Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update

Welcome back again.  As you can see, we are starting to populate the site with new content.  There are few new writers and contributors waiting in the wings with new content.  If you are interested

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Site Update, GaMExpo, Nerdvana Con, Life Updates

What to Watch: You Tube

Top 5 YouTube video’s of the past week (with one blast from the past). Each week, on Tuesday, I am going to post 5 videos I think are worth watching on YouTube.  I’d love to hear what you

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What to Watch: You Tube

Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Bac

Welcome back to Killer Betties! It’s been over three years since I’ve made a post, but I am back. Before I get to what I’ve been doing for three years, I want to talk first about The

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Rosethorn’s Ramblings: Welcome Back, TWD, The Bar, and Other Random Thoughts

Football Manager 2017 Review

Football Manager 2017 is a football management simulation video game for the PC developed by Sports Interactive and published by Sega. Gameplay: In terms of gameplay, it is really fun. You can create

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Football Manager 2017 Review

Volunteers Wanted

Killer Betties is going through some growing pains and we need more bodies (and pens) to keep up with it. If you have any interest in writing video game reviews, previews, interviews or editorials, p

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Volunteers Wanted

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Zenerchi’ Review (PC)

by on June 11, 2007 at 9:49 am

Orange MatchIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Zenerchi.

I’m sure you’ve all had those days where nothing seems to go right. You get up, you go to work or school, and nothing works out right. The whole time there you are stressed, angry, easily frustrated and infuriated, and all you want to do is get home and just disappear, relax and not have a single care or worry on your mind. But of course, rarely does that happen either, as you’ll get numerous telemarketing calls, someone will always be pestering you about doing something, and the only relaxation you find is when sleep finally comes. And heck, even then a state of peace is not always prevalent, as nightmares can creep in. Enter the world of Zenerchi, a game that seeks to put you into a state of zen, leaving all thoughts behind, and entering a tranquil state of consciousness. I’m not quite sure the game accurately does that, but it is a fun time to be had, which will at least distract you from all the world’s problems for a short time.

Zenerchi follows the “match three of a kind” formula of many casual puzzle games, but instead of the relatively flat perspective, Zenerchi incorporates a 3D-esque descent down, as if by chipping away at the puzzle pieces, we’ll manage to fall into ourselves, and find that state of peace we’ve been looking for.

The way the game works is that you have an inward spiraling well of cascading colors, and each part of the well is made up into a slice of rings. By left clicking on any of the rings with your mouse, you’ll be able to turn the rings either to the left or right, all so that you can make a match of at least three of the same colors. Once a match is made, those blocks disappear, and more pieces fall into place, often leading to the possibility of several chain combos in a row. At the heart of the well lies several color representations, such as red, green, blue, etc. In order to beat any given level, you must match up enough of whatever colors are down there, to properly fill your meter, thus creating part of your crystal. If you complete all the parts of the crystal before you either run out of available moves or before time runs out (indicated by a small sphere that travels around the perimeter of the well) then you win and move to the next level.

Like all puzzle games, things start off easy, but get hard within a matter of levels. In the case of Zenerchi, you’ve got reverse spinners that will turn the two rows it is touching into different directions, blockers that won’t let you move that ring till you make a match with that color blocker, and other such dastardly contraptions. Thankfully, to help you combat these situations, you’ve got power bombs that will eliminate all pieces on each of its four sizes, pieces that will turn that whole area a specific color, and others. In order to get one of these pieces – such as the power bombs – you’ll need to create a match of five colors. All of the above gameplay mechanics play into the Journey Mode of the game, but they are also prevalent in others as well. For example, the unlocked Zen Mode follows the same rules, only you have counter pieces, where it counts down for every ring you spin; should you spin too many times and not eliminate that piece yet, it seals itself up and makes itself a blocker.

Purple MatchLike many puzzle games, there is an expert point total you should be shooting for, but in most games I’ve never bothered. Oh, a casual game is calling me an expert, and yet I’m not rewarded for my accomplishment in the slightest. Unlike those games, however, I actually found myself shooting for the expert totals, as they give you what I personally think is a pretty cool thing – quotes. I know, you might not be into quotes, but I always enjoy a good one, especially enlightening ones detailing the personal journeys we go through in life, and the steps we take to make ourselves something more than what we are. You’ll find some very enlightening quotes from some very famous people, such as ones detailing that it isn’t about looking back or forward on the journey, but rather looking inside ourselves, or ones detailing that we make ourselves what we believe ourselves to be. Not sure why, but they hit home to me, and made me really try hard to unlock them so I could read the next pearl of wisdom.

The graphics aren’t spectacular or ground-breaking or anything of the sort, but they are simple, quaint, colorful, and bright so you definitely feel yourself in a bit more of an uplifted mood, just by even looking at the game. The sound of the cascading bricks and them crunching or blowing up when destroyed are also nice sounding, though never too loud or jarring to take you out of that peaceful state of mind. The music is also soothing, only ever quickening and fraying your nerves a bit when you get down to the end, and that timer is only moments away from reaching zero and costing you your game.

Though the game didn’t put me in an absolute state of zen while I was playing, everything still was top quality, from the gameplay to the graphics to the sound work. I also really enjoyed the incentive to complete the levels with the expert goal reached, as I particularly dug being able to read some of these favorite quotes meant to better yourself. In the end, I had a really nice time while playing the game, and found it both challenging and soothing.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Download A Trial Or Buy The Game Over At PlayFirst

‘The Ship’ Review (PC)

by on June 8, 2007 at 11:28 am

HammerFirst person shooter frag matches all seem to boil down to one or two categories: 1) a sci-fi adventure with aliens, or 2) Nazi occupied Germany. While it can be fun running around alien worlds or decayed war ruins of a foreign country, at times they can start to merge together, and feel a bit dull and boring. Thankfully, a first person shooter will come around that has never been done before, and manages to mix it all up to create a new and intriguing game concept. However, that doesn’t always mean it is necessarily an amazing game. Welcome to The Ship, and prepare to say bon voyage…potentially for good.

