ever have trouble with a Big Fish game, contact customer support right away. Theirs some of the best I've seen, right up there with Dell computers. Still, I don't understand why the game seems to require so many system resources. There are more intense mainstream games that have quicker load times than this game.

Wait, what's going on?: It might just be me, but I wasn't ever entirely sure I understood the story in the game. With my wife's explanations, I was finally able to better understand what was going on. Personally, I dislike vague storytelling, or unexplained elements in tales. I want everything clearly communicated and every detail explained. Drawn doesn't do this. I was left with some questions about How, Why, Who, and such. Most people, I think, are fine with this kind of story, so don't take my word for it. I'm just picky.




Suitable for the family?

The kids seemed to like this one. While I can see the general lack of light in the scenery as being potentially spooky to little ones, it didn't seem to bother my kids too much. I asked my kids what they liked about the game.

Kid1: The animals.

Kid 2: The little girl.

Kid 3: (Too young to have much of an opinion.)

My wife also liked the game. She and I both wish more casual games were being produced with the strengths and features of Drawn.



The family man's final ruling

This is one of the best casual games I've played. It did almost everything right. And I was so glad they kept hidden objects scenes out of this game. These days, the industry seems to be trying to drown us with HOGs. But I say, bring on more adventure games!



You'll like the game if...

  • You like adventure games, especially inventory-based ones
  • You like nicely painted environments

You won't like the game if...

  • You don't like exploration and puzzles
  • You prefer fast-paced repetitive type games


My rating:

If you want to play Drawn: The Painted Tower, click below:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry CHRIST-mass to all of you, from the family man! Have a blessed day, and thanks for keeping up with A Game For Everyone!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Drawn: The Painted Tower . . . crashing.

You know that I like reviewing games for you, here on A Game For Everyone.

I would really like to review Drawn: The Painted Tower for you, but as of now, I can't keep going because the game is crashing.

If someone knows a fix for this, please comment, so that I can finish this game.

From here on, I recommend you don't keep reading unless you've finished the game. There might be some SPOILER material below.

The Problem

When I climb up inside the clock tower to the top, only the scenery loads, nothing else. The sound gets glitchy, and everything sort of flickers in a state of bugginess. Then, the game either quits, or restarts my computer.

The BFG forums turn up no help, though others have described this exact same problem. I have submitted a support request to Customer Support.

If you have any idea how to fix this issue, please comment!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bring in the ostrich! - A review of Farm Frenzy 2!

You might remember my review of Farm Frenzy. Today, I will share my thoughts on the second game in the series: Farm Frenzy 2!

What I liked

  • The same excellent gameplay from Farm Frenzy
  • Improved 3D-looking graphics
  • Lots of levels
  • More upgrades than the first game
  • Unlimited mode

What I didn't like

  • I still wished there were even more upgrades
  • Still no ending to speak of


Quick Plot

Once again, manage the chaos of feeding animals, producing goods, and making money, with the additional task of sending an airplane into town to purchase necessary ingredients!


Features

  • 6 types of animals to buy (chickens, pigs, cows, ostriches, dogs, cats)
  • 4 types of goods to develop (eggs, pork, milk, feathers)
  • 19 items to build and/or upgrade in the shop
  • 19 awards to earn
  • 90 levels
  • Unlockable "Unlimited" mode
  • You control everything from a first-person perspective, rather than controlling one character from a third-person perspective (as is common in many time management games)


The map. The dots are levels.


Highlights

Like the first Farm Frenzy, this is an economic time management game.

Gameplay

The gameplay is just like the first Farm Frenzy game, with one new addition. This time, in addition to your truck, you also have an airplane that flies into town. Some of the items you make require additional ingredients which can only be shipped in from town. This is what the plane is for. Like everything else, the plane can be upgraded in the shop to go faster and carry more cargo.

You might think this will add more headache to the game. I thought it would. But, like everything else, you get used to it, and you learn to incorporate it into your farming routine.

Music

This time, some of the music has a plucky bluegrass style. The level music was repetitive, happy music, as in the first game, but with a new melody and country style.

Graphics

This time around, the graphics are improved. They have more shading and such, giving it a more 3D look. I don't mind this new look at all. It's quite nice.

Moar stawf!

