Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deal: Get My Tribe for $2.99 today only!

Today's $2.99 Daily Deal is for everyone!
Click an image below and use coupon code dailydeal at checkout.
Category: Strategy
This game currently holds the #4 slot on Big Fish Games' top strategy games. Grab this deal while you can!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Deal: 30% off all Big Fish Games - Friday through Sunday!

Here's a sweet deal for you, friends!

This weekend - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - every game on the Big Fish website is 30% off when you use the coupon code SPRINGFEVER at checkout!

Let me offer some game recommendations, if you haven't tried them yet.


Hidden Objects


Match 3



Building
(My favorite recent game!)


Puzzle



Adventure



Time Management




Saturday, March 20, 2010

Treasure Seekers 3 and Alice in Wonderland - worth buying?

Two new hidden objects games came out over the last couple of days. It comes as no surprise, since the vast majority of new games are some variety of HOG.

The new games are
I tested both games and found them to be fun, but not worth my money. I'll tell you why.

Treasure Seekers: Follow the Ghosts


As indicated by my review, I really enjoyed Treasure Seekers: Visions of Gold, and so did my kids. Then, I played Treasure Seekers: The Enchanted Canvases. I found it to be somewhat lacking. So my hopes were relatively high when I heard that people were pleased with Treasure Seekers: Follow the Ghosts Collector's Edition. The day before the release of the non-collector's edition, I downloaded it, eagerly anticipating another exciting treasure-seeking experience.

Graphics: Still just as slick as ever. The graphics style is the same as the other Treasure Seekers games, as well as The Mystery of the Crystal Portal and The Spirit of Wandering: The Legend.

Music:
Good, as with the previous games. It provides a subtle backdrop that supports the mood of the scenery.

Gameplay: Just like the other Treasure Seekers games, with a couple of exceptions, listed below.
  • When finding stuff from scene to scene, the cursor becomes visibly active when you mouse over an object that can be picked up. I was playing in casual mode, though, so this might not happen in the challenging mode. Some people will like this little bit of help, others won't.
  • The game now includes...*shudder*...standard hidden object scenes with a list of things to look for. The great thing about the Treasure Seekers games, before now, was the unique way they approached hidden objects. You had to find a certain item that required other items. Then you'd look around the scene and find the needed items. But now, they've included the basic "find this list of random stuff in the mess" scenes.
Fortunately, this game still includes a good number of puzzles and inventory-based objectives. That's the fun part for me.

But, once again, the story has to do with trapped and restless ghosts. I'd really like to see Tommy and Nelly try their hand at something else. The writers over at Artogon seem obsessed with ghosts and the paranormal, since all of their games use this theme.

Three more little gripes.
  • To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that some of the images in this game could be, I think, disturbing to little kids.
  • The puzzles I played were a little to easy for my taste.
  • The developers used the exact same character art from the previous game, but just slapped new clothes on them. I'd prefer more original material myself. But, I can't blame them. If they can make a little more money by doing the same old thing, then they have every right to do so.
Final Word: I know I sound pretty negative in my opinions of this game. That's because I have, admittedly, very high standards.

I think most people will really like this game. My wife said she'd probably like it, having seen me play it.

If you like HOGs, there's no question - you'll love this game, so go get it. My guess is that this game will give you everything you want from a HOG.

I liked it, but just not enough to buy it. That's partly because, while the production quality is very good, I've grown weary of looking for hidden objects, so any new HOG is going to have to really blow my mind to get a glowing review from me.

But for you HOG fans, I think this is the kid of game you'll love sinking your eyes into. I recommend this to anyone who isn't me. =D




Alice in Wonderland


Plot: You're investigating the case of the missing child, Alice.

Graphics: Very nice. The scenes look good, and the stylistic choices of the artists were visually appealing.

Music: A good reason to NOT play this game. Repetitive and boring, the music hinders the experience more than anything else. I suggest turning it off.

Gameplay: From what I saw, the game was primarily a HOG with a little bit of "find the differences between the two pictures." There was nothing original here.

Final Word: The game looked pretty and played smoothly. The atmosphere was nice, and finding objects was fun enough. Fans of HOGs will like it. But if you're after something original and immersive, this may not be the game for you. A great soundtrack quite possibly could have kept me playing longer.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

News: A first look at Joan Jade and the Gates of Xibalba

Today, Big Fish Games released a new game with an adventurous title: Joan Jade and the Gates of Xibalba. Having played a good chunk of it, I'll give you some feedback.