The ship comes in a single player and multiplayer variety pack, though multi is obviously where it is all at. Still, there is an interesting single player game, and though while short, introduces the game world and sucked me in initially; it’s a shame that a more fleshed out and longer journey couldn’t have been developed.

You play as a guy who finds himself onboard a huge, multi-deck ship, with many other patrons confused and in your exact same predicament. Along comes Mr. X, a wealthy and sadistic wacko who has put all of the patrons on the board to play a game – a game of death and murder. You see, each patron is a player who is both the hunter and the hunted. Before each round, you’ll be given the name of someone you need to kill, and while you’re going after them, someone is equally coming after you. As a single player game, you’ll obviously try and kill your target, meanwhile trying to stay alive and find a way off this boat and ending this game.

ShotgunThe setup is really good, it’s just the execution is terrible. For instance, I thought I’d really have to scour the ship to find my first target, but she was right outside my cabin, asleep on the couch, and all it took was one axe chop to the head; not exactly thrilling action. Soon after I found myself running errands for a guy, and they were the same errands over and over: sit at a bar, get a target, go after them, kill them, steal money, and give some to bartender. It didn’t seem as if I had played long, maybe just an hour at max, and yet I was already through most of the game’s chapters. Another problem was my hunter always came at me at the exact same point, like clockwork each and every time, which takes much of the randomness and worry out of the game. Combat with them was also very uneven, as death usually came either too quick for them or too quick for me.

Multiplayer is obviously what the game is really all about, as true humans and their paths on a ship would be random, and not controlled and point based like the AI of the game. The main game modes of the multiplayer include The Hunt (plays out like that of the single player game), Elimination Mode (the winner is the last one left alive while playing the game), Duel Mode (challenge another player to a one-on-one fight), and Deathmatch Mode (like a normal deathmatch game, though with the rules of The Ship in play).

Beyond the premise and the setting of the game, there are several different things that make this anything but your traditional FPS for fragging. For starters, the action is a lot slower paced, as there are no constant sprints, and you don’t clip through the corridors of the ships at any breakneck speed like in some games like Unreal Tournament. You can still sprint, but only for certain bursts of time, but otherwise everything is very deliberately paced and methodical. The weapon choice is also unique, as you must find weapons across the ship. Yes, guns are still a factor, but are more hard to come by, so you’ll be picking up things like emergency axes and whatever other objects you can find sitting around you can brandish as a weapon. Kills with certain weapons will also make you more money to add to your bank, as a kill with an axe, since it is more creative, might get you a few hundred dollars more than a regular kill with a pistol. You also can’t randomly attack and kill people, as you need to make sure that no security cameras are looking at you or there are no witnesses, or else you’ll have to go to jail and stay there for a short time.

The most interesting gameplay mechanic is The Sims-esque situation of having to balance several different needs, all the while you are still trying to kill your target and not be killed in the process. You’ll need to eat, drink, sleep, socialize, be entertained, have good hygiene, and go to the bathroom when needed. A ticking clock need emblem will change color to show when things need top priority, and if they aren’t met, they will cost you in combat, as they may leave you open and vulnerable to attack. Of course, fulfilling your needs can also leave you vulnerable for attack, so you really need to plan properly and wise. Many of your needs will also take money, which means you’ll need to kill people to keep your bank going, so you can pay for your needs. You’ll have to buy meals or snacks from vending machines, drinks from the bars, etc. You’ll also have to take routine showers, wash your hands after going to the bathroom, take naps, and talk to people all to keep you in fighting form.

PistolThe sound works well at establishing the world onboard these ships, because you’ll hear old music from the era, and people have very exaggerated, but often fitting, voices that go with the semi-lighthearted atmosphere of the game. The sound of the ships chugging through the water, the using of elevators, and the wielding of bludgeoning objects are also rendered nicely. The environments and characters go for a bit more Pixar human look rather than straight-up perfect real world recreation. With that said, we’ve always been Pixar fans, so we enjoy the graphical stylings of the game. The levels and rooms of the ship are also really detailed, and feature some bright and cheerful settings, though death is still happening all around.

Though the game is good, it fails to really grab us and impress us. The gameplay ideas and story are unique, so we give them props for that, it’s just the single-player game isn’t long enough, things move a bit too slowly, and the controls and overall new gameplay mechanics don’t merge perfectly to meld into one truly special game. Still, if you are looking for something beyond aliens and Nazis when it comes to your first person shooters, you might not find your journey on the open seas such a bad time at all.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Dream Chronicles’ Review (PC)

by on June 4, 2007 at 12:02 pm

Window LightIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Dream Chronicles.

Though the game doesn’t come out till June 12, 2007, we were lucky enough to be able to get an early copy of Dream Chronicles to present to you this early review. In Dream Chronicles, you play as a young woman named Faye, who wakes up one day to find that the Fairy Queen of Dreams – Lilith – has cast a sleeping spell over the kingdom. You wakeup only to find your husband Fidget missing, and your child under the deep sleep spell. Will you be able to get to the root of the matter, break the spell, and find your husband?

Dream Chronicles plays like Myst and a hide and seek game merged into one. It plays like Myst in regards to the static screens and puzzles you’ll have to solve to advance through the game, and it plays like a hide and seek game because you have to scour the level to find all the missing objects that you need for the puzzles. The game is very linear, as you only have one set path to take throughout, so you won’t have to worry about finding an item on one static screen, and then have to hold onto it for three or four down the lane. If you find an item that will go in your use try, then be assured it will be used on the same static screen you found it on.