I was pleased to discover that this sequel gives us more stuff to do. There are more
  • levels
  • upgrades, and
  • animals.
The game has almost doubled the number of levels. And since the developers included one extra animal (the $70,000 ostrich), there are more buildings to purchase and upgrade. The ostrich is extremely expensive compared to every other animal (Not surprising really - have you ever seen the price on ostrich eggs? It's ludicrous.), but it also drops feathers that yield huge profit as you process them in your plants to make fans, hats, and dresses.


The hat-making factory.


Nevertheless, the one area where they didn't give us more is in the number of times you can upgrade each item in the shop.

Being somewhat obsessive, I insist on getting Gold ranking on each level before moving onto the next. This leaves me with a constant supply of big money. As in the first Farm Frenzy game, you get to a point when you've purchased every upgrade in the shop and your wealth no longer does you any good. This is why I think they should have super pro upgrades for people who save up the huge wad of cash. It's just a letdown to have no reward for nailing the Gold reward on every level.

One other little feature they added to this game is some little bonuses. These show up in the form of animals who pop into the scene for a brief moment, and then leave. You want to click on these animals before they disappear. Clicking on all of these animals that appear in the game should earn you an award in the awards room. Don't worry if you miss one. They show up multiple times.

And finally, this game offers an Unlimited Mode. After you complete almost all of the levels in the game, you unlock a second mode of gameplay which, as the name would indicate, has no clear end goal. You jump in with nothing. Then, as you send bears into town and start buying chickens, you have a list of goals in the bottom corner. As you complete these goals, you earn stars. You use stars to make upgrades available. Then, with money, you purchase the upgrades. This goes on and on, with new goals appearing every time you complete another one. This mode is clearly for the enthusiasts who like the gameplay enough to put their skills to the test in such a manner. That includes me.


A level in progress.


Suitable for the family?

The kids, of course, had a great time watching this game, as with the first game in the series. There are cute animals romping all over the screen constantly. Dogs bark at bears, bears trash your work, and cats pick up all of your goods. There is nothing disturbing or weird in this game. It's just cute and colorful.


The family man's final ruling

I liked this game just as much as the first game in the series. The graphics are improved, and there's even more to track and accomplish. This is a great time management game for those who like producing, buying, and selling goods
. Everything about the game is polished.

Let me warn you though, if you're going for the Gold ranking on every level, like I did, you're bound to run into some stumpers. I played some levels over and over without discovering a possible method of achieving Gold. I had to look up answers online for two levels, I think.

You'll like the game if...

  • You liked the first Farm Frenzy
  • You like strategic time management games
  • You like cute games
  • You like farm-themed games
  • You like economic games

You won't like the game if...

  • You prefer less strategy in your time management games
  • You prefer to control a character who runs around serving food
  • You don't want to track a whole lot of simultaneous activity


My rating:

If you want to play Farm Frenzy 2, click below:

Deals - Free game: Hidden Wonders of the Depths!

Want another free game from Big Fish?

Right now, you can get Hidden Wonders of the Depths for free if you use the following codes:

PC: freedepthsemailpc
Mac: freedepthsemailmac

Click one of the images to go get it:


Thursday, December 17, 2009

News - PassionFruit Games is here!

Today, I have a press release for you from PassionFruit Games. This is the team who developed the Nancy Drew Dossier games, which, as you probably know, are my favorite casual games on the market. If they create more gaming goodness of that level, hook me up! Read on, friends!




New gaming company, PassionFruit Games, launches with first of its kind romance casual game based on bestselling author Marjorie M. Liu’s Tiger Eye novel.”


New York, NY: Tuesday, December 15, 2009: PassionFruit Games today announced the creation of a new romance-themed casual game, Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box, based on the novel Tiger Eye (A Dorchester Love Spell paperback) by New York Times bestselling author Marjorie M. Liu.

Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box also officially marks the launch of PassionFruit Games and represents a unique moment in the history of gaming. Although a market for romance themed video games has existed abroad for years, these games are essentially unknown in the U.S. Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box will be one of the first romance casual games to hit the U.S. market when it goes on-sale in April 2010.

