Friday, January 22, 2010

The Movie's About to Start! - a review of Megaplex Madness: Now Playing

Want a straightforward time management game with intuitive gameplay? Megaplex Madness: Now Playing might be just the game for you. Hopefully I can help you decide in today's review!

What I liked

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop gameplay
  • Adequate game length

What I didn't like

  • Repetition
  • Lack of features
  • Mediocre production quality



Quick Plot

Provide good customer service, and make enough money to restore all the broken-down movie theaters in Movieville.



Mechanics

Time Management: Every level consists of the few minutes before the movie starts. During those few minutes, you need to serve as many people as you can. Each customer comes in with a good attitude (5 hearts), but their attitudes grow sour if you take too long to serve them (they lose hearts). You make more money from customers with lots of hearts.

Arcade Games: During the game, you can buy arcade machines for your theaters. You can visit the arcade in between levels to play the games you've unlocked. These games are old-school arcade games with new names. You can play these to make extra money.






Highlights

There are very few highlights to mention for this game. The game is very simple. But there is one feature worth mentioning.

Drag-and-Drop: In many time management games, you click-click-click to make things happen. In this game, you actually click the customer you want to move -- this picks them up -- and drag them to their requested stations (popcorn stand, ticket booth, bathroom, etc.). The developers even built in physics. The limbs of the little people will flail if you move them quickly, as if they're really being picked up and thrown around. It's pretty cute. This is the first time management game that I've played that used this sort of person movement, so it's worth mentioning.



Other than that, the game is very basic in its mechanics, which should be comforting to those of you who don't like complicated games. Each level consists of the following:
  1. Look at the balloon above each customer's head. This tells you what the customer wants to do.
  2. Drag the customer to their desired station.
  3. Continue this until each customer has gone into the movie.
You will have
  • 4 colors of characters: Blue, Red, Green, and Purple.
  • 3 customer types: Patient, Normal, Impatient
  • 3 degrees of success: Target, Expert, and Master.
You must earn the Target amount of money to move onto the next level. Earning the Expert amount of money does nothing significant. Earning the Master amount of money allows you to make a repair on the theater. These repairs, as far as I can tell, are visual only. They don't affect the gameplay. In between levels, you spend your money to buy useful upgrades, such as new workers, new concession stands, or new services. The more upgrades, the better your service.

Each of the 5 theaters seem to get a bit more challenging than the previous one. There are 10 levels per theater.


One thing I was thankful to discover was that, even if you fail a level, you get to keep the money you earned. This allows you to buy additional theater upgrades before you try the level again.



Issues

Lack of Features: The only added feature of the game is the optional arcade games. But there are problems with these games.
  1. It takes way too long to earn good money from them.
  2. They are difficult old-school games (like Frogger, Galaga, and Breakout).
  3. They don't have keyboard controls.
So, I spent very little time in the arcade. It just wasn't fun.

Many time management games include a trophy room with various long-term goals to shoot for, or new upgrades and unlockables as you play and improve. You won't get any of that in this game. You'll just be doing the same thing over and over for each level. This will either be just right for you, or boring, depending on what types of games you like.

In the Farm Frenzy series, it is fun to keep playing the level, trying for the Gold medal (the highest challenge level). In this game, there was nothing very fun about trying for the Master level, so I usually just moved on, regardless of how successfully I finished the level.

Also, I would have liked more variety in the way customers look. But no. Each person is one of 7 or 8 models. It's a city of clones!





Suitable for the family?

Sure. The kids watched me play some of the time, but there is nothing inherently interesting for the weefolk. Also, the adult female customers all have bare midriffs. Why? As usual, the answer is simple: male developers. Would every female in town really wear stomach-revealing shirts?



The family man's final ruling

I've played various types of time management games, and I found Megaplex Madness: Now Playing to be unlike anything else I've played. The drag-and-drop method of moving people around was fairly unique, but nothing else really stood out.

Is it worth playing? Sure. It was more fun than some other time management games I've tried. It was fun enough to keep playing to the end. Still, nothing about the game really shined.
The music, graphics, and story are nothing special. This was just your everyday amusing casual game that anyone could pick up and play. I almost gave it a full 3 stars, but there are too many other high quality games pushing my rating lower. That said, if you can find the game for a good price, don't miss it.



You'll like the game if...

  • You like simple games with few mechanics
  • You like time management games

You won't like the game if...

  • You like complex games
  • You like time management games with multiple features or layers of depth
  • You like games with high production values like good music and graphics


My rating:

If you want to play Megaplex Madness: Now Playing, click below:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Contest for a free game!