The first big puzzle is always finding all the items you’ll need, which is accomplished by searching every little inch of the screen for clickable objects. Thankfully, the process is streamlined, because instead of not knowing what could be an object you’ll need and have to endless click to find it, by dragging your pointer over objects you’ll see a name pop up for the object, meaning you’ll either be using it or get some description about it; if you click it and can and will use it, it will fly down to your use tray. Another nice thing about the game is that if you’re stuck and can’t see perhaps the last item you need to find, the game will twinkle the object to let you know where to go. Yes, it’s a bit of an unfair cheat, but when you’ve spent a ton of time looking for a tiny little something, you’ll be grateful the help is there when the objects do twinkle. Another thing you’ll be looking for are little dream jewels, which will net you bonus points when the game is over.

Some of the puzzles are fairly easy endeavors, where all you need to do is find the objects you need and click them in the right spot. For example, one early puzzle has a broken wagon over a trapdoor, and you’ll need to find the two wheels, two washers, and two nuts to assemble the broken part of the wagon in the right order. Then you’ll need an oil can to lube them up, and then after that a screwdriver to undo the bolts that has the trapdoor closed; do all of that and then you move on. Some puzzles get a bit harder and require some more time, such as one where you must play the piano. Overall, the puzzles are balanced extremely well for a more casual game, as no puzzles take a huge amount of time to finish, so you’ll be able to game in spurts and stop whenever you want, as you can save after every static screen, though if you stop before that screen is solved, you’ll have to replay it all over the next time you fire up the game.

The story unfolds through a few still shot cutscenes, and the story narrative that Fidget sometimes gives you as ghostly first clues when you arrive at a new place for the first time. It isn’t overly heavy with story elements, but what’s there is pretty interesting and kept me entertained throughout my journey.

Dog HouseThe sound work is exceptional for a casual game, as the soft, song melody that plays throughout is endearing and soothing, and the other sound effects, ranging from a piano playing to a squeaky wagon to a loose floorboard are all represented well. The best thing though is the graphics, which are all presented in an almost 2.5D, because the CG world is presented so breathtakingly and rounded out, the buildings and bushes almost want to pop off your computer screen and into the real world. I was perhaps more compelled than anything to solve the puzzles, just to see some more of the artwork of this world, and see what the next place looked like. It also had some really done lighting effects, which had an ethereal glow about them.

Growing up, point and click puzzle-solving games like Myst were never my forte or specialty, or even ones I particularly enjoyed very much. Perhaps back then I wanted the more action oriented Mario games than anything really cerebral. With that said, I found myself particularly enjoying Dream Chronicles, and the beautiful, hide and seek puzzle fueled world. If you’re looking for a more casual point and click adventure, be sure to give Dream Chronicles a shot, because it is far from being a nightmare, and will be the daydream you need to escape the doldrums of reality.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Get It At PlayFirst When It Releases June 12, 2007

‘Feyruna – Fairy Forest’ Review (PC)

by on May 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Witch TrainWhen I think of butt-kicking action stars, fairies don’t come to mind. Sorry, but to the best of my knowledge, Tinkerbell never did anything but flit around and sprinkle dust. And Cinderella’s fairy godmother, well she turned a pumpkin into a carriage, but she never beat anyone up. Well, it’s time for that to change, and Feyruna is looking to give you an action star, who just so happens to be a fairy herself.

You play as an unnamed fairy in the land of Feyruna. It’s a dark time to be living in Feyruna, as the Princes of Darkness has unleashed a horde of evil, baddie monsters across the land, and they are being a nuisance everywhere they go. As a fairy who has just had enough, you take it upon yourself to combat the evil forces, and bring the light back to the land of Feyruna. In general, besides the opening text to tell you what you are going to be doing any given level, there isn’t much of a story to be had besides that which sets up the gameplay.

Feyruna is strictly a single player game with nary a multiplayer game anywhere in view. The core gameplay mechanic is the same from beginning to end, with it being that, you play as the fairy with no name, and you’ll use your mouse to glide your fairy around the single computer screen level, and she’ll glide wherever you point. This flying mechanic that hinges on your mouse movements is the bulk of the controls, though some mouse clicks come into play later for some abilities like that of being able to hurl a fireball of sorts to take your enemies down.

Cloud HatOn each level, a tug-of-war of sorts is happening, where you are trying to bring as much light to the world, while the evil beings are trying to bring darkness. In order for you to cleanse the land and move one step closer to finish the game, you must collect the glowies, yellow bugs that flitter and fly around in various patterns, though mostly that of the rolling wave. For every glowie you collect you’ll increase a health meter, which shows how much light has come to the land – collect enough glowies to fill it to max and you’ll beat the level and move on. To make things harder, you’ve got the evil creatures, such as giant bumblebees, parachuting goblins, dark bats, and other creatures, who are going out of their way to eat the glowies, and for every glowie they eat darkness moves in closer – if their darkness meter rises to max then you lose the level. Besides them eating the glowies and increasing their meter, you’ll also make their meter go up if they hit you. So, though while you can’t die by hitting them, you do make it harder upon yourself to actually win the level.

The hardest thing about Feyruna is that most of the time the glowies will appear on screen, and instantly put themselves on a path, so a bumblebee will automatically start eating them up, all before you even know they are there and can make a move to gather them yourself. The later stages also have a ton of enemies on the screen, attacking you, eating glowies, and shooting poisonous goo at you or slowing your movement down with potions. Thankfully, you’ve got weapons of your own to combat the foul creatures, like earthquake potions to get the witches in the trains stopped, red glowies to give you more light health than usual, potions that let you use fireballs, and potions that put a protective shield of magic around you, so anytime one hits an enemy, the enemy disappears and a gap in your rotating armor appears.