In discussing PassionFruit Games’ decision to launch their company with Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box, Melissa Heidrich, Studio Director, expressed her enthusiasm for reaching out to romance readers: “The majority of casual gamers are women aged 25-65, who report they play casual games mainly to escape. Interestingly, those same attributes apply to romance novel readers – so it’s surprising that there are currently so few romance casual games on the market. That’s why we’re excited to bring Tiger Eye to life as interactive entertainment.”

For Marjorie M. Liu’s fans, it will be a great chance for them to experience a game written by, designed by, and created for women. Mari Tokuda, one of the designers translating Marjorie’s novel into game form, says: “"There just aren't many romance games in today's market. And, for many women, romance novels are not interactive enough. That's where we come in - we are giving players a chance to experience the romance through fun gameplay and sensual cut scenes that further the relationship. This game will really appeal to players who want a storyline and those who want to BE the smart, down-to-earth romance novel heroine. And of course, we'll have a sexy leading man heavily featured in the game. A game like Tiger Eye is one of the most engaging ways for readers to experience characters' relationships."

Fans will also be able to experience things that weren’t in the book and to search for hidden objects, play minigames, listen to a film quality soundtrack, and solve puzzles, all the while following the storyline as the main characters’ relationship deepens emotionally and grows in intimacy, though there will not be explicit sex scenes.

PassionFruit Games acknowledges the challenges of turning a popular book into digital entertainment and of adhering closely to the book’s storyline. In their quest to stay true to the novel, all members of the team—from artist to programmer—read Tiger Eye, as well as other novels in the Dirk & Steele universe, to get a feel for the “essence” of the game. The producer and lead designer held regular video conferences with Marjorie to go over the latest design ideas and Marjorie herself wrote the script for the game and is involved with the game every step of the way, giving input on scene art, character design, and voice actor selection.

Says Marjorie, who is well known for her New York Times bestselling Dirk & Steele and Hunter Kiss series and for co-authoring the hugely popular Dark Wolverine Marvel comic book series, about playing the game’s early build: “I was amazed by the beautiful cinematic cut scenes and the way players could actually experience things my characters had done. It’s an incredible feeling to not only see favorite characters brought to life but to experience life through their eyes as you progress through the game.”

The Tiger Eye novel, which Publishers Weekly praised as a “first-rate debut” and “a striking paranormal romance,” tells the story of Dela, a woman with psychic abilities who buys a riddle box in Beijing’s Dirt Market and opens it to find an ancient warrior, Hari, bound to serve as a slave to the person who has opened the box. The action moves between China and the U.S. and PassionFruit Games will mirror this international scope through two games, the first to take place in China and the second in the U.S. PassionFruit games also plans to involve readers in the release of Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box with the chance for a select few fans to be Beta testers and with fan voting on looks for the character, Long Nu.


Order Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box now at www.passionfruitgames.com

Beginning today, players will be able to purchase the Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box $6.99 standard package, which includes instant download of the game’s opening cinematic, “Dela’s Dream,” and a link to download the game when it releases in April.

Players will also have the option to choose the $9.99 premium package, which includes “Dela’s Dream” and a link to the game when it goes on-sale in April; but also features the MP3 of the Tiger Eye theme film-quality soundtrack composed and scored for full orchestra by critically acclaimed composer Matt Sayre; concept art of the male heart throb, Hari; exclusive wallpaper art; and a PDF of the official strategy guide.

For those who think that Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box will be the perfect gift for a loved one (or for themselves!), holiday e-cards are available at www.passionfruitgames.com. The game will be available in both Mac and PC versions.


Marjorie M. Liu is an attorney, and the New York Times bestselling author of short stories, novellas, and two ongoing series: Dirk & Steele novels of paranormal romance, and the Hunter Kiss urban fantasy series. She wrote NYX: No Way Home, for Marvel Comics, and is co-writing the ongoing bestselling Dark Wolverine series. Marjorie divides her time between the American Midwest, and Beijing/Shanghai, China. For a complete listing of all her work, please visit her website at: www.marjoriemliu.com

PassionFruit Games was founded by a group of individuals who had created several critically-acclaimed casual games together before establishing their own independent studio. Their mission is to bring stories and characters to life through lushly-painted interactive environments and captivating cinematics, while providing engaging, entertaining gameplay. The PassionFruit Games team members also worked on the critically acclaimed Nancy Drew Dossier game when they were at Her Interactive; the game was just chosen as the “Best Hidden Object Game of 2009” by Yahoo! Games.

