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

‘The Price Is Right’ Review (PC)

by on April 16, 2008 at 9:42 am

Contestant RowCome on down! I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many episodes of The Price Is Right I’ve seen over my lifetime. Whether it’s Bob Barker or Drew Carey, I’m there at 11:00AM every day, eating lunch while I bid on prices and play games that I have no investment in and have no chance of winning. Still, oh, I love watching the show! And when I fired up The Price Is Right game for the first time and heard that signature music, how my smile did widen. So is the new The Price Is Right casual game as awesome as winning a Dodge Viper or is it as frustrating as someone outbidding you by one dollar for the win?

The Price Is Right is a casual game unlike any other, as there aren’t any things to match up, pop, drag, find, or any other casual game genre mechanic that you can think of. In fact, much like the real game, though there is some strategy and deductive reasoning involved, a good portion of The Price Is Right is still all about luck.

The Price Is Right can be played as a solo game or either a two, three, or four person multiplayer party game. You start by picking one of four characters, ranging from an old lady to a Army officer. After picking your character avatar and naming them, you are suddenly whisked away to Contestant’s Row to bid on your first prize. Much like the real game, you’ll be shown a product and have the game’s announcer – the actual announcer of The Real Price is Right might I add – describe the item. Not only do you have the real announcer talking about the prize, but also there is actually full-motion video of the real models showing-off real items. The object is to bid on the product and get as close as you can to it without going over, hoping that out of the four contestants you are the closest without going over. If you are the winner you win the prize and get its monetary value added to your High Score ranking. If you aren’t the winner of this round, however, you get the first of your three strikes.

During play there are two chances to earn strikes – during Contestant’s Row and the Showcase Showdown where you spin the wheel. If you lose either round then you get a strike, and once you’ve got three strikes your game is over, your monetary score is totaled up, and then you’re given your ranking. The object of the game is trying to survive as long as you can, making as much money as you can before you get those three strikes.

Whether you win or lose the Contestant’s Row round, you’ll automatically find yourself playing a pricing game, which will be one of sixteen games pulled straight from the show. You’ll play games like Plinko, Cliffhangers, Punch A Bunch, and many, many others. You’ll have to guess the prices of items and be within two bucks of the actual price, drop Plinko chips, putt golf balls, punch holes for money, and other such games that anyone should be pretty familiar with if you’ve seen even at least a week’s worth of episodes in your life.

As it turns out, when it comes to playing these games for real and not merely watching on television, I suck pretty bad. The problem is, however, is that it seems as if the prices are way off and are nowhere near the price they really are in real life. I’ve seen The Price Is Right enough to know some prices pretty well, but when it came to bidding on some of these prices or trying to win a game, I was often way off, sometimes by several hundred dollars (or a few bucks during the pricing games). For instance, while trying to come within two dollars of the actual price of a collection of products, I was off by seven or eight dollars when I really thought I was pretty close. Thankfully, when it comes to the pricing games, no matter if you win or lose it won’t cost you a strike.

After your pricing game you’ll then head to the Showcase Showdown to spin the wheel, trying to get as close to a dollar without going over. You’ll be placed in one of three positions, with the final slot having the best chance of winning and moving on to the final round. To spin the wheel you’ll click on it with your mouse and then quickly drag down and let go of your left mouse button, causing it to spin as fast and many times as the effort you put in. The wheel sounds just like the actual one, though the physics behind the wheel aren’t even close at all. When the arrow of the spinner is close to either sticking in its current amount or flipping over to the next, for instance, in reality it will most of the time hang and dangle right there on the border; in the game, however, having the arrow slow to a crawl on the boundary between the two spin amounts will often result in a springboard motion, causing the arrow to spin backwards, which just doesn’t happen in real life on the game.

In the final round you’ll be shown a showcase of prizes, once again being demonstrated with actual video. Depending on whether you like the package or not, you can either bid or pass it along to the other player to see what the second package is. After seeing your prize package, you’ll then bid and hope you come closest so that you can add the amount to your bank total.

PlinkoThe Price Is Right game does a great job of replicating the experience of watching or playing the real show, but sadly it’s duller than one would expect or hope. Part of the problem with the game is that not all of the dialogue can be skipped, meaning you’ll often have to sit there for a few seconds listening to the announcer describe the things you’ll be bidding on. Sure, the same thing happens in the real game, but at least when watching it on television you have a great host to keep you entertained and not so focused on the fact that you’re looking at an hour-long commercial for a wide variety of products. When it comes to the game, however, and you hear the announcer talk about Suave or some other product, deep down you know that you’re watching an in-game advertising. Another problem is that I often only wanted to play the pricing games, but you can’t and instead must play everything in the proper order and how the designers wanted the game to be experienced.