Though there were some close calls at times, the game isn’t all that hard, making it a good casual game that both young and old gamers should be able to jump into and find some enjoyment from. It’s not Halo or Grand Theft Auto or any of those high caliber game, but when rating it as the casual game it is, there is some fun and excitement to be had for its relatively cheap price-tag. Though there are three, throwaway minigames you unlock throughout your adventure, the story mode (and the only mode really) is long enough with enough increasing difficulty to keep things fresh and your mouse gliding across your desk as you control the fairy.

The graphics aren’t overly complex or highly detailed, but they look pretty good. The animation was surprising, as it was very smooth and detailed, a mix between traditional Disney animation and a Pixar film. The backgrounds, though mostly flat with a little roundness to give the perception of 3D, have a little animation to make them pop a bit more than the usual static background.

An occasional buzz here, a zap there, and some music when leaving a level. There should’ve been a light, fairy tinkling song playing over the action of the game, or have the sound work be a little more robust and not so flat. The sound work is also lack, because when a ball of magic hits an enemy it should be a big and powerful zap of magic, not a tiny charge of static shock jumping off your finger.

For a cheap casual game, Feyruna – Fairy Forest is a nice diversion that should appeal more to the younger crowd than anyone else. If you want groundbreaking gameplay and high-def graphics, you won’t find much to like here. But as the casual, quick and easy to play game that it is, there is fun to be had.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Mythic Marbles’ Review (PC)

by on May 29, 2007 at 3:13 pm

MM LevelIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Mythic Marbles.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever played marbles? More than likely you probably didn’t raise your hand, or at least you didn’t if you are under a certain age group. As for myself, I have held marbles in my hand before, but whenever I played with someone we just rolled them around and through things, we never properly outlined a course and took turns trying to smash each other’s marbles out of the circle. To this day, the only real recollection I have about marbles is the game called Marble Madness, and even that game didn’t use marbles exactly right. Along comes Mythic Marbles, a new marble based game, and though it comes closer, it still isn’t a marble sim, which is probably a good thing after all is said and done.

In Mythic Marbles, you play as a young lad who loved marbles. Of course, dear old daddy wants you to take up a trade, and since you don’t want to do so, off to town you go to find your way with marbles. Along the way you’ll go up against relatively simple board layouts, extremely frustrating boards, and even square off against some other marble champions hanging around the place.

The object of the game couldn’t be simpler – knock marbles off the board. In order to do so, you’ll take one of your bottom row of marbles, click on them to activate them, and then you’ll use your mouse to point where you want it to fire. Next, you’ll hold the left mouse button down to determine how hard or soft you’ll hit the marble, and then you let it go and watch physics at work as marbles crash and bounce off each other. And that, dear readers, is the game in a nutshell.

For a game with such easy mechanics, it sure is frustrating, and makes the vein on my forehead pop out with rage. You see, bouncing marbles are nobody’s friend, because one wrongly placed shot and the next thing you know your own marble is bouncing out of bounds and out of play (as long as the marble doesn’t leave the field, it will auto return to your hand in the nearest open spot) or you’ll end up shooting one of the level marbles at your sitting row and will knock one or two away from their position and off the board, costing you more attempts, and bringing you closer to losing one life (a life is lost and level lost every time all of your marbles leave the board before the others). Other difficulties in the game come from simply not lining shots up properly, board blackholes sucking up your marbles if they get to close, many different environmental hazards and bumpers to keep you from making classic shots, and windmill spinners that can take an easy to reach ball and suddenly put it where you practically can no longer reach it.

Black HolesThankfully, the game includes a few helpful powerups, which you’ll receive by knocking the glowing marbles out of bounds while they are still glowing. Knocking out the glowing marbles will net you such abilities as charged balls that keep on trucking even after they hit something; lightning marbles that surround your marble with lightning and pushes around any marbles that come into close contact with it; the ability to see a line representing where your marble will go when you press the left mouse button for it to go; and an ability that makes the walls temporarily disappear so you have easier shots to knock the marbles out.

Every so often you’ll advance and meet a marble champion, and it is here where you’ll duel each other, each one using their own respective marbles to try and knock your opponent’s out. The battles here do require some strategy, because an ill thought shot my allow you to knock one of their marbles out of play, but it could set a shot up that lets them knock two of yours out. A difference here from the other levels is that the marbles don’t return to your starting line, but instead stay where they end up bouncing.

The biggest gripe about the game is that is all there is, because variety is not the spice of life in this game. The Adventure Mode is practically the main and only mode, and though it is long and the boards are challenging and different, there just isn’t enough there to keep us glued to the computer. The Arcade Mode is practically just the levels of the Adventure Mode again, where you can try and beat your records and earn achievement awards in the game.

The graphics and sound are okay, but nothing remarkable either. The background music is very minimalist, so there isn’t a ton there to hear nor is it loud enough, but the sound of the marbles knocking against each and bouncing off things sounds like they should, but there just isn’t enough there. Given you’re basically looking at marbles from beginning to end, once again things look good, but they aren’t breathtaking either.

Now, don’t get the idea that the game isn’t fun, because it is, it’s just that there isn’t enough there to really satisfy someone. However, if you are looking for something completely new that has never been done before (or at least I’ve never seen done before) then give Mythic Marbles a shot.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

Download The Trial or Buy It Now At PlayFirst

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Sveerz’ Review (PC)

by on May 21, 2007 at 1:27 pm

SveerzIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Sveerz.

When you were a child (or if you are one now) do you remember playing the game Simon? Simon was the light up game with four colors (red, blue, green, and yellow) where it would tell you what color to press, and you’d have to mimic it like some parrot performing for its master. The longer you went accurately hitting the memory game in the right order, the longer and longer the chain became and the better your mind had to be. Heck, you probably learned to perform a little song ditty in your head to help remember the combos. Well if you miss the good old days of Simon, prepare for the next reincarnation – Sveerz.