Category
  • Puzzle
  • Adventure
  • Hidden Objects
Main CharacterFemale (No surprise here, considering the current trend.)
PlotYou're an uncommonly adventurous mom looking for her missing children in a jungle with ancient ruins.
Graphics/Interface
  • Pretty, nicely drawn scenery.
  • Character art is only fair.
  • Interface is clean and easy to use, with the standard journal in the lower corner, and the hint button in another corner.
MusicEasily the worst part of this production. The music is a sort of electronica that doesn't fit the theme or mood of the game at all. If the music had been a more fitting orchestral score, the game would have had much greater draw for me personally. As it is, the music ruins the immersion.
Highlights
  • Jungle exploration: I love this theme. Jungles and temples and ruins - these are the makings of great adventure.
  • Inventory: I like inventory puzzles. There are a number of things you can pick up from scene to scene by mousing around the screen and clicking on things. Then, you'll use all of these in interesting ways. This is an essential element in many classic adventure games, and it's used well here. Additionally, the use of most items is fairly intuitive, which I always appreciate.
  • Exploration interface: Scene elements that you can interact with will show a label when you mouse over them, so you don't have to guess at what can be clicked on. Some items that you can pick up won't show labels, but these are made to stand out.
  • Numerous puzzles: This game has lots of puzzles. The more the better!
  • Easy HOG scenes: I like that the hidden object scenes are short and simple. Nothing is too hard to find, and the scenes blend smoothly into the game.
Issues
  • Too easy: There is very little challenge in this game. Most of the game is puzzles, and they offer very little that is original or tricky.
  • Music: As I mentioned before, the music only hurts the experience.
Final WordIs this worth buying? For fans of the current Adventure/HOG/Puzzle trend, this game should give you a good buzz. It's like you're a female Indiana Jones, hunting around in ancient temples and solving crafty puzzles. So, yes, if you've been enjoying this type of game, you should buy this one. Just turn the music off while you play.

Go get the game here:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Why settle for a measly old mansion? - a review of Be Rich

Did you play Build-a-lot? Let's just say you did. And let's say you wanted something similar, but different. That's where Be Rich comes in. Today I'll tell you what I thought of this money-grubbing real estate game!

What I liked

  • Freedom to choose building locations
  • Lots of levels
  • Graphics and interface
  • Upgrades

What I didn't like

  • Some very difficult expert goals
  • Limited selection of buildings



Quick Plot

Accomplish construction goals for cities all over the United States to successfully build up your real estate business.


Mechanics

Time Management: Each level has an Expert goal. To get the Expert ranking for a level, you have to finish it within a certain number of days. If you achieve the Expert goal, you get more prestige and money. If you don't achieve the Expert goal, you don't lose the level or anything. You simply don't get the minor benefits of Expert status.

Building: This is a construction and money-making game. You'll build 3 types of buildings:
  • Houses
  • Buildings, and
  • Decorations.
Houses earn rent, Buildings are various types of shops and consumer attractions that earn extra income, and Decorations add value and attractiveness to Houses.


Mansion, Chateau, and Apartment Block - 3 high-end houses



Highlights

Freedom of Choice: In contrast to Build-a-lot, which forces you to build in designated lots, Be Rich instead gives you gridded areas. You can put a building anywhere on a gridded area, as long as it fits. This means that you get to decide exactly how your buildings are arranged in relation to each other, which affects how much money you can earn from a particular layout.

Game Length: There are 40 levels in the standard game mode (Career Mode). This makes for a pretty good length. Then, to add in more gameplay, there is a Sandbox Mode. This gives you more of the same gameplay (levels with prescribed goals) but expands the territory beyond a single screen. In this mode, you can scroll across a broader territory. I haven't played all of the Sandbox levels, but there appear to be 6.

And if you care to work for them, there are a number of trophies to earn, as in many time management games. These trophies appear on the map screen.


Level map and trophy room.

Graphics and Interface: The 2D graphics are colorful and detailed. Buttons are shiny, and buildings are cool looking. The interface is easy to use, so you won't find yourself confused. This game is nice to look at. The camera perspective is directly head on, with no angle, just like Hotel Mogul.