Tiger Eye, The novel
Marjorie M. Liu
Dorchester Love Spell paperback, $6.99
Tiger Eye, The game
For info contact: elena@wunderkind-pr.com
cell: 917-887-0784


ISBN: 0-5-5-52626-3; 342 pages, available now
www.marjoriemliu.com

Available April 2010
www.passionfruitgames.com

Early concept art for Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box:
The face of the warrior, Hari, is hidden in this image. The complete image will be revealed to those who pre-order the game:




Advance Screenshot from Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box:



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deals - Free games! Want some?

One thing I like, and I know you like, is a free casual game. Well, today, I'm going to get you up to date on the games you can get for free right now from Big Fish Games. Check this action out.

GameCoupon Code
PC or Mac: everestfree
PC or Mac: peopleraventwitter
PC: freeazadaemailpc
Mac: freeazadaemailmac
PC: freespaemailpc
Mac: freespaemailmac


Enjoy the goods, friends! If I have something mistyped or if a code doesn't work, please comment.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aimless Island - a review of Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships!

My wife and I have played almost every Nancy Drew adventure game to date. We just finished Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships. Want to know what I thought of it? Read on!


What I liked

  • Some good puzzles
  • Setting was nice

What I didn't like

  • Hard to figure out what to do next
  • Very few characters
  • Minimal music
  • Weak conclusion
  • Teeeeeedious



Quick Plot

Nancy's friend is missing! Go to the island and find her!


Highlights


Features
  • Standard point-and-click travel and environmental interaction
  • New sailing feature
  • New scuba diving feature (gotta keep that tank filled!)
  • Rock-climbing (this might be new)
  • Driving, as seen in other games
  • Playing games with monkeys
  • Metal detecting and digging
  • Puzzles

Music

For some reason, the music didn't do much for me this time around. There is very little variety in the music for most of the game. It provides some accompaniment, but it's nothing special. The composer for the Dossier series is pumping out better music for that line of games.

Story

The story was one of the best parts of the game. It involves some old Spanish ships and some treasure.

Playing the Game

This is where the game falls short of previous Nancy Drew adventures. I can imagine the developer meeting where they planned the game:
Developer 1: "You know, we just need to get this game done. Any ideas for speeding up the process?"

Developer 2: "Well, what gamers want is a good chunk of time spent in a video game. Time equals value for the gamer."

Developer 3: "That's right. How about this: What if we just make a lot of the mechanics tedious and repetitive so that it feels like the player is doing something even though he really isn't!"

Developer 1: "Brilliant!"
And so they got to work. And it shows. You spend a huge portion of the game not solving puzzles, gaining new insight, or discovering new fascinating locations. Rather, a hefty majority of the game is spent driving a golf cart around the island. And wouldn't you know it - the map of the island isn't with you for easy access - no - it's all the way back at the resort where you're staying - so you have to memorize it!

When you're not driving, you're climbing (and getting pelted by rocks), sailing around an expanse of water, playing boring games over and over to win prizes from monkeys, scuba diving, and traveling all the way back to the resort to fill up your scuba tank! Doesn't that sound like fun? No? That's because it isn't really. Good adventure games keep you playing by leading you to
  • participate in interesting conversations with interesting characters,
  • discover clues in interesting locations, or best of all,
  • solve (challenging or interesting) puzzles.

This brings me to the best part of Seven Ships. There were, thankfully, some fun, amusing, and challenging puzzles in this game. That was the part where I told my wife, "Okay, let me take the mouse now!"

Oh, and to top it off, they give you one of the all-time adventure game no-nos: a maze. Sure, you're scuba diving, and there are symbols which are supposed to guide you, but it's still a maze.

To avoid spoilers, I won't go into much detail, but I'll say that I was dissatisfied with both the resolution to the mystery, and with the ending.


Suitable for the family?

The kids sat with us for much of this game. There's a talking parrot in the game, which is great for the weefolk. And, of course, the monkeys.


The family man's final ruling

This game often leaves you with little direction. Usually, I like to solve these games without looking online for hints. This time, we had no choice. We had to visit UHS multiple times. You're supposed to get your direction from an old journal you find. This just didn't work well.