I'm going to run a little contest here on A Game For Everyone.

Who gets to participate?


You may participate only if you do not currently have an account with Big Fish Games.

This contest if for casual game newbies.

What does the winner get?

I will give the winner a coupon code for a free download of Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst for the winner. This is one of my favorite casual games. You can read my review to see what I thought.

How do I win?!


By becoming my friend on Big Fish Games. You can become my friend by clicking on the image or link below and signing up for a Big Fish Games account.



When you sign up from my link, you automatically become my friend.

The first person to become my Big Fish friend in this way will win the free game.

Here's what you need to do after signing up:
  1. Contact me at gamesonthetable [at] gmail [dot] com and let me know that you signed up. I will look in my friends list to see if you really did become my friend.
  2. The first person that I can verify as having become my Big Fish friend gets the coupon code for the free game!
When does the contest end?

March 1st

What if no one wins?

If no newbies sign up, then the prize will go to one person who reads A Game For Everyone, and can verify that they are already one of my Big Fish friends.

If you signed up for a Big Fish Games account from one of my links, then you are probably one of my friends.

Let the contest begin! This free copy of Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst could be yours!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mirrors, mirrors on the walls - a review of Princes Isabella: A Witch's Curse

In recent months, beginning with Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst, we have seen a handful of casual adventure games hit the market. Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse is one of the pioneers in this new genre of games. So how does it do? Read on to find out!

What I liked

  • Lovely graphics
  • Very nice music
  • Nice combo of adventure, hidden objects, and puzzles
  • Fairy companion
  • Easy to figure out what to do

What I didn't like

  • Too easy?



Quick Plot

Restore the cursed kingdom to its former glory, save all your friends and family by reconstructing their mirrors, and deal with whatever villain is behind the curse!


Mechanics

Adventure: The interface and mechanics of the game are predominantly characteristic of point-and-click adventure games. You walk from room to room and do things in each room of the castle.

Puzzles: You'll face a wide variety of puzzles.


Hidden Objects: Hidden object scenes are a common task you'll encounter. These give you the inventory items you'll use during your adventure.




Highlights

Graphics: The visuals in this game are beautiful. I would have liked more animations in the scenery, such as moving water, but overall, the environments are pleasing to the eye. The character art is pretty good too.

Music: One of my favorite parts of the game was the music. I didn't see who composed it, but whoever it was did a great job. From orchestra to medieval instruments, the score contributed a nice backdrop for the journey. I especially liked the jingles that played each time I solved a puzzle or removed a curse from a room. Expect to keep the music on for this game.

Fairy: A small fairy floats in the upper corner of the screen talking to you every so often, and offering abilities that help you with your tasks. For instance, she can use her rock ability to smash vases, or her water ability to water flowers. She also has hints for those times when you find yourself stumped.


Variety: I liked that this game had so many different types of puzzles. There's always something new to solve. I'm burnt out on hidden object games, but I can stomach a little bit of it when it's thrown into an adventure game like this. There is also marble popping, tile flipping, tile swapping, puzzle piecing, and many other types of brain-teasing tasks.

Issues

Too easy: The game felt a little short, but I don't think it's because the developers skimped on story or player objectives. Rather, I think it's because the puzzles are just not very challenging. Most of them can be solved in seconds. For the seasoned adventure gamer, this will be frustrating, but for people who see casual games as nothing more than a pleasant diversion, these puzzles might hit the spot.

Nevertheless, I will mention that this simplicity was welcome when it came to the hidden object scenes. The objects were relatively easy to find, so I felt like they didn't stall my progress. I much prefer this to the sort of terribly challenging hidden object scenes found in Luxor Adventures. *shudder*

So, you'll find that the game sails along at a steady clip, which is nice in principle, but you might find the puzzles less than satisfying. Don't expect a brain-burner.





Suitable for the family?

Wife: My wife loves these puzzle adventure games, so she's been having great fun with this one.

Kids: The kids came over to watch from time to time, but there isn't a whole lot here to interest them. There are some ghosts in the game, which might spook some kids out. The ghosts are just wispy, glowing forms floating around, and you do get rid of them. My kids watched the ghosts and didn't seem to be bothered. Other than that, I can't remember anything scary, disturbing, or thematically inappropriate.



The family man's final ruling

If you thought Return to Ravenhearst or Dire Grove were too difficult, this game is probably just right for you. On the other hand, if you like challenging puzzles in your adventure games, this game probably won't be very stimulating for your mental processor.