Graphically The Price Is Right isn’t bad, as the games look great and spot-on, and the actual video is really cool to see. The in-game characters and animated crowd, however, are far from great looking, and the animations of characters are super exaggerated and choppy. In terms of audio the game is pitch-perfect, no matter if you’re listening to a Plinko chip drop, watching a yodeler climb to their death, or hearing the beeps of the wheel spinning around and around.

The Price Is Right isn’t a great game, but it is pretty good, and fans of the show should really dig the game for the most part. If you absolutely despise the real game, however, there probably won’t be anything here to change your opinion or make you a fan.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

‘Runes of Avalon 2’ Review (PC)

by on April 10, 2008 at 8:29 am

Rune SpellWhenever I think back to all of the casual games I’ve played over the last year or so, Runes of Avalon still remains one of the most unique and freshest ones to come to mind whenever I think of the quality and entertainment that is possible with a good casual game. Imagine my excitement then when I heard Runes of Avalon 2 was finished and ready to be released. I quickly downloaded the game and found myself once again falling in love with the franchise once again.

Runes of Avalon 2 is a direct continuation of the last game’s story, which had the player taking on the role of one of Merlin’s young apprentices as she was forced to learn the secrets of rune magic in order to save Merlin and drive away the evil that took him away. You don’t need to be familiar with the last game’s story, however, as the game’s story is told in a way where prior acknowledgment is not needed.

Runes of Avalon 2 is a member of the “match three” casual game genre, which will have you trying to position random blocks on a stage to match three rune colors and add their power to your game board total. In order to complete a level you must make enough matches of each color on the board until their pool totals are filled. If you find your red rune pool total is only half full, for example, and you’re running out of time, the best thing to do is quickly focus your attention on making only red rune matches.

The first unique thing about Runes of Avalon 2 is that the runes aren’t automatically placed on the board by the computer, but are instead placed by the player on the board in a Tetris-like manner. The game will randomly give you various shaped pieces, ranging from single block pieces to other weirdly designed shapes. In order to make matches of the colored runes you must twist and turn the shapes as they are presented to you and place them so at least three of a color are touching. It’s easy to move the pieces as a right click of the mouse will rotate them and a left mouse click will place them on the board.

The game also features a series of powerup spells that will randomly be placed on the board as you make rune matches of more than at least three at a time. Powerups include bombs to explode all the runes in a short section, fire that will spread out in the design of a cross and destroy all runes in its way, spells to change a group into whatever color you want, and spells to activate other spells already on the board. Besides only being able to use powerups already on the board, you can use ordinary rune matches of certain colors to power those same spells in your repertoire and use them at your liking whenever you want. If you’ve placed pieces in a haphazard way and have limited your board placement options, you can always use a spell like a bomb to explode that area and open it back up to you.

The game still remains quite the challenge as you must not only compete against the timer of the board but the board itself. In the beginning your main challenge concern will be worrying about whether you’ll gather all the rune pieces you need in time before the timer completely winds down. As you move along through the game, however, the challenges come more from not running out of usable area to place pieces on the board.

Rune BoardBesides the “match three” boards that make up the bulk of the gameplay, the game will also occasionally throw at you other challenges, such as needing to find rune letters quick enough to power a spell or either needing to move picture pieces around until all the pieces are in their proper place. The other gameplay changes aren’t that hard at all since there isn’t a timer to challenge yourself with – you just need to complete the puzzles and that is all. Besides the Quest Mode that makes up the bulk of the gameplay, you’ve also got Quick Play options in the way of Time Attack and Endless modes. In the Time Attack mode the idea is to score as many points as you can before time runs out. In the Endless mode you try to score as many points as you can before you accidentally place the rune pieces so that you can’t position any more runes.

Graphically the game looks like it did the last time around, but that’s far from a bad thing as the original Runes of Avalon was already a nice looking game. The CG created characters of the story are really well-done. The background images of the boards and the rune pieces are eye pleasing and pleasant. The game’s visual effects also look nice as the extra sparkle really shines and breathes magic into the gameplay. In terms of audio there isn’t much in the way of voice acting, but what is there is done good enough. The game handles background music and sound effects much better, however, as everything sounds quite lovely and overall soothing.

If you were a fan of the original game then you’ll be right at home with Runes of Avalon 2 and find just as much to enjoy this time around. Runes of Avalon 2 is a great casual game that offers the “match three” gameplay that players are still familiar with while including some new tweaks to make the game anything but your average “match three” game. You definitely should gives Runes of Avalon 2 a try and see just what makes this casual game so special.

Rating: 4star
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‘El Dorado Quest’ Review (PC)

by on April 7, 2008 at 10:15 am

Typical BoardWhen it comes to puzzle games, one of my favorite genres is the one where you have to match at least three of one type of gem, making matches so that you can highlight the tile backgrounds underneath the gems, ultimately winning the level by lighting up all of the board. Though the “board lighting” genre is one of my favorites, they can still bore me if there isn’t enough innovation to change things up a bit. El Dorado Quest is still very much a typical “board lighting” game, but yet within that is a few unique twists that make the game better than other games cut from the same cloth.