Honestly, I was disappointed. I have been having a lot more fun with the newer Nancy Drew Dossier series than with the long-lived adventure series. My wife is the primary Nancy Drew fan in our house, and she was disappointed with this game too. I would recommend trying some of the older entries if you're new to the series.



You'll like the game if...

  • You're a die-hard or completist Nancy Drew adventure fan
  • You love a tropical island setting for an adventure

You won't like the game if...

  • You want lots of good puzzles and gameplay that provides constant forward momentum


My rating:

If you want to play Nancy Drew: Ransom of the Seven Ships, click below:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Anyone playing MCF: Dire Grove?


UPDATE: I have now played and written a review for this game. Read it here!



All right, dear readers, are any of you playing Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove Collector's Edition?


I really want to know what this game is like, but I don't want to sink the bucks if it's going to be twisted like Return to Ravenhearst. If one of you plays this, please comment and let us know what it's like. How does it compare to Return to Ravenhearst? Any improvements? Anything disturbing?

For everyone who's interested, the standard edition will be released in December. For now, this $19.95 collector's edition is available to extreme Mystery Case Files fans. It comes will all kinds of extras.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

News - Big Fish Games Mac version!

Just a little bit of news for you today.

Big Fish Games now has a Mac version of the site for all you Mac users. Let's hope they continue to increase Mac development and support!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Deal - Return to Ravenhearst for $2.99!

I have good news for you, friends.

Thanks to alert reader, irishdec52, it was brought to my attention that Big Fish is offering Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst for only $2.99 for a limited time!

That's right - $2.99. I went to the site and verified it myself.
This is a special deal available to everyone! The coupon code is RTR299. I don't know how long this offer will last, so you probably want to get it as soon as you can.

If you're asking, "What the heck is Return to Ravenhearst?" I suggest you go read my review.

While I don't recommend this game for children, or adults who are easily affected by the creepy and twisted, I do think it was a great game. I would have given it 5 stars if it was more family friendly.

Now's the time to get this game if you haven't already.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

News - Luxor Adventures and Luxor 3!

Tomorrow, Big Fish's new game will be Luxor Adventures, a new hidden objects game in the Luxor series, which has traditionally been marble popper games.

But here's the best part: if you buy Luxor Adventures, you get Luxor 3 thrown in for free!

Now, when I have a chance to recommend Luxor 3, I do. Read my review to find out why.

So, get ready to pick up Luxor Adventures and Luxor 3 tomorrow for some HOGin' and marble poppin' goodness!


Luxor Adventures - released tomorrow!

Monday, November 16, 2009

News - Mystery of the Crystal Portal at Big Fish Games!

You might have read my review of Treasure Seekers by Artogon Games. If you did, you know that I think very highly of the game, and of Artogon's original take on the HOG genre.

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is another game from Artogon using the same engine as was seen in the Treasure Seekers games, but until now, it hasn't been available from Big Fish. I played a good portion of the game elsewhere in the past and found that it offers more of the same goodness.


So, if you like the Treasure Seekers games, you'd better give The Mystery of the Crystal Portal a try, now that it has arrived at Big Fish. The graphics are beautiful, the music is good, and the gameplay is what you'd expect from Artogon. This is a great selection for the HOG crowd.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

HOG obsession and a new Mystery Case Files game!

I have two bits of news to discuss today.

A New MCF Game

First, fans of the Mystery Case Files series should take a trip over to MysteryCaseFiles.com and watch the trailer for the new MCF game: Dire Grove. It looks like they actually got live actors this time around. For me, this has great draw because it taps into my mind's nostalgia sector. I first became a computer gamer in the 90s. Myst was the game that hooked me. After that, I was regularly at the media store browsing adventure games. This was the golden age of point-and-click adventure gaming, where FMV integration was the new standard, as seen in games like Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, Zork: Nemesis, and my personal favorite, the Tex Murphy series. It was a sad day when the adventure game industry started going downhill and FMV was abandoned in favor of computer-graphics characters.

This, combined with the fact that the previous MCF entry, Return to Ravenhearst (see my review here) turned out to be one of the most fun casual games I've ever played, makes me very interested in this new MCF title. I'll try the demo for Dire Grove, but if it's as twisted as Return to Ravenhearst, I'm going to have to pass.