In my opinion, this game is a fun romp with enough variety to keep it interesting from start to finish. I wouldn't mind playing it again some day, just for kicks. There is nothing tedious or frustrating (except the fact that you can't ever look at the castle map for more than a few seconds at a time). This game was well-designed in every respect, and I think you'll find it to be worth your money.



You'll like the game if...

  • You like hidden object scenes
  • You like adventure games with inventory items and puzzles
  • You like high production quality in your casual games
  • You like games involving castles and fairies

You won't like the game if...

  • You only like adventure games with complex and challenging puzzles
  • You want a long, involved story


My rating:

If you want to play Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse, click below:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Will I ever get home? - a review of Wandering Willows

What do you get when a casual game developer combines roleplaying with adventure and simulation? You get Wandering Willows!

What I liked

  • Cute, colorful graphics
  • Good game length
  • Odd and witty cast of characters
  • Great music
  • Task-driven gameplay

What I didn't like

  • Too many unused items
  • Scarcity of some important items
  • Repetitive and potentially tedious gameplay
  • Short, unsatisfying ending



Quick Plot

Gather items, make things, and train animals to fulfill all of your friends' requests, so that you can escape the mysterious island.


Mechanics

Items: You spend most of the game wandering around the land gathering items, with the help of a pet. You also collect recipes and patterns. Once you know a recipe or pattern, you can use the items you've collected to make something, such as an item of clothing, foods and drinks, or flower bouquets. These items are the driving mechanic in the game. Everything you do involves gathering, making, and delivering items to the other inhabitants of the area.

Animals: Animals roam all over the landscape, and you always have one animal tagging along with you. Each animal has 3 stats:

  • Toughness: the ability to dig up holes
  • Climb: the ability to climb trees
  • Charm: the ability to get other animals to give you stuff
Additionally, each animal has some particular skill that helps you. For example, a Zeepzop is more likely to dig up metals for you.

There is an animal storage building where you keep the animals you've collected. Here you can incubate eggs to acquire new animals, and you can change which animal will walk around with you.

Every time your pet climbs, digs, or charms, his relevant stat will go up. This continues until his skill levels reach a maximum limit. You can also make collars to equip on your animals. These collars give skill boosts to the animal.

Animals are an important part of the game because they do all the work for you. Once they've retrieved some item for you, all you have to do is pick it up off the ground. As they work, their energy bar runs low and you need to give them food to restore their energy.

Tasks: This is a task-driven game. You will complete more than 120 tasks before the end of the game. These tasks are assigned by the other people living on the island. Whenever one of these people has a question mark above his or her head, it means they want to talk to you. Once you talk to them, they'll give you a task. Once the task is completed, you'll receive something from them, and your friendship level with the requesting characters will increase. The friendship level doesn't seem to be anything more than a statistic. It doesn't affect gameplay, from what I can tell, other than earning medals.

Goals and Medals: As you reach certain benchmarks in the game, you will receive medals. These are rewarded for things like training an animal until his stats are maxed, and gaining a friendship status of "Best Friend" with another character.

Additionally, you have a set of long-term goals laid out for you at the beginning of the game, which must be fulfilled to complete your main goal of escaping the island. These goals are completed simply by playing through the game and finishing certain tasks.




Highlights

Controls: Walking around the island is simple. Click your mouse (or hold the mouse button down), and your character will go to that location.

Another feature I loved is that, when picking up items, there is no limit to how many you can click in a row. So you can click on 8 pieces of wool on the ground in quick succession, and the little hand icon will remain on all of them until your character picks them up.

While you do earn the ability to warp to specific locations later in the game, I wish the developers had included some kind of Fast Forward feature, allowing you to travel more quickly from place to place. Sometimes, I just didn't want to wait for my guy to walk.

I also wished they would have built in keyboard controls for scrolling the camera or moving the character.

But basically, if you want to do anything in the game, just click on it - whether it's a tree, a person, a digging pile, or a shop. So, the game is easy to control.

Interface: The developers were kind enough to offer a small overhead map in the corner. Clicking any spot on this map will make your character walk to that location. Stars on the map indicate the locations of the other characters. Mousing over a star will tell you which character it is. A gold flashing star means that character wants to talk to you. These little indicators are very helpful.

Your animal has a spot for himself in the upper left corner, where you can see his picture and his stats. Mousing over his picture will show you his abilities and description.

Mousing over a character or animals will show you what they like and don't like. This is helpful when giving gifts to people or food to animals.

Another helpful feature is the bar at the top of the screen. It constantly cycles through your currently assigned tasks, reminding you what needs to be done. There are arrows on the bar that allow you to manually scroll through your tasks if you prefer. And if you want a detailed view of all your tasks, there's a button in the lower left corner that brings up all your task information.