Sveerz plays like a mixture of Simon meets a bubble popping matching game, where the only time you lose is if the balls in play (Sveerz) go up beyond the game board. Positioned along side the board are four colored faces, representing the colors red, blue, green and yellow. These giant face overlords are the ones giving you orders, as they will shoutout the color they represent, indicating what colors you’ll need to press and in what order. So if you get a shout of red followed then by a blue and yellow, you’ll have to look at the balls on your board, and click on a red, blue and yellow in that order. If you click on them in the right order, the balls pop. If you don’t memorize the order correctly, no balls will pop, and more will fall from the sky (to be fair though, balls are slowly falling from the top anyways). You’ll successfully clear a level when you’ve popped the requisite amount of balls for that level, or you eliminate all the balls from play at one time.

There are several ways the game gets harder. First up, and the most obvious, though in the beginning you only start with one color remembrances, each success will net you longer combos, until you either reach the maximum chain combo and then go back to the beginning, or screw up and pop a ball out of order. Another way the game gets harder is they’ll place metallic, stationary balls in play, which do nothing but clog up the game board, making it so balls won’t fall all the way to the bottom, and instead stack up closer to the top of the level so you have a chance of losing quicker. However, you do have several helpers, such as bombs which will destroy other balls and even the metallic blockers, and rainbow colored balls that will act as any color, should you forget what the next color in the combo chain was.

Level BonusThough you are only popping one ball at a time for each color shouted out, there are chances for combos. If three of the same ball color end up touching each other in a left to right row or diagonally, then all three of them will disappear at once. If all the balls you click in the combo are attached to each other, you’ll get a line of electricity surround them, which will net you even more points. These are all the fundamentals of the Arcade mode, but one of the four modes available for play.

So we’ve mentioned the gameplay of the Arcade mode, but what of the other three? The second mode up is Memory, which is pretty much like the Arcade mode, but the memory chains you must remember are longer and more complex. The Puzzle mode has none of the memorization of the other gameplay modes, and instead all you have to do is be methodical and pop one ball at a time, trying to eliminate all the balls you need before they go over the board. The Puzzle mode seems quite easy at first, but then you realize that if you aren’t popping balls to play them so they’ll make combos and eliminate each other without your help, you’ll quickly find yourself on the losing end of the game. The fourth mode is a great one, which is the Rhythm mode. Rhythm mode has the same win and lose mechanics of the other modes, but the difference here is that beyond just having to click on the colored balls in the order they are called out (or in the case of this game flashed) you also have to do them in rhythm with the music like the game did. So, after hearing the colors come out and getting the beat they dropped on, you then have to click the same colors in the same order, and hit the same beat too. Additional balls drop from the sky depending on how off the beat and mimicry you were, so if you only hit like a 15% beat, you might find all four balls dropping. However, if you hit the beat 100% then no additional balls will come down. The Rhythm mode really gets your head bobbing and mind counting to the beat, and with levels having different music playing and therefore different beats, things are always changing up.

The graphics are pretty good, but nothing amazing. The Sveerz themselves look the best, what with their giant, cartoon eyes and helpless smirks. The cutscene like images were also quite cute and funny, with some replicating famous images or people, like one that has a Sveerz ball dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and one ball standing in front of a line of tanks, like that one iconic image from history’s past.

With a game so built around sound and music, you’d expect the game to feature it in droves, and thankfully it is good and works well for the game. The sound of balls popping, electricity sizzling, bombs bursting, and the colors being called out all do great (though sometimes it feels like it is hard to hear the colors called out with the music playing). The music, far from groundbreaking or symphonic, still was really grooving, and it all had a nice beat that set the mood really well for the game.

With nicely done graphics and sound, plus a musical based Simon gameplay that I’ve never seen in a puzzle game before, Sveerz does a lot of things well and is a game that is worth your time to checkout. Unlike many puzzle games that only seem to be a way to spend some time, Sveerz actually looks as if it could help train your brain and help your memorization skills as well, thanks to the gameplay that is at its core. So if you are looking for some fun or a way to improve your memory, give Sveerz a shot and get grooving to the ball popping.

Rating: 4star
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Casual Game of the Week: ‘Burger Rush’ Review (PC)

by on May 14, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Cheese MatchIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Burger Rush.

I’m somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to burgers, though I’m very particular in how I want it – buns, meat, cheese, and ketchup. No lettuce. No onion. No tomato. No none of that stuff. The big restaurants of McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s all have their own style and taste, and I refuse to rank them in order, given I can enjoy one over the other on any specific given day. So with my love of burgers in check, I was ready to delve into this week’s Casual Game of the Week in the form of Burger Rush.

In Burger Rush you play as Heidi, a young woman who wants to take her love for burgers and spread the word across the world, showing others that burgers aren’t simply fast food, and can really be quite high cuisine. You start off with nothing more than a little place to call your own, but by exceeding and doing well each day and meeting your quota of money, you’ll find yourself with bigger and better places.

The gameplay of Burger Rush is setup like a mixture of Diner Dash and Bejeweled, with perhaps a more leaning towards the Bejeweled side of things. The way things go is that the main board has different icon images arranged in rows, with the icons representing that of ingredients that go on a burger. You’ve got the burger patty itself, lettuce, ketchup, cheese, and other ingredients as you go along. You’ll make money off customers, who will come in wanting specific burgers, such as one with just the meet and cheese. In an order tray on the right hand side, you’ll see the icons of the objects you need, with a specific number beside them as well. In order for that burger to have the necessary ingredients, you must make enough three or more up and down or left and right matches to subtract from that total. Once the burger is complete, you click on it, and then you collect the money from the patron, and start with the next one.

