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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

‘Mystery of Shark Island’ Review (PC)

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by on March 27, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Mystery of Shark Island 2Hide and go seek? Bah, why bother, you wanted to hide from me, so why should I care about you. Where’s Waldo? Apparently he wants to hide and be by himself, so why don’t we just respect his privacy and let him be. When it comes to games where you’re supposed to look stuff through, scrutinizing it to the letter so you are going through and crossing all the Ts and dotting all the lower case Js (like the Wayne’s World 2 reference?) to find what you are looking for, it just doesn’t equal fun to me. Or at least it didn’t until Mystery of Shark Island.

Mystery of Shark Island is all about one thing, throwing up a bunch of junk on the screen and having you look through it to find the objects the game is asking you for. I went into the game rather blind, not knowing a thing about it, and expecting it to be along the lines of Bejeweled perhaps. Much to my surprise I found I was supposed to look for stuff, click it and that was it. Oooh, so challenging! However, I should’ve left my sarcasm in check at the time, because it wasn’t long till I was screaming cause I couldn’t find the last starfish on the beach before the wave came along.

The main mode at least to me of the game is the Story Mode, which genuinely has a beginning to end story. Now, that isn’t to say we’re reading Steinbeck while playing the game, or that the gameplay even really ties into the story, but it is still a nice inclusion, which you get mostly from static screens before some levels, but occasionally you’ll pick a shell up with markings on it while playing a level, and your character will hear children laughing or talking. The main idea of the story is that you landed on this island, a broke arm, but you find it healing remarkably quickly, you no longer need your glasses because your eyes have gotten better, and you appear to be getting younger the longer you stay there. If you pay attention, you’ll probably have a good idea where the story is ultimately going. Though the ending might be telegraphed and there isn’t a lot of story, the equal mixture of what was there plus the gameplay itself had me constantly playing to see what did happen next, as the game has that great “one more level” mentality to it. The game also has an arcade mode, where you can play on the islands you’ve unlocked, and try survive for as long as you can, getting all the points you can, as you try to find all the items you need before the wave wipes them all back out to sea.

And that is the gameplay of the game – you are on an island, a wave comes in, and up on the shore it washes a bunch of ocean garbage, including things like seahorses, sand dollars, unicorn shells, stones, starfish, and other such items. Once everything has washed up, at the bottom of the screen you’ll have a slot where items will appear, and to get the most points you must find all the items. Click on the items as you find them, find them all, and then the next wave comes in – each level consists of so many waves, and if your point total at the end of all waves equals that of the goal, you move on and advance through the story (we are assuming here you are playing through the story).

Now beyond the goal score is an expert score, and it will take some combos to reach that height, as well as moving as quick as you can. Beyond getting points just for finding the items, you also get bonus points for other conditions. For starters, you get extra points for the amount of time still left on your counter until the next wave comes in, so by solving the wave as quick as you can, you’ll get more points. You’ll also get more points for performing combos, which equals picking up the same objects in a row before moving on to the next. For instance, if the game is asking you to find two sand dollars and two seahorses, you’ll get more points by finding and clicking on the two sand dollars and then the two seahorses in order, rather than clicking sand dollar, seahorse, sand dollar, and finally sea horse. You’ll also get more points by building up your multiplier, which comes from clicking the right objects and not making any mistakes.

Mystery of Shark Island 1So what is the challenge? Beyond the usual of levels happening faster and faster, forcing you to react to situations quicker, you’ll also have to deal with things such as large stones that must be picked up to reveal what is underneath; dusting sand away so you can get a better picture of the object and pick it up; you’ll have mystery shaded objects in your task bar, which you must guess as to the identity of; more and more junk will pile on the screen, some of it overlapping and obscuring your view of the item you need; and of course a lot of the stuff that washes up on shore looks like the objects you need to find, only they are pieces and you need the full thing, meaning sometimes you’ll click on the partial item instead of the full one.

However, to combat these increasingly difficult challenges, you’ll occasionally find powerups to help you in your adventure, such as the wind to blow extra junk away that might be blocking your view; a powerup that will refill your timer; and an enhanced brush that will sweep dirt away quicker.

The only other real gameplay are at the end of the islands, where you must use keys you’ve found to turn dials to form a picture and allow yourself to move on; the puzzles aren’t too hard, but you can’t really fail them since there isn’t a time limit or anything, so sometimes they feel like they are just there.

As for the graphics and sound, both are remarkably well. The overall marooned island/beach feel is extremely pleasing, and the visuals of things like the waves rolling in, wind blowing junk away, and the visualization of starring at the sand, looking for specific objects is handled well, as the whole game is extremely bright and cheerful, featuring bright greens, vibrant reds, and tranquil blues rounding out the package. The sound is also nice, because the sound of waves rushing in is nailed perfectly, and the general music that plays over the game, though repeating as is the case in almost all casual games, is completely relaxing and peaceful. Really, while playing the game, not only will you be having fun but you’ll be relaxed as the game just pulls you in and throws that comforting blanket of graphics and sound around you.

In the end, the game won’t be for everyone, but for those with an open mind and who doesn’t classify themselves into a single game genre type, you’ll find quite a lot to please you in Mystery of Shark Island. Whether you are sitting in your office at work or stuck at home, fire up Mystery of Shark Island, escape for only a few minutes or hours if you like, and imagine yourself on an island adventure where you have no worries on your mind.

Rating: 4star
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Download The Trial or Buy The Game

‘Glyph’ Review (PC)

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by on February 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm

Glyph 3I like popping bubble wrap. Perhaps that is why I love a good point and click puzzle pieces matching game that requires no more technical skill than clicking the left mouse button and you can easily get into and out of whenever you have some downtime or want to procrastinate. And though Glyph doesn’t exactly do anything terribly original, it does take the best elements from many of the puzzle games out there, throws in some special powers, and wraps it all up in a nicely designed package.

There are two main modes in Glyph, which are listed as the Quest mode and Action mode. The Quest mode is perhaps where there is the most depth and gameplay to be had out of the two. The Quest mode has a genuine story and quest attached to the puzzle elements, which details you discovering and researching these glyphs in order to restore the natural balance of the floating lands that splintered into different factions, such as Water, Earth, Fire, etc. The story isn’t too involving, as you only get a few lines of story after every so many boards, but it is nice that a company tried to actually incorporate a story into their game. Meanwhile, the Action mode is pure click, click, click reflex gameplay with no story. The interesting thing is that each gameplay mode has a different play style to it with only the central “match three or more of the same color” and specials being the same.

In Quest mode, you are given a board laid out in various designs, with different colored stones placed in each of the squares making up the design. Underneath each stone is a different colored backing piece, which you slowly dig through by making matching colors on top of the squares. The idea is to dig down through these squares by matching on top of them until you can find the hidden Glyph, which is a giant drawing that takes up a good portion of the design template level. Some of the backing pieces you can remove with one match on top of them, but often times you have to match groupings two, three, or more on top of them to finally get through all the levels. You also don’t need to fully reveal the bottom of every square, but rather just the ones needed to fully reveal the Glyph. So, if you’ve found a segment of the Glyph picture, it’s best to try and work from there outwards until it’s fully revealed since you now know it is in that area and you don’t need to randomly look everywhere now.

GlyphQuest mode starts off easy, but it has obstacles to keep you from easily moving forward. Some levels will allow you to only match certain colors, like only green, so if you make something like a blue matching over a square, it won’t register it. You’ll also have blocks that can’t be taken off the board by grouping them into pairs and pieces that like to do things like spread like a virus after so much time has been spent (they change the pieces they are touching to their same color). You’ve also got a timer, where if you don’t keep clicking at a relatively brisk pace, you’ll run out of time, lose a life, and have to start over.

However, along the way you’ll have automatic powerups that pop into your play hand, with these being things like row eliminations, level scramblers, bombs, color changers, etc. Each powerup comes at level one, which will only affect a single row or column or a small area at the point where you clicked. However, if you leave it alone and don’t play it right away, but instead keep playing and matching like normal, the power of the powerup will slowly rise to a medium level two and ultimately to a high level three. The high level three powerups are the best, as they change the whole board instead of only small sections.

You’ll also have bonus levels every so often, where you’ll be presented the Glyph pieces you’ve discovered, and you’ll have to click on them in the order they sing and hum, basically playing like a game of Simon Says. In total, there are 255 levels to the Quest mode, so you’ll have a good bit to keep you busy and left clicking those mouse buttons.

The Action mode of the Glyph plays like your classic game of Collapse, where the colored pieces are constantly moving towards the top of the screen as new pieces appear at the bottom to push them up. The goal of the game is to click the pieces in their at least groups of three so that they don’t push any piece above the top of the screen to cost you a life. However, even Action mode isn’t your typical game as you’ll have access to the same powerups in this mode as you did in Quest, plus it will switch things up on you occasionally, dropping pieces from the sky instead of pushing them up from the bottom.

The game is also really relaxing and fun, mostly thanks to the pleasant soothing background music and sound effects that trigger when you match pieces or use a powerup. The game has a lovely ethereal quality to it as well, as the colors are so bright and cheerful, radiating brilliant blues and greens just to name a few, that you can’t help but feel yourself relax and reach some level of inner peace. It really is a soothing game, even when you are about to lose a life cause that piece is one row from reaching the top.

Glyph 2The only problem I had with the game is that there was a bit of lag between the pointer on my screen and my mouse movements. Now, it isn’t a huge deal considering there isn’t much twitch shooting gameplay-esque needs about the game, but it can be a bit annoying when you want to move quicker than the game is letting you. Not a huge problem, and certainly one that shouldn’t keep you from buying the game, but it is an issue I had with the game nonetheless.

In the end, though it isn’t a revolutionary experience that will define puzzle games for generations like Tetris did, it is still a very solid, beautiful, relaxing, and most importantly fun puzzle game for all the puzzle fans out there. So sit back, stretch out that clicking finger, and get ready for some color matching.

Rating: 4star
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‘Root Beer Tapper’ Review (Xbox 360)

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by on February 7, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Root Beer TapperI love playing videogames, because I’ve learned that is really all I’m good at and that I’d absolutely fail miserably trying to hold down a steady, regular job. Case in point – Root Beer Tapper. Let’s just say that if you were to visit the bar I was dealing drinks out at, don’t go in expecting to see any Tom Cruise in Cocktail moves, because instead you’d have glass mugs flying at your head and breaking at your feet. So should you leave a nice tip for the service in this game?

Root Beer Tapper is an old school Midway game back before it was kosher to call it Beer Tapper. Really, Root Beer Tapper? Has that tasty beverage ever been as popular as it seems to be made out here? Do people go in saying, “Hey barkeep…one cold sarsaparilla if you don’t mind…and make it a double!” I guess that’s all a roundabout way of saying Root Beer Tapper is of the old school persuasion where you had to use nothing more than a control stick, a button, there was no story, and gameplay was rather easy in theory, but jeez didn’t it end up frustrating and a pain before all was said and done.

In Root Beer Tapper you play as the lowly barkeep, managing your bar rows, trying to keep all the patrons happy and ultimately getting them out of your bar as quick as you can until nobody else is left in there. You’ll easily move up through the rows by flicking the left thumbstick and order your little Mario look-alike to pour a frosty cold one and then whip it down the bar by pressing the A-button twice.

While playing you’ll only want to send as many root beer down as there are patrons, because if they are already drinking they won’t put theirs down to grab another, and instead it will pass everyone by and fall off the bar and shatter, costing you a life. Your goal is to push them through the bar opening by slinging a root beer towards them that shoves them through; if you let them too close they’ll only be pushed so far back. If you fail to push them all the way through, they’ll finish their root beer at the bar and send your glass back to you; if you fail to grab the glass as it is heading your way then it will drop and lose you a life again.

Bonus LevelAs the game moves on you’ll have to deal with more and more customers, juggling passing out glasses and catching returning ones, and also running down the bars to pickup tips if one was left for you for bonus points. You’ll also have a chance to win bonus points by competing in a minigame after every so many rounds, where you’ll have so many cans of root beer out, a masked barren will shake them all up but one, and then you’ll have to follow the one that wasn’t shook up. If you can follow the mixing up of the root beer and open the one that doesn’t explode in your face then lucky you and bonus points to you.

And yeah – that’s it really. You have things like the Xbox Live Arcade leader board to show your prowess or lack thereof in the game, but there isn’t anything like graphical upgrades or anything else to speak of. For that matter, I popped in my old Xbox copy of Midway’s Arcade Treasures and Root Beer Tapper looked just like it did when it was released on that.

If you’re a fan of Root Beer Tapper you’ll buy the game, but I can’t see much of anyone else going crazy for the chance to play a however many years old game. With all these old games coming out offering nothing more than really what they gave back then, it seems like only a matter of time before we get games like Pong. Aren’t you just drooling over that possiblitiy?

Rating: 2star
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‘Hotel Dusk: Room 215’ Review (DS)

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by on February 6, 2007 at 1:51 pm

KyleIf you’re a fan of mysteries but hate reading or are a mystery fan but aren’t that skilled at playing games, then you’ll find a perfect middleman with Hotel Dusk. By walking the line between interactive mystery novel and traditional point-and-click adventure, you’ll be wandering around the quaint hotel yourself, wondering just what you’ve got into, and unraveling quite the story. So get your gumshoes (yes, we know what they are) on and adjust your Sherlock Holmes cap, because there is a mystery to solve, and no Scooby Doo to foul it all up.

THE STORY SO FAR
In Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (Hotel Dusk from here on) you play as Kyle Hyde, a man who used to be a detective on the force, but then after getting a call you headed to the pier, shot your partner, and soon after quit the force to take on another job – one as a salesman – that just might lead you to the whereabouts of your partner who is apparently not so dead.

On your journey of revenge and answers, your job will lead you to Hotel Dusk, a nothing really hotel in the middle of nowhere, but why were you sent to this place in the first place? Why did your boss choose here? Why did someone check in before with your exact name? Does Room 215 – your room – really grant wishes like the hotel owner says?

Besides handling your own job and quest, you’ll also run across an assortment of patrons and workers at the hotel, such as the cleaning lady, an old “friend” of yours who you used to know when you were a detective, a father and his daughter, a writer, and several others. Who are these people and what secrets are they holding? Are they holding secrets from each other? Are they holding secrets from just you?

A RoomIt’s hard to talk about the story of Hotel Dusk without revealing too much, but so far all I’ve spoiled is some opening stuff that isn’t really that huge to begin with. Since the game plays like an interactive novel, story makes up a huge chunk of the game, and thus the game essentially lives or dies by the quality of its story. Thankfully, the story of Hotel Dusk is pretty cool. If you’re a fan of the old gumshoe detective movies or stories then this game will be right up your alley. It’s a little cheesy (no pun intended) for Kyle to say something like, “His plot had more holes in it then a slice of Swiss cheese,” but it works in context since it has that very film noir/pulp fiction vibe to it.

The story unfolds very slowly at first, which isn’t exactly a terrible thing since you need to get accustomed to the world you’ll be exploring, which is only the hotel, so you’ll learn the layout and where everyone is staying in due time. The game is very much like living the life of Kyle, as you’ll have to check-in to the hotel, walk everywhere, partake in some mundane tasks, but along the way you’ll run into the other patrons, start getting a feel for their quirks, and as your own story unfolds you’ll find yourself interacting more and more with the people of the hotel, and soon the story will really get going.

Early story previews made it seem like the game would be supernatural based, what with the idea that a hotel room can grant wishes, but honestly this is a pure, real world based mystery story first and foremost. The game is also a lot of reading, even more than your average point and click adventure game I’d say. Hotel Dusk stands close to the Phoenix Wright style of gameplay, meaning that there is a lot of reading and very little game.

GAMEPLAY
What is there in game isn’t much, but it helps get you to the next story point, which is ultimately the reason you’ll be playing. When playing Hotel Dusk, you’ll be holding the DS like a book, so for starters it doesn’t play like your average game. Besides the DS stylus, the only other button you’ll need is the D-pad, which by clicking can speed up the text given to you and click through lines of dialogue so you can get to the next line. Beyond the D-pad, the stylus is the only other instrument really used, as you’ll press on the screen with it where you want Kyle to walk in a top down perspective (the non-touch screen shows a FPS mode of walking through the actual 3D rendered environments).

The HotelYou’ll use your stylus to open up menus, such as ones to start interacting with people, and you’ll also use the stylus to choose questions to ask them as they come to you. You’ll also use the stylus during investigations, where you’ll be able to click on objects in the environments, to see what you can get info on, and see what you can interact with. For example, clicking on a TV might give you a little descriptor, but the TV probably doesn’t play a role in the game that much if at all. However, if you click on something like your suitcase and the game zooms in so you can fiddle with it more, then chances are that will be important and you’ll be able to interact with it later.

Puzzles in the game aren’t terribly hard, such as rotating pieces of a puzzle to find where they go, circling two bits of information to see why they are different, using a crowbar to lift a filing cabinet, etc. It’s neat how you’ll interact with the game to complete puzzles, but overall there are no overtly difficult, head scratching puzzles at all.

I wish I could say more about it, but really that is it for the gameplay. You aren’t playing it to experience lightning reflex trigger finger gameplay, but rather to chill, relax, and experience a good interactive novel, and that is what Hotel Dusk ultimately brings.

GRAPHICS
The 3D graphics of walking around the environments are okay, though objects can be really jaggy, blocky, and overall ugly, but where the game really succeeds is in its characters. Characters in Hotel Dusk have an anime style to them, though not with the overdone hair, gigantic eyes, or any of the other out there features you’d find in any good manga volume. Instead, Hotel Dusk takes that sensibility, tweaks it to make it a bit more real looking, and gives the graphics this beautiful, hand drawn, moving pencil doodle drawing feel brought to life. A few of the animations for characters repeat as the game goes on and you keep meeting up with characters, but it’s hard not to admire the beautiful contextual design for the characters. Hotel Dusk does for the DS what Okami did for the PS2 – pushes the system into a new realm of visual creativity.

SOUND
No voicework, very little sound effects, and a mystery oriented background music track that seems to play over the bulk of the game. It’s not a terribly huge problem for a game of this type where story matters most, but you’d still wish there would’ve been some voicework somewhere or at least used sound effects more than they are used here.

The RoofIN CONCLUSION
Have you ever seen a movie so stylized and full of ideas that is really for a niche audience, and though you may absolutely love every moment that comes across the screen, someone else is sitting there and trying to figure out what all the fuss is about? Hotel Dusk is that gaming equivalent, because as long as this is exactly what you are looking for – meaning all you want is a really interactive mystery novel story and voicework and things like gameplay matter very little as long as you get that – then this game will be for you. Otherwise, Hotel Dusk just might not be your cup of tea, and might require a little more sugar before it would become just right for you if even then. Some people just aren’t tea drinkers.

Rating: 4star
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‘Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All’ Review (DS)

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by on January 26, 2007 at 2:01 pm

Are you a Law and Order fan and find yourself always riveted to the TV screen while the court section of the episode is on? Do you tune in to Boston Legal every week, not to see the crazy antics and goofy characters, but rather see the courtroom drama? If so, Phoenix Wright might be for you, as it plays like an interactive novel detailing the adventures of a defense attorney. Do you have the skills to seek out the truth, find the inconsistencies, and yell out “Objection!” just like a real attorney?

EvidenceTHE STORY SO FAR
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All (just Phoenix Wright from here on, cause jeez is that a long title) is a sequel to the cult favorite original DS offering. In Phoenix Wright, you play as Phoenix Wright (I know, so obvious) as he investigates and defends several defendants on trial. You’ve got a cop accused of killing her police officer boyfriend, your ghost seeing partner accused of murder, etc.

Obviously, it pays to have played the original, because there were story moments and seemingly inside jokes aimed at those players who played the first game. For instance, I have no clue why your partner calls you Nick when your name is Phoenix Wright. There are also characters referenced and mentioned that appear in momentary flashbacks that seem to be connecting the current game to the first one. However, don’t go thinking you can’t play the game if you never played the original, cause I was in the same boat, and yet I had a good time.

The game is almost all story, as it plays like a more interactive novel with logic based puzzles rather than a normal game or point and click adventure. To some, it could be a turnoff, but as long as you know what you are getting into, you shouldn’t have problems or issues.

The stories/cases are interesting, and though you start off having no clue how things happened, as you learn more, you actually feel like you are getting smarter as well…though that leads to some problems. For example, in the first case, I deduced something pretty easily and how everything broke down, but the fact is that I couldn’t get from point A to point C, even though I knew what was happening, until I first crossed the point B the game needed me to do. It isn’t a terrible problem, but it does prove annoying more than once.

GAMEPLAY
The gameplay of Phoenix Wright takes place during two distinct points in time. On one hand, as Phoenix you’ll get initial statements, search the grounds where the case is involved around, and you’ll gather evidence you’ll need for your trial. Of course, then you have the trial portion of the game, where you must use what you know, your evidence, and try to get your client off the hook and find them not guilty.

PsycheLocksFor the discovery part of the game, you’ll move around by clicking menus, interact with people through talking to them, and find objects by searching the grounds. The whole game is static, so unlike a Myst, for example, don’t imagine yourself actually walking through the environments. If you go to, say, a garden, and you want to check it out, you’ll have to click the Examine menu on your touchscreen, and then click on objects in the environment picture to get info on them.

Discovery also requires a bit of talking with the people involved, and here you’ll ask questions, follow-ups, etc. You’ll also run across Psyche-Locks, which are new to the game, which are these invisible locks that reveal that someone has a secret they don’t want to divulge. The Psyche-Locks actually give you a health bar, and if you take too many stabs at trying to unlock their truths and fail, you’ll lose health, and end up losing the game. So when attempting to find the information the Psyche-Locks are sealing up, make sure you have a good story plan and the evidence to back it up.

Once discovery is done, you head to the trial portion (though additional discovery can and will happen during breaks in the trial). In trial, you’ll sit back as the prosecutor presents their case and evidence, which mostly comes from documents and pictures submitted into evidence, but a lot of the game comes from analyzing the witnesses and their statements. As the game points out, everyone in the game lies, though sometimes it isn’t intentional and they just forget the facts. So what you’ll do is listen to the witness give their statement, and when it comes your time to cross, you’ll analyze over what they said, press them to clarify statements or add to something they initially didn’t give over when the prosecutor asked, and present evidence when needed to correct them.

During these moments where you have to present evidence to make your point, a health bar will appear on the top screen, and it amounts to the judge’s patience with you. If the bar reaches zero, you lose the case. So when you make statements, be sure you know where you think you are going, and have the right proof to present, whether it is a picture, a character profile, or what have you.

ObjectionThe game actually gets quite difficult during these evidence presenting moments, because sometimes I knew what I was trying to get across, but didn’t know what the right piece of evidence was to hand over to show it. Sometimes I guessed multiple times and never found the answer, but then after really going over the statements and looking at the evidence, I got those “AH HA!” moments where I wondered why I didn’t see that before. Of course, there are also moments where you are simply guessing, and you don’t have a clue what you are supposed to present, and when you do find it the evidence and connection still doesn’t connect for you.

And this is essentially the game, because a lot of the game is tapping your screen to move the dialogue along, and then using the stylus to move through your case file to find evidence, or using the stylus to pinpoint marks on evidence to present. For being a DS game, there isn’t much touching or DS screen usage at all. I do like, when it comes time to cross a witness or present evidence, instead of selecting the option to cross or present, you can hold down the Y-button and actually yell into the microphone “Hold it! and “Objection!” – it is silly and I’d never do it in public, but it makes you feel like you are more involved with the game.

The thing that kept me most involved with the game was not only the mystery stories of murder, but the anime inspired characters and look that resulted in such characters as a whip wielding prosecutor who likes to say variants of the word “fool” and your old teacher who appears to you on occasion when you need her help. It is silly and would never happen in real life, but that is what makes the game and story unique.

GRAPHICS
This game isn’t pushing the DS at all, because everything is flat and anime inspired, but that is ultimately why it works; seeing real looking characters would ultimately take away from the charm. I liked seeing Phoenix with his rigid hair and anime styled expressions (the hang doll one where he gets reprimanded was my favorite) and wouldn’t trade the look of the game for anything. I wish the environments were more interactive and 3D looking perhaps, but what is there works no matter.

ReportSOUND
Pretty bare and non-existent. You’ll get a few sound effects during the story, and a general music that plays during the rest of the game, but there is no voice work, and sound is almost not used at all. You could turn the volume completely off and not miss a single moment really.

IN CONCLUSION
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Justice For All is very much a cult offering, as you really have to be its intended audience to approach or even like the game. If you don’t like point and click adventures, then the game won’t be for you more than likely. Heck, at that, since it features almost no puzzles and almost everything is logic and statement based, even point and click adventure fans might not like. However, if you can see the game for what it, you should find an enjoyable interactive mystery and law based story that will please you.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

‘Glow Worm’ Review (PC)

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by on January 18, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Glowworm 3One of the more relaxing yet addicting types of gaming is puzzle games. There are many different types of these games on the market today ranging from word games with simple graphics to elaborate role-playing games with complex and large programs. But the simple puzzle game never really loses its appeal to gamers. Glow Worm is such a puzzle game in that it’s simple but it will hold your interest for a bit.

Glow Worm is a puzzle game played on a game grid made up of squares. Players must arrange four worms of the same color to score points and to remove the puzzle squares to complete each level. But the game isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. The worms themselves really have two colors, a primary and a colored dot inside them. When four or more of a kind are removed the inner dot replaces the worm with a glow worm in the new color.

The glow worms are removed the same way as the worms, by putting four or more of a kind together, which clears them from the board. This can be important as the color of worms available are random and you can only see the next two pieces in the worm Que. If the entire board fills before you clear all the puzzle squares you will lose the game and have the option of trying the level again.

Glowworm 1Scoring in the game is done by setting up four of a kind and there is bonus scoring for combinations. For example you might have three green worms next to three red worms and have a green worm with a red center. If you place the forth worm next to the three green, it will clear them, and the green worm will change to a red glow worm and also clear the red worms also. You can even do this and get a triple combination for even more points.

As each game board is cleared you see new features. The boards themselves will have different setups as well as locked worms and blocking squares. The colors the worms come in also increases as the game goes on making combinations more difficult and increasing the chances of filling the game board without clearing the level.

When a level is cleared you will see the points scored as well as getting new game rankings. There is also a box that includes interesting trivia about glow worms themselves to read. After a few boards you will see a screen telling you how many more glow worms you need to free to complete the game.

The game itself has pleasant music and a nice voiceover that congratulates you as you make combinations and complete levels. The boards are tricky to master at the higher levels and present difficult problems in logic as the color combinations become more complex. The worms and glow worms are nicely illustrated and brightly colored, making the game very easy on the eyes.

Glowworm 2The early boards, I found, were incredibly easy and at first I didn’t think much of the game’s difficulty. But as the game goes along it becomes increasing more difficult to finish levels until it reaches a point where it seems impossible to finish a level. It sort of reminded me of Tetris in slow motion; you have pieces but you simply can’t fit them.

But I also noticed that the game becomes somewhat addictive as you go along as it’s actually fun to play it. It also has considerable value if you have kids, as they will become attracted to its colors quite quickly and will pay attention to its logic traps probably better than many of us can. It’s a nice little game that you would not complain about buying or receiving as a gift.

Rating: 3star
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‘Ms. Pac-Man’ Review (Xbox 360)

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by on January 12, 2007 at 2:28 pm

Is she the cutest videogame vixen to ever grace the screen? Nah, and if it weren’t for a few in-game cutscenes she just as well could be Pac-Man himself in drag. However, Ms. Pac-Man still remains one of the most popular lead female characters of all-time, and in fact many people enjoy her version of the game over her husband sibling. You go girlfriend and eat those pellets!

In Ms. Pac-Man, you’ll find yourself controlling the titular character as she must navigate through various top-down mazes, where she must run around, chomping down on all of the pellets that she can, and once every one of them is eaten, she’ll be able to move along to the next maze and repeat the process all over again. After so many levels are completed, the player gets to see a little bonus cutscene detailing the love story of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. Is it much of a story? Nah, but it is fairly cute for the primitive time in which the arcade machine lived.

Ms Pac-ManSo what is too hard about running around a maze collecting pellets? Well, not much, except for a handful of ghosts who are persistent in their determination to take you down. The ghosts of the game are just as vicious in their pursuit as they used to be in the arcade, as you really have to act on the fly to avoid them, doing such tactics as luring them over to one place of the screen so you can hopefully sweep across though another passage and reach the pellets you are missing. However, your skillful passage running isn’t all that you have at your disposal, because scattered around are also some super pellets that, when eaten, makes Ms. Pac-Man invulnerable for a short time from the ghosts and actually gives her the power to eat them, temporarily sending them off the board for a short time. A great player will know when to go for what pellets, use what passages, and know how to properly use the super pellets to maximize their offensive strategy so they can really take it to the ghosts and plan quick attacks to other pellets on the other side of the board.

The game controls easily with you being able to use either the left thumbstick or the directional pad to control the direction in which Ms. Pac-Man moves. Beyond that, there isn’t any other controls, because there are no powerups you need to activate by pressing a button, no jump button, or anything else for that matter that would make you need to use anything but something for direction.

The graphics faithfully recreate the look of the old arcade system, which basically means that it doesn’t look like much of nothing (my nephew’s plug and play Leap Frog systems look better than this game does now on your 360). Though the game screen itself is shrunk to fill only part of your screen, the Ms. Pac-Man drawings and graphics that adorn the outside give that look of the old arcade cabinet as well. The sound effects are okay with their constant chomping noises and death sounds, but there isn’t much sound work beyond that.

Look, it is Ms. Pac-Man for crying out loud! You either loved the game back in the day when it originally came out when you plunked quarter after quarter into the machine or you don’t. Nothing has been updated for the release on the Xbox 360 and if anything it feels more like a temporary placeholder to fill a spot that Microsoft simply didn’t have anything else to go there. I mean, 360 owners can already download Pac-Man. Do we really need Ms. Pac-Man? The leaderboards are nice and will let you strive to get the top score of all time, but unless you are a fan, you probably won’t care much about this game at all.

Rating: 2star
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‘Coffee Tycoon’ Review (PC)

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by on December 19, 2006 at 12:54 pm

End DayThere are many types of sim games these days as well as many types of tycoon games. These games provide endless hours of relaxation and entertainment for people all over the world as they look for games that are not overly complicated and that can be played in a relaxed fashion that won’t tax your time or mind while playing. Coffee Tycoon is a new entry in this genre of gaming which is becoming quite popular with people these days.

Coffee Tycoon is simply a simulation of owning a coffee shop chain of businesses. Players start off with one shop and attempt to expand the business to add more shops as well as greater service and more types of items for sale. The objective of the game is to reach a certain amount of cash value for your coffee empire and thus win the game.

The first thing a player will do is select a name for your business. While not overly important it will serve to personalize the game and make it a little more interesting as you move along. Once you have given the business its new name the next order of business is to select a store style. Stores are shown in two-dimensional interior view and the game includes several different choices to make.

Next you select where your business is located, and you can be in either New York, Miami, Chicago, L.A. or Seattle. Where you choose to set up with have some affect on play as some cities want coffee and others items for sale more then others. You will also see some of the city in the background of your store and there are some weather effects as well.

Once you are set up you have to select the percentages of your work force in the three main areas. These are the actual workers, the store managers and the advertising execs who help the company expand at other times. A default value is given for this and usually works well enough but you can tinker with the values if you so choose, but you really don’t have to change them at all if you don’t want too.

Now that you are all set up the game begins. Each day you will see text messages telling you different things about how much you earn, how much you lose, new stores added or lost and other game related information. There is quite a bit of trivia about coffee related things here as well as good and bad events that happen. Players have no control over what appears here at all.

CoffeeAt the end of each day you count up how much money you made or lost and if you have enough you can buy improvements. The improvements include new items for your menus, additional perks for employees, new stores and even advertising that will increase revenue. The way money is made and lost it takes some time to make enough to get things, but it’s slow and steady progress.

As your business grows you will see new customers appear in the store and they will spend more money. The game is quite simple and it repeats on this pattern throughout. It’s a nice diversion for a day or a slow night, and there is some nice trivia in it, and it’s not a bad little game, but don’t expect too much; it’s more a game for passing the time of day then anything else.

Rating: 2star
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‘Trauma Center: Second Opinion’ Review (Wii)

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by on November 28, 2006 at 11:29 am

Removing GlassI’ve had a long history with the medical profession. I once enjoyed watching ER and other medical shows, but have ceased to watch them in favor of now only House and Grey’s Anatomy. I was once going to go to college to be a doctor, then decided on paramedic, and then scrapped the whole field entirely to do paralegal. Of course, have never practiced a day as that once, because I’m here, writing this review, telling you why Trauma Center is such a great game for letting me live the life I once thought about.

THE STORY SO FAR
You play as Derek Stiles – a young surgeon – who has just found himself in a position at Hope Hospital. The problem is Derek isn’t exactly the greatest doctor, not because he doesn’t have skill, but because he cares too much about himself and not the patients. After a near close call, Dr. Stiles decides to get straight and put his priorities in order so that he can be the best doctor he can be.

On a seemingly ordinary day on the job, Dr. Stiles runs across GUILT (Gangliated Utrophin Immuno Latency Toxin) – a man made disease – that has claimed the lives of all who have come across it. After the power of his Healing Touch manifests itself (a special gift from the medical gods that allows him to work at enhanced speed as if time has slowed down) he cures the disease and suddenly finds himself being offered a position with an elite hospital tackling the most extreme cases and trying to combat GUILT. Will Dr. Stiles be able to make a difference in this war against GUILT?

I was a bit skeptical about the story of the game at first, thinking it would only be a string of ideas to pull the gameplay of the surgery together, but I actually found myself playing more and more so I could see what happens next in the story. Perhaps it has something to do with doctors being that middleman between whether or not someone continues to live or die and the fact that with the Wii controls, you really feel as if you are a surgeon working on your patients, but I was really compelled to never fail and found myself getting quite attached to the characters and even a bit emotional (not like boohoo cry my eyes out, but there was sadness over certain plights in the story).

The story also offers up something new all the time, such as a new heartbreaking patient story, new GUILT strains, a new twist on procedures, as well as a completely new side story with Dr. Nozomi Weaver, who finds herself helping the government treat patients they’ve been working on. In the end the Trauma Center story is a full package and is really a great time filled with emotion and conflict.

GAMEPLAY
The gameplay of Trauma Center: Second Opinion is all about one thing: performing surgeries (well, almost all the time, though you’ll be using your tools and same ideas and principles from beginning to end).

DefibThe control style of Trauma Center is very fluid and easy to use, and out of the initial launch games for the Wii, it is the one that seems to nail the new control style the best. Trauma Center uses the nunchuk style, so you’ll have to have that particular attachment, though that shouldn’t be a problem since one came with the Wii system. The nunchuk part of the controller is almost used solely to select what instruments you’ll be working with, as each directional push of the analog represents the positioning of a particular instrument. The only other time the nunchuk plays a different role is to activate the Healing Touch (hold Z button) and when you are using the new defibrillator (push both controllers in and press Z and B buttons at the same time to start a charge).

The Wii controller is the main controller for the game, as you’ll use it to basically perform every task, such as scrolling through game text, but most importantly performing your surgeries. By moving the controller in front of the sensor bar, a little bright light will appear on the screen, telling you where your actions will take place on the screen. You’ll use this pointer to do everything from designating where a laser blast will be pinpointed to where the center of an ultrasound will emanate from. You’ll also use the controller to perform surgery cuts (trace the yellow line on screen to cut open the body) to using forceps to grab pieces of glass to tumors (holding A and B buttons to perform a clamp and use the controller to perform a removal action).

Though there are several actions you’ll be performing, mostly you’ll be disinfecting surgical areas, giving syringes of medicine to stop inflammation or improve vitals, stitch up a cut area (perform a cross/zigzagged line across cut), drain blood and puss, laser tumor growths, cut out foreign bodies, remove glass, etc. The procedures can sometimes be daunting when you don’t know exactly what you need to do (thus requiring some experimentation), but I never once ran into an issue with the controls – not once.

Well, I’ll take that back. For the most part, controls work flawlessly, with the only exception being when you have to activate your Healing Touch. To activate the Healing Touch, you must hold down both the Z and B buttons until the shape of a star appears on the screen. Once the shape appears, you’ll then have to quickly draw the same shape using your Wii controller, so you’ll be able to move faster and slow down time. The Healing Touch is a great feature, but I often had the hardest time properly drawing the symbol needed to activate the controls; whether this is the game’s fault or my lack of artistic ability remains to be seen.

Though your toolsets never change, the way in which you use them do, meaning it doesn’t feel like you are playing the same level over and over from beginning to end. For instance, using your drain will only be used to suck up excess blood early on, but later you’ll need it to drain two GUILT strands once they merge up, and other such changing instances as those.

LiveOne thing I love about the game is that it is a challenge, but thanks to a smart move it is never too daunting. I like to play any game on the Normal difficulty setting, but even I found Normal in Trauma Center sometimes frustratingly hard; I can’t tell you how many times I failed a surgery. However, once you choose a difficulty, the game doesn’t make you stick by it to fully play a game. For instance, in one level, I kept losing a patient because I could never remove all the tumor growth and get rid of the tricky GUILT (even when I used my Healing Touch). After trying for so long and getting fed up, under normal circumstances I’d probably quit the game because I wouldn’t want to spend another two hours going back to the beginning of the story just to play up to it again and hopefully beat it on a lower level. What the game does well is it plans ahead for these choke points, and lets you change the difficulty on the fly before you begin a level, so in this case I jumped down to Easy and beat that same stage on one try very easily, and then before I moved on to the next level, I bumped the difficulty back to Normal and got to continue on with my story without missing a beat. It is a wonderful feature, because it means I can keep experiencing the story without having to worry getting caught in an ultimate choke point where I’ll never see the game to the end.

GRAPHICS
It’s a good thing Trauma Center has a great story and gameplay, because the rest fail to live up to the package (though a lot of that is intentional and a style choice, because it is really the only way graphically to easily pull off this type of game). The character drawings look great and are very clean with that traditional manga/anime vibe, but the graphics of the gameplay is where it is lacking. The bodies you cut into aren’t detailed, but rather are just general layouts of a man/woman/child’s body, and the internal organs are simplified as well. Everything graphically about an operation looks okay, but nothing great; it does get the job done, however, and allows you to more easily operate.

SOUND
You’ll only ever experience a few voice sound bytes, as almost all the game is text. The game also only really features about three songs: 1) The techno beat of in-between game events like reading the story, 2) The heartbeat infused dread music of an operation, and 3) The sad and reflective piano tune of a dramatic moment. The sound of the surgery also isn’t too much, just enough bytes to properly get the job done.

GUILTIN CONCLUSION
Though the graphics and sound work fail to live up to high standards, the gameplay and story more than make up for it, and makes Trauma Center: Second Opinion a unique and fun game that any Wii fan owes it to themselves to try out. Trauma Center: Second Opinion will probably be overlooked early on for the more mainstream titles like Zelda, but if the original DS version is any indicator, this game could come in small supply and have a relatively short publishing life, so don’t sleep on this game forever and let the chance to own this great game pass you by, because by the time you come around to buying it, it just might not be there.

Rating: 4star
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‘Luxor 2’ Review (PC)

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by on October 24, 2006 at 3:36 pm

Luxor21Ancient Egypt remains to this day a wondrous world of mystery, filled with mythical gods, mummies, great pyramids, and all other manner of sparkling wonders. Ancient Egypt also apparently had a lot of balls – red, purple, green, blue – balls of all colors. Ancient Egypt also produced a pretty good puzzle game with those balls called Luxor 2.

THE STORY SO FAR
It’s a puzzle game! Did you really expect something to go here? Instead, why don’t we just talk? How are you doing today? Good? What new fall television shows are you watching? Yep, Heroes is great. Okay, enough chatter, let’s get to the good stuff now and why you clicked in here in the first place.

GAMEPLAY
In Luxor 2, you control a scarab that skitters about the bottom of you computer’s screen, carrying on its back a glowing ball of a certain color. Meanwhile, you’ve got a line of balls of multiple colors traveling along a course, trying to get inside the pyramid you are sworn to protect. So how do you go about protecting your pyramid? Why by shooting your ball and making connections of course.

Luxor22As the line of balls edges ever closer to getting to your pyramid, you must eliminate them from the screen so they can’t move along their course, and you accomplish this by shooting the scarab ball up towards the top of the screen, trying to get it to connect with balls of the same color, so they make a connected chain of at least three. Once a chain of at least three is made, the balls will disappear, and the ones before it will either smoosh into the ones behind the combo or will wait for the ball train to catch up to it. After you make a combo and eliminate them from the board, however, there are opportunities to make additional combos, by having the pieces that merge together also form connected groups of at least three, thus eliminating themselves as well.

While you are making combos, you are getting several trinkets, such as ankhs to give you an extra life, treasure to add to your point total, or powerups that grant you things like Color Clouds (changes balls in an area to the color of that cloud), a Fire Ball (sets on fire balls close to where it hits), Daggers (destroy individual balls without having to connect them), Scorpions (swipe rows of balls off the screen), and other assorted powerups to help you survive a level.

Things start off simple enough, with only a few colors to manage, but gradually you start to get more, plus the ball chain starts speeding up as well, which means you’ll have to start thinking quicker and firing faster. However, the thing that really starts messing with you, are the levels, as they are these snaking paths that like hiding behind the extra length of the ball chain, forcing you to wait until after they’ve moved out from behind it, as well as environmental objects like bridge covers that make you wait until they are out in the open.

Luxor23The main draw of Luxor 2 is the Adventure Mode, which spans 88 different levels; you’ll be spending a great deal of your time here, because to see all the 88 different levels, and to unlock them for play in the game’s other modes, you will have first had to have played them in Adventure Mode. The other real mode of interest is Survival, in which you play on one of the levels of your choosing (that you’ve previously played on) and see how long you can survive on that level.

At first, I didn’t get the appeal of the game, as it was simply shooting colored balls into other colored balls, but then I gradually got more and more into it, until I found myself in some rather intense battles, struggling and sweating to eliminate that chain of green balls before they made it into my pyramid. You really get attached and into the game rather quickly.

GRAPHICS
Though not genre pushing or groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, I really enjoyed the bright colors of the game, as the balls all popped nicely off the screen, but the real winner here are the environments, with there muted browns and shiny golds, which are relaxing in their beauty. The 2.5D type levels are also spectacular in how they are incorporated into the game, as the balls swoop around, slightly going into and out of the background, to show the rise and fall of the ball chain’s path. Nicely done.

SOUND
Though not as great as the visuals, the sound does a nice job of representing exploding balls, and the Egyptian music playing in the background rounds out the Egyptian themed package nicely.

Luxor24IN CONCLUSION
Though you wouldn’t think it from initial appearances, popping balls is surprisingly engaging and fun. I don’t exactly make time for it, where I’ll say, “From lunch till one I’m going to play Luxor 2,” but if I ever find myself with some downtime, looking to fill a few minutes up to an hour, I find myself time and time again now reaching for Luxor 2 to get me that quick fix of fun, casual gameplay.

Rating: 4star
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