El Dorado Quest is still your standard “board lighting” puzzle game, where in order for you to eventually beat the level, you usually have to highlight all of the board by making match three groupings on top of the tiles on the board. In order to make a match all you have to do is click on one gem and then click the gem either up, down, left, or right of it to switch them out and make a match. Once your first match is made, the tiles under those gems will light up, disappear, and then the pieces above them will fall down, potentially making several matches along the way as they cascade down. After all the tiles are highlighted a missing piece of one of the holy amulets will appear on the board, and to then clear the stage you have to remove all the gems directly underneath the piece so that each match will drop the amulet piece one-step closer to the bottom, and once the piece has fallen off the stage you’ll then collect it and move on to the next level.

Besides the standard highlighting procedure, you’ve also got obstacles in your way such as blocking pieces that you need to make a vertical match on in order to shatter the block; rock and dirt that you need to destroy with a pickaxe so that they will be removed and you can get by them or use the gems they had; and you’ve also got hidden jewels that need two like-minded jewels to connect with in order to use the hidden one and remove the block. Of course, what self-respecting game would increase the challenge without a way to counter those difficulties, and with El Dorado Quest you’ve got hammers you can use to either bust individual blocks you can’t make a match with or highlight a square you just can’t seem to match, and lighting attacks that will clear all the gems and blocking pieces in a column.

Amulet WheelBut you know what, all of that is fairly standard, so where does the change of pace come from? In terms of story, you’re following two explorers as they make their way towards El Dorado, gathering the holy amulets that they need. Usually, the characters in a puzzle game’s story would remain on the sideline and nothing more, but in El Dorado Quest they actually get involved with the gameplay, thus making the boards feel like real explorers investigating an area than you merely matching up gems in a game. On every so many levels you’ll see representations of the two explorers on your board, and you’ll need to clear a path for them by making matches over the tiles that have their predetermined paths on them. As you clear the path for them, they’ll slowly travel around, eventually gathering the resources you need in order to complete the stage or either flipping the switches you need to move on. Your explorers, for example, will gather keys for you to unlock doors, grab matches for you to light dynamite, etc. The two explorers aren’t just eye candy to get a few odd powerups here and there, but whenever you come across a stage they are on you absolutely must complete their path and journey, gathering everything and flipping all the switches in their way, or else you won’t complete the stage at all.

Graphically the game looks great, featuring sparkling gems, nicely animated explorers, and the background images of the boards are exotic and beautiful as well. Even better than the graphics, however, is the sound, which includes everything from the twinkling and exploding gems to lighting bolts and rock shattering hammers. Besides the sound effects, El Dorado Quest also features some excellent background music, which isn’t the same tune from one level to the next, but features plenty of tribal type chants, war drums, and other exquisite sounds that make the background music sound really amazing.

El Dorado Quest isn’t a major departure from the same gameplay genre that it borrows from, but the inclusion of the little explorers who walk around your board are a neat twist that makes the game seem unique and fresh, and the graphics and sound work help elevate the quality of the game as well, making it something special and overall a game you should definitely give a shot.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

or at BigFish Games

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

by on March 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

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

One of my fondest memories of when I was younger was going over to my cousin’s house and managing to catch a great, big ol’ catfish with nothing more than a strong tree branch as a fishing pole, a simple bobbing lure, and your every day worm. Besides that fishing remembrance, I’ve always dreamed of one day going out to the ocean, jumping on a fancy boat, and having a one-on-one fishing battle with something like a marlin. Given my disposition to fishing, it was with great glee that I stumbled upon a new style of casual game I’d never played before, where fishing was the glue that held it all together.

Fishing Craze is an action packed fishing game, but one that moves infinitely quicker than your standard day of lazy fishing out on a lake. You play as one of several different fishing team couples that you can choose from, as they embark in their RV to go to various fishing tournaments across the country, striving to prove their worth and the best of the best.

The mechanics of the game don’t change from your first fishing match all the way to your last, but with different fish and new challenges coming all the time, no single tournament or round ever truly feels the same. The game controls solely with the mouse, letting you slide your mouse left or right to glide your boat across the surface of the lake, while you click your left mouse button to descend or raise your hook and line. As your line lowers, if you get it close enough to the fish’s mouth it will bite on and then your character will quickly yank it from the water, sending it soaring into the sky; in order to receive points for the catch, you must then move your boat under the falling fish to catch it, or else it will drop back into the water to swim away and live another day. Once your boat is filled to capacity with fish, you then must move your boat back to your dock, unload your fish to your partner, and then head back out to catch even more.