HOG Obsession

You might remember my recent thoughts regarding the use of young ladies as a marketing strategy for hidden object games. Well, there's a more general trend going on right now. Maybe you've noticed it. HOGs are being released by the truckload.

Nov. 1
Nov. 2
Nov. 3
Nov. 4
Nov. 5
Nov. 6
Nov. 8
Nov. 9
Nov. 10
Nov. 11


Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, but I am. Have the developers received a message that gamers have such a great love for finding hidden objects? While I've enjoyed a hefty share of HOGs, the mechanic is not fun enough to constitute game after game. This, of course, is a taste issue. I wouldn't be surprised at all if there are people who download and love every HOG just because the mechanic never seems to get old for them. Just as with board games, certain game mechanics click with certain types of minds.

Are you obsessed with HOGs? Post a comment and let the rest of us know what it is about HOGs that keeps you going!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More egg solids! - a review of Farm Frenzy

Today, I review the oldie-but-goodie, Farm Frenzy! This was the first in a series of 4 Farm Frenzy games.

What I liked

  • Streamlined gameplay
  • Cute, colorful design
  • Lots of things to work for
  • Fun economics and strategy

What I didn't like

  • I wished there were even more upgrades
  • No ending to speak of


Quick Plot

Get good at managing farms by feeding animals, producing goods, and making money!


Features

  • 5 types of animals to buy (geese, sheep, cows, dogs, cats)
  • 3 types of goods to develop (eggs, wool, milk)
  • 10 things to build and upgrade
  • 16 awards to earn
  • 48 levels
  • You control everything from a first-person perspective, rather than controlling one character from a third-person perspective (as is common in many time management games)

The map. The blue dots are levels.


Highlights

The great thing here is the mechanics. This is an economic time management game, and the developers came up with something wonderfully original.

Gameplay

Here are the basics of how the game works.
  • Collect the products that animals drop (geese drop eggs, for instance)
  • Build buildings that can process these products, making them into more valuable products (turn eggs into egg solids, then into muffins)
  • Ship products into town by truck to earn money
  • Use money to buy more animals and upgrade your buildings
  • Lock bears in cages when they come to attack your farm animals
  • Achieve the level's goals within a certain amount of time to earn stars
  • Spend stars to buy better buildings and resources at the shop between levels
Music

The music is simple and cute. It matches the bright mood of the game. The only issue is that the music is the same for every level. If you don't like the music, this might drive you nuts. You might want to turn it off. I didn't mind it.

Degrees of Challenge

One feature that made the game so fun for me is the medals you can earn. You are given Gold and Silver goals at the beginning of each level. If you finish the level quick enough to meet the Gold goal, you earn the gold medal and a bunch of extra stars, which allow you to purchase upgrades more quickly in the shop. Silver goals are the same, but easier to accomplish. This challenge was what kept me playing. I played each level as many times as it took to master it and earn the gold medal. It seems there's one best method for each level, and if you can figure it out, the gold medal shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I have one gripe though. Eventually, all those gold medals earned me enough stars to purchase every available upgrade in the store. This gave me nothing to use my hard-earned stars on for a big chunk of levels toward the end of the game. I thought they should have allowed more upgrades, like a single-click bear cage (a 3-click bear cage is the best available).


A level in progress.


Suitable for the family?

If there's one thing kids love, it's animals. My kids liked watching the animals roaming around the screen munching grass and dropping goods. They liked watching the cats collecting the goods and the dogs barking to keep the bears at bay. This one is cute and bright - great for kids! Maybe not for my wife so much - she didn't like hearing the same music playing constantly from across the room...


The family man's final ruling

Despite my minor
gripes, this is easily among my favorite casual games of all time. It is just so fun to play! There is something elegant about these mechanics. The design is superb. It combines time management with economics and strategic planning in a fun and engaging way. There are always upgrades to work for, and it is so satisfying to send a batch of cheese to town and watch huge money roll in. While there isn't really any ending to the game, the last level makes all the previous work worth it. You'll see.

If, like me, you aren't as interested in restaurant-based time management games, give Farm Frenzy a try. You might find that this is a welcome new take on the genre. And if you like it, there are 3 more games in the series!

You'll like the game if...