Like all puzzle games, things start off small and easy, but gradually work their way to more and more difficulties. When you only have a few ingredients on the boards, matches happen easily without much need for planning. However, unlock recipes for burgers with lettuce and tomato, and suddenly you might find yourself unable to quickly matchup some ketchups because there are too many other pieces on the board of other things. Another dilemma comes in frozen food, which act as immovable blocks that you can only gain points towards the burgers by matching up with it (the problem is you can’t move the frozen food, so to thaw it requires luck or skill to have pieces fall into place so you can have them count towards a burger). But you’ll have some help and dealing with new problems as they come up, such as microwaves, which can take a whole row out depending on where you trade it out, and all those pieces will count towards your burgers.

In order to beat each day (level in other words) you need to make a certain amount of money. Early on, quickly making matches and getting patrons in and out is all that you’ll need, but you’ll have to use tokens you collect to upgrade to give yourself an easier time with things. For example, by making matches, you’ll build up such upgrades as the soda machine and fry machine, and if you add those to a burger order, you’ll make more money, so you want to get those out as quick as possible. The problem is the machines take several matches to build up, and even then it happens slowly, so a good idea would be to use your tokens to upgrade the quickness and less matches you need to make to be able to use said items. You can also upgrade their flavor, which gets you more money too. You’ll also use your tokens to purchase newer burger recipes, which will net you higher money.

MicrowaveOf course, your patrons aren’t the most patient people in the world, so though they might be willing to pay you a given amount to start with for a burger, the longer you take to make it the less and less money they’ll eventually give you; their patience is represented by a counting down health meter-esque bar. At least you have counter treats like candy and pie that you can give to them, and doing so will increase their meter so they’ll wait longer. Getting the maximum amount for your burger and serving as many people as you can is the key to meeting the needed amount of money each day, or even helping you surpass the expert level of cash.

Burger Rush is a really fun game, which you can play in stops and spurts if you want, because no day takes really long to complete, so you can dial in a few days, upgrade, and go about your daily business if you so choose. The matching mechanics come easily and naturally, and the difficultly level never comes on too quick, as the gradual crawl into new problems means you’ll never feel hopeless as you try to make your money for the day. And though it is a pleasing game to play, don’t think it’s smooth sailing, because you will need some quick reflexes and dexterous eyes to see what you need to make a burger, quickly scour the board to find the items, and then figure out the best way to get them. The action is fast, and you will find yourself racing and your heart beating a little faster when you are getting down to the wire and you aren’t sure if you’ll be able to make enough money.

The graphics are nicely pleasing, as the main board and upgrade menu are easy to understand and never complicated, and the item representations are simple and easy to figure out. The boards are also really colorful, with some nicely drawn customers waiting in the wings for their food. The sizzling noise of burgers and cash machine chings of making item matches sound good, as does the little thank you comments from the patrons.

The only downfall of Burger Rush – and it’s a major one in our opinion – is that there is only one mode, which isn’t enough for this game. The only mode in question is the Story Mode, which has you playing as Heidi as you go through the levels. Now, there are a good bit of levels to keep you busy, but after that there isn’t any other modes, and you’ll have to do Story Mode over again. Based on gameplay, it doesn’t seem as if it would’ve been that hard to add a never ending mode or an arcade mode of sorts, but sadly none of that is here. Heck, and though not a fan of the time attack modes, even that would’ve been preferable over nothing else.

Despite the one glaring flaw, Burger Rush is still a top-notch casual game and one that should find a large audience with a lot of players. The gameplay is of the “match three” type that everyone seems familiar with these days, but the added elements to the formula make it more unique and interesting than just an average “match three” game. My only word of caution is that you should go ahead and prepare to be hungry while playing the game, as you’ll be craving your own preferred burger as you mix and match the pieces.

Rating: 4star
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‘Catan’ Review (Xbox 360)

by on May 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

Catan 1Board games are pretty much dead it seems, as Monopoly and others have seemingly disappeared to closets and attic boxes. However, every so often a new one will come along or be transferred to a computer and console, and suddenly it is being played again. One such game is Catan, a strategy board game that has you battling other players over pieces of land on the newly discovered island of Catan. Do you have the smarts to put your foot down and claim your slice of island heaven?

When you and the other players first come to the island of Catan, you’ll see it randomly populated with various resource cards, ranging from wood to brick to ore to wool to grain. On each card you’ll also find a number ranging from two to twelve. The numbers on the cards relate to the combined roll of two dice, which starts each player’s turn. So, for example, a player rolls a four, all of the four cards on the board will give players one card of the resource type that is represented on that card.

However, not everyone will get a card every single time the dice are rolled. Instead, you must have a settlement or city with a road right there touching the card. When you start the game out you get to place two settlements and two roads. Depending on your strategy, you’ll place these in one of several ways. The placement of your settlements are an important one, as you only get resources for those cards your settlements and cities are touching. If you have a settlement, you’ll get one resource card of that type, but if you have a city there you’ll get two of that resource type.

Catan 3As you gather resource cards, you’ll use them to benefit your gameplan, utilizing them to build objects. You’ll be able to build new settlements (road must connect to it and be two away from any other settlement), the roads needed to connect to new settlements, cities which act as upgrades for your settlements, and development cards. Each thing you can build costs different resources, so to build roads you’ll need one wood and one brick, and then after spending them you can place the roads either to other roads you already have down or attach them to one of your settlements or cities. Though you’ll get resources by rolling dice, the other main way you get new resources is through trading with other players, where if you want to offer up one grain for one wood you may need, you can place that offer up and see if anyone will take you up on the offer; sometimes they will and sometimes they wont – part of the way you’ll succeed and win is by being a good trader. If you really need one resource and not another, you can go to the ports to trade in four of one kind to get one of another. However, if you own a port, you can trade two of one resource for one of another.