Upgrades: In a game that is otherwise fairly light on features, you are at least offered a bundle of upgrades. These can be purchased as you earn money for completing levels. Each upgrade adds a new building to your business empire, or adds a new section to your main office headquarters. These upgrades add bonuses to your gameplay, making levels easier. This shows up as things like quicker production and random rent checks popping up on houses.


Issues

Expert Rank: I often like to push for the
master goals in games like this. In the Farm Frenzy series, for example, I don't move onto the next level until I've achieved the Gold medal on the current level.

In Be Rich, you earn Expert ranking on a level if you finish it in a certain number of days. For the first dozen or so levels, this was no problem. After that, it became a struggle. I got really close on a few levels, but most of the later levels had incredibly difficult Expert requirements.

The bummer for me was that the game didn't compel me to work for it. Neither the gameplay nor the Expert reward were interesting or engaging enough to make me really desire that higher standard of achievement. It's my opinion that Expert goals in a game should offer valuable payoff for success. When I missed the Expert goal in this game, I just shrugged and moved on.

Not Much Variety: I recently reviewed Coconut Queen. One of the great features of that game is the wide variety of buildings you can construct. But in Be Rich, you're limited to
  • 7 Houses
  • 5 Buildings, and
  • 5 Decorations.
And after a while, there were only about 3 House types I wanted to build. The various Buildings and Decorations still got frequent use though.

A few more building options would have helped to keep my interest.


Your business empire. It grows visibly with each upgrade you buy.



Suitable for the family?

There's nothing either offensive or attractive to children in this game. The halflings watched me play sometimes, but usually asked me to switch to a different game.
Kids seem to gravitate to games with notable characters, and this game has none.



The family man's final ruling

The game is fun. It kept me playing until the end, and it was pleasant to look at. The music is mediocre and the English is poor and awkward at times. The story offers nothing meaningful, so I usually just clicked through the text.

The best thing about the game is the freedom to choose where you place each building, so that you can make the building types interact for maximum profit. For instance, a movie theater benefits from having lots of Apartments next to it, and any building will earn more money if it's constructed on a premium lot.

The worst thing about the game is the lack of variety or change. You're pretty much doing the same thing all game, and while it is fun, it didn't really shine in any way. I probably like it more than Build-a-lot, though.

If you're going to try Be Rich, you might also want to try its sequel, which manages to boast an even more hedonistic title: Be Richer.


A standard level. This happens to be a wintery one.
The stars indicate premium lots, which earn you more money.



You'll like the game if...

  • You like real estate and building games
  • You want more freedom of layout than Build-a-Lot offers

You won't like the game if...

  • You want lots of variety, features, and extras


My rating:

If you want to play Be Rich, click below:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3 new games that I liked, but didn't buy

These days, there are so many casual games being released that I test very few of them. I'm always looking for the gems among the duds. Recently, a few new casual games caught my attention, so I played through the demos. Read on to find out what I thought of

3 Cards to Dead Time

Category: Hidden Objects, Puzzles

Background

This was a strange experience for me. The developer, Big Finish Games, consists of the team who created my favorite adventure game series from the 90s, that is, the Tex Murphy series. Fans of the Tex series were greatly let down when Access Software was bought by Microsoft, and the Tex series was discontinued. The last Tex game, Overseer, had left us with a nasty cliffhanger, which would have no resolution.

So, when their first new casual game, 3 Cards to Midnight, was announced, I was eager to see what the old Tex Murphy team had created. It wasn't Tex Murphy, but it was something. Maybe it would be just as cool as the Tex series, right?

I followed the pre-release commentary as they developed the game, and became increasingly disappointed as they revealed the theme of the game - paranormal, creepy, tarot card stuff. Then, the game was finally released and I read some reviews to see what other people thought. Feedback was more negative than positive. How could my old favorite developers release something that was, apparently, mediocre?

Well, they recently released the second game in the 3 Cards series: 3 Cards to Dead Time. I decided to give it a try.

What You Do

One thing that the Tex team was good at was creating interesting and challenging puzzles. The same is true here. The various puzzles scattered throughout the game were enjoyable.