  • You like strategic time management games
  • You like cute games
  • You like farm-themed games
  • You like economic games

You won't like the game if...

  • You prefer less strategy in your time management games
  • You prefer to control a character who runs around serving food


My rating:

If you want to play Farm Frenzy, click below:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The blue monkey has spoken! - a review of Ancient Quest of Saqqarah

Rarely will you hear me say I enjoy a Match-3 game. Ancient Quest of Saqqarah has proven to be the exception to the rule. This can probably be attributed to the fact that this is not your ordinary Match-3 game.

What I liked

  • Excellent graphics and animations
  • Fitting music
  • Ancient Egyptian theme
  • Lighting effects/atmosphere
  • Variety of mechanics
  • Great voice-over work
  • Relaxed mode

What I didn't like

  • Longer levels as a means of increasing difficulty


Quick Plot

A secret underground oasis holds the temples of 7 ancient Egyptian deities. With the help of Khufu, the blue humanoid monkey, restore the temples of the 7 good deities so that they can combine their power to keep the evil Seth locked in his prison forever!


Features

  • 7 temples, 7 deity statues to restore, 7 different Match-3 mechanics
  • 9 trophies to earn, with Stone, Silver, and Gold ranks for each
  • 24 normal levels and 24 hard levels within each temple
  • Several magical power upgrades for Khufu, with 3 upgrade ranks for each
  • 2 types of minigames
  • Timed or Relaxed modes
  • Expandable by downloading SaqPacks from the developer's website
  • A talking blue monkey



Khufu - the magical blue monkey



Highlights

The thing that immediately drew my attention was the uncommonly high level of quality that the developers built into this game. The atmosphere of the game is wonderful. They first put you in the oasis scene, where you choose a temple to play in. This underground oasis is beautiful. There are animated torches and waterfalls, with bridges, palm trees, and undergrowth. This idyllic and mysterious scene is very attractive. Then, inside each temple, it's dark, but the dim lighting shines from somewhere onto the stonework framing the level. It's a fun place to be. This atmosphere alone made the game enjoyable to play.

You are always accompanied by pleasant and memorable Egyptian music, which is likely to remain in your mind throughout the day (beware!). To polish off the audio presentation, the game boasts excellent professional voice work for Khufu and each of the deity statues.

While the level boards are always set up in the same way - a series of points connected by threads - the mechanics for clearing the board change with each temple, and each board is arranged differently. This is what keeps the game interesting. Within each temple, there are difficulties added every 6 levels so that, as you proceed, gameplay becomes more challenging. To offset the difficulty, Khufu, your magical aid, also gains power-ups periodically. As you collect power (every time you make matches of 4 or more), Khufu's magic meter goes up. Once the meter is full, he casts all of his available spells, breaking pieces and helping you clear the board. Not only is this game completely non-standard in it's approach to the Match-3 idea, but they give you 7 different ways to clear the boards. By my calculations, this base game offers 336 unique levels without counting the simple minigames that are thrown in from time to time. One minigame is just clicking on 6 scurrying scarab beetles. The other is a searching puzzle. A wall is covered with hieroglyphics and you have to locate a number of certain glyphs.


The secret underground oasis! (trophies at the bottom)




Suitable for the family?

There's a talking blue monkey in the game. What more could you ask for? Kids love watching Khufu as he makes various motions in the corner of the screen during levels. He also speaks when he casts his spells. My kids also liked the animal heads on some of the deity statues.

There's nothing weird, scary, or disturbing in this game. It's fun, cute, thematic, and family friendly.


What a level looks like



The family man's final ruling

I had a lot of fun with this game. I don't imagine Match 3 could be done with any more innovation, variety, and polish. Some companies make excellent games, and some make weak and boring games. Ancient Quest of Saqqarah is
among some of the best-produced games I've played, which puts it in the "excellent" category for me. Plus, if you like the game, finish it, and decide you want even more, you can download SaqPacks from the developer's website. SaqPacks expand the game with more levels. Read about them here.

You'll like the game if...

  • You like Match 3
  • You are looking for an innovative new appraoch to Match 3
  • You like ancient Egypt as a theme
  • You like only the best in terms of production quality

You won't like the game if...

  • You get bored playing puzzly games with minimal story


My rating:

If you want to play Saqqarah, click below: