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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

Pure Hidden Review

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by on September 18, 2009 at 12:32 am

There are some games that transcend its genre and become something more. Pure Hidden is one of those titles. It’s a hidden object game with a few puzzles thrown in, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an experience. One that has to be played to be understood.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. There’s no story. Some of the activities seem tacked on, like decorating the bathroom. Awards would have been nice. However, all of that is irrelevant when it comes right down to it.

The art style is amazing. Every hidden object level is a feast for the eyes. The further you go in the game, the more challenge there is. It never is so hard that hints become absolutely necessary to progress. From the very first hidden object level to the last, the diversity and beauty of the scenes make up for any quirks the game may present.

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Mysterious City – Vegas Review

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by on September 18, 2009 at 12:13 am

So I downloaded and installed Mysterious City – Vegas, hoping for a similar experience that I got with City Lights – taking a well known city and bringing it to life in a hidden object game. I couldn’t have been more disappointed had the game been set on Mars. In fact, Mars might have been more interesting.

There are several flaws with this title. First, it’s boring. Sorry, that’s BORING. I never really got too involved in the gameplay or the story. In fact, the story is just a tacked on yawn of an experience. There was more story in City Lights, which is sad, since in City Lights, I was just a travel guide writer. That’s not much of a story. Luckily, Mysterious City – Vegas was a lot shorter than City Lights. Which meant I wasn’t bored for that long, I guess.

Another flaw was how little hidden object game there was. Instead, the developers threw in a variety of other activities, like slots and poker. But these games were more boring than the story. It just felt like a useless time waster that had no effect on the game at all. And they weren’t even fun time wasters. There was a puzzle segment too that was easy and – am I using the word boring too much?

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Amazing Heists – Dillinger Review

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by on September 17, 2009 at 1:43 am

One of the interesting things about Hidden Object games is that they can take real world events and turn them into a fun little time waster. That’s exactly what Amazing Heists – Dillinger does. It incorporates some actual places and people from history, in this case John Dillinger, world famous bank robber, and his string of bank robberies that ultimately led to his death. And his story is anything but boring.

The hidden object part of the game is pretty good. There’s extra objects to search for in addition to the list, from stacks of money to wanted posters. There are 8 banks and each bank has several rounds of hidden object activities. The other parts of the game could easily have been left out though. One section involves placing robbers in the way of customers and blocking their way. If a customer runs into a robber, they turn around. The main robber can move, but the others are static and will disappear after turning away a certain number of customers. There was no challenge or real point to this activity and at each bank, I found myself wishing I could just skip it. The other non-hidden object activity was a place 5 colored keys in the right holes. It didn’t take long and challenged the memory slightly, so it was ok, but not something that made me go – wow! What a great addition!

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‘Elias The Mighty’ Review (PC)

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by on May 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

Elias ScreenAs a child, do you remember the pre-school toy where you were supposed to take square pegs and place them in square slots? If so, perhaps Elias The Mighty is a game right up your alley, as it follows the same premise for the most part. You wouldn’t think it, but trying to properly recognize shapes can be rather difficult at times. So is Elias The Mighty truly mighty or merely average?

Elias The Mighty tells the story of Elias, supposedly a hero within Russian folklore. When it comes to folklore I’m not too knowledgeable on Russia, so the story of Elias The Mighty was one completely foreign to me and is still admittedly so given how poorly it was executed in the game. The story of Elias The Mighty is told through static cutscenes that look as if they were borrowed from a currently existing animated movie on the subject matter instead of created specifically for the game. Every once in a while the scenes will play with a few captions of dialogue, but most of the time you’re only given a picture to help you try and fill the story in. Seeing a picture of a horse reared up on its hind legs or someone looking menacingly to convey evilness isn’t uncommon.

The gameplay of Elias The Mighty is unlike any I’ve ever experienced before in a casual game, so that’s a boon for it though it isn’t perfect. The game board is presented as a series of scrolling areas that have seven different shapes cut into them in random patterns, each level usually consisting of around four to five different cutout shapes. In order to complete each level you need to take the matching pieces from the bottom of the level and put them into position along the scrolling bars, filling up a bar with each point placed that will eventually give you access to an in-game item that has an overall point total. You successfully complete a level whenever you reach the level’s point total before you complete the last item.

When starting out, Elias The Mighty is really easy, as all you need to do is put shape to shape and you’ll automatically have enough points by the time you complete the last item. The further you go along, however, the more you’ll have to rely on various multipliers. Each puzzle piece, for example, comes in one of several colors, and the more items of the same color you place in a row the more points you get. If you put four blue pieces in a row you’ll get a four times multiplier. The highest multiplier you can get is a seven times multiplier. So though you can breeze through the first levels with very little thought or careful planning, the further into the game you make it the more you’ll have to use these multipliers to get close to the level goal.

Elias ItemsYou’ll also get more points for placed pieces by having more health, which is always ticking down as soon as you start a level. You can replenish your health by matching pieces or by buying food that you can click on to raise it even more. Scattered around the levels you’ll also find purple gems, which you earn by placing a puzzle piece on the corresponding open slot. You can use the purple gems in order to buy higher point totals for each item you collect. Simply completing a horse’s saddle, for instance, might only net you so many points usually, but if you buy the powerup you’ll get more points each time you complete that same item afterwards. Besides being able to buy item powerups, you can also purchase food items to replenish your energy.

Graphically the game is pretty nice, relying on the slick animated cutscene stills to drive the overall look of the game. The game board’s main cutout layout isn’t the greatest, but when you’re looking at a bunch of scrolling black shapes you can’t really improve the look all that much. The game sounds a lot better than it looks, however, featuring a very Russian sounding background tune and plenty of twinkling plinks and bar clearing kaboom sound effects.

Elias The Mighty isn’t a great game, but it is a nice diversion from the usual crop of casual games and their all too common formulas. With a new core gameplay, however, also comes a rather challenging adventure that might have you feeling really frustrated from time to time. If you’re looking for something new then Elias The Mighty might be the game for you to try, but don’t go in expecting anything truly revolutionary to the casual game genre.

Rating: 3star
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‘Build-a-Lot 2: Town of the Year’ Review (PC)

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by on May 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Red HousesI’m typically not a big fan of micromanagement casual games, but one that surprised me with its quality when it was first released was Build-a-Lot. It was great to be land baron, buying up houses for sell, improving them, turning them for profit, and then buying up all the land in the area. Build-a-Lot 2: Town of the Year continues the same trends and gameplay from the last game, but yet has also added a few new features as well. Sigh, if only I had the money to really wheel and deal in real life.

In Build-a-Lot 2 you play as an unknown person going from town to town, working with the mayors of the respective communities to turn their neighborhoods into picturesque properties that every family would love to live in. The game doesn’t have a story beyond the job of moving from town to town and the little Town of the Year awards you have a factor in at the end, but when the gameplay is so good the story matters very little here.

When you get to your first community you’ll see both houses already shaded in (you own), houses that are gray (you do not own), vacant lots with surveying equipment (you have the right to develop there), and empty dirt fields (you need to buy the land from someone before being able to place houses). Each town has its own needs and requirements that you need to meet in order to complete the level and move on to the next one in desperate need of your help. The mayors at first want nothing more from you than to perhaps build two of one type of house and get a total rent revenue at a certain amount. As you move along through your adventures, however, you’ll have to start worrying about neighborhood décor (new to the game), making sure the community has a park, coffee shop, and other such potentially harmful to your economy requests.

Besides buying/building a house and letting it naturally make what it can that way, you can also upgrade it a maximum of three times, making each upgrade more money you’ll bank each time the rent is due. You can also paint a house a certain color, which will not only improve the décor quality of the neighborhood but will net you a few extra bucks more. The only problem with houses is that they break occasionally and need your men to fix them back up.

From the fixing up of houses to upgrading a newly purchased property, everything is run by manpower. Creating a simple house may only take one worker to complete the job, but maintaining something grander will take two, three, or even four different workers. A huge part of the game is the juggling act of properly using your workers and hiring new ones when possible so you have people not only constantly working but also waiting in the wings if another project comes up that you need dealt with immediately.

New to the franchise is the idea that the neighborhood must look clean and someplace people will want to live; you complete this task by improving the décor of the community. The first (and easiest) way to get some décor points is by painting a house. The second best option for getting décor points is by building a playground; not only will the playground add to the décor by itself, but for every house it touches (best placement is between two houses) you get bonus points added on to the décor total of those houses as well.

Dusty HousesThough money is the root of everything in this game, it’s materials that is the ultimate deciding point as to whether something gets built or not. No matter if you’re building a house, coffee shop, playground, upgrading a house, or even painting – everything takes materials. Players are given a good supply to start with, but you’ll need to buy much, much more each round if you hope to satisfy the mayor and move on to the next community.

The game moves briskly from beginning to end. It doesn’t matter if you choose to buy a house, sell a house, demolish one, upgrade one, paint one, or whatever you want to do to your house – the menu system is setup extremely fluidly so there isn’t a wasted movement and everything is very automatic and clean. With just a few mouse clicks (and the workers to help out) I can easily sell some land I have for money, buy a house, paint it, upgrade it, and then sell it to buy a bigger house if I wanted.

Build-a-lot 2 hasn’t changed much in terms of graphics, as they are still pretty simple (an isometric looking down view) and yet the images are so detailed and nice that they make up for the lack of sparkle and shine. Besides the dapper houses all lined up in a row, the game features some very soothing music that at times is very tranquil and yet knows how to evolve into something a little more hectic sounding when you’re running down to the wire and don’t think you’ll complete your objectives in time.

Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year isn’t vastly different at all from the last game, but when a game is so fun from the beginning, sometimes all people want is more of the same. Build-a-lot 2 is definitely more of the same, but we can’t fault it for that, because it’s still as fun and challenging as it was when we originally played the first game.

Rating: 4star
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or at BigFish Games

‘Dancing With The Stars’ Review (PC)

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by on May 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Celebrity VoteI always enjoyed So You Think You Can Dance more than Dancing With The Stars, but over these last two seasons I’ve found some joy in watching the drama of the show. I pull for Cheryl Burke each season because I love her so. I’m riveted by Cristián de la Fuente – who I’d never heard of before this – and how he tore a muscle, is dancing with only one useable arm right now, and had the best performances of his dancing career this week. Okay, so I’m addicted to the show now, but sadly not this game at all.

Dancing With The Stars puts you in the role of one of the show’s famous choreographers and professional dancers, being partnered up with a celebrity who is often born with two left feet. Your professional dancer avatar will be determined based on who you choose to pair with, and though I love Cheryl Burke I didn’t want to be playing as a girl dancing with a guy, so instead I chose to partner up with Stacy Keibler who I’ve always found beautiful and was a great contestant (and the best though she lost) her season.

Once your team is picked you’ll then begin your career to win the coveted mirrored disco ball trophy. Each week you’ll be given a dance to perform, ranging from the waltz to rumba and others. You’ll then be thrown into the choreography part of the game, where you must click on panels on the dance floor, choosing whether to go with an Opening, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, or Closing move. The idea is to string together a performance that won’t take you off the floor and will garner you enough points to stay in the show for just one more week. The system to put your dance together is easy to use, but sadly you have no idea what each type of move is exactly or how it will look.

After you’ve choreographed your routine you then have to go and actually train in three different areas: balance, showmanship, and skill. You’ll improve your skill by pressing left, right, up, or down on your keyboard keys based on the direction of an oncoming footprint. The footprint system plays a lot like Dance Dance Revolution and the moves speed up towards the top of the screen quicker the longer you stay in the competition. Showmanship is improved in a memory game that looks like foot patterns placed on the floor that light up one after another and then require you to repeat the formula. The balance system has your star standing firm with a set of books on their head, and you’ll need to place your mouse cursor to either the left or right of your star, depending on which way their stack of books is tilting.

Once you’ve gone through the three training minigames you’ll then get to see your characters perform their routine and then get scores from the judges. If you perform well enough the judges’ votes and the votes of the viewer will keep you in and then taking place in the competition the following week and so on and so on until you either win or get voted off.

Character SelectThe first major problem with the game is that as soon as you’ve gone through one week of the competition then you’ve gone through them all. The training minigames get slightly harder, but nothing that will really challenge you. The dance styles also change, but as long as you choreograph the routines well enough and perform admirably during the minigames, you shouldn’t have to worry about losing the show. The second major problem is that the choreographed dances you make and get to eventually see our absolutely horrible looking. The dances are jagged looking, there is not an effortless flow from one dance move to the next, and during moments when characters should be holding hands, it looks as if they are passing through each other and holding nothing but air.

The dances look horrible because of those errors, but the character models are also atrocious looking, as most of the characters only in passing look somewhat like their real counterparts. A few of the characters look pretty close to the real thing, but not as good as they should. The environments and minigames are also very poor looking, featuring large, expansive areas of nothingness and generally boring looking set pieces. The game also has some terrible audio, featuring some fairly decent songs, but there isn’t much in the way of sound effects or even any vocal work at all.

Dancing With The Stars could’ve been a somewhat fun game had a little more effort gone into it and the gameplay had been mixed up so you aren’t forced to do the same thing over and over. As the game is though, however, you’re way better off sticking to the television series, which is much better than anything this game could even hope to aspire to.

Rating: 1star
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‘Slingo Quest Hawaii’ Review (PC)

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by on May 1, 2008 at 10:01 am

SlingtasticOnce upon a time I thought bingo was only a pastime old people could enjoy, but after one long road trip to a casino and a few hours of playing, however, my mind was changed and I had a blast. Since then, sadly, there hasn’t been a bingo experience that could even compare to that one. Trying to capture the gameplay of bingo in a game is like trying to find a great game of bingo – it’s only as fun as the experience and people surrounding it. Along comes Slingo Quest Hawaii, a bingo-esque game, which manages to capture the spirit of bingo and transform it into something that can be enjoyed by yourself.

Slingo Quest Hawaii is setup much like a regular bingo game board, filled with random numbers placed within different columns and rows. Each Slingo levels starts by giving you a game card and filling it with random numbers. Besides the numbers you’ll also see a handful of lighted squares, which you need to eliminate from your board in order to complete the level and move on. The lighted squares will both form patterns, pictures, and be random depending on the level. You’ll be given twenty spins to try and remove these lighted squares; fail to do so within your twenty spins and you have to retry the level.

When you right-click your mouse to spin the Slingo, it will – for lack of a better turn – sling a random group of numbers onto the bottom of your board, hopefully including a few that are on your board; if there are you can click them and remove them. Some numbers on your board are just that…numbers. When you remove some numbers, however, you’ll find surprises hiding underneath, including hidden keys, different types of coins to add to your point total, and special abilities you can use to apply to your next spin. You can apply special ability spins to give you three free coins on one spin, automatic free matches, giving you a joker, etc. You’ll use coins to add to your point total, jokers you can use to eliminate any number in the column it shows up in, super jokers to remove any number on the board, and other such things you can spin. A few of the non-number spins are always welcomed, but some like the coins are just a wasted opportunity and hurt you more than they help when it comes to completing the level.

HawaiiThe main problem with Slingo Quest Hawaii is that there just isn’t much of a challenge and the one that is there is one based completely around random luck and no skill at all. When you right click your mouse to cause a spin, you have no effect on what will come up (besides occasionally being able to add a special ability to a spin). The lack of personal skill becomes an annoyance factor when you’ve almost completed a level, have seven spins left, and then keep spinning to only have nothing come up to help you and then you must start again. The game tries to add personal skill into the game during certain levels – like the speed Slingo levels (numbers quickly change and you have a time limit to beat it under) or battles against island inhabitants where you try to score more points than the other. For the most part, however, playing Slingo Quest Hawaii is a lot like playing bingo and a slot machine at one time.

Beyond merely trying to complete levels, you’re also working towards trying to get as many points as you can. You get points added to your score by getting coins, making line clears (horizontally, vertically, and diagonally), and fully completing boards. Like the gameplay itself, getting points isn’t so much about skill but rather luck.

Graphically the game is mostly just looking at numbers on a board, but the whole game is very bright and features clean and well-designed background images. Besides the background images, the game also features some nice lighting effects from the Slingo matches you make. The game doesn’t feature much in the way of audio, but the background music and effects are pretty good.

Though personal skill isn’t a factor in the game, I was still compelled and had a very fun time making matches and clicking on numbers. Sure, I wasn’t really doing anything other than clicking on numbers as they came up, but there was a small joy there that still had me constantly playing over and over. If you’re looking for a bingo experience, grab a friend and find a casino or local bingo hall. If you’re looking for something more casual and that you can fire up whenever you want, however, Slingo Quest Hawaii is a nice game.

Rating: 3star
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or at BigFish Games

‘Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands’ Review (PC)

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by on April 29, 2008 at 8:11 am

Life SnagUntil Nintendo gets on the idea that could dethrone World of Warcraft, the closest you’ll find to a Pokemon MMO is the recently released Magi-Nation, a game that has you traversing a series of worlds, battling monsters, and using them for your own personal bodyguards. Though there are some nags here and there to mire the experience, fans of both the franchise and those looking for a new (and free) fix might find what they’re looking for with Magi-Nation: Battle for the Moonlands.

THE STORY SO FAR
The story of Magi-Nation has you playing the part of a young trainer, being tasked with going out into the world to smite the evil that is out there and threatening the peace of your very existence. Though the game starts out with a bit of story, most of the narrative comes more from a quick introduction on an alternate screen rather than the natural progression of the game through quests and NPC dialogue exchanges. You almost have to have a preexisting knowledge and relationship with the current animated series on television to really feel like you are a part of this world. I caught a part of an episode not long after first starting the game and found myself enjoying the game more than I did in the beginning since it put the game’s events in perspective.

GAMEPLAY
Magi-Nation is a completely free, Internet based role-playing/MMO. When you first start the game out you’ll pick your character’s nationality, determining the look and base characteristics of your character, choosing their sex, and then giving them a name. The game then throws you into a series of tutorials in order to introduce you to the various aspects of the gameplay. You’ll learn about the story and get the ropes of the gameplay.

The gameplay of Magi-Nation is a mixture of Pokemon meets Jade Cocoon, where you can do damage to enemies directly or you can summon creatures to help you out. Whenever you go into a battle you go in alone, only being able to cast the single spell at your disposal. You do have one starter creature to help you out, however, which you can call into battle by taking a turn to do so. Instead of having a standard health bar and mana bar like setup, Magi-Nation combines the two into one energy bar. When you use a spell or call on a creature, you’ll see a bit of your energy deplete since you are using the power of yourself to do damage. When an enemy attacks and deals damage, you’ll also see your energy meter deplete. The single nature of the energy bar often leads to some very long battles, as you not only have to spend time throwing out creatures and spells, but also taking the time to sit back and focus your energy, letting you summon back some of the energy you’ve lost.

Aeqis AttachUnlike other creature based battling games, it never seemed so much like one type was better than the other in the usual Paper, Rock, Scissors formula. Creatures in Magi-Nation have their own special attacks and moves – some are better than others – but for the most part the usefulness of a creature comes from how much you level them up and build them into a powerhouse. Magi-Nation features a typical experience gaining system, where every time you beat an enemy you get experience points for your trouble. Instead of automatically leveling you up whenever you reach the required amount of points, the game will give you the option to either spend your points leveling up yourself or leveling up one of the creatures you have in your party. When you level up yourself or one of your creatures, you’ll always earn points to up some of your crucial skills, but from time to time you’ll also be able to pick new powers for your characters to be able to use in combat.

You only start with one creature, but as you fight other ones you will occasionally get a dropped shard of their essence, and once you have enough of them you can turn them in to a specialist in the HUB world and have them create a creature of that type for you. Once created it’s as easy as dragging them into a box and then suddenly you have the ability to summon them as well in battle.

The advancement system of Magi-Nation involves taking on a series of quests that have you exploring randomly generated areas and often trying to either find something or complete a task in under a certain amount of time. You always start in a main HUB world where you can talk to people to buy items, equipment, or check stats. If you don’t want to farm for your money in the game, however, you can cash in cards you buy that will unlock free money for you or either use a credit card to buy items right away. Whenever you go into the randomly generated level layouts you’ll be able to choose tasks like exploring the area until you find a treasure chest, beating all enemies within a time limit, or searching for another trainer and beating them in combat. You can only access the exploration quests when first starting out, but as you complete more and more of them you’ll open up new quest options.

So where is the “multiplayer” portion of this game? Though a lot of the game feels like a RPG for the most part, the MMO aspect comes from the PvP battling system that lets you duel other gamers from around the world. After your character has reached level ten, they’ll suddenly be able to go into a dueling arena and fight other gamers. Each player takes into the battle their own abilities and their own creature companions. The battles play like the other battles in the game – especially those against other trainers in the game – but you’ve got the satisfaction of beating a real person. The game also tracks the top players in the game, letting you see if you can manage to crack the best of the best Magi-Nation players out there.

The gameplay has a solid foundation, it’s just that not everything has been smoothed out to perfection. The biggest problem is the pacing of the battles themselves, as they can go on for minutes on end sometimes, and a major reason is the juggling act of the one energy bar, plus the fact that many of your attacks won’t land on their first attempt (or even the second or third time on some occasions). Other problems include the random frozen black screen during loading from time to time and a general lack of motivation to compel you forward as there just isn’t enough story or difference to keep you striving forward.

Attack MushroomGRAPHICS
The game isn’t amazing looking, but that is partially because the game is played over internet browser. With that said, however, Magi-Nation is the best Internet browser based RPG experience I’ve played before. The creatures are for the most part pretty interesting. The game is also bright and vibrant, especially when it comes to the background images. Still, despite a crispness, the background images are re-used throughout the same dungeon areas, animation isn’t as solid as it could be, and some of the main characters aren’t as cool looking as the creatures.

AUDIO
The game is pretty disappointing when it comes to the audio, as the sound effects just aren’t that immersive, fairly dull, and there isn’t much in the way of background music either. Perhaps it’s the best that could be done when looking at an Internet based game, but still we were letdown.

IN CONCLUSION
Magi-Nation isn’t a great game, but it was a fun diversion from time to time, and since the game is supported completely by an Internet browser, it’s easy to quickly get in, fire the game up, and do a little battling and leveling to tide you over for a few minutes whenever you have time. Magi-Nation fans will probably enjoy the game immensely more than new players to the franchise, but even those should find a decent game to keep them happy.

Rating: 3star
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‘Mythic Mahjong’ Review (PC)

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by on April 21, 2008 at 10:51 am

Mahjong BattleThe last mahjong game I played was the excellent Mahjongg Investigations: Under Suspicion, a game that managed to take the ancient gameplay of mahjong and tweaked it and made it new and relevant by incorporating little twists in the gameplay. Much like that game, Mythic Mahjong takes the traditional formula and makes it once again feel new with a fantasy adventure that will have you matching tiles in the name of saving your queen and vanquishing a dragon.

The story of Mythic Mahjong tells the tale of a kingdom that has been ravaged by a recently awoken dragon who has got its mind set on grabbing all the jewels of the kingdom. One such group of jewels belongs to the fairy queen, who will die if her gems are not gathered and brought back to her. You take it upon yourself to traverse the countryside, gathering the jewels the evil dragon dropped on its way to its cave, and ultimately battling the foul beast come journey’s end. The story of Mythic Mahjong is pretty miniscule, really only be present at the beginning in order to provide the gameplay a backdrop. You’ll occasionally receive a static cutscene with scrolling dialogue to progress the story a bit, but don’t go in believing you’ll walk away with a massively epic story.

Mythic Mahjong’s gameplay is standard mahjong for the most part. Whenever you start a new level you’ll be given a board with tons of differently colored and designed tiles placed and stacked in various designs. In order to complete the level you must remove enough of the tiles by clicking on likeminded pairs that either have their complete left or right side fully open and not touching any adjacent tiles. As you remove tiles you’ll gradually discover two giant gems, which represent those that you are trying to find for the queen. Once the gems have been exposed enough to click on them like the other mahjong tiles, you’ll then instantly remove all the remaining tiles, clear the level, and then move on to the next board.

Scattered among the tiles of the board you’ll also find tiles with special abilities attached, such as letting you instantly remove a tile and a partner of it by simply clicking on one, quickly highlighting one match at a time in a row, or even showing all the possible matches on a board at one time. The spell tiles, I found out, usually happened more from accident rather than strategic thinking, which was fine by me since they still managed to get the job done more often than not.

Besides the usual boards, you’ll also run across boss battles, which play just like usual for the most part. On the boss battle boards you’ll find special tiles that will let you throw fireballs, attack with swords, or hurl bolts of lightning. Instead of needing to match two gems to win the level and move on, during the boss battles you’ll need to eliminate the boss’ health meter in order to win. If you’re familiar with Puzzle Quest, it’s nothing like that at all, as these bosses don’t fight back and are really there just to switch the gameplay up a tiny bit.

Mahjong BoardsThough you have the ability to use spells to help you out and have the computer shuffle the board whenever you want, Mythic Mahjong still remains a very challenging game that will try your patience and have you sometimes trying levels multiple times in a row before you’re able to advance to the next level. The computer isn’t the biggest helper either when it comes to shuffling the tiles, as they’ll often only shuffle the board enough to give you one or maybe two matches tops before needing to make you shuffle the board yet again. The difficulty was so challenging at one time that I spent a good fifteen minutes just trying to attempt one level.

The game is pretty simple when it comes to graphics, because there really isn’t anyway to make semi-flat tiles really standout and pop off the screen. The static cutscene images, meanwhile, are a little poorer in quality than everything else. In terms of audio the music and sound effects are fairly sedated, barely straining to be heard above a whisper and not really adding too much to the game in the process.

If you’re a fan of mahjong games then you’ll find a nice game to keep you entertained here, though it’s far from a technical wonder and the difficulty can be terribly frustrating at times. Non-fans of the genre, however, won’t find anything to make them think differently of mahjong games.

Rating: 3star
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‘Jabber’ Review (PC)

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by on April 18, 2008 at 9:54 am

When it comes to word games, it seems that most of the time the game is only ever as good as your actual vocabulary dictionary. Most games require an understanding of many different four or five letter words to advance you through the game, while knowing only a few basic words of three letters will lead to nothing but frustration. Jabber bridges the two extremes fairly well, letting word masters make some dastardly long words while yet giving those non-English college majors a chance at winning for a change.

Once upon a time Mr. Rabbit was bored and wanted to read a story, so he went to his library, climbed up upon a ladder, and reached for his favorite story – The Snow Queen. As it turns out Mr. Rabbit is quite the klutz, and so the story takes a tumble and the words from the book shake loose and go flying. If you’re wondering how the letters on a page managed to be thrown off, welcome to the club. It’s up to you to help Mr. Rabbit find the words to his story, in the end making it so that both you and he can read the story of The Snow Queen together.

Though the game makes you think you are actually finding the words in his story, you’re in reality doing anything but that, as the game will accept any proper word that you can think of and that is also in the game’s internal dictionary. The game board is setup like many other games in the word game genre, with tiles of various letters scrolling towards the bottom of the page. Besides letters you’ll also find asterisks that you can use at any time in conjunction with other letters to make a word. For instance, if you wanted to make the word “RUN” but didn’t have the “U” needed to make the word, you could click on the R, move to an asterisk, and then select the letter N to finish the word. Having so many asterisks at your disposal really help ease the frustration and difficulty that can quickly come by playing the standard word game, but yet the game is also pretty remarkably easy at the same time.

As you complete longer words, you’ll start placing magical flowers on the screen, which when used to create a word will lead to more points than usual. Some of the flowers are permanent and will stay on a stage until you beat it, but some flowers wilt and die much quicker, letting petals drop-off in a clockwise rotation (in other words the time left before the flower completely disappears from play). The game also gives you the chance to up your score by making the mystery words the game generates at random. Another way to pad your score is through the minigames, which have you trying to remember the pattern of letters on the screen and saying where a certain level should be, or either making you remember placement and clicking on the letter that has changed.

Instead of having a timer system to make you think and move quicker, the only challenge comes from the ice blocks that will slowly make their way to the bottom of the stage, ultimately freezing Mr. Rabbit and ending your game. The only way to eliminate the ice blocks is to incorporate them into a word, which like we said is easier than usual thanks to all the asterisks. We managed to die once throughout our time with the game, but only because we didn’t know that letting those blocks drop would end our game.

Besides the story mode there is also your standard arcade mode, which plays just like the story mode except for the fact that it’s continuous and doesn’t feature different levels. A nice thing about the game is that as you complete the levels (aka fixing the chapters of Mr. Rabbit’s book) you actually get to read the story of The Snow Queen. The story isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s decent enough for children to enjoy.

Jabber Board IceGraphically, like most word games, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to make players “ooh” and “aah” at the visuals. When you’re looking at a screen mostly filled with simple letters, it’s hard to make that standout in any possible way. Besides the letters there is a nice looking background complete with ladybug crawling around and an animated Mr. Rabbit who changes his facial expressions based on what you are doing. On the audio side of things, both the background music and the sound of words being created sound average, but nothing too special at all.

Jabber isn’t a terrible game if you’re a fan of word games, but it won’t push you to your vocabulary limits either. Players who don’t like word games because of the challenge might find a game more to their liking with Jabber, but yet it even might be too easy for them to enjoy it all that much.

Rating: 2star
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