You can also buy development cards, which are random and will do one of several different things. One development card type is the soldier, which adds to your army, but will also randomly take a card that you put the stopper next to. You’ve also got cards that will let you build two roads and cards that will give you victory points when you play them during a game.

The object of the game is to be the first of the players to reach ten points, and these all come from different ways and play styles. You can get points for each settlement or city you place down, for building the longest road, having the largest army, and by playing development cards. Games seem to run about thirty each, perhaps slightly less or more depending on how long trades take and for your plan to come to action.

There appears to be many rules when you first play, and probably will confound you at the start, but after playing and seeing how things work, you’ll be getting good at it all in no time flat. For as complicated as it starts, things seem to get much simpler as you go on, and yet it all remains deep in its gameplay. Catan is very much a thinker of a game, as you really need to use your brain to ever have a chance at doing well in the game. You need a gameplan. You need a strategy. And you need to be able to change it up if you see your plan won’t work because of the competition.

Catan 2The game exists as both a single player game against computer AI or either online against real players. For the computer AI, you’ll play against different historic people, such as Sun Tzu, Lincoln and others. Each historic person has their own styles and ways they play. You can also change up the difficult from easy to medium to hard. Easy is a bit too easy, and mostly there only for you to learn the ropes, but medium and hard provide really excellent challenges. However, nothing beats playing against real players, so get onto Xbox Live and get proving to yourself and others you are a Catan master.

The sound work is pretty sparse, featuring muted music that plays lowly, and the audible but yet nothingness of rolling dice and the occasional card play or soldier steal. The game board looks nice, but nothing spectacular. As a board game though, it looks really well done, and easily conveys all the information you need to properly do well at the game.

Having never played Catan before, I had heard a lot about it and how fun it was and mentally rewarding it was, and in that regards I wasn’t let down. I found myself surprisingly compelled during each of my matches, as they played out more like the thinking in chess than the subtle placement of the hotels in a Monopoly. It would be nice if you could save games in solo play, but with that little nothing of an issue, it’s still a really fun game if you are looking for a new board game. If non-stop action is your cup of tea though, you won’t find what you are looking for here.

Rating: 4star
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Casual Game of the Week: ‘Out of Your Mind’ Review (PC)

by on May 7, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Yellow FlossIn this hectic world we live in, many times work and appointments must come before the fun and joys in our lives, including that of getting to play videogames whenever we want. Gone are the days when we could fire up a game of our choice and spend hours toiling away – now we seem to game in stolen moments here and there. With that in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that casual games have become such a popular gaming choice (especially with women who make up the vast majority of casual game players), as casual games allow us to either jump in and get those quick fixes of gaming bliss or either play them for as long as we want when we do have the time. In honor of the casual game, we’ll be bringing you a new Casual Game of the Week every Monday to help you find that fix you might be needing in your life, and this week we have: Out of Your Mind.

Mental health is no laughing matter, unless of course you’re talking about Psychonauts, in that case laugh away, because that game dealt with the issue of mental issues and problems, while yet at the same time being a fun, joy filled game. Psychonauts, incidentally, was also one of my favorite games of that year, and it’s sad that more people didn’t play that wonderful gem. But part of the reason I enjoyed that game so much was because of the mental moments it focused on, so imagine my surprise when the Casual Game of the Week turned out to be Out of Your Mind (OOYM from here on).

In OOYM, you play as a new employee at the Blissful Brain Holistic Luxury Spa. And no, don’t go in expecting mud baths, Swedish massages, and mineral oil washes, because at this spa you come here to have one thing and only one thing done to you – brain flossing. Yep, brain flossing. Is the worry of your day getting you down? Are those kids bugging the heck out of you and you need a break? Job getting too much and you need a cool down and restart? The issue could be Nega-Ticks, little evil, self deprecating thoughts that get in your mind and stay lodged in there, affecting your mental health. As the newest employee, it will be your job to use the mental floss to clean out the gunk in the patrons’ head, clearing their mind and removing the Nega-Ticks in the process.

In the game, you’ll be presented with a really colorful game level representing the brain of the person you are flossing. Inside this brain, you’ll see these cruddy brown specs littering the place, which represent the gunk you need to clean away. You’ll also see colored pots, which contain your floss. Now OOYM features a completely new gameplay mechanic, so nothing will come easy right away, but it doesn’t take long for that “oooh” moment to come when the idea clicks with you. In order to clean the gun away, you must essentially lasso it, which means drawing a line of floss from the pot to the area, drawing the line around it, and then drawing the line over the line so you make a loop around the gunk. However, just making a loop won’t clear gunk away, because you need a Nega-Tick attached to the floss or else you can’t remove gunk. Controls are simple, with a left click used to activate the floss you want to use, and drawing the line with your mouse.

However, not all Nega-Ticks can be got with one type of floss, as there are different colored flosses and different colored Nega-Ticks, so if you have a blue Nega-Tick, only blue floss will be able to grab it. Yellow is to yellow. Green is to Green. I think you know how to match colors. So what’s hard about that you’re asking yourself? What’s stopping you from grabbing one Nega-Tick, encircling the whole board, and then the game is over? Well, you can’t have anything in your loop but gunk, that’s what’s stopping you. Though you can have clear, first appearing Nega-Ticks in your loop, fully formed ones are a big no in this game’s book. So when making your loops, be mindful there is nothing in there. You complete a level once all the gunk is first removed, and then all Nega-Ticks are gone too.

But don’t go thinking it’s all that easy, because that is just the start of it. You’ll soon find yourself with more and more different colored Nega-Ticks, which will require their own floss. You’ll find levels with “mental blocks” in your way, that you can’t loop around either, so you’ll have to steer clear of them and work around them. Perhaps the biggest nuisance in your quest to clearing the brains, is that should a Nega-Tick exist for too long, it will explode, coloring the area in its color. Unlike the regular gunk that can be got with any floss, if a yellow Nega-Tick explodes, you’ll have to use yellow floss to swoop around it, looping it and clearing it from play. Your game ends if you run out of time before the whole brain is cleaned. Thankfully, powerups come in the way of good Ticks, which grant abilities like shrinking down Nega-Ticks, freezing them in place, and other such goodies to help make your mental flossing life somewhat easier.

Outside of the 70+ levels of the story mode, the only other mode is an Arcade one that has you seeing how long you can continuously keep flossing one mind (you can only use the brains of patrons you unlocked during the story mode). Instead of a built in timer, instead this mode relies on the ever-increasing gunk to be the timer, as a meter slowly builds up as more and more gunk finds its way on the level. Once the gunk fills up the brain, your time is record for posterity’s sake.

ColorfulIn terms of both graphics and sound work, OOYM has an absolutely creative style, which goes way beyond realism, and reaches a beauty in its simplistic yet highly endearing and cartoony charm. The Nega-Ticks, for example, are supposed to be these evil, monstrous things, but they are so cute you can’t but smile at them, from when they are scurrying about a level to their X for eyes when you’ve killed them by grabbing them with your floss. The game is also really bright and cheerful, exploding off the screen in its vibrantness like some fantastical creation in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The sound work is also nice as well, and though the music itself isn’t terribly much (though still nice and pleasant), the sound effects is what really won me over, as the cleaning of gunk, the exploding of Nega-Ticks, and the poking of them with floss just produces the cutest sounds possible.

For all its beauty and charm and new gameplay, it pains me to rate it with a three out of five rating, but if you look at what that score means in our database, you’ll see why it had to get a Three Star Rating. It isn’t that the game is bad, far from it, it’s just that the new puzzle gameplay won’t be for everyone. However, the thing that ultimately makes me take off points is the lack of modes to keep your gameplay time at a max. Having over 70 story missions will keep you occupied a while, but the Arcade mode features a time attack situation, which isn’t my favorite mode in puzzle games. Had there been some extra modes, the rating would’ve been bumped up. However, don’t let the score dissuade you from the game. The game has such a charm that it is definitely deserving of your time. If on the fence, at least download the trial and let the game get lodged in your brain cavities for a while.

Rating: 3star
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‘Silverfall’ Review (PC)

by on May 1, 2007 at 12:57 pm

StaffIt’s bad news for the people of Silverfall, as their city has been attacked and their defenses have crumbled. The only chance now is to evacuate the city and hope for better days for the refugees of this disaster. A powerful mage vows to fight a rear guard to allow the citizens to flee to the swamps and try to rebuild their lives and their civilization. So unfolds the saga of Silverfall.

Silverfall is a third person role-playing quest driven game. The first thing to do in the game is create your hero. The standard choices of name and gender are offered, as well as four races to choose from. Players can customize their character’s facial features, hair and skin color to suit themselves. Once you’ve set up your hero it’s time to play the tutorial.

Unlike most games the tutorial in this game lets you play with a built up veteran wizard to let players better understand how to use and move the character on the game board. The tutorial briefly describes the options available as well as how to power up and gain levels while improving the abilities of the player character.

Moving through the city of Silverfall the wizard must find and defeat the leader of the assault in order to gain time for the refugees to evacuate the city. The game uses several camera angles for play, as you can zoom in and play the game at eye level which will provide the best looks in the game or play it from above to get a better look at surrounding terrain and possible enemies.

The game uses the familiar radar map to show where enemies are. Many of these only generate if the hero comes too close, otherwise they remain hidden so it’s possible with careful movement to avoid constant combat. The reason to avoid combat is due to the very unforgiving and old fashioned way death is handled in this game.

SpiritWhen your character is killed in combat everything they are wearing is left in a tomb at that spot. The hero appears in their underwear at the start point of the level with nothing equipped. The only way to recover the lost equipment is to go back to the tomb and recover it. The problem is there is usually something mean and deadly there to prevent it so it’s best to be prepared by increasing your level and abilities before trying it.

There is some good news, however, as one of the first missions is to recover a safe for a townsperson that will allow you to store items in. Inventory builds up quickly in the game so it’s important to have a place to put things. The alternative is to drop items at some location and hopefully return for them later.

As is common is RPG games, a large amount of armor and weapons types are available. At first you will gain items by killing bad guys, but in time merchants can sell you good items as the game progresses. There are also two tracks for weapons and armor in this game – one for technology and one for nature – and this affects what armor and weapons can be equipped.

The dual nature of the game is a major theme of the quest. You can follow either path or mix them to a certain extent. You can also change how you allocated experience points by speaking to NPCs that have the ability to allow you to redo those choices. This is a nice feature if you decide you don’t really like your hero as is.

The graphics are nice if somewhat underwhelming at times. Many of the backgrounds at eye level are simply not there, but the terrain and creatures are nicely done. The combat includes colorful spells being tossed and there is some blood splattering when the hits are scored, but not enough to consider it gory.

CityThe player control is decent using the mouse to point and click. It takes a little time to get used to the mini map and sometimes during combat your hero will lurch forward as the same button to move is used for distance attacks. This can cause some deaths some times as you lurch headfirst into a group of zombies, but with a little practice can be avoided.

Overall this is a very detailed effort with a nice storyline. Not as visually stunning as a game like Oblivion, for example, but still it has a look and charm of its own. The game does become progressively more difficult as it moves along and it really isn’t a game that is forgiving to beginners or people who get easily frustrated. A solid effort.

Rating: 3star
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