Most of the game is spent looking for hidden objects, but in an unusual way, which I found to be refreshing. Typically, standard hidden objects games give you a list of things to find. This mechanic has become very stale for me and I avoid it now. But in 3 Cards to Dead Time, you find objects according to a prescribed pattern. So, instead of a list of words telling you what to find, you have a collection of blank boxes. You are told to find something like "Objects that come in 3s." So then, you have to look around the scene for items that fit the given theme. When you find an item, its name appears in one of the empty boxes.

At other times, you have to find objects that go together. The empty boxes will be color-matched, showing you how many items go together. So, you might get 3 connected purple boxes, and one of them says "King." Looking around the scene, you'll find a picture of a queen, and then you'll locate a jack, which completes that series of related items.

You can choose between Casual and Challenging modes (I think that's what they were called). Casual mode just requires you to find fewer objects, from what I could tell. I would recommend the Challenging mode for die hard HOG fans. Casual was too easy.

My Opinions

If the game consisted of these types of scenes, with puzzles thrown in, I'd like it more. But, this game contains lots and lots of story. If the story interested me, or was presented in an attractive way, I might dig it. As it is, the creepy, weird story doesn't interest me, and with my kids hanging around, I simply clicked the SKIP button for each of the numerous cut-scenes. These scenes are made up of a series of still shots depicting awkward 3D-modeled characters, with voice-over dialogue. These scenes happen after each little task you complete.

The graphics and music are both very good. The mysterious music matches the theme of the game well.

So, while the graphics, music, and mechanics were all quite nice, the convoluted, family-unfriendly story and mood took this game down some notches. I would like to play more of this type of game if its strengths were applied to a more family-friendly story, and if the cut-scenes were just cut out altogether or occurred less frequently.



Awakening: The Dreamless Castle

You might remember my review for Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse. My guess it that, if you liked that game, you'll like Awakening: The Dreamless Castle. They feel very similar in the way they play.

What You Do

You spend the game walking around a castle finding items and using them in various locations. Sometimes you have to
complete hidden objects scenes and solve simple puzzles.

My Opinions

The graphics and music are good, the interface is easy to use, and you aren't likely to get stuck for too long, although sometimes you might wander around wondering what you forgot to pick up in which room. It's not always completely obvious.

I would like this game more if it had something more original, innovative, or challenging about it. This game doesn't deliver anything special. It gets the job done fine, but doesn't excel. The puzzles are cake, the HOG scenes are standard, and the story is boring. I just wished this game had engaged my mind more.

But, for fans of the inventory/puzzles/HOG genre that we've seen more commonly in recent months, this game should hit the spot.



Eden's Quest: The Hunt for Akua

This was another interesting situation for me. I love puzzles in games. That was always my favorite part of adventure games, and I always like them in casual games. This game is nothing but puzzles with a storyline.

What You Do

You solve puzzles. That's the whole point of the game. You go from station to station facing various types of brainteasers, math puzzles, and the like. You earn hints along the way, and each puzzle has 3 hints available. During my time playing the demo, I never had to use a hint. Some of the puzzles certainly stumped me, but they weren't timed, so I took my time figuring them out.

My Opinions

The presentation here is excellent. The character and scene art is superb - completely professional. This is unusual for the casual game market. The story is also intriguing and mysterious. It had me interested. As with all Sean Beeson soundtracks, this music is tasty.

But, having realized that the game is nothing but puzzles (kind of like Azada), I lost interest in pursuing the entire game. If I could get this game for free, or even as a Daily Deal, I might play all the way through. It's fun for what it is, but I can't bring myself to buy it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Big Fish Games Daily Deal - Flux Family Secrets for $2.99!

Today's $2.99 Daily Deal is for everyone!
Click an image below and use coupon code dailydeal at checkout.
Category: Hidden Objects
I have not played this one personally, but here is the description from Big Fish Games:

A mysterious family has contacted you and holds the secrets of your past!

Fix the errors in time in this exciting Hidden Object game and take your rightful place in the Flux family!

Explore famous historical sites like Hatshepsut`s tomb, the Wright Brothers` workshop, Benjamin Franklin`s study and many more.

Flux Family Secrets - The Ripple Effect has you realign the timeline by finding misplaced objects scattered through time and solving clever puzzles.