Though simply landing a fish with no obstacles in your way can sometimes be a struggle in itself, the game gets even harder when you start throwing in environmental obstacles that will temporarily slow you down, costing you precious seconds you need to spend fishing or else you could find yourself losing a round or the whole tournament for that matter. The obstacles come in the way of things like pelicans that eat your fish when they pop out of the water; birds that will drop bricks on your boat, causing a leak that stops you for a short time; electric eels that will electrocute and freeze you in place; swordfish that will cut your line with their sharp pointy noses; sharks that will grab your lure and yank you to one of the far sides of the screen; whales that will use their blowhole to shoot you towards the sky; and fish that will pop out of the water to land on your head and stop you in your tracks. Since most of the obstacles and challenges are water based, you can imagine how difficult it can really be sometimes to land that perfect catch when you’re trying to drop the lure down behind a swordfish and yet make the catch before that eel gets too close.

The game features several different tournament styles, including multiple round tallies to see who is the overall champ; one-on-one battles with you and another opponent racing to catch the most fish at the same time; and one or two others as well. The game starts you out on an Amateur circuit, which isn’t very hard to win at all, but the later two circuits are much more difficult to win.

Electric EelAs you advance through the circuits, you’ll need to upgrade your equipment, such as buying a fancier boat to let you carry more fish at one time, and buying more expensive lures so that you can catch all the fish in the lakes and ponds (not all the fish will go for the simple lure, so upgrading is a necessity). In order to win later, more advanced circuits, you’ll also need to perfect combo catches, which happen when you manage to capture more than one fish on the line at one time and catch them in your boat; typically the way you catch more than one at once is to let your line go to the very bottom of the lake, catch a fish at the bottom, and then maneuver your line and boat so it runs into other fish as it raises up.

We love the game graphically, as it features some very nice cartoon inspired characters, and all the fish are very outlandish and goofy looking, which really helps add a charm to the game. The game isn’t so great in terms of audio, however, as there just isn’t a whole lot of noise, other than the jangle of music playing in the background or an “aww shucks” like sound that comes from your character after they’ve had their line cut or a fish taken away.

Fishing Craze is a unique action fishing game, which constantly has you moving and quickly raising and lowering your line, trying to catch that big fish while avoiding any danger that may be in your way. Though the game is fun, it suffers from some problems like the audio we mentioned, plus the whole game seems to lag a great deal, which can be a major problem when you’re zipping along the water and can’t catch a fish either by line or by getting your boat underneath it because of a bit of mouse lag. If you can manage to look beyond those problems, however, there is a pretty good game here just waiting to be caught.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Magic Match Adventures’ Review (PC)

by on March 25, 2008 at 7:01 pm

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

Typically, if you start a game out with cute little creatures singing a song about “Welcome to Imp World,” I’m most likely going to puke from the sheer amount of sugary cuteness that’s on display. As it turns out though, however, such a beginning to Magic Match Adventures doesn’t turn us off, but rather makes us appreciate the charm of the game even more. Like the song says, you find yourself as a magician/potion master in the land of Imp World, who finds out that there is some evil afoot and causing problems for all of the little imps. For no reason boats are being destroyed, imps are turning into totems, and rain clouds go out of their way to find one spot to mess up and that one spot only. As the growing magician that you are, you’ll need to adventure into the Magic Realm to gather potions you’ll need to power a spell to help fix the problems of the imps and dispel the evil from their world. Surprisingly, Magic Match Adventures has a nice little story that is always there right before the gameplay, and though it’s not an epic story, you do feel sorry for the little imps being caused problems, and when you fix their world and get their thanks, it’s very much like the satisfaction you get from the “god genre” of games like Black and White.

The basic fundamentals behind Magic Match Adventures still borrows from the “match three” genre, and while some things are the same (pieces frozen temporarily or locked pieces you have to destroy first) there are some differences. When you go into the Magic Realm, you are presented with a board positioned like a diamond rather than a square like you’d usually find; you wouldn’t think slightly shifting a board would be a big deal, but it actually makes you think a little harder about how to find matches, and overall makes the game much more difficult from the get-go than other games cut from the same fabric. As pieces line up to form at least touching groups of three, you’ll click on one and then drag your mouse over all the existing touching pieces until you are satisfied, and then you’ll release to add those pieces to your pile. You start each visit to the Magic Realm with a select amount of each piece you need to gather – like 25 fish – and you’ll need to gather all of the required items before time is over to be able to move on. As you get the required items for each item group, you’ll start to create potion pieces, which when combined with any two-like items, will let you basically use the potion, helping to create the magic needed to fix the problems plaguing Imp World; of course not every single visit to the Magic Realm will fix a problem, so you might have to go twice or more to get the required magic needed.

Changing up the formula, the game presents you with a series of spells, which cost mana (you get from making matches) that you can unleash whenever you want just as long as you have enough mana to cover the cost. For example, there are spells to randomly shuffle everything on the board, and there are spells that let you move one piece and exchange it for another one on the board. Besides these spells, there’s also a group of powerups that allow you to perform other spells and abilities, like letting you cast a fireball that melts all the frozen pieces, or a blast of light that destroys the stationary boxes in the game.

Taking a page from the recent Puzzle Quest smash-hit, you’ll also have levels that have you dueling fellow wizards, with you both taking turns making matches on the same board, trying to complete your list of needed items before the other one, so that you can win the level and destroy their evil influence. The duels are pretty fun and also a nice challenge to breakup the already challenging gameplay; yes, the basics are the same, but yet there is enough different to make you appreciate the quick diversion.

Making A SpellGraphically the game is charming, featuring fully animated imps moving about the world, getting into problems, and with you needing to fix them. The board of the Magic Realm – where the bulk of the gameplay takes place – is nice, but the graphics could’ve been much better in this part, as the pieces under the ice are oftentimes too hard to figure out, so you aren’t always sure just what item is there. In terms of audio the game is great, as it starts out with an admittedly cheesy song (but performed really admirably), and from there you’ll run across more voice acting work, a pleasing melody that quickly speeds up and becomes more worrisome as your time counts down, and the sound of making matches and hearing pieces shuffle around all sound wonderful.

Magic Match Adventures suffers from a horribly generic name, and so going into the game we didn’t think we’d find too much to like, but luckily for us we found a wonderful little game that spins a quaint little world mixed with gameplay that is both basic and yet complex at the same time, making sure that it’s challenging enough to keep players playing all the way to the very end.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

or at BigFish Games

‘Swashbucklers: Blue vs Grey’ Review (PC)

by on March 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Swash 2Naval role-playing games seems like a natural for a good game experience. Sea going adventures can often be free forming while using historical backgrounds to aid in the adventures and take players to other times and places. A classic of this genre is Pirates, and many have hoped that the systems used in that game could be repeated in another era. Swashbucklers Blue vs Grey attempts to do exactly that, but unfortunately it fails badly.

Swashbucklers: Blue vs Grey is a third person role playing game that places the player in the role of an unethical sea captain during the United States Civil War. Players take on missions at ports, carry goods and people, and attempt to capture enemy ships for profit. As the game is somewhat free form, you can decide which side you will support, the Union or the Confederacy. The game tells you that your character is not quite right in the head and sometimes hears voices that you see in the form of instructions and choices.

Swash 3The game is laid out in a very similar manner to Sid Meier’s Pirates, but it doesn’t play nearly as well. Instead of simple movement through the various ports, you have to use the keyboard letters, and instead of making that simple with the arrows instead it uses ‘WASD’ (which the game tutorial doesn’t really explain), which means you have to use those keys to move; this is extremely cumbersome and it’s a wonder why a new game would have such a silly design feature.

You begin in a town with a small ship and little money and not much else. As you enter buildings in the town, dialog boxes pop up with instructions or information, but these often disappear so quickly you miss the messages. Instead of a voice track the game uses mumbling similar to Pirates, but this just appears to be annoying rather than cute.

At first you can do little, as you have almost no money, so you cannot take part in fights for money or buy much. You will be attacked in the streets to teach you combat, and this is probably the game’s best feature as the sword fighting is very well animated. There is some gore and you can eat food you carry to restore health as you fight.

The graphics in the game are quite nice even if the coloring is a little off and seems dull. Captain Gray, who is your character, doesn’t look much like a sea captain at all, which is yet another one of this game’s many odd design decisions. The ships don’t look quite right either, but it does use a campaign map similar to the Pirates’ map where you can see your ship and other ships at sea while you sail about looking for enemies to attack and ports to visit.

The sea combat system has two levels. First you sail and fire your cannons, trying to hit the enemy ship or sink it. The game will tell you that you can board at a certain point, or keep shooting and sink the enemy. Sinking ships earn you no money, so you want to board and capture the enemy ships; to do this, you have to fight the enemy crew and you are greatly outnumbered. You do this twice and then you must fight the enemy captain- beat him and the enemy ship can be taken to port and sold as a prize.

SwashWhile all of that may sound like fun, it’s actually tedious after awhile. The sea fights are basically all the same, and even though the boarding fights look good, it’s really a matter of fast fingers and having the good sense to eat some food while you fight. You can use a gun instead of a sword, but it really doesn’t work much better then a sword.

The sound quality in the game is decent with a nice sound track. The lack of voice over acting really hurts this game, as it would have added a lot atmosphere wise if it had had a decent voice track. The game is also quirky when setting the screen resolution controls and kept crashing when I tried to change them.

Overall this game is a good idea gone bad. It makes an effort to be a fun and interesting game, but in the end it just doesn’t come through as being really fun. The first thing a game should be is easy to use and control, and this one fails at even this simple criteria. Do yourself a favor and let this one sail by.

Rating: 3star
Our Scoring System

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

by on March 17, 2008 at 1:43 pm

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

When it comes to the world of coffee, no name is more synonymous with the dark brew than Starbucks. Imagine, if you will, that Starbucks was a big company who had a monopoly on the business and were charging exuberant prices for coffee that wasn’t that great since they used substandard ingredients, and the only person who could stop that was you. In Coffee Rush you start as a new entrepreneur in the coffee business, starting out small, but hopefully making enough money to continue pressing yourself into the center of the community, driving out the big bad company and replacing it with your own…big bad company. Okay, so you’re less evil by far, but it’s funny that one factory gets destroyed just for one of your own to rise up. Does that mean in a sequel that we’ll be destroying that which we already created? The story is setup quite well, actually, and had us entertained; you won’t find a large narrative here, but the game sets the premise up nicely and it’s fully voiced, especially the cigarette cough induced maniacal laugh of the evil business owner.

Coffee Rush plays like a merger of the classic match three game combined with the serving aspect of a Diner Dash. On a board you are presented with a bunch of different icons, representing the different ingredients that go into your coffee mixtures. You’ve got coffee beans, milk, sugar, foam, and other such ingredients that will fill up your board. As customers come in during the day, their order will be represented by the number of ingredients you need; for example, if someone wants straight coffee, you’ll just have to make enough piece matches of the coffee beans to total four, then the order will be instantly created, you click it to serve it, and then you collect your money. As you move through the game, however, you’ll have to make more and more money, which means creating more complicated drinks, that require more ingredients, and the more you have different ingredients on the board, the harder it is to get them into matches.

As each customer comes in, depending on their character, they have different personalities and tipping styles. A nurse or cop might wait a little longer for their order and still give you good money, but if you keep someone like a drill instructor or bride waiting too long, you’re likely to have them walk out on you or either give you very little money and a smarmy comment as a final parting shot. You can offset the annoyance factor by giving them candy or ice cream, which will erase some of that negativity and help keep them waiting just a bit longer.

After each level you’ll be presented with the option of using coins you’ve collected to unlock new recipes for your menu, which will help net you larger profits for stages that require more and more money. We never had any problems earning enough money in the early stages by just upgrading drinks, as it was rare for us not to completely surpass the expert money levels instead of just the base one you need to complete the level and move on. You can also buy special treats, like a donut, which you can give to someone right before you give them their drink to help earn a bit more money.

The match three formula has been used time and time again, and nothing really changes here for the most part, as it still pretty much plays like Bejeweled, where you click on one piece and then the one you want to swap for. Of course every game has some of its own tweaks, with Coffee Rush’s most notably being an overdrive like mode, which lets you gather all the ingredients in a column and row from one spot, just by making a combo with the lighting emblazed cup of coffee.

The biggest problem with Coffee Rush is that it suffers from some absolutely terrible slowdown, which gets especially worse when you’ve made a match, only for pieces to drop down and then make a match, and then make a match again; it’s definitely an annoyance, having to watch the screen crawl constantly as you get further along into the day, while you sit there waiting for everything to stop so you can finally match the pieces you’ve been wanting to switch out.

Coffee RecipesGraphically the game is very pleasing, featuring bright, easy to distinguish items represented on the boards, and the customers have a clean animation to them, and the little cutscenes scattered around aren’t bad at all either. The game actually features some quality voice acting, which certainly caught us by surprise, while the rest of the audio parts of the game are equally worthwhile – the sound of matches being made, money being earned, and buildings being destroyed all sound nice against the constant and quick background music that will have you frantically clicking away trying to make matches.

If the game didn’t suffer from such terrible slowdown, the game would’ve rated much higher, but as is it’s just way too much of a problem not to be acknowledged, as it does cause some problems and easily breaks up the flow of the game. Still, if you’re a fan of match three games, you’ll find one here that reaches for greatness, but sadly misses it (though not without trying).

Rating: 3star
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or at Big Fish Games

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

by on March 10, 2008 at 10:13 pm

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

I remember playing an old battle chess game for the NES and having a great time, so when I heard about the premise and gameplay behind War Chess, I thought surely I’d run across the reincarnation of that once heralded game that my brother and me loved playing so much. After firing up War Chess and jumping into my first game, however, I knew all too quickly that things weren’t the same at all, and that this definitely wasn’t up to par like the game I liked way back then.

War Chess is basically the game of chess – nothing more and nothing less. The gameplay remains the same, where you use a variety of pieces that can move in specific directions or a specific number of squares. The ultimate goal of the game is to capture your opponent’s king, placing them into a state of check or checkmate so that you can win. Unlike some games that take the old formula and tweak it a bit for an updated release, here chess is still very much chess, and the only thing really different about this chess and others is the fact that it has “war” in the title and that pieces actually move and do a very quick fight or attack to represent the pieces eliminating each other.

If you aren’t familiar with the game of chess, the system does a nice job of showing you your possible moves, as you can left click on a piece to see where it would be able to move, and then clicking on the square where the piece will be able to go with a click of the right mouse button. The double click system didn’t work perfectly, as sometimes it took more than one click to register properly and have the pieces actually move where we wanted them to.

The game is focused strictly on the single player experience, letting you fight against one of several different AI levels, allowing new players to either fight the stupidest AI the game has, or cranking up the difficulty number for an even tougher challenge. Though there are several different modes, they all basically break down to the same chess game and rules you’d expect from the classic strategy game.

Lava ChessThe thing that War Chess does do to try and set itself out among the rest is the fact that the standard pieces are now represented by 3D characters, such as Pegasus representing a knight or the queen looking like an old hag or the pawns of the black side being represented by a bunch of skeleton warriors. The characters are all the same, as one queen on one side is the same as the queen on the other, only their paint skin is different to represent whether they are on the white side (good) or black side (bad). The characters and creatures are very, very blocky and also ugly for that matter. The animations are quite limited as well, as a queen might zap someone with a staff from several squares away, and then she’ll slowly shuffle her way towards you until she reaches the spot of the piece she just removed. The levels are also equally poor, as they consist of places that are mostly barren or have little interaction or beauty to behold at all. Plain and simple, War Chess is an ugly game, and one that will make you reach for the online chess more so than this single-player game.

If you’re a huge chess fan you’ll like War Chess, but you’ll like the game for what it already is and not because the thing in front of you is new and improved. If anything this game actually made me not like chess as much as I once did, if only because the game is so ugly and the gameplay and menu systems so poor. Seriously, you’re better off just playing regular ol’ chess with the pieces you are already familiar with now, and if you really need to see your pieces attacking each, just imagine the pieces in real life are whatever you want them to be, and don’t bother wasting your money on a game like this. If I was reviewing the game of chess alone it would be a four or five easily, but when you place the word “war” before it, things suddenly become a lot worse, and then we want nothing more than to forget this game ever existed.

Rating: 2star
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Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

or at BigFish Games

Casual Game of the Week: ‘Blokus World Tour’ Review (PC)

by on March 3, 2008 at 10:21 am

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

When I think of Mensa members, I think of holier than thou eggheads who are way too smart (aka they make me feel really stupid when I think myself quite intelligent at times). Though I may wish to join their elite league and hate them because I can’t, there is one thing I can’t deny about the people involved in Mensa…they have the potential to make some excellent games. So how did a board game about connecting blocks transition so well into a PC game?

Blokus World Tour is based on the original board game called Blokus, though now it’s a single-player game that has you traversing the world, taking on the greatest Blokus players there are. Going into the game I thought, “Well, it looks like we got another Tetris clone.” Of course, that was before I knew the history of the series and how a Mensa member made it their goal to make a board game based around the fundamentals of mathematics, and that there is really no connection to Tetris other than the fact that there are different shaped blocks you use. I won’t give you a history lesson beyond that, but you definitely should read up about the game once you’ve bought it, because this is most definitely game you owe it to yourself to get.

The most common game of Blokus involves four players, all having the same number and same shaped pieces, starting off at one of the corners of a perfectly square board. Each player starts by placing one of their pieces in their corner, taking turns as movement passes around the board. Once your first piece is placed, you then have to place your next piece, but your next piece (and all subsequent ones) can only ever touch the corner of one of your own pieces, never being able to ever be completely flush so that one side of one of the pieces is ever touching another one of yours; however, it’s perfectly okay for your pieces to be flush against another player’s pieces.

The goal of Blokus is to have the most points at the end of a game, which you accomplish by placing pieces on the board and gaining real estate. For example, should you place a 2×2 square, you’ll get yourself four points for placing it down. Like most strategy games, no matter if it be chess or checkers, the strategy in Blokus comes from not only trying to gain as many points as you can by being aggressive and on the attack, but by also placing pieces so you limit the amount of area your opponents have the opportunity to move in; the winner of a Blokus game is usually the last one still able to place pieces down. There are several strategies you can involve, such as placing your largest pieces down first to get them out of the way; working your way towards the center of the board before working in on filling in spaces; and even saving your smallest piece as your last placement to get some bonus points.

Blokus WinnerBlokus World Tour has you starting out as a rookie, trying to make their way around the world to be the best possible player ever. Each stop on the world tour will bring you against not only different AI, but different Blokus game types as well. Beyond the four player version of Blokus, there is also a two player version that has a smaller board than usual, and another version that has you controlling two different colors at once for your maximum score. Beyond the world tour mode, however, you’ve also got the ability to do some quick play, and even take on a series of very hard challenges, ranging from having to get so many points with all three players working against you instead of each other, and having to place every single block of every single color so that one whole board holds every piece in the game.

Graphically the game is simple, but when everything is done so well, it manages to make the simple seem anything but that. The character sketches are well-done, the boards and pieces are really bright and clean, and the menus and buttons all look nice as well. The game isn’t so much of an aural treat, but the music and sound of laying pieces is good enough to get the job done.

When I went into Blokus World Tour I went in with very low expectations, as it can be fairly hard to bring a board game to the videogame world and still have it be relevant, and beyond that I frankly had never even heard of Blokus. I soon found myself engrossed, however, and the next thing I knew an hour had already gone by and I was still playing, really enjoying the strategy and fun of the game. I only lost occasionally playing the game on the normal difficulty, but even then it gave me a run for my money from time to time, and with another harder difficulty there for your choosing, it’s easy to find yourself constantly being drawn to this game to play just one more time. The only negative I can really say about this game is that it is in desperate need of an online component, letting two players or more go against each other. If you’re looking for the next classic strategy board game, be sure you give Blokus World Tour a shot.

Rating: 4star
Our Scoring System

Download The Demo Or Buy The Game At Playfirst

or at BigFish Games

‘Planet Busters’ Review (PC)

by on February 27, 2008 at 3:25 pm

Planet Buster BoardThere are only a handful of different casual game formulas currently out there, though surely there must be more waiting in the wings, looking for their chance to breakout and start something new. Though Planet Busters isn’t that revolution, it’s certainly a rough around the edges attempt that takes a formula tried and true by now – the match three – and gives it enough unique flavor to expand on the genre and start those steps into a new age of casual gaming.

The Earth has been destroyed and you’ve been called back into action, a member of the Earth’s space Army essentially. As a member of this elite unit, you’ll have to battle the wicked aliens that destroyed your home world, taking the battle to them by launching missiles at their commanding ships, their own homes, and space stations and hiding places as well. So how exactly do you combat these aliens? But with missiles of course – duh! Oh, did we not mention you’ve got to create the missiles before they can be unleashed? Thus comes the crux of the match three formula.

Each level is presented as a grid system that can be average in size, rather small, large and expansive, etc. The grid basically acts as the screen of your ship, portrayed in a holographic like manner. At the bottom of your screen you’ll see a row of colors that will shoot out and advance towards the top of your grid (think the movement of Tetris but in reverse). As the pieces move towards the top it’s up to you to maneuver the pieces into position so that three of the same color match up together, unleashing a volley of missiles for each matched grouping.

As you move pieces into position for matches, there is a wide variety of environmental obstacles and difficulties that can make some levels truly sadistic. First up, instead of a timer system, you’ve got a shield system, which is a neat way to represent time given that the game plays like you are actually battling in space against these aliens. The aliens shoot beams at you, which diminish your shield, thus shortening the time you have left to fire off your required amount of missiles in order to win the level. Other obstacles include space debris that stands locked in your way, only moving once you’ve made a connection touching it. You’ve also got to worry about roaming meteors, which come off screen and floating from one side of the screen to the other, screwing up potential matches by hitting your pieces and then sliding into a place you didn’t need them. Another obstacle problem comes in the form of life support pods, which will be destroyed if you make a match touching one; you’d think you’d be trying to save them by matching with them in some way, not by trying to avoid them. Beyond the environmental difficulties you’ve also got things like shield boosters that basically give you more time in a level to fire off the amount of missiles you need to complete the level.

Besides the natural difficulty of the game, the design decisions of the gameplay hamper and make things sometimes more difficult than they need to be. For example, though the grid system of the board is interesting from a graphical standpoint, sometimes the depth perception problem can throw you off, making it look visually like you might be getting ready to make a match, only to notice afterwards that there was another space there that didn’t seem to be there before. Another problem comes by way of the controls, which though simple – arrow keys move your pieces and Z and X rotate them around – a looseness about them (as if gliding on ice) sometimes makes it so that you’ll accidentally pass over your intended placement and ending up completely ruining your chance at completing the level.

The game isn’t a beautiful work of art, as the game is pretty jaggy and overall the graphics just don’t seem as polished as they possibly could be, but it’s still a decent looking game, featuring an interesting game grid that moves up and away like the Star Wars scrolling text, and there are some nice explosions to go along with the animation of missiles flying away and smashing into your enemies. In terms of audio the game sounds like it looks – it’s decent and average at best, but by nowhere is there any epic quality or amazing work.

Though the game has some problems, Planet Busters is still a pretty fun little indie game once all things are said and done. Sure it could look prettier and the controls could’ve been tightened a little, but it’s easy to overlook some of those issues from time to time when you see how they didn’t go out to try and make just another match three game, but rather tried to stretch the boundaries of it to create something new and refreshing; in that regards Planet Busters fairs remarkably well.

Rating: 3star
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