Music: Because there are a host of fair composers out there, and only a handful of really good ones, I always have to highlight any score by Sean Beeson. This friendly fellow has composed another great soundtrack this time. While I wish there was more music in the game, the few tracks that repeat are very nice and fit the mood of the game perfectly.


Game length: You're going to get plenty of play out of this game. If you wanted to, you could choose to postpone your tasks and just go around collecting items, leveling up your animals, and working for those hard-to-earn medals.

Humor: The characters in this game are just.....weird (or quirky, if you prefer). I did laugh out loud a few times at the comments made by the characters. Each character seems to be a witty caricature of a very specific type of person you might meet in our world - strange old man, health freak, or geek for example. But, the humor might not appeal to everyone. It seems to be written primarily for folks in their 30s or late 20s.


Issues

Repetition: If you don't like wandering around collecting things, this game might get tedious for you. And your frustration might be amplified by the fact that
  • the items you get from digging or charming are somewhat random (an animal might drop 3 or 4 different items, but you never know which one it will be), and
  • some items that you really need are scarce, while items you don't need show up in abundance.
Is this enough of an issue to ruin the game? No. It wasn't for me. It irks a bit, but that's all.

Too many useless recipes: You will frequently collect new recipes and patterns for making things. This opens up all kinds of options for the kinds of objects you can make as gifts, or cook up for your animals to eat. Unfortunately, I rarely found use for any of these recipes or patterns. For the fun of it, I did make a pirate hat, pirate coat, and ruffed shirt to give my guy a pirate outfit (at my son's request). I also made a kung fu outfit for my guy. And hey, you can even choose what colors the clothes are. But still, all those things you collect just waste space if you don't do anything with them. That was a letdown. Your character is likely to end up a pack rat like mine did. But, you don't have to look at your recipes if you don't want to. It's the concept that bothers me. It just feels like wasted space, time, and energy.

That said, you will actually need a handful of recipes and patterns for you assigned tasks.


You get to customize how your character looks!



Suitable for the family?

My wife wasn't interested in playing the game, just from watching me play. Then she sat down and tried it herself, and now she's well into her own game. She's enjoying the task-driven play.

The kids loved watching this one because the characters are cute, and even more importantly, there are furry little fantastic creatures walking around everywhere. They were always eagerly requesting that I switch to a different pet to take around with me.

While nothing in the game is visually offensive, I made sure not to read all the character dialogue out loud for my kids to hear. Some of the conversations would be inappropriate for kids, both in terms of language, and some insinuated themes (homosexuality and cross-dressing included). But these themes are subtle and pass by very quickly. And in case it is likely to offend you, there is also one character who frequently says (out loud), "God! Don't sneak up on me like that!".



The family man's final ruling

This game stands out in my mind as unique. There is nothing else like it on the market as of now. It has a way of keeping you playing. There's a sense of development that is often found in roleplaying games. There is always another new item to find, a new person to befriend, a new animal to train, a new area of the map to unlock, and a new task to work on. Add in cute, colorful graphics, top-notch music, and humorous characters - and you've got yourself a very good game. Sure, I had my complaints, but that didn't seem to damper my eagerness to play. The only other thing that would have made the experience more rewarding is a longer, more robust ending. But I always say that.

I recommend this game, even if the humor goes over the head of some people younger than 20 and older than 40. You might get more hours of play out of this game than any other casual game in your collection.



You'll like the game if...

  • You like task-oriented gameplay
  • You like gathering and collecting stuff
  • You like cute, colorful graphics
  • You like witty, subtle humor
  • You like roleplaying/simulation elements

You won't like the game if...

  • You get burned out by constantly exploring for random items
  • You're hoping for some fast-paced action or time management


My rating:

If you want to play Wandering Willows, click below:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Current deals on Big Fish Games!

Today, I will share some deals with you.

First, you can get Megaplex Madness: Now Playing for $0.99 if you use the coupon code 99megaplex. This is a fun time management game, and I think you'll find the low price to be worth it.

Next, if you're a Big Fish Games Newsletter subscriber, you can get any of the games listed below for 40% off if you use the coupon code bestoftheyear. But hurry because this is a short sale that only lasts through January 3rd!


Hidden Objects


Puzzle Adventure


Time Management

And finally, newsletter subscribers can also get Mystery Case Files®: Dire Grove for 20% off until January 3rd with the coupon code gameoftheyear.

I don't know if these codes work for non newsletter subscribers.

That's all I have for you today. Keep coming back in 2010 for news, deals, and detailed reviews from the family man!